11/06/2014

By Christian Nellemann, founder and CEO of XLN Business Services,

Like most people, when I was setting up in business for myself, one of the biggest challenges I faced was how to sell. Although I was convinced of the value of my products, how could I communicate that value to other people effectively?

After many years working hard at refining our sales techniques, I reckon there are four simple tricks that any business can use to make sure they are selling as much as they can, to as many people as they can:

1) Know your market

It is impossible to describe how important knowing your target market is. Yet, time and again I meet would-be entrepreneurs with only a very vague sense of who would part with their hard earned cash to buy their product or service. Are you setting up a hairdresser’s shop? If so, think about who your expected customers will be. Do they live locally? Are they likely to walk past your shop, or will they be driving? How many people pass the front of the shop on any given day? Are your customers single, or married with children? How much money do your potential customers have available to buy your product? As I have increasingly discovered the value of knowing my customers, so it has become easier to target them.

2) Know your product

It’s all very well having a target market in mind, but what are you going to sell to them? What essential need or desire are you going to help with? The fact that you’ve already got a business or are thinking of setting one up suggests that you already have an opportunity available. One of the best things we ever did was to adjust our product to focus more closely on the market we had chosen. It was no longer a case of selling a generic product to one particular set of people, but rather selling a tailored, suitable product to a market ready to receive it.

3) Practice your pitch

Once you have a good idea of who your target customer is and you know what you’re selling, I’ve found there is nothing better than getting out and starting to sell! I remember when I first began selling telephone lines to the shops around Vauxhall, every day was an experiment in how best to show business owners how we could help them save money. They say practice makes perfect, and we learned a lot in those early days about what our customers saw as the most attractive features of our product and how we could get those across to them as effectively as possible.

4) Continue to refine what you do

In fact, actually talking to customers about the product helps you further refine your market and whether you need to make any changes to what you offer. The more we speak to our customers, the more we see where we can help them. At XLN we have a feedback loop where the conversations we have with customers are quickly fed back into our pricing, features and even our whole product set.

Christian Nellemann is founder and CEO of XLN Business Services, which supplies telecoms, card processing, energy and insurance to 130,000 of the UK’s small businesses. He is a two-time winner of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

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