2011 Business Growth Strategies Part 1: Think Different

This week is the first week of a brand-new year. We all have resolutions and revelations about our personal selves and our businesses.

My question is, "Are those resolutions based on our past, and gravity, or on our future and a path to growth?"

This week I'm sharing some easy, straightforward things you can do to check your gravity and shift 100% into growth mode - right now, in time for a big impact in 2011.

Today - I want to talk about thinking differently.

Thinking differently is a big deal in today's "new economy" and a key factor in powering 2011 success.

Why? Because the negative news, the down economy, the fear that permeates our world create limitations in our thinking. It's time to let those limitations go.

2010 was a tough year with lots of negative news. But 2010 also had significant successes. For many businesses. We just don't hear about those because success doesn't sell newspapers or media.

Success is all around us. Just look here, at the Zero Gravity businesses I've profiled in 2010. I have at least 100 more small businesses to profile and more appear on my radar every day.

Zero Gravity business leaders all share one key behavior.

They know how to think differently. They question the limitations of the past, they seek new opportunities in the present and they constantly shift their perspectives to stay in sync with their dynamic markets. They constantly ask "Why?" or "Why not?" depending on their circumstances. They push the envelope of the status quo, forget the past and break out into the ways of thinking and doing.

My question for you is, are you focused on the excitement of a new opportunity that comes with the new year? Or are you focused on the negative - defending and protecting against the tough times in your business (and personal) past?

2010 is behind you - it's behind all of us. So let it go. While you're at it, let go of 2009 and 2008 too. Focusing on what's behind you will not help your business succeed in 2011, anymore than a pilot focusing on what happened 300 miles back will help him fly the plane right now.

What matters today is today - and the future. Yes, we can bring forward the lessons learned that are VALUABLE. But we can also let the rest go. Dragging along woe is me, negative vibes doesn't help anything. It does prevent you from seeing your future clearly.

2011 is a new year. We can think about it, and live it, as we choose.

We can choose to see it as a continuation of the same challenges and problems from 2010. Or we can choose to see 2011 as a year filled with new opportunity.
We can choose to continue to do things the way we've always done them, and wonder why it's not working. Or we can shift our perspectives, see our business through fresh eyes - and find new ways of thinking and doing.
We can choose to hang on to what's comfortable - even if it is negative. Or we can step up to challenge our comfort zone with new ideas, critical perspectives and brave new approaches.

What do you choose for 2011?

Rebel Brown consistently challenges the status quo whether it be in her personal life, or to deliver optimum solutions and high velocity growth for her clients and readers. She combines the lessons learned from over 20 years as a global Corporate Strategy, Launch and Turnaround Expert, along with the strategic expertise, tactical savvy, leadership and motivational skills needed to get the job done.

Check out Rebel's new business book, Defy Gravity, where she shares proven strategies and tactics for growing your business even in a down economy.

Cost Effective Small Business Marketing Strategies and Tips - Part 5

In my last article on Cost Effective Marketing Strategies for small businesses I discussed how you can use Mass Media on a small budget very effectively. In this Part 5 article I will concentrate on Marketing Tactics, Customer Based Marketing and Important Marketing Elements.


Free Consultations: Provide a free half hour or hour long consultation to prospects giving them advice and information. Follow up in two days and ask for the sale. This tactic establishes you as an expert and even if the prospect doesn't use your services, you will have a fantastic referral source (make sure you ask for referrals!).

--Power your Consultation with visual aids and demonstrations.
--Turn your Free Consults into testimonials.

Writing Articles: Being published as an Expert will bring you targeted, continuous business. Be sure to submit your articles online and back link to your Website. Your web traffic will increase exponentially. Then offer Free E-books on your Website to solidify the relationship. When prospects understand your expert status, they will give you business, as well as, refer you to others.

Seminars: Depending on your business having a FREE or Paid Seminar can be a great way to mine prospects. Again, this strategy works well as the Expert strategy and piggybacks well with Free Consultations, Articles and E-books. Free Seminars can be unpredictable, but a nominal fee Seminar can be enough to guarantee success. A nominal fee ensures the attendee will show, while providing a ton of value for the information provided. Be sure to video all your seminars and sell them on your website.

--Lecture / instruct for half an hour to forty five minutes, then open it up for questions. Wrap up the seminar at the hour mark. Have an area with coffee and sweets set up so you can network before and after the seminar.
--The goal is to get as many business cards and contact information as you can from the prospects. Follow with a mailed hand written note or a personal email within 24 hours. Then call the prospect a day later. Have the Seminar on a Tuesday and follow up Thursday or Friday via phone to set appointments for the next two weeks.
--Have two Seminars a month. Make them a little different so you can attract the same prospects again! Give your previous attendees a VIP Pass. If you don't sell them the first round you'll have a much better chance after the second seminar.
--Write a Book and your Seminar attendance will increase three fold. The more you can foster the Expert Status, the better your results will be.

