How To Sell Your Products
Or Services In A Small Town
by Tom Egelhoff
If there is one true rule in business...it's this,
"Nothing happens until someone sells something."
You may have the best product or service in the world but until someone is willing to trade something of value for it you don't have a business.
The sale creates the profit that drives the business and keeps the door open.
For a detailed mini-seminar in selling techniques see Chapter Four: Sales Forecasting in my book, "How To Market, Advertise And Promote Your Business Or Service In A Small Town."
If you're a small town or home based business owner then the chances are your entire sales force is you.
You're the one who greets customers in the store or makes the cold calls out in the field.
It doesn't necessarily have to be that way. You do have some options.
Where To Start
The best place to start is with your business plan. If you don't have one you need to make one.
One of the main purposes of a business plan is to map out how you are going to operate your business and even more importantly how you are going to move your products and services.
It should detail your sales strategies along with your marketing and advertising strategies.
Before you can sell anything to anyone you must have a complete understanding of the products or services that you offer.
In addition, you must also know the strengths and weaknesses of your company in delivering those products and services.
Let's assume you're a home based business that makes collectable dolls.
What happens if you, or a hired salesperson, make a sale too large for your company to handle?
What happens if you aren't able to produce enough dolls fast enough for the demand your advertising creates?
Before you can create a profitable sales strategy you must be able to answer questions like this.
That's what your business plan will help you do.
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Who Will Do The Selling?
I don't believe that there are "born salesman."
I do believe that there are people who have "learned", either from family or life experiences how to relate positively to people.
And these folks use these "learned" skills to be successful in the sales field. These are the same skills that make one athlete a great coach and another a poor coach.
Look at three former basketball players...Magic Johnson (L.A. Lakers), Larry Bird (Boston Celtics) and Phil Jackson (N.Y. Knicks).
Magic Johnson, one of the greatest players of all time was a bust at being a coach. He felt everyone should play like he did.
Larry Bird, on the other hand, was selected Coach of the Year in his first year of coaching.
Do you have to be a superstar to be a good coach? No.
Enter Phil Jackson. As a New York Knick, Jackson was never a starter. Doesn't hold any major NBA records. Yet he has 7 NBA Championship rings.
Whatever talents he was lacking as a player he more than made up for as a coach.
The main differences between these three men is their ability to relate to others and motivate them in a sports setting.
If you're one of these people who relates well with others you may have to be the designated salesperson for your company.
If you don't posses these skills and/or don't want to learn them then you must consider others to do the selling job for you.
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You Have Two Choices
If you aren't going to do the selling yourself, then you have two choices.
You will either have to use someone from within your company or a manufactures' representative (I'll define that in a moment).
Let's look at the pros an cons of both.
In-House Sales Force - Pros
They only sell your products and services.
You have control over them with sales reports. Where they go and who they see.
It's in their best interest to be successful for you to stay employed.
In-House Sales Force - Cons
Most all of the expenses of the in-house sales force are your responsibility. Brochures, flyers and sales materials. Also insurance and benefits if you offer them.
The person you select must be able to handle rejection well. If they can't they won't be successful.
You may need to subsidize the salary of the salesperson for a while then transfer them to a commission status or salary plus commission.
They must be self-motivated if unsupervised. People like this are often hard to find.
Manufacturers' Representatives are also called independent agents.
These sales people often carry several lines of products. For example, a furniture salesman might also carry a line of lamps and other interior decorating products.
Some reps may carry as many as 30 different lines of products or services.
Sometimes they work for a main vendor and carry other products on the side.
In other cases they are independent contractors that are in business for themselves and are paid a commission on what they sell.
Manufacturers' Reps - Pros
Out of pocket expenses are reduced. No salaries, benefits or travel expenses. You may still need to provide sales materials.
They generally can afford to cover a larger geographic area because they can spread expenses over many different lines.
If they don't sell they don't get paid.
They can afford to make calls to sell "small ticket items." Your sales force, with only one product line to sell, could not afford the expense to make the calls over long distances.
Manufacturers' Reps - Cons
You have no control over where they go and who they call on.
They only have so much time in front of customers. With 30 lines they may not give enough time to yours.
If they are successful with other lines the gain or loss of yours may not be significant motivation to really press to sell your line.
If your line is hard to sell they may drop it in favor of something easier to sell.
Because they are not involved day to day with your company it's very difficult for them to know your products and procedures as well as an in-house sales person might.
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Which One Should I Choose?
Which one to choose depends on your particular situation. Here are some guidelines to help you make the decision.
If you have a product that's relatively easy to sell but you have limited cash resources consider using the sales rep.
If your product is difficult to sell but you're in a strong cash position use your own sales staff.
If you have a small ticket item and want to reach a wide geographic area use the sales rep.
Conversely, if you have just the opposite, high ticket; small territory, use your own sales staff.
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How Would I Find A Manufacturers' Rep?
Consider the people who are calling on you now. Do they call on your customer base?
If not, you can contact companies that handle non-competitive cross lines.
Like the furniture and lamps from the example above. Ask to have a salesperson contact you and evaluate the sales call.
Some reps are prohibited from handling other lines but many are not.
You can also contact the Manufacturers' Agents National Association at (949)·859·4040.
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The Last Word On How To Sell Your Products And/Or Services
In most cases you will probably want to develop an in-house sales force.
If that's the case then there are at least three things you need to keep in mind to be successful.
1. Good companies and good salespeople don't sell products. They sell solutions to problems that the customer has.
See: "Understanding Why Customers Buy."
2. Good companies and good salespeople know that the features of a product are not as important as the benefits of the product.
3. Good companies and good salespeople don't just sell products and services to their customers.
They develop long term relationships that promote repeat business and a stronger company.
See: "How To Make Friends And Turn Them Into Customers."
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Based in Bozeman, MT, Tom Egelhoff is the author of How To Market, Advertise & Promote Your Business Or Service In A Small Town, and The Small Town Advertising Handbook: How To Say More And Spend Less. He is also a seminar and workshop presenter and trainer. He may be reached at 406-585-0219 or PO Box 271, Bozeman, MT 59771-0271
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