Category Archives: Improving processes

money

Affiliates can be your Valued Sales Team

Affiliates can be your Valued Sales Team
By Talmar Anderson

On the rise with ecommerce and online products are the opportunities to grow your sales team. Or on the flip side, a way to increase your income through recommending people, brands and products for compensation. Do either of these options really sound like a bad idea for your business? This incentive creates questions and worry for both the entrepreneur considering this “cut” into their profits and the referral source. I do believe that this can work for a variety of industries so let’s talk a little bit about affiliations!

As a potential commissioned referral source, a common argument stems from the concern that you do not want to be perceived as solely incentivized by being paid to recommend something or someone.  That it could appear as self-serving as opposed to prioritizing the needs of your contact. I get it. I too walked the line for many years and turned down offers of compensation from great providers and vendors that I 100% believed in and to whom I continually referred. I wanted to be able to point to my referrals and say that I was only recommending them as a great solution for prospects.

After several years and establishing a reputation for referring the best possible referrals for each individual need, I realized that I was literally leaving money on the table.  Yep. I was going to refer those people anyway. Yes, I could genuinely and honestly look prospects in the eye to assure them that my expertise, education and experience led to any recommendation. Not the check book! I do have a few affiliates (from tools like Lead Pages or ConvertKit to trusted business owners that can offer a benefit to my clients and audience like The Lucky Bitch) that I recommend when it fits.

Now what if you are thinking of paying affiliates or commissions to other referral sources? I know, they SHOULD be referring to you because you are amazing and no one can solve your clients issues as well. However, sometimes the marketing campaign to be in front of your referral sources can get lost in your company’s outreach to new lead generation or current prospects.  It is true…there are only so many hours in a day.

By monetizing those referrals, you allow the source to be incentivized and rewarded for sales.  The first time that income comes back to them, your company WILL be top of mind.

What about doing the numbers to decide?  In our example, we are offering a 25% affiliate fee on a $100 product. Imagine you could average 10 sales a month of your $100 product through your own company. Boom! $1,000

Now imagine if one of your best strategic partners could get you in front of another 10 people but maybe only 3 bought through them.  $300 – $75 = $225 income for YOUR company.  This came off someone else’s marketing and sales efforts (AND expense!). Your referral source was already planning on being in front of this market.  They qualified the need for your solution and completed the sale for you! This effort exposed your company and services to a wider market and grew your revenue by 22% thus expanding your credibility AND cash flow!

Plus, it is TOTALLY FUN to cut a check to those referral sources with a big, fat THANK YOU written on it.  The referral source is excited because they just made another $75 off conversations they were going to be having anyway.

Could you operate profitably and scale your business by having a stronger pool of pre-qualified prospects? While this example is based off a client’s experience, consider that we developed a specific and strategic operational plan to support the intake, payment tracking and communications with these referral sources. For success, this is will require creating another operational layer. However, with the right affiliates you gain access to new markets and qualified sales.  This can be especially beneficial during new launches or product offerings.

It may not be right for every company but in the on-demand market of small businesses, sales forces are much smaller than the larger corporations had access to in the past.  Is it worth it to your company’s bottom line to find a way to reward those strategic partners that are already working on creating income themselves?  It is something to consider when looking for new ways to grow your revenues.

Now GO! Grow!

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346h

Social Media Engagement is More Than a Thumbs Up!

Social Media Engagement is More Than a Thumbs UP!
By Talmar Anderson
Talmar It Up, LLC

 

“Social media is THE way to economically and organically grow a business.” That is what a lot of entrepreneurs are being told by well-meaning friends, vendors and other business owners.  And it certainly can be. However, please be aware that engagement is REALLY how social media works for helping significant leaps happen for your company.  Clients sometimes list social media under their marketing plans with a line item expense of little to minimum costs.  I challenge that because your social media plans need to include engaging with your audience to take full advantage.  Engaging certainly costs more (whether more of a commitment of your and your team’s time or by hiring an outside marketing vendor) but WOW, that is where that exciting and exponential growth can come from for your company.  Whether growing to a billion dollar company like Chobani or developing a raving and true following like Chubbies Shorts (clothing line with marketing content that is real AND funny), engagement can help a company sell products/services, grow market share, build brand awareness and even improve operations. (You know I love the last part!) …. Consider focusing on this piece if social media is in your marketing plan or a part of your strategy for the year.

