Last month, I mentioned the importance of being frugal when starting a business. But the whole point of starting your own business is not to save money. It’s to make money. It’s about getting rich. Now, you can’t get rich without generating revenue. You can’t generate revenue without selling.
“But what will my in-laws think?” I hear you say. Isn’t selling, well, a bit tacky? Your in-laws will think you’re a loser if you can’t support their beloved child. So don’t worry what people think, and start worrying about learning the ‘Art of Selling’.
Yes, selling is an art — a learnt skill. Some people are born with the gift of the gab, but the best salesmen are those for whom it doesn’t come naturally. Why? Because the customer can see you’re not comfortable selling, and so they trust that you wouldn’t be standing there, sweating, unless you truly believed in what you’re pushing.
Entrepreneurs sell every day. You persuade staff to join a high-risk company at below-market-salary. You persuade investors to give you money. You persuade customers to buy your product. You persuade your spouse not to panic when a couple of credit cards bounce.
1. The first step for selling is to always tell the truth
Lying is a short-term strategy. It may work in a big country like the US where you can move around a lot. And with the arrival of social media, our small town is getting smaller every day.
If you lie, you’ll be found out, and then it’s tickets for your career as a salesman. Tell the truth. That way you don’t have to remember what you said.
2. Listen to the customer
Most people think selling is about talking. Wrong. Selling is about listening. You can’t give the customer what he wants unless you know what she wants. If the customer wants hotdogs, don’t sell her hamburgers.
3. First impressions count
First impressions may not be everything, but it’s much easier getting a ‘yes’ if you make a positive first impression. Be neat. Be on time. Be prepared. Be polite.
4. Don’t fake it
If you’re not a suit wearer, don’t wear a suit. If your industry requires you to wear a suit to close the sale, change your industry. Pretending to be someone that you’re not is akin to lying. A short-term strategy doomed to failure, and a not a great way to live.
5. Help people
Sales is about your network. The more people you help along the way, the bigger your network will be.
Soon after I took over Mxit I had to see the CEO of Jupiter Drawing Room. Apparently previous Mxit management had reneged on a R200 000 bill. Even though it was not of my making, we agreed to pay the outstanding amount.
Two years later, I’m looking for a sponsor for Project Isizwe, and guess who knocks on my door? The same lady. She wants to sponsor us R1 million. Boom! What goes around, comes around.
6. Show respect
It’s simple. Take the time to learn the culture of your customer. Did you know Tswana consider it a sign of disrespect to make eye contact when shaking hands? Have good manners, respect local customs, be patient. No one will write you a cheque if they feel you don’t respect them.
7. Do what you gotta do
Sometimes you have to suck up your ego and wait six hours to see your customer, or miss your daughter’s birthday, or cancel your annual holiday. When it’s your business, no one else will do what you are willing to do.
8. Close the deal
It’s easy to mess around and avoid the hard questions like: “Do we have a deal?” Many customers specialise in messing you around. The best way to find out whether you’re being messed around is to ask for a commitment.
For a masterclass in how to sell, read Mark McCormack’s What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School. If you’re not ready to be a salesman, you’re not ready to be an entrepreneur.
Read ‘Be A Hero’ today
Why Customers Don’t Respond To Disruption
You’ve got chatbots running your customer service, interactive screens across your stores and you’ve just appointed a chief digital officer. Why aren’t you seeing sales going through the roof?
PwC partner Quinton Pienaar says there could be many reasons for this. But the short answer is probably that in your understandable rush to stay relevant and keep up with the latest technology trends and developments, you lost sight of your number one priority. You’re just not that into your customers – and they know it.
It’s fairly easy to get dazzled by the array of technologies out there. But the trap that you’ve got to guard against is that you start seeing the world through a technology lens, rather than a customer one. Remember, technology is a tool, not an outcome. It’s the means to the end, not the end itself.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t be transforming your business digitally. You absolutely should. But there’s a big difference between investing in technology to keep up with the Joneses, and investing in technology that’s going to drive specific business outcomes and improve the customer experience.
