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Sales: The Most Crucial Component of a Small Business

Sales skill has to be among your best qualities if you are going to succeed at operating a small business. It turns your wonderful products into cash in the bank!  Nothing happens until somebody sells something. It’s true. They say America needs to move by truck but who fills the trucks?  Salespeople.
There are two kinds of sales approaches: the “stimulus/response” and the “problem/solution.” The former goes like this: “Take 20% off today only. First payment not until your first-born arrives. No interest. Free trip with purchase.” The seller hopes enough stimulation makes you respond by buying. This is the retail environment. The latter method discusses with prospects their business problems and then sells them something that solves them. This is professional sales and what we concern ourselves with here.
Sales skill is learned. There are techniques and methods. It is not talking with people or having the gift of gab. Many companies offer in-house sales training. At the least, take a Dale Carnegie course and get on-the-job mentoring from a pro.
Good salespeople are scarce. Real ones are free to your business because they pay for themselves. Barring hiring one, the sales work falls on you. If you have less than 15 employees half your time should be spent on outbound sales work and customer acquisition. I have found the best salespeople are those you train but that means you are an expert yourself.
The best thing about outbound sales work is that it’s in your control. You decide how many prospects to call on. It is proactive and in your hands. It drives new business. As a young sales rep for IBM, I incessantly cold called businesses. I made more calls than my contemporaries, which is why I was Rep of the Year twice and made the most money.
When I opened my office equipment company I went about it similarly and prospered. Nobody had ever heard of my company or my brand but it didn’t matter. I pounded the ground, told prospects and suspects what I could do, put machines on trial, and closed a lot of business. Eventually I hired salespeople and I knew how to handle them. We prospered to 35 employees on the strength of our salespeople. We did no advertising.
That said there are owners who hate sales work. Indeed, it is work many cannot do well. Things are tried to avoid it. Some may say “we depend on word of mouth.” Or, “We picked this busy location so people know we’re here.”  Or, “We attend all networking events.” Internet use is often a fallback. “We built a killer website, tweet out, and post on FB so we are getting lots of hits.” All fine, really, but likely not enough to get where you want to go. Do all of that plus outbound sales work to prosper.
Without statistical backup I say that small businesses keeping and developing a sales force do a lot better than ones just depending on location and Internet. Reliance on those things is passive marketing whereas outbound sales is proactive, aggressive and brings more business. Sales made over the Internet or in a retail facility have smaller profit margins than do outbound sales.
For an effective routine for outside salespeople I recommend a three-prong approach. Spend one third of your time cold calling new places, another third calling from a prospect list to set appointments, and another third visiting current customers. Read the business section each day for new companies coming or expanding.
Above average physical fitness is required to be a stellar sales rep or business owner (indeed sales reps are quasi-business owners). Jogging is a good habit that will make you money. We know brain function follows body fitness and you need all your fast thinking wits for sales work. Be moving most of the time wearing out more shoe leather than chair fabric. Look for reasons to make more calls rather than fewer.
Salespeople are the athletes of the business world. They are the most crucial employee of a small business.

Tom Pease is a small business owner of an office equipment dealership called e/Doc Systems, Inc. He used 30+ years of experience in owning a business to author two books and publish 85 columns as a small business advisor.

Posted: 3/16/2016 7:30:00 AM | with 0 comments
Filed under: Big, Business, Call, Cold, e/Doc, Ideas, Pease, Sales, Salespeople, Smal, Systems, Tom

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Your business may be small, but that doesn't mean that your impact can't be huge! The Greater Memphis Chamber's Small Business Council serves to encourage, support, recognize and be a resource to small- and medium-sized businesses in the Memphis area. Here, our talented panel of contributors will present big ideas that could make a huge difference to your small business. And don't be afraid to ask questions ... no matter how small.

Sales & Small Business Ownership
Voss W. Graham is CEO and Senior Business Advisor for InnerActive Consulting Group Inc. He is known by his clients as "a knowledgeable partner who helps our team achieve business growth." He provides practical experience as a small business owner for over 29 years, yet is often engaged with Fortune 500 companies in the development of their people and business strategies.

Public Relations
Several professionals and strategists from the local Obsidian Public Relations firm provide excellent advice on everything from research to media relations to event planning. They believe that all companies, no matter how big or small the company or its budget, should have a public relations plan driving how they manage their relationships with key stakeholders. Public relations is an integral part of doing business the right way.

Human Resources
Joel Myers is a career Human Resources professional, with over 40 years in the field including 26 years in consulting.

Small Business Advice
Tom Pease is a small business owner of an office equipment dealership called e/Doc Systems, Inc. He has also owned a full-line Kawasaki dealership as well as a document shop. He used 30+ years of experience in owning a business to author two books, including: Going Out of Business by Design: Why 70% of Small Businesses Fail and Small Business Survival 101. He also has published 85 columns in The Memphis Daily News as the Small Business Advisor.

Marketing & Public Relations
Lori Turner-Wilson is CEO and Founder of RedRover Company, a sales development, marketing and PR consulting firm. Lori works with companies large and small, from start-ups to mature organizations, to help them improve the productivity of their sales force and the return on their marketing investment. Lori writes a weekly syndicated column for the Daily News, Memphis News, Nashville Ledger, and Desoto Times, among others, titled “Guerrilla Sales & Marketing,” for which she won a 2011 Summit International Award and 2012 International Communicator Award.

Design and Digital Strategy
Founded in 1999, inferno provides brand development, advertising, public relations, design and digital marketing services to clients across a broad spectrum of industries. Headquartered in Memphis with a satellite office in Kalamazoo, Michigan, the award-winning firm produces results-driven work by passionately combining strategic thinking, creativity and culture to ensure the success of its clients. For more information, visit

Labor & Employment Law
Fisher Phillips attorneys are ready to help you take a stand: in court, with employees and unions, or with competitors. Fisher Phillips has the experience and resolve to back you up. That's why some of the savviest employers come to the firm to handle their toughest labor and employment cases. The firm has 350 attorneys in 32 offices, including Memphis. For more information, visit

Since its founding in 2005, Paragon Bank has maintained a solid focus on the community and customer service. For more than 10 years, Paragon has delivered innovative products and financial expertise, convenience, and a deep understanding of what both businesses and individuals need from a ban, in order to provide solutions that make a difference. In the areas of business or personal banking, lending options or wealth management, Paragon delivers cutting edge technology, an experienced team and the most service-oriented staff of any community bank.