In the dynamic world of small business, effective sales techniques can make all the difference. We’ve gathered insights from 15 industry professionals, ranging from co-founders to event entertainers, who share their tried-and-true strategies. From embracing the newcomer status to boosting revenue with cross-selling, discover the sales techniques that have propelled their businesses to success.
Embrace the Newcomer Status
My marketing agency serves an industry that is fairly traditional and slow to change. This means it can be difficult for new businesses to break into the industry.
We drive real results and possess incredible domain expertise, but we’re not well-known throughout the industry as a whole. We’ve found success by being upfront with clients and acknowledging that we’re newcomers. In a very relationship-based industry, we’ve seen how useful it can be to start this way. It really helps to build trust right from the beginning.
Lead with Value, Not Sales Pitches
As a sales manager, the “lead with value” approach has proven incredibly effective for my business. Instead of launching into a sales pitch, we focus on understanding our customers’ needs and providing value from the get-go.
For instance, when we met Sue, a potential client, we didn’t just dive into selling our product. We took the time to really understand her business challenges. Then, we offered some initial advice and insights even before she decided to do business with us. We aimed to show her our value first, rather than tell her about it.
Moreover, we viewed Sue not just as a customer, but as a partner. This shift in perspective fostered a relationship of trust and collaboration, rather than a typical buyer-seller dynamic.
So, remember, leading with value and building partnership-oriented relationships can create a winning sales strategy. It builds trust, fosters customer loyalty, and results in long-term business partnerships.
Improvise Sales Pitches for Personal Connection
Almost every salesperson has a script for their pitches. It’s perfectly fine and acceptable. Knowing what you have to say gives you confidence. But reading out your script always has the opposite effect. You sound too robotic.
My technique is to act out your script. I don’t say what I’ve learned word for word. I add my own points on the go. I improvise. I use gestures and facial expressions. It helps me connect with my lead on a more personal level. And it always gets me a second meeting and conversions.
Ask Questions to Influence Decision-Making
Asking questions is a winning sales technique that has proven effective for me.
Firstly, asking questions demonstrates interest, building rapport and connection. Secondly, it allows you to gather insights about their needs and objectives, enabling you to tailor your proposal.
Moreover, well-crafted questions have the power to influence decision-making by uncovering gaps in their thinking and reshaping priorities. Compared to product demos, asking questions is a more engaging conversation starter that showcases your subject matter expertise.
While some clients want to jump straight into discussing features and prices, I’ve found these conversations often lead to unproductive outcomes. Instead, educating them on the value of asking questions or guiding them elsewhere can help avoid challenging partnerships.
To enhance your questioning skills, I recommend exploring the philosophies of SPIN Selling and The Challenger Sale. These have greatly contributed to my sales success.
Leverage LinkedIn for Outbound Sales
We’ve been trialing a LinkedIn-first outbound sales approach in my small agency. This complements our inbound marketing activities—we “do outbound” in a very “inbound” way, generally, aiming to inform and inspire leads to engage with our marketing materials as part of their own research, all while our business development representatives speak to them directly.
But back to LinkedIn. We use LinkedIn Sales Navigator to find leads that match our target criteria for company size, sector, region, and so on. Then, we send a LinkedIn connect request and add these connections to our CRM platform, HubSpot.
From there, we continue to call, email and message our contacts, as part of a sequence of activities to ensure we make contact via multiple touchpoints. This has proven to be very successful, with several solid opportunities coming to fruition from this starting point. So, LinkedIn-first. That’s working for us.
Win Projects with Professionalism
Every successful contractor that goes beyond having a single, small crew gets there by focusing on professionalism.
When one of our lead carpenters goes out to provide a homeowner with an estimate, they take a portfolio of previous work with them, a brochure, and they know what demeanor to have and what questions to ask. Simply being prepared, presentable, and asking the right questions wins us all of our projects. Smaller companies stay small because they haven’t figured this out yet.
Implement an In-House ROI Calculator
Creating an in-house ROI calculator for our services has proven to be an effective sales technique for our small business. This tool provides prospects with estimated returns on their investment backed by relevant data, showcasing the value they can expect from our services.
By offering this tangible evidence of potential outcomes, we have experienced improved sales and greater client confidence in partnering with us.
