SMB Who's Hot: Wells Fargo (Again)
Wells Fargo is at it again. After a successful launch of their small business webcast series
, the well known bank is airing their second webcast on Protecting Your Business tomorrow as part of the company's commitment to celebrating Small Business Appreciation Month.
The interactive webcast will feature leading industry experts who will offer relevant and practical advice for small business owners on protecting the physical and virtual assets of their businesses. The panelists will include internal experts at Wells Fargo as well as external sources with legal and security backgrounds.
Protecting your business is not the sexiest of topics. Most entrepreneurs only really deal with these issues when they are forced to and are reactive instead of proactive. From experience any topic relating to sales, marketing, and financing will always bring a crowd.
That being said, Wells Fargo is taking the right steps to reach out to the small business community and go beyond the call of duty to provide additional value to their clients. I am looking forward to seeing their future lineup of webcasts.
The webcast can be viewed here: http://www.wellsfargo.com/biz/webcast
Labels: financing options, increased sales, industry experts, marketing, podcast, practical advice, protetcing your business, small business webcast series, Wells Fargo
How to Increase Your Chances of Selling Technical Products/Services to Non-Technical SME's
Guest Contributor: Albert LukAlbert's Posts
- Albert's SiteI am going to take it as an assumption that, as a basic sales strategy, one should sell benefits and not features. But what if you are selling products/services which are inherently technical and feature rich? What if your product is cutting edge, first to market or technically difficult to explain in a 30 second sound bite? Do you sell the features as the benefit itself?
The answer-"Shut up and listen."
This simple yet effective piece of advice was once told to me by Nicki Weiss. Nicki is friend of mine who helps technically inclined companies such as NovoNordisk Pharmaceuticals and Fisher Scientific sell more effectively to their clients- whether SME or big business to big business. (I would recommend visiting Nicki's website at www.saleswise.ca and subscribing to her newsletter for sage sales advice).
The underlying theme of Nicki's advice is to focus on the client's needs, talk less and avoid the techie speak. In other words, avoid the following three common downfalls of ineffective salespeople of technical products/services:
- Not being curious about the customer and their business: Do you notice that you focus on techie talk, attempting to impress potential clients with sophisticated product knowledge?
- Not Listening Deeply: Do you notice that you use your potential client's comments as a springboard for your own comments, experiences or products and the conversation becomes very one-sided?
- Not linking the benefits of the product or service to a potential clients needs: Do you notice that you tell the client all about the latest and greatest features of your product or service without making any direct link back to their exact needs?
If you, or your sales staff, have fallen into this pattern, there are a few tips that Nicki suggests (each tip below counteracts the downfall above so tip 1 responses to downfall 1 etc.):
- Focus on your clients' objectives and how the technical product or service supports this objective. Ask open ended questions which reveal your client's objectives before focusing on the techie talk. Ask open ended questions such as:
"What things are important to your customers today?"
"What do you want to achieve?"
"What issues will the new fix have to address?"
By being curious about your client, you have created a bridge between your product or service and client needs.
- Listen Deeply (or "shut up and listen"): Be curious about the customer and their business issues. Clarify, confirm and explore in your conversation. Understand customer needs. Let the client talk 80% of the time. Notice the underlying mood, tone and impact of your conversation rather than being absorbed in bits and bytes.
- Link the benefit of the product and service to the client's needs: Excellent salespeople slow down the conversation in order to hear and pinpoint needs and link the benefit back to those needs. For example, a great salesperson may say: "So, you're looking for a way to improve communication between the branch offices and head office, in order to improve response time to your customers. Is that right?" (pinpointing need) "That makes sense. We have product XYZ, and it works this way...What that means to you is you'll be able to improve the communication between the branch offices and head office, in order to improve response time to your customers." (linking the benefits to the need)."
As a good starting point to implementing more effective SME sales strategy, have a mentor, sales coach or co-worker comment on your current techniques. Based on these comments, refine your sales strategy using some of the tips in this article and have these same people help you practice becoming more effective in your approach.
