We all know that sales cure all. But the idea of ‘sales’ can be very intimidating to an entrepreneur who is extremely passionate about her product or service but is nothing like the traditional concept of a successful salesman: pushy, aggressive, relentless. If the idea of cold-calling endless names from a phonebook and asking people for their money gives you nightmares, you’re not alone.
As an entrepreneur it’s important to remember that you are an innovator, a creator, someone who rewrites the rules. And don’t forget that this applies to sales too. The same creativity that you bring to developing your concept, branding your business, and creating your company culture is a crucial ingredient in developing a unique sales strategy that will spell true success for your startup.
SURFSET Fitness, the fitness equipment manufacturing & programming company that I co-founded four years ago, has grown from 1 licensed location to over 350 in 32 countries without ever attempting outbound sales. We have never cold called, never blasted out unsolicited emails, never sent a mailer, and have stopped attending B2B trade shows altogether.
We made a command decision early in the life of SURFSET to ensure that our sales strategy fit within the larger culture that we hoped to create. We instantly vetoed all of the high-pressure sales tactics that we as consumers were so sick of being bombarded by everyday.
Even if your product or service is the perfect solution for someone’s problem, if you are using only outbound sales tactics you are interrupting that customer and will very likely be ignored, along with all of the other products and services vying for their dollars. When you flip that model to an inbound sales strategy, you are enabling your customer to find you when they are in need of exactly what you offer.
CRAFT YOUR MESSAGE
The first step is to distill your entire company mission, purpose, unique advantage and product or service benefits into a succinct and powerful statement. It will be impossible for a prospective customer to know that you are the perfect solution for them if you cannot define who you are and what you have to offer. This allows for a more seamless and targeted sales process rather than a ‘throw it against the wall and see what sticks’ approach.
Rather than starting with what you do (eg we make children’s toys) or how you do it (all of our toys are handmade in the USA), start with your why (we believe that engaging children with toys will help them develop critical skills to become healthy productive adults.)
Approaching your message like this will help you cement relationships with customers who identify with your company mission in addition to needing your products and services.
CREATE YOUR PROCESS
The next step is to make sure that those who are looking for what you offer can find you in this crowded world. If you decide to focus on an inbound sales approach, this is incredibly important.
Fortunately there is a wealth of information on the varied tactics you can use to be found. From the design of your website to original relevant content like blogs and white papers, the mission statement that you crafted will be your guide in this process. Email marketing, search engine optimization, referral programs and social media are also extremely powerful tools for inbound success.
DEFINE WHAT SUCCESS LOOKS LIKE
Throughout the evolution of your unique sales strategy it’s vital to always understand not only what success looks like for you (in sales numbers) but what success looks like for your end customer using the solution you provide. The ultimate goal of your inbound sales strategy is three steps:
- Be found by your prospective customer as they Explore solutions
- Be a source of guidance and support to help that customer Act by purchasing your product or service
- Turn that customer into an Advocate for your company, positive word of mouth from existing customers is the most powerful weapon in your inbound arsenal.
COLLECT, ANALYZE, REFINE, REPEAT
Once you’ve redefined sales to fit within your company vision, crafted your brand message, created your inbound process and defined what success looks like for your customer, it is essential that you collect as much data on every new inbound tactic that you employ. This data will help you to determine what’s working well and to refine things that are not performing the way you had initially planned.
And never forget the most important ingredient for a successful sales strategy: your vision as an entrepreneur. You know your company better than anyone else and that means you decide what fits with your mission and how you want to grow.