I believe that one of the most important thing a sales person, manager or business owner needs to learn to do is to say “No.” I have made the mistake myself to feel that I can not let a client down, or didn’t want to let potential money go to our competitor, so I said “Yes” to some of my clients requests. Unfortunately, either we didn’t have the man power and equipment to handle the projects, or even worse, we didn’t have the finances to provide our clients requests.
Let’s be honest, to be a small business owner you have to have some ego about yourself and your business. So when you’re put into a spot where you don’t want to look incapable of handling a project or you don’t want your clients to know that you can not financially afford to compete with your competitors, you may feel it’s easier to say “Yes” and try to figure it out. Unfortunately, down the road it usually falls apart and your client is less than likely to trust your recommendations, or to use your services in the future.
Here are a few things that I learned along my years as a small business owner and a sales manager.
Be honest with your clients: I was taught at a young age that when a client asks a question that you do not know the answer to, to be honest and reply, “I am unsure of the answer, however if you give me a few moments I can contact someone who does.” The same goes for when a client asks for a service or project that you know you can’t afford or handle. Be honest with them. In most cases they will appreciate the fact you are honest. In some cases you may lose a deal, but in the long run that deal may have cost you more money to try to complete.
Know your competitors: I spent most of my career in the lawn and landscape industry. In this industry there are a few big players that most business owners look up to. Every year the Lawn & Landscape Magazine would release the Top 100 businesses in the industry and categorize them by the gross income of the business. Every year the Top 5 were usually: The Brickman Group, TrueGreen, Davey Tree, ValleyCrest and Scott’s. Each year some would rise and some would drop. The one thing I found out was that so many business owners were obsessed with the Top 5. They would try to duplicate and be as much like their competitors as possible. It’s one thing to know your competitors, but to mold your business around their success could mean failure for your business. They have the finances available for large projects. So when a client claims that company XYZ is willing to build out their office for free or pennies on the dollar, or company ABC is going to give them a free irrigation system with the landscape package, you need to know what your company can realistically and financially handle. By knowing your competitors, you can usually call your clients’ bluff when they try to score a deal on a project.
My recommendation is to focus on organic growth of your business. Sometimes letting a deal go could be the best choice you could make. Next time you are put in a position where you don’t know if you could realistically handle a project, let the customer know that you will get back with them. Go through all of the pros and cons of the project and run all the numbers on the project. If it doesn’t make your business money then the best thing to do is come back with another option that makes sense for both you and your clients.