Most Recent Posts
|// by Rieva Lesonsky / Apr. 28, 2015 0 comments|
It’s 86 degrees outside in Southern California as I write this—but for many of the nation’s small businesses, the past few months have been a time of unrelenting snow, ice and storms. Some 77 percent of small businesses in a new survey by OnDeck Capital were hurt by the severe winter weather; almost 73 percent closed their doors for up to five days, and 14 percent closed down for 10 days or more. No wonder that two-thirds (67 percent) saw slower-than-normal customer traffic, while almost half report sales dropped by 50 percent as a result of bad weather.
Severe weather is just one of many factors that can bring your business to an unexpected slowdown or halt. Long-term construction that keeps customers from visiting your location, problems with suppliers, fire or theft are a few of the other unpleasant surprises that might hit your business at any time. Are you prepared?
Almost 70 percent of the entrepreneurs in the OnDeck survey made it through their business slowdown or closure. Here are some tactics they used, and other ideas you can implement to protect your business.
Your SCORE mentor can help you ensure your business is ready for anything. Visit www.score.org to get matched with a mentor now.
|// by P. Simon Mahler / Apr. 27, 2015 0 comments|
Perseverance will give you a major edge on competition, but the problem is, you can sometimes be so absorbed by your business that you miss the opportunities and the simple solutions that exist for growing it. Solutions and ideas that, are blindingly obvious, once you acknowledge them –but are amongst the best kept secrets on the planet if you’re not tuned in.
An interesting statistic is floating out there that suggests if you were to visit 100 potential customers who could find value in your fulfilling need you provide, that only two would purchase that same day. People in business often hope and expect to do business the first time when meeting with a potential customer. Sadly, the sale doesn’t close and the potential customer is often ignored.
For the two that would buy at a first meeting, the tendency is that those people already took the time to understand the subject matter, and already knew what they were looking for. If they meet someone who hits on all cylinders and the relationship is mutually beneficial, then business very well may occur. But that is far from the norm and small business owners need to take notice. How often have you purchased a product without having that void filled called ‘trust’ from someone you just met?
Any small business owner who believes that they can just flip around their open sign and head into a sales situation armed with the “Top 100 Sales Close Techniques” and actually close the sale is seriously anchoring for a misfortune of swing and miss. Small business owners need to get to know their potential customers. There are links to research that quantify the reason(s) behind relational marketing and the extreme importance of it for any business, let alone a small business, struggling or not. A successful small business owner will solve real world problems for their customers, not just with the products they sell but with the resources and tools they have to help their customers succeed in their individual or global quests. They build relationships and trust by engaging in ongoing dialogue, (otherwise known as follow-up). The successful small business owners don’t just peddle their products or services with an armory of closing techniques. They go beyond those levels and use perseverance to establish a relationship.
“You don’t close a sale, you open a relationship if you want to build a long-term, successful enterprise,” says Professional Sales Coach Patricia Fripp. People and companies who don’t follow up, who do nothing to build up that trust and relationship, cannot succeed, especially in today’s tough economic climate where 84 businesses across the U.S. close permanently every single day of the year. Your customer wants to be sure they’re making the right decision before they commit to a purchase of any kind with your business, and that is where perseverance and tenacity can result in sales.
Different studies carried out over different times, in different places, by different market research firms over a number of years all reveal that 80% of non-routine sales occur only after at least five follow-ups. Think about that for a moment. It takes five continuous follow up efforts after the initial sales meeting, before a customer will say yes. FIVE! So how do you change that outlook to better benefit your business?
Be the 56% of the small business owners who are selling products, services, or expertise to NOT give up after the one “no” at the initial meeting. Let’s go a step further shall we? Did you know that after a second time of trying to convince a customer that they need your product, service, or expertise, that the odds tip in favor of those small business owners who continue to dust off their knees in rejection and get back up to swing the bat of success, because 66% will never come back again after a second rejection. After the fourth attempt, 94% of all small business owners will quit on that potential customer, period. This puts you as having strong potential to succeed because only 6% will fight for the deal after the fifth encounter, and that is the degree of separation from those businesses who become one of the 84 that close and the one that grows on forever becoming a staple in their community.
What meaningful communication strategies do you have in place right now to maintain that top of mind awareness once someone has either contacted you, walked-in to meet with you, or shown interest in your product, service, or expertise via some sort of web platform? How do you nurture your clients so that they can begin to trust you and see you as a true professional business eager to succeed?
Here are some ideas to consider for your small business that I have implemented in my own campaigns to create opportunity and success with every customer I meet:
Perseverance and tenacity could be critical to your survival of your small business. Be the difference-maker that customers find as unique, important, and knowledgeable, and you will live a long healthy life as a small business owner.
Get Focused. Get Busy. Sprout and Grow.
|// by Aliana Marino / Apr. 24, 2015 0 comments|
This month’s SCORE infographic shows the best techniques for making business to business (B2B) sales calls. Making these calls is a time-consuming task, so we hope these tips will help point you in the right direction.
The best sales leads originate from the following:
Even after dozens of calls, not all leads become sales.
