Monthly Archive for February, 2013

Small Business Advocate Poll: How is your business shaping up?

The Question:
With the first month now behind us, how is your business shaping up for 2013?

3% - 2013 is already shaping up to be a great year for us.

8% - We’re definitely seeing improvement and expecting a good year.

55% - We think things are improving, but still too soon to tell for sure.

34% - We’re not seeing any improvement in the economy.

My Comments:
Summing up our responses this week, we’ve got barely more than 10% of our respondents getting off to an optimistic start, with the rest - 89% - still not seeing the economic good news they long for.

What can I say? Small business owners are pathological optimists. They’re like thoroughbred horses - they don’t want to be held back, they want to run. So you have to really work hard to create the kinds of conditions that cause America’s entrepreneurs to consistently report in survey after survey the level of disconcert for now more than four years. Alas, the Political Class in Washington seem to be uniquely qualified to create the conditions that turn the greatest community of entrepreneurs from optimists into pessimists.

Who elected these guys, anyway?

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Are you practicing Age of the Customer prospecting rules?

As described here previously, control of the three primary elements of the business relationship has shifted as the Age of the Seller is being replaced by the Age of the Customer. The buying decision and access to information about how to make that decision are now controlled by the customer, leaving sellers with control of just the product.

This shift has created many disruptions, especially with entrenched Age of the Seller sales practices, but perhaps none more than business-to-business prospecting. Here are four facets to this prospecting shift:

  1. The expectation of buyers meeting with vendors as a daily course of business is over.
  2. After 10,000 years of needing a salesperson to provide information to make a decision, buyers are acquiring much of that information on their own online.
  3. Prospects are now self-qualifying themselves, and then pre-qualify prospective vendors they choose to meet with, perhaps as few as two, or even just one.
  4. Prospects are essentially ruling competitors in or out before first contact, often before the business knows the prospect even exists.

Prospects like this new empowerment because it saves time, contributes to their decision-making journey, and reduces contact with uncompetitive and irrelevant vendors. Consequently, getting in front of a prospect for a first meeting, which once was almost automatic, now requires addressing the following new Age of the Customer rules of prospecting.

  1. Prospects require a higher level of introduction before granting a sales call.
  2. Prospect research must be conducted.
  3. Networking – in person and online – is essential.
  4. Prospect development and nurturing must be practiced with patience and a dialed down sense of urgency.
  5. With competitiveness now assumed, being relevant is the new differentiator.
  6. Contribute first, contract second.
  7. Relevance and values must be demonstrated.

Even the best salesperson, who will still need every classic selling skill to close the sale, is useless if he or she can’t get in front of the prospect before the buying decision has been made.

Companies that expect to meet sales goals now have to put as much, if not more, emphasis and resources on training, equipping, budgeting, measuring, and perhaps even compensating salespeople for the prospecting disciplines of the Age of the Customer.

Which age is your sales organization prospecting in?

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On my website I have a section dedicated to The Age of The Customer™. Go there for interviews, articles and videos related to The Age of The Customer™.

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SBA Poll: The likelihood of another recession

The Question:
The economy experienced negative growth in the 4th quarter. A recession is two negative quarters in a row. From your perspective, what is the likelihood of another recession?

4% - Zero - It was just one bad quarter and won’t be repeated

30% - 50% - This economy could go either way

39% - 75% - This economy is very fragile

26% - 100% - We may already be in a recession

My Comments:
Recently, we learned that GDP went negative in the fourth quarter of last year. There are many factors contributing to this drop in economic performance: decreasing defense spending, a drop in inventories and exports, Hurricane Sandy, and an election.

That last point is arguably the thing that influenced almost every American the most. We had what I believe to have been the most emotional national election in my life, that didn’t go the way at least half of us wanted, and we knew that almost two months before the end of the quarter.

A negative growth quarter in the U.S. is serious, since the definition of a recession is two consecutive negative quarters. So, when 96% of the sector that’s made up of the most pathologically optimistic of all humans - small business owners - say we have from a 50% to 100% chance of another recession, that’s not good news.

