Female Small Business Owners a growing force- is your sales staff reflecting this fact?
Guest Contributor: Albert LukAlbert's Posts
- Albert's SiteDo you want to capture one of the largest growing trends in small business? Consider exploring female entrepreneurs as a growing niche market. A survey by the Center for Woman's Business Research found that women-owned businesses grew by 28% between 1997 and 2004. A UCLA study found that female run companies accounted for $2.3 trillion in annual sales in 2005. Finally, another survey found that the number of female entrepreneurs is growing at 3.3% annually which is greater than the number of men who are becoming entrepreneurs.
Selling to female entrepreneurs is another post in and of itself. However, it is an appropriate time to look at your small business sales force and consider whether it is geared towards this niche. There are few things to keep in mind:
- Personal experience and a study by RBC indicate that, statistically speaking, women are more likely to start or operate service based businesses (however, there is also considerable growth in female owner-managers among traditionally male businesses such as construction and manufacturing). Thus, service based companies will feel the impact of female entrepreneurship quicker and appropriate strategies need to be devised.
- Studies show that women are more likely to have home based businesses than men. Home based businesses, regardless of the gender of owner-managers, require special sensitivity in how, where and who will be attending the sales call. Training should be given to sales staff in the event a sales call occurs in a home based office regardless of gender.
- From personal experience, female entrepreneurs tend to be better referrers than men. There tends to be an unfair and built-in bias that female entrepreneurs are not in business as long as their male counterparts; their business is sometimes considered a hobby. However, I have found that granting female entrepreneurs the same level of respect as any other entrepreneur tends to be repaid many times over in quality leads and referrals. Like any successful sales strategy, developing a long term relationship will be fulfilling to all involved.
Much like the green movement, a thoughtful strategy needs to be implemented to address this rising force in entrepreneurship.
Labels: Albert Luk, Center for Woman's Business Research, female entrepreneurs, home based businesses, improving training, leads and referrals, RBC, sales force, sales staff, selling to women, UCLA
Get Involved In The Community To Build Trust Instead Of Selling
On Tuesday morning I am running an event for my Mastermind Group
members. The typical member is between $100,000 and $1.5 million in sales and are looking to get their companies to the next step. I have set up an intimate event with Frank Cianciulli
who is one of the most celebrated up and coming young entrepreneurs in Canada. Frank is going to share his secrets to success with the Mastermind Group members and it promises to be a fantastic event.
Having a group of growing small business owners attracts a lot of attention from people who want to sell to them. I have received calls from insurance companies, bankers, real estate brokers, and countless other B2B vendors who want to sell their products and pitch to my groups.
They are taking the entirely wrong approach. Entrepreneurs do not want to be sold to and therefore nobody is allowed into the groups to pitch their products. Very few account managers realize this and stumble back to their offices wondering why they cannot break into the SMB market.
Then I was contacted by Jordan from the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC). The BDC has a number of small business financing options and Jordan was interested in discussing how we might be able to work together. Jordan is a young guy but understands the importance of relationship building - he wanted to meet and get to know the members instead of handing out literature and promoting his products right off the bat.
Because of Jordan's approach, he is going to get in to meet the groups where many other companies have failed. For the event on Tuesday, Jordan is sponsoring the food and will be the only non-business owner in the room. He will have a captive audience and no competitors to worry about because he is there for the right reasons. I am sure the members of my groups will take well to his approach, making him the default supplier they turn to when it comes time to financing their businesses.
The message is a simple one: Get involved in the small business community and build trust with entrepreneurs instead of trying to come in and sell your products. By doing so you will not only be more successful and surpass your quotas but have a lot more fun in the process.
Labels: account managers, B2B vendors, bankers, Business Development Bank of Canada, Frank Cianciulli, insurance companies, Mastermind Group, real estate brokers, SMB market
Small Business Owners Will Pay More For Green Products
If you have not already considered your Green strategy, now might be a good time to start if you are selling to small business owners. According to a new survey from the Wells Fargo / Gallup Small Business Index, two thirds of business owners are willing to pay more the products and services needed to run their businesses if they knew that the companies suppling them were environmentally-friendly.
According to Harlan Lee, CEO of Virginia-based Harlan Lee & Associates: "Environmental actions I take today with my business will help ensure that our company can continue to grow and thrive in the future. Combining business practices with a responsibility for the environment is the right thing to do. If every small business owner could share best practices and take simple steps to incorporate environmental activities, together, we could make a very large impact on the success of our businesses, our customers, and ultimately our environment.
