Are you clear on your sales numbers?

Are your sales numbers clear in your head or all jumbled up?

If you’re a business owner or a member of a founding team, or responsible for business development in any way, then here’s a few quick questions:

1. How many leads did you create last quarter?  How many do you expect to generate this month?

2. What’s your conversion rate from leads to opportunities? i.e. how many of leads do you convert into opportunities?

3. How many opportunities convert into sales?

4. How much revenue do you want to generate this month? This quarter? 

As we continue in the final quarter of the year, it’s important to know these numbers – because if you’re not working from your revenue goal and then calculating the opportunities you need, and the leads you need to create those opportunities, then hitting your number becomes an actual goal – and not some ‘hope-based’ strategy of revenue generation.

Join us for our ’90-Day Brilliant Sales Challenge’ to not just learn – but to apply – goals to your business.  In this challenge we will help you create DAILY sales habits that shift your business and give you the tools, techniques and resources to SHIFT your sales.  Because brilliant sales happen when selling is a DAILY habit – and one that you enjoy.

New York startups, the Charging Bull and American optimism

It’s no secret that I love traveling, sharing ideas, meeting people and talking about sales. Our workshop series, Make Your Startup a Sales Machine, combines each of these, and I’m thrilled to be meeting entrepreneurs in different counties and cities. Last week I was fortunate to speak to founding teams, business owners and early-stage entrepreneurs near Charging Bull in New York City.

New York City has an unmistakable vibe. It’s fast-moving, noisy, and everything about it has a sense of speed: including people and business (OK, there are moments where the traffic stands still).  

Whether you’ve been to The Big Apple or not, you’ll recognize the iconic Charging Bull statue in New York’s Financial District. The three-and-a-half-ton bronze bull is also known as the Wall Street Bull. It can be found on Bowling Green Park, where it’s a recognizable and well-photographed landmark in the city – there’s almost a constant stream of visitors taking photos with the bull (at both ends).

The Charging Bull was not an approved piece of artwork – also, surprisingly, it is not owned by New York City, and to this day is still under a temporary permit. It was originally a piece of guerilla art created by Sicilian artist Arturo Di Modica, who delivered it to be found on the morning of December, 15, 1989, underneath the New York Stock Exchange Christmas tree as a seasonal gift to New York. The bull didn’t stay very long, as later that day it was loaded on a truck and moved by the New York City Police Department, with citations for lack of permit and traffic obstruction.  

A local businessman who was in the Financial District’s Bowling Green Association, Arthur Piccolo, read about the bull, its removal and the artist’s intentions. Working with the Di Modica and other local contacts, Piccolo arranged for the bull to be placed back in the Financial District on 20 December – to its current location at Bowling Green – just a few blocks away from the New York Stock Exchange.

Di Modica once said that the bull was a symbol of the “strength and power of the American people” and I love that sentiment. Along with the ambition and perseverance of how the bull ended up where it is today, it sums up New York City and its entrepreneurial spirit.

Want to join me one of our workshops? Check out our event page and sign up.

Sales: What problems don’t you solve?

I previously talked about the need to see things from the buyer’s perspective, and in the best-possible sales scenario, to actually become the assistant buyer.

In order to help the buyer as much as possible, you have to work to understand the problems that they have and know the problems you solve. And be really clear on this, and very specific.

What’s just as important as knowing what problems you solve, is knowing what problems you don’t solve.  In the sales process, some salespeople— intending to be helpful — can end up trying to solve problems that are not what they are there for. While this may seem to be well-meaning, it’s confusing to the buyer. It dilutes the strength of what you do and what you specialize in, and can make you look like an opportunist, not committed to a single vision, or interested in helping the customer to the best of your ability.

This side-stepping in order to take advantage of a different problem can also be symptomatic of a few things:

(1) you’re worried that your solution or whatever you are proposing as a sale isn’t enough, or that you personally feel a need to prove yourself worthy;

(2) that you’re easily distracted. Some people call it the Squirrel Syndrome – as in, “Ooooh look, there’s a squirrel,” also known as the Shiny Penny Syndrome. If you do have a tendency to be distracted — and if you’re an entrepreneur — you wouldn’t be the first. This ability to spot an opportunity, or to want to solve a problem or to be challenged and resolve a situation is a common trait of entrepreneurs.

