Successful Selling Tips for Start-ups

About The Author: Paul Owen founded his firm – Sales Talent – in London back in 2011. In the decade since, he has helped well over 10,000 people improve their sales skills through his consultancy, training services and podcast. He has delivered seminars at 40+ universities and became an Amazon Bestseller and shortlisted for Business Book of the Year 2018 when he published his book: Secret Skill, Hidden Career. 

Small businesses often think that selling equals going out and closing clients. But this approach can actually backfire, negatively impacting sales by making potential clients feel pressured.

In this article, I’ll share for my top six tips for small businesses and start-ups on how to sell successfully.

1. Focus on opening, not closing

Often, SMEs and start-ups are so focused on closing sales that they end up applying pressure, creating the wrong impression on potential clients. This stops them selling at all! If this sounds like your business, it’s time to forget about closing deals and concentrate on opening up conversations instead. 

Start at the beginning. Let people know that your business exists and how you might be able to help them. Ask about the problems they need solved and listen to their responses. Be honest with yourself about whether your products or services are the right solution – then pass that honest opinion along to the client. 

Closing comes later; you can deal with it then. After all, you can’t close conversations that haven’t even been opened!

TOP TIP: For a wealth of tips on how to open a dialogue and nurture leads, head over to the Sales Talent Knowledge hub.

2. Don’t try to sell to everyone

You can’t sell to everyone. Even if you have the most amazing product or service, as a start-up or SME you simply don’t have the capacity (time, money, staff) to do so.

Make time to work out who your best clients are. Who will benefit most from your service or product? Whose needs does it most closely match? And who is best placed to be able to afford it? 

Once you’ve worked this out, you are well positioned to know who to approach. Then it’s just a case of finding their contact details and reaching out, through sales, through marketing or through both.

TOP TIP: Knowing your ‘why’ is just as important as knowing your ‘who’. For practical tips on finding your target client, check out our Addition Post-Pandemic Marketing Guide.

3. Understand the value of data, process and persistence 

Once you know your target clients, create a simple sales process, then follow it. A regular mistake that I see small businesses make (and big ones, for that matter), is to dabble in a campaign (“we called x type of client once but there was no interest”) rather than to follow it through. 

The quickest surest way to waste time, effort and money in sales is to try a bit of this, a bit of that and a bit of the other – sticking with nothing long enough to be successful. Sales is a long-term activity. It takes sustained follow-up to produce revenue, so commit sufficient time to your strategy and process to give them a chance to succeed. 

TOP TIP: Understanding and managing your cash flow is key to staying within your sales budget. With Addition’s CORE plan, you get real-time insights so you’re always one step ahead. Go to CORE.

4. Remember that honesty is the best policy

Sales isn’t about learning a dark art that uses tricks to convince people to buy something. The job of the salesperson isn’t to railroad a client into buying but to help them make a purchasing decision. 

Buyers these days are bombarded with information. That means they don’t need just another sales pitch from you. They need a trusted source of information – someone who will treat them respectfully and advise them honestly. If you can convey that respect and integrity to your potential clients, you’re already likely to be a step ahead of the competition. 

TOP TIP: At Addition, we respect your time and money. We offer free, no-strings introductory calls to talk about your business accounting needs. If we can help, we will, and if not, we’ll be upfront and point you in the direction of someone who can. Book a call.

5. Take a step back

When you work with a product day in, day out, it’s easy to make assumptions about how quickly others will grasp its benefits. That information becomes so ingrained in your thinking about the product that you risk not explaining it sufficiently to potential clients. 

Take some time out to consciously consider your product from an alternative perspective – one with no prior knowledge of how it works of the benefits it delivers. Remember that this is the position that many potential buyers are in. 

TOP TIP: Ethical spending is a major consumer driver. Merging your product with social impact could bring a whole new range of clients. Read about these female founders creating change through sales.

6. Keep things in perspective 

Finally, remember that we’re all human. Sales can be a tough business where you hear the word ‘no’ a lot more often than the word ‘yes’. Staying motivated usually takes teamwork, no matter what size your business is.

Put some thought into supporting the mental wellbeing of those in the business who are tasked with selling your product or service. And if you’re starting up all on your own, make sure you have a good personal and professional support network around you to share your trials and tribulations with. 

TOP TIP: To read about how other business owners are looking after their team’s mental wellbeing, read our contributor round-up of inspiring examples.

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