The extremely talented and determined Aga Robak, proprietor of MasterClean Cleaning Services in Cardiff has been in touch. Aga has loads of business experience in high pressure environments, and has turned her talents, like many before her to her own business.

She is feeling a little frustrated at present, not only is business as hard as ever to come by, but she is starting to take some of the results of this to heart a bit. And that is something that’s easy to do, but needs to be stamped on! Its business guys, it’s not personal!

The Problem

Anyway, here is Aga, in her own words:

“Thank you for your response and willingness to help. As I am only starting my business it is very important to me to introduce it to many new clients.
I have to be emotionally prepared for “no” and I have to say it is hard sometimes to accept it as I really believe in my product (by product I mean my services).

I am also relatively new in Cardiff so I haven’t got many connections here. I am actually building everything from scratch. The only way to try to get new clients is cold calling and handing out cards. Trying to make an appointment with prospective clients is really hard as people nowadays are tired of this type of sale. I am currently working on gaining some information from receptionist for instance (and building up a relationship with them) about my clients and their profile. I know you may think its funny but trust me it was the only way to get a name of the decision maker.

 I have managed to find out that a potential client is not happy with their current cleaning company (like about 60- 70% of other businesses) but for some reason they don’t want to change it. They seem too afraid to lose current services, so they are not even bothered to see me as they feel I will be trying to sell them my services, which I am sure they would be happy about.

I have had lots of ideas including working for free for a couple of days for clients to see whether we are as good as I advertise my services. But is this really a good idea to persuade potential clients? If I start working for free for every client I am not sure how far will I go with my business. What would you do to persuade clients without making them feel they really have to buy something from me? I would love to build the profile of my business when people would want to buy without me hard selling. Do you think its possible?”

Lets get one thing straight

OK, here we go… Firstly Aga, I think you need to differentiate between people saying ‘no’ to your product, and saying ‘no’ to an appointment or conversation to talk about your product. It is easy to think of these things as the same thing – but its important to understand the difference in your success levels in each.

For instance, how many calls (face to face or telephone) does it take you to make an appointment to see someone? Or do you sell on the telephone too? If so how many calls do you get through to talk to a decision maker about the product? You will have efficiency ratios for both activities.

Calls : Appointments

 And then

Appointments (or what I call presentations) : sales 

 If you sell on the phone without going to see people the ratio will look like this 

 Calls : contacts (getting to talk to the right person) 

 And then

Contacts (and your presentation) : sales

 So a conversion ratio for the first part, making the contact, and then a conversion for the second part, making the sale. Does that make sense? The reason its important to differentiate them, is to understand if the ‘problem’ you have is in getting to see people OR a problem getting to people to buy from you.  

You can then benchmark your activities, even if this is against your own performances, to see if you are making improvements. Either in your appointment making, or actual sales presentations. 

Something else to think about

But here are a few things to bear in mind, based on your initial question in your email.  

1) Making appointments is hard! but it’s not that hard. My sales people are making up to 20 appointments each PER WEEK. You need to have a very consistent approach, and put in regular shifts of calling to make the appointments  

2) Try and take the emotion out of it. If you think about it, people aren’t buying from you for many different reasons. Some won’t have enough time to properly consider your product (cleaning services are what we call a low involvement purchase, so its hard if you are really busy to give it the appropriate time) Some people may misunderstand what you’ve had to say. Some people will not want to risk a happy relationship with their current service provider to try something new, and so on. IT IS HIGHLY UNLIKELY that any of these reasons will have anything to do with the person you are, or the service you actually provide. Don’t take it personally. 

3) People may well be tired of this type of sales approach, but it works. The most likely issue you are facing, is the same issue that faces all businesses. You most likely are not seeing enough people. Not asking enough people to buy.  

4) Sales is a numbers game. the more people you see, the more people you sell to. do not expect to sell to everyone. we will only ever be lucky enough to sell to a percentage of the people we talk to right? Say (if you are really, really good) its 30% of people you see that convert to sales? Well if you see 100 people you will sell 30 times. See 200 people and sell 60 times – it’s that simple. Please read this blog post for more detail.

