Build a marketing hub


by Leigh Wallinger.

The way your prospects want to buy has changed significantly over the last 5 years and there is no going back. Prospects now use the Internet to identify, research and evaluate possible suppliers. If your product/service can be purchased online, it is unlikely your prospect will even want direct contact with your staff. Everything will be done electronically.

If prospects do have to interact with suppliers’ staff as part of their buying process, they will use their Internet research activities to generate a shortlist of potential suppliers. Only those companies on this shortlist will be contacted.

You have to get your company on this shortlist

Aim to fully populate your website with the information your prospects will want to find. Help them to assess your credentials/expertise/relevant track record prior to them finalising their shortlist. You should include information that prospects will find of value and of interest during their shortlisting process.

Getting all this information published and ready to load onto your website is a substantial amount of work. You should look at ways to leverage your efforts as much as possible.

The best way to achieve this leverage is to turn your website into a marketing hub. Everything prospects will need to evaluate your company should be loaded onto a well-structured website (so the information can be readily found). Then all your marketing activities must be geared to persuading prospects to visit your website and access this wealth of information.

You are selling your prospects on the benefits of visiting your website, which is pretty straightforward. It is your website that move people who might be classified as having a “passing interest” to people who are “interested” and then to “actively evaluating” your products/services.

Years ago, this process was carried out by teams of sales and marketing staff through seminars, exhibitions and roadshows. Their job was to find people with a passing interest and hand them to salespeople who would move them to “actively evaluating” your products/services.

Now, your website can automate these early stages of the sales cycle. You will engage with prospects only when they have shortlisted your company. In sales management jargon, you engage with part-qualified prospects. When you meet with them, they are ready to engage. You avoid all the stalling and delaying tactics of prospects that have frustrated experienced (older) salespeople for many years.

As a result, sales situations will progress more smoothly and fewer prospects will withdraw from discussions. Your sales pipeline is full of better quality prospects and a larger proportion will eventually convert into clients.

The secret is for your marketing hub to allow those prospects with requirements that your products/services will struggle to meet, to decide you aren’t a suitable supplier. This can only be achieved by giving prospects all the information they need to make an informed decision for themselves.

This is why you must create and maintain a comprehensive website

Once your website (marketing hub) is up and running, all that is left for your marketing to achieve is to drive people to visit the website. This is relatively easy although it does take some time.

Your target audience will respond best if you communicate with them regularly using a variety of different techniques. Don’t simply send an email every month, mix things up. Mix up the frequency of emails. Intersperse regular emails with ad-hoc messages – all designed to help your prospect and encourage them to visit your website.

The best way to tempt prospects to visit your website is to send an email containing part of the information together with a “read-more” link to your website. Those who are interested in your email subject will link through.

Of course, if you are just starting up then you may not have email addresses for anyone in your target audience. In this case, you need to obtain them from anonymous visitors to your website. This is best done by having something that your prospects will find valuable available to download from your website.  Whatever it is, request an email address from the person wanting the information and then email the item to that email address. [This last step is important to avoid you being given the wrong email address].

You may speed up the process by purchasing email lists and running a short email marketing campaign asking people to visit your website and sign up for an eZine or to download a large report or for access to a video webcast.

Alternatively you can write articles and have these distributed as part of other people’s eZines, to their list of contacts.


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 or via

© Arteka Limited 2013. All rights reserved.

Target-focused marketing

by Leigh Wallinger.

Small business owners are often guilty of wasting both time and money on inappropriate marketing activities. They don’t do it deliberately but the consequences can be serious. Not only is the time and money gone forever, what’s worse is that these activities simply don’t generate any new prospects.

The worst “crime” of all is to channel some (or all) of your marketing towards people who will never want to buy what you are selling. If you target the wrong people your business will fail.

It is essential that your marketing message reaches the right people. There is no value in promoting your company to people who have no interest in what you sell.

As a small business owner, with only limited time and cash available, you should spend some time answering these two questions – the payback will be disproportionally beneficial.

Who exactly will buy my products or services?

Be a specific as possible. These are the people you want to be marketing and selling to. They represent your target market(s). All your marketing efforts must be directed to reaching them.

Try to define several relatively small niche target areas here. It is wise to have multiple niches to give you some resilience when one niche market suffers a reverse. Your answer to this question pinpoints exactly who you expect will buy from you. Understand as much as you can about them. Where do they go or look when buying what you sell?

Analyse each niche as thoroughly as possible taking particular notice of what your competitors are doing. Be especially careful when you find no evidence of activity from your main competitors. It might mean they have previously found this niche to be unrewarding.

Why will these people buy from me?

