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Small business advice for your start-up
December 2010 
Melinda Emerson
Sales Strategies for Start-ups
Melinda Emerson, CEO
MFE Consulting

Melinda Emerson, better known to many as SmallBizLady, is one of America's leading small business experts. Author of the national bestseller Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months, and host of Twitter's #SmallBizChat weekly for emerging entrepreneurs, Melinda has provided guidance on marketing and social media strategies to small businesses and Fortune 500 companies alike.

Expert Tips from Melinda: Expert Tips on Sales Strategy
Popular SCORE Webinar: Identifying your Sales Strategy
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Q: What are some fundamental steps for new business owners in crafting a sound sales strategy?

A: Remember that any plan is just your hypothesis of what will happen - things will change once the business hits the marketplace, which means the plan must change regularly. It's important to be flexible and update your strategy every two to three months in the first few years to make sure you're on track. 

 

Take care to identify your niche target customers. Based on this information, set definite monthly and annual sales goals for your business, and then determine how many sales activities - including proposals, meetings, weekly sales calls, emails, networking events and social media - must take place each month in order to meet these goals.

Q: What kinds of metrics provide the best insights as to how well a sales strategy is working?

A: If the business is achieving the 30-day sales goals, it's a good indication that the sales process is working. Make sure you can sustain any new marketing initiative for at least three months, although six months is best. It is also important to poll customers about how they heard about your business to evaluate what marketing efforts are most effective. If developing a sales process proves too difficult, invest in professional sales training.

Q: How can new business owners get the most out of networking events?

A: If you dread networking, find a fellow business owner who will attend events with you. Try to attend three networking events a month, and approach all potential contacts with a "give to get" mentality - how you can help them, not the other way around.  

 

Arm yourself with a killer "elevator pitch" - or as I like to call it, your "30-second commercial." When you can succinctly explain your business, it builds trust. If the contact seems interested, consider adding background from your last job or a brief client list, and describe your niche target customer. But offer just enough information to get a contact interested in chatting again.

Q: What's the best piece of sales and marketing advice you've received from a mentor?

A: "It's much easier and cheaper to keep a customer than to go out and find a new one."

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