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The Art of Selling to Grow Your Small Business

Sales Best Practices to Grow Your Business.

Seek new markets to grow your business with effective prospecting.

How long does it take your people to follow up on every lead your business generates? You need to create a company policy as a standard for all of your salespeople and customer service staff to adhere to. Be sure to ask all of your leads how they heard about your business. You need to do this, to determine which of your marketing investments are paying off for you. Use campaign specific reference codes that your prospects have to reference, when they respond to your promotions and advertising. You need to do this, in order to determine which marketing campaigns are generating responses so you can adjust your marketing programs on a constant basis.

Apply unique telephone numbers for each of your campaigns, in order to track your results. Utilize a lead capture / contact management system like SalesForce.com or Zoho to keep track of all your marketing campaigns, prospects, leads and existing clients. Develop a strategic networking plan to identify the specific industry events that you and your team are going to attend on a 3 month schedule/calendar. Do you have a policy or standard for the percent of prospects that you convert into qualified leads and then leads into existing clients. If you don’t…you should!

Do you have a defined “BEST Customer” profile that you use to define the specific details around what your ideal customer looks like? If you don’t have one, you need it. This will help you to show your salespeople what your company’s best client LOOKS like.
Launch a “Give to Get” referral strategy that rewards your clients who refer new clients to you. Referrals are simply the BEST source for generating new business for startups, entrepreneurs and small businesses. New business comes into organizations in the following 3 ways:
50% of referrals are generate though your existing relationships. 35% come from referrals, and 15% are generated from your advertising efforts. that means 85% of all your business comes from personal referrals.

Use your website as a prolific lead generation channel
Your Website is an invaluable resource for generating business. This assumes your website is maximized and you’ve done everything in your power to use your website as a sales channel 24x7x365.

Following are some very successful strategies to leverage your website to generate sales:
Every page on your site must have a link to a Lead generation (contact us) form. Have you translated your website into the languages that are spoken by your primary target segment(s)?
Do you have a significant number of appealing success stories, testimonials, and case studies to make your site interesting and relevant to your visitors? People who come to your website must see how you have helped others whose problems or challenges resemble their own so they have proof you can help them. Do you have a specially designed custom landing page that you drive prospects to, for each and every promotion you run? You need specific pages that are designed to highlight the special offers, or feature-specific information you wish to convey about products or services that you are promoting in your different campaigns.
Is your website easy to navigate? If someone can’t find what they are looking for in 1-2 clicks, they will abandon your site and are likely never to return. Do you update your product information continuously? If you don’t make editorial changes constantly, people will wonder why they should keep coming back to your website. So they won’t.
To be continued in our next blog.

Creative Problem Solving for Small Business Success

Creative Problem Solving for Entrepreneurs, Startups and Small Business Owner Success.

Leverage Your Employee’s Skills For Small Business Success.

Entrepreneurs and small business owners always ask me what they and their employees can do to achieve success in their business planning and business strategy.  While having a well developed business plan is a head start and using social media, interactive marketing, and traditional marketing all help, I encourage them to apply critical thinking and creative problem solving which begins by asking “Why?” and “What if?”

Business owners have got to get used to giving  up control to their employees by listening more and talking less. The best performing organizations see their employees as a goldmine of resources to give them lasting competitive advantage. Business owners who see their staff as head count and a cost to be managed, manipulated, and down-right controlled are destined to fail.
Instead, unleash your people’s talents. Solicit their ideas constantly. I read an article recently about a small business that gave their employees a month of paid leave to come up with ideas (on their own or in teams) to present to the company as a competition. The best ideas were implemented immediately and everyone participated, even the owners presented their ideas. Everyone had equal voting power. How do YOU encourage your employees to constantly think what they can do to better service your clients, care for your partners, vendors, and suppliers?
How do you address problems that don’t even exist? Do you have employees train in various functional departments using job rotations? Do you send your employees out to spend a day with your top customers to better understand their challenges? Do you take your top employees to breakfast, ask your people what they like most/least about your company?
Rather than brainstorming, a proven method for problem solving to solicit employee feedback is brain writing.

