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Archives for May 2016

When to fire a client

By Kate Lee | 05/30/2016 | 10:39 PM

Firing a client can help you make way for others who better suit your business.

Letting someone go can be hard to do. But when it comes to certain clients, it Firedmay be necessary to ease them out of your business portfolio.

Fire a client? Who does that? Well, successful companies committed to providing the best service possible and maximizing their energy for future growth do it whenever necessary.

Let’s face it: We all have had all-encompassing clients with whom the payoff does not correspond to the hours spent catering to their needs. These clients just may not be a good fit for your business. Essentially, if what you give far outweighs the return, or if you struggle to meet your client’s needs and expectations, it is probably time to fire that client. You are not doing what is best for them (or you) by keeping them in your portfolio.

This may seem counter-intuitive to growing your business, and the thought of giving up hard-earned clients may make you cringe, but, in fact, it better supports your success.

Why? If you have clients who are overly demanding, temperamental, or requiring skills or services you do not wish to provide — especially if they do not pay you what you’re worth — perhaps it is time to cut ties to make room for new clients.

According to the Forbes article “4 Reasons to Fire a Client,” sometimes a business will discover that focusing on a different set of services is far more profitable than some other services they offer. So, the business focus shifts, and the client portfolio should shift with it.

Firing those ill-fitting clients allows time to acquire new clients who align with your top skills and practices, and who will pay you what you’re worth for them. Essentially, you set yourself free to work with those that can fully benefit from your services. And focusing your time on clients that fit your business model will better support growth and happy clients who recommend your services to others.

How do you decide?

You may have a client that comes to mind as you read this. You are always making adjustments to provide them the best service. You second guess yourself and your quality of work. Quite simply, the relationship is exhausting.

First, you should do a thorough audit of your relationship with this client.  Identify why the client doesn’t seem to fit your company’s business model.  Essentially, try and identify why your client’s needs and your company’s services do not seem to align.

Perhaps your business and theirs were once a good fit, but now you have grown apart. According to the Harvard Business Review article “A Consultant’s Guide to Firing a Client,” business owners typically learn exactly where they excel, and where they’d like to focus their attention, over time, so perhaps your focus has changed or grown. Maybe this client has never been a good fit, and hindsight is 20/20. Examine the entire business relationship from the time you first acquired the client, and document everything.

How do you fire a client?

Once you determine that you will fire a client, the approach must be done either by phone conversation or in person. Never leave a message, send an email, or text a client to accomplish this. You need to do it with tact and professionalism.

Discuss and illustrate the basic reasons why the client and your services are no longer a great fit for either of you. Recommend another company to take your place if you can, and thank them for the time you worked together.

You need to keep your company’s strengths in the forefront of what you do and the services you provide. Some clients mesh with your particular expertise, interests, ethical practices, and work style. Other clients will make you feel like it is a constant struggle to provide them what they need and deserve. Sometimes firing a client is the best thing you could do for both your business and theirs.

When to Contact a Lead (Hint: Earlier Than You Think)

By Kate Lee | 05/23/2016 | 10:33 PM

Leads and sales

Engage your leads early in meaningful dialogue to improve your chances of conversion.

Your strategic marketing plan is generating a steady influx of quality leads, so closing sales should be easy, right? Only if you are contacting your leads early enough in the sales cycle.

Leads become sale opportunities if they are approached like a garden. Care is needed from the start to cultivate and produce the desired results. So, when is the perfect time to begin nurturing leads? It is earlier than you might think.

When a potential customer first shows interest in a blog post, opens an email, or shares your company’s post on social media, this is the first point of positive contact. You needs to keep that contact going and develop it into a conversation. And we are not talking about starting out with a sales pitch, either. Leads become sales when they are cultivated and grown like a trusted relationship — and the earlier after first contact the better.

According to a study published in the Harvard Business Review, most companies are not responding nearly fast enough to their sales leads. The authors audited more than 2,200 businesses and measured their response time to web-generated leads. While only about a third (37%) responded within an hour, the average first response time was 42 hours. Surprisingly, 23% of companies never responded.

Google and Corporate Executive Board’s white paper on lead follow-up offers some insight on why quick responses are so important. For one, a reported 35% to 50% of sales go to the vendor that responds first. That is largely because today’s B2B customers are nearly 60% through the sales process before they first engage a sales rep. By the time you hear from them, they are close to buying and want answers in a timely fashion to make their decision.

