Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with @michellepippin, B. Michelle Pippin. There’s certainly no shortage of business “gurus” vying for your attention, promising you the world on a silver platter, dollars while you sleep, and other business myths that often lead their clients feeling broke and bummed. As the undisputed authority on creating clients for your business, Michelle is committed to doing the opposite. In fact, she measures her own success by the increase her clients see to their bottom line. Outlets such as Forbes.com, Good Morning America Weekend, The NFIB, The Price of Business, Main Street and more have featured her business savvy over the years, noting that her candid approach is appreciated by businesses small and large.
Defined by her own confidence and clarity, she’s often described by her clients as relentless, grass-roots, offensive, passionate, profit-driven… and sometimes, even worse! If your business is pregnant with potential, and you are ready to (FINALLY!) give birth to profit, you’ve got to speak to Michelle. She can be found at bmichellepippin.com and womenwhowow.com
SmallBizLady: Why do most business owners struggle with sales?
B. Michelle Pippin: First, they’re struggling because sales are an issue. They love the idea, they love what they provide. They love the business… But sales are lacking or inconsistent. The sales they get aren’t enough, aren’t providing enough profit, or they’re not coming in consistently enough. This causes stress and fear and anxiety and frustration.
There’s also this little-discussed phenomenon of a business owner WANTING to be good enough not to have to market or sell. They’d rather clients just show up. Also, sales experts have notoriously OVER-complicated sales. So, sales feel complex at best and awkward or sleazy at worst. In reality, though sales get the client clear and action-oriented – it’s a good thing.
SmallBizLady: What do most small businesses typically do to fix the sales problem?
B. Michelle Pippin: They either keep doing what they’ve always done or they keep buying leads through commercials or print ads, etc., because they think they need MORE leads or MORE exposure or they look anxiously for the next magic bullet to give them the increase they need.
SmallBizLady: Why doesn’t this work?
B. Michelle Pippin: This doesn’t work because they never fix the holes in their sales process… At the beginning of every sales funnel is a prospect. Savvy business owners make it their job to be a good steward of that prospect, develop him or her thoroughly and walk them through to a win-win sale.
MOST business owners immediately think, “I need more leads.”, but, it doesn’t work. Even IF the magic bullet brings new leads, the sales funnel is still full of holes and so you just LOSE those leads you just bought or hustled for.
SmallBizLady: How did you get to be so focused on sales?
B. Michelle Pippin: Let’s face it. Sales are the lifeblood of business. Without sales, you either have a hobby or closed doors. Being married to a public school teacher, and having $213 dollars in the bank when I opened my first business in 1999, left me NO ROOM for a hobby and even less room for failure.
It was baptism by fire for me, and this was the best gift I could ever give my business. I skipped over all of the branding and networking and “visioneering” and started selling. With a $50 start-up investment, I created $63K in income that year. Only after that, did I start reading about how “hard” business was, and how it was so hard to make money… At first, I thought I was just lucky. Over the years, I realized that I had uncovered some super simple sales strategies that just plain worked.
SmallBizLady: What are 3 examples of where typical sales funnels lose leads?
B. Michelle Pippin: One way is word vomiting all over a prospect, talking more than you listen and unveiling your entire list of services or products in hopes of seeming important, smart, or even just in hopes of stumbling upon something they want. As a result, prospects’ eyes glaze over and they take the nearest exit out of the sales funnel. Of course, there’s always the pitfall of price. Business owners get it in their heads that they have too few sales because their prices are too high. They don’t want to discount what they KNOW to be so valuable, but they do. Unfortunately, sales won’t go up measurably for them and profit goes down. They’ve just applied a price solution to what may have been a messaging or packaging problem. Finally, there’s the Bermuda triangle of lost leads — this is where leads engage you in conversation, emails, and express interest or even say YES — only to disappear before taking out their credit card. The solution is to arm your sales funnel with expected and appreciated follow up.
SmallBizLady: What can small business owners do to create a high profit sales funnel?
