This post is excerpted from my recent interview with Lori Richardson @scoremoresales. Every week as @SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wed. on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. Lori is a “Sales Detective” — she works with company leaders to uncover sales issues and then resolve them so the organization can grow revenues. Lori has many free tips and ideas on her blog at www.scoremoresales.com You can follow the “Fab 50 Small Business Sales Innovation” tour there as well. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Smallbizlady: Why do so many small business owners get stuck when it comes to sales?
Lori Richardson: When most small business owners decided to start a business, they focused on the thing they were good at that they wanted to sell — that product or special service offering they love. May didn’t realize they’d be their company’s top salesperson until one day — it hit them — they needed more customers.
Smallbizlady: What issues do you hear about most often?
Lori Richardson: People say that they don’t want to be thought of as “salesy” — you know, like Herb Tarlek from the 80’s sitcom WKRP Cincinnati (just Google his photo)- white shoes, plaid jacket. In reality, it is that salesperson who doesn’t listen to us and tries to shove solutions at us that don’t work. Small business owners don’t know the right way to sell.
Smallbizlady: So what is the right way to sell?
Lori Richardson: We know that a company with good ideas and no revenues is not a real business — so one needs to turn their products and services into dollars. That exchange — the turning of ideas, coaching, consulting, or actual products into revenue is what selling is to me. It is not associated with tricks or tactics — it is a conversation with a more probable prospective customer.
Smallbizlady: So selling is just a conversation?
Lori Richardson: Basically, yes. The conversation eventually comes to closure — one way or the other. If you focus on identifying people or companies who are “more probable” rather than “less probable” to do business with, you will have more meaningful conversations and more “qualified potential buyers”. If you are bad at qualifying who your customers might be, then it is a long frustrating process.
Smallbizlady: How do you qualify a prospective customer?
Lori Richardson: Through understanding what it is that they need. Now you can start this with smartly crafted landing pages on a website — so that your more qualified potential customer will continue on and the less probable customers will leave the site — or you can do it through in person meetings, by phone, social media, email, and/or webinars.
Smallbizlady: Tell me more about who might be qualified?
Lori Richardson: These are people (or companies) who fit your ideal target, or niche. In other words, don’t try to be everything to everyone. Don’t think your product can serve everyone well. If you do think that, it is much harder to get strategic partners to refer you. Find a niche market and create messaging and offer value for that niche.
Smallbizlady: How can working with strategic partners help sales?
Lori Richardson: A wonderful way to spread the word about the value you offer is to find strategic partners (I often call them alliance partners) who “get” what it is that you do, and they know and trust you or your work. They can promote your company on their site or they can contact their followers and recommend you — therefore offering you a “many-to-one” opportunity — many potential customers who are being recommended highly to talk with you. This type of referral has a high rate of closure, and it happens quicker than normal.
Smallbizlady: How has selling changed?
Lori Richardson: With new social media tools and all sorts of technology tools (considered Sales 2.0 tools) — buyers have much more say and control in narrowing down choices — and sellers have less lead time. In today’s business world, one needs to be nimble, and needs to be out there building their brand — so that when the buyer is finally ready — they have already heard about you before you know about it.
Smallbizlady: How does attitude play into effective selling?
Lori Richardson: Small business owners need daily inspiration to grow their business. I suggest finding ways to enjoy wearing the “business development” hat — in fact I used to have a hat I’d actually put on when I did business development — so that I remembered what it is that I am supposed to be doing at that time. Small biz owners get distracted by interruptions and opportunities all the time so they don’t honor having a regular time to build business.
Smallbizlady: Who needs to be prospecting for new business?
Lori Richardson: Unless you get 100% of your business through referral, you need to prospect. I prospect every week, at least to some degree.
Smallbizlady: What other tips can you offer?
Lori Richardson: Set a regular time in your calendar each morning for outbound sales calls, emails, direct messages or at least once or twice a week schedule time for prospecting and other follow up activities for the purpose of growing revenues. Do nothing else during that time. Then, track that information in a CRM tool (web-based tracking system) like Salesforce.com or www.bigcontacts.com
Smallbizlady: Do you have anything else to share?
Lori Richardson: Find ways to be inspired and have fun. Think about how happy you’ll be when that new client comes on board or that customer places a huge order — and use THAT for your motivation.
Melinda Emerson, known to many as “SmallBizLady,” is a Veteran Entrepreneur, Small Business Coach and Social Media Strategist who hosts #Smallbizchat weekly on Twitter for emerging entrepreneurs. Her first book Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months http://bit.ly/asEgeR was released in March 2010.