Small Business Startup
Developing the Sales Program

(Date posted: April 1, 2009)

During this step in your small business startup, you develop your sales program. This sales program should help you solicit prospects and convert them into customers.

Before starting this step, you should have:

  • Reviewed the market for your product
  • Refined your product's features

The two previous steps show you how to do this.

The desired result of this step is the written description of a sales program that will allow you to attract a sufficient number of customers at an acceptable cost.

You will use the following topics to complete this step:

Go or no-go decision

You will use this sales program in another step to help project the expected cash flow during the initial operations of your small business startup.


Before using this information to start a business be sure to read the following notice: Disclaimer


These guidelines should help you develop a suitable sales program.

This program should help you sell your products to customers. Of course, this assumes that you have something worthwhile to sell, at a price that people are willing to pay.

Focus your sales program

As your business develops, the focus of your sales program should change.

When you are first starting out in business, your sales program should focus on the following:

  • Getting your first customers
  • Perfecting your product
  • Testing the satisfiers for your customers
  • Keeping a low profile (you're going to make mistakes, so don't tell the whole world about your business just yet)

After you have perfected your product and found the right satisfiers, you are ready to start expanding your business. Now your sales program should focus on the following:

  • Leveraging your existing customers
  • Keeping both your old and new customers satisfied
  • Using various promotion methods to become known in the marketplace
  • Restricting the growth of sales to the level that you can properly service

Use your competitive advantages

One of the problems you face is competition from other products and business firms. You need to give people a good reason to buy your product.

Since you have reviewed your competitors' advertising and refined your product design, you should have a very desirable product. These desirable features of the product, along with your natural competitive advantages, should be the foundation of your sales program.

Use low-cost marketing methods

Low-cost promotion and advertising methods have many advantages for your first business venture. They help you get started sooner. They limit your losses if the business fails. They let you experiment until you find the best approach for marketing your product.

After your business is established, you can afford some of the more expensive marketing methods.

Sell the sizzle, not the steak

The "sizzle" above refers to the desires and emotions of likely customers. The "steak" above refers to the practical needs of likely customers. Make your product into a "package of benefits" (both tangible and intangible, both real and imagined) for your likely customers.

Since the various intangibles associated with a product tend to have a high emotional value to the customer, it is wise to emphasize these intangibles when marketing the product. This is the tactic of "selling the sizzle rather than the steak."

Of course, the product should provide real benefits to customers. However, in getting customers to buy your product, an appeal to emotional needs and desires usually is more effective than an appeal to logic.

Find ways to overcome buyer resistance

This is the big picture — your prospective customers have needs and desires. They are willing to spend a certain amount of money to satisfy these needs and desires. However, they aren't sure that you can give them what they what. They have been lied to and disappointed many times in the past.

Your task is to get past this legacy of past deceptions and disappointments. Here is how you do it. First, you need a product that will truly satisfy their needs and desires. Then you must get their attention, get them interested, gain their confidence, get them excited, answer all objections, remove all risks, make it easy to place an order, and then ask them to buy.

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During these procedures, you will develop your sales program.

This continues the process of replacing generalities and estimates with decisions and hard numbers. You need this specific information to guide your small business startup.

Here are the steps:

Building the sales program
Setting the sales price
Choosing appropriate hot buttons
Drafting the sales proposition
Choosing the advertising media
Preparing a sample advertisement

While doing these procedures, you may want to use the above Guidelines topic and the Sales Methods page from another section to help you.

Building the sales program

(Note: Instead of using paper and pen or pencil per below, you may prefer to use a spreadsheet or word processor program instead.)

Get several sheets of notebook paper and a pen or pencil. Head up each sheet with one of the titles from the topics below. Then as you gather the information for each topic, write it down on the proper sheet. Continue until you have completed the sheets for all topics.

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Setting the sales price

The key information you summarized in the Reviewing the Market step included the prices charged for comparable products. Use these prices as your price ceiling. You probably want to offer a lower price for your product, at least during your initial operations.

On your "Sales price" sheet, draw three vertical lines to make four columns. Head up these columns as "Product," "Cost," "Hours," and "Sales price."

List your basic product and any optional features under the first column. Skip one line after each item. In the second column, estimate the cost for producing and delivering each item. In the third column estimate the hours of your time required for producing and delivering each item. In the last column, determine what sales price to charge for each item.

However, use a special method if the product is information that you can sell repeatedly. Divide the actual hours by a conservative estimate of how many copies you can sell. Thus, if you expect to sell a thousand copies, divide the actual hours by 1,000. Then show this reduced number for the hours.

This sales price should reflect the out of pocket costs and the time and effort required to produce and deliver the item.

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Choosing appropriate hot buttons

The key information you summarized in the Reviewing the Market step above included the hot buttons used for comparable products.

You also may wish to review the List of possible features and options subtopic from the previous step. You might want to use some of these features and options as hot buttons.

On the "hot buttons" sheet, describe any hot buttons you think are appropriate for your products.

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Drafting the sales proposition

This proposition or offer should eliminate any risk that potential customers would have if they purchased your product.

It should also have one or more incentives for the customer to act quickly. (Offers that customers put off for a later day are seldom acted upon.)

Following are some ways to eliminate risk and induce the buyer to act quickly:

  • Provide bonuses (other products at no additional cost) for prompt action
  • Provide a lower sales price during a limited introductory period
  • Provide a life-time warranty
  • Provide a money-back guarantee
  • Allow payment at a later time
  • Allow payment in installments

On the "Sales proposition sheet write down any incentives you will use to eliminate risks and induce immediate action.

