Starting the year with some sales

Welcome to 2018 and lets get selling!

A very stimulating part of my work was supporting and mentoring entrepreneurs with their start-up businesses.

After reading through the business plan and interviewing the entrepreneur, one of the fundamentals, that I make sure they have a deep understanding of, was their target market and how they are going to access that market.

When I work with small businesses that are not web or app based, I find it interesting how much reliance is placed on advertising and marketing through direct marketing and media and how little emphasis there is on personal selling.

My partner and I started a distribution business in the hospitality industry, wholesaling everything that was used in a restaurant except food, drinks and furniture. In other words, all the equipment and smalls used in a kitchen, a bar and a dining area.

Having started this business in South Africa in the 1990s, without any research at all (may sound familiar to some of you), we found the Johannesburg and Tshwane markets very challenging and price-competitive and decided on taking a field trip to eMalahleni to see if the market would be more profitable in a smaller town.

We arrived in eMalahleni early in the morning and went door-to-door cold calling on every single establishment we could find that served some sort of food or beverage. We covered the restaurants, the bars, the corner cafes, the clubs, and the mines, even the supermarkets.

We called on new potential clients solidly for 12 straight hours and the results where interesting. Although we had not closed sales on each and every call, we had made enough to return, profitably, in 2 days with deliveries.

And that was the break through, calling on everyone again, 2 days later, showed we where serious and capable and that our service level, happened to be better than the local competition. We where inundated with orders and requests for quotations.

We where able to open a profitable branch in eMalahleni after only 3 months, with gross profit margins that where almost double what we achieved in Johannesburg and we didn’t spend a cent on advertising, flyers, banners, a big opening bash or any other form of marketing. We just worked hard. Really hard!

The point is that entrepreneurs often forget how important they are in putting a face on the business. A product is just a product but an entrepreneur is the passion, trust and loyalty in a business.

When the owner of a business calls on you, you are important to him/her. He/she has taken time out of his/her day to see you or phone you. You know that there is no one higher in the business and the results from those calls speak for themselves.

One of the most powerful statements in business is, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. This statement applies equally to the big deals and the opportunities that can present themselves through a network as it does to creating a relationship with your clients or customers, even if it is just for the sale of 6 beer glasses. Who knows what will come of that relationship.

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