Melinda is a sales coach who specializes in helping female entrepreneurs sell to corporations. Not only does she coach how to sell, she still practices her own sales. Melinda works as a sales executive and holds an impressive track record of over $40 million. With 20 plus years of b2b sales experience, she is determined to help other women expand their impact by selling to big companies. She also leads a Facebook community of amazing women trailblazers called B2B Women Making Big Sales.
How do small business owners sell to big clients?
Yeah, I think this is usually the first question people have. When we are small entrepreneurs, and we look at other people going after or working with more established businesses and corporations, and a lot of times they look at fellow entrepreneurs that are able to have an impressive client list. A lot of people often ask me, how can I sell to corporations, and I personally think in today's world, the world has gone through so many changes and companies are actually becoming more flexible in terms of looking for consultants or companies or business owners to work with me. So I've worked with a lot of women that told me the same thing. Sometimes companies are looking for employees, but because of different reasons, they started looking for consultants to help them with different services or different solutions. But the first thing that when people are thinking about starting to go after corporations, the first thing they often have is that, "How do I get started? Is it even possible?" I like to say the first step when it comes to going after corporate clients is all about the target. If you want to stand out and compete with other people, especially more established competitors, the first thing you need to ask yourself is, can I be more specific or targeted in terms of my marketing? Can I find an industry that is highly specialized, and in terms of what I do, can I be considered as a specialist in terms of my service offering. Your positioning statements should be the first thing you stand out for because business prospects or business clients are super busy, they often do not have a lot of time to listen to a long speech or long elevator speech. So to have a very clear understanding of how you stand out how you can be a specialist should really be the first thing that you want to focus on. But if you are able to stand out within a very specialized industry or something you offer, I personally think that there is a great opportunity for you out there to go after corporate clients because you are going to tell them, "Hey, I'm going to stand out from my more established competitors because working with me, you get to have direct access to me, you are able to work with me rather than some other teams or other companies where they have a lot of turnovers." I think that for small entrepreneurs when it comes to going after corporate clients, our customer service and personalized approach is definitely a way to that will appeal to a lot of corporate clients.
How do small business owners stand out when they're selling to these big clients?
Yeah, definitely niching down. I often tell people that in terms of sales perspective, the first thing, industry can be a really great way for you to stand out from your competitors. It's one thing to say, "Hey, I'm a marketing consultant," or you can say, "I'm a marketing consultant that really specializes in sporting industries," and that instantly helps you stand out from your competitors. So to really find an industry that you're passionate about, and one thing you can look at is to look at your past experience. A lot of women when they start out probably already have years of experience, either in the corporate world or from their education, or where they're located. So you can also always look back to your professional experience, and try to ask yourself, in terms of experience I have, what industry can I specialize in, and that is a great way to really stay focused, to stand out. Similar to a lot of marketing conversations people might have with you, it's niching down. But I think by niching down for corporate clients, when you're having a sales conversation, it becomes really easy for you to understand and it also allows you to have a better impact in terms of your sales activities. Think about this, if you want to go after companies in the sports industry, it's one thing to go after one or two prospects in the industry, but if you decide to niche down and focus on this industry, then you can easily go after all the companies within that industry, and continue to have a sales conversation that's very industry-specific, rather than going after a broad range of market. If you have a sales communication style message that is more broad-based, by niching down to a specific industry, then you can go after one industry at a time. Every time you go after one industry, you're more likely to stand out because you're focusing and you're being the specialist of the specific industry. So that's definitely the first thing that you need to think about and a lot of women I support within our Executive Lounge Program, I also ask them to really have a very clear understanding of their competitors. By knowing the bigger competitors, you can also understand how you're going to be different from those competitors and that should be the next step in terms of helping you stand out from the competitors.
How do you manage your sales process as a busy entrepreneur?
