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

    Contents
In this Issue

Selling with Style

Writing Winning Proposals (Part One)

Are Your Customers Fans?

The Business Dream

Meetings, Meetings, Meetings

Small Business News:

Innovation Wins - What does a roastery in Nova Scotia, a robot manufacturer and a company that builds guitars in BC have in common? They are all finalists in the BDC Young Entrepreneur Awards. Online voting began May 30th and closes June 19th to determine which of the eight projects competing in the finals will take home the $100,000 BDC Grand Prize for Innovation. The BDC Young Entrepreneur Award runner up will receive a customized Internet strategy developed by BDC Consulting and valued at $25,000. Click to find out more and to vote for your favourite young entrepreneur.


Romney presidency good for Canada trade - Even though a majority of Canadians would vote for popular president Barack Obama, Mitt Romney's business experience and free enterprise approach would boost Canada's economy if he is elected president, experts say. Read it on Global News: Global Edmonton | Romney presidency good for Canada trade


CFIB urges federal government to come clean on EI reforms - Canada's leading voice for small businesses is calling on the Conservative government to come clean on planned changes to the employment insurance system to help ease some of the "mass hysteria" spreading across the country. For the second consecutive day Wednesday, federal ministers tried to reassure Canadians needing EI that they won't be forced to relocate to receive benefits, but seemingly caused more confusion about what type of jobs people will be expected to take once the changes are implemented in the coming months. Read more...


Minister Bernier Highlights Commitment to Growing Canada's Tourism Industry - The Honourable Maxime Bernier, Minister of State (Small Business and Tourism), highlighted the Government of Canada's support for the tourism industry during his address at the Eastern Canada Ski Areas 2012 Conference and Trade Show.Read more...


 
    Selling with Style
 
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When it comes to customers, or prospects, if you treat them all the same you will probably only be seen to be a wonderful company, or person, to a quarter of those you deal with. But, if you spend a little time understanding their individual social styles, then you could end up being a hero to all of them! The way we behave in social, and business, situations tells a lot about us and if you can learn how to read the signals your customers are giving you, then you will not only sell them more, they will be happier too!

Some of us are better at reading people than others, but it's not rocket science you just have to know what to look for and then adapt your own behavioural style to fit with those of the person you are dealing with.

Let's take a look at the four main social styles you will come across.

The Analyzer

You've met this person countless times; they focus on all the small details and ask a lot of questions. They are systematic and need facts, stats, and lots of detail before they buy anything. These are the people who research extensively before they buy anything and it's unlikely you'll be able to sell them something the first time you meet them. They take a long time to make up their mind and will require a lot of patience from you. On the upside, they are very loyal; once they start to use your product, or service, they will stay with you for a long time.

When selling to an analyzer, you will need to be armed with proven facts and the sales presentation must be methodical and not rushed; they must see the logic of buying from you. The worst thing you can be with an analyzer is be unprepared or lack knowledge about what you are selling.

The Driver

Drivers are in some ways easy to sell to, as long as you know what to expect. They are very direct, blunt, businesslike, and can come across as unfriendly. On the upside, they make decisions very quickly once they have the opportunity of assessing the value of the proposition you are making. The key to dealing with a Driver is to show them the bottom line - how buying what you have to sell will either make them money, or save them money or time. It is important that you don't ramble on to them; they are not interested in small talk, they just want you to get to the point quickly. Time is money to these people. They will respond to you more positively if you are professional in your dealings with them; they do not appreciate a casual, or cavalier manner. The better you understand their business goals and objectives and relate these to the benefits of what you are selling, the more likely you are to get a sale. While it is good that Drivers make quick decisions, and are quite easy to sell to, they are also the least loyal of the four styles. It's all about the deal, not the relationship.

The Expressive

Expressives are fun to sell to, as they are highly personable, in fact many salespeople fall into this category. They love people and enjoy what they do. They are open to listening to what you have to say, and will provide positive feedback. To relate to an Expressive you will need to show them your warmer, more intimate side while being enthusiastic, energetic and creative. They love to chat and get to know you personally, which is the opposite of the Driver. They love to hear stories and jokes that they can pass on to other people, but more importantly they like you to listen to them and hear what they are saying. The downside of this is that it can sometimes be difficult to keep them on track and focused on what you are trying to sell them.

