Be the business that sticks

Most small to medium enterprises have a short life span.  Research by the Institute of Directors shows only three out of ten SMEs get to celebrate their fifth birthday and only one out of ten make it to double digits.

With SMEs struggling to achieve longevity what is one of the key characteristics of success? From the get-go they are serious about growing revenue.

A sales strategy is a must for all businesses, but especially important for a fledging business.  Many start-ups focus solely on creating a great product.  It is equally important to convey how great your product is to the right people so they want to do business with you.

You need to wake up every morning and be thinking about where your next order or customer is coming from.  Let’s face it, a business with no customers or orders is dead in the water.

To be successful in sales you need to have a deliberate strategy. You might get by initially with an ad-hoc approach, but the odds will be against you for the long term.

Look at Xero, one of NZ’s most successful start-ups recognised by international investors.  In 2008 they had one customer and grew this to 400,000 by the end of 2014.  With a target of 1 million by the end of 2015.

Xero set out a clear vision and have worked towards achieving it.

So how can you have a successful sales strategy?

Develop a sales vision that is inspiring, motivating, achievable (but a real stretch) and measurable.

Know who your target market is and identify prospects.  Make sure you know who the decision maker is so you’re talking to the right person.  Find out who their influencers are.

Understand the ‘value’ of your product or service.  You are not selling your company but the value your product or service provides.  Always speak to your prospects on the benefits.

Just as importantly take the time to listen to your prospects.  The sales process should be a conversation, not a one way dialogue.  This only works if you actively listen.

Make sure you follow up and deliver.  If you’ve promised a follow up call or material make sure you deliver.  This shows you are reliable and are good to your word.

You need to commit to your sales on an ongoing basis.  Like anything worthwhile, it isn’t easy.  It takes perseverance, time and energy, but the rewards are well worth it.

Darren McGarvie is the Chairman of the Rotorua X Charitable Trust and Director of McGarvie Business Coaching.

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