How to Be a Social Selling Superstar

how to be a social selling superstar
The sales game has changed – has your approach? Using social media to reach out to, connect with and nurture new clients is a smart move for your small business. By offering helpful content and answering questions, you can make valuable connections with prospects that can lead to more sales down the road.

It’s called “social selling” and it’s a great way to get to know what your target market wants and show that you can help them meet their needs. Salesforce’s recent survey showed that 79% of salespeople who use social media outperform those who don’t. If you fall into the latter category – or just want to improve your social selling skills – here’s how to be a social selling superstar.

Pick your platform wisely.

Social media is a great selling tool – but only if your prospects are using social media. If they are, you need to figure out which platform will help you make the most impact. For B2B businesses, LinkedIn is a natural fit. Businesses that deal with home improvement or design might find a good home on Pinterest. Facebook users run the gamut so this is often a good place to start – and Twitter is perfect for businesses that might have customer service inquiries that need immediate attention.

Create a business (but personal) account.

Social selling is the process of taking the one-on-one connection that happens in person and taking it online. Your customers want to connect with a person – not a brand. In order to make social selling work you’ll need to create a persona that can connect with customers online. This will help you establish a relationship with your network and become part of the social media community.

Grow your network.

After establishing your profile on your preferred social network, get connected! Do a search on each website in order to find people who are in your target market, or are talking about your brand. Try a tool like Social Mention to find conversations about your company or important keywords. Then reach out to those people. Contribute to the conversation, answer questions or offer advice – but don’t make a sales pitch!

Keep it helpful.

When you find conversations and reach out, don’t go for a hard sales pitch. Which of these are you more likely to respond to?

“Hey! I saw your post and you totally need our product. Buy it here at www.buymenow.com

or

“Sally, here’s some info you might find helpful in your search for a solution. Let me know what you think!”

It’s pretty clear that the first version will put people off on social media. They are there to connect and find new information, not be sold to. The second version is much friendlier, puts the emphasis on being helpful and doesn’t make a hard sales pitch.

Stay connected and consistent.

Social selling isn’t about making a one time connection that leads to a sale. Stay involved with your growing social connections by posting helpful articles, linking to great resources and answering questions. Follow up with users that you’ve interacted with directly without being pushy. Over time, you’ll start seeing the clicks, signups and sales that you’re looking for.

Ready to use social media selling for your small business? Share your profile information below and let’s get connected!

About the author:

Tobi North – Creativity rock star and marketing master
I enjoy being innovative and creating communications that customers can relate to. I am always looking for that “light bulb” moment, when I find an interesting topic that I know our customers will love to learn more about. In between creative brainstorming sessions, you can probably find me at a concert or searching for the best BBQ joint in town. .

Follow me on Twitter.

Did You Know…Sage One Can Help You Nail Your Numbers?

Free small business accounting software - Sage One
You can admit it – accounting isn’t the most exciting thing in the world. We totally understand. But as a small business owner, you need to nail your numbers. Getting a clear picture of your businesses’ finances helps you make smarter decisions, understand where your business stands and – best of all – start growing your company.

But what if math just isn’t your thing? No worries. You got this. With Sage One Accounting, it’s so simple to keep track of your accounting and invoicing. There’s no need to be a master mathematician or read a Dummies Guide to Small Business Accounting – no need to take your focus off of the main goal of your business. You can keep your books balanced and your business thriving, without a lot of extra time or hassle.

Sage One streamlines the accounting process so you can avoid the unnecessary steps that often trip people up. It’s simple to use and more accurate than a spreadsheet, and way easier to use that full-blown accounting software. Get all the data and business insight you need in plain English (no CPA speak!).

Here’s how Sage One can help you nail your numbers and make better decisions.

  • Easily find out where your business stands – When you log in to your Sage One account you’re greeted by a dashboard that can give you multiple insights into your business. Get a high level view of what is actually going on with sections like bank account balances, top selling items and top customers by sales. It’s an easy to understand and worry free way to take a peek at your finances, even on a daily basis.
  • Determine how much business you’re bringing and what’s on the horizon – You can dig deeper with your sales dashboard to get specific insights on where you stand. Take a look at your net sales and other receipts. The quotes section helps you easily see the wins and losses – and pending business, and the top customers by sales chart will let you know which clients are keeping your business in the black.
  • Use business bank feeds to stay on track – No more manual entries! Sage One eliminates unnecessary manual steps that slow you down. When you link your banking information with Sage One, you can quickly import your bank transactions and approve them with a click. Sage One will even track your recurring transactions and match them with the correct GL account. It couldn’t be simpler!

Ditch that spreadsheet and get it done right. With Sage One you can nail your numbers and make smarter decisions.

About the author:

Kangelon “Kay” Dexter, Product Marketing Strategist and entrepreneur advocate

I am passionate about marketing and ensuring that the voice of the customer is heard as I create new products and features for Sage One. I’ve built my career around being an innovator, straight-talker and forward-thinker, and always making sure that my work is relevant to customers. Outside of the office, I enjoy spending my free time mentoring local teenage girls who are interested in participating and winning in scholarship-based pageants, shopping for the latest fashion trends and being a Youth and Worship leader at my church.

