Archive for the 'Cashflow - Credit - Collections' Category

Do you know how to load your Sales Pipelines?

Here’s an ancient marketplace maxim: Selling is a numbers game.

A maxim is a generally accepted truth and this is one because of two realities:

1.  There are hundreds – if not thousands – of things that can cause a fully qualified prospect to not complete a transaction, at least not on your time parameters.

2.  Regardless of how many bumps you encounter on the path to a signed contract, it’s still your job to produce enough gross profit from sales revenue to stay in business.

Enter the sales pipeline: 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 the time intervals your operation requires. And from these faucets you draw the mother’s milk of any business – sales revenue.

But there’s one pesky thing about sales pipeline faucets: they all come with screens that only allow sales from qualified prospects pass through, while poorly developed prospects are blocked. So if you’re counting on revenue pouring out of a faucet when you turn the handle on the day you need sales, you must load only qualified prospects into your pipeline to begin with.

A qualified prospect has answered enough questions – directly or through research – to allow you to determine that they will likely purchase what you sell from someone in the forecastable future. Before you place a qualified prospect in the pipeline, you must know at a minimum:

· What’s left to do for them – demonstration, trial, proposal, final close, etc.;

· Anything else that has to be done to move them to customer status.

Your appraisal of all of this information will help you forecast which faucet you should expect a particular sale to pour out of this Friday, next week, next month, next quarter. Once in the pipeline, a prospect is either on track to become a sale, a lost sale, or a forecasting mistake to be removed.

Alas, in the absence of professional sales management, poorly trained salespeople will try to forecast low-quality prospects. And any company that counts on such practices is headed for a cash flow crisis and ultimate business failure. Not because the product wasn’t good, or the price was too high, or because of Amazon. But because the sales team didn’t load the sales pipeline with enough qualified prospects.

At this point, let’s refer to The Bard. In Act I, Scene III, of Hamlet, arguably Shakespeare’s most important work, Polonius famously says to his son, Laertes, “This above all, to thine own self be true.” If your sales team is honest with each other and management about a prospect’s qualified progress to faucet-conformity, you’re setting yourself up for success. If not, well, you know.

Sales has been and always will be a numbers game. But in the Age of the Customer, it’s increasingly becoming more of a quality prospecting game. Consequently, how much revenue you draw from your sales pipeline depends on the two elements of the 21st century sales success calculus: quantity x QUALITY = your ultimate sales performance.

Here’s Blasingame’s Law of Sales Pipeline Success: Load the pipeline with enough (quantity) qualified prospects (quality) to flow through the faucets of your sales pipeline whenever you need them (success).

Write this on a rock … Load your sales pipeline with quantity and quality, and to thine own self be true.

Managing the three clocks of small business

“Time Is On My Side,” is the title of one of the classic rock ’n’ roll songs performed by Mick Jagger and the legendary English band, The Rolling Stones.

This bold statement works in a song, but for small businesses – not so much. The reason is because of the complicated dynamic between our most limited resource, time, and three of our most important business factors, expenses, sales and cash.

In the marketplace, there are actually three different clocks at work that every business uses: one for operating expenses, one for sales and one for cash. Let’s take a look at how these three clocks impact your small business.

Operating Expense Clock
Every month like clockwork, regardless of sales volume, cash collections or profitability, payroll must be met, rent must be paid, taxes must be remitted, plus phone, utilities, insurance bills, etc., must also be paid. The Operating Expense Clock is hardwired to Greenwich, England for accuracy within a nanosecond per millennium, and nothing stops it short of a global, thermonuclear holocaust coinciding with a direct hit from Haley’s comet.

The only way to influence this clock is through operating efficiencies – you won’t be billed for what you don’t buy.

Sales Clock
This clock is powered by the prospect and customer relationships you’ve created so sales result each month. You project when each sale will occur by qualifying prospects and attributing a clock to each potential transaction so that you can budget future sales volume, which delivers gross profit to pay expenses.

How the Sales Clock operates is completely logical and intuitive, but it only works in your favor when meet all of the expectations and requirements of customers.

Cash Clock
What is not logical or intuitive is the Cash Clock and its relationship with the other two. Think of it like this: Cash is to sales as snow is to cold. You can have cold weather without snow, but you can’t have snow without cold weather. You can have sales without receiving cash, but you can’t receive cash without making sales. And expenses are like weather: you get some every day.

But what hits small business owners hard is that for every glitch in the mainspring of the Sales Clock, there are 1,000 potential sprocket failures that slow or stop the Cash Clock. Consequently, the Cash Clock requires constant maintenance.

Surely, Murphy was a small business owner, because his law lives inside the Cash and Sales Clocks. But the Operating Expense Clock is immune to this insidious law and keeps on rockin’, just like The Rolling Stones.

Write this on a rock … Your success requires a full understanding of the three clocks of small business.


Blasingame’s Law of Sales Pipelines

Here’s a sales maxim: Selling is a numbers game. Even though there are a thousand things that could prevent a sale from being completed, it’s still your job as a small business owner to close enough sales to keep your doors open. Enter Blasingame’s Law of Sales Pipelines.

Click on image to watch with Flash. Don’t have Flash? Click here to watch.

6 steps that can make a banker your champion

At some point in your career as a business owner, you’ll need a business loan; probably from a bank, but perhaps from a non-traditional source, like a crowdfunding lending platform. Allow me to help maximize your chances of getting the loan by introducing you to the fundamental underwriting elements any lender will use when considering your loan proposal. Meet the “Six Cs Of Credit.”

