Business Brokers Are Important As Part Of Your Annual Business Plan

As a person who works with small and medium-sized companies on generating more and better revenue, one of the first questions I ask, and need to establish a clear answer for with a client is:

What’s your exit strategy? At one point or another every business either is sold or closes.  Yours’ is one of those.  So the question becomes at what time and what value do you want to sell?  If you don’t know those answers, then you might as well be working for someone else.

Why work as hard as a business owner generally must, just to earn the dollars you would  earn working for someone else? At the end of the day, you deserve to walk away with a substantial sum for all of the business building you have accomplished, but you won’t, unless you start panning to make your business valuable for someone or some company to buy down the road.

I always suggest that every client meet with a Business Broker once a year, just to get a good idea what they need to do to build value in the company. Ask them, what will it take to sell my business for 1.5 million dollars.  Am experienced business broker can tell you in an hour, and then you need to listen to their advice.

My client Choice Business Opportunities has written an excellent blog on selling a business.  When it’s time for you to make that move, please read this article. It’s full of excellent advice.

You can also watch this interview with Mark Cuban on small business and how that relates to business valuations.

Please do your self a favor, go and spend some time with one of the many business brokers who in most cases would be happy to explain how to grow your business to it’s highest valuation.

Denver Basement Finishing Is Hot

Have you tried to set an appointment for a  free estimate to finish your basement lately?  If your home is in the Denver metro area, you may have been surprised by 1. how hard it is to get a company to come out, 2. how many may not even follow up after the first appointment, and 3.  how far out many companies are as far as starting your basement.

So whats up?  Well,  the economy has recovered, and home values are going up. Most home owners finish their basement either when they move in, or around 5-7 years after they have been in the home. Lets see, 7 years ago was right when the recession hit. hmm.  Also, the consumer confidence index has been good for a year and a half, a leader indicator of residential remodeling requests.

But, with these new demands, there are more contractors entering the basement finishing field.  That of course means you need to be more careful than ever in how you select a basement finishing company.

Our company recently began doing business development for  L and D construction, a Denver based Basement Finishing Company.  This is a good example of a basement finishing company you can trust. Why?  Licensed and Insured, full services, great references and 5 years of experience.

 

View an Interview with the owner of L & D construction about basement finishing below:

 

 

Or read more about the basement finishing process on

 

So the things to expect are, it may take a little more effort to get the bids completed, and it make take a little more time to get started.  The good news is prices are still competitive because of the number of contractors who will bid your project.

You can read about the most common FAQ about Denver basement finishing on the L & D Construction web site.

 

 

The Marketing Offer

The number one item on your sales promotion check list should be creating an irresistible offer.  That being defined as when your prospects see it, or hear it, they would say, “I would have to be an idiot not to do that”.

You see examples of irresistible offers all the time.  Some are in plain site, some are not. Here are a some common actual offers, that can be highly effective.

A waiting list for your service or product.

Buy one get one free.

Buy now pay later

Try if free for a limited time

Here are some that are over used, and not as effective.

Free assessments

Free analysis

Let’s face it, how do you react when you see these.  In many cases we know they are just trying to sell us something.

Spend some time thinking through your offer. Make it as irresistible as possible.  And then…

Add an iron clad guarantee
Make sure you have ton’s of customer testimonials.

Have fun and let me know what you come up with.

Contact me here http://www.salesjumpstart.net

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Advertising tips. How to decide to advertise or not

I get a call a week about new or different advertising opportunities a client wants our opinion on. This is how we approach any advertising program.

When deciding on where to advertise for new customers –

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Three Good References: Do not advertise or utilize any source until you have spoken with and received three good references from current or recent advertisers with services similar to yours.  If a company can not provide you with  references (again from services or products like yours) DO NOT USE. Sounds so simple. Very few companies do it.

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Long Term Customers: Does the advertising you’re considering have long term customers who utilize it over and over? Companies don’t stop using good advertising methods. Ask them for the last year’s worth of their product (if a magazine, direct mail piece, or other print) and see what the turn over of advertisers is. If it’s a non print opportunity, ask for references that have used the method for at least a year.