Pushing out posts, messages and pictures can provide true value when engagement is a part of the plan.  Your social media plan must include assigning not just the content creation and the management of the posting schedule, but also who is authorized to respond to your audience. How are they allowed to position your company through responses? also cover how to capture and track the engagement data that your audience is giving you with every “thumbs up”, share or comment.

As you start spending time and energy for engagement consider that it is more than going through to “like” posts. Your process should include thoughtful consideration on how you handle the good and bad comments. Want a great response? Choose an area that you think you are doing well and ask that loaded question. “What could we do better with…?” Boy howdy, strap into your seat and get ready. Continually encouraging feedback (good AND bad) will help your company define and improve on what your clients really want. We all know that social media lets the public they you what they really think about any given subject.

What can engagement do for YOUR company?

  • PR (stands for public RELATIONS people!)
    • building a larger market opportunity through awareness and education
  • Build your brand and reputation
    • Here is where your company’s responsive, timeliness and topical relevance can shine
  • Improve customer satisfaction and operations
    • Gathering data on what clients like, want, don’t like and LOVE. See below for a great example!

I love this one excellent example that could EASILY be applied by any small business. Recently, Elon Musk and his company Tesla took a social media post complaining about how cars were parking in the charging stations and within eight days created an entirely new company wide- process. It is well thought out. (Check out this Inc. article for more details HERE). This whiplash-speed operational change not only resolved the issue to incentivize people to get out of those spots and free them up for other customers who need to charge their electric cars but allowed that it could also create a new revenue stream.

I do recommend developing your social media plan to include a thorough engagement commitment and policy. Certainly, an outward push is helpful but incoming information and your team consistently monitoring to allow responsive, considerate engagement and ensure there are no great opportunities missed is where the bigger “bang for your dollar” comes in.  The right engagement in the right moment will enhance your reputation, build a more loyal fan base and potentially grow more of the market share. Engagement can help you deliver exactly what your clients want AND operational follow up can build immediate brand loyalty and strengthen your company’s reputation. Now Go! Grow!

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164h

The Difference is in the Listen

The Difference is in the Listen
By Talmar Anderson

I thoroughly enjoyed myself last week at a speaking event with a group of amazing business professionals.  They enjoyed themselves too though I suspect you would be surprised if I told you the topic was “Sales Strategies”. Don’t be! Sales can be fun and exciting. Remember, all the planning and operational structure can’t deliver profits without selling to your clients. If business owners have a common spot they can get tripped up on, it is in their sales process. Ohhhhhh…you heard me.  Your company will significantly benefit if you can develop an actual process in how you sell your products and services. Good sales process is all built around “the listen”.

Listening is when sales turns away from the pushing and coercive talking that feels like constant noise and reminds of us of slick, pushy car buying experiences. That “yuck” that people carry in their head when they even hear the word sell. It comes from the sales person that was so busy trying to get their point across that they forgot to check in with the prospect’s needs…much less if they had a pulse. So when you look at your sales process make sure you highlight the listen. The listen is often the portion of your sales process that is the qualifying.

When you qualify you want to hear what problem they have right now.  This requires you to stop talking about how awesome your company is within your industry.  You have to stop talking about how the price is amazing or for a limited time. You have to stop trying to sell your product or service. Just shhhhhhh. You want to listen for words and challenges that you KNOW can benefit from your company’s solution.

If you can talk less and listen more, you will more easily identify a qualified prospect.  The one that has a problem right now.  The one that is ready to buy your solution. The prospect that can truly benefit from what your company sells. And IF you have taken the time to listen, you won’t have to cram in all the details you know about your company.  You will know exactly which details are important to this prospect.  You will understand what the pain point is for the prospect and why they are talking to you about it today. Now you can simply offer your company’s solutions by highlighting how it can HELP their specific situation.

The difference is in the listen.  If we let the prospect tell us their problems and what they want for a solution, then we can help.  If we met every lead and potential person with a barrage of words that may or may not be pertinent to their situation NOW, we are far more likely to offend, be drowned out by their thoughts of escaping our pitch or frustrate ourselves with another “no” because we weren’t even talking to the right target market.

