Monday, October 29, 2012

Preparing a Business Plan - Components of a Business Strategy

Who do you want to help or serve with your business? What issue or problem does your product or service solve? What is the composite of the profile of the members of your target audience? What do these questions have to do with business planning?

In Starting to Plan

All of the above questions need to be answered directly or indirectly in some part of the plan that identifies your business strategy. At some point, the plan needs to be as detailed as possible and written even if it is not written initially. A record needs to be made of ideas that are attempted that were unsuccessful because of market timing or lack of resources.

Start a checklist that is expanded from the executive summary draft. On the checklist, make sure that you include information that is needed for funding sources. Information needed for making decisions for starting, developing and growing the business should also be included. "As texts that represent a given organization's strat­egy, strategic plans are of course specific to that organization, and yet the notion has a generic quality that draws on shared institutional understandings of what such a text should include (its substance), how it should be structured (its form) and what it is intended to achieve (its communicative purposes)" (Cornut, Giroux & Langley, 2012, 22). Keep in mind that time spent in business planning could make the difference between a successful business venture and one the struggles and eventually fails. Be prepared to do research to find needed information. Remember if all you do is copy what everyone else is doing you may risk ending up with only the level of success of everyone else.

Identify the personal brand of the CEO in order to insure that it is in line with the business brand. The vision and mission should show its relationship to the target market in the marketing message that is cohesive on the web and in printed materials like mailing pieces, letterhead and business cards.

Plan Inclusions

The master copy of the business plan will include information and sections that may not be contain in other versions for some audiences. The purpose of having a plan that includes everything is to create a resource to be shared with specific audiences for specific purposes at the appropriate time. There may be a risk in sharing the entire plan to the wrong audience. Therefore, it will be necessary to cut some of the information out of the plan according to the audience for which it is intended.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The One Mistake That Is Stopping You From Being Successful

In this day and time where there is so much information around, I rarely go to a meeting where I don't hear people say these two words, "I know". Most of us know a lot, but what is amazing is how much we know, but how little we actually implement.

For instance, we know that if we don't take care of our bodies they won't last, we know that if we don't exercise we may not have good health. We know if we don't work our businesses there is a good chance they might fail. For most of us, it is not the knowing that's the problem it's the doing.

Most of us have really good reasons for not doing what we need to do, we're busy, we've got a lot on our plate, etc. We know we need to get it done, but we just haven't made the time. Many people have the same challenges my clients have they know what to do they just aren't doing it.

What I've found in my own life, as well as those who I serve is there is never a perfect time or a good time, there is only the time we make. Most of us had to get started in the most inopportune times, after a job loss, sickness, during times of uncertainty. The only thing that was clear was that we knew we had to get moving. The cash flow won't ever be perfect. The time won't ever be clear. The budget may never line up. Yet the right time for each of us is now!

What's required?
We have to take the bull by the horn and move. Progress requires stretching it requires us to become uncomfortable, and make changes. If we're waiting for the right time, we will be waiting forever. Most people find that they are able to move forward not when things are perfect, but when they make the decision to move. They don't wait around for the right time to come they create the right time.

The biggest change we must make is the change in our thinking.
We must be willing to believe the unthinkable, to do the unbelievable, and to trust that everything will work out. If we don't, we will be stuck at the status quo, where nothing moves and everything stays the same.

Leaders make changes they think ahead and then go forward. They have to think about what could happen, but they plan for both the ideal and the realistic. Leaders know what they should do, and then they actually go and do it! How does this compare to your thinking?

The kind of choices we have to make.
We have to be willing to make decisions that make sense, not just short-term, but long-term, as well.We may not want to do something right now, but in order to move forward we have to do it whether we want to or not. Short-term thinking allows us to stay in the same place, it makes us think everything will be fine if we hold off, there is always tomorrow, etc. Short-term thinking is detrimental, and it is one of the most difficult things for most people to stop doing, because it is comfortable. Short-term thinking causes long-term problems. If you are going to be successful long-term, you are going to have to trade in those habits for some that are more productive.

Here are three steps you can take, to move from knowing to doing.
1. Be willing to change your thinking! Is your thinking accurate or based on assumptions and limitations? You need to analyze you thoughts, some of us have spent too much time worrying about what's happening around us, and we've allowed it to shape our future. Things change, so you can't look at a situation based solely on the past and get caught up in the reality that it will ultimately become the future. If any of those factors change, there's a good chance that the outcome will change, as well.  When you change your response, you create a different outcome.

