Archive for the ‘small business’ Category

When It Comes to SMB Competition Do Not Confuse Awareness with Obsession

Yesterday in speaking with two executives (Jim Fowler and Luke Christiano) from Owler.com, I suddenly realize that many in sales confuse awareness with obsession when it comes to SMB competition.

SMB-CompetitionBeing aware of your SMB competition is necessary.  In many more time intensive strategic planning processes, there is time devoted to identifying the competition, looking at them from a comparative competitive advantage such as what does the SMB competition offer than the other SMB does not  offer?

Now being obsessed with your competition is foolhardy. As one of my colleagues, Rick Gosser of Gosser Corporate Sales has said “I am me, no one else is like me.”  Each of us brings a unique perspective and expertise to our interactions as well as solutions.

In listening to many conversations with local SMB owners and sales professionals, there is a great tendency to be overly concerned about their competitors.  Their obsession reminds me of something I learned years ago about life.

SMB competitionWe can control only a very small part of our lives.  We can influence a little more.  However most of what we experience is truly out of our control.  Yet, human beings invest far more time about what they cannot control than what they can control.  The end result is a lot of wasted time, energy, money and emotions.  I always encourage executive coaching clients to direct their attention to what they can control and influence.

Even if you and your SMB competition offer the exactly same solutions, there is still a difference.  People buy from people they know and trust.  Someone may believe he or she knows you better than your competition and conversely another person may believe he or she knows your competition better than you.  Obsessing about your competition is just plain illogical.

If you want to increase sales, be aware of what is happening in your marketplace.  However obsessing over your SMB competition will not increase sales.  Learn how to build upon your knowledge, your expertise and your relationships.  By taking this proactive and abundance approach will increase sales.

P.S. I know this to be true because I belong to a community of 50 sales trainers, sales coaches and sales consultants. Since I have connected with these individuals, my business has grown and I have had the opportunity to establish mutually beneficial relationships.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

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What Small Business Owners Want and Cannot Seem to Find

The super majority of small business owners want more sales.  To achieve that goal requires hard work from one or more good salespeople.  Unfortunately, as the old expression goes about finding a good woman it appears this also holds true in finding a good salesperson.

small-business-ownersThere are many obstacles to finding good salespeople. The first obstacle is money. Small business owners who are hurting for sales do not have deep pockets to pay for a recruiter. Also, they cannot afford to pay for moving expenses or initially meet the high salary demands good salespeople are currently receiving. Finally even if they pay for finding a good salesperson there is no guarantee he or she will perform at the expected level.

Possibly the second obstacle is not having clarity as to what makes a salesperson good.  What talents, characteristic, sales skills or experience should a small business owner seek in this journey to find a person who can actually sell and not just take orders.

From my experience, small business owners in their desire to just find somebody, anybody, rush to hire the wrong person.  This decision is just as dangerous as not being able to increase sales.

If you are a small business owner, then consider these suggestions to work through this difficult and business growth limiting situation.

#1 – Review your sales job description 

Make sure your sales job description reflects the job of the salesperson in its totality. Also be clear if the salesperson must find his or her own sales leads. Additionally, this may require you to review your marketing materials because they may not be up to date. Small Business Coaching Tip:  Many small business sales roles are a combination of marketing and selling.

#2 – Talk to your colleagues and within your business to business network

There is probably someone in your business to business network who has heard of a salesperson looking to change positions.  Remember even a good salesperson can be restricted because of bad leadership to bad processes to bad culture.

Also ask others what makes a good salesperson.  You may gleam some better understanding by doing this personal research.

#3 – Employ social networks

Using LinkedIn and other social networks may help you find some additional candidates. Several of my clients have had success with Internet job sites such as Indeed.com.

#4 – Establish a selection and hiring process

Here is where many small business owners make a miss step.  They do not invest the time and some dollars to establish a selection and hiring process. This process should include at least one if not several assessments to help to ensure the correct person is ultimately hired.

For example, the Values Index is an affordable assessment to determine the person’s motivation. Research suggests good to top sales performers have an economic driver in their top 50% of motivators.  Money does not have to be the primary driver but if it is at the bottom then this may present some critical insight.

