African American-owned businesses have more forces working against them than other businesses. That’s not conjecture; it’s fact, according to the post, “Americans Would Rather Do Business with White People Than Black People,” on Think Progress. com.
Therefore, we can’t afford to be “average.” We must be excellent.
For our companies to thrive, we must be organized and we must self-evaluate often, being honest about when change is needed to reach our next level. A “maturity mindset” is required, not only to grow profit year after year, but to keep the business running at all, since approximately 50% of small businesses close within their first five years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Here are four success strategies your business can follow to be in the half that thrives:
1. Establish rules. Break those. Set boundaries. Ignore those.
Establishing processes and boundaries makes your company more efficient. Think website forms that send rate sheets to prospects automatically, or holding free consults only during specific time windows on designated days.
But just as every well-run company has routines (that, consequently, also show the world your Black-owned business is not a “side hustle”), we still must be ready to ditch those occasionally when a client’s needs truly requires it.
KEY POINT: If the most important thing to your organization is your mission and your people, know when to supersede an established process—and don’t get hung up on it.
2. If a deal doesn’t work immediately, don’t panic: Promote.
Your company should be so busy promoting itself and caring for clients, that you hardly have time to hunt down, heckle, and harass every prospect that doesn’t commit to becoming a client.
Does this mean you should not follow up with interested prospects? Surely not. It does mean don’t sweat the small stuff: Every unreturned email, ditched meeting, or ignored phone call is not a big deal. Have a process (or follow-up email series) in place to deal with it… and move on.
KEY POINT: Everyone is busy, in ever-increasing amounts these days. A prospect’s failure to respond may not be rejection; it may simply be overwhelm. Either way, step back, breathe, and remind your team not to take everything so personally. It’s not always about you.
Oprah Winfrey was quoted as saying, “The greatest discovery of all time is that a person can change his future by merely changing his attitude.”
So stay focused. Keep grinding. There are prospects looking for you. Don’t waste time on people you have to convince of your company’s worth.
3. Follow up. Again. Then follow up some more.
Many prospects need frequent nudges from the companies we’re interested in to remind us how much we need them. If we’ve expressed interest, our interest still exists. But with each passing minute, day, or week, our interest gets pushed below the more “in-our-face” happenings that inevitably began to look more “interesting”… unless you follow up.
According to Bredin, a B2B agency that helps the Fortune 500 sell to SMBs, 3 out of 4 SMBs want a salesperson to contact them once they’re ready to make a purchase.
“So why don’t they just contact us?!” you ask.
Remember: Your busy B2B clients are not only entrepreneurs. Many are moms, dads, students, disciples, volunteers… and for those who still have “day jobs,” also busy executives. With so much going on, oh, how they wish you’d follow up! And how appreciative many of them will be when you do. Even if they don’t respond right away, many prospects end up keeping at least one of your little “nudges” as a reminder to follow through and return your contact (or use your company later). So don’t give up.
Statistics have shown that it takes 7 to 10 exposures to a message before a person will take action! Most of the time, your follow-ups are the only things that eventually will secure you the sale, or get you the donation.
KEY POINT: Follow up. You’re not being annoying. (If you are, you’ll know sooner or later—and the world still won’t end.) So follow up!
In the words of Madam C.J. Walker, “Don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them.”
4. Kick client mismatches to the curb.
Don’t put off rejection letters—they’re
valuable to your business. Often in your business dealings, you’ll be
able to sense, early on, that a particular prospect is not a fit. Learn
to trust your gut.
Common telltale signs of needing to refuse
work with a prospect may include complaints about your business
processes early in the lead I.D. stage (particularly as these happen
before you’ve begun to work together!); using a lot of your time asking
the same questions over and over, despite your having answered them
before; or disagreements over your pricing and attempts to haggle,
especially when you haven’t yet reached that stage in the sales process.
your business is new, you’ll be very tempted to do everything you can
to follow through with each lead that contacts you. Do yourself a favor
from the beginning and don’t get pulled into this cycle. As soon as your
interactions with a prospect confirm your initial misgivings, simply
share with them, respectfully, that your company is not a fit. In being
honest with yourself, trusting your instincts, and holding fast to your
company’s mission, you’ll free more of your time to attentively and
passionately serve your true market—with nowhere near as much stress.
KEY POINT: Stay centered. Trust your gut. Not every client is a fit. Tell them so… and free time and energy for the clients you’re supposed to pour yourself into.
“Chase the vision, not the money; the money will end up following you,” Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, once said.
Each of these four success principles seems to contradict at least one other in some way. (Keyword: “seems.”) The fact is that running a successful Black-owned business requires the ability to see beyond what’s right in front of your nose, and to connect complex pieces to understand the complete picture.
Why are you doing what you do? Who have you made it your mission to serve? Holding fast to your answers here is vital to success. African American entrepreneurs cannot afford to be anything but results-driven and goal-focused. Anything else waters down our true value—and will bankrupt our businesses.
Can your company thrive on mediocre results? If not, change something—starting with the four points above.
(*H.T. Major is the founder of Excellent Presence, an elite, full-service Raleigh Web design, marketing, & conversion studio for service-based businesses that need better results.)