9. SALES – All Time Essentials for Entrepreneurs: 100 Things to Know and Do to Make Your Idea Happen

Chapter 9. SALES

"Formula for success: under promise and over deliver."

Tom Peters, 1942–

American writer and management consultant, best known for co-writing worldwide bestseller In Search of Excellence.

81: Under promise and over deliver

If you continually exceed your clients' expectations, they have few reasons to look at your competitors.

Think of subtle ways to add value for your customers. For example, a car dealership can deliver your new vehicle with a bouquet of flowers on the back seat as a special unexpected gift. In an instant the dealership generates a wealth of goodwill at a small cost.

The possibilities are endless. Use a little creativity to ensure that your customers get more than they expect in a positive way.

Be careful not to set expectations too high, as you must consistently deliver. If you fall short of customer expectations then the penalty is a possible loss of business.

"No matter what your product is, you are ultimately in the education business. Your customers need to be constantly educated about the many advantages of doing business with you, trained to use your products more effectively, and taught how to make never-ending improvement in their lives."

Robert G. Allen, 1948–

Canadian-American writer on financial investment, author of Nothing Down and co-author of The One Minute Millionaire.

82: Sell benefits not features

All products and services are solutions to everyday problems. Your customers don't necessarily need to know how you're going to solve these problems, just that you are.

Try to sell the features of tap water: a cold combination of hydrogen and oxygen in a liquid state. Not a very appealing product. People may be put off by the technical words. But if you promote tap water as an environmentally friendly, refreshing, free soft drink that helps you rehydrate, quench your thirst and keeps you cool, then you are solving their problems.

Create the foundations of your sales pitch by saying what your product or service is and how it solves a specific problem.

"Living on Earth may be expensive, but it includes an annual free trip around the sun."

Ashleigh Brilliant, 1933–

British author and cartoonist, best known for Pot-Shots, a comic of illustrated epigrams, and for books such as I May Not Be Totally Perfect, but Parts of Me Are Excellent, and Other Brilliant Thoughts.

83: Generate goodwill

Customers who receive an unexpected bonus when doing business with you always remember that you went further than the competition.

Consumers' expectations of dealing with businesses are much higher today than a few years ago. Customers are aware of value and good service and are willing to let you know when you've let them down.

Try a buy-one-get-one-free offer or take a client out to a smart restaurant. Arrange for your top 10 customers to meet up for a free networking seminar. Distribute insights into your industry.

Do things that set you apart – your competitors may be doing the same, so be creative.

"In sales, a referral is the key to the door of resistance."

Bo Bennett, 1972–

American entrepreneur, motivational speaker and author of Year to Success.

84: Ask for a referral

When you provide customers with prompt and reliable quality of service, they'll be happy to spread the word on your behalf, often without you having to ask.

When a customer compliments you on your work, ask them to put it in writing for you to use as a testimonial in your marketing material.

After every sale, ask the customer why they chose you over the competition. This is simple ongoing market research. If you sell fast-moving goods, create a reply-paid postcard for buyers to fill in as part of a prize draw. Use the information they supply in your literature and press releases. You'll be pleasantly surprised how effective this becomes with practice.

"If it's free, it's advice; if you pay for it, it's counseling; if you can use either one, it's a miracle."

Jack Adams, 1895–1968

Canadian professional hockey player who spent 36 years as coach or general manager of the Detroit Red Wings and became president of the Central Hockey League.

85: Provide free advice for customers

Create a seminar that's informative for your client base. Use this forum to communicate the availability of new products and services.

Ask one of your clients to be a keynote speaker on a critical element of the industry. They will feel honoured that you've chosen them over other clients.

Keep costs down by offering web-based seminars. One company I know provides fortnightly introductions to its products online. It e-mails a form to prospects and asks them what they would like for breakfast – the food arrives at their desks at 8.30, just in time for the online seminar to start. This has proved a very successful method for getting people involved in the business.

Do unforgettable things and your customers won't forget you.

"The best teamwork comes from men who are working independently toward one goal in unison."

James Cash Penney, 1875–1971

American businessman and entrepreneur, founder of J.C. Penney stores.

86: Make yourself part of the team

Demonstrate that you are there to help your customers increase their profits and solve their business problems. Become indispensable to your customers and they will start to call you for advice rather than you calling them to sell.

Your ideas may save the day in a difficult business situation. Link your concepts and problem-solving skills with your products and services and you have the ability to consult for your clients.

The more integrated you are with your customers' businesses, the harder it will be for a competitor to move in on your territory.

"Be everywhere, do everything, and never fail to astonish the customer."

Motto of US retail chain Macy's

87: Create excellent customer service

Keep customers coming back by making sure that your products or services work well for them. If their problems persist, show concern and provide new solutions at your own cost.

If you are the owner of the business and an issue arises with your products or services, then go out and see the client. You are the one in control and the customer will appreciate the time you have given up to compensate for the problem and help solve it. You are responsible for ensuring your customers' satisfaction.

"A friendship founded on business is better than a business founded on friendship."

John D. Rockefeller, 1839–1937

US industrialist and philanthropist, founder of the Standard Oil Company and the first American billionaire.

88: Don't have clients, have friends

Business is done by people. Meet your stakeholders and customers outside the work environment and develop a personal rather than simply a business relationship.

This sounds a difficult step, but it is necessary to forge social relationships in order to maximize your business relationships.

Many organizations entertain customers and prospects at golf days, racing events or shoots. Corporate events are time away from the business with those you do business with. Scale this idea down to suit your own customers.

Invite prospects to local events. Even if they turn you down on this occasion, they won't forget that you invited them.

"I have never worked a day in my life without selling. If I believe in something, I sell it, and I sell it hard."

Estée Lauder, 1906–2004

American co-founder of the cosmetics company that bears her name, the only woman on Time magazine's list of the 20 most influential business geniuses of the twentieth century.

89: Ask for the business

A sale is a just a conversation. Talk to your prospects and answer any questions they might have. When the time is right, ask for the business. The customer can only say no.

If you do get a rejection, find out what their objections are and try to overcome them. When you ask for the business a second time, the customer should have little reason to say no.

You need continuing sales to survive, so if a prospect persistently turns you down, waste no more time, move on and find a more committed client.

"Let us move from the era of confrontation to the era of negotiation."

Richard M. Nixon, 1913–94

37th President of the United States, the only American president to resign from office following his role in the Watergate scandal.

90: Negotiate every opportunity

When you're buying and selling, you're trading. Negotiation ensures that trading is fair.

Be creative with your negotiation and don't haggle over price. You could offer a discounted service contract or a free annual health check for your offering instead. Cash is king. Keep the price high to maximize cash flow and offer other items that you can afford to give away.

Negotiation isn't about beating the other party into submission. The key is to enable both parties to feel mutually satisfied that they have both gained from the process – a win–win situation.