Cleanup and Planning: Quarterly and Year-End Checklists

Posted by on Dec 14 2020

It’s here — the end of the last quarter of the year! It’s time to do some “good housekeeping” in preparation for the year-end of your business.

At the end of the year, it’s important to both close-out the old year properly as well as plan for the new year. I recommend you start this process early so that there isn’t a last-minute rush to complete your year-end closing tasks. Even better, do this quarterly so that you remain caught-up with the tasks. Here are some ideas that you might want to add to your quarterly and annual checklists:

Year-End Cleanup and Closing Tasks (some of these can be done quarterly, too!)

  • Enter all revenue and expenses into your record-keeping system.
  • Send final invoices for the current year.
  • Reconcile your bank account records with bank statements.
  • Estimate your last tax payment for the current year (many self-employed people make quarterly estimated tax payments…the final payment is usually due on January 15)
  • Mail holiday cards and gifts to clients/customers
  • Make holiday offers to clients/customers
  • Clean out old files/emails
  • Create year-end accounting reports and compare your actual numbers to your goal numbers for year
  • Tally business-related mileage for quarter/year
  • Tally expenses by vendor and prepare 1099’s if needed
  • Contact your accountant and discuss year-end tax planning

Planning Tasks for the New Quarter/Year

  • Write a list of goals
  • Write a list of tasks that need to be accomplished in order to achieve those goals
  • Write a list of projects you’d like to start or complete
  • Create an updated marketing plan
  • Create an updated budget
  • List the topics you’d like to study, the classes you’d like to take, or the books you’d like to read, to keep you up-to-date with your industry and business skills
  • Schedule upcoming classes you’ll teach and distribute that Calendar of Events to clients and staff

Cleanup and planning tasks don’t just happen in December and January. If you review these tasks quarterly, they won’t sneak up on you on December 31.

   

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning

The 7-Question Sales Script

Posted by on Dec 08 2020

sales scriptWhen speaking with prospective clients or mastermind group members, it’s helpful to know in advance how to frame the conversation and design the flow of the meeting.

The goal of the sales conversation is to determine the needs of the client and to see which of your products and services are the best fit for them.

Selling has gotten a bad reputation because consultants try to sell to anyone with a pulse and a wallet. If you approach the sales conversation as a mutual and respectful opportunity to find out the needs of your prospective client, you won’t feel so slimy and “salesy.” After all, you are in business to help others achieve their goals, right?

Are you and your prospect a good fit?

The only way you’ll sell your services to a prospect is to discover if the two of you are a good fit. There are three questions you want to answer in the sales conversation:

  • Does this prospect have a problem I can help them solve?
  • Are they motivated to solve it right away?
  • Do they have the money to invest in my products and services?

Your sales conversation agenda is geared toward finding the answers to these three questions.

If they’re not a good fit or motivated to take action, you’ll have a difficult time closing the sale. If they don’t want to spend money, you’ll have a rough time.

The steps in the sales conversation process

  • Step 1: Determine your goals before the meeting
  • Step 2: Determine their needs and wants
  • Step 3: Determine their motivation level and their timeline
  • Step 4: Determine their budget
  • Step 5: Determine which of your products and services are a good fit
  • Step 6: Answer questions and handle objections

Step 1 is crucial. What do you want to get from the conversation? Do you want to close the sale immediately in the meeting? If it’s a long sales process, your goal might be to have them accept a written proposal to review, or schedule a meeting with the next-level decision makers.

Steps 2 through 4 are accomplished by asking your prospect good coaching/consulting questions and listening fully to their answers.

