Most Recent Posts

// by Aliana Marino / Apr. 24, 2015 0 comments
B2B Sales Calls Infographic

This month’s SCORE infographic shows the best techniques for making business to business (B2B) sales calls. Making these calls is a time-consuming task, so we hope these tips will help point you in the right direction.

The best sales leads originate from the following:

  • 39% from outbound marketing, such as inside sales and telemarketing
  • 27% from events, such as trade shows and webinars
  • 17% from online, such as searches and testimonials
  • 10% from media, such as radio and television
  • 5% from social media, such as Facebook and TwitterSales Calls

Even after dozens of calls, not all leads become sales.

  • Every 30 dials leads to 1 conversation.
  • Every 3 conversations lead to 1 appointment
  • Every 3 appointments lead to 1 opportunity.

To achieve successful opportunities, good sales practices are critical.

  • The average time to respond to a web-based inquiry is 39 hours.
  • Make 50 calls a day, on average.
  • 30-50% of sales go to the vendor that responds first.

Download this month’s SCORE infographic for more details. If you need help developing your sales strategy, contact a SCORE mentor. You can also get tips from our free resources

Aliana Marino
Communications Manager
Aliana is passionate about helping small businesses thrive and getting the word out about the great work SCORE mentors do across country. | Facebook | @SCOREmentors | More from Aliana                   
// by Hal Shelton / Apr. 23, 2015 0 comments
Success versus Failure

Business plan mistakes can result in anything from small setbacks to fatal errors for your business.

Especially for businesses seeking funding, it’s crucial that your information is correct and none of your ideas are misrepresented. To help you avoid future stumbling blocks, here are seven critical business plan mistakes to be wary of:

1. The opening message does not succinctly describe your idea and why it will be successful.

First impressions are important — a plan is often judged by its two-page executive summary. Bankers, investors, and key vendors are busy people, so if a quick read of this opening section does not provide a clear and persuasive overview, they will likely move on to the next proposal.

2. The business plan is all about you and not what you are doing for potential customers.

Businesses are successful when they provide products and services that profitably satisfy a customer need. You start a business because you are good at what you do and are passionate about it; however, you always have to come back to what you are doing for the customer.

3. There is no focus on specific products and services.

Getting customers and cash flow can be hard at the start. To appeal to a large audience, many businesses try to take a broad approach when describing their products and services. This is not a smart strategy. Your business plan needs to show what you can bring to the market that is unique and different from your competition.

4. There is no clear statement on how you will generate revenue.

Understanding how you will generate revenue — sometimes called the business model — is crucial for your own planning. It’s also important to communicate this clearly in your plan when applying for bank loans and asking for approval from credit committees.

5. The sales forecast is not believable.

The sales forecast needs to be supported by data and analysis, a marketing plan that will find prospects and convert them into customers, and an analysis of competitor reaction to a new market entrant. Unfortunately, a good product or service will not sell itself. The problem with unsupported, robust sales forecasts is that the reader discounts them and moves on, and you are not in the room to defend your plan.

6. The funding amount you’re asking for is not supported by the financial statements.

There is a natural conflict between asking for money and wanting to demonstrate that you have a highly profitable business. Sometimes entrepreneurs show robust sales projections, which masks the funding needed. Or they request larger funding than they need since they feel it is a negotiation and they need to ask for $100,000 to get $75,000.

Yes, there is a negotiation, but the requested amount must be supported with at least a three-year monthly cash flow projection.

7. The funding you’re asking for primarily goes to your first-year salary.

Banks and investors prefer to provide funding for assets or activities that will make money like buying a building or equipment, designing and building a website, or funding a robust marketing program. They are more reluctant to fund employee salaries. Taking a modest pay until the business generates sufficient cash flow is often seen an indicator of your commitment to your business.

Key Lessons

  • Incorrect information in your business plan can lead you to make poor business decisions.
  • Committing these critical mistakes will most likely result in your business plan being rejected by a potential bank lender or angel investor.
  • Your plan needs to be well thought out with clear messages stating why you are the right person at the right time to make this a business successful.

