Tips to Become a Better Negotiator

Negotiator

Negotiation means getting the best of your opponent.” –Marvin Gaye

We do it all day, every day at home, at work, in our heads – negotiating is an inherent part of our lives. So who wouldn’t want to become better at such an integral skill?

First off, let’s be clear. Negotiation does not equal confrontation. Many people prefer to avoid difficult or uncomfortable situations. However, negotiating is an art, not a fight tactic – it is nothing to be scared of when you are skillfully prepared!

1. Know What You Want From the Very Beginning

Never enter into a negotiation without knowing the exact outcome you desire. For example, homeowners list their for-sale houses at asking prices deliberately priced higher than they really want. This is a negotiation tactic – setting up the situation so that the buyer and seller must do a dance, with the seller’s odds of actually getting what they want already significantly higher. Then they can

employ various tactics to help ensure that they get it in the end.

2. Be Prepared – Don’t Be Sidetracked By Unpredicted Offers

Appropriately assessing your competition is vital. Much like knowing what you want; do your best to find out what they want in advance, so that you can predict their moves. The best chess players are always three moves ahead of their opponent mentally, predicting the opposition allows for appropriate retaliation. Avoid surprises!

3. Timing Is Everything!

Make the first move – it’s imperative. It gives you some standing ground, sets the stage for the opponent and allows you to guide the course of the negotiation. Set aside more time than you predict necessary, as haste weakens the outcome. Some experts say that the time of day and even day of the week can also affect a negotiation.

4. Active Listening.

When you are only talking, you are most definitely not listening. Active

listening means you are engaging with the speaker, giving them room to speak and following up with questions. It shows you were paying attention, respecting their time and boundaries. Never forget to use silence as a powerful tool as well!

5. Be bold, Be Fearless!

While you may have started the conversation “dropping anchor” and laying down your bottom line, do not be scared to be bold if the opportunity presents. Early assessment of risks and adversities will provide you with the tools necessary to be fearless!

 

Job Descriptions for Time Management

Feeling like there is never enough time in a day? This is common when you wear many hats as a business owner. Try writing out a job description to really nail down how you should be spending your time. What if you were to hire your own replacement, how would you accurately dictate their job responsibilities? Utilize this outside-look-in to reassess how you are scheduling your time and hopefully feel more focused.

Cracking the Code – How SEO Can Boost Your Business

SEO

With the global understanding that web-presence is no longer optional, small businesses everywhere are left to, once again, compete with the big boys and tackle the immense task of boosting search engine rankings.

Despite what feels like monumental efforts, are you still falling short of that number 1 Google ranking? We can help…

As many experts point out, this saturation of the web market, has allowed the big search engines (we will use Google for the purpose of this article) to drop organic results in favor of paying clients (i.e. the big boys!).

Despite paying or not, the factor that most determines Google’s rankings is in fact the “little blue links” found on websites.

Did you know that your votes are counted differently, whether the user is hitting www.yourwebsite.com, yourwebsite.com and https://www.yourwebsite.com? We recommend a redirect code (talk to your IT specialist) to make sure all votes are counted together.

Link backs are one of the most essential SEO tactics. Contact other business owners and offer to trade testimonials, linking back to one another’s pages. Any way that you can cross-reference each other is an additional way to boost your ranks.

When tackling an SEO operation, always know your competition. Find out who IS ranked number 1 (and numbers 2 through 10 while you’re at it!). Know their content like you know your own – they are obviously doing something right.

Want better rankings on Google? Utilize their suite of SEO-boosting tools: Google Analytics, Webmaster Tools and Google+.

Considering a bigger investment into the SEO game? Include Pay per Click – it’s costly, but very effective. PPC, as it is known, is when advertisers pay the publisher, or website owner, when a user clicks through.

Think blogs – when you see an ad on a blog, it is likely those businesses are utilizing PPC, paying the blogger when a user clicks through to their own website. See? Effective, immediate, and yes, costly!

Know the basics when you implement an SEO strategy. Research keywords that relate to your industry, service, product, and/or business and remember that this includes phrases, not just words.

Optimize the entire user experience – load times, content relationships, design, keyword use and meta data. Also, optimize your categories – often times, you can apply 2-3 categories to your business; just make sure to choose wisely!

Finding Your Perfect Client – Creating a Client Profile

Client Profile

How would you like to know EXACTLY what to say in your marketing messaging? To know EXACTLY what brand identity you need? That’s right, you are getting the point – being EXACT is the key to drawing in the perfect client.

How can you be more exact? Create a client profile, of course!

Before you begin the search, set up a system for collecting data – utilize software programs to create a client database where you can store all the collected information.

While the type of information you begin collecting may differ from business to business, the general information will remain the same, for example: age, gender, spending habits, location, and income are good places to start.

