#Smallbizchat Podcast LIVE is a monthly video interview show where small business owners can get answers to their questions.
The focus of #Smallbizchat is to end small business failure by helping participants succeed as your own boss.
Romina Brown is President of Strategic Solutions International (SSI). It’s the only female-led, Black-owned category management firm on the planet. At SSI, Romina is supported by a global diverse team of trained analysts, marketing, research, and technology experts. Romina is a highly respected CEO and strategic consultant with a proven track record of making tremendous impact. Romina has served in various executive marketing and sales positions for well-known brands, including Eastman Kodak, Sara Lee, and L’Oréal USA. In 2004, she formed SSI. Experienced in both corporate and entrepreneurial environments, Romina provides contextual insight and guidance in the development of strategies for diverse industries and levels of business. For more information: https://www.ssiconsults.com/
SmallBizLady: What do you believe is the secret sauce to a brand’s success from your company’s perspective?
Romina Brown: We firmly believe that a brand’s success lies in its ability to deeply understand and connect with its target audience. This means truly grasping their needs, desires, and pain points. It’s about crafting authentic experiences and building meaningful relationships. To achieve this, it’s essential for brands to have real data-driven insights. This allows organizations to use evidence-based data to make decisions and create plans based on what their ideal customer needs and wants. A data-driven decision enables leaders to take informed actions that result in their ideal business outcome.
SmallBizLady: You’re known as the data geek, what is the most important data point/set that the brand should always know or have access to?
Romina Brown: Brands should prioritize having a solid understanding of their customer’s preferences, behaviors, and demographics. Customer data is an invaluable resource that can shape marketing strategies, product development, and overall brand positioning. One key data set that brands should always have access to is consumer purchase data. This information provides insights into what products or services are resonating with customers, allowing brands to tailor their offerings accordingly. Additionally, data on customer engagement and feedback, collected through surveys, reviews, and social media interactions, is critical for refining the brand experience.
SmallBizLady: Where can small businesses get access to data points to help them build a sound brand?
Romina Brown: Data-driven insights can be a game-changer for product businesses. While it may seem daunting, small businesses can access valuable data points through various channels. First and foremost, leveraging digital tools is crucial. Web analytics platforms, such as Google Analytics, can provide insights into website traffic, user behavior, and conversion rates. Social media platforms also offer analytics tools that provide valuable information on audience demographics, engagement metrics, and content performance.
Additionally, small businesses can tap into market research firms and industry reports specific to their niche. These resources often offer valuable data on consumer trends, market size, and competitive analysis. Collaboration with local chambers of commerce or industry associations and professionals can also provide access to industry-specific data and networking opportunities. Finally, it’s essential for small businesses to develop relationships with their customers. Conducting customer surveys, collecting feedback through email or social media, and actively listening to their needs can provide firsthand insights that inform brand strategies.
How to Get Better at Sales
David Newman is the author of the business bestseller “Do It! Marketing” and his new book, “Do It! Selling.” He’s the founder of the Do It! MBA mentoring program and the host of The Selling Show, a top-rated business podcast with over 300 episodes. David helps professional services sellers land better clients, bigger deals, and higher fees. And THAT is what he’s about to help YOU do. For more information: https://doitmarketing.com/selling
SmallBizLady: How can small biz owners who hate to sell get much better at it quickly?
David Newman: They need to think of selling in a new way, so let’s start by redefining the word. Selling is an “invitation” process. It’s an invitation to a conversation. Who’s afraid of an invitation? Well, typically nobody; invitations are usually good. What happens when you get an invitation? You go to a party with either cake, or bourbon, or barbecue. All good so far, am I right? Who’s afraid of a conversation? Usually, we look forward to conversations. They’re engaging. You learn things and you get to meet cool people and exchange ideas with them. Some of those people may even become your new best friends. If you reframe your sales thinking, you will look forward to those sales invitations and sales conversations in the same way. Maybe even more so, because not only are you conversing with your new best friends, but you’re also conversing with your new next clients. With every new prospect conversation, imagine you’re recruiting to fill a job position, and the job title is “My Next Client.” If you are interviewing people for that job, you have nothing to fear, nothing to hide, and you have all the power. Why? Because YOU are conducting the job interview! You’re evaluating them (even more than they are evaluating you) to make sure that they’re a great fit and that they’re the exact kind of client with whom you can do your best work.
