In December 2019, the ThriveNorth program successfully completed its five-year mandate. Managed by Futurpreneur Canada, the program helped young entrepreneurs in Northern B.C. launch and grow their businesses by connecting them with resources, financing and mentorship.
Written By: Jean-Philippe L’Écuyer, Entrepreneur in Residence, Futurpreneur Canada, firstname.lastname@example.org
Any entrepreneur understands that knowing how to market your product or service is crucial to attain business success. As its main representative, you are your own brand’s appointed ambassador.
Quite naturally, the progression of your business led you to develop—consciously or not— your own selling style, complemented with a unique set of sales techniques and arguments. To recognize this fact is a necessity! This also often means you’ve developed a set of habits when it comes to marketing your goods. Take a step back and look at those habits. Do they serve you well—or well enough? Should you consider some freshening up?
Some may rightly say that selling is more of an art form than a science, but the fact remains that some basic, indisputable principles can be universally applied. Below we’ll review tried and true steps that stand out when analyzing a successful sale. Take the time to assess how these different steps could be implemented in your business.
The very first step to sell your product or service is to determine the best way to effectively reach your potential customer.
Knowing what drives your target audience, and where, constitutes the primary drill in your prospecting tool kit. There are a lot of well-used channels that can lead to your customer: networking events, trade shows, professional associations, conventions and other business events are just a few of them.
Unfortunately, many business people stick to those familiar channels, neglecting to check out and experiment with new ones that may give them an unexpected edge. Again, take the time to investigate and try out new spots that might entice your clientele.
Once you’ve established which channels you will favour, you can access different customer bases that show potential for your business. Remind yourself that not all will be necessarily interested by your proposal, but a portion of those individuals may effectively turn out to be good prospects.
This is where you make first contact with your soon-to-be clients. Whether in person, by phone or through the internet, the prospection process starts here and lets you determine more precisely who is more likely to appreciate your product and is worth investing efforts on.
Could you describe what your ideal customer looks like? Think of him or her as you browse through the heap. What are their interests and motivations? Which age group do they fall in? What is their professional status? You get the picture. Prospection is not about the biggest catch, but rather about the best match with what you have to offer.
You’ve started by choosing the proper channels to engage with your customer base. Prospecting actions led you to find a promising client. What you need to do now is to confirm that hopeful match and determine if he or she equates favourably with your ideal client profile. Compared to the previous step, confirming a match requires deeper insight and a more detailed assessment of your prospect’s need.
To do so, inquire about his or her real interest. Make sure not to mirror the answers with a simplistic tie-in to your product or service. What we want to achieve here is a clear understanding of the client’s frame of reference.
At this confirming stage, honesty toward your prospect, and yourself, is paramount. Is your product or service offering really suited to their true needs? Imagine if you were a doctor. Would you operate on someone for a condition you are not perfectly qualified for? Wouldn’t you instead refer your patient to a specialist? That is the mindset you should adopt toward a client, regardless of the commercial context.
This said, if your product or service fittingly addresses your prospect’s needs, you can then work your way toward step four, namely the proper presentation of your proposal.
The presentation step doesn’t have to happen immediately after the confirming step. For example, if the confirmation of your match occurs at an exhibition or tradeshow it will be necessary to make a later appointment to make a proper, individual presentation.
This full-fledged proposal is your opportunity to showcase your product or service in the best possible light, in tune with the needs and interests previously pointed out by the potential customer. This also means you need to skillfully customize your presentation, staying away from any kind of standardized approach.
The key here is dialogue. Your presentation has to be molded into an exchange with the client, not a monologue as too many entrepreneurs unfortunately tend to do. A robotic description won’t let you take into account all the distinctive elements that matter to your host. Make sure to underline the competitive advantages of your proposal, all the while monitoring your prospect’s feedback to your bid.
If the prospect is not interested by your proposal, he or she will probably try to cut short on your presentation. Sometimes this can be difficult to detect with an extremely polite client, so be observant. Ask a few simple questions like: “How does that look to you?” or “Does our product or service address your needs?”
If, on the contrary, the customer is drawn by your offer, they’ll show their interest by wanting to negotiate. That’s an excellent sign! Be aware of the very first bargaining signs as some clients can show their intent in an understated manner. Basically, what the client is looking for is good value for money in relation to his specific needs and available budget.
Many entrepreneurs wrongly assume that negotiating simply means to lower the price in order to close the sale, which is far from the case! There are numerous ways to cut a deal that will maximize both parties’ interests, where the customer feels he or she got what he needs at an affordable price and where you deem you’ve made a profitable transaction for your business.
Closing the sale is the most important step of the process since it transforms all your preceding efforts into hard dollars. Some entrepreneurs experience difficulty with this step, a hardship which strongly impacts on their bottom line.
In some instances, the client can grab the leadership before you do on this issue. Remember that it’s your responsibility as an entrepreneur to finalize the sale; it is therefore crucial for you to stay ahead of the game.
Practically speaking, this means you have to act as the guide towards this finalization. Based on what you’ve learned at the negotiation stage, you’ll make a formal proposal—that doesn’t mean to simply write an amount and ask for a signature on the dotted line. You need to clearly lay down the benefits of your transaction for the client. That will make a world of difference.
The steps we’ve been looking at are considered by the overall business community as bedrock principles that can be confidently used. What do you think? Do they fit with your personal sales approach? Is there room for improvement?
Take the time to integrate those steps into your sales process and adapt them to your own business style. What you’re offering is as unique as your personality, your network and your business ambitions.
To read in more depth how to build your sales process and how to improve your overall skillset around sales, download our free sales ebook, Pitch Perfect: Your Playbook for Winning at Sales.