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Best Practices for your Sales Team 

How does your sales team operate? Are they cooperative and open, or do they like to keep all their strategies secret? Chances are that there is a little bit of both going on in offices across the region. The balance can be hard to maintain, especially when numbers are measured and compensation relies on quantities sold. Here are a few ways you can encourage your sales team to maintain a healthy balance between competition and cooperation. 

Brainstorm Targeting Techniques

Criteria for Success online suggests asking your sales team a few important questions. “Does your company have a set plan for targeting? Is every salesperson on the team executing the targeting plan the same way? Want to mix things up?” Ask yourselves who your best customers are and where they are coming from. Why are they your best customers? Take some time to look at where your targets are found and what other areas can hold similar customers. 

Develop Success Stories 

Whenever someone is considering investing in a product or service, they want to hear from other customers and how they fared under your company. Create a series of success stories that can help you explain how your business has helped others succeed. For example, if your company is an IT support company, have a few short stories that can illustrate how your company has guided or supported other companies that needed IT services. Maybe a business that you have serviced has seen an increase in traffic on their website or and increase in clients of their own due to the work you have done. Stories like those can help sell your business without being a hard sell. 

Ask for Referrals 

We all have those loyal customers whom we adore. When the opportunity arises, ask for a written testimonial for your social media platforms or possibly a write up on an online review site like Yelp or Google Review. Most clients are thrilled to be able to help grow your business. These reviews or testimonials can really help the sales team when it comes time to close a deal. 

Not only can loyal customers help out with testimonials or online reviews, they can verbally refer you to other people in their field of work. It never hurts to ask for a referral or a mention to others. 

Build Relationships 

Finding customers can happen in the most unlikely places. Not all sales are made at networking events, seminars, or workshops. Many times, the sale happens months down the road after someone has gotten to know you during community events, volunteering opportunities, or through valued referrals. Building relationships and talking about your business can be something you do in many venues. You never know when someone may need your services and suddenly your name comes to mind. 

Do you need help with your sales team? Check out our workshop on September 19th titled, “Secrets of Effortless Selling.” 

 

Impress Your Investors with your Business Plan 

In order for any business to grow and evolve, it needs financing. For some, that means taking out loans through traditional banking institutions while, for others, it means finding investors to support your company. But how do you get those investors? One way to gain them is to impress them with your business plan which includes finding customers, improving your service or product, and growing the business over the course of several years. 

Entrepreneurs around the nation are always on the hunt for investors for their business. According to HackerNoon, “Searching for an investor is not easy, especially when there are high chances that your idea might get turned down. Looking to raise funds is an entrepreneur’s version of taking a job interview where you need to say the right things at the right time.”

The Role of the Business Plan 

A business plan is a written description of your business’s future, a document that tells what you plan to do and how you plan to do it. Most business plans are written to not only impress investors but also to provide direction to a young business hoping to be successful. The U.S. Small Business Association (SBA) suggests having the following categories:

  • Executive summary – a snapshot of your business
  • Company description – describes what you do
  • Market analysis – research on your industry, market and competitors
  • Organization and management – your business and management structure
  • Service or product – the products or services you’re offering
  • Marketing and sales – how you’ll market your business and your sales strategy
  • Funding request – how much money you’ll need for the next 3 to 5 years
  • Financial projections – supply information like balance sheets
  • Appendix – an optional section that includes résumés and permits

These categories will be able to tell your potential investors a lot about who you are as an entrepreneur and what your company will look like in action. The more concise and consistent you can be in this plan the more you will reassure investors that you have a well-thought out plan for your business, its services and/or products. 

In order to let investors know that you have done your due diligence in researching your field, be sure to include charts and graphs that make it easier for investors to grasp the projected evolution of your business financials. In addition, you will want to demonstrate that your projections are achievable and not just a pipe dream.

Investors like to know that every conceivable issue has been hashed out, so be sure to include possible challenges and how you will overcome each one. Look ahead a few months into your company, a year and then several years to find potential obstacles. That means you will need to be as honest as possible in revealing what you see as your potential strengths and weaknesses as you start your business. 

