We’re not from the government but we ARE here to help!

The Fremont Group is a non-profit organization with the mission to support small business owners.  Persons who are familiar with SCORE, an agency established by the SBA to do much the same, is therefore familiar with us—with one difference.  The Fremont Group can stay with you and provide much more intensive assistance than SCORE.  To meet us, try a customize webinar.  Contact us and together we will pick an issue.  The issue could range from sales and marketing, to operations, to employee productivity, to cash flow forecasting, to creating and using your budget.  Then we will develop a webinar customized for you to address this issue.  Like what you hear and we can come in for a day and do a Business Assessment creating an Action Plan to take you to your next level.  Best of all—the webinar is free!  We want to help you—let us!  Give us a call at 303 338  9300 today to talk about it—talk is cheap!

How to Sell on Value Rather Than Price

Don’t want to compromise on price? Experts explain how to stay competitive based on the value of your product or service to consumers.

By Tim Donnelly | Jul 20, 2011

In a famous video clip from Penn and Teller’s Showtime hidden camera show, diners are lured to an upscale restaurant branded as the world’s first boutique vendor of bottled water. A water steward presents each table with a menu discussing the finer qualities of water purportedly shipped in from mountains and streams all over the world, some of which cost as much as $8 a bottle.

Of course, the joke is on the customers because all the water actually came from the garden hose out back, but the message was clear: People are willing to pay more for a product if they think it gives them a truly special or significant value—and if you present it to them in just the right way.

Your company is probably selling a stuff that’s a lot more valuable than fancied-up hose water. Selling on value, not price, involves a balance of confidence, personal rapport, and doing your homework, and it’s become more difficult as technology gives consumers greater access to price information and competitors. We’ve talked with veterans of selling their value, and they share some tips on how to make your products stand out in a low-cost world.

Choose Your Targets Wisely

New companies often make one fatal mistake that forces them to compromise on price, says Barry Farber, a business consultant who has worked with American Airlines, AT&T and BMW, and author of more than 11 books on sales. Companies don’t narrow their target market, and don’t understand their products likely aren’t for everyone.

Farber says to do this by researching the potential client to see if they are a good candidate to meet your price needs. This saves you from wasting time talking to people who only want the cheapest deal.

“Some sales people, they just make sure the prospect is breathing and then they dump all this info on them,” he says. “That’s not a good return on your investment of your time. Sales reps that don’t have that kind of aggressive focus, if they lose [the deal], their month is dead, their year is dead.”

Nat Kausik, CEO of Trubates, an online marketplace for adjustable local deals, says his company knows that many consumers are familiar with the nature of value-based pricing, especially after dealing with fluctuating airplane fares. The right customers will be receptive to hearing why they should pay more for a certain product over another: That’s why his site lets users review an offer after they redeem it, and makes the review available to other users.

“Consumers, they’re very sophisticated,” he says. “They understand how to explore price for value.”

About one-third of consumers are purely hung up on price, while the other two-thirds are open to at least hearing your argument, says Tom Reilly, an author and value-based shopping expert. Innovators and early adopters are more likely to shell out the extra money, he says.

“Be crystal clear whom the market segment is that you’re designing for,” he says.

Leverage Your Strengths and Experience

Once you’re in the sales meeting with a potential client, you had better be ready to stiffen your backbone and wield the full weight of your company’s strengths. This comes largely from sales skills, but you can prepare your team by educating them on how your company stands out.

“It’s almost embarrassing at times the way people don’t understand all the ways they bring value,” Reilly says.

You should also be telling the potential client or customers about the history of the company, which helps build confidence in the product. Build up your success stories by documenting testimonials from past successes and showing them off to future opportunities.

“Be able to successfully use your customers as your sales people,” Farber says.

Orwak, a company that supplies waste compactors, baling systems, and other recycling equipment, emphasizes its value thanks to its trans-continental reach. Based in Europe, the company has seen recycling grow leaps and bounds ahead of the United States over the past 40 years. Its sales team pitches its products as a way to help companies stay ahead of the recycling curve.

“We try to sell it as, ‘Hey we’ve been there, done that. Let’s look at Europe, that’s the future of America,'” says Mark Lanning, Orwak’s national sales manager. “We’re going to give you a little peek at the future from our experience.”