The 7 questions to ask in a sales conversation

  1. What are your goals? (For instance, if you’re talking to a small business owner, you might ask, “What are you trying to create for your business? Do you have a clear vision of where you want your business to be a year from now?”)
  2. What does your world look like today? (This helps establish a baseline. The goal for them is to get from where they are today to where their big vision takes them a year from now.)
  3. What’s stopping you from reaching your goals? (It’s important to find out what’s holding them back. Do they need practical knowledge and skills? To outsource work to you or others? Or do they need personal development help, like making decisions, creating action plans, managing time, and dealing with limiting beliefs?)
  4. What outcomes do you want from working with someone like me?
  5. What happens if you don’t work on your problems now? (Let them imagine what their world will look like if they procrastinate. For instance, you might ask, “How will you feel if you don’t reach your goals?” or “What happens if you don’t solve this problem?”)
  6. What’s your timeframe for getting help or solving this problem?
  7. What’s your budget?

There are deeper levels of sophistication when writing your sales script and having a sales conversation. However, these seven questions will get you moving in the right direction as you’re perfecting your sales skills.

Question #2 is tricky

You want to discover their root need, not just the symptoms of the problem. For instance, they might tell you they want to increase sales or build a bigger business, but sales have been sluggish for them. Sluggish sales are a symptom of the problem, not the root problem. Ask probing questions to discover why this has been happening for them. Be prepared for this common answer: “I don’t know.” Part of the reason they’re hiring you is to get clarity about why things aren’t going the way they want.

Finding the matching service or product

Once you get through these seven questions, suggest which of your services (or products) is the best fit for their needs and budget.

Don’t be afraid to offer them something that’s more expensive than their budget, if you can justify why this is the best solution for them. Unless you’re working with a corporate client, most people won’t know their budget, or they’ll only have an intuitive sense of what they’re willing to pay. If they’ve hired other consultants before, they might have a more concrete range they’re willing to pay. If they don’t have a budget in mind, tell them the fee for working with you, the determine if they have resistance to that fee level.

If their timeframe or budget doesn’t lend itself to one of your standard services, can you offer them a different service or product that might work for them? Recently I had a conversation with a prospect who wanted to know when the next live Facilitator Training class was. I told her it would be in two months, but her next opportunity to facilitate was in five days! So, instead, I offered her my online self-study course which she could consume in the next five days and be ready for her upcoming meeting without waiting for the live, in-person class.

Don’t forget the final step in this process

Ask for the sale. If you think they’re a good fit, tell them you’d like to work with them. Give a timeframe for when you could begin working together. Explain why your services or products are the right fit based on their needs, timeframe, and budget. And if you don’t think it’s a good fit, tell them so.

   

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Category: Marketing and Sales

The REAL Reason Santa is so Jolly – He’s Self-Employed!

Posted by on Dec 01 2020

Believers and non-believers alike know that Santa Claus is a happy person. For that matter, so are Mrs. Claus and all the elves (even the ones who want to be dentists). In a world of trouble and strife, why are these folks so jolly?

The simple answer is that Santa is happy because he is self-employed. He’s doing what he loves to do and he has the freedom to create the business and life of his dreams. While running a family business can be complicated, with Mrs. Claus by his side, they deliver a perfect product to a cheering clientele.

Imagine that you owned a business where you had to deliver your product or service only one night a year to an audience eagerly awaiting your arrival. The other 364 days a year are spent in product development and listening to your customers. If that doesn’t make you jolly, what will?

But that’s not all. Each year, Santa’s audience of little children (and some not-so-little ones, like me) write letters to him, telling him exactly what they want. Getting your customers to be that specific — and to get them to put it in writing — certainly reduces the need for market research.

Marketing is easy. Word-of-mouth referrals blossom among the children who love him, and social media and the Internet only makes it easier to spread the word. He doesn’t use Facebook and Twitter to send out endless “buy my products” posts. Instead, he uses them to create relationships and to listen. Santa is GREAT at listening.

And how does Santa get paid? With love, cookies and milk, which are in constant and unending supply. He has no doubts about abundance or whether his clients will pay on time.

