Grow Smart BusinessUMDNetwork Solutions


Small Business Success Index 4

Index Score*   Grade
73 marginal
Capital Access 67
Marketing & Innovation 65
Workforce 76
Customer Service 88
Computer Technology 73
Compliance 92
*Index score is calculated on a 1-100 scale.
homepreneur

Search Articles

Posts Tagged ‘Business Development’


How to Get Your Share of the Government Procurement Pie

December 7th, 2010 :: mhaubrich

By Maria Valdez Haubrich

Despite the recession, government contracting has continued to be a lucrative business for small companies that are capable of providing products and services the government needs. But becoming a prime contractor to the government can be complex and confusing, with lots of hoops to jump through to get the business, costly requirements you must meet and long waiting periods to get paid. If the idea of getting government business appeals to you, but your company isn’t quite prepared to contract directly with the government, consider subcontracting.

Becoming a subcontractor to a government prime contractor can be a great way to get your feet wet in government business. In many cases, prime contractors must meet certain goals to subcontract a percentage of their business to small companies, women-owned companies or minority-owned companies, which can make it easier for your business to get a foot in the door.

How do you get started? Two major online databases that prime contractors use to find small subcontractors are the Central Contractor Registration (CCR) and the SBA’s Dynamic Small Business Search (DSBS). Get your business listed in both of these online directories; be sure to keep your profile current, especially your contact information.

Once you’ve got your business listed where contractors are searching, the next step is to search out some prime contractors on your own. Here are some places to look:

Visit the Subcontracting Directory on the SBA’s website; you can search by state to find companies in your area.

Small business liaisons at government agencies can give you lists of prime contractors that they use, and may also be able to offer suggestions and help on how to approach these companies.

Your industry association is another good place to get advice and find out about subcontracting opportunities.

You can find lists of subcontracting opportunities at the SBA’s Subcontracting Network and FedBizOps.gov.

The Association of Procurement and Technical Assistance Centers can provide one-on-one help in getting subcontracts.

Got a potential contract? Check the details carefully before you sign on the dotted line. Because you’re dealing with a middleman, it’s crucial to be clear about the subcontract’s legal terms, how you will be paid and when, who is responsible for what aspect of the project, and any regulations or quality control guidelines you need to meet.

When you get your first subcontract, do everything you can to go above and beyond the call of duty. The level of ability you show in fulfilling your first subcontract will make—or break—your future subcontracting efforts.

Photo Courtesy: Karen Axelton

How to Win Friends and Influence People

July 30th, 2010 :: Monika Jansen

The lessons and advice imparted in Dale Carnegie’s ground breaking 1936 book How to Win Friends and Influence People are as useful today as they were then.  Think about the reasons we small business owners spend time and money on marketing, especially social media: We want to connect with current and prospective clients and convince them that they need our product or service.  To do that, we need to know exactly how to connect with them, and this is where the book comes in.

Dale CarnegieThe only way on earth to influence the other fellow is to talk about what he wants and show him how to get it.  Dale Carnegie

Dale’s book is centered on one simple fact.  People want to feel important.  It’s just human nature.  We like praise and hate criticism.  Praise makes us feel important, while criticism makes us feel like losers.  And, as Dale also points out in the book, we spend around 95% of our time thinking about ourselves.  So, when you want to make someone do something, stop and think how you can make that person want to do it. 

If there is any one secret of success, it lays in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from his angle as well as from your own.  Henry Ford

My absolute favorite piece of sales advice, which speaks to Mr. Ford’s quote above, is that you need to show people how you can solve their problem, and they will buy from you.   We all strive to do this, but do we always do it?  Probably not. 

The book is broken down into six sections, but I’m only covering the second and third, because I think are the most important.  All of the following advice is common sense and highly applicable to most any situation (the final section, in fact, is titled Seven Rules for Making Your Home Life Happier).

Here are Dale Carnegie’s Six Ways To Make People Like You:

  1. Show a genuine interest in people. 
  2. Smile!  You’ll feel better and so will the person you are talking to. 
  3. Remember names.  “A person’s name is to him (or her) the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”
  4. Be a good listener.  Encourage others to talk about themselves.  After all, we are our own favorite subjects!
  5. Discuss with the person whatever his or her interests are.  Teddy Roosevelt use to study his guests’ favorite subjects before they’d visit him at his Oyster Bay estate on Long Island so he could talk knowledgeably about it with them.
  6. Always make the other person feel important.  Remember the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”?   Make others feel important, appreciated, valued and be sincere when you do!   

