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Posts Tagged ‘selling’

Whether you’re selling your knowledge or products crafted by your own hands, there are online platforms to help you reach an audience of customers and make sales. Here is my top ten:

Business services

 If you’re an IT contractor, graphic designer, business coach or expert translator, these sites might help you:

  •  Peopleperhour.com – more than 45,000 freelancers use this site to source work and new clients. As the freelance, you respond to job opportunities, pitch for work and receive payment, all via www.peopleperhour.com
  • Business Smiths – companies needing anything from business plans to web design head to www.businesssmiths.co.uk to find experts who can help.
  • Wooshii – a new kid on the block, this site has been created for creatives who produce video and rich media. Companies upload their projects to www.wooshii.com and Wooshii-registered creatives respond with their best offer.
  • Lingo24.com – for linguists, Lingo24.com can become your business development tool as work is sourced on your behalf. Clients include multinational companies and government bodies and Lingo24.com services these clients with a workforce of thousands of freelance translators spread across the globe.

Personal services

If health, beauty and wellbeing is more your thing, here’s where to head:

  • Return to Glory – London’s largest home massage and mobile beauty company, the site is a displaying ground for beauticians and health experts who deliver treatments in the client’s own home. Visit www.returntoglory.co.uk
  • Wahanda – welcome to the world of therapists, stylists, practitioners and trainers. They gather at wahanda.com as customers come looking, ready to order their services.

Handmade crafts

There is a growing number of sites for the artisan and handmade community. Here are just three of them:

  • Etsy – the mother of all craft sites. Since the company launched in June 2005, more than 250,000 sellers from around the world have opened up Etsy shops.
  • MyEhive.com – launched in September 2008 to promote the products of handmade devotees. Visit www.myehive.com
  • Notonthehighstreet.com – this site offers personalised gifts and other delights you won’t find on the high street. At the end of 2009, the company reported 1,500 craft designers using the site with sales of £6.4m. Visit www.notonthehighstreet.com

Manufacturing

  • Alibaba.com – through this site you can make your niche manufacturing dreams come true by sourcing production in China and then selling the finished item. Visit www.alibaba.com  
  • Emma Jones is Founder of Enterprise Nation, the home business website, and author of ‘Spare Room Start Up – how to start a business from home’. Her next book, ‘Working 5 to 9 – how to start a business in your spare time’, will be published in May 2010.

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If you are an organiser who has recently switched your event booking and payment process from offline to online, then you’ll know that sometimes it takes a little getting used to – both for you and for your attendees.

At first organisers can be a little tentative and reluctant to becoming exclusively online. And attendees? Well, they will continue to use the booking and payment methods that they have traditionally associated with the organiser, no matter how imperfect and unsatisfactory that process is – but only until they are otherwise instructed.

Yet for organisers it is vital to grasp the nettle sooner rather than later – the financial payback of online registration and payment demands it. And you’ll be surprised how quickly even your most traditional attendees will adapt to online registration.

Here’s 10 tips for getting your attendees onboard:

1. Go 100% online
Don’t give your attendees a choice. Stop offering alternative booking methods. When you are booking a flight online, airlines don’t also give you the option of booking your ticket via the phone. As a result we all book our flights online without a second thought.

2. Get your marketing focus right
To maximise your online registrations make your marketing emails short and punchy – a paragraph in length. See it as a short trailer for your whole event. Give a concise overview of the event highlights and make your ‘register now’ button very highly prominent. Make the button impossible to miss and ensure that when it is clicked that it links to the event registration website.

Your marketing email is about persuading your attendees to visit your registration website and not for displaying all your event information.

3. Always be linked in
Always include the URL link of your registration website in your emails. Always send several emails to potential attendees for each event and include the link in every one.

Always include your URL link clearly and prominently on your corporate website. Include the link in emails about your event to your social networking groups such as Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn. Talk about your event and include the link on online forums or on Twitter or on your Facebook updates.

Make the link a clear ‘call to action’ for the attendee such as ‘register now’ or ‘register here’ or ‘to register for the event click here’.

