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How do you sell without a salesforce?

Committing to recruit a salesforce is a major step for any growing business. As the owner of a small and ambitious company the thought of finding the money for relatively expensive salespeople, who may or may not bring in the business, may be a barrier to action thus inhibiting growth. If you don’t come from a sales or business development background you may have additional concerns about how to recruit, manage and motivate someone in this role.

Related: Business growth

To grow, businesses need to sell their products or services. The question arises whether a dedicated sales resource is appropriate or likely to be profitable for your type of business. The answer may well be ‘no’ depending on what you sell, to whom and how the market is structured. Online businesses, professional service firms, restaurants, local builders and tradespeople, for example, all need to sell but do so, in the main, without a salesforce. For smaller businesses the sales responsibility often falls to the owner or is a shared responsibility. As a company grows this formula comes under pressure both from a reluctance of ‘non-sales’ people to sell and the workload of their main responsibilities.

A further challenge is in the word ‘selling’. For many it has a pejorative meaning and can be associated with undesirable behaviour. Stereotypes are offered with the added comment that ‘I couldn’t do that’, ‘I’m not a salesperson’, ‘I don’t like selling’, ‘It just isn’t me’ or even ‘I’m too honest/professional/self-respecting to sell’. The funny thing is that in the interview for the job that person sold themselves and they do so every day when presenting work, talking to clients and colleagues, negotiating with suppliers and so on. We ‘sell’ all the time – even outside of the office. If you have team members who baulk at the thought of ‘selling’ try changing the vocabulary.

Related: Successful sales proposals

For some businesses a salesforce is a necessary and important resource for future growth, for others it isn’t required or may not yet be appropriate.

Here are five key strategies/actions you can take to keep the business rolling in without a dedicated salesforce:

  1. Keep doing what you have already been doing. The fact that your business is now at a point where the recruitment of a salesforce is front of mind probably means you have enjoyed a successful period of growth in the past. This may be slowing down, hence you are looking to boost sales, but don’t turn your back on what has worked in the past.
  2. Get everyone selling without them knowing they are doing so. Anyone who interacts with clients or prospects can play a part in the sales process, even if they are not formally salespeople. Every conversation is an opportunity to identify additional requirements, add a bit more to the order, check that nothing has been forgotten, confirm future requirements, mention the new or added service you are introducing, and as long as someone then actions the next step e.g. amending the order, the sales activity has moved forwards.
  3. Automate your order taking and payment processes. Wherever possible let technology do the selling or at least support the sales process. Sales isn’t just about asking for business, it is also about being available to do business when your client or prospect wants to buy from you. Technology allows you to have your doors open 24 hours a day to provide information, match requirements, take orders and payment and dispatch the purchased products. Technology will also do your prospecting and marketing too.
  4. Get others to sell for you by working your network for referrals and recommendations and also the networks of your team. Whenever you do something well for a client ask for a referral or recommendation. Talk with your suppliers and partners and encourage them to be advocates for your business.
  5. If you need more sales resource, without committing to employing your own team, engage a virtual salesforce by working with a telesales agency, a part-time sales business or a business development agency. These options allow you to test and sample the potential benefits of a sales team without employing your own people. This can work well as either a permanent solution or a stepping stone towards your own salesforce.

Related: Building a flexible business

You have to sell to grow, but selling doesn’t necessarily mean a salesforce. There are multiple options for generating additional business, many of which use and harness resources already at your disposal. It is important for you as a business owner to be comfortable with selling, both doing it yourself and managing the people and processes that do it for you.

We find many owner managers who are fantastic sales people but unable to manage others to do the selling, and many others who feel inhibited about sales and salespeople, almost as if it is an alien discipline.

Sales should be a natural activity and will flow from having good products and services, knowing who they benefit and appreciating why people will want them. If you are having to ‘force’ sales there is almost certainly something wrong in the proposition, in which case don’t waste money on more salespeople, take a step back and fix the fundamentals.

If you would like some help and guidance in building your sales or reviewing your proposition contact us today.

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