The Impact of Smartphones on Marketing Tools

Marketing tools

In recent years small business sales relied on signage and visibility to attract new business. To be sure, your business signage and the outside marketing tools employed are still pretty important. But, the world has changed and you must too!

In 1980, a then-unknown Ed Rensi, who later became McDonald’s most famous President, USA developed a controversial and amazingly effective signage program for the Philadelphia Market. The plan involved painting large signs on buildings throughout the city, buying buses, benches and yes even bread trucks and positioning the famous Arches with directional information all over the place. The results were astounding.

It would not be as effective today, and even less tomorrow.

The Impact of Smartphones on Marketing

With Smartphone usage approaching 50% by US consumers, the business “windshield” is a completely different one now. Your customer is looking through his phone web browser searching for a particular business type, selecting based on preference and convenience, and mapping to your front door. If you have moved ahead of the curve and prepared an App for your customers they simply tap your logo and find you now. Make sure you have marketing tools for the future!

Conclusion

So today’s small business question is very simple…have you prepared your business to be seen through the new customer windshield?

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The Top Ten Ways to Improve Your Cash Flow

Improve your cash flow

If you have been in business for any length of time, not only have you heard the statement “Cash is King,” you have experienced it too. In this difficult economy the person with cash rules and the person who is out of cash will do almost anything to “serve the king.” The person with cash can buy things at a deep discount from the person who does not have cash. Understanding cash flow management is essential for a successful business. If you improve your cash flow, you likely enhance your business.

Bootstrapping in Business

In some ways “bootstrapping,” the slang word for starting and running a business with little capital can be a positive thing. It forces you to live within your means or fail. Being in a survival mode can be helpful if you maintain that mentality as your profits grow. On the other hand, being under-capitalized is the primary reason that most businesses fail. It is a major source of stress for business owners. You need to know where you are financially and have a plan for covering your obligations. Most importantly, you need to have some cash left for you!

Covering Your Monthly Business Obligations

As a business owner, you can be flooded with customers and still drown in a sea of expenses. Your business has fixed expenses that have to be covered every week and month, such as payroll, loans, rent, utilities, phone, and advertising. In addition, you probably have variable expenses which are tied to your sales activity. When your sales rise and fall, variable expenses rise and fall along with your sales. Some examples could include hourly payroll added for increased activity, or credit card fees, or cost of goods sold.

However your sales may be sporadic, or there can be a delay of when you get your money. If you own a seasonal business, going into a peak season can literally put you out of business. Usually there is a lag in cash coming in on sales, but of course, there is no lag on your fixed expenses. One of my former businesses had a revenue increase of 400% from our off-peak to our peak season. You can bet that we learned a few things about managing cash flow!

Getting Started With Improving Cash Flow

You basically need to predict two things: what your money coming in from sales this month is going to be, and what your total expenses for this month are going to be (fixed and variable). If you expect to have more money coming in than money going out, and if you deliver on that prediction, you have positive cash flow. You want to be cash-flow positive all the time, but that can be difficult when you are starting out and growing your business. You don’t want to spend too much, especially if your sales are not growing as predicted.

Here is my top ten list of ways to improve your cash flow:

1.    Implement cash flow budgeting and management.

As I mentioned earlier, you should do this monthly. If your sales are falling short of your predictions, cut back on your expenses.

2.    Promote credit card and cash payment at the time of the order.

Collect by cash or credit card upfront rather than waiting until after the product or service is rendered. If the customer asks for terms, get their credit card number as security for payment.

3.    Improve payment terms on extended projects or services.

If you cannot get paid the entire amount in advance, then collect a substantial deposit at the time of order, then additional payments during the term of the contract. Don’t deliver the final product until you have been paid in full.

4.    Make a portion of your payroll variable.

Rather than guaranteeing a salary to all of your employees, only pay them when you need them. Link payroll to sales activity. You can hire independent contractors. You can employ seasonal workers with the understanding that their work hours are reduced or eliminated when business is slow.

5.    Discounts for timely payments.

You can offer a small discount if invoices are paid within 30 days. Many businesses offer 1%- 2% discount.

6.    Negotiate extended payment cycles with vendors during peak seasons.

Go to vendors in advance when you don’t have any past due obligations, and simply explain your cash flow cycles. If your vendor is not flexible, shop around.

7.    Do a credit check on new customers.

As an alternative, you can also buy credit insurance that covers non-paying customers.

8.    Track inventory and supplies.

Identify waste and make improvements to save money.

9.    Shorten product or service cycle times.

Shorten the delivery time of the product or service and you will get paid faster.

