Want to know the #1 “statement” that I hear most often from small business owners?

“I use to be really good at selling other people’s products and services, but now that I am selling my own, I feel like I am begging for work.”

This one is popular too:

“I always end up reducing my price, otherwise I don’t get the job.”

Well here is what “sales machine” Geoffrey James and I have to say about that! Below are 8 very important rules to help all of you sales people and small business owners out there increase your sales while creating strong brand equity.

Selling for a small firm or a small business definitely presents challenges even for top sales professionals. Why? Because your company is small, your prospects probably don’t know much about it. Money is tight, which means that you don’t have the luxury of spending lavishly to promote your products or services. Your business probably lacks the sales support that reps in big firms take for granted. And so on, and so forth…

That being said, there are tremendous advantages to selling for a small business, if you know the rules. Whether you are a sales person for a small business or the owner/sales person of your own business, these rules can play an important part in your success.

  • RULE #1: Never Apologize.
    Sales people and small business owners shrink their credibility by taking on an apologetic air, trying to explain away the inexperience or the size of their firm, and then energetically go into “fear mode”. Customers smell that kind of fear from a mile away and are often more than willing to use it to their advantage by demanding steep discounts or even amusing themselves by making you jump through meaningless hoops. Don’t let that happen to you. You are much more than you think, no matter what size business you have.
  • RULE #2: Consider Yourself the Customer’s Equal.
    Rather than being apologetic, you must convince yourself and reflect the value of what you and your business have to offer. Rather than dwelling on your inexperience or small size, constantly emphasize the unique value of a truly new approach to the customer’s problems. And rather than “begging for business”, be hard-nosed and ready to walk out the door. Being passionate but not attached to the outcome is key. And as for jumping through hoops, your company is a business, not a dog and pony show.
  • RULE #3: Treat “Weaknesses” as Strengths.
    Customers may not know anything about your small business, but they don’t have any negative preconceptions either. Support may be scarce in your small business, but that’s an opportunity to get creative and more independent.  A small company can pivot and adapt much faster than a bigger one. Remember, many decision-makers who won’t talk to cookie-cutter sales reps from established firms, will take the time to talk with somebody with original ideas and a new approach to solving their problems.
  • RULE #4: YOU Are the Brand.
    It’s a fact that customers buy from people they know and trust. When you’re selling for a small business, YOU are the brand name, the reputation, the trust-ability, and the reliability that the customer is buying into.  A sales rep working for, say IBM, needs only the label on a business card to create credibility. With a smaller business, that trust and credibility must come from YOU and the way YOU present yourself to the consumer.
  • RULE #5: Be an Entrepreneur.
    Because your small business lacks the support infrastructure of a larger one, in most cases the only person you can really count on to get things done is yourself.  You’ll need to be extremely careful about your time and resources, and constantly find creative ways to get things done quickly and easily. Remember, activity multiplied by hours spent must equal sales results. Make certain that everything you do leads toward the results that you seek.
  • RULE #6: Match Each Request with a Counter-Request.
    Insist that anything the customer asks you to do, gives you the right to ask the customer to do something comparable in return. That policy not only ensures that you’ll not be taken advantage of, but also gives you frequent opportunities to strengthen your competitive position and move the sales process forward. For example, if a customer asks you to provide them with an RFP based upon 35 pages of detailed questions, explain that you’ll only do so if you’re guaranteed a meeting with decision-makers to present your solution.
  • RULE #7: Be Willing to Say No.
    Never give in to a customer who’s being unreasonable or demanding things that don’t make sense for your company. Your larger competitor can perhaps afford to kowtow to get the business. You, however, don’t have the luxury of being anything less than the best – and the best in any industry NEVER truckle. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be cooperative, but in all your dealings be aware of your worth and the worth of your company to the customer.
  • RULE #8: Never be afraid to bail.
    Don’t let wishful thinking propel you into wasted effort. If it becomes clear that the deal doesn’t make sense for your company or will take too much time and effort to close, it’s not worth pursuing. For example, if you’re being told you can’t meet with the decision-maker, you aren’t going to get the business. Period. So move on, without regrets.

Leap of the Week:
What’s one thing that you connected with from this blog post and can start implementing this week? Remember, YOU have something of value to offer. Get out of your own way, STOP being the best kept secret. Start viewing your own business as if it belonged to someone else so you can feel more comfortable talking about the solutions that it has to offer. After all, that’s what selling is all about!

Good luck and let me know how it goes.
Isabelle 😉