Expressives want to feel that you understand them and their situation and that you can relate to it, so it is important you match the features, advantages and benefits of what you are selling to their needs. They also love to be flattered whether personally, or on their company, their clothes or their car.

This style loves things that are new, different and creative and respond well to high-energy demonstrations and presentations - give them something different and they will lap it up. The way to turn an Expressive off is to be boring, or provide too many facts and stats. They are also wary of being taken advantage off and will be on the lookout for untruths, or false information. They are very good at reading people so be genuine. Expressives want to be loyal, but when another salesperson comes along that they like, they will forget you and switch their loyalty to the new flavour of the month.

The Amiable

Like Expressives, Amiables love people and it is important that they get along well with everyone. This style has trouble saying yes, but can also have difficulty saying no, which can leave you hanging on thinking you may get the sale, when in reality it is very unlikely. Amiables are caring individuals, they want to help you; they will be agreeable with everything you say, but are often indecisive and can take a long time to close. The most difficult thing when selling to an Amiable is to know when to give up on the sale.

It is easy to talk over an Amiable, as they are good listeners, but when selling to them you need to encourage them to tell you about themselves, the work they do, their beliefs and ultimately their needs. If they sense any insincerity they will turn away. You need to understand, and be seen to understand how they feel, or you will lose the sale. Never try to bully an Amiable into a sale otherwise they will shut down - they won't say no, but after several months of trying you'll be in the dark as to why you still don't have the sale. The key to selling to this style is to be honest, sincere, caring, understanding and provide guarantees, warranties and testimonials from people or organizations they admire. Amiables are extremely loyal; once they are your customer, they will stay with you for ever, unless you do something terrible to them.


Understanding the social styles of the people you are selling to is not about manipulation, but about being able to relate information in a way that they can understand. We all see the world in our own unique way and relate to certain people better than others. Some people make us feel comfortable, while the personalities of others jar. Understanding your buyer's personality style will allow you to see the world as they see it and relate to them in away that is beneficial to both of you. There is no good or bad style; they are just different from one another. Relating to people's social styles will increase your closing rate and also make selling a whole lot more fun. Try selling with style and see what it does to your bottom line.

 
   
Writing Winning Proposals (Part One) Top

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Here is a quick look at the key things you should be aware of when writing a proposal, whether it is in answer to a government RFP, or for a private company.

Understand where the proposal is coming from.

Check out the website of the ministry, the city department, or whomever has issued the RFP (Request for Proposal) and learn as much about them as you can. Especially check to see if they have a business plan, or strategic plan, online as this can give you a good insight into their goals and objectives. Also check out their mandate and mission statement.

Competition

Who else is likely to bid for the contract? Make a list of your competitors and then carry out a strengths and weaknesses analysis of them. Once you have done this make their weaknesses your strengths when writing your proposal and particularly highlight them in your executive summary.

Register your intention to bid

It is often the case that you are required to register with the organization and sometimes you may have to attend a proponent's site visit, or meeting. If you miss either of these steps you will usually be disqualified.

Get RFP updates

RFPs often change after they have been posted, so make sure you sign up to receive updates and new appendices. This will also entitle you to receive notification of any questions other proponents have asked, and the answers they have received.

Foregone conclusions & frontrunners

Unfortunately in some cases, even though there is a RFP, the result is a foregone conclusion. Be careful to read the RFP to see whether it has been written specifically to require the skills, experience, or knowledge of a specific company.

Submit questions in advance

Don't be afraid to ask questions if the RFP is in anyway unclear. Be advised though that the answers will be sent to all proponents. Be sure to address all questions to the person identified in the RFP.

Ensure you fully understand the RFP

Read it ten times to make sure and make notes as you go. Get another member of staff to read it and make sure you both come to the same conclusions as to what it is asking for.

Make sure you completely understand what is required and what you are letting yourself in for in terms of time commitment, and resources.

Criteria

Where many people fail when it comes to writing proposals is not meeting all the criteria that has been outlined in the RFP. To ensure you don't fall into this trap transfer all the mandatory criteria (these are usually listed as such in most RFPs) onto a separate sheet with check boxes alongside. When you reach each draft stage of your proposal, check off those criteria you have answered. Now, this is what most of your competitors won't do; search the document for desirable criteria (those things that the issuer would like to see) and hidden criteria (those things that are simply implied) and add them to your list. In this way your proposal will be comprehensive, is unlikely to be disqualified and just as importantly will be more relevant than those of your competitors.