Prospects in your target niches could buy from you or any number of your competitors.  Understand why they will buy from you. What makes you better than your competitors? What problems exist for which you have a solution?  What impact do these problems currently have on the prospect’s business?

Focus your marketing on these problems and how you solve them. Provide evidence that you understand the prospects’ problems by describing how you have helped other companies facing similar problems. When you write your marketing materials, be sure to use the prospect’s terminology to make them feel more comfortable. Let your knowledge come across and use this to build some dialogue.

Write your marketing copy to focus on the challenges your target audience is facing.  Explain why you are the best supplier. Where possible introduce some testimonial quotes from your happy clients. The last step is to communicate this to your target audience.  Do your utmost to focus on your chosen niches.  Promoting wider than this is a waste of time and money.

Let’s look at a couple of examples. Firstly, assume you run a small company providing electrical services to domestic and small business consumers. You want your company to work locally, say within 15 miles of your base.

Your marketing must be oriented towards your local environment. You can run short articles in Local Council magazines or small (and cheap) adverts in church magazines. You might do a leaflet drop in the area in which you want to find clients or attend some local networking events.

You must do whatever you can to limit the geographic spread of your marketing.  If you work in town A, there is no value having people in towns B, C and D seeing your marketing material. Why pay extra to reach people who will never buy from you?

In the next example, imagine you run a small company providing a range of garden products, which you are happy to ship worldwide.  Of course, most of your business will come from your own country. In this situation, you need to find national or global platforms on which to publish your marketing copy. It is likely your business will revolve around an Internet-based e-commerce system allowing purchases to be made without direct contact with the company.

In this case, you should avoid small circulation local magazines and focus on national sources of opportunities. There will be opportunities for you to write articles for these publications. You should use social media websites such as LinkedIn and Facebook as these have a wide geographical reach. To get more focus, you might look at some of their special interest groups. The objective behind everything you do is to persuade people to visit your website.

Ensure your website contains enough material to persuade someone to revisit and eventually make a purchase.


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 or via

© Arteka Limited 2013. All rights reserved.

How to make marketing successful

by Leigh Wallinger.

For many small business owners, marketing is a source of great frustration. It seems that whatever they do, their marketing simply doesn’t produce the required results.

It is likely this failure is caused by them doing something wrong. All small businesses need more sales. This pressure causes small business owners to try and close deals too early, before their prospects are ready to buy. The result is a lost sale.

Owners need to back off, learn how to keep prospects interested and wait until each prospect is ready to buy. Trying to force the sale will result in failure.

The most effective role for marketing in small businesses is that of lead generator. If you can attract potential buyers of your product/service and nurture them until they are ready to buy, you will soon move away from the typical hand-to-mouth existence experienced by most small businesses.

To get your marketing back on track, follow the simple 3-step action plan given below. You really want to find more top-quality prospects – those whose requirements are a good fit to what you supply.

Most companies will have two sources of sales leads – one is through their marketing and the other is through referrals from their clients. Let’s look first at making your marketing work better.

Your first action step is to define what a top-quality prospect looks like for your business.  Once you have clarity of who you want to attract, your second action step is to define what these prospects want from their suppliers.

The answer will depend on your product line and industry but value-for-money, low risk, reliable products, hand-holding of new clients and a responsive support service might well figure in your answer. These points all need to be highlighted in your marketing – in your emails, in your marketing and on your website.

Your third action step is to define what makes you different to your competitors. This is often a stumbling block, especially for those companies selling services. It is essential that you can point to things which make you different in ways your prospects will value and appreciate.

Your marketing needs to convey this information specifically to those people who could buy your products or services. Your marketing messages should be in front of these people regularly. A single email or advert won’t give you the required results.Persistence and consistency will pay the greatest dividends. Get noticed and offer value to your prospects. They will eventually engage.

The second source of sales leads is your client list. Unfortunately, few of your clients will simply give you a referral. You will need to prime the pumps. There are three prerequisites to clients giving up one or more referrals.

The first is that your clients must be completely happy with your company’s performance in fulfilling their purchase. This means the results of their purchase must have been consistent with your promises. A good test of this is whether or not the client would agree to being the subject of a “success story” about their purchase.

The second prerequisite is that your client’s purchase has not given them a competitive edge over their competition. They are unlikely to want to help you sell to another company by giving you a referral. Similar restrictions apply to industries where secrecy is critical – such as applications in defence, national security, counter-terrorism etc.

Lastly, you still have to ask for a referral. The request has to be very specific otherwise your client will not come up with a name.