B. Michelle Pippin: The most important and critical aspect of the sales funnel is targeting well. You have to design your sales funnel for a very specific target market, so — yes — you’ll likely have more than one sales funnel at work in your business. Everything in a well-orchestrated sales funnel is based on you knowing your target INTIMATELY– so that you can speak their language, craft a compelling offer that FEELS like it’s “just for them” and also anticipate their expected objections. The most profitable sales funnels are PERSONALIZED.
SmallBizLady: Okay, we have our target. What is next?
B. Michelle Pippin: Well, you look at your own sales funnel. First, do you HAVE one? Have you choreographed the different steps in your own sales funnel? Or do you wing it? If you don’t have a multi-step sales funnel — Create one.
If you have a sales funnel, work to find the leaks. Each business owner must look to see where prospects are dropping out of their sales funnel. This is easy for me as a strategist to see — in other people’s business. However, it’s critical we learn to identify those leaks in our own. The good news is that every leak has a fix. First, we have to find them.
SmallBizLady: For those that have NO sales funnel created, what steps must be included?
B. Michelle Pippin:
- An introduction point. How will clients or patients find you initially? What will they be looking for? What is their pain? What’s top of mind for them?
- A bait offer — this is something that lures your prospect into the sales funnel itself. Keep the free offer simple and direct and specific. It should require very little commitment on behalf of your prospect. They’ve now raised their hands and initiated a step into your funnel.
- Indoctrinate them. This delays the sale, but it gives you a chance to properly position yourself, add value to your prospect, and demonstrate integrity, commitment and expertise.
- Asking for the Sale. Make the offer.
- Follow Up.
SmallBizLady: How about for those who have sales funnels? How do you fix the leaks?
B. Michelle Pippin: It’s really simple. Look back at your last 20 prospects with an objective eye. Where did you lose them? Was it after your initial conversation? Stop talking and listen. Don’t pitch, serve. Maybe it was after they said they’d think about it — and instead of going home with a check, you walked in with your head hung in defeat? Build in some strategic follow up in your sales funnel — and tell prospects about it ahead of time. Make it expected and appreciated. Look closely at your last 20 prospects. Your experience with them will help you clearly identify where your existing sales funnel needs some work.
SmallBizLady: Talk to us about “asking for the sale” — making the offer.
B. Michelle Pippin: Women are infamous for never actually making the ask. They put a package “out there” but never directly ask for the business. So, first: ASK FOR THE SALE. Beyond that, there are several components of a strong offer — and I believe EACH is critical. Most people include only PRICE and DELIVERABLES in their offer — or what you will pay, and what you will get. A strong, compelling offer also includes:
- Risk Reversals — sometimes in the form of a guarantee or built-in support / follow up
- Expected Outcome — reminding the prospect of what they said they wanted
- Anticipated Objections — don’t wait for the prospect to bring that up. You know what objections you hear most often. Prepare for them. Losing sales to “price?” Do their homework / comparison shopping for them, so you can show them the REAL value of what you offer
- A firm ask
SmallBizLady: How do you know how to price your product or service in the offer?
B. Michelle Pippin: Here’s what I know about price. Price is MUCH more elastic than business owners think. There are always segments of the market willing to pay for premium levels of service or product quality. As an example: there’s a market for Neiman Marcus and a market for Walmart. We get to choose which market we spend our time on. The key is to make sure your price aligns with your VALUE and with your market. If you are constantly getting price-based objections, one of two things are at play. You’re either speaking to the wrong market, OR your positioning within that market needs some work. Your prices speak on your behalf. Allow them to speak of VALUE and TOP QUALITY.
SmallBizLady: What are the three most important things to know about sales funnels?
B. Michelle Pippin:
- Don’t ever wing it. Plan it, work it; maintain it.
- There’s a fix for every leak. Every sales funnel starts with some leaks. Keep looking, keep making your funnel stronger.
- Measure. Always measure results. Emotions are misleading, but numbers never are. So, measure number of leads, number of conversions, etc. Keep working to improve your numbers.
“Business Graph” courtesy of jscreationzs / www.freedigitalphotos.net
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