Next Steps

  • Keep these critical mistakes in mind when writing your business plan.
  • If you have already started writing your plan, are there any changes you will be making now that you know what the common mistakes are?
Hal Shelton
Author and Mentor

Hal is a SCORE mentor who is passionate about helping small businesses start and grow. He has been a CFO and board member for NYSE/NASDAQ publicly traded companies and nonprofits. He is currently an active investor in early-stage technology companies and is the Amazon bestselling author of The Secrets to Writing a Successful Business Plan

// by Rochelle Robinson / Apr. 22, 2015 0 comments
Professional Network

As a small business owner, you’re often juggling so many tasks that you may not find the time to expand your professional network. Developing and maintaining a strong professional network can be key to your business success.

Expand your professional network to access decision makers and identify new business opportunities.

1. Tap Into Your Existing Network
Make a list of your personal and professional contacts who may be interested in helping you expand your business. Reach out to friends, family, and past and current colleagues with a well-crafted email message to inform them about your business. An email can seem impersonal but it isn’t pushy and doesn’t put your contact on the spot. Ask friends and colleagues to share your information with anyone they think may be interested in your services. Make sure to include your contact information and a link to your website.

2. Use Social Media to Connect
Use online networking sites to connect with other professionals. On LinkedIn, join one of the numerous groups to post content that showcases your expertise and offers value, while learning from others. offers a variety of like-minded individuals. Create an introduction video about you and your business for your YouTube channel. Create or join a relevant Facebook group or page.

3. Join a Professional Group
Join a local association or chamber of commerce to develop relationships with other business professionals. Do an online search to find organizations close to you. Attend a few events and determine which network seems appropriate for your business. Get involved with upcoming events, be a featured speaker, or become a sponsor.

4. Offer a  Free or Low-Cost Seminar
Have you ever seen advertisements from real estate agents offering home buying workshops? Use that model to expand your network. If you run a social media agency, invite small business owners to an event on using social media best practices. This is a great strategy to identify people who are seeking your service and allows you to demonstrate your business expertise. 

Rochelle Robinson
Digital Business Strategist
Rochelle L. Robinson is a digital business strategist focused on helping small businesses develop a strong digital strategy, improve business development efforts, and implement innovative online marketing solutions.
// by Rieva Lesonsky / Apr. 21, 2015 0 comments
Business Pitch

Have you ever had to give an elevator pitch about your business to an investor, banker, or potential partner? While presenting an elevator pitch sounds easy—after all, you’re just talking, right?—it’s actually quite an art. And if you ever hope to get beyond the elevator stage to presenting a more detailed pitch, you’ll need to make sure your elevator pitch skills are stellar.

To get the scoop on how you can craft a winning elevator pitch, I asked Deirdre Bolton to share some tips. Bolton is the host of Risk & Reward with Deirdre Bolton, which airs daily at 1 pm ET on the FOX Business Network.

On her show Bolton has a regular feature where someone pitches her in an elevator—and when the elevator lands, several judges weigh in on the pitch. After participating in so many pitches, Bolton has put together her five must-do elevator pitch tips.

1. What does your company do? You need to have the answer and be able to communicate it in one sentence. Craft a phrase at the beginning of your pitch that describes your purpose. That will get all listeners and viewers on the same page quickly!

2. Practice your timing. The Risk & Reward elevator pitch is 30 seconds flat. Practice your pitch at least 10 times in your living room with a stopwatch. Know the elements you want to include, whether it’s more details or an example of your product or service.

3. Be flexible. Write and memorize the two or three elements of what you want to cover in your 30 seconds. You may want to change your pitch around a bit [after you’ve done it a few times]. We tell people who are pitching on Risk & Reward to be flexible until after they’ve talked to the producers. It’s easier if you don't memorize the speech as one big block.

4. Get constructive criticism. Have some friends who don’t know your company well listen to your pitch and tell you what they understood and what is clear or not clear to them about your company and what you said (or how you said it). Clarity of message is key. 

 5. Make it personal and have fun! Did you establish your company because you were solving a problem you personally encountered? If so, bring that element to the narrative. For example, “As a former sales executive, I knew how difficult it was to generate good leads, so I founded ‘Connect’ to make it easier for other sales executives to increase sales.” An effective elevator pitch is personal and energetic.