Offer a Free Resource Suite
Part of our customer journey is that we offer product and brand education via our free suite of design resources. This tool includes a wallpaper calculator, curtain calculator, complimentary design assistance, paint guides, pillow guides, style guides, and more.
By offering this tool as part of the service experience, we allow our customers to feel more in control of their buying journey.
Utilize Consistent Follow-Ups and CRM Tools
In driving sales for our small business, we’ve found immense success in the application of one particular technique—the art of consistent follow-ups. Prospective customers may not always convert after the first touchpoint, necessitating regular, well-timed interactions to maintain their interest and gradually guide them toward a purchase decision.
To streamline and optimize this process, we utilize smart Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools, with HubSpot being a prime example. HubSpot aids us in maintaining a clear record of interactions with each prospect and setting reminders for consistent follow-ups.
The data-driven insights provided by such tools enable us to gauge customer behavior and personalize our approach, thereby increasing the probability of conversion. The amalgamation of consistent follow-ups and the smart use of CRM tools have proven to be a winning strategy in our sales playbook.
Create Personalized Samples
One sales technique that has worked exceptionally well for our podcast production agency is the “Tailored Showcase.” Instead of relying solely on generic sales pitches, this technique involves creating personalized podcast samples specifically tailored to potential clients’ needs.
By understanding their target audience, industry, and goals, we craft a short but impactful showcase episode that demonstrates the value and potential of their podcast production services.
This approach allows the client to experience firsthand how the agency can bring its vision to life and engage its audience effectively. The tailored showcase not only showcases the agency’s expertise but also fosters a sense of trust and confidence in the client, making it a highly successful sales technique for us.
Engage via Instagram Hashtag Tracking
Track relevant hashtags on Instagram regularly and spotlight any favorable UGC in your stories and a highlight reel. Increasing engagement is always two-way and requires your brand to be the engine of conversation, new ideas, and relatable content and stories.
Our social media manager stays on top of our brand community and patients who follow us to stay queued into their lives and goings-on. The simple act of conversation or commenting on their relevant posts keeps the conversation fresh and moving. One patient talking about her results and journey with one of our products can spread interest like wildfire.
That engagement goes further for us, too, as we primarily aim to increase retention through our social engagement strategies. You have to build “presence” into your brand presence. Stay present in customers’ lives and content, and they will keep connected with you.
Use Template Responses for Client Filtering
Many of my sales are based on selling my services but packaged as products and so the number one sales technique that has worked for us is preparing template responses that we test and refine, which can be sent to potential clients. These are designed to filter out people who can’t afford our services but at the same time leave the doors open for reasonable negotiation.
By doing this, potential customers self qualify and we can avoid wasting time on people who we wouldn’t be able to close anyhow.
Provide Choices to Engage Customers
The best sales technique that has worked great for my business is offering choices. We make sure that we do not lose our customers in the first place. We keep them engaged with our business by offering different choices.
When you do this, it helps initiate a conversation, which allows you to learn more about their preferences. They express their likes and dislikes about the product, which makes it easy for us to evaluate their needs and offer the right product. Offering more options and suggestions helps us engage them with our business. When they are given different choices, they are likely to make a purchase decision.
Network for Sales Growth
One of the most reliable sales techniques for small businesses is networking. It’s generally inexpensive, only taking at most 2 hours of your time. Here you have the opportunity to speak directly to a variety of potential customers.
If you join a referral networking group, this is one of the easiest ways to create a sales team that costs you a fraction of the cost of an employed salesperson. Leveraging their networks is worth its weight in gold.
Boost Revenue with Cross-Selling
One sales technique that has truly transformed our small business is cross-selling. By offering complementary products or services to our customers, we’ve been able to significantly increase our average transaction value.
In our approach to cross-selling, we’ve focused on understanding the needs of our customers and identifying opportunities where our products or services can add further value to their purchase. It’s not about pushing for more sales, but rather providing solutions that enhance our customers’ experience or help them achieve their goals more efficiently.
This strategy has done more than just boost our revenue—it has helped deepen our relationships with customers. By suggesting products or services that can help them, we show that we understand their needs and are genuinely interested in providing solutions, not just making a sale. It’s a win-win situation where our customers get more value and we increase our business growth.
Brett Farmiloe is the founder of Terkel, a Q&A platform that connects brands with expert insights.