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Turning Fellow Entrepreneurs Into Customers

Six tips to help you sell from one small business to another
4 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

If you've ever tried to sell your product or service to another entrepreneur, you know how puzzling the process can be at times. Yes, you may have the greatest "whatever" since sliced bananas, but you may not be able to sway that self-made, hard-driving individual who's sitting across the desk from you. Worse yet, he or she may show initial signs of interest but for some reason (unknown to you) neglect to return your calls.

How do you successfully navigate your way into an entrepreneur's heart and pocketbook and win the sale? Try these tactics:

1. At all costs, appeal to their ego without challenging it. Generally speaking, an entrepreneur's ego is pretty big. It's also pretty fragile. Whenever you approach a fellow entrepreneur, be careful not to step across that fine line of bravado.

Don't use words and phrases the other person will not easily understand and connect with. At a bare minimum, this will make your prospect feel uninformed and, in extreme cases, downright stupid. Not good! Instead, focus on the outcome or result you can deliver. As a general rule, never mention your product's name, numbers or insider buzzwords.

2. Pitch the value you can provide. Contrary to popular belief, price is not the determining element of the sale-value is. So don't say you'll lower your price. Lowering your price only lowers the perceived value, and that's not a good idea.

Instead, add value to justify your price. Adding or extending services, such as free delivery, or providing risk-reversing guarantees, work the best.

Don't respond to a comment like "Your price is too high" with "I can lower it by 10 percent." Instead, say something like "Exactly how high do you feel my price is?" or ask "Why do you think my price is too high?"

3. Give them the ability to concentrate on their core competency. For the most part, we become entrepreneurs to pursue our dreams. Many of us don't enjoy performing tasks-such as accounting, payroll, advertising, sales, marketing and so on-that take us away from our pleasure.

So if you sell a service, don't make any negative comments about this entrepreneur's current service, such as "There seem to be gross inaccuracies and out-of-date information on your Web site" or "Our evaluation is that your files are disorganized. Who's been doing your filing?" It's quite possible that your prospect's daughter or son may have performed the work in question. Ouch!

It's better to focus on the entrepreneur's desire to spend more time on tasks that are at the core of why he started his business in the first place. Try this: "By taking what's already been done and enhancing it to your liking, you'll be able to spend more time creating your next product. We'll take care of all the details of your filing system so you can get your hands on what you're looking for quickly."

4. Show them a way to grow their business. No matter what you sell, if you can position it in such a way that your prospect can see how it can help him grow his business, he'll invest in it quickly.

Make an effort to really understand how your existing customers benefit from your product or service. Generally speaking, nearly everything can impact either the revenue-generating or expense-cutting areas of the business. Know how you can do this, and then underpromise and overdeliver. That's good selling!

5. Never forget them. After the sale, stay in touch. Create a contact strategy and stick with it. Don't say you'll do something and then blow it off. Do follow up and follow through. Send each of your existing customers something of value every other month.

6. Think lifetime value. When you make a sale to an entrepreneur, you're not closing anything but rather opening a relationship that, when taken care of, will last a lifetime.

Always include an automatic renewal with your written agreements. And figure out what other services you can sell this customer. When it comes time to perform any pre-sales activity, justify spending that time and those resources based on the return you'll get.

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