Follow me on Twitter.

How to Make Real Luck in Your Small Business

Small business success? How much is luck?
Do you want more luck in business? You don’t need to find a four leaf clover or hang a horseshoe over your door. It turns out that luck boils down to a few basic principles that anyone can learn and foster in business. Best of all, these principles are backed up by research.

In “The Luck Factor: The Scientific Study of the Lucky Mind” psychology professor Richard Wiseman summarized his decade-long scientific study on the nature of luck. There’s no magic formula for being luckier, but there are four common traits that Wiseman and his team found in common with those more “fortunate” people in their study.

  • They can easily see opportunities where others see setbacks.
  • They make decisions based on intuition or a “gut” feeling.
  • They expect the best from themselves and others.
  • They have learned to be resilient even in the face of adversity.

The four factors combine to create the “luck” that everyone sees on the outside – but it’s all an inner game. By shifting your perspective you can actually create more luck in your business and in your life.

Here are three steps to fostering a lucky mindset and turning the tide in your business:

Get focused – but not so focused that you miss out on opportunities.

It’s important to have goals and follow through with them, but you shouldn’t do so at the sacrifice of new opportunities. Wiseman’s study found that people who were “unlucky” were more likely to be narrowly focused on a specific goal. They didn’t shift gears until they met that goal, even if new opportunities crossed their paths. Keep your eyes open for changes in the marketplace, new ways to serve your target market and potential business partnerships.

Hone your intuition.

Gut feelings, hunches, intuition – call it what you will, but these little emotional nudges you get along the way are actually very helpful. When you trust your gut, you tend to make better decisions. You allow yourself to take advantage of new opportunities and make emotion based decisions, rather than purely logical ones. Think back to times when your hunches have worked out, and resolve to follow any gut feelings in the future.

Just keep going.

Resilience is a trait that has long been associated with being a successful entrepreneur. In fact, there are dozens of successful CEOs who can list hundreds of ideas, start up companies or products that just flat out failed. Sticking with your overall plan for success and letting go of ideas or directions that just don’t make sense any longer is essential. If you want to create luck, you need to develop the resilience to bounce back from problems and just keep going.

How are you going to create more luck in your business?

About the author:

Jenn Boutwell – VP Marketing & Strategic Alliances
I am a Sage One brand ambassador and team building virtuoso. Professionally I am known for building strong teams and organizing complex situations. I am passionate about making small business owners’ lives easier so they can spend more time on what they are passionate about. When I’m not running between meetings, I’m running half-marathons and training for a full marathon.

Drop me a line at jennifer.boutwell@sage.com.

Introducing Sage One Accounting – Simple, Efficient and Free

Online accounting software for small business
You’ve got far too much to do in your business already, so why not get some of it off your plate? Enter Sage One Accounting – a free online accounting software that makes things simple you can focus on what you love and get back to business.

With Sage One Accounting, you can answer important questions about your business at a glance.

  • How much money is outstanding?
  • Which clients owe me money?
  • Am I making money or burning cash?

This free software is more than just accounting – it’s a strategic business tool that can help you make smarter decisions. We’ve updated Sage One Accounting with multiple new features to help you get it all done – as simple and efficiently as possible.

It all starts with our dashboard, where you can get an overview of your invoices, bank accounts, proposals and expenses. Feel more empowered to make smart decisions each time you log in.

Breeze through your admin tasks

Staying organized has never been easier. Stay on top of your invoices and effortlessly track expenses and income when you login. Your time is money – and Sage One helps you make the most of your time. Automatic reconciling and expense categorizing means you spend even less time on admin tasks, so you can focus on tasks that will help your business grow.

Nail your numbers

No accounting experience? No problem! Sage One Accounting is simple to use. We’ve eliminated all of the complex jargon and CPA speak that can slow down your accounting process. Manual entry is a thing of the past with Sage One. Import transactions and keep on track – which means you’ll worry less.

Run your company like a pro

Impress everyone from new clients to your accountant with simple invoicing, accurate reporting and reusable templates. Create and send customized invoices, and accept credit card payments from your clients with ease using Sage Payment Solutions or Paypal. And tax time will be simpler than ever before – which will make your accountant smile.

Ready to get focus on what you love and get back to business? Start with Sage One Accounting.

About the author:

Mike Savory – Customer advocate and automation engineer
I operate at the intersection between technology and ease of use. I strive to make our customers’ lives easier through elegantly automating manual processes. Much of my time is spent listening to small business owners, making sure to bring their voice to the table in everything I do. My free time is spent with my kids, which includes being a Cub Scout leader for an energetic group of 10-year-olds where I’m lobbying for a Software Product Management badge.

Drop me a line at michael.savory@sage.com.

Follow me on Twitter.

