Tag Archive for 'small business sales'

Now is the winter of our economic discontent

If you’re wondering how the economy’s doing, here’s what top news outlets are reporting: “U.S. GDP Fizzles in the fourth quarter” (Marketwatch.com); “Economy grinds to a halt in last quarter 2015” (Money.CNN.com).

But there’s good news: Q1 2016 GDP is projected to be in the 2% range, unlike the two previous first quarters in 2014 and 2015, which were both negative. It’s asking a lot of the other three quarters to put together a good year when you start out in the hole.

One of the ways I take the pulse of the Main Street economy is through our weekly online poll. Recently we asked this question: “Halfway through the 1st quarter, how’s the local economy producing sales for you?” When I compare the responses we got this time to similar questions over the past four or five years, I see movement toward the middle from the top and bottom. Let me explain.

The top group, 13% reporting sales as “great,” is lower than past polls, which have been consistently closer to 25%. The bottom group, who are “in trouble,” came in at 3%, down from around 15%.

Then we have the two in the middle: Those who said their sales volume was off represents about a third of our sample, a little higher before; and those who reported sales as good but not great, increased to half of our responses, up from about 35% in the past. By the way, our poll tracks very closely to the January NFIB Small Business Index and a new AICPA survey.

Our latest measurement reflects the current condition of Main Street businesses: fewer are doing great, while the “just okay” and “not quite as good” are increasing, with the bottom group succumbing to the insidious condition CNSNews.com just reported as a “record 1o years with the U.S. economy less than 3%.”

With a decade of stagnation, the last seven years of which can be attributed to the anti-business rhetoric and policies of the Obama administration, any performance improvement by small firms is attributed to better management practices and the kind of dint of will only found on Main Street.

Economists I regard are predicting 2016 GDP growth of about 2.5%. With the condition of the global economic and geo-political challenges, achieving this level of annual growth will be largely on the backs of the American consumer and the discipline – past and present – of millions of Main Street small businesses.

Here’s good news no one else is talking about: When the economy finally does convert from our 10-year winter of discontent to an actual expansion, surviving small businesses will be so organizationally and financially sound that they will be set to make more profits than anyone has ever seen.

Write this on a rock … But only those who survive.

Small Business Advocate Poll: What does the rest of 2012 look like?

The Question
Regarding sales projections for second half of 2012, how does it compare to actual sales in the first half?

20% - So far, the second half is looking stronger.

34% - It’s not looking as good as the first half.

46% - About the same.

My Comments
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the measurement of the performance of the U.S. economy based on activity within the geographic boundaries of the country. Gross National Product (GNP) is GDP plus the performance of all U.S.-based interests conducted abroad.

So the business GM, Caterpillar, IBM, and Bubba’s Lawn Service does within our borders rolls up to GDP, and is then added to what GM, Caterpillar and IBM does in the EU, China, etc., to calculate GNP.

This week, GDP results were released by the government and it showed the U.S. economy grew at only 1.5% in the second quarter of 2012. That was down from the 1.8% GDP figures for Q1 2012.

For years it has been generally held that 3% annual GDP was the baseline for acceptable U.S. economic performance. These last two reports put the average for the first half of 2012 at 1.65%, essentially half of that baseline.

We wanted to see what the second half of this year was looking like based on what our small business audience is seeing, so last week we asked this question in our online poll: “Regarding sales projections for second half of 2012, how does it compare to actual sales in the first half?” Here’s what we learned:

One in five said, “So far, the second half is looking stronger,” while more than a third of our sample reported from the other end of the spectrum with, “It’s not looking as good as the first half.” The middle group came in at 46% who said they expected the rest of 2012 to be “About the same” as the first half.

Based on YTD GDP, and looking at the recent survey of our audience of small businesses, the 2012 economy could wind up being weaker than either of the previous two. That’s not the kind of trend Americans expect and, under the circumstances, certainly not what we need.

There are many structural issues remaining that we have to work through in order to achieve a more robust economy. But the greatest impediment to sustained economic expansion in America today is the uncertainty that has been pervasive on Main Street since 2008.

Structural challenges can be removed with the healing properties of performance. But pervasive uncertainty - caused more than anything else by a lack of confidence in national leadership and their policies - can only be fixed when those leaders demonstrate that service to country is more important than service to party.

Check out more great SBA content HERE!

Take this week’s poll HERE!

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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