Want to Know How to Sell… All you have to do is Ask?

Want to improve business sales? Have you ever answered a question with a question?  Would that be making a difference to your conversion rate? The answer to the latter is most definitely yes! Asking questions not only increases your conversion rate, but builds rapport with your customer and ensures that the sale becomes their idea and not yours. 

Asking questions also means active listening. You can ask questions about your customers work, business, kids or hobbies but make sure that you are listening with sincere interest. It may even be helpful to write down some of the answers – such as the names of their kids, interests etc. for future communication. By asking questions and listening, you are building rapport and attaching importance to their conversation. 

Also, by asking questions you are remaining in control of the conversation. Once you find yourself doing all the talking you are no longer in control. Just remember that the person asking questions sets the direction for the conversation. If the customer is dominating the conversation by asking you questions make sure you answer the question with a question. However, try to vary the questions that you ask. You may remember from looking after your own children or babysitting that being asked “but why?” over and over again tends to get a little monotonous. 

Questions can guide consumer interest, discover a need and give accurate information. There are two commonly known types of questioning – open ended and closed questions. 

Building Rapport and Qualifying…

Open-ended questions are an excellent way to ensure customer involvement in the conversation and are a key to identifying not only what they need but a lot about themselves. You can use open-ended questions to build rapport, to find a need, to discover a customer problem and find the right solution. In journalism there are six key questions used in the interviewing process which is as equally useful in sales – who, what, where, when, why and how. 

Here are a few examples of open-ended questions which are very useful:

Who are you buying the product/service for?

How often would you use the product/service?

What features were you looking for in this product/service? 

This type of questioning yields a lot of great information from your customer and helps you determine which product/service is uniquely suited to them. 

Closed questions tend to get one word answers “yes” or “no.” They can be used to gather information quickly – not unlike a check-list. Using closed questions can also confirm a buying detail and help confirm the sale. 

By using questions you are encouraging the customer to communicate, building rapport, establishing their needs, directing the conversation, diffusing tension and inviting discussion. 

Improve business sales…Learning the art of questioning and listening is the key to increasing your conversion rate and well on the way to creating a continuing customer relationship. 

Improve business…ask Ohio Business Coach, Ralph Berge 440.838.0991

Your Biggest Competition

A common question that I get asked as a business coach by business owners is “Who do you think is my biggest competitor?”

Many business owners are very focused on their competition.  “How much are they charging?”  “What are the new services or products that they are going to roll out?”  “What do they say about us?”  “How well do we compete in the market compared with them?”

Frankly, searching for answers to those questions really has minimal value.  The reality is that your biggest competition is not the other guy or gal, but YOU!  The single largest limiting factor to your success is not outside, but inside.  Instead of focusing on what others are doing, the most leveraged way to improve your business and realize success is to look in the mirror.

The reason for that principle is obvious.  You can’t change the competition, but you can change yourself.  If your competitors distract you from working on your business, they have won.  Your number one job is to be the best person you can be, and to create the best business possible.  If you focus on that agenda, what your competition is doing is not too important.

Here are some alternative questions you can consider: “How am I maximizing the value of my products and services, so that I attract the best customers that will pay for value (vs. merely buying on lowest price)?”  “How can I lead and train my team to consistently exceed customer expectations?  What is it that my best customers want and need?  Am I really listening to them?  How do I express gratitude to my team, my vendors, and my customers?  Where can I seek to build win/ win relationships with strategic partners, maybe even with some “perceived” competitors?  What areas do we need to improve?  What do I need to be learning and doing to be the best leader and business owner possible?

When you start to focus on changing you and your team, then you will not have to give much thought to your competition.  That is what I do as a coach; help my clients take an honest look at themselves and change!  Be the best you can be!

If you would like to learn more about maximizing the performance of your business callOhio Business Coach Ralph Berge, 440-838-0991, Business Coach of Akron Canton.

A Good Strategic Business Plan is Your North Star

The strategic business plan explores key questions about the purpose for being in business. On a regular basis business owners and their teams must answer these questions and agree on the answers. The answers help to determine the essential elements of the strategic plan, such as the sales planning process. From a business strategy consulting standpoint, the key, broad subjects to be incorporated in a strategic business plan are:

   Vision

   Mission Statement

   Key Objectives

   Milestones

   Implementation/ action plan and time table

 This plan, which includes strategies, actions and responsibilities, becomes the foundation of the firm’s strategic business plan. This is not a document to be completed and left in the desk drawer. It is to be shared with the team and developed into 90 day plans fro the management and team to implement.

Is Your Team Ready for the Recovery?

To build highly-effective teams you have to create an atmosphere for it to happen. Ralph Berge a Akron Business Coach who provides executive team building suggests, “We must create an environment where each team member feels free to express their concerns with no retribution.” Business owners and management must understand that no idea is wrong. Team building coaching dictates that every team members’ suggestion needs to be considered and, if possible, built upon.

 Remember we learn from mistakes and teams must be given an opportunity to try new ideas without admonishment for mistakes. Instead, a failure should be an opportunity to gain knowledge and to praise any safe-guards which were included in the plan. Give Ralph Berge a call (440.838.0991) for more on executive team building and team building coaching.

Exit Your Business on Your Terms

What can exiting from your business mean to you?  It can be as emotionally difficult as a bankruptcy or forced liquidation or it can be a planned sale with all debts paid, money for retirement and peace of mind. Planning for succession means you should plan to sell when the sale will provide the funds necessary to retire or move on to a new opportunity. It can also be passed on to your heirs, employees or partners with proper pre-planning to fund the sale.

Ralph Berge is a Cleveland Business Coach who helps business owners with succession management.  Succession management is an exit strategy that simply means you have planned your transition and you are ready to take advantage of the options available to you. Call Ralph Berge, Business Coach 440-838-0991 to get moving on your business exit strategy.

