Regardless of the business you are in, to keep your business going and maintain profitability, you will be constantly selling your services to both new and existing customers. Before you start, it’s important to identify your marketplace and prepare a marketing plan. Since there are many ways to reach your targeted customers and prospects explore what options are most cost efficient for your business.
Small Business Sales Avenues
Increase Your Sales and Productivity
In a 21st century replete with ever-changing technological devices, small business owners quickly espouse "networking" and "customer relationship management (CRM)" when talking sales strategies. Sometimes, they do so without the full realization of what these activities entail. Seldom does "pounding the pavement" form sound waves during roundtable business meetings – mostly because the phrase conjures up images of door-to-door vacuum salesmen circa 1954. Is there really a difference? After all, the common denominator to all of these approaches is personal contact.
- Face-to-Face: Keep Customers Satisfied - Entrepreneurs interested in increasing sales and productivity in today's precarious economy must consider the vital role of face-to-face selling - or risk extinction.
- Relationship Selling: More than Just a Customer - Establishing a mutually beneficial relationship allows vendors and service providers to better predict customer needs.
- Sales Staff: Training Techniques - Depending on the nature and size of your business, you may require a team of salespeople to achieve your goals - and they will need training.
- 80/20 Rules - The ultimate goal of increasing sales and productivity will not come to fruition without a calculated effort.
Links or Kinks: Distribution Chain Option
If money were no object, every ambitious entrepreneur would implement the simplest method to facilitate a product's path to its end users. With plentiful resources and manpower, any item could and would glide seamlessly from manufacturing to market.
Actually, the above scenario does define a real business process. Distribution chains or marketing channels are the ways in which products and services move from factories to consumer outlets, where they are purchased. A distribution channel or chain would also include a product or service moving from one business to another.
Sometimes, a chain employs a complex process involving distributors, jobbers and brokers. Other times, particularly with smaller businesses, the owner's only option is to make the sale himself.
- Models that Work -- Or Not - The traditional distribution model has three levels: the producer, the wholesaler and the retailer.
- Choose a Chain with Care - Before you select a distribution chain, consider the following: Is your product perishable? A need for refrigerated storage containers may limit your choices for distribution.
- Franchising - If none of these methods appeals to you, consider franchising. As a franchisor, you would be in a unique position to market your products to as many outlets as you choose, while collecting royalties on their gross sales.
Customer Management: A Tracking Tutorial
Every budding entrepreneur understands that building a strong customer base takes time. However, wrapping up one's customers into a gift box tied with pretty ribbons often elicits an anti-climatic reaction equivalent to a fruitcake on Christmas.
Initially, extensive market research helped you identify your target audience - and your product is ripe for picking. But even with successful marketing efforts enabling you to bring your "fruit" directly to hungry customers--who, by the way, also have enough money to purchase said fruit-your strategic plan still may fall flat in the long term.
- Customer Relationships -- A Process - - While turning leads into small business sales, even on the short term, is always positive, the ability of entrepreneurs to manage existing clients bodes well in both a highly competitive marketplace and souring economy.
- Direct Mail: Letter Perfect - While contact management software keeps a business in the forefront of a prospect's mind, a well-crafted direct-mail campaign can achieve the same results.
- Customer Satisfaction: The Secret's in the Survey - Customer relationship management is an ongoing process, which greatly improves the owner's ability to predict the customer's needs.
Store Front Small Business Sales
In a competitive 21st century, consumers demand value for their money, or they are out the door. On the other hand, if, as a retailer, you deliver extraordinary service with attractive product displays and discount incentives, you will convert an ordinary consumer into a lifetime patron. This process starts in-house with a strong customer service action plan that includes:
- Providing sales promotions that offer purchasing discounts
Retail Selling Making a Difference
Brick and mortar stores remain the primary method consumers use to purchase products and services in America. According to the 2002 U.S. Census of Retail Trade, more than 1.1 million retailers in the United States operate store outlets. By far, most consumers visit a physical location, while others shop virtual space through the Internet or telemarketing. Many store-based sellers do not limit themselves to a single distribution method, but have multiple mediums for small business sales.
Retailers optimize their daily interactions with customers through their employees. Meeting customers face-to-face or working behind the scenes can potentially lead to customer service problems. Improving these relationships will improve customer satisfaction, loyalty and, ultimately, profits.
