How to Create a Success-Oriented Sales Culture

Success in sales remains an elusive goal for many companies, partly because the sales process can’t be configured or engineered in a way that guarantees closing a deal with every prospect. Too many variables are involved.

However, building a success-oriented sales culture within the organization can tilt the odds in your favor. The key is paying special attention to sales management in a way that’s positive, instills confidence and rewards sales activity, not just results.

Here are action steps you can take to boost the success rate of your sales team:

Honor the role of salesperson. If you come from a sales background, you know first-hand what a difficult job it can be. Failure and rejection come with the territory and it takes a strong individual to bounce back from these challenges and start fresh all over again.

For this reason, it’s good to “promote how honorable it is to be a sales rep for your company,” notes small business expert Megan Totka. “Put the importance of their position on a pedestal, and highlight how pivotal it is to the success of your business.

Automate repetitive tasks. Salespeople thrive on high energy and welcome the unpredictable nature of their jobs. That’s why they often find repetitive sales-related tasks so draining and demoralizing. It’s up to you to free them up to do what they do best—sales. Wherever possible, employ technology to handle routine customer relationship management tasks (such as sending customized messages to prospects), thus giving your team more latitude to focus on other key responsibilities. 

Enforce a consistent sales process. Yes, we all know about rock-star salespeople who “act on a gut feeling” or otherwise go it alone. That’s not the path to a success-oriented culture. Instead, every business should establish a consistent sales process, says sales expert Alana Nicol, with “specific steps that everyone takes so each person knows clearly what it takes to identify, qualify and close an opportunity.” 

Train for the results you want. Businesses do the best they can to hire talented salespeople who can get results out of the gate. But for the best results, sales training is the most effective strategy. Such training can emphasize a variety of techniques and attitudes, including how to:

  • Stop talking to the prospect and ask questions instead
  • Position yourself less as an expert and more as a problem-solver
  • Hone your company’s unique selling proposition
  • Focus on sales activity as much as on results

For sales veterans and rookies alike, it’s helpful for the manager and/or CEO to occasionally sit in on phone calls and/or face-to-face meetings with prospects, and offer constructive feedback afterward. Most salespeople welcome such feedback, as long it’s framed in a positive way.

Offer opportunities for learning. Training is one thing, continuous learning something else entirely. As part of honoring your sales team, give them every opportunity to participate in webinars, attend sales conferences and engage in other learning activities that help them hone their skills and network on behalf of the company. When they can collaborate and share new ideas, they’ll come away re-energized and excited about incorporating new strategies into the sales process. 

Avoid micromanagement. Perhaps the best way to instill self-confidence in your team is by not micromanaging them. Delegating responsibilities and leaving them alone to do their job is another way of saying you trust in their judgment and abilities, and that you expect them to give their very best with every prospect. Sometimes they’ll succeed and sometimes they’ll fail. It’s up to you to avoid casting blame, but emphasize instead the value of learning from experience and doing better the next time.

 

By honoring their efforts and giving them the tools and responsibility to succeed, you can build a culture of sales enthusiasm and energy unlike anything you’ve seen before.

Want to learn more about building a successful sales culture? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!

 

Setting SMART Goals - a guide to team members

So, your boss has come to you (well, actually they sent an email), with this crazy idea that you need to set up Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and SMART goals. Is this a passing trend and do you need to act upon it? After a quick internet search, you get the general idea, but the thought of sitting down and writing these out seems a little bit like too much hassle.

Don’t worry, we’re here for you

1 – What’s the big idea.

Actually, it’s a good one.  Up until now, either your work has not been measured at all, it has been measured in a subjective manner or your measurement only comes in a negative way (i.e. you get reprimanded/complained-to if something is not done).

Good news, KPI’s are going to help. Oh, and in addition, do you ever get your boss coming to you and complaining in a subjective manner (it’s not what I had in mind… I ‘like’ it this way…) and does that conversation occasionally last a long time, when frankly you could be getting on with more work or doing something else far more productive (even if that involves Facebook)? Well KPIs help with this too.

So, KPI’s are a way of putting at a high level, what you think the top 4 or 5 achievements should be for yourself over the next (normally) quarter. By writing this out – each KPI as one sentence - you are indicating what is important, and your boss can then either agree or not, but once agreed to, both of you should be in agreement as to what is happening in the next quarter/time period.

2 – So, how do you work out what your KPIs should be?

These shouldn’t be plucked from thin air.  In fact, you probably have access to a number of documents that can help you.  See if you can get your hands on:

  • Your job description
  • The previous job reviews your boss has given you
  • Vision, objectives or goals of your company or department
  • Sales goals
  • Important emails that your boss sent out about strategy or big projects

A typical KPI could be along the lines of:

  • Delivering market-leading consulting services
  • Ensuring we have the best team in the industry
  • Addressing flaws in our delivery across North American operations
  • Making sure we send out invoices and collect payments in a timely manner                                     

3 – Now make them SMART

Next up we need to rationalize your KPIs. I am sure the KPI’s you came up with are awesome at the high level, but now we need to make these ‘real’. How are we going to measure success?

Each KPI needs one or a number of SMART goals.

What is a SMART goal?

SMART is an acronym for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time based. It is true that not all are in universal agreement, but if the letters stand for something else, it is generally with the same definition.

SMART.png
  • Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
  • Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
  • Attainable/Assignable – is it really possible, and who’s doing this.
  • Relevant/Realistic – is it relevant for the business and what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
  • Time-based – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.

Let’s take an example. From our KPI above, “Making sure we send out invoices and collect payments in a timely manner” we need to set at least two SMART goals – one for invoices and one for the collection of payments. Let’s take the first one – invoicing in a timely manner

  • Specific – Invoices
  • Measurable – send out within 24-hours of order being fulfilled, in 98% of the cases over an average week.
  • Attainable/Assignable – Brenda’s doing this, and as right now 70% of invoices are already sent out within 24-hours, so this does seem possible
  • Relevant/Realistic – this is relevant for the business, as debtors pay invoices quicker if they receive the invoice closer to the order fulfillment, so if we achieve this realistic goal, we are making a sizable difference to the business
  • Time-based – we’ll achieve this measurable goal by the end of this quarter

In summary, if your goal can be measured and you can define a timeline to hitting a desirable measure, then you’re getting the hang of this.

4 – Get them approved

Now you have SMART goals that represent your KPIs. You should show them to your manager, who needs to agree on them.  They will be looking for three things:

  • are the priorities of your job role addressed by the KPIs
  • are they meaningful to the organization (will you be making a difference)
  • are they SMART (now you’re an expert in this, it should be a breeze)

5 – Get on and do the work

Once you have agreed your KPIs and SMART goals with your manager, the easy stuff happens. You get on and do your job for the quarter.

You can expect that your manager (if they are any good) will be coming to you during the quarter to see how you’re doing. When they do, then reiterate your SMART goals, reaffirm if they are still achievable (according to the metrics and timeline), and if there is any doubt, speak to your manager about what they can do to help you hit the goal.

These can now be objective discussions. If you are halfway through the time period, and you are half way to your desired goal, then (all things being linear) you’re in a good place.

6 – What happens at the quarter end?

Firstly, you report back to your manager with the results for each SMART goal. If the goal was realistic, you are good at your job, and nothing unforeseen occurred, then the goal should be met and your manager should be very happy (as should you be).  If the goal was not met, then you can expect to discuss this to work out where improvements can be made.

At this time, you’ll be also submitting your next goals. Some may be repeated, and some may be new – that all depends on your job role and responsibilities.

That’s it.

What we love about KPI’s and SMART goals is that they are simple, they are relevant for all organizations, are applicable for all level of workers, and they really do work to keep team members happier.

 

5 Key Points to Raising Prices to Make Greater Profit

It’s a challenge every business faces at some point in its lifecycle—the need to raise prices in order to maintain operations and secure revenue to finance future growth. But the marketplace is littered with companies that attempted to achieve this goal but lost much of their valued customer base. One wrong step along the price-increase process and customers can feel mistreated, alienated and turned off enough to no longer purchase the company’s goods or services, even if they’ve been rewarded in the past with quality care and products.

The key to raising prices is designing the right strategy, coupled with a sense of timing and an all-out communications effort to persuade a loyal customer base that the price hike is both appropriate and promising of better things to come. Here are tactics to consider when you’re ready to raise prices:

Leave no ambiguity about the services you provide. Hopefully, you’ve laid the groundwork to clearly differentiate between what your business provides and how it stacks up compared to what’s offered by the competition. But it never hurts to further expand upon how your specific solutions effectively address problems that your customers can’t find elsewhere.

A good time for a price hike is when you can upgrade your product’s differentiating factor into an even more streamlined solution for the problems your customers face.

Incorporate price hikes in your strategic plans. Some companies mistakenly wait for what seems to customers an arbitrary time to suddenly announce a price increase in their goods and services. Instead, consider incorporating a comprehensive pricing strategy as part of your long-range business objectives, thus anticipating the influence of market forces, competitive gains in the marketplace, and other factors.

Being in a position where you can anticipate the next scheduled price hike enables you to prepare your customer base for that eventuality.

Investigate tiered pricing opportunities. Different customers may be willing to pay different prices for your business offerings. Multiple price points often make sense for retail and service businesses but can be applied to any business that offers a tiered pricing system with varying levels of service (or product upgrades) at different prices. This approach also gets customers more comfortable with price increases, making it possible to introduce across-the-board price hikes at a later date.

Communicate intentions in a positive light. Any increase in costs to customers will incur some level of push-back. For this reason, it’s critically important to communicate ahead of time your intention to take this step. Moreover, framing your message in a positive light—rather than blaming inflation or your own manufacturing/distribution expenses—can smooth the path toward eventual acceptance.

Emphasize your ongoing commitment to the highest product quality and most efficient customer service, as well as any investments your business has made in expanding personnel or acquiring state-of-the-art technology. Price increases go down better if the customer feels your business is spending money to improve its quality for them.

Test a price increase. It’s natural to expect objections from customers, but that’s not always the case with a rise in prices. “Your best customers might even wonder why you haven’t done it sooner,” notes Small Business BC, which adds that if you do have concerns about your existing client basis, “you could always introduce the changed pricing on new clients only.” This helps you gauge the effect of higher prices for your products in the marketplace.

Finally, help cushion the impact of a proposed rise in prices by offering one-time consultation services or other form of specialized assistance to your customers. This demonstrates how important they are to you, as well as your willingness to go above and beyond on their behalf.

Want to learn more about strategic planning and price increases? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!

Writing the Perfect Job Description

Need a job description template to simplify the process of developing a job description? This job description template provides a guide for you to use to develop your own job descriptions for your organization.

It's a 1-2-3 step process.

If you're recruiting, then add sections 4 & 5.

Here's a useful job description template to give you a starting point when writing your own job descriptions. There are some great templates online to get you started – because let’s face it, a lot of positions are transferable between different companies and industries. I suggest checking out Workable, Monster or Proven.

1 - Title of Job

2 - Position Description:

Write a one-paragraph description of what the position does within your organization. Think of this as their role.

For example, an Accountant at a small/medium sized company:

The Accountant will handle prepare, compute, manage, research and analyze all accounting data, in order to provide quantitative information on performance, financial position, solvency, liquidity and cash flows of our business to the business owner.

3 - Major Areas of Responsibility

Use bullet points to list the major areas covered by this position.

For example, an Accountant at a small/medium sized company might list responsibilities that include, but are not a comprehensive list, such as these:

The major areas the Accountant manages includes:

  • Manage all accounting operations based on accounting principles
  • Prepare budget and financial forecasts
  • Publish financial statements in time
  • Conduct month-end and year-end close process
  • Collect, analyze and summarize account information
  • Compute taxes and prepare tax returns, balance sheet, profit/loss statement etc
  • Develop periodic reports for management
  • Audit financial transactions and document accounting control procedures
  • Keep information confidential and secure them with random database backups
  • Keep up with financial policies, regulation and legislation

What you have above, is the three simple steps for a great job description.

If you are in a recruitment mode, then you can add to your job description to give details to potential recruits: 

4 - Required Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities

In this section of the job description, list each essential responsibility that the job holder must be able to perform satisfactorily to do the job successfully. Note that these requirements are representative, but not all-inclusive, of the knowledge, skill, and ability required to perform this job. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions.

Job Requirements

  • Broad knowledge and experience in:
  • Above average skills in:
  • Excellent skills in:
  • Demonstrated ability to:
  • Demonstrated ability to:
  • Demonstrated ability to:
  • General knowledge of:
  • Experience in:
  • Other:

Education and Experience

  • Degree or equivalent experience:
  • Years of experience:
  • Specialized training in:
  • Active affiliations:
  • Other requirements (certifications and so forth):

5 - Physical Location

Lastly, be clear about where the team member needs to be, and how much of the time they are required in the office or on the road/travelling.

Job descriptions are further covered in Nick's best selling book - Exactly Where You Want To Be: A Business Owner’s Guide to Passion, Profit and Happiness. Pick up your copy of the book on Amazon.

6 Tips for Winning Back Lost Customers

Sooner or later every business loses a valued customer. Needs change, problems occur, personalities differ. But nowhere is it written that a lost customer must stay lost. In fact, the mark of a successful business is its ability to determine why customers stray and to take action that, over time, effectively brings at least some of them back into the fold.

Here are six tips to keep in mind when you decide to focus your energies on regaining customers lost to your business in the past:

1. Reach out to former customers. Some businesses just write off lost customers, as though they’ve disappeared or gone into hiding. On the contrary, those customers are still out there. It’s up to you to reach out and re-establish a connection. If possible, approach them via a more personalized route than email. A phone call or even a written letter may prove to be the “pleasant surprise” needed to get these customers to respond to your inquiries.

2. Determine the reason for defection. Customers don’t stop purchasing a company’s products or services for no reason. While their departure may have nothing to do with the quality of your offering, nonetheless, it’s entirely possible that they left because of some related element of dissatisfaction. Your business can only improve if you clearly understand why this happened.

Business author Geoffrey James recommends asking two key questions of former clients: (1) Why have you decided to leave our business? (2) What can we do to bring you back as a happy customer?

It’s a “no-lose proposition,” James contends. Ideally, “customers will be so impressed with your curiosity and concern they’ll reconsider their decision to leave.” At the very least, “you’ll learn what’s driving customers away so that you can make corrections.”

3. Apologize sincerely and take responsibility. If the cause for defection relates to the quality of your product or shortcomings in customer service, it’s time to issue a sincere apology. But don’t stop there.

“Saying ‘I’m sorry you’re unhappy’ isn’t enough,” writes business owner Vladimir Gendelman. Even if your company isn’t technically at fault, “make it clear that you can understand why they would be upset, and that you’ve taken steps to make their next purchase more satisfactory.”

4. Reassess your business operations. It’s not easy taking criticism, justified or not, but learning what drove a customer away means looking objectively at the way your company conducts business. Sometimes you can achieve this goal on your own, but for many CEOs and business owners, getting clear-headed advice and guidance from outside sources can make all the difference in the world. (Joining TAB and attending Business Owner Advisory Board Meetings guarantees you’ll receive honest, insightful feedback on your customer service and all other business operations.)

5. Begin the process of re-establishing relationships. Lost customers aren’t “found” overnight. It may take awhile to win back the trust of a customer who feels they’ve been short-changed in the past.

One viable strategy is to ask permission to resume contact and regularly share key industry information with a former customer. Learn more about their particular needs and challenges, and begin sending on articles, white papers, blog posts, etc. that can help provide solutions to those challenges. In this way, your business takes on a new identity as a “trusted partner” in helping customers grow.

6. Land a one-off project and prove your worth (again). A former customer may be understandably reluctant about hiring you on a full-time business resource. Instead, bid competitively on a single project—or offer to provide a different product or service altogether—and do everything in your power to “wow” the former customer. If things go well, you can move forward incrementally and demonstrate with certainty that you’re fully committed to satisfying the newly-found customer in every way possible.

Acquiring new customers if far more costly than retaining the ones you have. The ROI of reclaiming a lost customer, therefore, is well worth the time and effort involved.

Think your business could benefit from a TAB Board? Apply for membership today!

What is a ‘Buyer Persona’ and How Can It Boost Your Sales?

These days, it’s virtually impossible to lump all customers together and try to market to them the same way. Thanks to ecommerce and other consumer-empowering changes in the marketplace, the audiences you aim to serve have moved from one large, undifferentiated mass to many subsets with individual tastes and preferences, needs and challenges.

If you’re not careful, your team can waste valuable time and resources chasing after unqualified prospects who don’t really want or need your products. That’s what happens when a business relies upon a one-size-fits-all approach to customer acquisition.

So how can you adjust your sales and marketing efforts to identify qualified prospects and best serve your company’s various niche markets? One key strategy involves building “buyer personas.”

You already have broad-based demographic information about your customer base. But creating buyer personas “takes that a step further to include psychographic information based on actual current client and target prospect research to focus on why your target customer makes a purchase decision.”

Here are tips to help construct buyer personas that fit your business and industry:

Organize your search for relevant data. A thorough profile of your customer emerges from numerous sources. Start by asking your current customers why they buy your products or services (as opposed to those of your competitors). What specific problems do your offerings solve? How do these products improve their own businesses and/or lives? Also, reach out to former customers and ask for candid assessments of what you did right (and wrong) when they were buying from you.

Look at trends and solicit online information. Most sales leads follow a certain pattern or trend; the key is analyzing the data to see what those patterns indicate. Have your sales team look closely at which customer appeals are most effective, and with which group of customers. Compile information relating to customer age, gender, location, job title, education level, etc. Make sure the team understands why customers make the decision to purchase your products—and, conversely, why other prospects choose not to buy.

Focus on solving problems. One or more buyer personas will emerge from all this data. You’ll have a fairly sophisticated profile of what your customers are like. The key from there is looking beyond who these people are and concentrating instead on what it is they require from you and your business. What problems do they face that you may not have considered before? Are there ways to upgrade your products to better solve these problems?

Create an ideal customer experience. By understanding a buyer persona, you can alter your messaging and the content you share on your website and social media. This will inform every stage of the marketing process, including product packaging and advertising, and customer follow-up after a purchase is made. You know the people you’re selling to, so you can reframe your message in ways that genuinely resonate with them.

Often, crafting a buyer persona will narrow the scope of your sales leads—since you’re not trying to attract everyone with one generic message across the board. There’s always a concern when your team is reaching out to fewer prospects. But by leveraging buyer personas and other pertinent data, the result will likely be a higher percentage of qualified leads, ready to move through the sales funnel, with less time and money spent on the qualification process.

Want more advice on improved marketing strategies for your business? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!

Buyer Personas to Prequalify Prospects

Do you receive a lot of inquiries from potential customers that turn out to be unqualified? While sales is a numbers game, you need to make sure you remain focused on your core competencies. If you are spending too much time on prospects that aren’t qualified, then your marketing process isn’t doing its job. Make sure your website and other marketing materials are very clear about who you work with.

Every business person knows about target markets, and you have likely defined your target market based on demographic targets such as gender, age, location, etc. Buyer personas take that a step further to include psychographic information based on actual current client and target prospect research to focus on why your target customer makes a purchase decision.

Pro Business Tip: Start developing your buyer personas by asking these 9 Questions You Need to Ask When Developing Buyer Personas. Do not rely only on your own answers to these questions, but include your sales team, current clients, past clients, and people who have not become clients. Also, consider implementing a survey for leads who ultimately decided to purchase from a competitor or substitute.

By now, you may be wondering what buyer personas have to do with prequalifying prospects. It boils down to the cliché example of the buyer who wants a hole, not a drill. If you take the time to develop your buyer persona, you will have a deeper understanding not just of who your ideal customer is, but what they need.

Once you have developed your buyer personas and understand who they are, you can begin to craft your marketing messaging and communications around your ideal customer. By targeting your message, you will find that your marketing is generating a lower number of leads, but a higher percentage of those leads will be qualified to move into the sales funnel, thus saving time and money in the qualification process.

To learn more about buyer personas and to help streamline your marketing pipeline, be sure to contact us today!

 

Embracing Changing Technology Gives your Business a Competitive Advantage

We all know technology is changing at warp speed, so it’s easy for small businesses to feel they can’t keep up—or worse, to feel too intimidated to even try to do so. There’s also the concern that implementing new technology is both costly and laden with potential risks.

This can sometimes lead to a mentality among CEOs and business owners that it’s safer to stick with “what you know.” But, the business that we see today that are killing it, have their fingers on the pulse when it comes to technology adoption.

Dan Hoffman at Business.com says, “for whatever investments a business owner incurs upgrading their business model, if done correctly, they can expect up to between 400 to 900 percent return on that investment after just a few months.” That’s because of improvements in digital technology, and related areas, have the potential to dramatically improve and streamline business operations.

For example, to what extent is your company invested in the use of big data? If you’ve been slow to adopt big data analysis, your business may be at a severe competitive disadvantage. After all, there’s a ton of valuable customer data out there, and you can be sure larger companies are mining that data for every buying insight they can find.

According to Small Business Trends, big data describes “large sets of structured and unstructured data” that fit into the “3V model” of big data analysis. The 3Vs are:

Volume—Storing data collected from sales transactions, social media, etc.
Velocity—Capturing data that streams in real-time
Variety—The wide array of data to be collected (text, video, audio, images)

Why is this important? Analyzing data compiled through the 3V model offers an in-depth understanding of the reasons behind customer purchasing behaviors, which can help you decide which product lines are worth the most in terms of promotion and ROI. Big data can also assist in predicting what your customers want in advance—valuable information to have in terms of planned future upgrades or a new product launch.

