Proactivity & the Direct Sales Directive

I need to become drastically proactive, and I need to travel and build relationships.

I’m delighted to say that although WordPress are prodding me to renew my domain – and therefore reminding me that my website and my business have been established nearly a year now, and why are things so quiet? – I have a list as long as my size 10 foot of things to do next and things to improve.

I’ve ordered my business cards, I’ve bought fancy paper and even a clipboard and some gold star and bullet point stickers, all with the intention of getting my travel pass and advertising my business much in the same way I conducted my direct sales antics –

For direct sales, my colleagues and I drew up product proposals on blank sheets of paper individually for each customer (supposedly this helped to draw our prospects attention towards each benefit, and around each objection). The idea was to guide our prospects around how amazing and valuable our product was, and tailoring each proposal for each prospect seems a good idea to repeat –

I have business cards with blank backs for adding individual offers and proposals, and sensible stickers just to add some colour and personalisation. 

Its cheap and cheerful, but hopefully it will also be seen as at least authentic!

Instead of an unsolicited message in a social media inbox, my idea is to leave each prospect with an individual product proposal, packed with benefits and fully customised to their business needs and ambitions.

I will get to meet them face to face, and even if they have no real need of my services, I may benefit from a referral made to someone else in their network.

Who knows how it will go? Maybe I’ll face lots of closed doors, maybe business owners will respect my initiative and give me some of their time to share my pitch –

Of course, it is not wise to visit business owners during trading hours, and so I’ll have to find a way of working around this – perhaps asking for just a few minutes of their time to share my (initial) freebie offer…

And as a woman I will say, I never want to compromise my safety. I will only meet at sensible times, and in sensible places –

And perhaps this drastically decreases my chances of being able to pitch, but if this is the case, then I will have to revert to simply sharing business cards and a smile, and hope that I am invited to share more information, even during business hours.

I’ll be visiting job centres with premade proposals for how I can help customers on self-employment pathways (hopefully my modest marketing material can be given a place on the job search walls), and I’ll be exploring and dropping in many other places which might lend an ear to my cause e.g. libraries, community centres etc.

Does it seem sensible, or ambitious? Well, it’s both:

I need to become drastically proactive, and I need to travel and build relationships.

The finer details I can work out once I’m out and spreading the good news of accessible, professional digital marketing… 

I need to stay safe, use my initiative, be consistent, persistent, and resilient.

I need to prove I am an expert, and that prospects will not want to miss the amazing opportunity which I am offering them personally.

I hope to soon have some great tales to tell of my journeys around South Yorkshire!

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Let’s Discuss Value Proposition

Customer loyalty is earned, not owed

I was recently corresponding with a small business owner about her frustration in losing business to a larger, and cheaper competitor.

To be frank, I will say that this small business owner appeared to be very entitled.

For the sake of discussion, let’s call her “Anna” (not her real name). 

Anna believed that because she spent time discussing her product with a customer that it was “unfair” when this same customer had then chosen to get the same item cheaper elsewhere.

Informing her of their expressed decision, the customer left and took their money with them.

Our correspondence took place via social media, under a post proclaiming:

“McDonald’s can mess up your order 1000 times and you still support them. A small business owner makes one mistake and you bash them for eternity.”

My immediate response was as follows:

“So what is McDonald’s doing right which many small businesses are not? Providing a quick, cheap satisfying service. This is not a feasible business model for most small businesses, so how else can small biz owners provide an irresistible service? If customers are not returning following a mistake then that is not the fault of corporate giants, but of small businesses themselves not offering irresistible value or service. 

This is a problem which can be rectified by increasing value and improving service. So how can small biz owners increase their value and improve their service?

Great question! And some excellent food for thought for all small business owners, including myself.”

Refusing to share any more information about her business (other than that she charges £5 more for one of her products than her competitors), Anna reasoned that her terrific reviews prove that she provides excellent customer service, and that there is nothing she can do to improve her value proposition to customers.

“In the last 2 weeks I’ve had to give customers my knowledge that they can’t get in the big stores only for then to say I can get it £5 cheaper and go buy from them which is very unfair of a person when you’ve spent half an hour giving them your time and knowledge” – Anna

When challenged to share a quick fix for her problem and the problem of many small business owners with big corporate competitors, I explained that Value Proposition can only be increased with:

  • Thorough and informed study of the small business, its products, its competition and the industry and therefore the customers it serves

I asked if losing business to bigger completion was a frequent problem for Anna – which would indicate a great need to increase value proposition for her – and she replied that actually her business is doing well, but that she was thinking more about small businesses which were not doing so well.

It is true that you can have a wonderful small business with excellent reviews and still lose custom to bigger business – in truth, it happens all the time.

“Supporting small businesses” is a practice which is apart from regular bargain hunting.

  • The very choice to support a small, local business owner and therefore to support local economy is part of the value proposition of a small, local business itself
  • Supporting local businesses gives many customers a sense of loyalty and pride

But purchases need to be worth the extra investment, and often “pride in supporting a small business” does not bridge the price gap between large and small companies and their price differential –

Without any further information about Anna’s business, except that it is generally “doing well”, it is likely that she presents a good quality sales environment, and that she provides helpful customer service. 

The customer who took their business elsewhere may simply have rejected the notion of “supporting local business” as a given obligation (this relates back to my sense of Anna’s entitlement to local customer loyalty) –

And despite Anna having kindly offered her time and expertise to describe the product and its uses (a free courtesy you could expect from any proud, small business owner), the customer was not bought.

Perhaps there was:

  • An addition service Anna could have offered with her product e.g. a valuable guarantee?
  • Another improvement she could have made to her sales environment (did it communicate value, welcome and expertise?)
  • A special offer for future purchases granted upon purchase of this initial product?

Without more information about Anna’s products, competition and industry, it is hard to say. But it should be clear to all small business owners, including myself:

  • We are each responsible for the value propositions we offer to customers
  • Customer loyalty is earned not owed
  • There is ALWAYS room for improvement with a small business and its products
  • Blaming big business and their cheap prices does not remove the responsibility a business owner has to present a competitive (not a cheaper) alternative to customers
  • There is usually no “quick fix” – dedicated small business owners must be prepared to assess their business models critically in order to improve them

Understanding Value Proposition is essential to every small business owner’s success.

I will continue to discuss this topic in further posts.

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