Category Archives: Small Business Growth

Connect To Your Customers By Being More Than Just A Company Sales Representative

 
Consumer buying habits have changed. Customer no longer find you in the yellow pages of a fat phone book. They have the technology in their pockets to find and research you and your competitors online. They are numbed to hard-sell techniques and annoyed by obtrusive advertising. Your marketing department knows this. To generate solid leads, they work a strategic plan of brand development and content marketing. When a prospect reaches the bottom of the marketing funnel, responding to a CTA, placing a call to your company or filling out a contact form, that lead is passed off to sales. What do your salespeople do with those leads? While making a sale is still the goal, the role of the sales rep has changed from that of a company-centric promoter to a consumer-friendly advisor. Keep these concepts in mind when closing in on a deal.
   
Focus on the buyer’s needs and not yourself You may be the best in your industry. You may have established a stellar reputation over decades of doing business, but consumers don’t care about your company, and many are skeptical about claims in an environment where anyone can create a website full of fact-free boasts. You are not selling a product; you are selling solutions. When you follow through on leads, whether through email, snail-mail or phone, your main message is, “We know your problems. We have solutions for you.” Your marketing department knows your target’s pain points. Be prepared with solutions before you pick up the phone.  
Become the go-to advisor Your goal is to build a relationship with your prospects. To do this, you need to understand their goals and the obstacles they face attempting to reach those goals. You are then in a position to offer advice.  
Three-step formula to success
  • Listen to your prospects concerns. They may be typical for the industry, but each business or individual has a unique set of circumstances that you must consider. Ask questions to encourage your prospects to elaborate with their own experiences.
     

  • Diagnose their problems. What is causing these issues?
     

  • Be an educator. This is where the sales rep-advisor brings his or her industry experience into play and can suggest how your company can help solve problems.
     
 
Go above and beyond Social media and online review sites have changed the marketing landscape. A December 2016 survey by Fan & Fuel Digital Marketing found that 97 percent of consumers factor online reviews into their purchasing decisions. It’s not enough to close a sale, you need your customers to spread the word. Merely meeting the terms of a deal isn’t enough. You must exceed expectations if you want to turn customers into advocates. Focus on improving consumers’ experiences with your company. Follow up on sales by seeking consumer feedback and quickly resolving any problems. Throwing in a referral incentive may help build a loyal following.  
To successfully navigate the new marketplace, you need a sales force that understands your company vision and the culture of your customers’ personas. Sales reps need to have listening skills and know how to build trust in an age of skepticism. Focus training on these points, and you’ll be crushing those sales goals.
     
This article was written by Gillian Burdett for CBS Small Business Pulse
 

Connect To Your Customers By Being More Than Just A Company Sales Representative

 
Consumer buying habits have changed. Customer no longer find you in the yellow pages of a fat phone book. They have the technology in their pockets to find and research you and your competitors online. They are numbed to hard-sell techniques and annoyed by obtrusive advertising. Your marketing department knows this. To generate solid leads, they work a strategic plan of brand development and content marketing. When a prospect reaches the bottom of the marketing funnel, responding to a CTA, placing a call to your company or filling out a contact form, that lead is passed off to sales. What do your salespeople do with those leads? While making a sale is still the goal, the role of the sales rep has changed from that of a company-centric promoter to a consumer-friendly advisor. Keep these concepts in mind when closing in on a deal.
   
Focus on the buyer’s needs and not yourself You may be the best in your industry. You may have established a stellar reputation over decades of doing business, but consumers don’t care about your company, and many are skeptical about claims in an environment where anyone can create a website full of fact-free boasts. You are not selling a product; you are selling solutions. When you follow through on leads, whether through email, snail-mail or phone, your main message is, “We know your problems. We have solutions for you.” Your marketing department knows your target’s pain points. Be prepared with solutions before you pick up the phone.  
Become the go-to advisor Your goal is to build a relationship with your prospects. To do this, you need to understand their goals and the obstacles they face attempting to reach those goals. You are then in a position to offer advice.  
Three-step formula to success
  • Listen to your prospects concerns. They may be typical for the industry, but each business or individual has a unique set of circumstances that you must consider. Ask questions to encourage your prospects to elaborate with their own experiences.
     

  • Diagnose their problems. What is causing these issues?
     

  • Be an educator. This is where the sales rep-advisor brings his or her industry experience into play and can suggest how your company can help solve problems.
     