It shouldn’t surprise you that Santa has intricate and extensive leadership skills. He doesn’t make toys himself; he gets the elves to do it for him. He instills in them the passion, meaning and purpose of the corporate mission, and they eagerly make toys all year long, happy and singing. There are no recorded instances of elf employment protests. Santa knows how to respect and motivate the craftspeople who work for him. He puts the “elf” in self-employment.

But Santa doesn’t sit on his laurels (because, in fact, it hurts to sit on laurel shrubs). Every year his strategic team comes up with new products and services sure to delight his audience. Notice I said, “team.” Santa can’t do it alone and he recognizes the need to surround himself with those who are smarter than he is in their specialty field. I think it was Santa who first said, “None of us is as smart as all of us.”

To all of you who own your own business, and to those who dream of one day being your own boss, I wish you the brightest of holiday seasons. We can all learn a thing or two from Santa Boss, can’t we?

   

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Category: Running a Strong & Efficient Business

Tweaking the Steps Along Your Marketing Sales Path

Posted by on Oct 14 2020

ecommerce pathDo you sell products and services via the Internet?

Do you get the results you want?

If you don’t get the results you want, it’s helpful to re-visit each step of your “marketing sales path” to see where tweaks can be made.

Do a little marketing detective work

For instance, let’s say your sales path starts with an email broadcast, which directs the reader to your website. Here are the different statistics you will want to analyze to see what’s working and what’s not.

  1. Open Rate: Open rates, on average, hover around 20-25%, and in some industries, open rates go as low as 15%. (See Mail Chimp’s Open Rate by Industry table. Here’s HubSpot’s version of the Open Rate by Industry.)  About half of all email users will open their email with the graphics turned on, which sends a “beacon” back to the email server to indicate “This person opened an email.” If they don’t have their graphics turned on when reading emails, then they won’t show up in your Open Rate. So, if your statistics show an open rate of 10%, that means that it’s closer to 20%.
  2. Check Click-through Rates: Just because someone opens an email doesn’t mean they read it. One way to calculate whether people are actually reading your emails is click-through rate (CTR). CTR is the percent of people who clicked on a link in your email which took them to your website. You can get this statistic either from your email company or from your website statistics. You’re either calculating CTR (number of people who clicked compared to total emails sent) or CTOR (number of people who clicked compared to total emails opened.) There are a lot of opinions, pro and con, for whether you should put links in your emails or simply put the full text in your emails. Read more about that here in my blog post “Include Full Articles or Only Links?”.
  3. Check Your Website Statistics: Once they click through from the email to the page where you are making your offer, how long are they staying there? This number helps to guide you as to whether they’re actually reading the web page text or not. If your web page is too long, poorly written, or doesn’t clearly explain what you’re offering, people may be turned off. Or perhaps the text isn’t formatted in a way that’s conducive to reading. If they’re not staying long enough on the page to read it, it’s time to re-write the page. HINT: to determine how long it really takes to read the entire page, read it out loud to yourself. That will slow you down so that you read every single word as if it were the first time you’d seen the page.
  4. Bounce Rate: If they read the website text, does it answer all their questions? If not, they may click away from your website and never return. Check your bounce rate. Bounce rate is expressed as a percentage of the people who visit one page of your site, then leave immediately without looking at other pages on your site. Google says the average bounce rate is between 40-60%. If your bounce rate for your page is less than 40%, you’re doing great! If it’s over 60%, you need to tweak that page.
  5. Call To Action. What are you asking people to do once they read your page? A strong call to action matters.  Let’s say you’re selling a class. Should the call to action be “buy now?” Maybe it would be better as “register now” or “click here to register.”
  6. Sales Rate: Did they buy? Which payment option did they use?

Which traffic sources give you the best results?

Every step along the sales path is an opportunity to tweak your technique. Your e-commerce path might start with web traffic from a search engine (so good SEO is important) or it might start with online referrals from other sites. Perhaps you’re using sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to send traffic back to your site. Check each of these “sources” in your website statistics to see which ones yield the most traffic.

