On separate occasions I recently met with two small business owners. These guys don’t know each other but they have a lot in common: Despite great effort, neither is happy with their revenue. Both companies are “getting by” but not thriving.
A quick examination revealed the same reason why revenues are falling short. Both owners are mistaking promotional activity for selling activity.
Allow me to explain…
Both of these entrepreneurs tirelessly promote their companies. They belong to service clubs and chambers of commerce. They show up at networking events. They lead active social lives. They advertise. They buy social media ads and boost posts. They sponsor events. One of them even sponsors a youth sports team. Yet despite this activity, neither is getting enough new business to come through the door.
So, what’s the problem?
While they’re doing a great job with promoting, neither is focused on selling. Both entrepreneurs are getting their brands out in the marketplace. They are creating name recognition and associating their brands with positive feelings. But promotion is simply not enough. Promotional activities don’t in-and-of-themselves lead directly to signed deals. If you stop at promotion, you’re not going far enough.
To make a military analogy, think of promotional activity as analogous to an air raid and selling to be an analogy for the infantry. If one military is going to attack another, they often use their air forces to weaken the target before the infantry soldiers invade. You don’t win wars with air power alone. At some point, the infantry must win it on the ground.
I’m a little hesitant to use the military analogy because good sales people don’t “attack” prospective customers. Instead they work with them to find beneficial solutions. Nevertheless, promotional activities “soften” up the target audience while salespeople (the “ground forces”) finish the process.
No matter how tirelessly you promote, and no matter how much you spend on marketing, making a sale usually requires someone from a company to do four things in exact order:
- Interrupt someone’s day and turn them into a prospect;
- Figure out what prospects truly care about;
- Demonstrate how the product/service exactly meets their needs;
- Confidently ask them to sign up.
To be successful, companies have to repeat this process with multiple people each and every day. If you’re not focused on the four activities above, you are wasting time and money.
But it’s not just glad-handing, socializing owners/executives who are guilty of this. Some salespeople are too. Yes, people who actually work in sales will often promote instead of sell.
Some salespeople will sit and wait for the phone to ring rather than proactively pick up the phone and call prospects. You could describe these salespeople “reluctant,” “timid” or “procrastinators.”
Other salespeople will wine-and-dine clients but not steer them to the close. A good name for these salespeople would be “professional lunch eaters” or “professional coffee drinkers.”
It’s easy to do the relationship-building part of sales, but it’s hard for some people to follow through with the closing part. Asking for the order is inherently difficult, because it’s not fun to be turned down. It’s human nature to avoid rejection. Because of that, many people put themselves out there, build relationships and simply hope and pray that the clients will come to them.
That’s too passive. Waiting for people to volunteer to be your clients might work occasionally, but it won’t generate enough business to sustain you.
It’s true that successful sales pros must engage in promotional activity, but that is simply a means to an end. Your success is ultimately judged when your prospect signs their name on the dotted line. That means you must be constantly focused on the real measure of success.
Here’s Why Should You Choose Jeff Beals as Your Next Speaker:
“Your workshop was a huge experience for our attendees by giving them the opportunity to improve their work in the critical environment in which we are living today. Your talent as a speaker and your qualities as a person made the difference during your time with us. I would certainly recommend you to anyone who asks.” – Ana Paula Costa, Educational Planner, Febracorp, Sao Paulo, Brazil
I’m in Phoenix and had breakfast earlier this morning with our semi-retired sales representative who is doing some continued work for us here. He attended your sales meeting last week and told me that in 43 years of selling, you were the best he had ever heard. Thanks for a great experience.” – Drew Vogel, President & CEO, Diamond Vogel Paints, Orange City, IA
“Our corporate partnership team had great takeaways regarding how to network smarter while also understanding the importance of our personal brand to current and prospective partners. Jeff does a great job weaving in real-world examples and how you can apply his teachings to growing your business and building long-term partnerships.” – Jason Booker, Senior Director of Corporate Sponsorships, The Kansas City Royals Major League Baseball Team