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Small Business Success May 2012
Small Business Success
Fresh ideas for your Small Business  

In this Issue

Are Your Marketing Dollars Working For You?

Creativity = Sales

The Good Thing About Trouble

Qualifying Buyers

The New Employee

Small Business News:

Small business confidence ticks up in March - Small-business owners in Canada are increasingly optimistic about their near-term prospects of success, according to monthly survey results released Wednesday. The Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses said its monthly "business barometer" for March had a score of 67.7, up from 66 in February and the seventh-straight gain in this measure. Read more...

Minister Shea promotes the new My Business Account Enquiries Service - Toronto, Ontario, April 17, 2012. The Honourable Gail Shea, Minister of National Revenue, and the Honourable Maxime Bernier, Minister of State (Small Business and Tourism), announced today that it is now even easier for businesses to get information they can count on from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). Starting today, businesses, their employees, or representatives can ask the CRA account-specific, tax-related questions through My Business Account and the CRA will answer them online and in writing, within a given time period - it's that easy. Read more...

Retailers blame multinational suppliers for Canada-U.S. price gap - In spite of the Canadian and U.S. dollars being at almost par, prices for identical goods for sale south of the border are lower than here. Suppliers are to blame say Canadian retailers. Read more...

Business View: Victory for small business has big policy implications - Have you ever tried to find answers to tax questions online? Do you find that the answers are confusing and often contradictory? This happened to a B.C, business owner who decided to follow the information she found in a provincial government bulletin, only to find the information was incorrect and she owed over $90,000. Now, for the first time, CRA will honour the written answers they provide, even if they later turn out to be wrong. Read more...

    Are Your Marketing Dollars Working For You?

One of the most difficult business issues a small business owner has to deal with is advertising. A whole raft of thoughts cross our mind when we think of spending our valuable dollars promoting our business. The one that worries us most is "does it really work, or am I just throwing my money into a black hole - is it like owning a boat - really nice to have but an expensive luxury?"

Well, that all depends. It's definitely easy to waste a great deal of money if you go with your heart, rather than your head; or are easily swayed by smooth talking advertising reps. I suppose it's worth revisiting a few of the basics of advertising, or at least the basics as I see them. I'm no academic, I'd rather trust all the mistakes I've made, to scare me well away from the strategies that will sap my advertising budget as quickly as running an Olympic marathon in the heat and humidity of Beijing.

Display advertising; you know, the little, or maybe not so little, boxes that are supposed to excite potential buyers to drop everything and run to your store, or to your website, can be effective, but (why is there always a but?) just placing one ad and expecting people to line up at your door is, I am afraid to say, somewhat delusional.

It's not that display ads don't work, it's just that your potential customers aren't likely to fall in love with you on the first date! The key to successful advertising of this type is to budget ads for at least a year of issues in whatever magazine or newspaper you think your target market reads.

So, longevity can assist you in building an awareness of your company name. However, a lot will depend on the impact your advertising has on your target market. If you can afford to hire professionals to develop your campaign that's the way to go, if not then look at your circle of friends and acquaintances and get them to help you develop something eye-catching that will also have a high 'stickiness' quota.

Another approach to long-term advertising is to use ads to educate your market. These ads will be far wordier than those that simply ingratiate your brand with readers. By educating your market you develop a relationship of trust and familiarity with them - this can be powerful in building market share, but can of course be expensive.

Magazines with longer shelf life's are another option and can offer a cost effective way of eking out a less than generous marketing budget.

Can a one-off ad work though? Yes, in certain circumstances. The key is that it will need to elicit an immediate response on behalf of your target market. Imagine this scenario. A couple at breakfast, two cups of coffee, perhaps some toast and marmalade, and the daily newspaper - I digress - Julie is flipping from page to page and spots an advertisement for a furniture store "we really should get a new sofa Tom - this Bentalls' store looks as if it has some really nice stuff, we should check it out". Breakfast continues and Julie works her way through the newspaper "hey Tom, look at this, property taxes are going up". Breakfast finishes and they both leave for work. What do you think the chances are that they will head off to Bentalls anytime soon? The ad prompted a passing thought, a fleeting blip on their memory. If Bentalls doesn't continually reinforce their name and message, several weeks, or months later when Julie and Tom start to shop for their new sofa they are no more likely to visit Bentalls than any of its competitors.

