Breaking Through an Entrepreneur’s Crisis: “No Time to Sell!”

(My column as appeared in Upmarket Magazine week of Jan. 22nd)

In today’s world of ever-changing economic conditions one thing remains constant, “If you’re in business, you need to sell, period!”

Of course this comes as no shock to anyone. However the excuse of having no time as the owner, founder, chief cook, and bottle washer is irrelevant. If you can’t find time then your only alternative is to now “create” time. This can be done, but by all means forget about reading books on “Time Management.” I can’t think of a larger waste of your resources as a business owner. The frustration for owners or entrepreneurs is they only see the act of “selling” through the traditional salesperson model. If you’re currently bogged down in everyday tasks because you’ve either lightened up on staff, or your business has increased and you’re currently filling voids yourself, you will not only find excuses for not adding anything that resembles an additional task, but the sheer thought of going out and “selling” will be avoided. Trouble happens when the delay of resolving this dilemma gets amplified into a crisis. The more you find ways to allow yourself the alibi of “having no time” (and you know you will) the faster it will take you into crisis. There is another way. Change from Selling to Informing. Become a “Thought Leader” in your business community.

Many have read books or learned much through trial and error. What you may not remember is just like your views and actions changed from employee to owner, you now need to change your tactics on how you sell as compared to someone you would hire. As an owner it’s a daunting task to conceive let alone try going door-to-door pushing your wares. But as a “Thought Leader” you can reach prospective clients in your respective area of business by offering insights on your business that can or may impact other business people. You could talk or give a speech at civic events or local chamber meetings, etc. This can multiply your efforts and in turn help in allotting for that most precious of resources, time.

Here’s an example:

You own a small breakfast hot spot. You need to get the word out you’ve changed the menu or added new items. All your current customers already know what you’re doing because you sell them on any changes with your on-site interactions. But now it’s about people who don’t know right? So, do you hire a salesperson to hit the streets and tell more? Spend precious resources in failed advertising campaigns? Go knock door-to-door yourself after you washed the dishes? Of course not, however what you can do is talk to other like-minded individuals about aspects of your business that is comparable with either troubles or triumphs they too might be experiencing. Speaking at a local Chamber of Commerce meeting about the way gas prices have put pressure on your food suppliers, and the ways you have met these challenges goes a lot further to provide your business with exposure to possible new patrons than “Hello I’m John or Jane from Our Diner. Let me tell you about this week’s menu special.” I also contend this carries far more credibility than if you decided to donate free pastries to the very same event.

John or Jane Smith the owner of Our Diner speaking to other like-minded business people about issues they can relate to is far more effective than trying to sell or tell them this week’s menu. You needn’t even tell them you serve food! That fact was already sold the moment you are introduced as being from Our Diner. And for anyone in attendance whom might never heard of your establishment, they have now. As you can see in this example you’re not appearing like you’re trying to sell, but you are selling. This method greatly enhances your return on that most precious investment called time.

Now whether or not the food is any good is another matter. But you can always hire another cook. What you can’t hire is another salesman like you.

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr