During one of our entrepreneur groups recently, I was having a conversation about sales strategies with a local small-business owner who was impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. He asked, “What can I do to grow my business during these times?” I replied, “We go back to the basics.”
To me, going back to basics means focusing and building on the relationships with your clients and community you already serve. But during COVID-19, building new relationships seems like a more difficult task. Today, it seems much more difficult to compete with the big guys in town as digital marketing becomes much more competitive for small businesses to keep up. Small businesses do have one major advantage over the big guys — personal connection and impact to the local community!
There are plenty of time-tested strategies you can implement to grow or re-grow your small business, even during the hardest of economic climates. The following strategies do not require you to leave your house or spend a lot of money. They simply require your time, focus and commitment to the basics.
Where to start?
First, you need to take inventory of your valuable resources. How much time do you have to commit to your sales process? How much energy does it require from you? How much money have you set aside or can you set aside for your website and digital advertising?
Ask yourself these questions before you start so you have a better idea about your approach.
Next, you need to have some goals. Keeping track of your leads, new sales, existing sales and projections will give you the information you need to see if your strategy is working.
Here are seven proven strategies to help you grow your small business during COVID-19:
- Know your business model and customers really well. You want to be the expert in what you do, whether you are cutting hair, making candles, grooming pets or selling a virtual service. Take the time to understand how your competitors sell and scale. Then, spend a lot of time truly understanding what your customers need. Do they like your social media content? Are they happy with your service? Do they wish you offered additional services? This kind of information is a gold mine to any business. You will not know what you can do better until you ask the people who buy from you.
- Focus on providing the best service. Once you have a clear idea of what your customer needs, really spend effort in fine tuning your brand and quality. Start by looking at how your customer finds you, buys from you and talks about you after they have purchased from you. If there are opportunities to improve in any of those areas, you will be on track to being regarded as the best service in town.
- Create loyalty and ask for referrals. When you deliver an excellent service, your customers will be more than happy to send you referrals. Think about the last time you experienced amazing service; you could not wait to tell someone, right? Well, encourage your customers to talk about you and share their experience. Invite them to go to your Google Business page or Facebook reviews. You can even create referral campaigns where you reward your customers with some kind of incentive like a discount or free service. The more positive experiences you can capture, the better for your business in the long run.
- Maximize your social media and website. By now, it should be very obvious that every business needs to have an online presence. Make sure you keep your website and social media profiles updated and active. As customers move more and more online, creating a solid web experience will be one of your best investments as well. Instead of spending on traditional marketing like printed ads or paper flyers, use that money for your online presence.
- Find mentors and ways to grow. I do not know a single successful person who has done anything all by themselves. Everyone needs help and everyone can benefit from a mentor. A mentor can be someone from your industry or a course you sign up for that can help you polish your skills. Most of the sale interaction is communication, and if you struggle communicating the value of your service, it will cost you money in the long run. Keep your skills polished so you always have an edge in your market.
- Help your community. During these trying times, it is more important than ever to extend help to those who you can help and truly need it. Helping your community is another effective strategy to present your business in a positive light. Many nonprofit organizations are struggling for monetary support, volunteers and sponsorships. If you are in a position to support a worthy cause, do it. Once you have selected an organization(s) to support, draft a press release and do not be shy to let your community know how you are helping. Try not to do it just once; create a long-term campaign and invite your customers along for the ride.
- Focus on what works. You know your business better than I do, so keep a close eye on your own personal sales style. Keep track of what is working well in your sales process and stop what is not working. As you develop a stronger sense of your own selling style, document how you go about it. Eventually, you will use that information to develop a sales training for new sales reps to help you scale in the future.
Follow these simple strategies to help you build a strong sales approach that will go beyond any pandemic or economic crisis. Reflect on your current sales methods and make tweaks as you grow your business. There is no magic bullet approach; however, these proven strategies are helping many business owners grow their business, including yours truly.
If you are interested in joining our entrepreneur group, sign up for our bi-weekly Business Energizers! We discuss strategies, goals and resources in a virtual mastermind setting. The Business Energizers are held every other Monday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. You can register for free by visiting www.ccbsfoundation.org.
EDGAR RAFAEL OLIVO is a bilingual business educator, economic advisor and contributor for several media outlets. He’s a nonprofit executive who is passionate about education. He is certified in finance and data analytics and holds a business degree from Arizona State University.
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