Many small businesses survive mostly on word-of-mouth referrals rather than on marketing to attract prospects. If you are going down this route it is essential you have a process in place to ensure all your clients remain happy and are asked for referrals. You might package this into something like a Client Retention Programme so you can ensure it is consistently applied to every client.

Not every client you secure will fit your ideal profile, this is to be expected. Small business owners should assess which clients require considerably more support than normal. It is easy for these high-maintenance clients to consume all the profits you make from their purchase(s). Sometimes it will be costing you money to have them as clients.

It’s worth considering what you should do with these clients. There is a compelling case to drop all clients who cost you money and use the time you save to give an even better service to your remaining clients and attract additional (profitable) clients. An annual exercise to flush out all loss making clients will help you maintain profitability levels.


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 or via

© Arteka Limited 2013. All rights reserved.

How to make it easier for people to buy your services

by Leigh Wallinger.

It is widely accepted that selling services is generally more difficult than selling products. With a service, there is nothing for the prospect to see or touch to give reassurance that it will do what the seller claims.

Your prospects don’t believe any of the claims you make about your services until one of your existing clients confirms, either directly or indirectly, that those claims are accurate.  In many ways, your existing clients represent a more potent sales team than you could ever employ. Only a few service providers make sufficient use of their existing clients when chasing prospects. The rest are missing out.

Your second problem when selling services is this. It can be difficult to demonstrate to prospects exactly what they are buying. The best you can do is to find an existing client whose requirements are similar to your prospect’s and show how the client benefitted. For big-ticket sales, you could arrange for your prospect to visit the client to “see” your service in action.

Selling is so much easier with a physical product. Your prospects can look at it and handle it. It’s clear what they will be buying.

Reflect on the steps involved in demonstrating and selling a product (for example, a laser printer) and those relating to a service (for example, month-end accounting services). Most people would agree that selling the laser printer is easier. Let’s look at things from the buyer’s perspective.

As a buyer of services, you would hear (and read) about the seller’s service and all the benefits the seller claims would arise following your purchase. You probably wouldn’t commit to buy the service without verifying these claims were accurate. You would research the experiences of previous purchasers before making your own decision.

However much research you do, buying services boils down to you trusting the seller’s description of their service and their promises of how you will gain from your purchase. If you were buying these services on behalf of your company, you probably have these four key questions in mind:

1. How well will the services mesh in with our existing operations?
2. How well will the services meet our business requirements?
3. How disruptive will the transition period be?
4. What will happen if these new services fail to deliver the expected results?

When you are selling services, keep these questions in mind as your prospects often won’t ask them explicitly. They remain under the surface and the answers you give in response to their other questions all contribute to the buyer’s judgement regarding these four unasked questions.

If you sell a product, the process of answering these four questions is much simpler. The product can be seen, measured, demonstrated, handled and, if appropriate, operated on a trial basis. In the earlier example of selling a laser printer, potential buyers can easily obtain the answers they need and confidence in the proposed purchase would rise.

Services don’t lend themselves to being seen, measured, demonstrated, handled or trialled. The best you could do if selling a service is to highlight the experiences that your other clients have enjoyed and the benefits they have gained from using your services.

Your existing clients provide the most persuasive case for buying your services. Their descriptions of how good your services have been for them will be hard for prospects to ignore.

It is your job to explain how clients that were once in the same situation as your prospect have gained by using your services. Then you must find ways for your clients to validate these claims by describing how their situations have been improved by your services.

This can be done directly, with prospects and clients engaging with each other, or indirectly through a series of “success stories” you produce in conjunction with your clients.

Success stories are usually produced in printed or pdf format and, once written, can be used in many ways for little cost. The best success stories are those which contain client quotes throughout.

To succeed in selling your services you need to:

1. Be trusted by your prospects and clients alike
2. Use success stories to show how others benefit from your services
3. Minimise presentations where you tell people how good your services are
4. Provide answers to the 4 key questions above
5. Incentivise your clients to give you referrals


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 or via

© Arteka Limited 2012. All rights reserved.

How to sell services via your website

by Leigh Wallinger.

Most, if not all, owners of small service companies would like more sales leads and more clients. By concentrating on their company website and how they (and their sales team) spend their selling time, they can achieve more.

Your website is a powerful asset and it must be fully exploited. Turn it into the hub of your marketing activity and make it full of information that your prospects will value.  When designing and producing content for your website, keep in mind the old saying “telling isn’t selling.” Back up all the claims you make about your service with solid evidence that it is true – your prospects are wary of unsubstantiated claims.

The best way to do this is to use the experiences of your current clients. Show how others who were in a similar position to your prospects have used your services to achieve their objectives. Find ways for these clients to describe their successes and achievements in their own words.

