Startups and other fast-growing organizations face a common challenge: In the early days of an organization, people join because they’re passionate about the mission. Yet too often, as the team grows in size, the tether to the original vision weakens, and new salespeople aren’t as successful as those who were there from the beginning. To ensure your new team is as passionate as your original team, leaders should follow these three tactics: 1) establish storytelling as a company norm, so every sales member carries your mission into customer conversations; 2) institutionalize deep discovery into your sales process, teaching new salespeople to ask strategic questions to understand customer goals; and 3) invest in human-to-human sales enablement, which provides the team with the assets to win business, including presentations, market data, tech tools, and a well-organized pool of case studies.
When Chief Revenue Officer Steve Johnson was ramping up the sales team at Hootsuite, he faced a big challenge: He needed to scale sales, and he needed to do it quickly.
As a veteran leader of previous startups, Johnson knew that growing sales fast would require new systems, processes, and infrastructure. He also recognized that he needed to scale the passion and belief that had propelled Hootsuite’s early wins. If they were going to be successful, it was crucial that new team members have the same fire in their belly as the original team.
It’s a common challenge. In the early days of an organization, people join because they’re passionate about the mission. Young sales teams typically have a strong emotional tie to the founder(s), the product, and the impact they can have on the market. Close proximity to the founders and a clear articulation of the market problem the firm is solving create a compelling story that unites the early team. Yet too often, as the team grows in size, the tether to the original vision weakens, and new salespeople aren’t as successful as the founding salespeople.
This is an avoidable problem. In my work with fast-growth firms, I’ve seen first-hand that when leaders are intentional about embedding their mission and a sense of higher purpose into their culture, sales can grow faster.
Johnson was proactive about three things: 1) building widespread belief in Hootsuite’s purpose, 2) institutionalizing processes to help new team members understand the positive impact their solutions could have on customers, and 3) providing a heavy dose of sales coaching. This work paid off: Over a two-year period, his team grew from 27 people in Canada to more than 1,000 people around the world who delivered a cumulative revenue increase of more than 56,000%. After 24 months of rapid growth, they announced one of the largest software raises in Canadian history ($165 million) followed by another $60 million 11 months later. Johnson went on to scale teams at Vidyard and Intelex, and is now COO of Berkshire Grey, the world’s largest robotics company.
“When you’re small and growing fast, you’re under a lot of pressure,” Johnson says. “You think you don’t have time to worry about seemingly soft concepts like culture, and belief, but building a strong emotional infrastructure enables you to scale faster.”
Whether you’re trying to scale sales to take your firm public, recover lost revenue due to the pandemic, or step into new opportunities, being intentional about helping your sales team understand your organization’s larger purpose and the role they play in delivering on that for customers provides the bedrock for revenue expansion. Here are three ideas you can embed into your foundation to ensure your new team is as passionate as your original team:
1. Establish storytelling as a company norm.
“Great companies are built on great stories,” as LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman recently said on his Masters of Scale podcast. Early sales teams have a clear sight line to customer impact. They understand why the product and the company exist, and they carry that passion into customer conversations.
As the sales team expands, you can ensure that you keep this emotional tether strong by consistently weaving stories about how your offering makes life better for customers into your onboarding and making it part of regular meetings. For example, when we worked with Steve Johnson scaling the Hootsuite sales team, we trained sales managers to start each weekly meeting with a story about how their solution made a difference to customers. This enables new hires to deepen their understanding of the product impact, and it strengthens their connection to the founding vision. This makes them more effective in customer conversations.
2. Institutionalize deep discovery questions in your sales process.
A fast-growth sales team who is excited about their offering is at risk for employing what we refer to as the “spray and pray” model of selling. Excited sellers spray the pitch out there as fast as they can and then pray that some of it sticks with the prospective client.
While well intended, enthusiastically pitching solutions with little or no customer intelligence is unlikely to win large deals, and long term, it puts the organization’s reputation at risk.