Do you need help writing your business plan or finding ways to impress your investors? Check out our workshop on Creating a Business Plan that is Investor Ready or Understanding your Business Financials

 

Perfecting Your Sales Pitch 

Making a sales pitch can be a balancing act that not many people can do with ease. You don’t want to come off as aggressive and you surely don’t want to be meek in your approach either. What is the right tone, pace, and level of authority that you should take when making your sales pitch?

Know Your Audience 

Obviously, you wouldn’t talk to an audience consisting of a panel of experts the same way you would talk to people who are just now entering the field. The same goes for your sales pitch. Always know to whom you are speaking. Research what their specific needs are and what they are hoping to get out of the pitch. Gear your level of information toward their level of need. The more you know about the group you are pitching to, the better. Include stories that may apply to them and their field as well as gear all slides or handouts in the same manner. 

Keep it Short, Simple, and To-the-Point 

Business people are inherently busy. The fact that they made time for your pitch is good, but you want to value that time as much as possible. Keep your message clear and to the point. Try to avoid straying off topic or relying on small talk once you have started your presentation. Keep all graphics or slides easy to read and direct. Your audience will appreciate that you value their time and will know immediately if you have a deep knowledge of your product or service rather quickly. 

Anticipated Questions Early 

If you have been in the marketing field for a while, you can probably anticipate the questions that inevitably come up at the end of your pitch. Instead of waiting to be asked, build the answer directly into your presentation. Your audience will appreciate that you have anticipated their concerns and that you have already considered a response or solution. 

Don’t Just Talk, Listen! 

Many salespeople have perfected their pitches within the first few months of working with a certain product or service. Make sure that your pitch doesn’t sound scripted. Change it up and use different stories or updated information whenever possible. In addition, don’t take up the allotted time by talking endlessly. Listen to what your audience has to say as well. You may have inadvertently missed some information or confused members of your audience. Take the time to hear their questions and follow up, even after you have completed your time by text, email, or voicemail. 

Be Yourself 

We all live busy lives and setting time aside to hear another marketing representative drone on can be painful. Try to be yourself and sprinkle your personality into your presentation. This may be the thing your audience remembers most about your presentation. It will also let the group learn about the human side of your business/product. 

Do you have questions about how to improve your sales pitch? Check out our workshop on Sept 12th called Pitch Panel Session.

Building a Positive Company Culture 

Not all of us can be Google, which prides itself on a unique and happy employee culture. In some ways, Google Headquarters looks more like an adult playground than a corporate office. In fact, there are people employed at Google whose sole purpose is to create a happy and positive employee culture. How about that? 

Ok, so not all of us can afford to have a gym, playroom, or spa retreat inside our office, but we can still do some fairly simple things to maintain a positive company culture. Here is how. 

Create a Safe Space 

Not all offices have extra room to build an adult playground with a ping pong table or video games, but almost every office can carve out a small area where an employee can relax, enjoy their lunch, and chill out away from their desk. Sperling Interactive in Salem carved out an area in a room that was not very functional in order to build a “nest” where employees can relax, hang out, and sometimes just have a different place to get work done. 

 

Show Gratitude 

When something good happens at work, thank the people responsible. This might mean an email, short letter, or maybe even a small gift to show gratitude for the hard work. Make sure you are consistent in doing this or employees may notice that you gave a shout out in one instance and not in another. 

 

Encourage Positive Thinking 

Encourage your team to think in a positive way. This means in your thoughts, actions, and words, you should keep it upbeat and happy. Obviously be genuine, but try to always have a “glass half full” attitude. This outlook can be contagious. 

Don’t Just Talk… Listen 

Everyone likes to be heard, whether it is complaints about the dishes in the break room building up in the sink or a company policy that someone would like changed. Truly listen to your employees and they will feel valued. It does not mean you need to do everything that it asked but, rather, listen and respond. This sense that feedback is welcome can make employees feel valued and want to stay at your company for years. 

 

Encourage Employee Learning 

Whether you can afford to subsidize a masters program or certificate programs or not, you should be encouraging your employees to learn more. If you invest in them, they will invest in you. I can not say enough about this! 

