When asking the SPIN Community, and especially the solopreneurs or smaller size businesses, what their biggest business challenges are, two answers keep on coming up:
- confident in sales and
- creating processes in their businesses.
Funny enough, our Spinner, Alan Wick a business coach on a mission to inspire entrepreneurs who love what they do, had a similar experience when it comes to the challenges entrepreneurs are facing. So, we invited him to shine some light on the topics. Below you can read his advice.
Solopreneurs are, by nature, passionate and driven about their business, with an energy and focus that kicked off their entrepreneurial journey in the first place. But many solopreneurs feel less confident about running every aspect of their business.
In my many discussions with small business owners, there are two themes that crop up time and time again, and I’m going to address them here:
1) Being confident in sales: prospecting for leads and asking closing questions.
2) Creating and implementing processes.
Being confident in sales: prospecting for leads and asking closing questions
In this article, I’m thinking about business-to-business (B2B) sales as well as business-to-consumer (B2C) sales. I’m focusing mostly on service-based businesses, though many of the same principles apply to product-based businesses.
So, how do you prospect for leads? If we’re talking about drawing potential customers to our real or metaphorical shopfront, it’s crucial to have a clear brand positioning. By ‘brand’ I’m including businesses that use the owner’s name. For example, SPIN’ers Akkie Bosje, who is a creative director and designer, and Sarah-Linda Forrer, who designs and manufactures luxury tableware. The brand must be presented in a clear and consistent way that actively attracts the clients or customers to your shopfront, metaphorically or real. What does your brand stand for? What is its differentiator in the marketplace? What do prospective clients or customers need? What do they want? Is my message resonating with them? Is the way I’m presenting my service or my product giving them the confidence to buy from me?
Without a carefully thought through Positioning Strategy, you are doing the equivalent of trying to chop a tree down with a blunt axe.
In other words, if you’re having to push for sales it’s a red flag that something isn’t right with your offer or your positioning. Your potential customers may be drawn to you, but they’re not fully committed yet. “This is interesting, but I’m not sure.”
A lot of their questions will come from doubt and it’s that doubt you need to eliminate.
You need to attract people who ‘get it’. Customers who understand and believe in your offer. I recommend using psychographics (the psychological and cognitive attributes of a consumer that reveal their beliefs, values and goals) to help you with this process. In marketing, psychographics are used in conjunction with demographics to understand and market to consumers’ purchasing habits.
Here is a free beginner’s guide you can download if this is an area you are not familiar with.
In a business-to-consumer scenario, it’s even more important to get this right and it’s likely to be more scaled and less personal. You really need to make sure that your messaging is absolutely spot on. It’s hard work getting to that point but, done once, it’s done for all.
I don’t believe in the classic ‘ask closing questions’ approach. If you need closing questions it means that your marketing wasn’t right, or the questions you were asking earlier in the sales process weren’t right.
Once in our ‘shop’, focus on open questions. Be patient. Ask questions for as long as possible; give the prospect the time and space to think about the answers and come to their own conclusion that buying from us is the right choice. We know how brilliant our product or service is. We know it’s the best. We’re desperate to wax lyrical about its features and benefits but keep your powder dry! Being pushy is off-putting.
When the positioning and marketing have been done correctly, your conversations become more of a matching than a selling process, because the right customers will be coming to you with a mindset of wanting to buy. Then, it becomes a question of confirming that their feeling-based attraction of working with you or buying your product is matched by their head needing to dot the ‘i’s and cross the ‘t’s’.
Imagine that you’re an archer. You don’t just pick up the bow and arrow and let go… you take your time, you hold back and wait for just the right moment. Sales are the same. You allow your customer to tell you more about them and their needs. You wait and you wait and you keep asking and you get closer and closer to a match. Then, you could ask “When might you need this?” What is your budget? It’s more subtle. It leads to a point where both of you know you’re going to work together.
Now, you’ve made your sales and you’ve got your customers. How are you going to make sure that you run your business efficiently and serve their needs well?
Creating and implementing processes: an A-Z guide
It’s all about the details! The best way for a micro business to create processes is to use post-it notes to map out their ideal processes, step by step. Choose one part of your business that gives you the most stress, and use post-it notes to map out the steps, end to end. Here’s an example:
Tip: Don’t overthink it! Just get on with it and brain dump. Gradually draw up your processes, get them in order, take a photo, then use a process mapping software tool. I recommend Lucidchart, to map out the key processes for your business. When you are happy with it, and you feel it is easy to interpret, distribute it across your team internally, and also outside of your team — to everyone involved with the implementation of your processes.
The second thing you need to draw up is an organisation chart. An organisation chart shouldn’t just be your ‘own’ staff who are on your payroll. You should include freelancers and third-party services like your accountant, too. This chart can be basic, it just needs to show reporting lines for clear communication and chains of responsibility. Alongside your organisation chart, you should ideally draw up a functional chart.
You didn’t wait to start your business until absolutely every tiny detail was in place. You just got going. Now, you need to decide where you want to go; what your goals are.
Defining your goals, what you want to achieve and where you hope to be will give you the clarity to answer questions that come up along the way, helping you choose your priorities and achieve your goals as efficiently as possible.
Alan Wick created a free automated online diagnostic tool that gives you a ‘health check’ on the current state of your business, providing insights into your business’s strengths and weaknesses: RealityCheck® Indicator Assessment. We invite you to use it to get a clear view of where you are at this point.
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