AddThis Feed Button
AddThis Social Bookmark Button
Free Newsletter Signup

Welcome to the GetEntrepreneurial.com Experts Network, a small business blog dedicated to providing business advice and resources to our community of aspiring entrepreneurs.

About Us | Our Network Experts | Submit Your Articles



bizplanposter2_med

There is ONE thing that 80% of business owners don’t do that keeps them in overwhelm, frustration, and chaos.

And I’m going to share with you what that is below … and I’ll even tell you how you can correct it too!

One of the many issues business owners face is bright shiny object syndrome — you know what I mean. The next big idea comes across their desk which they think is the answer they’ve been looking for … so they ditch whatever they’re working on to follow this new path, never finishing what they started…

This leads to overwhelm …

… and then frustration sets in because their business isn’t growing in the way that they hoped it would.

And they’re not seeing results … any results!

An example (and I know this is typical because I’ve had many conversations with clients) is that they are juggling getting their newsletter up and running; posting to their blog; creating products to sell via their website; and launching a membership program – all in addition to getting more clients. Does this sound familiar?

The solution to these problems is to create a plan … so that you don’t get sidetracked and go off course!

And one of the easiest ways to create your plan is to know exactly where you are in your business, and where you want to go.  Once you know which business growth stage you’re at it will be so much easier for you to create your plan; you’ll know exactly where you need to focus your time.

You’ll know exactly what to do first, what to do second, what to do third etc.

No more following that bright shiny object!

I have spent the last ten years running my own online solo service business, and during that time have worked with many clients (from start-up businesses to multiple six and seven-figure businesses).

I have discovered that there is a very specific 3-step process to running a successful, long-term business. I refer to these three steps as the:

3 “Ms” to Online Business Management Success: Manage, Market, and Multiple Streams.

And once you understand the “3 Ms” and how they all fit together, it will be so easy for you to create your plan. And this is where 80% of business owners are going wrong – they don’t create a plan for their business.

Once you have a plan in place, you’ll find that your business runs smoothly, becomes more automated and streamlined, and, more importantly, grows!

Want to know more about the 3 Ms? I’ll tell you…

Step 1: Manage

This is the foundational piece of your business growth and covers your core business management systems such as:

  • eCommerce and payment processing system
  • Get More Clients System
  • Filing Management System
  • Creating your automated sales funnel
  • Identifying your ideal client

Once you have all these key systems in place you’re then ready for the next step in your business growth.

Step 2: Market

This is where you create visibility so that clients are drawn to you. You need to let your target market know about your business through creating a customized and automated online marketing system – and you’ll also want to include some offline marketing activities in this stage too. During this stage you’ll:

  • Plan your stay-in-touch system
  • Decide which online marketing strategies are going to work for you, such as hosting your own teleclasses or writing articles
  • Create your “free taste” that you’ll offer in exchange for a name and email address

Once your business has got to the stage where you are drawing potential clients into your business daily, and you’ve reached the bursting point in working one-on-one with your clients, then you’re ready to move into increasing profits and leveraging your time.

Step 3: Multiple Streams

The third, and final stage, in your business growth is where you repackage your expertise into various products and programs to leverage your time and increase profits. You’re not ready for this stage until you have the first two steps all in place. It’s no good creating information products if you don’t have anyone to market those products to. So before you rush out and create products ensure that you have a database of potential clients and customer who are ready and willing to buy your products.

To create a successful (read: profitable) long-term business you need to follow a plan. Follow the three steps I’ve shared with you here and you will not be tempted to go after the next ‘big idea’; instead you’ll know exactly what to focus on, when to focus on it, and what to do next.

Tracey Lawton

About Our GE Network Expert - Tracey Lawton

Tracey Lawton is an expert in online business management, office administration, and developing administrative systems. Online Business Manager and Virtual Assistant, Tracey Lawton, supports professional speakers, coaches, and authors to operate an efficient, organized, and profitable business. Learn how to create an efficient and organized office in 7 EASY steps, and receive free tips at http://OfficeOrganizationSuccess.com.



 
  


Inside_Sales

The hottest addition to the sales world right now is something called ‘Inside Sales’ or ‘Sales 2.0′, a process of selling that involves the sales team to never leave their desk and go through the entire sales cycle behind the phone, computer and other tech. Sounds perfect, right?