Free Demonstrations: I love Free Demonstrations! I cut my teeth in Sales in my youth selling Electrolux Cleaning Systems (ok, so they were vacuums and dry cleaners). Selling a premium product which had a ton of value built in required a Free Demonstration. If I couldn't sell the prospect in 45 minutes then I would leave the Cleaning System with them for two days and return at a prearranged time to pick it up. With a good financing package backing me up, I closed 8 out of 10!

--A Free Demonstration can also be short in front of a crowd and take orders afterward. Depends on the product you are selling.

Note: At Seminars and Mass Demonstrations, make sure you have plenty order takers and appointment setters on hand. You can't be signing up prospects and talking to them at the same time!

Open House Events: Opening up your business to existing customers and prospects for a day every three months is an awesome way to solidify relationships and drum up more business. Have refreshments and employees staged in different areas explaining how the business works. You, the owner, mix and mingle and mine! Make sure each employee is schooled prior, to get business cards and contact information. Be sure to teach the employee to make notes on the prospects' biz card or contact info so you have personalized means of future contact. Make sure you have a demonstration room for the serious prospects! Make sure you are fully staffed fro an Open House. All hands on deck event!

--Send Press Releases to local / regional publications and look for creative ways to advertise your Open House. There are loads of Free Online and Offline Event Directories. Use Social Networking!
--Social Online Networks such as Linked In, Facebook and Twitter can be excellent forums to getting out information about your Open House or other Company Events and News. See my Article on Internet Marketing for more details.

Trade Shows: I am not a huge fan of Trade Shows because many shows will have absolutely no merit for the money and time you spend. However, many businesses have been successful with Trade Shows because they figure out through research which ones really have qualified buyers and know little success secrets. Some Trade Show Keys to keep in mind:

--Always attend and research a show prior to your participation.
--Determine ways shows let you contact prospects before and after the show.
--Partner with a good Strategic Partner and share a large 20 foot booth together. This attracts attention and offers prospects the best solutions.
--Have "roamers" walking the show continuously handing out circulars and flyers, which pictorially show prospects where your booth is. Offer a Freebee or discount for the prospect to come to your booth. Require the prospect to register to receive the Freebee or Discount.
--Have Brochures available at your booth for the motivated prospects.
--Be sure to mine each prospect's information and product / service interests. Don't rely on them to contact you after the show.
--Visually demonstrate your product or service. Let prospects see the final solution.
--Have plenty of staff on hand to sell, take information and greet prospects.
--Big Signs, Big Graphics, Large Font, Video, Audio - these are all key in helping the prospect visualize / own your solution.
--Take lots of pictures and video so you can post to the web during the show to create a viral buzz.
--Always get a prospects email address so you can send them an Opt In for your Newsletter, Company Alerts, RSS, etc.
--Make sure all of your Staff is instructed to take notes on the prospects' business card so you can jog your memory on the prospects' relevance and importance.
--Direct Mail response rates to Tradeshow Participants can be as high as 20%, as compared to the average 2% response rate for a first mailing.
--Trade Shows can be a good way to kick off your penetration into a new market.
--If you are going to the expense of going to a Trade Show, be sure to run some advertising prior (with an incentive to come see you).

Newsletters: I think Newsletters (both offline and online) are an excellent information and sales tool. This goes hand in hand with the Expert Role, providing interested prospects valuable information, while having information on how to contact you or a web page to visit. Newsletters should be sent once per month with an expert article as the main focus. I like to have the article in the center of the Newsletter with a narrow column to either side with supporting information and resources. These side columns are great areas to partner with other businesses to offer more expert information and help. Be sure to feature your FREE half hour or hour consultation service on the Newsletter and any seminars, webinars or such coming up. The more you get into and use your Newsletter, the more exponential the results. And, please, write your own content! You are the Expert!

Write a Book: I'm not saying get in the book business. A book sets you apart as a bonafide Expert and gives you instant credibility. It is one of the best sales generator tools you can use! Two books that I have written, The Business Success Guide and The Comprehensive Business Plan Workbook - A Guide to Effective Business Planning, lend instant credibility to my experience as a Business Planner and Consultant. You can use Print on Demand Publishing to print books and drop ship to customers as they are ordered individually for a price of $10 - $14 per book. Get writing!

Speaking at Club Events: Being a featured speaker at a private club event can drive great business for you. Make sure to have a brochure and make sure to feature an easy to remember website address. Feature a special promotion for just the club attendees. Again, being a Club Speaker sets you up as the Expert and a fantastic way to advertise your articles, newsletters and books.


Having excellent relationships with your Customers is the absolute best way to get a steady flow of qualified prospects. Moreover, it gives you the opportunity for repeat, highly profitable business. Ask for referrals before, during and after a sale to build an excellent pipeline of business.

A Mentor Group
--Select a group of 4 - 6 business people you respect and have a mentorship meeting with them once per quarter. They will not only help you with the direction and success of your company, but also they will be an excellent source of highly qualified referrals. This type of referral gives you instant credibility.

