Follow the Money

If you’re feeling frustrated with the results of your sales efforts, don’t give up yet. Follow the money!

It may seem like nobody is spending money these days, but that’s not true. Businesses of all sizes must spend money to continue operations. Individuals still minimally need the basics. What will it take to get them to spend money with you?

Ask the question: where are your prospects spending their money? Businesses and individuals alike are being much more careful in prioritizing their expenditures. Discretionary income is almost non-existent for some. Any expense that can be put off very likely will be. So if yours is a luxury or discretionary item, offering a “value package” that serves a need (even if emotional), might tip the scale in your favor.

Value is different for each prospect and your job is to determine how you can provide it. Barnes & Noble built its online business quickly by offering free shipping when Amazon.com did not.

Offering additional help from a trusted source can make a difference, too. What about including support service or free upgrades for your software? Maybe add a complimentary financial assessment for a new investment client. Or a free car wash with an oil change. Consider where you can add value at low or no cost to you. The objective is to get the commitment from the customer. Once a customer they are a prime candidate to buy more if you have provided value.

To add sales from existing clients consider what additional services they might find valuable. Adding the service of setting up and training on QuickBooks allowed one accountant to make client operations easier and more efficient and at the same time provide information needed for taxes and reporting. It was a win-win and many clients saw the value.

Your marketing message may need to be updated to be more in line with your prospect’s hot buttons. Business owners are looking to cut costs, increase sales, optimize staff performance, retain good employees, get expert help from trusted resources and experience painless maintenance where required. Which of these can you provide?

Speaking with your front line staff – those who are in regular contact with customers and prospects – is always a good idea. Listen for patterns.

A colleague who sells training in how to generate leads kept being asked if her service included performing the work for which she was training. She had said no to three inquiries when she realized there was a real need and demand for someone to effectively provide the services, not just the training. By listening to what her market really wanted, she was able to open a new division of her business and have three clients immediately. Yes, she had to hire someone to help her, but she built that into her price structure.

Maybe redefining or renaming what you offer will make a difference in how a prospect perceives its value. They may not be buying a “weekend retreat”, but will be interested in an “intensive three-day training” on a critical or timely topic.

Packaging can make a difference, too. Some people are afraid to buy services by the hour, so find out if a flat fee would be more attractive. Maybe your service can be broken into segments with specific benefits achievable by segment. If your basic product is high cost or requires a long lead time, consider offering a smaller version or breaking your service into logical segments and selling them sequentially. A smaller financial commitment might be enough to get the sale.

Sometimes what’s needed is a target market shift. Many companies have cut back on training, considering it as non-essential to operations. Others view it as a means to retain valued employees and maximize benefit of existing resources. If you’re selling training services, you’ll be looking for those who seek the latter. It’s always good to ask the question: who else might benefit from what I offer, even if I have to repackage it?

John, Friess, of Wired MD, found making a market shift was the trigger for his growth into stage two of his business. You can read his story at http://entreworld.org/Content/EntreByline.cfm?ColumnID=461&PID=3125&EID=48&JID=18

You may want to give up many times. Instead, consider what can be changed to find a better fit. This is where creativity, tenacity and blind faith all come into play. A clue for you is to make note of things people have asked you for that you don’t currently provide. If you see a pattern of inquiries you may have an untapped market, just waiting to be filled.

Keep your ear to the ground for where the potential action and the money are likely to be. As a small business you have much more flexibility and ease of change. This gives you the opportunity to make adjustments that can accelerate your progress and your profitability.