Know That Confidence is Key

When you’re highlighting the value of a product over cheaper competitors, you shouldn’t be vacillating on price or negotiating. Reilly says to avoid words and phrases that suggest flexibility, things like saying “generally, we charge” or “your price.”

“The time not to show a lack of conviction is when you’re asking people for money,” he says.

Drop the price without hesitation and without getting defensive, he says.

It is the time, however, to mention the advantages you bring to market: global sourcing, logistic support programs and other things that go beyond the features of a single product or service, Reilly says.

You can be confident without dragging your competitors through the dirt, Farber says. Highlight why your product’s value is worth their consideration over lower-price options.

“The most critical thing an entrepreneur needs more than anything else is confidence,” he says. “If that’s missing, I don’t care if you have a plan and all that stuff, you’re dead in the water. You can lose your edge right away, and selling value becomes 10 times more difficult.”

Emphasize Your Customer Service

The toughest job selling value to customers is getting them to picture the full depth and breadth of everything your company has to offer.

Lanning says his company likes to talk about more than just the product, as comparing balers can feel like just comparing one hunk of steel to another. Customers now expect a quick response time, an ease of use and the feeling that you care about them.

“It’s easier to paint the picture about service than a hard object,” he says.

Farber advises people to foucs on personal touches and developing a rapport with the client by getting to know their needs and business background.

“I’m a big believer of handwritten thank you notes,” he says.

Often the customers who are obsessed with finding the lowest price turn into the biggest headaches, he says. But the customers that see your value understand you’ll be there to provide customer service.

Make sure to keep providing good service throughout the lifespan of the customer, which will let you pile up those customer testimonials you can use to show future clients why you provide the right value.

“Value is always long term,” Reilly says. “Price is short term.”

Reprinted from INC MAGAZINE

Are you still trying to sell like it’s 1999?

The world is changing. Are you positioning yourself in front of the curve or behind it?

We have all heard about the information age. We all bought computers and created web sites and figured out how to use email. Then we waited; and waited for the great change that was predicted. Finally we decided that we have waited long enough and this great change that was predicted was nothing but hype. Sure we now have to move faster and we have to spend additional time filtering out the spam from the email we have to answer but in general the predicted change was a dud. Or was it?

Companies began to assume that if they were not technical firms, the information age had merely improved their accounting and reporting while changing the way we communicate. But what about our customers? How have these changes impacted the needs and wants of our customers? The value added of the information has dropped as it has become more of a commodity. Our clients will pay for a relationship with an outside expert who can help them work through issues and provide perspective. In other words, they are willing to pay for the expertise but not for the information. This same metamorphosis is now apparent in places you would never expect—construction, services, and many other small businesses.

As we have counseled thousands of firms, your first responsibility in building a sales plan is to identify your USP—unique selling proposal. Identify in 25 words or less what is unique about your business that should cause a customer to buy from you instead of from a competitor. That USP is what you should be selling. The advice has never been timelier. The explosion of information available to your customers has “commoditized” many things that were formerly unique. Commodities are price-sensitive and carry lower margins. Small businesses cannot compete on a commodity basis.

The sales efforts of small businesses go through three stages. The first stage is the Survival Stage. In the Survival Stage business is attracted by price and the ubiquitous claim of Quality. Ask these people for their USP and the first thing out of their mouth is “price” and “quality.” There are two problems with this response: first, building your company around price is a recipe for disaster; second, “quality” is claimed by everyone and therefore has no meaning in the marketplace. These companies must learn to sell without selling price and they must more clearly define “quality” and sell that from the customer’s perception—not their own.

The second stage is for companies that are established in the marketplace and are now in a growth mode. This we call the Growth Stage. These firms tend to use phrases that focus upon their customers—“customer first” or “we treat our customers better” are recited. They have learned to sell without selling price and understand that their USP has to focus upon the customer rather than themselves. You can reach this level and have a comfortable existence, but it does not take you to your full potential. That is reached at the third stage.

The third stage is a complete shift. At this stage customers come to you. You attract more “negotiated” work. You are able to increase both your volume and your margins. You now control your volume through your margins. This is the Market Leader Stage. The Market Leader Stage has been greatly affected by the information age. In our current environment the requirements of this stage have shifted. What was formerly the distinguishing “value-added” that moved firms to this level have become commoditized. The internet has created commodities out of many functions that were formerly the highly sought value-added. To reach this level you have to understand what you are selling.

Almost without exception, the product of all firms in the Market Leader Stage is the ability to solve the problems of their customers. You no longer are selling the hardware or the service, you now recognize that you are in the business of solving the problems of your customers. To accomplish this there is a sequence of realizations which must be reached:

1. Who are your real customers and what are your customer’s problems? When was the last time you asked them? It is no longer “all about you.” It has to become “all about them.”

2. What will solve their problems? This might require going beyond your current products—is it a “turnkey” approach? Is it a billing or invoicing change? Is it financing? You better find out.

3. Combine this solution with expertise. You need to become the place where your customers go for answers. You become who they turn to for information—advances in advances in technology or advice in unique information.

4. Lastly you must adapt your sales and marketing to this level.

We are in the information age and we have to take advantage of it. This does not mean gimmicks or making simple things complicated. It does mean being the information source for your customers. Through a series of exercises we help you move your organization to that “next level” but, true to our focus, our “value-added” is the facilitation of the change. You don’t need consulting to get there. Consulting would write up the systems, procedures and controls for you—coaching causes you to do it yourself. Isn’t the information age fun?

Changing 2011 – Sales

Contributed from an email received from Inc Magazine—full link: http://www.inc.com/articles/201101/are-you-a-schmoozer-or-a-closer.html?partner=newsletter_Sales

Are You a Schmoozer or a Closer?

To bring in big business, you need two distinct types of personalities. Part of the trick is figuring out which one you are.

By John Warrillow@JohnWarrillow | Jan 26, 2011

I’m guessing you generate the lion’s share of the revenue for your company. But have you ever stopped to think about your selling style? I have found that company owners tend to be either schmoozers or closers. Being a good schmoozer can undermine your closing ability, so knowing which one you are can reveal who your next hire should be.

The schmoozer

A schmoozer is a front person for a company. Usually thought leaders, schmoozers are good at glad-handing customers, making people feel loved. They remember customers by name and ask them about their lives. They are both door openers and door warmers.

The closer

To be effective, a schmoozer needs to hand opportunities to a closer. The closer, understanding a customer’s needs in detail, exposes a problem—often to the point of discomfort for the prospect—and proposes a solution. Closers may be friendly but rarely become friends with customers, keeping their distance to retain their bargaining position in a negotiation.

A good schmoozer needs to remain everybody’s friend—keeping things light and informal, smoothing over the rough edges of a commercial relationship. A good closer, on the other hand, needs to know how to ratchet up the pressure in a negotiation, applying just the right amount of leverage to get a customer to decide without turning them off. If a schmoozer is the grease, the closer is the crowbar.

I don’t think a founder can be—or should be—both a schmoozer and a closer. You have to decide your role and hire for the other. For example, Don Tapscott, co-author of Paradigm Shift, Wikinomics and the 2010 bestseller, Macrowikinomics, built his former company, New Paradigm, with the help of Joan Bigham, his second-in-command, who is a pure salesperson.

“(A salesperson) is an amazing kind of person actually,” he says. “They view ‘no’ as information, and they never take it personally. Someone says, ‘I have no interest in what you’re doing,’ and she says, ‘Great—now we’re engaged in a conversation.’ Most people are not really salespeople. They take stuff too personally. (They think), ‘You don’t like me, you don’t like my company, I’m a failure.’ A consummate salesperson thinks very dispassionately and strategically about the selling process.”

Tapscott, the schmoozer, explains the interplay between his role and that of his closer: “I make rain at a very high level. I need someone to use that to help the garden grow – to plant the seeds, to nourish them and fertilize them and get real value. It’s one thing for someone to say, ‘Gee, what Tapscott does is really interesting, and I think it could be important to our company,’ and it’s another thing for them to sign on the line to spend a few hundred thousand dollars per year to get some good insights.”

Tapscott was able to sell New Paradigm three years ago in part because he had segregated the role of schmoozer and closer so well. He agreed to continue to be a rainmaker for New Paradigm, now called Moxie Insight, for five years. Today, Tapscott’s books and speeches continue to unearth leads, but he’s not closing; he’s schmoozing.

So are you the schmoozer or the closer?

The Fremont Business Operating System

Small business owners wear a number of hats. Often they are the head of sales, head of human resources, CEO, CFO, COO, janitor—the list goes on. In most instances their excellence in the technical aspects of their business shines through but often that excellence is not reflected in other areas creating a need for the use of professional assistance. Management Consultants can provide coaching, mentoring and consulting services that increase profitability and decrease stress; attorneys provide legal advice that keeps you out of legal problems; accountants keep you abreast of changes in tax law and structure your business to minimize tax risk; HR professionals keep your manuals up-to-date and in compliance with the law; insurance professionals can minimize your risk; Sales and other professionals put on training seminars to improve your skills; and IT professionals can keep your systems running and put together software packages that optimize your sales and your management. But who can afford all that? You can.

The Fremont Business Operating System combines all of these services. The cornerstone of the system is a local, business management consultant. Their time is leveraged with software and memberships, with assistance from attorneys, accountants, insurance agents, IT professionals, and the staff of The Fremont Group. Through this unique process, small business owners receive a comprehensive package of services for a fixed rate per month—generally less than the cost of a single employee. And they also receive the Fremont Guarantee—if you aren’t satisfied, you don’t pay.

The Fremont Group is a non-profit organization dedicated to furthering the abilities of small-business owners. We find owners who want to change and then help them accomplish their goals. After a determination of your needs, a package of services is developed that matches those needs and The Fremont Business Operating System does the rest. The Fremont Group matches you to a local consultant and oversees the work. All services are provided by affiliated professionals who have been trained by The Fremont Group and agree to work within our Code of Ethics and up to our stringent standards. Hundreds of software programs and products have been reviewed and those selected to be included in the system are those that increase the efficiency of the consultants, and are used by The Fremont Group themselves.

If you are a business owner who wants to change—give us a call. It could be the most important call you ever make. 303 338 9300

Using Social Media For Your Company

Inc Magazine has published the following article at: http://www.inc.com/guides/2010/07/how-to-make-a-social-media-marketing-strategy.html?partner=newsletter_Success

4 Ways to Master Social Media Marketing

Real-world examples of employing the best tactics to engage, enthrall, and expand your customer base online (without looking like a jerk).

By Michael Mothner |  Jul 30, 2010

More than one in six marriages over the past three years were the result of relationships begun online, a recent study on social media and dating behavior found. When so many people are turning to the Internet to find soul mates, you can rest assured they are looking online for everything else – from their next pair of Oakleys to a new optometrist – and if you are a business seeking customers, you are well-advised to look online, too. You’ve heard it before: Social media is no longer an option; it’s a necessity.

Nielsen recently published a study stating that 79 percent of large corporations are leveraging social media to engage their audience, and they are using innovative ways to build buzz, establish relationships, foster communication, improve products, and cultivate long-term brand awareness and consumer trust.

It doesen’t matter whether you’re a seasoned producer of award-winning viral campaigns or are just learning how to create a Facebook profile. The beauty of social media is that you don’t need experience; you only need to learn a few basic rules. Social media is not so much a new idea as it is a way to communicate ideas, and the nature of a good idea hasn’t changed. The same marketing principles from 50 years ago apply today; they are simply communicated in a different way.

Creating a Social Media Strategy: How to Approach a Building an Online Campaign

Social media is ultimately about relationships. It should be viewed as a two-way street. As a brand, you aren’t there to promote a product, you are there to communicate and relate. If you approach social media with sales as your end goal, your audience will notice and, most likely, you will be ignored.

On the other hand, if you offer your audience something of value, and your message is genuine, aka you aren’t faking it, consumers are inclined to listen. Offer users engaging content, helpful information, streamlined customer service, or incentives like discounts and free gifts consistently, and you have the makings of a healthy long-term relationship with a brand ambassador willing to sing your praises to the world.

From that point on, as long as you pull your weight by keeping your message consistent, authentic and meaningful, consumers tend to stay loyal and express that in revenue generated over time and positive word-of-mouth expressed among their peers. That’s the real return on social media.

Dig Deeper: How to Use Social Media for B2B Marketing

Creating a Social Media Strategy:
The Companies Behind Four Great Social-Media Promotions

The basic principles behind a successful social-media campaign – engaging content and authenticity – apply whether you are launching a celebrity-driven viral campaign or a simple online contest to drive website traffic. Designing the campaign, from concept to content to delivery, is where you can be creative; to design a good one requires careful analysis of your goals and your target audience’s behavior in order to deliver a message that engages in the most effective and interesting way possible.

