Sales and Marketing advice for small businesses, sole traders and the self employed
Getting your sales and marketing right is crucial to the success of your business. If you’re just starting a company or business, you’ll need to build yourself a reputation in the market so potential customers know who you are and how to contact you. This can take time and will mean you need to invest some effort initially into building relationships with customers, you may even need to give away some work for free to get yourself set up.
We’ve put together a quick list of ‘things to do’ when trying to market and sell your services/products. Depending on the industry you work in, different advice will be relevant to you. For example, if you run a small shop, closing a sales appointment might not be relevant, if you run a small Consultancy firm this advice is crucial to the growth of your business.
Sounds complicated? Well – we’ve put together a quick step-by-step guide to successful marketing. It needn’t be as daunting a prospect as you think!
1. Find out who your customers are
If you’re going to present a marketing message to someone, you need to make sure it's the right message, to the right people, at the right time.
Define your target audience. You need to put your different customers into groups, for example, if you’re a physiotherapist, who are your customers likely to be? The older generation with back problems? Those who play sports and sustain injuries? Those who work in manual labour? What groups do your competitors target and have they missed any opportunities? Group these customers and write down what their needs are and how likely they'll be in taking up the service and if they can afford it. After all some groups may really want your product/service but not have the money to pay you.
2. Understand your customers and competitors
Why do your customers need you? Work out what your groups of customers buy and why they buy it – from this you can work out your Unique Selling Proposition (or USP). Give your business a bit of an edge over competitors by giving customers exactly what they want, but with something a little extra. You can learn a lot about your customers and their needs by talking to them! Get out on the street and question some of your potential customers, ask friends and family or go to events and exhibitions.
In order to really make your business stand out, make sure you know who the competition is. You’ll need your USP to be different to their unique offerings so check out much they charge, how many clients they have and what sort of business they run. Have a look at their websites to try and get a feel for your competitors’ companies.
3. Work out where your customers are
Where are your customers most likely to see your marketing message? Could it be on a notice board in local companies? There are lots of places that don't charge you to advertise, where your customers will see your adverts. Think very carefully before placing a 'paid for' advert, they are expensive and often don't provide the level of response you thought they might.
4. Write a plan
Yes, a very boring part of the process but important in order to consistently continue marketing and selling the services and/or goods that you offer. Write a detailed description of your customers and describe the marketing activities you’ve chosen including the timings and cost of each activity.
Some of the sort of marketing activities you could choose include:
- Direct selling – face to fact sales.
- Get in touch with existing contacts – use existing people you know to get business
- Events and exhibitions
- Seminars – introduce your company and give some free advice
- Breakfast small business meetings
- Internet activity
For more information on each of these marketing activities, have a look at our finding work as a small business and sole trader pages.
5. Monitoring and evaluation
Don’t just carry out marketing activity and hope that it works – make sure you measure the amount of business you get. For example, you could find that exhibitions give you a lot more customers than advertising or PR. Once you’ve found this out, you can tailor future marketing plans so your spend your time and money most effectively with a good return.
Every company needs to generate sales!
We’ve put together a few tips on how to make a sale. If you run a service type business like a Consultancy, this is probably going to be really useful. If you sell goods or sell more inexpensive services like plumbing or nannying, this might not be so relevant.
Step 1 : Lead generation
Choose which people you’re going to target and make sure you know who the decision maker is. For instance, if you’re selling IT equipment, make sure you get the name and contact details of the IT Manager. Contact this person – don’t just send them an email or letter. Call them! Yes it's tough but it is without a doubt the least expensive and the most rewarding way to get new business.
If you’re just starting out, use existing contacts, friends and family. Also look on the internet for local businesses you might want to target – if you’re selling consultancy, look for small local business that might need some help. Keep an eye on the trade press and make sure you attend relevant exhibitions – you could meet some great customers!
We have created a short video guide to give you some ideas as to how you can generate FREE leads for your business. Take a look below and subscribe to our YouTube channel for more useful videos.
Step 2 : Set up the sales appointment
If you don’t know the contact at all – it’s best to call them. I know what you’re thinking – this sounds scary! However, you’ll get a much better response rate if you make the effort to call. For more tips on cold calling, have a look at our finding work pages. When you speak with the contact, set up a date to meet up rather than sell over the phone. Face to face sales is much more effective.
Step 3 : The sales appointment
Make sure you prepare and have a good idea about their business. Put together a list of questions so you can get a conversation going and tailor your businesses services/goods so that they directly meet this customers needs. Be friendly and open to questions – the more the potential customer likes you, the more likely you are to make a sale.
Step 4 : Closing the sale
Your heart's probably beating a bit faster when you get to this stage of the sale and you’ll probably just want to ask whether the customer wants to buy or not straight away. But stop! Closing a sale is a tricky business and if you go in too quick you could ruin the chance to do business with this customer.
You’ll know when to start closing if you feel like the customer is interested, look for signs like the a nodding head, a positive tone and lots of questions. Reassure the customer that they’re in safe hands and start to ask closing questions like ‘What sort of consultancy services are you looking for?’ or ‘Would you like that product in blue or green?’. It’s hard to tell you exactly when the time is right to ask whether they want to sign on the dotted line, you’ll need to gauge the right time yourself.
Sale and marketing is a tricky business and new business owners don’t always get it right the first time. Keep getting yourself out there and you’ll definitely start to sell your products or services.
If you’d like to speak to Easy Accountancy about your small business needs, Ask us a Question, call us on 0500 234 111 / 01442 275 767.