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.

Cold Calling As A Small Business Marketing Tool

Does cold calling to generate leads and make sales send a chill through your body and freezes your soul?

The answer is most definitely yes, and the reason why is that cold calling has a bad reputation as a marketing tool, as it has been used poorly and wrongly by telemarketers over time. Typically you would have had second thoughts about cold calling to generate new leads, follow up existing clients and make sales and the excuses that you would use are.

1. Few people are naturally good or successful at cold calling,

2. Cold calling has a poor reputation, as people find it intrusive and obnoxious,

3. Conversion rates from cold calling are dismal with conversion rates around 2% compared to 20 to 50% for referrals.

4. I am afraid of rejection, ( after all we all want to be liked, right?)

Four strikes and the excuses and reasons not to cold call are still rolling in question is why?

The reason why cold calling has little flavor is that it is done wrong and the errors keep compounding.

So should you cross this marketing strategy off your list once and for all? Hell NO!

Before you give up or if you never started using the phone to generate leads, follow up customers and make sales, ask your self this question, “Is it cold calling that annoys people or the way that it is done?”

As a business owner I know full well the power of the telephone in generating leads and subsequent conversion to sales. Sales are the life blood of small business and with out sales your business will be out of business very quickly.

Now knowing this, one would imagine that all sales professionals and small business owners would use the phone in a targeted manner to generate leads and sales, unfortunately the opposite is true, most business owners fear the phone when it comes to using it as a lead generation tool, this piece of equipment suddenly appears to weigh a tonne and your arms become heavy and uncooperative, your mind comes up with a million reasons why you should be doing something different, and so the excuses flow. Have you had this or a similar experience when it comes to using the telephone to generate leads, follow up existing clients, customers, or make sales?

You know deep down that this marketing strategy is extremely effective when done correctly as illustrated by Will Smith in the movie “IN THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS” a movie based on a true story, where Will Smith’s character uses the phone to become very successful in his chosen business field.

Stumped? Want to get over the jitters and become a master in the art of cold calling? If you answer yes then prepare your self to become a master by following this straight forward commonsense strategy.

1. Partner with your prospect when making the call,

2. State your name and ask your prospect for permission before proceeding,

3. Listen, if they are busy and it is not a good time reschedule and get their permission to call back at a more favorable time, then ensure you call them back and be punctual, 3pm is not 3.05pm,

4. Tell them you will be brief give them a powerful reason to want to listen to what you are offering,

5. Ask them if you can ask them a couple of questions and get their permission before proceeding,

6. Summarize what they have told you about their needs and wants and

7. Then ask them if you could solve their problems would they consider making an appointment to meet with you to discover how you can assist them in solving their problem and satisfying their needs.

8. Schedule a face to face meeting with them.

Picking up the telephone surpasses advertising, web sites, news letters and all other forms of marketing to get immediate responses.

Use the above steps and start enjoying making sales, generating leads and making money.

Small Business Coaching on Why Leads May Not Be Converting

For a lot of small business owners, leads may not be a problem. They may be receiving lots of leads. It’s the conversion of those leads that may be the problem. So in this article, let’s explore 4 reasons your leads may not be converting and what you can do about it.

1. Lead or Prospect Mismatch

Some people believe you have to get LOADS of random leads then some may shake out to be your ideal customer or target market. That’s a laborious process and it also produces false leads – people who were never really interested in what you have in the first place.

Leads may not be converting because they truly aren’t your ideal customer and they never were. If that’s the case, evaluate who those leads are, and check that they match the profile of your target market. If they’re not an ideal prospect, don’t waste time following up. Instead focus on generating more qualified leads that truly reflect your target market who is hungry for what you offer.

2. Follow-Up Fortunes

One of the things I discuss with clients is setting up a follow-up process for their business. There’s a fortune in the follow up, and honestly, there may be people out there just waiting to whip out their credit cards if only you’d pick up the phone and follow up with them.

When we’re pondering how to sell services, it’s important to create great follow-up systems that produce sales. A clear set of steps you take to follow up with someone who expressed interest in what you have to offer but hasn’t made a buying decision yet. The thing to remember is that customers buy not when we want them to buy; they buy when they are ready to buy. And this is why it’s important to have a follow-up system where you continue to provide value and you also remind them of how you can help.

My weekly Ezine is a good example of a follow-up system. It shows up every week with valuable information in response to subscriber questions, and it’s also a reminder of how I can help further if you’re interested in going deeper on any of the topics I discuss.

3. The Sting Rejection

Sometimes when we follow up, we essentially get a “No thanks, I’m not interested.” Ouch. But is it really an ouch? To me, sales is all about genuinely finding out the customer’s need is first, and listening very well to see if I truly have a solution to those problems/challenges. If I do have a solution that can help, then I’ll share what options exist. And I do so by giving the prospect all the information they need to make a decision.

Sometimes we are not converting leads because we’re very afraid to follow up. Afraid of rejection. Afraid of bothering or pestering people. I’d invite you to embrace that the sale is not about us (as small business owners). It’s about the prospect or client. Avoid getting emotionally attached to the outcome of following up.

If you know you can help someone eliminate a challenge or frustration by what you offer, then why not follow up to let them know. Sometimes that requires that you shift your thinking from someone trying to “get a sale” to becoming a provider of solutions. And if that follow-up leads into having a sales conversation where you’re sharing specifics about your offerings, sure, they may say “no.” Their decision is simply a choice and not a rejection of you. All that said, however, you do need an effective sales conversion process… which brings me to my next point.

4. Sales Conversion Process

Prospects convert to paying clients more easily when you have a clear sales process through which you can take them. If you don’t have a clear, step-by-step method to take a prospect from interest to purchase, this may be why you’re not converting them. Sometimes we get stuck because we’re staring the list of prospects but we really don’t know what we would say if we did follow up with them. So we procrastinate and we don’t take action.