97+ Experts on Driving Small Business Growth

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Check out my article “Growth Means Turning an Entrepreneur Into a CEO”  alongside dozens of other expert contributors in Recalculating 97+ Experts on Driving Small Business Growth.  We were each asked to write special 1000-word contributions for the book based on our expertise.  Topics covered are: Leadership, Finance, Marketing and Sales, Human Capital, Operations and Technology.

You can purchase the book on Amazon in either Paperback or the Kindle edition HERE.

As I have often said in my talks, and as I conclude in my article, ” In my experience with hundreds of clients, I’ve found that whether one chooses or not to grow the business, the principles of systematizing, being deterministic, and increasing value for the business still hold true for any business, and becoming a CEO may not be a choice after all.”

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

 

What to Include in Your 2016 Sales Plan

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Here’s a very interesting statistic for you to ponder: 40% of sales reps are going to fall short of their sales quota this year. Think about that: that means that there is a serious issue with a lot of sales teams. I recently read an interesting article that included that statistic, as well as some other interesting numbers.

I’d like to share some of my personal insight from my years of experience founding and operating startups. Here are my thoughts on creating your 2016 sales plan:

  1. Variable pay for salespeople is best. If you want your salespeople to perform well, and exceed the quota set for them, you need to give them major incentives to do so. Too many companies propose and provide salary-only packages that do little to incentivize.
  2. I agree greatly with the article on the idea that the sales plan should be modeled after objective-based initiatives. For example, if you are selling digital marketing products/services, it makes sense to include which specific products/services you want to include in your sales goals.
  3. Additionally, I also agree that your sales team should be determined through affordability of the salespeople. Don’t hire too fast, as that’s a mistake too many employers make. Go slow, hire right, and the results will be well worth it for your business.
  4. Another insight I’d add is to manage the interview process in a smart way: ask the right questions. Too many business owners fail to ask prospective salespeople the tough, pointed questions that shed a lot of light on their character, goals, motivation, etc. Ask and you will know a lot before you hire. This is possibly the most important.

You can read the full article here.

Is it time for you to sell your business?

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Recently, I came across an article that was published in the New York Times titled, “Baby Boomers Ready to Sell Businesses to the Next Generation.” Naturally, I took notice as I am always looking to evaluate the state of small business acquisitions and mergers, and am always looking for exciting opportunities.

The article discusses how small business owners that were in their late 30s and early 40s in the 1990s, are now reaching retirement age and looking for an exit. I thought this article was relevant, as many of my clients and colleagues are always exploring ways to exit their business and evaluate their options.

Selling your business is a well-known, but often intimidating exit strategy.

Many small business owners dream of selling their business and retiring on a beach somewhere. However, they are intimidated at what selling their business entails. Other small business owners believe selling their small business is going to be an easy cakewalk – in and out with cash in their pocket after a few weeks.

The reality is that selling your business can be an excellent exit strategy, allowing you to reap the rewards of your hard work over many years. However, it is also a time-consuming, cautious process that promises lots of ups-and-downs.

Think it’s as easy as 1-2-3? Think again.

Selling your small business will require lots of effort, focus, and determination to see the sale close effectively. It may mean that you have to invest some money into the business – possibly cutting into your personal income or profit margin. It will definitely mean cleaning up your books and organizing all financial info. The good news is that all of this hard work will be worth it.

Today’s entrepreneurs have plenty of potential buyers in this market.

It truly is a seller’s market – and entrepreneurs and business owners have a lot to look forward to. There are plenty of prospective buyers waiting for the right business opportunity. If you are looking to exit your business – and potentially sell it, you could always visit a business brokerage website such as BizBuySell.com.

To read about the personal stories of some business owners who recently purchased a business, read the full article.

Sales Meets Big Data

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New software tools are taking sales into the 21st century by bringing big data into the picture. By analyzing things like the opening of emails and success rates of phone calls, these big data startups can identify the best time of day to reach a CEO or when it’s best to reply to an email. Here are a few of the tools that are available through these startups:

  • Salesforce IQ: Salesforce’s latest software is an aid to sales people, as “it proffers tips on how to interact with specific customers and nudges salespeople when, for example, they haven’t spoken lately to a client they tend to contact regularly.”
  • ClearSlide: This software “alerts salespeople when a potential client reads a pitch email, so they can follow up just when the prospect may be most receptive. It also tells them whether a prospect lingered on the message once they’ve opened it…”
  • The Full Picture: Many departments are already employing plenty of software, sometimes “more than a dozen digital aids. One analyzes records of millions of transactions stored in sales databases to serve up lists of potential customers, ranking them in order of their likelihood to buy. If a prospect doesn’t pick up, another program, at the click of a mouse, leaves a voice-mail message from a prerecorded template. When a salesperson closes a deal, a third program triggers a morale-boosting gong sound.

Salespeople need to step up their game as business are increasingly looking to take out the middle man in transactions. Many positions will be vanishing within the next five years, and as such salespeople need to increase their efficiency by using software aids to keep a leg up on the competition. Ensure your sales team is doing its best by looking into the options above and seeing what works best for your company.

Read the full article in the Wall Street Journal here.

3 Misconceptions About the Internet That Are Costing You Money

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There is no way your business can avoid using the internet, and understanding its users is key to gearing your product towards your audience. Many business owners tend to keep with tradition and will disregard all the business they’re missing online as they don’t see their customers as online shoppers. But the truth is that there is much to be gained from being online, and there are plenty of shoppers who can’t wait to have your product conveniently delivered to them.  Here are a few misconceptions that many companies have while they’re on the internet:

  • I Can Only Reach Young People: Though it’s often tech savvy millennials who are credited for owning the internet, people of all ages are using the internet now more than ever. While young people were quicker to adopt the internet, this simply isn’t the case anymore. Over 58% of seniors are online today!
  • It’s a Boys Club: Internet usage has reached gender parity, with 85% of men and 84% of women using the internet.
  • My Product is Too High End to be Sold Online: People who are online are much more likely to have attended college. Also, though the gap may have narrowed, there are still far more people on the internet who earn over $75,000 than people who earn below $30,000. This means any product will have plenty of potential customers online!

