Essential Tips on How to Boost Sales for Your Small Business — Melinda Emerson

What can you do to increase your sales right now? Today on the Atlanta Small Business Show, we’re pleased to welcome back Melinda Emerson, America’s number one small business expert, CEO of Quintessence Group, and best-selling author of Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months, to share a few tips.

Transcription:

Jim Fitzpatrick:
So Melinda, thank you so much for joining us once again on The Atlanta Small Business Show.

Melinda Emerson:
Oh, well, thank you so much for having me. It’s always fun to hang out with you guys.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Likewise. We really look forward to our time together. So from your perspective, what is the first thing our viewers need to do to grow their sales today? I know it’s a loaded question, but what would you like them to zero in on this last quarter?

Melinda Emerson:
Well, first of all, you need to be working on sales every day. I think the biggest issue that small business owners have when it comes to sales is this whole feast or famine thing that goes on. So, people work real hard, they get the contract, and then they stop working on marketing and sales. And then all of a sudden, a month before that contract’s about to end, it’s like, “Oh, no, we don’t have anything else in our pipeline.” And it’s like, hey, there’s a really easy way to not have that happen. Work on sales all the time. So, have an actual sales process. First of all, you should not be the only person in your business thinking about sales and working on sales. So, the first thing you got to do is develop your sales process. And that means understanding how long it takes you to close a sale.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Melinda Emerson:
What is your process? How do you normally meet? Context. Is it online? Is it in person? Is it trade shows? Is it cold calling? What is it that you do to attract people to know how to hire you? And then how long does it take you from the time you first engage with them to turn them into a paying customer?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Melinda Emerson:
In some cases, it can happen quicker. If you’re a product based business, I’m looking for shoes, you sell black shoes, okay, I might buy them from you today. But if you sell services, usually that is a sale you have to cultivate. Most people are not going to buy the first day they hear about you. So, you have to cultivate those relationships, or you’ve got to build sales funnels, nurture campaigns. You’ve got to give them content that’s going to help them along what we call their customer buyer journey.

So, it starts with brand awareness, which is how most people find people, brand awareness through blog posts, podcasts, media interviews, like the things we’re doing right now. But then once they find you, okay, is your website ready for company? Because it’s your number one sales tool. So, what is your website doing? Do you have two or three ways to engage people to give you their email address? And then what happens when they do? Is it a black hole? They never hear from you again, or do you start sending them content, surprise and delighting them, introducing your brand, getting them excited about who you are, and making sure that you define for them that you are their number one option to solve their problem? That is so, so, so important.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Melinda Emerson:
So, it’s not just about meeting somebody. Your fortune is in your follow up. And so that’s why email is so important when you start thinking about your overall sales process.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. Why do we get away from that? I mean, it seems as though everybody takes too big a breather after they’ve closed the deal. And then all of a sudden to your point, they realize, “Oh, wait a minute, I haven’t closed another deal in the last four weeks,” or to your point, when that contract’s about to come to an end, or you might get that phone call that says, “I think we’re going to go in a different direction, to your point again, what’s in the pipeline? But it seems as though it’s this natural thing that salespeople will do, and small business owners, where they just sit back and rest and go, “Wow, we just closed that deal.” And they say that for a month or two. And then they turn around and they go, “Wait a minute. We didn’t just close that deal. We closed it two months ago. We haven’t done anything since.” Why do we wait? Why we procrastinate on that?

Melinda Emerson:
Well, I think because a lot of people have hangups about sales. Sales is about your money mindset. And a lot of times people think sales is sleazy or sales is like, “Oh gosh, I just feel like a used car salesman.” Let me tell you something. You need to change your mindset in order to be successful with your sales. You have to think about… Don’t think about it as selling. Think about it as you are helping your customer.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right.

Melinda Emerson:
So, if you think about it like helping that doesn’t feel sleazy. That doesn’t feel like something you don’t want to do. So, you really have to change how you’re thinking about sales if you’re not a natural sales person. Honestly, I love sales, and I mean, I love closing a deal.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right. Right.