And here are 12 Ways To Win People To Your Way Of Thinking:

  1. The only way to win an argument is to avoid one.  Unless it’s a matter of life or death, let the person think they’re right, even if they’re not. 
  2. Show respect for someone else’s opinion.  Don’t tell that person they’re wrong for having that opinion, even if you think it’s the stupidest thing you’ve ever heard.
  3. If you’re wrong, admit it immediately.
  4. Begin your persuasive argument in a friendly, not hostile or defensive, way.
  5. Get the other person saying “yes” rather than “no” by emphasizing the things on which you agree.  If you can, emphasize that you and this other person want exactly the same thing and that your only difference is method, not purpose.
  6. Let the other person do most of the talking.  (See #4 in the above section!)  Don’t pretend you have all the answers.  Let the person describe their business and problems to you, because they know these things better than you do.
  7. Let the other person think that the idea is his or hers.  Ask for his or her advice or help in solving a matter.  Then you can gently steer that person in the direction you want them to go.
  8. Play the devil’s advocate, and try to see things from the other person’s point of view, not just your own.  Show that you understand that person, what they need, and what they want.
  9. Be sympathetic to the other person’s ideas and desires.  If you want to stop an argument, create goodwill, and make the other person listen attentively, say “I don’t blame you for feeling the way you do.  If I were you, I’d feel the same way, too.”  
  10. Appeal to noble motives, such as honesty, fairness, and honor.  Think about celebrities asking the paparazzi not to take photos of their young children.  “Photos of me are fine, but please respect my baby’s privacy—there are too many creeps out there.”
  11. Dramatize your ideas.  The best Super Bowl ads do this.  You might not like beer, let alone Bud Light, but after watching one of their funny commercials, you’ll certainly remember it.
  12. Throw down a challenge.  Everyone wants to show off the fact that they’re better than someone else.

Why Embracing the Competition Is a Good Idea

July 9th, 2010 :: Monika Jansen

Two businesswomen shaking handsIn our hyper competitive society, we are pretty much taught from an early age to mistrust the competition; destroying or buying them is preferable.  It’s pretty rare when competitors band together to get something done.  Though they might lobby Congress together (car manufacturers against stricter fuel efficiency standards, for example), they’re not exactly eager to share the resources, ideas, or innovations that could move the entire industry forward. 

But this ingrained fear of the competition is not healthy and can work to our detriment, especially for us small business owners.  Embracing the competition is actually a really good idea for two reasons: 

Big Projects

If you have the opportunity to bid on a really big project or, even better, are approached to lead a really big project, you are probably going to need help.  And I don’t mean bringing in the vendors and companies you normally partner with, but help doing what you normally do. 

I’ll use myself as an example.  I’m busy as it is, which is great, but if I was asked to write content for a 100-page corporate website, plus their intranet and e-commerce site, and it was all due in a month, there is just no way I would be able to pull it off without working an insane amount of hours.  I would have to hand over some of the work to an equally good web writer. 

To ensure I’d get the project, I’d want to have a vetted list of people I could call up and ask if they’d be interested in coming on board.  Putting aside my work to frantically email my network in search of copywriters would not be fun, and I probably would not have time to meet with them beforehand to make sure I actually liked them.   

And don’t forget that we all live on a two-way street; your competitor could you bring you on board as a sub some time.  

Fire Sale

People close up shop for a variety of reasons: illness, divorce, retirement, moving overseas, winning the lottery.  The smart ones sell their business, their inventories, their client lists, and their equipment and tools.  If you want to have first dibs on any of those valuable assets, your competitors need to know, trust, and like you. 

Last fall, I heard a very successful retailer talk about how she has grown her business, even during this recession we are slowly crawling out of.  One of the reasons for her success: she kept in touch with her competitors.  When one of the competitors closed their store, she was contacted first about buying up the remaining inventory (which she said was really fabulous stuff) in a fire sale.  What a great opportunity to expand a product line!  

Back when I was a personal chef, I was approached by another personal chef who was moving from Boston to California about buying one of her clients for what I thought was an extortionate price, so I passed.  Greed doesn’t pay.

Does great CRM software exist for an independent professional?

February 17th, 2010 :: Carlos Diggs

One of the greatest frustrations for many independent professionals is the lack of a really good, flexible, economical contact relationship management system.

Does such a thing exist for a solo business person?

Everyone’s needs are unique. Your knowledge and experience may make the selection and implementation easy or difficult. You may have to compromise on a few features and functionality and settle for at least 80% of your requirements. I have spoken with many colleagues and clients who are all dissatisfied with what they are using. So, a fundamental question is this: Is there a resource for doing a fair assessment of all options? Well, it depends.

