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

In this Issue

Overcoming Your Fear of Public Speaking

25 Mistakes Presenters Make

Writing Winning Proposal (Part Two)

Selling - Back to Basics

Real Life Lessons From Kids

Small Business News:

Sage Survey Finds That While the Majority of Canadian Small Businesses Back Up Data as a Precautionary Measure, Many May Not Be Prepared for a Crisis - Only 38 Per Cent of Small Businesses Have a Formal Emergency or Disaster Preparedness Plan and the Majority Back Up Their Financial Data On-Site Read more...

BMO Small Business Survey: One-Third of Canadian Businesses Looking to Increase their Use of Online Cash Management Solutions - Majority of Canadian businesses make use of online resources and tools for managing their business cash flow. One third (31 per cent) of Canadian businesses plan to increase their use of these cost-effective tools this year. Read more...

Funding the Future - An Ernst and Young Report - Access to finance remains a critical barrier to the success of entrepreneurial businesses. Among the entrepreneurs surveyed, almost two-thirds say that they find access to finance difficult in their country. Read more...

CBC Business News: Late payments an ongoing problem for entrepreneurs - Wait times are getting worse south of the border, and slightly better here. But not getting paid in a timely fashion remains a chronic irritant for Canadian entrepreneurs. Read more...

    Overcoming Your Fear of Public Speaking

"Studies show that fear of public speaking ranks higher than the fear of dying. I guess this means that most people at a funeral would rather be in the coffin than delivering the eulogy.." Jerry Seinfeld

At one time or another, if you are in business, you will have to make some sort of presentation. It may be as simple as saying a few words about yourself at a networking event, making a sales presentation, or delivering an address at a conference. For many people this is a terrible ordeal and something they will avoid at all costs. So, how do you face the dreaded horror of having to stand up and talk to a group of people?

Here are five of things you can do to take the fear out of speaking in public.


It's natural to be nervous, even experienced speakers get a few butterflies before they take the stage. The thing to remember is that the people in the audience want you to succeed, they are there to learn something new, and many of them are thinking that they're glad it's not them up there. The fact is people are almost always sympathetic to speakers in general.

People attend a presentation to learn something, not to see a performance. Motivational speakers are different breed and they do "perform" but unless you aspire to this specialist form of public speaking you don't have to entertain your audience, you just have to inform them.

You don't have to be perfect, brilliant, or even funny, you just have to give the audience something of value. If you stumble over some words, lose your train of thought, or drop your notes, it's not the end of the world and the people in attendance will forget all that as long as they have learned something from you. Remember, it's about them not you.


There is no better way to increase your confidence than truly knowing your subject matter. Think about what it would be like to stand up and talk about the thing you are most passionate and knowledgeable about, perhaps your children, or your hobby. That would be far less daunting wouldn't it? The reason is that you probably wouldn't need any notes, you could speak from the heart and provide valuable information based on your in-depth experience of the subject.

The more you know your subject the less frightening it will be to speak about it, so carry out any research you need to and consider what information your audience needs or, will find valuable. Consider the key messages you want to impart and the primary points. What do you want your audience to learn? What do you want them to take away? As long as you know your stuff, then you will need less notes and audio-visual aids.


In the past the recommendation was to rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Today we realize that this is not the best approach. Think about it, if your presentation is completely scripted then if you lose your spot you will likely be fumbling around, or completely lost. In this case less is more; focus on two, or three, key points that you want to get across - most people won't remember anymore than that anyway.

There is a debate as to whether speakers should use Powerpoint (or the Mac alternative Keynote) slides. Obviously if there is a need to show specific visuals such as charts, or graphs then you have no choice, but if the slides just contain the points you are going to cover then they are of dubious advantage. However, if they give you confidence then by all means use them. A new alternative is to use an iPad, or other tablet and have the presentation on the device so only you can see it. For an example watch this video of a 6th grader using this technique to great effect, when addressing an audience of adults


Just as you need to ensure you fully understand what you are going to talk about, and prepare your delivery, you need to ensure that the physical things are all in order.

Always arrive early for your presentation so that you can see how the room is arranged and change it if it doesn't work for you. If you are using any technology such as microphones, projectors, or demonstration equipment do a run through to make sure everything is working. A good mantra for this is, "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong" and it's amazing how often nothing goes wrong if you are early, and everything goes wrong if you turn up late!


If at all possible try to meet some of your audience prior to your presentation, even if it's just a few minutes with those who arrive early. If you can make a connection with them, you will be able to make eye contact during your presentation and they will almost certainly smile with encouragement and be flattered that you are paying them some attention.

