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|// 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
|// by Rieva Lesonsky / Apr. 14, 2015 0 comments|
If I had a dollar for everyone I’ve met who told me they wanted to start a business but were “too scared,” I’d be a very rich woman today. But, fear of starting a business is nothing unusual, as the results of a recent survey show. In fact, starting a business was rated scarier than getting divorced, becoming a parent for the first time or moving to a new city by those surveyed by The UPS Store. Overall, starting a business was ranked the second-scariest life event (just behind worries over retirement savings).
But should you let these fears hold you back from starting a business? Let me ask you this: If you have taken the plunge and had children even though you were nervous about it, how do you feel about your decision today? Yeah, I thought so.
Well, just like becoming a parent, starting your own business is terrifying—but also one of the best things you’ll ever do. And, just like becoming a parent requires lots of advice and support to learn the ropes, “it takes a village” to get your business off the ground.
As a startup entrepreneur, your “village” can come in many forms—from the supportive spouse or business partner to the local chamber of commerce and other small business owners you network with. However, one of the most useful people you can have in your village is a mentor. In The UPS Store survey, a whopping 82 percent of small business owners who had worked with a mentor while starting their businesses say the experience was helpful in getting them through the process. Among those who want to start a business, 73 percent say it would be helpful to get firsthand advice from a mentor who’s actually started a business.
Mentors can help in so many ways:
Mentors can help prepare you to run a business—and preparation is critical to successfully surmounting the many challenges of startup. In The UPS Store survey, more than half the small business owners say they were more prepared than they originally thought to start a business. So perhaps, like those business owners, you’re selling yourself short. To help you prepare for your launch, visit www.score.org to get matched with a mentor who’s been there, done that.
|// by SBA / Apr. 13, 2015 0 comments|
Making sales phone calls is rarely a pleasant experience, but if you’re small business is looking to drum up new business from existing clients or new leads, then it’s important that you invest the time in perfecting your technique.
1.Align your cold call campaigns with other marketing activities
If you’re running ads on the radio, sending out a series of email blasts, or a combination of tactics, make sure your sales calls are timed accordingly and that the message and calls to action are integrated across all your marketing channels. This way, you can harness the additional visibility the other activities are bringing to your brand when you make your call. Hopefully the person at the end of the line has seen your ads and is already primed.
If your calls aren’t aligned with other marketing activities, look out for timely events or market imperatives that might drive a consumer to be more interested in what you have to offer. Get to know your buyers’ challenges before you make the call and fine-tune your message accordingly.
2.Make sure your contact info is accurate
Once you’re ready to make your calls, perfect your opening greeting. Unless you are 100 percent sure that you know Mr X is going to be at the end of the line, be prepared to lead with an open greeting. For example, instead of leading with, “Hello Mr X, this is John with ABC Company,” start your greeting with “Good morning/afternoon, I was wondering if I could speak to Mr X.”
3.Have your elevator pitch on hand
Once you’ve established contact with the right person, get straight to the point – explain who you are and what you represent – this will mean polishing up you elevator brief (20 words max – what you do, who you do it for and what benefit you bring).
“My name is John Doe with ABC Company. We help homeowners like you uncover opportunities to reduce your monthly energy costs.”
Notice how vague this is? This is good because it doesn’t leave the door open for the consumer to say “No thanks, we already have that covered.” You’re teasing them a little, piquing their interest.
4.Thank them for their time
Next, be courteous once more, genuinely thank them for their time in speaking with you and show that you recognize that their time is precious. “Thank you for taking my call. I appreciate that you’re busy; this should only take a moment”.
5.Now get to the point (well almost)!
Once more, instead of diving straight into describing your product or service, look for ways to gauge interest. “If we could show you how we can help you cut your energy bills by up to 40% per month, would you be interested to know more?” By focusing on the end result, and not how your product helps the customer get there, there’s a good chance they’ll be intrigued to know more. This is your opportunity to request a meeting or send more information and lock down next steps.
6.Schedule a Follow-Up
Offer some options for follow-up. Whether it’s inviting them to a webinar or scheduling a meeting with your or a more experienced consultant. Take the lead on this. If you’re proposing a meeting, don’t just ask when are they available to meet, show that you mean business by offering up a few times and seeing what works from there.
7.Close out the call
Once the meeting is scheduled, reconfirm the time, date and place and if you can, get an email address to which you can send a confirmation.
|// by Aliana Marino / Apr. 10, 2015 0 comments|
In the SCORE Small Business Success Podcast: How to Set Up Your Retail / eCommerce Business for Success, SCORE Columnist and Speaker Rieva Lesonsky explains how small retail businesses can compete against big box and chain stores. Rieva is the CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship.