SmallBizLady: What can small biz owners do if they’re really busy AND don’t like making cold calls?
David Newman: If you’re like most small business owners, your most underutilized prospecting asset is your warm network. This is your circle of allies, friends, colleagues, and champions. Look at the people you’re already in communication with, whom you’ve already touched in some way, shape, or form. Not sure where to begin building your list of your warm network?
Look at the last 30–40 people who you’ve;
• Messaged on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, etc.
• Zoomed with individually or in a group
Do you have an email newsletter that goes out via tools like Constant Contact, Mailchimp, HubSpot, etc.? Look at the last 30–40 people who opened your email newsletter; then look at the last 30–40 people who clicked on one of your links in that email. Those are even warmer! All kinds of people are going to start popping up. List them, and those people will make you think of other people who you’re equally well connected with (or more so!). Now, let’s cruise over to your social media platforms…
Look at the last 30–40 people who liked, commented, or shared one of your social posts. Got a good list of people who know you, like you, and might even be looking for ways to help you? Cool!
Here’s what to do with each of them: Tell them exactly the kind of prospects you are looking for (be as narrow, specific, and clear as possible) and tell them 1-2 specific outcomes those prospects most want. Example: “I’m looking to connect with 3 established solo attorneys who are ready to bring on partners and build a team so they can work less and get their life back.” Then ask: “Do you know anyone who might be a good fit?” You’re not marketing to them directly, but you’re unleashing some inbound referrals and some inbound introductions. Your contacts are your ministry. Don’t let any of them go to waste.
SmallBizLady: You encourage small biz owners to “stop doing crap they hate” to reach more buyers. What does that mean?
David Newman: To get in front of the right prospects, choose the method that suits your personality, your strengths, and your preferences. If you love to write, use writing strategies. Create articles, blogs, cheat sheets, short guides, PDFs, worksheets, etc. If you hate writing, don’t write. It’s not going to work, because you’re not going to keep up with something you hate to do. If you love speaking, use speaking strategies. Do virtual presentations, host webinars, use a podcast-guesting strategy, host your own podcast, or speak in front of targeted groups. If you love it, the more you speak, the more clients you’ll get. If you hate it, then don’t.
If you love video, use video strategies. Invest time and energy in building out a great YouTube channel. Go live regularly on LinkedIn and Facebook. Do a video blog. Use video email tools like BombBomb to get in front of prospects with your personality and charm. If flipping on your camera makes you break out in a cold sweat, then please don’t even think about doing video. It’s not for you. If you love geeking out on tech, then use tech strategies. Love tinkering with search-engine optimization? Go for it, you SEO rock star!
Want to futz around building a digital studio in your home office? Cool! Are you into using the latest AI tools for prospecting, content generation, CRM, and more? Are you loving some of the latest online collaboration tools, like mural.co, miro.com, and circle.so? Have at it, amigo! Are you a design freak? Then design strategies are for you. Create your own memes, quotes, and wallpapers to share with your fans and followers. Create Canva templates and giveaways. Build out some cool designs and share them on your blog or email them to your list. Do you love networking? Then use in-person and online networking strategies.
If you love meeting new people, shaking hands and kissing babies, get out there and network your heart out. Mixers; online events; in-person meetings; regional or national conferences; local meetups; and connecting 1-on-1 at breakfasts, coffees, and lunches. They are all perfect for you if you love networking. If any of the items above make you say, “I hate that crap,” you now officially have my permission to STOP doing them immediately.