But, it’s still a distraction. For everyone involved and certainly from the sales process. So, stick to the problem you know you can sell and the best way that you can serve the prospect.

So while it’s important to be crystal clear on what problems you solve, it’s also very important that you have boundaries and that you don’t get distracted, confuse the buyer, and try to solve problems that are simply not in your wheelhouse.

Want to increase the rate of sales at your startup or business? Then sign up to join Hazel Butters for a free mini-training: “How to Make Your Startup a Sales Machine.”


Gleeful challenges of running a business

Running a business has its challenges.Running a business

What’s interesting is how – and when – other people point them out to you. When I started my first business, people would tell me “the first year is the hardest.” Then, when we opened offices on the other side of the Atlantic, others said, “Running a trans-Atlantic team is hard.” Then we changed our business model. Some shook their heads and said, “You can’t just change your business, you should stick with what has worked so far.”

The fact is that running a business is always a challenge, but that’s why we do it. We want to see what we can do and how we can do things differently. I admit to having a total sense of glee over working for myself – even on days that do bring challenges. One of the elements that fascinates me about running my own company is seeing how I will react to new situations; I’ve learned so much about myself, how I react to challenges, and how resourceful I can be when pressed.

We’re not all perfect. When the economic downturn hit in 2009-2010, our business specialized in early-stage technology companies with a roster that almost disappeared overnight. We signed a lease for a San Francisco office just as Lehman Brothers was packing up at its location. “Why didn’t I act quicker?” was my lament. For a number of months, I blamed myself – you’d swear that I was single-handedly responsible for the credit crunch. Meanwhile, friends would simply ask: “Can’t you get a job?” as if the reason I didn’t seek employment was due to a lack of skills or job openings, instead of a steadfast refusal to consider such a move.

I feel blessed to work for myself – and I love business, helping people and what I do. If I didn’t, I can change it – because I can. Like I said, gleeful challenges – I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Chicken and the egg: Raising cash for your startup

You have a great idea and you’re going to bring a new product or service to maChicken and egg: Raising funds for your startuprket. It’s an exciting time as you imagine the changes your idea could bring. You’re embarking on changing a corner of the world in some way and impacting people’s lives — how they work, travel, communicate, think, feel or act.

Now the tricky bit — cash. Am I right? However great your idea is, or lean your startup is, you need money. You just can’t get avoid the need for funding. Welcome to the startup’s chicken-and-egg dilemma: your product is awesome* (*let’s assume this is true) and will generate cash, but you can’t develop, market and deliver your product until you have — you guessed it — cash.

There are certainly numerous ways to fund your dream — here are some possibilities to generate cash or support for your startup:

  • Bootstrapping (which typically involves giving up anything in your life that costs money: food, rent, fun)
  • Friends and family (also known as unaccredited investors)
  • Equity investment: Accredited investors such as business angels or venture capitalists – this includes convertible debt options
  • Debt investments or loans: Bank loans, private loans, microloans, credit cards
  • Government sources: Economic development initiatives, U.S. Chamber of Commerce programs
  • Support organizations: Business incubators, business accelerators
  • Crowdfunding: These could be rewards-, equity-, donation- or lending-based.

Of course there are advantages and disadvantages to each of these options. For some of these funding sources, the upside includes mentorship, access to resources, introductions, networking and collaboration. Potential downsides include loss of equity and control, accrued debt and interest fees.

One area that many startups seem to avoid in the early-stage build phase is sales. Cold, hard sales — where you tell people about the benefits of your product and ask them for cash — would not only help fund your growth but would also create a customer base of fans that could support you in ways that go beyond the financial.

Even if you are working from an incubator or have access to initial funds, you need to learn — and feel comfortable enough — to sell your product.

If you’re dragging your sales heels, then why not join one of our free two-hour workshops – The Build Phase – Increasing Sales (Fast) as a Tech Startup – which are being hosted in Boston, Cambridge, Austin, San Francisco and New York. Check out our workshops page for all upcoming workshops and to register.