Most business owners approach their P&L (profit & loss statement, often called operating statement) as a zero sum game. They want to know where they can trim spending to have more money left at the end of the month.
I call this the getting-blood-from-a-stone approach. Because for most small business owners, there just isn’t enough cash to begin with, and moving the money around isn’t going to change much.
I evaluate as many as 10 P&Ls each week for small business owners desperate for different results. And 95 times out of 100 my primary advice is, “Sell more,” which is not what people want to hear.
A big part of the problem with increasing sales is that most business owners don’t really understand what selling is. So let’s start with what it is not:
- Selling is not PR or a press kit.
- Selling is not a Facebook page that posts pictures of new products and comments or discussion about them.
- Selling is not a Twitter feed
- Selling is not an national ad – not even if you spent $80,000 for the placement.
- Selling is not training
All those things are important, and they certainly support the selling function, but they have their own purposes to fulfill. Selling is the process of understanding what a customer needs, then helping her see a solution to her needs through something you can provide. A good sales effort tells the customer what to decide, because most people (and therefore most buyers) have a hard time making decisions.
One of my favorite examples of good selling without a salesperson present comes home once each year with school-age children. It’s the school pictures order form. The bulk of that promotional device shows you how to buy.
- Package A has two 8″X10″s, four 5″X7″s, eight over-sized wallets, and 16 mini-wallets
- Package B has one 8″X10″, three 5″X7″s, eight over-sized wallets, and 8 mini-wallets.
- After describing the remaining packages C through F, there is a list of the “add-on” items you can buy to increase your number of 8″X10″s, 5″X7″s, other sizes, CD disks with digital images, etc.
If you have ever experienced an end consumer or potential dealer saying they love your product but then walking away, you have seen what happens when someone can make the decision that they want to buy but can’t progress to the decisions of what to buy or how to buy. The buyer often doesn’t understand himself why he is walking away – he may think he’s making sure there isn’t something better out there, he may think he needs to ‘think about it’, he may think he needs to consult his cash-flow, but all of that is short-hand for the underlying problem that he doesn’t know how to make a decision he feels good about.
That’s why Facebook, Twitter, PR kits, and training sessions are not selling. Selling is the thing that will tell the customer how to make a decision he feels good about. Selling is interactive, selling tailors itself to the needs of each potential customer, selling makes solutions obvious and achievable.
It’s time for you to remove yourself from the zero sum game of cost-cutting and austerity. Instead, sit down and re-imagine what selling should be for your products (or services) and your target customers.
Then get out there and sell. It’s 95% sure to solve the cash problems you face.