Small-Business Q&A: How to improve sales


Dear Karen: How can we improve sales?

Answer: Track sales performance. See where your sales leads originate and which ones are most effective. You can’t identify what’s working if you’re not monitoring it closely.

“Identify the real drivers of your business, and stop throwing away money on what’s not working,” said Jeff Solomon of Leads360, a Los Angeles software firm. “Chances are, one or two sources generate the bulk of your revenue.”

Instruct your sales staff to respond to inquiries within five minutes, send follow-up e-mail and stay in touch with potential customers.

Picking a good company name

Dear Karen: How should I choose a name for my sports apparel company?

Answer: Try the book “Powerlines: Words That Sell Brands, Grip Fans, and Sometimes Change History” by Steve Cone. It may spark some brainstorming. And make sure someone hasn’t already used your idea: Take potential names to an intellectual property attorney and search for them on the website of the U.S. Patent and Trademark office, Also, check for availability of website domain names.

“Be aware of spelling and punctuation variations, as well as synonyms, homonyms and phonetic equivalents,” said Robert Bertsch, president of Network Media Holdings, an Internet media company. “Avoid geographic or generic names that are easy to forget and difficult to protect.”

Time may be right for a new venture

Dear Karen: Is this a bad time to start a business?

Answer: It all depends on the specific business and industry. There are signs that small businesses are recovering.

A recent survey of U.S. small-business consultants showed that 37% have clients that plan to hire new employees this year. The new hires will be brought in to support growth and replace laid-off workers, said business consultant Jonathan Goldhill, of the Growth Coach in Los Angeles.

“Local business owners,” he said, are “going to fill the empty positions left during the worst of the recession. It shows the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Small-business questions? E-mail Karen at