Not all sales are alike. It may seem easy to simplify a sale into a boiled-down definition of a money transaction for goods or services, but a sale is much more than that.
Every sale you make, whether it is just a few dollars or a few thousand dollars, has a lead up and a follow up. Everything you do through those points has an effect on your bottom line, including cost of sale, profit margin, and employee satisfaction.
Actively managing these three important steps in the sale process can help a small business go from barely treading water to bigger sales margins and a growing customer base.
THE LEAD UP
Leading up to the actual sale is a long list of things to do. That list includes items to check off “behind the scenes,” as well as wooing a customer to purchase your product or service.
Cost of Sales – Improving Your Margin
First, how do you minimize the cost of sales? Particularly if you are a small business selling products for retail, or by manufacture or assembly, you need to actively manage how much you spend in order to get a product ready for final sale.
Find the ways to reduce the cost of producing or reselling an item. Can you purchase items cheaper from a different distributor? Can you reduce the amount of labor and materials in producing a product? These are the ways you must always actively improve in order to increase your profit margin.
Improve Your Packaging
Whether you sell a product or a service, it must be “properly” packaged. The packaging is how your customers view your product or service before making a purchase. Do you sell bookkeeping services? Or do you provide “relief from the burden of keeping, tracking, and reporting financial records?” It’s all about how you package your product that can ultimately help make a sale.
Marketing and Selling
The final part of the lead up is in your marketing and active sales. Always analyze the effectiveness of marketing tactics. It saves you money from wasted effort and helps you improve your strategies for gaining new customers.
While retail stores may not engage in active “sales” with customers, many small business owners trust the efforts of salespeople to do the talking with potential clients to promote the benefits and features of your product or service. Hire an experienced sales force. Keep them trained and motivated to improve sales with customers.
The transaction is the active exchange of goods for money. In a grocery store, this happens at the checkout stand. In a service business, it happens when the service is completed and a check is handed over. In any sales event, your customers must feel good about parting with their money. Here are some tips to bring the transaction to its full potential.
- Make it Fast – No one likes to stretch out the process of a sale. Take, for instance, buying a new car. A buyer can spend hours on a lot looking and driving different models. Then she goes through a long process of credit evaluation and negotiation before reaching a final sales price. Then the actual process of signing what feels like a truckload of paperwork can be grueling.
No sale should take so long! When it comes to parting your client or customer with their money, be as quick as possible. They have other things to do than wait while you muddle around a messy transaction.
- Make it Easy – Even if you require a credit check, credit evaluation, or even complex bank account transactions, try to make it as painless for the customer as possible. Reduce paperwork. Use computers. Do what it takes to ease the burden from the customer.
- Make it a Positive Experience – Always keep a smile and a positive attitude through the process. Your customers will appreciate that you are not just taking their money and sending them on their way. Always be thankful, cheerful, and appreciative.
THE FOLLOW UP
It can do your business well to follow up with customers after a sale simply to say thank you. However, also try to gather information as best you can. Find out if they had a positive experience. Encourage them to rate the sale and offer feedback. This helps you improve your efforts.
Sometimes customers are unsatisfied and want their money back. Form sound return policies so your customers know what to expect before the sale is made. However, when a customer calls upon you to make it right, take each one on a case-by-case basis. Evaluate the situation. Did you do something wrong? Definitely make it right. Did the customer fail to do their part? Explain your policy to the customer and do what you can to keep the customer without losing money or future sales.
Returns can be a nasty chore, but your focused efforts to make it a positive experience can change unsatisfied customers into happy ones who come back to your business.
Your sales are the backbone of your business. Learn to evaluate and make improvements. The sales you make today can be made better and more profitable tomorrow.