In our last article we discussed how to develop a true customer focus. This month we focus on how best to respond to your market place by identifying new trends and ‘benchmarking’ best practices, learning from the competition, clarifying your unique business strengths and weaknesses, and planning marketing and promotional activities.
By becoming a member of your local Chamber of Commerce and by subscribing to relevant trade journals, you increase your exposure to business networks and the latest information and trends. Most chambers are mandated to support small companies in their quest for new opportunities.
This is achieved through a number of services (including enterprise development, business intelligence and training) and opportunities to swap ideas with similar minded individuals. Over half of chamber members are small, medium and micro enterprises with turnovers below R5 million per annum, so they’re definitely the right company to keep. The tough trading climate means chambers have adopted a more pragmatic view and spend more time helping companies drive efficiencies, reach export potential and run their operations within national compliance regulations.
The CapeChamber of Commerce, for example, aware that ‘deal flow’ is critical to small business growth, has developed an aggressive pan-African policy which sees it connecting with other African chambers, governments and agencies. A quick glance at online magazine news stands like www.magazines.co.za, which showcases several categories of South African magazines, including free digital ones, reveals there are many options to choose from. You should search trade publications related to your industry sector and preview latest issues (if you can) before subscribing to the actual publication of your choice.
Learning from competitors
In order to learn from competition one needs to set aside all prejudices and be prepared to learn from other companies. Having correctly identified your competition you can begin to plan comparative shops. Be sure to think as broadly as possible. Competition in food retailing, for example, is diverse and numerous. Everyone from the large supermarket across the highway, to speciality food retailers/food standalones at the end of your driveway, convenience shops at garages and numerous ‘mom & pop’ style small businesses are competition.
It’s important to conduct thorough desktop research before you leave home. Search websites for clues on strategy and product positioning; check advertising and promotional activities in the mass media (local and / or national press, radio and on TV). Is your competition focused on selling ‘quality’ goods or price leadership? Once you view them close-up, what messages are prominent in their window displays? What happens once you’re inside their premises? Take note of everything from shop layout through product range or catalogue, to price-points and approach to customer service. Write down all key information and take photographs if you can.
Benchmarking for success
Benchmarking is the process of comparing your company and your processes/performance to the best in the trade. Aspects typically measured are the quality of goods and services, time to manufacture product and or delivery schedules and costs. The process of benchmarking involves identifying the best companies in your sector, or in another sector where similar processes exist, and comparing them with your own.
In this way you learn how well you are performing and, more importantly, the reasons certain companies are successful or not. Benchmarking is especially effective when used to measure performance against a specific indicator (cost of a product, productivity improvements, cycle time or defects per product) resulting in a measure that is comparable with your own performance. Benchmarking then allows you to develop new objectives to improve or adapt specific processes with the aim of increasing your performance. Benchmarking may be a once-off event, but is usually an ongoing, continuous improvement process.
There is no single benchmarking process, but you should first understand your own processes in detail and then identify potential benchmark companies. Having completed the benchmarking exercise one can then determine the gap and / or process differences. Finally you should set targets for future performance and communicate to everyone involved. Having implemented the changes you should review improvements on an ongoing basis.
To understand your own business strengths and weaknesses you will need to start with a simple analysis. Ensure you have the right people in the room in the first place. Quality input ensures quality output. Then be brutally honest about your company and its potential. Jim Collins in his best-selling book ‘Good to Great: Why some companies make the leap…and others don’t’ calls this confronting the “brutal facts”. Follow this up with a simple SWOT Analysis. Ask your team what your company’s strengths are i.e. what you are particularly good at? Conversely. What are you weak at i.e. what does your company struggle with? What opportunities exist for you to take advantage of (given your unique strengths) and what are the threats from competition i.e. how can they beat you at what you do? Once you’ve established your strengths and weaknesses you’ll be able to identify your unique offering (see last month’s article).
