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Thinking about starting a business? Have an idea to explore – or ready to launch? The MEC Resource Centre is here to support you

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For a successful business, you need a viable business idea, the skills to make it work and the funding. Discover whether your idea has what it takes.

Forming your business correctly is essential to ensure you are protected and you comply with the rules. Learn how to set up your business.

It is likely you will need funding to start your business unless you have your own money. Discover some of the main sources of start up funding.

Businesses and individuals must account for and pay various taxes. Understand your tax obligations and how to file, account and pay any taxes you owe.

Businesses are required to comply with a wide range of business laws. We introduce the main rules and regulations you must comply with.

Learn why business planning is an essential exercise if your business is to start and grow successfully, attract funding or target new markets.

Marketing matters. It drives sales and helps promote your brand and products. Discover how to market your business and reach your target customers.

Some businesses need a high street location whilst others can be run from home. Understand the key factors from cost to location, size to security.

Your employees can your biggest asset. They can also be your biggest challenge. We explain how to recruitment and manage staff successfully.

It is likely your business could not function without some form of IT. Learn how to specify, buy, maintain and secure your business IT.

Few businesses manage the leap from start up to high-growth business. Learn what it takes to scale up and take your business to the next level.

Sales and marketing

You might have the greatest product since sliced bread, but if you can't sell it, your business won't last. Even if a customer doesn't need to be convinced to buy from you, effective sales technique can enable you to get them to spend more.

When selling, you must be enthusiastic, focused and self-confident. Don't communicate negative messages to customers – verbally, visually or in your marketing materials.

Effective selling isn't about telling lies. If you get found out, customers won't come back. They'll tell others to avoid you, too. And if you want to attract customers, you should always stress the benefits of your products or services - not merely their features.

Sales techniques: Understand your market

Understanding potential customers' needs enables you to sell more effectively. As part of your market research you should have found out what 'prospects' (prospective customers) buy, when, why and (if relevant) who influences their decision to buy. Be aware of their options, too. If your business is the only one that offers what they want, they have less room to negotiate.

Be clear on your objectives. The sales process consists of various stages and it might not be the right time to make a sale. And although you should always be looking to 'close' the sale, trying to do this at the wrong moment can permanently mess things up.

Sales techniques: Attract customers

Focusing on customer needs enables you to grab their attention. Crucially, people buy benefits, not features. So, to begin with, focus on one key benefit your product or service offers. Then move to another, then another. Keep it to three, if possible, anything more than that and people's interest will begin to wane.

Describe benefits in understandable, concise and measurable terms (eg 'My other customers have saved £50 a month after buying X from me'). Try to create a buzz and make it sound like an offer they simply can't refuse.

Sales techniques: Overcome objections

The key to selling is to get customers talking. It enables you to build up a rapport and find out more about their needs and concerns.

Some sales managers will tell you the reason we have two ears and one mouth is it pays to listen roughly twice as much as you speak when selling. Although simplistic, it underlines the importance of listening – and the dangers of talking too much.

Give due consideration to valid objections. Your answers should ease concerns, not add to them. Often it's useful to anticipate objections and practice effective replies in advance of meeting or speaking to customers.

Sales techniques: Closing a sale

Don't let any sales negotiation be based entirely on price. It denies you opportunity to talk about the benefits your products/services can provide. If price is going to be a make or break issue, open with a deliberately high figure, so you can reduce your asking price, yet still achieve a healthy margin.

Before coming down, explore less costly methods of deal sweetening. Avoid making concessions unless you're given something in return (eg early payment). Knowing how low you're prepared to go will help you to know when to walk away from a negotiation. Stay calm, friendly and professional throughout.

Experience enables you to recognise buying signals (ie serious interest). An example would be the customer explaining how they would use your product (or indeed asking you questions about price). When you see such signs, try to close the sale. You might have deal with remaining objections or agree a final price.

Once a sale has been agreed, confirm the details in writing, including terms of payment.