#5 – Hire on a probationary period

Once the salesperson is hired, establish a probationary period with specific sales goals.  Agreement should be mutual on these goals to increase sales. Possibly you, as the small business owner,  may have to introduce your salesperson to some of your clients.

During this probationary period, there will be an extra demand on your time. To expect your new hire to just go out and sell without any internal support is a “shame on you” and setting that person up to fail.

Yes, finding a good salesperson is an ongoing want by the majority of small business owners I have encountered during the last 18 years.  Even when I was in corporate and hiring good salespeople, this challenge was very much present.

These five tips may help you improve your selection and hiring process along with better results.  Please feel free to share any tips you have found.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

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Forward Thinking Small Business Owners Make Time For…

“Got no time” is not a statement you will hear from any forward thinking small business owners.  No, these small business leaders will make time for:

forward-thinking

  • Answering the phone
  • Returning phone calls
  • Continual education
  • Working on their strategic plan
  • Working ON the business
  • Listening to a friend or colleague
  • Enjoying the company of family
  • Helping their communities
  • Celebrating their religious faith or spirituality

Yes surprise, surprise, forward thinking leaders have the same amount of time as those who are not forward thinking. However because they understand that once time is spent, it can never be recovered, they look at time as an investment. They prioritize where and when to invest their time.

Even when their schedules are full to even overflowing, these small business leaders will do their best to make time for whatever comes across their desks.  Excuses are not their mantra.

Planning is why forward thinking small business owners can do everything they do.  They plan and prioritize travel time, meeting times, work time and family time.  Each day is viewed as an investment with the attitude of how much of a return can I receive for today’s efforts.

So when you hear someone in small business say “I’ve got no time,” you can probably ascertain this person is allowing time to control him or her instead of being in control of time.

We all have the same amount of time, 24 hours, 1,440 minutes, 86,400 seconds each day.  The difference is some invest time far better than the others who spend time.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn

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The Shortsightedness of Small Business Owners

Why do small business owners continue to as they say “cut off their noses to spite their faces?” This behavior is not just for small business owners, but extends into those in management or any leadership positions.

small-business-ownersWhat in many instances causes this shortsightedness is this one word, “money” or better yet “my money.” This behavior is reminds me of  Smeagol in the Lord of the Rings who  had to hold onto his (my) “precious.”

We also see this shortsighted, money driven behavior during the death of a family member and the reading of the will.  Grandma promised me this or that even though it was not in the will.

We have heard how money is the root of all evil.  With some small business owners this appears also to be true.

How many solid relationships built on trust have been weakened or destroy because of money?

How many lost new business opportunities have arisen because of money?

How many actions were never taken because the fear of losing money by spending money drove the mentality of small business owners?

How many small to large businesses have lost their way, their positive core values because the accumulation of money became the driving force?

Money is a necessity in a capitalistic economy.  Yet money should never trump trust, principles or values.

After working with small business owners for 18 years and being in both a large and small business corporate setting, I can attest money does creates shortsightedness.  This is why it is so critical to have positive core values and ensure everyone from the very top to the bottom adhere to those values on a daily basis.  In today’s competitive world it can become extremely easy to lose one’s way.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn

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Want a Low Risk Small Business? Try Selling Residential Real Estate

The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well.  Individuals are opening up small businesses at a record rate. Over 70% of all US businesses are single owner (non-employed).  To ensure the success of that venture, identifying risk is part of that equation.  If you are seeking a low risk small business, then selling residential real estate may be the solution.

selling-residential-real-estate

Low Cost Threshold in Selling Residential Real Estate

Depending upon the licensing state, the cost of entering the residential real estate industry is relatively low.  You do not need a MBA, a Masters or even a college degree.  In doing some cursory research, the cost to become a licensed real estate agent in Indiana is around $600.  This is far less expensive than a post graduate degree that ranges between $30,000 to $12o,000.

Yes there are required continuing education units to maintain the license. However many of these courses are free or at a nominal expenditure between $25 and $50.  My professional development is budgeted for $2,000 annually and I am not mandated to have any continuing education courses.

