Sales drive a small business forward, but too often they’re a sideline rather than a focus.

From owning and selling a small business to being CEO of a billion dollar company, I’ve seen sales from every angle. Here are my suggestions to grow sales by creating a small business where sales are a focus and customers keep coming through your door.

2015_JUN_ALL_MARKETING - 5 tips to grow sales in your small business

Make sales a priority

For most small businesses, the owner usually leads the sales team. If the owner isn’t a natural at sales – and not everyone is – they need to hire one quickly! Someone needs to be concentrating on finding and developing new business. They need to focus on nurturing and growing the business while keeping an eye on customer satisfaction and feedback. This will maintain sales momentum for the life of the company.

A great salesperson has expertise

It’s an outdated cliché that a great salesperson is loud, pushy and only focused on price. These days the internet allows customers to instantly compare prices and find product reviews. Today’s great salesperson understands a customer’s business. They also have a depth expertise about the product they’re selling and can describe it to the customer. A great salesperson will use their knowledge of the product to tailor a pitch to the customer’s specific needs. If they can do that, they’re likely to establish a relationship, which will probably lead to a sale.

Sales team hierarchy – the flatter the better

Small businesses need to avoid unnecessary hierarchy. If there are fewer than 10 people selling, it’s best to have one person with direct oversight. This might be the business owner or whoever they’ve empowered to oversee sales. They need to have their eye on the salespeople and the sales process on a day-to-day basis. As your business scales up, don’t introduce a reporting hierarchy too soon. It’s more important to divide your sales team based on areas of specific expertise than by who they report to.

Going vertical (sometimes without knowing it)

We talk of a business being “horizontal” when it offers a product or service to a broad range of customers. It’s a one-size-fits-all approach, squeezing customers with varying needs into one model. The opposite of this is “verticalization”. Verticalization is knowing your customer’s business and tailoring the product or service to meet their specific needs.

Many small businesses already focus on verticalization, they just might not call it that! Instead, they might think of it as “our product works best for this particular industry”. From there, they tailor a product or service to other industries. They identify, address and dominate niche after niche. Most large businesses today started as small businesses that secured particular niches or “verticals”.

Keep looking for your next customer

A small business can’t assume that their initial success will last forever if it’s based on word-of-mouth. Trust me, it won’t. Every business that expands virally will peter out. A successful small business has someone concentrating on who their customers are and where they come from. This can’t be just a general part of someone’s job, it has to be a specific focus. To grow sales you need to always be looking at what’s next.

Russ Fujioka is the President, US at Xero.

Russ Fujioka Xero

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