As a seller of highly specialized and technical services myself, I want to share one tip with you in my next post that has nothing to do with selling the actual product or service. Have a great month.
Labels: Albert Luk, avoid the techi speak, client needs, improve communication, Nicki Weiss, shut up and listen, talke less
Xerox Update - Small Business Templates
In early February I was invited as a guest to Xerox's Ignite Small Business Conference
. One of my key recommendations was to share their best practices with entrepreneurs. Small businesses are always looking up to the big companies to gain insights as to how to run a growing company and put the proper systems and procedures in place.
As a follow up on February 18th I wrote a post
on exactly this strategy:
Small companies are always looking to their bigger counterparts to get best practices and learn how to grow their business. How does Xerox get positive press coverage? How does Microsoft hire the best people? How does Bell prepare its business plan?
Well I am pleased to announce that Xerox is listening and I received an email this morning from VP Paul Gleason. Xerox just released a section on their website that discusses how to get press coverage
. They included background information and two downloadable word document templates for small business owners to use.
It is a step in the right direction. I have given Paul a few more suggestions and am looking forward to seeing more detailed resources covering an array of SMB best practice topics in the near future.
Labels: Bell, Ignite Small Business Conference, Microsoft, Paul Gleason, positive press coverage, run a growing business, share best practices, templates, Xerox
How HP Is Targeting The Hispanic Market
Denise Marcilio, marketing director for small and medium business (personal systems group), was the keynote speaker at the 14th annual DMA Directo Days conference.
In her speech, Marcilio discussed how to effectively target the two million Hispanic-owned SMBs which generate $270 billion in annual sales. Here is some of her advice:
- You have to have a genuine and long-term commitment to the Hispanic community
- In 10 years there will be eight million Hispanic-owned SMBs
- The growth will be driven by women business owners
- According to HP surveys, Hispanic business owners prefer doing business in English
- Closing a deal, however, is done in Spanish
- Build a Spanish language website to highlight your products and services
- Use a Spanish language direct mail piece to drive people to the website - "Direct mail is just the tip of the iceberg. At HP, the direct mail pieces have to drive people to the Web. The mail pieces have be so strong, so compelling and so perfect that it drives the person to the Web. The Web is where you can tell your entire story. Call volume and lead generation is most likely to happen through the Web."
- An English catalogs with a one page Spanish insert generated more results than a catalog written entirely in Spanish
- The median age of the Hispanic market is 27 versus 41 for the general population
- > 50% of Hispanics have white-collar jobs, are middle class or higher, own their own homes and are married
Labels: call volume, Denise Marcilio, DMA Directo Days, Hispanic community, Hispanic-owned SMBs, HP, HP surveys, lead generation, marketing director
How Green is Your Company?
According to a recent Women Impacting Public Policy survey of women entrepreneurs, the top three concerns they had were:
- Health care costs
- Energy costs
- The environment
"Two-thirds of the respondents believe that global warming and environmental changes will affect them or their businesses and 45% want to see the government use both incentives and regulations to encourage businesses to encourage conservation."
While you may not be able to reduce your clients' health care or energy costs you can have an impact on the environment. Demonstrating how your company is environmentally friendly can lead to a significant increase in your bottom line - especially if you are selling to women entrepreneurs.
Does your company have a green policy and are you actively using it in your marketing and promotions?
Labels: conservation, energy costs, health care costs, small business survey, the environment, women entrepreneurs, Women Impacting Public Policy
AT&T Targets Small Business Owners
Now that AT&T has closed the details of its purchase of BellSouth for $86 billion, the company is trying to go after the small business market to bring in more revenue.
AT&T is trying to bundle their services together in a "quadruple-play" package of wireless, local, long distance and DSL. Customers will be given a single bill to track their expenses and will be given a discount when they purchase all four services (specifics yet to be released).
