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Business Unplugged™
This blog features Carol Roth's tough love on business and entrepreneurship, as well as insights from Carol's community of contributors.

The Real Reasons You’re Not Getting the Sales You Want

Written By: Charlie Gilkey | No Comments

Most people aren’t happy with the sales their business is getting. If they’re not getting sales, they’re obviously uncomfortable with it, but even if they are getting decent sales, most people still aren’t happy with it because they want more. It’s rare that a business is getting more sales than it can handle; those rare occasions are a good problem to have.

Rather than just remaining uncomfortable about your sales, though, let’s look at why you’re really not getting the sales you want:

1) You don’t really believe in what you’re selling 

Confidence in what you’re selling is one of the biggest predictors of sales success. Your prospects are doing enough hem-hawing for everyone – you can’t be out there half-selling something because you don’t believe in its value and ability to solve a prospect’s problem.

2)  You’ve got a hang-up about what it means to sell

Think of all of the stereotypes you have about salespeople. How many of those resemble anything close to what you want to do and be? It’s no wonder that so many people get stuck around selling with all of the social and cultural baggage that we carry with us.

Let’s reframe selling. What if selling were just the delivery of a solution through an economic exchange? Think of all of the solutions you buy on a daily basis, from the bills you pay to the food you eat to the education you pay for. Without the economic exchange piece, none of us would be able to enjoy the life we have, and if the rare few big businesses are the only entities selling effectively, we’re all in trouble. Selling isn’t about hawking wares; it’s about solving problems.

3) You do not understand your prospects’ pain

People make economic purchases because they have some manifest desire they want solved now. We marketers like to call this their pain. If you know what’s paining people and can draw a link between what you’re selling and their pain, you get the sale.

Rather than trying to convince people to buy bused on features or cool stuff, focus solely on the things that solve their pain. Making your prospect figure out how it solves their pain only makes both of your lives harder – it’s your job to draw that link between their pain and your solution.

4) Your assumptions about how many potential buyers you have are out of touch with reality

A general rule for planning in business is to assume that sales will be lower and expenses will be higher than whatever you first estimate. This is not to be pessimistic (for you can have multiple sales scenarios) but you might not want to quit your day job when the numbers first tell you that you can make a million dollars in your first year.

There are two simple ways to get perspective on reasonable sales estimates: 1) calculate your percentage of sales growth from the last two completed quarters and then apply that number to this quarter or 2) if you don’t have that data, ask someone who started a similar business if they’ll help you figure out how to estimate your sales.

5) You’re selling the wrong thing at the wrong time

In a previous post, I explained how to boost sales using seasonal marketing and this is a good place to be thinking about that, too. We’re currently heading right into the spring buying season and, if you keep an eye out for it, you’ll notice a lot of major product variations happening in retail. For instance, retail clothing stores have rotated in their spring fashions and will soon start shifting into summer wear. Restaurants are rotating in their spring menus, based upon both the availability of fresh and in-season ingredients and the change in their patrons’ seasonal wants. The vacation industry is heading into their heavy marketing season, so expect a call from your travel agent soon.

These changes aren’t happening on a whim; they’re happening because smart businesses track changing seasonal consumer desires and influence those desires. Getting this right for your business will make your life a lot easier.

Use this as a checklist as you’re going through your sales activities. In general, the items at the top have the most impact and are the most under your control right now. The items that are further down the list either are harder to generate (in the case of historic sales data) or to change (in the case of something that you’ve already committed to).

You might notice that the general theme is: understand where your customers are and use that as a basis for your marketing campaigns and sales processes. That’s because it’s the single best sales counsel I’ve ever heard or practiced.

Which of these is your biggest sales challenge? What actions will you take to mitigate it?

Article written by
Charlie Gilkey is the go-to guy for creative changemakers and entrepreneurs for figuring out how to get the right things done. His blog, Productive Flourishing, is one of the top productivity and entrepreneurship blogs on the web and his work is routinely cited, showcased, and shared in places like Inc.com, BNET, Project Domino, Lifehacker, Copyblogger, Problogger, Zenhabits, and others. Charlie’s forthcoming book, Beyond Bootstrapping, helps entrepreneurs and small business owners become better executives and build better businesses from the business they’ve already built.