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Profit-Increasing Strategies

Five ways to increase your sales and grow your business

Last month I gave you "Seven Keys to Growing Your Business." This month I'm returning with even more principles you can implement today that'll increase your sales at every stage of business.

1. Love Your Customers
In successful businesses, concern for the customer at all times is a top priority. In a successful business, everyone in the business thinks about creating, serving and satisfying customers throughout the entire day. Ten years after the book In Search Of Excellence, by Thomas Peters and Robert Waterman, became a bestseller, a journalist asked Peters which of the seven principles in the book he felt were still the most important. Without hesitating he replied that it was "an obsession with customer service."

In the best businesses--large and small--the key people love their customers. They think about their customers day and night. They see themselves as personal representatives or agents of their customers, working on their customers' behalf. This attitude of devotion to customer wants and needs permeates the entire organization and causes people to want to do business with the company--and continue doing business with it in the future.

You can always tell a good business by the way they treat their customers--how they answer the phone and deal with customer requests and inquiries, and how they deal with customer needs and complaints. Concern for the customer at all times is a top priority in all successful businesses.

2. Develop a Complete Business Plan Before Starting
A major reason for business success is that the founders developed a complete business plan before starting operations. Successful businesses are those that have carefully thought through every part of the business, completed very careful budgets, and conducted a breakeven analysis on their activities before they open their doors. They organized and laid out a business plan, like a blueprint, before they began spending money and engaging in business activities.

Here's an interesting discovery: Once the business plan is developed, it's seldom referred to. Very often companies will spend many months developing a business plan and spend several weeks each year updating the business plan, but once it's complete, it's put into a drawer and seldom referred to again.

Why is this? It's usually because once operations begin, what happens in the business is quite different from what was expected or predicted.

What use then is a business plan? The answer is that the very exercise of working out a business plan in advance forces the entrepreneur to think through all the critical issues that are involved, or will be involved, in the operation of the business.

3. Think Through the Critical Issues
Writing out a business plan forces the business owner to think about the products and services to be offered, the prices at which they'll be sold, and the likely volume of sales that'll be achieved. It forces the business owner to carefully think through all of the expenses that'll be incurred in bringing that product to market. It forces the business owner to project the people they'll require; the offices and facilities necessary; the money necessary for rent, utilities and payroll; and all the little factors that go into making a business successful. By writing out a business plan--in advance--the entrepreneur is forced to think through and carefully analyze every one of these numbers and combine them into a total blueprint--before starting.

4. Can You Get There From Here?
Over the years I've worked with entrepreneurs who have been eager to start new businesses. However, once they were forced to think through and gather all the information necessary to complete a business plan, they realized the business wouldn't work. Either they couldn't charge enough for the product or service relative to the costs of bringing it to the market, or the market wasn't large enough. Sometimes the length of time to break even was too long, or some other factor they hadn't considered comes up. You've heard the old saying, "You can't get there from here." By writing up a business plan, it often becomes clear that this business isn't a good idea in the first place.

Interestingly enough, when you go to a bank to borrow money, or to a venture capitalist, or even to hire a senior executive, the very first thing they'll ask you for is a business plan. If you don't have a business plan you immediately reveal yourself as an incompetent manager--the number-one reason for business failure. With no business plan, you have no credibility and you'll find it almost impossible to get the support you need to build your business.

5. Never Give Up
This last key to business success is a high degree of determination, persistence and patience on the part of the business owner. Venture capitalists are people who look at hundreds of business plans and seldom fund more than 1 percent of them. They'll tell you that they look for character and ability more than anything else in deciding whether or not to invest in a business. They look not only at the product or service to be offered, but the people whose talents, ability and experience will be essential to making the business successful.

Determination, persistence and patience go hand in hand with business success. Nothing ever works out the way you think it will. You'll have to chop and change and try different things continually. Your best-laid plans will be met with disappointment and frustration. But your ability to persist and to continue seeking faster, better, more innovative ways of achieving your business goals is the key to your future.

Brian Tracy is the "Success Secrets" coach at Entrepreneur.comand one of America's leading authoritieson entrepreneurial development. He's produced more than 300 audio and video learning programs that cover the entire spectrum of human and corporate performance through his company, Brian Tracy International.

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