10.    Have a back-up plan and emergency strategies.

Strategies can include having a cash reserve, having a line of credit from your bank in place(you can use accounts receivables or inventory as collateral for a line of credit), or even keeping some low-interest credit cards with zero balance. Be sure to keep the balance zero in non-emergencies!

Coaching Client Adds $176,000 in Cash Flow

We were recently working with a client that had a severe cash-flow shortage. We identified seven areas of improvement that added $176,000 to his bottom line and dramatically improve his cash flow in 30 days. Although his cash flow had been poor for ten years, we were able to solve his problem in three meetings with the owner and his staff!

Conclusion

A wise saying is “you get what you focus on.” If you will invest some time each month in cash flow management, you will make sure that you have enough cash to keep your business going in the right direction. Then you can be crowned as “The Cash King!” You will be able to grow your business. You will have less stress. You will also be able to seize some opportunities that come your way.

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Selling: The First Meeting with your Prospect By Jim Sullenger

Selling: the first meeting

Selling: The First Meeting with your Prospect. Ok, so you have created a contact list, you have used your resources to get referrals, you have kept you eyes open for potential clients, and you now have scheduled a meeting!

21 Steps to Selling During the First Meeting

Let’s first look at a basic outline of the next 21 steps.

1:  Schedule a specific time.  Nevermore than 1 hour.

2:  Learn what you can about the target client’s business by researching the client.

3:  Learn what you can about the target clients business by type, and by industry, by size, and a quick look at market trends.

4:  Survey the address of the client, study the community, the local economy, and the specific trading area.

5:  Re-confirm the meeting the day ahead.

6:  Prepare your client file, set up an organized location for this client and all future ones.

7:  Clean your car, arrive 15 minutes early, and think positive thoughts about your client, the business, and his family.

PARK EVERYTHING, AND BE READY TO CHEERFULLY AND EARNESTLY GET TO KNOW THIS PERSON!  (0-20 MIN.)

Begin the sales call with a sincere interest

8:  Begin the meeting with a sincere interest in getting to know the personal aspects of the owner. Use FORM acronym to remember: Family, Occupation, Recreation, and Mission.

9:  Take every opportunity to listen, gather information, and relax.

10:  Make mental notes and physical notes about the client.  Are you surprised at the business?  Study your first impression now…the client’s customers only get tone first impression also.  Make a few notes.

11: Tell him about yourself…briefly…this meeting is about the client, not you, Do not spend time selling yourself, or anything, just invest in the client’s needs.

NOW, TAKE THE TIME TO DISCUSS THE GOALS OF TODAY.  (20-40 MIN.)

Great Questions to Ask a Business Owner, While Selling In the First Meeting

12:  Why did the client start this business? Or how did he get in this line of work?

13:  What were the dreams at the beginning of the process?

14:   Briefly, what has changed? What frustrations (Pain) related to your service does he experience?

15. Don’t gloss over “pain.” Be like a doctor who asks questions to understand your physical pain. ” This is what your service will solve. Take the customer through the “pain funnel.” Say “Tell me more about that.” “How long has this been going on?” “How much is that problem costing you per year?” Keeping asking questions until you have uncovered the prospect’s pain.

How has this business affected the Personal life?  Spiritual life?  Family Life?  Life?

16:  Close this segment with a “thank you” to the client.

GIVE THE TWENTY MINUTE WARNING IN YOUR SALES CALL

17:  Reassure the targeted client that you/we may be able to provide a solution to his concerns.

18:  Provide details about your background and present information about your business.

19:  Resist the idea to offer quick solutions….do you need to study, pray, prepare, research, and collect ideas?  Do not shotgun a bunch of first impressions.

20:  Present an overview of your services, and how you provide services based on the scope of work, and the length of the contract.  (Important)  Provide pricing if they press now for a general idea of cost

21:  Close.  Smile and reassure the client that you will present a proposal of how your service can save them time and money.

Set up the next meeting!  Now…get a date!

Thank him and smile with him.

Stop and make follow-up notes to remember your game plan.  Fill out the CRM on the client immediately before business day close.

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Selling: The Art of the Business Conversation By Jim Sullenger

business conversation

One of the most important things we do as business owners is to communicate with other business people. If we cannot master effective conversations we will not stay in business for long. In this article, we will look at the basics of having a good business conversation.

Business Conversations Made Easy

From Ben Franklin:

“The little private incidents which you will also have to relate will have considerable use, as we want, above all things, rules of prudence in ordinary affairs; and it will be curious to see how you have acted in these. It will be so far a sort of key to life and explain many things that all men ought to have once explained to them, to give, them a chance of becoming wise by foresight. The nearest thing to having experience of one’s own, is to have other people’s affairs brought before us in a shape that is interesting; this is sure to happen from your pen; our affairs and management will have an air of simplicity or importance that will not fail to strike; and I am convinced you have conducted them with as much originality as if you had been conducting discussions in politics or philosophy; and what more worthy of experiments and system (its importance and its errors considered) than human life?

