How to sell

Whether you're running a nursery, a retail business or a manufacturing business, at some stage you're going to have to sell. While a passion for your product is always going to be important, closing a deal will require something a bit more solid. Make sure you know your subject and have planned your sales thoroughly, and you'll be making sales in no time.

Approaching your customer

  • Use market research to identify your customer. Find out who they are, why they will need your product or service and what sort of benefits they will be looking for from your business. Make sure you have profiled them thoroughly: if you're targeting start-up businesses with a high-end, expensive product, you will find it difficult to make sales.
  • If you are selling to other businesses, try to identify the key decision-makers in the organisation. This may not necessarily be a director or the head of an organisation - it could be someone lower down who is in charge of buying. Visit the company's website or speak to receptionists to find out how the team is structured and who makes the buying decisions.
  • Before you approach your customer, make sure you are clear on what you want out of the encounter. Do you want to arrange a meeting with someone, or are do you just need to find out who the contacts are in the organisation?
  • When you make your approach, make sure you do it at the right time. Have some idea how the organisation structures its day and week, so you know when people are on deadline and when it's worth calling. Bear in mind that people are often more receptive to sales calls in the mornings.

Features vs benefits

  • It's no use just listing the features of your product to your customer - you need to work out how using your business will be beneficial to them. Make a list of features your product has and work out how each one will benefit the customer. So if you're a car dealer, the benefit of ABS means fast, reliable braking.
  • Make your customer aware of how the advantages of your product or service will have a knock-on effect within their organisation. For example, if you are selling weekly fruit delivery, it means you customers' workforce will be healthier, which will lead to fewer sick days, so work is completed faster.
  • Before you approach them, work out which benefits match your customers' needs. If you have a direct competitor selling the same product or service, how can you persuade your customer to go to you? Free customer support might be one sweetener, or free delivery on orders over a certain price.

Closing the sale

  • Once you've finished making your pitch, invite questions to show you take the customer's concerns seriously. Before you start answering, make sure you understand exactly what the question is - clarify it with them if necessary.
  • Be aware of the nuances in your customer's language. If your customer says the price is too high, this might be an invitation for you to offer them a discount. Try to work out why they are making objections by asking questions such as 'if I could offer you the exclusivity deal, would you place an order?'
  • Try to convey a sense of urgency. While it's against the law to say a product is only available for a limited period if it isn't, try to convince them why they need your product as soon as possible. Make it worth their while: 'If you buy now, you can get the best price'.
  • Once you've decided on timescales and pricing, put your agreement in writing so both you and your customer are clear about what needs to be delivered, when.


  • Identify your customer using market research
  • Try to identify the key decision-makers in the organisation
  • Make sure you are clear on what you want out of the encounter
  • Make your approach at the right time
  • Differentiate between features and benefits
  • Highlight the knock-on effects your product or service will have
  • Work out which benefits match your customers' needs
  • Invite questions once you've finished your pitch
  • Be aware of the nuances in your customer's language
  • Convey a sense of urgency
  • Put your agreement in writing

Jargon buster

The bottom line: sales jargon for net profits

Conversion: the process of turning a non-customer into a customer

Cross-selling: selling an additional product to a someone who already a customer for one product

Prospect: a potential customer

Sales cycle:
the time it takes the average prospect to become a customer

Up-selling: selling a product which costs more money to someone who is already a customer


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