10 tips for increasing your sales

In these tough economic times, making sure the cash keeps flowing into your business is crucially important. To help you boost your coffers this guide outlines 10 inexpensive and effective ways to boost your sales.

1. Up-sell, cross-sell
Cross-selling is the sale of a product or service to someone who has already purchased another product or service while up-selling is the sale of a more expensive product or service. It can give businesses a significant competitive advantage but it is often overlooked with many focusing too much on winning new customer or clients rather than getting existing ones to spend more. If a customer buys something and there is something else you sell or provide which will be relevant to them, pitch it. Equally, if a customer is interested in one product or service, tell them about a more pricier one, upgrade or add-on. Make sure a cross and up-selling culture exists amongst your sales staff. The biggest barrier to the process is that salespeople often don't ask for fear of coming across as cheeky. But if you don't ask, you don't get! McDonald's does it all the time!

2. Freebies
Giving away items for nothing can be a useful way of generating sales. They can be much more cost effective than simply discounting prices but make sure both you and your customers get something out of it. You'll need to offer a freebie that your target customers want and also doesn't cost you too much. Branded items have the added bonus of promoting your business. Think of the bags given away by gyms. It's easy to get it wrong though as Hoover famously discovered in 1992 when it launched a promotion offering free flights for customers who spent over £100. The company was inundated with requests and was forced to retract the offer. Court cases followed and the business ended up losing £48m.

3. Invest in your workforce
If your employees are unhappy and would rather be anywhere else than working for your company, it will translate into bad customer service. Do everything you can to keep your staff motivated. Offer them incentives, organize regular social events and allow them to contribute to the strategy and direction of the business. Do this and they will become passionate and enthusiastic champions of your business.

4. Keep an eye on the competition
Pay attention to what rival businesses are up to and learn from them. Examine their product range, check out their marketing and investigate their pricing. Websites will tell you an awful lot about the business indicating how they want to be perceived and differentiated from the competition. You could also get in touch and make a query or even purchase something to track the customer experience. Once you've got all this information, apply the good bits to your business and use it to demonstrate how you're different. But steer clear of criticizing competitors; no-one likes sour grapes and it always backfires.

5. Ask for testimonials
Testimonials are a great way of showing off your success. When a customer buys from you ask them if they are willing to talk about their experiences. If you've done everything right most will be more than happy to give you a few lines outlining how great you are. If they do put them on your website. Don't make up testimonials though as you will get found out.

6. Get your customers selling for you
Referrals have been described as the lifeblood of the salesperson with asking for two referrals once a sale is made one of the basic principles of sales training. Speak to customers who've done business with you and ask them whether they are happy with the service. If they are, ask if they know anyone else who would be interested in your offerings. If a referral leads to a sale, contact the original referrer and thank them. Many companies earn large amounts directly as a result of word of mouth so a simple thank you can go a long way.

7. Befriend the press
It's as an old adage but it's a true one; having your company featured in a national press article is the equivalent of thousands of pounds worth of advertisements. PR is a cheap way to generate interest and in turn sales for your company. You can do it by investing in the services of a PR company but you can also do it yourself. Developing a good relationship with particular journalists can be hugely beneficial but make sure you've always got something interesting to say. There's nothing a hack hates more than constant, annoying and irrelevant badgering.

8. Turning positives into negatives
Negative feedback is often much more valuable than positive comments. When you're so involved with a business it's easy to not spot where things are going wrong. So make sure you listen to your customers as using what they tell you to correct inadequacies can only be beneficial. If a customer doesn't buy from you, ask why. Equally, if a customer complains, act on it - quickly.

9. Pitch yourself as an expert
You know your business and the experiences of running it better than anyone so why not share your story and expertise and in turn promote your business. There are a whole host of events, conferences and seminars which need speakers. Presenting on a subject you know lots about will pitch you as an expert and spark interest in your business.

10. E-mail marketing
E-mail is a form of communication you should be embracing. Keep in touch with customers through regular e-newsletters. As well as including product or service information include articles and other practical information which recipients can apply to their own lives or businesses. Don't send too many e-mails though; that will just annoy people.
 

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