Still, even with so many variables, most successful social media campaigns are modeled after prototypes that employ proven promotional tactics and conventional marketing psychology. The challenge is not so much in the concept, but rather in its execution.

Seem complicated? In the following real-world examples, we will explore how you can win in the social media marketing game – no matter what you are selling and to whom.

1. Raise brand awareness by hosting an online game or contest.

When trendy women’s shoe designer Naughty Monkey approached my consulting company Wpromote, there was already a positive buzz surrounding the brand.  Their shoes peppered fashion magazines.  However, Naughty Monkey had only a limited reach, so capitalizing on the existing buzz by building a social media presence made perfect sense.

The concept was simple. In a “Where have your Naughty Monkey’s Been?” contest, users were asked to submit pictures of themselves in interesting locations wearing their Naughty Monkey shoes. Users voted for their favorite pictures and the winners received a year’s supply of Naughty Monkey shoes.

The result? Thousands of new Facebook fans, tens of thousands of engaged users, an established social-media presence, and the creation of many valuable brand evangelists for the up-and-coming fashion footwear label.

2. Drive valuable traffic to your social network with a free giveaway.

If designing and executing an online game or contest seems daunting, you can always go back to basics and appeal to a universal human truth: People love free stuff.

When ScanDigital, my online photo scanning and video digitization service, wanted to build a fan base and drive user engagement via Facebook, we used its monthly newsletter to promote a simple game akin to the bar classic Photo Hunt.  In the newsletter, two subtly different pictures were featured, and the first groups of users who identified and posted the differences on Facebook received a $25 ScanDigital gift card.ScanDigital acquired more Facebook fans than ever before – or since.

In a similar promotion, VeeV Vodka, an acaí berry-infused spirit, found a creative way to make use of extra canvas tote bags sitting around their office. Rather than stuff the bags in a storage closet, VeeV used the bags as prizes in a contest designed to drive user engagement on Facebook.

To win a tote bag, users were asked to post pictures of themselves drinking VeeV on the brand’s Facebook page, a relatively easy request considering the number of drinking photos on Facebook. Needless to say, the canvas tote bags went like hotcakes, and brand awareness increased exponentially. The cost? A less cluttered office for the folks at VeeV.

3. Grow consumer loyalty by giving consumers a stake in your brand.

When Vitamin Water decided to launch a new flavor, it ditched the focus groups and branding experts and turned to social networks.  Throughout the summer of 2009, Vitamin Water engaged and grew its Facebook fan base by soliciting ideas from users regarding the name and packaging for the new flavor.

More than one million fans participated in the contest, and celebrities were engaged via video clips to spur interest. In the end, when “Connect,” the new Vitamin Water flavor, hit the shelves, there were a million potential buyers on the market far more likely to pick up a bottle than they had been before interacting with the contest.

4. Build brand equity by aligning with a higher purpose.

It feels good to do good, and if you can inspire others to follow suit, even better. Toms Shoes has made it its mission to give a pair of shoes to a child in a developing nation for every pair sold. To maximize its contribution, Toms.com prompts users who buy shoes online to share news of their purchase on Facebook when the sale is complete.

It’s not surprising that Toms’s messaging strategy works as well as it does. When I buy a book from Amazon or add a movie to my Netflix queue, I have little interest in alerting the people in my life. If you ask me to alert them about something charitable I’ve done, my interest piques.

When I purchase a pair of Toms online, not only do I want to brag about my good deed, I also want to encourage friends to follow suit. Toms wins by making it easy for me, and anyone else, to do just that.

Dig Deeper: How to Write a Social Media Policy

Creating a Social Media Strategy: Tying It All Together

When we sit down with executives of large companies and the topic of social media comes up, a collective groan ensues. What if they don’t like our product? What about damage control? We need to control our message! And so on.
What’s the bottom line for brands worried about getting social media wrong? The train is leaving the station with or without you. Conversations about your brand are going to happen, regardless of whether you choose to take part. Don’t sit on the sidelines. Embrace the conversation and engage.