4. Create incentives for online bookings
Offering online registration discounts encourages early attendee adoption, so make the ticket price more expensive for offline bookings. Charge a processing fee for manual or paper registrations. Make it clearly financially beneficial to book online. It is, after all, generally accepted that you get better deals via the internet no matter what product you are buying. You need to tap into that mindset.

Similarly, consider offering discounts for early online registration.

5. Refuse phone bookings
If potential attendees phone in to book manually then explain that registration and ticket payment are now exclusively online. Let them know that you will send an immediate email that will include the link for them to go straight to the registration page.

Have the email ready to go and explain the benefits for the attendee of using online registration and payment.

6. Give prior warning
Prepare your potential attendees for the switch. Give then good warning. Send them an email in advance that will explain that your next event will only accept online bookings and payment.

Let them know what to expect and how the process will work.

7. You’ll love it
Let your attendees know how they will benefit from your online registration system, such as ease of use, convenient and quick, more secure, self service, better communication.

Get them on board either with an email or a link to a page on your corporate website.

8. Make it official
Add a message to your voicemail system announcing the newer and more convenient online registration option along with the URL of your registration website for your next events.

Promote your online registration by placing your URL address in all printed materials, e-newsletters, email communications, handouts, signage etc for each event. Or if you run many events devote a page to your events on your corporate website with clear links to the registration website for each event beside each event description.

9. Educate them
Include a short frequently asked questions section or page on your corporate website.

Provide easy to follow numbered steps on how to register for your event. Put it on your corporate website or in your emails to give attendees confidence. Make it along the lines of ‘it’s easy to register and pay – here’s how’.

Offer attendees an online demonstration of how registration works.

10. Get your staff on board
Make sure that your staff are familiar with the online registration process and comfortable explaining it all to potential attendees.

Enrol your staff participants in one of our free, online registration training sessions to answer all their questions and build their confidence.

Alan Anderson, Blue Tube Design

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This week, Doug Richard, former Dragons’ Den investor and founder of the School for Startups hosted a ‘bootcamp’ for social enterprises in London. Much of the day focused on comparing businesses run to generate profit for shareholders with those run to create a social impact. Just how “business-y” should a social enterprise be?

Richard attempted to answer the question by focusing on the realities of running a social enterprise in a competitive marketplace. Here are eight lessons that every social entrepreneur would do well to bear in mind:

  1. Don’t assume that being “good” is good enough. If the sole difference between your social enterprise and other businesses in the same marketplace is that you are “ethical”, ask whether that is enough in itself. You may need to rethink your offer or your business model.
  2. You’re in the business of marketing and selling something to somebody. Whatever your ethical objective, you can’t achieve it unless you are selling people something they actually want. Like any business, you need to know your customers, understand your market, and so on. As Doug Richard puts it: “Understand the industry you are in and you can understand how to prosper within it.”
  3. People will not queue up to give you money. Just because you are doing “good”, that doesn’t mean people will lend to you or invest in your business. The “market” is mostly indifferent to the good that you do; your enterprise has to be strong enough to survive on its own terms.
  4. Do one thing and do it well. Successful businesses tend to have one type of expertise; those trying to do too much often over-reach themselves and fail. “A narrow business is better than a vague one,” according to Richard. Whether it’s the thing you’re selling or the thing you’re giving, do one thing and do it well.
  5. You don’t have to be a “social enterprise” to be a social enterprise. The legal forms of social enterprises (such as Community Interest Companies) are still evolving and you may find they limit your capacity to grow. There’s nothing wrong with being a limited company with a social purpose. Richard advises going down this route and incorporating your ethical aims into your company memorandum and articles. (NB: this can be a confusing area as this blog by The Capable Manager explains. Mi-Tee have also kindly offered to share their solution to this problem if you contact them via their website).
  6. Present your cause in a way that actually engages people. As Julie Devonshire of Global Ethics Limited, which runs The One Foundation, puts it: “You have to make your cause so brilliant that people will not just listen but will get off their backsides and act for you.”
  7. Try to avoid paying for anything. Global Ethics Ltd got BT to give them £3.3 million of human resources. They also paid just £293 for a television advert that would normally cost £200,000. Do everything in your power to persuade people to give you things for nothing.
  8. Don’t give it all away. Says Doug: “You need to give away exactly as much as your business model can afford to sustain and to grow.” It’s obvious really; if you’re giving everything away, you have nothing left to develop your enterprise so you can give even more away in future.

