Archive for the Sales Category

30 seconds to make an impact

Posted in Business start up, Sales with tags , , on January 14, 2010 by virtualcitypa

“What do you do?” is a question that can put even the most seasoned business brain under pressure. Craig Fisher, founder of business consultancy The Sales Expert, explains how to put together a concise and compelling elevator pitch.

In today’s mobile business climate you never know when an opportunity is going to present itself. You will probably only have one chance to paint the best picture of your business to a prospective client or partner.

Your elevator pitch helps you to articulate the essence of your business in the fewest possible amount of words. What do you do? Who do you do it for? What does this mean to them?

These are the questions that you need to answer in the time it takes to take a lift from the ground to the top floor. Don’t alienate your target with a deluge of facts and figures; your objective here is not to close. It is to lay the foundations for the opportunity to do so.

Without an elevator pitch your explanation of your business is likely to become a drawn out response filled with needless detail. Effective elevator pitches, particularly in busy surroundings, get straight to the point. Don’t give your target time to get distracted. A short, precise presentation is perfect for those ad hoc opportunities.

Your pitch should be no more than 30 to 40 seconds in length. When structuring it consider the following outline, adding short details relevant to your business:

1. We work with…
2. Who have a problem with…
3. What we do is…
4. Which means that…
5. So that you can…

The first two sections are pretty straightforward. It is likely that your company may have more than one offering; however, limit yourself to your flagship product and in the third section focus on the collective purpose behind all your services.

The final two sections are dedicated to the benefits, both long- and short-term. These are vital to any proposal but should also be succinctly expressed during an elevator pitch. It is important that your prospect does not have to do too much thinking. The sooner they see the value of your business the more likely you are to progress with the sales process.

The delivery is as important as the content within your elevator pitch. Clear and confident communication is a must, so get as much practice as you can. Always refresh and rehearse your pitch until it screams value and conviction.


Increasing market share

Posted in Sales with tags , on October 12, 2009 by virtualcitypa

It is always worth approaching ex-customers as Business Gateway ( highlights.  If people have bought from you before, they may buy from you again. You need to find out why they stopped buying from you and apply that knowledge to regain their custom.

Find out what changed

Identify why customers stopped buying from you. Consider whether your product or service is:

  • no longer necessary
  • too expensive
  • unsatisfactory
  • being beaten by a competitive offer

Rebuild contact

Research suggests the reason many customers stop buying is because they don’t feel that they have sufficient contact with their suppliers. If you don’t have some form of regular contact – eg monthly or quarterly phone calls, formal or informal visits to customers, mailshots or email newsletters – customers may feel they are being ignored and look elsewhere.

If you have lost a customer for these reasons, your first step is to rebuild contact and prove that you understand and are focused on their needs – eg a letter expressing regret that they have stopped buying from you and making them a time-limited offer.

It’s worth trying a few times, but don’t keep persisting if you aren’t getting any response. Many businesses have a limit to the amount of times they contact lapsed customers – usually five or seven times.

Make an offer

When you know why the customer is no longer buying from you, consider ways to make your business more appealing.

For example, if your price was viewed as too high, consider a time-limited discount to encourage them to start buying again, eg 20 per cent off for three months. If your service was unsatisfactory, ask what you could do to make it meet your customer’s expectations and assess if it is possible and profitable for you to adapt your service for the former customer.

Be realistic

While you may be able to tempt many customers back, remember that you don’t want them at all costs. You want to build a long-term profitable relationship. It’s not usually a good idea to make long-term offers that don’t contribute any profit just to get a specific customer back, unless there are compelling strategic reasons to do so.

All these actions should be built into your marketing plan. The faster you contact a lapsed customer, the greater the chance they will come back to you.

Increase your market share

Posted in Business start up, Sales with tags , , , on October 8, 2009 by virtualcitypa

The Business Gateway ( is another useful reference site for small businesses to glean tips and advice when weighing up your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Evaluating your marketplace is something that all small businesses should do when looking to increase market share. 

There are many ways to sell more to existing customers and potential customers like them. But before you start trying to maximise your market share, you need to make sure you fully understand how you are perceived by both existing and potential customers.

Work out the key questions

The first stage is to address the core questions about who buys from you, how and when they buy. You need to be clear about:

  • who your customers are
  • what they buy
  • why they buy
  • how they buy
  • who else could buy from you
  • the typical budget of existing and new buyers
  • where else they buy from

Position for the future

Remember that the reasons customers buy from you now will not necessarily be the reasons they buy from you in six months or a year’s time. And if you consider expected trends in customer behaviour and your market, you may be the first to exploit a niche and gain market share quickly.