1. Character – What’s the character of the borrower? To a community bank, character still means a lot. For larger banks, digital credit scoring dominates the approval process and this “C” is less compelling as an analog factor. Regardless, the appraisal of your character will always impact the loan approval process. Guard it well.

2. Capacity – What’s the ability (read: cash flow) of the company to repay the loan? A banker once told me if he could see only one loan proposal document he would ask for the projection of cash flows, because that’s where he could see if there would be enough cash to repay the loan. Remember, profit is an accounting concept. Bank payments are made with cash, not concepts.

3. Capital - Is the loan amount justified by the financial strength of the borrower? For example, sales volume, profitability, CASH FLOW, retained earnings, the underlying value of the asset being purchased, etc. If you’re unsure about your capital appraisal, take your banker to lunch and talk about it.

4. Collateral - This is the bank’s fall-back position. Collateral is whatever a banker can get you to pledge as their Plan B in case you default. But remember: Once you give a banker collateral, getting a partial released prior to payoff is like getting a she-bear to hand over her cub.

5. Coverage - Bankers are prepared to take certain risks, and the interest rate and terms are based on the level of risk with which they feel comfortable. When possible, banks look for opportunities to shed or minimize that risk, like various kinds of insurance products. Be prepared.

6. Conditions - Bankers ask themselves, “Does it work? Do we like this deal?” You can improve your chances by explaining how you’ll use the money, how it will help you grow your business, create more jobs, strengthen your market position, make more money, etc. Practice your pitch on someone before you go “live” with your banker(s). If a banker doesn’t understand your deal and how you’re going to make it work, you won’t get the loan.

The title of the shortest book in the world is “Loan Officer Courage.” Help a bank become your champion by showing you understand and support their underwriting process.

Write this on a rock … Improve your loan chances by understanding the Six Cs of Credit.

11 financial fundamentals every small business CEO must know

Regardless of the size of the business, ultimate responsibility for success lies with the CEO. If you’re a small business owner, that’s you. And the most critical CEO tasks that result in success or failure lie in the knowledge and practice of financial management fundamentals.

Statistics show that over half of small businesses fail within the first four years. Clearly that mortality could be significantly reduced if, before a business opened, the founder/CEO was required to pass a course that teaches business financial fundamentals and how to operate a business with them.

If you could use a little help in this area, allow me to identify some of the key elements that would be part of the curriculum of such a course.

-  CEOs shouldn’t do their own accounting, but successful ones learn how to manage with regular (at least quarterly) financial statements (balance sheet and profit-and-loss) that an internal and/or external accountant produced.

-  Successful CEOs know what their gross profit margin needs to be and what it is.

-  Smart CEOs track monthly sales-to-expense ratios in order to know when to adjust spending.

-  Savvy CEOs monitor inventory levels against projected sales, receivables and cash.

-  Real CEOs know how to calculate Accounts Receivable days and Accounts Payable days, understand the relationship between the two, and the impact of that relationship on cash.

-  Disciplined CEOs develop a capitalization strategy that blends retained earnings with short and long-term capital sources, like bank debt.

-  Capable CEOs identify the critical financial indicators and ratios that are revealed on the balance sheet and its relationship with the profit-and-loss statement.

-  Surviving CEOs believe and prepare for the cruel irony of how sales growth becomes dangerous when not properly funded, indeed, that you can succeed yourself out of business.

-  When a business isn’t profitable, professional CEOs identify the top impediments to profitability and deal with them quickly, decisively, and without emotion.

-  Perennially successful CEOs delegate many things well, but they stay close to the company’s cash picture from tomorrow to the next 12 months.

And finally, arguably the most important financial management CEO discipline:

-  Understand and monitor the relationship between Blasingame’s Three Clocks of Small Business: The Expense Clock, the Sales Clock and the Cash Clock.

If you already own a small business and cold sweat is popping out on your forehead right now that should motivate you to kick your financial education into high gear and become an expert on these fundamentals.

If you haven’t started your business yet, don’t until you can pass this course.

Write this on a rock … The ultimate responsibility for your business’s financial performance belongs to the CEO - that’s you.

To listen to Jim talk more about the 11 financial fundamentals for CEOs, click on one of the links below:

6 financial fundamentals every small business owner must know

5 of the 11 most important small business financial fundamentals

Poll Results: Your small business performance in 2015 and expectations for 2016

The Question:
How did your business do in 2015 and what are you expecting for 2016?

31% - We had a good 2015 and it looks like 2016 will be just as good.
24% - We had a good 2015 but are less optimistic about 2016.
24% - We did not have a good 2015 but are more optimistic about 2016.
21% - We didn’t have a good 2015, and it doesn’t look like 2016 will be better.

Jim’s Comments:
For the seventh year in a row, the yeas and the nays about the economy haven’t changed that much. It’s worth noting that we haven’t seen a double positive response at almost a third in a long time. And when the two 2016 positives are combined, that creates a 55% response, which is stronger than we’ve seen lately.

I’m attributing the slight positive increase to businesses being more financially solid than in the past. As I’ve said many times before, it would be difficult for any business to survive this long in this kind of economic environment without operating in a very parsimonious, and therefore profitable way.

For my part, I’m looking forward to an economic environment where more than 55% of small businesses are optimistic about the new year. How about you?

Thanks for your abiding support of our poll each week. To participate in this week’s poll on gas prices, click here.





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