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Top 10 reasons to love small businesses

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, here are the “Top 10 Reasons To Love Small Businesses,” as proposed by our friends over at the Office of Advocacy of the SBA.

10. Small businesses make up more than 99.7% of all employers.

9. Small businesses create more than 50% of the nonfarm private gross domestic product (GDP).

8. Small patenting firms produce 13 to 14 times more patents per employee than large patenting firms.

7. The 22.9 million small businesses in the United States are located in virtually every neighborhood.

6. Small businesses employ about 50% of all private sector workers.

5. Home-based businesses account for 53% of all small businesses.

4. Small businesses make up 97% of exporters and produce 29% of all export value.

3. Small businesses with employees start-up at a rate of over 500,000 per year.

2. Four years after start-up, half of all small businesses with employees remain open.

1. The latest figures show that small businesses create 75% of the net new jobs in our economy.

It’s true: Small business is the heart of the American economy, and it’s why I really do love small business owners.

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Does the U.S. need another Jobs Council?

Unemployment just went up – to 7.9%. The economy just went down – negative growth in the 4th quarter 2012. Consumer confidence (Conference Board) and small business optimism (NFIB) both are down.

The government is experiencing annual operating deficits of over $1 trillion and the national debt, over $16 trillion, is on par with GDP. Let’s put that last number another way: if the U.S. were a business, it would owe as much as it sells.

With this set of realities facing our nation, it’s interesting that President Obama chose to say very little about the economy in his second inaugural address, but did talk about his climate change agenda. We wanted to know what small business owners think about the president’s priorities, so last week we asked this question in our online poll: “The President said climate change will be a major focus of his second term. What do you think?” Here’s what we were told.

Those who said, “I agree. Climate change is our greatest problem,” came in at 6%. The middle group, at 38%, believes the president “… should focus on economy recovery more than climate change.” And the rest, 56%, allowed that Mr. Obama “… should focus on the deficit and debt more than climate change.”

Clearly President Obama is watching a different ballgame than 94% of small business owners, plus we just learned that his Jobs Council was disbanded after two years. This 25-member committee is noteworthy because of the make-up of the roster: big business CEOs (16), venture capitalists (3), academia (1), politics (1), union bosses (2), and 1 – count them, ONE – small business owner.

That’s right, the group that signs the front of the largest batch of payroll checks (70 million) every week in America and has created almost every net new job for more than a generation was represented on the President’s Jobs Council by one very brave small business owner, Darlene Miller, CEO of Permac Industries, Burnsville, MN 55306. Permac has 30 employees.

Miller has been a guest on my radio program and recently told me she believes the Jobs Council actually did create jobs. But if that’s true, with more than 20 million Americans still unemployed or underemployed, shouldn’t it still be in business?

Well, the truth is the president doesn’t need a Jobs Council to create more jobs. He just needs to spend his efforts on policies that make America’s job creators think he’s watching the same ballgame as they are.

Small business owners will create more jobs when the government stops acting like it’s working against them.

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Recently on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, I also talked about the lack of businesspeople in President Obama’s cabinet plus the failure of the Jobs Council with Rick Newmanchief business correspondent for U.S. News & World Report. Click on one of the links below to hear what he and I had to say. I’m also interested in what you think, so please leave a comment.

Why no business people on Obama’s cabinet? with Rick Newman

Obama is not watching the same ballgame as small businesses with Jim Blasingame

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Don’t stop swimming

What’s your prime directive as a business owner — what is it that you want to accomplish? When you answer THAT question, then you have to answer an even bigger one: What will you have to do to realize that goal?

The pursuit of our entrepreneurial goals is usually met with resistance on many fronts. Some of the obstacles are fundamental, including: Acquiring enough experience, enough education, enough training, and enough capital.

Then there are the mind-game challenges that are laid on us by others: “That’s not how it’s done.” “That won’t work.” “No one’s ever done that before.” Or, “Why do you think you can do that?” Sadly, sometimes we even tie these millstones around our own necks.

When you feel like your dream is being swept away by strong current in a river of obstacles, here’s a little motivational thought: Swimming upstream can be tough, but remember, even a dead fish can float downstream.

Keep swimming.

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