(YoungBiz.com) - Think back to the last time you considered a purchase, then walked out of a store without buying anything. What was the deciding factor? Perhaps no one offered to help you. Or the salesperson didn't know the product. Or the price was too high.
This kind of information is vital to your own business. By seeing things from your customers' point of view, you'll gain a better understanding of what makes--or breaks--a sale.
Get It in
One of the biggest challenges you'll face as a 'trep is letting potential customers know you're out there. It's essential to have something in writing that you can post on bulletin boards or give out in the neighborhood. These days, you can design almost any advertising product you need --from business cards to fliers to banners--if you have access to a home computer and an inkjet printer.
That's what Melissa Gollick, 18, owner of MelMaps, a computer graphics firm in Denver, did. And her business card has turned out to be her most important sales tool. Gollick and her family hand it out everywhere they go. It's simple but effective--the card shows a sample graphic and describes MelMaps as a computer graphics firm that produces location, vicinity, site and floor maps.
Add a Web
Of course, there's a whole world out there, full of people who need things. Sure, you'll be able to reach a host of them by handing out your business cards. But what about those potential sales that are out of arm's reach?
You've got an advantage that businesses of generations past didn't--the Internet, of course. Many 'treps have found that selling in cyberspace is not only an important part of their business; it's critical.
Seventeen-year-old Chris Petree, who operates a bee-keeping business in Yadkinville, North Carolina, says his Web site, www.ingenbees.com, keeps his business buzzing. "It's a media I can use to reach the masses," he says. "A great Web site is worth the money." Even more so, he adds, if you can build your own site: "The cost isn't too bad if you design your own."
While Petree also sells his honey and bee-related wares to offline customers around his hometown, Jared MacDonald in Calgary, Alberta, says he couldn't exist without the Internet. That's because MacDonald, 20, sells snowboarding gear exclusively through his site, www.shredonline.com.
Taneka, Tianda, Tajuana, and Takeshia Reed, owners of T-Bags in Charlotte, North Carolina, started out by selling custom tote bags, and soon requests for other products like T-shirts, lunch bags and mugs came pouring in. They have learned the secret to booming sales: happy customers telling other customers about your business.
T-Bags has no paid advertising. But the sisters maximize the best selling strategy of all: word-of-mouth. "When people see someone wearing our products, they ask about them," Taneka says.
"We get advertising from some of our special orders by people seeing our products and liking them," she explains.
As the Reed sisters have learned, even in this high-tech world, some of the best sales techniques are the tried and true. Know your company, your product, your customer and your sales material. It's OK if you don't know the answer to a customer's question--just let him or her know that you will find out. And don't be afraid to give your customer an opportunity to buy. Lots of sales have been lost simply because a salesperson doesn't ask that all-important question: "Would you like me to ring that up for you?"