How do I grow my business when sales are not my strong suit?
I've started a relatively new company doing custom software design and development. I'm working with my old development teams (local and offshore). We've worked together now for more that 10 years building award winning software and appliances in startup environments.
Right now all our business is by word of mouth, but my task is to build the business in part by finding new projects for the teams to work on. I'm looking for advisement on the best way to do this.
So far, I've started joining meetup/card exchange groups, but we are all engineers and going to meetups and selling ourselves takes time and isn't particularly our strong suit.
I'd appreciate any suggestions and/or recommendations. We're very good at design and development, but really mediocre when it comes to sales.
You have received a lot of input to consider but it all depends on your GOALS. What are you really trying to achieve? How fast? What available resources? Do you have clients today? Are they repeat buyers? Can they be? Selling is relating a value proposition consistent with prospective clients' unmet needs. It is often difficult to jump into knocking on doors and pitching a product. Instead of one-to-well selling, find trade shows and professional associations where you can speak one to many. You can overcome your fears, just figure out how to make it a fun game. Also, you could hire a professional business coach at a reasonable fee to assess you needs, skills, resources and help plan all your growth strategies into an integrated business process. Then, measure, monitor and improve your processes to enhance results. If you would like recommendation on a coach in your area, let me know.
Ray, one possible way to address this consistent challenge facing small and medium size companies, unable to afford a full time business development person is to hire Marshall Face2Face. Go checkout our site and if you are compelled, do not hesitate to email and/or call:
In my business coaching career, I have learned that those who say they are not good at sales and marketing but are willing to learn can become better at it than at least those who SAY they are great at sales and marketing. The reason?
Everything that works consistently well comes down to a proven process. Those not good at sales and marketing are usually the type of people willing to follow a process.
If you were to collect all the great thoughts others have shared here and create a powerful marketing message, you are a long way down the road. To summarize my thoughts simply, list all the ways your are unique and different from the competition, as well as all the things that will compel prospects to buy from you rather than your competitors. Make this list dynamic - improve it over time. Use the things on this list to create your marketing messages -- just a few things for an elevator pitch and perhaps ALL of them if you are making a presentation on your business.
Then take advantage (in the right way) of all the other no-cost- low-cost ways to build your business -- turn your business card into a sales tool, craft good testimonials that support the items on your list, use a lot of effective networking, 'script' your messages in advance using your list and saying things in the right order (e.g. start with their problem you are solving - simple, yet effective), create up-sell or cross-sell techniques, etc., etc.
A lot can be accomplished by following a proven process, having a powerful message, and taking advantage of the low-cost sales/marketing tools at your disposal.
I think you are doing the right things and I am sure you will get great advice here. I would say the following:
Document Projects where you have been successful. You want to focus on Certain things you have done. I would highlight a few problems you have helped solve. You don't need to name the company. Think of phrasing it by Industry this way:
"We have helped Companies in the (Blank) Industry address this problem. Our capabilities are unique because...We may be able to help you address a similar problem."
Given that we live in the 24/7 Always On World. Your goal should be to do 2 Things, and 2 things only:
1. Make them Curious about what you do.
2. If they are Curious, they will ask only one Question: "How did you do that?"
I hope this might help a little!
Sales is the transfer of enthusiasm. This should be the first thing every rookie sales person needs to understand. Be excited when talking about your product/ service.
Always tell it the way it is. Don't lie exaggerate and or guess.
Discover 3 benefits of your product/ service and tell everyone the same message. Be bold and tell everyone what you do.
Now you are better than 70% of the sales people in the world sadly.
call the people who are currently using your product/service and ask them why and what they like and do not like about it. Then forget your 3 benefits in 101, and start telling people the benefits you learned in 201. Now your in the top 85% of sales.
To be a top 5% sales person you need to learn how to get others to sell you. Train your clients to refer you. after every transaction state" if I gave you good service, and you have any friends or family I can give this same great service to would you be willing to tell them about me? Then, anyone you know that I can help today?