For higher value services, the best vehicles to achieve this are success stories and testimonial statements. You want testimonials to be positive and specific so they can be used to substantiate any claims you make to prospects regarding your services.

Naturally, only those clients who are happy with your services and who feel they have received good value for money, will be prepared to help you out with success stories and testimonial statements. Your website will highlight the experiences of your happy, positive clients. This positions your small service company in the best possible light.

For lower-value services, more emphasis should be placed on client feedback pages on your website. Clients will write comments directly as this represents the most cost-effective and appropriate way to capture their feedback on your services.

Before the Internet era, it was quite easy to keep your unhappy and disgruntled clients out of sight and away from your prospects. Now, it is impossible to hide unhappy clients, they can be found by your prospects through social media sites and online message boards. More than ever, it is essential that small service providers keep all their clients happy and minimise the level of negative sentiments about their services appearing online.

This has implications for those who are selling your services. They should be concentrating solely on prospects with requirements that can be fully met by your services, and with a high probability of success. We’ll term these high-quality prospects. Your company’s selling time should be spent exclusively with high-quality prospects.

By avoiding lower-quality prospects you will avoid collecting high-maintenance, potentially unhappy clients. Equally important, you will free up some time which can be directed towards making it easier for high-quality prospects to find your website.

This will entail a range of activities from writing and publishing articles to becoming active on the social media sites likely to be popular with your prospects. Depending on the nature of your services, it may be possible to produce a regular (monthly) eZine and send it to interested prospects and clients.

There will be some Search Engine Optimisation work needed on your website – this is probably best done by an external consultant with plenty of knowledge of how Google works.

Here are seven steps to making your website work for you:

1. Structure your website to be informative to high-quality prospects
2. Develop success stories and collect testimonial statements from clients
3. Set up (and keep to) a schedule for writing articles and eZines
4. Make your website Google-friendly
5. Spread the word about your services and website
6. Encourage prospects to contact you and qualify them carefully
7. Only spend time with high-quality prospects

There is one final word of warning for those who plan to adopt these suggestions to make their businesses more attractive to Internet-surfing prospects. Do not, under any circumstances, ignore your existing clients or take their business for granted. They are essential in persuading others that your services are as good as you say. Devote time to making sure they remain happy to be using your services.


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 or via

© Arteka Limited 2012. All rights reserved.

Selling services as a solution

by Leigh Wallinger.

Prospects will only buy your services if they solve a problem that is costing them more than your services would cost. You might save them money, save them time or improve their efficiency and productivity.  In reality, your company isin the problem-solving business.

This is not the same as “solution selling” from the past – where suppliers defined solutions and then sent their sales team out looking for relevant problems to solve. Having off-the-shelf solutionsavailable, each waiting for a problem to appear,is no guarantee that you will grow a successful business.

On the contrary, offering flexible services that can be moulded to fit a prospect’s real day-to-day challenges will be attractive to them. If you can solve some of their current problems, you have a long-term client who will talk positively about your company and who may buy more and more services from you.

A collection of happy clients gives you a solid foundation on which to grow your company. They will be well-disposed towards you, will expand their use of your services and, directly or indirectly, will convince other prospects to sign up to your services

For this strategy to work, small business owners need to ensure that everyone involved in selling to both prospects and clients:

1. Has a detailed understanding of the company’s services and what can and cannot be flexed to meet a specific requirement.

2. Has a good understanding of the common challenges being faced by prospects that your services could address.

3. Has a thorough understanding of how your services are used by clients and what problems/challenges have been solved.

4. Is armed with 20 – 25 thought provoking questions to ask in sales meetings that will help establish confidence and credibility as well as identify possible problem areas to be investigated further.

You will frequently encounter prospects who believe their requirements are unique, even if they might appear to be familiarto you.  This belief might have its roots back in the time when salespeople were selling off-the-shelf solutions.  Buyers soon learnt that having non-standard problemsmeant buying non-standard solutions.  Thisgave them a way to avoid “solution salespeople” andbeing manipulated into buying something inappropriate for their business.

Whenever a prospect suggests their requirements are unique, you should agree and share some stories of how your services are used by other clients to meet their particularly unique requirements.  It can be beneficial to present your services as a series of separate elements that can be combined in many different ways to match the specific and unique needs of prospects.  You have to become expert at telling stories and painting verbal pictures to show how your service elements can be combined to work for each prospect.

Persuading prospects, convinced their requirements are unique, that your services will improve their situation requires patience.  It is made easier if you canrefer to the experiences of other clients.  What you, the seller, claim about your services usually carries less impact than the same claim made by one of your clients.

