Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What Can You Do When Your Business Sales Are In “Free-falling” Mode?

Are Your Sales on Free-Fall Mode?
Running a business is definitely quite a particular challenge, and one capable of bringing in a huge emotional load to your life, often with really intense emotions.

One of those “intense” emotions is the anxiety experienced when you realize sales are steadily decreasing, and it may easily exceed your strengths and take you deep into a strong state of anxiety, regardless of how strong you might think you are or how professionally prepared you can be.

It's an overwhelming feeling!

However, like with all things in business and life, it’s possible to completely recover from such situation and overcome this fall, once you've identified you’ve got a problem, shake the dust from your lap and get back on your feet.

Always keep an eye on your numbers.

That’s the first advice you'll always receive: Keep your numbers under accurate control, no matter what.

Have you ever found yourself tripping on the street and then fell down? Do you remember how it happened? First your feet stumble, trip a bit, you lose overall balance, your arms try to find something to hold on to avoid falling and finally pum.... you're down there, lying on the floor (Let's hope not that many people saw it!)

A drop in sales occurs in the same way: it starts slowly, you get into a denial stage as you can’t believe it’s happening, then you realize it is really happening and start to wonder why, and finally, when it’s almost too late, the drop is fully developed and goes top speed.

Whether it’s your own personal sales, or your business or corporate sales, you have to keep a strong, efficient and detailed control of your numbers and review them frequently, so that you can timely detect any deviation from what is expected or any trend indicating the "beginning of the fall" or that "something is wrong", and not to wait until it’s too late to make any correction.

Just as we do with any disease, we take the medication (or at least, we should) when we start experiencing certain symptoms of discomfort, when we are not in a “take me to ER right now” kind of situation.

That your sales are already free-falling and you want to recover?

Recovery from a sales slump can be accomplished with ease, and can usually be done in a quick way, if you can keep your mind calm and concentrate your efforts on doing what you have to do, and not continue whining about the situation.

Make a plan + Stay positive + Concentrate on Getting Things Done

To accomplish the recovery, you need three things: You must create a plan of action, keep a positive attitude and have the drive to get things done.

Concentrate on closing the easiest sales:

  • Concentrate your actions on selling your best-sellers and best-rated products.
  • Make a list and identify those clients with whom you have the best relationship with and who you can encourage to buy more by providing sales incentives. You can also identify those proposals which are closer to the decision-making moment and concentrate on doing everything in your hands to close them and bring the business home.
  • At this time you should not be looking for long-term sales. You have to focus on bringing in more money and close sales for the following days, weeks or even a couple of months, until the recovery is accomplished, nothing more.

Find people who can criticize you openly and honestly.

At this point you need to know what you're doing wrong, either at product, company or even personal level. You need to know what’s happening and how that is keeping your customers from buying, or at least not buying as much as they did before.

It could be a situation generated by the market itself or the government, which will give you a poor excuse, but will probably make you feel a bit better. But it could also be a problem exclusively related to you and your business. That you need to know, and for that you can’t count on your own assessment. You need to receive feedback from people around you: employees, suppliers, associates and, more importantly, customers.

At this time, don't look for your mom's advice.

Their reviews and honest opinions will help you learn about the things you can do to improve both your product and the services you offer. Remember: Do not seek for your mom’s advice or your significant other's opinion. These reviews are biased and will not do any good.

Concentrate your efforts on improving on everything you learned.

Now that you have a better idea of the reasons why your sales began to crumble to the ground, you can concentrate all your efforts and energies in doing everything necessary to improve what needs to be improved.

If it’s about a dysfunctional product, you either have to remove it from your line or actually improve it; if advertising is sending the wrong message, you have to take care of it; if it’s about you having to deepen on your product or sales training, then you have something to start working on. The goal is to start making things better.

This is the time to make things happen. Now you know how it feels to see your sales dropping. 

You know it’s very unpleasant and probably do not want to experience it again, so from this point on it’s a matter of establishing a strong commitment on your side and not to let it happen again and, if it occurs, to take corresponding actions more quickly.

