First Person: The Three Cardinal Rules of Sales and Marketing

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During my thirty years in sales and marketing, I have found that there are some basic rules that apply. It's not important that you can parrot these 'laws' back the way I give them. You merely need to understand them enough to apply them to your sales and marketing and to the way you deal with prospects. Of these 'rules,' there are three cardinal laws followed by three that are subsets of the third primary rule.

- People buy for their reasons

- Not everyone is a prospect

- Someone becomes a customer only when three things happen

People Buy for Their Reasons

Can you get around this point? Sure you can. High pressure, fast talking salespeople have for hundreds of years. But you ignore it at your own risk if you want long term customer relationships.

This is why it is so important to really understand you ideal customer profile. I have seen the 80/20 rule of thumb work very effectively. It says that 20% of your customers will account for 80% of your sales. You just need to figure out what that 20% have in common so that you can improve your sales and marketing to increase both sales and profits.

The stronger your prospects' motivations, the more profitable your sales will be because they want what your solution provides. What is the solution that is important enough to move them?

You have the greatest chance as a small business when you focus on relationship selling. Prospects are far more likely to buy when they know, like and trust you.

Not Everyone Is a Prospect of Yours

This is one of the toughest things for salespeople and small business owners to accept. Even Colgate with its hundreds of millions of dollars spent on advertising can't win everyone over. Some of us avoid fluoride in toothpaste.

Interestingly, people buy for emotional reasons and justify their decisions logically. It is extraordinarily difficult to have an appeal strong enough emotionally to appeal to a crowd. The better you understand your small business' ideal customer profile, the better you will be able to craft a message specifically to what they care about enough to buy. That brings us to what you need to help customers buy.

- You have the right market

- You have the right message

- You have the right timing

You Have the Right Market

If you really want your advertising and marketing budget and your sales efforts to be effective, you need to go after the right market. When I was in credit union computer system sales, I knew better than to go after credit unions with memberships and branches greater than what my employers systems could handle.

There were several things that had to come together:

- The hardware had to be able to expand to cover more offices and more terminals. In the late 1980's, this was a real limitation.

- The software had to have the features and growth capability that my ideal market expected.

- My system had to have the credibility and proven track record that my prospects looked for. This credit union market was established enough that there were entrenched competitors. As a small business salesperson, I could go up against them only if I could demonstrate superiority to the existing, established systems.

- I also had to have the confidence in my solutions for that market so that I could sell authoritatively.

You Have the Right Message

First, the right message has nothing to do with features. Yes, your prospects may have done enough research to know that the solution requires certain performance. However, that is rarely enough.

You are always competing against somebody or something. Sometimes the competition is their doing nothing. So, to get their interest, you must speak about their problems and frustrations or desired outcome.

You Have the Right Timing

They have to have the money to purchase now. Next, find out if the problem you want to solve is important enough to override the conflicting demands for things they want and need?

When you make the knowledge of these six laws part of your view of sales and marketing, you will just naturally pay attention to prospects' needs. You will find more sales and more profits in your sales when you go after the right market with the right message at the right timing.

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