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Small Business Sales Strike Out
01 October 2017

Avoid the Small Business “Strikeout” with these Smart Sales Strategies

Guest Post by Selena Silvestro, Director of Ground Floor Strategies at The Selling Agency and weekend warrior baseball fan in the bleachers. Read on for first-hand sales advice for Small Business Owners, Solopreneurs, and Sales Pros in Small Businesses:

Every business lives and dies by its ability to build revenue. Unfortunately, roughly 80% of businesses fail within their first year of operations.

This failure is largely due to underfunding and underestimating the time it will take for their products or services to take off in the marketplace. This is where “selling” can help improve survival rates for small businesses. Historically and conventionally, however, we see entrepreneurs investing in marketing and advertising in hopes of attracting customers. Those tactics may work quickly, but for most businesses – they don’t realize keeping up with visibility and brand awareness is a long game which chews through capital and cash flow quickly.

Selling. Selling is the key to sales success for small businesses.

So why aren’t we seeing more entrepreneurs embracing this opportunity “at bat”?

How do small businesses strikeout in sales?

Your ground story business doesn’t have a salesperson, let alone a “team” to handle acquiring new clients – so YOU are every department. YOU are sales, marketing, accounting, chief bottle washer, janitor and whatever it is that made you start this crazy business in the first place.

Strike 1 – Being short-sighted
Falling into the trap of spreading yourself too thin and ignoring important aspects of your business can backfire with stagnant revenue, or worse, shrinking business growth!

  • The most successful businesses seek expert help in sales, marketing, accounting, tech/website design, HR & legal. If those skillsets aren’t your core business, you need help so you can focus on what YOU and your team do best!
  • As your business grows, recognize when to expand your team and don’t skimp on the training. How many times have you seen new employees just thrown in, expected to “learn the ropes” on the go? How much damage can they cause just winging it?  
  • Being a generalist at everything. Differentiate your business to help potential customers decide what makes you special. In a sea of SAME, nothing stands out. Be known for something specific, unique and tell your story.

Strike 2 – Sloppy or non-existent digital personality

(Yes, you really are a “brand”)

You are the face and brand of the business and the sales department (even if it’s a sales department of ONE – you). Your online presence is critical. Can you be found online? Are you known as an expert in your field? What does your digital footprint say about your personality?

  • Be a respected leader – Don’t be abrasive on social media. You wouldn’t be pushy or rude at a business networking event, so don’t be a keyboard warrior and pick fights, or post snarky comments.
  • Be a giver – Offer your help, your advice, and give back.
  • ME ME MEEEEE – It’s all about ME! Avoid self-serving communications. If you only email your contacts or post on social media when you want something or selling something, it’s self-serving. Be informative, interesting and communicate regularly. This keeps you top of mind without annoying everyone (Don’t give them a reason to opt-out!)    
  • Don’t ignore your Audience Development – Using technology to be authentic and HUMAN is important. People want to do business with a person, not with a generic “info@blahblahblah.com” business. If your small business website has zero pics of you or your team, it’s bland and generic. Blogs do more than boost your website’s SEO (Search Engine Optimization), they tell your story. People want to be a part of something, and follow your journey (or see what it’s like to do business with you if they’re researching you or your company). Deliver exceptional service, provide an easy way for your fans to leave reviews, ask nicely (3rd party validation is KING!), and never let up! Be consistent with communication through your newsletter/blog and social media. If the last time you posted was 3 months ago, we need to talk.

Strike 3 – Not having a sales process (we call it The Sales Playbook)

Every good team has a playbook they follow. Nobody makes it to the championship “winging it” and neither should you.

  • No follow-up system – Do you have a CRM? Using a customer relationship management tool the right way helps you manage customer/client interactions throughout the life cycle (or buying journey) of that client. It helps with customer retention, improves relationships and drives sales. There are MANY to choose from! Nimble is a great tool for most ground story businesses in consumer markets. Pipeliner CRM or Hubspot Sales are great options for b2b organizations.
  • Not leveraging referrals – What is the missed opportunity of one referral lost a week? What would 52 new clients a year mean to your business? (Don’t interpret this as “You should join a BNI chapter!”) Business networks can be a decent program for many businesses and professionals, but the referrals you gain from existing customers are your BEST source of new leads. Have you ever wasted time from a “junk lead” from BNI? What’s the best use of your time if you’re spread too thin? Pursuing a referral from a loyal client, or a lead from a group you belong to? Exactly.
  • Featuring and promoting your customers – Share the love you have for your clients and customers! Genuine care and appreciation are getting to be rare in today’s world. Stand out by showing heartfelt gratitude!

Grand Slam

We all know home runs are special. If you could hit one every single time, they’d become expected and mundane. You might play many seasons before experiencing a Grand Slam (or an entire career!) A Grand Slam is that magical home run when the bases are loaded!

It can’t be your “business strategy” to place value solely on home runs. They’re exciting and offer a big show, but consistent base hits (yes, even walks) are the heart of a team’s everyday, steady performance. Having a “good eye” in order to recognize a good pitch (or sales opportunity!) is critical. Nobody’s upset when a player walks. It shows patience and discipline.

It matters MOST to stay in the game!

Keep your eye on REVENUE. Drive the ball. Drive Sales.

What’s your Business OBP? (on-base percentage)

As a business owner, it’s a success when you make a solid base hit or even take first base on a walk. (i.e. Providing your goods or services, being professional, just plain “Takin’ care of business!”)

“On-Base Percentage (OBP) measures the most important thing a batter can do at the plate: not make an out. Players with high on-base percentages avoid making outs and reach base at a high rate, prolonging games and giving their team more opportunities to score.” ~ Fangraphs.com

Having a good eye for the ball (Predicting the path! Forecasting! Customer analysis!) and NOT taking swings at wild pitches is important. Do you have the discipline to be choosy on balls that come your way? (Prequalifying customers pays off in the long run! Don’t waste your time chasing the wrong clients!) Raise your Business OBP and you’ll enjoy more consistent cash flow.

Executing the training and strategy (Your Game Plan or Sales Playbook) will put points on the scoreboard (and money in the bank!)  

I’ve never met a coach that considers practicing a waste of time. Coaches teach the strategy and value hard working players who specialize in their positions. A successful team rarely rotates players around. It’s okay to have players who know other positions, but there are rarely “generalists” in the game. A smart playbook outlines the path to success. It is a consistent strategy built with discipline, competitive intelligence, and effective practice. Training from coaches and player follow-through produces wins. Hope is not a strategy in business, sports or life.

The Small Business Administration suggests Failure Rates for startups are:

  • 20% will fail in 12 months
  • 30% will fail within 24 months
  • 49% will fail within 5 years

The biggest reason for failure: Lack of planning {i.e. – No SALES STRATEGY.} 

Once you execute the plan consistently in business, you’ll load the bases more often. You’ll be ready when the perfect pitch (Your ideal client!) comes your way. (The one you’ve studied and pre-qualified!) You’ve practiced for this moment. Take a big swing, applying all the knowledge you’ve been trained to use, and get a big hit! (You just might achieve that GRAND SLAM after all!)

You deserve that slow jog around the bases when it’s knocked out of the park. You’ve worked hard for a long time to achieve it!

Until next time, keep your eye on the ball!

Selena Silvestro

Director of Ground Floor Strategies

{Strategist and Baseball Mom – ready to coach you out of a slump}

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