So, how do you make Julie and Tom take action with just one ad? Let's spy on their breakfast again. "Hey Tom, we really need a new sofa, we've been talking about it for ages - that Bentalls' store is having a one day sale today, they've got sofas at 50% off - what do you say we meet up after work and check it out?"

The second ad required Julie and Tom to take immediate action, or simply ignore it if it wasn't relevant. The ad could equally have had a coupon which needed cutting out and retaining for future use - again demanding immediate action; commitment being the first step to getting a sale.

Knowing the type of ad that you can afford, and what will work for you, will only get you so far though; the real key is choosing the right message and the right medium. Advertising snowboards in a seniors' magazine is obviously not going to be highly successful. How well do you really know your target market? Who is your best customer? What do they read? What excites them? What will be the catalyst to make them decide to buy what you are selling?

The key to successful advertising is to be very clear about who you are selling to; know everything about them, understand them, relate to them. It doesn't matter how good your advertisement is, if no one sees it and it doesn't effect them on a basic, emotional level.

When it comes right down to it, you have to be able to excite the Julie's and Tom's over their morning cup of Darjeeling, and you have until the toast pops up to make an impression; so it had better be a lasting one.

Creativity = Sales Top

Image If you handle sales in your company, then this article is for you. If not, then we suggest you pass it onto members of your sales team because if you can increase your salespeople's creativity, you will increase your sales revenues.

Ask yourself, do I sell the same way as everyone else in my company?

Many companies have great in-house training programs and you can learn a lot from them, but you should not close your eyes to learning from other industries and types of businesses too. Check out what other companies are doing and adapt their great ideas to your business and market. Here are a few to get you started.

Have you ever carried out a mini-promotion just for your customers?

Create a 'Did you Know' sheet which provides interesting facts about your industry, your company and your product. Add a question at the end about your company and a tie breaking 'finish the following' sentence. Offer four free passes to the local IMAX theatre and you have an interesting mini-event for your customers for under $40!

Making buying fun for your customers really pays off. It makes you stand out from the crowd, shows you care about your job and them.

Are your customers always wondering - what will he/she do next? They should be!

From little acorns.

Turning no-hopers into winners (the accounts other reps, or companies are avoiding, could be a gold mine for a hard worker).

To get noticed, and achieve more sales, you have to do something more. This extra something doesn't need to be something big.

One of the most creative and sustaining activities I ever did was to visit the small potential accounts that no one else thought worth calling on. Some were never going to amount to anything and were definitely more trouble than they were worth, but every now and then I would find a diamond in the rough. Sometimes it would take two or three years for one of my chosen future stars to mature, but when they did and every one of my competitors wanted their business, they remembered me and all the help I had given them when no one else bothered with them.

Who else could buy what you sell?

Don't always think that sales can only come from companies that fit your traditional customer profile. Be creative about who you sell to and how you sell to them. Think - who else could buy what I sell? Driving home from a business trip many years ago when I was a publisher's sales representative, I spotted a large commercial food wholesaler and decided to check them out. Once I entered the building I saw hundreds of customers, mostly corner store owners, lined up at more than twenty checkouts. What I didn't see was books. But why not? Here was a way to get my books into hundreds of tiny shops that would not be worth my time calling on individually. It didn't take the manager of the wholesaler long to see the potential and my first order was for several thousand dollars - bonus!

What else can I sell?

If you are in manufacturing, think about your waste materials. Is there a market for the stuff you throw away? I once heard of a wetsuit maker who sold neoprene offcuts to a company making waterproof lens covers for binoculars. Now that's creative! If you are selling product, how could you repackage it to appeal to a new market?

The opportunities to sell more, by selling differently, or to new markets, are only limited by your imagination and creativity. Organize a brainstorming session with colleagues, friends, or family and see what ideas you can come up with. Read trade magazines from other industries and see how they are bringing in business, or pick up a few marketing magazines and check out other companies promotional ideas.

The more creative you or your sales team are, the higher your sales revenues will climb.