We research new advertising opportunities for clients every year. 90% get a thumbs-down just based on the above.

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New Advertising Opportunities: DO NOT USE new advertising companies.

They have no history and some of the largest money wasters are new companies with great stories. If it works they will be around when it’s proven and safe for you to spend money with them.

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Don’t Get Sold! The word sales means to persuade. Don’t let a good sales person make your decision. The sales person is there to provide information to you so you can persuade yourself. Think of sales reps as information givers, and you be the judge based on facts.
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Image: Only advertise with companies that attracts your type customer. Coupons attract price buyers. If you’re not a price seller why would you waste your money advertising to the wrong type prospect?
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Design Image – Have a professional design your advertising if you’re not a marketing pro.

A well thought out and designed advertising piece (Direct mail, Yellow Page, magazine, TV buy, Radio, Web and other) will generate three or four times the response as the generic owner or non marketing pro produced advertising. For a few hundred dollars you will see a huge impact on the response. And it’s a one time investment.

Don’t have the company providing the advertising do the advertisement or your ad will look and sound just like all the others.

As an example, I see companies use Pay per click advertising on the Internet attached to a cheap and poorly put together web site all the time. They’re getting 25% of the response my clients get for the same money because they only spent a few dollars on a web site. For an extra $2000, they could sell four times as much!

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Don’t Advertise Until You’re Ready to Provide
Great Service:
I had a friend that spent a lot of money on hosting a live remote radio program at one of his restaurants. The turn out was excellent. So good in fact that people had to wait a long time and the staff was completely swamped. The service was poor, and they ran out of many items.


All they accomplished was spending money and sending hundreds of potential customers away never to return.

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Free Advertising and Marketing: Any advertising and marketing that works is in essence free. It’s throwing away money if it dose not. Do your homework.

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The “It Takes Repetition for Advertising to Work” Line:  Yes, you need to continually reach your target in new and different ways. No, sending the same direct mail piece and getting a bad response time after time does not qualify as a good plan. If it’s not working after the first one or two times -stop it, and figure out what’s wrong.  Is it the message?
Is it the offer? Is it the demographics? Is it the timing?

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Change Your Message: Sending the same post card, letter, direct mail piece, or saying the same thing over and over in advertising is another waste. Plan on changing your offer, or message every chance you get.

Learn from the big guys. McDonald’s is always offering new incentives, or products. You know what? They do it not to sell you a new sandwich; they do it to keep you listening.

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To Everything There is a Season – Time Your Advertising:  Buyers purchase your service or product at predictable and logical times.
Know your customers buying cycle and advertise in these periods.

Timing can apply to a  season, certain key days during the month (1st and 15th) certain days of the week. Friday Advertising is a waste of money for several type businesses. You need to understand when your prospects look for your service, and where.

Did you know for instance that a direct mail piece or flier that arrives at a home on Monday will get two or more times the response than one delivered on Friday for a home improvement company? You may save .05 with a company that delivers whenever they want, but you’re losing response and a lot of dollars. Are you advertising to save money or sell
more customers?

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Happy Customers: Referrals from happy customers are hands down, no question asked, flat out, absolutely, bar none, I am not joking – your best advertising. Yet, referrals are a lot like the old saying about weather. Every one knows about it but no one does any thing about it.

Have a referral program in place for every customer. Make it the foundation of your advertising program. I have purchased several referral program guides and developed and implemented referral programs for many clients and every one of the companies that I was a partner or owner of. Nothing beats referrals. If you do nothing else, start a good referral program. Track it, promote it constantly, and focus on it.

The first sign for me of a company that needs our services is they have no defined referral program. (Our company does 90% of our business through referrals.)

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Be a Sharp Shooter, target and reach.

It can save you a lot of money. If you don’t know who your ideal prospects are down to their shoe sizes, you’re spending way too much money reaching them.

In today’s database world, you might be surprised how targeted you can become with your advertising. Once you have your market truly identified, your cost to reach them will go way down and your response will go way up.

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Spend Every Dollar You Have: If a specific advertising method is working, spend everything you can on it as long as you can support the new sales. Why companies have some methods that work, and then continue to use others that don’t will always amaze me. Spend your time and money on the stuff that works. Find more of it, spend more on it, until you
maximize its return.