You can avoid this trap by building deep client discovery into your sales process. Teach new salespeople (and managers) how to ask strategic questions to better understand your client’s goals. For example, you want your sales team to understand your customers’ market environment, what their most pressing challenges are, and how they have defined success for themselves. Asking the customer questions like “How does this area of the organization (the space where your solution could help) impact your larger strategy? Or “What effect would these improvements have on your long-range goals?” helps your sales team understand the potential ripple effect of their offering. Asking insightful questions about the customers overall goals (versus just your solution) is rocket fuel for a young sales team.
When salespeople ask prospective clients good questions, the sellers improve their business acumen quickly because they’re learning about the market from the customer’s perspective. It also helps them build better customer relationships before there’s a major deal on the table.
Institutionalizing deep discovery questions (before pitching) sends a collective message to the sales team and the market: We want to know what’s on our customers’ minds.
3. Invest in human-to-human sales enablement.
When a company is growing quickly, sales managers are under pressure to hit big numbers. This can (unintentionally) hinder skills-based sales coaching. A sales manager with a stake in the deal is often tempted to take over a seller’s sales call instead of providing backstage skills coaching. While this may win the deal in the moment, it doesn’t scale. It also put the organization at risk for becoming transactional, because sellers don’t learn how to make a compelling case for the solution on their own.
Instead of relying exclusively on sales managers (who may be inexperienced or overwhelmed) you can scale faster by building a human-focused sales enablement function. Sales enablement — a concept forged in the startup world — traditionally focuses on providing the sales team with the assets to win business, including resources like presentations, market data, tech tools, and a well-organized pool of case studies. Fast-growth firms take the enablement concept to the next level by adding a strong sales coaching function.
This takes (some of) the pressure off the sales managers by providing reps with support from someone isn’t under the same deal-to-deal pressure. When a supportive third party (the coach) works with the individual sellers on skills like: opening sales calls based on client issues, deepening discovery conversations, and sharing the company story in a compelling way, it shows the sales team, it’s not just closing the deal, it’s how you close the deal.
A human-to-human coaching program can accelerate the team’s passion for customers and give them the skills to authentically demonstrate that passion throughout the sales process.
When the pressure is on to grow revenue, it’s tempting to focus on concrete tasks like systems and processes. However, the firms who build sustainable revenue are also intentional about the more emotional elements. Use these three techniques to make sure that your growth doesn’t dilute the secret sauce that got you started in the first place.
5 Ways to Control Your Inventory So It Doesn’t Control You
Managing inventory is a task that can make or break your small business. With too much inventory, profits suffer and storerooms overflow. With too little, items get back-ordered, customers get frustrated and business is lost. And striking a balance is hard, especially with disruptions to the global supply chain in the last few years causing delayed deliveries.
While you can’t control the supply chain, you can take steps to prevent common problems like product shortages and excess stock. Here’s how.
1. Stick to the story
Donna Daniel owns and operates three connected small businesses in Claremont, California: The Grove Clothing, The Grove Home and The Outdoor Store, which sell women’s clothing, home goods and unisex adventure-themed gear, respectively. To run all three of her stores, Daniel needs to keep an impressive variety and quantity of inventory in stock — and ensure it moves quickly to make room for seasonal items and new shipments.
To keep her inventory cohesive within each store, she arranges it in themed displays — or what she calls “stories” — which tie together dozens of different items to appeal to a color, season or activity.
“I don’t buy anything outside of the stories,” she says, which helps her collect data on sales and seasonal trends, and keeps her stock to what’s most likely to sell.
She keeps most of her inventory on the shop floor, with stock in each store’s backroom and larger items in a nearby storage unit. In the backrooms and warehouse, she stores items according to product type and size — not by story — so employees can easily restock displays and substitute a similar item if necessary.
2. Double down on your reliable inventory
“Just-in-time inventory is much more difficult to do today,” says Mark Baxa, president and CEO of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals, a global trade association for supply chain professionals. Baxa adds that since the supply chain is less stable than it was pre-pandemic, businesses may need to lean on their most reliable products and vendors.
Courtney Cowan, owner and founder of Los Angeles bakery Milk Jar Cookies, keeps supply needs and consumer demand stable with a very consistent product line. Her 16-flavor menu has “changed very little” in the bakery’s nine-year history, though she leaves room for a rare seasonal standout to join the rotation. Since her store pre-mixes and preserves dough in a deep freezer, she can ensure that her bestsellers are always in stock.
