Small Biz 101: Tips for Increasing Sales 04 Jan 2006
33 comments Latest by Bill Snyder
Happy new year everyone! Hope you had a rockin’ holiday season.
The goal of this series is to share some of the lessons I’ve learned from starting my own small business. With that in mind, I’m going to tackle the tricky subject of how to bring in the dough.
How to bring in customers
So you’ve quit your 9-to-5 and you’re ready to make millions. How do you get started?
Welcome to the world of sales. Whether you’re in the service industry or the product business, you need to sell, sell and sell some more.
You may be thinking "Wait a minute. I started my own company because I’m passionate about XYZ, not to be a salesman." This couldn’t be further from the truth. As soon as you start your own company, sales is your raison d’être. Don’t stress though, it’s not as bad as you think.
I’ve had the privilege of being in both the service industry (working as a web developer) and the product industry (selling web applications), so here some tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way:
8 ways to increase sales
- Network like a crazy person. People do business with people they know and trust. It’s that simple. However, when you’re out meeting new people, don’t just think about ways they can help you, think about how you can help them too.
- Create a niche. Pick a specific area to excel in and tackle that. This will make it much easier to focus your efforts and beat the competition.
- Get your pricing right. Often when you start out, you won’t get your prices quite right. We recently encountered this with Carson Workshops. We decided to drop the prices from $695 to $495 on our US workshops (Getting Started with Ajax & How We Built Flickr). It was a tough call, but in the end we felt it gave the best value to customers, while still retaining reasonable profits.
- What’s In It For Them? As I mentioned in my first article, these are some of the most powerful words you will ever learn. Why would someone purchase your product or service? What will they gain? Be harshly honest.
- Don’t be an ass. This may sound obvious, but people like doing business with nice people. If you’re friendly and kind, it’s way more likely people will become repeat customers (not to mention the fact it’s just a better way to live).
- Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Treat your customers like you would want to be treated.
- Be thrifty with your marketing. In the early days of Carson Systems, I threw away tons of money on things like direct mail, phone calls, ad campaigns, etc. Most of the time, it’s just not worth it for small businesses. Things like blogs, newsletters and networking, are virtually free, whilst being very effective.
- Use a CRM tool. A great way to keep in touch with your customers and encourage repeat business is to use a customer relationship manager (CRM) tool. If you want to give someone a call and can’t remember what you spoke about last time, a CRM tool is invaluable. I’ve heard the 37signals crew have something up their sleeve in this area, so keep an eye out.
So hopefully you’ll find the above tips useful for getting new customers, but how can you deal with the inevitable rejections that will come your way? Here are a couple useful tips:
5 ways to avoid discouragement
- Be realistic. There’s nothing worse than making crazy optimistic goals and then crashing back down to reality. Start off with realistic, achievable sales goals. When you hit them, congratulate yourself and increase them.
- Make daily goals. If you know you need to get five new customers a month, then work backward from that and figure out how many contacts/phone calls you need to make to achieve those five sales. Then divide this by the number of working days in the month. If you have an achievable daily goal, you’ll feel great when you check it off your list.
- Find someone to encourage you. I spent the first year of Carson Systems as the sole employee and it was insanely discouraging at times. If it wasn’t for my wonderful wife and faithful cat (who I found myself talking to), I would’ve given up. Find someone who you can have a beer with on a weekly basis, and share your victories and defeats with them.
- Get the hard stuff over with first. If you know you hate a certain task, get it over with first. After it’s over, you’ll feel exhilarated the rest of the day. If you put it off till the end of the day, you’ll spend the whole day dreading it.
- Don’t take rejection personally. A large percentage of potential customers will say no (and some will even be nasty about it). Just remind yourself that it’s totally normal and they’re not rejecting you personally.
I hope I’ve given you a couple ideas on how to increase sales and steer clear of the inevitable discouragement that will come your way. If you put these ideas to work, you’ll have a good head start on the competition.
In the next article, I’ll dish out some juicy tips for self promotion and marketing. Meanwhile, if you’ve got any great tips for getting new customers, please comment below.