To do that, first go to the Landing Pages section of Google Analytics. You’ll find it under the Behavior section of the menu. (Behavior>Site Content>Landing Pages)

landing pages

Then use a very cool feature of Google Analytics, the “Secondary Dimension,” which allows you to select a page you want to focus on and drill down to each source of traffic and how much each source sent traffic to individual landing pages.

To do this:

  1. In the Landing pages table, click on the URL of the page you want to study. This will bring up statistics only for that page and help you drill down to get specifics for that page.
  2. Above the “Page” column, you’ll see a button that says “Secondary Dimension.” Click on that, and a drop-down menu will appear of all the different statistics you can get about that page.
  3. Select “Acquisition” then “Source.” This will show you all the sources of traffic to this specific page. Check the Time on Page and Bounce Rate for each source, to see which one yields the best results.

source

NOTE: When source says “(direct)” that means that people came directly to this page without going through an additional website. These are the people who click-through from emails or type your URL into their browser.

If people are reading their email in a browser-based email system, like Gmail or Yahoo Mail, the source might say Google or Yahoo.

Once you find the right combination of the steps above that brings the best results, you then repeat that over and over again.

By the way,  I recommend you use Google Analytics, if you are not already using it. It’s free and it gives you a ton of good information about how your marketing campaigns are doing.

Do You Find These “How-To” Types of Posts Helpful?

Let me know if you find this helpful and if you’d like to see more of these step-by-step “how-to” types of posts!

   

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Category: Internet & Social Media Marketing, Marketing and Sales
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Can You Explain Your Target Audience in 15 Minutes?

Posted by on Sep 26 2020

I had a tough discussion with a client yesterday. She needs to hire a marketing manager, but would rather first find a person who knows her narrowly niched target audience intimately, and then teach them the marketing skills they’ll need to do their job.

I suggested to her that she turn it around. It would be far easier to first find a marketing expert who had all the skills she needed, and then to teach her new team member about her target audience. It’s too much of an uphill slog to have to teach someone all the marketing, administrative and technical skills that make a marketing manager great.

She said she couldn’t do it that way

I asked, “Can you explain your target audience, their needs, philosophy, and psychology (to someone not familiar with your industry) in 15 or 30 minutes?”

She said no, that it would take “days and days” to explain her target audience to someone.

It was clear that she felt her new marketing manager needed inside information into her industry in order for them to do their job well. I countered that a skilled marketing manager knew how to learn about a new target audience, as that’s their job.

She was so deep in the weeds of her industry that she thought her marketing manager needed to know everything about it. My guess is that they wouldn’t need to know every single detail about a new industry. What they would need is a high-level overview of who the customer was and what they struggled with. They could learn the nuances over time, as needed, and would ask questions as they needed to fill in the blanks.

What about you?

Do you know your target audience so well that you could provide a high-level description to your new team member in a short time?

If not, why not?

You must have a clear description of who your target audience is at a detailed level (demographics and psychographics). Included in this description should be what their primary goals are and the types of problems that get in their way to achieving their goals.

Here are some examples

  • I work with small business owners with 10 or fewer employees and help them with creating efficiencies in their business so they can get off the treadmill and start enjoying their business again. My customers are typically male between the ages of 40-55.
  • I teach new novelists how to create characters, design scenes, create dialogue, and map out their novel so they have a plan for moving forward with their writing.
  • I help new corporate managers, typically ages 30-40, learn how to recruit, hire, retain, and fire employees.

With these high-level overviews, you can then flesh them out with more demographics and psychographics for clarity, but if you can’t explain your target audience in one or two sentences, you need to go back to the drawing board.

   

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning, Marketing and Sales

Should You Put Your Prices on Your Website? Pros and Cons

Posted by on Sep 24 2020

The decision to put your prices on your site is a strategic one for your business. In some ways, it can make you feel vulnerable.

Ask yourself: What does my prospective client want and need when they visit my website?

