Saturday, April 28, 2012

Small Business Stress - Avoid biting off more than you can chew

  • Do you have trouble saying no?
Do you create stress for yourself because you simply can't say no to unreasonable demands from some customers?

A considerable amount of stress in small business can come from having a tendency to  over-commit yourself. Are there simply too many occasions when you are taking on things that you know you cannot realistically do?  Are you saying yes to unrealistic time-lines and demands from customers?

  • Why might this happen?
Well, maybe it's the fear of losing the customer unless you accommodate their demands. Or it could be greed ...... wanting to make as much money as you can as fast as you can.  Many people in small business do it because they are lured by the chance to make more and more money.

Mind you, there are some people who do it because of an ego thing - they are consistently pushing their own limits and challenging themselves. This can sometimes stem from a need to prove something to themselves - or to someone else.

Whatever the underlying reason, if you are taking more upon yourself than what you can reasonably handle, you're going to become stressed  A persistent pattern of over-committing over time will likely have serious negative repercussions to either your physical or mental health.

Even if you think that you can manage the quantum of work you have taken on within that unrealistic time-frame, chances are that if you have staff working for you then you will likely be also pushing them to their limits as well. You run the risk that your workplace environment will not be a pleasant one and that you won't retain good staff.
  • Learning to say no
Of course, you must do so with tact. And don't just say what you can't do - make sure you emphasise to customers what you can do. Unless you are able to set some reasonable limits and boundaries with your customers, you may end up burning yourself out. Remember, you're in business for the long haul and not just the quick buck. Look after yourself, and look after your staff (if you have employees)

Yes, customer service is imperative, and yes you want ot be flexible - but sometimes you have to ask yourself if the stress created by persistently unreasonable customers might simply not be worth their business. Saying no to their unreasonable time-lines will also help to educate them about how you can best work together in future to accomodate their requirements.

For many more tips on how to deal with stress - including recognising some of the causes and effects of work related stress.

About the author
Brian Carroll is the founder of a corporate training and leadership development company, Performance Development, based in Melbourne, Australia.  He is a qualified psychologist, experienced management coach and an engaging presenter, with a passion for helping people achieve their full potential

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Does your small business use a hard sell or soft sales approach?

If your small business delivers products or services through face-face selling, then you’ve probably already given some thought to the sales approach you want the sales team in your business to adopt. (Although, let’s recognise that in a way, every employee who works for you has a sales responsibility)
So, let’s take the opportunity to consider two broadly different sales approaches.

  • Hard selling is about getting to “close” as quick as possible

In the old days, many sales people adopted a hard sales approach that was based upon convincing the customer to “close the deal”, so they could move on to the next deal. Selling was seen as a transaction in which the goal was based on a short term perspective of how to best maximise margin for the sale. There are still some businesses now-days that operate from this model.

However, what tends to be more common now is the so-called softer sales approach, which is based upon the goal of building an enduring relationship with the customer. This longer term perspective may mean advising the customer that another product or service might better suit their needs – even though it may mean a smaller margin for your business. However what you gain through building trust with your customer also becomes the foundation for loyalty and repeat business.

  • You’ve got to listen before you can build a relationship

Advocates of the softer sales approach recommend that rather than focusing on “selling” you instead focus on becoming a partner with your customer. Seek to gain an understanding of their problems and driving aspirations, and work with them to advise the best solution to their problem. You will end up reaping bigger rewards through increased sales over time. The softer sales approach relies upon the selling skills of questioning, probing and clarifying to uncover needs – you’re doing a lot more listening than talking for quite a while. You will not try to sell the customer or upsell them to something that they simply don’t need.

There are many consumers now-days who are deeply resentful of the hard sales approach and become quite defensive when they perceive that someone is trying to “sell” them something they may not require. They become very wary if they suspect that manipulative or high-pressure sales tactics are being employed, with “one time only offers” and “deadline imminent sales discounts”

  • No reason for complacency

A strong relationship with your customer doesn’t guarantee that they will never be lured away by your competitors. You cannot afford to become complacent. You need to continue to invest time in maintaining the relationship and check in pro-actively to see what emerging needs they may have. As a business partner and not just a “supplier”, you walk shoulder-to-shoulder with your customer to support them in achieving their goals.

  • CRM software for your business

The use of a relationship selling strategy will benefit from having a good Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. This technology not only provides you with good quality historical data about the sales history of your customer, but means you may be able to anticipate some of their future requirements. It also means your company has a record of the customers buying patterns and other important client details that allow for an easier transition to another sales person handling their account in future, if required. You don’t want to lose the customer because that sales-person has left your business with all of the client buying history in their head,

So if you don’t already have one, it may be worth investigating a simple and affordable CRM software package for your small business.

  • Selling and self-confidence

One final point. If you have a key employee for whom selling does not come easy, then their selling ability could well be enhanced through a boost in self-confidence. A great site with plenty of resources relating to confidence and self-esteem is Building Self-Confidence One of the self-limitung fears that some people new to sales must learn to overcome, even with relationship selling, is the fear of rejection.

Hope this article has offered you a worthwhile opportunity to reflect upon your sales approach