If not, scan the audience during your introduction and look for the few people who like to make eye contact with you; you will notice them as they will be nodding and making other affirmative gestures. There are always these people in the audience, focus your attention on them and you will soon forget the rest of audience. However, the rest of the audience won't see that you are focusing on a few specific individuals they will think you are focused on them. This is far better than the old trick of imagining your audience naked.

Speaking in public is scary to most people, but the fear can be minimized with adequate preparation. Remember, the people watching you are not there to critique you, they are there to learn something, and as long as you give them something of value, they will leave happy.

25 Mistakes Presenters Make Top


  1. Not being prepared
  2. Being over prepared
  3. Reading slides word for word
  4. Using small, unreadable, fonts on overheads
  5. Using clip art - it is so amateurish these days
  6. Trying to cover too many subjects
  7. Not knowing the topic well enough
  8. Using irrelevant material (little or no useful information)
  9. Going over the head of the audience (making it to complex, or full of clever jargon)
  10. Not tailoring the presentation to the audience
  11. Not having a theme, or structure
  12. Not having a learning objective (valuable information to give the audience)
  13. Not making it fun, or informative
  14. Not getting to know the audience (before and during the presentation)
  15. Not developing trust and respect
  16. Not pre-checking the room and equipment
  17. Not having back-up notes, equipment, visuals
  18. Speaking in a monotone voice
  19. Being too static (i.e. not moving around)
  20. Having little, or no interaction with the audience
  21. Telling irrelevant, unfunny, or politically incorrect jokes
  22. Discussing sex, religion, politics (unless that is the subject of the presentation)
  23. Not making eye contact with audience
  24. Not smiling, being too serious
  25. Mumbling
Writing Winning Proposal (Part Two) Top


What to Avoid

Avoid underestimating the evaluators. People evaluating the proposals are knowledgeable in their fields. Proposals that contain lots of glitz, but little substance will not score well.

Don't take this opportunity to point out flaws in the proposers existing program unless it is necessary to do so in order to describe the benefits of your proposal. Proposals should be upbeat and positive and should be suggesting solutions.

Don't impose conditions on the proposer. If you make it too difficult for them to accept your proposal, you can be reasonably sure the proposal won't be accepted.

Define any acronyms used and refrain from using technical jargon. Your proposal should stand on its substance, and not be overly complicated to describe your solution.

This may seem obvious, but many people have their excellent proposal disqualified purely because it was delivered after the closing time.

The Covering Letter

Make sure it meets the mandatory criteria as outlined on the RFP. Introduce your company, where you are located, what you do, how long you have been in business, the number of employees and highlight the key selling point(s) of your proposal, along with a results statement. This is not an executive summary, so be brief and keep it to one page unless otherwise instructed. Ensure that it signed by the person authorized to sign on behalf of the company (i.e. not a personal assistant).

You might also want to state you agree to, and will be bound by, all terms and conditions of the proposal (unless you are already required to do this in the main body of the proposal).

Key Rules

Once your proposal has been accepted, you are almost always bound to deliver on it and at the price you offered. Some re-negotiation may be possible if criteria change. But be careful! However, you can usually withdraw your proposal up to the closing date.

If you consider there may be more than one way to deliver the goods/services you can usually put in more than one proposal.

Especially with government RFPs, the contract will usually require your company to indemnify the government against any losses it incurs as a result of the your activities in performing the contract. Be sure to thoroughly read what is required.

Sub-contracting is often allowed, but you will have to provide details of individuals and firms you will be using and what their roles will be. You will be responsible for their performance.

Evaluation Criteria

Sometimes the RFP will clearly show the weighting placed on each criterion (i.e. experience 25%; cost 40%; program content 20%; etc.) other times it will be less clear and say something like, "Proposals that meet all mandatory criteria will then be assessed and scored against desirable criteria. The winner will be the the Proponent that has the highest over all ranking."

As mentioned in part one, you need to comply with all mandatory criteria to be considered. It is the desirable criteria where the assessment really takes place, as everyone being considered will have had to meet the mandatory requirements.

References will be checked so ensure you have asked permission from those that you list, and are confident they will support your proposal.

Make it Tough for Them to Say No

If you cover all your bases and ensure:

  • That you have understood the RFP and the needs and objectives of the organization
  • Have identified every mandatory and desirable criteria and fully answered them
  • Have made your competition's weaknesses your strengths and highlighted them
  • Filled any gaps in experience or credibility with specialist help

you should have a better chance of winning the contract, that is if it wasn't a foregone conclusion.

The Post Proposal Presentation

They do not often ask for a presentation unless it is mentioned in the RFP - but they can if they have a number of strong candidates and wish to see them face to face.

You need to dig around and find out more information. If you are on good terms with the organization's contact person they may be able to tell you something, such as how many people are on the shortlist, even perhaps who they are.

Once you know who you are up against then you can look to their weaknesses and make them your strengths.

