The saying goes, “pride come before a fall” and indeed, when it comes to sales and marketing skills for smaller businesses.
The people that most need to improve their sales skills are those who think they don’t. Sounds contrary but it is rare to come across someone in a small business that acknowledges their weaknesses in sales and marketing skills and goes out to address it.
We recently conducted some telemarketing for a client that really hit home on this point. The client was offering £1000 funding to smaller business towards investment in the principals or directors. I need to repeat that sum in case you missed it: ONE THOUSAND POUNDS. Now sure, some contribution was required from the prospect company but we need to get clear, this was free money on offer. I thought we would have a tremendous response. As you might have guessed, most companies were either very sceptical or just did not see the value of investing in their major decision makers. I am humble enough to accept that it could have been the quality of my company’s telemarketing, but, take my word for it, we tried many different approaches and our telemarketers know a good few persuasive techniques!
Contrast this with my life partner who is a business development director in multinational market research firm. They send her on training courses for soft skills every 6 months or so. Moreover, they were virtually throwing a premium quality business coach at her, even thought she ADMITTED to that coach that she was considering leaving the company so it was probably not a sensible investment! They don’t need a £1000 inducement to improve her skills because they know that a few tip and hints that help her win one new piece of business pays for 5 years of training.
Spot the difference between our telemarketing prospects and the market research firm. Now I am not moaning just because one division of my company undertakes sales training and most of our prospects are smaller companies. I say this because improved sales and marketing skills for smaller businesses can really help them leverage their advantages over smaller firms. Having a small motivated workforce makes companies hungry and lean so clients get better value and a can-do attitude backed up with accountability.
I can already hear the legions of directors of small companies reading this who are moaning that they do not have the time, funds to invest or ability to implement the great ideas they may learn. Each of those excuses can be cured by investment in improved time management, delegation and borrowing to help grow the business.
In fact the problem is as much with luddite entrepreneurs as their archane decision-making abilities. So many business groups seem to accept the excuses their members make about not wanting to change successful formulae, IITWWHADI (it is the way we have always done it) or our customers would not stand for us using such new-fangled methods.
This government to its credit has created many schemes to help business and Business Link has some superb people and services to offer start-ups as much as to established ambitious concerns. Sure, there are many valid criticisms of red tape but smaller firms DO have many places they can turn to. But again, I have lost count of Business Link representatives and their equivalent that complain that they have the funds but can’t easily find the serious clients. I have associations with the Prince’s Trust and they have an excess of volunteers over young people coming forward to claim up to £5000 funding for a business along with the support of an experienced business mentor.
And let us not forget the rash of business networking groups that now exist. In fact, we visit various groups and there is a marked contrast in the types of membership. Some groups actively solicit free training and develop the sales and marketing skills of their members. But the other 90% of groups perfectly illustrate the stick-in-the-mud attitude to improving the way they bring in new business. The irony that so many members have joined dynamic networking groups, only to refuse to change they way they approach prospects or change their thinking, is startling.
So let this be a rallying call to all small businesses, entrepreneurs and sole proprietors: get off your bums and seek out new sales and marketing skills. No-one else is going to do it for you and there is a wealth of resource out there to generate you double digit growth next year.
Andy Szebeni is director of sales training and telemarketing company A&P. For more information and free tips and hints go to http://www.a-and-p.com .