After you follow Bolton’s advice, the best way to perfect your pitch is to start pitching. The more you pitch, the more relaxed you’ll be, and the more natural your pitch will sound.

Your SCORE mentor can help you hone your pitch and act as the perfect sounding board for your practice. Don’t have a SCORE mentor? Visit to get matched with one today. 

Rieva Lesonsky
Columnist and CEO
GrowBiz Media
Rieva is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company specializing in covering small businesses and entrepreneurship. She was formerly Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine and has written several books about small business and entrepreneurship. 
// by Jeanne Rossomme / Apr. 20, 2015 0 comments
Spring Cleaning

Spring is in the air  (finally!) and with the change in weather, the inspiration to prune those old, dead files that are cluttering your computer.

“But”, you say.  “Storage is cheap. Why bother cleaning up my digital files?”

  • A clean desktop reflects an uncluttered mind.  A messy, overcrowded desktop screams, “So much work!” and “Where do I start?” Organizing your files will help you gain control over your workspace and get focused.
  • You can more easily find things when you need them.  Create a filing system that mimics how you organize your work and your work products.  I organize my files by clients/prospects.  Other business owners organize by steps in the sales process (inquiry, demo, contract, etc.) or by product line.  The key is to design a system that makes sense to you and then stick with it.
  • You can design a foolproof backup system for your business.  I learned this lesson the hard way when a clumsy traveler knocked my laptop off the airport security belt, therefore crashing my hard drive.  Because my files were not properly organized, my cloud backup did not have some critical images – these files were lost forever!  Using the spring cleaning approach, you will ensure that your important, active files are seamlessly backed up, without wasting space.
  • Protect sensitive files.  Hackers are getting more sophisticated by the day.  With a good file system, you can create an extra layer of protection or vault for those files have your social security number, back account information, client confidential contracts, etc.
  • Your computer will likely run faster and more efficiently.  Getting rid of unused and redundant programs allows you to keeps your software streamlined and up to date.  And all those files piled on your desktop? They actually slow down your computer.

So let’s get started!  The above calendar from SingleHop helps break this task into manageable chunks.

Jeanne Rossomme
RoadMap Marketing

Jeanne uses her 20 years of marketing know-how to help small business owners reach their goals. Before becoming an entrepreneur, she held a variety of marketing positions with DuPont and General Electric. Jeanne regularly hosts online webinars and workshops in both English and Spanish. | @roadmapmarketin | More from Jeanne

// by Aliana Marino / Apr. 17, 2015 0 comments
Sales Webinar

The SCORE online workshop “Identifying Your Sales Strategy” details how to reach, talk and sell your business to customers. This webinar allows you to step back and analyze what works and what needs improvement.

First, focus on the basics and think about these factors:

  • Product/service: What are you selling? What is its appeal? How will your clients benefit from your product/service?
  • Who is your ideal client? What niches can you target? How are you trying to attract your customers?
  • Staff: Who is your ideal salesperson? Do you have the person/people who fit the profile?
  • Competition: Who is your competition? How does your business differ? How do they attract customers?
  • Current sales strategy: What is your marketing budget? Is this enough? Are your sales growing?

Choose a Distribution Channel

One of the most important decisions that can determine success or failure is choosing your distribution channel--how to get your products or services to customers. Your decision will be influenced by your industry, business size, resources, target market and competitors’ methods. Two basic strategies are direct sales and indirect sales.

  • Direct sales:
    • Sell directly to customer and retain revenue from all sales
    • Need to hire and train employees to handle all sales and marketing
    • Well-suited for low priced goods
    • If you have an online store, you can sell anytime, anywhere in the world. Start-up investment is fairly low compared to a physical store.
  • Indirect sales:
    • Sell through a third-party, like another retailer or distributer
    • Effective for more expensive, high-tech products that need more customer support and if you have a high sales volume
    • Don’t need a large staff trained on all products and support

Prepare a Sales Forecast

This is an estimate of your sales for the next fiscal year. You will look at past buying patterns, current sales efforts and customer indications of future purchases. A sales budget includes salaries and commissions, advertising and marketing expenses, administrative costs and is usually between 5 to 10% of total revenue. If you have a new company without any sales, base your estimates on market research.

