Who said selling isn’t cool? Well, Steven Osinski, a sales expert at San Diego University and an entrepreneur who sold a company to Monster.com, did. In the article, “Five Sales Tactics Every Entrepreneur Must Master,” Osinski claims that the inability to sell effectively is the reason why so many startups fail. Cool or not, it’s a skill businesses must master to stay alive.
In fact, he feels that a trained and skilled sales force may be more important than a company’s products or services. Few products sell themselves. You have to have a marketing plan and a successful sales strategy in order to get people excited enough about your products to buy. Otherwise, they can languish in a real or virtual warehouse.
Entrepreneurs have some unique sales challenges that can prepare them to overcome one of the toughest parts of sales—rejection. For startups trying to raise funds, they first have to sell the company and its products and services to investors. Millions of dollars may ride on an effective, dynamic sales presentation.
Recruiting top talent is another sales hurdle. Convincing talented 20- or 30-somethings with the high-tech experience you need is highly competitive. While the job market is tough, some skills are still in demand. Without a track record, solid client list and the right culture, selling employment in your company as a desirable thing can be tough.
The first two sales scenarios are good training for the third and least complicated—selling your products and services to customers. You need sales team with the right skills and desire to go after and close a sale. Osinski lists five sales skills start-ups need to master to survive.
- Forget the product. When you live and breathe a product, it’s the first thing on your mind. Sales people forget that the customer has his problem or need on his mind, and that’s way more important than the list of features you share with your first breath. Slow down and listen, then make your pitch. Building the relationship is more important than the sale.
- Ask for referrals. Referrals produce warm leads. The problem is, most people don’t ask for referrals. Osinski suggests making a list of people you know and then do a mind-map for each one, writing down people in their circles who might possibly need your products or services. Then, the next time you run into one of them, ask for a referral. No emails or texts. These conversations are best done in person.
- Cold or lukewarm calling. It’s the old “dialing for dollars” with a twist. Instead of calling everyone in the phone book (yes, they still exist), qualify your list as much as possible. Search a prospect’s website for information that indicates a need for your product or service. Start your call with some information about the company. Let a prospect know you are interested in their business before you introduce yours.
- Find the prospect’s “hot button.” People buy for different reasons. One buys based on price, another wants “green” products, and others need convenience. By using a combination of open- and closed-ended questions, Osinski says you can find the right hot button to push.
- Work your networking. Instead of hanging out with you buddies and trading war stories at a networking event, go for the old “opposites attract.” Get out of your comfort zone and introduce yourself to people who could be your next customers.
Most entrepreneurs enjoy the creative side of business and are so in love with their product or service they think it will just sell itself. Even the most amazing startups needed a push. The marketplace is full of people with different needs and interest levels. An effective sales effort with the right tactics can move your startup to the next level.
Photo Source: Freedigitalphotos.net
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