So, how fast of a response is ideal? A study conducted by Franklin Covey found that contact ratios improve 900% if web leads had some form of contact by the company within five minutes of submission. Now, it is probably not possible for your sales team to act upon every lead with that kind of velocity, but it is vital that they utilize proactive sales strategies, rather than reactive.

Reactive is leaving a message and, if they hear back, responding to it. Proactive is going after the sale with confidence and commitment to engaging the lead in real dialogue.

Early dialogue: What it is, and what it’s not

Early on in the sales cycle, you are not pushing to close the sale, but rather you are building a relationship through conversations. You are creating dialogue, not a sales monologue. Be there first, be relevant, and be action-oriented, and your customers will rely on your solutions more often.

You begin this dialogue by asking great, open-ended questions, essentially taking the time to get to know the potential customer. This helps you determine what will best suit this prospect’s needs, and it builds confidence and trust and will very often help the prospect consider issues they may never have thought of.

When you get that potential customer thinking outside the boundaries of their initial issue, it provides a bigger opportunity for you to showcase how your services or products can solve several of the customer’s dilemmas. It is also important to consider your products or services in terms of how they benefit the customer; your presentation will then be customer-focused, and that builds trust and respect in the relationship.

There many moving parts to an effective lead-nurturing campaign, and often there are many steps required to cultivate those leads into sales. From the start of the sales cycle, your company should:

  1. Take the time to discover and understand the potential customer’s needs and wants first, then advise and offer information. Make the move to match and sell the appropriate solution your company can offer.
  2. Have the ability to listen and offer viable solutions. Your sales team needs to be well informed about the products, services, and solutions that they are selling.
  3. Your sales team must be able to follow up quickly, consistently, and with an open dialogue to turn leads into customers.

Studies show that the faster you begin dialogue with a lead, the better your chances of conversion into a sale. This means that when cultivating a qualified lead, you don’t want your sales reps to make one phone call and simply leave a voicemail.  You want real conversations to happen. If you don’t, your lead-generation efforts were for naught.

Should my business be on social media?

By Kate Lee | 05/16/2016 | 10:25 PM

Should i be on social media

In today’s digital world, it is amazing that many businesses, particularly those in the supply chain and logistic industries, are still questioning whether they should be on social media. The simple answer is yes — social media channels are the ideal place to brand, market, and grow your business.

Here are five reasons why your company should be on social media.

1.  Lead generation.

Sales teams can also use social media as a lead-generation tool. Social media takes the old marketing billboard and makes it a conversation, which is a huge benefit to businesses who use it well.

2.  Trust and thought leadership.

Though the results are not instant, the amount of time and marketing dollars you spend on social media pays off. How long will it take? That varies depending on your business and your sales cycle. But by distributing quality content and engaging customers through these channels, you eventually will establish your company as a knowledgeable, thought-leader in your industry. This creates a level of trust with potential customers, which is invaluable to securing the sale down the road.

3.  Brand awareness.

Social media not only builds your brand but can expand your content’s reach. Those who follow you and enjoy your content will “like” and share it, meaning their followers will see it, thus expanding your audience. This makes your reach virtually limitless, providing that your content is compelling, engaging, and worthy of sharing.

4.  Business intelligence.

Being on social media keeps you on top of the latest trends; it is a valuable business tool. You not only engage potential customers, but you can learn what they are looking for, what your competition is doing. It can also provide data that serves as a strategic compass to generate ideas and guide the direction of your business in the future.

5.  Talent acquisition.

You can find new talent for your company through social media, which gets you connected with qualified job-seekers and streamlines the search process.

Harvard Business Review surveyed 2,100 companies and found that 79% use or plan to use social media.  But, only 12% of those organizations felt that they were using social media effectively. The fact is unless you are using social media correctly, you will probably not see the results that you desire.

Content needs to be fresh, engaging, informative and sometimes entertaining. You need to post consistently and respond to questions that are posted by your readers. (You are creating a relationship, after all.) All of this may seem daunting, but the reward is a highly visible, respected, presence within the social media community. Your business can strategically reach a myriad of potential customers online, which as you know, can be a game-changer in its potential for growth.

The opinions expressed herein are those solely of the participants, and do not necessarily represent the views of Agile Business Media, LLC., its properties or its employees.

About Kate Lee

Kate Lee

Kate Lee is the senior director of research and strategy for Fronetics Strategic Advisors, a Newburyport, Mass.-based consultancy that works with clients in industries including logistics and supply chain. She has over 20 years of domestic and international experience as a writer, researcher, and strategist.



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