The equation for computing a sales forecast is as follows:

Sales forecast = Total number of customers x Frequency of purchases (per year) x $ amount per purchase

Choose a Structure for Your Sales Team
Developing a sales team depends on your budget, business size, number of existing and new clients and your industry.

Consider these important questions to determine your selling approach:

  1. Will sales be conducted by current employees or contractors?
  2. Will all staffers be responsible for generating leads, selling, closing and servicing all customers? Or will some team members establish leads and make appointments, while others make sales, and a third group services their ongoing needs? 
  3. How many salespeople do you actually need and can you afford them?

To learn more about developing your company’s sales strategy, listen to the full online workshop, “Identifying Your Sales Strategy.” Contact a SCORE mentor and read more about generating sales HERE

Aliana Marino
Communications Manager
Aliana is passionate about helping small businesses thrive and getting the word out about the great work SCORE mentors do across country. | Facebook | @SCOREmentors | More from Aliana                   
// by P. Simon Mahler / Apr. 16, 2015 0 comments
Business Success

Among the many titles you take on when owning a small business, one that will be your most important is Chief Salesperson.  Your business literally cannot live without sales growth, and it’s up to you to start—and keep—those customers coming.

“Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that says, ‘Make me feel important.’  Not only will you succeed in sales, you will succeed in life.”  -Mary Kay Ash

Some people understandably have doubts about their ability to generate sales.  They may worry that they simply aren’t “sales savvy,” or associate selling with negative stereotypes often seen on television.  The truth is that selling is easier and less onerous than you think.  The key is to plan, develop your skills, and practice—much like every other facet of becoming a small business owner.

Sales begin with setting realistic goals as part of your business plan.  Learn everything you can about your target market:  Who and where they are, how you can reach them, etc.  The more information you gather on these and other considerations, the more realistically you can project short—and—long-term sales volume necessary to meet obligations and generate profit.

To determine whether or not you will succeed at reaching the goals you set in sales, you must also develop a true “competitive advantage” that differentiates your business from your competition, and know how to explain it to others, (customers), that is effective and impactful with meaning.  “If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete” says Peter Drucker.  Think about this:  Why would you start any business without knowing your competitive edge? 

At some point prior to launching your business or any business for that matter, you had to have written down a few of those advantages you discovered, and convinced yourself why this was a good business idea, right?  Well, now it is time to form it in a pitch that will demonstrate your dedicated desire to succeed for your small business and pitch it to people you know that have sales experience.  Ask for impressions and suggestions for things you can improve upon.

The old expression about never having a second chance to make a first impression still holds true.  Whether you’re making a sales pitch in-person, over the phone, or online make sure to be polite, be courteous, and listen to what prospective customers are saying.

“Your customer doesn’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” says Damon Richards.  Often times the difference between winning and losing in sales is the ability to listen.  We get so wrapped up in making the sales presentation that we pay no attention to how the customer responds to what we believe will make a difference in the customers’ life that we end up losing out on the sale.  As a small business owner, when you take the time to listen, care, and empathize with the customer,  that is when you close the deal. 

That leads to another must-have ingredient for sales growth: a good reputation.  Satisfied customers are usually willing to refer your business to others, especially when you’ve exceeded their expectations.  Just make sure doing so doesn’t compromise your profit or time commitments.  Customers may expect price breaks or fast turnarounds every time.

As a small business owner, you always need to have the insatiable desire to continually improve your products and services.  Many small businesses begin to fail when they reach that certain sales plateau, and likewise, a small business owner fails when they get complacent with their sales strategies.  Truth is, customers will come and go for a variety of reasons, just as businesses do, but the small business owner who is going the extra mile to improve and grow in sales will be the one who succeeds in all matter.

Remember, in business and especially in sales, “Always Be Closing” and those are the ABC’s of small business sales success.

P. Simon Mahler
Entrepreneur; SCORE Mentor
Mid-Columbia Tri Cities SCORE
P. Simon Mahler volunteers as a SCORE Mentor. Dedicated to building stronger economies and launching his next start-up, Pando Logic, Simon is committed to the success of each and every small business he mentors. For 15 years he has consulted for or founded several start-up companies that have amassed more than $30 million in annual revenues.

