How to improve sales for a start-up company

Even the strongest of business plans can take some time to build momentum – and the sooner you start to drum up some sales, the more money you’ll have to reinvest in your company, so your early performance can reap dividends for years and years to come.

Think of it like a pension – the earliest money you pay in earns the most interest overall – so rather than leaving it until later to start focusing on growth, make it a priority early on and you’ll get the best return on that investment, whether you invest money or just time into making it work.

You don’t have to go all-out on a national TV campaign or a billboard on every street corner, but even just some carefully targeted calls can get your name heard by the right ears, and set you on your way towards becoming an established brand with positive word of mouth in your local business community.

1. Budget for marketing

Don’t try to do something with nothing. However tight things may be at the start, try to budget at least a small amount of money for marketing.

There are lots of ways to market a small business, especially a new start-up, and some of them are free. You could write some blog posts for your company website or start social media profiles – a time investment that costs nothing financially.

You might also get some free PR from your local newspaper if you give them a good story, so get in touch with a journalist there and offer them an interview about your business and your ambitious plans for the future.

2. Target the right people

If you don’t have a lot of time and money to spare, choose your targets very carefully. An advert in the right trade press publication can have a much higher success rate than a classified ad in the back of a general public newspaper.

Don’t assume everyone will want what you’re selling. If someone seems interested, keep them on the line, but if you feel like you’re harassing someone who’s too busy to talk, move on quickly and save yourself the stress.

Do take the time to write a quick personal introduction to sales emails – it can make it look less like spam, even if most of the rest of the email is copied and pasted.

3. Elevator pitch

It’s a bit of a marketing cliche – the so-called ‘elevator pitch’, where you describe the selling points of your business in the time it takes to complete a typical elevator journey.

But there are good reasons to practise your pitch. First of all, a slick pitch makes you sound more confident and portrays your product or service in a good light, boosting your chances of a sale.

On top of this, an elevator pitch is fast, so if you only have an hour to spend on sales, you can get through a lot more possible customers with a two-minute pitch than you can with a ten-minute chat.

4. Negatives are positives

A large part of sales and marketing is problem-solving – you have a problem, a product or service solves that problem, so you’re willing to pay money to get it. This means that negatives are selling opportunities, so don’t be dismayed if a potential client raises a concern.

Be positive and proactive in responding to criticism. You never know when you’ll succeed in turning a pitch around, no matter how badly on the ropes it may seem.

And keep your temper. Know when to bail if the other party is getting frustrated with your attempts to sell to them, but as long as they are amicable and seem interested in what you have to say, don’t give up – an engaged audience is always a good step towards closing a sale.

5. Aim high

Keep working those relationships to build them to a higher level – if you’ve got someone who’s not ready to place an order but is genuinely interested in your product or service, keep in touch and don’t resent the time you spend nurturing that, as it’s likely to pay off in the end.

If possible, contact people higher in the organisations you approach with B2B opportunities. They’re more likely to have purchasing power, and much more likely to spend big on an idea they like the sound of, as they might not be constrained by a departmental budget.