Though some businesses may prefer a bit more variety, in uncertain times — over-ordering on go-to products with a dependable profit margin can help fill the gaps and keep sales steady.
3. Keep products moving
Longtime retailers know that while running out of inventory is bad, having too much can be worse. “Too much backstock eats up all your capital,” Daniel says. She prevents this from happening by planning ahead and using sales sections to make room for new merchandise.
Daniel reorders seasonal inventory as far as a year ahead by using recent sales reports as a baseline. But with this commitment to hundreds of new products arriving every month, she makes sure that items don’t sit on shelves for more than a few weeks.
“I do not like merchandise hanging around,” she says, explaining that if an item isn’t clearing out quickly enough, she’ll move it to the sales rack and discount it until it’s gone.
Though selling an item for a fraction of its original price may seem painful, it may be worth doing to keep inventory moving and keep customers coming back for new products.
4. Get to know your supply chain
Especially in periods of supply chain disruption, getting to know your vendors can make a big difference in your day-to-day operations. “Hold your supplier base accountable,” Baxa says. He suggests finding the “shortest path” possible, including finding local and sustainable suppliers, to help ensure consistent, reliable supply.
Daniel follows the same principle, sourcing her inventory from mostly local vendors so she can pick up items instead of shipping. She weighs several factors, including production time, available quantity and shelf life to figure out how much to order and how often.
Cowan’s inventory is perishable, so she needs her wholesale ingredients to arrive on a tight schedule. Her bakery receives truck deliveries directly from the restaurant supplier Sysco and wholesale store Costco, which keeps her supply chain close to home.
“We keep it as centralized as possible,” Cowan says. For special ingredients like nuts and candy, she places advance orders with small online vendors.
Clear communication with vendors can help business owners figure out limitations, plan ahead and mitigate risk.
5. Use a point-of-sale system with inventory management tools
For the past five years, Daniel has been using Lightspeed, a POS system with standout inventory management tools. The software can track her inventory across all three of her stores, and it generates reports that help her analyze seasonal sales data and follow her businesses’ growth.
This data is essential for her to plan reorder points and determine which items will reliably sell. Especially with a small staff and multiple locations, an all-in-one POS system can help minimize costs and labor.
Best POS for inventory management
Lightspeed Retail POS
Cost: Software $69 per month (billed annually) and up. Hardware quote-based.
Lightspeed’s retail point-of-sale system is built for inventory management. It can keep detailed records of your products across multiple locations and set automatic reorder points, so you don’t run out. The software also offers employee and customer relationship management tools, as well as advanced analytics features on its higher-priced plans.
You have the option to use a third-party payment processor, or Lightspeed’s in-house processor with per-transaction fees at 2.6% plus 10 cents for swipe, dip and contactless payments and 2.6% plus 30 cents for keyed-in transactions.
Square for Retail
Cost: Software free and up. Hardware from free card reader to $799 terminal and up.
Square’s retail-specific POS software offers inventory management tools and multi-location capabilities as well. The free version has a variety of other useful features including reporting tools, customer and employee management. Email marketing, loyalty programs and payroll are available with a higher-priced plan or as a paid add-on.
Though its inventory management isn’t quite as deep as Lightspeed’s, Square’s user-friendly interface and accessible pricing make it a great choice for most retail businesses. Payment processing fees vary per plan, but with the free retail plan, costs are 2.6% plus 10 cents per in-person transaction, 2.9% plus 30 cents per online transaction and 3.5% plus 15 cents per keyed transaction.
Cost: Software $29 to $299 and up. Hardware $49 and up.
Shopify’s point-of-sale system is geared for businesses that primarily sell online. The software tracks inventory, hides out-of-stock products on your website and offers basic inventory analysis. It also facilitates drop-shipping, curbside pickup and local delivery options, plus access to vendors and third-party applications.
Shopify helps businesses manage inventory across online and in-store locations. Its Pro version can create purchase orders, run inventory counts, perform advanced inventory analysis and generate low-stock reports. However, it’s not ideal for a business that only sells in store. Payment processing varies by plan, with in-person fees starting at 2.4% with Shopify POS Lite.
