Female business owners have a lot going for them. For one, women are starting new businesses one-and-half times faster than men. They are also leaders in using their businesses to give back to the community. Still, there are many unique challenges to running a business and some key pitfalls female business owners, especially, should avoid.
Sales specialist Julie Steelman has some advice on how women can avoid these common mistakes. 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), which features a seven-step approach to help sales-averse entrepreneurs to learn a new way of selling.
Steelman shares her solutions to the top five business mistakes women make.
Mistake 1: Running your business impulsively
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. Don’t avoid looking at your sales numbers or how much you’ve spent. Money is the life force of your business. Tend to it.
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Mistake 2: Setting prices too low
Some female 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 percent confidence.
Mistake 3: Avoiding sales and selling
Here’s something many female owners don’t know: 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.
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Mistake 4: Underutilizing social media
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 fine. But those one-way communiqués don’t start conversations. Instead, host interactive events, chats and conversations that engage your customers 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.
Mistake 5: Getting by instead of getting ahead
When you start using some of the smart tools that the big boys of business use, you’ll find all the money you’ll ever need. Female 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 percent. Figure out how many sales you need in each month, taking natural fluctuations into account. For low sales months, plan promotions that will help you meet your sales quota for that month. Having the goal of increasing your business by 25 percent each year will change the way you feel about yourself and your business.