Scott Holt asks, “How can I sell better?”

This entry references a Q&A in the July / August 2008 issue of Fortune Small Business (www.FSB.com). Unfortunately, for some reason the article isn’t available online. The gist of the question is, Mr. Holt owns a custom sewing shop (Sewing Solutions in Spring Lake, Mich) and feels he must learn to sell in order to attract new customers. He asked FSB for advice.

We’d all agree that learning to sell is never a bad things. But frankly, most of the recommendations maade by FSB are pretty disappointing. Here are some AU suggestions for Mr. Holt:

1 – Get a web site! After reading the article and having some thoughts we tried to contact Mr Holt directly. He is on LinkedIn but nothing for Sewing Solutions. GoDaddy (www.GoDaddy.com), as well as many others, offers some very reasonable build it yourself packages. There’s really no excuse to be a biz – small or big – and not to have a web site in 2008.

2 – Use an email that uses the site’s URL. Also be sure to have a signature that reminds people who you are, etc.

3 – In the article there was a recommendation to focus on one of the more profitable specialties. Wrong! Focus on the one(s) that are worth focusing on. If the size of the most profitable market is too small then all the profitability in the world probably won’t keep you in the black. The other thing to consider is, which one is growing. As a rule of thumb it’s better to get a small piece of an expanding market then jump into a market that’s on the decline.

4 – As an extension of #3, figure out what the market/customer wants but isn’t being met and see if you can deliver that. Maybe there’s a semi-related niche that might be worth addressing? Yes, it’s helpful to have some focus but before moving forward with a sales pitch it’s best to stop, take a step back and then figure out what the target REALLY should be. Unfortunately, it appears that FBS gave Mr. Holt what he wanted (i.e., advice on how to sell) but they should have at least taken a look at what he needed first.

5 – It wasn’t clear whether Sewing Solution is B2C or B2B. If part of the biz can be B2B then investing time in establishing relationships with various “gatekeepers” (e.g., theater owner, awning installers, etc.) who could refer biz to SS would probably make sense. Winning one gatekeeper could mean many customers. As for B2C, the article is correct,  that’s typically sheer persistence. That said, without a web site it’s going to be hard for people to find Mr. Holt and SS.

6 – Regardless of whether it’s B2C or B2B, investigate the use of a CRM (e.g., www.FreeCRM.com or www.Zoho.com) or establish some sort of personal system to make sure you’re following up, making time to generate new leads, thanking previous customers, other reminders, etc.

7 – Aside from LinkedIn see if there are any other networks, communities, etc. in your area that are worth joining. Most often the step before the sale is networking. People like to deal with people they know (and trust) so get out there and get to know more people. Ideally the right people.

8 – Podcasts. There are tons of great podcasts on selling. Business Week’s Savvy Selling is great. There are many others. If anyone has any other recommendations for good podcast please leave a comment.

9 – Last but not least… for ongoing progression read this blog regularly :)

Well Mr. Holt we hope this helps. Btw, do you fix soccer nets? Nearly every net we’ve ever seen needs some work. Maybe such repairs would be a good way to offer a “loss leader” and get your name out there?