As a small business owner, I found Greg Andersen’s Small Business Sales, WTF (Without the Fear) full of practical advice, new ideas, and down-to-earth common sense to help me rethink my sales approaches. Andersen has been in sales for many years in the printing business, but the advice he offers is applicable to anyone in sales, especially small business owners who may be wearing all the hats themselves or unable to focus on sales because they’re too busy looking after everything else.
Small Business Sales, WTF is divided into two sections: Pre-Sales Planning, in which Andersen discusses products, going to market with products, creating a sales environment, and then The Sales Process, in which he explores how to find customers, make contact, get the opportunity to sell to the customer, execute the sale, and then follow up with and retain the customer long-term. Andersen walks readers through each step of the sales process, providing practical and personal examples of what has worked for him that readers can easily model or put their own spins on.
Andersen writes in a humorous but tell-it-like-it-is style to dismiss myths about the sales process and cut through sales jargon to get to what the reader really needs to know. For example, early in the book, he has a list of “Words/Phrases you will not hear in my book.” Among the phrases included is “Belly-to-Belly” to which he responds, “Gross. How about face-to-face.” Another phrase is “Low Hanging Fruit,” which he says does not really exist, and still another is “Hook,” which he finds insulting because it assumes customers are suckers or fish. Instead, Andersen prefers to treat his customers like human beings and rather than “close the sale” come to an “agreement” between two parties who trust and respect each other.
For most people, sales can have a bad name. No one likes being sold to, and people who reluctantly take on a sales role are aware of that and often fearful of selling. Andersen teaches readers how to remove the fear of sales by rethinking what sales really is. Most people dread the “cold call,” so Andersen talks about instead viewing sales as “demand generation.” It’s about looking for where there is a demand for your services and then providing the product or service to fulfill that demand. It’s also about listening to customers.
Andersen states: “When all is said and done, only a few methods of outreach will really get you in contact with a prospective new customer-the phone, letter writing, a trade show, and email. What really counts is the technique you employ.” He then provides creative examples of how to handle sales through each of these approaches, as well as discussing social media as a sales strategy. His examples are drawn from personal experiences, from his days as a shoe salesman at Nordstrom to his current sales role in the printing industry. Best of all, he even includes copies of letters he has sent to clients. His techniques are simple and straightforward, so anyone, no matter how scared of sales, can implement them.
Of course, there will be difficult clients or people who don’t want to hear how you can help them. Andersen provides strategies for getting past the gatekeepers to the decision makers. He reveals his research techniques, which are quite clever and even include looking at prospective customers’ job postings to determine who in a company is or will be in a buyer position for his product.
When facing resistance from a potential client, Andersen realizes it’s not always about him, his approach, or his product. I loved the following invaluable point he made: “Another way I like to approach these challenging situations is to remind myself that all these excuses mean the customer is probably protecting his current vendor. If he is being loyal to his current vendor, some day he will be loyal to me. Stay positive.” Personally, I know this is true as a business owner. If I have a vendor providing me with a good service at a good price, I feel loyal to that vendor and am not willing to change. Such clients may be resistant to change, but they are the ones you want because they are loyal. Andersen shows how persistence pays off in these situations. Sometimes he makes contact with customers who are not in need of his services right then, but years later, he secures business with them, and even if at first he doesn’t get the level of business he wants, they often will give him some business as a trial and then he can work his way in to larger sales with them.
Perhaps what I liked most about Andersen’s approaches is that he truly believes in being responsive to clients. I cannot stress enough how frustrated I feel when I send an email to someone who does not reply to me for several days. I am personally always very responsive to my clients and usually reply within hours if not minutes. Andersen points out that even if you don’t have an answer to a client’s problem or you can’t take the time to respond to a question at that moment, a simple response like, “I’m on it,” lets clients know you will get back to them and then they can quit worrying about their problem and go on to the next item on their to-do list until you do get back to them. In other words, Andersen is always in favor of reassuring the client that you will do what you say and provide reliable and quality service.
Altogether, Small Business Sales, WTF does take a lot of the fear and stress out of sales. I believe most readers will be pleasantly surprised by this book; they’ll read Andersen’s stories and examples and say to themselves, “I can do that,” and even find ideas of their own popping into their heads as they build off of Andersen’s advice. Whether you are a small business owner with absolutely no sales experience, are just starting out in sales, or have been in sales for years, there are plenty of nuggets of advice here that can make your sales process easier, more lucrative, and all around more enjoyable.