Labels: ATT, BellSouth, discount, DSL, long distance, single bill, wireless
Relationship, relationship, relationship
In the retail and real estate businesses it is all about location, location, location. If you are not in the right location for your product, you will not sell.
If you are targeting small business owners, the focus shifts to relationship, relationship, relationship.
Business owners like to work with people they know and trust. They have enough problems to worry about between taking their companies to the next step and managing a work-life balance that if they can find a supplier they have a good relationship with, they will not have a reason to switch.
While it is important that the product or service can meet the needs of the business owner, what will win you the business - and help you keep the business - is forming a solid relationship with the entrepreneurs.
Do you have client appreciation programs? Do you take the time to learn about their businesses and find other ways to help them? Do you know them by name and their families and hobbies? Do you know what keeps them up at night? Have you really given them a reason to stay with you and refer their colleagues to you or will they be more than happy to switch because your competitor gives them a little bit of attention?
Take the time to focus on building the relationship and the business will follow.
Labels: customer relationships, developing trust, location, retail
Selling To Small Business Links for 2007-04-19
A Small Business Battle: IBM vs. Microsoft
Last week IBM launched its System i Express, a low-cost, all-in-one IT hardware package for small businesses with five to 40 employees. It will allow entrepreneurs to purchase servers from IBM and run business applications on a per-user basis starting at $7,995 for the initial five users.
Most small businesses have traditionally opted for the inexpensive Microsoft Windows-based servers. IBM is hoping to change this by reducing their i Express costs. They also claim that their servers are less vulnerable to viruses and more reliable.
According to System i general manager, Mark Shearer: "This is probably the boldest move we've made in the small-business space in a decade."
The key to IBM's success, however, will not be in the hardware but in the software applications that will run on it. Few small business owners will call up asking for a System i server but they will want to run the latest manufacturing, financial, or medical applications and their software vendor will advise them on which server to purchase to run the applications.
Windows has a dominant presence and switching costs are high enough that most SMBs will not move over but IBM does present a compelling enough case to be considered as a serious alternative for new purchasing decisions. To that end IBM is hoping to triple the number of new customers in the first year of the new promotion.
Labels: IBM, Mark Shearer, Microsoft, new promotion, software vendor, switching costs, System i, Windows
Verizon Continues Small Business Marketing Success
I discussed Verizon's targeting of small business owners as it launched its Verizon Small Business Toolbar. It was a great move to engage small business owners and get them involved with the Verizon brand.
Well Verizon is at it again. Small businesses are always on the lookout for valuable tools and information to help get their companies to the next step. Catching on to this need, Verizon released an article
on Business E-Mailing Etiquette to help entrepreneurs improve their online effectiveness.
Included on the list are:
- Keep e-mails short and to the point.
- Write the action you are requesting and topic in the 'subject' line.
- Check your grammar and spelling.
- Be cautious. Think before you send an e-mail.
- Remember that e-mail is not private.
- Use out of office response, if available, to alert others of your absence.
- Keep it strictly business.
- Be courteous, considerate and responsible when writing an e-mail message.
- Lastly, make sure your computer is virus-free because you don't want to be the person sending everyone a virus.
"Keeping these tips in mind when writing an e-mail on the job means you'll be less likely to send an embarrassing or sometimes damaging e-mail, and you'll always come across as a professional," said Michael Schaefer, director of business broadband services for Verizon.
Small business owners appreciate companies that try to add value and not just sell them products and services. By establishing themselves as a trusted expert, Verizon is sure to create small business buzz and build its brand.
When will the other Fortune companies catch on?
Labels: business e-mail etiquett, online effectiveness, small business buzz, small business toolbar, trusted expert, Verizon
Small Business Links for 2007-04-11
Small Business Thinks Big Tech
I came across a great article
from the National Post that discussed small business technology buying and thought I would highlight it for you.
Traditionally small businesses are not as early an adopter of large scale technology as their corporate counterparts. This is usually due to the massive investment needed to prepare for large scale IT projects. This has left enterprise resource management (ERP) and customer-relationship management (CRM) to the big players only - until recently.