Maybe your small business doesn’t need big data quite yet… there are still other significant benefits of embracing changes in technology. Smaller companies can always benefit from:

●      More effective internal communications, when all employees utilize a cloud-based system for staying in touch with each other and with your customers

●      Greater lead capture and conversions through an optimized website, designed to entice customers to provide contact information and feed the sales pipeline on a continual basis

●      Opportunities to encourage customer feedback and interactivity, thus enhancing your brand on social media and enabling you to stay on top of customer buying trends

●      Greater leadership visibility through tracking and dashboard software that enables business owners to closely monitor levels of employee productivity (for example, making progress on key company initiatives)

●      Protecting yourself from cyber-crimes and being held cyber-hostage that can cost you money and time

Of course, no single individual can hope to stay current with every advance in technology. But by hiring the right people and giving them the proper resources—and by staying informed through industry updates and information from organizations like TAB—executives can feel more empowered about leveraging the benefits of new technology as they arise.

In other words, to remain competitive in the marketplace, there’s really no other option than enthusiastically embracing the opportunities new technology provides.

Want more advice on making your business more productive? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!

5 Tips for Recovering from a Cyber Attack

Small businesses are increasingly aware that cyber-crime can strike any enterprise, not just Fortune 500 companies. This realization comes not a moment too soon, since various studies estimate that nearly 50% of cyber-attacks specifically target small businesses to achieve their nefarious objectives.

Why? Cyber security expert Joseph Steinberg points to several alarming factors:

  • Small businesses are considered more likely to give in to ransomware and pay hackers to restore urgently needed data.
  • Small businesses that regularly work with larger companies may be “a hacker’s golden ticket into a larger enterprise.”
  • Many small businesses lack a sophisticated line of cyber-defense.

Your business should take steps to guard against data theft, but even so, there’s no such thing as 100%-guaranteed protection. So, what happens when a cyber-attack occurs? Here are five mission-critical steps to keep in mind:

1. Fall back on your contingency plan. Your best defense lies in crafting a comprehensive assessment of your IT system’s strengths and weaknesses before a cyber-crime occurs. A thorough evaluation (not conducted during a time of crisis) can objectively determine where and how a malicious virus or hacker can breach your defenses. Encourage your IT team to brainstorm every possible contingency and come up with an action plan to protect against them.

2. Ascertain the extent of the damage. The first step following a verified cyber-attack is assessing the extent of damage to your system. Get your IT team—or a trusted third-party vendor—to scour the system and isolate any infected areas. Analyze incident data. Determine if internal security protocols were adhered to and, if not, pinpoint where the breakdown took place.

Also, as part of the assessment process, be prepared to enlist third-party expertise “to help handle and mitigate the fallout,” says data protection expert Ermis Sfakiyanudis. This includes “legal counsel [and] outside investigators who can conduct a thorough forensic investigation” that definitively details how much damage has taken place.

3. Validate the integrity of your data backup. Since many cyber-attacks take the form of encrypting precious data and rendering it inaccessible to you and your business, it’s critically important to have redundant data storage systems up and running at all times. These redundant servers and ancillary equipment must be maintained apart from your primary system, to protect against “collateral damage” from a virus or malware.

4. Repair the damage. If and when an attack does occur, “it’s time to begin the restoration process,” advises IT security specialist Andrew Douthwaite. Reformat hard drive volumes. Reinstall operating systems and applications. Adds Douthwaite: “After the breach it’s vital that you verify your backups are good.”

5. Notify constituencies about the cyber-attack without evasion or ambiguity. Virtually all IT security experts agree on the importance of communicating with various constituencies in a clear, forthright manner. To employees, customers, vendors and—if necessary—the media, you should share as many details of the incident as appropriate and outline the actions you’ve taken to repair the damage and ensure against future attacks.

Any executive’s initial impulse might be to deny or mitigate the truth, but remember—the integrity of your brand is at stake. Attempting to misstate or spin what happened in a way you think may bolster your image is extremely risky. A certain amount of consumer trust is lost when news breaks of a successful cyber-attack; if customers or employees or the media then suspect you’re covering up what happened, more trust will be lost, possibly forever.

Planning for the worst is the most effective strategy. As part of that effort, revisit your crisis plan at regular intervals, recognizing that technology (and company personnel) keep changing as well.

To try and keep yourself from being a target for a cyber-criminal in the first place, register to watch our BOSS Webinar about Why Small Businesses are a Cyber Criminal’s Favorite Target, at 9 a.m. (PDT) Wednesday, August 16, 2017.

To find out how to better manage your business, speak to us about business coaching and peer-advisory boards.

Five Tips to Launch your Recruiting through Social Media

Increasingly, smart businesses owners in search of talented new team members are turning to social media as part of their overall recruitment strategy. “Social recruiting” seeks to leverage the power of various social media platforms to strengthen the employers brand, attract interest among qualified job-seekers, and build a pipeline of talent to tap into for future growth.

In today’s economy, it’s becoming even harder to recruit – so you need every competitive advantage. If your business already has an active social media profile, it’s no great leap to expand into social recruiting. If not, you may be losing out in the “talent wars” to other, more nimble competitors.  And let’s face it, we all do our research online, so why would a recruit look anywhere else to see if they fit into your corporate culture?

Here are five ways to get the best new team members using social media:

Promote your brand on all platforms. Everything you post on your company’s website and social media platforms—from blog posts to company news, images and videos—should be filtered through the lens of brand awareness and company culture. Always gauge the potential impact of your content through the eyes of prospective team members. Is what you’re posting likely to attract them or turn them off? Are you portraying your business as a place where people would like to work or are you discouraging further interest?

Seek out and establish relationships with influencers. Just as it’s important to engage in influencer marketing, so you can boost your recruitment efforts by building ties with influencers in the realm of social recruiting. Seek out industry influencers with sizable networks, share their content and offer content of your own. As the relationships grow, you can begin touting job opportunities in your company—reaching a far greater audience than might otherwise be possible.

Get active on millennial-focused platforms. Sure, it’s important to be active on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, but you won’t necessarily generate a lot of interest there among millennials. Take time to explore Snapchat, Instagram and other sites where millennials “hang out.” Building your presence on these sites can result in greater brand awareness among the job-seekers you most wish to attract.

Encourage your current team to generate leads. Existing team member referrals are always a promising source for potentially qualified job candidates. Take this a step further by encouraging your team to promote open job opportunities via their own social media networks. Your objective is to have recruiting referrals (so set up a program that incents your team).

“Simply talking casually about enjoying a company vacation, feeling supported at work, or being glad about something that the employer is doing for them can make an impression on their followers,” notes Business.com. “But you want it to be genuine.”

Look to the future. Social recruiting bears only a cursory resemblance to recruiting teams “back in the day.” In today’s era, cultivating relationships is just as important as lining up applicants for your latest job opening. Whether you expend your efforts on LinkedIn, Facebook or other sites, the key is nurturing a pipeline of qualified candidates—individuals who show an interest in your company by following you on social media, commenting on your posts, sharing content with others—and then reaching out to those candidates when the time is right.

In many ways, social media has dramatically altered the way business gets done. It’s also an increasingly useful resource for attracting the right people from the emerging talent pool and putting those talents to use in your company.

Want more advice on recruiting and retaining great employees? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!

