Successful selling for small business owners requires the following inputs:

1. An intimate knowledge of what is being sold
2. A knowledge of competitor products/services and your points of difference
3. The development of open and trusting relationships with buyers
4. A willingness to do what no other supplier does
5. Patience & persistence
6. Measurement of effectiveness

Small business owners usually have two major constraints that can have a significant impact on their sales success rates. These constraints are resources (they have too few sales and sales support staff) and insufficient sales opportunities.

These constraints can, of course, be removed by investing in more people and in more and better marketing. The reality for most small businesses is that they have to work within existing financial limitations and have no access to the funding needed to eliminate these constraints.

The solution is to ensure their marketing efforts are properly directed towards those people who could buy from them. Small businesses waste lots of money by marketing to the wrong people, people who will never buy their products/services. Reinvest the money you save by proper targeting of your marketing budget into even more marketing to your target audience.

Focus your sales efforts on those sales opportunities with the greatest likelihood of buying from you. This requires you to thoroughly qualify all sales opportunities so that you focus on the best, the most profitable and the ones you are most likely to win. You don’t want to spend valuable sales effort on opportunities where you only have a low chance of winning.

The job of sales should be to take the sales opportunities identified through your marketing activities and progress them to the point where they buy something from you. This is your sales pipeline and it is essential to keep topping up your pipeline with new sales opportunities.

The sales pipeline will vary depending on the nature of your small business. For some, it is very short and people will buy quickly - either directly from your website or with a short interaction with one of your sales staff. Other businesses, most likely those with more expensive products/services, will have a protracted sales pipeline.

For some suppliers, it can be 12 - 18 months from the time a sales opportunity is identified until an order is received. This sort of sales pipeline is hugely expensive for a small business to support and it is critical that only serious opportunities are pursued.

The worst scenario for these suppliers is reaching the end of their lengthy sales process only to find a competitor wins the order. There are no prizes for coming second.

It is easy to under estimate the amount of effort needed to win a sale, especially if your sales cycle lasts a number of months. As a result, you can soon find yourself handling too many opportunities with each one needing more effort than you anticipated. Your sales staff will become stretched, start making mistakes and fail to give each prospect enough attention.

This hands the selling initiative to your competitors and your chance of securing the order is reduced.

Arteka can help you to develop your sales processes so you work effectively on the optimum number of opportunities. We can help you develop every stage of your sales process, from creating opportunities, to defining qualification criteria to producing winning proposals.

You can find lots more information about successful selling in our Sales & Marketing Resource Centre at where you can access articles and our active blog.

If you would like to discuss any aspect of your current sales and marketing challenges, please get in touch for an initial discussion.