Being Small Doesn't Mean Being Invisible
Guest Contributor: Deb KolarasDeb's Posts
- Deb's SiteCare to take a guess as to how many small businesses get started each month here in the U.S.? According to a study done by the Kaufmann Foundation, more than 465,000 entrepreneurs hang a new shingle out each month - that number is not a misprint. With such a staggering figure, even during obviously slim times, the opportunity to reach these businesses remains very strong. So how best to make sure you are not overlooking them? Start first with acknowledging them, regardless of their size or where they are on the map.
Location, Location, Location
Recently, I tried unsuccessfully to do business with a large, international office supply company whose headquarters are rather close to my own. After jumping through what I consider "needless hoops", I was virtually kicked to the curb because my business is home-based. Why that matters, I don't know, but I was given little to do other than finding my way to another supplier. Of course, it's a little disheartening; I have an excellent credit rating and have been in business more than a decade, but this didn't appear to matter. Instead of dwelling on it and going to the top to complain, I calmly dialed my other supplier who has always regarded me as a business they wanted to serve, irrespective of my size or location - my bad for looking for a deal. To me, this is the perfect example of what not to do as a large corporation - why on earth would you care where the client is located, as long as you can ship or deliver there? Better yet, wouldn't this actually be a great niche to hit, given the enormous amount of growth in the small business sector? Oh, and did I mention the other supplier is a nationwide supplier in their own right?
Don't Fence Me In There is profiling of all sorts going on in the business world and really, I think it's offensive as a small business owner to answer silly surveys and questions about my spending habits and what I see my business doing over the next 5 years - it's really none of your business, even if you think you're entitled to know. What should be your focus is concerning yourself with my needs and concerns as they are presently; rather than ask a client if they're buying a printer this year, why not find out how things are going, really going? Why not offer options that don't always mean upgrading to some new, more expensive item that you want the client to buy? How about proactively presenting simple solutions to common problems, some of which might be entirely free? Why not think about their bottom line, versus yours? If you can do these things and offer them more affordable, unique alternatives, even if it means referring them, you will earn their trust and their business. If you're only looking to move them into the next new widget they really don't even need, you're just another salesman they will not want to avoid.
Size Really Shouldn't Matter
While it might help you fix on a potential number you can expect in sales over a year, it does little for your client when you ask how many people they have employed at their company. Whether they have 1 or 50, they still control the purse strings and your company will only gain their business by treating them like they were the largest VIP account you could ever have. Dispense with looking at a company and discounting them because of their size - small businesses are connected to other small businesses; they share information, good experiences and they talk amongst themselves - they also tell each other who to stay away from, I know I do every day. If your business has a model that simply doesn't want smaller clients, at the very least, refer them to another company that is willing to serve them no matter their size or location.
Small businesses across the U.S. want to do business with companies that treat them as important and worthwhile players. For your company to be successful in reaching them, put yourself in their shoes and walk around awhile; you might find that by adjusting your offerings to accommodate companies on the smaller scale, you'll actually be making more room for growth for them and more profits for you.
Labels: Deb Kolaras
Make Being a Rock Star Easier
Guest Contributor: Mark NissleyMark's Posts
- Mark's SiteIn the previous two posts, we took a look at the importance of the story of a rock star. Now that we've recognized that, it's time to make our pitch. This is much simpler than most might imagine, and I believe, a very different tactic than selling to large organizations or fortune 500. There are three important points. I'll address the first in this post.
Rock stars want one thing: to be a rock star. There are many facets of this persona, but basically it's about the music and the lifestyle. Most don't want to be bothered with the logistics of touring, the newest technology in stage design, nor the managing of their money. If you want to get a rock star to buy into an idea, it's usually got to be something that makes there life easier or promotes their lifestyle as a rock star. This is where agents and managers make their money.
And this is where you'll make your money. In a way, small business owners are the opposite of a rock star. They are saturated with the details of running their business. But ultimately, most business owners want to be treated like a rock star. That's where you come in. You are going to be the manger that makes their life easier. If your product can do this, you are golden.
Have you ever told a rock star how to make their music better? Imagine the response you'd get. If not an explosion, I'd guess for a stone cold glare. On the same token, don't pitch a small business owner that you'll make their business better. It may be true, but they don't want to hear that. They gotten themselves to this point, thank you, they know their business. They don't want to waste their time with some "expert". They'll tell you so, or you'll get the stone cold stare.
