Friday, September 28, 2012

“I’m not a Salesperson” but I need more sales! 5 Questions to ask that will increase your sales.

We all want more sales, and one of the best tried and true (and easiest) ways to increase your income and expand your business is to start with your current clients.  Happy clients are great sources of additional sales and referrals and it can take up to twice as much time and energy getting a new client.  Growing and expanding your relationship with your clients will increase your sales.  Plus repeat clients will spend 33% more than new customers.  So what do you say to expand your repertoire with your clients?  Here are 5 questions you can ask that will increase your sales with your clients:

1. “What are some of your Priorities today?”
Feel free to expand on this in a specific way targeted to your area of expertise.  For example if you are now offering web services or want to increase your sales by offering social media marketing you could say, “What are some of your priorities around your Website?” or “What are some your priorities around Social Media today?”

This will get them talking.  Ideally they will respond with something to the effect of, “oh, I’ve been really meaning to get into that, but don’t have the time….” BINGO you have an in to introduce your service and expand your sales.  In the event that they do not need Social Media, follow up by asking, “Great!  Who do you know that might be in need of help?”  they may respond with, “hmmm, I don’t know”.  Feel free to give them some examples of clients you have to spark their memory (Real Estate agents, Law Firms, Coaches, Speakers, etc).

2. “What challenges might you have around...”
Understanding your client’s challenges and what they are facing in their business will begin to differentiate you and your services.  Clients will begin to look at you as more than just a VA that sometimes provides administrative services, you will become an extension of their strategy team, if your are not already, and upscale their perception of you and your services in their eyes.

3. “What would you ideally like to ….” 
Everyone had an ideal of what they want their business to be.  Ask your clients this question and see what they say, it might just surprise you how honest and direct they are and how much the open up to you.  Typical answers can include quick responses such as, “I’d ideally like to make a million dollars, or have a day off”  Either way, you’re in.  Ask more questions, be genuinely interested and find a service you offer that will help them achieve that idea.
4. “Tell me about the impact it would have on your business if you could….”
I love impact questions.  Impact to me means money, or ROI.  Helping your clients calculate the ROI or talk money with you is a great thing.  Articulating what impact means to them will not only help you understand more about them and their business, it will help you position the value of your services even more.  This is especially true when the service you want to offer is more expensive than what they’ve typically paid in the past.

Remember, you may have to help them put the numbers together in this area.  For example if you ask about the impact it would have on their business if they could delegate their Social Media to someone else and they respond that it would give them an extra 10 hours a week follow up with a question about what they would do with that time.
Then ask what the value of that time means to them. If you can get a monetary number from them; that would be even better.  Feel free to share examples of other clients you have and their experiences with you and how much money they saved, or made, by using your new Social Media service.
5. Finally, last but not least, ask additional follow up questions.
This will give you more credibility and expand your knowledge of what is important to them.  Just asking one question is great, asking several questions and taking notes, is even better. It shows you’re listening and care about their business. Sample follow up questions would be: “Tell me more about that?”  “What are your ideas on?”  “Define for me ______” “Give me some examples of_______”

So the next time you give your client a call to “check in”, be sure to ask them one or even two or three of these questions.  By asking them to elaborate you are interacting with them on a whole new level and will greatly increase your sales effectiveness, even though of course, you are not a sales person…right?

Oh and by the way, this is a great way to build new clients too.  When you’re interacting with potential clients whether on twitter, facebook, or email, asking questions is great way to begin to build a relationship with them and learn more about their business.

Thanks for reading!  Until next time...

This article was originally published in the July 2012 issue of the Paperless Entrepreneur you can read it in context HERE

Friday, September 21, 2012

Marketing Ideas for Your Small Business

Recently a client asked me to put together a few strategic marketing ideas for their restaurant business that was aligned to their growth goals.  So this week I thought it might be interesting to share with you some of the ideas we discussed.  Now in this particular situation the client owns a restaurant and I've decided to include that detail since I think it provides a good example, but it could easily be adapted to your own small business goals.