So when you are designing your sales process (not to be confused with your marketing…give me a call if you want to discuss this specific pain point!), please make sure that qualifying is a first piece to closing your sales. Starting your process this way will grow your closing ratio and build a client base that sees you as a solution more than a collector.

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How Long

How Long Does It Take?

How Long Does It Take?
By Talmar Anderson

A growing company has needs.  You need process. Then you need to write it down to create repeatable procedures.  I know you have heard it before. These are key steps allowing us to hire and have others help grow your company. Today I want to ask you how long does it take to produce each of your services? What about each of your products?  How much time goes into the design much less the manufacturing? How long does it take to just write your proposals? Yes!  It is time to talk about time tracking. Stay with me because this is the secret sauce to successful businesses!

This is not about capturing the details for billing your clients (though we can talk about how this directly determines your true profitability HERE).  I often hear “Oh I don’t bill my clients that way” as an excuse to skip this step. However, as a business owner you need to understand where the bulk of the time is specifically spent within your company to deliver services and products. It is within these details that you can understand how best to create space for high demand or growth periods of your company.

For many small companies, outsourced independent contractors are used to start filling in when demand grows.  I both support and recommend this for most companies as they can be ultra-responsive to client needs and take their time to understand their growth.  Is it consistent?  Is the company going to continue trending up?  What could you be doing to help grow the company faster if you were not completing the deliverables?  As your company’s growth is proven to be the norm then this is when my clients and I sit down to really look at the future of the organizational structure.  If scaling and growth is part of your plan then bringing “employees” into the fold will be a next step.

Why employees?

  • Consistency of quality
  • Availability of labor – IC’s can take on other work and this could leave your clients hanging.
  • Control over brand and reputation.  – them representing you by how they dress, how they answer the phone; how they structure their signature…all influences perception on the size and strength of your growing company!
  • Legacy – building a company that employs people is rewarding on many levels

By only considering invoices from independent contracts for dollar value as a cost of goods expense type, it will be that much harder when you are ready to bring those roles in house.  Getting the time tracking under control for forecasting and strategic planning is taking charge of your business! The more you can understand how long it takes for each task the more success and easier it will be when you are ready to hire.

We need to understand HOW the sausage is made to be sure that we structure our business correctly.  Begin by determining how each service or product is developed then list out each of the separate tasks involved.  Assign time to each project and task. Then over time we begin capturing the length of time it takes to complete each task.  As you start to document these details we will be developing a history.  Depending upon your need and the industry this could take two weeks to two years.  There are a lot of time tracking softwares (i.e., Toggl) out there. Heck, even your project management software wants you to do this and likely has time tracking capabilities. The key is to start capturing the details NOW.

If you are a business plan writer, you may think that your best course of action is to hire writers to help you compose the documents for your clients.  Most business owners would go this route and may eventually experience some help.  This may create a little space for a new client or two.

However, if you start breaking out tasks specifically you may find that researching each client’s industry details and trends can take twice as long.  In this case, your historical data can steer you to hire a researcher and creating double the freedom and space for further growth and development! Understanding how exactly your company works will set you down the path of hiring for the correct positions to allow for less stress, efficiency of focus and, say it with me everyone, profitability.

It is through this type of process that you move from throwing darts with your eyes closed to making strong decisions about the future of your own company.

Now GO! Grow!

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238H (1)

Is Your Price Increase going to Make Your Clients Happier?

Is your price increase going to make your clients happier?
Higher prices mean better service so Get Your Operations Organized!!
By Talmar Anderson

Deciding to increase pricing can be a difficult piece in any business if you do not make it a regular part of your strategic review process. Is now the right time for a price increase?  Are you worried how the customer will respond? If you are a company that understands both the business need and the market demand that should be involved with a fee or pricing increase, there is a way to make sure success and happy customers are on the other end of those new price quotes. We need to ensure we deliver on every touch outside of the product or service delivery time. “Ummm, but aren’t the clients buying the product? Isn’t that the point?” Yes, and no.

