Cold calling is the most common and generally most effective way of developing sales and is especially successful if the necessary pre-planning takes place. A clear idea of who and where the best potential buyers are located is a must.
To ensure maximum selling time, that is the time you are in a direct face to face meeting with a potential customer, a degree of pre-call planning will, for the vast majority of businesses, not only be beneficial and cost effective, but also essential.
If you are in business (or planning to be) then you are likely to have to contract with others in some way. It may be the contract you and your business partner(s) draw up together to set out the ground rules, a contract with a customer or supplier, or an employment contract should you take on staff. Other types of contracts may be loans or credit agreements, leasing agreements or hire purchase agreements.
The face-to-face sales interview with a potential buyer is the most important part of the whole marketing function. It is at this point that your product or service is scrutinised by the person who can, with the right decision in your favour, make the all important contribution to your business; that is place an order, for without orders there is no business.
Before you get in front of a customer think about your personal appearance. If you seek maximum acceptance it is safer to conform to conventional style.
It is always good business practice to follow-up a call, whether successful or not, with a letter of thanks, restating the main points you said and confirming any arrangements or promises made. Having the agreement in writing is better than a handshake on the deal.
The letter should mention the following points:
the terms of the agreement;
the names of those involved;
the prices mentioned plus discounts, etc;
individual responsibilities; and,
time schedules and any deadlines agreed.
The first and crucial step in selling is to identify prospective customers (prospects). Even when you already have customers or leads, it is vital that you continue to develop further sales opportunities. You can do this in the following ways:
ask current customers for names of potential buyers or ask them who is their biggest competitor;
develop referral sources, eg suppliers, bankers, trade associations, etc;
join groups such as your local small business club or Chamber of Commerce, where you have a good chance of meeting or learning about new prospects;
Treat every sales effort as a campaign requiring careful planning if it is to succeed and bring in the necessary orders. If you are visiting prospects, samples are a must. These should be perfect in every way and presented in a neat professional case. The best sample in the world loses all its credibility if poorly presented. Similarly, you should have literature about your product or service; preferably clean, bright material with not too much copy.
Remember to stress the unique selling points (USPs) of your business. Don’t be afraid to boast about these benefits, but you must tell the truth or they will bounce back on you with disastrous effect.
It may help to summarise here the main points vital to successful sales:
If you don’t get an order (close the sale) it is likely that:
you didn't identify the customer’s needs precisely; or,
you didn't listen effectively; or,
you didn't meet the customer’s needs with your product; or,
you didn't outline the benefits or incentives of your products accurately or convincingly.
There are a number of specialised tele-sales companies who canvass potential clients over the phone, establish a degree of interest in the product and, where possible, arrange for a sales call. Such leads are generally easier to contact because sufficient interest has been generated by the tele-sales professional. Sales of replacement windows, insurance, financial services or other capital goods are often dealt with in this way.
Selling is as essential an element of your business as, say, preparing a business plan or retaining effective financial control. It is a skill like any other, and can be developed and improved over time and with practice. Writing out an order having attracted a prospective customer and made a successful sales presentation is one of the most satisfying things you will do.
That’s an easy one, isn’t it? Suppose you're going on holiday; you might buy a suitcase, some new clothes, some suntan lotion, a pair of sunglasses and a rail ticket. On the surface of it nothing could be more straightforward, but let’s just take a closer look:
There are many businesses offering products and services which are the same, or which are sufficiently similar that they may meet the needs of the same customers. Why, then, should someone buy from your business rather than someone else’s? One of the major deciding factors - perhaps more so than price - is the quality of customer service.
The quality of service offered to customers may be seen in everything, from promotional material to premises, from staff to stationery. Service matters in all customer - or potential customer - contact. Service becomes crucial, however, when things go wrong
Karma Active won one of the Shell LiveWIRE Grand Ideas Awards in June 2010. Here they offer some advice on refining your sales technique.