Defining your market
Another trick is to define your market in really simple dimensions. Let’s illustrate with an example. Take a cosmetic product i.e. body cream or lotion. Does the product fall into the category ‘therapeutic’ or ‘beauty’, high or low price? Vaseline Intensive Care Lotion for example would be a therapeutic product (with variants including Aloe & Cucumber for skin repair etc.) and also low to medium-priced. Your task is to plot all your competitors on a scale with just two axes.
Now answer this question for yourself. Where does Ingram’s Camphor Cream fit into the picture versus say a Coty or Lancôme product? Having identified your customers (we also completed this exercise last time) you can now begin to plan your marketing or promotional effort.
This is a subject on its own, but it starts with identifying an annual calendar of events. Start with the bigger ones e.g. seasonal changes & weather patterns (rain or shine), then public holidays & major sporting and / or special events in your geographical location. Finally record competitor activities (the more history you have the easier it will be to predict their behaviour). Now plan your promotions. If you’re a small food retailer do you want to expose an existing product or launch a new one?
When is the ideal time to do this – at the beginning of a week, on a Monday say, or a Friday in the case of boerewors – when it sells well as most customers braai on weekends? When would you advertise croissants? On a Monday – right? Because that’s when most customers buy them. Plan special events to coincide with the reduction activities of competition, your own reductions and clearances on weekends when most customers shop you – and so on.
How To Get Ready To Sell Your Business – Advice From Marnus Broodryk
If you’re thinking about selling your business, there are some critical steps you need to make first.
MAKING THE SALE
A successful transaction will mostly boil down to having a solid business with great systems in place that is making decent money and the starting point for these transactions will be financial information.
Some entrepreneurs are ‘starters’, they like to start a business, get it off the ground and then flog it. Others are ‘growers’, they look for existing businesses and have the ability to grow them beyond their original value. Both will probably get to the same end point: Selling the business.
But entrepreneurs are often misled when it comes to the sale. They have put everything into the business and it is worth a huge amount to them because of it. But buyers are seldom willing to match the price, because what is being sold, and what is being bought, are not the same thing. Sellers see the emotional and financial investments they’ve put in; the buyer mostly looks at one thing: Profit.
Effort does not equal profit. The balance is out.
Prepare for the challenges of selling
Once you get to market you will soon realise that there are, unfortunately, fewer buyers than you’d like. Unlike listed companies, you can’t sell shares easily and quickly on a public platform. Instead, you need to find an interested individual or business, many of whom just aren’t buying what you’re selling.
Some of them are, but that doesn’t guarantee a sale. Most SMEs must put their faith in a cash deal, since banks will never finance anyone wanting to buy them. In reality, this means that you may have a genuinely interested buyer for your business, who won’t be able to get finance for it from the bank. So, after a few months, you’re back to square one. After a few rounds of this cycle many entrepreneurs will just sell out of desperation, forgetting what the business could actually be worth.
Selling a business can be very emotionally draining and this will be compounded by many people who will waste your time and mess you around. You spent a large portion of your life building this, but others will not see it the same way you do. Ensure that you prepare and mitigate against all of those issues, and have the stomach for the fight.
Always keep the end in mind
If you are looking at exiting your business, it is crucial to allow enough time to prepare yourself for it. Maybe you’re simply tired of your business and you just want to get out, but, because the business is not in a great state at the moment, you’re too fed up to care, and you simply don’t have the energy to fix the issues.
You’re at risk of letting your business go for next to nothing. All the hard work for hardly any reward.
If you have the end in mind, and prepare for it, it can be a very different, more lucrative story. A successful transaction will mostly boil down to having a solid business with great systems in place that is making decent money and the starting point for these transactions will be financial information. You need to have proper financial records for your business and you need to be able to show the potential buyer how much the business is making and how it is making it. It sounds so elementary, yet most entrepreneurs don’t have financial information when they want to sell their businesses. If you think you may want to sell in the future, make sure you’re keeping solid records now.