That's led to a little bit of that industry-specific sales strategy. The way I help female entrepreneurs sell, the way we design it, it all happens for a reason. First of all, by niching down, you are less likely to feel overwhelmed. By focusing on one industry you are going to start to connect with people that tend to know each other. I've been selling for 20 years, I've sold in different industries around the world, but every time I get into one industry here's what I noticed: I noticed that everybody tends to know each other. So if you are able to niche down and focus on specific industries, a small number of industries, and the more you network with people, you're going to notice that people tend to know each other. A lot of people in the marketing positions within the sports industry, I bet you that most people know each other, and people tend to go from one business to the other. So the more you network, and the more you connect with people, you are going to become the insider of that industry and that is how you stop being overwhelmed. If you try to go after a lot of people, one of the biggest mistakes I hear entrepreneurs face is that they will go after a broad range of industries, and then they end up having hundreds of prospects on their CRM client management systems and they will have hundreds of prospects and not knowing how to follow up, or people will be telling me, "Oh, my God, LinkedIn, I'm getting so many messages, and I'm having trouble managing them," but if you're able to really prioritize and know who you want to go after and make sure that you connect with people that are really going to give you those 5-6 figure sales, that is the first step to avoid feeling overwhelmed, and you've definitely got to have a very clear sales system. I teach a five-step sales system, and we focus on one step at a time. Always asking yourself, where am I in this step within this sales success plan, where am I, and what should I do to just simply move forward? So that's definitely the second one, and once you have that system down, I encourage you to probably outsource part of your sales success plan to somebody else and that is when you can start thriving and start to feel less overwhelmed. But definitely, it's a step-by-step process. It's about niching down because the more you can know, within one specific industry, you are going to be known and people are going to start talking about you and refer your clients. That is the reason why I'm able to do what I do while still being a director of sales for another company. I had to start building my relationship and connect with a lot of people, but now I am known and while I'm known, I'm able to offer time to female entrepreneurs as support to go in after big clients. So it is possible to do that.
Can you share with our listeners one of your most successful or favorite networking experiences that you've had?
I'm just looking at the most recent thing. I am in sporting goods, I represent another company and we go after large sports brand. So one thing that came to mind is that these days I'm going after the boxing industry. I've been attending trade shows for a long time and every year I will be going to trade shows. A lot of times when you go in after trade shows you meet different kinds of people and recently, I was just going after this boxing industry and I remember two years ago somebody briefly introduced me to the top r&d person, within a boxing company a really important brand. That is really something that really resonated with me in terms of networking stories you were talking about is that you really don't know the kind of people you're going to connect with. But two years ago, when I bumped into the person, and we had a common connection, I call it super connectors and the person introduced me to this top r&d person of this boxing brand. This just reminded me that whenever we do networking, we always got to think long-term. Two years ago I met this person, and today this person would be my ideal client and I'm super grateful. If I were to try to reach out to this person on LinkedIn, and try to connect with this person, first of all, this person doesn't even have a LinkedIn profile. It would have taken me so much longer to try to track down this person and let alone getting a meeting or a face-to-face meeting with this person. But just by two years ago, being able to network with people, especially industry insiders, people that are hanging out in the industry within the industries, I was able to get a business card of my ideal client. Two years later I'm super grateful to be able to have his business card, and I've kept it and that would have saved me so much trouble tried to reach out to or figure out what that person is. Again, back to if you have a good right target, and if your target is specific enough, you really are going to notice that the more you network, the more you meet people, everybody knows each other. That also goes to your reputation because you've got to have a great reputation to make sure that people are going to talk about you positively. But that turned out to be a great opportunity for me to meet my ideal clients two years later. You just never know where your business is going to take you out who might end up benefiting, or what networking event might end up being super beneficial.
As you've met people from all over how do you best stay in front of our best nurture these relationships that you're creating?
I think, first of all, you've got to have a very simple to implement client relationship system. It doesn't have to be fancy, a lot of people like to use HubSpot, I like to keep my sales on a client management system. Also making sure that you prioritize those people that are important to your target industry. I talked within my group, I talk to the women I support a lot about the super connectors to really recognize that a small group of people could provide the most impact on your sales. So when you're networking with people, I think the first thing to really keep in mind and avoid feeling overwhelmed is to prioritize the most important connections you want to keep in touch with and have a simple system. Some ladies in my group use something as simple as Excel but have simple systems so that you stay focused when it's time to do your sales s you don't have hundreds of prospects that you need to follow up. Focus on your most important prospects and focus on nurturing relationships with them. I think staying focused is also another very important thing for busy entrepreneurs. Let's face it, we have so many things to do, I support mostly female entrepreneurs and I always tell the ladies, we don't just have to sell, we have to manage our clients, manage our people, some of us are moms, daughters, friends, we have so many things to manage. So keep your system as simple as possible. Don't overcomplicate it and stay focused.
What advice would you offer to the business professional who is really looking to grow their network?