Related: Reimagine The Use Of Technology
In fact, it would be downright dangerous to ignore the game-changing benefits that the current wave of emerging technologies brings to the table. To understand what they can do for your business, you have to know what they are. We at PwC talk about the ‘essential eight’:
- The Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are the building blocks for the next generation of digital work.
- Robotics, drones, and 3-D printing are all about machines that extend the reach of computing power into the material world.
- Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) merge the physical and digital realms, and offer incredible advances in customer experience.
- Blockchain rethinks our approach to commercial transactions by allowing participants to exchange value, and verify ownership of something, without a third party.
Some of these technologies are verging on science fiction. So how do we use them in a way that supports customer obsession? The starting point of any successful customer transformation is a customer-focused design that brings together three essential elements – business strategy, customer experience and technology – into a coherent, fully-fledged digital strategy.
In other words, today’s most successful companies have a strategy that is focused around a simple and regularly-updated list of priorities. They incorporate the new generation of technologies like IoT, blockchain and AI. But they keep their people, and their customers at the core of their business by designing strategies that directly address customers’ underlying needs and desired outcomes.
This sounds dead obvious. But what we find is that many companies we talk to are focused on growing their revenues, or making improvements to their products and services, rather than creating better customer experiences. Or they have the strategy, but are battling to execute it effectively.
Of course, to underpin this customer transformation journey, you’re going to need some data and the foundational technologies on which today’s innovations depend – data mining and analytics, mobile, and cloud. You may also need to rethink your processes to manage, enrich and maintain data, and operationalise it throughout your business.
So you have all of that in place? Good. Now stop. Breathe. Ask yourself whether your technology and data are truly supporting an unwavering focus on the customer. Because if you take one message from this article, let it be this: in today’s marketplace, putting your customer at the centre of your business is imperative to driving growth and profitability, winning market share and unlocking the value of your technology investments.
How To Seal The Deal By Understanding The 3 Phases Of The Customer Buying Cycle
If you want to close more sales, you need to understand the three phases of the customer buying cycle.
A common misconception is that business transactions are simple affairs: Customers express interest in something, they buy, and then they leave. This is a vast oversimplification of what is at work.
Business majors and entrepreneurs have spent decades plotting out and exploiting every step of a customer’s buying process to better attract and retain clients. There are three sequential steps that customers take when they show an interest in purchasing something. Each phase reflects a different stage of their mentality, meaning that the ideal strategy to exploit each phase will differ.
These three phases are awareness, interest, and purchase. Awareness is the phase where they first become aware of the product or service that you are offering. Interest reflects the period where they show that they might want to buy your product — a customer that enquires about specific details relating to what you sell would be a good example. Targeted sales pitches are usually made in this phase. Lastly, purchase is the period where they make their final evaluation and the decision to purchase from you.
Understanding how to address the needs of each phase will go a long way towards boosting your sales and securing long-term business from your customers.
This is the incipient phase of a customer’s awareness of who you are and what you are all about. This phase of the customer buying cycle is where customers make their first assessment of you. This phase is important because it’s where you can craft your message to appeal to the desired market segment.
Another important tool that is commonly used during this phase is Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). This refers to the practice of tailoring your website to the demographic that you wish to target.
Businesses will commonly insert relevant keywords into their indexed pages with the intention of leading searching customers to their website.
This phase of the customer buying cycle is when customers express interest in buying from you. The awareness phase is where you grab their attention, and this phase is where you have a chance to build upon it. Customers are typically non-committal during this phase; they are usually conducting additional research and/or shopping around.
Targeting buyers during this phase means that you need to give your potential customer a compelling reason to purchase from you instead of your competitors.
The responsibility here is two-fold: First, you need to market yourself as the solution to the customer’s unique problem. Second, you need to address the customer’s needs and perspectives. Businesses will frequently offer positive reviews and testimonials of their products to convince these potential customers that they offer the solution to their needs. Offering a persuasive sales pitch is only half of the solution: Make sure that the customer feels that you are concerned with what they want.
