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client relations

3 Keys to Small Business Solution Selling

Yesterday, I completed the installation of a tablet point of sale system for one of my retail clients. This account is still a work in progress but the path that lead me to this deal got me started thinking and I wanted to create a post to help you create solutions for your clients. I […]

Yesterday, I completed the installation of a tablet point of sale system for one of my retail clients. This account is still a work in progress but the path that lead me to this deal got me started thinking and I wanted to create a post to help you create solutions for your clients. I am working on a 2 hour course right now on solution selling so this is just a little preview / introduction, but I hope you will find these tips useful!

#1 – Understand Profitability Every small business owner wants their business to be profitable. There are two numbers that control this outcome, income and expenses.
If you want to become a solution sales professional, you must start thinking as soon as you walk through the door of a business how they generate revenue and what expenses they have. In the deal I mentioned above, this merchant sells clothing for nurses and medical assistance. This is a niche business and so it depends in large part on repeat orders from the same people. The primary expenses are cost of goods sold or inventory and their payroll. They also have fixed costs such as building rent and utilities as well as some miscellaneous expenses like merchant services fees, legal fees and they do some limited marketing. Having a basic understanding of the components that make a small business profitable is absolutely essential. This will help you create a solution that they will want and that will create value (or profit) for them. Any solution that does not increase revenue or decrease expenses is not a solution, it is simply an added expense with no benefits.

#2 – Understand the Client’s Motivation I have found that while there are certainly some small business owners who feel trapped by their business and have no ambition or motivation to improve, the large majority are motivated by one of three things. If you ask your client, “Where do you see your business in 5 years?” They will respond with one of the following 3 visions:
    1. Increased Number of Locations -Many businesses plan to open more locations in order to grow. This means they will need to be able to scale which requires duplicating their current procedures and systems in a way that makes it easy for someone else to do what they are doing. These business owners will love a tablet or other cloud based point of sale system that allows them to manage all aspects of their business remotely and gain access to real time reporting.


    1. Increased Efficiency – These business owners may not aspire to open more locations, but they are very passionate about the actual work they do in their business and simply want to make more money doing it. These business owners will look for low cost solutions. They will be very receptive to anything that reduces their expenses since this money will go right into their pocket and not back into more growth or expansion. They will also be interested in marketing, especially online marketing that will help them build their local brand and encourage their current customers to come more often and refer their local friends.


  1. Increased Delegation – These business owners have been running their business for years. Maybe it has been decades, and while they have been and continue to try and increase efficiency, they feel that they have a good business and they make a good income from it but they want to work less hours. Their primary focus is creating systems that will allow them to delegate some of the day to day tasks to someone else. These business owners are open to spending some money since they recognize that stepping away will hurt the bottom line. They realize it is worth it to have more time with their family.Understanding your client’s primary motivation will help you, not only in creating the right solution but presenting it from a point of view that they will appreciate. For instance, let’s say you were dealing with a long time business owner looking to step away. You wouldn’t want to pitch the online marketing program as something that would bring in lots of new business, which in their mind would mean more work for them. Instead, you would present this as a way to automate their marketing and allow someone else to take on this new challenge of building their business online. They will be much more receptive to a pitch about how we will take over their web presence than about how you are going to create all this new business for them.


Understanding their motivation is key to pitching the right solution.

#3 – Understand the Current Solution Here is where questions really come into play. A great example of this is yesterday when I was installing the tablet point of sale system I mentioned above. I was there with our Point of Sale Relationship Manager and we were a little nervous to pitch them on entering all of their current inventory into the new system. We were able to get a list of all the items from their suppliers but in order to track their inventory, they would have to manually go through the entire store (all 4 locations) and enter into the system how many they had of each item. When we asked how they currently figure out what to re-order, we found, to our amazement that they currently go through the entire store every week and count the inventory!!! Suddenly the work of bringing our new system up to date seemed very minimal since they would just do what they already do for one more week and then never have to do it again. Here are some questions you can ask to learn more about their current solution in order to find room for improvement.

How do you currently track inventory and decide what to re-order? What kind of marketing do you use now? Which payment processor are you using and how long have you been with them? Do you like your current website? Does it bring in more business? Do you have any loyalty programs for your customers right now? How do you track these?

I hope these three tips will help you succeed in creating better solutions for your small business clients.

Make it a great day!
James Shepherd

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