The inevitable shift to Inside Selling has been welcomed by many businesses out there – the costs are minimal, the tools out there create little friction and the customer is respective of the remote sales process. I’m certainly in favour of the whole ‘revolution’ but it comes with a number of issues and headaches that inevitably have driven companies back to the old process of selling or hurt them in the long run.

What I’ve decided to do is create an incredibly simple list that pin-points the problem areas of Inside Sales and gives you a way to overcome the hurdle or if  you happen to have a different way you’ve overcome the problem then drop a comment, I’d love to hear it!

Firstly – setting one of these fully functioning Inside Sales teams isn’t easy, it’s actually a lot of trial and error to find out what works and what doesn’t or more specifically what processes create the least amount of friction when your sales team is dealing with a customer. This very simple mishap is usually the reason why the Inside Sales focused business fails, the management is in fact setting up the team for failure.

1. No Leadership or Training

Straight away we’re looking failure square in the eyes because the management team has decided that the Inside Sales team can do it on their own and really don’t need much training. It’s all online and we all certainly know how to use the internet these days, sure but the entire process needs to be looked into and understood by both the management team and sales team.

The only real way anyone can do this is through the process of training and learning from an individual with experience, if the company doesn’t offer this to the Inside team then they’ve got to just go through the motions and learn from their mistakes. Mistakes are great for learning but in small amounts, without leadership or training these mistakes tend to grow and build up leading to a disfunctional sales team that sit there looking at their screen blankly.

It’s relatively simple to get over this hurdle.

Get someone on the team that’s had experience of Inside Sales and ask them to provide the needed training or if you want it done in a crash course style of training outsource the training initially and build on it internally afterwards. Don’t leave the training out of the equation, it is needed as the process is vastly different to a traditional sales role.

2. Lack of Structure

Inside Sales teams still need to have the same style of structure as a traditional sales team does. So that means that:

  • There needs to be departments or separation within the team that controls and holds certain parts of the sales cycle (lead generation, closers etc)
  • The team needs to know when leads get handed off, when deals get signed off etc
  • Who’s in charge of account management?
  • What is the sales process?

The list isn’t huge here but the basics are highlighted however with every company the needs of the team can vary so use your expertise and knowledge to answer any queries and questions yourself.

Once the structure is clearly defined the Inside Sales team will know what they’re doing with little guess work being needed.

3. Sales Cycles Are Longer

Inside sales people spend the entire day behind the desk pounding out calls and getting endless rejection. This comes with the territory but everyone needs a quick and easy win sometimes to refresh their ego and boost morale.

So if you happen to be selling products at £1000 a pop it might be worth considering creating a product or offering something of less value to initially get the customer on board and ultimately give your sales team an easy morale booster.

4. Inside Vs Outside Sales Battles

Lets face it, most sales people are incredibly competitive with an ego to match which means that in a lot of cases there will be an initial lack of respect from the outside sales team towards the inside sales team. Sounds childish but understandably the outside sales team will question the work ethic and everything else of the inside sales team.

Minor things like handing off tepid leads, cancel appointments that are well qualified or ask the inside sales team to do general admin tasks. Consider it the ‘apprenticeship’ phase but in the end a well run team needs to have no in-fighting at all.

This is where the importance of structure comes into play – define everything clearly and early, both the inside and outside sales teams need to understand what a hot lead is, when to hand it over and so on.

5. Marketing Is Disconnected

Sales & Marketing are considered to be the same thing in many cases so it’s hard to understand why there always seems to be such a disconnect between the two when put into practice. Inside selling involves the process of using social media to promote and generate leads, it also involves various other online marketing ideas.

In order to create effective marketing campaigns the sales team should be speaking with everyone, not just the marketing/inside sales team. They are at the front of the business, promoting it and learning from the people they contact. These are details that need to be shared which also brings me to the lack of co-working on marketing campaigns. When an inside sales team works on social media marketing, the outside sales team should be paying attention to what is being said and how it’s being said.

To get over this issue ensure that the sales (inside and outside) and marketing teams have meetings and consistently communicate with each other. Initially it’ll be hard but in the long run they’ll see the results too, eliminating and fear or doubts.