One last thing: Stop blaming yourself or looking for someone to blame.

Markets are dynamic environments and move fast enough as to be of any use to seek for a culprit or someone to blame for the drop in your business sales. That will only wear you out and take away energies you need to focus on other, more productive things.

It doesn’t matter who or what is responsible for the situation. The important thing is to focus on solving it as soon as possible and bring those numbers back to normal again. It is your sole responsibility as the business owner, a responsibility you also have with your wallet and your shareholders.

Roll up your sleeves and dive deep into solving your sales slump and boost those numbers back towards the positive side.

Image credit: hyrons / 123RF Stock Photo

Related post in this blog:
How to Make a Sales Plan For Your Business?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

How to give advice and not come off as a know it all

Have you ever been "Mr Know It All"?

Guest post by: 

Taylor Elwood.

You are an expert in your field. You are someone people come to for advice when they have a particular problem. You know what you are doing and you feel secure in that. Here’s the challenge for you: How do you give advice to someone who needs advice without coming off as a know it all? 

One of the behaviors I notice (and have occasionally embodied) that occurs at networking meetings is that someone will offer unwanted advice because s/he is an expert and can see that a person they are talking to needs the advice. 

The problem is that the person hasn’t asked for the advice and feels resentful and likely will not fully listen because the person offering the advice hasn’t taken the time to consider whether or not the person is ready for the advice. 

Have you been either person in this situation?

Chances are you have been either person. 

Certainly I’ve been both the person who didn’t want advice and the person who offered advice and came off as a know it all. When you come off as a know it all, people don’t want to be around you, because while you might have the answer they need, what they don’t need is you forcing it down their throat. 

In fact, what they really need is for you to be considerate of them and to take an approach to offering advice that doesn’t come off as you being a know it all.

So how do you go about offering advice without coming off as a know it all?

  1. Listen carefully. Listen to what the person is saying. A lot of times what a person really needs is to be listened too. If you interrupt with advice, what it demonstrates is that you aren’t interested in them and their problem. You are more focused on what you know than on discovering what they need.
  2. Ask them if they want advice. After you’ve listened to someone, ask them if they want advice or feedback from you. If they say yes (and usually they will) then its ok to offer advice, because they are ready to listen (and more importantly they feel listened to and acknowledged).
  3. Avoid statements that include the word "but". Whenever someone says a sentence that includes the word but, it indicates that the first part of the sentence isn’t important. It marginalizes what was said, and emphasizes the second part of the sentence, but it also can marginalize the person hearing it, because even if you offer a compliment, it comes off as a back handed slap across the face.
  4. Recognize you don’t know everything. You may know a lot, but if you recognize that you don’t know everything, you keep yourself open to learning more. Just as importantly it helps you be humble even when you are an expert.
It is wonderful to want to help people and offering advice can be a good way to do it. Just remember that the person who might need your advice also needs to be respected and considered. 

Think about how you want your advice and you to be remembered and then approach the person, and be open to the possibility you may not offer the advice because they aren’t ready for it.

Crédito fotografía: lenm / 123RF Stock Photo

This is a guest post by Taylor Elwood. He became certified as a business coach and started his own business – Imagine Your Reality Business Coaching. He teaches other business owners on how to move their business from survive to thrive! You can visit his blog at Imagine Your Reality and follow him on Twitter

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Which is the Best Way to Manage your Growing Customer Base?

 How do you manage your customer base?
I bet that when you first started your business, your dream was to have an ever growing customer base. And little by little, step by step, as you continued interacting with more people, helping potential customers become aware of your business, witnessing as more and more people bought your products or services, you also started to see an increase in your daily tasks, more phone calls to make, scheduled meetings, emails to be sent, proposals and presentations to be sent, documents, sales orders, and a number of small activities, all of them important, all of them necessary.

By this time, you might have noticed that having an agenda full to the utmost with small notes, sticky notes, reminders of events scheduled in your mobile phone's calendar, won't be enough for you to stay completely up to date with all your stuff.

Do you remember that one big contract you lost, simply because you weren't able to phone the client the day you both agreed upon, due to a real life emergency that came up, and the contract was awarded to your competition?