As a result, you should look to produce a series of success stories and testimonials confirming what benefits your services have produced for each of your clients.  Consider producing one or more success story per client and ensure each contains a selection of testimonial statements from named sources from your client’s senior management team.

In some situations, it may be appropriate to arrange for prospects to talk to or meet with one or more of your clients.  Again, arranged correctly, these can prove to be very persuasive and move your prospect closer to buying from you.

Buying services can be a scary proposition for inexperienced buyers.  It’s impossible to see exactly what you are about to buy.  You are really buying into the promises made by the seller.  Fear of buying from the wrong supplier grows and this causes uncertainty and procrastination.

If the seller’s promises are backed up by other purchasers confirming they have achieved the promised benefits, some of this fear subsides.

For small business owners, this means you have to develop strategies to both reassure prospects you represent a safe pair of hands and demonstrate how you will minimise the risks associated with buying your services.


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 or via

© Arteka Limited 2012. All rights reserved.

Differentiation with experts

by Leigh Wallinger.

Most small business owners seem to find it hard to differentiate their company from their main competitors. Those providing services (rather than products) seem to struggle the most. If you own and run a small service provider, the lack of any differentiator is a huge risk to your future survival.

Owners who attempt to create points of difference can quickly become disillusioned, especially when their advantages are repeatedly neutralised by competitors. Differentiation becomes too much hassle for owners, desperately striving to keep their businesses alive. As a result, all suppliers of a particular service will look the same.  In this situation, prospects use the cost of the service as the prime differentiator and the lowest cost provider wins the sale.

Experienced buyers will engage with several competitors and cycle round obtaining more and more discounts. After several cycles some suppliers will pull out, unable to cut their prices further. The “winner”secures a new client with little or no chance of generating a profit. Larger companies could cope with this but the impact on small service providers is more serious. Small business owners need to avoid this form of price-war.

It is essential, therefore, that you find ways to differentiate your services from those provided by your competitors. When you start thinking about this there are two criteria to have in mind:

1. Your points of difference must be difficult to copy. You want to establish points of difference that will remain unchallenged for months or years. There is little point striving to offer fastest delivery, longest guarantee, quickest problem resolution or lowest price. All of these are transient differentiators that can be readily matched or beaten by your competitors. This means your advantage will only last a matter of days or weeks.

2. Your points of difference must be seen as important by your prospects. They should attach a value to having these extras as an integral part of your service.

When you differentiate yourself in this way, your competitors will find it hard to succeed against you in competitive sales situations. You win more clients and you can charge at levels which generate a good profit margin.

It will probably be hard to create this sort of differentiation within your service itself. The most unique aspect of every service company is represented by the knowledge and skills of its people. Therefore differentiation based on a combination of your service and key individuals will create something that is impossible for competitors to match. This works equally wellforsole-trader service providers, with the owner alsobeing the key individual.

The best way to make this form of differentiation work in your favour is to combine your services with an individual who is widely recognised as an industry expert. The blend of an industry expert and your proven services is very difficult to compete against and it can give you an edge over your competitors for a long time.

This leaves you with two questions:

1. Who will become your industry expert?
2. How will they gain and maintain their expert status?

The person you select must have the right personality and attitude to carry off the role of industry expert. It is quite often one of the company founders who will take this role. They usually have the greatest overall knowledge of the company’s services and how they are used by clients. Sometimes the founder is the only employee, in which case the choice is easy.

The steps involved in becoming a recognised expert are straightforward but the process does take time. It cannot be rushed. Persistence and consistency pays dividends as your expert tackles these 5 activities:

1. Reading. Learning everything there is to learn about your niche markets, its trends, political and commercial influences. Learning about the issues and problems companies in each niche are encountering and how your services can help.

2. Listening. Attending conferences to keep up to date with industry developments and networking with key contacts, policy makers and trade bodies.

3. Writing. Producing books and articles to gain wide visibility and demonstrating depth of knowledge.

4. Speaking. Find speaking engagements to present to an audience which includes your prospects and other key contacts.

5. Networking. Engaging with prospects using online networking systems and at networking meetings.

There is one final word of warning and that is you must retain your industry expert and not let them be head-hunted into one of your competitors. If this happens, not only do you lose your competitive advantage but your whole marketing strategy would need overhauling. This would be a huge inconvenience. Prevent it by putting in place ways to keep your expert happy and committed to being part of your business.


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 or via

© Arteka Limited 2012. All rights reserved.

Seven key aspects of selling a service

by Leigh Wallinger.

For many small business owners, lack of sales is the limiting factor constraining both growth and profitability. Selling services is challenging. The intangible nature of services means there is no equivalent to a product demonstration. There is nothing for prospects to see or to touch.