Small business owners are also in favor of government action that is aimed at improving the environment including:
- Spending government money to develop alternate sources of fuel for automobiles (78% in favor)
- Spending more government money on developing solar and wind power (76% in favor)
- Setting higher emissions and pollution standards for business and industry (75%)
With so many small business owners looking to the environment as a key element in their purchasing decision, does your company have a Green policy outlined that shows your values are aligned with those of your customers?
Labels: alternate fuel sources, business practices, environmentally friendly, Gallup Small Business Index, green products, green strategy, Harlan Lee, pollution standards, solar power, Wells Fargo
Build An Online Community To Support Your Products
If you are selling to small business owners it will be difficult to make a sale without having a quality website. Whether it is to learn about a company, compare pricing, or look at the features you offer, it is almost inevitable that your small business owner prospects will land on your website before making their purchasing decision.
An excellent way to convert leads into customers, generate more referrals and support your existing customer base is to develop an online community built around supporting and discussing your products. Here are a 3 suggestions to make the most of your online community:1) Enlist your biggest fans
Get the people who are fanatical about your product on board. Give them an additional incentives to participate by offering them profiles on the site and a link back. Offer them sneak peeks at new products to come and put them on your beta testing list. Involving the die hard customers and having them show their enthusiasm for your products online will give you the third party validation that many small business are looking for before making the final purchase.2) Have employee involvement
An online community can be a great way to learn about how your customers are using your products (the answer will often surprise you) and what new features they would like added. Many small business owners look online first before calling into your support line to find an answer to their problems. If they know that they can get a fast answer through your community from one of your staff you will earn a reputation online for excellent customer service. Your sales prospects will also see the responsiveness and be secure that if they have problems with your products they can find a fast answer online.3) Include valuable resources
Make sure to link to valuable tips, resources, white papers, guides, and other information you have about how to best use your products. Having new resources gives your community something to talk about and helps the members better understand your products and how they can get the most out of them. By monitoring the community and seeing which are the most common types of questions asked you can develop guides and tools that are most suitable to the needs of your customers.
Labels: convert leads, employee involvement, enlist your biggest fans, generate referrals, online community, purchasing decision, quality website, support customer base
Small Business Market Continues To Be Hot
The small business market has received significant attention from numerous companies of late as they try to expand their reach from the mature big corporate market to the expanding small business community. Everyone from credit card companies to airlines to telecommunications companies are trying to establish themselves as champions of small business. And it is no wonder - America's small businesses generated over 58,000 new jobs in May according to ADP
because of their growth and the trend is expected to continue.
A new study
by the Small Business Research Board (SBRB) in Canada predicts another 12 months of small business growth for Canadian SMBs. 85% of those surveyed believe the economy will remain the same or improve while 94% of the respondents predict their revenue will remain the same or increase during this period. Here are some of the major findings of the study:How SMBs plan on growing their companies:
- 52% - grow without adding staff by improving training
- 36% - add new employees
- 5% - decrease employees
- 6% - undecidedTop 5 issues facing Canadians SMBs:
2) Economic conditions
3) Finding quality employees
4) Cost of materials
5) Interest ratesWhere SMBs are planning to expand:
- 22% - add more services
- 20% - expand at current locations
- 19% - enhance customer service
- 18% - add new products
- 14% - add new locations
Labels: ADP, credit card, economic conditions, improving training, small business community, small business market, Small Business Research Board, support champions, taxes, telecommunications
Want To Learn About Small Business? Have A Garage Sale
Every weekend countless numbers of homeowners across North America tap into their entrepreneurial skills by hosting a garage sale to clean out their clutter and make some extra money.
What better way to understand your target market than to become one yourself, if only for a day?
By hosting a garage sale you will face many of the issues that your customers face on a daily basis like managing inventory, setting prices, dealing face to face with customers, setting up and cleaning up, and the all important asking for and closing the sales.
Business owners like to work with and buy from people who understand their issues and know what it is like to be an entrepreneur so why not brush up on your entrepreneurial skills and host a garage sale next weekend? It will at least give you some additional perspective to help you better understand your target market and you will have some extra spending money and a clean garage to boot!
Labels: additional perspective, close the sale, entrepreneurial skills, extra money, garage sale, managing inventory, setting prices, spending money, target market