Small Business Tips

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A small business blog featuring tips to help entrepreneurs succeed in the small business world. Topics include family business, human resources, marketing, money, networking, operations, ownership, startup, taxes and technology.
6 Steps to Successful Sales

Selling is about the right ideas communicated in an effective way. The lucrative position of a marketing team is the salesperson, simply because he/she is the one who produces the actual sale. It is important, therefore, that as a salesperson, you know the essentials of being successful in your trade.

1) Focus on the Customer
Whether you are a door-to-door, over the phone, or in-store salesperson, the focal aspect of your sales pitch should be to connect with the customer. It is all about them; their problems, needs, company and situation. Truth be told, they don’t care about you and whatever issues you may have with rejection. They usually won’t be afraid to tell you no. So, focus on making your customer’s life better, and you’ve got your foot in the door.

2) Be Unique
Share a unique characteristic about yourself, which could be anything from where you grew up to the fact that you are on a champion bowling league. Communicate it to your customer through a fun button on your jacket or with a small gift, such as a pen. In other words, make yourself stand out and different from the status-quo, without wearing clown shoes.

Also, listen to the customer and discover something that you have in common. Use that commonality to connect with the customer on a more personal level. Don’t share an elaborate story about how your dog knows every trick in the book, but acknowledge the fact that you too are a dog lover.

3) Be Positive
Your attitude will inevitably come in full view when you are attempting to sell a product. If you are just plain tired of coming to work every day, your enthusiasm will be low and so will your sales. But if you strive to always have a positive attitude, regardless of circumstances, your success rate will likely be much higher.

And do not let the fear of failure stop you. If you’re afraid that you may not succeed in a particular sale, then you won’t. Fear prevents you from accomplishing goals and achieving your full potential, so don’t let it win. In the famous words of Mark Twain, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not the absence of fear.” Fear is part of life, so wake up swinging.

4) Pitch it Well
Know the business and the product like the back of your hand. It is important to be able to answer every question the customer may throw your way, and you can’t do that if you don’t know the information. Questions are important on your end as well. Ask questions that really make the customer think and that provide you with crucial information for the sales process. If you don’t know what the customer is looking for, then you can’t sell it to them.

A great exercise that will help you in developing a stronger sales pitch is the “ad reversal” process. Write an ad for the product you are trying to sell that would appear in a newspaper or magazine, and just start with the basics. Then, record yourself reading the ad out loud. Listen to the recording and make adjustments to make the “sound” of it more appealing. Repeat this process until you develop a verbal script for selling your product that you are pleased with.

5) Create a Means for Follow-up
Provide your customer with information they can look at later, whether it be a business card, a website or a brochure. It needs to be well designed and appealing. The better the design, the better impression you give the customer.

This is especially crucial if you were unable to produce a sale. If you give the customer further information to look over, you have opened an opportunity to follow-up. Ask them if they had a chance to review the material and if they thought of any questions you could answer or further information you could provide.

6) Utilize a Mentor
No one is the perfect salesperson, but everyone has quality traits in their salesmanship that you can learn from. Find someone, or even a number of people, that you respect, both in their personal and business ethics, and ask them to give you some pointers. The more you are able to learn from other people and implement, the more effective you will be as a salesperson.

Sources/Related Readings:
• Business Week: You’re Never Too Young to Sell
• Delivering an Effective Sales Pitch
• Ad Writing Made Easy
• Unlock Your Selling Potential

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By Michelle Cramer
Monday, December 17th, 2018 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Marketing |

How to Write an Effective Advertisement

Children are often told that thunder is the sound of God bowling in Heaven.

See what I did there? I got your attention, didn’t I? Your first reaction may have been “What does thunder have to do with writing ads?”

The answer: everything.

The first, and most crucial step to writing an effective ad is to seize the reader’s attention with a strong opener — give your ad “thunder” (See, told you). Catching you prospective consumer off guard will inevitably get him to read the entire ad, if nothing else but to see what it’s all about.

Be sure to avoid opening with a question directed at your prospective consumer, as this is highly overdone. However, rhetorical and abstract questions are okay, when used properly. An example of this could be “Why is a square always a rectangle, but a rectangle is never a square?”

Then, create interest by bridging your opening statement to the product you are offering, such as my previous use of “thunder.” Follow by creating desire for your product by stating a problem and showing your product to be the solution. Tune in to the reader’s emotions. The point of your ad is to lure the prospect to contact your business in pursuit of a purchase.

Be sure that the text of your ad is appealing to the eyes by using short sentences and smaller paragraphs. White space is always effective. If you want to use color, be consistent and only use it in one or two places, such as the opening statement and your business’ contact information.