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Margin and Volume Define Where You Advertise: The margins you have in your service or product and the volume of available new prospects will define your method and budget for advertising.

A large volume of potential customers brings down your cost of reach.

A large margin allows you to spend more to reach your target.

If you have a large volume of potential customers with a large margin of profit (or gross margin) – you can advertise a lot. If you have a small volume of potential customers (a service or product for a specific small category of customer) and a small margin – you’re going to be limited to the methods you employ.

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Those are the top tips. If you utilize them consistently, I am confident that you will save money (which goes right into your profit) and produce more revenue for the dollars you spend, which produces more profit!

Feel free to pass this on to any other business owners or managers that you think would find it of value.

You can find this piece on our web site at www.salesjumpstart.net lionked to our “sales” page.

Want to Sell More? Then Please Stop Selling!

So, your sales force is struggling and it seems like nothing is closing from the pipeline.  Sound familiar? Or you may be hearing these reasons for slow sales:

“It’s the economy, no one is buying – or spending.”

“We are priced too high.”

“They went with a cheaper service.”

The general strategy I suggest is: stop selling and start building relationships. Companies buy from people they trust, especially in this economy.

Here is what I suggest to my clients to jump start sales in the next quarter and year.

  1. Look in the mirror. Is your service easy to sell, even for a plumber? (See my earlier blog on sales tips.)
  2. Recognize that sales and business are about the relationship, not the close.
  3. Develop a good marketing and sales plan, including strategies and tactics for the company and every sales rep based on the information below (building relationships).
  4. Focus on the plan as a manager or owner by paying attention to the progress and supporting the efforts; and meet with every sales person every week.  If the meetings are not productive and seem to go over the same information each week, fire the sales rep, or give him/her a new position in customer service. (I don’t care how big the pipeline is.)

You need to understand the cycle of trust. It’s simple:

They don’t know you. They know you. They trust you. They buy from you.

Before you start building relationships it’s important you plan to build relationships with companies that will buy from you!

So you must – no questions asked, no excuses – develop a great target list of prospects. In my experience this is the number one mistake we all make with sales. We don’t know who is most likely to buy from us, and therefore we waste 70% of our time selling and marketing to companies who will never buy. Kind of dumb, huh? I speak to company owners who spend the majority of their “networking” energy at Chamber events.  Are you kidding me?  How many people at a Chamber event are your prospects? And most of them are there to sell to you, not buy from you. Let’s take an intelligent approach to prospecting.  Build a great targeted list. If you don’t know how, please call me or watch for my upcoming blog on targeting your best prospects.

With this targeted list you can start building relationships.

Step One – They Don’t Know You
Is your sales force asking prospects to marry them on the first date? Your top prospect list does not know you.

I love those emails I get from businesses that ask me to call them for a free quote on insurance, or SEO, or (_________) <—- fill in the blank, when I have never heard of them or requested any information from them. It’s like walking up to someone you have never met at a social function, introducing yourself, and asking them to marry you. What are the chances?  And if they say yes, do you really think you want to go through with it?

Selling is about trust-building over whatever time that takes. You need to take time and care to introduce your services to them.  Decide on a contact methodology, because it’s going to take more than one attempt. You should use one or all of the following: a letter of introduction, an email, a phone call, a drop by, or an event invitation (webinar?).

After each communication, your sales rep needs to call or stop by.  More than 70% of local companies buy from someone they have met in person!

Make sure your first communication contains a compelling reason for the prospect to read it. If it’s all about you, you had better have a huge budget because you will lose their interest fast!  A “tips or information” piece is always good. Ask yourself: what would be helpful to this prospect? – and then write about that.  Invite them to contact you of course. Not a writer? Use this company: www.localcontentnow.com.

Keep the communication flowing to every prospect no matter how long it takes to get their attention. The goal is to move them into step two.

Step Two – They Know You

Now they know about you, but they have no experience to build any trust on. It’s important that you continue to communicate and in those communications start building trust. Trust is built by doing what you said you were going to do, and using actual examples of success others have seen by utilizing your company.  You need to continue to give good information that will help them during this get-to-know-you period.