If your business’s financials are messy, start cleaning them up at least twelve months before trying to sell your business. Remove all your personal expenses from the business and ensure that all transactions are properly recorded, and that your taxes are up to date and accurate. Work with your accountant to prepare a sales pack with all your financial information, including details of your clients, employees, suppliers, what your strong and weak points are and how the business could grow in the future. It’s at this stage that you can pick up on issues and resolve them before taking your business to the market, making it a much more attractive product.
With some (more) hard work, you will be in a great position to sell your business, you will have serious buyers and the valuation that you deserve for all your hard work. If you don’t, why bother?
4 Rules Of Engagement That Wildly Increase Your Odds Of Closing The Deal
If someone calls about what you sell, call them back. Not in a week, right now.
Sales is a process that can be learned but is comprised of many topics and categories that you have to master to become an expert. No one book or recording can cover everything you need to know to become great.
Consider that every salesperson has a unique personality and then add to that that every customer interaction and customer personality is unique and you can see how complicated it can become. Surgery is almost less complicated for the doctor because he is dealing with bodies that are unconscious while the salesperson is dealing with personalities, egos, insecurities, uncertainty, economics, competition and more.
Here are a few of the topics that salespeople need to learn and understand:
New to Sales
- Fundamentals of Selling
- Road to the Sale
- Handling Objections
- Negotiating Strategies
- Social Media and Sales
- Closing the Deal
- Follow Up for Owners
- Follow Up for the Unclosed
- Sales Manager
- Sales Meetings
- Understanding Customers
- Incoming Calls
- Outbound Calls
- Cold Calls
- Internet Response
- Customer Service
It’s very easy to become overwhelmed with the different topics so let’s narrow the focus and talk specifically about four general rules to follow once you have actually gotten a customer or prospect in front of you. What approach will you take? Not knowing means you’ll be missing out on deals every day.
In business, you must have a pipeline and a belief system that you can sell to anyone. Once you have become engaged here are four general rules to help you in the process.
No matter what the buyer says, states or demands, you should under no circumstance ever disagree, make the buyer wrong or suggest their request is impossible. This simple strategy is very powerful and will save you lots of sales once you perfect it.
The old saying – the customer is never wrong – is not true. In fact, often the customer is wrong; sometimes they even lie, but that doesn’t mean you should call them out. When you tell someone you can’t, you won’t, you’re not allowed to or that’s impossible, you only cause the customer to become more dug-in on their position. You make it more difficult to come to an agreement.
Train, drill and rehearse avoiding all variations of no, not, never, can’t and won’t. Any and all variations of “no” and “can’t” must be eliminated from your vocabulary.
Now when you hear this you may think, “I don’t want to mislead the customer and I am not going to over promise and then be unable to deliver.” The problem here is when you tell someone early on you are unable to do something because you are “so honest’” you just eliminated any chance of being able to do anything for the customer. Try this when a customer asks for the impossible, “I never say no until I have to – if that is possible, there is no better place for you to be.”
Role play this law of selling until you no longer get into confrontations with your buyer and make them more difficult than they already are. Perfect “no problem, happy to, my pleasure, exactly what I am thinking, done, you got it” and then learn how to negotiate from a place of agreement. This does not mean that you simply lie down and give the buyer everything they want. It means you use the agreement to keep the negotiations loose enough to be negotiated.
Just because this is simple do not underestimate the time and energy necessary to get GREAT at it.
You must give them an offer and your proposal should have a figure and be presented with confidence. These seems basic but 72 percent of salespeople never present a proposal to their customer, which is part of the reasons why 87 percent of all salespeople miss their quota.
Simply increase the number of people you show a written proposal to and you will close more deals.
Wrap the deal up and get them to purchase. When you get to the close, make sure you are with the decision maker. Qualify them and have a sense of urgency. Without urgency, there’s no point in doing the deal today or tomorrow.
Selling, presenting, demonstrating, promoting, marketing, building trust, etc. are all very commendable and admirable actions but in no way compare to finally closing the deal. Closing is when you finally benefit your buyer.
Closing allows you and your company to expand. All the things that took place prior to the close were necessary to get to the close but will not allow for expansion and survival. Close the deal! Be willing to do whatever it takes to close the deal, knowing that only when you close do you provide any real value to the customer.