Networking Clubs
--Join one that doesn't have too many competitors and can send you your "ideal" client. You can spend all day needlessly and unproductively going to networking events. Choose a couple and go consistently. Bring valuable information and advice with you!

Who is Your Best Customer?
--Simple Answer: Your Customers! Understand that a satisfied customer is your best repeat customer, as well as, referral source. One satisfied customer can exponentially bring you increased sales. 60-79% of your Marketing Budget, or Emphasis, should be directed toward your existing customers. I said "or emphasis" since marketing to an existing customer can be quite cost effective. It costs 80% less to keep an existing customer as it is to land a new customer. Remember two things: Repeat Sales and Referrals. Between the two, your marketing plan is 70% covered, which minimizes the necessary cash out lay for the remaining 30% of your Marketing Budget.


Not all Marketing is about running an Ad Campaign or sending out a newsletter; rather, good marketing is also about running an effective business and doing things to strengthen your Marketing Plan. These elements will help you successfully pull together a cohesive, effective Marketing Plan.

Service: Service should always be #1. Service is not what you offer the customer but really more what the customer wants and wishes for. If you define your Service Policy around what your Customers'' want, then your Marketing success will be exponential! Listen closely to what your customers want and provide the services to fill the gaps.

Why do Customers patronize a business? The five top reasons are:


Address all five elements in a Cohesive Marketing Plan, you will be successful. Remember that each builds on the other in the indicated order, so Price becomes less of a high or low question, and more of how it relates to the preceding four elements. You can also put Referrals on top of the list, as that instills Confidence and an expectation of Quality. Referral Business is the best business.

Public Relations:
Cost you little or nothing but can brand your business very effectively, giving you a well known Identity in your Market place. Free PR stories, articles and news clips can be extremely effective in establishing your Identity. You Marketing Programs will be much more effective when you have a well established Brand and Identity. Good publicity gives you credibility, stature and authority. However, bad publicity can quite harmful so it is very important to honestly and forth rightly address any bad publicity or dissatisfied customers. When submitting company news to the media, always send a story that is worth publicizing. Give them a reason to give you free publicity.

Put together a good Press Kit (hire a PR Pro if needed) and take the media person to lunch. Relate your Company story and hand over the Press Kit. You are 80% of the way there! Cultivate your media relations so get great broad exposure when you submit your news. Always give the media an angle - a reason to run your story. Become a Media Resource by giving your media contacts important information about industry changes or consumer tips or free business advice. It will come back to you three fold!

Remember, PR is all about creating a Buzz. Word of mouth, viral marketing can be extremely successful for your business if it is positive publicity. Social Networking can be a powerful way to spread publicity about a business. Remember to have a system and forum in place to address any bad publicity because viral marketing can really accentuate the negatives, very quickly!

Follow Up:
Most businesses lose customers and momentum when they stop following up and being in contact with Customers. Marketing really begins after the sale; Marketing is a continuous cycle. Stay in front of customers with handwritten notes, newsletters, email tips, phone calls, specials, discounts and most importantly, asking them for referrals. Provide your customers news about your business as it occurs to keep them connected to you. Form and keep that bond - it is the future of your Company!

Word of Mouth:
Word of Mouth advertising can be very effective if you figure out where else your clients conduct business. Then partner with those businesses to effectively self-promote and spread the word. It is a win-win for both companies as you are more effectively satisfying your customers' needs.

Competitive Edge:
All the Marketing in the world will be ineffective if you don't have an Edge or Advantage to offer your prospects compared to the Competition. Remember, it isn't solely about price. It is matching benefits, advantages, service quality and value with a fair price that helps you beat out the competition. Your Marketing should stress your Competitive Advantages - don't wait to express them during your sales presentation. Competitive Edge should be the center point of any Marketing Plan.

20-30 Seconds:
This is normally how long you have to interest a prospect. So it is vitally important to be able to clearly communicate your offering and advantage very quickly and succinctly whether it is through a Marketing piece or when in person with a prospect. The first 10-15 seconds is critical. This is when you peek enough interest to listen to why doing business with you is a must. Always keep the presentation (whether through Marketing or in person) personal to the prospect and personal to you. There should be a common sales presentation theme throughout all your Marketing Programs, Advertising Pieces, Personal Contacts, Telephone Calls, Emails - any and all contact with prospects.

Guarantee / Warranty:
Both are see through, hollow promises unless you have something credible and real backing them up. This says to your prospects that you believe 100% in your product and service. Don't use it unless it is genuine! Show what your customer satisfaction will be or look like, make it real to the prospect.

Develop your Brand through strong Identity Marketing. Good branding can only be achieved with consistent, widespread Marketing through a cross section of related advertising mediums. Commonality of Marketing Themes throughout all your Marketing Platforms goes a long way toward establishing your business identity and brand. With that platform in place, use Viral Social Networking to spread your brand globally.

In the next article, I will discuss Essential Marketing Plan Elements and Successful Marketing Attitudes.