6. Unrealistic Goals

Management teams seem to assume that an inside sales team, because of its work style, can achieve more and ultimately should have higher/harder goals. It might be true that they can achieve more that a field sales person BUT that doesn’t mean they should be forced to work in a different manner.

Inside sales is still about generating hot leads, arranging meetings for the field sales people and ultimately moving the sales cycle along – all of these take time and patience. Setting goals that are impossible to reach without the sales team comprising their ethics and your company’s name is always a road leading to failure.

Set specific goals for each member of the team, ensure everyone is happy with them and create a desire to achieve these goals. Again setting up products and offers that the sales team can get quick wins and morale boosters will also take the team further.

7. Having a New Message

Sometimes a product will end up having a complete overhaul with the messaging which (back to the disconnect between marketing and sales teams) somehow always ends up confusing the sales teams and this includes both the inside and outside teams too.

If you happen to change the messaging of a product ensure that every single department and team understands what it is that has changed and where the positioning and messaging is now focused.

8. Endless Apps & Tools

To grow alongside the demand and growth of inside selling there has been an increase in inside sales focused or compatible apps and tools created. Which is great as we get to try out various new shiny tools and apps learning what works well and what doesn’t but the time spent trying out these things is where inside sales teams get hurt the most.

Look to minimise or at least centralise the entire list of tools everyone uses and ensure everyone has the correct training and understanding of it. In most cases people fail to adopt this new tech because they simply don’t understand it or don’t want to understand it as it tends to waste time going through a trial and error process.

JohnPerrin

About Our GE Network Expert - JohnPerrin

Director of Tactical Sales Training where we teach the subtle art of sales. Offering B2B focused sales training with and emphasis on no scripts and instantly measurable results.


Starting an online business is easy. Starting one that is successful and wildly profitable is difficult. Yes there are those inspiring rags to riches stories about entrepreneurs who seem to hit it big over night but they are the exception, not the rule. Making money online is one of the most highly searched topics on the internet today and has been for years.

  1. Designing Your Website and Communication Platform

After you have spent the necessary time and energy putting together your business plan and securing the necessary funding for your start up, you are going to need to build a website. (or have someone build it for you) Design the website as if you are the customer. Make the site user friendly with a simple navigation process that is easy to use, fun and unintimidating. Provide a positive online experience backed with excellent customer service. This will convert customers into long term fans and evangelists for you.

Use your site to capture information about past, future and potential customers. Your contact list will become an important and lucrative intellectual asset. One way to do this is to offer an opt-in newsletter. After you get established and have generated a significant list you will use it to generate an obscene amount of revenue from repeat business through ongoing email promotions. It is also a good idea to use a SSL certificate from SSL cert providers such as Thawte whenever you are passing personal information between the website and web server or database.

  1. Choosing a Web Hosting Company

Naturally you are going to need to engage a web hosting company to provide a server to store your web content. There are lots of multi-solution web hosting companies that provide storage space and even domain name registration, etc. The size and type of web hosting package you choose will be largely determined by the type of online business you are starting. Be sure to do your due diligence before choosing the vendor you will use. Find one that can provide you good customer support so that whenever a problem will be encountered, for example when you need to setup SSL security on your website.

You may want to consider engaging the services of a local webhost since they may be able to get your web pages loaded faster than being routed from an international server. Be sure to get references and make sure they are a reliable web host. Verify that they have been providing dependable service for similar types of online businesses as the one you are starting.

  1. Offering Online Payment Methods

Accepting payments on your website is the lifeblood of an online business. Consider offering as many payment options as you possibly can. Your shopping cart needs to be easy to use, hassle free and secure. Again, do your due diligence before choosing your payment processing provider. They need to be dependable and experienced in the kind of business you will be involved in. To enable payments to be made directly on your site, you will need to apply for your own merchant account with a merchant account services provider or you may opt to use a 3rd party payment services provider such as Paypal. Also invest in SSL certificates to provide confidence to online customers for them to complete their purchase.

  1. Preparing Your Backend System

If you are using a virtual store, it is crucial that you have a robust backend software system. It will be used to track all of the key information to aid you in making business decisions. These backend operations can include inventory management, reporting systems and credit card processing. There are numerous singular and all-in-one providers that have the ability to provide you with custom-made solutions depending on your needs. Be sure to acquire backend software that provides you with accurate and real-time information. A good solid and reliable backend system combined with utilizing SSL certificates from reputed trusted provider like Thawte enable you to make informed decisions from customers purchasing information that will help you guide the business as it grows.

