In my job, making sales calls is one of the more difficult things that any small business needs to face. Irritatingly, most business problems can pretty much be solved with more sales (more sales = more cash = lots of cash hiding lots of poor business practices).
I see this a lot with the small business customers I have the privilege of chatting with and mentoring through my work at Bramble Berry and Otion. They have a great product line, wonderful formulations, nice marketing collateral and the support of enthusiastic family and friends. Yet … they have no customers.
Why don’t they have customers? Because they don’t ask for customers. These same cottage businesses who have diligently planned their line, spent weeks obsessing over whether to use pricey olive oil versus rice bran oil (for future reference, they soap incredibly similar with RBO being about 60% of the price of OO as of late) and many headache-inducing hours doing their Publisher brochures, are afraid to call their local stores to land accounts.
I get it. I understand why. Sales calls involve rejection and outright fear. After all, soap is a very close and personal creation. It’s an outright extension of personality. That simple bar of soap holds all that a soapmaker believes and hold dear about skin care and business – organic versus non organic, fragrance oils versus essential oils, font choices, packaging choices fragrance choices, additive choices – it’s a lot of personal choice in there and many chances for feelings of rejection. You reject my soap? You reject *me*. I get that.
But, as a small business owner, I can’t ignore the need for actual customers to buy my product. I need to make sales calls in order to stay in business. So, for sales calls, I practice the FTF philosophy my friend Bob Thordarson embraces. FTF stands for Feared Things First. That means, when you get up in the morning, you call your top sales prospect. And you keep calling until you convince them to let you in front of them.
I’m right in the middle of a glorious cycle of rejection for one of my new business ventures. I’ve been turned down by a huge, massive national retailer by virtue of simple ignoring me three times in the last two months. And my own local co-op here in Bellingham? They won’t even take my calls or emails. And I’ve been chipping away at them for two months. I don’t like rejection. I feel insecure when my own local co-op business won’t even call me back. After all, I tell myself, aren’t I a valued business person in this community? After all, I’ve been nominated for best Small Business for 2006 in Whatcom County, won Business Person of the Year for Washington State and was one of the top 40 Bosses in America. And they won’t call me back? Hurt and insecure feelings abound.
But, I’ll call them again this week. You know why? Because I like their market demographics and the tantalizingprospect of that sales success is enough to keep me pounding through walls, despite my absolute terror of rejection. Because remember, sales = cash. And cash? Well, cash is a good thing for all small businesses.