Even if you take nothing else from this article, allow me to leave you with this: when it comes to social media, remember the golden rule. If you would be put off by a promotional tactic, your audience probably wouldn’t like it, and if you find something so exciting you want to share it with all your friends, there’s a good chance your audience will, too. Use common sense, and remember that social media networks mirror how we interact in the real world.

Similar social rules apply. In other words, don’t be a jerk.

“LLBEAN” YOUR BUSINESS

On-line retailers understand that providing the resources to constantly handle customer calls would be cost prohibitive. They also understand that many people have a fear of the internet and once an order is placed they are anxious to know that the order has been received and is in the process of being filled—they want assurance that they have not just sent their money off into “never-never land!” Combining these truths has led to a result that all of us have encountered: you place your order and immediately a confirmation email arrives; the order is being processed and another email arrives; the order is being shipped (or back ordered) and yet another email arrives. These emails have the functional purpose of eliminating the need for the customer to keep calling to ask the status of the order and giving the purchaser a comfort level in knowing that they haven’t been forgotten.

What can your business learn from this? In today’s market every advantage has to be utilized. You must go the extra step in customer service in order to get the sale. So why not “LLBean” your business? The Fremont Group works with their clients to establish a system where emails are sent to your clients every time you “touch” the client’s folder. Working with our recommended CRM software, Highrise (see right panel of this page), we create client records of every activity that takes place on a client’s folder. Entries are made by sending emails to the client which are then recorded in the clients “Contact” record. For example: a landscape company meets with a potential client—email is sent to client thanking them for the meeting and summarizing the discussions. The email is then in the record. The Project Manager does some preliminary drawings—email is sent to client indicated that work has begun on the file and asking a few questions about loose ends. The meeting for the final take-off and pricing is scheduled internally—an email goes to the client telling them when this will take place and when they can expect to have the bid. Two bids are prepared giving the client a choice and are transmitted by email so they are also in the client record.

These emails keep the client completely in the loop. They separate you from your competitors. The more communication there is between you and the client, the more likely you are to win the contract. And providing multiple bids allows the client to choose between your two bids rather than between you and a competitor.

The implementation of Highrise also allows anyone who answers the phone when the client calls to have all of the latest information in front of them in a keystroke and allows that person to know exactly what has been said to the client at all times significantly increasing the quality of your customer relations.

“LLBean” your business through the use of Highrise to increase your sales and make your life easier. For more information about this sales system or about the use of Highrise as a Customer Relations Management System, contact The Fremont Group at 303 338 9300.

Your most valuable asset

In these slow recovering times increasing sales revenue is on the mind of every small business owner.  Unfortunately most small business owners have never had to focus upon sales and marketing.  Their sales plan consisted of little more than answering the phone.  No, when desperate, they try things that they have never done before—mailings, radio, tv, print advertising, and many other things that they have never had to do before.  Unfortunately they all seem to miss the utilization of their most valuable asset—their customer list.

Continue reading

Want to improve your sales?

Follow these rules to improve your sales:

  1. No one will care what you say until they believe that that you care.  You must first prove to your client that you care about them.  They already know that you care about yourself and you care about what you are selling but they must also be convinced that you care about them.  How do you establish that you care about them?  By asking questions.  The more questions that you ask about them the better.  Trust is developed when a person thinks that you care so the more that you can get them to talk, the more trust.  The more trust the more likely the sale.  Therefore your first rule is no attempt to sell should be made until you have questioned them to the point that they believe that you care about them and understand their problems.
  2. People run from pain faster than they run to pleasure.  Find the pain.  Find it through your questions.
  3. Run the pain funnel.  Once pain has been identified ask this series of questions:
    1. What effect has this had on your business?
    2. What effect has this had on you personally?
    3. How long has this situation existed?
    4. What have you done to fix it?
    5. Why hasn’t it worked?
    6. How open-minded are you to a solution?
    7. How committed are you to fixing the problem?
    8. When do you want to see a solution?
  4. Now you can talk about me.  You cannot talk about yourself until you have gone through the first three steps.  Now when you talk about me you can do so to show the benefit of working with you.

These rules must be followed in every industry and in every sale.  Sometimes this process can take weeks—months—and other times they are done in five minutes.  Sometimes they are done in writing—most times face-to-face.  People still buy from people and by following this process you will increase your sales.