All successful systems and software selection projects begin with a list of requirements or wish list (Must have vs. Would like to have). You may ask, “Where should one start? Are there knowledgeable people who can guide a person or team toward an intelligent selection of a contact management system?” The answer is YES.  They exist at www.360salesfocus.com. 360SF will hold your hand through the entire selection process or provide just-in-time coaching on an as needed basis. For individuals who want to do it themselves, below are some initial considerations.

Regardless of the nature of your practice as an independent professional or the size of a company, its sales value and volume, business development for simple or complex opportunities, I always suggest to clients to first clearly define their processes before evaluating and selecting a technology or automation tool for anything.

For example: What does a typical sales cycle look like for you? How do you process new leads/contacts? How soon do you follow up?  What method do you prefer (email, letter, greeting card, phone call, etc.)? What’s the message? Do you have a sales/biz dev process? What are the steps, decisions, possible outcomes, etc.?

Processes enable people and technology enables processes

Technology without a correctly defined process will speed up poor results. It’s the old garbage in, garbage out concept…but faster.

MY PREFERED METHOD when I was an independent consultant: Even though I’ve implemented, used, optimized, and managed several CRM projects for clients (including SalesForce.com and ACT!), for 20 plus years as a solo consultant or, as the only business development person, my preferred CRM & Sales Force Automation (SFA) has consisted mostly of Microsoft Outlook for basic contact profile descriptions & management. I first had to learn effective relationship management without technology to make this work, thanks to Stephen Covey’s 7-Habits of Effective People. Outlook has all the basics such as detail contact info, calendar, and task, space for tons of notes, attachments, and links on every item. I think this may be true for most PC & Mac office-like contact/calendar/email applications.

For forecasting and tracking sales/business development opportunities, a spreadsheet does it all on one sheet, one line per opportunity (forecast of qualified opportunities…date, company, contact, offer, value, priority, close date, win-probability percentage, next Step (notes/remarks). If you want to see a good example, contact www.360salefocus.com/contact-us for a free Microsoft Excel forecasting spreadsheet that we use often and that you may use and modify for your unique purposes.

One of my requirements is mobility. Both Outlook and the spreadsheet interface well and are mobile (works on my smart phone).  I use Card Scan to scan business cards that I receive from meetings and networking events. I import ../../css/and_synchronize_contacts_with_Outlook._It_s_also_great_for_mail_merges__letters_and_emails.css). I’ve also incorporated David Allen’s Getting Things Done method for processing all my action items.

Once you get your process defined, then you can go shopping. Effective contact relationship management is at the core of what I do and coach my clients to do. Technology can bog you down if you are not careful. Let’s face it; nothing gets done unless you do it…whether on paper or on-screen. A discipline to keep records up to date, follow-up and follow-through still requires the consistent human touch.

One other consideration might be a marketing campaign management system for managing high volumes (> 500 contacts per campaign) of outbound/inbound lead generation efforts of large and frequent marketing campaigns (direct mail, events, website leads, etc.). This is ideal for processing and managing hundreds of leads that you will try to convert to clients. You still need a process first.

Unless you are trying to track contacts for a multiple people, I would keep it simple and use your desktop office apps for contact profiles, scheduling events/meetings and tasks, date all detail notes, and use every reminder and alert possible.

If you need help implementing a program like this, consider contacting a sales consultant.

Share your experience by leaving a comment.

At http://www.360salesfocus.com we have an entire integrated sales and marketing company at your disposal. How can we help you generate more business? Let’s talk about making something happen for your company.

Carlos Diggs is Managing Partner at 360 Sales Focus, a full service sales and marketing consultancy. His LinkedIn profile can be viewed at www.linkedin.com/in/carlosdiggs. Reach Carlos at [email protected] or 410.782.0360 or follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/360salesfocus.

How to Follow Up with Prospects and Clients: Be Diligent, Not Desperate.

February 10th, 2010 :: Carlos Diggs

Sales Coaching Tip

I am often asked how much is enough or too much:

  • How soon should I follow up with a prospect?
  • How many phone call attempts?
  • How many voice mail messages?
  • How many emails?
  • How many pigeons?
  • How many telegraphs?
  • How many smoke signals?

Well, it depends on many variables, so let’s address one of the common scenarios.