Look up current and past clients – what did they buy, when, how did they pay, how did they buy? Analyzing purchasing behaviors of the past is a great indicator of future patterns. The more detailed your profiles, the more accurate your targeted marketing efforts will become.

This information will also allow you to discern ways to help identify similar clients and target them directly. It also points out ways in which you could up-sell or cross-market new products to current clients by identifying their unmet needs.

What if you’re struggling to build your database? Send out a survey to current and past clients. Post a survey on your social media outlets encouraging potential clients to provide feedback by offering incentives for completing the survey.

Once you have a solid database, group the profiled clients into market groups, to be targeted in different ways.

Client profiles, also known as personas, can help increase sales

through targeting niche marketing. When creating the profiles, consider using a three-step template:

  1. Create a wide-reaching description of your perfect client.
  2. Identify the perfect client’s goals and most prominent features. Ask what language they are using, what their hesitations might be and their preferred method of interaction.
  3. Identify and list out how this perfect client might find you – what website do they frequent, what search terms are they using, what content draws them in?

Each persona will start to come together within these parameters, allowing you to create market segments within the database.

Identifying these perfect personas allows you to assess the depth of the market, tweak your business plan, cater your products and services to their needs and craft the most appropriate and effective marketing messages.

5 Things That Keep Business Owners Up At Night

 

What Keeps You Up At Night

 

Sleepless nights are no stranger to the small business owner. There are some common issues that keep business owners up at night and we hope to provide some simple solutions to help put those issues to bed, so you can rest easy!

1. Overwhelming Workload

Lying down to rest can often be tough, especially when your brain is still whizzing and clicking away, even though you left the office hours ago.

Close the day by checking things off the list and moving unfinished tasks to the next days’ to-do list. Assessing accomplishments and reassigning uncompleted tasks will help you feel a sense of completion at the end of each day and may relieve the overwhelming feeling that you did not get enough done.

2. Lack of Skills

This could be a couple of things: your own lack of skills needed in order to complete all said tasks or the lack of employees with said skills. Consider outsourcing as an immediate fix to such problems – instead of investing the time and energy in educating yourself or your team.

It is easier to find contractors who have the knowledge and put them to work. However, it should be noted that this is more of a temporary, Band-Aid like solution, than a permanent fix! In slower times, always consider adding to your skill set with courses, seminars, etc.

3. Slow Moving Sales

Sales result in profits. The stress of slow moving sales weighs heavily on the mind of a small business owner, especially when it creates a ripple effect on all operations. Alleviate the pressure by ramping up marketing efforts during slow periods and reaching out to loyal clients with great deals and incentives to increase their purchasing habits.

Add these tasks to your daily to-do list, so that you are actively working on them every day.

4. Managing Debt and Paying Creditors

Poorly managed credit/debt is one of the indicators of a struggling or doomed to fail small business. Tackling debt is always easier when you get out in front of it. Be in constant contact with your lenders, keeping them updated and exploring solutions together.

Lenders can help you restructure your debt, increase credit limits and lower interest rates to help manage your businesses finances. Of course, you should involve us in that process with you.

5. Managing Staff

Managing money is hard, but managing people is harder. A solid HR software management system that handles payroll, employee files, scheduling, etc. can help you breathe a little easier and help you catch more of those much-needed ZZZ’s!

 

Getting the Most Out Of Your Work Day

Getting the Most

So much to do, so little time…sound familiar? If you own a small business, then of course it does!

The constraints of time will always feel like a ball and chain, dragging even the most hardworking entrepreneur along with it.

What to do? Start on a daily basis, attempting the (seemingly) daunting task of time management.

First things first – no wait, big things first! Tackle the most stressful, bearing tasks first thing and you will save yourself valuable ticks of the clock by not worrying about them all day.

This strategy also helps to boost your energy – the rush of completing a challenge can keep you and your team’s motivation up for the rest of the day, increasing productivity.

Speaking of productivity, studies show most people are the most effective in the earlier hours of the morning. Test the theory by starting earlier a few days a week.

Allocate a period in the day in which you implement “Zero Distractions”. Close the door, send calls to through to voicemail, and do not open new emails. Use this time differently each day, but make sure it is undisturbed.

Create an activity calendar that begins with smaller, daily tasks. Even the smallest of tasks need a deadline. Build up to weekly, monthly and yearly tasks, but only once the dailies have been completed.

Remember the Five D’s: Do it, Delete it, Delegate it, Decide on it, Date it.

Each task can go through the process, making things move more quickly and preventing you from getting stuck.

Building a Community Presence

Web presence is crucial, but so is building a presence in a different kind of community – the one that you live in! Make a mark and become a brand and face that people relate to, and one that they look towards in the community to have their back. Join the local chamber of commerce or a board that supports a cause you feel passionate about. Attend community events, better yet, organize them yourself! The communities you live and work in form the backbone of a successful business.