Yes, I am SURE you are brilliant at what your business offers and have got down that repeatable process.  Now, I want to ask about ALL the other repeatable processes that your clients crave and covet.  In fact, this piece is where your business can turn clients into;

  • fans that understand the value and barely consider the pricing when writing checks

OR

  • reputation & growth stoppers that lightning fast switch from current to previous clients

Customer service is where you add high level value that give your clients confidence in you, your business and allows them to trust you to steward their needs.

Think about your own experiences. Have you ever dropped a restaurant from your neighborhood rotation after saying, “The food was alright but phew, that bad service!”? Or have you ever chosen a restaurant because of the ambiance and great service instead of thinking of the food items on the menu first?

What about shopping in a high end store? It’s the always smiling assistants and the complimentary conversation you get from everyone.  I mean…it is a shirt.  You could buy it online, right?

Here is a big list of client engagement processes that will support your higher pricing. Consider how your business handles each of these.

  • On boarding new clients/customers
  • Billing, payments and credit card changes
  • Appointment setting, reminders and follow up
  • Prospect calls and appointments
  • Contract /engagement renewal
  • End of engagement
  • Support options and contact details for outside engagement needs
  • Resource or Recommendation management
  • Marketing process – don’t keep selling to a closed client…they should be on a different list!
  • Questions – Even if you think you have laid out the answers, higher value and there ore higher priced businesses  will always offer a place to direct your questions

The key to happy clients, whatever your price, is not just to set up these processes but to communicate HOW to use these processes from the moment one of them converts to your client. A business needs to set expectation early – when and how clients can engage with each of these processes. Make sure your customer always know what is going on by setting expectation Number 2: each process will need to communicate an anticipated response time. If your clients know it could take 48 hours – it keeps panic of being lost in the shuffle at bay! The last piece should be obvious, make sure your business meets or exceeds these promises! Timeliness is the definition

If this sounds like a lot …it is.  If you have not already, it is time to start hiring your support team.  A growing and profitable business will require more than your 2,080 hours a year and will be better served if it is not all on you.  Did you hear that?  YOUR business will be happier and even better if you get help!  

Understanding this need for hiring NOW will allow you to value price your services with consideration to your growing staff costs!  Clients will value knowing they don’t have to wait for you to finish with other clients to get responses to their questions.  Clients will value knowing that their immediate need is someone’s priority – not necessarily waiting on a list for you to “get to” between meetings. That operational contact and organization can either stop growth in its tracks or turn your satisfied client into a full voiced and excited advocate! The later would make ME happy as a business owner, what about you?

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Employment

Do your Employment Ads Attract CANTidates?

Do your Employment Ads attract CANTidates?
Why those ads are not helping you build the dream team.

By Talmar Anderson

Please stop.  Just stop!  Do you have any idea how much work you are creating for yourself by cutting and pasting that employment ad from some random internet site?  You say you don’t have time to do it properly. You just need someone in the position…yesterday and the ad needs to start running now!  I get it.  Truly I do. However, this is when you get to decide to be a business owner instead of a reactive employer running straight into the self sabotage reoccurring hiring loop!

Employment ads are the opportunity to attract the people you WANT to work with every day!  Is that part of your business owner dream? Only working with the people you want?  No more “it’s not MY job” types.  No more supervisors that take credit for your brilliant ideas.  No more of the “I can’t help with that project. I have to cut my toenails at my desk while waiting for the clock to tell me I can go home’.

While I understand that taking the time to develop a hiring process seems counterintuitive during the demand driven need of hiring, consider this thought. This is you taking the time for the big breath before you dive in to the water.  Making sure that you take the time to look at where you are jumping into the pool, ensuring your suit is tied securely and making sure you have taken a life-saving deep breathe to hold are all preparations for what you are about to do.  Why can’t we invest the time and energy so easily now?

The hiring process does not need to be so overwhelming however it does require your attention NOW before anything else is done. Let’s be specific to you and your business to set up the hiring process for true success. Start by deciding and defining why, what and who.

