strategies posted in business strategies  on 19 January 2009
by Andrew Lang 
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Why are you running a business?

The assumption is that everyone is in business for money. The assumption is a pretty good one, since it's true much of the time. We do / sell things in exchange for money. In fact, some people will think asking "why are you running a business?" is a rhetorical question. But there doesn't have to be a single reason why someone runs a business. Moreso, the very reasons why you run a business heavily influence the success or failure of your business.

Have you ever had a conversation with a sales person, and everything he says revolves around making the sale? You might not be that much into the product, but his sales patter says otherwise. Not only that, he's trying to upsell the most expensive product in the range you're looking at. All topics lead back to the product he's selling. Its his job, so why not - of course he's trying to sell you this product. But it's uncomfortable for you. Everytime you enter this shop, the same thing happens. You start to associate the shop with awkwardness. You just want to browse and be left alone.

Now imagine another shop, but in this shop, the staff are not driven to make a sale. A friendly atmosphere with no pushiness. The place feels a lot less awkward and you feel more comfortable browsing there. Example: shop selling printers. A shopper comes to a salesperson and say his home printer's broken, so he's looking to buy a new one. Sales guy asks about the symptoms. After the shopper describes what is going wrong with the printer, it becomes obvious to the salesperson that all the customer needs is a new ink cartridge - but to make sure, bring the printer in to our service desk and we'll verify this for you. This advice saves the shopper money while also letting them know that ink cartridges do need replacing (yes that may sound obvious, but a lot of people do think printers just run and run).

In the second example, the salesperson didn't immediately direct the shopper to a range of printers for sale. A conversation took place. Possible diagnosis of the problem. A solution was offered that could save the shopper money. The salesperson felt qualified to give a diagnosis as he/she takes an interest in what they are selling. Not JUST to help sell the items, but to offer advice to shoppers too if the opportunity arises.

In the first example with pushy salespeople, they are 100% sales driven. And with such a direct motivation come direct methods to making a sale. The second example is still actually sales driven, it's just a lot LESS obvious. They're focussing on repeat business. On being memorable by being helpful and friendly. And they employ staff who genuinely take an interest in what they are selling, and have reasons to assist customers other than making sales. Making work enjoyable for your staff gets them more motivated, and the boss of example shop no.2 knows this and gives his sales people some freedom on the shop floor to offer quite technical advice. Their role is actually a lot more varied than just selling directly, and arguably much more enjoyable.

A bit of a lengthy example, but it shows how reasons why you're in business can affect the way you run it. Having an interest in what you sell / the service you provide goes a very long way in helping you sell that item / provide that service. If you have just a single reason to running your business (the one I don't need to mention again here) - then it's going to become obvious to your prospective customers. They will hear the reason in your voice, and read between the lines of your email. For many people, a sales pitch is a turn off - it's a signal of distrust. If someone is DOWNselling items to you, or even pointing you to another store, you are more likely to trust that person since their advice is apparently not benefitting them as much as upselling/aggressive sales would. But actually it's a stepping stone to repeat future business and good recommendations. Some reasons for being in business don't lead directly to a sale. They could be described as instrinsic, or even altruistic - an enjoyment from helping others.

The takeaway point here is really for someone thinking of setting up a new business: find something you enjoy doing. You'll be more predisposed to offering the best possible service (incidentally leading to bigger profits).

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