 
Go above and beyond Social media and online review sites have changed the marketing landscape. A December 2016 survey by Fan & Fuel Digital Marketing found that 97 percent of consumers factor online reviews into their purchasing decisions. It’s not enough to close a sale, you need your customers to spread the word. Merely meeting the terms of a deal isn’t enough. You must exceed expectations if you want to turn customers into advocates. Focus on improving consumers’ experiences with your company. Follow up on sales by seeking consumer feedback and quickly resolving any problems. Throwing in a referral incentive may help build a loyal following.  
To successfully navigate the new marketplace, you need a sales force that understands your company vision and the culture of your customers’ personas. Sales reps need to have listening skills and know how to build trust in an age of skepticism. Focus training on these points, and you’ll be crushing those sales goals.
     
This article was written by Gillian Burdett for CBS Small Business Pulse
 

Having Trouble Closing The Deal? Here’s Why

 
Being a successful salesperson is a two-part process. To sell a product, you need to engage your customer and get them emotionally attached to your product. Selling the features of a product is not the same as closing a deal to generate a sale. Closing is arguably the most important part of the sales process, generating income and profit. Here are some reasons you may not be closing.
   
You’re a poor communicator Establishing clear, concise, and confident communication with your customer is a key component in the art of successful closing. Address your customer clearly and confidently. Don’t falter, hesitate, or ramble and always maintain eye contact. Hubspot recommends paying full attention to your prospective client and practice active listening. When doing business, nothing is more frustrating than getting the impression someone isn’t listening to you or fully addressing your wants and needs. Your customers are paying money for goods and services, and deserve your attention. Being an effective communicator involves strong listening skills and operating well in a reciprocal process of sharing information. If necessary, practice what you want to say to your customer. According to Entrepreneur, you may want to record yourself and play it back to recognize what you’re doing well and what areas of your delivery you need to improve.  
You’re not investing in building relationships Put yourself in the shoes of your customer. Do you want to do business with someone you’ve built a good rapport and relationship with or someone that you don’t really know and merely sees you as a commission check? Every potential customer is a person with interests, hobbies, a family and future goals, which can likely relate to your business, service, or product. Investing your time getting to know your client on a personal level is a critical part of building a relationship with them that will help develop trust and eventually help close a sale.  
You’re not selling a solution Sometimes it’s hard to remember you’re not selling a product or service, you’re selling a solution to your client’s problems, wants, or needs. Forbes even describes it as providing a solution for a customer’s “pain point.” For instance, your lawn is out of control and you don’t have the time to maintain it. Hiring a lawn service solves your problem. How can your product or service solve your client’s problem? Better yet, are there multiple problems you can solve for your client? For instance, will your state-of-the-art HVAC system solve your customer’s heating and cooling needs, conserve energy and help your client reduce energy bills? The more solutions you can offer a customer, the more reasons they will have to do business with you.  
You bad mouth your competition You should never speak negatively about your competitor’s products and services. For one thing, you should simply refrain from resorting to these low-blow kinds of tactics. Customers generally see through this, and it can backfire and essentially make you the bad guy in your client’s eyes. If you’ve followed the previous suggestions to communicate clearly, build a relationship with your client and sell solutions, then your customer should be motivated to do business with you, and should want to buy your products and services. You won’t need to cut down your competition in an attempt to sway your customer to work with you instead.    
This article was written by Lori Melton for CBS Small Business Pulse
 

Having Trouble Closing The Deal? Here’s Why

 
Being a successful salesperson is a two-part process. To sell a product, you need to engage your customer and get them emotionally attached to your product. Selling the features of a product is not the same as closing a deal to generate a sale. Closing is arguably the most important part of the sales process, generating income and profit. Here are some reasons you may not be closing.
   