The advantages of small retail businesses
Even though large chain stores and online retailers, like Amazon, may offer better prices, small businesses provide much more to the customer. Small retail business owners have to think outside the (big) box to attract loyal customers.
Creating a welcoming atmosphere is the first step. Make your store or restaurant a comfortable place, using the décor to highlight your products. Customers should feel at home and want to browse. Sell products unavailable from large retailers, such as specialty niche items, handmade goods or other unique merchandise.
Think about the store’s location, and show that you’re an important member of the community. Maybe you can sponsor a kids’ softball team or give back in some way. Become a presence in the neighborhood.
You don’t want to just attract customers, but retain them. Borrow some techniques from chain stores:
Get to know your customer and make them feel welcome. Even if you charge a little more, give customers a reason to come back.
The most valuable resource for creating loyal customers: your employees.
Employees are the face of your business. They welcome customers, know the products and answer customer questions. Giving extra attention and recommendations adds to a positive shopping experience. Building relationships with your customers helps incentivize them to return to the store.
Stellar customer service is often not present at big box stores which gives a huge advantage to the small retail businesses. A chain hardware store employee might not know about a product or might even give you the wrong location for a product. If consumers’ questions remain unanswered, what’s keeping them in the store? They can just research and buy a product online.
Since you need the right people representing your company, the HR process is almost as important as inventory. Other stores may offer a bigger salary, so provide other benefits. What do today’s workers want? Flexibility. Obviously retail employees cannot work from home, but you can offer flexible hours.
Work with the employees to determine their schedules and try to accommodate as much as possible. Find out what matters to them. Create a comfortable break room where they can relax. When you have happy employees who feel like they’re a part of the team, they will advocate for your business.
Create a welcoming physical and online store
Just like a physical store, you need a well-designed website. Also, more people research and buy from their cellphones than ever before, so your website must be mobile-friendly. Since your business sells products, your must have an e-commerce component to the site. Customers don’t want to just see what you sell but purchase directly from your site.
An online presence does not just mean a website. Don’t forget about the free advertising outlets of social media. These offer free exposure and you can even create inexpensive social media ads. Facebook posts are easy to create and immediate; newspaper ads are time-consuming, expensive and require planning. Most retailers can focus on Facebook and Twitter, and Pinterest is useful for visually-focused businesses, like fashion boutiques or interior design firms.
The best form of online advertising is still email marketing, especially for retail businesses. Don’t overwhelm with emails, preferably only once a month. Offering in-store coupons encourages customers to go to your physical store where another item might catch their eye.
After incorporating these tactics to attract customers, always remember what you would want as a customer. The golden rule is to put yourself in a customer’s shoes, and you can’t go wrong.
Listen to the full podcast “How to Set Up Your Retail / eCommerce Business for Success.” For more tips, work with a SCORE mentor for free.
|// by Tom Reddon / Apr. 9, 2015 0 comments|
When it comes to cultivating employee loyalty and promoting workplace productivity, safety weighs even more than a generous paycheck or an attractive contract. Employees understand the importance of keeping them and their colleagues safe, as work-related injuries can lead to lasting (and even life altering) physical, mental, and emotional consequences. For this reason, those in the leadership position should always offer continual safety training to employees on a regular basis to remind them of their duties and roles in advancing workplace safety.
It’s a Worker’s Right, So Lead by Example
Every employee has the right to a safe workplace. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH ACT) was passed to require employers to create a work environment that enforces not only protective workplace safety measures, but also health standards. By emphasizing the importance of workplace safety and conducting continual safety training workshops for all workers, your employees will not only learn to appreciate your professional safety tips, but also your genuine concern for their well-being. This is why a safe workplace is also a productive workplace with a relatively high employee retention rate.
Conduct Your Safety Trainings around Your Employees
If there’s anything that can help you to establish an effective, continual safety training system, data collection is the answer. Because the culture, pace, and routine of your workplace is ever evolving, gathering data from employees is key to identifying areas of strengths and weaknesses. In addition to just giving out employee safety surveys, you can also:
Gather your information from various sources so you can have a comprehensive overview of your work environment and create a series of continual safety training workshops that is professional, relevant, and personal.