I often talk about the super connectors. Super connectors are specifically designed for people who are going after 5-6 figure decision-makers like businesses and corporations. A lot of times, when you try to reach out to decision-makers, many of them don't hang out on LinkedIn. I think that is a lot of challenges entrepreneurs or professionals face is that they'll be posting a lot on LinkedIn, but their content is only consumed by smaller professionals, but most decision-makers often are not consuming content on LinkedIn, or sometimes they don't even have LinkedIn messages. So reaching out to super connectors, and try to develop opportunities for business referrals is another opportunity or another sales strategy I often share with my fellow entrepreneurs or women I support. But basically, super connectors are the people that would be connected to your decision-makers, but that is also open to networking opportunities. One thing when it comes to superconductors that you want to keep in mind is there are a lot of different people that might be able to give you business referral opportunities, look for those super connectors because these people could potentially get your foot in the door with your business decision-makers, and be conscious and spend time to nurture those relationships. I often joke about this, but sometimes I'm nicer to my super connectors than my actual prospective clients. But these are the people that first of all, have a huge amount of industry knowledge that you probably couldn't get by googling or by talking to other people. So these people, have been in the industry for a long time, and they could probably share a lot of information and knowledge with you. These are the people you're able to create win-win relationships with, these are the people that could refer you clients and give you that business introduction. Oftentimes, a lot of professionals and entrepreneurs, all know that business introduction is the most powerful way to get the attention of decision-makers or corporate clients. So yes, when you're building your network, look for those that are able to introduce you to your ideal clients.
If you could go back to your 20-year-old self, what would you tell yourself to do more or less of or differently with regards to your professional career?
I would say focus on the next best step. So I often talked about how I've got a success plan and these are the five steps to getting more corporate clients. But in terms of day-to-day, I would encourage myself to focus on the next best step and really just focus on making that progress. I am a very impatient person, I'm going to be very frank about it. I'm always trying to do better go after different things over the years, I've gone to different markets. But looking back, I would tell myself don't be so impatient, but just focus on the next best step, what is the next best step I should focus on, and enjoy the process. I am proud to say that even though I've been selling for 20 years, and I've done 1000s of cold calls, and I also like to joke about this, frankly, I probably been rejected more than most people I know. But I have to say, I've really enjoyed this process and I continue to love being an entrepreneur. There have been ups and downs, but if I were to talk to myself, 20 years ago, I'd say enjoy the ride, focus on your next best step and just focus on doing it with more joy and more purpose, and enjoy the ride because I always thought I'd be so happy if I made it or if I closed this deal. Turned out that I did close those deals, but I continued to want to grow and I continued to want to go after the next big plan. So it doesn't stop, this whole process never stops and it's more about the journey. Seriously, your journey is your destination, the more I've been in sales and as an entrepreneur, the more I appreciate what they're saying. So just have fun and enjoy whatever you're doing every single day and stay focused on your next best job and continue to grow and appreciate people we know every single day. I know we've talked so much about sports, and I love the fact that I've got somebody to talk about hockey with so enjoy the people you know and have fun.
What final word of advice you have to offer our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
I think the most important thing that I would like to share with everybody listening when is when somebody is in front of you, I would say listen, pay close attention and just focus on listening. So many people come to me and say, "Hey, what is the step-by-step script to closing sales?" While I do have lots of sales scripts and sales templates, I always like to remind people when it comes to sales or even any relationship you're trying to build in your business world, it's about the person in front of you. While there are still those templates, those scripts, we will often consume different content about the strategies and a step-by-step process when you are in front of anybody, just listen closely and ask yourself, how do I create a win-win relationship with this person? How can I support the person? How can I help the person? Always be helpful, and being helpful is the best way to build a relationship because a lot of times, we don't know what might happen. As I said, two years ago I had a simple networking opportunity, and boom, two years later, this person now is my ideal client. I would say focus on the person in front of you, always be helpful, and create win-win situations. The more creativity you've got, the better you are at creating win-win relationships, and the more likely you're going to build that powerful network. The essence of a powerful network, or even closing sales is all about having a win-win relationship where the person knows that if he or she works with you, there is going to be a win-win relationship. That, in essence, is the foundation of any successful sales relationship or business relationship. So yeah, I would say just focus on listening to the person and then genuinely create a win-win relationship, and be creative in terms of how can I support this person and if you're able to help this person, then this person is going to be very happy to refer your clients to give you a business or share knowledge with you. So always be helpful. I think Dale Carnegie once said, "If you're able to help that person, the person in front of you, then you can achieve anything." I'm paraphrasing it, but I really believe that for me, I think that's part of the reason why every time I do networking events or when I'm in front of prospective clients, I'm able to have a pretty good closing rate because of that sincere desire to really want to help people and I'm always trying to find ways to support and help people.
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