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For most businesses, sales is their lifeblood because, without sales revenue, there is no business. You will have a variety of marketing tools to choose from to achieve your sales target. The ones that are right for you depend largely on the type of your business, its predicted growth rate, target customers and your budget.
Advertising varies considerably in cost and complexity. If you are launching a major project then you may well use TV, radio, posters or the national press.
Online, pay-per-click advertising, banner advertising and display advertising are a few of the options. For smaller businesses there is local press, local radio and leaflets.
Referral sales are often the best sales – not only because it often means a customer approaches you but because, handled well, they are quite likely to become a regular.
Referrals come from many sources including business networking, satisfied customers and from your business partners.
In a ‘host/beneficiary relationship’, Company A (the host) agrees to let Company B (the beneficiary) deliver a sales message to Company A’s customers.
This is normally done for a percentage of the sales revenue, but it could be done simply to add value to their customers. This can be a great way to access a previously untapped pool of customers and boost sales revenues.
In order to create such a relationship you will need to identify possible partners, work out why they should be interested and then make an approach.
A strategic alliance can differ from a host-beneficiary relationship. For example, if you run a technology company then putting your technology together with another company’s may create a new product offering.
Similarly, a business with similar market profile but non-competing products in a different country may be an excellent partner. Such a partnership offers both parties access to a new market without all the expense of setting up in a foreign country.
Another simple local example could be the creation of an alliance between a bed and breakfast business that doesn’t serve an evening meal and a local restaurant that doesn’t offer accommodation. In all these examples both parties benefit by giving and receiving the opportunity to drive new sales and incremental revenues.
Every business has a number of sales channels open to it. Depending on the type of business and its budget, different channels are more or less relevant.
There are a number of online tools to enable your business to keep track of its prospective customers. They are an excellent way of coordinating working together in a team and for a sales manager to keep control. They help manage the pipeline and predict and review performance.
Find more information on CRM systems here.
Direct sales can take a number of forms – from door to door sales to pre-arranged appointment. Often direct sales are done on a commission-only basis, but this will depend on the nature of your business. Typical direct sales businesses include those dealing direct with householders. For example: double glazing, solar heating and broadband.
If you are producing products then you may be seeking to wholesale them to retailers and drive revenues through their established channels.
In some cases you may be establishing a business that is entirely wholesale focused. Your business is bringing together multiple products, probably from multiple producers, and then supplying them to retailers.
They will be seeking to make a profit so need a margin on your prices – often as high as 100 per cent – so the price in their store may be double yours (plus VAT).
Your business USP may be any one of a number of factors: goods from a specific country of origin, a unique licencing agreement with producers, offering high volume for lower prices than the competition, or a particular expertise that you have that adds value to the products you offer.
There are two forms of telesales:
This is where a phone is manned, possibly 24 hours a day but more likely during the peak times for sales from say 8.00am till 8.00pm, to receive calls from potential customers.
The inbound sales telephone number and service or product is publicised, typically on a website or advertisement, often with an offer of a discount or other proposition.
Customers phone in and, because you are making a good offer, a sale is often concluded there and then. Insurance is one example, but others include local services like home oil deliveries. Small businesses where inbound calling is an important channel would be a pizza delivery parlour or florist.
b. Outbound or cold calling
If you are running a business to business sales team then calling a company is quite normal. This might be to make appointments for salespeople or to gather information (for example, to make contact with the purchasing manager).
Some companies have strict policies about giving out information and it has become harder to make a connection.
If you are a flower importer wanting to talk to florists, for example, this is unlikely to present problems. However, larger companies will often have a procurement policy and you will almost certainly have to go through the process of becoming a recognised supplier.
Cold calling is a close relative to door-to-door direct sales and is also often used to make appointments for a field sales team. Other companies such as PPI claims and timeshare companies often use cold calling and high pressure sales techniques i.e. they don’t take no for an answer.
In recent years the practice of cold calling consumers at home has received a very bad name. This is due to the high volume of SPAM calls being made to homeowners, particularly from abroad. There are strict rules governing cold calling in the UK and you can be prosecuted for breaching them.
Some companies and products are specifically aiming some or all of their sales effort at the business market. This is called business to business sales. In most cases this requires a different approach to selling to consumers.
B2B sales is a big area but the golden rule is to ensure you identify the business’ decision maker. If you are not sure ask. You can waste an awful lot of time and money by talking to the wrong person.
If they can’t sign an order, or at least make a recommendation to the person who signs a purchase order, you are wasting your time.
The best customer is a returning customer. Many small businesses like butchers, bakers or pubs have a very loyal customer base but every business should aim to make every customer a happy customer.
One of the best opportunities to make an impression is when resolving a problem or issue. It is a fact that customers who have had a problem or complaint dealt with promptly, and resolved fairly and politely, often become advocates for that business.
They recommend the business to friends or tell them how good the business was at solving their problem. Failing to have a clear customer service structure with guidelines for resolving problems can have a major effect – both on customer perceptions and staff morale alike.
*This is an edited extract from Expert Market’s new free guide, The Beginner’s Guide to Starting a UK Business. The guide covers everything from researching your business, dealing with tax and National Insurance, licensing, funding and writing a business plan to hiring staff.