@SimonSaysSproutLinkedIn | More from Simon

// by Rochelle Robinson / Apr. 15, 2015 0 comments
Online Sales

Expanding your business to include online sales can offer great opportunities. While having an online store can increase sales and generate more interest in your company, it can also be a bit overwhelming. Ensuring you have several fundamental elements in place before you launch can eliminate headache and save you time and money.

Search Engine Optimize Your Products

Taking the time to evaluate every product can be the key to success for your online business. Each product will have a unique page on your website. Each product should be optimized to include the following:

  • Product Title – Write an accurate description that search engines can use to help potential customers find your product. Instead of listing a ‘Blue Jacket’ use a more descriptive title such as ‘Blue Men’s Lightweight Microfleece Full Zip’.
  • Product (Meta) Description – Write a brief description of your product that will be used in your results for search engines like Yahoo and Google.
  • Product URL – Your product URL should contain keywords describing your product.

Update Your “About” Page
Your About page should be more than a formal description of your company. Use this page to talk about the culture, people, and brand that make up your company. Tell your story. Customers love to know why they should be doing business with you and how you got started. Be genuine and write in a tone that doesn’t feel like a sales pitch. 

Make it Easy for Customers to Contact You
Every online shop should have a Contact page on which customers can easily ask questions. You should have a link on every page, either in the header or footer, to your Contact page. Don’t make a customer search for a way to contact you. Make sure you include your physical mailing information, telephone number, a generic email address, and a contact form.

Your Contact page should include a form with limited fields. Don’t use multiple check boxes or unnecessary form fields; customers aren’t going to take the time to complete a long form for a simple question. Make your Contact form user friendly – limit required fields, allow flexibility when entering telephone numbers, don’t request sensitive information, and allow customers to write their own messages.

Make Your Shipping Policy Clear From the Start
Shipping costs can play a major part in abandoned shopping carts. With major retailers offering free or next day shipping, you should clearly show your shipping and handling fees. Determine if your shipping and handling costs are calculated by a minimum purchase, based on money spent, or on product weight.  Make your prices clear, in easy-to-understand language. Inform your customers of any related fees on returned items such as restocking or reshipping fees.

Make Your Return/Refund Policy Crystal Clear
Are you willing to offer a refund or an equal exchange for products? If so, how long from the date of purchase will you accept returns? Be concise on your requirements for accepting a return – should it be in unopened packaging, and include all tags and a receipt? Whatever you decide, your policies should be written clearly. Your return or exchange policy should make it clear who will be responsible for the original and return shipping costs. If you have a brick-and-mortar store, consider allowing customers to return onsite. If you have a no-refund policy, make sure you state it before a purchase transaction is complete. Most customers may be concerned that you don’t stand by your products if you offer a no-refund policy.

Rochelle Robinson
Digital Business Strategist
Rochelle L. Robinson is a digital business strategist focused on helping small businesses develop a strong digital strategy, improve business development efforts, and implement innovative online marketing solutions.
// by Rieva Lesonsky / Apr. 14, 2015 0 comments

If I had a dollar for everyone I’ve met who told me they wanted to start a business but were “too scared,” I’d be a very rich woman today. But, fear of starting a business is nothing unusual, as the results of a recent survey show. In fact, starting a business was rated scarier than getting divorced, becoming a parent for the first time or moving to a new city by those surveyed by The UPS Store. Overall, starting a business was ranked the second-scariest life event (just behind worries over retirement savings).

But should you let these fears hold you back from starting a business? Let me ask you this: If you have taken the plunge and had children even though you were nervous about it, how do you feel about your decision today? Yeah, I thought so.

Well, just like becoming a parent, starting your own business is terrifying—but also one of the best things you’ll ever do. And, just like becoming a parent requires lots of advice and support to learn the ropes, “it takes a village” to get your business off the ground.

As a startup entrepreneur, your “village” can come in many forms—from the supportive spouse or business partner to the local chamber of commerce and other small business owners you network with. However, one of the most useful people you can have in your village is a mentor. In The UPS Store survey, a whopping 82 percent of small business owners who had worked with a mentor while starting their businesses say the experience was helpful in getting them through the process. Among those who want to start a business, 73 percent say it would be helpful to get firsthand advice from a mentor who’s actually started a business.

