Many small businesses start out with owners and key employees handling just about every function. As a business grows, sales is typically the first group to break out as a dedicated department.
However, a sales team that splinters too far off from the rest of the company can hurt your chances for success. According to leadership trainer Shaun Thomson, many small businesses fail when owners lose control of their sales operations. Thomson and other experts offer four ways you can bring the sales cycle back to the core of your business.
Focus on Small Business Sales
1. Make sales a priority for everyone on your team
According to Todd Cohen, author of the book "Everyone's in Sales," a bad impression can come from anyone in an organization at any point in the customer's buying cycle. Instead of parceling out sales responsibilities to a dedicated "sales team," effective small business owners expect everyone in their organizations to contribute to sales.
That can involve everything from pairing salespeople with other team members on sales calls, all the way to compensation programs that reward all employees for finding new customers.
2. Understand you're different from your customers
Your passion for your own business can tank your sales process, says Thomson. He advises his clients to back down from "one-way" communication that can come across as tone-deaf bragging to prospects.
Instead, recognize that many prospects may not even know why they need your products or services. Listen to how they express their needs, and then take specific actions to show them how you can solve their problems. Don't assume that a prospect's no longer interested until he or she tells you.
3. Organize customer information so everyone can help
Thanks to customer relationship management (CRM) tools, you can easily access comprehensive information about every communication between your clients and your team. To get the most out of CRM, you and your employees must first understand that effective customer service means identifying opportunities for more sales (and vice versa).
For instance, when a customer calls your service operation outside their usual buying cycle and identifies a new need, your service team member should be able to flag that communication within the CRM for follow-up by your sales team. Likewise, when a sales call uncovers a problem with an existing purchase, your sales professional should be able to dispatch service resources.
4. Break your sales process into manageable chunks
Lofty sales goals can be daunting, Thomson says. Instead of focusing on quarterly goals that seem unattainable, help your team visualize daily or weekly goals that seem more realistic. Share case studies about sales that your team won with help from multiple departments, and celebrate success stories—for example, how a service opportunity turned into a chance to reconnect with a customer.
Role play tough scenarios that can help your entire team understand your sales process from the customer's point of view. That way, your employees will be less likely to freeze when they encounter a similar situation in real life.
When every member of your team takes ownership for sales and for customer satisfaction, your whole operation can accelerate its growth.
Joe Taylor Jr. has covered personal finance and business for more than two decades. His work has been featured on NPR, CNBC, Financial Times Television, Fox Business, and ABC News. He recently completed a personal finance book entitled "The Rogue Guide to Credit Cards" (Rogue Guide Books, 2012).
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