Avoiding Appointment Disappointment

Avoiding Appointment Disappointment

Lemons into lemonade! Isn’t that what they say? In sales, this can seem almost impossible when the crushing disappointment of a meeting-gone-bad seems too heavy to handle.

Going into appointments well equipped with a few tips can help avoid these negative outcomes. Take a few tips from some sales superstars:

1. You are never as prepared as you think. Always go into your appointment with confidence but also build in flexibility and the ability to shift focus quickly.

2. Ever heard the phrase “when you assume, you make an ASS out of U and ME”? Avoid assumptions, as they are your worst enemy.

3. Use your “Spidey sales senses” to alert you to problems or discomfort and be prepared to address them head on. For example, pull the reins at any sign of hesitation and find out what is driving the doubt. Take time to ask questions and actively listen.

4. Be prepared to take responsibility for problems whether or not they are your fault. A previous sales rep may have caused some damage and you must now accept it as your own

challenge. The “blame game” is never helpful. Providing solutions is the priority.

5. Keep in mind that you could knock the possible sale out of the park and still present yourself as unlikeable to the prospect, undoing your hard work. Presenting a respected, knowledgeable, humble and likeable persona is vital throughout the course of the meeting. Keep your emotions and personal opinions in check!

6. Lay out expectations from the get-go. Working towards different outcomes can throw you off course before you even hit the road. Reiterate the needs of the prospect and how you plan to address them.

7. If time is tight, reschedule. Rushing through your pitch automatically renders it less effective and it ensures that you will miss out on valuable clues offered by the prospect. Rescheduling a meeting, rather than racing to beat the clock, shows you respect their time and that what you have to say is valuable.

8. Meetings should always include a decision-maker. It is a waste of

both parties’ time to pass the info along to a middleman. If the decision maker cannot attend, reschedule. Always…

9. Identify any obstacles before heading into the meeting. If the prospective customers have experienced recent budget cuts or disappointing ROI’s, preparation can save the day!

In every disappointment lies an opportunity. A good sales person learns to recognize the opportunity as a challenge and tackles it head on. Each disappointment should stand as a lesson to be learned and applied to future appointments!

Taking Control of Your Supply Chain

Taking Control

 

Second only to labor costs, supply chain management can eat up a hearty chunk of your operating expense budget. The process of negotiating with suppliers can also take up a hefty amount of another valuable resource: time.

Don’t let your supply chain manage your time and money. Take back control!

It is no surprise that businesses in control of supply chains are those who build management strategies into their long-term operations plans.

There are typically three kinds of supply chains in any small business: product, information and financial. Remember that none of these chains are mutually exclusive and that within each chain, often lays another.

Supply chain activities like planning, sourcing, producing, delivering and providing returns are collaborative and inherently integrated.

Small businesses tend to struggle when they neglect to manage the chains individually.

These tips can also aid in supply chain management:

1. Track all materials in the manufacturing process. Detailed sourcing reports can allow for investigation into the lowest cost, highest quality options.

2. Identify risk and note key components to the chain. This detailed visibility will provide a safety net for when things may start to fall through the cracks.

3. Enable participation at all levels. Adequate employee training and an established level of trust in their abilities will allow the chain to flourish. Strengthening each link individually increases the overall power of the chain.

Other strategies include improving supplier performance, compressing cycle time, increasing inventory speed and utilizing supply chain management systems, such as online software programs.

The Four C’s of Email Marketing

Small businesses often fall into the “email marketing gap,” experiencing a void in their marketing resources. Abiding by the “Four C’s,” Collect, Connect, Convert and Circulate, can help. Collecting leads, Connecting prospects to services/products, Converting prospects into clients, and Circulating relationship-building agendas is the recipe to email marketing success.

6 Sales Tips to Boost Your Confidence

Sales Tips

 

It’s official! Working in sales may be one of the toughest gigs around. The constant up and down roller coaster ride can be stressful and challenging, and puts a strain on resources and motivation.

Keep confidence up by remembering these 6 key points:

1. Confidence is a state of mind. Belief in your abilities is one of your strongest allies. Knowing that you have, and are perfectly capable of, getting the job done can work wonders for your confidence levels. Paired with a big old dose of positivity, belief and determination can do a lot of the work for you.

2. Define yourself as an expert in your field. It’s important to have faith in what you are selling. Equally important is that your clients feel this faith you have in yourself. Sales can be an intimate process, and the more your clients trust your abilities and knowledge, the more likely they are to take the purchase plunge.

3. Create an arsenal of testimonials and referrals to be called upon at any time. The more you can prove your track record of success, the more likely the prospect will feel inclined toward the sale. Keep track of your successes and remind yourself of them when feeling doubtful. A pat on the back always boosts confidence!