Frank Goley is a business consultant for ABC Business Consulting, and he is an expert in developing, writing and implementing business plans, marketing plans, funding plans, strategic plans and turnaround plans.

5 Quick Business - Building Strategies To Explode Slow Sales - Now!

Is your business "dead-in-the-water?" Are you looking left and right out your door asking yourself, "Where is everyone?"

If you answered 'yes' to these two questions then you and your business are (already) in deep, deep trouble!

Not to worry, though, if you have faith in yourself you can pull yourself out of your rat-hole and get your struggling business back on track. You can breathe new life into your business to explode your sales through the roof!

Starting today, you have two quick 'everyday' strategies you must do to grow your business.

Strategy #1: Go after your clients/customers (since they are not coming to you). You do this by calling or visiting businesses (and homes) around you introducing yourself leaving your kick-ass business card/brochure explaining the virtues of why you are there.

Strategy #2: Give your clients/customers a fantastic mind-blowing 'reason-why' they should do business with you. Do you make house calls? Do you pick-up and deliver the same day? Are you saving your clients/customers 'their' time?

Saturate your perimeter area daily with news about you and about your business. Usually, a two to three mile radius around your business is a good saturation point.

If your facing slow sales here are 5 quick business-building strategies to explode your sales - now:

1. Start asking for your clients/customers email address. This gives you permission to mail product/service offers to them.

2. Start asking your clients/customers if they are happy with your products/services. This gives you vital feedback which you can use to improve your service - if necessary.

3. Get your business on Google maps and Google Place Pages. This strategy expands your local perimeter.

4. Use social media giants to grow your business. Use Facebook and Twitter to stay in touch with your clients/customers with special 'deals-of-the-day.' Is FourSquare a place for you?

5. Sell your services on a contract basis whereby you get paid regularly on the 1st of every month. This works well for consultants, office cleaners, alarm companies plus thousands of others.

Your main strategy here is to stay in constant touch with your clients/customers. They will begin to remember your name. They will begin to remember what products/services you offer. And, best of all, they will start to do more business with you.

Peter Jovanovich, a business promotion strategist, is the author of "101 Best-Damned Business Promotion Strategies You've Never Heard Of Before!" His strategic business promotions are guaranteed to help you explode your sales and profits, grow your business and out-fox your competition!

Business Growth Strategies You Can Use When You're Broke

It's becoming more and more common to hear business owners balk at investing in their businesses because of the cost. "I just don't have the money," they say. Okay, fair enough. The recession has eaten away at profits, and many folks are up to their eyeballs in debt.

But the reality is this: You've got to figure out how to grow your business fast -- or face the ugly alternative of closing up shop. And since I'm guessing you want to stay in business, let me share with you some business growth strategies that can be implemented with almost no money out of pocket.

Strategy #1: Start Using the Marketing Resources You Already Have

Have you ever bought something you didn't use? Yep, me too. And what I've found is that many entrepreneurs have hundreds if not thousands of dollars worth of untapped marketing resources sitting unopened on their bookshelves.

Do you realize how much potential revenue you're sitting on right now? Value doesn't come from owning tools and information, but rather from actually using it.

Strategy #2: Master "The Art of the Hustle"

Do you need to grow your monthly revenue by 20% this month? Then you need to take massive action. Don't waste time reading all the negative news or worrying about how you're going to pay your bills. That doesn't do you any good. You need to focus on what you can do today to create profit -- and start doing it.

* Look up past customers and clients... and call them. Sincerely thank them for their business. Offer them something special -- a coupon, a free gift, a discount -- to get them to buy with you again.

* Write good old-fashioned thank you notes and send them to prospects and customers.

* Create one-page sales flyers and see if you can place them at neighboring businesses.

There are literally hundreds of inexpensive techniques and strategies you can use to jump-start sales. The only thing that's required is some creativity and a little sweat equity.

Strategy #3: Referrals, Referrals, Referrals!

One of the best, most inexpensive ways to find new customers is through referrals. After all, your current customers probably know a few people who like similar things and buy similar products.

So why don't more entrepreneurs ask for referrals? Frankly, they're afraid. They're embarrassed. Something holds them back. My advice is to simply ignore how you feel and start using referrals as soon as possible. Once you see the new customers coming in, you'll actually be eager to implement a formal referral program.

All three of these business growth strategies can be implemented immediately with almost no money out of pocket. Implement one of them today and see how quickly you can generate new sales in your business.

Did you enjoy this article? Then run right over to Ryan Healy's Business Growth Strategies blog to get your weekly fix of profit-exploding business and sales advice. Even better, you can get his free "Conversion Booster Checklist" PDF right on his blog when you provide your name and primary email. Don't reprint this exact article. Instead, reprint a free unique content version of this same article.

Business Development Strategy For Minimizing Online Business Reputation Risk

When people deal with companies or other business people these days one thing is for sure: they will use Google search engine to find everything possible about the business or a person they are dealing with.