14 community management tips for meaningful connections with customers
The idea for sharing community management tips came to me about a year ago. That’s when I synced up with the GoDaddy Community team to host a webinar for small business owners. As hundreds of attendees rolled into the Zoom, I had a realization: “GoDaddy has a strong community.”
Behind every good brand and business, there’s a solid community of supporters, stakeholders, and sometimes, even haters.
But building a community and maintaining connections is one of the most misunderstood and least talked about topics within the small business world. For a business with fewer than five employees and a handful of customers, community building might seem like just another marketing tactic that is just out of reach.
To help small businesses build and manage an online community, I asked other business owners and marketers what community management tips they had for creating meaningful connections with customers.
14 community management tips to create meaningful customer connections
Given that creating and maintaining a strong community can help retain and attract customers, consider following these 14 community management tips:
- Be quick to address negative experiences
- Filter out spam
- Showcase success
- Send a postcard
- Get your customers involved in important decisions
- Bring Up topics that encourage engagement
- Provide talking points and engage with your community
- Engage regularly
- Be the face of your brand
- Choose a channel that works
- Create content that addresses customers’ specific needs
- Consider a brand ambassador program
- Reward loyalty
- Recognize the importance of inclusivity
Read on to learn more.
1. Be quick to address negative experiences
A bad customer experience can quickly escalate to a brand reputation crisis, and the company’s response must be fast to revert the situation.
Monitoring social channel mentions is an easy way to keep an eye on conversations surrounding your brand and detect potential concerns.
Once a customer posts a comment that threatens your brand reputation, listen, honestly apologize and be willing to solve the issue in the best possible way. Your unsatisfied customer will feel appreciated and perhaps even become a brand advocate.
-Rebeca Sena, GetSpace.digital
2. Filter out spam
The most important thing you should be doing in regards to community management is interacting with your community, and you cannot do that properly if you have to work through a bunch of spam. There are many programs out there, even some within the different social media sites, that can filter out spam in your comments and messages so you can focus on addressing your community. Plus, getting rid of the spam and moderating harmful comments creates a better space for your community to contact you through.
-Jacob Dayan, Community Tax
3. Showcase success
Develop case studies from your successful community members. This is a practical way of propagating the core values of your online community and encouraging new users to join your community.
The more these members contribute to the community, the more impact these case studies have. You can start by creating basic reports to identify the members who are actively contributing high-quality content, assisting other members, and elevating the community.
-Hasan Farahani, Yocale
4. Send a postcard
Many of my customers spend $15–$20K on medical care in Latin America. I send my customers handwritten postcards to remind them of their journey, thank them for their business, and to stay engaged while they recover from procedures like dental implants or plastic surgery.
The cost in time and money is very low, but a human touch in the healthcare space is increasingly rare.
-Wesley Jacobs, Apollo Medical Travel
5. Get your customers involved in important decisions
Taking the time to follow up with your most active customers and getting their insights on important decisions makes them feel like their opinions are truly valued and cared for.
In the long run, this forges a strong connection between you and your audience that relies on more than simply a transaction.
An added benefit of doing this is that you may even get some eye-opening suggestions and creative ideas that could end up benefiting your business.
-Harry Morton, Lower Street
6. Bring up topics that encourage engagement
Meaningful connections need to originate from a common source that offers a moment of relatability, which can further build brand trust. Social platforms offer numerous opportunities for these types of exchanges. When managing your social community, bring up topics that encourage engagement so you can connect on a level that goes beyond the basic company/customer relationship. In doing so, the consumer will feel more at ease to comment, ask questions and even provide more detailed feedback.
-Lindsay McCormick, Bite
7. Provide talking points and engage with your community
It’s important to recognize that community management is an ongoing responsibility. If you want to see your community thrive, you must create opportunities for customers to voice their opinion, communicate with other community members and provide you with feedback. Finding success is contingent on your ability to encourage participation from users, so you must provide talking points and give them plenty of avenues to stay involved.
If you leave your community dormant without your administrative oversight, engagement will start to dwindle as fewer users initiate conversations and take part.
Communities rarely function autonomously, so be sure to play an active role as you connect with and safeguard your community.