4. Set weekly goals and strive to accomplish them quickly. The faster you rack up accomplishments, the more confidence you will feel. One step at a time? Absolutely. Make daily lists and keep track of your progress. Ticking things off “to do” lists has a way of fueling drive and motivation, while also boosting confidence.

5. Keep your eye on long-term goals and see all challenges as opportunities. Think back to a stressful point in the past. Look how far you may have come since then! The power of positive reflection is often understated.

6. Constantly improve and work on your communication skills. Learning to listen and improve interactions with others will boost your confidence when going into new and unique situations.

Protecting Your Cash Flow

Cash Flow

Cash flow refers to the balance available after allowing for all receipts and payments from your business. This includes, but is not limited to, rent, payroll, taxes, supplier invoices, loan payments, and asset purchases – the lot.

Most of us know that managing and protecting cash flow as a small business owner is pivotal to long-term success. The inability to manage the ebb and flow of cash can cripple inventory, negatively impact on growth and create a backup in bills that can be hard to overcome.

Even a business that is “good on paper” can suffer from negative cash flow. So how do you prepare to stay ahead of the curve?

Start by mapping out the financial year. Call upon past years to build a realistic timeline of financial peaks and valleys. Pay attention to when your business tends to experience a fluctuation in cash flow. Just being aware of this timeline in advance can help you prepare for tight times.

Once you have mapped out this timeline, use it to create financial

projections on a weekly, monthly, and yearly basis. These projections should be an inherent part of your business plan although they require constant reviews.

Next, define your cash cycle. Examine how much cash is generated in each cycle. Then determine how much of your resources are tied up in these cycles and what are they tied up on. Incorporate this knowledge into your projections.

Beware of cash flow black holes, as well! Plan well in advance for any expansion, heavy business-to- business sales or inventory purchases. If planning on acquiring new equipment, consider using leases or long term funding to ease the burden of major purchases.

Next, understand your fixed and variable costs. See how you may be able to improve the return on both of them.

You should also note your most “difficult” customers including late payers. Billing those customers early when possible can help improve cash flow during tight times. Offering incentives for early payment can be extremely helpful for banking receipts a lot earlier than usual.

Finally, examine these three vitals as identified by business experts:

1. Collection days – the length of time customers have to pay invoices

2. Inventory turnover – how long inventory sits on the shelves waiting to be converted into sales

3. Payment days – the length of time you wait to pay your own bills

In order to maintain a lifeline of cash in the long run, these items should also be monitored at each step of your projection phase.

Auto Focus Fall 2014

Here’s a brief glance at what you’ll find in the Fall issue…

Pumping up profitability

Dealerships can sell truckloads of vehicles and still run into problems if owners lose sight of the bottom line — the overall profitability of the sales they’re making. This article discusses a number of ways to boost profitability, including moves related to managing inventory, choosing dealer management software, and joining an automotive dealership “20 Group.” A sidebar explains how dealers who are planning new facilities or improving existing ones can benefit from a cost segregation study.

 

Which retirement plan is right for your dealership?

Recent studies have indicated that many Americans aren’t saving nearly enough for retirement. Dealership owners can help their employees save for retirement by offering a retirement plan. Doing so also can yield tax benefits, serve as a valuable employee recruiting tool and help boost employee retention. This article discusses three of the most popular types of retirement plans: 401(k) plans, SEP plans and SIMPLE IRAs.

Selling your dealership

Earnout provisions may give buyers assurance

Businesses in some parts of the country remain difficult to sell in the current economy, even in an up market for auto dealerships. But, when negotiating a purchase agreement, adding an earnout provision — which commits the buyer to make additional payments to the seller if the business achieves agreed-upon financial targets after the sale — can smooth out a rough road and give the buyer extra incentive to “take the plunge.” This article explains the potential benefits, along with risks to look out for.

Try these four 21st century marketing tactics

In today’s always-on, wired world, having a digital marketing strategy has become practically essential. This strategy should focus on attracting new customers by showcasing inventory to buyers who are shopping online, as well as building long-term relationships with existing customers so as to remain top-of-mind when they search for their next vehicles. This article discusses four marketing tactics to consider, involving search engine optimization, e-newsletters, mobile apps and social media.

Click Auto Focus Fall 2014 to read more.

The Guide to Selling Online

Selling Online

Website built? Check. Social Media campaigns launched? Check. Marketing online? Check. So now what? Perhaps it’s time to take the next step, and begin selling online!

Step 1: Be prepared. You need to select ecommerce software or a service to run your site. When considering your options, ask yourself, do you have the technical know-how to manage on your own? If not, go with one of the more interactive hosting options, in which all technical intricacies are handled by the host site.

Feeling technically savvy enough to manage it on your own? Then prepare to build your own ecommerce site, from scratch. The most important decision at this stage will be which online transaction software (otherwise known as Shopping Cart Software) will work best for your business.