Do You Have Social Media Game?

social media strategy for small business
Anyone can set up a Twitter account – but not everyone can see a business lift from tweeting. It all comes down to your “social media game.” Although social media initially started as a fun way to keep in touch with friends and family, it’s become a valuable business tool that can help directly increase your bottom line.

But since anyone – and everyone – is doing social these days, you have to keep your skills a cut above the rest. Keeping your social media accounts active is a first good step, but if you want to improve your game you have to go one step further – planning.

Social media planning is the key to leveraging this platform for your small business. Not only will you save time, but you’ll see better results because your approach will be more targeted and well thought out. You won’t just grab links, post and see what happens. You’ll develop a plan for connecting with your audience in a meaningful way that will build trust and lead to sales.

Best of all, your customers want you to reach out. According to research from Edelman’s annual “brandshare” report, 9 out of 10 surveyed customers want to have meaningful interactions with brands on social media.

Here are four steps you need to take each day to improve your social media game.

  1. Interact.

    Your current customers are the foundation of your business, so your first priority is to interact with them regularly. Whether you’re marketing on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or a little of each, you need to take time to respond to customers on these platforms. In just a few minutes a day, you can login to each platform, reply to questions and interact with customers in meaningful ways. Accept new connections, welcome new followers and thank others for sharing your content.

  2. Spy.

    Once you’ve dealt with the real time responses, the next step in your social media plan should be spying on your followers, competition and other influencers. During this phase, take note of trending topics and other popular content that would be relevant to your audience.

  3. Post.

    Next, you’ll want to schedule your posts for the day on your selected platforms. You can use scheduling tools like Sprout Social or Hootsuite to schedule posts for optimal times of day. Use your own content or select from the most popular content you discovered during your “spy” phase.

  4. Review.

    Reviewing your success on social media is key to continuing that success in the future. You need to know what types of content are doing best, which platforms are ideal for your audience and how often you should be posting. There are no absolutes when it comes to these factors – it will all depend on your unique business. Use the native analytics tools inside of each platform, or look to one of the scheduling tools for comprehensive analytics. Review these on a weekly basis and make changes to your plan.

Don’t let your social media game suffer! Interact, spy, post and review on a daily basis to create a plan that works for your small business.

About the author:

Tobi North – Creativity rock star and marketing master
I enjoy being innovative and creating communications that customers can relate to. I am always looking for that “light bulb” moment, when I find an interesting topic that I know our customers will love to learn more about. In between creative brainstorming sessions, you can probably find me at a concert or searching for the best BBQ joint in town. .

Follow me on Twitter.

5 Biggest Tax Breaks You Might Be Missing

tax breaks you don't want to miss
Now that another tax season is upon us, it’s time to get cross your T’s and dot your I’s – and to be sure that you’re maximizing your tax savings. There are a number of different breaks that you can benefit from on a personal or a business level. Here are five that you may not know you were eligible for.

Startup costs

If you started your business in 2014, be sure to take advantage of all of the write offs available to you. Startup costs like computer equipment, consultations with business experts like lawyers and accountants, and even auto expenses can be deducted. As soon as your business starts making sales, you can deduct up to $5,000 in startup costs during the first year. The rest of the costs will be amortized across the next 15 years.

Higher education

Pursuing your MBA to round out your skills and take your business to the next level? You could be eligible for the Lifetime Learning credit. It’s meant to offset costs for higher education – and unlike the American Opportunity Tax Credit, it is available for any years of attendance of post-secondary education and not just the first year. It can also be applied if you are just taking some extra classes and not pursuing a formal degree. The Lifetime Learning credit can be as high as $2000 per eligible student.

Charity donations

Although most businesses are aware that the money they donate to their favorite causes is tax deductible, don’t forget about the physical items! If you donated food to a homeless shelter, crayons to an after school program or drove anywhere to help volunteer for a charity, you can write off the costs. Be sure to save your receipts throughout the course of the year and get the deductions you deserve.

Employee reimbursements

If you reimbursed any of your employees for business related expenses, you are eligible for deductions. Gas, meals, hotel accommodations and more can create a tax break for your business. You need to have an “accountable plan” to prove that the funds were actually reimbursements for business related expenses – so keep copies of receipts and clear records.

Marketing costs

Spending money on tooting your own horn can be a good thing! Any costs that you incur while promoting your business can be written off at the end of the year. This means that everything from printing new business cards to designing a new website can save you money at tax time. Public relations efforts, advertising and product samples fall under this category as well – so be sure you’re taking advantage.

How are you going to save at tax time this year?

About the author:

Jenn Boutwell – VP Marketing & Strategic Alliances
I am a Sage One brand ambassador and team building virtuoso. Professionally I am known for building strong teams and organizing complex situations. I am passionate about making small business owners’ lives easier so they can spend more time on what they are passionate about. When I’m not running between meetings, I’m running half-marathons and training for a full marathon.

Drop me a line at jennifer.boutwell@sage.com.