In case you missed it, I just completed a series of posts that addressed Big Challenges for Small Business Owners. The three challenge discussed were people, finances and time. Assuming you have these three big challenges under control, what’s next?
Let me suggest one obvious topic: Sales.
Many successful entrepreneurs and small business owners have succeeded, in part or in whole, because of their sales abilities. Many start businesses based upon industry and customer relationships they have developed earlier in their business career. But these relationships have limits and too heavy of a dependence on them can create financial troubles when clients change personnel or their fortunes wane.
Diversifying clients and revenues helps an owner reduce their vulnerabilities and offers upside opportunities for growth and increased profitability. To accomplish this, most businesses need to develop a functioning sales organization as the owner gradually reduces their involvement in such day to day activities.
What are some options for beginning to develop a functional sales organization? Here are a few ideas and questions to get you thinking:
- Spend some time to get clear on what you are selling and why you are selling it. Have you thoughtfully considered your options, or are you simply offering what a tiny group of customers were willing to buy when you first got started? Could you leverage what you have learned to develop different, better, or more profitable products or services? Why would you choose to pursue such products or services?
- Consider why you are selling to your current customers. Are they simply the low hanging fruit? Do you sell on price or services and they came to you rather than you targeting them for strategic reasons (such as improved margins)? What other types of customers or industry segments need what you have to offer? Could you reach many more customers via internet eCommerce? (Check out 5 Keys to Successful Sales Strategies by Diane Helbig, which starts with “Define Your Target Market.”)
- Document the basic process(es) you use to find new customers. Which methods have worked best for identifying prospects? Do you have the “basics” documented, so that you can share this with future people you assign to the sales function? What are the key qualifying questions people would need to ask to determine if a new prospect should be pursued or not?
- Choose how you will begin to get resources assigned to the sales function (or how you will grow your current sales group). Do you have current employees who could begin taking over some sales responsibilities? Do you want to try utilizing 1099 independent contractors? Are you in a financial position to hire your first (or additional) full time sales employees?
- Decide if now is the time. Are you wearing too many hats in your company, including that of the primary sales generator? Do you feel your revenue growth is restricted by the time you have to devote to this critical function? Would having more help with sales offer the potential for growth in profits and reduce your work hours?
Most business owners have sales skills. But, they also have limited abilities and limited time. In order for a small business to generate big revenue, owners must bring on professional sales resources and back off their day to day involvement in selling.
I hope this post gets you thinking more about your options and wish you great success for the balance of the year.