7 Signs You Are a Bad Communicator

7 Signs You Are a Bad Communicator

What exactly is communication? How should it be defined? Simply put, it is the “successful sharing of ideas or feelings.” The key word here is: SUCCESSFUL.

Many entrepreneurs assume they are effective communicators; but being a strong, decisive and authoritative leader, while important, has nothing to do with effective communication.

In fact, people with these characteristics are often the worst communicators.

How can you recognize if you are a bad communicator? Look for these seven signs:

1. Are you constantly talking and thinking at the same time; also known as thinking out loud? Attempting to come to conclusions while talking them through is poor communication. It is confusing and leaves employees feeling unsure of how to move forward.

2. Know that eloquence does not equal clarity. Being a pontificator with visions of grandeur and a vocabulary to match may be highly regarded in oratory but in business, cut and dry is the preferred method. Say what you

mean, or what you are saying may lose all meaning!

3. Do you offer solutions to non-existent problems? Often you just need to listen. There may not always be cause for offering advice; learn to recognize the difference.

4. Do you find yourself encouraging debates for the sake of the argument rather than the sake of productivity? A good debate can be a great way to brainstorm and highlight alternative strategies. Fighting just to fight? It is wearisome and weak – don’t do it and don’t encourage it.

5. Do you fail to display compassion or empathy? When the situation calls for it, empathy demonstrates you were actively listening – enough to feel for the situation, regardless of your opinions on it.

6. Do you have an answer for everything? An omniscient leader is a fallacy – the best leaders are those who implore their team to contribute, truly listen, and act based on what they heard. You don’t have all the answers – admit it!

7. Are you multi-tasking while listening? There is one thing you should not attempt to do while checking emails, glancing at your phone or eating your lunch and it is listening. To communicate effectively, put it down for a minute. All of it.

Communication is not inherent. We can all learn to be better communicators with practice. Recognize any of the above signs? Simply work towards improvement and be conscious of the efforts, you will get there!

Raising Your Prices

Raising Your Prices

It’s an agonizing dilemma. The decision to raise prices and still retain clients is one that every small business owner struggles with. Truthfully, in order to stay relevant, boost revenue and keep profit margins up, raising prices is an absolute must.

Employ meticulous strategic planning when the time comes to bump price points. With simple guidelines, some of the painstaking decision-making is off the table.

The decision to raise prices must come about organically. Does your customer’s perception of your quality standard justify a price increase?

If the answer is no, leave it for now – you probably are not ready. If yes, then follow these pointers:

1. Decide how much you will raise prices. Will this be a huge leap up or will you incrementally boost prices over time?

Both have their benefits. Large leaps might meet immediate demands and make the transition swift.

On the other hand, incremental raises allow the client more time to

grow accustomed to the changes and accept them.

Consider raising prices on big-ticket items and dropping prices on smaller add-ons for perceived value compensations.

2. Pick the perfect time. Timing is everything in this matter. When raising prices, you need a time in which resistance will be low. Consider seasonality, growth stage and sales cycles when making the decision.

3. Improve your communication skills and be prepared to handle the change with extreme caution. Being sensitive to the change and what it will mean to your clients is the most proactive way to manage the announcement.

Have an explanation on hand, one that is clear, concise and also paints your service as worthy of the price hike.

When developing your explanation, consider these tips. Rebrand; create a new logo, something that implies your

business has grown to justify a price raise.

Offer a complimentary service or one-time discount while simultaneously raising prices, again – perceived as value for value.

Consider offering price bundles (extended support or maintenance) or changing up your billing increments (hourly, monthly, retainers, etc.). Any change you make must come with clear explanation to your clients.

Dealing With Unwarranted Advice

Starting a business inherently opens the door for the unwarranted (and unwanted) advice to roll in. Family, friends, business colleagues, team members – they will always have opinions. Don’t be offended – their interest shows they are invested in your success. Just learn to take the advice that is truly helpful and be as gracious and appreciative for the advice you can’t use. But always remember we are trained to be experts in the areas where you lack that vital expertise. Contact us for help.

Know Your Enemies – Taking On Your Competitors

Know Your Enemies

While we are not encouraging you to take up espionage as a new hobby; taking an active role in knowing your competition is vital. Knowing your enemy (the competition) is one of the strongest ways to ensure that your business flourishes in a saturated market.

Knowledge is half of the battle – being aware of your competitors’ price points, package options, strategic positioning and future projections allows you to utilize innovation, identify their weaknesses and exploit them.

Okay, okay, that sounded a bit cutthroat – but wait – the world of small business can often seem that way! If you aren’t prepared to beat the competition, you aren’t prepared to grow.

However, market domination does not have to be your sole goal; learning from competitors and their processes garners valuable insights into client management and consumer demands.

How are your competitors meeting demand? Can you deliver

something better? Collect their marketing materials, memorize their key pitch points and know their product like you know your own.

Once armed with this knowledge, you can identify your own unique qualities and expose them. Better yet, you can use them!

This is how you define yourself within the market.

Develop your products or services to fulfill an exclusive market niche and then build your strategies around these qualities.

Create add-ons or line extensions which can seize a new target niche and capitalize this new market that your competitors have not have yet identified.

You know the old saying – keep your friends close and your enemies closer! In business, it may often feel like warfare, however, creating alliances and befriending the perceived enemy can at times be beneficial.

Partnerships and potential buy-outs are always on the horizon – keep friendly relationships for long-term purposes.

Strategy – The Key to Your Success

Strategy Plan

 

Endeavoring to succeed in a small business is much like taking on a massive road trip.

Having a map (in our case, a business plan) is a must. It will provide a route and will offer a big-picture view at where you want to go and how you will get there.

Along the way, you will encounter the unexpected; potholes, flat tires and detours may come without warning. However, with the right tools and a proactive character (in small businesses this is strategic planning) preparation can save the day.

A business plan and a strategic plan are not the same thing, though the two often intertwine along the way.

Strategic planning is designed to present a guideline for conflict resolution so that before problems arise, a procedure is in place to

handle them. Employees and key players are educated on the plan and always ready for implementation.

A sound strategy encourages pro-activity and discourages reactivity.

Typically, there are three steps employed by small business owners for strategic planning:

1. Analyze context.

2. Identify strategic options.

3. Evaluate and select the best options.

Keep in mind strategic planning requires that you study the past, analyze the present and anticipate the future.

The SWOT analysis works well for strategic planning – identifying and evaluating Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats.

Once a strategic plan is in place, it is time to articulate the idea and educate your team. The best managers find it helpful to bring employees in at an earlier stage, allowing their input to help formulate the best plan. Brainstorming strategy often breeds creativity and boosts motivation.

Strategy suffers under stagnancy. Planning meetings should be held at least once a year in order to ensure that when the future becomes the present and the present turns into the past, you will be ready!

Remember, we have lots of experience in helping businesses like yours excel. Contact us for more information.

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.