Although there is no magic formula that will guarantee sales success, there are seven key aspects to selling services that owners of small service providers need to remember.

If you focus on these seven aspects, your chances of winning more clients and retaining those clients are greatly improved. Of course, you will still face many obstacles that will block your path and delay your progress. Deal with them as they arise and never be tempted to look for short-cuts to a sale. There are no short-cuts. Patience and persistence pays dividends.

The seven aspects of service selling you should concentrate on are:

1. Know your target audience.
This means more than simply defining your niche market(s). It means you must know as much as possible about these markets – trends, threats and opportunities. It means you should know what issues, problems, challenges and opportunities your prospects are facing before you meet with them.

2. You are a problem solver not a solution provider.
Avoid developing the mindset that your role is sellingstandard solutions to prospects.  Your prospects won’t want your “off-the-shelf” standard solution to meet what they consider to be their unique business requirements. Your prospects want to buy services that are designed to meet their specific requirements. Position your services as highly flexible individual components that can be moulded to meet a prospect’s unique requirements. Engage prospects in the moulding process.

3. Your prospects are fearful of buying the wrong service.
It is hard to buy services and prospects are fearful of making the wrong choice. The closer the service is to the prospect’s core business operation, the bigger the worry. Devise ways in which you reassure prospects that you represent a safe pair of hands and work with them to reduce the real and perceived risks associated with your services.

4. Sell through (true) stories.
This is the key to successfully selling services. Stories about how your existing clients have gained by using your services will build confidence and provide reassurance to prospects.  As well as telling stories, ensure you have some success stories available in printed form.  These can be handed to prospects or emailed to them. Success stories are far more powerful and persuasive if they contain testimonial statements from each client’s senior management team. When selling services, what you claim carries little weight until prospects see or hear similar claims from your clients. Where it is appropriate, putting your prospects in direct contact with one (or more) of your happy clients builds confidence that your services deliver what you claim.

5. Be different but not weird.
Differentiation is very important for service providers. It is all too easy to blend in with your main competitors. With all other things being equal, your prospects will always buy the cheapest. You can win clients this way but why bother when it results in little or no profit? If you are different from your competitors in ways that your prospects find attractive, not only can you resist the pressures to discount your prices but you will also win more clients. Be careful not to take differentiation too far and come across as weird.  Prospects aren’t interested in backing a company that comes over as a bit odd.

6. Prospects buy from people they trust.
This saying goes back decades but it remains true today. You have to build a reputation, both individually and as a company, of being totally trustworthy. You must do everything you promise, on time and without causing your prospects and clients any disruption or inconvenience. When prospects talk to your clients, they will ask about your ability to deliver.

7. Look after all your clients.
This is more than just common sense, it is critical to your future success. Prospects will want to communicate with your clients as part of reassuring themselves your services are as good as you claim. You will certainly be able to control which clients you introduce to prospects. However, independently of you, your prospects will be using the Internet and coming across some of your other clients – on social media sites or messaging sites. You do not want prospects to find anything negative about your service from these sites. Nor do you want them to engage with any clients (or ex-clients) who may criticise your service or your performance as a supplier. The only way to prevent this is to avoid having unhappy clients.


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 or via

© Arteka Limited 2012. All rights reserved.

Two types of initial prospect meetings

by Leigh Wallinger.

In many businesses, the first step towards making a sale is to meet with a prospect for the first time. Initial meetings arranged by telephone cold-calls are very different to those set up using alternative prospecting techniques – ones which allow prospects to determine if and when the meeting should be held.

Meetings that are arranged through cold-calls are far more challenging for small business owners as they carry a greater risk of failure and rejection.

Comparing the two types of initial prospect meetings, there are significantly different dynamics in play. These dynamics ultimately determine how successful you are in growing your small business.

If you set up the meeting with a cold-call, it is unlikely that you will make the call at exactly the time when your prospect had decided to purchase a product/service similar to yours.  The more likely scenario is that your call is made at a time before your prospect had finally decided to buy something. Any meeting you arranged was due to one of two factors.  Either your prospect wanted to engage with your company at an early stage or you were very persuasive or manipulative during your cold-call.

When you do meet, the prospect’s requirements are not firm. The purchasing timetable remains vague and it is unlikely a specific budget has been allocated for the purchase.  Although the prospect has some interest in your products/services, there is no forward momentum towards a sale because the prospect’s buying cycle has yet to start.

Your initial meeting will focus on the broad elements of the possible purchase. It is likely to conclude with your prospect agreeing to consider your products/services once the buying cycle begins. From this point, all you can do is to keep your company name in the prospect’s mind – most likely through email marketing activities – until the buying cycle begins.