Explore your options – there are many. Read reviews posted by similar businesses and gather the most accurate information to make your decision.

Step 2: Research payment options. While most Shopping Cart Software incorporates payment options, with hosted services to guide you in a

certain direction; it is important to know there are many choices here as well.

Merchant options vary, though the majority of payments will be made via credit card, so again, conduct due diligence when choosing this critical feature.

Step 3: Ensure the safety of your clients and yourself. The major objection merchants and consumers have regarding ecommerce is the prospect of sending data into cyberspace, opening potentially dangerous channels or unwanted information sharing.

However, merchants must protect their customers. The most secure way is through the use of Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) or Transport Layer Security (TSL) portals. These act as encryption tools to protect and secure information being shared via your site. Clients will

immediately feel more secure when they see your site is supported either by SSL or TSL technology.

With these technical aspects handled, you should select the best techniques you can employ to encourage online purchasing.

Send out free samples to your most influential audience including bloggers, reviewers, and journalists – they are integral (and free!) in driving traffic to your site.

Host an event, create blog/vlog content, stage a PR stunt, publish a press release, run surveys, consider affiliate marketing – the list goes on. There are hundreds of ways to elevate your ecommerce launch and you’ll want to utilize as many as possible. Your successful launch often dictates the long-term success you find in selling online.

What Makes Your Business A Great Place to Work?

place to work

As with every other aspect of small business management, you want your business to be the best it can be in your field. Is your business currently a great place to work? Let’s explore how you can get there – it may not be perfect – but it can still be a great workplace environment!

Step one – building a great team, keep them motivated, fulfilled, productive and satisfied. It is a lofty, but reachable goal. Strive to make your team happy and satisfied, recognizing you will not make 100% of your employees happy 100% of the time.

That being said, being respected as a great place to work boosts morale, increases productivity and highlights your strengths as a leader to those outside of the business, be it clients, vendors, competitors or potential new employees.

Perfection aside, there are things well-liked businesses have in common when it comes to satisfied and happy employees:

  1. Treat your employees like the grown-ups they are – with respect and fairness.
  2. Take an active interest developing and improving your employees’ career goals.
  3. Recognize employees have a life outside of work and maintain appropriate boundaries.
  4. Promote humor and fun in the workplace.
  5. Clearly define goals and how each employee’s role works towards achieving those goals. Personalize their involvement in the company.

Recognize that as a leader, you have a direct impact on the workplace. Being an interested, active, and well-respected leader engages and inspires employees – two things that cultivate a good working environment.

Curb your annoyance and frustration in public; and strive to be a more connected and invested leader to each individual whenever necessary.

A rock solid Human Resources team is another trait that the ‘great places to work’ all display. Employees must feel

like they have back up, someone standing up for them in those difficult situations. HR must balance the culture that exists between “them” and “you” (employees vs. executives) and play for both teams in order to ensure a positive environment.

Other experts recommend using recognition to reward positive performance and valuing ideas over position. These strategies develop a workplace that challenges and inspires employees to be the best, which in turn, inspires and motivates others.

Minimizing the “Bounce Rate”

When a visitor hits your website, and exits after viewing only one page – this defines your bounce rate. The higher your bounce rate, the less likely your website is actually working for you. A website doing steady business strives to keep their bounce rate between 60 and 70 percent. Some simple techniques to lower your bounce rate include highlighting convenience, injecting brand personality and creating relatable content that speaks directly to the user about how your product or service

How to Build Your Personal Brand

Brand

Building a business brand is necessary as you develop and grow your business, but have you considered your own personal brand? It is a must in the digital world, making it imperative to ask these questions: What are you associated with? What do you stand for? What do you represent? With the answers to these questions you can build your personal brand.

Entrepreneur Magazine puts it best: “A strong personal brand that dovetails seamlessly with a business has the power to turn customers’ perception into profits.”

Big businesses often shirk the responsibility of managing a personal brand but small business owners can’t afford to; this is a crucial step in developing sound business strategies. By defining yourself as the face behind the business, your business creates greater brand loyalty and builds more meaningful customer relationships, thereby growing your business.

The building of your personal brand begins by defining your core values and goals – as an entrepreneur, not as a business. Build your personal brand from the ground up, using these values as the framework.

Identify your talents, expertise and passions and find ways to promote these alongside your business image. Consider building a personal website, or contributing a personal blog post to your company’s website. Never underestimate the importance of the “About Us” or bio sections of any promotional channel.

When it comes to social media networking, like LinkedIn and Twitter, remember to be purposeful with what you share. Each and every post is identified with your personal and business brand. Be selective and seamlessly tie personal and professional goals when developing and sharing content.

Do your research and find out how others currently perceive you. Ask co-workers and colleagues to define you with a few adjectives. Take notes and keep track of these terms – examine them. Are these accurate with the brand you are building? If not, how might you change this to give a clear picture of your personal brand that complements your company brand?

