Sunday, 30 December 2012

Selling Is Simple

Selling is as simple as you make it. But are you using the methods that get results, asks Robert Craven
If you knew the most cost-effective sales method you would use it first – wouldn’t you? The problem is that most people don’t know what it is.
The Directors’ Centre carried out a survey earlier this year, asking 247 small and growing businesses to name their most effective sales method. The top two were:
- Face-to-face selling
- Referrals and customer recommendations
Sales success was mostly the result of relationships and reputation – face-to-face relationships supporting the corporate brand and communicated by word-of-mouth – as the old adage goes, “people buy from people”.
If you can’t sell your product, is it because it’s a rubbish product, or because you’re rubbish at selling? Look at the table and the picture becomes clearer. Are you focusing on the best ways to improve your sales?
There are entire industries selling the least effective sales tools (email marketing, direct mail, exhibitions), and they keep quiet about the fact that the cheapest solutions are often the most effective. 
The results of the survey suggest a number of questions:
- Do you know which sales methods are the most effective in your business? 
- Do you know the cost of acquiring one new client and how much they are worth to you?
- Has every part of your sales pipeline/system been measured, tested and systematised? If not, why not?
The 80:20 rule 
Do you know who the top 20% of your clients are? What makes them different from the rest? How could you find more like them?
- Are you trying to get more revenue from poorly performing clients – the trivial many, or from high-performing
clients – the vital few?
- Should you sack 50% of your poor customers and get better business from your richer ones?
Time to evaluate 
The following questions will help you to put numbers to your marketing activity (costs, inputs, outputs, benefits) and to test, monitor, track and evaluate your different options.
- Where do you currently spend marketing/sales time and money?
- Where do you get your best results? [eg referrals and recommendations]
- Where should you spend your time and money?
- What could good marketing and selling skills do for your business? [eg an improvement of 10% in sales]
- So, what are you going to do about it?

Taken from Selling is Simple in Growing Business by Robert Craven

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Top 10 New Year's Resolutions (you break)

According to Time Magazine...

Here are the Top 10 Commonly Broken New Year Resolutions

Here are our Top 10 suggestions on where to start:

1 Lose Weight and Get Fit
2 Quit Smoking
3 Learn Something New
4 Eat Healthier and Diet
5 Get Out of Debt and Save Money
6 Spend More Time with Family
7 Travel to New Places
8 Be Less Stressed
9 Volunteer
10 Drink Less

Choosing seven out of ten isn't bad for the coming year??

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

10 E-commerce Predictions for 2013

Here are Forbes 10 E-commerce predictions for 2013

1 Testing (Finally) Becomes a Must-Have: 
2 True, Real-Time Personalization for Everyone:
3 Consumers Get Over the Privacy Debate
4 Retailers Start to Love Loyalty Programs: 
5 Mobile Gets Personal, Too: 
6 Responsive Design as the Rule: 
7 The Rise of Cross-Channel Experiences: 
8 Companies Get a Handle on Big Data: 
9 Social Media Grows Up: 
10 B-to-B Catches Up to B-to-C: 

Saturday, 15 December 2012

The Secret to Exporting - the reality

The flavour of the month is export. The logic is unassailable. The economy needs more sales. There’s no-one buying here so export. Sell to people in other countries. Get them to buy our products and services. (So, what’s the secret...?)

In fact, exporting has been described as the solution to our current economic woes: our big businesses are screwed so that leaves the smaller businesses (some four million of them) to lead the growth renaissance. One trouble: not many export; not many want to; not many know how. (So, what’s the secret to this exporting malarkey...?)

While export has become the goal, the vision, for much of the current economic plan, the irony is that no-one quite seems to know how to do it. There are no books on the subject; there are no websites able to give the potential exporter what they are looking for (aside from lots of sweeping generalisations).