Step Three – They Trust You!

They are confident you have a good service or product, and that you have been of benefit to them by supplying good information or even prospects to them.  Now if you have picked the right prospect, they should be ready to buy.

Part of trust is that they are sharing information with you.  If communication continues to be only from your company, trust is not built yet.

Step Four – They Buy or Refer You to a New Customer!

This happens after they trust you and when they have a need for your service or product, or know someone that does, and not until.  Companies don’t buy when you want them to; they buy when they are ready. So continue to communicate so they have your information on the day they need to buy.

If this system looks different than your current “Make a Cold Call and Ask Them to Marry You” technique, you may see huge rewards in revamping the way you “sell” to a system based on building relationships and not trying to close before they trust you.  I suggest your sales group tracks their pipeline in this way, with these categories:

Don’t Know Us

Know Us – They have acknowledged we exist and agree to further communication.

Trust Us – We have ongoing communication with them, and understand their buying needs.

They Will Buy – They have asked for a proposal or meeting. This is what I call a HOT prospect.  (Note: a prospect that trusts you is not a HOT prospect yet.)

At the end of the day it’s all about the trust.  In some cases you can accomplish all of the 4 stages in one sales call. For most companies it is a process of months.

Remember….  most of what you do today in your business will show results in a month or a quarter, not tomorrow.

 

Visit our site here Salesjumpstart.net

SEO, Web Visibilty,  Internet Marketing, Sales and marketing

The best sales tips I have seen while developing 200 million in revenue.

Tips for Business Owners about Sales and Sales Professionals

This collection of tips came through 20+ years of managing sales teams while developing more than $200 million in sales revenue.

 

I’ve been lucky in my life having worked around some of the more successful and talented sales professionals in the country. During the 1990s my sales force of 650 sold more than $80 million a year in
recurring revenue for telecom services. Since 2003, my company has averaged a 17-to-1 return on investment for every dollar our clients have spent with us.  Based on these successes, here are some tips for business owners about sales, salespeople, and just plain selling:

1. Dogs have to like the dog food
Here’s an old sales story: A national sales manager is at a meeting with his sales managers from across the country. They have recently launched a new brand of dog food and the sales numbers are terrible. He is ranting and raving about how much marketing has been done, the dollars they’re spending, and no one is selling the new dog food. He asks the group what’s going on! And a small voice in the back of a very quiet room speaks up, “I don’t think dogs like the way it tastes.”

For success, start with your product. Make it taste really good. Too many business owners refuse to accept that a sales problem may, in fact, be a bad product or service. Honestly evaluate your products and services as well as your competition. Make yours better, faster, more affordable. Then go sell it!
Your sales staff will be more productive and your customers will be more loyal.

2. Most salespeople are like plumbers
Plumbers make more than many other professionals. You know why? Because they do the stuff other people don’t want to do. In my experience, 75 percent of salespeople are in sales not because they are trained and passionate sales professionals, but because they will do the stuff other people don’t want to do: they will pick up the phone and make cold calls. You don’t have to be good at sales to make cold calls any more than you have to be good at plumbing to clean out a septic tank. Just make sure that when it comes to your salespeople, you hire the professionals that are passionate about their work; otherwise, you may as well hire a plumber.

3. Great salespeople work for high compensation
The average outside sales rep in Colorado earns around $58,000 a year before benefits. If you’re going to pay an average wage, expect average performance, which in sales means you should hire a plumber. If you want top performance, offer top pay.

4. You can’t hire commission only salespeople to sell your product
Commission only sales representatives must have the opportunity to make $1,500 a week, every week within their first month with your company. And they need to be paid quickly. Can your product support this? No. Stop thinking about hiring cheap sales help, and start thinking about how to make your product irresistible to buyers. Once you have an irresistible product you may be able to hire a commission only sales force because plumbers will be able to give it away.

5. The number one factor in achieving your sales goals is …
… a really great product or service.  Period.

6. Most good salespeople are egotists
This is true. If you do not know how to manage egotistical personalities, don’t.  Hire an experienced sales manager or a therapist to manage them. Some of the best salespeople I have ever worked with were pains to be around. They whined, they were always late, they didn’t come to mandatory training, and they didn’t play nicely with others. What they did was sell. All they needed was a cheer leader, not a manager.

