Overcome Small Business Sales Resistance

He calls it “the Extractor”. Last week, my Guerrilla Marketing buddy (and top marketing consultant), Mary Eule went to the South Carolina State Fair. An inventor had set up a booth where he was selling a device he created for extracting nails. He was a contractor and he noticed that he spent too much time in renovations pulling nails.

Here’s a great product that uniquely solves a great need that makes people’s lives easier. It should be a breeze to sell right? Well, when Mary asked him how many he had sold all day, his answer was one. One lousy extractor. No doubt the cost of the booth rental was far more than his revenue.

Intrigued, Mary and her partner David jumped behind the counter – mostly for fun. In 1/2 hour they sold 4 extractors. That’s four times his previous entire day’s sales. It would have been more if the guy had been equipped to take credit cards or process mail orders.

Why isn’t this guy a millionaire yet? His idea is certainly worth it. You might argue under-capitalization, or any other MBA-BS, but the reality is he’s only missing one thing – marketing. He’s got a great idea but he’s not a marketing or sales professional. Nor should he be expected to be.

He should get help from an expert marketer. Experience tells us that he probably won’t. Like most small businesses he will go it alone, struggle for a while, and never truly grow to meet his potential. If this guy’s product is as good as it’s reported to be, he should be in every hardware store in the country.

Mary has made some of the companies she’s worked with millions and millions of dollars. I have given one client a single suggestion that increased his profits 13X in less than a month. Either one of us could walk into almost any business and literally multiply its profits. It’s frustrating for both of us when the people who deperately need our help won’t get it. Small businesses are tough.

I don’t want you to think that I am saying there’s anything wrong with this guy, he’s got natural resistance. Marketing Comet Principle: Do not blame the customer for not buying. I’ve worked with small businesses for over 10 years and I know that small business owners have more sales resistance than anyone I’ve ever encountered. Let’s talk about the reasons why.

Here are some of the biggest small business sales objections:

1. No Money – Small business owners do not have unlimited budgets. They are frequently struggling and trying to preserve their limited capital.

2. No Value – Small business owners tend to be do-it yourselfers. They don’t see the big advantage of hiring an expert, or switching phone service, or hiring a bookkeeper.

3. No Confidence – Small business owners are frequently over cautious. They simply don’t believe that you’re going to deliver the goods.

4. No Concept – Sometimes what you’re offering is so far outside the the experience of the small business owner that they don’t even grasp it. I feel that way with a lot of software packages that don’t clearly describe what they do. Restaurant owners know they need food, wine, linens, a valet. They would benefit from a web marketing expert, but they are probably going to get their cousin’s kid to do their web site for nothing.

5. Sales Overwhelm – Start a small business and get a listed phone number. Within three weeks you will be inundated with credit card offers, charities seeking donations, people selling toner, and people offering to switch your long distance carrier. As a small business owner myself I could spend 24 hours a day just entertaining junk mail, spam, and telemarketers. It’s too much and I frequently just reject all offers up front.

6. Ego – This is the big one. Most people who start small businesses have a powerful sense of individuality and independence. To even suggest that they have been doing something wrong is an affront to their ego.

While everybody expresses these aspects of sales resistance to some degree, in my experience, small business owners have it more.

There’s also Natural Sales Resistance. This is simply people’s tendency to reject being sold anything – even if they need it. If you had the cure for cancer, some portion of the population would refuse to buy it. Why? Because people don’t like to feel as though their freedom of choice is being taken away. Again, it’s an affront to their ego.

This is mostly a level of unconscious discomfort, rather than a conscious thought. I worked at a retail shoe store while in high school. We were required to greet customers as they came in. “Hello, how are you doing today” I’d ask. About 80% of the time people would zoom past me and grumble, “I’m just looking.”

People were so afraid I was going to sell them something that they had to shut me out – even though I made no sales approach. I worked with my friend Greg and we made up a little game. We got so good at identifying who would be a “just looking” person that we would say weird stuff to them when they came in and laugh they would zoom by and didn’t notice. “Your shoes are untied.” is probably one of the more innocent things we’d throw out.

By the way – I’m almost one of those people. I hate being interrupted by sales people when I’m in a store looking around. I’ll seek out help if I need it – just make sure it’s available. However, I’m never rude to retail people – I’ve been there and it’s a tough job.

Ultimately sales is part of the marketing process. We have to understand the components of resistance and inoculate against it. We need to be better about really personally connecting with our customers and prospects. We need to be genuine, keep our promises, and help our customers do our sales for us.

Copyright 2005 Marketing Comet