Small Business Networking – 7 Essential Factors of Generating Business Leads

Network is and always will be about building relationships. Too many people make the mistake of believing that it’s about only building business leads or selling products. While this is what drives us to improve our networking it shouldn’t be the only thing.

When done well, and done properly, networking brings together 7 core ingredients or factors that make your outreach more successful. This combination, with no factor being more important than another, will help you master the art of small business networking and as a results – you’ll generate more quality business leads. The important thing is to focus on the individual and the relationship – the rest will fall into play. Start by working on these 7 factors.

Personality

When you first approach someone to begin a networking relationship you need make sure that you will communicate effectively and openly – that means being authentic. Show that you’re enthusiastic and genuine while expressing real interest.

Body Language

Respect the personal space of the other person while standing tall and holding your position in a conversation. Make sure your body languages gives off the overall perception of being confident and assured. Don’t try too hard to appear confident because it’s equally important to appear relaxed – above all else you need to “look comfortable in your shoes”.

Interest

One of the ideal ways to show that you’re interested in what someone else has to say is to listen carefully and ask appropriate questions during the conversation. When you stay engaged it inspires a contact to keep talking. Genuine interest (or the impression of it) is a great way to foster business leads.

Focus

When conversation runs all over the place while talking to business leads, it’s hard to make the discussion memorable – especially when it’s just a bunch of small talk. Focus the conversation onto one interesting topic that a contact brought up. Expand on it and explore.

Connection

During the conversation you’ll likely come across topics of interest. Grab those because those a strong connection points. This flows back to the point of Focus. When you find a topic that resonates with both of you (or everyone in the conversation) use that to cement the relationship for a better chance at building good business leads

Visualization

It might sound like something out an alternative wellness book or self help guide but when you’re networking and trying to build relationships with business leads you should visualize a successful outcome. When you’re positive, there’s a better chance for a positive outcome and it shows in your body language.

Invitation

As you build on the relationship with business leads, don’t forget to follow up. You don’t have to offer an invitation immediately but be sure to follow up quickly with an offer for a meeting, coffee, etc. to hook up and talk shop – or simply to keep the personal conversations and interests flowing.

Small Business Marketing Ideas: Marketing Strategies to Convert Leads to Sales

The art of marketing for a small business is not just getting tons of leads, but also converting leads to sales. A business with lots of leads and no sales, is soon out of business.

Over the years, I have discovered several very effective techniques to converting leads into sales for a small business. Let me share with you a handful of these. To make them easier to digest, I have broken them into two categories: lowering barriers and increased marketing.

LOWER BARRIERS. This means remove the walls that stop your clients from buying. Each business will be a little different, but here are some of the most effective ways to remove the barriers to purchasing:

  • Give a Guarantee
  • Payment Plans
  • Testimonials
  • 3rd Party Documentation
  • Competitive Pricing
  • Increased Expertise
  • Increased Value in your product
  • Samples

INCREASED MARKETING.

  • Compelling Call to Action. Having an offer is not enough, offer something they can not resist. Beware though, don’t make it too good to be true.
  • Unique offering. The more unique your offering is, the harder it is to compare to others and less competition you have.
  • Niche Marketing. When marketing to a specific group, like real estate agents, you can quickly separate yourself from all others effectively reducing your competition and making you the only option.
  • Effective Follow up campaigns. Most people do not buy on their first exposure. Without an effective follow up campaign you can find yourself having very low conversion of leads to clients. Using an email campaign or postcards to follow up can drastically increase your conversion of contacts to clients.
  • Scripts. Using a script for incoming calls, sales calls, common questions, will standardize your business and increase your conversion. This will assure each clients gets the same treatment regardless of the person handling the client.
  • Consultative Selling. When talking with a contact, asking questions and understanding their pain will drastically increase your conversion. Today’s consumer wants more than to just buy a service, they want a consultant to help them make good decisions. Ask questions before offering solutions.
  • Use more emotion. People buy emotionally and justify logically. Help your clients consider how it will feel once they have their problem solved. Use emotional words like, “Won’t you be relieved once this problem is resolved?” This helps them to feel better and creates an emotional satisfaction for your client that they can look forward to once you have helped them resolve their problem.
  • Enroll vs Close approach. Since most customers need 5-7 exposures to your product before they are ready to buy, consider your marketing an enrollment process. Help them get educated about your process and then enroll them into purchasing, especially if it is a larger ticket item.
  • Sort Prospects. When talking to a contact, decide if this person is ready to purchase, needs more time / information or is not interested at all. This can be the hardest of all strategies. This comes from know what the buying signs are of your clients. When they are showing buying signs, move them to the buying phase. If they are still pondering, enroll them. If they are really not interested, give them space and time and see what happens.

To get the best conversion, start by adding a few of these strategies to your current marketing mix and monitor your marketing numbers. Track your sales and if your overall conversion of contacts to sales is increased, stays the same, or is decreased.

By using a few of these marketing ideas for your small business you can see an increase in conversion from leads to sales.

5 Principles of Successful Leadership in Small Business

When we think about leadership-especially in regard to building and growing a successful small business-it’s easy to envision the traditional top-down leadership that so often goes along with the term. We often think about leadership along the lines of being a major political leader or being the chief executive of a major Wall Street company. And while this certainly is a respectable vision of leadership, when it comes to small business, we’ve got to see beyond this traditional view.

