Why the Federal government should be teaching SMEs how to sell

Buy and sell for consumerism, create new product and service to get money concept, multi color arrows pointing to the word Sell at the center of black cement chalkboard wall.

Between JobKeeper, Loan Guarantee Schemes, training incentives, better insolvency processes, and grants galore, there are plenty of ways SMEs can access government subsidies and loans right now. But there is still no equivalent Federal, State or local government initiative or program to support SMEs in turning their businesses around with better sales strategies, sales, revenue and cashflow.

While JobKeeper has been a very important and necessary scheme to help stave off immediate business closures and job losses for the short term, it’s not designed to last forever. Loan Guarantee Schemes, with the best of intentions, won’t and don’t solve poor strategy and sales revenue issues either.

Any self-respecting SME cannot and shouldn’t borrow more money if they don’t have some certainty about where their business opportunities, customers, and sales revenue is going to come from now and into the future. And better insolvency practices should be in place for good times and bad regardless. These are only a last resort when nothing else works.

What SMEs need now is revenue and cashflow, lots of it. To get revenue and cashflow they need to be working and selling into viable customer market segments and supply chains where customers are buying.

If SMEs want to avoid bankruptcy and stay in business for all the right reasons, they need access to the right support, ideally enabled by government-funded programs, that deliver specific education, content, tools, coaching and advice. What we need is a proactive sales-led recovery to get us through this crisis.

Because the quickest way to turn any business around is to get their client-facing people proactively engaging with real customers in viable markets talking about real opportunities for all the right reasons. This is what drives sales growth and keeps the economy alive. Selling is a human to human interaction (remote or in-person) and it’s about building trusted relationships. It’s also a numbers game. It’s where opportunity gets ignited and realised. Over 60 years of empirical research shows that those who proactively engage with customers and sell on a consistent basis are, on average, 5 times more productive than their hesitant colleagues. It’s where the money is.

However, very few SMEs understand the profession and function of selling as their business’ dynamic engine room of customer relationships, revenue and business growth. Even fewer SMEs know how to prospect and sell effectively or even want to acknowledge selling because of its negative stereotypes “we don’t sell” mentality. So, they reach for marketing instead but marketing initiatives alone will not get most businesses out of their sales revenue slumps.

Instead, what if we help SMEs stop floundering and struggling with random acts of sales and help them implement a proactive, coordinated sales effort locally and internationally?How will that that affect our economy? More sales mean more revenue, means more jobs, means more tax revenue and so on.

For too long, selling has been left off the government’s business agenda and ignored, which is why we need to raise everyone’s awareness about what the selling profession does for business, for jobs, and for the economy and start educating SMEs at the very least on how to sell, ethically and effectively. Because without buyers and sellers we do not have businesses, jobs or a viable economy.

We need to have a national government-funded education program and a national dialogue about selling, acknowledging that selling is everybody’s business, and everybody lives by selling. Because selling is the vehicle that allows opportunity to flourish and people to prosper and isn’t that what we all want at the end of the day?

Sue Barrett, Ethical Sales and Business Growth Expert