Saturday, 30 June 2012

7 ways to deal with a price objection

How many times have you discounted your price simply because the price objection was raised?
Here are our 7 top ways to approach this common objection:

  1. Target the right 'ideal' customer to sell to, as they are less likely to be price driven
  2. Define value from the customers viewpoint not your own
  3. Ask powerful questions to establish what is 'important' to your buyer
  4. Remove or reduce the risk for the buyer by offering a guarantee
  5. Use strong benefit statements, not features, and position from as if you were in their shoes
  6. Know and rehearse your responses to the common ways such an objection is raised
  7. Have reasons why you hold a price rather than being able to discount to create empathy from the buyer

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Customer service

In my view customer service is a series of planned and systemised activities in your business that ensures that your product or service delivers high levels of satisfaction and exceeds the expectations of your customer.
It is far too easy to get this wrong by not listening to your customers and doing what you think they want.
Your activities should be before, during and after a purchase.
It is just as important to consider your service delivery whether you sell a product or if you offer a service.
I would suggest that you need to consider every time a customer touches your business and then consider what you have to do to ensure that the customer experience is exceptional every single time. Every time a customer interacts with your business you have the opportunity to improve your reputation with them.
Not one service will fit all. A positive experience will be more important to some customers than others. Can you segment your customers and identify possible different expectations for different customer groups?
It may also be that the service experience is expected at different stages of their journey with you. For example on placing the order it may be a different expectation than when they receive the delivery?
Excellent service delivery can be more important in some businesses than others and will vary according to your industry.

For example, online businesses will not need the face to face positive contact, but will need order efficiency, after sales care, complaint handling, effective delivery channels. Or as a retailer you will have the face to face contact expectation, but how good is the telephone manner of your staff if a customer calls before visiting and what is the returns policy?
Customer service will be more important in some employees roles than others, however every role in the business should have a customer service focus. Receptionists, sales staff and any role meeting the customer is obvious to us that we should train these people in customer service. However what about the person who cleans the floors, arranges the distribution of goods on time, manages the web site or cooks the most fantastic meal? Without them your customer service and reputation will suffer,
Customers will pay more or return more often if they receive a level of service that meets or exceeds their expectations.

Social Media to suit your business

LinkedIn for your business - The complete profile

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The first few days with a new employee

It is recommended to give all your new starters an induction. All inductions should be structured so that the messages and information are consistent. A Professionally organised and delivered induction is your new employees' first impression of you and your organisation. A good induction will help to retain your new employees in those early months. An induction is the initial activity to welcome your new employee before any formal training plan is started.
 From experience an induction helps your employees to understand the business and where they fit in, get motivated to do their best, become productive earlier, understand the job more effectively, understand any health and safety obligations and acknowledge the culture of the business.
If you plan to undertake group inductions, then it is recommended to have an induction session for specific or related roles as to avoid any confusion.
An induction can last a few hours to a few months depending on the business and the role. The content of an induction should be planned to ensure that the interest and concentration is maintained. In my opinion it is bad practice to just push the new employee around the business to the next person who has some time to show them something else.

The main areas to cover in an induction include:
·         Any administration such as pension scheme, handbooks, uniforms etc  
·         Any clarification in the Terms and conditions of employment especially the working hours, breaks, sickness, and disciplinary and grievance procedures
·         The providing of Health and safety information including the business' health and safety policy, fire safety procedures.
·         A tour of the premises
·         An introduction to colleagues, especially the owners, line manager, human resources manager, health and safety officer
·         An introduction to the job
If their job involves the use or operation of machinery or equipment, you must ensure that they are properly trained, that they understand any associated risks, and that they have the appropriate safety equipment.

Either you or your human resources manager should also ensure that you have all the required paperwork to add the new employee to the payroll immediately as you do not want to leave it until it is too late and you cannot pay them at the first attempt.

Monday, 18 June 2012

How to decide where to promote your product or service?