Check out our events calendar for more workshops on nurturing a positive company culture. We all can’t be Google, but we can make out employee culture a happy one. 

 

Facebook for Business Tips 

Trying to reach your target audience through social media? Or maybe you are trying to expand your audience to include other demographics? Facebook for Business is a great place to start, especially since it now has over 2.23 billion monthly active users. 

A business page on Facebook has never been easier to create and maintain. Let’s take a closer look at what you need to do to get going on Facebook and some tips to keep users returning to your page. 

Create a Business Page 

Follow this link to create a business page. To get started, choose a Page category either business or community depending upon your needs. From there, you will be prompted to add a cover photo. We suggest something familiar such as an image of your office, logo, or products. Choose wisely because this icon image will appear every time you post. From there you will want to fill out all of the business information sections including a short description of your business, hours of operation, phone number, website address, and a link to Google Maps so customers can easily find you. 

Once the page has been created, you can customize it for your business with tabs that make sense for your field. For example tabs could include: your posts, your photos, reviews of your business, special offers, community events, important dates, or videos. Get creative! 

Posting to Facebook 

Now the fun begins! You can start posting on your page and start gathering Facebook likes, friends, and followers. Be sure that each time you post you are doing it with content in mind. You should not just post randomly and without purpose. Have a content brainstorming session that will help you come up with the top things you think your customers will want to read. For example, include links to articles in your field, pictures of your office or product, employee spotlights, specials and discounts, insider tips, or maybe infographics that can easily be shared. It’s really up to you whether you want to be informative, funny, creative, or thinking outside the box. 

Create a Social Media Calendar 

In order to not overwhelm your readers with too many posts or multiple posts a day, it is important to create a social media calendar. A simple list of what you will post on specific days will help you stay organized and keep you from over posting the same topic. Remember, Facebook allows you to schedule posts whenever you want, or you could use a social media manager like Hootsuite

Respond to Readers 

Facebook recognizes companies that respond quickly to readers with a “Very responsive to messages” badge below your Page’s cover photo if you have a response rate of 90% and a response time of 15 minutes over the last seven days. That means that you are on the page often and maintaining connection with your clients. 

Post at the Best Times for your Audience

According to research published on HubSpot  there is data out there on optimal times to post on Facebook. The best time to post on Facebook is 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday. Other optimal times include 12:00–1:00 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays and 1:00–4:00 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays. Engagement rates are 18% higher on Thursdays and Fridays, and weekdays from 1:00–4:00 p.m. tend to see the highest clickthrough rates. On Fridays, Facebook use spikes by 10%. Since people tend to be happier on Fridays, marketing guru Neil Patel suggests posting funny or upbeat content to match your audience’s mood. The worst time to post on Facebook are weekends before 8:00 a.m. and after 8:00 p.m., according to SurePayroll’s research.

Do you need more information about Facebook for Business? Consider attending our workshop on September 26th. 

 

Getting Free Press 

As a small or medium-sized business, you know the power of getting your name out there whether it is on social media, in the news, or by word-of-mouth. Whatever the method, your business’s name being mentioned or your brand being shown can help boost sales and make your brand awareness skyrocket. 

Unfortunately, many small businesses, and even some medium-sized businesses, don’t have a huge advertising budget when they are new. So, how can those companies get free press to give their marketing a kickstart? Finding free press is the answer! 

Getting free press sounds like a dream come true, and it really is. But you have to work at it for it to work for you. Let’s take a look at a couple of strategies that your business can use to get some free press and get your name out there. 

Make Yourself an Expert 

Contact publication in your local area, as well as publications that are known in your field and offer up your services for quotes or articles that they may want for their journals. Sure, you will have to take the time to connect and write but it can be worth it when your name and your company’s name is the news. 

 

Create Your Own Press Releases 

Write your own press releases whenever there’s a newsworthy occasion in your business. Any new products/services, anniversaries, milestones, or special occasions can be a cause for writing up a news release. Send it to the contact pages of your local papers, news outlets, and journals for your specific field. 