2. Make your motto, if there's a will there's a way. I've seen people close so many doors because they don't know how this could work out. Program your brain for the possible and not the impossible of life.  Yes, it's true that things might not go according to your plan, but that doesn't mean they won't work.Look at every situation knowing there may be an option, you haven't considered. Review every solution, and look for alternate ways to get what you want. Start your brain off with an exercise like this, "I'm not really sure how but I know that there's a way to do this, I just haven't thought of yet". When you start your thought process out that way you give yourself options, and you give your brain a chance to look things creatively. It gives you a chance to think up options that could work, instead of focusing on the 1000 options that won't.

3. Be willing to take some risks. Ultimately when we move from knowing to doing, we have to be willing to take some risks, and we move forward because some of the risks we took, paid off. If we do things the way we've always done them, there is no chance for an alternate opportunity to open up. We have to believe that there is always something that we have not considered, or may not of seen.Growth requires us to open up our mind to the possibility that there is another way and that we can find that way if we look for it. A lot of amazing companies exist today because they believed there was a different way to get things done, and then they worked until they found it. Believe that somewhere inside of you is the solution, and you can discover it, if you are willing to work diligently until you find it.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

How Has the "Great Recession" Impacted Your Company?

When the economy goes through the tough times it has recently, a number of things start to change both inside and outside your company. First, review your strategic plan, to account for the changing business conditions. As a part of this, you look around to see what can be trimmed without harming your service levels and your products. Next you look to see what technologies can replace your current processes and people, and if it is affordable at a time when you are tightening your belt and not spending money unless there is excellent justification for doing so.

You make every effort to do more with less, as is everyone else. Maybe you do less promotion, go to fewer trade exhibitions and shows, cut your advertising budget, send one person on a sales call when in the past you might have sent two.

But what effects will these changes have on your culture and processes going forward, once the recession is behind us, and the economy is more robust?

Will you continue to be thrifty, as you are now with the recession so close behind us? Will your prior habits take over again, or will you continue your closely controlled ways? Good questions, and only you and your people can answer them for your company.

Are there some longer term effects which may remain with you for the foreseeable future? For example, one possible effect of your tightened control on expenditures may have had both short term benefits and longer term impacts which may or may not be favorable to your company.

The short term benefits are usually pretty obvious: Better utilization of cash, more people contributing to the effectiveness of your company by working additional hours, taking on additional responsibilities, doing more with less, etc.

But at what price for the long term? How have your company's relationships with customers been changed? Has this been for the better, or is there a negative impact possible if you do not go back to more personal contact? How has technology impacted these relationships? Are your customers willing to accept less personal contact during the slow times, but expecting to increase that type of contact when things improve?

Do your customers like the effects of technology, or are they merely putting up with it during the slow times because they know everyone is keeping a tight rein on expenses? What will be the longer term use of technology that will help your relationships with your customers?

Inevitably, some will do just fine with the new levels of contact, less personal and remote. Others will want to resume the more intimate, personal service that they enjoyed prior to the recession, and will resent not getting it if you do not respond to their needs as they were used to having them met.

Your challenge is to determine what each customer needs and to meet those needs. And, don't expect them to tell you without your probing to find out. If you don't change to fulfill their expectations, they may drift away, and you may suffer because of your insensitivity to their preferred mode of communication. We suggest you work with your people to help them determine the best way to communicate with each individual contact so you meet their needs and preferences for communication, both formal and informal, so you nurture the relationships. Your business will be healthier for it, and so will your customers' businesses.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Use Online Event Management Solutions to Enhance Attendee Engagement

Keeping attendees engrossed in an event and making them take real interest in each and every activity throughout the duration of the program through proper interactions is very essential to make an event truly successful. Unless and until an organizer ensures real-time attendee engagement, the event does not pick up its actual momentum and falls flat at the end of the day. By using the cutting-edge online event management solution, an organizer can keep its attendees actively engaged and make the event a gala success.

Introduction of the Cloud-based SaaS solutions have revolutionized the way an event was managed up until a few years ago. Today it is way faster and easier to plan, promote, track, and analyze events within an integrated platform. One can avail of all the facilities that are needed to manage an event on a magnanimous scale in a true collaborative environment. As a result, every individual associated with their respective tasks, right from planners, exhibitors, attendees, business sponsors to C-level executives, can reap the benefits utilizing the best of technologies and automated tools integrated in these software solutions. The prospects of realizing true business value have improved at every level to a great extent.

Nevertheless, there are still certain areas left that need to be worked upon further to guarantee an all-round success of the event. One such area is attendee engagement. With the constant year-round bombardment of events related information and notifications via emails, mobile device texting, and social media updates; it has now become all the more relevant to ensure real-time attendee participation than just formally meeting prospective customers and key business professionals through the event platform. It brings in more competitive value by enabling the organizer to derive an insightful inference about the event's performance, and not just numbers and statistics. This further helps to generate potential business leads that focus on quality.