Say thank you for everything good or bad :)
Thanks for letting me help you with this great question.
There are lots of good answers here. Proving you're an expert is the best way, so go where your potential clients go and then answer their questions, post articles and, when you can, pay for PPC ads or the equivalent *on the same sites/forums*. Don't be tempted to pay for ads anywhere you're not already known and respected. You can post the same article to several sites if you tweak it a bit for each one. Post/answer questions regularly, get known.
It's all about making yourself visible and giving good information: building trust. You won't build your business overnight, but it should start to grow soon and grow at a rate you can cope with.
And then remember to send out the invoices in good time and chase up late payers - more businesses go bust from poor cashflow than from lack of customers.
Based on many years of experience and wasted money don't hire a sales team or spend a penny on advertising. A sales/marketing company will not have a clue what you're about and you will waste even more time telling them how you want your business to sound like. Not to mention that we are now in a new age where it's becoming illegal to call potential clients. If you are good then word of mouth is the best.
Christopher Torres has the best ideas in my mind and ONLY you will care enough to see those through as it is YOU who wants to succeed.
Best of Luck Dave
You have some really good points already for you to work on from the comments. I would suggest you pick the ones you are most comfortable with and commit to them for a month. Build it into your schedule. It gets easier as you practice!
I would also consider reaching out to your previous clients and offer them a carrot (monetary or "free" work) if they refer someone that results in a sale OR tell them how much you love them and give them a special discount if they do that next project now. This could help with cash flow in the short term and let you practice your sales muscles.
I was there too once - I used the book "Get Clients Now" by C.J. Hayden successfully. It is really all about putting in the hours, as with any skill.
Best of luck!
Create a story that dramatizes what makes you different than any of your competitors. (This is not to say better, but different! Because better is usually in the eye of the beholder.) Use this story on your web site, marketing materials and a couple of social channels your likely customers are using.
The most efficient way to build your market is to identify and connect with a narrow group of true believers. They are the people who will account for the majority of your company's growth.
Define the traits that make them valuable as customers and rate them on those traits. For instance: Loyalty, profitability, need for your services, willingness to try new solutions, connectors who spread the word, etc. Focus on your most valuable prospects, as revealed by your rating system. If you go to Meetup groups, try to find the ones where your best prospects are, not where your peers are.
Rather than hard selling, spend your time connecting directly with these potential customers. Have as many conversations (in-person, phone, social media) as you can to understand their needs, their desires, and their fears. Find out what motivates them to seek out services like those you offer. Remember that it's ALL ABOUT THEM, not about your features, your benefits, your technical specs, blah, blah blah. That means listening to their stories, understanding their feelings, and figuring out how you can help them fulfill their aspirations with the help of your services (and the unique way you provide them).
Now, go back to the top. Adjust your company's story to reflect what you've learned. Find the right words/images/tone to tell it to your true believers so they can pass it along to their peers, friends, etc. Build it into your messaging and your operations.
This is a never-ending process. And it's a lot of work. And there are many small steps in the journey. If you do it well, you'll grow your company by a multiple of the effort you put into it.
BTW, I don't recommend trying to do this without help. Also, you don't have to do everything at once. Just start, and be consistent in your effort—like you do with all your other work.
If you are in the software design and development, I would suggest you to show your best results through images on a website. In your sector, creativity and novelty are important and therefore an image has such a better impact than meeting people with your business card, especially if you are not really comfortable to do so.
Share your achievements through your website towards social networks, stressing about your value added compared to others...You will see...your advertising is actually easier compared to those which are in the Service sector.
All the best!
Paul - Depending on your size of projects and your strong suites, I would suggest registering and offering your services with marketplaces like Elance, Odesk, Guru and freelancer.com. The competition is heavy but so is the desire for quality at a great price. This could be an avenue to try out.