Franklin referred the best business coach technique as “imitating Jesus or Socrates….”

How to Start a Business Conversation

Questions that help get it going!

What is the product or service your business provides?

Tell me about your ideal client and how I might recognize him/her.

What projects are you working on right now?

How did you decide to go into this business?

What do you find most challenging about (your industry) these days? I fill in the industry name in with banking, computer maintenance, financial planning–whatever is appropriate to the person with whom I’m speaking.

Tell me about your community involvement. In what other professional or civic organizations do you participate and what role do you play in the organization?

How is (some current event) impacting your industry/business right now?

What do you most enjoy about what you do?

I’d love to hear one of your client success stories–how did you make a difference in the client’s life or business?

Who would be a good referral for you at this point?

Business Etiquette Approaches(from Chron.com)

Formality and restraint differentiate business communications from ordinary personal conversations. Especially between vague acquaintances or people on widely different rungs of the corporate ladder, business conversations unfold according to very specific etiquette guidelines. Minding one’s manners is a simple but effective way of communicating professionalism and respect with business contacts.

Start Business Conversations Formally

As a rule of thumb, it’s better to begin formally and be invited into informality, than to assume informality and risk offending a potential business partner. Call someone “Mr. Smith” instead of “Bob” until invited to use his first name. Make a point of remembering names, because using a name conveys respect for the person. Keep bad habits at bay–no gum chewing, nail-biting, ostentatious flatulence and compulsive Smartphone monitoring.

Discuss Safe Subjects in Business Conversations

Most people know that interjecting politics and religion into business conversations is a major faux pas. However, the list of off-limits conversation topics–especially with people of only very minimal acquaintance–includes health issues, office politics and controversial opinions about the industry or leading figures within it. Avoid excess negativity, as well; keeping the conversation positive reinforces warm feelings about the conversation and those who participated in it.

Watch the Food in Business Conversations

Avoid talking with a mouthful of food. Our mothers taught us to chew with our mouths closed, and it’s appropriate to remember this rule in the business setting. Even during business lunches, be discreet while dining: Take small bites, avoid slurping drinks and go easy on the alcohol. In addition, think twice before helping someone finish a meal–it’s tacky to ask a business contact if you can have her pickle, for example. This rule is especially critical with phone conversations. If you absolutely must eat while on a business call, take small bites and keep the phone muted while chewing.

Listen Respectfully in Business Conversations

Communication always requires speaking and listening. Instead of thinking about your schedule or your next witty retort or the flight path of the butterfly in the background, pay attention to what others are saying and make sure you understand their meaning. Especially with new people, it pays to ensure you understand the context and meaning behind the words they use. Communications specialist Jasper Anson suggests: “Try to always add brief comments that address their points and show an appreciation and understanding for what they’re saying. Think of it as your way of sharing your understanding and attention level with the person talking.”

Trade Handshakes And Business Cards

Begin and end a conversation with a new business acquaintance with a handshake. A firm handshake with eye contact conveys respect, although this practice must be modified when dealing with people from different cultures where eye contact or handshakes are rare or impolite. End a conversation with an exchange of business cards. Cards are an essential marketing tool, and they permit your conversation partner to remember you and your affiliation with ease.

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Building on Systemic Change as a Small Business Consultant

Business Consultant

Small Business Management is a difficult task that very few are equipped to master. Building on systemic change is not difficult. And yet, the effective small business consultant can often help accelerate change in a client’s business by applying a very simple technique.  The technique that escapes most business people is usually right in front of them, and they almost always miss it.

Building on Systemic Change as a Small Business Consultant

Case Study 1: Business not achieving goals

Recently I visited a moderately successful small business that is experiencing problems in making progress against the key goals outlined by the organization.  As I carefully listened to the Management group it was clear to me that they both soundly identified the objectives, and they also suggested some workable solutions.  However, they were befuddled with why they could make little progress on these all-important areas.  These areas were critical to help sustain momentum and to justify further investments.  As a Small Business Consultant, I spent a number of days observing, interviewing key personnel, and studying the reporting tools and measurement methods.  The answers to what was holding up the progress became obvious after just a few “Coaching” analysis sessions.  I will get back to this later.