How to ensure maximum attendee engagement?

To rise above the noise is the ultimate tactic that most organizers have learnt to adopt these days; and to do that, they have resorted to the latest mobile apps and social media offerings. These are by far the best ways to keep attendees completely engaged throughout the event and even post the completion of the same. Following are the ways how an online event management solution can be used to keep participants attentive and connected throughout an event:

· Innovative mobile apps can keep an event right on the palm top of an attendee. Online event management software can be used to create participant polls, interesting questions about the ongoing program, session ratings, and mobile quizzes with the selection of giving out token rewards at the end of the event. This will help organizers to derive on-the-spot analysis of the event's performance.

· If there is a sudden no-show-up by a paid registrant, and the organizer is requested to give real-time updates of a certain event, online event management software can be used to provide the facility of remote participation. This way the life of an event gets extended and an existing customer relationship strengthened, which acts as a great value-addition in the long run.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Why Do Banks Need a Business Plan?

If you have been running a business successfully for quite some time now and you want to apply for a loan to fund your expansions, you're most like to get a loan without hiccups. But if you have a start up venture, then getting a loan sanctioned will not be easy. Private lending institutions will willingly lend you a loan but charge steep rates of interest.

Banks are the most likely source where most start ups and small business firms apply for loans. Banks will ask for a business plan in the first place. You can talk to a business plan service for with preparing a sound business plan.

Your financial plans should be practical and realistic

Apart from preparing a good business plan, you'll need to have financial goals that are realistic and you think you can achieve eventually. Banks are particularly averse to lending loans to small firms and start ups. This is so because the depositors don't want banks to invest their money in risky business ventures that do not guarantee assured returns.

So, banks would ask for collaterals that the bank will hold as mortgage. They would sell these off to realise their dues in case you're not able to payback the loan amount. Collaterals would be your personal assets like home, and savings. But having a sound business plan with achievable financial objectives will make your task of seeking a bank loan smoother.

Think from the lender's perspective

Put yourself in the shoes of the lender. Your prospective lender, a bank in this case, will want to doubly reassure itself that you'll be able to payback the entire loan complete with the interests in the stipulated time period.

They will want to know your business plans. How do you intend to get the best returns on your investments? Is your product or service saleable? Will you be earning enough to reimburse the loaned amount? What personal assets can you provide as collaterals? Do you have guarantors to back you?

Banks prefer lending to someone who has the requisite and extensive experience in the business. You'll need to back up your claims with relevant documents. You chances of getting a loan will go up if you can provide documentary proof of an extra income source like your spouse's salary. You can get in touch with business plan services if you need tips on how to draw up a good business plan.

You will need to fulfil official obligations

If you're seeking an SBA (small business administration) loan, you'll need to provide for 30% of the amount, apart from an effective business project. Banks will provide the rest 70% of the loan amount, in case your loan gets sanctioned.

How to Provide High Value in Competitive Markets

Providing superior value through a formal strategic planning process to determine what your targeted customers want is a key to success. Good strategic planning not only identifies the targeted customer wants, but also permits a company to select their targeted customers (their niche) from the spectrum of customers in the total market. Some companies get this concept and become ongoing winners. Examples of this include Apple and Singapore Airlines. Apple has been analyzed in depth, so let's look at Singapore Air.

In a recent survey Singapore Airlines was named World's Best Airline by Conde' Nast. The remarkable thing about this is that Singapore has won this award 21 of the 22 times it has been awarded. How has Singapore been able to consistently provide such excellent service and maintain a good level of profitability for so many years? How have they developed the capability to provide excellent value for so long?

Singapore Airlines operates one of the youngest fleets in the world. Newer airplanes have a number of benefits for both operators and for customers. Because the planes are newer, they are usually more reliable, having fewer breakdowns than older planes. Because the planes are newer, they will likely be more efficient to operate than older ones. And because the planes are newer, customers will have up-to-date amenities and comforts, thus having a more enhanced travel experience.

Singapore also invests heavily in training its staff in all aspects of operating the airline. The people of Singapore Air are trained to deliver excellent service in the cabin, on the ground and in the terminal. Singapore actually has one of the lowest costs of operations of any airline, with a cost below 7.5 cents per seat mile, which is actually below many of the so-called budget airlines. What is interesting is that Singapore actually staffs each flight with more than competing airlines. They provide superior service on every flight. Among frequent fliers, the reputation of Singapore Air is outstanding!