For example, how will your customers prefer to place orders? While they may prefer a phone call or face-to-face visit now, is there a trend in your market for online ordering systems? If you are one of the first businesses in your sector to offer the facility, you could gain significant market share.

Predicted future developments in your marketplace could also provide significant opportunities for growth. For example, with the growth of home computing, IT support has developed from a mainly business-to-business service to a larger customer base of consumers.

Use your research to get as clear a picture of the future as you can. It’s often difficult to predict with certainty – but the more you know about how your customers and market will look in the medium to long term, the more likely you are to successfully build your market share.

You can use commercial market research to assess trends in your sector.

Measuring success

Posted in Business start up, Sales with tags , , on October 1, 2009 by virtualcitypa

Measure performance and set targets

The website is an excellent resource for small businesses to get practical advice. We thought this article was particularly useful and wanted to highlight this topic for all our customers.

The importance of measurement and target-setting
Performance measurement and target-setting are important to the growth process. While many small businesses can run themselves quite comfortably without much formal measurement or target-setting, for growing businesses the control these processes offer can be indispensable.

The benefits of performance measurement
Knowing how the different areas of your business are performing is valuable information in its own right, but a good measurement system will also let you examine the triggers for any changes in performance. This puts you in a better position to manage your performance proactively.

One of the key challenges with performance management is selecting what to measure. The priority here is to focus on quantifiable factors that are clearly linked to the drivers of success in your business and your sector. These are known as key performance indicators (KPIs). See the page in this guide on deciding what to measure.

Bear in mind that quantifiable isn’t the same as financial. While financial measures of performance are among the most widely used by businesses, non-financial measures can be just as important.

For example, if your business succeeds or fails on the quality of its customer service, then that’s what you need to measure – through, for example, the number of complaints received. For more information about financial measurement, see the page in this guide on measurement of your financial performance.

The benefits of target-setting
If you have identified the key areas that drive your business performance and found a way to measure them, then a natural next step is to start setting performance targets to give everyone in your business a clear sense of what they should be aiming for.

Strategic visions can be difficult to communicate, but by breaking your top level objectives down into smaller concrete targets you’ll make it easier to manage the process of delivering them. In this way, targets form a crucial link between strategy and day-to-day operations.

Avoiding spam filters

Posted in Business start up, Sales with tags , , , , , on September 25, 2009 by virtualcitypa

When you launch an email marketing campaign you are competing against a great number of other emails for attention in the mailbox. As well as legitimate emails you also compete with a huge number of spam email promotions. In fact, studies have shown that around 65 per cent of all emails sent are spam emails.

It’s no surprise then that everybody is fed up with spam and now businesses and individuals are doing something about it. In a lot of cases, they are setting up spam filters to get rid of the junk.

Spam filters can be used straight out of the box or set up to prescribed tolerances.  As a result, an email that gets through one spam filter may not get through another.  
Here are some helpful design tips to consider when you are putting your email campaign together that will help stop your communication being junked by spam filters:

•    A professionally designed email with the correct HTML code throughout will ensure your email looks its best in all browsers and you will avoid high spam scores for bad coding.

•    Make sure your email doesn’t have any missing or redundant code.

•    Don’t miss out the email title.

•    Spell everything correctly.

•    Ensure your email is not created solely as images.

This is a well know tool that spammers use to get past content filters.  Try to get a good mix of HTML text and images in your emails for the best results.

•    Always send a plain text version with your HTML email to ensure that if the recipient cannot use HTML or is opening it on a PDA or phone, they will still be able to view it.

•    Always try to ensure the plain text version matches the HTML version as closely as possible.

•    NEVER USE CAPITALS when you don’t have too. It’s even worse when whole lines are in capitals.

•    Avoid using italics and very large fonts.

•    Avoid using non standard colours.

•    Avoid forms in the email itself.

The text that makes up your email copy is also very important. Some words on their own or in conjunction with others can cause serious spam implications. Below are examples of words and phrases to avoid:

•    Dear Friend – either personalise properly or use Sir/Madam.

•    Free – Free offer, Free trial, Free application, Free sample, Free access, Free anything can cause spam problems, especially when used in capitals.

•    No obligation.

•    No risk, low risk, risk free.

•    “Click here” or “click below”.

•    Order now.

•    No catch.

•    Money back guarantee.

•    Click to be removed.

•    Have you been turned down?

•    Never mention spam or spam legislation in your emails.

Finally, we recommend running your email through a spam checker that will tell you if your email will be considered spam or not.  You should also set up test accounts at commonly used email sites such as Hotmail, Yahoo and AOL to see if your email comes through into the inbox or the spam box.