Graphics and pictures are always a plus, as they can be very effective in drawing initial attention to the ad, especially if your ad is one among many. Consider using a font other than Times Roman or Sans, if the option is available, but make sure it is still easy to read. And always remember to continually read and re-read your ad for spelling and grammatical errors. Any such error takes away from all credibility that a brilliantly written ad may have.

Finally, create a closing that connects to your opener. Your closing also needs to state the action you want the prospect to take, whether that be “Call 1-800-THUNDER today” or “Visit our website,” etc. Get feedback from coworkers, family, friends. They resemble your market and will let you know if something isn’t working right.

Still getting writer’s block? Try writing 10-15 opening statements and walk away, leaving them to sit overnight. Come back to them in a day or two and see which one jumps out at you.

And, if you fall short on experience, a great way to practice writing ads is to grab your local paper or telephone book and pick out some bad ads. Dissect them, making notes about why you think they don’t work. Then rewrite them! Not only will this give you confidence in your ability to write a great ad, but it will help you to learn and avoid what doesn’t work.

Finally, test your ad. Give it a week or two and see what revenue it brings in. Once you create an ad that works, stick with it. Keep it in the same format, venue and media type for as long as the ad brings in new calls or visits to your website.

Ad writing is simply an effective sales script on paper with eye catchers. Ads bring prospects to your door or website, but do not seal the deal, so be sure not to rely fully on them. Have an effective sales team in place, ready to transition the prospect from intrigue to consumer. You can even reverse the ad writing process to develop a great sales pitch.

And, always remember that your ad should leave your prospective consumer “thunder-struck.”

• Making your Advertising Message Stand Out
• BellaOnline – Office Site: How to Write Effective Ads
• Hartfelt Promotions: Marketing 101: Writing Ads
• Ad Writing Made Easy

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By Michelle Cramer
Sunday, December 16th, 2018 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Marketing |

Internet Search Advertising: Google vs. Yahoo

The idea was simple and logical. If an individual searches for golf clubs on the internet, it only makes sense that vendors selling golf clubs should advertise on a search engine to bring in more customers.

The recent demand for search advertising has produced serious competition between the two main internet search engines, Google and Yahoo.

Currently, search advertising is an $8 billion global industry, and its worth is expected to sky-rocket to nearly $22 billion in the next five years. No wonder the two major search engines are both still going strong. Both Google’s AdWords and Yahoo Search Marketing (YSM) offer search advertising by allowing advertisers to bid on space identified with keywords and adjacent to search results. The key to the development of their head-to-head lies within the differences in their network connections and business philosophies.

When Yahoo’s top executive, Terry Semel, joined the company four years ago, he brought with him a long list of Hollywood contacts, and Yahoo has recently starting building a headquarters in Hollywood. Semel is a no-nonsense businessman and doesn’t play around, implementing tough discipline in management into the company. Yahoo is beginning to lean more toward being a media company, rather than an innovator of technology. Their focus has, therefore, shifted to traditional, handholding partnerships with ad agencies.

Google, on the other hand, focuses on the individual potential of their staff. They depend on their engineers to come up with innovative ideas for the company, and therefore expect them to spend one day a week on a special interest project of their own. Google has some of the top engineers in the country under its belt, and continues to attract them. Their focus is technology and innovation, and the Google executives are well aware of the fact that they must remain innovative to stay on top.

Recently, as most know, Google acquired YouTube in an effort to expand its advertising market to video advertising. Now Google again expanding its borders and upping the ante. They are currently in the test phase of an online marketplace that will allow advertisers to bid on print-ad space in more than 50 major U.S. newspapers, including The New York Times and Denver Post, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe and the Chicago Tribune.

And Google’s leaps forward are beginning to leave Yahoo in the dust. Though Yahoo had maintained an edge for some time, a Web tracking firm recently showed Google forging ahead of Yahoo as the number one search engine. Google’s stocks are currently only ten percent below their all-time high, while Yahoo’s stocks have plummeted nearly 40 percent this year.

Advertising agencies tend to lean toward Google based on the fact that Yahoo has a tendency to be a late-bloomer when it comes to innovations, such as blogs and video. For example, Yahoo’s much anticipated new search technology for advertisers, dubbed “Panama,” was due to take flight this summer, but has already been delayed with an unspecified release date.

Critics expect Google to eventually hit a rough spot as their innovations begin to dwindle. However, considering recent and upcoming developments in Google’s advertising industry, I don’t foresee that happening any time soon. If you’re seeking search advertising as a marketing option for your company, it appears that Google is currently the way to go.

What’s your experience with Google and Yahoo search advertising? Please share your experiences and comparisons.

Sources/Related Readings:
• Google vs. Yahoo: Clash of Cultures
• Yawns for Yahoo, ga-ga for Google
•Business Week: Google’s New Frontier: Print Ads
• Google vs. Yahoo!

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By Michelle Cramer
Saturday, December 15th, 2018 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Marketing, Operations |