Posted: Sun 30th May 2021
After all the graft you've put in to set up your business and make sure the proper foundations are in place, you may be thinking that you're over the biggest hurdle.
But now comes the moment of truth and, for some, the biggest challenge of all: putting your idea into practice and making those first sales for your new business.
No matter how much you believe in your business and understand its potential, it doesn't necessarily mean that getting out there and selling its products or services will come naturally.
Of course, some people will have no problem diving straight into making those cold calls. But if that doesn't sound like you then there's no need to worry - you can be just as successful by making sure you nail the prep and create a sales strategy that's right for your business.
Whether you're selling to friends or brand new contacts, you want to ensure your business comes across as credible and trustworthy, and that there's a compelling story behind it. Here's what you should ideally have in place:
A website not only brings credibility but is an invaluable resource for prospective customers to use in making purchasing decisions; there needs to be somewhere you can direct them to if they want to find out more on their own.
Make sure your website is up to date, easy to navigate and has all the relevant information that customers will be looking for.
This is another popular go-to when new customers are researching a brand. It'll give them an idea of your values, your target audience and how you interact with customers.
As a new business, you might not necessarily have brand values set in stone. However, it helps to have a basic purpose in mind before working on your sales strategy.
Are you all about problem-solving for your customers, or is it more about inspiring your audience and encouraging them to try something new? A clear purpose will remind yourself of why you're making these sales.
It sounds obvious, but whatever it is you're selling, make sure you're poised and ready to fulfil any purchases before writing those emails or picking up the phone.
The last thing you want is to disappoint a new customer because you weren't expecting so many sales. It's a great problem to have in the scheme of things, but still one to avoid.
Ready to get started making your first sale? Here are five key stages to include in your sales process.
Grab your address book, scroll through your phone and scour your social media contacts to start generating ideas of who to approach. Pick out the friends, family members, colleagues and acquaintances you think might be interested in your product or service.
Add them all to a list - if you love spreadsheets, this is your chance to go wild. Then think about any businesses that might be interested in your product and get them in there, too.
Add a column for notes and fill it out with any relevant information about each prospect that might help you with your pitch.
While making that list, bear in mind your target audience and prioritise names that fit within that segment. This will not only help you to concentrate your efforts more efficiently but also show your potential customers that you're not flogging your business willy nilly, just to get a sale.
Get in touch with the people on your list and tell them about the launch of your new business. This is your first opportunity to introduce the concept, so make your offer compelling. That said, don't go for the hard sell yet - focus on making a good first impression and creating intrigue.
If you're going for emails, remember to address each recipient personally - no one likes being BCC'd into a blanket email. And when it comes to the content, keep it light and conversational but to the point.
In short: create an email that you would open and read yourself. Include links to your website and social channels and try to end with a call to action, be that checking out your site or letting you know their thoughts on your offering.
Whether you're making business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-customer (B2C) sales, it's vital to invest your time in getting these brand new relationships off to the best start possible.
Follow-ups are part and parcel of the sales process, so don't get put off by the fact that calls aren't flooding in after that introductory email. It doesn't mean people aren't interested.
Get back in touch a few days after your initial contact. Don't be tempted to do this too quickly - coming across as pushy isn't going to do wonders for your sales. You can keep track of who you're contacting and when, using that spreadsheet, so you don't overdo it.
For your follow-up, another email might feel appropriate, or perhaps it might be time to pick up the phone and put a voice to the name.
Enter into this with an intention of gauging people's reactions to your announcement and potential interest in your offering, and respond accordingly.
If they don't seem too interested, try to ask them a few questions to find out why - but don't cross them off that list. If they sound intrigued, suggest meeting them in person to give them a bit more of a feel as to what you're offering or show them the products in question.
Arrange a time and place to meet that's convenient for your potential customer and get there in plenty of time. Be professional, but also likeable and personable - getting that balance right is key when making a sale.
Ask questions and listen intently to their answers: this will help you to ascertain how your business can benefit them.
Before you meet, do some research to find out more about your new contact. Familiarise yourself with them and/or their business, and try to anticipate any ways that your offering could help or inspire them.
If you get the thumbs up and the customer agrees to the deal, bring your meeting to a fairly swift end - the first part of your job is done. Now it's time to head home and start working on delivering on the promise you made.
Once your first sale is officially signed off, it's time to celebrate and shout all about the great news! Use your social media channels, website or blog to spread the word that your new business is very much up and running.
If your new customer or client agrees, tag or mention them in your posts - especially if they are influential or well known and respected in their industry.
It's useful at this point to reflect on what made this particular sale a success too. If it was a B2B sale, does your product specifically appeal to their business size or sector? Maybe your B2C sale landed because of your attitude or attention to detail?
Cynthia Wihardja emphasises why a certain approach can make all the difference in this brilliant Enterprise Nation article.
"Let's think about your own experience of being sold to. Which salespeople do you enjoy talking to? Do they even feel like salespeople? Or are they more like problem solvers, who take the time to listen to your challenges before offering a solution?"
Cynthia Wihardja, founder The Brave Zone
For every "yes" you get during the sales process, there will likely be multiple "no"s. This can be tough to deal with as a new business, so it's important to reconsider the concept of rejection in a business context.
Hearing "no" is very much par for the course in sales. It's impossible to avoid it when selling - no one can come up with a product or service that everyone wants, needs and can afford, without exception. So always remember: "no" isn't personal.
It's important to gear up for those nos: expect them and be prepared for them. Use them to gain more information about that client and their needs by always responding to a "no" with a polite enquiry about why there's no interest at the moment.
This should also help you in your endeavours to not take the response personally, as you'll often find it's simply about a lack of necessity, finances or something similar - not because they hate your product.
View those nos as precursors to a yes - they're a necessary step in the right direction. You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs, after all. Doing this will help make sure that you don't allow rejections to negatively impact your confidence or your next sales pitch.
Sales and marketing pro Jackie Wade offers tips on how to make winning calls to customers:
Ready: Preparation and focus is key. Start with a call list and clear objectives: which business or household and who specifically are you calling (decision maker)? Are you clear on your message? What benefits do you offer?
Steady: Feel confident and think positive. What's the worst thing that can happen? They may say no… so what? Not everyone out there will want you, but someone will! Tone is more important than words, so feel and sound confident and positive.
Go: Be natural and be you. Have a good opening 'hook' to grab attention - something interesting, new or different and make it relevant to the person you're calling. Avoid rambling - focus on a two-way conversation, not a fixed script. Develop a list of open questions which will allow you to engage with the person at the other end of the line, e.g. what do you currently do, how does it work, what might you like to improve? Listen for opportunities. Engage!
Grow: Agree action and follow up promptly or agree a call back, if no interest for now. A "no" today may be a "yes" tomorrow; tenacity counts. Things change. Remember, smile and then dial. Your aim is to spread the word about you and your business.