The close is ultimately for the buyer, not for you or your company. Until the customer closes they cannot benefit from your service or offer.
Related: 6 Ways To Win A Better Deal
This is the Holy Grail of sales. It’s the most important thing there is but few people and companies do it. Consider that 48 percent of salespeople never follow up and that 64 percent of companies admit they do not have any organised way to nurture a lead. Follow up is a massive opportunity. Then add to that the average company takes almost 72 hours to follow up a lead, even though contacting a customer in the first five to 10 minutes increases your chances of contacting the customer 900 times. Text them in the first five minutes and your chances of closing them increase 50X.
Learn the rules and use the rules and make deals.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Why Every Business Needs A Call Centre
Below are just some of the reasons why every business needs a call centre.
As a business owner, you are likely always looking for something to put you ahead of the competition. This could be anything from a new marketing strategy to an exciting product. But many companies do not think of call centres when it comes to boosting their business and putting themselves ahead of the competition.
A call centre allows you to interact with consumers. If you do not have the staff for it in-house you can outsource for premium call centre quality assurance to ensure customer satisfaction. You will be able to provide stellar customer service as well as collect data from the calls to improve your business. Still not convinced? Below are just some of the reasons why every business needs a call centre.
They help to build customer loyalty
Having a call centre does more than allow you to answer the complaints and queries of customers. It will help to build up customer loyalty, especially if you choose to outsource your contact centre management.
While online shopping has grown immensely over the years, many consumers still want to be able to phone in and ask questions about products that are not working, that are damaged or for advice on how to remedy a problem with their purchase. A call centre will provide confidence to consumers that your company is there to help and provide trusted advice, which will, in turn, improve their loyalty to your brand.
You can get to know your audience
By having a call centre that allows you to interact with consumers on a one-on-one basis, you will be learning valuable information about who your customers are. And because you will be monitoring every call, you can ascertain the demographics of your audience.
For example, you might find that several calls are coming in from one area, which will allow you to focus your marketing strategies to that geo-location. Or you might notice that a certain product is bringing in similar complaints. This information will allow you to make important changes to the product. This data will help you to get to know your audience and tailor your products, services and messages to their needs.
They help to avoid lost sales
Quality assurance is vital to the success of your customer support. This is because a call centre will help to avoid lost sales and lead opportunities. Instead of relying on a voicemail service (which consumers will likely not use) your call centre will allow consumers to speak directly to a helpline, which will encourage them to buy from your brand.
For those who have a small amount of staff, outsourced contact centre services will provide a shorter wait time for call centre queues. Lost sales can be disastrous to a company of any size, so investing in a call centre will help to remedy this. If consumers are not waiting in long phone queues, they are likely to make a purchase or use your services. And leads will become conversions because consumers will feel valued and satisfied.
You will have an edge on the competition
In the world of business, everything is cutthroat. If your competitors have a number for consumers to call in case of any issues and you do not, it is likely that they will choose your competitor over you.
An effective way to beat the competition is to provide a call centre number to your customers as well as office numbers. This way they can call the customer support number for product related issues and the office number if they would like to speak to managers or make business deals. If you outsource your call centre management, you are sure to have a leg up on the competition. Consumers want to feel as though their voices are being heard and taken seriously.
Related: The Future of Call Centre Design
It is professional
Whatever the size of your business, remaining and appearing professional to business partners and consumers is important. Having a call centre that gives a customised greeting to consumers and sends them through to an agent will make it appear as though you are an established company doing business with many customers.
Professional customer service is vital for the success of any company, especially if you are a start-up. And if you are a larger company, try not to become complacent with the customer service you are already offering. If consumers can phone in with queries and compliments, they will have trust in your brand’s professionalism, leading to customer loyalty and more sales.
Be future facing
Anyone who runs a business knows how important it is to look toward the future. And having a call centre can help with this. It will help to build up customer loyalty, you will learn more about your consumers and your audience, you will avoid lost sales and you will have an edge on the competition.
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