Common Scenario: You just had a meeting or presentation with a prospective client. Your client requests a proposal. Assuming you’ve qualified this opportunity and client based on need, budget, time frame and solution fit (Free B2B Qualifier). Before you leave the meeting agree to a proposal delivery due date (stick to it), and agree to a decision date. Get your clients preferred method of communication (i.e. email, phone, texting). If your client agreed to tell you NO, chances are, you won’t have to call or email them too often. We all know that things happen. People get sick, holidays, vacations, etc. So, you have to trust your instinct, be diligent, but don’t always assume the worst if you are unsuccessful in reaching them after a couple attempts. Now is the time to practice DILIGENCE and PROFESSIONAL PATIENCE.

In a situation like the one outlined above, the first and most important point to keep in mind is not trying to trick the client into saying yes. Hearing “No” is more productive than spending three months chasing the opportunity only to learn that you did not win. Top sales professionals have learned how to win fast and lose fast. They spend less time forcing unproductive opportunities and more time advancing relationships, opportunities, and sales.

How to develop an open and upfront channel of communication?

One method for developing an open and upfront communication channel with a prospect or client is to let them know that it’s okay for them to tell you NO. Saying something like, “I know you have many options, so if for some reason you don’t think we are a good fit or you just don’t like our offering, are you okay with telling me NO”? With a smile and humor say, “I don’t want to be annoying, leaving you  hundreds of voice mail messages and thousands of emails, because you are trying to be polite and don’t want to hurt my feelings. I would be most grateful if you would say NO as early as possible so we are not wasting each others time.”

How to Follow Up?

Don’t call or email everyday. Once per week is enough (no more than twice if you just feel compelled). Develop a mind set that you have too many new prospects in line waiting to meet with you and too many clients to care for. You really don’t time to call more than once per week…maybe only once every other week.

If you call first and choose to leave a voice message, immediately send an email, “I’m sorry I missed you today. I just left you a voice message regarding…I would appreciate a reply by___”.

If you send an email first, call and say, “I just sent you an email regarding… I want to make sure it didn’t end up in your junk/spam folder. I would appreciate a reply by ____”.

Always smile when on the phone…especially when leaving a voice message (they will hear your smile or lack thereof). Never sound impatient, rude, arrogant, annoyed, or timid, shy, soft spoken or weak. Leave an optimistic and friendly message like you would for a close friend or your grandmother. Regarding emails carefully check your writing tone. Try to choose words and phrases that evoke images and emotions of professional gentleness and kindness, yet with a mild since of urgency to meet upfront expectations.

I have a lot of success with getting timely replies from prospects and clients by using email subject lines to send very short “text-like” messages to ask a question or make a request. I don’t use cute texting shorthand or abbreviations. I may just insert a brief question that can easily be reviewed in their email inbox. If you need to write more, continue in the body of the email. Use clear key words such as: “Do you have time to meet next week” “Request for Information:” “Proposal Attached:” “Action Required:” “Please Review:” “Call me 400.555.1234,” etc…use your imagination.

If you need help implementing a program like this, consider contacting a sales consultant.

Share your experience by leaving a comment.

At http://www.360salesfocus.com we have an entire integrated sales and marketing company at your disposal. How can we help you generate more business? Let’s talk about making something happen for your company.

Carlos Diggs is Managing Partner at 360 Sales Focus, a full service sales and marketing consultancy. His LinkedIn profile can be viewed at www.linkedin.com/in/carlosdiggs. Reach Carlos at [email protected] or 410.782.0360 or follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/360salesfocus.

A Unique Proposition – Messages that chase buyers away

February 9th, 2010 :: Tobias Bray

First let me kill something. Unique cannot be modified. Something is or is not unique – there is no such thing as more unique.

Anthropologists and Behavior Scientists know something. They know that only a very small part of the population likes something that is unique. The question is “Why”? Because we are a) creatures of habit and b) we learn by attaching new experiences to something we already understand. On any adoption curve the best customers are majority buyers. The myth of early adopters is a myth unless you are selling a pure tech play in which case your chances of courting the early majority hitch on building a product that the masses can comprehend and put to use solving a problem with little or no difficulty (see b), yet it appeals to the tech crowd. Now that we have a framework lets move on to messages.

What makes a message work – It connects to something the buyer understands and includes a call to action that can be acted on when read. Let’s say two very capable people open bike shops. Both of these people have solid business skills, understand their product and know how to handle customers. Let’s see which one gets your business…

You are walking down a street on a sunny afternoon. You are not on your cell phone and there are no distractions. Life is good and you are contemplating the purchase of a new bike. A moment later two vans drive by only a few seconds apart. Each has a name a logo and a tag line. The first van is from Marathon Cycle Store – Get out and ride 1-800-pedal now. The side of the van shows a couple riding mountain bikes. The second van is from Wheelmen – We Give You Wings 717-215-2572. The side of the second van has a logo that looks like it might be a modern stick figure on something the resembles a bike.

