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Seven Reasons Your Small Business Isn't Making Sales

There are several reasons why sales don't close, so it may be especially frustrating when you feel like you're working hard and truly believe in what you're offering but still don't get the customer. While I generally write about traditional occupations, this question might easily apply to a job seeker who has made 300 connections or submitted 300 resumes and has yet to find work. Furthermore, with conventional employees chasing temp employment and side gigs, understanding how to close a transaction is crucial for both small company owners and traditional employees. Here are seven reasons why your firm isn't making sales:

1. You're promoting, not selling.

Reaching out to a networking contact is a sales call where the contact expresses a need and interest in what you are offering, and you discuss your offer, pricing, next actions, and/or other options for moving forward. If the purpose of your networking encounter is to introduce what you have to offer or to reconnect in general, it is a marketing call. Many small company owners are active on social media, editing their website, writing blogs, and hooking up over coffee, all of which are fantastic for marketing and may lead to sales in the future -- but these activities aren't immediately producing sales. What's the fix? Evaluate your encounters to date and be open about which were marketing, and which were sales. Make sure you pitch for more money than your intended income target, as you will not close all of your sales. If you generally close one-third of your sales efforts and want to generate $100,000 in income, you'll need to present $300,000 in offers. Have you addressed $300,000 of work in your meetings?

2. You're targeting the incorrect buyer.

Reaching out to 300 people seems great, but are all of them potential consumers for what you're selling? In the case of a training firm, you may be better off following up diligently with 30 HR professionals or business managers that require your sort of training for their employees. Sure, you can chat to someone who isn't a buyer but knows someone who is, which is beneficial. But that's not selling; it's still marketing. What's the fix? Examine your contact list to ensure that you are prioritizing those who have a need and an interest in what you offer. Is the contact list you're employing a true sales funnel or just a group of people you know well?

3. The customer is not the decision-maker.

When you narrow down your list to those who have a need and are interested in what you have to offer, you move closer to making the sale, but it is still insufficient. Are the folks you're targeting capable of making a purchasing decision? Maybe your close buddy in HR organizes the training, but it's his colleague who approves the money to employ the trainer. Your HR acquaintance is still a helpful contact since he can promote you, but you must still reach out to the real decision-maker in order to complete the deal. What's the fix? When you have an interested prospect, confirm the next steps in the buying decision. Does your contact need to consult with anybody else? Does your contact have budgetary authority?

4. There is no need to buy today.

You may connect with an interested prospect, and s/he may even have the means to purchase, but s/he has other priorities. Budget, time, and attention are limited resources. To seal a transaction, make your offer a priority right now. What's the fix? During the sales process, validate the deadlines and limits your prospects are facing. Remind your prospects not just about the value of your offer, but also why it is so important right now. Do you create urgency in the way you present your offer?

5. There is a better option to your business.

Your prospect may require what your company now provides, but he or she has other options for meeting that need. Other firms presumably do what you do. Alternatively, the client or organization may attempt to meet the demand themselves (for example, a firm may create its own training curriculum). What's the fix? Remember that your prospects have options. There is the option of doing nothing (which is where urgency comes in - see previous point). There is also the option to do it yourself or hire someone else. Have you not only marketed your product, but also yourself as the only source of choice?

6. There's no incentive to switch.

It might be much more difficult to seal a contract if your prospect already has another option. Companies that offer training sometimes already have additional trainers on staff. Why should they go from known to unknown? What's the fix? When your prospect is an experienced buyer who has done research or has already purchased, the sales process differs. Now you must make it simple and risk-free to switch to you. This might entail explaining the (hopefully simple and easy) steps to begin working with you. It might include providing a guarantee or a discount for switching to you. Have you examined and addressed your prospect's reluctance?

7. The timing or circumstances are not appropriate.

Assume you've done everything correctly: you're actively asking for sales rather than just promoting. You target the appropriate buyers, who have decision-making authority. You make the case for purchasing now and from you specifically. Prospects may still say no if it is not the proper moment for them (for example, other initiatives are just getting started) or if conditions have changed since you talked (for example, sales are down, therefore budgets are frozen). What's the fix? Sometimes a No cannot be reversed, and your best move is to keep in touch and follow up on a regular basis so that you are at the forefront of mind should timing or circumstances alter in your favor. Are you returning to prospects who have declined? Are you staying in touch with folks who haven't attended a sales meeting before but could be ready now?

Remember that the reasons listed above are all possible causes for a sales process to fail, regardless of your best efforts. However, you must still demonstrate that you have a decent offering and a strong sales ability. Is your offer excellent -- i.e., reasonably priced, useful features, and clear benefits? Do you know how to sell? Are you confident, clear, and persuasive?

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