by Alice Heiman |
Businesses succeed or fail based on sales. It is as simple as that. There are a variety of reasons why one company may see sales flourish while another flounders. But in small businesses and entrepreneur-led start-ups, the reasons behind sluggish sales are often issues that can easily be corrected and that have more to do with organization, hiring practices, training, and sales philosophy than anything else.
 
Here are three common practices a small business owner should embrace to ensure sales success.
 
Know What the Sales Staff Is Doing
Business owners and entrepreneurs have to understand sales and set clear expectations and goals for their sales staff. A business owner is the chief salesperson, and as soon as the owner takes her focus away from sales, the company is in trouble. To keep the focus on sales at your small business, follow these steps:

1. Hire the right salespeople.
2. Train them to handle the challenges that are specific to your industry.
3. Manage them and hold them accountable.

Remember that salespeople need a lot of recognition and rewards. While income is a motivating factor for any employee, small business owners need to understand that most salespeople do not work solely for a paycheck‚ they do it for the thrill of the kill. They love to close. They love to hear people say "You are great." They need to be appreciated. Make sure your sales staff has ample monetary and non-monetary incentives to succeed in sales.
 
Make Time to Network
A small business owner generally commits two common mistakes that keep her from consistently attracting new business: she either doesn't network or networks ineffectively.

The term "networking" often conjures up images of hobnobbing, chatting, or engaging in a quasi-social event with some nebulous business purpose pushed to the background.

When attending a networking event, recognize that the most important indicators of networking success will occur before and after the event. Things to remember about networking:

1. How you prepare in advance of the event is as important as what you do at the event.
2. Post-event follow-up is much more important than the event itself.
3. Use a networking event to schedule meetings at a later date.
4. Do not sell at the event. One simple rule will help you to network effectively: use these events to build relationships.

The successful small business owner will attend at least one networking event per week and will focus on qualifying her networking contacts by seeking three specific categories of relationships:

1. People to collaborate with.
2. People who can refer business.
3. People who can buy from her business.
 
Set Aside Time to Sell
A small business owner has to be a multi-talented jack-of-all-trades who can manage and perform the wide variety of tasks that running a small business requires. Often, a business owner becomes so overwhelmed with the day-to-day tasks of keeping her business afloat that she pushes sales to the back burner. To avoid this, it is vital to effectively organize and delegate responsibilities in order to allow ample time to sell.  

Alice Heiman is a sales guru, marketing expert, and inventor of the BizTalk Blender. She has founded two companies and is a national keynote speaker on sales and business topics. For more information visit www.aliceheiman.com