As a consequence, the Government is investing in helping small businesses to export. The UKTI is the public face that seeks to offer advice, guidance, support, suppliers and networks to help the business owner to export or export more. As I get to meet their people I find myself impressed by their knowledge and enthusiasm to help. More importantly, I meet business people impressed by them. (So, what’s the secret...?)

The problem, of course, is that the business owner is looking for an instruction manual, a ‘how-to’ guide and no such thing exists. And, of course, no such thing can exist because exporting is not a homogenised activity. Every export target is different.

As solid background there are things you need to understand: the big picture (how things work), finance, banking, export, market entry, logistics, legals, and every one of these subjects is different depending on what you are selling to whom. So, no universal answers available here. You need to talk to quite tightly-defined experts who understand what you are endeavouring to do.

I recently analysed some 50 companies I have worked with to try and get to the root of what does and what does not work in practice. No simple task. However, while the findings seemed confusing and conflicting at first, a very clear pattern does emerge.

The businesses were measured on the following criteria. The results were a victory for common sense. No more, no less:
  • Success – was measured in terms of profitability and - return on investment
  • Time horizon – was the company looking for quick wins or were they in it for the long game?
  • Size and number of employees – the natural change points were less than 10 employees; 10-100; more than 100
  • A clear champion in the company – more than just an internal sponsor but a champion committed to make the export strategy work
  • A clear partnership – again a clearly defined and highly committed person, this time working in the partner company/ies – probably the key success factor
  • A scale-able, clone-able, transferable business model
  • Closeness in terms of language
  • Ansoff matrix ‘closeness’: sticking to a similar product/similar market
  • Closeness and some sense of understanding or empathy.
Marking successes and failures according to these criteria gave a very clear view of what was required to make an export expedition work. 

This was not a foolproof method but it seems that it can be used to indicate, if not predict, the likelihood of success or failure. 

I can hear the howls of derision from the academics as they criticise my lack of intellectual rigour. However, this model seems to be ‘good enough’ to tell us whether a prospective exporter should proceed.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Year Five Of The Recession and Still No Demand

Year Five of this recession and there is no let up in the lack of demand. That is the problem for an ever-increasing number of growing independent service firms from accountants to book-keepers, from architects to product designers, from model-makers to homeopaths. 

All these service firms, along with everyone else, have the fundamental problem that there is simply not enough demand out there. Not enough to keep everyone happy.

So, what do the majority do?
Well, most work harder. Or rather, they keep themselves busy looking like they are working. Activity is not the same as business.

Why have sales crashed?
The primary reason for the sales crash is a slump in demand. But that is just the tip of the iceberg.

For many, the problem isn’t just the economy but what they are doing to get the sales.

Most service firm owners and directors work in their businesses. In essence they are vocational workers. With little experience of selling, these technicians find it difficult to make the sale in the best of times. But we are no longer in the best of times!

Along with poor sales skills comes a lack of understanding of the sales process.

Most service firms do not have the systems or processes in place to do the job properly.

They are simply not set up as a ‘sales machine’. Yes, they are set up for being great at what they do (do the accounts/book-keeping/architecture/product design/model-making/homeopathy for their clients) but they don’t really get how or what people buy or how to go about making those valuable sales.

Part of the problem is the upside down world that people seem to live in. And I am afraid that entire armies of marketing coaches and consultants have contributed to this.

Right now there is an absolute obsession with shiny things: LinkedIn, Twitter, FaceBook, Google Plus, squeeze pages, landing pages, Try Before You Buy. You get what I mean. All this technology and channels is fascinating stuff but often working at this level is like moving the deckchairs on the Titanic.

What is required is a focus on creating a product/service and an offer that is so compelling and seductive that it literally draws people towards it. Create something that solves their problem, hurt, need or want. Forget about what you want to do and what your narrow thinking has decided is possible and think only of what it is that would excite the client.

What is required is an entire re-think of what the customer wants and needs and how you can help them to achieve that. It is time to stop looking at the service from your own side of the desk and time to start to consider the offering entirely from the client’s point of view.

Take apart and re-assemble the service, thinking only of what would blow away the client. Then you might start to create something that might have some traction in the market.

Monday, 10 December 2012

10 Ways To Improve Your Business Before Christmas

10 Ways To Improve Your Business Before Christmas 

This time of year it seems that half the business world is incredibly busy whilst the other half is just waiting for the Christmas break to come along. 

This checklist is aimed at the businesses that are slowing down over this period - it offers you a number of tasks that can improve your business.

If you are a business that is incredibly busy at this time of year then download a PDF/print out a copy and come back to this plan in January.
This is a “size 12 wellies” article. Lots of sweeping generalisations andtreading on some peoples’ sensitive toes. Here goes:

Take two hours with your best business partner, mentor or advisor and implement a plan similar to the following:-

1. Put up prices by, say, 10%. 

This creates more profit (per sale) and if you lose any customers it will be the price-sensitive, disloyal ones that probably cause you more hassle than they are worth. You will be able to afford to lose them because you will probably make more money from the price increase than you will lose in leaving customers. (More profit).

2. Decrease direct costs by, say, 10%

Go to all your suppliers and ask them for a better price… ask “Is that the best you can do?” and say nothing till they come up with a better price. This normally works. (More profit).

3. Sack underperforming suppliers, customers and staff as appropriate. 

(Less wasted time). Only once you have improved your business model (see above) so that you are making a decent profit per sale, should you consider increasing sales.

4. Rethink the way you present your business.

Customers are not that interested in ‘what you do’ but they are interested in what ‘what you do’ can do for them. Make a commitment to start talking about what people get as a result of buying from you – what’s left after the purchase. Focus on the benefits that they gain from using your product or service. This will improve your sales performance massively (oops I just did it then!). (More sales).

5. Sort your proposition or offer.

Why should people buy from you if you are the same as the competition? What make you different from the rest? Be able to articulate the ‘why’ and ‘what’ of your business in a way that is truly effective. You should be able to do it in ten words or less. (More sales).

6. Get more leads, say, 10%. 

Go networking, find out about Google Adwords, get up earlier, and talk to more people. (More sales).

7. Get better at talking to people, asking for the business and closing the sale. 

Going on a decent sales course will add 10% to each of these fundamental steps in the sales funnel. These 10% improvements will create 46% more customers (!!!). (More customers).

8. Get customers to buy more, say, 3%. (More sales).

9. Get customers to buy more often, say, 3%. (More sales).

10. Stop them leaving 

Run a customer survey right now – simply talking to all your existing and past customers will generate more business, I assure you. Most customers who leave do not leave because of rubbish products or service – most defectors are content but someone came along who wanted their business more than you appear to… (More customers).

11. Collect money quicker, 10 days quicker. (More cash).

12. Write cheques slower, 10 days slower. (More cash).

13. While you are at it, decide on three things you can do right now, and which cost nothing, that you can do to blow away your existing customers and make them talk about you. (More customer loyalty and free promotion).
Download The PDF

Don’t procrastinate please. Take some time out, make the tough decisions and get on with it. Take massive action now.

OK, so I lied about the ten things and really it is more like 14 if you include having the meeting where you make the decisions.

Like removing a sticking plaster from your skin you can make these decisions and take these actions slowly or quickly. Your choice. However, every day you waste in the no man’s land of indecisiveness adds to the gap between you and those have already made the tough decisions. Those that have done the tough thinking are seeing exponential change; every day in the new world builds on the changes made on the previous day. 

Every day you don’t make these decisions is a day nearer bankruptcy.

In reality, there may actually be a deeper, more subtle set of changes required of you.

It is one thing to recognise what needs to be done and it is great if you make the commitment to implementing the changes.

Hand over the details of the Christmas party to your PA/secretary/intern and take the big decisions and actions that will benefit your business throughout the next year.

Stop reading, there’s work to be done. Now!

Robert Craven

See the original article at

10 Ways To Improve Your Business Before Christmas