You’re a poor communicator Establishing clear, concise, and confident communication with your customer is a key component in the art of successful closing. Address your customer clearly and confidently. Don’t falter, hesitate, or ramble and always maintain eye contact. Hubspot recommends paying full attention to your prospective client and practice active listening. When doing business, nothing is more frustrating than getting the impression someone isn’t listening to you or fully addressing your wants and needs. Your customers are paying money for goods and services, and deserve your attention. Being an effective communicator involves strong listening skills and operating well in a reciprocal process of sharing information. If necessary, practice what you want to say to your customer. According to Entrepreneur, you may want to record yourself and play it back to recognize what you’re doing well and what areas of your delivery you need to improve.  
You’re not investing in building relationships Put yourself in the shoes of your customer. Do you want to do business with someone you’ve built a good rapport and relationship with or someone that you don’t really know and merely sees you as a commission check? Every potential customer is a person with interests, hobbies, a family and future goals, which can likely relate to your business, service, or product. Investing your time getting to know your client on a personal level is a critical part of building a relationship with them that will help develop trust and eventually help close a sale.  
You’re not selling a solution Sometimes it’s hard to remember you’re not selling a product or service, you’re selling a solution to your client’s problems, wants, or needs. Forbes even describes it as providing a solution for a customer’s “pain point.” For instance, your lawn is out of control and you don’t have the time to maintain it. Hiring a lawn service solves your problem. How can your product or service solve your client’s problem? Better yet, are there multiple problems you can solve for your client? For instance, will your state-of-the-art HVAC system solve your customer’s heating and cooling needs, conserve energy and help your client reduce energy bills? The more solutions you can offer a customer, the more reasons they will have to do business with you.  
You bad mouth your competition You should never speak negatively about your competitor’s products and services. For one thing, you should simply refrain from resorting to these low-blow kinds of tactics. Customers generally see through this, and it can backfire and essentially make you the bad guy in your client’s eyes. If you’ve followed the previous suggestions to communicate clearly, build a relationship with your client and sell solutions, then your customer should be motivated to do business with you, and should want to buy your products and services. You won’t need to cut down your competition in an attempt to sway your customer to work with you instead.    
This article was written by Lori Melton for CBS Small Business Pulse
 

Small Business Operations: 4 Ways Your Company Can Improve Sales

 
Small businesses are launching at an unprecedented rate, but the success stories are not quite as prolific. If you are one of those entrepreneurs who has entered the fray, take some time and consider how to keep your new business in the black by enlisting the help of these four sales tools.
   
Keeping track Many small businesses would be lost without the ability to track their email. Both HubSpot Sales and Boomerang do the trick, allowing you the ability to schedule certain sales-oriented emails at pertinent times, as well as show the user when emails have been opened by their intended recipients. Another great use for these apps is to automatically receive reminders when it’s time to follow-up on emails. These reminders can be programmed to let you know if you need to get back to certain interested parties who haven’t corresponded with you within a reasonable amount time, but with whom you are still wanting to do business.  
Staying in touch Indeed, customer communication is a big part of enjoying success with your small business. Besides email, Intercom is an app that keeps two parties thoroughly engaged through live chats and other useful methods. By using Intercom, a success-oriented customer messaging platform, you are able to easily stay on top of any issues or problems while also educating your sales leads and giving your customers a user-friendly experience.  
Signing up Shortcuts are available and often necessary for small businesses with small staffs aspiring to make a sale a simple transaction. By employing an app such as eSignatures, you can avoid having to print out a document that requires your real John Hancock, and the need for a fax machine or even an actual trip to the post office. Talk about a time saver.  
Getting answers Who doesn’t have questions about, well just about everything? Small business players on all levels can simply go online to get answers about all kinds of topics from a variety of sources that have already been wrangled by Quora. A mighty sales tool in what is essentially a question and answer forum widely used by everyone from industry experts to top professionals, this platform makes specific engagement on all levels possible and very probable. Those who use Quora must verify their identities and are asked to share their background, establishing a way to swap ideas with the right people. It is a winning proposition.
     
This article was written by Jane Lasky for CBS Small Business Pulse
 

Small Business Operations: 4 Ways Your Company Can Improve Sales

 
Small businesses are launching at an unprecedented rate, but the success stories are not quite as prolific. If you are one of those entrepreneurs who has entered the fray, take some time and consider how to keep your new business in the black by enlisting the help of these four sales tools.
   
Keeping track Many small businesses would be lost without the ability to track their email. Both HubSpot Sales and Boomerang do the trick, allowing you the ability to schedule certain sales-oriented emails at pertinent times, as well as show the user when emails have been opened by their intended recipients. Another great use for these apps is to automatically receive reminders when it’s time to follow-up on emails. These reminders can be programmed to let you know if you need to get back to certain interested parties who haven’t corresponded with you within a reasonable amount time, but with whom you are still wanting to do business.  
Staying in touch Indeed, customer communication is a big part of enjoying success with your small business. Besides email, Intercom is an app that keeps two parties thoroughly engaged through live chats and other useful methods. By using Intercom, a success-oriented customer messaging platform, you are able to easily stay on top of any issues or problems while also educating your sales leads and giving your customers a user-friendly experience.  
Signing up Shortcuts are available and often necessary for small businesses with small staffs aspiring to make a sale a simple transaction. By employing an app such as eSignatures, you can avoid having to print out a document that requires your real John Hancock, and the need for a fax machine or even an actual trip to the post office. Talk about a time saver.  
Getting answers Who doesn’t have questions about, well just about everything? Small business players on all levels can simply go online to get answers about all kinds of topics from a variety of sources that have already been wrangled by Quora. A mighty sales tool in what is essentially a question and answer forum widely used by everyone from industry experts to top professionals, this platform makes specific engagement on all levels possible and very probable. Those who use Quora must verify their identities and are asked to share their background, establishing a way to swap ideas with the right people. It is a winning proposition.
     