Email marketing tips

Posted in Business start up, Marketing, Sales with tags , , , on September 14, 2009 by virtualcitypa

Email marketing can be of great benefit to your business if you get it right, increasing sales instantly and offering you a measurable marketing strategy.

How well your email campaign performs will depend on a number of factors. guides you through the basics.

Plan your campaign

This sounds obvious, but every marketing email that you send out should have a specific purpose, a distinct call to action, such as ‘click here to visit the website’ and a real reason why it needed to be sent to make it relevant to your customers. You could, for example, time your email around events or times of year that coincide with special offers, such as Christmas.

Top tips:

– There are software programs that can be used to personalise your emails. Having your client’s name at the top will sound much more approachable than saying ‘Dear customer’.

– The text or ‘copy’ on your email should be targeted and relevant to its recipient where possible. This may mean doing more than one batch, but the results will usually be better in the long run.

– You should give your customer the option to opt out of receiving emails as it may not be their preferred way of finding out about your services. This does not necessarily mean you will lose them as a customer.

– If people are responding to your email time and time again but have not opted out, they have probably changed their email address or sent your email to the junk folder. That means it’s important to renew your customer mailing lists as often as you can. Doing so will improve your open rates and give you a better idea of your audience.

Thank your clients for buying from you following any marketing campaign can go a long way towards generating repeat business. It’s also a perfect opportunity to sell more to them, or at least find out when it would be best to contact them again.


Your company’s reputation is very important, so you don’t want to bombard your customers with inaccurate emails. Before you send a marketing email check that:

– The subject line is correct
– Any personalisation is added and is correct
– Relevant dates – e.g. deadlines – are still right
– Calls to action are present
– Your website address is included
– All your links work
– Spelling is correct
– Images are working
– Your company details and registration number are present and correct (this information must appear by law)
– Unsubscribe options are present.

How to make more sales

Posted in Business start up, Sales with tags , , on September 7, 2009 by virtualcitypa

The image of the bright white-toothed salesperson knocking on your door, suitcase in hand, sends most people in the UK running in the opposite direction. Over-enthusiastic sales can be annoying and seems false. So what can you do as a small business owner to ensure that you don’t turn into the door-to-door type? spoke to Grant Leboff, self-titled ‘most pessimistic salesperson in Britain’ and author of Sales Therapy: Effective Selling for the Small Business Owner, for some tips on generating sales.

Where does the image of the over-bearing salesman come from?
A lot of the books on sales techniques come over from America, where being in sales is thought of as something to be proud of. In the US, sales isn’t a dirty word like it is in the UK.

Most traditional sales courses teach clichéd lessons, telling you to concentrate on the benefits of your product or service rather than the technical features. They also tend to over-emphasise the need for enthusiasm, which is all very well in the States, but it’s just not what people respond to in the UK.

So do you think the answer is to be pessimistic? Why?
British people want a dose of reality, they want to hear it the way it is and being a bit downbeat is part of that – it’s all part of the British stiff upper lip.

In the UK, you need a raw edge to your sales techniques; a more cynical angle and to be aware that people don’t really like being sold to. You can still couch the description of your product or service in positive terms, but the trick is to be subtle, not pushy and to try to be yourself.

Do you think it’s better for people without sales experience to leave it to the experts?
In an ideal world you would be able to hire a top salesperson, but in a smaller company that’s not always possible because of monetary constraints, so everybody needs to do a bit of selling. It’s worth making sure that all your employees in the organisation have had some form of sales training, just so they are able to spot opportunities, even if they can’t convert them into sales.

Do you have to be a good salesperson to run a small firm?
Small business owners can be brilliant at running a business but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are as good at selling. There are different types of selling, it’s not just about getting people to buy products.

Think about giving a presentation to an investor: to a large extent you aren’t just selling the business, you are selling yourself too. Investors are buying into the idea of you running and growing the business to get them a good return. The trick is to draw on your skills and stick to what you are good at.

Can you point to the most common mistake that small business owners make when selling?
The most common mistake is not to fully understand buyer motivation. By that I mean that a lot of SME owners don’t really know what is it that will make people buy your product or service over your competitors’. You can become so enthused about your product that you totally forget to identify a clear route to market.

You need to understand why your product will be valuable for your customers. If you can do that, you can start to understand the areas of the market and the methods of selling and marketing that will generate the most sales.

Any other tips?
You must make sure that you understand the problems your customers are trying to solve. Think of the selling process like a doctor-patient relationship. If you went into your doctor’s office and he told you to take some pills, three times daily, without asking what was wrong, you’d walk out again.

People in sales do this all the time, concentrating on what they have to offer, rather than thinking about the needs of the client. Start with a client interview and try to identify any areas that in which your product or service could add value for the customer, rather than just trying to peddle your wares.