 

8 Key Elements to Build More Efficiency into Your Business

“How do I make my business more efficient?” is a question business owners and CEOs are always asking me. While what constitutes “efficiency” might differ from one business to the next, an efficient business is one that delivers its products/services without excessive cost, effort or waste. The result of this focus on efficiency means such businesses can afford to deploy greater resources for growth-related operations (including research and development, sales, and marketing) while keeping expenditures down and profits high. Or, just maybe, if you’re an owner/operator, you can work a few less hours in the week (and wouldn’t that be nice?).

So, how can you go about building more efficiency into your business? As any TAB Business Owner Advisory Board Member might tell you, look first into your own style of working and leadership and then the rest of the business:

1 - Get out of “reactive” mode. Too many CEOs waste valuable time and energy focusing on tasks that are urgent, but not important. “Putting out fires” shouldn’t be at the top of your job description. Click here to learn helpful tips to be more “active”.

2 – Delegation. Improving efficiency begins by looking closely at where you’re losing time, but this requires that you acknowledge when you’re being stubborn and when you’re refusing to let go of the reins. In other words, start delegating today.

3 – Be specific – very specific. Never hold a meeting without a specified purpose and time-limit. Let’s face it - company meetings are inefficient. We call them for vague reasons, inviting too many (and therefore, the wrong) people, and no one dares suggest the meeting should end sooner, rather than later. Stop this madness today.

4 – Smaller time slices. Look at the possibility of convening a 5- or 15-minute meeting of the day or stand up meeting where team members can quickly describe their current work situation and then release people to go do their jobs.

5 – Communicate clearly. Often business don’t have a centralized method for sharing valuable information. With modern technology, there’s no excuse for not keeping everyone in the loop. Whether through video conferencing or cloud-based systems, don’t sacrifice efficiency due to miscommunication or other related issues.

6 – Motivation. Pay attention to team morale. Happy team members are generally more productive and efficient. When you go to the trouble of hiring smart, talented people, it only makes good business sense to see that they’re well compensated, enjoy great benefits and have continuous opportunities for development. Click here to learn 8 tips to boost employee morale.

7 – Outsource as much as you can. Your business is very good at making and/or delivering a product or service to customers. It may not be particularly efficient in certain key operational areas, such as IT, HR, accounting, and so on. In all these areas, outsourcing these services to companies who focus on providing efficient service to client companies may costs less than what your business spends now internally – and it allows you to focus on what you’re great at.

8 – Plan for the worst. Always have a disaster management plan in place. It may not be a flood or earthquake or tsunami, but some unforeseen event can cripple your business if you don’t plan. Being efficient includes contingency planning and devoting resources and information to take decisive action if a natural or man-made disaster occurs. Commit to a comprehensive analysis of specific potential threats and what you can do to mitigate them. Itemize your most valuable assets and layout crisis-management steps to keep these assets safe and secure.

Want more advice on making your business more efficient? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!

Job openings in America are at a record high! 9 tips on how business owners can recruit the talent they need.

Job openings in the U.S. rose to the highest on record in April 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Openings totaled 6.04 million, according to the monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey released this week.

The high number of openings underscores the challenges that some employers have filling positions, eight years after the recession, especially for jobs that require specialized skills. The number of hires fell by 253,000 to 5.05 million, the lowest since April 2016. 

And that’s exactly what business owners that I coach are telling me – it’s difficult to find and hire talent.

So, here are 9 things to help you get that perfect team member.

1. Know what you want

Are you directly replacing a role? Or does the role need to be revised to suit the needs of the business? If you have a clear outline of the job to be filled, then it is more likely you will get applicants who fit the criteria you are after. Having specific experience, qualities and cultural points will enable you to attract the kind of team member you want for the job.

A vague job description will lead to numerous applicants that are not fit for the role, or a team member who was expecting a different role to the one they end up performing.

2. Ask your current team… and then everyone else you network with

Good team members are often found and recruited by referral from a current team member. Most people will only recommend someone they believe will be a good worker, since a bad hire might tarnish their personal or professional reputation.

Consider adding an incentive for current team members to refer a candidate for a job opening, with a reward for a successful application. I suggest breaking it down a little - a smaller incentive to just recommend a name (maybe they heard about someone, where you do the research and contact) and a larger one if this is someone they know and have influence with.

Next ask everyone you network with – in person and through online platforms. Partners, customers and even family/friends are often happy to help. And of course it’s all good publicity as it shows your company is prospering and can afford to have new team members (funnily enough, this is the perception even if you are replacing).

3. Be attractive in your marketing

The market has changed, and you need to action that. Even if you find a good candidate, they may have other offers and opportunities – so market to them – sell to them.

If you’re marketing to Millennials then think like one. Do you know a Millennial that doesn’t like watching a video?  Then get your phone out, put it on your selfie stick and take one and a half minutes to explain a little about your company, while you walk around it – they’ll pick up the culture pretty quickly and know if it’s a good fit – because Millennials are all about the cultural fit.

The interview stage is a good time to sell your company to the candidate. Make it be known why people find it fun to work with you and at your company.

It’s likely you’re in a competitive environment to win this candidate from other offers, so don’t be afraid to ask them about that. If you can find out which other offers they are considering you can talk to it. Candidates look at far more than just the remuneration… location, their manager and peers are all critical to this decision.

6. Select like a ninja

Use the best technology at your fingertips to find and select. You do not want to take time searching through multiple applicants. That can really sap your time. Use pre-qualification questions and let technology help you push the best candidates to the top of the pile.

A lot of people I am working with are also asking for the candidates Facebook and LinkedIn profiles (check your local laws about whether that is possible where you operate).

7. Re-evaluate your hiring process

Is it too long? Overly complicated? Do you keep in touch with the candidate while making a decision?

Candidates move quicker today, so should employers. The most important thing here is to keep the candidate updated on a regular basis. Communication every 48 hours is not overdoing it.

Don’t let your own internal business day-to-day slow down the process.

8. Background checks

Do them!  Spend less than $50 to find out what you need to find out. In addition, do your own cyber research.

True story: last week, during an interview, the hiring manager was looking down the candidate’s Facebook page and five posts in it said, “If I get through today without killing any co-workers it will be a miracle”. Disqualified.

9. Treat the new recruit’s family like royally

So, here’s what really happens. A team member goes home one day, tiered/frustrated and says to their significant other, ‘bad day!’ The supporting significant other says, ‘you should look for something else if it’s getting you down.’

That’s what starts the job search journey.

Having the significant other on your side really helps.

When your new team member starts (that very day), send an appropriate gift to their home thanking their family for allowing you to share them.

What is the first thing your team member is going to be asked when they get home? ‘How is the new job?’

Now you have two people agreeing this is the best new job ever.

How is your recruiting going?

If you have tips to share we’d all love to hear.

Business Owners – how to be the best boss in the world

Employee development used to be a luxury only big businesses could indulge in. That’s no longer the case and especial for business owners of small and medium businesses. To maintain a competitive edge in today’s marketplace, business owners must put a priority on building the skills sets of their team, to contend with ever-constant changes in both technology and market conditions – but more importantly – to keep your best team members.

If you’re looking to accelerate the quality of team development within your company, here are several tips to keep in mind:

A commitment to development begins at the top. Sometimes team members are sent the message that training is all-important, but then they see little participation or support from the business owner. This disconnect can weaken a team development initiative right from the start.

Business owner buy-in is “essential, and training programs can flourish when upper management recognizes the value of training, provides support, and participates in creating concrete objectives,” writes HR expert Steve Rossetti. Never forget, he adds, “that senior management are employees, too.”

