Most days our world at work has no shortage of ideas. But where successes tend to be fragmented and oppourtunities continue to evolve, it is easy to get lost in or even overwhelmed by the seemingly never-ending voices that claim to have the latest and greatest mousetrap for the local small or medium business (SMB).
The bottom line is that there is a lot of information out there. A lot of information coming at SMB decision-makers from many different sources results in confusion.
On many occasions I’ve heard SMB owners say something like, “I have five people each day just like you knocking on my door, calling on my phone, and each of you says you have the best marketing products for my business. Well, guess what? You can’t all be right!”
To win on today’s playing field, our salespeople need to confidently know what they are talking about and have a better, more compelling story than their competition, which is also claiming to be the best.
We’ve all heard this scenario a hundred times. So what do we do about it?
I propose that we can win more often if we are able to think like the business owner that we are calling on. If we truly understand the concerns and needs of that business, then we can propose programmes that are true business solutions. Call it consultative selling, or call it logical common sense.
But getting an entire staff there is usually easier said than done. Not because the staff is difficult, but because we all have a gazillion things going on and a wide variation in sales expertise, etc.
So, how can we help our team members learn the basic elements that are critical to the success of an SMB? This is doing the homework. This is about executing on what I believe to be one of the most important basics in the sales process: the needs assessment.
The act of completing a good needs assessment is an important part of the homework. Keeping your needs assessment up to date requires an ongoing connection with the business, as things can change quickly these days.
We take more sales confidence into the field if we see the business through our customers’ eyes. If we better understand how an SMB owner thinks about his business and what impression he wants his customers to have, we have powerful information.
To this end, I’d like to offer up an idea that we are about to implement in some of our sales training at The Sacramento Bee. We are going to take select chapters from the book, “Small Business Marketing Kit for Dummies,” by Barbara Findlay Schenck.
I found this book to be a straightforward primer that can help small business owners/marketers learn how to filter through mountains of information. If salespeople utilise this resource, they will see what SMB owners and operators are learning.
Even seasoned SMB owners are searching for ways to make sense of the new digital economy and how it fits with traditional approaches they have known for years.
There is truly a nice educational oppourtunity here that I think could be a part of every rep’s (new or seasoned) experience. After all, one should never think that they know it all. We can never stop learning.
As Seth Godin says: “When you work with anticipation, you will highlight the highs. You’ll double down on the things that will delight and push yourself even harder to be bold and to create your version of art.”
When you are confident in your knowledge and approach, you will work with anticipation and win more.
We must continually study, do the homework, and stay sharp and informed so we can create successful marketing programmes for our advertising partners.
Brushing up on the following topics sounds like a good solid foundation — not only for SMBs, but for anyone partnering in their business-building efforts.
We should want to have discussions with the SMB about these topics found in the book:
- Customer buying behaviours.
- Viewing your sales by market segment.
- Matching customers with distribution channels.
- Seeing your product through your customers’ eyes.
- Advertising online.
- Incorporating social media activity.
Always remain a student of the game, and it will serve you well. Being well-versed on such topics makes us valued consultants.
Now, let’s knock on doors, dial the numbers, and share our knowledge as we complete solid needs assessments that lean to good business solutions.
I know this isn’t new and it’s not new innovation. But execute the fundamentals well and we will continue to sell business solutions that work for the customer.
Approach each day with positive anticipation, leave anxiety behind!