Studies have shown the consumers want to see prices of products and services. Even a price range is sufficient. But many business owners have reasons why they prefer to not include pricing.

How can you decide which way to go?

Here are some pros and cons to consider:

Nine Reasons to Put Your Fees and Prices on Your Site

  1. Trust. Many customers will not do business with a company that is not forthcoming about pricing and fees. They simply won’t waste their time talking with a sales representative, only to find out that the price is too high (or too low, which may feel cheap or low quality to them).
  2. Price Range. Customers want to know what they’re going to pay for your service or product, or at least have a ballpark figure.
  3. Unaffordability Beliefs. Some customers believe, perhaps incorrectly, that if the price is not shown, then it “must be too high.” They reason that if they aren’t shown the price, they probably can’t afford it.
  4. Efficiency. People who can’t afford your services or products will not request a prospect sales conversation. Hear me out: do you want to spend time convincing people on the phone that they can afford you, when they really think they can’t, or don’t see the value you are offering? It’s hard to have sales calls with people who have unrealistic expectations because they don’t know the fees. Trying to convince them is a hard-sell tactic that I choose to avoid.
  5. Branding. Pricing is a strategic marketing decision and helps to set your brand apart from others. Are you the low-cost leader? Are you the expert who people pay more for because you’re worth it? Your fees tell the prospective customer where you place yourself among the others in the industry and which target market you want to serve. There is no right or wrong pricing brand strategy. The key is that you’ve developed it consciously through your marketing plan.
  6. Discounting. For products and classes, there’s typically no negotiation in pricing: either they purchase it or they don’t. You can always create a separate page with special pricing for existing customers or special groups, or offer coupon codes that give discounts, if you want a tiered pricing approach to products and classes. Or indicate that you have installment payment plans, if that helps your customer with a buying decision on a high-ticket item. If you offer special pricing for nonprofits, put your regular fees on your website, and add a sentence that indicates nonprofit pricing is available.
  7. Budgeting. If people feel like they can’t afford you, but want to work with you, they now have a price-point from which they can start savings towards working with you. I have had a number of clients who tell me that they saved for three months in order to work with me.
  8. Honoring. Your customers are busy and time-constrained. They need information at the moment when they have time to do their research. Don’t make them jump through hoops or waste their precious time. Try to be helpful in getting them all the information they need, not just in your pricing, but in the valuable benefits you offer.
  9. Information Gathering. People who are looking for a price range so they can get some budgeting ideas may be a perfect client for you. One of the important stages your customers’ sales timeline is the Information Gathering phase when they are researching possible solutions. Get to know your prospective customer’s process for making buying decisions and plan your marketing accordingly. This is especially true when marketing to women: they do a lot of research before they buy.