This gives you a chance to speak with your customers on a personal level, helping you learn about their likes, dislikes, objections and pain points directly—all of which are crucial in building meaningful connections with customers.
-Mike Grossman, GoodHire
8. Engage regularly
The best community management tip is to engage regularly and don’t neglect questions or threads you didn’t start—even better if they aren’t getting a lot of feedback. If you’re lucky enough to have the opportunity to regularly interact with your customers, make sure you’re commenting often and have a badge next to your name letting them know you’re a moderator or part of the company. That will really cement that feeling of connection and letting members feel heard. Plus, we’ve found that a community manager can really breathe life into a topic by offering input and pushing it to the front of that community for more engagement.
-Sylvia Kang, Mira
9. Be the face of your brand
Revealing the human side of your brand is without a shadow of a doubt an efficient strategy to boost your customers’ connection. It conveys transparency and accountability, building a stronger human bond. Consumers tend to trust people more than a company, and showcasing real people will make you and your brand easier to remember and trust.
-Chiara Sternardi, Passport-photo.online
10. Choose a channel that works
The best way to build an authentic community is to have everyone communicate using the same social media platform. Make that a crucial part of your strategy.
If it’s a professional audience that you’re going after, choose LinkedIn. If it’s a broader audience, use Facebook or Instagram. If it’s a young audience, try Snapchat or WhatsApp. If it’s a politically charged audience, maybe try Twitter.
YouTube is a great way to encourage people to watch videos that provide clear instructions on how a product or service works.
Users flock to YouTube for instructions on everything from how to change batteries on a device to playing scales on a guitar. The comment section can be useful for feedback purposes, and it also can be a way for customers to communicate with one another.
-Joel Jackson, Lifeforce
11. Create content that addresses customers’ specific needs
By creating audience and buyer personas based on different client categories, content marketers can create social content that speaks to people rather than just industries. Learn where your customers hang out online using your social media demographics. Then, narrow those results using audience research to help you define a specific audience and channel. You can then customize communications by researching the LinkedIn profiles of potential customers. Doing so will allow you to identify different stakeholders within the organization and determine their pain points. You can then create better content that addresses their challenges. But it’s all about finding an interesting angle for each segment.
Content that is too broad won’t result in authentic engagement with your followers.
Social media posts that offer helpful information are guaranteed to stand out in your clients’ feeds, resulting in more likes, shares and leads.
-Daniel Tejada, Straight Up Growth
12. Consider a brand ambassador program
A great way to create authentic connections with customers is with an acquisition and advocacy program like a brand ambassador program. For example, if a user can get five people to sign up for a service or product, they become an ambassador.
These brand ambassadors can help your business acquire new users. You can reward them with swag and access to special products or services … maybe even a special event!
-Jennifer Pieniazek, Resume Now
13. Reward loyalty
You can create meaningful connections by rewarding loyal customers to show how much you appreciate them. Just like any relationship, whether it’s personal or professional, people appreciate rewards. Show your customers that they matter and are top of mind in your decision-making. That’s how you create a stronger, more loyal customer base—one that will continue to pay attention for new initiatives and future rewards.
-Alyssa Berman-Waugh, Level Home, Inc.
14. Recognize the importance of inclusivity
To create meaningful connections with customers, recognize and accept diversities within your community. Each of your customers will differ in terms of their culture, orientation, ability and life experience. It’s imperative that you celebrate these differences and welcome input from individuals of all walks of life as you advocate for equity and inclusivity. This will develop your community’s reputation and attract diverse groups in greater numbers.
Communities that cater to just one group of people almost always become echo chambers, creating a suboptimal environment for connections to form and important discussions to take place.
By listening, asking questions, and welcoming input from diverse groups of individuals, you’ll cement your community as a welcoming place for diversity and insight to flourish.
In doing so, your ability to build a rapport and create meaningful, lasting connections with your customers will blossom.
-Patrick Casey, Felix
The community management tips used in this article were gathered using Terkel.
Terkel creates community-driven content featuring expert insights. Sign up at terkel.io to answer questions and get published.
How Online Presence Makes Your Business More Trustworthy
Have you ever made a dining decision based on a review you saw on the internet? You may have picked a product because it seemed “more trustworthy” online. It’s also a deal breaker if it isn’t handled correctly.
