5 Strategies for Entrepreneurs to Improve Sales Understand when a yes is actually a no.

By Hampus Jakobsson

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


If you've just started a business, you need sales, right? Trouble is, you may not be sure how to put together a sales approach. And, the truth is, there is no magic formula for sending your sales through the roof. So, stop looking.

Related: Close More Deals Faster Using This 5-Step Approach

Also, stop buying the popular belief that sales is a profession where "you either have it, or you don't." As with any job, effective sales techniques, tactics and skills can be taught. With that in mind, here are five strategies for entrepreneurs looking to improve sales at their newly started businesses:

1. Understand when a "yes" is really a "no."

When you run a startup, your most precious resource -- even more so than capital or product -- is time. Customers will often lead you to believe they're interested in what you're offering when they actually aren't; and this can be a significant drain on your time. For example, many entrepreneurs spend a fair share of time at trade shows and events and collect dozens or even hundreds of business cards from potential customers.

The reality is, however, that many of these prospective customers offered their card as a way of excusing themselves from the conversation. The key is to decipher who is truly interested. When someone is, that person will likely ask a lot of questions. He or she wants more of your time and will inquire about your pricing, ways in which you deploy your product, etc.

2. Talk about the problem, not the solution.

Sounds counterintuitive, right? It won't when you put this strategy into action: When it comes down to it, people are interested in their own problems, not your solutions. If you detail your product's five most impressive features, the customer will fade in and out of focus waiting for you to finish. However, ask about customers' problems and they will be happy to tell you all about their issues. This will make them feel more invested in your solution and provide clues as to how you should be positioning your wares. Maybe it's your ninth and tenth most impressive features that will actually benefit them.

Related: 6 Secrets to Sales Success Hidden in a Girl Scout Cookie

3. If prospective customers don't reply, do it for them.

Say a client hasn't responded to your message. Rather than send a new email and change the wording to make it seem like a first communication, reply to your own. This accomplishes two things: It allows the recipient to view the content of your original email and glean the intended information. Second, it allows you to inquire directly about receipt of your initial correspondence. If recipients then respond that they did receive your first email and aren't interested, you don't need to waste any more of your valuable time selling them.

Some, though, will just bounce back and say they're sorry and are interested. If you don't hear back at all, give it a few more days and reply to your email one more time -- this time asking directly if the recipient prefers you to end the contact. This direct approach has an extremely positive success rate with customers responding for two reasons: 1) They are interested and for whatever reason haven't been able to get back to you yet; or 2) They accept the out you've offered to stop contacting them. Either way, you know where you stand and can proceed accordingly.

4. Personalize your communications.

If you are taking the time to write a personalized message to a prospective client, make sure he or she knows it. Include private anecdotes, discuss how your product or service would benefit this person specifically or perhaps touch on personal experiences that can be applied to this person's business. Don't ever let a customer assume an email is just an automated direct marketing outreach if it isn't.

5. Don't pit your sales team members against one other.

The best sales teams are the ones that work together. Competition can spur hard work, but individually that work often operates to the detriment of the team as a whole. There are direct and ancillary benefits to cultivating a positive dynamic within the team. Creating synergy within your sales force will lead to increased communication, peer teaching, information sharing as it pertains to customers and leads and, ultimately, sales. Whether your small business is just you and an employee handling sales, or if you have a more robust team in place, teamwork will always trump rivalry in the long run.

And so now you know the truth. Inflated sales aren't a result of trickery or some mystical strategy, but rather a product of the details: investing a personal touch, working together, listening to the customer's difficulties and utilizing your resources correctly with the right leads. Focus on doing the small things right and leave your competitors to wonder where your magic comes from.

Related: Never Say These 7 Things in Sales

Hampus Jakobsson

CEO, Brisk

Hampus Jakobsson is the CEO of Brisk, which finds the fastest paths to sales for companies such as Evernote, Hootsuite and Zendesk. In 2002, he co-founded pioneering mobile UI firm The Astonishing Tribe, which was acquired by Blackberry in 2010 for $150 million. Jakobsson is an angel investor in over 40 startups.

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