You present a challenge to your people in a closed door setting, and ask them to write down their proposed solutions. Then you take their papers back, shuffle and redistribute so everyone has their paper reviewed by someone else.  The problem solving objective is to go through this review process 3-4 times then have the entire team discuss each solution with the 3-4 sets of reviews/comments and the team reaches consensus on the best ideas to pursue/implement.
There is an approach to problem solving called the “DO IT approach which stands for:
D – Define the problem you and your team are facing
O – Open your mind & apply creative techniques to come up with as many actionable solutions as possible
I – Identify the best/most practical solution(s)
T – Transform: implement the solution using an action plan and transform your business

The Four (4) P Approach is another good process your business can go through for team-based creative problem-solving.
* Product/Service Perspective: your team assesses your products and services with by concentrating on whether or not something’s WRONG with your product
* Planning Perspective: Are our business plans faulty?
* Potential Perspective: If we increase our workload, projects, service offerings, how would we achieve this?
* People Perspective: Do we have the right people in the right jobs to be successful?
Another creative approach to problem solving is called the star-bursting method or the 5W & H approach that journalists apply:
Start out with your central business problem/challenge then have your team go through a complex process of answering: Who, what, where, when,
why and how…do we resolve this key business challenge.

Have your team apply metaphorical thinking. Metaphorical thinking is an approach where your team comes up with seemingly divergent unrelated business practices, process, ideas, or concepts.  For example, you’ve heard the phrase “time” is “money.” But is it…really? Of course not. The synergistic connection is something you have to make a formal connection on by equating the value of your staff’s time, effort, and resource investment as well as the potential monetary or business impact of accomplishing solutions.
Dare your people to be great. Just allowing your employees to be good enough leads to failure due to poor business performance.  That is what Jim Collins wrote about in his book: “Good to Great.”
Top performing organizations that dare to be great embrace a culture highlighted by owners, managers, and staff that as a whole:
* Take Calculated Risks: Reach for the stars, if you fall short you still reach the moon.
*  Set STRETCH Goals: Every employee goal should be a stretch. Meaning if they work as hard as they can, challenge themselves constantly then they MAY achieve their goal. Even if they “fail” they still will exceed your wildest expectations on what each employee and your business as a whole can and will achieve.
* Embrace Change: Whether you like it or not change is constant in today’s global transformational workplace and business climate.
Technology changes at unheralded speed and competition can come from anywhere.
* Run Towards Challenges: The best businesses and leaders lead their people into challenges not running away to hide from them. Case in point, managers who fail always react to economic hardship by laying off employees and cutting back spending on marketing and advertising. Best run businesses see challenging times as a chance to steal their competit5iors’ best talent and expand their promotional programs to achieve maximum results because their competitors are all cutting back. Buck conventional wisdom. If it isn’t broke, break it!
* Lean Into Discomfort: It’s easy to be a business owner that seeks stability. Unfortunately we simply cannot run our business by going back to what used to work.
Pursuing the status quo is a surefire recipe for failure. you can tell the worst business owners who, in response to being asked why they practiced certain business
processes, procedures, and practices their response is: “that’s how things have always been done around here.”
* Take on New responsibilities: Top performers are always looking for new roles and responsibilities. Top performers are inner directed, and they
seek out opportunities to develop new skills, acquire additional talents, certifications, training, accreditations, etc.
* Find GREAT Allies: The best businesses and visionary leaders are small business owners who are always looking for successful partnerships. They see
every relationship as a chance to strengthen their own organization. These leaders are philosophically committed to the value of relationship-building
and serving others. their strong corporate culture is based on giving back to the community, doing good, and encouraging all their employees to make a difference in the world.
According to Steve Jobs: “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. . .” These are great words to live by, and model your approach as a leader and successful business owner.

How Small Business David's Can Slay Large Competitor Goliaths

How Small Business David’s Can Slay Large Competitor Goliaths.

Leverage Your Small Business Advantages For Competitive Advantage.

 
While many of my entrepreneur, start up, and small business clients bemoan the fact that they face competition from much larger players in their industry, I always coach them on how to use their size to achieve small business success.
There are many significant benefits that much smaller firms can leverage than their larger, hierarchical, bureaucratic competition.
Following are a handful of immediately actionable tips that you can apply right now to take advantage of your smaller size:
 
Be more responsive in your customer CARING: One way to build customer loyalty is to develop a culture where you focus on the needs of your most profitable (valuable) accounts.   Follow the Pareto Principal and focus on your top 20% of your customer base who contribute 80% of your revenues.
– Develop Referral, Loyalty and Retention Strategies: Since a majority of your business will come from referrals, plan and launch a program to solicit referrals from your most loyal customers, reward  them through loyalty programs that gives them meaningful gifts as a sign of your appreciation for their loyalty, and focus aggressively on developing and implementing a retention program to keep those top accounts (apostles) happy.
CONSTANTLY solicit your employees’ BEST ideas: Your employees are your greatest asset…PERIOD! It is your job as their leader to determine the core competencies each employee possesses and re-design their job description to allow them to use their greatest strengths for your competitive advantage.
 