Following are the top 5 principles of successful leadership that I’ve found make THE difference in whether your business flies or flops:

Principle #1:  Leadership Means Having People Skills.

Let’s face the facts-most small businesses don’t have scores of employees to lead. Instead,  leadership revolves around building successful business relationships with clients and friends of the business. Whether it’s negotiating the next big deal or selling the product or service represented by your business, your suppliers, customers, and all parties in between are who the small business owner must strive to lead.

Principle #2:  Leaders Must Be Adept At Solving Problems.

Being a natural leader makes it that much easier for a small business owner to be able to reach outside the box and come up with creative solutions to the problems and dilemmas faced by any business. It should come as no surprise that the list of qualities found in leaders corresponds very closely with the list of qualities found in problem solvers.

Principle #3: Leadership Requires Building Confidence.

Inspiring confidence in others when it comes to the capabilities of your small business is something that’s essential to success. Without this leadership trait, it would be quite difficult to handle the necessary business operations like securing financing and developing a strong sales plan. Remember, healthy confidence begins first with the leader, only radiating outward from there.

Principle #4:  Leaders Depend On Big Picture Vision.

Because the small business entrepreneur must successfully manage so many different facets of a business when leading it from inception through the growth stage, having “20/20” big picture vision is an essential leadership quality. Without this keen sense of vision to serve as a guiding light through the ups and downs-and ultimately to success-a business will gradually lose its course and drift off path.

Principle #5: Leading A Small Business Demands Boundless Energy.

It’s not always easy to keep plugging along no matter how overwhelmed you might be, but maintaining a constantly enthusiastic aura of energy is key to developing a business from the ground up. Most proven leaders will tell you that they only found major success after hitting rock bottom first. Boundless energy makes bouncing back from inevitable lows possible.

In small business, effective leadership goes well beyond the scope of leading employees alone-in reality, reaching goals means leading every single aspect of a business to success.

How Can Small Businesses Squeeze More Sales Out of a Lead Generation Funnel?

The economic times that exist today are testing us all; whether you are a solo entrepreneur, home based business or small business owner. Despite all the doom and gloom, one thing that is for sure is that there will be survivors. The obvious first question is, “Who will they be?” The next one question would be, “What are they doing to make this happen?” While there may be the few who just get lucky, it is probably safe to say that the ones who do get through this and actually grow will have taken very deliberate actions to make it so. What then will these businesses do?

First of all, they will cut back on the costs of doing business without compromising the quality of the goods and services that they produce. This means that they will take the time to find vendors who are offering better prices, look for ways to streamline staffing costs (telecommuting, virtual assistants, cutting back hours), becoming more energy efficient (traveling less, lowering heating and cooling costs), find more affordable health insurance options and so forth. Once they have streamlined, smart businesses will continue to look for ways to get more for less while trying to increase the value that they provide to their customers.

The first place to get more for less is by finding more effective marketing strategies. It is crucial to note that the only type of marketing that should be cut is ineffective marketing. Existing marketing programs need to be evaluated for their effectiveness. Those that do not have a high ROI should be chucked and replaced with those that do. Effective marketing is essential for getting in front of potential customers as well as staying in front of existing ones. This is not the time to ignore your existing customer base. After all, it takes six times as much money to acquire a new lead as it does to market to an existing one. Smart businesses recognize that effective marketing is their lifeline to the future.

What is the best place to start? Small businesses that get organized and put systems in place to automate their marketing and sales processes will get a higher ROI. The best place to get started is by using a customer relationship management program (CRM).

CRM is much more than a contact management system although this is one of the functions that these programs can perform (sometimes they will coordinate with an existing one such as Outlook). CRM is in reality a combination of processes that organize customer and business interactions by providing a means to track all the customer information and then track what has been done with that information. It allows the various departments such as marketing, sales and customer service to be aware of the needs of any given prospect or customer and what needs to be done next.

What would this mean to a business that has a presence on line? It means that a prospect is able to fill out a contact form 24 hours a day/7 days a week. The prospect that fills out this form will now be tagged as a prospect in the CRM system. Depending upon the information that was checked on the form (e.g. newsletter request, product information desired etc.) the prospect will have additional tags that indicate the interests of these prospects. Depending on the type of form that was filled, the database may also now contain demographics such as age, location, occupation and so forth. All of these would be tags that help segment the list. The segmented lists will be connected to appropriate email follow up sequences that automatically send out information, education and marketing materials over a period of weeks, months or year.

This one capacity of CRM has enormous value. Consider that 80% of small businesses fail to follow up with prospects beyond three attempts and that it typically takes seven or more “touches” for a prospect to become a customer. The tragic end result for businesses that fail to follow up is that they are warming up their leads for their competition.

What else can a CRM system do? It will help a business stay in touch with their existing customers by automatically sending welcome messages, customer satisfaction surveys and marketing materials that create opportunities to cross and up sell.

It can also organize affiliate programs, billing and so much more.

A good CRM will be able to use multiple channels to communicate including: emails and newsletters, fax broadcasts, voice blasts, and direct mail post cards. An automated system is highly cost effective and efficient at generating new and repeat sales. CRM is also a time and energy saver and ultimately the best way to squeeze more sales out of any lead generation funnel.