Unless you are very lucky, the best outcome of the initial meeting set up via a telephone cold call will be some form of “keep in touch” activity. It is arguable if you will gain any advantage over your competitors as a result of such activities. Therefore, was there any real value from holding the initial meeting?

It need not be like this

Imagine the scenario where prospects actually contact you. They do so after assessing via the Internet your products/services, your capabilities and track record. Contact is made when prospects have commenced their buying cycles and are ready to engage with suppliers in meaningful conversations.

Naturally, at this stage, each prospect’s requirements are much better defined, their buying process and timetable are also defined and a budget is allocated. When you meet, the prospect is keen to engage and answer the questions you have regarding the proposed purchase. It means you can quicklyassess your likelihood of winning the sale.

Your initial meetings are always successful, even if you find out your products/services are not a good fit for the prospect’s requirements. You can walk away at an early stage and focus on other better sales opportunities.

If you can meet the prospect’s requirements, your job is simply to match your sales cycle to the prospect’s buying cycle. By doing so, it’s easy to obtain the prospect’s agreement to move to the next step – it’s in their interests to maintain the momentum of their buying cycle.

For you, the small business owner, it means every initial sales meeting is with a prospect looking to buy. You get far less outright rejection. There is no need for exploratory meetings with prospects before they are ready to buy and no need to spend time on “keep in touch” marketing. Even if you have fewer meetings, the prospects you do meet will be of better quality. They are all looking to buy. It should result to a much better return on your sales efforts.

How do you get prospects to come to you?

  • Have a comprehensive, informative and well-structured website.
  • Add new material to your website regularly.
  • Highlight how you are different to (and better than) your competitors.
  • Find ways to give website visitors items of value – downloads, offers etc.
  • Be visible on other website where your prospects will see you, with articles, postings and, if appropriate, videos.
  • Become active on those social media sites your prospects visit.
  • Develop success stories showing how other clients benefit after buying your products/services.
  • Offer to put prospects in direct contact with your existing clients.
  • Demonstrate the ways you minimise the risks to buyers of your products/services.


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 or via

© Arteka Limited 2012. All rights reserved.

Buyers control your sales pipeline


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?

  1. Be clear about which niche markets you are concentrating on.
  2. Demonstrate your knowledge of these markets and the issues your prospects are dealing with.
  3. Show how you have helped other companies operating in the same niche as your prospects.
  4. Communicate what makes you different (and better) to similar suppliers, your main competitors.
  5. Highlight how you minimise the risks associated with buying your products/services.
  6. 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 or via

© Arteka Limited 2012. All rights reserved.

Be different to your competitors

by Leigh Wallinger.

Wherever you look, there are companies who all appear to be the same.  The danger for all small businesses which look similar to their competitor(s) is that prospects will immediately use price as the differentiator.  If all else is identical, people will buy from the cheapest supplier.

However, being the cheapest puts you in a vulnerable position.  Your prices can be undercut and prospects will quickly switch to your now cheaper competitor.  To maintain your revenues, you have to reduce your prices further – and your profitability suffers badly.

Put yourself in your prospect’s position.  When you are looking to make a purchase it’s easy to check on the Internet which suppliers are providing the best value for money.  Even if you have a preferred supplier in mind, it’s always worth checking if there is an alternativesupplier offering better value.

If you look the same as other suppliers, the best you can achieve is a sale at the lowest price.It is insane forso many small business owners toposition their companies as a “me-too” supplier.

By pointing to the differences between you and your competitors, it becomes much harder for prospects to draw you into a damaging price-war.  Therefore, it is essential that small business owners find the time to design and establish some differentiators that are meaningful to their prospects.

Doing this will represent a good investment of your time because you will end up with demonstrable reasons to resist any price pressures.Whenever prospects ask you to match the price of a cheaper competitor you cansimply point to your differentiators and hold your prices firm.  You justify the prices you are charging and show prospects why they are not comparing like with like.

You could say something like “The reason we charge what we do is because we provide x and y.  We are the only company to do this and consequently our prices are a little higher”.  Not every prospect will want your extra value (the “x” and “y”).  In these cases, your cheaper competitors will win the business and you should review how you qualifyyour prospects.

This shows why it is important to find differentiators that your prospects find of value and will want included in their purchase.

Naturally, when they become aware of your prospect-attracting differentiators, your competitors will begin working on ways to neutralise your advantage – especially if they start losing sales because of their shortcomings.  It makes sense, therefore, to develop differentiators that are hard for your competitors to imitate.

