The ‘Single’ Path to Small Business Success

Jul 22, 2014, Written by Sue Miley

Home runs are great, but they are not the only hits that win games. In fact, you can win a game on singles alone. Sometimes a single is better than a home run.

You have an objective that you want to achieve in your business.  It could be more sales, a specific account or maybe your business is self actualized when you have 50 locations.

Whatever your goal is, please remember there is more than one way to achieve it.

I once worked with a great business guy.  I actually reported to him for quite a while.  When we both were out on our own I talked to him about coming to do business coaching.  He knew so much and he was such a motivator.  It would be perfect!

I was doing pretty well.  I was adding one $500/month account regularly.  It took a little time, but soon I was making a professional income with my small accounts.  My account list was very diversified.  If one client graduated my income was not hurt badly.  Especially if I was adding new accounts regularly.

My colleague didn’t see it that way.  If he couldn’t get a commitment for at least $5,000.00- $10,000.00 up front, it wasn’t worth it to him.  He got a few clients but he never built momentum.  He was always looking for a home run contract.  A few base hits felt like a loss.

What Does A Win Look Like In Your Business?

I know it is frustrating to build a business on small potato clients or customers.  I ran coffee houses for many years for a regional company.  I finally made it to vice president, yet my major goal in life was to try to get from $3.25/ average ticket to $3.75/ average ticket.  It didn’t feel like big business, but that is how that game was won.  Increase customer count and average ticket.

I still believe in the sales rule of thumb I read many years ago.  It takes an average of 7 touches to a customer for them to trust you enough to purchase.  I don’t know if there is updated statistics or if it is more touches if the price of what you are selling is really high.

What I do know is that I have found the strategy that works best for my business.  If I start a customer out purchasing something small, and then grow them to use more and more services, I am able to gain some large accounts.  It has to be a good fit and mutually beneficial.  Any time I have tried to gain a new client at a high volume and rate from day one, I have been less successful.  (They just don’t know how wonderful we are yet!)

I know this strategy isn’t for everyone.  After all, if you are selling large imaging equipment, they are all really expensive.  In this case, you have to make all of the touches and have long lead times to achieve the sale.

What Winners in Business Have in Common

The point is that all small business owners need to figure out what strategy works for them.  And in my experience, you can’t give up on a strategy only trying it once.  The people who succeed may all have different strategies, but the one thing they do have in common is they were:

  • Flexible in the strategies they would employ.  There isn’t only one way!
  • They worked the strategy long enough to determine if it would work.
  • They tried something new if the current strategy, fully tested, didn’t work.

And ultimately, they didn’t give up.

You may not hit a home run from the start, but if you are diligent, follow-through, and systematically, try new things, you will find your pocket of success.

And, who knows, sometimes the Lord steps in and knocks it out of the park for us!

Reader Interactions


  1. Les Dahlstedt says

    As a manufacturer’s rep and distributor, we sell into a diverse range of high technology and industrial markets. There is great synergy amongst the products we sell. We succeed by effectively serving numerous smaller accounts that our large, well-entrenched competition cannot afford to service. Our three point strategy of market diversification, multiple product line selling and small account focus has been a winning combination for me.

    • Sue Miley says

      Hi Les, I particularly like multiple product line selling. If you have a strong core group of customers they are a perfect segment to find other things they need and provide it to them. This helps with profitability too as there are usually synergies found in selling more things to the same group of customers. Thanks for sharing your strategy.

  2. Karen Dawkins says

    Excellent article! And so encouraging. I’m building my business one small account at a time, just as you describe. One thing I like about it is that I can maintain the quality my clients have come to expect. Not that I’m opposed to a big account rolling my way, but I like growing as my client list grows.

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Sue Miley

Sue Miley MBA, MA, LPC helps small business owners build successful businesses on a foundation of Christian values. After 20 years in business, and 10 years as a Christian counselor, Sue uses a combination of faith, business and psychology to help clients in business and in life.

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