Recognize the Need and Set a Goal
Once you have your data in hand, it is important to analyze them and determine the type of safety training your employees need. When planning for your safety workplace trainings, remember to set goals and objectives to effectively guide and motivate veteran employees to support your cause. To achieve this, those in the leadership will not only need to clearly communicate their safety expectations, but also find ways to get employees involved in developing the content for the training. Besides putting safety rules and policies on paper and making it available to all employees, some workplaces have learned to be creative through the establishment of an active employee workplace safety committee. That way, you are always receiving constructive and updated feedback from those who actually experience the work conditions firsthand.
Safety is a Commitment for All
Continual safety training in the workplace brings immeasurable value into the lives of your employees. Educate your employees and train them to make responsible and safe choices to cultivate a healthy work culture that encourages collaboration, efficiency, and trust.
|// by Bridget O'Brien / Apr. 8, 2015 0 comments|
National Small Business Week, established in 1963 to celebrate and recognize America’s entrepreneurs and small business owners, starts May 4. According to the SBA, more than half of Americans either own or work for a small business, creating approximately two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. each year.
Within the small business landscape is a mighty force that while small by definition has an enormous impact on our lives and our economy. Micro businesses have 10 or fewer employees and are in your community making a difference everyday. Whether built from the ground up or handed down from generation to generation, micro business owners put their heart and soul into their business. They are your local plumber, hairdresser, dentist and dog walker. In many cases they are sole proprietors working for themselves and by themselves.
Micro business owners dedicate every minute of the day to their business. Because many of them don’t operate out of a physical store or office, they can often fall under the radar. To help shine a light on this hardworking, passionate group, Vistaprint has launched Magnify Micro Business to recognize and reward them for those long days, friendly service and community spirit.
We are asking business owners, employees, customers and community members to share their stories. We want to hear first-hand what inspires them and highlight the impact these micro businesses have on our everyday lives. We will be publishing these stories, along with helpful micro business related articles through our new content hub, magnifymicrobusiness.vistaprint.com.
To share your story, and help give other micro businesses the confidence they need to follow their passions, visit magnifymicrobusiness.vistaprint.com and become a part of #MagnifyMicroBiz. From time to time, we’ll even do something special for select businesses to show our appreciation.
|// by Rieva Lesonsky / Apr. 7, 2015 0 comments|
There have been a lot of positive reports about the economy lately, but
Capital One's latest Spark Business Barometer is one of the cheeriest. Why? Because it shows that small business owners are putting their money where their mouths are and investing in their businesses’ growth.
Here are the areas where small businesses will be investing for the coming year—and some things you should think about in each of them.
57 percent of small business owners plan to invest in technology and improving business processes. Consider:
One area you may want to look into is adding ecommerce to your website if you haven’t already done so. Just 25 percent of small business owners surveyed have an ecommerce website. If you do have a retail or similar business, know that the future of retail is increasingly hybrid, with consumers eager to buy online and pick up or return products in stores. Offering at least some of your products online can be a way to get your feet wet in ecommerce while giving customers the flexibility they want.
55 percent are putting aside money for unexpected emergencies. Consider:
55 percent are putting away money for retirement. Consider:
46 percent will invest in increasing employee compensation. Consider:
35 percent will put aside cash for capital investments. Consider:
If you need assistance deciding, your SCORE mentor can help. Visit www.score.org to get matched with a mentor today.
|// by Jeanne Rossomme / Apr. 6, 2015 0 comments|
Awareness, attitudes, and usage (AAU) metrics (sometimes called the Hierarchy of Effects) model the idea that potential customers pass through different stages before purchase. The obvious takeaway here: that customers first have to know that your company/brand/products exist.
Many companies invest a lot in advertising, social media and other tactics to get in front of new potential customers. But how do you know if these investments are actually helping increase your brand awareness? There are metrics available but many can be confusing and even misleading. The following are commonly available Online Advertising and Social Media awareness metrics:
The problem with the above metrics is that you are not directly measuring the impression on your target audience. So many companies conduct brand awareness research on a regular basis and compare results over time.
In brand recall tests, researchers measure the ability of consumers to recall brand names in a particular product category. Brand awareness is the percentage of those people who can name your brand, unaided. Order is important here as you want your brand to be the first to be named, illustrating that you have a top of mind or leadership position.
Here is a survey template (https://www.surveymonkey.com/blog/en/brand-awareness-survey-template/):
In a brand recognition test, you again use a random selection of your target market. But in this case you present each person with a list of brands (yours and your top competitors) and ask if they can remember seeing any of the brands before. This test is more useful for seeing if your brand is consistent and “sticky” in the minds of viewers.
How do you track brand awareness? Share in the comments section below.