Ten Reasons Not to Put Your Fees and Prices on Your Site

  1. Customized Services or Product. Sometimes you can’t list your prices, because each customer gets a customized quote based on what they need from you, like a home builder or a website designer. But you can offer packages on your website, with a note that says, “Fees start at…” for each package. Or show them examples of your work and indicate what each of those project fees were.
  2. Competition. You’re afraid your competition will find out how much you charge. I have bad news for you: your competition already knows what you charge. It’s easy for them to have a friend pose as a prospective customer and get your entire price list. Or your customers tell others what they paid. You are going to have a tough time keeping your pricing private, especially in the internet age.
  3. Value and Selling Strategy. You feel that they need to talk with you first, so that you can show them how valuable your service is, before quoting them a price. That is the job of your website and your other marketing techniques. If your website is written well or your webinar is designed properly, it will easily show someone whether you can solve their problem — and that the price they’ll pay is worth it. Then, when a prospective customer finally does contact you, they’ve already been pre-sold by your marketing and you don’t have to struggle to convince them of anything. I figure if a sales rep needs to speak with me, it’s because they think the product or service “needs explaining,” or that they need to “handle my objections.” Neither is a good excuse to waste my time on something that doesn’t need explaining or should have been explained thoroughly on the website or webinar. Need help with your copywriting? Read my blog post on 6 Copywriting Steps for Non-Copywriters.
  4. Rapport. Your service is based on your personality and your rapport with your customers. Therefore, they need to speak with you in order to get the connection and see if it’s a good fit. I agree with this 100%. But if it’s a perfect fit, and they can’t afford you, how does that benefit either of you? Why not put some videos on your website or offer some free webinar or workshops, so they get a chance to experience you before the prospect call is scheduled.
  5. Price Fixing. You (or your industry) is concerned about price-fixing. By definition, price-fixing is a conscious agreement among businesses to keep the price of something unnaturally high or low, instead of letting free-market forces determine what each customer pays. Putting your own prices on your own website is not a conscious agreement with other businesses, it’s not a conspiracy, and therefore is not price-fixing. If you’re really concerned that you’ll be accused of price-fixing, consult your business attorney.
  6. Mimics. You are concerned that competitors who are less qualified than you will increase their prices to mimic yours but offer poor service. Let them. You cannot be responsible for what your competitor does. If they charge too much and offer a shoddy product or service, they’ll be out of business soon enough anyway.
  7. Uniqueness. You feel that your service or product is not unique, but is exactly the same as what your competitor offers. This is called a commodity. But a commodity implies that what the customer is purchasing is the exact same thing, regardless of the vendor (like milk, flour, or gasoline). By being clear on what makes you unique, different, or better than your competitor, you avoid being seen as a commodity. This is called your Unique Selling Proposition. If you don’t have one, get one.
  8. Ongoing Marketing. You’re concerned that you’ll lose a way to connect with a prospect if they see your prices but don’t reach out to you. This is where having an free offer on your website can help you gather a list of people who may be interested in your product or service. Think: email newsletter, webinar, or whitepaper. However, you need to handle these people differently than you would a bona fide prospect because most people who sign up for free things are in the Information Gathering stage of the sales cycle. Prospective customers are in the Decision Making phase of the buying cycle.  Establish your sales and marketing strategy and funnel, and reach out to people based on where they are along the sales path. Here are the buying cycle stages.
  9. Price Shopping and Tire Kickers. If they’re shopping on price alone, they’re probably not your ideal client unless you are Wal-Mart. People who shop only based on price will leave you when they find someone cheaper. So, if you put your prices on your website, you get them to exit before they waste your time. If a prospective customer is truly only shopping on price, then it wouldn’t matter if you tell them the price on your website, or on a sales call.
  10. Not Knowing Your Worth. It’s true. Many small business owners feel uncomfortable setting their prices because they don’t truly know their value. Here are some tips in setting your service fees.

What To Do?

Whether you put your prices on your site or not is a personal business decision. It depends on your business and marketing strategy. Just make sure you make your decision based on what’s helpful to your customer and right for your marketing plan, not based on your fears about what “might” happen.

If you don’t put your prices on your site, it may be helpful to explain to people why you didn’t include them, and explain what the next step is in the process. Prospective customers will want to understand why they need to speak with you first.

People often ask me, “Don’t you think you’ll lose prospective clients that way?” My answer is: I get 10 phone calls a week from people who want small business coaching/consulting from me. I’m not losing ideal client prospects by putting my fees on my website. But when my consulting business is full, and I’m referring prospective clients to my trusted colleagues, having my prices on my site implies that my colleagues will honor those prices (which they won’t). So during those times, I take the prices off my site so that my colleagues can set their own prices.

So…should you put your pricing on your website or not?

The best thing you can do it test it. Put your prices on your site for two-to-four weeks, and compare the results. If you get more inquiries, more sales, easier conversions, then you know your audience found it helpful.

You’ll never know if something works or not until you try it.

Do you put your prices on your site? Why or why not? When visiting other sites, do you want to find pricing there?

   

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Category: Internet & Social Media Marketing, Marketing and Sales
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