Mentors can help in so many ways:

  • They help you develop a plan and break it down into smaller steps so starting a business seems less overwhelming.
  • They show you how to do the things you need to do, like setting up an accounting system or finding a location.
  • They provide motivation to keep you going (starting a business isn’t easy).
  • They introduce you to others (bankers, accountants, attorneys, etc.) who can help your business grow.
  • They hold you accountable so you can’t flake out and give up on your dreams.
  • Most of all, they help boost your confidence by providing a sounding board, listening and sharing their own stories to show you “it can be done.” Often, all you really need is a shoulder to cry on (metaphorically speaking) or someone to vent to.

Mentors can help prepare you to run a business—and preparation is critical to successfully surmounting the many challenges of startup. In The UPS Store survey, more than half the small business owners say they were more prepared than they originally thought to start a business. So perhaps, like those business owners, you’re selling yourself short. To help you prepare for your launch, visit to get matched with a mentor who’s been there, done that. 

Rieva Lesonsky
Columnist and CEO
GrowBiz Media
Rieva is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company specializing in covering small businesses and entrepreneurship. She was formerly Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine and has written several books about small business and entrepreneurship. 
// by SBA / Apr. 13, 2015 0 comments
Sales Calls

Making sales phone calls is rarely a pleasant experience, but if you’re small business is looking to drum up new business from existing clients or new leads, then it’s important that you invest the time in perfecting your technique.

1.Align your cold call campaigns with other marketing activities

If you’re running ads on the radio, sending out a series of email blasts, or a combination of tactics, make sure your sales calls are timed accordingly and that the message and calls to action are integrated across all your marketing channels. This way, you can harness the additional visibility the other activities are bringing to your brand when you make your call. Hopefully the person at the end of the line has seen your ads and is already primed.

If your calls aren’t aligned with other marketing activities, look out for timely events or market imperatives that might drive a consumer to be more interested in what you have to offer. Get to know your buyers’ challenges before you make the call and fine-tune your message accordingly.

2.Make sure your contact info is accurate

Once you’re ready to make your calls, perfect your opening greeting. Unless you are 100 percent sure that you know Mr X is going to be at the end of the line, be prepared to lead with an open greeting.  For example, instead of leading with, “Hello Mr X, this is John with ABC Company,” start your greeting with “Good morning/afternoon, I was wondering if I could speak to Mr X.

3.Have your elevator pitch on hand

Once you’ve established contact with the right person, get straight to the point – explain who you are and what you represent – this will mean polishing up you elevator brief (20 words max – what you do, who you do it for and what benefit you bring).

My name is John Doe with ABC Company. We help homeowners like you uncover opportunities to reduce your monthly energy costs.”

Notice how vague this is? This is good because it doesn’t leave the door open for the consumer to say “No thanks, we already have that covered.” You’re teasing them a little, piquing their interest.

4.Thank them for their time

Next, be courteous once more, genuinely thank them for their time in speaking with you and show that you recognize that their time is precious. “Thank you for taking my call. I appreciate that you’re busy; this should only take a moment”.

5.Now get to the point (well almost)!

Once more, instead of diving straight into describing your product or service, look for ways to gauge interest. “If we could show you how we can help you cut your energy bills by up to 40% per month, would you be interested to know more?” By focusing on the end result, and not how your product helps the customer get there, there’s a good chance they’ll be intrigued to know more. This is your opportunity to request a meeting or send more information and lock down next steps.

6.Schedule a Follow-Up

Offer some options for follow-up. Whether it’s inviting them to a webinar or scheduling a meeting with your or a more experienced consultant. Take the lead on this. If you’re proposing a meeting, don’t just ask when are they available to meet, show that you mean business by offering up a few times and seeing what works from there.

7.Close out the call

Once the meeting is scheduled, reconfirm the time, date and place and if you can, get an email address to which you can send a confirmation.

Good luck!

U.S. Small Business Administration

The SBA is an independent federal agency that works to assist and protect the interests of American small businesses. The agency delivers the answers, support and resources small businesses need to start-up, grow and succeed through district offices throughout the U.S. and a network of resource partners including SCORE. | Facebook | @SBAgov | More from the SBA