Be totally professional in your presentation, and make the others look like amateurs. Bring in a new element - kick it up a notch, offer a new perspective, or some new insight.

If you are using slides make the last one thought provoking, or insightful as you ask if there are any questions.

Leave the panel with something, such as a folder, technical specs, a copy of your presentation, a sample of your product - anything that they can remember you by.

What if you Lose?

In almost all case, you are entitled to a debriefing in person, but at least over the telephone. The key thing you want to learn is who won the contract and why. You also need to know what you could have done better - where did your proposal fall short. Also ask for your score, if proposals were graded.

Once the contract has been awarded you are entitled to know who the other proponents were; this will help you with your next proposal as you will have a clearer idea of your competition.

Top Ten Tips for Winning Contracts

  1. Don't bother with forgone conclusions
  2. Understand the evaluation criteria
  3. Understand their needs and objectives (research)
  4. Think their thoughts, feel their feelings, speak their words
  5. Discover the strengths and weaknesses of the competition and make their weaknesses your strengths
  6. Ensure all mandatory criteria are met
  7. Understand and meet all desirable criteria, both known and suspected
  8. Fill gaps in credibility with specialist help
  9. Spend a high percentage of time on the executive summary - make it sell your proposal
  10. KISS - Keep it short and simple
Selling - Back to Basics Top


From time to time, it's worthwhile revisiting some of the basics of selling. Here are twenty-two things we all know to remember during our everyday sales activity.

  1. Develop a sales process from beginning to end. Know exactly how you are going to make a sale whether the potential customers comes to you (retail) or you have to go out and meet them.
  2. Selling is an act of negotiation between you and a potential customer. It is not advertising, promotion, or marketing.
  3. Selling is based on relationships - sell yourself first, your company second and your product third. When was the last time you bought something from someone you didn't like?
  4. Look closely at the features of your product, or service, and the benefits it offers to potential customers. Your aim should be to match your product with a buyer who needs the benefits it offers.
  5. Identify clearly who your absolute best customer will be - don't try to sell to everyone (even if you can). Spend more time selling to better prospects.
  6. Find prospects who want or need to buy what you have to sell. It's pointless trying to sell to people who don't need or don't want what you are selling. It's a waste of time and you don't have time to waste. Selling is easy when you sell to people who want to buy. Prospecting is a vital part of selling - get it right and you will save time, and increase your success rate.
  7. Qualify your buyer. Do they have the power to buy? Don't know? Ask them! If they don't, sell them on your product to the point they are willing to help you. Then, get them to help you reach the right person - the buyer.
  8. Know as much about your market and industry as you possibly can. The more you know, the more answers you will have and the more respected you will be.
  9. Know your company - if someone asks you about your company, do you have the answers? Where do you stand on environmental issues within your industry, what about your approach to new technology, staffing issues etc.?
  10. Know your product or service in depth. You may think you know it, but think about it from the buyer's perspective. After briefly describing your product or service to someone ask them if they understand it and would be in a position to buy it. Do they really understand it, or are they seeing it in a different way to you? Can they see problems you aren't?
  11. Know your customer. Study them to the point of fully understanding their business, their market, their customers and their competition.
  12. Know your competition. Don't be caught knowing less about your competition than your customers do. Carry out a strengths and weaknesses analysis.
  13. Know the weakness of your product and your sales pitch. Make a list of all the objections you could possibly face.
  14. Plan each sales approach. What are you trying to achieve? Are you hoping for a sale, or just hoping to get to the next stage - perhaps making a presentation to a committee, or board. Knowing what you want out of each interaction with a prospect is important.
  15. When making a sales presentation sell yourself first. Remember, it's about them, not you. Discover what your potential customer is looking for. Match the features of your product or service to the benefits they are looking for. If you can't, why carry on selling? Ask questions and listen more than you speak.
  16. Make the sales presentation pleasurable and fun. Show a genuine interest in the welfare of the customer.
  17. Be enthusiastic, it's contagious.
  18. The best close is just to ask for the order. If you have done everything right up to that point and they want and need what you have to sell, and they can afford it (or you make it affordable) then you should have the sale.
  19. Thank them when you leave for their time and if they have made a purchase, thank them for the order.
  20. Follow up each meeting with a note or an e-mail.
  21. Never be affected by rejection. Nobody, not even the best sales person in the world, gets every sale. Leave on a positive note. Ask for a referral, and keep the door open. Be professional.
  22. Review every contact with a potential customer, or existing customer. What did you right - what could you have done better?

Selling is actually simple, but we often make it more complicated than we need to. Reviewing these simple basics on a regular basis will prevent you from picking up those bad habits we all tend to find ourselves doing from time to time.

Real Life Lessons From Kids Top



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Published in cooperation with Small Business Success