Tell customers what you can do, not what you can't. Tell them how you can fix their problem, not that there's a problem in the first place.
In my professional experience as a sales and marketing coach/consultant, I've had the opportunity to work with a number of small business owners on various issues related to sales and marketing. The owners who are struggling to keep their businesses afloat tend to engage in some, or all, of the following mistakes that reduce profitability.
Mistake #1: They fail to market or market inconsistently.
Once you have committed to owning and running a business you must be equally committed to marketing and selling the products and services of that business. It is difficult, if not impossible, to stay and remain profitable without a commitment to ongoing concerted marketing.
Market all the time, every time.
Mistake #2: They hesitate to "ask for the sale".
Rather than seeming pushy or obnoxious they let profit-producing opportunities pass them by. They worry more about what someone thinks of them than they do about bringing more money into their business. If you find it difficult to "ask for the sale", you can be sure that you're not bringing in as much money as you could be.
Practice asking for the sale.
Mistake #3: They don't ask for help or assistance in the aspects of the business where they most need it.
Most business owners possess strengths in a particular area but whether by necessity or ignorance they often end up working in areas that aren't part of their strengths. When business is not going as it should they delay or procrastinate in asking for help. Each day that goes by with your business running at less than maximum efficiency means dollars lost from your pocket.
Get expert advice from an attorney, accountant, or other service professional before you really need it.
Mistake #4: They don't follow up with past customers.
It is usually much easier to reactivate a former customer than it is to attract a new one. If you are not following up with past customers on a regular basis you are reducing your profitability potential.
Develop and implement a regular method for customer follow up.
Mistake #5: They don't take regular stock of their expenses.
Savvy business owners regularly appraise their business expenses and find ways to reduce costs without sacrificing quality. If you haven't completed a cost analysis lately, you might be paying more than you need to be, which will reduce your profitability.
At least once per quarter review expenses and negotiate for adjustments as appropriate.
Mistake #6: They spend large amounts on glossy, slick marketing materials and expect business to pour in without any additional effort.
Glossy brochures and slick marketing materials are a nice addition to more active forms of marketing such as meeting people, calling people and speaking to people. Brochures and business cards, no matter how beautiful, do not replace direct contact. If you are spending money on flashy marketing materials rather than marketing directly you will be less profitable than you could be.
Take those glossy brochures and hand them out directly to people at the next possible opportunity.