“Nothing happens until a sale is made.” – Thomas Watson
All business functions are interlinked and interdependent. However, selling is the primary function that generates operational revenues, which covers costs and make profits. Today, we will take up this crucial function that every entrepreneur must take seriously.
What is selling? Ordinarily, selling refers to any transaction in which money is exchanged for a product between a seller and a buyer. In our context, the seller is the business organisation that makes a product available to a buyer, who pays for it. Technically, however, selling comprises all the personal and impersonal activities involved in identifying, creating, developing and growing the demand for a given product.
The importance of selling: Selling is about facilitating exchange between a buyer and a seller. The buyer gets a desired value while the seller receives payment, which covers their cost and makes them a profit. But between this seemingly cold exchange, the staff of a business have been paid salaries, suppliers of raw materials would have been paid, etc. Similarly, at the end of everything, various taxes are paid to government. The cash from profitable sales is a very important asset that keeps a company afloat (other cash sources such as equity from shareholders and debt from creditors can easily dry up if there are no prospects for sustainable sales revenues.) Invariably, it is sales that create jobs and wealth and make investments attractive.
How do you sell? There are a few factors that will determine the success of your sales effort, as follows:
• Understand the selling process: The selling process starts from your ‘prospecting’, ‘preparation/pre-approach’, ‘approach’, ‘presentation’, ‘handling objectives’, ‘closing’ and ‘follow-up’. Understanding the requirements and challenges of each stage will help you to prepare well in advance, thereby enhancing your ability to meet the customers’ needs and improving your chances of success.
• Understand your customers and what they want: Your ability to serve your customers well depends on the extent to which you understand them. Listen to and observe your customers. Often, you have to be on the same page with your customers and offer them what they desire. Other times you have to be ahead of them and give them solutions and conveniences that they hadn’t even thought of!
• Offer saleable products: A major challenge in every business is to ensure that the product that you offer is saleable. Prior to product development and launch, you will need to conduct a diligent feasibility study and build a sound business plan. There are many ways of selling successful products. Sometimes it is simply about ‘tweaking’ product features, presentation or the service attached to that. Other times, companies succeed by inventing completely new products. It is your calling to decide how you believe you will succeed. No matter the option you are taking though, the ultimate objective and challenge is to achieve a sufficient volume of sales of the product to cover your running costs and deliver profits, except for loss-leading products, which serve a different purpose all together.
• Assemble the right sales team: There are technical and emotional requirements to successful selling. Getting the right sales team or building and developing one is an absolute must. If you have the right sales team the members of which are always excited and happy selling, you are a head start away from your competitors.
• Prime your enterprise to sell: Another key to success is to ensure that your whole company is primed to sell. The idea is that you should educate and get all staff to have the ‘selling mentality’. From your front desk to the back-end of your operations, all staff must support marketing and sales efforts. However, this is not to say that all staff will be directly involved in sales negotiations and logistics! Rather, it just means that all staff must support the sales effort within their specific role or function. For instance, the inventory control officer must process their papers timely and correctly to ensure a quick release of the product, whilst the despatch officer must ensure safe and timely delivery to the right customer.
• Market your product: Regardless of how good your products and people are, you are to be aware of how to play around with the so-called 4Ps of marketing to facilitate the selling function. These are:
o Product: A comprehensive understanding of what product you are offering as well as its features, benefits and competitive positioning.
o Place: A detailed understanding of the best place(s) to make the product available to your customers.
o Price: This is the price-value proposition of your product.
o Promotion: This is about the best approaches to reaching and delivering all marketing messages to customers.
• Think long-term: In thinking and acting long-term, you aim to balance conflicting needs and avoid pitching your interests against that of your customers. By thinking long-term, you will very likely forego taking undue advantages of your customers that will come back to haunt you. The way to make this possible is through:
o Integrity: Ensure that you deal with your customers fairly on all issues. Do not allow possible short-term gains to becloud your vision on the need for a long-term relationship that all parties will be happy with,
o Build loyalty: You should ensure that you are considerate of the long-term needs of customers and will not sacrifice that for your own short-term ‘gains’,
o Impress your customers: Work to deliver above your agreed commitments to your customers. If you can frequently ‘wow’ your customers, you stand a good chance to hold them for long.
• Make continuous improvements: As nothing is static in life, your wonderful product, you highly effective marketing strategy, your team of loyal and competent staff, etc. can all be bested within a short period by the competition. Consequently, you should adopt a strategy of continuous learning and improvement in all the components of your selling effort. You should be adept at raising the bar on your own rather than resting on your laurels and allowing the competition do that.
Every function in a business organisation should be primed to ultimately serve the customer through selling. Next week, we will take up Responsible Corporate Citizenship.
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“Nothing happens until a sale is made.” – Thomas Watson