Case Study 2: Inconsistency in implementation

Recently my wife and I were visiting a well-known breakfast restaurant chain to enjoy some relationship time.  My wife always begins her meals with a glass of water and never drinks in a restaurant without a straw.  Because of this, before even beginning to study the menu, I know to automatically suggest that the waitress provide her a straw and extra napkins.  In this case, when I asked for the straw, my wife interrupted me and informed me that the restaurant had wrapped the silverware and straw inside the napkin on the table.  This was something I had not observed before and based on life experience was a very nice thing for my wife.  I observed the straw inside my bundle also, and quickly asked her if she thought the idea came from a new waitress inside the business or was it part of the restaurant chain’s new policy?  We both surmised it was from a bright new employee, but I couldn’t help but wonder if this was an attempt at systemic change within the organization.  When our waitress returned, I asked and she cheerfully said….”Oh no, it was not from our team……it was something they had started about three weeks ago”.  I told her that we thought it was a pretty good idea.  She responded, “Yes but half the time the girls don’t do it and what good is it if you can’t count on it?”

This is a great example of poor systemic change.  This is just another great idea without great implementation.  Until a great idea becomes imbedded within the business practices of the organization it is always going to produce sporadic results and insignificant positive impact on the business.  Perhaps you have heard of the term “best practices” but have you considered that the role of a great small business consultant may be to teach implementation?

The Root Cause: Lack of Reinforcement

Now back to our small business story above.  The problem that this business has is just like many other businesses.  They know the problem, they know how important it is, but they simply can’t implement it.  This situation was made clear by interviewing the staff and business personnel.  Again and again, in interviews, I recorded exactly what Management said and did when they visited each of these people.  I compared what Management said and did with many of the staff against the results from that interaction.  What became very obvious is that the business reflected the tangible actions of Management, and it was part of the systemic success of the business.  But what was painfully obvious was that Management never reinforced the goals (with actions) that were applied against the all-important business goals.  In other words, Management was getting great results in areas that did not matter as much as the core business objectives.  Where the systemic success of the business occurred, they were very good, but against the business goals, there were no applied actions or systemic success.  In short, the employees could tell me every single thing that each management person would discuss or observe, but none of these highlighted interactions mirrored the business goals.

So what is systemic change within an organization and how as a small business coach do I provide meaningful solutions? The answer lies within the existing successes of the business itself.  Look for the things they do well that is a result of everyone implementing a practice routinely, such that it is part of the unconscious process of the business.  For example, the business I referred to earlier had spotless and clean restrooms, had beautiful front walkways windows and doors, and the employee uniforms were crisp clean and well fitted.  When I explained that these successes inside the business were a result of anticipated Management reinforcement, the small business could easily relate and better understand the changes needed and the game plan for the small business consultant to initiate change.  Of course, this is only the beginning of a program to install training, reports, and measurement into the business methods of the organization.  But it all starts with helping the Leadership build upon the successes they have, and visualize the future.

You Get What You Focus On

True systemic change involves integrating the goals into the daily business practices of the business.  Build on the systemic victories in place to mirror the future changes.  Help the business align themselves with the core needs, and coach them to imitate the existing business victories.  This is a classic “teach a man to fish” example, but don’t oversimplify the process.  If they simply add on to the existing communications they may cause confusion and may actually take a step backward in performance.  Management must be taught to reinforce the core business goals and to only lightly release and maintain the current business standards.  When a business has developed systemic qualities there is no end to the number of excellent things they can implement, but they must learn how to embed the core goals into the business as a primary objective.  Teach systemic change and your value as a coach will soar.

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About Small Business Coach Associates

Business management

If you are an entrepreneur looking for a business coach, we may be a good fit for you. Small Business Coach Associates provide business resources and enjoy mentoring small business owners in helping them to implement business marketing strategies, business management strategies, achieve business growth, and to increase cash flows.

Helping Self Employed Make More, Have Fun and Work Less

We use time-honored principles in guiding our own small business growing decisions. Wisdom is crucial as we coach others to their best solutions. We frequently provide solutions to business owners who are experiencing burnout from:

  • Experiencing stress related to cash flow problems.

  • Being burned by a large bad debt.

  • Frustration about missing important family events.

  • Feeling vulnerable to increasing competition.

  • Being aggravated about poor employee performance.

Small Business Coach Associates are experts with helping those who are self-employed overcome obstacles to sales growth and increased profits. We help business owners increase cash flows and accelerate business growth.

Small Business Management Consultants

When making important decisions in a small business, we believe in the proverb that there is safety in having many counselors; our small business coaching team works together for our clients and their specific needs. You can be assured that we will be mentoring you toward your best interests as we coach you to your best solutions.

Has your business growth leveled off? Are you feeling stuck and burned out? Grow yourself! This is a very common position that business owners find themselves. Sometimes their business grows beyond their ability to effectively move forward to the next level. This was where I was in a previous business. One of the best ways to get personal and business growth is through business coaching. Contact us to get started!

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