This article was written by Jane Lasky for CBS Small Business Pulse
 

Business Workspace: Advantages & Disadvantages Of Co-working Spaces

 
As the workplace changes and transforms, co-working has become a very popular option whether you are a contractor, consultant or small company. The definition of co-working is sharing a community space with access to a private desk, kitchen, meeting rooms and possibly a reception area for an extra fee. However, one must look at the advantages and disadvantages before deciding to commit to a location, and to working with others.
 

 
Upside

Co-working spaces offer entrepreneurs opportunities to interact with others and develop professional relationships. Networking, collaboration, meeting potential clients and the chance to engage in informal market research are benefits of using a shared workplace. Founders from Young Entrepreneur Council discussed using a co-working space for an article on Business.com. Sam Saxton of Salter Spiral Stair and Mylen Stairs stated, “Co-working spaces are alive with entrepreneurial spirit, making them ideal sources of inspiration both in terms of motivation and creativity.”

Cost and value are also factors to consider. Often not as expensive as traditional office space, a co-working space can be a great option to create a community for you and your employees. Tracy Foster of ONA said, “In a co-working space, there’s an opportunity to develop relationships with other small business owners and learn from their experiences. We’re constantly meeting and learning from other entrepreneurs in the fashion and tech space.” Although you may be cutting business operating expenses by working from home or working virtually, if you stay within a budget, it could be worth the investment of sharing a workplace with others.

 
Downside

While many businesses enjoy the benefits of co-working spaces, it is not for everyone. For certain tasks and some people, silence is required to complete work. Texts, ringing telephones, conversations and streaming videos are just some of the sounds in a shared work environment that could cause distractions and reduce productivity. “For many people it can be hard to get long stretches of creative, undisturbed work done in a shared work environment, which is why the second stretch of my working day happens when I’m alone and everyone has left the building,” shared Rameet Chawla of Fueled.

Your business may also compromise it’s protection, as privacy is not always guaranteed. Verbal exchanges and visible computer screens can create security issues for your company and employees. Theft is also a concern, which often includes items such as devices, purses and even food. While many spaces offer locked drawers and desks, sharing spaces have little control over who enters or remains in the space.
 

Co-working spaces can offer valuable advantages including cost for the right people. Since it is not the only option, pros and cons should be weighed before making any decision.
 

 

 
This article was written by Debbie Hall for CBS Small Business Pulse
 

Business Workspace: Advantages & Disadvantages Of Co-working Spaces

 
As the workplace changes and transforms, co-working has become a very popular option whether you are a contractor, consultant or small company. The definition of co-working is sharing a community space with access to a private desk, kitchen, meeting rooms and possibly a reception area for an extra fee. However, one must look at the advantages and disadvantages before deciding to commit to a location, and to working with others.
 

 
Upside

Co-working spaces offer entrepreneurs opportunities to interact with others and develop professional relationships. Networking, collaboration, meeting potential clients and the chance to engage in informal market research are benefits of using a shared workplace. Founders from Young Entrepreneur Council discussed using a co-working space for an article on Business.com. Sam Saxton of Salter Spiral Stair and Mylen Stairs stated, “Co-working spaces are alive with entrepreneurial spirit, making them ideal sources of inspiration both in terms of motivation and creativity.”

Cost and value are also factors to consider. Often not as expensive as traditional office space, a co-working space can be a great option to create a community for you and your employees. Tracy Foster of ONA said, “In a co-working space, there’s an opportunity to develop relationships with other small business owners and learn from their experiences. We’re constantly meeting and learning from other entrepreneurs in the fashion and tech space.” Although you may be cutting business operating expenses by working from home or working virtually, if you stay within a budget, it could be worth the investment of sharing a workplace with others.

 
Downside

While many businesses enjoy the benefits of co-working spaces, it is not for everyone. For certain tasks and some people, silence is required to complete work. Texts, ringing telephones, conversations and streaming videos are just some of the sounds in a shared work environment that could cause distractions and reduce productivity. “For many people it can be hard to get long stretches of creative, undisturbed work done in a shared work environment, which is why the second stretch of my working day happens when I’m alone and everyone has left the building,” shared Rameet Chawla of Fueled.