Melinda Emerson:
It is like music to me. My favorite sound is money coming in the door. So, for me, I’m like, oh, I’m a dog about sales. I’m like, “Oh, yeah, let me on the phone with them. I’ll close them.” But again, my father was a career salesperson, so I got a little bit of it, I think from osmosis.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure, sure.

Melinda Emerson:
I think that if sales is not your thing, enroll in some sales training.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Melinda Emerson:
And also, the other thing too is a lot of sales is taking place online, especially if you’re selling direct to consumer. You could be selling on Amazon on your website, directly through social media. If you’re selling b2b, you better be on LinkedIn, you better know how to use LinkedIn sales navigator, and you better be hiring sales people that aren’t just traditional, “Oh, let me get on the phone. Oh, let me go to a trade show.” Uh-huh, you got to work with sales people that are social media savvy.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Melinda Emerson:
Because they got to be able to start those relationships. Now, I’m still a strong believer that sales magic happens on the phone. My favorite thing in the world is to get somebody off of LinkedIn onto my telephone, because what I know is that I can close them. If they get to talk to me, I can close them.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right. Right.

Melinda Emerson:
I mean, almost like I dare them not to… You know what I mean? It’s like, oh, please, I can close. But again, but I think you have to kind of have that killer instinct, but you also… It’s really a numbers game. So, if you think about sales like this, you have to increase the number of sales conversations you are having in order to increase your close ratio.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Melinda Emerson:
So, if you’re only having three sales conversations a week and you’re not closing any of them, well, that means you got to start having 10 sales conversations.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Melinda Emerson:
But you can close maybe three of them, because any average salesperson’s batting ratio is about 30%.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah.

Melinda Emerson:
But if you’re only having three conversations, you’re not giving yourself a lot of options to close people, so you’ve got to make sure that you are always bringing in leads, that you have a way to qualify your leads, because there’s a difference between somebody that downloads something from your website-

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Melinda Emerson:
… because they might just want free stuff versus somebody that’s actually interested in what you are selling.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Melinda Emerson:
But that’s how you can use the emails to gauge interest. But what we do know statistically is right after somebody downloads something to your website is when they are most interested in you-

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Melinda Emerson:
… and who you are and what you have to offer. So, you got 48 hours from the time somebody downloads something to introduce yourself.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Melinda Emerson:
–really good extra that they weren’t expecting. And just build that trust relationship so you can earn the right to pitch these people. You can’t pitch somebody two seconds… The worst thing in the world you can do is to connect with somebody on LinkedIn, and then five seconds later, pitch them your stuff.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Melinda Emerson:
That’s a great way to get blocked and unfollowed.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Absolutely.

Melinda Emerson:
Do not do that stuff. You have to build rapport. You have to find a way to connect. You have to do your homework on people, so that when you do reach out, you can connect to them in a meaningful way. And don’t be afraid to use audio to connect, to use video to connect. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve got a personalized video picture from somebody, “Hey, Melinda, I went on your website. I think you’re amazing. We do this and we think we would be a great partner for you. Could you please just give us 15 minutes?” Now, let me tell you something else. You ask somebody for 15 minutes, you better only take 15 minutes.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah.

Melinda Emerson:
Now, they might extend the conversation. If they do, that’s fine, but you better not keep talking after 15 minutes.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Melinda Emerson:
Because you have already disrespected that person’s time and don’t think for a second that you’re going to get a contract after that.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Boy, that is so true. That is so true. And this is something that’s got to be a daily diet. This can’t be something that you do only on Wednesdays or only on… I’ve got a friend of mine that runs-

Melinda Emerson:
Here’s my thing, you got to do it two hours a day. If you’re going to do it, you got to do it two hours a day, or that’s all you do on Wednesday.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Melinda Emerson:
So, either you two hours a day at five days a week, or you give me eight hours of it one day a week.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. That’s right.

