Once you've launched a minimum viable product and are gearing up to offer your new business to the masses, you'll want to consider what avenues are the most lucrative means of reaching your target audience. While mistakes are almost inevitable along the way, knowing the fundamentals of good sales techniques will help get you on track.
Nine entrepreneurs offer their best advice for new business owners just starting to get their feet wet with sales.
1. You learn a lot through open-ended questions.
We use open-ended questions when speaking with potential customers to learn about their business needs and pain points. Remember, you are selling a product should help them be more efficient in their jobs.
Through questioning, you can learn whether they're looking to boost sales, increase productivity, or anything else pertinent to developing the best solution for them.
- Laura Johnson, Salty Girl Seafood
2. Listening is more important than talking.
As a salesperson, you should always be doing more listening than talking. I typically follow the "80-20 rule" when speaking to a prospect: I explain our product specs for 20 percent of our meeting, then listen to their feedback and pain points for the other 80 percent of the time.
Within that 80 percent of time, I typically get all the information I need to determine if our offerings are a good match for the prospect.
- Tim Grassin, Candy Banners
3. Sales is about solving problems.
Sales is not about "closing" leads; it's about solving problems. You're not trying to convince a person to make a decision. Rather, when you sell to someone, you believe your solution can truly help them, and you're simply giving them the information they need to make that decision for themselves.
Focus on solving people's problems and being helpful to them, and you'll sell well.
- Claire Lew, Know Your Company
4. Good sales is about great storytelling.
The key to a successful sale is the story behind the product. Regardless of what you're selling, what really draws customers in is the sales narrative. Why is this product or idea so important? And how will it benefit them?
Salespeople must tell a story that engages potential customers. More importantly, they must be able to tailor the story to fit each client's needs and expectations.
- Joshua Moe, Odigia
5. You can't win them all.
Be ready to grow a thick skin, if you don't have one already. There is no way to win every sale, deal, or partnership.
Regardless of whether you're the best company for the job, sometimes your leads will choose someone else. Move on to the next one, and you'll be better off.
- Ben Walker, Transcription Outsourcing, LLC
6. Nothing is real until it's in writing.
You can get all the promises in the world, but they mean nothing without a written and signed contract. The best intentions and the most earnest of customers are meaningless if they don't pay up.
You need a contract, and so should they. It will protect everyone. Be sure to also have dated invoices with payment deadlines. Invoice factoring is unpleasant to deal with for any business.
- Ben Gamble, Quincus
7. Feedback is fundamental.
Sometimes there isn't always a demand for what you originally thought up, but your future customers will give you constructive criticism about what you should focus on.
While this might not be the response you had hoped for, be open: they're actually helping you shape what is likely to become an even better iteration of your original idea.
- Jessica Baker, Aligned Signs
8. Selling is a consistently evolving strategy.
As technology changes and different people fill procurement roles, our sales strategies have evolved to assure we can maintain a high level of quality leads to our sales teams.
Because of this, we create an ongoing dialogue with existing customers to better understand their ideal process to procuring services such as ours. We then communicate those insights to everyone who participates in sales.
- Justin Moodley, LASANAN
9. It's OK to say 'no.'
Early in the sales process, I ask the prospect to be up front with me and let me know if they are interested in moving forward or not. I ask for a yes or a no -- no "maybes."
Giving them permission to say no puts them at ease, because they know they have that option. This works well for me, because it eliminates anyone who's on the fence without any hurt feelings.
- Bryan Driscoll, Think Big Marketing, LLC
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.
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