While it sounds very technical and abstract, do not underestimate the importance of a trusted backend system secured by SSL certs. SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer and is a form of security for online websites that handle sensitive information such as customer names, phone numbers, addresses and credit card numbers. It creates a secure connection between a customer’s web browser and the server of the company they’re interacting with.

In order to meet Payment Card Industry compliance, an online business needs an SSL certificate with the proper encryption of at least 128-bit from a trusted source, so in order to be able to offer credit card payments to customers, be sure to invest in the requisite SSL certificate cost for customers’ peace of mind when doing business with you.

  1. Marketing Your Online Store

Frankly, marketing is in some respects the most important aspect of your new venture. It will largely determine whether your venture is a success or not. Without effective marketing you don’t get sales. Without sales, nothing else matters. Many first time online marketers assume that if they have a great product or service and a great website, that they are going to sit back and generate sales. That just isn’t how it works.

  • Optimize your website - Using your website to generate interest and to be a proactive part of your marketing campaign requires a high ranking on Google, Bing and other major search engines. That does not happen automatically. The ability to drive visitors to your site through organic search queries virtually always requires search engine optimization (SEO).
  • Don’t just rely on search engines to drive sales – The second hard fact of online marketing is that your website will seldom be the main marketing vehicle that generates viewers through organic search. Unless your site is ranked high on the first page of Google and other search engines, you cannot count on your website as a major proactive method of marketing your services.
  • Consider affiliate marketing – Affiliate programs can be extremely effective if they are a good fit for your business model and you have profit margins that can support them. An affiliate program pays other online marketers a commission for driving new customers to your website.

Hopefully this information has given you a little food for thought. An online business can be fun and exciting. It also takes some serious planning. Good luck in making your first online fortune.


17Nov

Moving, Expanding for Love

Posted by Marcel Sim in Operations

moving-office-locations

You know how important it is to do what you love. So what do you do when what you love makes you really successful? Do you stay a one-person (or one location) operation? Of course not.  You expand!

Well, it isn’t exactly that easy. Deciding that expanding is a good idea and actually making it happen for your sweet little enterprise is something else entirely. Still, if it’s what you think is best, here are some tips to help you do it.

Look at the Numbers

There’s a difference between doing well and doing well enough to expand. A lot of entrepreneurs and small business owners move too quickly with this. They think that a few months of ending in “the black” means that they are ready to take on the huge expense that is opening another business. Don’t make this mistake! Instead, wait until your business has built up enough of a reserve to keep your current operation afloat for at least a couple of years as well as fund the building, staffing and marketing and running of a new location for the same amount of time–yes, even before you try to talk to a bank about loans.

It’s a good idea to talk to your accountant as soon as you make the decision that you want to grow and expand your location. You can start setting aside funds for expansion. This way you won’t be tempted to spend them building your current location.

Find a Location

Sometimes it’s a good thing to start small–opening a second location in the same town but a different neighborhood is one way to do that and it’s what a lot of entrepreneurs and small businesses do.

It’s better though to go to where your customers actually are. For example, you’ve obviously put your business online by now and are likely taking orders for your products through your website. Where are those orders going? Do you have a huge buyer base in another state or city? Look into setting up a second location there. Another option is to look for locations that are offering tax breaks to new businesses. A lot of states have tax incentives to help bring in new and expanding businesses. It might be more profitable to open up a location where you can run your business with reduced taxes or even tax-free for a while to help build up your profit margin.

You might, if the numbers are right, even consider expanding your business internationally. Going global is something that a lot of entrepreneurs dream about. And remember: even if you’re based in Grand Rapids and decide to open a location in Toronto, it still counts as becoming an international operation!

Plan the Move

Opening a second location means things like finding office or shop space and then filling that space with inventory, furniture, etc. Many small businesses will supplement a new shop with overstock from their original location. This is easy enough to do when you are running two locations in the same town. If you’ve expanded to a different city or state, though, you’ll want to work with a logistics coordinator. This is particularly important if you are going to be expanding into another country. You’ll need to work with a coordinator who can facilitate air cargo carriers, customs, and other issues that, to put it bluntly, you cannot do on your own while simultaneously running your business.

