by Leigh Wallinger.
There has been a paradigm shift over the last decade in the way people want to buy. So much so, small business owners are no longer in full control of their sales pipelines.
Historically, small business owners used the sales pipeline to measure the effectiveness of their sales processes in areas such as lead generation and prospect nurturing. The idea is you add every new prospect to one end of the pipeline then gradually move them along, using clever sales techniques, until they reached the end if the pipeline, when they became clients. [Some people use the concept of a sales funnel instead of a pipeline, but the ideas are identical].
It was believed that the seller controlled the speed at which things happened. It was important that sellers maintained forward momentum towards securing an order. If progress stalled, it was difficult to rescue the situation. For example, at the end of a sales meeting, the seller would get the prospect’s commitment to the next meeting, by scheduling a date and time.
This is no longer the case. Think back to some of your recent sales successes. Were you really controlling the process and the speed at which the prospect moved from being interested in your product to buying it?
Have a defined market
It remains important for small business owners to focus their companies onto well-defined niche markets. Despite the apparent benefits of believing everyone is a potential prospect for your company, successfully growing revenues and profits from a general market will be difficult. It takes significant funds to market your products/services to such a broad range of potential purchasers.
Buyers (your prospects) are now firmly in control. They decide when your sales cycle will start. You can try to start the process before they are ready, but you will ultimately fail to gain any momentum. Buyers also decide how fast the sale will progress. When you try to speed things up, all that happens is you create a mismatch between the selling cycle and the buying cycle. Often, as a direct result, the sale collapses.
Small business owners must concentrate on keeping the buying cycle and the selling cycle in step. Forget about forcing the sale along – leave that to your competitors.
Concentrate on doing what your prospect wants, at the right time and in the right way. Show prospects you respect them and are there to help them make the best decision for their business. Build your sales momentum from the prospect’s desire to buy. If you do this, the whole sales process is far more enjoyable and much less a battle of wills.
The buying cycle starts when your prospect decides to purchase a product/service and your company is one of several shortlisted suppliers to be considered. The buyer will announce his readiness to buy by contacting you directly. From this point you must be attentive and responsive, remember everyone wants things done instantly. It’s the nature of life in the 21st century.
Few prospects will engage before they have completed their research of possible suppliers. Much of this research will be undertaken using the Internet. Consequently, it is essential you have plenty of relevant material on your website.
What else should small business owners do to maximize their chances of being added to the prospect’s shortlist?
- Be clear about which niche markets you are concentrating on.
- Demonstrate your knowledge of these markets and the issues your prospects are dealing with.
- Show how you have helped other companies operating in the same niche as your prospects.
- Communicate what makes you different (and better) to similar suppliers, your main competitors.
- Highlight how you minimise the risks associated with buying your products/services.
- Promote all the ways you look after purchasers with guarantees, warranties, hand-holding, repairs and support (as appropriate).
There a many different activities you can undertake to successfully deliver these six objectives. All of them will build your reputation as a credible supplier and increase your prospect’s confidence that you represent a “safe pair of hands” as a supplier.
Leigh Wallinger knows the problems that every small business owner encounters when trying to establish and grow a small business. After 30+ years’ experience he now helps small business owners to grow their businesses. Contact him by email (enquiries at salesmadeeasy.co.uk) or via www.salesmadeeasy.co.uk
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