Competition

As mentioned earlier, write your proposal with an eye to your competition and answer questions in a way that highlights your strengths, in comparison with their weaknesses. In addition, add things that may not necessarily be required, but which you can offer that your competition cannot.

Writing/Layout

Follow the template as laid out in the RFP religiously. Don't try to be clever or improve on the order that they have suggested.

Write in clear, simple language and keep one point to a paragraph. Remember, someone will be scoring you and you do not want them to miss a key point. However, don't talk down to the reader, or bamboozle them with acronyms and industry jargon.

Double space lines unless otherwise requested, or if the organization is particularly green, or there is a page limit stipulated. This makes the document easier to read.

Keep on track and don't ramble. The people reading your proposal will have to read several others and you don't want them getting bored with yours and start to skip key information.

Avoid cross-references unless it has been requested that you provide additional information in the appendices. Always provide a table of contents and use page numbers and section headings, so that readers can find their way around the document easily.

Print single-sided unless requested to do otherwise, unless the organization promotes its green credentials when it may looking to see you take the initiative and print double-sided and on recycled paper stock.

Professional Presentation

Adhere to any length restrictions the RFP sets. On occasion a RFP will state that the entire document can not be above a certain page count, or answers must not contain more than a certain number of words.

Ensure you thoroughly read and follow instructions on how the proposal should be presented, this will include the following:

  • Due date
  • Where it should be delivered to
  • Exact information required on the cover page
  • Whether a cover letter is required
  • Hard copy, or electronic (if hard copy hand deliver, or courier)
  • How they want it bound (or not)
  • Number of pages
  • Number of copies
  • Additional electronic copy
  • With or without appendices
  • Single or double sided
  • Additional information (e.g. Proof of insurance, WCB etc.)

The Executive Summary

You write the Executive Summary last and it should be the "sell" part of the proposal. You want the reader to understand why you are the best company/person for the contract. Spend time getting it right. This is where you can highlight your strengths, so that they indirectly highlight your competitor's weaknesses.

It should be no longer than two pages and cover the key points of the proposal and detail the anticipated results of delivery.


Next month we'll look at what you should avoid doing, and the common mistakes people make when submitting a proposal.

 
   
Are Your Customers Fans? Top
 

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Sometimes we take our customers for granted, especially those who have bought from us for a long while and like our products and services. And, when it comes to those new customers, are we really wowing them with our customer service skills? Are we providing positively outrageous customer service, or doing just enough?

Customers are the lifeblood of our business and we should spend more time nurturing them instead of focusing all our attention on trying to attract new ones. Starbucks for instance has an exceptionally loyal customer base; sure some people hate Starbucks for one reason or another, but others like me are super loyal. I am a Gold Card carrying Starbucks customer and get rewarded with free milk in my Americano Misto, a free drink after every 15 visits, and again on my birthday. I'll go out of my way to stop at a Starbucks rather than any other coffee shop; that's how effective they have won my allegiance. Not only that, when I show my Gold Card to friends, customers, or clients they ask how they can get one!

How have they managed this? Well for a start they always serve me my coffee exactly the way I like it, and if for any reason it's not quite perfect I know that the Barista will be not only happy, but keen to make it again just the way I like it. Reliable quality and excellent customer service go a long way to ensuring your customers will become fans.

I recently booked a vacation to Mexico and checked out Trip Advisor to find a hotel that had good reviews. The one I chose was part of a chain that was so popular with guests that they had a fan website that provided an incredible wealth of information about all of the resorts owned by the group. Not only that, there was a live forum with people actually posting comments in real time from the resorts.

When you wow your customers and clients, powerful things can happen. Not only does this chain of resorts have loyal customers, they have a thousands of ambassadors working hard to attract new devotees.

Let's take a quick look at six things you can do to turn customers into fans.

Evaluate

The first thing to do is find out how well you are doing with your current customer base. Send out a survey and discover what they like, and dislike, about your products and customer service.

Understand Your Customers' Needs

While doing a survey to discover how you are currently perceived, take the opportunity to find out what else your customers would like to see you offer in terms of products and services. Perhaps there are some unmet needs that could not only make customers happier, but also increase revenue.

