Top thirteen sales tips for creative small business promotion

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Probably should have done this one yesterday in honor of Friday the 13th, but it works today too. Whether your business requires consultative selling, product promotion, service outreach, personal selling, fostering a cause or you just feel like you don’t know how to sell, there are easy ways to do things a little differently so you’re remembered. Below are some sales tips that really work, even though they may seem contrary to what you usually hear (or think). Read on to discover ideas that will cost you little more than your time:

  1. Collect business cards – instead of trying to push a card into the hand of everyone you meet, consider spending time learning what another is doing and then getting their contact information. Write a short note on the back (unless in Japan – there it’s rude) to tease your memory or note a hobby as a reference for future contact.
  2. Follow up – Too often, business owners meet valuable contacts yet fail to call, write or make any other future contact. Those business cards you just collected – there’s a reason for that.
  3. Ask questions – Traditionally the sales process has involved some warm-up conversation about the weather or other issues unrelated to company concerns. The ‘tell me about you’ line doesn’t work very well (plus it’s dumb – if this is a qualified prospect, you should have already done your homework – so easy to do these days with a Google company and individual search). Instead, consider using prime time to ask direct questions to discover the business challenges a prospect may be facing. Understanding what represents an ideal client for them, what’s working (or not) relative to outreach and who you might know that could benefit from the products or services of another is a great way to begin to build a bond.
  4. Don’t pitch – While it’s tempting, the reason networking meetings don’t usually work very well for most is because everyone is selling. Imagine how delighted someone will be when they meet a you more interested in knowing more about their needs than getting in your elevator speech. Collect business cards (see #1) with the intent of explaining how you may be able to help later.
  5. Listen – Frequently a prospect will tell you exactly how you can help them find what they need or get where they want to go. You can’t know this, though, until after they’ve shared concerns. If you’ve just met, sometimes keying in on hobbies, family, sports teams followed or expressed industry concerns will give you great fodder for future follow up.
  6. Be helpful with subsequent contact – If you’ve asked the right questions, listened and obtained contact information, there are countless ways you can stay in touch while being recognized as a great resource (or at least a thoughtful person). Clip relevant articles from newspapers (including pieces where they, the company, their kids or wife are quoted or mentioned) and send it along. Forward online material that offers answers to issues with people or resources useful for stated challenges.
  7. Send clients to your prospects – this is an extremely effective selling tactic. Of course, it doesn’t work very well if you do it as a quid pro quo, but if it’s genuine and generous, people will remember.
  8. Seek out centers-of-influence – too often, small business owners spend majority time trying to connect one-on-one with prospects. If you build a relationship, rapport and respect with someone (or several people) who can reach out to a large group with needs for what you offer, you’ll gain credibility, save time and avoid cold calling.
  9. Join boards – one of the most effective ways to meet industry or community leaders is by assuming a leadership position. Pick your causes carefully (particularly if this is a volunteer role), but you’ll be amazed at how quickly you’re considered peer even with people who are far more accomplished, but serving together. This also provides quick credibility with the membership of business organizations and provides excellent opportunities to enhance your public speaking skills.
  10. Take a prospect or client to lunch – your time is valuable and if you’re in another’s office, chances are you’ll be interrupted by phone calls, visitors and other distractions. Plus, there’s a subconscious need to reciprocate when you buy someone lunch (or even breakfast). When a prospect’s on the menu, plan on offering free input here (after you listen) but also be ready with an offer to close the sale if appropriate (if you’re selling a service, often a reduced rate recommendations and strategies report will work here).
  11. Build a referral base of better providers – sounds odd, I know, but it’s better to send a prospect to another if you’re not the best to handle their needs. Give them a great alternative choice (you need to vet these people first) and you might be surprised how many ideal clients they refer back to you.
  12. Get and use testimonials – these don’t mean much if they’re signed by Betty G. of a MN printing company. Nor are they effective if they read something along the lines of, ‘use this company, they do good work.’ Instead, seek out specific stories (you may need to cull them down and get a client’s approval to use an edited version) of how your product or service helped another company (or individual) achieve their goals with full attribution. Frequently, it’s best if you offer to write these yourself (ensuring you keep the client’s voice and reflect the actual details of the experience), so the client can simply edit and then sign off (saves the client a lot of time and gives you an opportunity to put focus on an unusual aspect of what you do).
  13. Say thank you – unbelievably, this is something few do these days. If someone sends you a referral, buy a card and a stamp (or even a gift) to acknowledge your appreciation. If a reporter covers you in a story, do the same (sans the gift – most are not permitted to accept this). Have a valued client you’ve enjoyed working with? Let them know. Did someone invite you to present in front of a primed audience? Show your appreciation by making extra effort after the event to say so. Sadly, thank you notes have become so memorable because they’re rare. Stand out by showing you’re not among the majority rude.

There are so many messages out there right now on sales tips, how to sell, getting better at consultative selling or personal selling, product pushing, going viral online, making millions in a minute and adopting manipulate approaches for profit – ‘if you just buy my product’. Most don’t work. The easy and free (or very inexpensive) ideas above do. Hopefully you’ll find something in this list that propels your business forward in ways previously unimagined. Please try some of these out and come back here and comment on your successes. Thanks!

13 responses to “Top thirteen sales tips for creative small business promotion”

    • Actually, I was going to do a post this week on effective and lucrative strategies for attending national meetings or conferences even if you’re an itty bitty business. Figured I’d keep it in the hopper after seeing your post yesterday :-). Too funny.

  1. Nanette, what a wonderful list! I believe the 3 most important points on your list are following up, don’t try to sell and be helpful. Amy small business that has those three down is already on the right road.

    • Thanks for stopping in, reading and commenting, Wendy. I truly enjoyed your TED video. From one introvert to another – here’s to a better selling experience for everyone in the future with a nod toward introvert styles :-).

    • Thanks for stopping in, reading and commenting, Wendy. I really enjoyed your TED video featuring Susan Cain. From one introvert to another – here’s to a better selling experience for all involved with a nod toward introvert styles :-).

    • Hi Jan – and I certainly need to get up to speed on mobile (tough to make that smartphone investment when you’re in an area without a cell signal). Still that doesn’t mean my customers aren’t trying to view on a tiny screen. Follow up is a big one. Try it, you’ll like it :-).

  2. Still trying to figure out if networking will work for me. I see it as a thing for real estate and insurance agents (probably because that is where I was working when I first learned of them). I have to get out of my comfort zone.

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