Category Archives: Sales

Ask SCORE: What’s the best way to communicate with my customers?

by Ken Sethney, Kitsap SCORE

You’ve seen people so absorbed with their smartphones that they appear oblivious to what’s going on around them. True, everyone is entitled to a bit of privacy, and perhaps that message or video is really, really important. However, spending too much time in a “heads-down” mode can be off-putting and, sometimes dangerous.

Many entrepreneurs, particularly those who work from home, operate their small businesses much the same way when they rely too heavily on email to communicate with clients. Email is convenient, particularly for work related issues and updates, but numerous studies have come to the same conclusion — customers want to be treated as people, not as return email addresses. 

When you take a technology-centric approach to communication, you’re missing an opportunity to build a relationship with your customers. Don’t you think they would rather do business with someone they know? Wouldn’t you? 

Ask SCORE: What is the best way to market a niche product?

by Ken Sethney, Kitsap SCORE

Marketing a niche product means that you’re not selling to everyone. You are focused on a group of people who are most likely to buy your products or services. 

Having a narrow pool of potential customers comes with challenges and ultimately means more work on your part to find those people who fall within your niche. However, marketing a niche product also has advantages once you identify your customers. 

Successfully marketing a niche product starts with an in-depth understanding of your potential customer’s wants and needs.

When you are targeting a small group of buyers, you need to understand who is most likely to buy your product and how your product can provide solutions to their needs.

Start with a bit of market research. Google can help you find lots of useful information. You can also visit the Kitsap Regional Library and speak to an adult services librarian. The library website can give you access to valuable information. 

Revenue is revenue, right?

by Kelly Dies, Soundpoint Consulting

A dollar is a dollar. That’s true. And, all revenue is equal. Right? Well no, not in an investor’s or potential buyer’s eye. So what makes some revenue good and other revenue better? 

Recurring

Recurring revenue is highly desirable because is it known and predictable. The best example of this is an auto-renewal fee or service charge periodically charged directly to a customer’s credit card. Once the initial sale is complete there are no more costs to acquire a customer. The revenue stream is much like an annuity. Continue to provide the goods or services as promised and the revenue keeps coming in. 

Great examples of this are insurance premiums and streaming fees. Once customers have decided to purchase the product – and assuming they remain content, they are happy to have their credit card billed automatically. 

In contrast, consulting and attorney fees are often one-time in nature. Revenue ceases when the project is complete and the engagement ends. 

How can I keep my business going during and after this pandemic?

by Ken Sethney, Volunteer Business Mentor, SCORE Kitsap

Every business owner I’ve had a conversation with in the last month or so is struggling to answer that question. It doesn’t matter what they sell, products or services, they are struggling to find answers to very difficult questions. Almost everyone in start-up mode has simply stopped. 

So, what should they do? What should you do? My suggestion is to keep moving forward. 

One of my SCORE clients owns a well established business with several employees. She and her team provide therapeutic services, but they don’t qualify as “essential.” 

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Closing Sales Starts With Building Trust

Making the sale, especially when your small business offers products and services to other businesses, demands more than being good at what you do. It definitely requires building professional relationships. To do that, you must earn your customers’ trust. 

There’s no scientific formula for earning trust. It requires time, patience, and honest effort. 

Here are some suggestions to help you lay a foundation of trust with your potential customers: Continue reading

All Things Sales! 16 Mini-Lessons for Startup Founders

As a former CEO and software engineer (Citrix, XenSource, VERITAS, etc.), board member of GitHub (recently acquired by Microsoft), and lecturer in management at the Stanford Graduate School of Busines, a16z general partner Peter Levine is constantly asked “Why sales?” by entrepreneurs and technical founders. He himself used to hold the “engineer-centric” view that if you build a great product, customers will come. But the fact is, all world-class companies must have a strong sales force. So — how do they get there? How does a technical founder begin to build a top tier sales motion?

In this series of snack-sized videos — which you can watch all together, or mix-and-match for your particular questions and needs — Levine distills the fundamentals that every founder should know about sales. The 16 lessons in this “mini-MOOC” offer everything from definitions to concrete guidance for the following:

1. All Things Sales! 16 Mini-Lessons for Startup Founders [Introduction]

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The End of Credit Card Signatures

What Does It Mean for Your Small Business?

By Andrey Bobrovskiy, smallbizdaily.com

Have you noticed something different about your in-store transactions recently? If so, that’s likely because the end of the signature requirement announced by Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover is finally coming into effect. Although it affects just one step in the payment process, it means a lot more for your small business in the long run.

It Makes Checkouts More Convenient

The payment card industry has been moving toward simplicity and convenience for years. Customers want seamless and secure methods of paying for goods and services, while merchants seek reliable and flexible ways to process these payments across a variety of channels. This paved the way to innovative forms of payments, including those using near-field communication and virtual reality.

However, convenience isn’t always about adding new features. Oftentimes less is more, and this happens to be the case with credit card signatures. By now, they’ve simply outlived their usefulness, a fact supported by Mastercard’s revelation that it already didn’t require signatures for 80 percent of its transactions even before the changes went into effect. Continue reading

What makes or breaks a successful small business?

business colleagues high fiving

What makes or breaks a successful small business? There are several key commonalities among businesses that succeed, according to several studies polling entrepreneurs.

Here’s a closer look at four things successful business owners do right—and one thing they need to do better.

What successful entrepreneurs do right

  1. They start strong. In a poll of 500 successful entrepreneurs, a whopping 84% of respondents say their companies achieved profitability within their first four years in business. In fact, 68% became profitable within the first year. Only 8% became profitable after their fifth year in business, suggesting that the first years in business are make-or-break ones for most entrepreneurs.
  2. They focus on finding new customers. Small business owners in the survey say finding new customers is their top business challenge—far ahead of cash flow issues or dealing with the competition. Smart entrepreneurs stay focused on continually generating new leads and closing new business.
  3. They put cash back into the business. Forty percent of business owners say whenever they have surplus cash, they put it back into the business rather than paying themselves, a separate study found. What’s more, 47% tap into personal savings to finance their businesses at one point or another.
  4. They work hard. Never let it be said small business owners are slackers. Some 86% work on the weekends; 23% take fewer than two vacation days total all year long; and of those who do take vacations, 75% work during their time “off.” Continue reading

Ask SCORE: How can I increase sales productivity?

by Ken Sethney, Volunteer Mentor, Kitsap SCORE 

Let me begin by saying that I have tremendous respect for sales people. They have an extremely difficult and vitally important job. When they are successful, everyone wins —customers, owners, managers, widget makers, support staff, and consultants.

Therefore, it is in everyone’s interest that sales people are given the support, encouragement and tools they need to succeed. To that end, I offer the following strategies for increasing sales productivity. When they are successfully implemented, your customers and everyone in your organization will benefit.  Continue reading

Ask SCORE: How can I improve my selling skills?

As the owner of a small business, you may be struggling with a frustrating reality. You are confident that you have excellent products and services, but people aren’t just lining up to buy them.

You know that you can solve problems for your customers and deliver significant value for a reasonable price. All you have to do is convince them to place an order.

Unfortunately, sales skills don’t come naturally to everyone, but they are essential if you want to build relationships with potential customers and generate orders for your products and services.  Continue reading