Running a small business can be exciting, challenging, and rewarding - but to reach that sweet spot where you're making decent profits, you need sales. And with that comes failure.
Let's be clear - failure is part of small business management!
No entrepreneur gets it right the first time, and every startup has a few stumbling blocks along the way.
However, if you can't knuckle down and get your sales strategy right, it's a serious issue that can lead to total business failure.
Around 21.5% of startups fail in year one, and one of the leading causes is ineffective marketing.
Before you start throwing all your reserves into paid ads or offering crazy price discounts to counteract your sales droop, let's look at the three biggest sales mistakes that small business owners make - and how to steer clear!
1. Attempting To Drive Sales Performance Without Expert Advice
Having high-end sales experts with top-notch sales and strategy skills on your team is a luxury many small businesses can't afford - but trying to create a rock-solid sales strategy without any expertise is a fruitless task.
There are so many reasons why you shouldn’t create your own sales strategy if your sales are stuck in a rut (or haven't yet left the depot):
- Small business managers cannot do everything themselves.
- Tools to automate sales or generate leads are highly variable, and you must choose wisely.
- Sales are the fundamental driver of business success, meaning they aren’t something you can leave to chance.
If you spend hours a week sending follow-up emails or trying to manage every aspect of the sales process alone, you’ll likely drop the ball.
While your business is your baby, it's vital to get help so that you don’t burn out - whether that means hiring a professional salesperson, using online management software, or bringing a freelancer onboard.
2. Relying On Sales To Generate Themselves
The next biggest mistake is hoping that somehow sales will suddenly perk up, without any substantial effort.
Unfortunately, it's not the world we live in!
One of the most common errors is leaving sales up to chance, perhaps getting comfy with the prospect that new clients will roll in through word-of-mouth referrals or that your repeat customers will keep your bottom line growing.
While those methods may keep you afloat, it's essential to look at the sales process and ensure you're proactively getting new customers on board.
Sales don't just happen, and success is usually the result of consistent, focused, and long-term efforts.
Here are some of the critical steps to incorporate in a sales process:
- Following up on inquiries that didn't pan out.
- Maintaining a dialogue with existing customers to ensure they’re satisfied.
- Offering added-value services to attract new clients.
- Using automated campaigns to deliver relevant content.
- Working on potential leads that may require a little attention.
- Creating new opportunities through outreach sales strategies.
In many cases, customers don't buy on day one because they need the right motivation to commit to a purchase.
By having an ongoing, dedicated sales process, you'll establish yourself as a small business worth considering once customers are ready to buy.
3. Immediately Lowering Prices To Attract Customers
Our third and final major mistake is lowering your prices without any context or target.
It's very easy as a small business to think that if your sales figures aren't great, you need to compete on price immediately.
However, you might be surprised that your customers are probably not as price-sensitive as you imagine!
People are motivated by reward, value, and emotion. Knowing that means you can avoid cutting back to smaller profit margins just to entice a one-time customer to buy.
Other typical problems are:
- Putting every penny of your marketing budget behind one untested advertising method.
- Assuming every sale is only based on cost and that your prices must be lower than every competitor to gain a customer.
- Pursuing sales for the sake of sales without any plan behind it.
The best approach here is to look not only at the price of your product or service but at the value it offers.
- What problems do you solve for your clients?
- What is unique about your business?
- What are the rewards of buying from your company?
You can't ignore pricing as a factor, but looking at the bigger picture is a great way to reframe your sales approach and all the advertising and marketing that go along with it.
Making these changes won’t increase your sales overnight. But with expert help, consistent effort, and a clear objective, you avoid the common pitfalls in sales and set yourself up for success.