One more factor: Singapore runs the entire operation with a very small corporate staff. Their administration costs are among the very lowest in the industry. This helps the profitability of the airline as well.

What is the point we are making here? Simply put, in order to compete and compete well in an extremely competitive marketplace, a company must provide service and value at an appropriate price. People will pay for results which reach their expectations. This is true at every level of service and value. For poor or minimal service, people expect to pay only a modest amount, so the perceived value is commensurate with the price paid. For more exceptional service, with the perceived higher value, a company may realize a higher price and/or become the supplier of choice. On occasion, one will encounter a company like Singapore Airlines that provides exceptional service and exceptional value, all at a competitive price.

How is this to be accomplished? By focusing its efforts on those parts of the business which add value, and minimizing or eliminating those parts of the operation which do not add value or for which customers won't pay, a company can be seen as exceptional. This may be done across the spectrum of price and features, in commodity markets and specialty markets. Excellence and attention to what really matters to the people who purchase your service or products are some of the keystones of a successful strategy. As you develop your strategic plan be sure that you identify what differentiates you in the market in your customers' eyes.

If you need assistance in developing your strategic plan to deliver high value to your targeted customers, please contact CSSP, Inc.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Why Management Training Should Be Provided for Employees

There have been a lot of news stories about industries that are lacking qualified workers. Despite high unemployment rates, these organizations are unable to fill open positions because applicants lack the skills that are required for the job. However, executives have recently complained about another critical shortage: the lack of capable leaders. In a survey on top human resource problems facing an organization, 31% of executives cited a lack of high-potential leaders within the organization. Another 19% said that the top problem is a high rate of defection of top talent to other organizations. Organizations can no longer count on job postings as a way to locate and retain competent leaders. Instead, companies must combat this problem by investing in management training for lower-level employees or leadership development for current leaders.

Leadership development is an activity meant to increase the quality of leadership within an organization. Some companies accomplish this task by identifying internal talent with the potential to be organizational leaders, then paying for employees to obtain a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) or by investing in management training for employees. Management training will focus on developing characteristics that are shared by quality leaders. These characteristics might include:
  • Experiential Learning: Requiring the individual to go through the four stages of experiential learning (concrete experience, observation and reflection, forming abstract concepts, and testing in new situations)
  • Self Efficacy: The individual's belief in his or her own abilities
  • Visioning: The ability to form the desired vision of the future of the company
Once these skills are learned in management training, individuals will be more prepared to step into a leadership role for the company. Businesses benefit from this investment not only because they fill a vital human resource need but also because these leaders are less likely to leave the company for another job. These individuals are more loyal because they recognize the investment the company has made in them, and then become more engaged. These engaged workers are less likely to leave their job because they want to work for a company that wants them to be successful.

Businesses will also see a number of benefits from providing leadership development for current organizational leaders. The major benefit of this type of development is that it keeps leaders up-to-date on current trends. This is important because leaders are always expected to understand current trends so that they can make decisions related to a long-term strategy. The skills that an individual will learn during leadership development will also allow the individual to reach his or her full potential, which inspires respect from co-workers. One other thing to consider is that many leaders have the ability to think critically and make decisions, but might lack communication skills. Leadership development can help individuals sharpen communications skills so that they do a better job of communicating ideas and responsibilities to other employees.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Boost Self-Confidence to Motivate a Sales Team

As a sales manager, it can be challenging to find ways to motivate a sales team. Although it can take time and a little more effort, your motivation techniques will pay-off because a motivated sales team is more likely to perform better and make more sales-which means everyone benefits. Not uncommonly, many salespeople tend to hit a plateau and settle for mediocrity, rather than pushing themselves to do better. This is where you, as a sales manager, need to take the initiative and make the effort to motivate your sales team and increase performance expectations.

Motivate a Sales Team to Increase Expectations

Increasing expectations helps both the company and the salesperson grow. The company benefits from the additional effort put forth and the salesperson benefits from the increased recognition and sales as well. Without the proper tools, however, it is difficult to meet these higher expectations. Here are some factors to consider if you want to motivate a sales team:

• Self-Confidence: Having self-confidence and high-self esteem will help your salespeople perform better. But how do you increase their self confidence? In many instances, one-on-one mentoring and coaching can be extremely effective. As a sales manager, you benefit when your salespeople achieve their goals, so it is in your best interest to take the time to help them improve their skills. Since many people that are new to the world of sales are insecure in their selling capabilities, developing mentoring and motivation strategies will help you overcome this roadblock and will have them, not to mention you, on the way to success in no time.