Monitor your progress regularly throughout the year, noting changes and making the adjustment necessary for your brand’s enhancement.

In building your personal brand, it is critical to manage the assets that represent you, those tools being used to communicate your brand to your audience.

These assets are both in person and online. Online assets include your LinkedIn profile, Twitter handle, Facebook page, website, blog and bios. In person (offline) is simply traditional mediums – business cards, brochures, newsletters or company profile information. Manage your assets and ensure they complement one another to assure your long term success.

Once you have established a personal brand, continue to grow and change it as you grow personally and professionally. Continue to develop your personal brand in the same way you would your business plan.

3 Tips to Improving “Your Work/Life” Balance

Work-Life Balance

It sounds clear and actually quite simple – balancing work life and personal life should be something everyone is capable of doing, right? In reality, the work-life balance is an intense and personal process, one that each business owner must define in their own life.

Even when considering the personal nature of the work-life balance, there are some general tips everyone can employ when seeking the illustrious state of balance.

The process begins by setting boundaries. Determine the time you will leave the office each day; then stick with it, regardless of what arises throughout the day. Set your outgoing message on the weekends so your clients know you will not be taking calls or answering emails until Monday morning. You can also note a time each evening in which you will no longer be available.

The key to these boundaries is they must be realistic. The goal here is longevity in both business and life; and in order to keep yourself

motivated and committed – your boundaries should be built into your daily routine seamlessly, reducing stress, not introducing more.

Next, you must understand your own expectations. More specifically, you may need to lower your expectations! You cannot and will never be able to do it all; once you realize this, you can move forward successfully.

Utilize calendars and color coding for work, family and personal time – this will provide a clear view of where you are spending the majority of your time and then you can organize your schedule according to your priorities. Create daily, weekly and monthly to-do lists to accompany the calendars and keep you on track.

Remember to schedule breaks and actually take them – short breaks during the day as well as time on the weekends dedicated solely to family and personal time. Always take your vacation!

Build flexibility into your plans. Studies show those who are given the freedom to work when and where they need to will be more productive. Even the best

to-do lists and schedules can be turned upside down by unpredictability. To stay balanced, you need flexibility.

Lastly, create your personal version of success. By listing the things you want to achieve both at work and in your personal life you can be successful in both places. List your desires, define why you want them, and then determine how to achieve them. Monitor these goals regularly to find out where you might be lacking the focus needed, and then you can redirect your time and energy toward success.

Work-life balance isn’t about finding a way of completely separating the two – it is about allowing them to intertwine and complement one another. Discovering what will work for you personally will increase productivity and reduce stress, both at home and at work.

The Cheapest Way Is Not Always the Best Way

Ask yourself this question: Would you be cheap when considering doctors to perform your open heart surgery? Never! And for exactly the same reason this is the thinking that should apply to small business growth.

Much like that failing heart, a small business will not survive if low cost is always the priority when it comes to decision making. Being cost-effective and being cheap are certainly not the same thing. Don’t ever confuse the two.

Consumers will always be looking for a way to pinch pennies and small businesses will need to match that demand. This is what we call simultaneously instigating growth and generating revenue. Whilst being economical should always be a priority, knowing how, where, and when to cut corners is really the key to longevity.

Always remember that in the consumer’s eyes, price is the validation of quality. The cost is a feature of the offered product or service and it will be an indicator of its own worth, in comparison to the competition.

When you compare a $4 cup of Starbucks coffee to the bottomless $1 cup offered by some, you cannot simply end at price alone. Sure, the price begs us to investigate further in order to draw conclusions such as, ‘the quality of the Starbucks’ beans must be better.’ We use these assumptions to justify the cost difference.

Remember that these conclusions speak volumes about your product and knowing how to determine their direction will bolster your marketing strategies. Do you want your product or service to be associated with ‘better quality’ right off the mark? Yes; you do! To do this, you will need to carefully consider your price points.

Have you ever tried a product only to think ‘well that was not worth the money’? We all have. This pretty much guarantees that the client will not return, and that could be a

huge loss for your business in the long run. This is what you want to avoid at all costs – no pun intended!

Author Steve McKee puts it frankly in an article for Bloomberg Business: “Sending a quality signal via higher pricing is an undervalued and often overlooked, tactic.”

You know that price is a feature and higher cost implies higher quality; this is obvious. So why is the cheapest route not always the best way to go?

Easy: When a startup begins to flourish, it will feel the demand at a much harder and faster rate which means the business will not be able to keep up with the production of the products/services it needs to supply. One of the smartest ways to manage an explosion of growth is to raise price points.

By doing so, your business will generate additional cash flow which you need to invest in more support staff, additional inventory or upgraded facilities. You may lose some clients but these bargain hunters were not likely to remain loyal in the long run.