This phase of the customer buying cycle includes not only the actual purchase of the product or service itself, but also the final evaluation. During this phase they might still be reviewing their options, however, the difference is that they have shown a distinct desire to purchase the product or service in question.
This gives you an opportunity to give the customer a more comprehensive overview of what it is that they wish to purchase, and it is also the appropriate time to upsell additional products or features.
Car dealerships are especially fond of this point in the cycle. Once the customer sits down and begins negotiating the price of their future vehicle, the sales team moves in and does everything they can to get that person to buy the car. Whether they slash the price, throw in extra bonuses or offer them rebates, they will do whatever it takes to turn that expressed interest into an actual sale. This is where you want the sales team to take over: The amount of persuasiveness and personal magnetism they exhibit is every bit as important as their receptiveness and concern for the customer’s needs.
How To Get Past These 5 Common Challenges To Selling Online
From finding the right website builder to figuring out how customers will pay you, there’s a lot to consider when opening an online store.
With the new year comes the opportunity to look back at your business strategy and determine where you can grow. For many, taking their business online is still a bridge to be crossed – in fact, 29 percent of brick-and-mortar small businesses still don’t have an ecommerce website, according to a survey by Clutch of 355 U.S. small-business owners. And online shopping isn’t slowing anytime soon. Recent data from NRF shows that online and non-store holiday sales generated $138.4 billion – an 11.5 percent increase over 2016. The upside of online business expansion is too valuable to be ignored – opening a new sales channel and developing meaningful relationships with your customers can be the key to driving new revenue.
Before you open an online store, you need to be aware of the challenges you may face right out of the gate. Building a plan to address these can you set you up for success for when you finally open your virtual doors.
Here are five major things to consider when making the leap to selling online:
1. Finding the right service providers
When you build your website, one of the first critical decisions is finding the right service providers, from website builders to payments processors and everything in between. Do your homework to understand what features you’ll actually need, how the various services are priced and whether you’re getting a solution that can grow with your business. If you’re not sure what you need or what to look for, reach out to fellow business owners in your area for their recommendations.
Many providers also have resources that can help. For example, recent BigCommerce research showed that 64 percent of shoppers are more likely to make a purchase on an easy-to-navigate website, proving that aesthetics go a long way. The right provider can help you create a professional, secure customer experience while helping you understand why.
2. Making it easy for customers to pay you
Customers want choice, so be prepared to let them pay however they want. It’s a good way to increase customer satisfaction and help drive more sales. A recent PYMNTS.com Checkout Conversion Index shows that 40 percent of online shoppers abandon their carts in the period between visiting a business’s website and completing a transaction. So, if customers already have their payment information saved with a service like Apple Pay, Amazon Pay or PayPal, it’ll be easier for them to shop and buy – especially on their mobile devices – when you accept these payment methods.
3. Reconciling online and offline payments
Reconciling online and in-store purchases can get tricky. That’s where cloud-based tools can save you time and headaches. For example, accounting software that integrates well with popular payment providers can help you track your invoices in one location. So, whether you get paid online or in your storefront, these tools easily and automatically reconcile the payments, cutting down on time spent manually sorting through spreadsheets and outstanding invoices. They can also be a big help at tax time.
4. Expanding your customer base into new markets
One of the many benefits of selling online is that it opens up your business to customers in new markets around the globe. When selling overseas, however, it’s important to tailor your online shopping experience for international buyers. The key things to consider when selling outside your borders include: website translation; localized, secure payment methods; pricing that enables you to compete with local vendors; and transparency around currency exchanges and fees.
5. Connecting the in-store and online shopping experiences
Shoppers are increasingly expecting a more seamless, consistent multichannel shopping experience. It’s important to make your online and brick-and-mortar properties extensions of one another. Try offering services like “buy online, pick-up in store” and “buy online, return in store” to create unique and engaging experiences for shoppers that also help drive sales. This strategy also enables you to make the most of your physical presence in a way that online-only platforms can’t.
Making the move online is an exciting prospect for any business. Do your homework in the areas above to help you build a smart business plan that ultimately leads to growth in both your online and offline sales channels.
Resource: Apps To Help You Write A Business Plan
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
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