Low Cost Marketing Through Social Media

The advent of social media has become social marketing.  Since the majority of social marketing is 100% free except for one’s time, the paid advertising is becoming a thing of the past. On demand searching through Zillow.com and other sites is now the driving force from the buyer’s and seller’s perspective.

All small businesses must market themselves.  They must attract attention and build relationships.  Investing money on marketing is part of the cost of doing business regardless of industry.  Yes there are some fixed marketing costs. However much of the marketing is free and hence is truly low risk.

Limited to No Financial Risk

Outside of the real estate industry, legal orders such as garnishments and online auction sites, all businesses both profit and not for profit must deal with customers who pay their bills directly to them.  These organizations do not have a third party distributing the dollars earned for the sale of their solutions.

Cash flow is 100% dependent upon customers paying their bills. There is no third party unless the small business goes to court or places a lien on the business.  Their income may wait up to 120 days before payment is received.  This is not the case for those selling residential real estate.

In selling residential real estate, a third party, the title company, distributes the funds to the various parties including the listing real estate agent and the selling real estate agent. Wow, what a terrific way to get paid.

No worries about:

  • Checks bouncing
  • Delayed payments
  • Discrepancies between the invoice and payment

And best yet the seller and buyer of the home assume all financial responsibility. There is no financial risk for selling residential real estate.

Now some may argue that selling residential real estate is risky because of the economy.  My answer is welcome to the real world.

Small businesses must always adapt to market conditions.  And the economic research still reveals most millionaires are created during a recession because these individuals take risks and innovate where others just stand back and watch. The question remains are you willing to do what it takes to be successful in a very low risk small business of selling residential real estate?

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn

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Lumping Small Business into Big Business Research

Mid-size to small business have few statistical resources to make strategic marketing or selling decisions. The majority of  business research is with the larger firms of 100 employees or more that comprise less than 1% of US businesses.

business-research

Credit www.gratisography.com

Firms with under 100 employees account for over 99% of all US businesses and yet critical data from current business research for them is rarely published or easy to find. And for those firms with under 20 employees, finding relevant business research data is nearly impossible even though they account for 97.7% of all US businesses. (Source for these statistics is US Census.)

Take for example this research from Sirius that surveyed 1,000 business to business executives responsible for purchasing nearly $500,000,000.  If we do the math, the average purchase was $500,000.  As a small business owner when did you make a single purchase of $500,000 outside of maybe a building or a merger and acquisition?

This survey appears to counter the ongoing argument that because of social media buyers have already engaged in their buying decisions before they call you.  Estimates of this pre-buying decision making range from as low as 20% to as high as 67%.

What  I know to be true is for small businesses under 20 employees, much of the buying decision making process for business to business solutions has already been started.  This is why sales referrals are the life blood for many small businesses.

My last two executive coaching clients in the business to business world both had already done their buying research via social media along with the Internet. They had been reading my various  postings especially on LinkedIn Pulse for over six months. They knew what they wanted and had already decided to hire an executive coach. These sales leads closed on the first contact. The only question was what executive coach and I was fortunate to be #1 on the list.

Small business because of the lack of relevant business research must be diligent in tracking their own “big data.”  Over time they can leverage this data to increase sales, customer loyalty and even reduce operating costs.

My advice is when you read any business research, see if you can determine the demographics of the businesses being surveyed especially the revenue size and number of employees.  In some instances, the big business data may be relevant to your small business.  However in many more instances, the data may be false leading you down a rabbit hole of no return.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

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What ‘The What’s It Cost?” Question Reveals

Small business owners want to grow. Yet sometimes they act in behaviors contrary to that desire to grow by asking the “What’s It Cost” question far too early.

What's-It-CostThis past week I connected with two sales leads.  In talking with both ideal customers, they each took a different path and much was revealed.

Sales Lead #1

Almost after the initial perfunctory introductions, this ideal customer asked me the “What’s It Cost?”  As this was a sales referral and I had only the briefest of research completed, I had no idea what the cost (I prefer to think investment) was to be.  And I shared with the qualified prospect that I did not have enough knowledge about where his small business was, where the small business wanted to go and what was getting in the way to this growth.