The Good Thing About Trouble Top

Image Sooner or later, every entrepreneur knows the pain that comes with business problems. Sometimes it comes as a complete surprise - out of the blue - no warning and then bam! We have to think fast, drop everything else and deal with the problem - right now!

Sometimes it comes slowly, like a toothache that gradually increases in intensity - a growing level of discomfort that initially we think we can simply ignore until it goes away. And then one day we come to the realization that it won't go away on its own, and it needs dealing with. Anyone for a root canal?

As a product of our many years of business coaching we are great believers in the enormous power, and benefits, that will come from planning for trouble before it appears. This allows the wily entrepreneur to identify the symptoms at an early stage of development and have developed strategies to deal with the incoming challenge. We call it Surviving Tough Times and Celebrating Success.

For the purpose of this brief, let's assume you have read our work on that topic and have some plans in place for those occasional dry periods when no contracts are coming in, or a major supplier lets you down, and focus instead on what to do if you're already in the middle of tough times and there's very little success to celebrate.

The key is to start remembering who you are. And we know who you are, you're an entrepreneur. You're the one who marches to your own drummer. You're not afraid to dream and to take a chance; you believe in yourself and believe in your dreams - or you would never have gone into business for yourself.

This is the time to reach down into that reservoir of skills and resources and find the strength to go on. You see, you are also an optimist. We know this because pessimists never go into business, and optimists know that however bad things are now - they will get better, maybe tomorrow, maybe next month - but improve they will. Bear in mind that virtually every well known business leader has gone broke at least once and has allowed his optimism to propel him into the next adventure.

Some Smart Steps;

  • Make sure you're getting some exercise and fresh air; few activities will get the mind going like a bracing walk.
  • Find silence. When the external stimulus is turned off, ideas and strategies are free to enter the mind.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for help and ideas. But choose carefully. There's no point in asking for help from the relative, or friend, that has a nice secure job and who thought you were crazy for going into business in the first place. While we're on that subject, did you ever get around to forming an advisory board? These aren't paid people or shareholders, but a few well-chosen highly experienced men and women who will meet with you once a month to advise you and work their contacts to move you forward. If you've never put such a board together, now's the time. Just make it clear that there's no legal or financial obligation on their part.
  • Count your blessings. If the list includes home, family, friends, your education, your colleagues and maybe your employees who are willing to stand by you then you are indeed lucky and you must never lose sight of that.
  • Be prepared to let go, if no other reasonable choice is left after you have tried every idea and have listened to those you trust.

If going back into traditional employment is the route you choose to take, remember two things; one, the skills you posses as an entrepreneur make you highly employable, and two, you'll be back. Once an entrepreneur - always an entrepreneur.

Qualifying Buyers Top

Image Of all the things we are supposed to do when selling, the one that most often gets forgotten, is qualifying the buyer. Miss this step and you can waste a whole lot of time and effort selling to someone who doesn't have the power to make a decision. Worse still you may get a "No" from someone who can't give you a "Yes" - and if that happens it is very hard to recover the sale.

Who's Who in the Buying Scenario?


These are people that might call you to find out more information, or they could be the person you first speak to when you call, or visit a prospect.


Initiators are also often influencers, but not always. Anyone that is involved in the decision-making process, even at arms length is an influencer, ignore them at your peril even if they are occupy a very junior position.


Now, buyers are interesting because they may not actually make the buying decision. Take for instance a not-for-profit organization; you may deal with the Executive Director during every step of the sales process, but he or she may have to take the proposal to their board for a final decision. In this case you are relying on the Executive Director to make the actual sale, unless you can get to present to the board yourself.

Decisio- Makers

Most often, the decision-maker is also the buyer, but as mentioned above this is not always the case so be careful. Qualifying the buyer, should really be qualifying the decision-maker.


If you are selling anything that will be used by third parties, these users can become influencers, so you should consider them when planning your sales process. For instance, if possible you might want to get their feedback prior to making your pitch to the buyer, or even before you design and produce, or develop, the product or service you are selling.


At some point in the future someone might assess whether what you sold them worked well and was cost effective. This could be a board of directors, a supervisor, foreman or manager. Once again, these people will be influencers with regard to future sales. As with users, it would be worthwhile soliciting input from evaluators prior to pitching the target company.

