Since posting the piece ‘Size does matter’ recently I have had a number of emails. The theme of these was along these line; ‘it’s easy for you to talk’, ‘I am already spending a fortune on advertising and working hard at seeing as many customers as I can,’ and ‘the market is lousy,’ and so on.
Rather than replying to these individually I decided to share some of the previous experiences I have had with small business owners.
One said to me “We have very good relations with our customers and they really don’t need any more of the products we sell to them every month.” After exploring possibilities with him we came up with the idea that if he stocked complimentary products he could offer a one-stop-shop service to his customers. He saw good results within two months.
Another told me he was too busy with the admin and accounting to be a salesman. This one took a bit more time. I had to tactfully explain to him that he was valuing his time at the same level as a bookkeeper. He was an engineer and his time would have been better spent seeing customers and helping them solve problems - which in turn would have improved relations with them. It took a while to get him to change. In the process of my ongoing dealings with him I came to see that he was actually afraid of going out into the field. I gave him some off-the-cuff sales training explaining that he should not try to ‘sell’ people anything but rather ask about how his product could help them solve their problems. Recasting his role from that of salesman to consultant set him on the road to increased sales.
Ego can be a problem. When told by another business owner that he worked flat out on selling and that he was on the road 12 hours a day I suggested that he employ another salesperson. He was horrified. “Do you know how much I would have to pay a good one?” he blurted. I asked him if the cost of a new salesperson would be less than he was able to make out of the additional business the new salesperson brought in and he replied that it would. I helped him with the numbers and showed him that if he could find someone as good as he was there would be a significant increase in profits. He is now happy that despite the increased cost the business would much better off.
Although I always advise against increasing fixed costs sometimes one has to in order to increase sales. But always do the numbers first.