If you are like most of the buying public, you were drawn to the first van because it connected to something you already knew and didn’t make you think. The message was right there. For all the creative energy companies put into names, tag lines and logos, the mistake they make most often is go for the curious concept first (Curiosity is a tool of creation, desire and need are the tools of a sale). They strive to be unique in everything they do. Good for them. Are they unique to the point that a prospect ignores them – most likely. The problem is two fold – creative agencies don’t think like consumers or talk to prospects like sales people do. Companies often spend so much time concerned about a unique image that they forget why the prospect wants to buy in the first place.

Connect your name, tag line, logo, product name or pitch to your prospect’s burning desire and you will do better than your competitor. Why? Because while you are introducing the prospect to a great shopping experience, your competitor is still trying to explain what it is his company does.

To the point – At 360 Sales Focus we have an entire integrated sales and marketing company at your disposal. How can we help you generate more business? Let’s talk about making something happen for your company.

#1 problem salespeople need to overcome?

February 3rd, 2010 :: Carlos Diggs

Sales Coaching Tip 

After all is said and done (listening, planning, practicing, preparing, attitude adjustments, etc)…IF YOU ARE NOT OUT SELLING, YOU ARE BEING OUT SOLD. 

TOP PERFORMING sales professionals too often get bogged down with too many unnecessary and labor intensive administrative chores imposed on them by a poorly defined sales management process. (e.g. legacy/manual forecasting systems, CRM systems that are not used correctly). Therefore, impeding their quantity & quality face time with clients and prospects. Release (free up) your top performers by giving them administrative support and streamlining/optimizing systems, processes, and reporting requirements.

 UNDER PERFORMING sales professionals too often welcome all administrative tasks and sales/reporting fire drills as an escape and sanctioned excuse for not achieving goals. Even more importantly, this group must be released (freed up) by giving them administrative support and streamlining/optimizing systems, processes, and reporting requirements. To help get them back on track, some initial performance coaching focused on easy wins (appointment setting, proposal submitted, etc) will be required to build confidence, momentum, sales endurance.

Take Action

Nothing, absolutely nothing happens without ACTION. The law of physics says…for every ACTION, there is an equal and opposite reaction (RESULTS). So, as the recording artist Sting sings in one of his songs, “If You Love Someone, Set Them Free.” You do love your sales people? Sales people need love too (smile).

If you need help implementing a program like this, consider contacting a sales consultant.

Share your experience by leaving a comment.

At http://www.360salesfocus.com  we have an entire integrated sales and marketing company at your disposal. How can we help you generate more business? Let’s talk about making something happen for your company.

Carlos Diggs is Managing Partner at 360 Sales Focus, a full service sales and marketing consultancy. His LinkedIn profile can be viewed at www.linkedin.com/in/carlosdiggs. Reach Carlos at [email protected] or 410.782.0360 or follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/360salesfocus.

Are All Sales Teams Created Equal?

September 14th, 2009 :: Carlos Diggs

Can a single sales team sell direct, indirect, short and long lead sales opportunities? Are the skills required the same?

Is there undue stress on the team due to the different mind sets required for the different type of selling? Should the team be split to enable focus on the development of each channel and the skills required to work that channel?

Are you a Hunter or Farmer?

Considering that sales professionals fall into two primary categories based on personalities, hunters or farmers, you need to uncover each person’s preference zone and align them with the right channel assignment. Hunters are better at direct and short sales cycles then moving on. Farmers are better at relationship management, which is key for business development efforts via indirect channels, longer sales cycles, or account management assignments. The process, strategy and tactics might differ per channel and length. Document your best practices and all the things individuals do well or have done well in the past.

Do you have a Sales Process/Methodology?

If you don’t have a clearly defined and well document sales process for direct and indirect sales, now is the time to pull the team together and develop one. This is the only way to monitor and measure your team’s effectiveness. Winning sales organizations have document sales process (what to do) and methodology (how to do it).

Is it time to retool?

I had to learn this the hard way. I was very successful as an account manager for a major telecom provider. I protected and grew my $20M base of global accounts in a very competitive telecom market. I failed miserably as a hunter. I had to get retool and train to be a killer hunter. I do both well, but still excel as a farmer.

What has been your experience? Leave a comment.