Simon Wicks, BHP Information Solutions

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“I keep six honest serving men – They taught me all I know, Their names are what and why and when — And how and where and who.”

Six Honest Serving Men, Rudyard Kipling, 1903

As you and I know the secret to successful selling is to ask the right questions.

If we do this skilfully, we become seen as a problem solver and the dynamic or ‘power base’ shifts from a seller/buyer relationship into that of two equal partners. You are then not selling…you are simply helping the customer to buy.

In order to sell effectively we need to know what will make the customer buy from us. In order to do this we need to ask them….and listen wholly and exclusively to what they say!

A highly effective type of question is known as an ‘open question’. These are often prefaced by either ‘who?’, ‘what?’, ‘when?’, ‘why?’ ‘where?’ or ‘how?’.

These are all questions that will encourage the customer to talk about their current situation and needs. If we are listening attentively (and many sales people I work with do not!) then we are able to gather the right level of information and are able to tailor our ultimate presentation to show how we can meet their specific and stated requirements.

Here is a list of some of the possible questions:

‘Who’ questions • Who will be using the product? • Who will need to be trained to use the product? • Who will sign off the order?

‘What’ questions • What problem are you looking to solve? • What impact does this problem currently have? • What do you look for when you are buying new widgets? • What else?

‘When’ questions • When are you looking to introduce the new widget? • When would you need delivery? • When would you want the training programme to start?

‘Why’ questions • Why do you say that? • Why is that an issue for you? • Why do you need to change the process now? • Why do you think that?

‘Where’ questions • Where will the widgets make the biggest impact? • Where will you need the delivery to go to? • Where do you get your widgets from currently?

‘How’ questions • How can I help you solve that problem? • How quickly will you need the widgets? • How would that work in practice? • How will this change the way you currently work?

A word of caution here…in order to maintain rapport it is important to use open questions naturally and conversationally otherwise it could feel to the customer that they are being bombarded.

Likewise, if we can link our next question to the last customer answer we are more likely to demonstrate that we have actively listened to them, show understanding, and ultimately be more successful in matching the benefits of our proposal to what the customer is looking for.

This linking of questions takes time and lots of practice but is superbly effective.

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When selling it’s often very easy to forget that a feature is what a product is… an intrinsic characteristic of the product or service.

Examples of features are:

  • Priced at £20
  • Red/Blue/Black
  • Transparent
  • Compact
  • Lightweight
  • TV advertised
  • The market leader
  • The latest technology
  • Covered by a three year warranty

All very interesting (or perhaps not!) but of no real concern to the buyer who really wants to know what the product will do for him/her.

In other words, the benefits.

For example: “This promotion will increase your sales (feature) which means that you will get increased turnover and profit” (benefit)

Or…. “The new display unit is compact and eye catching (feature) which means that you will get more impulse sales at the till points (benefit), therefore increasing your profits” (benefit)

Never forget… the product features are important but they are unlikely to clinch the sale without making the link in the customer’s mind to the specific benefit they will derive from the product.

That is what the customer is really interested in!

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Issue 1 “We have those sales figures Steve, I just need to go through the paperwork and tally them up…”

How can you boost sales? There are many options, however two obvious ways are: review your current sales process, and develop your sales staff.

The issue

So I arrive at my new clients premises to do the exploratory meeting and see if I can help them boost their sales. First step? Review the process.

In response to a question like “So how are sales going at the minute?” I often get wordy answers which talk about results in a very general way. I enjoy hearing the owners’ perspective on it; it’s good to get a feel for their industry & business from their point of view.