What will they find when they put your company name to Google search?

Unfortunately many times results can be quite devastating. As we all know bad news travel fast and online those bad news don't have to be true, they can just as well be opinions and gossip, but unfortunately many decisions are based on those opinions.

Internet today is a fantastic tool for information, but it is also a totally new way for competitors, unhappy customers or disgruntled employees to post all kinds of claims about your business.

Search engines do their job really well these days and the negative impact on your business is instant and it stays online forever.

What is The Best Business Development Strategy To Minimize Online Business Reputation Risk?

The best way to deal with negative comments is to spread as much positive things about your business as possible. Search engines are very efficient and pick that content as well.

Your Website Is Your Link To Your Customers and Prospects - Make It Human

Make your website look as positive about your business as possible. Include positive testimonials, tell how your company is part of the community and also tell more about people behind the business, both executives and employees. Make it as human as possible. Use videos and lots of photos of the people working in your business.

You can put up a blog where Chairman/CEO can write about your business and how it is helping people and community as well as adding value to the marketplace.

People like to read human stories, about people behind the business.

Be Open

The best policy in business is openness. We as humans tend to make mistakes and as there are human people behind every business mistakes happen. Deal with it, immediately, openly and effectively. The best way to deal with mistakes is to be candid, open and apologetic. People understand that mistakes can me made and they will appreciate it if you openly admit that mistakes have been made and they will be corrected.

Be Responsive

Being responsive is important. Of course, your company doesn't have to answer every complaint with a detailed report, but keeping a good, open communication policy helps to keep your business reputation solid despite of few complaints.

What About Search Engine Marketing

Again, as you build this positive image of your company it will be found online. Your website is extremely important on building this image. Use paid search engine advertising to point to your most positive content, be it news, testimonials and how your company is helping your community to thrive.

It is also important to remember that people like to deal with other people. Tell as much as possible about people who are working in your company; tell about their life, press coverage, honors and awards. Make it real and honest.

Online marketing is all about content. Use that to your advantage. Make press releases and articles about your business. Build a positive looking website. Make it look human. Flood the Internet with positive stories about your business. It is very easy to do and it doesn't cost much.

Read Business News Daily To Keep Up With the Markets

The net worth rich companies are called blue chip stocks in the market, they are always in the news on Business News. Gillette, Microsoft, Wall Mart and Citigroup are some of them, which usually outperform the market expectations.

These companies are reported for their sales, marketing strategies, product launches, global investments and profits & losses. Each of these can trigger a rally, push the market indices and generally add to economic prosperity. Business News also provides the government's perspective of the economy, which in turn helps the investor to weigh the risk as per the market sentiment.

Not many can read between the lines of Finance News flashed or published in the media. It's an art in itself. The knowledge of going beyond the text to know what is really happening in the market or in the economy or with a stock requires an analytical mind. Suppose you read a banner headline of Facebook to launch a mobile device in the midst of Facebook IPO crisis, a discerning reader need to ask, is it a diversionary tactic employed by the smart PR or is it truly a new development that will enhance the market value of the scrip. Questions like these are hidden in most of the news items that we see in Finance News.

What role do the latest stock market updates play in the life of an average investor? Does it matter to him when stock market declines? Does it matter when stock market shoots through the roof?

The question becomes especially important in light of news items appearing in press - investor lost millions as markets decline by 200 points- which show the mass effect of the rise and fall of the stock markets.

A speculative investor gets directly affected by these fluctuations; however a committed investor books a notional loss. The latest stock market updates in a sense gives an approximate valuation of the holdings we have thus helping to assess our future investment strategies.

The latest stocks news carry news item such as quarterly results, stock analysts ratings, trader's recommendations and stock quotes . It also has features such as opening and closing stock rates, a yearlong individual stock data and the news of major global indices such as Dow Jones, Nasdaq, London stock exchange etc. Latest stocks news narrates the status of global economy and indicates future growth prospects for an individual investor.

Stock market news is a communication about the latest happenings in and around stock markets.

An investor gets to know the market trends through this medium upon which he places orders for buy and sell. In a way, stock market news feeds the market sentiments.

Most active stock is followed by the investors for their capacity to propel the bullish or bearish sentiments in the market. Most active stocks are the most preferred for they pay back the value in both the phases.

Analyst ratings are a re-commendatory feature which suggest the credit worthiness of a given stock in the market. Every investor keeps an eye on Analyst Ratings for they are based on the market positions taken by the big funds and wealthy investors.

Sam Richard Nicholson is a freelance writer and finance adviser, in this article he is centering on reading Market News daily to catch the regular market updates, which indeed helps in better decision making while investment in market. Importance of Stock Analyst Ratings, updates on Most Stable and Active Stocks, news from different stock exchanges. An investor can sound market trends and can follow his marketing strategies on product launches, global investments and profits & losses.