In a competitive 21st century, consumers demand value for their money, or they are out the door. On the other hand, if, as a retailer, you deliver extraordinary service with attractive product displays and discount incentives, you will convert an ordinary consumer into a lifelong patron. This process starts in-house with a strong customer service action plan that includes:
- Empowering the small business sales force through training and incentives
- Creating a motivated selling culture within the organization
- Learning the wants, needs and expectations of the customer
- Providing sales promotions that offer purchasing discounts
- Designing product displays and traffic patterns to enhance small business sales
- Training Sales-Floor Staff - As the saying goes, "You only have one chance to make a first impression." This is especially true of a relationship between a customer and the sales staff.
- Establishing a Motivated Selling Culture - Motivation is the driving force in developing top-notch selling techniques.
- Determining Customer Needs Through Questioning - Many selling coaches believe the best approach to selling depends on building relationships of trust with customers.
How to Sell: Savvy Selling - Moving Products Faster
Retailers know firsthand that customers often make purchasing decisions based on product information presented in catalogues, newspaper ads and online promotions. E-mail provides a fast, simple way to stay in touch with existing customers and to entice new ones.
Despite the effectiveness of these strategies, though, experts suggest that "in-store" advertising probably provides the most effective medium for stepping up sales. While these promotions account for annual revenues topping $15 billion, they cost retailers far less money than most mass media tools. What's more, a well-planned display or an interesting demonstration can entice shoppers to buy more products on the spot.
- The Product Marketing Mix - In-store advertising keeps your customers shopping once they're inside the front door. To this end, you must develop a strategy where well-designed signage can best display your merchandise.
- Sales Promotions: A Customer Draw - Coupons are the most familiar form of sales promotions. Their value comes into play by bringing consumers into the store for one product while enticing them to make other purchases.
- Sales Methods: All in the Timing - Store owners use promotional tools to gain the edge on their competitors.
Invented over a hundred years ago, the telephone remains one of our most effective marketing tools. The right campaign can have a significant impact on your bottom line. In fact, many retailers count on telemarketing as a permanent fixture in their marketing plans. Besides outperforming other forms of marketing media, the method's adaptability allows real-time adjustments to strategy. A single phone call can boost revenue, simply by changing product offerings or switching target audiences. Other reasons telemarketing really works:
- Most cost-effective marketing tool
- Instantly establishes customer interaction
- Flexible marketing territory
- Adjustable calling hours
Outbound telemarketing is an invaluable asset in data collection, as well as appointment setting, lead generation, surveys, market research, list cleaning, database updates, client reactivations and, of course, phone sales.
Inbound telemarketing applications are excellent for order taking, customer service and responses to virtually any form of advertisement.
Once you have a telemarketing operation set up, it can be easily adapted to a wide range of functions, including:
- Cold calling
- Market Research
- Introducing a new product
- Notifying customers of seasonal product changes
- Offering customers a special deal
- Expanding your territory
- Improving customer service
Industry experts confirm that telemarketing stimulates the growth of any start-up or small business. These services represent a considerable investment in time and money, so before launching a telemarketing campaign from scratch, it's smart to decide whether to set up a call center in-house or to outsource the process to a third party. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, and the answer depends on your situation.
- In - House Telemarketing - There are some real advantages to in-house telemarketing campaigns: You have direct control, and your callers are down the hall, not across town or across the country.
- Outsourcing Telemarketing - Some owners prefer to outsource call-center functions so they remain free to focus on core business. Additionally, outsourcing your telemarketing can be a cost-effective and productive option.
- Tips: Telemarketing Training and Etiquette - Professional telemarketers employ superior communications skills to understand customer problems, identify priorities for solving those problems, and help customers in a convenient, cost-effective, innovative and timely manner.
- A Word about Phone Manners - Customers are sensitive. It's unlikely people will spend money with a company that treats them badly especially in this tough economic market.
- Who to Call: Generating Leads - Lead acquisition is one of the most critical activities within a telemarketing campaign. The GP Bullhound Research report states that from 2006 to 2007, the online lead generation market grew at 71 percent more than twice as fast as the online advertising market.
- Telemarketing Do Not Call Compliance - It is important that you know the laws regarding the 2003 Federal Trade Commission Do Not Call legislation.
- The Barter System – Is It for You? - Whether you are starting or growing a small business, using a barter system preserves working capital for your venture.
- Bartering and Selling Surplus Merchandise - Surplus inventory can be a burden, but you can also turn it into a golden opportunity with online resources.