• Achievements: One of the best ways to motivate a sales team is to track and celebrate achievements. Most people want to be recognized for their efforts to help the company succeed. Something as simple as thanking them for their hard work-both publicly and privately-can be a great booster for self-confidence and will make your employees feel appreciated. And, when employees feel appreciated, they are more motivated and more likely to increase their productivity to achieve even greater success. Recognizing accomplishments does not have to be an expensive endeavor, although paying cash bonuses is often very effective since money is a great motivator as well. However, a simple recognition certificate or even taking them out to lunch will go a long way in boosting morale.

• Self-Knowledge: Self-knowledge is a significant factor that should be taken into consideration when attempting to motivate a sales team. Not everyone has the potential to be a great salesperson. Specific types of personalities-which can be assessed with a personality profile-are more apt to succeed in sales than others. Identify these employees and find out what truly motivates them. With some targeted coaching, a keen understanding of their strengths and weaknesses, and a nurturing environment, effective salespeople can increase their self-knowledge. A person who is more self-aware will also have more confidence and be able to meet and exceed sales expectations.

Self-confidence is one of the key driving factors in the sales field. If a person is insecure or suffers from low self-esteem, he will have difficulty even breaking the ice with sales prospects, let alone closing the deal. Self-confidence allows your salespeople to exude personality, and that is often the not-so-secret ingredient in selling a product or service. If you can motivate a sales team, boost their self-confidence, and improve their self-knowledge, you will be well on your way to achieving your sales goals.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

How Would You Rate Your Sales Process?

If you are in business you will understand that sales are the lifeblood of any business. And more importantly, profitable sales. You will also be aware that securing profitable sales can be challenging to say the least. If your business has grown to a level where you have a sales team, you will be acutely aware that managing this team to deliver consistently is critical to the success of the business. Yet very few people try to understand and improve the sales process. And the result of this can often be poor sales, frustration and driving your business without clear focus.

When we work with business owners, we like to establish or clarify their sales process. You  see, like any other function in the business, sales is a process. For the most part, there is no fame or glory in the process but without a process it can be very difficult to measure results, analyse whats working or whats not working, implement improvements, focus in on specific areas for improvement, give one to one coaching to a team member or general training to the entire team.

You many need a process for new business and repeat business. For the purpose of this article we will focus on new business sales where the prospect or customer does not already have a relationship with your business. In this instance, quite an element of the process may be about generating leads, fostering interest, building awareness of your organisation, establishing a need, identifying a problem in the business that you can solve, identifying the key people you need to influence, building or raising your own profile with them and eventually meeting them.

Once this meeting is arranged, we then have a process for the meeting, where, if followed properly will lead to sales being concluded properly with each party being clear on where they stand and if a benefit for both has been established as part of the meeting, the next stage can be agreed.

Too many sales people take the easy approach - no planning, hope for the best, rely solely on their sales patter and personality. In many cases, this will work, but this is very difficult to manage and even more difficult to replicate.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Lead Management - How to Turn Cold Calls Into Hot Customers

This method is a forerunner to sales management and customer relationship management. This forerunner assists in increasing the company's ROI by acquiring new customers, nurturing existing customers and creating a brand name. In other words this is customer acquisition management.

The Lead Management process

The process starts from lead generation, acquiring intelligent ones, narrowing them and forwarding the qualified ones to the marketing team for nurturing. The highly qualified ones are given to the sales team for conversions. Thus an effective lead management system aims at tracking and managing the complete lead life-cycle thereby increasing sales.

Techniques used
  • Education - This includes extensive use of webinars, whitepapers and ebooks
  • Scoring - Once the buyers start showing interest, the sales team gets into lead scoring. It means using a formula to assign a rating to sales prospects based on the buyer's area of interest
  • Qualifying - These interested buyers are hooked up with the sales team and the sales lead management starts getting shape. Thus a qualified lead is acquired
  • Follow up - The sales team follows up with this prospective client and converts it into a profitable one or sends it back to marketing labeling it as 'to be nurtured'
A Lead manager requires a special skill set whereby he can show the buyer a solution and convince him that this solution will work and is correct for his/her business. In addition, the marketer identifies the proper content required by different buyers at different levels in the buying process.

Thus the B2B model is able to generate more qualified sales leads and more revenue for their businesses. Companies also prefer using an automated software as it allows campaign automation and tracking.

The process in brief
  • Tracking
  • Capture via email
  • Nurturing
  • Distribution
  • Scoring
  • Aging
  • Analytics
Avoid the pitfalls in this process

There is always a possibility of leads falling through the cracks simply because the sales team did not follow them through.

Thus money and effort is down the drain. It is very important to complete this cycle which ends with converting qualifying leads into a potential customer thereby generating revenue and better credit standing.