Developing better selling skills is not necessarily the path to more sales. In fact, often it is not the most direct route to greater revenues or profits. Yet so many small business owners turn to this as a panacea for low sales figures. Let me tell you a story so I can illustrate my point. I think you will find it relevant.

I was recently speaking with an accountant, discussing the current state of her business and her plans for its future. She had put several initiatives in place and was understandably excited -- so much so, that it wasn't long before I too was exhilarated. During our conversation, I asked her what she was doing to position her business for the growth that she was seeking. She told me that she had just signed up for sales training. This surprised me a bit because my impression was that she had a more than admirable closing rate. When I asked her about this, she confirmed my perception.

I had to question why anyone with a high closing ratio would want to take sales training. Could it be that she wanted to brush up on her overall skills? That would be understandable. Was it that she realized a specific element of her sales skills was lacking and she wanted to bring it up to par? If so, I could appreciate that as well. However, neither of these was the case. She signed up for sales training because someone convinced her that it would increase her revenue.

Let's take a look at her situation.
She told me that, over the past two years, she closed more than 90% of the prospects who could afford her services. Ninety percent! That's amazing! I certainly would be happy with that. She went on to say that, although her closing ratio was high, she wasn't meeting with the number of viable prospects that she wanted or needed. Well now ... that's a completely different situation, and it calls for a completely different solution.

Improving her sales skills wouldn't hurt, but it also won't connect her with many more prospects, if any. For that, she needs to improve her marketing. Her goal should be to market herself and her firm in a way that motivates viable prospects to go to her, resolved to do business with her and her alone. When she accomplishes this, the combination of more prospects and her high closing ratio will boost her revenue a great deal. In fact, if she does this well enough, she will have to turn some business away.

I have to admit that she was skeptical. She was apprehensive about the possibility of having prospects coming directly to her, pre-sold on buying her services. I explained that this is a huge advantage accountants have over many other industries. When accountants market themselves correctly, they do not need to be extremely adept at selling. Sure, they have to close sales, but when prospects are pre-sold, it is fairly easy to do. Many times, all these accountants have to do is 1) not give their prospects any reason to change their minds, and 2) ask for the sale.

Crest or Colgate
My bewildered associate said she understood what I was saying, but that she was having a difficult time reconciling this idea with what she had been told by others. That wasn't surprising, so I offered a metaphor. I asked if she had ever bought a tube of toothpaste. She giggled and said, "of course."

"In a supermarket or pharmacy?" I continued.

"Both," she answered.

I pushed on, "When you bought the toothpaste, how many salespeople were in the aisle, ready to sell you on which brand to buy?"

"Well, none," she said, as she realized where I was going with this.

My point was that whichever brand of toothpaste she bought, it was probably because it was marketed so well that she went into the store, predetermined to buy it. That's when she thought she saw a problem with my theory. She said, "But I buy my particular brand of toothpaste because that was the brand my mother has always bought."

I had to laugh. "You are proving my point," I said. "The company marketed the toothpaste so well to your mother that it didn't have to market the toothpaste to you, and you are still predetermined to buy that brand."

We ended our conversation with my recommending that she take the sales training if she wants to, but not as a means of increasing the number of prospects she gets to meet. For that, I suggested that she think of herself as a tube of toothpaste.

Author's Bio: 

As a speaker, author and coach, Peter George helps self-employed professionals achieve the success they've been striving for. His highly-acclaimed More Clients More Profits Workbook includes contributions from van Misner, Bob Burg, Susan Roane, Scott Ginsberg & others. Want to start attracting more clients right away? Claim your free copy of 101 Ways to Attract More Clients at =>