If you’re a TAB Member (or thinking of becoming a TAB Member), you’re already demonstrating a commitment to developing your own skills—a point well worth making as you bolster your team training program.

Make training a regular part of each team’s work schedule. A one-time “training event” rarely delivers much return on investment, experts say. It’s more efficient to establish a schedule of ongoing development workshops or classes, because (a) this sets up the expectation and understanding among employees that training is a key part of their job responsibilities; and (b) continuous training reinforces key lessons and makes far more of an impact than any once-a-year or semi-annual event.

For bonus points – make it part of their KPIs.

Offer a range of learning options. Training is not the type of program that succeeds with a “one-size-fits-all” structure. Obviously, team members (like anyone else) learn at their own pace—not to mention having different workloads and job responsibilities—so it’s more effective to provide flexible learning options, including mobile and on-demand opportunities for training that better fit their schedules and ability to absorb new information.

This is particularly important, considering an average workplace might have as many as five different generations of employees working there. A serious commitment to development involves recognizing how different generations best absorb new information (millennials, for example, expect training to incorporate mobile devices as part of the learning process), in order to succeed.

Not to mention – your team may not be in one location.

If all this sounds like a significant expenditure of time and resources, remember the benefits your organization will reap with an effective employee development program:

Aids in recruitment and retention. The ability to acquire knowledge and further one’s career through training is a powerful recruitment and retention tool. Higher-quality job candidates will look more closely at your company if they see a genuine commitment to training built into your culture. In this way, your business can emerge as an employer of choice in the hunt for new, high-quality job candidates.

Builds a cadre of potential leaders. Employees who might otherwise be “stuck” in their positions can, through proper development, emerge as authentic leaders in their own right. In this way, you’re gaining a talent pool of potential team leaders and managers—a significant benefit, when you consider all the effort required to look outside the organization for such individuals.

Keeps your focus on the future. Team development necessarily centers around changes in meeting customer needs and adapting to new conditions in the marketplace. This focus on what lies ahead benefits everyone in the organization—from HR and marketing to IT and sales. It keeps everyone on their toes and looking ahead, rather than backward at “what worked in the past.”

Companies that go beyond paying lip service to team development reap the benefits of this type of initiative. Don’t overlook the value of a skilled, learning workforce as a key ingredient towards the growth of your business.

Want more advice on team development or general advice from other business owners like you? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!

Make Your Marketing Message Contagious

Make Your Marketing Message Contagious

Jonah Berger first caught my attention in this Fast Company article (“Fifty Percent of ‘The Tipping Point’ is Wrong”). The article positions him as the new Malcolm Gladwell and challenges some accepted theory of The Tipping Point.

Berger is a Marketing Professor at the Wharton School of Business. At Stanford, he was a student of Chip Heath, author of the marketing classic Made to Stick. Made to Stick describes why messages stick with audiences. Berger has taken this concept a step further in his bestselling book Contagious: Why Things Catch On. Berger examines why certain products get more word-of-mouth marketing and why some online content goes viral...

May 4 – Star Wars Personalities for your Business – are you Han Solo?

If you can understand your own personality and the personalities of others around you, then you are on a roadmap for success and can build meaningful connections.

You’ve probably already heard of the 16 personality types that The Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) can provide you. Incase you’re not aware, the MBTI is an introspective self-report questionnaire designed to indicate psychological preferences in how people perceive the world around them and make decisions.

The test measures sensation, intuition, feeling, and thinking – and then ascertains that one of these four functions is dominant for a person most of the time.

So, in Myers–Briggs fashion – here’s what you need to know about the characters in Star Wars:

A lot of the entrepreneurs and business owners that I deal with are ESTP personalities. If you see Han Solo in yourself then this is what you need to know:

ESTP personality types always have an impact on their immediate surroundings – the best way to spot them at a party is to look for the whirling eddy of people flitting about them as they move from group to group. Laughing and entertaining with a blunt and earthy humor, ESTP personalities love to be the center of attention. If an audience member is asked to come on stage, ESTPs volunteer – or volunteer a shy friend.

Laugh it up, fuzzball!

Theory, abstract concepts and plodding discussions about global issues and their implications don’t keep ESTPs interested for long. ESTPs keep their conversation energetic, with a good dose of intelligence, but they like to talk about what is – or better yet, to just go out and do it. ESTPs leap before they look, fixing their mistakes as they go, rather than sitting idle, preparing contingencies and escape clauses.

Never tell me the odds!

ESTPs are the likeliest personality type to make a lifestyle of risky behavior. They live in the moment and dive into the action – they are the eye of the storm. People with the ESTP personality type enjoy drama, passion, and pleasure, not for emotional thrills, but because it’s so stimulating to their logical minds. They are forced to make critical decisions based on factual, immediate reality in a process of rapid-fire rational stimulus response.

Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.

This makes school and other highly organized environments a challenge for ESTPs. It certainly isn’t because they aren’t smart, and they can do well, but the regimented, lecturing approach of formal education is just so far from the hands-on learning that ESTPs enjoy. It takes a great deal of maturity to see this process as a necessary means to an end, something that creates more exciting opportunities.

Also challenging is that to ESTPs, it makes more sense to use their own moral compass than someone else’s. Rules were made to be broken. This is a sentiment few high school instructors or corporate supervisors are likely to share, and can earn ESTP personalities a certain reputation. But if they minimize the trouble-making, harness their energy, and focus through the boring stuff, ESTPs are a force to be reckoned with.

Look, I ain't in this for your revolution, and I'm not in it for you, princess. I expect to be well paid. I'm in it for the money.

With perhaps the most perceptive, unfiltered view of any type, ESTPs have a unique skill in noticing small changes. Whether a shift in facial expression, a new clothing style, or a broken habit, people with this personality type pick up on hidden thoughts and motives where most types would be lucky to pick up anything specific at all. ESTPs use these observations immediately, calling out the change and asking questions, often with little regard for sensitivity.

I still get a funny feeling about that old man and the kid. I'm not sure what it is about them, but they're trouble.

ESTPs should remember that not everyone wants their secrets and decisions broadcast.

Sometimes ESTPs’ instantaneous observation and action is just what’s required, as in some corporate environments, and especially in emergencies.

If ESTPs aren’t careful though, they may get too caught in the moment, take things too far, and run roughshod over more sensitive people, or forget to take care of their own health and safety. Making up only four percent of the population, there are just enough ESTPs out there to keep things spicy and competitive, and not so many as to cause a systemic risk.

ESTPs are full of passion and energy, complemented by a rational, if sometimes distracted, mind. Inspiring, convincing and colorful, they are natural group leaders, pulling everyone along the path less traveled, bringing life and excitement everywhere they go. Putting these qualities to a constructive and rewarding end is ESTPs’ true challenge.

Great, kid. Don't get cocky.

4 Tips to Boost your Sales by Kick-Starting your Influencer Marketing

Your company’s marketing efforts are up against some stiff competition. Way back in 2014, the research firm Yankelovich estimated that “the average American is exposed to 5,000 advertisements a day” (and we can all imagine that number has grown since then). As a result, your target customer have become increasingly impervious to ads, banners, pop-ups and other attempts to draw their attention to any particular product or service.

What’s the solution to overcoming this blizzard of images and ads that fewer people pay attention to? For many businesses, the answer lies in influencer marketing.

