Monthly Archive for January, 2010

Reinventing your small business - and maybe yourself

Change is no different today than it was millennia ago.  A computer is just a fancy wheel.  But what is different about our modern times is the velocity of change. That’s what’s taking our breath away and causing paradigms to shift right in front of our eyes.  This reality is why for some time now I’ve been saying to small business owners that it’s okay to fall in love with what you do, but not with how you do it.  In the 21st century, the change paradigm is as simple as it is Darwinian: reinvention or extinction.

I talked about this idea with Brain Trust member, Joyce Weiss, who joined me recently on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show. Joyce is the founder of Joyce Weiss Training & Development LLC - a Best Practices Certified Company and author of Full Speed Ahead and Take the Ride of Your Life!

Joyce takes us through the process of identifying when the old way isn’t working, how to reinvent and re-brand, and what role the customer has in all of this. Take a few minutes to listen to our conversation and tell us how you’ve reinvented your business and its owner. Listen Live! Download, Too!

A picture is STILL worth a thousand words for small business

A picture is STILL worth a thousand words. It’s amazing what we is revealed to us when we take the time to put on paper a word, idea, image, even the numbers associated with financial information. There is just something dramatic about seeing what you’re thinking looking back at you.  And here’s a flash: This works with your small business customers, too.

That’s the message Dan Roam helped me develop as he joined me recently on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show. Dan is founder of Digital Roam, Inc. and the author of two great books, The Back of the Napkin and Unfolding the Napkin as well as a new member of my Brain Trust.

Dan and I talked about solving problems and selling ideas by conveying your message with graphical images, and I think you’ll benefit from hearing this conversation. Take a few minutes to listen and, as always, let us know how you’ve used images to your advantage, both internally and externally. Listen Live! Download, Too!

Ladies, solve problems, don’t just manage them

Since 1997, I’ve devoted many hours of programing on my radio show that focuses on issues that are at least more dramatic, if not unique, for women small business owners than for men.  I conducted this programming with women who are either experts on the topic of women making their way in the marketplace, or they are women who have overcome these challenges, or both.

Debbie Meyer is both. She’s an inventor, an entrepreneur and she’s a highly successful business owner. Debbie invented the Green Bags, among other innovations that make life easier, and is co-CEO and co-founder of Housewares America, Inc. And she’s a member of my Brain Trust.

Recently, Debbie joined me again on The Small Business Advocate Show and I asked her about my theory that one of the problems women bring on themselves is thinking that it’s enough to manage a problem instead of find a way to solve it and get rid of it. Debbie agreed with me, and we discussed this issue. Take a few minutes to listen to my conversation with Debbie and, as always, leave your own thoughts. Listen Live! Download, Too!

How small businesses produce sales by producing words

For a dozen years, I’ve been telling small business owners that one of the keys to their future success is the ability to create content to post online, which means they, or someone they hire, has to be able to write.  Alas, not nearly enough small business owners have heeded this advice.

Now, in this age of social media, my admonition on this topic are no longer recommendations, they’re imperitives.  If you can’t write about what you do, how you do it and about your customers’ experiences with your company, you’re going to be less competitive as each year goes by.

Recently, I talked about this on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate show, with a long-time member of my Brain Trust, Jeff Zbar. Jeff and I talked about innovations like local search, driven by words you post your businesses online platforms, are a key to success for even the smallest of small businesses.

As the Chief Home Officer, Jeff is a newspaper and online columnist, corporate copywriter, author of several books and home business and small business expert. Take a few minutes to listen to this interview and, as always, leave your thoughts. Listen Live! Download, Too!

Kiplinger reports on employment, COBRA and privacy

One of the confusing issues associated with all of the government’s involvement in the economic recovery is the new and adjusted regulations, especially with regard to human resources.  A perfect example of this is changes that affect the health care insurance provision for severed employees, COBRA. Be sure to check with an HR professional to make sure you’re keeping up.  Compliance with all of these issues is one reason many small business owners outsource their payroll functions and, sometimes, all HR functions. 

Recently on The Small Business Advocate Show, Kiplinger Washington Editors‘ Senior Editor, Joan Pryde, joined me to report on employment growth prospects, changes in the COBRA laws and the tension between our nations balancing national security with privacy issues. Joan is a long-time member of my Brain Trust and has been reporting on the Kiplinger Letter with me since 1999. Take a few minutes to listen to what Joan has to say and, as always, leave your own thoughts. Listen Live! Download, Too!

Building and loading your small business sales pipeline

There are many maxims in professional selling, but perhaps the most important holds that selling is a numbers game. This is a generally accepted truth because of two realities:

 

1.  There are hundreds, nay thousands, of things that can go bump in the night and cause a fully qualified prospect to not complete a transaction, at least not on your preferred timeframe.

 

2.  Regardless of all of the bumps on the path to a signed contract, it’s still your job to produce enough sales revenue to stay in business. 

 

Enter the sales pipeline.

 

A pipeline is a planning concept that helps managers and salespeople forecast sales for any given period: week, month, quarter or year.  Think of your sales pipeline as overhead plumbing with faucets positioned at those calendar intervals, as your business model requires. From these faucets you draw the mother’s milk of any business – sales revenue.

 

Pipeline faucets have special screens that only allow a sale to pass through. So into the pipeline you load only those prospects of which you have asked enough questions to determine that, in a reasonable amount of time, what they want and your ability to deliver will combine to produce a faucet-conforming sale. Until then, a prospect is either on track to become a sale or a forecasting mistake to be removed.

 

As you record a prospect’s entry into the pipeline you must include what you know about their stage of decision-making, plus what you have to do to move them to customer status. Identifying what’s left to be done with each prospect – demo, trial, proposal, final close, etc. – will help you forecast which faucet – this week, next month, etc. – you can expect a sale to pour out of.

 

At this point, let’s refer to The Bard. In Act I, Scene III, of Hamlet, arguably Shakespeare’s most important work, Pelonius famously says, “This above all, to thine own self be true.” If you aren’t completely honest about a prospect’s progress to customerhood, you’re only setting yourself up for an unacceptable flow of sales as you turn on future faucets.

 

How much and how often you draw revenue from your sales pipeline depends on the twin standards of sales success: quantity and quality. You must load the pipeline with enough prospects on Monday (quantity) to have enough qualified prospects to close on Wednesday (quality) so that after all those “bumps” happen you can still draw the sales you need from your pipeline on Friday (success). 

 

Finally, I’ll leave you with Blasingame’s Law of the Sales Pipeline:  “Quantity, quality and to thine own self be true.”

Recently, on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, Skip Miller and I talk about the pipeline development process. Skip is President and founder of M3 Learning, and author of a number of books on sales and sales management. He is also a long-time member of my Brain Trust. Take a few minutes to listen my visit with Skip and leave your comments on how you’re building and loading your sales pipeline. Listen Live! Download, Too!




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