With the move the the web of many ERP and CRM vendors and the building of scaled down versions from their enterprise customers, small businesses are beginning to take notice. Here are the keys for the vendors who have made the leap to small business successfully:
- Understand that SMBs are a different market: Larger organizations typically roll out ERP systems over a five year period. Small businesses need to see a faster return on investment. They need to justify the purchasing decision very quickly and see results coming in.
- Tell stores of SMB success: When doing your sales pitch don't compare your SMB prospect to an enterprise customer. Show how you have made it work for a smaller company that is just like them.
- Offer software as a service: Instead of costly up front setup fees and licensing agreements, offer monthly plans that allows the small business owner to more effectively manage their cash flow.
- Focus on customer relationships: Most small businesses rank customer relationships as the most critical factor in their success and 50% are using technology to help find new prospects
- Demonstrate measurable payback: The more you can demonstrate the financial impact to the small business the more likely you will get a yes answer.
Labels: CRM, customer relationships, different market, ERP, measurable payback, National Post, SMB success, software as a service
Selling to Small Business Links for 2007-04-10
Health Care Costs Continues To Top SMB Concern List
According to the latest Small Business Research Board (SBRB) study, health care costs continue to top the list of concerns for small business owners."
It is interesting to note that purely domestic issues such as concerns about health care and taxes have overtaken worries about energy and fuel as the leading issues faced by small businesses,"
said study co-sponsor Gregg Steinberg, President of International Profit Associates.
"Energy and fuel availability and costs have leveled considerably reducing the uncertainties and gyrating costs that caused business owners and managers so much grief. Meanwhile, these same businesses are being challenged by much more time sensitive beginning of the year issues such as renewal of health care insurance coverage with higher premium amounts and the planning, preparation and filing of corporate and personal tax returns."
More than 550 small business owners and senior managers participated in this SBRB poll.
Labels: concerns, Gregg Steinberg, health care costs, insurance coverage, International Profit Associates, SBRB, Small Business Research Board
Selling to Small Business Links for 2007-04-09
- Is Your Company Easy to Do Business With? - A business owner whose company serves other small businesses (RV and recreational equipment dealers) once said to me that his small business customers, "... are like water. They follow the easiest path."
- Small business conference set for Harrisburg - Members of local and state-wide business advocacy groups are planning a day-long push in Harrisburg to advocate for improved business conditions for Pennsylvania's small business owners.
- Small Retailers Express Greatest Concerns About Impact of Federal Minimum Wage Hike - Outlook rebounds among all small businesses for sales, profits and hiring amid stable interest rates and lower energy prices compared to six months ago.
- Q&A: Bank of America Organizes Around the Small Business Customer - With its new "bank of opportunity" slogan and Business 24-7 product suite, Bank of America Corp. has set the bar high for its small business banking unit. But can a money center bank that serves 4.9 million small business customers deliver on such lofty promises?
- Cisco launches a new secure business communications suite from small businesses - Cisco has introduced several advancements for Small Businesses designed to help maximize business efficiency and improve customer and employee collaboration, while at the same time providing channel partners with further resources to foster growth and differentiation.
- Small Business Driving Job Growth - Private-sector employment increased by 106,000 in March, led by gains in the small-business sector, according to the ADP National Employment Report released this week.
- Cable Firms Eying Small-Business Phone Market - An expected move by Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and other major cable companies into the small-business phone market could cost traditional phone companies as mush as $4 billion, a new report shows.
Labels: Bank of America, Cisco, federal minimum wage hike, job growth, small business conference, small business customer, small retailers
Small Business Links for 2007-04-05
- Report: Cablecos Target Small Business Phone Market - The top 20 cable operators are looking to get a piece of the small business phone market, a move that could cost incumbent phone companies more than $4 billion over the next five years, according to a new market research report from Insight Research Corp.