Leverage Social Media the RIGHT Way: Too many small businesses are NOT using interactive marketing and social media for maximum impact.   Now is the time to find strong internet marketing folks who can help you build a solid online brand and marketing foundation to supplement your more traditional offline marketing using FaceBook, LinkedIn, Twitter, MeetUp, Youtube, FourSquare, Tumblr, Pinterest Google Drive, etc.

Communicate, Communicate, COMMUNICATE for SUCCESS: Another small business advantage is a much flatter, leaner organization with little hierarchy so expedite the decision-making in your firm by empowering all of your people to make decisions independently.  Stop trying to consolidate power by having everyone receive your approval.  Once you spread autonomous decision-making you will see a tremendous increase in overall productivity. The single largest downfall of any organization is a failure to communicate.
 
Not ALL Customers Matter, so Focus On Your TOP 20% FIRST: Since 1906, Pareto’s research into income distribution in Switzerland through Dr. Joe Juron’s work after WWII proves that in any data set 20% of the data is statistically significant, and 80% is irrelevant. So, 20% of your customers generate 80% of your sales, revenues, profits.
 

 
You need to understand who your most profitable customers are and empower all your people to have a direct impact on positively impacting those most loyal,valuable, Apostle clients.  Small businesses can accomplish this more quickly given their relatively small client portfolios.
Brand..Brand…BRAND: In the 21st Century global economy, only your BRAND delivers lasting competitive differentiation. A brand is something your small business does/offers that is unique, invaluable and memorable. Once you define/determine your brand as an organization unique selling proposition all your marketing must reflect that brand AND you must convey your brand not only to your external stakeholders (clients, vendors, partners, suppliers) but your employees first and foremost.
Be ETHICAL: Chart a course to success with a “MORAL COMPASS.”  So, it now turns out that the most ethical organizations (those that practice the highest degree of overall integrity) are the most profitable.  Sorry Halliburton, Monsanto, Phillip Morris, Enron…being ethical leads to higher profitability.
Unleash Your Employee’s UNTAPPED Talents:  Research shows that most organizations WASTE$.75 of EVERY $1 they spend on their people.  The entire process of hiring people to fill positions is so 20th century.  Now, it make more sense to be able to define in advance of your hiring efforts what your organization’s vision and mission are, and define your values.

Then, as you grow rather than creating job descriptions based on random job requirements for functional roles (sales marketing, HR, accounting) it is in your firm’s best interest to find people who match your values and possess a divergent set of skills that are one part functional but also possess leadership, teamwork, critical thinking, creative problem solving, and other “soft” skills.
 
Ferrari Marketing on a Hyundai Budget: World class organizations of all sizes spend 5-15% of their annual sales on marketing.  MOST companies spend 1-2%. In these trying economic times, those organizations that invest more in marketing to support their sales efforts will have their voices heard as their larger direct competitors are cutting back their messaging. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter how much or little you spend, if every program is NOT focused directly on supporting your sales effort.
 
Bring Sales, Marketing, and Product People Together: In most large organizations their are discreet functional areas that are managed by different teams and work independently of one another. Given that the role of marketing is to support the sales process and they do that by promoting product and service benefits, now is the time to make sure that your marketing, sales, product development/management (R&D) and even your customer care are working together. you can accomplish this by having these functional areas work together in cross-functional management teams, having job rotations to move people between departments, and foster greater teamwork by building relationships amongst these functional areas.
Here’s to your continued success in 2012!

Market Yourself Using Online Personal Branding

Build An Exceptional Online Brand

Manage your personal brand with social media and online marketing.

 
With the explosion in social media and online marketing, it’s critical that you manage your personal brand with online personal branding, to ensure your career and professional success.
First off, it is important to understand what branding is: A Definition of Branding Wikipedia offers this definition of branding:
 
“People engaged in branding seek to develop or align the expectations behind the brand experience, creating the impression that a brand associated with a product or service has certain qualities or characteristics that make it special or unique.”
I have developed this Top 11 list of strategies you can employ, to build and maintain an exceptional online brand. ENJOY!
 