Towards More Reliable B2B Sales Forecasting And A Better Business to Business Sales Strategy

Not All Sales Qualification Is Equal (The Harsh Reality)

Why do so many B2B sales forecasts bear a closer resemblance to great works of fiction than to reality? Why do "top opportunities" regularly slip and slide from month to month and then often disappear altogether? Erratic sales forecasting is a joint symptom of superficial qualification and an inadequate business to business sales strategy resulting in a failure to get close enough to the key influencers or decision makers that can actually make things happen.

The more business critical the solution or service being offered, the more complex the sales forecasting challenge as people making or influencing the choice of supplier will have more to lose if a bad decision is made. There are however proven ways to progress towards more reliable sales forecasts and the good news is that in doing so you will develop a stronger sales strategy that will serve to improve sales performance over time.

Eliminate Superficial Sales Qualification to Improve Sales Performance

What many salespeople refer to as qualification is nothing more than a superficial attempt to garner some information which is perhaps more self-serving than it is customer focussed. Is it any wonder that senior influencers and decision makers might see little value in engaging with them? What value do such salespeople really add for the busy executive with a significant business challenge to overcome and perhaps a business case to build in support of addressing it?

Too many salespeople assail prospects and customers with their own objectives (targets, pressure from boss, commission payments, etc.) foremost in their minds and then talk too much! The need to qualify an opportunity fully is often over-ridden by a salesperson's strong desire to "lay out their stall". Presenting, proposing and demonstrating often come more easily to them than intelligent questioning and listening. Carefully selected sales coaching can help salespeople engage in an intelligent "probe and listen" mode that builds bridges rather than barriers.

Multi-layer sales qualification is key to winning strategic clients, getting inside their heads to understand their thinking and gaining mind-share in an often politically complex environment. Superficial qualification is a sign of a weak business to business sales strategy and approach and is at the root of the issues that plague sales forecasting reliability whilst defying attempts to improve sales performance. All is not lost however as many salespeople can up their game provided they have the right coaching and guidance on effective strategies for complex sales scenarios.

Getting close to the "powerbase" (key influencers and decision makers) is crucial for business to business sales of a value-add or business critical nature. These people are making vendor selection decisions on which their careers may depend. They look for potential suppliers that support and contribute to their business case rather than those that seek to pitch and shoehorn the prospects problem into whatever solution they may have to sell. Professional salespeople tend to engage "top-down" and qualify deeply to simultaneously build their knowledge and credibility at senior level. These behaviours support more reliable sales forecasting and perhaps more importantly their consistent application can significantly help to improve sales performance over time.

The Foundations for An Effective Sales Forecast Dashboard

Trying to drive sales opportunities from the top-level forecast down is a common and seriously flawed approach. Sales forecasts should be a dashboard, but they will never be effective in isolation. The foundations for reliable sales forecasting are good account planning combined with deep qualification, ability to engage and converse at senior level and adept negotiation skills. Sales opportunities should be driven from these solid foundations upwards. Effective sales coaching can help salespeople win client mind-share to drive more consistent sales performance and thus more reliable forecasting.

The account planning required to underpin more reliable sales forecasting needs to take a realistic up to date read on each major sales opportunity, highlighting vulnerabilities and exposures to be addressed to secure your company's position. Any account plan is only as good as the level of intelligence and credibility gained through qualification and senior engagement. It's important that salespeople are constructively challenged on a regular basis to ensure that they consistently work to develop quality "trusted advisor" business relationships that put them more in control of the sale. There are significant benefits to using an external facilitator for these account reviews.

Salespeople tend to be naturally optimistic and this often works against them when it comes to pragmatically determining where they are with any given sales opportunity. Too often they may hope for the best, failing to qualify deeply enough. It's important that they learn to ask the hard questions early on as genuine prospects are likely to respect them for it, whilst those with a hidden agenda may well get irritated (often a good acid test). The true value of multi-layered sales qualification lies in its ability to establish early on whether an opportunity is real or not and what is needed to move towards deal closure. Approached with the right mind-set, multi-level sales qualification is an effective tool to establish senior level credibility and build trusted advisor relationships.

A Note on CRM:

Beware the flawed belief that CRM is the answer. Whilst it may provide easier data retrieval, filtering, management reporting, etc., a CRM system is only ever as good as the data it contains. If the sales qualification and business to business sales strategy are lacking then so will the CRM system be. For sales forecasting software or CRM to be effective, they must sit on the foundations of good account planning and effective sales strategy and approach and this is where the primary focus should be.

And the Bottom Line on Reliable B2B Sales Forecasting Methods....

Too often what prospects get is an eager salesperson pushing their wares rather than taking time to fully understand their needs. Fix this and more reliable forecasting becomes possible (along with increased actual sales). Fail to address it and even the best sales forecasting methods won't help you. The business reality is that intelligent prospects and customers do not want to be sold to; they want "contributor providers" or trusted advisors that will bring them solutions to the business pain they are suffering ("the pain behind the project spend").