To achieve successful opportunities, good sales practices are critical.
|// by Hal Shelton / Apr. 23, 2015 0 comments|
Business plan mistakes can result in anything from small setbacks to fatal errors for your business.
Especially for businesses seeking funding, it’s crucial that your information is correct and none of your ideas are misrepresented. To help you avoid future stumbling blocks, here are seven critical business plan mistakes to be wary of:
1. The opening message does not succinctly describe your idea and why it will be successful.
First impressions are important — a plan is often judged by its two-page executive summary. Bankers, investors, and key vendors are busy people, so if a quick read of this opening section does not provide a clear and persuasive overview, they will likely move on to the next proposal.
2. The business plan is all about you and not what you are doing for potential customers.
Businesses are successful when they provide products and services that profitably satisfy a customer need. You start a business because you are good at what you do and are passionate about it; however, you always have to come back to what you are doing for the customer.
3. There is no focus on specific products and services.
Getting customers and cash flow can be hard at the start. To appeal to a large audience, many businesses try to take a broad approach when describing their products and services. This is not a smart strategy. Your business plan needs to show what you can bring to the market that is unique and different from your competition.
4. There is no clear statement on how you will generate revenue.
Understanding how you will generate revenue — sometimes called the business model — is crucial for your own planning. It’s also important to communicate this clearly in your plan when applying for bank loans and asking for approval from credit committees.
5. The sales forecast is not believable.
The sales forecast needs to be supported by data and analysis, a marketing plan that will find prospects and convert them into customers, and an analysis of competitor reaction to a new market entrant. Unfortunately, a good product or service will not sell itself. The problem with unsupported, robust sales forecasts is that the reader discounts them and moves on, and you are not in the room to defend your plan.
6. The funding amount you’re asking for is not supported by the financial statements.
There is a natural conflict between asking for money and wanting to demonstrate that you have a highly profitable business. Sometimes entrepreneurs show robust sales projections, which masks the funding needed. Or they request larger funding than they need since they feel it is a negotiation and they need to ask for $100,000 to get $75,000.
Yes, there is a negotiation, but the requested amount must be supported with at least a three-year monthly cash flow projection.
7. The funding you’re asking for primarily goes to your first-year salary.
Banks and investors prefer to provide funding for assets or activities that will make money like buying a building or equipment, designing and building a website, or funding a robust marketing program. They are more reluctant to fund employee salaries. Taking a modest pay until the business generates sufficient cash flow is often seen an indicator of your commitment to your business.
|// by Rochelle Robinson / Apr. 22, 2015 0 comments|
As a small business owner, you’re often juggling so many tasks that you may not find the time to expand your professional network. Developing and maintaining a strong professional network can be key to your business success.
Expand your professional network to access decision makers and identify new business opportunities.
1. Tap Into Your Existing Network
2. Use Social Media to Connect
3. Join a Professional Group
4. Offer a Free or Low-Cost Seminar
|// by Rieva Lesonsky / Apr. 21, 2015 0 comments|
Have you ever had to give an elevator pitch about your business to an investor, banker, or potential partner? While presenting an elevator pitch sounds easy—after all, you’re just talking, right?—it’s actually quite an art. And if you ever hope to get beyond the elevator stage to presenting a more detailed pitch, you’ll need to make sure your elevator pitch skills are stellar.
To get the scoop on how you can craft a winning elevator pitch, I asked Deirdre Bolton to share some tips. Bolton is the host of Risk & Reward with Deirdre Bolton, which airs daily at 1 pm ET on the FOX Business Network.
On her show Bolton has a regular feature where someone pitches her in an elevator—and when the elevator lands, several judges weigh in on the pitch. After participating in so many pitches, Bolton has put together her five must-do elevator pitch tips.
1. What does your company do? You need to have the answer and be able to communicate it in one sentence. Craft a phrase at the beginning of your pitch that describes your purpose. That will get all listeners and viewers on the same page quickly!
2. Practice your timing. The Risk & Reward elevator pitch is 30 seconds flat. Practice your pitch at least 10 times in your living room with a stopwatch. Know the elements you want to include, whether it’s more details or an example of your product or service.
3. Be flexible. Write and memorize the two or three elements of what you want to cover in your 30 seconds. You may want to change your pitch around a bit [after you’ve done it a few times]. We tell people who are pitching on Risk & Reward to be flexible until after they’ve talked to the producers. It’s easier if you don't memorize the speech as one big block.
4. Get constructive criticism. Have some friends who don’t know your company well listen to your pitch and tell you what they understood and what is clear or not clear to them about your company and what you said (or how you said it). Clarity of message is key.
5. Make it personal and have fun! Did you establish your company because you were solving a problem you personally encountered? If so, bring that element to the narrative. For example, “As a former sales executive, I knew how difficult it was to generate good leads, so I founded ‘Connect’ to make it easier for other sales executives to increase sales.” An effective elevator pitch is personal and energetic.
After you follow Bolton’s advice, the best way to perfect your pitch is to start pitching. The more you pitch, the more relaxed you’ll be, and the more natural your pitch will sound.