This is why using differentiators such as a low price or an extended guarantee don’t offer any real,long-term advantage.  A competitor can quickly match your price or the terms of your guarantee and neutralise your advantage.  You want to establish differentiation in areas where competitors will be disadvantaged for several months – until they work out how to match what you are offering.

The most difficult differentiators for your competitors to match are those built around the experience and expertise of your employees.

Even if you are a one-man company, it is possible to be unique in your chosen markets.  Let’s say your company specialises in renovating Jaguar cars from the 1950s.  This is a passion of yours and you’ve been renovating Jaguars for the past 20 years.  You know the issues, the problems, who to turn to for spare parts and where to go for the best respray paint job.

Your focus, knowledge, contacts and expertise is something that your competitors can’t match.  They may be bigger, deliver faster and may even cost less than you.  What they can’t offer is the peace of mind and reassurance that comes from dealing with an expert in Jaguar renovations.

Here are five action points that will help you develop meaningful points of difference.

  1. Become known as an expert in your field.  This takes time and writing is the best way to achieve this.
  2. If you have other employees, develop those who could become recognised experts in their own right.
  3. Ask your clients why they chose to buy from you, what did they like about you and how can you improve?
  4. Find out what they like best about your product /service and what they least like.
  5. Ask your clients what they like best about your competitors’ products / services.  Don’t spend too much time on this point as you don’t want them thinking too much about your competitors!

Use what you learn to be different and better than your competitors.


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 or via

© Arteka Limited 2012. All rights reserved.

Be visible and likeable

by Leigh Wallinger.

The new sales paradigm is one in which buyers are in control. They decide when your sales cycle starts – it starts when their buying cycle starts. They decide how fast they move through their buying cycle. They choose who can compete for their business by producing a shortlist of selected suppliers (usually through Internet research).

As a small business owner, it is your job to ensure your company is on that shortlist because unless you do, there is no way of securing an order for your company.

One of the main reasons for the lower success rates of your telephone cold-calls is because you telephone at the wrong times. Only when the buyer is ready to start their buying cycle will your cold-call be well received. At all other times, you will encounter resistance and rejection.

Getting the timing right isn’t your only cold-callingchallenge. Your cold-call will come out of the blue, most likely when your prospect is busy. Your call, if you can negotiate your way past all the gatekeepers, will interrupt your prospect’s thought processes and disrupt his work. How pleased do you think your prospect will be to hear from you?

Politeness may soften the reaction you receive but, in reality, your chances of engaging positively with this prospect are pretty low.

There is a better way

You can never know exactly when your prospect is going to begin looking for and researching possible suppliers or when their buying cycle will start. The best solution is to be visible, at all times, in all the places your prospect is likely to look. Remember, you must get on their shortlist.

Luckily, this is relatively easy. Your prospect will use the Internet to research potential suppliers.

Your website is central to your online visibility. However, you must also be present in the modern equivalent of trade catalogues – online databases that can be searched for companies matching specified criteria. In all your entries in these “catalogues” you should provide links to your website to encourage researchers to link through.

Apart from the obvious information, your website should also contain some mechanism to capture your prospect’s email address. At present, the most popularways are to tempt them to sign up for a regular newsletter (or eZine) and gain access to a downloadable book (an eBook).

As soon as you have an email address it becomes much easier to remain visible to the prospect. You can send emails periodically, which can highlight some positive news about your company, perhaps with a link to your website for the full story. This is better than having all the information in your email as it means the prospect visits your website again to read the full story and may look at other webpages while there.

Being visible is only half the challenge facing small business owners. In addition to being seen by your prospects you must also seem a credible and trustworthy supplier.

Again, your website will play an important role in persuading prospects to take you seriously, even if you are a one-man company. Credibility is built the quickest by you stepping out of the limelight and allowing your existing clients to talk about their positive experiences of you and your products/services.

Success stories should be produced to explain how your clients have seen benefits having bought from you. From these, your prospects will get a good understanding of what you are like as a supplier. If you add a sprinkling of quotes from your clients that are positive and describe something specific about their experience, your credibility grows even faster.

When you utilise client quotes, avoid the generic ones. Something like “a smooth installation with no problems” doesn’t really make an impact with prospects. An alternative such as “we were grateful that your installers were thorough – they protected our carpets and furniture and left no mess whatsoever”.

Quotes are more believable if they attributed to a named individual together with their company name (if you are selling to companies).

When prospects start looking for possible suppliers they will find you through your online presence. Success stories will demonstrate your competence and your client quotes will be more persuasive than anything you can say or write.


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 or via

© Arteka Limited 2012. All rights reserved.