You could promote your business anywhere, but we suggest your marketing activity will be much more effective and resourceful if you have a marketing strategy.
A marketing strategy is a process that will allow you to concentrate your resources on the best opportunities to increase sales and achieve a competitive advantage.
Within a good Marketing strategy, you should make considerations such as:
  • Do you know your market
·         What is your vision of the ideal customer
·         What is your strategy & vision
  • What is your position in that market
  • And how do you plan to target your market, your tactics

Your customer base will contribute towards the success of your business and how your business is represented.
So who do you really want as your customers?
Start with profiling your potential customer. For example, what is their industry sector, what size are they, where are they located, what is the personality of the owners, how much would they spend per annum, on what terms would they trade and how established are they.
You can also segment your potential customers by knowing their demographics, their Classification, their Life cycle stage, or by their psychographic attitudes and values.
In terms of contextual marketing you need to understand ‘what’ the customer was doing when they decide to purchase and ‘where’ they  were.
This is identified with effective market research. Unfortunately too many new start ups do their research with just friends and family, who tell them the answers they want to hear. We suggest you go and find the ideal prospective customers you have identified in your profiling and segmentation and ask them.
Ask them; Where are they buying now? Why from them? What do they get for their money? How often do they buy? What are their buying habits? Who influences the purchase decision? Do they buy on a Want or or a Need? How was that product or service brought to their attention?

Some business can sell to anyone, but we suggest this is not the strategy for most start up business because with focus:
       You can concentrate your marketing efforts in the places where your customers dwell, whether that is in the on or off line universe
       You can better understand their needs. Where your product or service can help them and why or when they need them
       You will be able to start identifying product or service gaps
       You can easily adapt as you know your market environment

To help you build your business strategy & vision it is a useful exercise to take yourself forward and identifying factors such as how many clients will we have, where will we work from, how will we deliver, what is our preferred type of work or main products, what is our niche, what will our employees or resources look like, what is our pricing policy?

Once you know more about your business positioning and your potential customers you will better placed to understand your position in the market place.
For example, if you plan to open a food shop, you may have little chance competing directly with the major food outlets, so you will position yourself for a different customer with a different offer to them otherwise it is likely to then simply about the price and their buying power will win.

When people talk about marketing, they will refer to the 4 P’s or the ‘marketing mix’ which is:
·         Product
·         Price
·         Place – the purchase location or distribution channel
·         Promotion – your chosen marketing communications such as advertising, public relations, personal selling and sales promotion.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Make your business stand out from the crowd?

The aim should be to make your product or service as unique as possible, to have a feature or benefit that seperates you from your competition. To stand out in your market place you need to know and understand the ‘real’ reasons why your customers will buy your product or service rather than those of a competitor.    
Even if you have entered a mass market such as selling biscuits in a supermarket, then you need to know why customers will pick up your specific packet of biscuits.
Identifying your USP will help you target your sales and marketing efforts and ensure you are sold on your own product or service before you try to sell it to others.
We would suggest that you think about your product or service and make a list of all the features and benefits your product or service can offer the customer.
You should consider areas such as the physical characteristics, the service proposition, your team, the price, the design, the suppliers you use (for example ethical or environmentally friendly benefits), your strengths, the perception, but importantly put yourself in the shoes of your ideal customer to understand what you are really selling and why they are actually going to buy from you.
For example, you may be selling shoes, but are you really selling style, fashion, comfort, convenience, quality or value for money?
So you need to really understand what motivates your customers buying behaviour and decisions.
Then from your list, identify what you offer that your competitors do not or where your offer exceeds the competitors offering. Whilst reviewing your competition, then also understand what they offer that you do not. It may be that you missed this in your planning or did not think to include this in your list.
It is great to have a long list of unique propositions for your customer, but in reality they will only engage with a few at any one time. So from your list of unique selling points identity your strongest proposition, the messages you will give if you only have one minute to sell your product, the strong message you will use in your marketing.

In Summary:
ü  You need a distinctive identity
ü  You need a customer-centric proposition
ü  You need to communicate consistently
ü  Your business needs to ooze credibility
ü  And remember you control your customer’s perception

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

New DVD launched to prevent 80% of business start-ups failing

Press Release 
Two Oxfordshire business owners have come together to launch a new product to help business start ups both survive and thrive.

Co Producer, Mike Foster said: “Research shows that 4 out of 5 businesses fail within their first 5 years. And, of course, the pain caused by those failures has an impact on the prosperity and employment prospects of the economy as a whole, let alone those personally involved. So we decided to share our expertise and launch a product that provides advice on creating the right foundation for success and those all important initial considerations for a business start up.”

The DVD is split into 7 sections and has 44 subject areas covering the initial considerations, setting the right foundations, finance, product / service, marketing & sales, employing people and customer service.

Mike added “The feedback has been very positive and our customers so far have said how they are pleased to see such a delivery of the content instead of the usual book or web page content.”

For more information, please see

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Work/life balance - What will it be like running my own business?

Setting up your own business can be very rewarding, but there are pressures involved.
One of the main reasons why people start their own business is to obtain a better work / life balance that they desire.
However, in the early days, you should expect that that this is unlikely to be achieved without some very good planning and focus.
As you strive to structure the business to provide the stable foundations for future success, it is likely that you will work longer hours than perhaps you are working now.
If you start the business alone you are usually initially wearing all the business hats. One minute you are the business leader, then the salesperson, then the operations manager, then the finance director and possibly the HR manager. So it is usual, even with the prioritisation of responsibilities, to be working long hours and most days in the initial start up period.
The important consideration here is to be aware of this fact, so to avoid frustration, but more critically you know what you have to do to build the business that is less reliant on you. So knowing when you are the finance manager or the sales person will help you understand what can later be delegated to an employee or even outsourced to a business service provider.
Ensure those close to you, such as your family, are aware of this and you have their support.
Very few businesses are overnight successes and will take time to build a business for the financial return you desire. So be prepared for long hours with little reward. This together with responsibilities of running the business and making decisions will causes stress.
You should also be aware that the buck stops with you. The successes and failures will be from your decisions or perhaps the direction given to others.
You should also be prepared for the feeling of isolation. Some business owners struggle with this because in the past they have always worked in a team of people and now they are working alone, making decisions alone and not seeing people. That is itself is difficult, but avoid just going to meetings for the opportunity to meet someone or recruiting someone because you want someone with you.

In summary, What is business networking?

There are many networking opportunities. So much so that someone once said to us that they could attend a networking meeting most breakfast, lunch and evening time! However business networking is not about the next full English breakfast and effective networking for your business can perhaps be achieved without ever attending an event.Break down the word 'NETWORKING' and you have some of the answers already.

Networking - identify a network of contacts and business influencers that can truly impact your business (eg they will buy from you, they will refer others to you, they have a synergy to work with you, they sell to the same market)

Networking - cast a net and capture your contacts with the objective to convert them from a nice to know contact to an advocate of your business

Networking - proactively work on building the relationships and making regular contact

Networking - if you get networking right, it can be the cost effective king of your marketing strategy

Time Management and knowing the basics

Do we really know the full extent of what we are trying to manage?
Many people we work with identify the need to manage things such as work for their customers, their emails, their travel time and the day to day administration. However only a few consider those small things that eat into our precious time.
Remember we only have 7 days a week, 24 hours a day to choose what we want to do. Once it has passed it has gone forever.
Some say they would not have the time, but we recommend keeping a daily time log for at least two weeks and logging every minute of your day. What did you really do. Then analyse the period and identify the true activities that need your time management focus.
Without such knowledge, it is then difficult to plan for the obvious without the time getting hijacked by another unforeseen activity.
This may also highlight areas where you may be undercharging or activities you can delegate or outsource.

Business Start Up DVD

In partnership with Concept Filming A1 has launched a new DVD on the topic of Starting your own business.
I have been asked to present much of the content on the DVD, a must know guide, which includes all the important 
considerations of starting a business including

SYOB DVD cover sample
  • The Initial Considerations
  • Foundations for your Business
  • Finance
  • Your Product or Service
  • Marketing and Sales
  • Employing People
  • Customer Service

For more details and a trailer, please see 

Do you need a speaker for your event

The type of topics that I have been asked to speak about are:

  • Time management – gain control of your daily activity
  • How to win your ideal clients – your marketing strategy and tactics
  • Social media – should I be using and tips to set up your LinkedIn profile
  • Making your financial numbers work for you
  • Designing a business that works
  • The 7 systemised steps to business growth
  • The must know guide to starting your own business
  • First Aid skills

If you would like me to speak at your event, then please contact him by clicking here

Invited to speak at the Bookkeepers conference in London

Last year, I gave a presentation to the conference of the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers on the subject of Marketing your practice. 
This was well received and I am delighted to have been invited back to speak again at the 2012 event in London during November.
This year I will be speaking on the 7 steps of effective business growth.

How does this local entrepreneur manage so many hats?

Under Mike Foster’s leadership A1 since it was established in 1999 is certainly living proof that diversification doesn’t dilute a company’s effectiveness, but rather enhances and strengthens it.

To read the full article in the recent B4 magazine, then please click here

Business Start Up DVD

I am delighted and proud to have been asked to co produce and present a new business start up DVD.

Concept Filming in Oxfordshire approached me to be involved in a product that delivered the content of a practical business start up guide, but as a DVD instead of the usual book or web site content.

I hope you enjoy the DVD as much as we had bringing it together.