5) Your ideas are brilliant! I like all the ones you mention, and you are right, for your product, building relationships with receptionists and PA’s etc. is exactly the way to go. I think you will find that you just need to do more of it! I like the free sample idea too. 

6) Your right again I think, in that most people are dissatisfied with their current provider, this why I think you simply need to keep at it! Don’t get discouraged 

7) Activity levels are the difference between success and failure. So I don’t think its possible to succeed without ‘hard selling’ as you describe it. And that’s the same for all of us. My business has an excellent public profile, but this is supplemented by the most aggressive sales effort in the market place. Thats why we are market leader, not because we have the best profile. 

Anyones else got any ideas?

I hope this all helps? feel free to respond and ask more questions!

And what do you guys think? Anything to add that will help Aga? Leave a comment in the box below or on the Facebook page and I’ll make sure she sees it. I’ll also update you as to how it goes, as I will for all the businesses in the CFSA community

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9 thoughts on “Can my business work without the hard sell?

  1. Hi, I appreciate what you say SP, Thank you. The only thing is how to get the first client? (I mean first commercial client as I have lots of domestic cleaning jobs and yes, they do recommend and this is working very well, but first of all, the recommendation is only within domestic cleaning, which I would like to carry on but the target client for me is commercial client. Second of all recommendation is quite a long process to get more clients/more jobs. I have managed to recruit fantastic people and I feel responsible for providing jobs for them – if I dont do this asap they will find another jobs as they wont be waiting for my contracts). Is every start-up business that tough? Is it only me and the type of business which struggles with first contracts? How was this working for you? Dont get me wrong here please – I dont feel sorry for myself I just need quick and effective solution. Thank you for taking time to respond. Regards

    1. I’d be interested to hear what SP says here, but for me it will be a question of not giving up! keep calling prospects, and meeting them if possible. As soon as it breaks, it will go great guns I’m sure

    2. Aga – I think it will come down to persistence with your prospects, keep knocking on those doors. Absolute belief in your product/ service will eventually convince a prospect to give you a try. Maybe the idea of a free trial for one client who you have nearly convinced? Maybe look at a groupon/ linked in based offer aimed at your market?

  2. Great tips.
    And I can see that some companies will be put off changing cleaning company because they are tied in to a contract or they don’t know whether or not they are tied into a contract. Any way Aga could address this – so for example on her marketing material or website she could have a box saying “Want to change your cleaning contractor but don’t know how to get out of your contract with them?” Or if she’s mailing, address this in a letter or in FAQs. I can imagine that’s the conversation that’s going on inside the head of some of her prosepcts.
    Cathy

  3. Hi Tony
    I’d really appreciate some sales advice. I have a muffin business http://www.muffinlicious.co.uk.
    The product is very good – the feedback is always excellent, and a great brand – I’m a professional marketer, but how do I convert this into sales??
    I’m targeting the corporate market, branding the packaging with the clients’ logos and colours, as no-one else seems to be doing this. I send out samples and follow up with a call, with the recipients seeming to genuinely love the look and taste. But without any sales experience, I’m finding it hard to get them to place orders.
    Any advice gratefully received…. in return for some fabulous muffins!
    Many thanks
    Bethan

    1. Hi Bethan

      lovely work on the website, looks great! I must say you have a ‘classic’ issue, and one thats regularly addressed on these pages. Broadly you have three options (at least!) to consider.

      1) so called Outbound strategies – sales activities basically, personal selling, referral schemes, party plans etc
      2) so called Inbound strategies – advertising in some form – either traditional, broadcast for instance (expensive) or new media, SEO, Ad words, Google, Facebook campaigns etc
      3) Social media – which is perfect for your business, and should be adopted with any or either of the above! There are specific plans you should consider for this technique too

      I’ll tell you what, email me directly (or call if you like?) on tony.dowling@realradio.co.uk and I’ll go into some proper detail on the above for you?

      If you’d prefer to call me let me know and I’ll mail you my number

      hope that makes sense, and thanks for joining in!

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