Growing sales is the ultimate sign that your small business is on the right track. The day your sales become stagnant, or even worse, start declining it’s time to start getting worried. If you don’t pay attention to declining sales and start taking actions to reverse them you may reach the point of no return and hurt your business permanently.
The problem is it is very difficult to pinpoint exactly what mistakes you are making that contribute to declining sales because many times you don’t even realize you are making them. The mistakes could be happening in anywhere within your business functions – customer service, products, marketing, and competition. Many of these mistakes are strategic in nature, which means that you do not directly see them in everyday transactions, but their impact can be very large. This is what understanding reversing sales decline very puzzling.
To add to confusion, there is a considerable lag between the time you make those mistakes and when their impact shows up in the form of declining sales. That is why it is paramount to be aware of these mistakes and ensure you are taking corrective measures before it is too late. Here are 5 common sales mistakes I have noticed small business owners make frequently.
- You are trying to sell to everyone. This is the cardinal sin of selling. Just like you can never please everyone, there is no way you will be able to sell your products to every customer. You have to understand the value proposition of your products and identify customers that will appreciate it and pay the price at which you will make reasonable profit. You have to learn to say NO to those customers that do not align with your business.
- You are selling commodity products. It is lot more fun and lucrative to sell Apple products than the Dell computers. The reason is simple – anyone can build computers that Dell is selling. Very few can make and sell products like the ones made by Apple. When you are selling commodity products the name of the game is cost. You are not going to be able to charge premium price. My belief is only those who are selling value added, differentiated products are able to make decent profit.
- You are not selling what customers want and need. When was the last time you thought about why customers visit your business? Is it because they love your products or customer service or price or quality or something else? If you don’t understand what your customers want and need how can you provide what they want, and more important, align your business with their needs? You can increase your sales 5X by focusing on customer needs instead of trying to find customers for the products you sell. Don’t put the cart before horse! Find out what your customers want / need and then build products to fulfill them.
- You are not helping customers help you. Are you helping customers make the right decisions when buying your products, which in turn helps you increase your sales? You can improve your sales significantly by helping customers make right choices. Not only that, your loyal customers are powerful marketing tools for your business. Those who love your products and business will advertise your business to their friends and families via word-of-mouth. You can help them do that by providing appropriate social media avenue with Facebook page, Twitter presence or other channels.
- You are not keeping your promises. Finally, if you deviate from what made you successful your sales is going to suffer. As I argued in earlier post, you have to keep promises you make to customers to improve your sales. It is those implicit promises you make without realizing you are making them that have big impact.
What do you think? Have you made any of these mistakes in the past? How did you overcome them?