- JPMorgan Chase Bank is Named Ex-Im Bank's Small Business Lender of the Year - One of the largest banks in the world has earned the distinction of being named the 2007 Small Business Lender of the Year by the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank).
- Outlook positive for small business - Canada's economic and financial outlook bodes well for small-business owners into 2008, but tight labour market conditions will remain a key challenge, a TD Economics report suggests.
- Cisco goes for small, small business - Cisco is increasing its small business focus with the launch of a new suite of products and certification for resellers going after small business customers.
- Voda Joins with DSG for Small Business - Vodafone and DSG are joining forces, and Voda will be sell its range of voice and data services for small business customers through 30 DSG stores such as PC World.
- Cisco vs. Microsoft: Small Business Showdown - During Cisco's annual partner summit in Las Vegas this week, Cisco is announcing an aggressive push into small and midsize businesses. The initiative sets the stage for Cisco to both compete -- and collaborate -- more closely with Microsoft.
Labels: Cisco, DSG, JPMorgan, Microsoft, small business phone market, TD Economics, vodafone
Cisco Going After Small Business Market
Cisco announced at its Worldwide Partner Summit in Las Vegas that it is now going to target the small business market with a new unified communications product. The Smart Business Communications Systems is meant for businesses with under 50 employees and the company sees this sector as being a $10bn market opportunity by 2009.
Cisco hopes to sell the solution through its partner network and has also introduced
a new certification programme for small and medium-sized businesses.
According to Ann Sun, global SMB market group senior manager at Cisco: "One of the things we see is that the SMB market is highly segmented, and many do not know how this technology can help them. It is not just a solution itself, but a delivery through our channel partners."
What does Cisco need to do to win over SMBs?Partner Strong
- Most of the technical infrastructure in SMBs is setup and run by outside contractors. The Cisco partners will be key to getting this into the hands of SMBs as most small businesses do not have the technical knowledge or knowhow to do it themselves.Make It Better
- Cisco will have to prove that their system truly is better than the other alternatives. There can be big switching costs and small business owners want to focus on growing their business, not handling technology.Offer Financing
- Small businesses owners routinely have to manage their cash flow. If there is a solid financing package in place it will be a much easier financial pill to swallow.
Labels: Ann Sun, certification programme, Cisco, partner network, Smart Business Communications Systems
Small Business Optimistic Despite Weakening Economy
In Wells Fargo's most recent Small Business Index it was found that small business owners continue to be optimistic despite the weakening economy.
The index fell 4 points to 110 from its record high 114 in the fourth quarter of 2006. 90% of small businesses surveyed said they are satisfied being an entrepreneur and 78% said they would do it all over again.
The index measures 6 variables - financial situation, cash flow, revenues, capital allocation, job hiring and credit availability for both current and future expectations.
According to Wells Fargo senior economist Scott Anderson, "The slight drop in small business owner confidence was evident in both the present situation and future expectations components of the index, suggesting weaker current and future conditions than the last quarter of 2006. The combined pressures of high gas prices, resetting mortgage rates, and moderating home price growth continue to put strains on household balance sheets."
Labels: cash flow, financial situation, Gallup Small Business Index, generating revenues, Scott Anderson, small business optimism, weakening economy, Wells Fargo
Xerox Bolsters Small Business Presence
Xerox today announced that it was acquiring Global Imaging Systems for $1.5 billion dollars. Global Imaging Systems is a provider of office technology products and Xerox made the acquisition to better reach the small business market.
This is Xerox's third acquisition in the past year as they try to improve their distribution network. "Our biggest barrier to growth was distribution," said Xerox chairman and chief executive, Anne M. Mulcah.
Global Imaging Systems' core product lines have traditionally been printers and copiers for small and mid sized businesses. It will now begin selling Xerox document management products.
The acquisition is expected to increase Xerox's distribution by 50 % to the small and medium businesses which is an estimated $16 billion market.
The purchase will be finalized in May.
