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An extract from Snakes and Ladders

26 February 2013, 09:01

“Running a business without making a profit is like eating soup with a fork. You stay busy, but you stay hungry too.” - Unknown

I have seen businesses try and cut costs to survive, When you start focusing on saving a few cents and not on getting more sales you are already in trouble. It's all sales.  It's always sales. Without sales you don't have a business.  Sales are the life-blood of any profit-oriented organisation. Without sales there can be no profits.

I define profit very simply as the difference between what comes in and goes out. If you do 100 000 in sales and you spend 80 000, the 20 000 is profit. The Accounting types will tell you that this is not always true, because some expenditure is on balance sheet, other is off balance sheet. My opinion is that that is their problem. Cash in the bank that can be spent on luxuries or saved is profit. As long as there is more left over than is being spent you are making a profit. If not making a profit like described , you are already in deep brown sticky stuff. 

The only way to ensure that you are making a profit is to sell enough goods or services so that your income exceeds your expenditure. Like I said its Sales, always Sales and only Sales that will save your business. If you are doing all the sales and not delivering, that is a different issue. I once became a millionaire in 3 days selling generators online. Sadly the Generators were not available and thus we didn't deliver any. I lost the million rand profit in less than 5 minutes because there was just nothing available to deliver.

The natural born salesperson is a myth as is the person who can't sell.  Every person is always selling something be it a product, themselves or just a lifestyle.  Your padre or pastor is selling to you, I would bet you that if you asked them if they could be salespeople they would say no.  A housewife convincing her husband to enlarge her budget is selling.  A teenager trying to convince her parents to buy her a new pair of jeans is selling.  A young man trying to borrow Dad's car to impress his date is selling.  Any negotiation leading to a mutually-agreed settlement is selling.

Facts are that some people will tell you that they can sell ice to Eskimos and sand to desertdwellers.  These people are actually admitting that they are scam artists.  Anyone that tells me he can sell ice to an Eskimo, has in effect, told me that he is not to be trusted.  I personally could easily sell ice to desert-dwellers and probably better than most that would compete with me, as long as I knew that the ice was of the best quality available for the price.

The best salespeople in the world are small children.  If you have children of your own you will know that enough “Please Daddy's”  or “I will be good Mommy's” will generally get you the chocolate.  Children are fully aware that sometimes a tantrum will do the job faster than a quiet smile. The three-year-old you was probably the peak of your sales career.  Everything you need to know about sales, you learned back then already.  You had tenacity, you didn't give up for shit.  This is the prime requirement for a good salesperson.  Never giving up is the only way to achieve greatness.

There is a corollary to this though: sometimes the sale is not worth chasing because the reward does not equal the effort.
Don't tell me that you can't sell, because I have already told you about why you can, it's that simple. The sales process is reasonably simple. There are a number of steps that lead to a sale.  A sale will never be made if these steps aren't happening.  The first step is finding the customer and that is called prospecting.  Prospecting can be hard work or it can be simplified by following the steps in the prospecting chapter.  I am a big fan of tele-sales because I can very quickly weed out good prospects from poor ones.

A good prospect is someone that will listen to my presentation.  If I get negative vibes on the phone it is easy to put down the phone and make the next call.  Door-to-door canvassing is a lot tougher because the facts are that you will get rejected way many more times than you will get in the door. In the time that it takes to do three door-to-door calls you can make twenty telephone calls.

Economy of scale dictates that the more you get rejected, the more successful calls you make. The next part of the process is meeting the prospective client for the first time.  This is a crucial part of the process because if you make a poor first impression, you will have lost right from the wordgo. Dress, tidy hair and polished shoes can mean the difference between making the sale or not. Many years ago, when I was a Sales Manager for a small software company, I had some reps working for me.  One day one of the young ladies arrived ready for the beach (or so it appeared) She looked nice and probably could have parted someone from their money but more than likely would have been ogled, expected to make unsavoury offers and not taken seriously.  A professional look is just as important as being clean and neat.

Being taken seriously should always be your objective.  You can sit and make phone calls in your skivvies but arriving at a business meeting in shorts and slops will not achieve the desired results (unless you are selling surfboards to beach bums, of course).  The best recipe for successful sales is to dress to the same standard as your clients.  This shows that you have respect for them and understand their business.  If you are selling to an accountant a suit and tie would be appropriate, if you are selling to farmers, khakis and vellies would be good.

This is an extract from my book, Snakes and Ladders which is available as a Free Download from one of my websites. You can follow me on Twitter @guymclaren and I will happily point you at this masterpiece. It will not tell you how to get rich quick but it will show you how to avoid many of the traps entrepeneurs make and the best thing is the price, it's free.   

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