Your business may also compromise it’s protection, as privacy is not always guaranteed. Verbal exchanges and visible computer screens can create security issues for your company and employees. Theft is also a concern, which often includes items such as devices, purses and even food. While many spaces offer locked drawers and desks, sharing spaces have little control over who enters or remains in the space.
 

Co-working spaces can offer valuable advantages including cost for the right people. Since it is not the only option, pros and cons should be weighed before making any decision.
 

 

 
This article was written by Debbie Hall for CBS Small Business Pulse
 

4 Reasons Growth Is Booming For San Francisco Small Businesses

San Francisco makes it easy for new entrepreneurs to establish their small businesses. The city offers access to information about permits, business operation in the city, networking opportunities, and training. The mayor of San Francisco even delegated funds to help small business growth in the city. Here are some of the top reasons why now is a great time to operate a small business in San Francisco.

 

San Francisco Business Portal

The San Francisco Business Portal makes opening, growing and operating a business as streamlined and easy as possible. This online resource was created by the city specifically to help small business owners with the processes of owning and operating their new San Francisco business venture. SF Business Portal includes information on everything from finding a location for your small business to procuring the necessary permits and licenses you’ll need to run it. The site even offers starter kits with “relevant permits, resources, and guides developed to help you bring your business idea to fruition.”

 

Networking & Workshop Events

There are many opportunities for business owners to receive training in the city. One such opportunity is San Francisco’s annual Small Business Week event, which coincides with National Small Business Week. This event gives business owners the chance to network and exchange ideas on things like best practices and new technologies with other local entrepreneurs. Events include talks on women in business, the art of negotiation and how to create the perfect logo. San Franciscans can also take advantage of programs like SF SCORE, which offers a list of local workshops and events geared toward small business owners.

 

SF Chamber of Commerce

The Chamber of Commerce offers many different programs to help small businesses grow and thrive in San Francisco. One offering is Small Business University, which allows newcomers to learn from fellow businessmen and women via workshops, presentations and panel discussions. It has also created an advocacy program under the Small Business Committee, which is designed to act as the voice of small businesses in the area. Don’t forget to check out the Chamber’s “high-energy mixer” dubbed “Business After Hours.” The monthly networking event brings together San Francisco professionals from a variety of different industries and companies. April’s event — Business on the Bay — was held on a cruise along the San Francisco waterfront.

 

Financial Assistance

The San Francisco Small Business Development Center is a great resource for those looking to learn more about financial assistance for their small business through one-on-one advising, training and workshops. This financial assistance information can help streamline the loan, crowd-funding, or investor process for small businesses.

 

Looking to streamline your small business’s workflow? Visit usa.canon.com/maxify.

For more tips and inspiration for small business owners,
visit CBS Small Business Pulse Chicago.

4 Reasons Growth Is Booming For Chicago Small Businesses

Chicago is a major American destination. The food, the history, the neighborhoods and the diverse people make the Windy City an undeniable world-class town. With such a vibrant culture, it’s no surprise that the same holds true for Chicago’s small business community. The city’s small businesses are booming — and here are the top four reasons why.

 

Resources

There are endless resources in Chicago to help small business owners achieve their goals. A major metropolitan city, Chicago is home to countless talented and experienced professionals at the top of their fields. In addition to its top-tier workforce, the city has a large amount of useful and relevant information regarding running a small business that is easily accessible. Small business owners can visit the City of Chicago website to find support and information that will help them achieve success with their small business.

 

Market Size

The greater Chicago area has a population of over 9 million people, and the city is also home to almost 500 corporate headquarters.  There are approximately 5 million people working in greater Chicago. One of the key reasons that small businesses are experiencing growth in Chicago is due in part to the city’s extremely diverse and strong economy.  Chicago is ranked as the No. 1 city for economic diversity by the WBC (World Business Chicago). Small business owners can tailor their products and/or services to just about any market including health, manufacturing, transportation, education, financial services, IT, retail, government, auto, and more.

 

B2B (Business-To-Business)

As the native large corporations in Chicago continue to grow, that growth cascades down to their local small business supply chain partners. The large corporations typically source many of their components and materials from local small business partners. The proximity of the small business partner in Chicago has tremendous value and benefit to these corporations.

 

Networking

Chicago is a major destination for annual industry trade-shows.  Housewares, restaurant and manufacturing trade shows (just to name a few) are held in Chicago every year. These shows give the small business owners opportunities to meet and network with potential customers  In addition, there are a number of small business forums where ideas and success stories are routinely shared among the small business community.

 

Looking to streamline your small business’s workflow? Visit usa.canon.com/maxify.

For more tips and inspiration for small business owners,
visit CBS Small Business Pulse Chicago.