Whenever I start a new project, I always begin with the goal.  In this case, the goal was to create a plan for a attracting new customers (25-40 year old set) who are more cutting edge and using social media.  A lot of this stuff can easily be automated in a cloud-based virtual solution so don't get overwhelmed.  It also should be pointed out that the customer already has a website, Facebook Page and Twitter account, all key components in my mind for an effective and well rounded strategy.  Here are a the ideas we discussed:

Create a Newsletter or Blog

In this case they had a pretty big email list, but no newsletter.  Even if you don't have a list yet, it's easy to build one and a great way to stay in touch with your customers and keep them coming back.  Ideally a newsletter or blog should be done once a week. The 25-40 year old set likes communication to be more personal these days (that’s why they are all “hanging out” on Facebook) so include a recipe “secret”, quote from a happy customer, birthday information, and what's happening in and around town.  All the content you create for your website and newsletter can then be repurposed and used on Facebook and Twitter.

Maximize the use of Facebook

Post any videos you have to your Facebook fan page and ask for comments.  Ask customers that come in to “like” your page.  When people "Like" your Facebook page, they are alerted to your updates via their news feeds.  You can also explore expanding your fan base using Facebook ads.  I would also recommend creating a “hidden” secret in the commercial or video for them to watch for (e.g. "what color is our signature drink”) when they come in the restaurant with the answer their name goes in for a drawing, winners can be posted via twitter, Facebook, on the blog or newsletter, etc.

Create automated updates across all your accounts.  Connect to your Facebook page from your newsletter, you newsletter to your website, from Facebook to twitter.  You get the idea.  All should be tightly integrated so as you update one with the daily specials, birthdays, etc. it can automatically post to all the others.

Maximize the use of Twitter:

Tweet your nightly/weekly specials (if you aren’t already).  Tweet interesting things happening in in and around town, such as  new movies, concerts, interesting happenings.  Become the center of information for the community.  Check and make sure your Twitter handle is on your website, Facebook page, newsletter, displayed in the restaurant menu, put it on the televisions in the bar, etc.

There are some good rules of thumb to use for Twitter that build value, a relationship and a good following.  Here are a few that you can incorporate in addition to sharing your own information about daily specials, birthdays, your blog or newsletter and other relevant information.  Remember many can be streamlined using technology and other resources, you do not have to do all this yourself and it could easily be outsourced to a virtual assistant team.

  • Reply to someone else’s tweet
  • Re-Tweet good information
  • Post inspiration or quote
  • Post an “a-ha” resource
  • Share a link to another great resource, blog post or website

Develop Email Campaigns

Developing email campaigns is easy and can also be automated, you probably already have the content developed for advertising elsewhere, it just needs to be adapted for email.  Any advertising you are doing in local magazines, tv, radio can be repurposed and sent via email along with a newsletter, blog, recipe of the week, birthday days, specials…you get the idea.

That's it!  I hope you got some good ideas for putting together your own strategic marketing plan, as always we are here to help.  Feel free to share your comments, and I'd love to hear your thoughts...

Until next time,

Friday, September 14, 2012

Ten GREAT Ideas On How To Use Evernote For Your Small Business

1. Paperless. Going Green has never been easier!  If you use this solution creatively you may never use a paper and pen again. Type away into Evernote instead of taking notes, or if you do fall off the wagon and find yourself taking some handwritten notes, scan them into the software, where the words can be recognized for indexing purposes.

2. Storage. Evernote provides you with a unique e-mail address, so when you receive document attachments that you need to reference from time to time, or when travelling on business, forward them to the e-mail address.

3. Watchdog. If you designate a specific folder on your computer as your "work in progress" for example, Evernote can keep an eye on that folder. Whenever any recognized file formats are inserted therein, they will be automatically uploaded to your account. This means that they will be available on various devices and off-line if needed.