As an exercise, identify these people and their roles in some of your major customer's companies, and then more importantly identify them in those companies you would like to sell to.

How to Qualify a Buyer

You can, of course, simply ask. Be open about it and ask your first contact how the company makes its buying decisions.

The front desk person can often tell you a whole lot about a company, so it is advisable to make sure you are on good terms with them. It's a simple matter to ask, "Does Mr. Smith do the buying for your company?" or "What is Mr. Smith's role at Benning Brothers?"

When talking to your prospect encourage them to talk about their team. The more you know about the structure of the team the more you will know about who makes the decisions.

For instance, ask, "Is there anyone else you work with that needs to see this information?" or "Do you need to bounce this project, product, service, situation off anyone else before making a decision?"

Once you know your prospect is interested, ask whether you could have the opportunity of meeting with the CEO, or even make a presentation to the board if you suspect they will be integral to making the decision to purchase. The answer to this will tell you a lot about who makes the decisions.

Qualifying The Buyer When You First Meet

We often meet prospects at networking events, heck that's why we attend isn't it? But often we waste time just chatting, and hoping the conversation will get around to the business we are in and discovering whether the person we are talking to could be in a position to buy what we have to sell. So, let's look at speeding this process up a little.

First, create a 15-30 second advertising pitch for yourself, or your business, that answers the question most people inevitably ask at these events, "What do you do?"

If you are a corporate trainer, you might answer "I'm in training" but would that help you qualify the buyer? No.

How about? "My company provides innovative team-building activities and other unique training which increases revenue and productivity for companies just like yours,"

Is this a better answer? Yes it's better, in that it will pique the interest of who you are talking to. But, is it enough? Not really. You now need to qualify this potential customer with questions such as:

"How many staff do you have?"

"Do you believe training is an important part of staff development?"

"Do you have a training budget?"

"Do you develop training in-house or do you look for suitable training programs from outside providers?"

"How do you currently spend your training budget?" or "What do currently spend your training budget on?"

"Do you think a training budget is a good idea for a company to help ensure that its staff spends some time on personal development?"

Create around 20 questions like this, which you are prepared to ask depending on the circumstances.

The idea of these questions is to qualify whether this person's company is one you might do business with, so think about what you need to know.

How can you make yourself stand out from your competition by asking these questions and move the potential sale to the next stage in the sales process?

Show the prospect what you can do for them by saying something like, "I'm sure I can help you. My company has a variety of highly innovative off-the-shelf training programs, and we can also cost-effectively design programs to answer your specific needs. We have trained over 850 businesses in the city and thousands across the country. Our programs are fun, interactive and above all else result in increased sales for your company. Why don't we meet for coffee, next week, or perhaps meeting at your office might be better? I could make Monday, or Wednesday morning or any afternoon next week." Then shut up, and wait for them to choose which meeting venue and time works best for them.

You Didn't Qualify The Buyer?

What do you do if the buyer announces they have to get approval for the order? Obviously they are not the decision-maker (although they could still be the buyer). At this stage find out exactly where they are in the decision-making tree. Remember, they might only be an initiator, influencer, user or evaluator.

Ask the prospect whether he/she would buy, if it was their decision (this makes sure they are not bluffing, and that it is just a way of getting you to leave). Your goal is to discover whether they will support their company buying from you. If they say yes, talk with the prospect about how, together, you will get the buyer's decision to buy.

Discover the names of any and all decision-makers and arrange a meeting with them. Remember, do everything you can to avoid having the initiator/influencer sell on your behalf.

Learn as much as you can about the decision-makers. Remember the more information you have the more power over the situation you have.

Once you know who they are, make a presentation to the decision-makers and ask for the order. Do not place the sale back into the hands of the prospect.

Use these techniques and you will waste less time selling to people who don't have the authority to make the decision to buy.

The New Employee Top



Community Futures Alberni-Clayoquot
4757 Tebo Avenue, Port Alberni, BC, V9Y 8A9
Phone: 250-724-1241 | Fax: 250-724-1028 |

Published in cooperation with Small Business Success