For Serious Business Owners Only: A Cash Flow Primer – Part 3

Statement of Cash Flow: Every business owner should also have a statement of cash flow for their business prepared at least monthly, along with their income statement and balance sheet.

The Statement of cash flow reports cash flow generated over a period of time in each of the three key activities of a business: investing, operating and financing activities.

While each financial statement provides unique information of use for analysis and decision-making, the statement of cash flow provides particular insight into that most vital commodity – cash.

Every business owner should develop a good understanding of basic cash flow principles and then analyze the various areas that affect the timing of cash inflows and outflows in your business.

A good analysis of these components will point out problem areas that lead to cash flow gaps in your organization. With this information, you can develop a cash flow plan to help you foresee the needs of capital, along with identifying potential sources of operating capital that can help you fund the ongoing activities and needs of your business.

Read and reread this. Keep a copy on your desk and never forget: “Cash is King”.

If you would like to learn more about maximizing the performance of your business call Ohio business coach Ralph Berge, 440-838-0991, Business Coach of Akron Canton.

For Serious Business Owners Only: A Cash Flow Primer – Part 2

Let’s look at each flow of cash:

Inflows:  Inflows are the movement of money into your cash flow. Inflows most likely come from the sale of your goods or services to your customers. If you extend credit to your customers and allow them to charge the sale of the goods or services to their account, then an inflow occurs as you collect on the customer’s account. The proceeds from a bank loan, money received from investors or sale of assets are also cash inflows.

Outflows:  Outflows are the movement of money out of your business. Outflows are generally the result of paying expenses. If your business involves reselling goods, then your largest outflow is most likely the purchase of inventory. A manufacturing company’s largest outflows are usually the purchases of raw materials and other components needed for the production of their final product. Purchasing fixed assets, paying down debt and reducing accounts payable are also cash outflows.

Accounts Receivable and Cash flow Accounts: Receivable represents sales that have not yet been collected as cash. You sell your merchandise or services in exchange for a customer’s promise to pay you at a certain time in the future. If your business normally extends credit to your customers, then the payment of accounts receivable is likely the single most important source of cash inflow.

In the worst case scenario, unpaid accounts receivables will leave your business without the necessary cash to pay its own bills. More commonly, late or slow-paying customers will create cash shortages, leaving your business without the cash necessary to cover its own cash outflow obligations.

Knowing your Receivable Turnover Ratio (RTR) can provide great insight into your account receivable position. You calculate ratio by dividing annual sales by the total dollars of outstanding receivables. To break this metric down into days, just divide your RTR by 365 to give you the average number of days it takes for you to collect on outstanding receivables.

In addition, you should print a weekly accounts receivable aging schedule and ensure frequent and appropriate contact is made to collect the money owed to you.

For Serious Business Owners Only: A Cash Flow Primer

 “Cash is King” – and truly, a healthy cash flow is a vital part of any successful business. Net income doesn’t pay the bills and neither do the assets or equity in your business. Only cash pays the bills. Cash flow planning needs to be part of every business owners’ strategic business plan

Without a doubt, proper cash flow management in your business is critical to its growth and longevity. Understanding basic cash flow principles is the first step in effectively managing your cash flow.

Cash flow is more than just a fancy term. In its simplest form, cash flow is the movement of money in and out of your business. It can be described as the process in which your business uses cash to generate goods or services for sale to your customers, then collects that cash from each sale and completes the cycle all over again.

Keys to Great Customer Service

Would you say your customer service is good? Well good is not good enough!

Customer service in today’s economy is at an all time low. That means that it is relatively easy to meet expectations! And if you just merely meet expectations, you will not be building customer loyalty. The goal is to WOW customers by going above and beyond the expectation. A raving fan is someone who is so impressed and excited about their experience with you that he/she can’t wait to tell others about you and your products. Raving fans become your sales force!

Consistency happens when you have a great system, and the team follows it. To follow the system, there has to be great training. When there are customer service problems, look to the system first, and then determine if the system is being followed. If not, then it is likely that the training is lacking or insufficient.

Before you go above and beyond, it is essential to consistently provide great service. It is consistency in service that provides comfort and security for customers. They know what to expect, and know they can depend on you and trust you. When service is up and down, it leaves customers with an insecure feeling and a belief that you don’t care. Consistency is the foundation and basis for creating raving fans. Before you do the extra things, make sure that you are doing the basics every time the same way. Be predictable.

Once you consistently provide the basics, it is time to find creative ways to exceed the expectations. This is where you transform basic customers into raving fans. It is looking for the WOW, the pleasant surprise, the above and beyond. It says that we are excellent, and that good is not good enough.

Set a goal this quarter to turn your customers into Raving Fans…your sales job will get easier. I guarantee it.

If you would like to learn more about maximizing the performance of your business call Ralph Berge, 440-838-0991, Business Coach of Akron Canton.

Build Survival into Your Business…

Successful business owners share many admirable qualities. They are smart, hard-working, and focused. Unfortunately, despite the hard work factor, Dun & Bradstreet reports that only nine percent of small businesses, with fewer than twenty employees, survive for ten years.  

Running a small business takes an inordinate amount of time and energy, which often leaves owners too distracted to focus on other areas of their lives, which causes many family business problems. When a business is a key component of family wealth, however, it is critical to incorporate family business succession planning to secure its long-term stability. After all, for most business owners, the business represents their single most valuable asset. Generally, it constitutes 90 percent of their wealth. Taking steps to safeguard a business, such as developing a  business exit strategy, helps ensure its long-term survival and success and protect an asset that often represents a life’s work. 

Invest your time in building your business by talking with Ralph Berge, Cleveland business coach about family business planning.