4. Planning. When you're starting to work on a potentially challenging and multifaceted project you simply have to be organized right from the start. If you create a stack of notebooks within Evernote, you can categorize different tasks and responsibilities into the various notebooks. Tag keywords carefully and methodically and you should never experience project "brain freeze" ever again.

5. Doodle. If you want to commit an idea that just popped into your head to virtual memory then you can use the facility within Evernote known as the "ink" note. You can sketch onto the tablet using a variety of different colours and formats. The next multimillion dollar idea doesn't need to be on the back of a napkin, even if that makes a good story.

6. Brainstorm. Collaborate with your cloud-based virtual solutions team to come up with ideas for new ventures, projects, client relationship management and so on. When you find resources online you shouldn't bookmark them to your browser or local machine but do create an instant link or screen grab here. Keep all this in your research section.

7. Snap. Because a picture tells a thousand words get used to the idea of snapping away with your iPhone or iPad whenever you see something relevant or inspirational. The app that enables you to upload these pictures directly to your Evernote account with ease.

8. Tweet. There is integration between Twitter and Evernote, enabling you to capture tweets that are important, memorable and enabling you to create your own archive.

9. List. Evernote has a checkbox feature. Therefore, you can create any number of lists including daily "to do" lists. As you complete you are able to check them off and move on to the next pressing issue.  A must have for any small business!

10. A-ha. You never know when your next inspirational brainwave is going to hit. The chances are that you will have access to a mobile device of some kind when it does. Commit it to virtual memory right away, safe in the cloud for anytime access, as this is sure to be the brainwave that pays for your upcoming retirement, is it not?

Until next time,

Friday, September 7, 2012

What is A Virtual Assistant? Probably More Than You Think

There's definitely more to a Virtual Assistant than you might think.  Have you ever found the process of recruiting somebody to help you in your business a daunting or difficult task?  Even in a hiring environment that is so densely populated with people who find themselves to be newly unemployed, the task of finding somebody "good" is like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.

If you are a really focused individual, one who knows exactly what he or she wants in life, is dynamic, proactive and driven, you represent gold to the business owner. It is truly quite amazing that the majority of people who are applying for these jobs just do not fall into this category.

When you are in business, whether it is an online business or and offline small business, you probably tend to surround yourself with people who are driven in this way. They may not share your entire vision in exactly the same way as you do, but they should nevertheless “buy into” what your company represents and must be able to contribute to its long-term viability and growth. It's a business owner’s dream to be surrounded by people who are motivated, self-starters and who instinctively know exactly what to do in any given moment of crisis.

While finding staff at the executive level to help head various departments or roll out new ventures may be one thing, we should never underestimate the importance of finding staff that can help us with the day-to-day tasks within our business. While there may be less at stake here, these individuals nevertheless contribute to the greater good of the company. Without their focused and well delivered effort, the small business is likely to flounder.

It’s unfortunately true that many would-be employees still view their employment as a means to an end. They may be in fact relatively good at what they do, but they're not inspired and not likely to seize an initiative should it be needed. For example, if there were a better way of doing a particular task, a really good and forward thinking employee might suggest it and know how to implement it. Unfortunately, this kind of employee seems to be few and far between.

This is a good reason why business owners should consider outsourcing to a virtual assistant.  Many of these positions can easily be handled by virtual assistants. You see, a virtual assistant is invariably a small business owner him or herself and knows full well what it takes to drive the business forward proactively. The virtual assistant can become not only someone who takes on, very cost-effectively and efficiently, many of those outsourced tasks, but could also become a valuable partner, advisor and someone who contributes in many more ways than one to the business growth.

Next time you complain about the lack of star quality among potential new recruits, consider outsourcing that particular position to a contributory virtual assistant. You will find that not only will the associated task be completed carefully, correctly, on time and within budget, but you may well be able to draw on the experience of the Virtual Assistant to help you further consolidate.

As always, we are here to help.

Until next time,


Feel free to look up our Virtual Assistant Services on Thumbtack