Get on popular forums and offer your services. Scout forums discussing topics relevant to your area of work and start offering expertise and ideas for free. This is how you build authority. Useful content, free that can actually help people.
Also, use your website and indulge in local seo / marketing for local keywords that may be easy to rank for (low to medium competition keywords). This will ensure the inquiries start trickling in and as a consequence prospects. Now converting those prospects to customers is a much harder part of the sales cycle and depends on multiple factors including your pricing, quality, the client mind set, competition etc.
Send a local press release through PRweb.com or other popular PR services with good content and link back to your website / service. There is plenty that can be done at an affordable price.
It is often easy to be lost in trying to spend a few dollars here and there and hope for results. But that may not help. Though trial and error, you may want to pick 5-6 strategies that might yield best ROI / work best with your budget and stick to those strategies. Try not to do everything and implement every strategy that everyone gives. Pick and stick to a few and you should see success. Good luck.
Hi guys, I have always found that word of mouth advertising can be effective, just asking as the voice that's carying it, is a large voice, I would recommend if you have the time and resources to conduct a promotion campaign, showcasing the company's attributes, maybe with a demo application targeting your audience.
For now,you can think of appointing an expert sales representative for your company but learning the art of (online and offline) sales and business development via formal training will immensely help your company in the long run.
Hope my answer helps you,
Paul, I'm assuming you don't have the budget to put your new sales hire on salary just yet. So I'll offer you a different avenue.
1. Make a list of the problems customers are facing in your industry.
2. Make a list of the current solutions available to them.
3. State the costs and problems associated with the current available solutions.
4. Tell me why your solution is better.
5. Show me some work you've done for past clients.
6. Tell me how you've improved their life, business, etc.
7. Tell me about your team's experience.
8. Put your services together into packages. (Make the choice an easy one)
9. Present steps 1-8 in a fancy PowerPoint with pretty images, graphics, animations, etc.
10. Subscibe to an online webinar service.
11. Create a custom landing page, optin page and thank you page for your webinar.
12. Add the webinar registration link, button, or graphic to your site.
13. Promote the webinar landing page on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google plus.
14. Don't SELL anything. Just help people and answer their questions.
15. Invite people you meet at meetups to join your webinar.
16. Create your own meetups and present your webinar, or other presentations.
17. Start a ppc campaign on Facebook, and LinkedIn, given that you have the budget. Send them directly to your webinar landing page.
18. Rinse and repeat
19. Enjoy your new clients.
20. Give me a good positive review and LinkedIn recommendation.
Trying to promote a new business of the type you describe by using word of mouth and going to meetups sounds a bit like taking a leak into the wind. You would be wasting a lot of time that could be used more effectively elsewhere.
Without knowing what else you are doing it seems to me that you would find far more success leveraging the power of the internet to create growth for your business. Have someone develop an effective web site, target potential customers with emails using one of the email programs that are available. Create a facebook business page and post your recent projects. Once your business is generating a good profit you can hire a sales person to handle the contact that you are not comfortable with. You might also find someone who is retired or disabled that could make phone calls to prospects for a reasonable rate or possibly even on a commission basis.
There are sales companies that can sell your service for a % of the revenue so you only pay them when you sell something. That way you guys can focus on what you are good at. An other option is to hire a sales rep.
Start by targeting what obstacles your service overcomes and make that into the focus for developing a sales presentation or at least a sales direction. You can develop a set of techniques based on asking for examples to get your customers or clients to talk openly about what they are facing and show what you can "immediately" offer.
After you demonstrate enough evidence of what you are offering you'll want to close with a "Where would you like us to begin?" type strategy.
Start by setting timelines in front of them and asking if that looks "about right," and then suggest a fee for reserving your schedule to get started.
If they seem reluctant you can offer them a contract fee in writing first and ask what they had in mind.
Then adjust your rates to scale with the services themselves. 3 out of ten times if they don't go for the initial "let's get started" technique, they will have monetary objections or someone to ask about it so have a wide variety of pricing options.