My role here at MadeByShape has changed over the years, when we first started... I designed websites, built websites, pitched for work, went to networking events to build up relationships with local businesses, did the accounts and finance, project managed and did pretty much everything - the same as any small business owner.
Now, my role has changed and I have adapted to suit company needs. I spend my time more effectively, and having a bigger team helps. Everybody in the studio has their defined roles and mine is to pitch for work, build the brand, project manage the lads in-house and deal with clients on a day to day basis. A lot of my time is spent travelling to meet new or existing clients, and day to day I'm 'selling' my business, even if it's not a hard sell or a formal approach to the term 'salesman'. I bloody love my job and the fact it takes me around the world.
I received a call from Total Excellence Centre, which was a quick - straight to the point conversation explaining the benefits of an upcoming sales course, that it would be useful for me and my business, and that it would be free as we're eligible as part of a Greater Manchester ERDF funding project.
At first, I thought...
1. I can't be bothered sitting in a room full of traditional sales people for 2 days, bored.
2. Is this applicable to me?
3. It's free...
The response to Number 1 will be revealed later in this article, and yes the course was applicable to me for a few reasons. If you own a small business and you're meeting clients - whether it be new or existing, you are selling your business, your brand and your ethos to win that work or to gain more work from that existing client. Sales doesn't have to be hard faced, cold calling, direct mail etc. Winning contracts and pitches can be much easier and enjoyable. You can win contracts without even knowing sometimes.
The location was Bolton, so that was convenient as it's only 20 minutes from our studio. It consisted of 2 days, food and drink provided. There were 12 people on this course and the majority were business owners, a few were sales people or account managers.
I entered the room and was instantly made to feel at home by the trainer, Ali. I introduced myself to the others and felt comfortable. It didn't feel like a sales training course (or at least what I expected it to look and feel like).
Day One was a mixture of theory and activities between the group. The room was full of different businesses from different industries from; Web Design to Freight Forwarding, IT, Contract Cleaning, Engineering, Commercial Dealership, to Recruitment. Ali (the trainer) explained processes and theories behind human behaviour and how people buy from people. The more she talked, the more I thought - actually, what I'm doing here at Shape is right. I build relationships with clients, give them a great service, listen to them and actually care about them and their business. We discussed winning contracts, how to manage them, and how to keep the business if something goes wrong. Because at the end of the day, sometimes things can go wrong - whether it be human error, a mistake or misunderstanding - but it's how you react to it that matters. Useful tips on how to close a sale were very useful for me, especially listening too other people around the room and how they do it differently to me.
Day Two was much of the same in terms of process. We were given tasks to work on in groups so it got us talking, thinking about our own businesses but also listening to other Directors’ problems and solutions to see if that can relate to our own companies.
From my point of view, Ali's whole thought process made sense. She explained that sales has always been, and always will be about people. There's a certain degree of formality in occasions, but if you're going to go and buy a new phone - more than likely, you won't buy that phone if you don't like that sales person. Even if the price is right, you'll be turned off - and you know that you can just go into another shop down the road. Whereas if that sales person was nice, friendly, offered honest advice, gave a great solution to your problem but was a little bit more expensive than Bob down the road, you'd at least consider handing over your money.
My whole ethos for Shape is to do a great job for a client, and they will give you more work. That's all well and good providing a nice website that performs well, but if they don't like dealing with me or my team - it would be the beginning of the end of that client relation. Maybe this is a good time to throw in a link to our testimonials page.... yeh I think so, here you go - watch this pretty client testimonial video from Inside Out Contracts.
Sometimes the word networking can be scary. It certainly is if you say networking event, because that usually means going to a room and eating an english breakfast at 7am with a room full of people trying to win new clients immediately. But networking in my eyes is making friends, talking to new people, LISTENING to them and having a discussion whether that be personal or business. Most people do this in the pub! or at the gym etc on a day to day basis. If that person likes you as an individual, they are more likely to do business with you now or in the future.
So my after thought is... am I salesman. YES.
Did I need the training course. YES. Because even though I understood most of it, and was already actioning the majority day to day anyway, it gave me confidence to continue what I'm doing. And the bits I wasn’t doing, and the tips and techniques I picked up can be used to help me individually when meeting new clients or managing projects.
Would I recommend? YES. Certainly if you're a small business owner. Don't be afraid by the term 'Sales Training Course', it's not boring, you're not just sat on your bum for 2 days, and I actually really enjoyed myself.
Nobody knows everything. Nobody is an expert in everything. Everybody needs to learn and evolve. The moment you stand still, is the moment you'll lose clients or your competitors will overtake you.