He recognized I was being forthright.  His next question was “Do you charge for this first meeting?”  This time I could answer with a solid No and responded “I cannot charge because I do not know if your barriers to growth are something I can work with you to solve.” We then agreed to have a face to face meeting.

When sales leads especially qualified prospects come out of the gate with the “What’s It Cost?” this suggest one of two problems:

  1. The small business has been “burned” by other vendors (process problem)
  2. The small business leadership has some barrier to their own growth (people problem)

Those small business owners who ask the “What’s it cost?” may fail to see the bigger picture. Possibly what they should be asking is “What results will I be receiving?” or even “What’s the investment for your solution?”

Sales Lead #2

After having our first appointment reschedule which happens many times to all of us, this sales lead and I met for lunch.  She had become a follower of my LinkedIn Pulse articles and she shared she appreciated my insight.  Our conversation was truly more like a dialogue.  The “What’s It Cost?” never came into the conversation.

She shared what her barriers to strategic growth were and what she wanted to accomplish.  I provided her with my executive coaching approach, time, deliverables and her investment.  We left lunch and I truly know that I made a friend.  Within 24 hours, she reconnected with me and we are moving forward.

During our luncheon, I learned she truly was an ideal customer or client in that she was forward thinking; was committed had a sense of urgency.  This was one individual who knew where she wanted to go and wanted to reduce her mistakes.  She realized securing an executive coach would give her a strategic advantage.

Money was not an issue because she realized to grow may involved some dollars (to make money requires money).  She had the experience even at her tender age of late 20’s or early 30’s in how to negotiate and secure the resources necessary for her growth.

Sometimes when we as small business owners receive the “What’s it cost?” we may believe we have failed somewhere along the sales process. This may be the case and yet sometimes I believe the issue is within the ideal customer who may require further education. How we handle answering this question is what will or will not get us the qualified prospect as a customer and ultimately grow our own small businesses.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

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Marching to the Add Value Beat for Small Businesses

Isn’t your  life crazy enough without having to worry about the “add value” beating of the drums by small business coaches to strategic business growth consultants? Seems like everyone has some idea of how you can add value to win more business.

add-value

Credit – www.gratisography.com

You may be scratching your head thinking with  many of your customers having different reasons to buy from you, how can you add value to one market segment without taking value away from another?

Possibly the first step is for your to define value. Once you have clarity about what value is then you may be able to determine better actions to take.

Value has many definitions.  Yet all these definitions share one trait, perception.  How does your client perceive the value of your solutions (products or services) respective to the price he or she is paying.

Value resides within the perceptions or expectations of your clients based upon their experiences. More educated buyers may have a different perception about value than not so educated buyers. Sales Coaching Tip:  Value is unique to each buyer.

For your small business to add value does require for your to know:

  • What is important to your potential buyers?
  • Why your existing customers are buying from you?
  • Why your customers or clients  may or may not be sharing your name with others?
  • What barriers exist within the buying experience?
  • What is the difference between your solution and your competitor’ solution?
  • How can you enhance those perceptions without increased costs?

When you understand how your existing customers and potential Ideal Customer perceive value respective to your small business, then you can begin to make changes in the following areas of operations:

  • Customer service
  • Marketing
  • Sales Process
  • Administration such as invoicing
  • Relationship building
  • Pricing of your solutions

Many of these changes will probably have zero cost. And if your firm understands “lean thinking” you may actually be able to increase profits because you have streamlined the various processes within your small business. Even if there is a cost,  you can realize increase sales, gain new customers and add new profits.

For me to add value, I continue to ask myself “How can I ‘just be valuable’ to those I met?” By having this belief as an actionable attitude allows me to keep an open mind, to be authentic in all interactions and to learn what is important to those around me.