Ideas to Boost Your Brand

Brand

For small business owners, creating an identifiable brand can be a challenge. But much like a fingerprint a brand is a unique, intricate identifier attached to your business only and therefore must be handled like a very valuable asset.

Creating a logo and establishing a look is just the first step. Once the brand has been created, you must actively work to continuously boost said brand.

You may not have the large scale marketing world at your fingertips but there is plenty that can be done.

Let’s start with the obvious, so that we can move on. Optimize your web presence.

The vast beasts that are search engines are your friend, embrace them. Utilize their powers and allow for some of the leg work to be efficiently completed by the computer.

Next, let’s tackle the physical world. Coffee mugs, key chains, t-shirts, reusable bags, wine topper, bottle openers, coasters, pens…the list is infinite.

Pick an item and slap your logo on it. Branding 101, give away free things – people love it! Just make sure the gift reinforces what you do. There has to be a connection.

With this strategy, you are constantly reminding them of your existence – sounds profound, doesn’t it? It’s not – it’s called repetition and recall and it is the foundation of a sound promotional campaign, directly related to boosting a brand.

Participate in charitable events and fundraisers. Donate products or services that reflect your business as prizes in silent auctions, networking events, galas, etc.

This is a low-cost, high-return strategy for brand awareness that innately allows access to both targeted markets as well as new niche markets.

Take it a step further and sponsor your own public event, using the opportunity to put your name and brand out there, on the shoulders of a great cause that will keep people talking.

Take a walk down memory lane and revisit the nostalgia of tradition – classic advertising strategies. Contrary to popular belief, print media is not dead!

Advertising campaigns in print, on radio or in any of those traditional channels can still provide effective results when it comes to boosting your brand – when they are done right.

Sell. Sell. Sell…

Sell Sell Sell

When it comes to sales, achieving results is the goal, and when we fall short, the problem often lies in the initial strategy, or lack thereof.

Effective selling comes down to one thing – a distinct, solid and foolproof sales strategy. So what exactly is that, you ask?

A sales strategy consists of a plan that positions a company’s brand or product to gain a competitive advantage.

Kick starting the sales strategy is the exhausting part, but once it’s in place, you can more or less coast along (that is, until you hit the next uphill climb)!

To get started, define your target market. Maintaining your focus on a desired market segment is a lot cheaper, and more effective, than targeting ‘the whole world’.

We suggest writing out a list of whom this market includes. The longer the list, the deeper your sales reach.

That takes us to the next step; reach. What is yours and how will you achieve it? Be crystal clear on

the actual ways in which you will establish this reach – networking, cold calls, email blasts, on-site visits, collaborations, etc.

Established a connection? How and when will you follow up? What questions will you ask? Concrete answers to these questions will be part of your sales strategy, and implemented each and every time creates a process.

Let’s be honest here- the smaller your business, the harder it is to sell. Simply explaining who you are and what you do can take up enough time to allow a prospect to tune you out. The big guys jump straight to the sale – find a way to do this as well.

Cut your elevator pitch in half, bullet point your background or forget it altogether.

Presenting yourself as a leader in the industry and not allowing room for doubt is the only way to battle this impediment. Confidence MUST be part of your process.

Round up your sales strategy with a defined plan for execution and delivery. Timelines and deadlines will streamline your process and create a smooth path, aimed directly at closing the deal.

Things to Consider When Taking Your Business to the Next Level

Next Level Business

Stuck in a rut, feeling burnt out, lacking motivation? These may be early signs that it’s time to take things up a notch.

Accepting these symptoms as the norm can mean falling behind and is a risk most small business owners cannot afford to take in a saturated and hypercompetitive market.

There are many strategies that have proven effective when it comes to growing your business. Take note of some of these tried and true tactics:

1. Reenergize, revitalize and reset. Apply this to all aspects of the business and allow for creativity and innovation to be reborn.

2. Mix it up, team wise. Reinvent your common collaborations, try new things, and take measured and informed risks. Without risk, there is no reward!

3. Take stock – accept failures and retackle at a new angle. Failure is simply an invitation to once again attempt success.

Once you have settled these base level issues, start the climb and begin the push upward.

At this point, reconsider your selling strategies. This is where you can sink your teeth into new directions that will actually provide tangible results, propelling you forward; result driven revamping.

Analyze your USP (unique selling proposition) in the current market. This may now be different from when you started.

Stay ahead of the curve, be innovative, again- take risks. Attend seminars and workshops, watch webinars, scour the web for new trends and be the first in your network to implement them.

In order to climb to a new level, restructuring your marketing strategy is a must. Ensure you have a budget and cash flow forecast to support your strategies.

Don’t forget to alter your mindset, amidst all the other changes. It is one thing to be prepared on paper, but quite another to be mentally equipped for what is to come.

Consider growth to be like opening a second business- you will once again be strapped for cash and time and need to put your nose to the grindstone. Be ready, take those measured risks and prepare for (another) exciting ride!

 

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.