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 @aliceheiman. Alice Heiman, Sales Strategist, Speaker, Author, Coach is a sales expert and networking guru who walks you through what it takes to sell successfully whether it’s your job to sell or you’re a business owner who never dreamed you’d have to sell.
SmallBizLady: Most Business owners have to sell but for many it doesn’t come easy. I know you are an expert at helping the small business owners increase sales. What’s the first thing they have to do?
Alice Heiman: Well, the first thing they have to do is believe; believe they can sell and believe they can hit the goal they desire. Seems simple but it’s not. Many business owners have goals that are unrealistic – either too high or too low. So we start by understanding why they are in business and what they want to accomplish and then set a realistic 12-month sales goal.
SmallBizLady: Lots of business owners set sales goals, but I know many of them are taking a Wild guess how should they set a realistic Sales Goal?
Alice Heiman: There are several things to consider when setting realistic sales goals. Most goals are set using historical data and a % of increase desired. The problem is that % of increase usually has no basis. I recommend considering capacity. Take historical data into consideration so you can grow beyond it but consider what your current capacity is and what infrastructure would be needed to increase capacity. If there is no budget to allow for that increase then increasing sales can be dangerous. If more leads will be needed to hit that increase which is more than likely is there a budget for that? Generating more sales can implode a business that isn’t ready, so this must be considered.
SmallBizLady: Can you give us an example of how to set a realistic goal?
Alice Heiman: Let’s say you want to do a million in sales. The first thing to do is divide by 12. Can you bring in $83K a month? How many leads do you need to sell $83k a month? Can you hit the ground running and sell that in January and February, probably not. So that means you will have to sell more than $83K a month in the remaining months. Is that possible with the resources you have and if you sell it can you deliver it. If the answer is yes. Set your sales goal.
SmallBizLady: So the SALES Goal is set what should happen Next?
Alice Heiman: What usually happens next is they go back to doing what they usually do, and that may or may not get them to hit the goal. What I recommend is that they make a plan. Take the goal and write out everything that needs to happen. I suggest companies start their planning in October so that they hit the ground running in January. Best practices for small business owners tell us that a day or two of offsite planning works great. So you establish your goal and then write your plan. Some companies write a strategic plan annually that includes the sales plan.
SmallBizLady: What are some of the things that need to be included in the Sales Plan?
Alice Heiman: One of the most important things is lead generation. It’s important to figure out just how many leads you have to generate to get the needed sales. For example, if you have to talk to 100 people per month to set 30 appointments and out of those 30 appointments ten people buy then you must make sure that you have a list of 100 people to call each month. The other thing you can do is work on messaging that might prompt more of those 100 to set appointments and more of the 30 to buy. Working on the messaging and questions you use takes time but can make all the difference.
SmallBizLady: Generating and qualifying leads are important. What else can we do to make Selling Easier?
Alice Heiman: Get organized with your time. You know what you have to do to close sales but are you spending enough time doing it? As the business owner, it is more than likely that you have a lot more to do than sell. Selling may be one of the most important things, but many things take up your time. The people who are selling need to set aside prime time hours to get the selling work done. Anything that can be done before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m. should be done then and prime selling hours should be used for selling. A day can’t go by where you don’t get your selling work done.
SmallBizLady: Time Management is important for all business owners, what other time management tips do you have?
Alice Heiman My favorite is time blocking and back filling. Most people put their set appointments on their calendar, but it doesn’t stop there. I recommend blocking time to do sales and projects. Take a look at your calendar and decide what time you will spend each day making calls, communicating with\ email or social media and what time you will hold for appointments. Then at the end of each day backfill your calendar. What I mean by that is go back to your calendar and put in exactly what you did do. If you didn’t do what you had scheduled, reschedule it. At the end of each week analyze what you did with your time. Did you spend the needed time selling? Figure out how can you reorganize for the week ahead to make sure you do get the selling time in?
SmallBizLady: Once you get your calendar organized what’s Next?
Alice Heiman: From here it’s all about accountability. As a business owner who is holding you accountable? It’s easy to get away without doing the things on your calendar if they are not an appointment with someone else who will be waiting. Who will make sure you get your calls made, follow up done and project completed?
SmallBizLady: What do you recommend for Sales Accountability?
Alice Heiman: If there is another senior executive at your company that is strong enough to be a good accountability partner then share your goals and set up periodic meetings to discuss progress. If that is not possible join a group of other business owners like EO or Vistage to find a group that can help. Start your own sales mastermind group of business owners you know or hire a sales coach. It’s always easier when you have someone rooting for you when you win and holding you accountable when you don’t.
SmallBizLady: These are great tips. What do you recommend for the business owner who is not the best at selling and really wishes someone else would do it?
Alice Heiman: In extreme cases I do recommend they hire a salesperson if they can afford it and know how to manage sales. But before doing that if at all possible I recommend the business owner get really good at the sales job before finding someone else to do it. Most business owners are uncomfortable selling because they have had no training. They don’t know what to do and have made most of their sales out of sheer enthusiasm for their business and the prospects need for their unique product or service.
SmallBizLady: What can a business owner to do to get more comfortable Selling?
Alice Heiman: Do more of it! The more they do, the better they will get at it but, of course, some training would be helpful. There are tons of great books, blogs, videos and audios on the internet for free or inexpensive self-paced learning. There are online and local training and coaching programs. Once you learn what questions you need to ask and have the confidence to ask them, selling gets a lot easier.
SmallBizLady You’ve covered so much Is there anything you would like to Add?
Alice Heiman: Oh, there is so much, and we are just about out of time. I do have great articles on my blog smartsalestips.com as well as some ebooks, and I love helping small business owners make selling easy through my Sales Success coaching groups and training programs. I am happy to help so call me!
If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9 pm ET; follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter. Here’s how to participate in #SmallBizChat: http://bit.ly/1hZeIlz
For more tips on how to start or grow your small business subscribe to Melinda Emerson’s blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com.