My small business advice to you is march to your own “add value beat” and remain authentic to your customers.  What worked for someone else may not work for you.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

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The Power of a United Small Business Community

Being just one small business owner in a sea of many is difficult.  Yet, you can have incredible power when you unite with others including your competitors. Let me explain.

small-businessYesterday, a colleague of mine, Anthony Iannarino, discovered one of his blog posts had been plagiarized by a firm located in the UK.  He had written the author of the posting an email to take down this plagiarized work. Then he made an outreach to a united small business community of sales trainers to sales coaches asking each of them to leave a comment as the plagiarizer posted this content on LinkedIn Pulse.  Within 15 minutes, the LinkedIn Pulse posting was deleted.

The plagiarizer has yet to apologize.  And my sense is he won’t.

Strongly, united small business communities can have incredible power.  The members of these communities do not have to agree with each other. Actually, diversity of thought is encouraged because if everyone said the same thing the content would be rather boring.

Many of these communities are formed through social media. Members share the postings of others.

Yesterday I posted this article “Change This One Word to Be a Better Leader.”  Within our united small business community of close to 40 members, a quick search revealed that 22 members had re-posted this article  in less than 24 hours on Twitter.

If you want to gain some great insight, follow any or all of these individuals on Twitter.

Now I have currently 10,800 Twitter Followers.  This powerful small business community expanded my influence for this particular posting to over 40 fold.  Then add in the RT and favorites from others, one can see the incredible power created by this union of like minded sales trainers, sales consultants and sales coaches.

These united small business communities work for because no one is forced to share the content of others and everyone demonstrates high positive core values.  Members understand united we stand.  Additionally a collaborative culture emerges from sales leads referrals to requests for help from pricing engagements to sharing of the resources.

Currently the group is working on holding a Twitter chat.

Being noticed as a small business owner is an ongoing challenge.  Through the creation of groups with like minded individuals, you can be noticed.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

 

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The Wearing What Hat Reality Drains Small Business Owners

With over 70% of all US businesses being non-employed (entrepreneurs without employees) and 97.7% of all businesses being under 20 employes, a recent survey (Sixth Annual Brother International Small Business) of small business owners revealed they are truly drained by all the hats they wear. I can personally attest to that fact. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

small-business-owners

Just One Day in the Life of a Small Business Owner

Yesterday I invested time to learn about some the impact of assessments specific to talent management,  organizational alignment to increased profits through better employee hiring and workplace engagement. Then I attended a business to business networking event and an association meeting specific to family owned small businesses and governance (the process of transitioning the small business from one generation to the other). In between I worked with a client; answered email and engaged in social media marketing. The day began at 4:30 am and ended at 9:20pm. On the go for 19 hours makes for a long day. This morning I am tired and off at 7:30am to meet with a client.

Working IN the Business versus On the Business

Years ago the E Myth by Michael Gerber brought to light this phrase of “working IN the business instead of working ON the business.” From Brother’s research, this problem still exists by the wearing of all these hats.  The good news is many small businesses owners appear to recognize this problem with the number one response (35%) being “taking on too many roles and responsibilities.”

Additionally these time strapped small business owners shared if given a 5% increase in revenue, 41% would invest in technology because that would help with wearing all the hats.  Investing in their people came in much lower. Since this survey was of 500 small business owners with under 100 employees and not knowing how many were sole entrepreneurs, one cannot make any presumptions about technology versus people.

From my experience, small business owners usually do not invest in their people even though their people run the technology and others processes that make the organization hum. This disconnect creates much of the internal workflow and productivity barriers (people and process problems)  faced by these small business owners.

The Necessity of a Strategic Plan

Finally as I have written numerous times before, much of the problem with all the hat wearing could be resolved through a written and clearly articulated strategic plan.  There still is far too much Captain Wing It behaviors and plan, less alone strategic plan, remains a four letter dirty word for many small business owners.

Time is one aspect of business that once it is gone, it is gone. By investing the time to determine what hats we really need to wear; what hats can be worn just sometimes thanks to technology and what hats could be worn by others, will separate those small business owners who thrive from those who just continue to barely survive.

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FREE Download of the Leadership-Change-Audit to begin identifying why you continue to wear all those hats.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

 

 

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