No, what a small business owner wants to hear (at least at first) is how you will make their busy life a little less busy and a little less expensive. Tell them how your product will take tasks off their list. Tell them how your product will help them talk to less people every week. Tell them how your product will help manage their business, so they can manage less. Tell them how your product will help them immediately have a bit more time to go to their kid's soccer game. And tell them that it can do this tomorrow. This is the language of a small business owner.
If you go in with the "next big thing", the comprehensive business solution, or any solution that may require more work from them, or a big learning curveā¦ well, you'll see that cold stare again. This is not to say that you can't sell these, but take a look at HOW you are selling them. Work up to your big products by presenting things first that make their life easier. We'll talk more about this in the next post: "Bar by Bar". The important thing presented today is that you examine and reshape your presentation, to get your foot into the door. Make the small business owner feel like the rock star they really are by living a life of a bit more, and immediately.
Labels: Mark Nissley
Becoming The Clients' Most Trusted Advisor
Guest Contributor: Michael HepworthMichael's Posts
- Michael's Website
Most businesses, tend to fall in love with their product or service, rather than falling in love with their clients. If you sell to small business this can hurt you!
The first sign that this is happening is a tendency among sales people to say to themselves; "What do I have to do to get this customer to buy?" With this attitude, there is a tendency to become manipulative and coercive or just plain boring as you spend time talking about yourself.
Neither of these approaches works well with strong minded entrepreneurs and business owners. No one wants to be manipulated or taken advantage of.
A more appealing approach is to make the business owner feel you care, that they are important to you and that their well being matters to you.
To accomplish this, suppliers have to review their purpose. If train your staff to believe your firms purpose is to contribute great value by giving them the results they are looking for rather than to simply take their money, you'll begin to see an interest transition in your customer relationships.
The objective is to enter every customer relationship with a commitment to leaving their customers better off than when they found them. This commitment changes the way you interact and the way you sell and often changes how you package what you sell.
This may seem a little soft, but typically companies that adopt this approach find
That positive word of mouth spreads rapidly, clients are more loyal and sales are easier to close. Think of examples like Nordstrom, Ritz Carlton and four Seasons.
This does not have to be the domain of high end retailers and hotels, but can infuse every business.
If your product or service is of high quality and delivers on your promise, then it is likely that it is in your customers' best interest to buy more, because it will enhance their situation. Thus it makes sense to buy more because there will be a better pay-off.
One of the unexpected benefits of this strategy is that employees and managers are no longer ambivalent about what they do. They love what they do, because ant some level helping others is hard wired into most human beings. Their jobs become easier and your customers love them because they care so much. More importantly your customers will love you and your business because of what it stands for.
Labels: Michael Hepworth
Guest Contributor: Shannon McCafferyShannon's Posts
- Shannon's SiteThe key to your future riches in closing your prospects, is knowing their hot buttons. If you're a big business looking to work with smaller businesses and help them with specific aspects, you better know their lingo and be able to speak their language. You see the more you know not only about who your prospects are, but what's their emotional hot button, and what keeps them awake at night.
Here's a terrific exercise for you and the first big step to getting at their hot buttons. Take out a sheet of paper and start writing.
Think about who your top 10 clients are right now. Then I want you to answer these 5 questions about them:
1) What kinds of advertising do they respond to? Is it direct mail, phone calls, personal visits, irresistible offers, or maybe a combination of these.
2) What do they read and where do they get this stuff? You need to check out newsletters, consumer magazines, industry newspapers, trade publications, and community newspapers
3) What trade shows do they go to? Do they go to local community events, national conventions, state fairs, local consumer shows, etc.
4) How did your past clients hear about you? Was it word of mouth, a flyer, direct mail piece, telemarketing, internet, email or an ad stuffer
5) What clubs, groups or associations do they belong to? Write down any associations, clubs, business groups or networking groups they attend.
After you've answered these questions, I'd suggest you sign up and maybe attend some of these clubs, associations or trade shows. I'd even say you might want to subscribe to the publications and maybe even contribute to them with writing an article or placing and ad. When you immerse yourself in their world, a light bulb will go off, and you'll know how to appeal to them in a much more meaningful way. The more you know about your prospect and us it in your advertising, the more you will attract the right prospects and be able to close them.
To Your Success
Labels: Shannon McCaffery