Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Small Business Tips - Selling, Cold Calling & Other Unsavoury Tasks

Ah . . . if only cold calling was this easy!
I hate cold calling. Doesn't everyone? Well, almost everyone. There is that rare breed of career salesperson who just loves getting on the phone. They don't mind the rejection because they see every 'no' as a step closer to a 'yes'.

I am not that person. I don't like it. Not one little bit. I'd rather staple my hand to the desk than pick up that phone.

But then I didn't like getting up in the middle of cold winter nights to feed my baby either but guess what? I did it. Because that baby depended on me for sustenance.

Well, Child Friendly Solutions has been my other 'baby' for over 10 years and, like any small business, it needs sustenance too and the thing that feeds it is sales.

Fortunately our business is now in a position where it can survive on internet sales. We have become the most skilled order takers on the planet. But do we want to just survive? No. We want to grow this business. It needs to feed two families! Pressure much?

When we first started the business, my original business partner was our sales guru. She was that rare breed I mentioned above, able to pick up a phone and make a sales appointment without breaking a sweat. (Or finding forty other VERY IMPORTANT THINGS that needed doing before picking up the phone, like me, Mrs Procrastinator!)

But our core business is built on those original sales to all of those lovely corporate clients and hundreds of small business customers. And if we want to continue to grow, we need to continue to pick up the phone.

Would you like the good news now?

It's not as hard as you think. Here's my trick. When you call that perfectly nice stranger who probably has zero tolerance for pushy sales people and zero time to waste, don't sell to them.

That's it. Don't. Sell. 

Instead, your objective is to get them agree to receive some information. Believe me, they will be so happy that you're not trying to 'sell' to them, they will happily hand over their email address and quite possibly their first born.

That's when you get creative. By all means, send them information by email. But if you don't hear back, follow up with a physical mailer. Everyone loves receiving something in the mail, especially with a handwritten envelope which they are more likely to open. We sometimes pop in something fun like a bag of snakes they can share around the office or a chocolate egg if it's Easter.

The other critical step is to stay in touch with that customer every 90 days or less, whether it be by phone call, email, snail mail or social media. Send them an article, let them know about an industry event, retweet one of their tweets, but just stay in touch. This will ensure that when they're ready to buy, you'll be front of mind and not a distant memory.

The guru on the 90 day technique is Wendy Evans. Her book, How To Get New Business In 90 Days & Keep It Forever, is the most dog-eared, highlighted, scribbled-on business book in my library.

Now I'm the first to admit, this stuff is hard to get going on and difficult to sustain. So were those midnight feeds! But if the result is a sustainable business with a strong sale pipeline and regular revenue, it's worth it.

And now that my real baby is growing into a toddler, it really is time I started taking my own advice and start feeding my business baby again.

Hello telephone old friend . . . . 

Child Friendly Solutions has been assisting Australian retailers with in-store play solutions for 10 years including Big W, K-Mart, Westpac, Toyota and Forty Winks. You can find Child Friendly Solutions Play Panels, Play Tables and other play equipment, as well as lots of information on becoming a child friendly retailer, at