Melinda Emerson:
You have to figure out when you’re going to do it, and you have to get in the habit. It’s almost like going to the gym. You got to build that muscle. You got to get the strength. You got to get your scripts ready. You got to be able to get on the phone, get on LinkedIn, get on email to follow up. If there’s conferences coming up, figure out what conferences make sense for you to go to. And they should be the ones that have 80% of the audience is your target customer. And I don’t believe in buying trade show booths the first year you go to a conference ever. You go to the conference, you walk the floor, talk to other people who paid their money for a booth and find out if it was worth it, because it’s really expensive to take a booth, take extra staff.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Oh, sure. No question.

Melinda Emerson:
You want to make sure it is worth it. And all these people will sell you on, “Oh, you need a booth,” blah, blah, blah. No, you’re a small business. Go there, case to place, figure out if it’s worth it, and you can make plenty of appointments without having a booth at a trade show.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That is so true. That is so true. Hey, let me switch gears for just a second here. You probably get calls like this that says, “Hey, Melinda. There’s a lot of headwinds out there. If you watch the media and you listen to it and you got high inflation and high gas prices and interest rates and what have you, and I’m thinking about starting a business. Is it a good time for me to start a business right now?”

Melinda Emerson:
Oh yeah. Listen, the world is always waiting on a bit of mouse trap, and it doesn’t matter. And by the way, a lot of great businesses are started during recessions. Let me list some to you. Microsoft, you’ve heard of that business.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah, that’s right.

Melinda Emerson:
CNN, Airbnb, Toll House Cookies–

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Starbucks.

Melinda Emerson:
These are all businesses… FedEx. These are all businesses that were started during recessions. So, don’t feel like because we’re in an economic downturn, that people aren’t looking for solutions.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Melinda Emerson:
People are always looking for solutions. The thing about it is that when the economy is tight, your runway is a little shorter. So, that’s why doing your homework, making sure who your target customer is, getting really, really clear on what your unique value proposition’s going to be. What is your secret sauce? What is your moonwalk? You better have one.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right.

Melinda Emerson:
Because the thing about it is that nobody’s looking for yet another graphic design company.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. That’s right.

Melinda Emerson:
Nobody’s looking for that. But are they looking for a graphic design company that specializes in educational materials?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah.

Melinda Emerson:
All day long.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Melinda Emerson:
That business can get business. So really, don’t be afraid to niche and don’t be afraid to niche down harder during a recession because people are still out here spending. There’s still plenty of people with money. You want to make sure that you get the right story, that they know that you know what they’re going through and what they’re dealing with so that they really can build trust in you that you can solve their problem, because the biggest thing that small business owners really struggle with is trust.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Melinda Emerson:
You’re a small business, in many cases, you’re an unproven entity. You might got some reviews on your website, but those could be your cousins. So, you want to make sure that you under promise and over deliver.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right.

Melinda Emerson:
You want to make sure that you do a great job because you don’t just want that customer. You want the referral. That’s what you want, because you want to keep your customers and you want them to tell other people that you’re great. And that’s not going to happen if you’re not really good at what you do, if you’re not really good at communicating, and if you don’t deliver on time and on price. And those are the things that you’ve got to focus on, especially now, because nobody owes you business.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. That’s exactly right. And this is what makes you the small business expert, for sure. Melinda Emerson, CEO of Quintessence Group, small business expert, best selling author. Please, if you are at all thinking about opening up a small business, or maybe you’re running a small business and you’re hitting some headwinds, or you want to take it to the next level, get with Melinda and check her out online. You’re not going to be sorry. We love when she comes in here and shares her tips with all of our viewers. They’re invaluable. So Melinda, thank you so much for joining us on the show once again. We really appreciate it.

Melinda Emerson:
Oh, I always love coming through.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Thanks.


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