How to Launch a Sales Team
Kristie Jones is the Founder of the Sales Acceleration Group. Kristie is the go-to expert for companies wanting to build, grow, or scale their sales and customer success teams. She started the company in 2016 to help owners and founders increase revenue, reduce churn, and be able to scale more quickly. Her 20+ years as a Sales Leader in the SaaS space fuels her passion for helping bootstrapped or VE/PE funded founders. Her willingness to get her hands dirty and her “take no prisoners” approach when helping companies with everything from sales process and strategy to hiring and training sales and customer success reps. is what make her so valuable to her clients. For more information: www.SalesAccelerationGroup.com
SmallBizLady: How do you know when it’s time to hire your first sales rep?
Kristie Jones: Great question! There are several things that you should be looking for before you invest in your first sales rep. Here are some questions, you as the owner, need to ask before you invest in your first sales hire:
- Do I have product market fit? Do I know that the product or service I’m selling is something that people/companies need and want AND are willing to pay for?
- Do I understand how to build top of the funnel consistently? Inbound? Outbound? Marketing? SDRs? Events? Social? E-comm?
- Do I understand how to move buyers through the sales cycle?
- Do I understand the common objections that will come up during the sales cycle?
- Do I have the money needed to support a sales rep as they are building their pipeline?
- And most importantly, are you ready to give your baby up for adoption? Can you step away and not micro-manage the new sales rep? Do you know how you’ll spend your time when you’re not doing Founder-led sales anymore?
SmallBizLady: What is the prework that need to be done by the business owner before bringing on a sales rep?
Kristie Jones: Before you go posting that job description on LinkedIn you need to spend some time really thinking about the type of salesperson you need.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- What type of sales help do you need?
- An SDR (Sales Development Rep) to set appts for you or an Account Executive
- Do you need a full cycle rep (meaning they will prospect for themselves and then work the entire sales cycle)
- Do you need an inside or outside/territory rep?
- Are you selling regionally or nationally/internationally?
- Do you need someone in your city, or can they work remotely?
- What’s your budget for this person/these people?
- You’ll need to also budget for commission, but usually, that falls under your COGS and you’re happy to pay for revenue.
- How will you onboard them?
- No point in going to all the trouble to hire top talent and then fail the onboarding test
- Do you know how to set their quota and what the leading and lagging indicators of their success will be?
- Are you prepared to manage them, or will you need to hire a factional sales leader?
Once you’ve been able to answer those questions and are feeling confident in your ability to set your newest sales rep up for success then you should be thinking about the traits that will be important and necessary for this person to be successful.
SmallBizLady: What traits and experience should you be looking for in your first few sales reps?
Kristie Jones: Being one of the first few sales reps at a company is not for everyone nor the faint of heart. I describe working for an early-stage startup or “younger” company this way to candidates – “You need to be more willow than oak.” Meaning that you’ll need to be willing to be flexible. The company might be still figuring out messaging, pricing, and the product still might be half-baked.
Here are the traits that I look for when I’m helping hire the first couple of sales reps for my clients:
- A life-long learner – This can’t be understated. You want someone who wants to better themselves all the time.
- Resilience – Sales is a high-rejection sport. You want someone with a high bounce-back factor.
- Naturally curious – This is one of the things I can’t teach.
- Empathetic – Here’s another one that can’t be taught.
- Disciplined – My motto is, “Work your sales process, and your sales process will work.” This requires discipline.
- Good listener – A good sales rep listens WAY more than they talk
- Mechanical – This one might seem weird, but the most successful reps are puzzle piece/problem solvers much like a mechanical engineer is.
- Optimistic – See Resilience.
SmallBizLady: What about the experience of a sales rep. How does that play into who you hire?
Kristie Jones: The Kristieism here is: “The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.” You want to hire winners. Winners know that feeling and want to feel it again, so you want to look for candidates that have been successful in the past. That doesn’t have to just be successful in sales. It could be sports (I love to hire former collegiate athletes), a hobby, or school. Winners, win!
You also want how prior experience will impact how quickly they ramp. You might want to look for someone who has been in your industry for a while, who’s hunted for new business before, or is well-connected and might be able to get some quick wins from their network.
Bottomline. It’s not cheap or easy to hire top talent. You need to make sure you’re ready so you can set them up for success.
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