5 Business Strategies for Female Entrepreneurs
Adapted from her new book, "The Effortless Yes: Get the Sales You Want and Make All You'll Ever Need."
The number of women-owned businesses has grown twice as fast as men-owned firms in the last 14 years. And yet, revenue growth of women-owned enterprises between 1997 and 2011 lagged behind at just 54%, compared with the national average of 71%. Why? I believe it's because many women entrepreneurs have a strong distaste for selling and self-promotion.
Without robust and growing revenues, female businesses can't compete. But there's a new way to sell oneself and one's business that's well-suited to women's natural desire to be of service while remaining true to themselves. Here are five strategies that can help.
Rethink sales and selling.
Women are natural-born salespeople. Being a masterful salesperson requires many of the traits women possess innately, such as great communication, a strong conscience, and the desire to serve. It's time to rethink selling, because you can't run a successful company if you don't have robust and growing sales. Think of selling as a conversation. Be enthusiastic and genuine. Share stories about how you and others were transformed by using your products and services. Help your customers solve a problem. Once you view selling as a way to serve, your sales numbers will begin to take off.
Price it right.
Some women owners set their prices according to what they think their customers will pay -- and then resent them for paying too little. Instead, come up with a price that takes into account the percentage you want to make on each sale, how much your costs are, "invisibles" such as the things you do above and beyond the call of duty for customers, and how much your competitors are charging. Consider whether you'll focus on volume selling or selling less at a higher price. Find a price that feels right to you, one that you can broadcast with 100% confidence.
Be sociable--on the web.
Do your eyes glaze over when you hear the phrase social media? Change the way you think about it. Think of social media as a way to help others and provide value to your customers and potential customers. If you post blogs, videos, and podcasts, that's all well and good. But those one-way communiqués don't start conversations. Instead, host interactive events, chats, and conversations that engage your audience and serve their needs. If you're a social media novice, it's time to learn how to really take advantage of it and hire someone to help you do it. Businesswomen who learn how to connect online gain a huge competitive advantage over those who shy away from technology.
Embrace your inner number cruncher.
It's great to have heart, intuition, and creativity. But those don't necessarily lead to profit and profit growth. If you're averse to numbers, think of your financial statement as a garden. Your money needs care, watering, weeding, fertilizing, and pruning. Make a sales plan that includes projected expenses for this year and how much you want to keep over and above those expenses. Figure out how much revenue you need to generate, month by month. Each month, look at your plan and compare what you planned to sell to what you actually sold. Do this for a solid year and watch your sales garden grow!
Don't get by; get ahead.
When you start using some of the smart tools that the boys of business use, you'll find all the money you'll ever need. Women business owners sometimes feel that making payroll and earning a small profit is good enough. You deserve much more, and you can get there by mapping out a plan for this year that increases last year's revenue by 25%. Calculate how many sales you need in each month, taking natural fluctuations into account. For low sales months, tap into your creativity and plan promotions that will help you meet your sales quota for that month. Having the goal of increasing your business by 25% each year will change the way you feel about yourself and your business.
Julie Steelman has generated more than $100 million in sales during her 30-year sales career using her unique "heart-based" selling approach. She is author of a new book, The Effortless Yes: Get the Sales You Want and Make All You'll Ever Need (Franklin-Green Publishing, 2011), featuring a 7-step approach that helps sales-averse entrepreneurs create profits by learning a new way to sell that's pleasurable and easy.