We have spoken with hundreds of small business owners over the past few years in addition to local publishers and marketers. This includes owners that sell Business to Business (B2B) as well as Business to Consumer (B2C). One thing we have seen consistently is that owners are typically afraid of customers! I don’t mean this in the literal sense; they aren’t actually afraid for their safety. I mean this in the sales and marketing sense. We see these three things consistently:
- Embrace the NO – Many business owners are afraid of asking their customers for something or asking a question because they are afraid of being told no. Similarly, many businesses are afraid of online feedback or reviews because somebody might say something negative.
One thing that is consistent about every great business owner is that they’ve tried hundreds of ideas before they found the one that hit it big. Experimentation and measurement of results is a huge part of success. Getting feedback from people that will end up supporting your business (your customers) is critical. If everybody only says good things, how can you ever improve?
It’s crucial to get honest feedback. If you only ask your fans about what you’re doing, you’re getting a wildly biased view of your business. No’s will help you grow as much, if not more, than a Yes – don’t be afraid of them, embrace them!
- Learn before you churn – Related to embracing the NO is to make sure you do your research before launching a new product or service. Before launching this type of effort, why not find out if people would pay for it before you offer it?
Again, we spend too much time looking at the positive signals and ignoring the negative. We’re afraid of hearing people tell us the reasons why our idea might fail, rather than thinking about it as, “this is great, I’m learning all the potential reasons why my idea might fail so we can plan for how to address them, or if it’s even addressable at all!”
Don’t wait until you’ve invested time and money into an idea to let the market tell you something won’t work. Put it out there, ask for feedback, and embrace all the feedback – feedback will help you get to where you want to go.
- You get what you pay for – This is the biggest issue we see. Many small business owners will launch a product and think “all I need is a great salesperson and the product/service will take off!” But of course they don’t have money to invest in a sales person, so they hire someone on commission-only. They justify it as a win-win. The owner doesn’t want to have to speak with customers anyway, they are the brains behind the operation!
This is a mistake. If you aren’t paying for a sales person, they aren’t invested. They can stop at any time and it doesn’t impact them at all, since they aren’t making any money anyway. Especially when you are launching a new product, your sales people are not going to be looking for the NO’s, because they only get paid when they hear yes. So, you’re missing out on valuable information that can help you make your product or service better.
Sales is a tricky beast – because everybody thinks they can do it, yet very few people really do it well. The first question to ask a potential sales person is “how do you handle NO?” Because they will hear a lot more NO’s than YESes!
We strongly encourage business owners to speak with customers themselves, every day. Even if it isn’t your core strength, you will learn more about your own business speaking with customers and seeking out NO’s than any other thing you can do.