|As we all approach the final push of the year to gain those valuable sales there’s a sense of renewed energy and focus in the air and it’s a great time for small businesses to review the year so far and start thinking about the year ahead.
Here then are some insights into the trends that have been affecting the small business sales world throughout 2011 and are worth considering in order to remain relevant and successful well into 2012:
Despite (or because of) the continual shift to online business, customers are seeking a more personal level of interaction with customer service and sales representatives. Personal doesn’t always mean face-to-face, but the ability to communicate easily with customers is key. Let your customers know exactly how to reach customer service representatives – via social media, e-mail, instant message etc. Continue to use direct mail tactics to help get the word out, but make these connections highly personalised with new printing techniques like full-colour variable laser printing. These techniques allow you to add personal notes, change headlines and images and insert special offers based on each individual customer on your mailing list. Paired with personalised branded giveaways like a promotional pen engraved with the recipient’s initials or a mousemat personalised with customers’ names.
Prospecting: Social media
Social networking sites and the plethora of information available online continues to offer valuable data on potential business partners and customers along with a means of communicating with them. Savvy small business leaders and sales people will continue to use social networking sites as tools to further engage in better quality prospecting and improve conversion rates rather than just using them to make a list of prospects. Use search tools and targeted ads on social media sites to find new business. Make a link from ‘virtual’ to ‘personal’ by contacting prospects directly with unique sales deals and a small gift, like a business card holder or a printed USB.
Incentive programmes, commission and bonuses are all synonymous with small business sales teams. However, throwing more money at sales teams to perform better, especially in these complex economic times may not be the answer. Some businesses are offering attendance at expensive business conferences and professional development opportunities instead of commission. Ask your employees what would truly motivate them to make a sale and seriously consider implementing their ideas. In between commission periods, thank your sales team for their efforts in with gifts like an executive watch or a set of wine glasses.
Moving to the cloud & utilising Software as a Service (SaaS)
An increasing number of small businesses are moving to host e-mail, accounting and document sharing in the cloud instead of on servers in their own offices. In fact, many small businesses looking to cut computing costs and improve efficiency are finding the many benefits of internet-based software and services increasingly attractive.
Don’t miss out on new business opportunities as 2011 draws to a close. Stay up to date with the latest trends – your own industry as well as small business generally – and continue to engage with prospective and existing customers in creative and personal ways. Doing so ensures your business will see results this year and beyond.