Go Above and Beyond

People expect you to deliver every time, so be careful what you promise. If you can continually exceed expectations then your fan base will grow and people will start talking about you. If you fail to deliver then people will also talk. The free milk I get every time I buy a coffee does not represent a lot of money, but it makes me feel a valued customer on each occasion. Think about some small thing you can do that will wow your customers - it needn't be big, or expensive, it just needs to mean something to them.

Be Creative

Do something to help people remember you. You could buy promotional pens, or seed packets with your company name on them, but isn't that what everyone does? What can you do that will make you stand out? I heard of a salesperson once who had small boxes made up that had her business card printed on them. She would fill them up with Smarties and hand them out in addition to her normal business card. You can bet people remembered who she was.

Give Your Staff Power

If a customer has a problem it needs to be dealt with quickly, or the pain grows exponentially. Allow your employees to deal with the vast majority of issues themselves. Not so long back I was served a chicken breast in a restaurant that was completely raw inside. When I brought it to the attention of my server she was shocked but had to go to management to see what she could do about it, while I sat and watched my friend finish his dinner. Needless to say, I never went back to that establishment again. The server should have had the power to offer me an immediate replacement dish and not charge me for my entree. The cost to the restaurant in lost revenues would have been under $20 - the fact that the matter was not immediately resolved cost the business ten times more.

Be Polite

I sometimes think that good manners are going the way of the dinosaurs. We visit stores where we are ignored, servers greet us with a scowl rather than a smile and the simple act of saying please and thank-you seems beyond many people. There is a grocery chain on the west coast where employees are hired for their attitudes and then trained to do the job. In this store if you inquire as to where something is you will not hear, "Aisle 10 on the left" from the back of someone's head but be taken there and have the item placed in your hand. Now that's good service, but think about it for a second, it also ensures that the person actually finds the product and places it in their basket - viola, increased sales!

At then end of the day, the more positive contact you can have with your customer base the better. Involve them in your business, talk to them, get their feedback and provide them opportunities to show their loyalty. I love my Gold Card, and assuming my Mexican vacation is as good as the resort's fan site says it will be, then I'll be registering as a fan and looking forward to visiting one of their other resorts. How can your customers show their loyalty to you?

 
   
The Business Dream Top

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Apologies to those of you who have heard this humorous business story before, but it is worth sharing and repeating as it makes us think twice about the goals we sometimes set for ourselves.

A tourist walks up to a fisherman in Puerto Morelos, Mexico and watches him unloading his catch. "They are beautiful fish, how long did it take you to catch them?"

The Mexican looks up and says, "Not long."

The tourist looks confused and asks the fisherman why he didn't stay out longer and catch more. The fisherman says, "I catch what I need to feed my family and sell enough to pay my bills - it's enough."

"But what do you do with the rest of your time?" the tourist asks.

"I sleep late, go for walks, play with my kids, sit in the sun, take a siesta; then in the evening I go into the village to see my friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar, and sing a few songs. I have a very full life."

The tourist then says, "I have an MBA from McGill University and I'd love to help you be more successful. Here's what you should do; stay out fishing longer each day so that you can catch more fish and then sell what you don't need. Then after several months you will be able to buy a larger boat and catch even more fish. After that you can continue to buy boats and build your own fleet. Once you've got a fleet you can start selling direct to the processing plant, or even open your own plant and make even more profit. You can then leave this tiny village and run your business from anywhere in the world, Toronto, New York, or perhaps San Francisco.

"That would take a long time, wouldn't it" asks the fisherman.

The Canadian smiles and says, "Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years."

"But then what would I do?"

"Ah, that's where it gets really interesting," says the Canadian, "When your business gets really big, you can go public, start selling shares and make millions!"

"Millions? Really? And after that?"

"After that you'll be able to retire, sleep late, go for walks, sit on the beach sunning yourself, play with your grandchildren, take a siesta and spend your evenings having drinks with your friends.

 
   
Meetings, Meetings, Meetings Top
 

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Community Futures Alberni-Clayoquot
4757 Tebo Avenue, Port Alberni, BC, V9Y 8A9
Phone: 250-724-1241 | Fax: 250-724-1028
info@cfac.ca | www.cfac.ca


Published in cooperation with Small Business Success