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A marketing strategy will help you identify your best customers, understand their needs and implement the most effective marketing methods.

The internet has transformed business marketing. No matter what you do, the internet is likely to be at the heart of your marketing strategy.

Social media is firmly established as a marketing tool. Having a presence opens up new lines of communication with existing and potential customers.

Good advertising puts the right marketing message in front of the right people at the right time, raising awareness of your business.

Customer care is at the heart of all successful companies. It can help you develop customer loyalty and improve relationships with your customers.

Sales bring in the money that enables your business to survive and grow. Your sales strategy will be driven by your sales objectives.

Market research exists to guide your business decisions by giving you insight into your market, competitors, products, marketing and your customers.

Direct marketing can be a highly successful way to generate sales from existing and new customers. Find out how to target them in the best way.

Exhibitions and events are valuable for businesses because they allow face-to-face communication and offer opportunities for networking.

PR

Favourable media coverage can bring a range of business benefits. But how do you attract the attention of editors, broadcasters and journalists?

Q&A: Closing a sale

When you are negotiating with a customer, the key to closing a sale is to recognise buying signals, make your move and seal the deal. This can be the most satisfying feeling in the world, so how do you increase your chances of making the sale?

Ian Cochrane (IC), of sales-training consultancy Gazing Performance Systems, reveals how to close a sale.

When should I be looking for buying signals?

IC: Throughout the four stages of the selling cycle: opening; identifying customer need; presenting solutions; and closing. Firstly, a customer needs to appear interested, ask for more details and make it clear they want to move forward. Then the customer needs to recognise that you're different from the competition and that you can meet their needs. Lastly, they may express some last-minute buying anxieties. At this point, your job is to reassure them.

What kind of questions should I be asking?

IC: Ask open questions that help you identify what the customer wants and that help the customer overcome any doubts they may have. For example: "Would you like to go over anything in more detail?" or "Does this solution meet your need?" or "Do you have any remaining concerns?" Lastly, ask directly for the sale. In other words: "Have I answered all your questions and do we have a deal?"

What should my tone be?

IC: Rather than being upfront and 'in your face', be reassuring. Say things such as "It's not a problem, we've done this before" or "You're not the first person who's been through this".

How can I overcome objections?

IC: Offer alternatives to the customer. Retrace your selling cycle to make sure you have investigated a customer's needs sufficiently and make sure you have differentiated yourself from your competition as well as you can.

How can I avoid being too pushy?

IC: If you're being too pushy, it's an indication you have not got the information you need from the customer. If that's the case, you need to slow down and go back a few steps.

When is the right time to talk money?

IC: This will depend on the individual. Some people might tell you their budget straight away. It's smarter to understand what a person wants, rather than how much money they have to spend. People will often extend their budget if you can meet their needs.

How do I stay in control of the negotiations?

IC: Negotiating does not necessarily mean you have to drop your price; you can offer alternatives. Most people will happily pay more if they think your product is worth it. Often the buyer has only two choices to make: buy or decline. Once they decide to buy, they can either buy from you or from someone else, so have confidence in what you're selling.

What could go wrong?

IC: You might try to make a sale too quickly, without establishing a customer's needs first. Make sure you have gained answers to your questions throughout the selling cycle. Very often a salesperson will not ask directly for confirmation of the sale. Have the confidence to wrap up the deal.

Written with expert input from Ian Cochrane of Gazing Performance.

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