If you ignore the vast amount of customers waiting for you online, they will simply go to your competitors instead. Don’t let preconceived notions of what you think about the Internet hinder your business. Take advantage of what’s offered online by having a Search Engine Optimized (SEO) website, engaging your customers on social media, and generating sales via an e commerce suite on your website.

See the full article with graphs here.

Google’s Race to Stay on Top

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A key component of any business is a company’s website, and Search Engine Optimization, or SEO for short, is key to getting that website seen by customers. Google is the world’s premier search engine, and Amit Singhal is the man responsible for the 200+ factors that determine your website’s ranking in the search engine. Amit also keeps track of incoming trends, and how to adapt Google’s software to reflect changes in the way people look up their information. What someone may have asked a search engine 5 years ago is vastly different from what will be asked today, and it’s Amit’s job to ensure Google is optimally responding to a user’s search query.

How can you ensure that your own business remains up to date? Having your website optimized for mobile is key to being relevant and ranking high in the search engine’s results. With a surge in mobile users on both phone and tablet, a website that doesn’t read well on a phone will not fare well with Google’s algorithms. Quick load times and relevant information are always important, as people want responsive sites with the information they need so they can put their phone down and get on with whatever they were doing.

As a search engine, it is Google’s purpose to deliver exactly what the user needs as soon as possible, and Amit’s job to make sure Google keeps doing that as well as it possibly can. With so many startups being acquired by both Google and now Apple, Google cannot take its position as the #1 search engine for granted. Startups with algorithms for apps and music are appearing, and Google’s ability to adapt to that change will determine its relevance in the decades to come.

 

Read the full article in The New York Times here.

Properly Engaging Your Customers with Mobile Apps

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With apps being at the core of a consumer’s mobile experience, more companies are optimizing their apps for their consumers. Your company’s app experience is the difference between maintaining an active, happy userbase and an entire demographic labeling your firm as out of date and irrelevant. Ensure your app promotes your business with these simple tips:

  • Keep it Simple: A minimal interface is best, as is an interface that lets customers tailor their app experience to their needs.
  • Make it Fast: Ensure that your app’s code is clean and functional to increase load speeds. Just an extra second added to the load time can lose you 16% of your users.
  • Keep Content Useful: Don’t have an app for just the app’s sake. Whether it is a price comparison tool or a reference book for your product, ensure that your app provides utility for your consumer so they’ll have a reason to download it.

Having an app is a great way to maintain contact with your customers. It will also help you reach a demographic of tech savvy people that otherwise would have never interacted with your brand. By following these tips, you’ll ensure your app maintains a healthy relationship with its users, resulting in an increased number of engaged and loyal customers.

Read the full article here.

Gain a Competitive Edge in E-Commerce by Optimizing Your Mobile Site

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With mobile transactions gaining an increasingly large share of the e-commerce pie, small business owners need to start asking themselves: how can I best accommodate mobile shoppers?

Mobile’s global average share of e-commerce is 34% and in countries like Japan and South Korea that share is over 50%. While US conversion rates from mobile shoppers are still around 2.46% compared to Japan’s 9.35%, it is still important to note that one can gain a significant competitive advantage from optimizing their mobile e-commerce suite.

Here are a few common shortcomings of small business and easy solutions:

  • Use Mobile Solutions that Make Sense: Opt for all-in-one desktop and mobile e-commerce solution with write-once-publish-everywhere capabilities that will streamline your online presence into a cohesive entity.
  • Ensure Your Site is Mobile Accessible: Avoid large images or too much information in a single page as most mobile users are still running off of the slower 3G network. 40% of users will abandon a site if doesn’t load within 3 seconds so ensure your site will load quickly to avoid losing potential customers.
  • Use Everything that Mobile Has to Offer: Mobile users give your site a lot of information when they go onto your website. Take advantage of this data by adding elements that personalize the user experience for the customer.

Recently, Google has started to give an overwhelming priority in its search engine rankings to websites that are optimized for mobile. Ensuring your site is mobile-friendly will sharpen your competitive edge and vastly improve your online presence. Don’t let your business fall behind – optimize your e-commerce site today!

Click here for the full article on GetElastic

Fixing a Sales Team

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“Yesware” is a 4-year-old company that designs and sells software intended to make it easier for sales teams to record and analyze essential data. Released in 2012, Yesware’s basic version, which can be downloaded free, quickly attracted more than 100,000 users. However, the company experienced difficulties converting those free users into paying customers (an unfortunate irony considering it is sales software they’re looking to sell).

Yesware’s chief executive Matthew Bellows came up with 3 solutions to fixing his sales team:

1) Clean up house: trimming that fat by firing 7 out of 10 salespeople.

2) Hire a vice president of sales: have this VP do the firing, hiring, and supervision while Mr Bellows remained as chief executive.

3) Appoint a manager: promote the best sales person among the 3 he deemed worthy of keeping to manage the team.

What would YOU suggest? Click here to see the full article in the New York Times.

Cashless Customers Hold Riches For Retailers

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There is an enormous amount of money to be made for businesses catering to the cash-free customer.

At the forefront of this change is the Starbucks corporation, who cleverly save money on transaction fees by having customers load money onto their mobile app.

This could be quite the transactional game-changer. Click here to view the full article.