Get Used to Traveling

Your new location is going to require a lot of your attention. This is true even before it is officially opened for business. You’ll need to scout physical space, hire a location manager, help with the hiring of employees and oversee all of those “getting up and running” details that you took care of when you first started your business. A lot of entrepreneurs choose to move, at least temporarily, to the new city so that managing the details is easier.

Expanding a business is a great and important and ultimately complicated process. Go slowly and resist the temptation to skip steps!


13Nov

Start Ups 101: Fixing Cash Flow Woes

Posted by Marcel Sim in Starting Up

Hand grasping dollar bill in water

While you would think lack of sales would be the number one money problem a start up may face, more often than not, the top spot goes to cash flow issues. Money is being made, but not being managed properly, and when this happens, your business will suffer greatly.

Fixing cash flow issues requires a few things. First, you have to take the time to go over your business with a fine tooth comb to see what is happening with your money. Secondly, you must be disciplined in carrying out the changes you know will improve the situation. And third, realize this isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it-type-thing. You need to regularly check in, and see if you need to make any adjustments. Here are just a few helpful hints to get you started.

1.  Don’t Spend Money When You Really Don’t Need To

This one may sound a bit obvious, but many start ups don’t heed this advice. In an attempt to build the business as quickly as possible, there is a tendency to take on expenses that just aren’t necessary.

Sure, you will need a few employees eventually, but if contractors can get the job done for now, use them as needed. Paying for full coverage contractor insurance now could save you an endless headache and considerable cash later. Don’t rent a huge office space if revamping your home office will suffice for now. Unnecessarily burning through precious capital, and increasing your debt is not a smart move when you have yet to turn a profit. Remember simply throwing as much money towards your business as possible does not ensure faster success.

2.  Hold Onto Cash as Long as Possible

Paying our bills once we get them definitely feels good; a weight has been lifted. We feel financially responsible. But, if you are trying to improve your cash flow situation, you may want to reconsider this tactic. As long as your bills are paid by the due date, vendors, credit card companies and the like are happy. If your payment isn’t due until the 30th, why send it in on the 11th? Unless of course, you are getting some great deal from a vendor on an early payment, pinching your cash flow may not be a good trade-off.

3.  Handle Receivables the Right Way

Poor handling of receivables is a major problem for many start ups. Payments are not tracked carefully. Maybe you fear alienating customers by going after them for late payments. You are not screening carefully enough, and are taking on clients who are not good with payments. Address these issues stat.

If possible, request at least partial payment before delivering a product or service, perhaps after the first couple of orders so customers know they can trust you. If your net 60 terms are killing you, reach out to clients about changing them to a shorter payment period. Offer discounts for early payments; while it might seem counterintuitive to reward late-paying customers with a discount, it might be worth it to get that cash in the door faster.

4.  Get a Merchant Account

Merchant accounts may cost you each time someone uses a credit card to pay you, but when it comes to getting paid as quickly as possible, using credit cards takes the cake. Don’t just sign up for the first one you come across—do a little bit of homework to ensure you find the company that best meets your needs. Encourage customers to pay this way.

5.  Research Your Financing Options

Get familiar with the different financing options available to you should you really find yourself in a cash crunch. Perhaps you could look into factoring receivables temporarily. There are many companies that offer short term loans for businesses just like yourself, and may be a faster and easier option than traditional financing through a bank to achieve ends such as purchasing equipment.

6.  Offer Stock as Compensation

If you are starting up with a team of people, consider offering stock as compensation, at least partially, until you start turning a profit. Not only will this aid in keeping cash on hand to grow your business, it will light a fire under your team to start making money as soon as possible.

So, there you have it—six powerful tips for improving cash flow, and helping you reach your business goals.



  Meet Our GE Network Experts!

Meet Our GE Network Experts!
 

Recommended Resources


 Trade Show Rentals

Links

Recent Comments

About GetEntrepreneurial.com

GetEntrepreneurial.com is a small business blog dedicated to providing business advice and resources to our community of aspiring entrepreneurs. Our specially hand-picked panel of GetEntrepreneurial.com Network experts regularly contribute entrepreneurial content and professional tips for small business owners worldwide.