Of course sales forecasting accuracy can never be 100% as there will always be factors beyond a salesperson's control - spending freeze due to merger or acquisition, abrupt disappearance of a key player, etc. However it can be greatly improved across the sales team with the aid of consistent and pragmatic sales coaching from someone with the relevant actual experience.

My views may sound slightly harsh at times, especially to some hardworking salespeople. However this is the reality as I see it after ten years as a successful sales individual followed by another ten years leading B2B sales teams selling business critical solutions and services at CXO level across Europe. The good news is that significant improvement is possible in many cases, the bad news is that not all salespeople have the calibre to make the grade. Effective sales coaching can identify those worth investment and those whose development is unlikely to yield sufficient return on that investment.

More sales and business articles by Harry Hayden

About the Author

Harry Hayden provides sales management training and sales coaching. In his previous career he led multinational sales groups across Europe for several large and medium sized corporates. He now helps SME business leaders and sales managers with the development and execution of their sales management strategy.

Four Steps to an Effective Small Business Marketing Strategy

You know you have a great product or service. You have the best sales personal to help your customers make an educated buying decision. You have the best customer support set up to help your customers with any questions they have after the sale, but what are you doing to market your product or service. Nothing really happens in your business to make money before you set up and implement your small business marketing strategy.

Small Business Marketing Tip Number one

The first part of your marketing strategy should be to know your customer. Take time to think about why someone would want your product or service. You need to know what motivates your potential customers so that you can position your product or service correctly.

Small Business Marketing Tip Number Two

The second part to your small business marketing strategy is to stay consistent in your message and communication. You're current customers and repeat customers are the most valuable customers that you have. They have already done business with you and you have had the chance to develop a relationship with them. Make sure to stay in contact with them and let them know you appreciate their business and also let them know when you have specials or new products they may like. Some tools you could use in your small business marketing strategy to stay in contact are email, text messaging, mailers, social networking messages and posts, updates on a blog or your website and so many more. Make sure you are gathering contact information from your customers and make them feel important because they are.

Small Business Marketing Tip Number Three

The third part of your business marketing strategy should be to use the media as much as possible and make some noise about your product or service. Get your business covered in as many news, radio, Internet publications as you can to establish yourself as an expert or an authority. News stations and local print media are constantly looking for good stories to be part of and talk about. Make sure that you present your business to them with the audience in mind on not necessarily to promote your business. The sneaky part of your small business marketing strategy is to let them get the word out by delivering a real cool story they can report on.

Small Business Marketing Tip Number Four

The fourth part of your marketing strategy is to make sure that your customers can find you. In the fast paced work we live in today people are using technology more and more to make their buying decisions. This includes the whole buying cycle from research to purchase for products and searching on mobile devises for local businesses. Statistically one-third of mobile searches are with local intent meaning people want to purchase now. This means that if your business does not show up their mobile device either through search or local listings, they are probably going to do business with your competition.

Your marketing strategy should be all about developing a relationship with your customer's, this is starts with your message and should continue long after the sale. With all of the options technology offers getting news customers and staying in contact with them has become very cost-effective, so make sure to plan out your small business marketing strategy.

The next thing you should do is to plan out your local marketing strategy using some of the tips in this article. Make sure that you are using technology like social media and mobile to stay in contact with your customers. If you need any assistance get in touch with us and see if we can help with your small business marketing strategy.

The Best Business News Now a Click Away

The world around us is changing at the most rapid pace. Never in the entire history of human beings have the world witnessed the most dramatic as well as the life altering changes taking place at such a pace. In such a scenario, people need to keep themselves abreast about the latest tidings that take place and especially those that have a larger bearing on the lives of the common man. The need to stay informed about the latest tidings is all the more important in the world of business. The gigantic leaps that the technology has taken over the past few decades has completely altered the way business is viewed as well as carried out all over the world. One medium that has a tremendous potential to inform, and change the business world is the internet. But everything on the internet is not worth even looking at, leave alone gleaning. The business news particularly that one comes across on the web are not all worth reading.

The solution to this problem is itself present on the internet. There are many sites on the net that can offer you all the relevant and important business news that matters. These sites can help you in gleaning the best information regarding the business news, the stock market news, the marketing news or the strategic consulting news. Anybody who wants to stay informed about the latest in the world of business can now visit these sites and get an insight into the latest in the world of business.

Many of these sites have the business news ranked according to their merit. All that is required is to visit any of these sites and view the best and the latest marketing news, stock market news or any other most popular business news.

Creating A Company Communications Plan

"What we've got here is a failure to communicate"
- from the movie, Cool Hand Luke

Fire. Aim. Ready. If this is your communications plan.....you may want to read on.

Amazingly, many companies do not think about communications - both internally and externally - until it is a necessity. A crisis occurs, a reaction follows and in many cases, they do not necessarily put the best foot forward. A strategic communications plan should be a part of your overall business plan and can provide the company clarity that is required in both good times and bad. Developing the process for delivering your communications on an ongoing basis is critical in order to maintain a consistent message as well as a continuous forum from which to communicate.

