A Solopreneur’s Guide to Be a Successful Sales Force of One
You might be an entrepreneur, a solopreneur or someone who just hung out your shingle for a startup. Whatever the case, it doesn’t matter how you’ve decided to create value for your customers; your business is now a bona fide sales organization.
Your success depends on your ability to acquire new customers. But that isn’t so easy when you are the chief cook and bottle washer as well as the owner-operator. Here are four ways to become a powerful sales force of one.
1. Put sales and marketing first.
Businesses usually don’t struggle (or fail) because they lack a good product, good service or good idea. They almost always struggle because they don’t focus on customer acquisition.
This is a mindset shift for most entrepreneurs. Maybe you’ve started a lawn care service. You might describe your business as a landscaping business. The reality is that your business is a sales organization that happens to sell landscaping maintenance. If you have harsh winters where you live, your sales organization might decide to provide snow removal services, too. In other words, sales are behind the wheel of your business.
The way you prioritize your business roles is crucial. You’re not likely to struggle as a business because you don’t know how to deliver value. You’ll struggle because you don’t put sales and marketing first.
Whatever marketing method you choose, make marketing the first thing you do every day—whether it’s working on print fliers, posting on social media, composing a mass email, or ironing out details for a print, radio or TV ad. Then after you’ve done the work that builds the top of your sales funnel, follow up on every lead your marketing created, no matter how small and no matter how uncertain you are about that opportunity.
2. Engineer your sales process.
Every successful sales organization has a process. Some processes are more formal than others, and some are better planned and executed. Because there is only one of you, you want to button down your sales process to give yourself the best chance of winning customers. One excellent way to do this is to analyze what already works for you and turn that into your sales process. It’s easy to do when you use the traditional stages of a sales process and answer a few questions.
• Qualifying: What makes a prospect right for you? What questions do you need to ask to be sure you spend your limited time with the right prospects?
• Discovery: What questions do you need to ask to understand your customers’ needs? What do they need to think about to make a good decision about whatever it is that you sell?
• Proposal or presentation: What do you need to show your prospective customers to prove you have helpful ideas and are the right person to trust to fill their needs?
• Acquire: What else do you need to discuss? What paperwork needs to be exchanged? What might need to be negotiated to win the business?
At the end of every one of these stages, ask your prospective client for some commitment to move forward.
Because you are a micropreneur of some kind, you have to be your own sales manager. Your process might be more or less complicated than the one outlined above, but by following a process, you can ensure that you obtain the commitments crucial for moving forward.
3. Build templates for sales and marketing activity.
One of the trickiest parts of being a sales force of one is managing the delivery of what you sell while still focusing on sales and marketing. The old saw that an entrepreneur is someone who works 80 hours a week for herself so she doesn’t have to work 40 hours for someone else is true. But you can make delivery easier.
One way to deliver better and faster is to create templates for everything possible. For instance, you probably ask new customers pretty much the same questions, so build a “new customer questionnaire”; you might even be able to host that questionnaire on a website using a Google Form (for information, visit
Google.com/forms/about). If you have to generate different proposals, write boilerplate templates for building them. If you need to send follow-up letters or emails, use a template that you can quickly customize.
The more you can build templates for all of your sales and marketing activities, the more efficiently you can dispatch those tasks, leaving you with more time for delivering great customer service.
4. Develop a bulletproof follow-up system ASAP.
Staying on top of marketing and sales details is a huge challenge. A sales force of one needs a fail-proof follow-up system for sales opportunities and customers.
The first trick to building a solid follow-up system is capturing every commitment you make. David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, says, “The mind is for having ideas, not remembering.” You want to capture the promises you make in a trusted system that’s easy to access, and then you’ll review those pledges to make sure you keep them.
You can use an old-school day planner if that’s what works best for you, but there are many inexpensive online tools, too.
A system like Todoist lets you capture all of your commitments in one place as well as bucket them by role or responsibility. And you can use it on every platform, including smartphones and tablets.
If you want a pure sales and marketing platform, PipelineDeals.com takes care of customer relationship management (CRM) with a task management function and the capability to build new client templates.
So what’s best? Whichever one you know you will use constantly. You are a salesperson, and salespeople trade in the currency of trust. Consistent follow-up establishes that you are reliable and helps build that trust.
This article appears in the July 2015 issue of SUCCESS magazine.