However it’s when I start asking for specifics, “What volume of enquiries are you getting?” that I regularly get a response along the lines of: “We have that figure Steve; I just need to go through the paperwork and work it out…”

The response

It’s been said before, but I’ll say it again “if you can’t (or in this case don’t) measure it, you can’t manage it”

If you’re already tracking your enquiries – great! Be mindful here; are you only tracking this in terms of knowing where your valuable marketing budget should be spent? This is crucial of course, but it would be useful to know how effective you are with each of those leads wouldn’t it?

There are many ways to measure sales effectiveness, but here are some basic measurements that can help build a picture of your current business performance:

  1. Sales
    • a. Sales by number (volume of sales)
    • b. Sales in good old pounds sterling (value of sales)
    • c. Sales Conversion rate = ‘Total Sales’ divided by ‘Total Enquiries’
  2. Sales’ Cost
    • Cost of an Enquiry = ‘Total Marketing Spend’ divided by ‘Total Enquiries’
    • Cost of a Customer = ‘Total Marketing Spend’ divided by ‘Total New Customers’
    • Total Cost of a Customer = ‘Total Costs’ divided by ‘Total New Customers’
  3. Sales’ Value
    • ‘Average Worth’ of a customer = ‘Total Revenue’ divided by ‘Number of Customers’
    • …it’s also worth looking at the average lifetime of a customer.
    • ..and the most popular product choice.

N.B. The above calculations should have specific timeframes. To use the most obvious examples: Weekly, Monthly, Quarterly & Annual.

Interesting to note, often well established companies struggle to provide these figures, though the reasons be different from a start up business: perhaps they have too many measurements (can’t see the wood for the trees) or simply with the passage of time their ‘Key Performance Indicators’ are no longer ‘Key’ anymore!

So you want to boost your sales? You need to lead your salespeople! Current frontline sales-relevant figures are the first step!

Action: Does this relate to you & your business? If so, based on the above, what will you STOP doing, START doing and CONTINUE doing today?

Related Articles: This is the first in the series: “Boosting sales: Things my new business clients say to me” which follows this introductory piece ‘Your new business is exciting isn’t it!? DON’T talk about it!’ See it here: Part 1 Part 2

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When you communicate with your target market, can you be sure they actually understand a single word you’re going on about?

A common mistake made by business (large and small) is to communicate in industry lingo.

This is fine, if you’re selling within your industry, but 9/10 times you’re not.  You’re either communicating to Joe Public or businesses outside of your sector.

Take these bullet points, selling website hosting – aimed at people just like you and me:

2,500 POP/Imap Email Accounts

 SSH (Secure Shell), SSL, FTP, Stats

CGI, Ruby (RoR), Perl, PHP, MySQL

2000/2002 Front Page Extensions

Do you have the faintest idea what a ‘Secure Shell’ is?  And who the heck is Ruby when she’s around?

Here’s another example (if you’ve spoken to an Estate Agent recently, a few bells might ring):
“Yes, we have spoken to the vendor further up the chain and the mortgage indemnity issue is in hand.  Before we exchange I am still awaiting answers to the queries your purchaser has raised namely; the restrictive covenant issue regarding the easements, and they are still requesting you undertake the Chancel Insurance”
Pardon?

To the industries in question, the above makes complete sense and has total clarity.  This is why it’s “hard for them to understand that they’re hard to understand!”.

But to people who don’t speak their language, they may as well be speaking in Latin (or Vulcan).

People like to do business with people they’re comfortable with and if they can’t understand you, this becomes very difficult.

Therefore, if all of your competition speaks in jargon, how much business do you think you could win if you’re the only one that speaks in a language your customer actually understands and is comfortable with?

A way to do this is to take your sales copy and give it to someone completely outside of your industry to read (please don’t be afraid to give it to a ten-year-old).

If they can understand it –  you’re onto a winner.  If they don’t, please go back to the drawing board.

Before I leave you, this communication breakdown happens to the biggest of the big boys as well (Google).  Have a look at this post by Seth Godin and check out the video!

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