 

Engage with Reporters 

As you get more involved with the community and community events, you will also get to know the news reporters at said events. Make personal connections and tell them about your business. This is especially true if you are planning any community events or taking part in any volunteer work in the local area. 

Be a Guest Blogger 

Many online business sites request guest bloggers to add content to their site. Find the sites in your field and ask to be a guest blogger. If the site gets enough traffic, you could get your name and your brand out there for the cost of writing a blog about what your company is up to. 

Need more ideas on ways to get your name out there? Check out our calendar for marketing ideas that can boost your business. 

 

Social Media – Where to Begin 

Yes, everyone is doing it! Social media is a beast and if you haven’t gotten on board yet, then you may not even know where to begin. What channels should you choose? How often should you post? How can you know if your campaign is successful? Let’s take a closer look at how to get started on a social media campaign. 

Determine Your Goals and How to Measure Them

Before you even login or download an app, start brainstorming with your team about what your goals are. Do you just want to increase brand awareness? Or perhaps you want to drive more traffic to your website? Maybe you want a way to connect with your target audience and supply them with deals and savings? Social media may be your way of generating leads. 

Once you set out your goals, you will be able to determine how those goals will be measured. Google Analytics can help as well as the individual page manager section to each social media platform like: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Those stats can tell you how many people are engaging in your social media posts as well as how many likes, shares, and retweets. 

Know the Pros and Cons of Each Platform

Get to know what the basics are for each type of social media and whether they attract your target audience. For example, Instagram tends to attract millennials and is visually based. Facebook, on the other hand, draws in an older crowd that are looking for content sharing. LinkedIn is more business connection-based. Twitter can be a mix but leaves out the longer content. Before you start setting up your profile or business page, make sure the platform you choose is the right one for your demographics and your service/product. Find out how much advertising costs and what the return is. 

 

Make Your Posts Worthwhile 

Viewers on social media have become quite savvy and are mostly against pages that advertise constantly, or sound like a robot. Be human in your posts and give the readers something worthwhile to read. Make it worthwhile by adding content that your followers will be interested in, or by running promotions/discounts for followers who mention a post. Do something to get your followers to engage with you by retweeting, sharing, or commenting on your posts. 

 

Measure Your Success

At regular intervals measure how your campaign is doing. How many more followers do you have? What is your engagement number like? Should you shift your content or offer more things that encourage followers? Your analytics page can help. 

Need help getting started on your social media campaigns? Check out our calendar of events. We often host workshops on social media and how to boost your business with an online campaign. 

 

Upping Your Communication Skills 

Do you make presentations to clients often or meet face-to-face with consumers? How effective do you feel your presentations are? Even if you have worked in your field for years, and know your service/product well, you may still need to sharpen your communication skills. Here are a few ways to can hone those skills while still sounding natural and genuine. 

Learn the Basics of Nonverbal Communication 

Some studies show that communication is only 7% verbal and 93% non-verbal. That means that what you are saying is such a small fraction of what your audience is getting from you. They are, however, paying close attention to your body language and vocal variety. That means that the majority of what you say is communicated not through words, but through physical cues. To garner full attention many body language experts suggest making eye contact as much as possible with your audience, having good posture, not slouching, making your voice larger than normal, not crossing your arms, and moving around the space if you are talking to a large group. 

 

Don’t Go Overboard on Visuals 

Sure, having a visual aid can help you stay on message and focus the audience’s attention. However, do not wholly rely on visual aids, like PowerPoint, to get your message across. There really is nothing worse than having a presenter read from the slides. Not only is that boring but it is degrading to the viewers. Instead integrate storytelling into your presentation. Your audience is more likely to remember the story than the slides. If you really want to hook the group, ask them to be a part of the discussion or to relay their own stories about the topic. Once they have made a personal connection, they will be dialed in to your presentation. 

Master Your Timing 

Understand the attention span and needs of your audience. Not all people who have come to a presentation have an hour to listen to you. Remember that Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was 286 words, about two minutes long. Realize that timing is everything. If you can simplify your message, do so. Short and sweet can sometimes help an audience remember what you said. 

Check out our calendar of speakers every month, we often have workshops on improving your communication skills or honing presentations. 