1. Have a personal branding strategy for your online brand: Before you begin creating social media accounts, it is absolutely critical that you first plan out what your personal online branding/marketing strategies are. Who do you plan on communicating with? What is your ideal target? Are you trying to learn about a new industry, change careers, find a job in the same field, or do research in advance of starting your own business?  The goals you have should define what your strategies are.  Is it important that you build your brand awareness as a subject matter expert in a specific field?

2. Have a GREAT profile picture: In today’s 24x7x365 online world, we are all identified by and judged by how we present ourselves on social networking sites. Sites like Facebook and Twitter. Our profile picture allows us to present ourselves to others including potential employers, business partners, clients…even future spouses. As part of your online branding, you HAVE to use a profile picture carefully since it’s the very FIRST thing people look at.
 

 
3. Search your “personal brand” results: Every month conduct searches on Bing, Yahoo, Google, and YouTube on your name “First Name Last Name” to see where you are showing up.
 
4. Monitor your name: search for it on such social media tracking sites like Reputation.com and SocialMention.com.
 
5. Monitor your online brand strength regularly: To see what your aggregate online social media STRENGTH is there are really good websites like Klout. Take a test to monitor your online brand performance. Here’s a cool list of 10 free tools you can use to manage your brand online.
 
6. For ideas about the types of organizations that have already built “cult-like” followers as exceptional brands check out this article on GREAT brands.
 
7. Create separate social media accounts for your personal life and professional career: Use separate accounts for Facebook, plus have a professional account for LinkedIn, Twitter MeetUp, and YouTube. Constantly ensure that people are not tagging you or mentioning your names for inappropriate things such as that wild weekend at the Jersey shore, that 1am bar brawl in the Hamptons, or anything that would make Lindsay Lohan blush. Provide people who like/follow you on your professional accounts with links to interesting and information articles. Keep providing valuable information on a regular basis. Ask people to follow you or suggest that others follow you. Here is a great article on top tips for building a stellar personal brand on LinkedIn.
 
8. Become a thought leader/subject matter expert: Build your reputation in the industry you currently work in or other sectors that you want to transition to from your current career. You do this by signing up to join any relevant LinkedIn Groups you can find, and once they approve you, follow the discussions to learn the latest trends and developments.
 
9. Tweet: Begin building a Twitter following to build a VERY specific and targeted set of followers and follow all of the key industry reporters, analysts, bloggers in the fields you work in or are interested in.
 
10. Blog: Nothing will build your online brand faster than publishing content that others find to be interesting, informative, and helpful. It’s easy and FREE.
 
The two best platforms are Google Blogger and WordPress.
 
11. BE DIFFERENT: for inspiration on how all the great thinkers were ahead of their time check out this video on Apple called: “Think Different.”
Check out this great article – Top 10 tools to manage your brand’s reputation online.
To obtain my FREE Powerpoint presentation on using social media to build your brand online, email me. Check out this article: “5 Easy Ways to Market Yourself Online.”

Grow Your Business in Your Down Time

Grow Your Business in Your Down Time

Foot Surgery Forces Business Coach to Stand Down

 
Next Wednesday, I’m having foot surgery bunion surgery, to be specific. Now I know, this isn’t exactly a “sexy” procedure but for a guy who considers taking a Saturday afternoon nap to be excitement it’s a big deal.
 
I am excited that I will have the opportunity to share my experiences with you after being forced to literally SIT STILL for a few weeks. Coming on the the heels (cheesy foot pun) of having spent the last four years running non-stop to grow my business consultancy like a chicken with its head cut off. the forced down time is going to feel alien. Just because I will be forced to sit, that doesn’t mean I will be lying down on the job.
 
