The government’s Start-Up Britain campaign is a welcome opportunity for young entrepreneurs trying to make an impact in a difficult economic environment.
Any initiative aimed at helping entrepreneurs narrow the skills gap, reduce start-up failures and improve the performance of the SME sector, is certainly to be encouraged.
We must remember however, that starting capital is not all it takes to make a new business successful. Start-ups rely on three things to get through the initial set up of the new business; enthusiasm, market knowledge and a good understanding of its new product or service.
During favourable economic growth this is often sufficient to ensure its success. But in times of economic uncertainty, buyers of products and services ‘play it safe’ and are more reluctant to risk altering suppliers or changing from the people they already deal with. This can place additional strains on new entrants to a market.
How start-ups can overcome this fear of change and the risk aversion of buyers and consumers is a significant challenge for young entrepreneurs. Specific skills such as selling strategies to overcome this resistance to change are critical to survival here. The number one reason that start ups fail is a lack of cash. The biggest cash flow killer is a lack of profitable, sales paid within terms. This is in turn compounded by a poor pipeline, culminating in a cash flow crisis.
At Sandler Training in the UK we believe that sales is a process, built on a series of skills that can be learnt, developed and grown over time – and that cross-industry sales issues can be overcome even in financially challenging times such as these.
Put together a prospect plan
It is important to put together a water tight sales plan to define the sales focus. So before sales outreach becomes necessary, it’s important to take time to look at the stages required and quantify the activities needed put a new venture in front of prospective clients.
Then think about who the ideal prospect is – it’s a lot easier to go out to find clients when you know exactly what you’re looking for. A detailed profile of an ideal client will significantly help in targeting activities.
Put a system in place
A basic structure will help to monitor and measure results – as well as make adjustments as necessary. Set time aside to debrief after a prospect meeting and document learnings. In this way an entrepreneur can continue to learn and grow, improving success rates on a constant basis.
See also: How do SMEs take the leap and scale with sales? – Having a replicable sales process is essential if you want to scale, says The Apprentice’s Elizabeth McKenna.
Remember that people are most interested in themselves and the challenges they face. The amount of sales made is proportional to the amount of information gathered, not the information given. One of the greatest skills required to master in a sales environment is to be an effective listener. By talking knowledgeably about prospects problems, business builders will hold their attention and ultimately, enable them to engage.
When we meet with prospects we want to hear a yes. That’s only natural. We also feel in difficult times, beggars can’t be choosers. But sometimes if a start-up is put in front of ‘the prospect from hell’ its important to make a judgement call as to whether it would be beneficial to turn them into a client from hell – or simply walk away. Sometimes it pays to be discerning. In the business world there will always be time wasters; the trick is to spot them early and not let them waste the most valuable resource – time.
Sales meetings and calls do not have to be a gritty, hard-won, exhausting experience. It may be that guys are required for a few seconds at a time, but its imperative to learn to relax and bring some humour into things. If someone is enjoying what they are doing, it comes across in their speech, body language and your whole presence.