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Choosing the advertising media

This refers to all the different vehicles that a business can use to advertise and promote its products. Following is a list of common vehicles:

  • Advertising inserts (bills, letters to clients, etc.)
  • Billboards
  • Business cards
  • Catalogs
  • Direct mailings (junk mail)
  • Flyers and hand bills given to the public
  • Internet websites
  • Magazines (classified or space advertisements)
  • Newsletters
  • Newspapers (classified or space advertisements)
  • Notices on public bulletin boards
  • Novelties (advertisements on buttons, ballpoint pens, etc.)
  • Press releases to newspaper, radio, and television
  • Radio advertisements
  • Signs at job sites
  • Television advertisements
  • Yellow page advertisements in telephone book

The most common advertising media for a beginning business venture would be business cards, classified advertisements in newspapers, flyers and handbills given to the public, notices on public bulletin boards, and signs at job sites.

On your "Advertising media" sheet write down what advertising media you will use to promote and advertise your product.

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Preparing a sample advertisement

At this point, you have developed most of your sales program. Now it's time to put it all together.

On your "Sample advertisement" sheet, write a one-page advertisement for your product. Don't worry about spelling or grammar. Use simple, direct words.

Recommended sequence for your advertisement:

  1. Get their attention with a snappy headline (stupid question, outrageous statement)
  2. Keep them interested with a story about you or your product (this should be an interesting story, not a sales pitch)
  3. Gain their confidence (be honest, don't brag, admit your mistakes)
  4. (Now for the sales proposition)

  5. Demonstrate how you or your product are authentic, "the real deal"
  6. Get them excited about the benefits of the product
  7. Anticipate and answer common objections (can't afford it, don't need it, how long will it last, what will people think of me)
  8. Remove all risks to the customer (money-back guarantee)
  9. Make it easy to place an order (coupon, telephone number)
  10. Give them an incentive to take action now (bonus, limited offer)
  11. Ask them to buy

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I am using my own small business startup for this example. This example concerns my proposed information product (e-book) on "How to Have More Money."

I hope this example will help you.

Sales price

I will test a range of prices from $9.95 to $49.95 to see which price yields the largest net profit.

Hot buttons

I won't use any of the hot buttons found in the advertisements I reviewed. I don't believe they are honest.

Instead, I will use the following hot buttons:

  • Knowledge
  • Power
  • Revelations
  • Step-by-step

Sales proposition

I will give a money back guarantee. I will offer customers their choice of bonus reports for immediate action.

Advertising media

I will use the Internet.

Sample advertisement

[1] Need Extra Money?

[2] Maybe you're like me. I'm retired. But the Wall Street sharks have ripped my retirement nest egg to shreds. Nevertheless, there are many people worse off than I am.

[3] I used to wonder why some people got ahead while others just seemed to suffer. I have spent hours just thinking about my own sorry plight. Life didn't seem fair. After all, I was kind to animals and kept out of trouble. (Most of the time, anyway.) Didn't I deserve something better? Why shouldn't I get some of the gravy in life?

Then I had some revelations about life and the true nature of things. Guess what? I never got ahead because I'm lazy and don't have much ambition. I could use a little more courage too. Oh well, it's as my brother used to say, "You know, there's a lot of heartaches in life." But there doesn't need to be!

[Now for the sales proposition]

[4] You can use my revelations to take charge of your life and make things better for yourself. I did it. I used my revelations to start doing things. I researched ways to have more money. I built this website. I wrote an e-book about personal empowerment and ways to have more money. You can read some of these ideas and methods on this website. (However, I saved some of the best ideas and methods for the e-book.)

[5] It's funny how the subconscious mind works. It has all this knowledge and power. But unless you know how to use it, it just sits there. It is waiting for you to take command. I have trained my subconscious mind to help me. It gives me answers to tough problems. It is more creative than my conscious mind could ever hope to be.

[6] Can almost anyone train their subconscious mind to help them? I don't know. How about my revelations? Can almost anyone use my revelations to improve their life? I think so, but I don't know. Can almost anyone follow my step-by-step directions to have more money? Gee, I would think so. But then again, maybe not. Maybe life is just a veil of tears. Maybe there is no hope for people like you and me. Whoops, there is hope for me. I've proved it. I've found the promised land. All I have to do is decide what I want from life and then use my own step-by-step methods to achieve the desired results.

[7] I don't know if you or anyone else can profit from my e-book. I think you can, but that's just my opinion. So I'm going to give you an offer you can't refuse. Buy my e-book. Use it for 90 days. Then if it isn't everything you hoped for, request a full refund.

[8] After you order a copy of the e-book, you can download it (in PDF format) immediately. Go to [this page] to place your order.

[9] Order now and you get to pick any two of my bonus reports that strike your fancy.

[10] Last chance to buy my e-book while it's still on your mind. You won't be sorry. Go to [this page] to place your order.

Note: This was just a sample advertisement. I haven't written the e-book yet.

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Go or no-go decision

This decision concerns the sales program you developed in this step.

Go on to the Designing Business Operations step in your small business startup if you can answer "yes" to the following questions:

  • Does this sales program emphasize your competitive advantages and the satisfiers you have chosen for your likely customers?
  • Does this sales program allow you to solicit likely customers at an acceptable cost?

If you have answered "no" to any of the above questions, go to this topic on another page to see what to do next.

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