Most sales managers only know how to manage plumbers because that’s what most salespeople are. Plumbers show up for meetings, fill out the reports, and struggle to make minimum sales; but they always have their shovel with them. The problem is you may be tempted to hire plumbers, because they’re easier to manage and will fit in with your company culture better.  So if you are going to hire and manage plumbers, make sure you have a product that is irresistible to buyers.

vvvvv

I think I’ve made my point. Most sales programs are usually handed off to plumbers to sell. Your only chance for great sales success is to spend a great deal of time making your product or service
irresistible to buyers. Trust me, in most cases, this is far more effective and a better return on investment than actually building a professional sales force with top notch management. Why? Because if your product is really good, you’ll attract the best sales professionals anyway.

This leads to my final point for today:

7. Great salespeople aren’t hired, they choose the company they want to work for
Given this, your job as a business owner is to build a service or product that is irresistible. Once you have that, your salespeople will become superstars (and you can throw the shovels away).

 

Am I An Idiot? What’s Missing from your Marketing and Web Site

In our very focused world of sales and marketing, most consultants or marketing  firms start with the basics.  How well each is thought through and implemented has more to do with the success of a marketing program than almost* anything else.

Those basics generally being:

* Define the target

* Create an irresistible offer (But wait there’s More! )

* Define the best ROI tactics to deliver the message ( Internet marketing, Radio, Direct mail, Trade shows, and a bunch more)
* Track measure and adjust

Yet, even with all of the above done well, there are two pieces that can sink a campaign faster than two rocks tied together. And the first is the BIG one.

Start with your service or product. Ask this question: What can I do to my product or service that would make my target prospects say,” I would be an idiot not to to buy this”. It’s not just the offer, its the actual service itself.

A quick example. In 1998 I was trying to sell a superior on line email service to large companies. The challenge was enormous. New product, a competitor that was offering the basic service for 80% less (a market share grab) and no real sales infrastructure.  So, we would call C level executives in I.T as a company they were not aware of, a reputation as a consumer based service, and a price 8 times higher than the market rate (I should mention it was worth the difference, but you know how that goes).

So, we came up with two solutions, both had good ROI for the company and had the ” I would be an idiot” factor.  Within the year we won three major national accounts, United Airlines, Mazda America, and Register.com.  I should mention that only one of the two new ideas worked, and that is all part of testing an measuring.

If you want to hear what the best idea was, call me.  Because in most cases you can do it your self in one form or another.  (If your struggling with sales right now your behavior would be idiotic not to call).

Now, as for what the second missing link is in marketing plans, and this can increase your conversions from most media (including your web site)
by 10% to 30%,  It’s your marketing materials, and especially you web site. Most companies fail to appeal to 50% to 75% of buyers. Your marketing materials needs to be designed to appeal to the 4 (or 5, what ever you are comfortable with) primary personality types you sell too.  Chances are very high your site is developed by and designed for only 25% of the buying population.  Ever meet some one who is not much into the web? People think their odd, I think its because we don’t communicate in their language on line, and therefore lose their attention.

In the briefest form I can communicate, here are the four primary styles you need to some how incorporate in your marketing:

Summary- Credible- convert
Details and facts, no selling I will call you.
Color and pictures. woo me to call
You’re safe here. Call when comfortable.

And , you need to package all that in a logical, easy to navigate web site. Easy? I think the best way to accomplish this is to use different marketing messages targeted to each personality with landing pages or landing mini sites with in your site developed for them.  Sound like a lot of work? It is.  Is a 10% to 30% conversion increase worth a lot of work? You decide.

Call me if you want to explore this concept with your site. We don’t do many web sites, but we can work with many highly qualified, experienced, creative, and team focused companies who do sites really well.

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Mike Bayes
President, My One Call LLC
12303 Airport Way Suite 200
Broomfield CO. 80021
720 254 1234
303 808 1734 (cell)
http://www.linkedin.com/in/mikebayes
Twitter: @mikebayes
Blog: http://www.myonecall.wordpress.com