For starters, I’m putting the finishing touches on my new website which I I’ll let you know about as soon as it “goes live.”  To my clients who like to meet in person, we can still continue to do just that…except it will be over the phone. In the meantime, I have prepared a Top 10 list of things that one could do with all of the FREE time:
 
10. Revisit your strategy: recovering will finally enable me to revisit my own business plan (something EVERY biz owner should do periodically;)
 
9. Get a CRM: Whether you work for a multinational corporation or you’re an entrepreneur, you need to store all your client and prospect information in one single place.  You can get them for free (Zoho), buy a mid-range solution like Highrise or go to the high-end with a solution like Salesforce.com
 
8. Watch your dog “cat nap” 20 hours a day: in-between bouts of licking herself.  It REALLY is a “Dog’s Life;”

 
7. Enjoy life’s simple pleasures: Thousands of hours of reality TV viewing await. Why not get caught up on Snookie + Jwow?:

6. Respond to emails: Remember all those emails sitting in your in-box? Now is the perfect time to write back, and empty the clutter.
 
5. Get addicted to Words with Friends:
 

 
4. Write Thank You cards to your clients:

 
3. Get familiar with workflow management systems like Google docs or Dropbox:

 
2. NFL team training camps finally begin! Go Cowboys!

 
…and the #1 thing you can do with all the down time is:

 
1. Plan on making the rest of 2012 GREAT for yourself, your family, AND your business.
Stay tuned as I report in on the entrepreneur’s dilemma of being FORCED to slow down, even as we prepare to spring forward this fall.

DON'T Take The Summer Off, Perfect Your Business Planning

A lot of my clients, entrepreneurs, people thinking of launching their own business and business planning, job seekers, and owners of established businesses have been telling me that they begun to or are planning on cutting back their efforts as we head into the July 4th weekend and will cut back their efforts over the summer in a “wait until Fall” mindset.

 
 
Their thinking is, since we are still trapped in a global recession, our kids are out of school and heading away to camp, they are going to take the summer to regroup by slowing down their business planning and wait until Fall to re-engage.  THAT is the worst possible approach and a recipe for disaster. Now more than ever we should be aggressively looking at our planning and strategies to make sure we’re on the right path.
 
Here are just a few critical business issues we should be diving into right now to ensure the long-term health of our businesses:
 
* Do I have the right people in the right positions?
 
* What am I doing to find, recruit, hire, retain, motivate and reward TOP talent? HINT: If you answered “pay them more” you missed the boat completely.
 
* Is my strategy still appropriate for the current economic climate?
 
 

* Do I REALLY understand my market? Am I adequately positioned to serve the right customers? * Do I have a deep enough understanding of my ideal prospect? * How well have I analyzed my customer base? * Am I focused on serving the right customers? Do I have that Pareto principle down where I’m focusing on the clients that are most valuable to me…today and tomorrow?

* Is my sales in perfect alignment with my marketing…and product development? Speaking of marketing…while my competitors have been cutting back for several years now, now may be the ideal time to ramp up my marketing spend.
 
* Is my marketing well aligned with my ideal customer profile, most profitable prospects and situated to convert highly qualified leads into customers.
 
* Do I have a client appreciation/loyalty/retention AND referral program?
 
* What new services/products can I offer? Which products need to be discontinued?
 
* Am I embracing social media the right way?
How do I track my social media performance from an ROI perspective (HINT – the tools now exist to measure ALL your online branding/relationship-building activities.)
 
The list goes on and on, but the point remains the same for EVERYONE. For entrepreneurs, start-ups, small to mid-sized businesses and global corporations alike…now is the IDEAL time to make significant changes so you are positioned to eat your competitor’s lunch. After all, we’re not the Post Office, right? For us entrepreneurs and small biz owners, one of our greatest strengths is in our smaller size, so we should be able to adapt quickly to change in order to seize on opportunities. NOW is NOT the time to bury our heads in the (BEACH) sand.
 
 

 
We need to be aggressively figuring out what has worked for us, what hasn’t worked, what is and isn’t working, and what we need to change in order to be successful in the future. In today’s globally connected, wired, Internet-based world, we are truly competing 24x7x365. So get going! I for one am scheduled to have foot surgery in a month.  Right now I’m in the process of completely re-designing my website to reflect the fact that I now will coach/consult entrepreneurs and small business owners, I’m cutting back my teaching engagements, aggressively promoting my speaker services and training/professional development programs. I’d LOVE to slow down and take time off, but time favors the bold. Opportunities don’t come knocking. Seize the opportunity your competitors are giving you by them slowing down. Fix what’s broken and find what’s working. Hire a coach…take a course…revamp your networking strategy.  Test an entirely new marketing tool.  Launch a client appreciation luncheon…conduct an employee town hall.
 
 

 
Now is the PERFECT time to race ahead, while your competitors are standing still.