By Charles Auerbach, SCORE Westchester

Increasing sales is the top priority for every small company, yet it is often the aspect of business that entrepreneurs have the most trouble with. They think that you need to be born knowing how to sell, and it's not something you can learn. But selling can be learned, and here are some basic steps that will get you started.

1. Identify your unique competitive edge. What distinguishes your product or service from all your competition? Try to focus on how it can make your customer's life better. Develop -- and practice -- an "elevator speech" to deliver your message as concisely as possible

2. Create a customer profile. What are the characteristics of your target customers -- these may include things like age, gender, income, interests, education, location, etc. This will help you better target them through your sales and marketing efforts. No business can afford to reach everyone, so narrowing your target will make your marketing much more productive.

3. Develop a marketing plan. Come up with a written program listing your marketing efforts, with specific deadlines to achieve the various steps. This not only helps assure you will follow through, but will also keep you working on the most important steps.

4. Network. Join networking groups like the local Chamber of Commerce, service groups like the Rotary Club, and other groups where you can connect with potential customers and partners. Take advantage of every opportunity to speak before an audience. Contact local newspapers and news sites to arrange articles about your company, or even contribute an article about some aspect of your business that might interest their readers.

5. Ask for referrals and letters of recommendation. Contact satisfied customers and other connections for permission to use them as references, to solicit leads, to ask for written recommendations you can quote from on your website and in other marketing materials. 

For more help with developing your sales skills and boosting your company's sales, make an appointment with a SCORE Westchester mentor by calling 914-948-3907 today.

Charles Auerbach has 38 years experience in management consulting for small businesses, emphasizing sales and marketing.

Five Steps to Growing Your Company's Sales