Business start-up resources

Business Sales Channels

Sales and marketing puzzleThe sales and marketing functions in a company are often intrinsically linked, but sometimes many selling channels get overlooked.

Any person or outlet connected with your organisation could be a potential sales channel to attract new customers.

In this guide are various ways to leverage what you already know without having to develop your existing sales personnel or recruit additional sales people.

Developing Your Selling Mindset

Not everyone is a born salesperson or needs to be one. However, if you can adapt your own mindset to believe wholly in your organisation's strengths and develop some of the ideas below you should be able to entice more people to sell on your behalf.

Some of these need careful management and outsourcing is often the preferred option. Most of us can't rely on the "build it, and they will come" mentality, and leaving advertising aside, you need to have communication channels in place to create a sales environment.

The first element to develop is your basic pitch. Having a clear understanding of your role and your company's strategy that's common throughout your organisation provides clarity to questions such as:

  • What is your job title?
  • What products does your company sell?
  • Are revenues and profits increasing this year?

The Elevator Pitch

You may have seen this concept in films or on popular entrepreneurial shows like "Dragons Den" or "The Apprentice".

The simple scenario puts you into an elevator/ lift with a potential *big* customer (which you may not be aware of at the time). As you descend or ride up to the top floor, they ask you "what do you do". You now have 30 seconds to explain and sell your idea.

You should clearly be able to state your company's aims, their products, your role, and recent successes in 30 seconds.

End your discussion with a simple call to action such as "Here's my business card to discuss things further at a later stage".

This pitch will serve well with your customers, suppliers and employees. If you believe this is a waste of time perfecting, ask each of your senior management team to pitch your company in 30 seconds and see how different the responses are.

Sales Channels Examples

Your Customers

Having your current customers recommend your products to others is perhaps the best "unbiased" channel you can use. Most of your customers will love your products and will provide glowing reviews to others. This tactic on its own is good, but to make it great, you need to offer some incentive. That's where the "member gets member" schemes come into their own.

Member gets Member

Incentive for a saleYou've probably seen this with credit card companies where you get rewarded for introducing new members.

In this scheme usually both parties are rewarded which is important to encourage participation.

You get rewarded for the introduction, and your friend or colleague gets rewarded for joining up.

And this can work for any business. You'll need to calculate a reward for both parties that has great value. The reward could be a simple discount or an additional product provided for free.

If you think about people who have recommended your products in the past, you may have investigated them.

But if they had a voucher that gave you 25% discount then the likelihood of your purchase increases dramatically.

When calculating the discounts or rewards for both parties, calculate the estimated customer lifetime value for their return on investment to your business.

Don't believe that you need to recoup your monies up front (unless you only have one product) as people do come back for more in the longer term.

When managed and implemented correctly, this scheme offers excellent rewards for your business.

Online Affiliate Channels

We operate an affiliate scheme for our products on the Teneric website. Other webmasters can sign up for free and start promoting our products on their website. They get paid a commission on every sale they make.

We pay 33% on each sale that may seem high at first. Some companies offer 100% commission on the initial product because they know they will up-sell other products over time. If your marginal cost is minimal, then you can afford to pay higher commissions. Affiliates normally send you sales you wouldn't have made in any case. It's a win-win for both sides. You receive a new sale, and a new customer and the affiliate receives a commission.

If you run such a program ensure that you place it prominently for people to sign up to. Affiliate schemes are an excellent method to recruit new webmasters that would otherwise be difficult to reach.

Like any sales force, you'll need to motivate them. Offer competitions and incentives to reach a fixed level of income each month and pay them on time. Provide timely reports or better still a system where the affiliate can run their own reports.

Email Marketing

An additional channel used widely is developing and using an email database of prospect and current customers. You can have a simple opt-in form on your website, but the best conversions to your list occur when you provide something of value for free as a joining gift.

The best incentives are free courses, free software trials or a simple discount coupon off your current products (including, for example, free shipping).

Once you have people on your email list, send them carefully constructed messages. Be careful not to bombard people with too much. Research suggests that a prospect needs at least eight emails before purchasing, so design these well for maximum effect.

Telephone Sales

Telephone sales agentsAnother sales channel often overlooked is the use of telesales. It's best to select a company that operates well in your niche so that they know your industry and how to sell to those customers.

Telesales can be a difficult area to manage as the outsourced company is representing your business.

Ensure you have agreements in place on what scripts are being used and get timely reports. You'll need to manage the company well, but it should pay for itself quickly.

It's something that can run almost in the background whilst you manage your core business.

You as Your Business Ambassador

You never know who you will meet and what companies they are from so always have a batch of business cards on you.

Consider developing an additional message on the reverse of your card. The wording could be a carefully crafted sales message or even a first-time buyer discount voucher.

Without going overboard, hand your cards out to whomever you meet. The person who has the card may know someone else who requires your services.

Marketing Communications

Getting your message across clearly involves understanding your customers and the media available. Choosing the wrong communications vehicle can be a costly mistake. Trying to sell something nobody wants will cost you even more.

We have 25 marketing strategies you can use. We've published the first five marketing ideas for free you can use right now to help market your business effectively.

If you like those, you might want to download all 25 marketing ideas and campaigns that will help market and communicate your business to your prospects and current customer base.

The message is simple though. Get your company in front of as many people as possible and use your customers as a free sales force.