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Open for Business: Selling in Uncertain Times

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Selling is one of the most vital, core functions of your business. Returning to selling services and products with confidence is a key piece of rebuilding your studio stability in this pandemic environment. Prior to COVID, becoming a masterful seller was somewhat of an “optional adventure” for most studio owners and employees. Owners tended to view selling as a necessary, but not exciting, piece of their work. Employees often felt comfortable taking a passive selling approach, but not engaging an active selling role. As many owners and employees can recognize now, selling is critical to the future of their business and its success. 

Rebuilding a Confident Sales Team

In a service-forward business such as a dance studio, strategic selling can sometimes feel uncomfortable. But, with proper training, reimagined tools and a growth mindset, even the most sales-averse staff members can feel self-assured and actively engaged in helping you reach your business recovery goals. 

When it comes to training, one of the most important things you can do to equip your team for re-entry into the sales process is to calm your anxiety (and theirs) about returning to selling. Many staff members will feel a bit apprehensive about selling classes during an uncertain time. They may even feel uneasy or fearful asking for the sale during this difficult economy. Remember to lead with confidence! Remind yourself, and your staff, that you are doing everything possible to ensure a safe return to classes and, as More Than Just Great Dancing!® Founder, Misty Lown says, “without money, there is no mission.” That being said, your team needs to clearly understand your goals and the role of sales in the big picture of rebuilding.

As you work with your teams, emphasize the importance of providing services to students during this upcoming season. Keep the focus on selling the service and the experience over the class or tuition. Start a dialogue with your staff about your sales goals and how reaching those goals provides the opportunity to continue building a safe community for kids, fostering friendships in the classrooms, and bringing a sense of normalcy to the students during an increasingly unsteady time. Reflect on how you went above and beyond in your previous season to honor the students, commitments, and the extra effort your team provided. Set the expectation and settle nerves by casting a new vision for the upcoming season and creating manageable goals that are easy to understand.

Virtual Sales

Most of you have heard the common sense phrase about having the “right tool for the job.” Make sure that your sales team is equipped with the right tools and resources needed to help them to be successful. Leverage technology to provide virtual tours for prospective clients, update your digital sales platforms, or up-level your social media selling skills. 

Utilizing social media is a great way to get in front of prospective clients and also to stay connected to your existing clients. According to Hubspot data, 71% of people are more likely to make a purchase online if the product or service comes recommended by others. What’s more surprising is that user engagement, not promotions or advertising, is often the driving force behind purchasing decisions.

 So what does that mean for you? It suggests that your interaction with selling on social media should become a prominent part of your sales strategy for your upcoming year and that referrals will continue to be the lifeblood of your business. Your clients are making their choices about enrollment based on how they view your online presence and who endorses or provides referrals for your business. Many of your future clients have watched your social media carefully through the pandemic and are already waiting to interact with you on those social platforms. There are many ways you can reach those clients and actively improve your social media sales strategy without investing a lot of time or resources.

To begin, provide a “shop now” link on your page, group, or in your bio. Having enrollment opportunities at the fingertips of your clients on social media will make a huge difference in your conversion rates. Your buyers are already engaged on social media so have the option to buy available at all times, and watch the sales increase organically. Another way to sell socially is to be active with your direct messaging, quick replies, and automated responses. You can easily develop authentic messages that any member of your sales team can use to foster relationships with your prospects through digital communication. Spend some time working through your key messages and set those responses in motion. 

The most conventional way to sell on social media is with paid ads and now is the time to take advantage of lower costs for pay-to-play advertising. Many social media platforms saw drastic reductions in paid advertising when the pandemic hit, but the good news is, this dramatic drop in demand can mean higher brand visibility for you, as fewer businesses are spending on cost-per-click (CPC) ads. This is a great time to test new ad strategies, try out new objectives, and reach clients who are new to your business via paid ads. If your budget allows, use this to your advantage to seize your market share!

What is a Buyer Persona? According to Hubspot, a buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer. It’s based on market research, actual data about your existing customers, and a few (educated) assumptions. It helps you to understand and relate to an audience that you want to market your products and services to. What is the difference between a marketing sales funnel and a sales pipeline? A marketing sales funnel describes the stages in the sales process that your prospective client will go through to become your customer. This funnel is all about the customer journey and serves to provide data and insight for conversion. A sales pipeline describes the stages in which a seller moves a prospective client to a converted client. The pipeline is about the seller’s process.

Simplifying Your Sales Pipeline

One of the first things you should do to enhance enrollment is to revisit your sales funnel. What is the process of getting enrolled? Does it make sense with the new products and services that you are offering in this season? Does it require multiple steps that could derail conversion? Put the buyer in the driver’s seat and make purchasing easier than ever! One-click enrollment or simple “text to register” options are great strategies for capturing those previous clients that still need to make the jump to return. There are many user-friendly text message marketing applications to choose from.

Also, don’t be afraid to get back on the phone as a sales tool! An easy and free telephone call, that instills confidence in the purchase, can help ease a client back into the studio. Slydial is a ring-less voicemail messaging app that allows you to connect directly to a client or prospect’s voicemail which is a great productivity hack! Slydial also has a group messaging feature which can help you to get your sales messages to the masses. The best part about this tech sales tool is you can start using their basic service for free.

Whether you are selling to new clients or a family that’s been with you for years, do the best you can to make the process simple and remove as many obstacles as possible in the funnel. Because of the current economic climate, providing multiple payment options or terms and offering commitment flexibility is a smart choice for savvy studio owners. For those who want to take it a step further, there are many e-commerce shopping cart plugins available that offer to handle the payment plans on your behalf through financing, installment pay or even deferred payment. One well known option is Klarna which can help boost your sales with a simple tech integration.

Having a straightforward way for parents to enroll will be essential to converting all prospective clients in these new conditions.

Group Friends Video Chat Connection Concept

Clients, Closing and Continuity

Carve out time to work with your team on reviewing your buyer personas and understanding that buyers are in all different stages of comfort about returning to the studio. Selling to the wrong persona can be an expensive mistake so don’t pass over this step. Taking time to find the buyers who want to buy instead of buyers that have to be sold will be a time and money saving process. During this time, it’s important to sell with security in the forefront of your sales process. The most common objections you will likely encounter will be safety and pricing based; both of which are rooted in fear, so be prepared to overcome these with active listening, empathy, and creative problem solving. 

Work with your team to create a Frequent Objection Response sheet to help guide your sales staff through thoughtful and service-oriented responses to your most common objections. Take advantage of your next conference call meeting to try some sales role play exercises regarding overcoming objections. Not properly closing by asking for the sale is where many sales drip down the drain. Remember, an objection is not rejection, it’s just a request for more information. 

Now that you’ve done the hard work and you have your new and returning clients back in the door, the re-selling process begins. Don’t let the sale stop when the transaction is made but rather let the relationship continue to develop as you reinforce the value of their purchase. This will leave the door open for future up-selling and the ability to ask for a referral. As you tackle this new season ahead with a strategic sales focus, remember to stay calm and confident, be prepared as much as possible, lean in to technology, and keep your sales processes simple.

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