Labels: Anne M. Mulcah, distribution, document management, Global Imaging Systems, office technology products, small business market, Xerox
Small Business Links for 2007-04-03
Where Small Business Is Going
Intuit and the Institute for the Future recently released a new report on what the small business landscape will look like in 10 years. The study found three important trends that will define small businesses: the changing diversity of small business owners, the proliferation of personal businesses, and the emergence of entrepreneurial education.
Some of the findings include:
- Entrepreneurs will no longer be from the middle sector; but on "the edge."
- Future small business owners will not be from the middle of the age spectrum. There will be a surge of "elderpreneurs," or "second career entrepreneurs," in their 60s.
- Elderpreneurs will share the high growth sector with younger business owners that are born in the mid-1980s or later.
- Women-owned businesses will continue to flourish. The glass ceiling that has limited women's corporate career paths will send more women to the small business sector.
- "Mompreneurs" which describe working mothers, who are seeking an alternative to traditional employment and a way to combine work with parenthood, will also continue to expand.
- Both of these trends have been growing since the late '80s will continue through 2017 -- You go girls!
- Immigrant entrepreneurs will help drive a new wave of globalization. U.S. immigration policy and the outcome of the immigration debates will affect how this segment performs over the next decade.
- There will be a shift away from "traditional employment" and a surge in personal businesses.
- Personal businesses -- one person businesses with no employees -- have become an important part of the U.S. economy and will increase in number over the next decade.
- The growth will be driven by downsizing in larger companies and changes in technology.
- Many ex-corporate workers will become "free-agents," with less job security, but more flexibility.
- The third trend forecasts that "entrepreneurship" will be a widely adopted curriculum for educational and vocational institutions.
- The last decade has seen a rapid growth of university-level entrepreneurial training. The next decade will see the continuation of this trend, but will also see the growth of entrepreneurial training aimed at youth, mid-career professionals, artists and trades-people. The elements of entrepreneurship will become a mainstream subject helping to prepare our youth to be successful in the workforce.
Labels: elderpreneurs, glass ceiling, immigrant entrepreneurs, Institute for the Future, Intuit, middle sector, mompreneurs, personal businesses, second career entrepreneurs, women-owned businesses
Small Business Credit Card Market Heats Up
With the consumer credit card market maturing, companies are looking to small businesses to continue their growth. In fact, the fastest growing segment in the broader commercial credit card market is small business. According to marketingresearch.com, credit card companies are only
capturing 10% of small business spending - $427 billion this year and $740 billion by 2010.
How are the credit card companies going after the SMB market?
The big three, Visa, MasterCard, and American Express, have all created small business programs such as reward points, sophisticated data reporting tools, and allied merchant card points.
Discover, the new kid on the block, launched its only commercial card, the the Discover Small Business Card, last summer and is aggressively going after new business. They have increased the rewards to include cash rebates of up to 5% on office supplies, 2% on gas, and 1% on other purchases.
In response, American Expressed launched the SimplyCash business card to match the Discover Small Business Card cash back features.
Discover has also made it easier for small business owners to sign up and use their card. Other features include the ability to download the card's statements to QuickBooks; fee-free purchase checks with the same float as the credit card (for paying suppliers who do not accept cards); the ability to change the card credit limits for individual employees online in real time; and primary protection on car rentals.
In Q1 of 2007 (ending February), Discover had record transaction volume up 13% to $30.3 billion and the fifth consecutive quarter of managed receivables growth. While detailed revenue or income figures are not provided for Discover, parent company Morgan Stanley had a 70% increase in first quarter net income to a record $2.7 and cited "robust performance in corporate credit trading" as one of the reasons.
Offering a better product by listening to their customers and making it easy for small businesses to sign up and use their credit cards has proven so far to be a winning combination for Discover.
Labels: American Express, credit card, Discover Small Business, listening to your customers, make it easy, marketingresearch.com, MasterCard worldwide, Morgan Stanley, Visa