Even small companies (less than 10 employees) can have an effective communications strategy that enables them to articulate company news efficiently. In the case of my company, my website acts as the key repository of "everything" and all news information emanates to Twitter, LinkedIn,Facebook and YouTube. This helps organize information and helps to create a cohesive communications strategy - even for a small company.

Once you have the basic distribution structure in place, developing the content is the next critical task. Rather than just develop news "willy-nilly", ensure that a well-thought through strategy is in place regarding content development. Timing and sequencing of topics are critical to having your audience "stay with you". There will still be ample opportunities to infuse "new" content as it is warranted - these items are just icing on the cake. Let's take a look at the core elements of an overall strategic communications plan:

Don't Be Afraid Of The Media: The first step is getting over the intimidation with the media. There sure not be any fear in dealing with the media - they have a job to do and often arelooking for news. Help them! Next, develop a list of all key media contacts and get their email address. Be proactive with your contacts in order to create a relationship in advance. In addition, target specific industries that would be beneficial for your business. Over time, your goal should be to enhance your company image through communications as this helps soften distressing news and provides accessibility for interviews. Lastly, develop reasons for meeting the media and build those relationships.

Create News Releases: Once you have established your media contact list, begin to develop news content. Keep in mind that news information may have to be tailored for each of your audiences, but the core message should stay the same. Determine what elements are critical and conclude your news release with a consistent "boilerplate" that provides a quick paragraph on your company. Lastly, determine how the news release will be communicated and by whom.

Employees And Stakeholders: Another set of audiences to include within your strategic communications, would be both employees and/or stakeholders. Keeping your internal teams informed is vital in order to permeate your communications throughout your entire organization. There is nothing worse than having misinformed employees and stakeholders attempting to communicate your vision.

Communicate To Key Vendors: Oft-overlooked is proactively communicating to your vendors. Many company owners feel compelled to keep vendors in the dark in order to keep them at arms length. I have always had the philosophy that a vendor works better on your behalf if they understand how their role fits in your overall communication strategy. The more they are informed, the better decisions they can make to enhance their support of your brand.

Internet/Intranet Media Kit: In years past, having a hard copy media kit - press releases, biographies of senior management, news items, etc. - was an excellent way of putting your company in a nice, neat "package". Today, websites can act as the media kit and allow for flexibility in real time to post updates on your company. In addition, your website expands your reach far more effectively than hard-copy media kits. Save the dough and go electronic.

Media Policy Handbook: Lastly, if more than one person manages your communications or if you simply just want to have greater structure within your organization, consider developing a media policy handbook. This guide can come in handy in order to develop consistency in dealing with the media, particularly if there is a crisis. Crisis management tests the mettle of any organization and "winging" how the company manages a crisis only exacerbates the situation.

Creating and managing a strategic communications plan requires upfront work. Once in place, communicating a consistent message will not only be effortless, but highly productive. The media, employees, stakeholders and vendors will all be singing from the same songbook, which ultimately translates into your customers being well-informed about your company and brand.

Online Marketing Strategy - Use the Power of Social Media

When it comes to your online marketing strategy, social media is a power to reckon with today. The billions of people who were too far apart to meet one to two decades ago now choose to "meet" online through these social media. Is your online marketing strategy capturing the full potential and power of this amazing media? Here are a few tips that can help you make sure you are on the right track:

Open a business page/account - Go to each one of these social media networking sites and ensure that you have an account or page open in the name of your business. Make sure to integrate that account on your page and also connect seamlessly from that account to your site. For example, if anyone sees you on Facebook they should be able to connect to your site right from that page.

Stay connected and in view - As part of your online marketing strategy, make sure you regularly update these social networking sites. You should keep updating news about your products, company, brand and offers on all these sites as often as you can. You should become a common feature in the minds of all the people who visit these sites. Whenever they find something interesting, you want them to check it out themselves and also recommend it to all others on their friends' list.

Give related news and updates - Do not always promote your products. Intermittently post news and updates related to the products - their use, maintenance, better designs, etc. Try to keep your visitors entertained and looking forward to your updates. It's important that your online marketing strategy connect with related news so you can have accurate and interesting material to share and you don't lose the interest of your friends or followers.

YouTube, Squidoo and other similar Video Promotion Sites - Videos are emerging as an exceptional medium of business promotion. Check out all the popular video sites - such as YouTube - and post videos about your products and related aspects as often as you can. Announce promotional offers, talk about the science that backs the products, have interviews about success stories and so on. Have videos uploaded at regular periods. These videos often are much more convincing than any written article.

To ensure the best results from your online marketing strategy, be sure that your website technology is updated at regular intervals, particularly to take advantage of the new tools frequently coming out to help you integrate your site and your social media, such as Pinterest share buttons and the like. You need to keep pace with the times, which can be quite a challenge!

With an Internet presence, you have the power to do business while you sleep. Your business is open 24 hours a day. Without a website, you are missing out on a lot of exposure.