 

Value of Video on Your Site 

How is the traffic on your website doing? Do you have visitors often? What’s your conversion rate? Looking for ways to draw more people to your site and get more traction with SEO? Maybe you should consider adding some video to your site. 

Video is quickly becoming a fantastic inbound marketing tool for websites. Viewers are consuming video content more than ever before and that trend isn’t slowing down anytime soon. In fact, 90% of consumers access the videos placed online. 

Making your site a top performer means keeping up with this video trend. Less written content and more video seems to be the way this trend is leaning. Although websites should never be lacking content, the video version is catching on. More and more companies are adding video with the intent of sharing their expertise, demonstrating a product or service, and telling a story. 

If you are wondering why you should add video to your site, here are a few reasons to motivate you. 

Videos are the Way Consumers Browse 

Face it, website browsers have an extremely short attention span. When given the option between watching a video about something and reading about it, the viewer will almost always choose the video. Take the stats from YouTube, the second largest search engine in the world. “More than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month. Over 6 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube—that’s almost an hour for every person on Earth, and 50% more than last year. According to Nielsen, “YouTube reaches more US adults ages 18-34 than any cable network.”

Video Helps Your SEO 

Using a video on your site means that visitors are on your site longer watching and learning. According to Vital online, one important factor on how well a page ranks in search results is how long a visitor stays on a page, the longer the visit, the more important Google thinks the webpage is.

Video Builds Relationships

As a viewer watches your “How To” or your testimonial online, they become connected to your business. In fact, businesses that use actual employees to do their videos and footage on your warehouses or offices help the public understand who you are as a brand. Those connections can create new customers and solidify the relationship with loyal ones. 

Video Helps Your Company Stand Out from the Competition

The truth is that not many companies have the marketing budget, time or energy to create custom videos for their viewers. Custom video is a great way to differentiate yourself from your competition.  

Video Helps Deliver Your Message 

Whether you are making a story video, how-to, or introducing a new product, your video will easily deliver your message with a personality attached. 

Keep an eye out for our workshops on making videos to driving traffic to your site. 

 

Customer Service in a Digital Age

We live in a time where more and more consumers are shopping around for the best prices and they expect exceptional customer service or they can easily take their business elsewhere. Add to this the fact that many consumers are shopping with their mobile devices at anytime, anywhere, and it means that ecommerce is at a critical crossroads.

Let’s look back for a second at shopping just a few decades ago. Traditionally, consumers would drive to a store to shop, purchase, and have personal interactions with employees in said store as well as at the registers. Many people got to know the owners of stores and would be loyal to people they knew best. In addition, unless you had a lot of time on your hands, driving from store to store wasn’t economical.

Today, all it takes is a few keystrokes to find hundreds of products and services. Comparing prices has never been easier. Shipping costs have never been lower. Online coupons, or product codes can reduce prices even further. Shopping alerts can tell consumers when items they have been looking for are on sale. And all of this can be done while riding the train to work or curled up in your jammies in bed at night on your smartphone.

So what might make a difference to a consumer now that online shopping is so easy? The answer is customer service!

Now that the rules of engagement have changed, customer service needs to step up its game as well. The first thing to realize is that consumers are on many channels and many different types of devices. Make sure that your website is responsive and is easy to navigate, no matter what type of device is in the hands of the buyer.

Secondly, realize that consumers will be interacting with your business in many ways. They may leave a message on social media with a question, they may need an online live chat for more immediate concerns, or they may still want that personal connection over the phone without having to jump through hoops before they get to an actual human.

Finally, realize that the hours of interaction are no longer the hours that your store is open. Shoppers can find your website at anytime of the night or day that is most convenient to them. That means you may want to have a way of connecting with your customers at varying hours or the day.

With that being said, businesses also need to be aware and responsive to online reviews such as Google Review, Yelp or other sites. Consumers who do not have a positive experience will be very quick to leave a scathing review or call out errors on social media sites. Be sure that you have a customer service rep who can quickly and patiently deal with these types of incidences so you can show that you want to do what is right and help the customer in the best way possible.