So, you’re a student curious about starting a business? Well, to succeed in business, you need to learn how to sell. And you’ve got a great salesperson within you. How do I know? Because we’ve all got selling potential.
Author Steve Mariotti has a four-step strategy for gaining rabid fans, and I’m going to break it down further for how it applies directly to you as a student, starting your business.
Finding a Sales Lead
Three ways exist for collecting your leads: (1) promotional responses, (2) referrals, and (3) cold calls. Let’s examine these three in more depth:
First, “promotional responses: …. You get sales leads when potential customers fill out surveys or website forms” (Mariotti, 2014, 30%).
Use freebies to lure people into filling out your website or email subscriber form. These freebies can come in the shape of white papers, pdfs, videos, free trials, or even coupons. But everybody’s giving away freebies, right? So, how can you stand out?
Well, you can opt to make a free email course over one week, loaded with insights. As an AU student you already have some ideas of what works to help people learn on their own. Or you could give a sneak preview of your white paper, also loaded with insights. But where do you get these insights? To get deep insights, you need to access as much diverse materials on the topic as possible. In other words, find as many different sources on the topic. Invest in your knowledge to discover top-notch insights. And as an AU student, you’ve got access to a whole library of journals and other top-notch information. Use it!
The second way is referrals. “When a person provides contact information for someone else who may be interested in your product or service, this is called a referral” (Mariotti, 2014, 30%).
You could offer your clients incentives for bringing you referrals. These incentives could include a one-time discount for both the referrer and the referred. Or you could offer a cash reward for each referral, or a one-month free membership. But cash is tight when starting out, isn’t it? If so, politely ask your clients for referrals without any promise of incentives. You might be surprised at what simply asking can bring.
Third are cold calls. “When a salesperson contacts someone he or she does not know, and without prior notice, it is called a cold call” (Mariotti, 2014, 30%).
Cold calls work best when you’ve got a list. But how do you get a list? This is where those referrals come in to play. Or you could buy a list online or use a list gathered from one of your local library databases. Or you could use a business directory if you plan to sell to businesses. You could also align with a charity, giving it a percentage of sales in exchange for access to their phone list.
Qualifying the Sales Lead
Steve Mariotti (2014) says, “Keep in mind that not every sales lead turns into a prospect. To avoid wasting time pursuing leads that have little chance of becoming prospects, you need to evaluate each lead and decide whether you should pursue it. This process is called ‘qualifying the lead.’” (30%).
To qualify your leads, “before making an appointment for a sales call, find out the answer to these questions first:
- Is this person in my market?
- Does this person need my product?
- Can this person afford it? If the answer to any of these questions is no, it may be a waste of time to make a sales call” (Mariotti, 2014, 30%).
But don’t ditch a lead the minute they don’t buy your service. I know a site on how to control social anxiety that sent out angry emails to prospects who didn’t buy within a few weeks. Had the emails maintained a positive tone, they might’ve converted more prospects into customers. Sometimes the time window is longer for certain prospects to convert.
Making the Sales Call
“Once you have determined which sales leads make good prospects, it’s time to go on some sales calls. Before going to a sales call:” (Mariotti, 2014, 30%).
First, “set up an appointment” (Mariotti, 2014, 30%). Aim to make 80 sales calls (or more) in one day with the intention of setting up appointments. Make your calls preferably in the morning. Make your pitch one minute or less in length, as attention spans tend to wane after a minute.
Second, “learn about the prospect. If you are visiting a company, go through its website and read everything from the ‘about’ section” (Mariotti, 2014, 30%). Also, read something new and exciting about the company in the media releases or blog on the site. The more you have to discuss, especially in the beginning chitchat, the better.
Third, “know your product or service. The more knowledgeable you are about what you are selling, the more confident and relaxed you will likely be during sales calls” (Mariotti, 2014, 30%). Try to emphasize the benefits of your products. Figure out the answers to your customer’s question, “What’s in it for me?” For instance, you might sell flashlights that run on both solar power and regular batteries. Your benefit might be, “Never find yourself stuck in the dark.”
Fourth, “develop an overall selling strategy. Consider the aspects of your product or service that will appeal most to the prospect. Try to anticipate what questions or objections the prospect may have, and come up with answers” (Mariotti, 2014, 30%).
If your customers on Facebook or Google reviews rate you low on some aspect, address that issue. Chances are, prospects may have the same gripes. But never let complaints accumulate. Adjust your operations to fix that error. Your solution may end up as part of your winning sales strategy.
Fifth, “practice your presentation” (Mariotti, 2014, 30%). When selling, use a loud, not soft voice. Louder voices get more sales.
Closing the Sale and Following Up
“The sale is considered “closed” once payment is received. But your interaction with the customer should not end there. This is the beginning of your long-term relationship!” (Mariotti, 2014, 31%).
Send out birthday cards. Or follow-up with a thank you card. A friend of mine got a mailed invitation from a car dealership for a phone call after she bought one of their cars. My friend ended up talking to a dealer for an hour. She was so excited, she debated calling again soon. That’s the kind of loyalty you want from your customers. Sadly, my friend got the brush off from the dealer after the second call. Perhaps if the dealer had brushed off my friend with a promise of a gift, perhaps a discounted upsell, my friend would’ve wound up a raving fan—and the company would’ve made another sale. There is so much you can do to turn your customers into best friends.
“Follow up to make sure that the entire selling process met his or her expectations. A happy customer will lead to additional sales and plenty of referrals. Make sure your new customer is inspired to talk up your business” (Mariotti, 2014, 31%).
So, now you know the secret to becoming a high-roller sales star: You’ve got prospects turned rabid fans. And these fans will continue to buy from you, their new best friend.