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Author Biography:

Geoffrey Michael  is a freelance writer specializing in business, marketing, personal finance, law, science, aviation, sports, travel, and political analysis. He graduated from the United States Air Force Academy and is also licensed to practice law in California and New Hampshire. He has 40 years’ experience in the successful management and execution of high-technology programs and also cofounded an aviation consulting firm. You can contact him at www.geoffreymichael.pro

Making Sales
By Geoffrey Michael Friday, April 3, 2015
Small businesses don’t have the budget and marketing firepower to buy splashy television ads and expensive print ads.  Selling your products requires hard work, creativity, and matching customer needs to your ability to satisfy them.  This can be accomplished by providing customers with a buying experience that your larger competitors can’t or don’t duplicate: unique products, high quality, exceptional service, and guaranteed satisfaction.

You also have the opportunity to offer intangible advantages such as personal service and lasting relationships with your customers.  There may be nothing more valuable in business than customers who trust you.  Make that your number one goal.

Personal Touch
Some customers prefer small businesses because they want and expect personal attention from the owner.  While that places a burden on the owner, it’s something that the owner should anticipate and embrace.  You have the opportunity to demonstrate your products and provide advice and recommendations directly to your customers.

Knowing your customers on a personal level enables you to suggest other products that might interest them.  You’re in a perfect position to close sales that may have started through other promotional methods.  Take advantage of your personal relationships to solidify your brand and build long-term loyalty.

This is the bedrock on which sales are made.  Think about the last time you bought something that you didn’t know much about, such as a new piece of electronic equipment.  If the salesperson impressed you with their knowledge of the product, that likely made you more inclined to buy it.  Even if you didn’t, you were more apt to allow the salesperson to help find another product that fulfilled your needs.

The two primary components of product knowledge are benefits and features.  Customers buy benefits first, and features second.  Once you know the customer’s wants and needs, describe how your product will satisfy them.  Benefits might include convenience, pleasure, safety, time-saving, utility, appearance, and artistic value.  They are somewhat intangible and what motivate people to become buyers.

Features are tangible aspects of your products that differentiate them from other products.  Examples are the power of an amplifier or the horsepower of a car engine.  Features are important, but the emphasis should be on how they benefit the customer.

New Customers
When meeting someone new, first impressions and perceptions are everything.  The key to approaching a new customer is to make them feel comfortable and welcome.  While this is more challenging if most of your sales contacts are done online, the same logic applies to email or any other means you use to communicate.

If a customer is turned off by the initial contact, it’s very difficult to recover.  They want an environment of trust and a sense that you’ll do everything in your power to maximize their shopping experience.  While caring about your customers seems like an obvious necessity, don’t take it for granted.  They’ll know within the first minute whether you’re sincere in your desire to help them.  Show them you care by your words and back them up with your actions.

You can engage new customers in a variety of ways depending on the circumstances.  You might start a friendly conversation, provide more information about your products, and encourage questions.  Be prompt and courteous, and make them feel you’re there to help, not to sell.

Use social media and website feedback to stay abreast of the latest consumer tastes, trends, and preferences.  Stay ahead of the competition by adapting to changing wants and needs.  Get the word out every time you offer a new product, special discount, or other promotional event.

Helping Customers Decide
Customers have more choices today than ever, and they have more ways of doing it.  The Internet has changed the entire dynamic of how people shop and get information.  Capitalize on this phenomenon and use it to your advantage.  Create a robust website that’s loaded with images and information about your products.

To get a potential customer to part with their money, they need to be convinced that they’ve balanced out-of-pocket cost with perceived value.  To achieve this, offer advice and more information about the product.  Ask questions to find out exactly what’s motivating their purchase.  Many customers are seeking confirmation that their need for the product actually exists and that your product is the best solution for satisfying that need.  You’re in the ideal position to reinforce their need and reassure them that every dollar they spend will be well worth it.

Closing The Sale
Some products sell themselves, but that’s not something small businesses can rely on.  Your products aren’t in front of the public on a minute-by-minute basis like the iPhone.  How you close the deal depends on the individual customer.  At this point you hopefully have a good sense of who you’re dealing with and what motivates them.  Remind them of the benefits and why you believe your product is a perfect fit.

Emphasize any advantages of buying now rather than later, and offer any recent objective testimonials.  If you have any special incentives such as discounts or credits toward future purchases, now may be the time to roll them out.  Have the inner confidence that the sale will be made and the customer will sense it.  That’s far more effective than pressuring the customer with timeworn sales techniques.

Watch for signals that the customer displays such as body language and reactions to what you say, as well as their questions and comments.  They will provide most of the information you need to close the sale.

Customers will react positively to salespeople who treat them with respect, courtesy, and patience.  That’s not a high hurdle to clear, but we’ve all had experiences where that didn’t happen.  Customers also want to buy from people who display integrity, confidence, superior knowledge and enthusiasm for their products, and are willing to provide personal attention.

We’ve all heard the slogans that “the customer is king” and “the customer is always right.”  Even if that’s not true or you don’t believe it, it usually pays to have your customers perceive that you do.  They’re paying your bills and your very survival depends on attracting and keeping good customers.  Be willing to adapt and see things from their perspective.  It will help you become the best seller you can be.

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