  • Why are you hiring? This is the goal.  Are you trying to free up time on your calendar? Improve productivity for clients? Take on more work?  When you set out a specific goal for this position, not only will you know how to hire correctly you will also know when an employee is successful…or not. This is you stepping into the management role that is required with each new hire! But back to the employment ad…
  • What tasks and responsibilities will this position need to fulfill to meet this goal? (See any similarities here to a job description?) List it out. This should not be a wish list but a thoughtful consideration of what will need to be done on a regular and consistent basis to achieve the goal. This is about meeting your business needs now and less about future aspirations for the candidate within your firm.
  • Who will have success completing this role? Consider experiences and skills that are required to complete the tasks and meet the business goal.  This part should also consider the kind of person that will fit in your culture.  If the position needs conflict with culture needs…the position needs win!  Your business needs different skill sets and different experiences to have true growth and success.

Defining these items and including them in your employment advertisement will help you to attract an employee that wants to work in this position within your company as much as you want them to come and get it done! Are you ready to dive in? Take the time to consider what YOUR business needs!

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Tech & Money 650 x433

Ain’t Technology Grand? Yes, but Only If You Use It!

Ain’t Technology Grand? Yes, but Only If You Use It!
By Talmar Anderson

Today I am going to save you money!  There are so many fantastic solutions to just about every operational need you can come up with for your business. Online technological systems are popping up everywhere on the internet.  Some are from tried and true entities while some are from the next potential Zuckerberg.  As a business owner there is more to just finding the answer to your question.  To protect you and your company from investing in a solution that can only frustrate, I recommend a few easy steps for success.

  • Understand your problem before buying.
  • Consider how quickly you can really start using and integrate the new product
  • Consider the cost
  • Plan for how it will work in your company.

Understanding your problem? By this I mean don’t get wooed by a shiny new idea that is not for your business.  I highly recommend you wait until you have identified a problem and then actively look for the correct solution. Upgrades within free products are the easiest way to go down this costly road. If a tool you are using for free is great then the upgrade for $15 a month must be awesome.  And it’s ONLY $15 bucks a month, right? Sounds great IF it is useful. Otherwise it is $180 a year for something that was working for free.

How quickly and easily a new product can be learned, integrated into your current systems and your staff trained up needs to be part of your consideration process. The size of the product itself can determine this part.  Is the new product the right size for where your company is today?

Some products may be too big for what your company needs at this time. (Salesforce and InfusionSoft are common ones I have seen clients sign up for and eventually dump because it truly was not the right complexity for their companies. Too much, too early.) Would it be nice to be able to have great pipeline management? Of course but with complex training and a long implementation process, go back to what your business needs.  If your company delivers for 5 contract clients a year with the capacity to only take on one more.  How many pipelines do you need to be managing for YOUR business’ success?

The cost consideration is the piece that requires little council from me. Is it reasonably priced for the part this piece will play in the overall operations of your business? How many ways will it facilitate your operations? Is it duplicative of another product or service that you will have to cancel?  You know what is best for the company budget and growth.

Planning for how it will work in your company initially includes placing time on your (or your assistant’s calendar) to start training and setting up the system within the new product you purchased.  Once that is done, there will need to be a training schedule set for when and who will need to learn the new system. Additionally, there needs to be time commitment, process creation and internal communications on how this new product will be used by anyone/everyone in your company.  This final step is where a business owner can really push off the new solution to your problem. That expense will keep coming in, month after month, even if the planning commitment for training and implement time keeps being pushed back.

Don’t get me wrong! I LOVE these online solutions.  Need something to quickly and easily jot down notes as well as organize them? Got it. Check out Evernote.  Need an online scheduling system to help cut down on the back and forth of setting appointments? Check out ScheduleOnce. Need a hosting site for an online course you offer to clients? Zippy Courses is the one I use. There are even specialty programs and systems.  HelloBar, Podcast Websites, Microsoft Windows Live Movie Maker are all wonderful online products offering singular solutions that meet a very specific need and that may help you with your business operations.

You don’t want to pay for a product even if it is EXACTLY what your business needs if you are not going to commit to the time, training and systemization required to use it.  Then it is just money pulled out of your business monthly like some sort of punishment. These tools can be real time-savers and efficiencies for your company so PLAN to use them before you buy!

What software or online tool did you buy for your company but end up canceling or writing off because you did not have committed time for integration? I’d love to know!