In case the term is unfamiliar, it’s pretty much what it sounds like, that is, “the action of promoting and selling products or services through people (influencers) who have the capacity to have an effect on the character of a brand.” And in our era of social media, influencer marketing has largely shifted from relying on superstar athletes and Hollywood celebrities to aligning with individuals with massive followings on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.

If you feel influencer marketing has potential to dramatically enhance awareness of your brand, keep these tips in mind:

1 - Be selective about the influencers you pursue. Obviously, an influencer should possess a following whose tastes and needs correspond to your offerings. Research influencers before asking them to endorse or otherwise promote your products or services, to ensure that you’re connecting with likely prospective customers.

In the same respect, it’s not necessary to chase after “A-list” influencers with the largest social media audience. As communications strategist Linda Landers notes, “If your influencers are reaching the target market for your brand, then you’ve hit the jackpot, no matter how large or small their audience may be.”

2 - Clarify your goals. Associating with a key influencer can assist your business in a variety of ways, so it’s helpful to determine beforehand where they might be most effective. As noted, boosting brand awareness is a common objective, but there may also be opportunities to:

• Actively generate sales leads
• Reach a wholly new target audience
• Become more visibly active on social media
• Strengthen your relationships with an existing customer base

Knowing what you want to achieve will affect the ways in which you approach influencer marketing.

3 - Reach out to influencers in an authentic, respectful manner. In many ways, key influencers need businesses like your own as much as you might need them. But they will also be selective about whom they associate with. So, don’t rush in like a bull in a china shop. Cultivate a relationship based on an approach of authenticity and respect.

Start slowly, by following the influencer on social media. “From there you can comment on posts, retweet their content, or simply send them a compliment via social media,” advises marketing communications expert Bonnie Harris. Demonstrate a sincere interest in their content and don’t ask for reciprocity “until they see that you also want to do something for them.”

4 - Incorporate influencer marketing in a broader strategic plan. It’s exciting to successfully associate with a prominent social media figure and to begin amassing a whole new set of followers. In the long run, however, influencer marketing is more effective as part of a larger strategy that also draws upon more traditional marketing activities. This way, you can refine your various campaigns to reap the most benefits from a wide range of strategies.

Want more advice on sales and marketing or general advice from other business owners like you? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!

8 Tips to Boost Employee Morale Today

The success of your company is dependent upon the success of your employees. The employee needs three things to be successful, a system to follow (including all the tools required to perform the job), accountability from their supervisor and motivation to keep on going. It’s this last factor – motivation – that can seem so elusive to some company owners.

Let us be clear, it is 100% the job of the company owner to keep the team motivated. Need a little help in this area? This might help:                                                   

1. Set expectations

Employees love to know what is expected from them. We prescribe to the well documented idea of having each employee list their Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for the quarter using SMART goals. Once approved by their manager, the employee now has an objective way to keep their boss happy.

2. Have a daily huddle

Communication is key.  If I walked into your office right now, how much communication is going on (verbally, or online)? A simple, 5-minute standup daily huddle keeps the communication flowing and everyone on point. Daily huddles act as a natural caffeine boost to the morning. And if, like so many teams today, you’re not in the same location – do it virtually by web conference. We love Join Me, for the simplicity, but take your pick from the multiple technology options. The key to business owners – don’t miss even one – wherever you are.

3. Surprise the schedule

You’re the boss, so put a surprise in the schedule.  Maybe it was a long weekend, so let the team start late the first day back in the office.  Maybe it’s the first beach day of the season – so close early at the end of the week. Hump day getting people down – then grab a drink for the team early.

4. Why are you in business?

Your team need to know why you’re in business, beyond the financial reason. Pretty much every company owner I have worked with started their business for the good of something else, for the passion, for the challenge… so share that.

You may be able to also communicate your core values or guiding principles – providing you have them – this will work in the same fashion.

5. Say “thank you” and smile when you say it

Everyone loves to hear “thank you” – so say it often and say it like you mean it. That’s all.

6. Listen. Lots.

When someone is angry, you learn to let them talk it out. It’s the same for team members – sometimes they just need to get it off their chest. So, let them do that.

Remember Men are for Mars, Women are from Venus? Not every comment needs to be acted upon – they are not necessarily complaints.  At least half of the population like to talk it out, so let that happen.

7. Frame the environment.

Scientific study example… the landing page of a sofa company was changed in one way only – the background image. The visitors that saw the image of money (specifically pennies) were more inclined to buy on price. The visitors that saw the image of fluffy clouds were more inclined to buy on comfort (costing more). How do you want your employees to act when they are at work? What can you do about the work environment to support this?

8. Organize something out of the ordinary.

There are hundreds of things that you could do to reward an employee – and they don’t need to cost a fortune. Offer flexible hours, send a thank you note, throw a pizza party, offer primo parking, have a flip flop day /casual Friday, a day off pass, rent them a cool car for a weekend/week/month,  start a wall of fame, get a car detailer to come to the office, name an office room after them, have a masseuse visit the office, arrange an adult education class of their choosing, give them a magazine subscription, get a catered lunch, offer a gas card (or public transportation passes) to cover a month’s worth of travel expenses, movies on the company, support their kids interest (sports or girl scouts), concert tickets, send flowers to the family home, give them a new office chair,  email everyone in the office, lottery tickets, have their home cleaned,  bring the dog to the office, arrange for a singing telegram (what’s that gorilla doing in the office?),  send fruit or cookies arrange for their own personal assistant, an ice cream party, let them choose the background music for the office for a day/week, offer a taxi/Uber service, thank the entire family…

As a business owner, you want to motivate and keep the best team possible – really, little else is more important. So, act now, act today, and not only will your team appreciate it, the word will get out and you’ll start attracting higher caliber potential employees.

The Top 5 Sales Myths Every Business Owner Needs to Know

Every business owner (you and I included) is a sales person at some level. Pretty much 99% of the business owners I work with must sell to customers (potential and/or existing). And we all must sell our ideas to employees, vendors, partners etc.

Then, we move to the next level of a maturing business, where we (as the owner) can’t do all the selling. Either we don’t want to do all that selling, or we realize we can’t do everything in the business (if you get this, then great – your business is doing great).

Here are the 5 sales myths you need to know.

Myth #1: We can pick any employee to learn sales.

Well, perhaps not anyone—but certainly the guy in marketing who’s such a well-known “people person.” Right? In fact, salespeople who are good at what they do are a breed apart. They have a unique ability to strategize and think ahead, regardless of where they are in the sales cycle. They’re also committed to building relationships that don’t have any immediate pay-off. Yes, they’re persistent by nature, but that persistence encompasses much more than making repeated telephone calls. It involves ongoing research and working hard to retain such “soft” information as the name of a client’s fifth-grade daughter.

Myth #2: The right salesperson can convince anyone to buy our product.

Yes, salespeople are persuasive by nature (and training). But the era of mass impulse buying is long past, thanks to the wealth of information available to consumers online. Prospects know a lot more about your business before they’re ever approached by a member of your sales team, so they’ve already made at least a partial decision about whether to consider purchasing your product or service.

Expert salespeople understand the key is determining if a prospect has a genuine need for what they’re selling. They know they could spend all day extolling product features, when all the would-be customer wants to know is, “What’s in it for me?” Such sales veterans aren’t interested in trying to sell to everyone they meet.

Myth #3: CRM and online resources make selling easy.