Do you remember how embarrassed you felt when, during a meeting with your sales staff, you angrily claimed to one of the guys why the company had not heard back about that interesting proposal that had been prepared and sent to the client two weeks ago, only to be confronted with the following reply: "But boss, at last week's meeting I told you this project's decision had been postponed until next year"?

It is then time to begin managing relationships with your customers.

And this expression "Managing customer relationships" has been around for quite a while, however, it's often associated with the use of tools, when it really should not be.

Managing customer relationships is a must for any business owner, regardless of the size of the company or the industry it is in.

To close a sale, you must be in the appropriate place, at the right time with the right information.

Every business depends on the effective management of customer relationships, if you don't believe so then ask any sales director who has missed the opportunity to close a deal for the sake of not having in his hands the required information in a timely manner.

The real challenge is that relationship management can be implemented in a highly sophisticated way or not, depending on how you, as an entrepreneur, understand and value the relationships you have with your customers and prospects before, during and after the sale is done.

You might think that it's an issue that concerns only to big, large business but not to small operations like yours, or just because you only have an online store and never see your customers face to face, but regardless of the type of customers you have, what happens before, during and after the sale is important to keep them coming back and doing business with you .

That is why you must manage those relationships effectively.

Here come the tools to help us all out: CRM platforms.

For over a decade I've been using CRM platforms for customer relationship management. I currently use Zoho CRM, but before this one, my favorite was ACT! developed by the people from Sage Software.

But far from simply going to recommend you one tool or the other, I want to share with you what I believe to be the main advantages you will get by using them, regardless of a thousand other things and wonders you can achieve if you really go deep and dominate them 100%:

  • Contact information of your customers and prospects stored in one place: Do you remember the time you had to fire a sales guy a couple of years ago who took with him all customer related information, and then  your secretary had to go back, invoice by invoice, budget by budget gathering all the information to again build the database? This problem is solved with a CRM platform. It allows you to store in one place all the contact details of your customers and their businesses: addresses, phone numbers, details of decision makers, in just one word: EVERYTHING.
  • You will be aware, at all times, of the current situation of each client and/or prospect: providing you with vital information for making timely and effective decisions. Having on your hands the results a sales guy obtained during his last meeting with that important customer, even if the meeting was held outside of your city, will allow you to make better decisions.
  • They allow you to manage your own schedule, and that of your own people, more effectively: with CRM platforms you can schedule on time tasks that are required to close a deal and all pending activities, therefore you will never start the day without a perfectly clear view of how you would invest your time, and which are the things that can wait .
  • Save time by automating certain tasks: And this is a point that often causes pointless arguments. There are jobs that should necessarily be automated and to clarify this point, I ask you the following question: Do you really think it's worth writing the same email 20 times and then send it to your customers? It may make sense when you have two or three customers, but how would you handle it if you had 50? And 150?
  • You can do effective follow up on all business opportunities that are pending: both those you're taking care of directly, as well as those managed by your sales representatives, so you will not miss any of them.

And these certainly are just five of the many benefits you can get from a CRM platform. As you can imagine, I mainly use them for business management, but justo the same way, all CRM platforms can provide you with relevant information to all departments of your company, from sales to administrative and billing.

People say information is power.

And this phrase is still as important today as it was 50 years ago, especially when the markets around the world are so competitive, and you have to be so en top of so many things.

That you own a small business and only have a few customers?

Well, you shouldn't think only about customers who buy from you. Instead try to think also about those customers to whom you would like to sell, and those that once bought from you, but have not done it again, or with whom you just had a couple of conversations and nothing else.

Customer relationship management goes far beyond the tools we use.

Don't you think it's worth to take advantage of the technology that exists today and use it to get more and better growth opportunities for your business, developing an excellent and effective management of your relationships with customers?

Keep always in mind that the sales you're not doing you, are been done by your competition. What are you gonna do about it?

Photo credit: peshkova / 123RF Stock Photo

Related reading on this blog :
How can I Build A Company With a 2.0 Mindset?