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Sales! Sales! Sales!

“How can I increase sales?”

That is a question I get asked daily when working with small businesses that are seeking greater profits and success. Everyone wants to know what they can do to increase sales.

So here are some ideas that I use when working with businesses to increase sales. These tips will help you get your customers to know, like and trust you and your business. This will increase your sales from these loyal customers as well as encourage them to refer their friends and family to your business.

First Impressions

It is extremely important that you pay attention to the first impression that potential customers are getting when they first encounter you and your company.

If you have a retail establishment, it is easy to become comfortable within your own space. You may no longer be viewing it through your customer’s eyes, and that is crucial. Take a critical eye to your signage. Is it bright, clean, and appealing? Check out the appearance and cleanliness of everything in your space, from the condition of the parking lot to the upkeep of customer restrooms. Does every element of this environment add up to a great customer experience? If you find that you are having a hard time getting your critical eye to detect flaws or shortcomings, try taking photographs of your establishment and check out the results.

If you find any areas of your business are not up to par, fix them immediately. Freshen up your displays, paint or redecorate dark areas, and clear out the clutter. When your customers walk in and see a bright, clean, well-cared for space, they will immediately feel more comfortable and more trusting of you and your business.

Not only does the physical environment you present affect your customer’s experience, the appearance and actions of your sales people send loud and clear messages to your customers as well, either positive or negative. Make sure that your staff is neat, clean and appropriately attired at all times. Name-tags are also a good idea as they encourage familiarity and allow customers to identify staff members who have given them exemplary service, and can be valuable in getting the important feedback you need to get your customer’s suggestions and ideas for improvement. The initial greetings customers get from your staff are important, as well, and making sure that your staff is welcoming and friendly when someone walks in to your establishment is key to building a strong, permanent relationship with that customer.

If your business is an online business or has an online component, make certain that your website is fully searchable, easily navigated, and up-to-date with all of the information that your customers are seeking. Web design is also important as people are less likely to deal with websites that either don’t work properly or are

not aesthetically pleasing. Professional websites speak volumes to customers, and making the investment to get your website up to par is vitally important in today’s internet-based economy. You can also check out your competitor’s websites to spark ideas for your own website’s improvement.

Scripts

Scripts for customer service are important so that the message your customers receive is consistent, professional, and inviting.

Now a script is not a rote set of words that your staff must memorize verbatim, but a roadmap of information available for using when communicating with customers. Your script can guide customer’s purchases and increase sales dramatically.

Scripts also allow your staff to prepare and practice before they are in front of actual customers. Although role-playing is not for everyone, it is a valuable tool for training. Practicing what to say before one is in front of a customer makes for a smoother sales conversation and ultimately, more sales.

Listening

The well-used phrase that “we have two ears and one mouth for a reason” contains much truth.

Listening to customers with an open mind will not only let you know what the customer’s needs are, it can give you great insight into the customer’s most comfortable way of communicating. How they communicate with you will tell you if the customer is interested in being friendly and building a relationship, or if they are in a great hurry. You can discover if they are looking for the newest and the best product out there, or if they are the type that want to know all of the details before they decide to buy. Knowing what your customer wants and how they communicate can help to guide your closing process, ensuring that you get the sale.

Good eye contact, repeating back to the customer what they have said they need in your own words, and continuing the conversation by mirroring their behavior are all parts of active listening. Active listening can build relationships, and customers enjoy buying from those who relate to them. Make sure every member of your staff is trained on active listening, and have them practice on one another.

Ask for the referral

The most widespread myth is that “Word of Mouth Marketing is all you will need for your business to grow. In reality, you have to put that word into someone’s mouth for it to spread.

When given a compliment for your service or product, make certain that you not only reply with gratitude, but also that you ask for a referral. A good script might be, “Wow, we are glad that you are happy with our service. The best way to help us out is to send a great customer, someone just like you, our way.” In addition to the script, always make sure you have a business card or flyer to hand to that customer for them to give to friends and family.

Keep in mind that most people like to be helpful to other people, and they almost always are willing to share your good works with their friends when they are happy with your product or service. The more requests you make, the more referrals you will receive. Asking for referrals will build your business over time, dramatically increasing your sales.

Therefore, the next time you are thinking of ways to increase sales in your business, make sure you remember these basic concepts. Take stock of your current business, and consider if your business is following the best practice models in each area, and if there is room for improvement, make the necessary adjustments. Remember, for your business to grow, you have to evolve and get better over time. Take stock of your business frequently, and never stop trying to improve upon your current levels of service. This will lead to continued growth and increase of sales for your business.

 

Peggy Cenova

Peggy Cenova has been the Regional Director of the East Central ISBDC since 2011. She was a Business Advisor for the Center from 2009-2011. Peggy’s career includes owning her own small business from 1986 – 1997. That small business (Straight Status, Inc.) was named to the Inc. 500 fastest growing business list in 1988. She has managed Psychiatric, Legal and Orthodontic practices. Currently she enjoys facilitating small business strategic planning sessions, presenting on starting, building, and marketing small businesses, and coaching business owners one-on-one as they assess their business needs.She holds a Bachelor’s degree from Indiana University and an Associates Degree from Ball State University.
Peggy Cenova can be reached at pcenova@isbdc.org.
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