While it’s true that Customer Relationship Management and the internet’s vast toolkit of resources offer advantages undreamed-of in an earlier time, the best salespeople understand that these resources help pave the way, but aren’t the cause of sales. They use online data to help prepare for their appointments with prospects, but never mistake the web and/or social media as replacing the all-important relationship they build with individual buyers or department managers.

Myth #4: The best salespeople see everyone as the “enemy” (including their fellow employees).

We can pigeonhole salespeople as wildly competitive and out to make themselves better than anyone else, including the people they work with. But don’t fall for the idea that your best performers will be cold-blooded, deal-making machines. Instead, aim for a sales culture within your organization that promotes a team mentality, by rewarding more than just the top performers, and by inspiring confidence in the entire team’s capabilities.

Myth #5: Our sales team must always be closing.

We all fall prey to the notion that sales must focus entirely on “ABC” (always be closing). But, as noted earlier, sales are equally all about relationships. And those relationships must revolve around a discussion of value to the customer, not the salesperson’s need to meet or exceed quotas. Building relationships takes time, so the most effective perspective is long-range, rather than any short-term benefit to the company.

Want more advice for your sales process, or general advice from other business owners like you? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!

6 Qualities of Effective Women Leaders

This week is International Women's Day 2017 and the question is - will you #BeBoldForChange? Some of the most dynamic women I meet lead companies and have no problem with #BeBoldForChange. It lead us to the question:

Do leadership traits differ between men and women?

No one can say definitively, but it remains clear that women executives often face more difficult hurdles than men on the way to becoming CEOs and business leaders.

Here’s a look at six qualities that successful women leaders typically possess and which help them realize their leadership potential.

1. A belief in oneself. For both men and women, there’s a fine line between healthy self-confidence and an oversized, “look at me” ego. Certainly, an unshakeable belief in oneself is an essential trait for women leaders—not in the sense that they should prove they’re better than everyone around them, but rather being able to forge a culture where no one seeks to undermine or demoralize others at their own expense.

In fact, women with a deep sense of self-confidence are often more inclined to accept critiques and feedback on their leadership styles.

2. A willingness to nurture. In the frequently cutthroat world of business, “nurturing” can appear to be a soft or even disposable trait.

While a nurturing spirit is often confused with being lackadaisical or an inability to hold people accountable – this is simple not often the case. Being a nurturer, having a sense of being fair and just, and use of our women’s intuition are some of our strongest traits.

3. A focus on achieving one’s goals. The most effective women in business maintain a clear vision of what they wish to achieve—both in the short-term and over the long haul. Aspects of this vision may change depending upon circumstances, but the commitment to reaching one’s objectives remains unwavering.

This is frequently illustrated by a woman leader’s drive to balance her professional obligations with her life outside of work. Maintaining this precarious balance requires creativity and flexibility, additional traits demonstrated by effective leaders (of either gender).

TAB member Kris Derrig, president of Action Machined Products, describes her own personal journey towards a more balanced life (with the help of her Advisory Board).

It you want to focus on your goals, then this planning template will help immensely.

4. Building and leading teams. It probably can’t be said that women are better at developing relationships and building teams than their male counterparts. However, they can make use of their intuitive natures to discern conflict within a team—and then seek to resolve that conflict—as well as follow their instincts to favor a team approach, rather than asking an individual to take on too large a challenge.

5. Willingness to question the status quo. Strong female leaders frequently feel the need to challenge “the way business has always been done.” They don’t necessarily accept a traditional approach to strategy and may be more willing than some male leaders in pushing back against convention when they feel strongly about finding a more effective solution.

6. Not afraid to ask for help. Of course, broad generalizations are to be viewed skeptically, but women leaders often feel less inhibited about reaching out for input and guidance when necessary. They understand the limitations of trying to do everything themselves and (as noted previously with the quality of nurturing) see great value in empowering others to assume greater responsibilities. They’re also unafraid to seek the insights and feedback of other business leaders.

As long-time TAB member Lynne Gastineau, president of Gastineau Log Homes, recalls, “I knew I was going to need help if I wanted to grow the company and meet growing customer demand. Managing the staff and dealing with growth would require help. I saw TAB as a way to help me through that process.”

If you think being part of a group that offers consistent, insightful advice makes sense for your business, contact a local TAB board to learn more about membership.

To all the women who will #BeBoldForChange – we applaud you.

Four Tips for Successful Lead Generation

Your sales need qualified leads, like you need oxygen – it is the lifeblood of most businesses.

What is a qualified lead? Someone that has demonstrated an interest in your business’ products or services and is qualified to purchase from you. I other words – has the cash – or whatever else they need to have (location, time, prerequisite) to buy. Some of these leads can be nurtured into prospects and converted into sales, and won’t. To get tips on how to connect with qualified leads you can view our recorded webinar.

There are four key elements you need to get right to maximize qualified leads

1. Your lead capture forms MUST be user-friendly

Generating leads starts with capturing key customer information—enough to move a casual
visitor to your site to start the sales process rolling. Many sales efforts stumble when the lead capture forms on your landing page don’t reflect a typical user’s preferences; either they ask for too much information or, too little of the user.

Short forms may generate larger numbers of potential leads, but the quality of those leads might be lacking. There simply won’t be enough for your sales team to go on, and a lot of time can be wasted chasing after prospects who stubbornly refuse to become “qualified” in the desirable sense of the word.

Forms that ask for too much information are most likely to discourage potential interest in your business offering. (Though, on the bright side, those visitors willing to share an abundance of information are probably better qualified to begin with.)

Finding the right amount of information you ask for on your lead form may depend on what you offer as a “reward” for sharing information. Strive to balance your request for data with the value of the benefit you’re offering.

2. Your web pages should be optimized to generate leads

As with any business site, visitors flock to certain pages more than others. Businesses sometimes err by not optimizing the most heavily trafficked sites (such as the home page, “Contact Us,” etc.). Here are opportunities to seize on prospect interest in your business.

Make sure these pages are optimized with eye-catching, stand-alone calls-to-action (CTAs), generally placed in the upper left-hand corner for prime visibility. Also consider adding special offers on these pages, to generate further interest.

If your CTA does happen to send users to a general page on your site, it’s likely that they won’t bother wasting the time trying to find what they were after in the first place. They’ll just get it elsewhere.

3. Your call-to-action requires urgency

Speaking of CTAs, how compelling are the ones you feature now?

Remember, visitors come to your site at different stages in their “buyer’s journey.” A generic CTA won’t likely produce much response. Consider tailoring these with different goals in mind, such as downloading a white paper, viewing a demo product video or some other value-added incentive to generate more click-throughs.

4. Define what a ‘qualified lead’ is and ensure everyone in your business agrees

In some organizations, there’s a clash between marketing and sales when it comes to defining a lead.

Marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) are those leads identified by marketing as having genuine potential for a long-range customer relationship (with an emphasis on repeat business), These leads may grow out of analytic results or customer demographic characteristics that have proven successful in the past.

Sales-qualified leads (SQLs) are, by contrast, regarded by the sales team as promising opportunities for a short-term closed deal.

It’s imperative that your company’s definition of an MQL matches its definition of an SQL for this transference between departments to work seamlessly. For better results, close communications between teams will improve overall sales by generating a marketing agenda that best suits and supports your sales force.

Want more advice on sales and marketing or general advice from other business owners like you? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!