Your SCORE mentor can help you hone your pitch and act as the perfect sounding board for your practice. Don’t have a SCORE mentor? Visit www.score.org to get matched with one today.
|// by Jeanne Rossomme / Apr. 20, 2015 0 comments|
Spring is in the air (finally!) and with the change in weather, the inspiration to prune those old, dead files that are cluttering your computer.
“But”, you say. “Storage is cheap. Why bother cleaning up my digital files?”
So let’s get started! The above calendar from SingleHop https://www.singlehop.com/ helps break this task into manageable chunks.
|// by Aliana Marino / Apr. 17, 2015 0 comments|
The SCORE online workshop “Identifying Your Sales Strategy” details how to reach, talk and sell your business to customers. This webinar allows you to step back and analyze what works and what needs improvement.
First, focus on the basics and think about these factors:
Choose a Distribution Channel
One of the most important decisions that can determine success or failure is choosing your distribution channel--how to get your products or services to customers. Your decision will be influenced by your industry, business size, resources, target market and competitors’ methods. Two basic strategies are direct sales and indirect sales.
Prepare a Sales Forecast
This is an estimate of your sales for the next fiscal year. You will look at past buying patterns, current sales efforts and customer indications of future purchases. A sales budget includes salaries and commissions, advertising and marketing expenses, administrative costs and is usually between 5 to 10% of total revenue. If you have a new company without any sales, base your estimates on market research.
Sales forecast = Total number of customers x Frequency of purchases (per year) x $ amount per purchase
Choose a Structure for Your Sales Team
Consider these important questions to determine your selling approach:
|// by P. Simon Mahler / Apr. 16, 2015 0 comments|
Among the many titles you take on when owning a small business, one that will be your most important is Chief Salesperson. Your business literally cannot live without sales growth, and it’s up to you to start—and keep—those customers coming.
“Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that says, ‘Make me feel important.’ Not only will you succeed in sales, you will succeed in life.” -Mary Kay Ash
Some people understandably have doubts about their ability to generate sales. They may worry that they simply aren’t “sales savvy,” or associate selling with negative stereotypes often seen on television. The truth is that selling is easier and less onerous than you think. The key is to plan, develop your skills, and practice—much like every other facet of becoming a small business owner.
Sales begin with setting realistic goals as part of your business plan. Learn everything you can about your target market: Who and where they are, how you can reach them, etc. The more information you gather on these and other considerations, the more realistically you can project short—and—long-term sales volume necessary to meet obligations and generate profit.
To determine whether or not you will succeed at reaching the goals you set in sales, you must also develop a true “competitive advantage” that differentiates your business from your competition, and know how to explain it to others, (customers), that is effective and impactful with meaning. “If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete” says Peter Drucker. Think about this: Why would you start any business without knowing your competitive edge?
At some point prior to launching your business or any business for that matter, you had to have written down a few of those advantages you discovered, and convinced yourself why this was a good business idea, right? Well, now it is time to form it in a pitch that will demonstrate your dedicated desire to succeed for your small business and pitch it to people you know that have sales experience. Ask for impressions and suggestions for things you can improve upon.
The old expression about never having a second chance to make a first impression still holds true. Whether you’re making a sales pitch in-person, over the phone, or online make sure to be polite, be courteous, and listen to what prospective customers are saying.
“Your customer doesn’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” says Damon Richards. Often times the difference between winning and losing in sales is the ability to listen. We get so wrapped up in making the sales presentation that we pay no attention to how the customer responds to what we believe will make a difference in the customers’ life that we end up losing out on the sale. As a small business owner, when you take the time to listen, care, and empathize with the customer, that is when you close the deal.
That leads to another must-have ingredient for sales growth: a good reputation. Satisfied customers are usually willing to refer your business to others, especially when you’ve exceeded their expectations. Just make sure doing so doesn’t compromise your profit or time commitments. Customers may expect price breaks or fast turnarounds every time.
As a small business owner, you always need to have the insatiable desire to continually improve your products and services. Many small businesses begin to fail when they reach that certain sales plateau, and likewise, a small business owner fails when they get complacent with their sales strategies. Truth is, customers will come and go for a variety of reasons, just as businesses do, but the small business owner who is going the extra mile to improve and grow in sales will be the one who succeeds in all matter.
Remember, in business and especially in sales, “Always Be Closing” and those are the ABC’s of small business sales success.
|// by Rochelle Robinson / Apr. 15, 2015 0 comments|
Expanding your business to include online sales can offer great opportunities. While having an online store can increase sales and generate more interest in your company, it can also be a bit overwhelming. Ensuring you have several fundamental elements in place before you launch can eliminate headache and save you time and money.
Search Engine Optimize Your Products
Taking the time to evaluate every product can be the key to success for your online business. Each product will have a unique page on your website. Each product should be optimized to include the following:
Update Your “About” Page
Make it Easy for Customers to Contact You
Your Contact page should include a form with limited fields. Don’t use multiple check boxes or unnecessary form fields; customers aren’t going to take the time to complete a long form for a simple question. Make your Contact form user friendly – limit required fields, allow flexibility when entering telephone numbers, don’t request sensitive information, and allow customers to write their own messages.
Make Your Shipping Policy Clear From the Start
Make Your Return/Refund Policy Crystal Clear