Customers are more inclined to believe in your company if it presents itself well on the internet. Whether a startup or a large corporation, your online appearance and behaviour matter to your consumers if you own an offline or online company.
Why Should Your Business Go Online?
In addition to being available for your consumers, here are other reasons to consider your online presence.
It Improves Your Company’s Accessibility
When you don’t sell anything online, a solid online presence can help you make more money from the internet if you aren’t engaged on social media.
Before making a purchase, most consumers do internet research to learn more about the company and the goods. Being at the right place at the right time is simply good business.
It Takes Care of Your Marketing and Branding
An internet presence provides a steady supply of customers for your company. Customer feedback and social media participation may help boost purchases. It’s easier for consumers to identify your online presence with a website or social media account.
It May Boosts Your Company’s Credibility
Having an online presence is essential for your organisation to be taken seriously. A startup might have difficulty being accepted as a legitimate organisation in its early stages. It’s essential to have a strong internet presence before people take you seriously. It’s easier to get quick loans at gdayloans.com.au to expand your company.
It Aids in the Comprehension of Your Target Market
When you have an online presence, you can engage with your audience in a two-way conversation to get valuable feedback or evaluations. In addition, it helps you learn more about your prospective consumers and the things they’re looking for. If a restaurant uses polls on its Facebook page, it may determine which specials and goods are most popular with its patrons.
How Can You Evaluate and Enhance Your Company’s Web Presence?
Analysing your online reputation simply means monitoring what others say about you online. Then you make it work for you.
You can monitor and enhance your company’s online appearance by following these three steps.:
Monitor Mentions of Your Business
Monitoring your company’s internet mentions can help you track what’s being said about you and mitigate unfavourable publicity. This can also help you identify communication gaps.
Google Alerts can help you track online references of your company. Set up notifications for your business/product name and relevant keywords, and you’ll be alerted promptly whenever you’re mentioned anyplace online.
Analyse Your Website Traffic
The source of your traffic (and how much) might assist you in evaluating your internet presence. It may be necessary to expand your internet activities beyond your website. For example, low social media traffic might imply a poor social presence.
Tracking your website’s traffic with Google Analytics might reveal secret traffic sources that your Google search may have overlooked. It will also help you find unnoticed remarks or backlinks.
Assess Your Social Media Engagement
Your social media presence affects your online reputation as well. Active consumers on your social media platforms help build trust and confidence.
Consider checking a company’s and a competitor’s Facebook accounts. You may observe that one firm interacts with clients while the other has a few likes but no comments. Which do you prefer?
An active social media presence gives the impression of reliability while also conveying a sense of humanity and authenticity. Your audience will be more engaged as your social media presence improves.
To keep up with your target audience, you need to be one step ahead of them online. The first step is to become well-versed in everything your consumers discover about your company through the internet. Your internet presence must be understood, monitored, and improved to reach this goal.
4 Tips for Starting an Industrial Business
Chargeback Fraud: What Small Businesses Need to Know
Medi-Share partners with Lestonnac Free Clinic for their “Wheels That Heal” Grand Opening
The Moment These 7 Entrepreneurs Turned Their Hobby Into a Business
How to Scale Your Sales Team Quickly
Tips for scaling up your Etsy business
News6 days ago
Susie Carder Announces the “Power Your Profits Growth Summit” About Building a Million Dollar Brand
Running a Business6 days ago
Cirque du Soleil’s Daniel Lamarre on How to Put Creativity at the Center of Your Strategy
Starting A Business5 days ago
How to Find the Right Business Coach — and Avoid the Wrong One
News4 days ago
#1 Bestselling Author and English Confidence Coach Francisca Garcés Launches Here Signature Program The English Confidence Method
News6 days ago
Jack Tompkins, Founder of Pineapple Consulting, Interviewed on Influential Entrepreneurs Podcast
News5 days ago
Interview with Morgan Lloyd Insurance Agent with Trailstone Insurance Group About Bringing Customers the Best Options for Insurance
Banking5 days ago
Accounts Receivable Financing: Best Options, How It Works
Managing people5 days ago
How the Best Teams Keep Good Ideas Alive