Business owners & sales

How to avoid three common mistakes business owners make

Owners are often the sole or lead salesperson of their business, and this is generally done to minimise costs. Not many business owners get out and sell if they don’t have to, though they can be very good at it. Owners possess knowledge and skills that hired sales staff usually lack. Among these critical skills and knowledge areas are the following:

  • total product expertise
  • an understanding of the nuts and bolts of the business itself (rather than just those areas related to sales)
  • familiarity with the business realities of their clients, and
  • discretion in matters of cost, financing, delivery, maintenance etc.

Yet there is more to making sales than expertise, empathy and autonomy.

Sales is a discipline with its own rules and methodologies; however, few business owners take the time to learn them. While they are experts in what they sell, they just don’t see the value in becoming experts at selling. Even if they did, they’re usually too busy running the business to devote sufficient time. They should.

Simply adopting a few basic selling rules can increase sales enough to change the trajectory of a small business. But here’s a better reason: sometimes it’s the owners’ greatest strength – their expertise (or at least what they do with it) – that gets in the way of making sales. Let me explain.

Talking too much

You’ll never listen your way out of a sale, but you can sure talk your way out of one.

Salespeople at the beginning of their careers tend to talk too much due to nerves.

Business owners talk too much because they just have so much to say about their product or service. They know it back to front – and they can give prospects a million reasons why it’s perfect for them. So they start talking, and pretty soon all the prospect is hearing is ‘Blah blah blah’.

It’s not the expertise that’s the problem. Customers want to buy from experts, but they don’t want to be lectured to. Business owners need to embrace the manner of the doctor rather than the university lecturer. Doctors ask a few questions, listen carefully to the answers and come up with a diagnosis. It’s a collaboration that makes the patient feel in charge.

Prospects want the same things from salespeople – an expert who listens, digests information and only then comes up with a solution. They don’t want to be told. They don’t want to be sold to.

Don’t even start with what it is; you’ve got to start with what it does, and then continue with what else it’s going to do, because the more it does for the prospect the more chance you have of selling it, particularly in business-to-business sales.

  • Does it create wealth?
  • Does it reduce overheads?
  • Does it give an advantage over competitors?
  • Does it simplify operations? Does it provide peace of mind?

What does your product or service do? That’s what you sell.

Selling to the prospect’s cost consciousness

Business owners obsess about costs. They’re always looking to make the best deal possible for supplies, transportation, staff, rent etc. In other words, when they are buying price weighs heavily in their decision, as it should.

But this kind of cost consciousness can be your enemy when you’re selling. With cost always at the front of your mind, it is tempting to try to sell to your prospect’s cost consciousness. But if you do this, you are going to undermine the value of your product. It’s as simple as that.

Be conscious of cost when you buy, but never sell to cost consciousness.

Talking ‘is’ instead of ‘does’

A business owner’s product or service is like a child. They’ve conceived it, seen it through development and built an entire business to support it. Its ‘is-ness’ is palpable. Sometimes owners fall in love with what a product is.

But you can’t sell that, because the prospect couldn’t care less what the product is. They only want to know what it does – for them. Here again, the business owner’s best qualities get them into trouble. Expertise and emotional engagement with what they sell often sends them waxing lyrical to prospects about what it is.

And what does the prospect hear? Blah blah blah.

If you allow price to occupy the conversation before you’ve demonstrated value, then the prospect is going to see your product as a mere commodity. More importantly, they’re going to see you as a commodity.

Don’t compete on price; only compete on value. It’s one of the basic rules of selling, but business owners are distracted by the instincts they acquire running businesses.

Mark Garbelotto, CEO, Australian Academy of Sales, a Registered Training Organisation

“There is more to making sales than expertise, empathy and autonomy. Sales is a discipline with its own rules and methodologies.”  sales