Posts Tagged ‘business tips’

Mondays with Mike: Make Reverse Psychology Work For You!

11-9 reverse psychology smallLet’s face it:  we’re all barraged by marketing, brand impressions, and attempts to separate us from our money – pretty much constantly.  We’re practically immune to high-pressure sales tactics, and we no longer believe the QVC hosts when they tell us to “Hurry.  Time is running out.” 

But we’re business owners.  We have goods and services to market.  How can we appeal to prospective customers without looking like we’re trying too hard?  The answer is reverse psychology.  When customers expect to be pressured or misled, the antidote is honesty.  Be honest, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how well you’re received, especially if you follow these tips:

  1. Use the Inoculation Effect.  William McGuire developed the theory of the Inoculation Effect based on the way our bodies develop resistance to disease after exposure.  It turns out the same thing is true of repeated efforts to sell us something.  We become immune to sales tactics.  How do you use this effect to your advantage?  Point out your competition’s sales tactics.  You’ll make comparison shoppers hyper aware of the sales pitches to come, and you’ll appear the sound choice by comparison.
  2. Explain your point of difference.  If you begin by talking about the way everyone else in the business does it, then you’re positioning yourself to stand out.  For example, if you run a cleaning company and the standard practice is to include a fee for cleaning supplies in any quote, explain that you only charge clients for the products you actually use.  Again, if your prospect gets quotes from other companies and hears “it’s all included,” then they’re primed to think “I’m overpaying for products I don’t use.”
  3. Don’t offer more; offer less!  It seems like everyone’s gone the a la carte route, which means there’s a staggering array of choices.  Rather than inducing analysis paralysis in your clients, offer them three (no more, no less) excellent choices.  They’ll still feel like they’re in control, but they won’t feel overwhelmed.
  4. Give ‘em an easy out.  We get used to a “sell at all costs” mentality, so if we hear a sales person who’s ready to walk away – leaving the decision in our hands – we’re taken by surprise.  As it turns out, relieving your client of the obligation to buy doesn’t negatively affect your close rate, and the clients who do buy feel better about the sale.  They’re less likely to suffer from buyer’s remorse since they weren’t pressured into their decision.
  5. Use the 1-10 rating system, but with a new spin!  After I make my pitch, I ask prospects to rate how they feel about my service.  They typically throw out a number in the high middle – a 6 or 7.  Rather than telling them why I’m a 10 (which is what they expect,) I tell them I’m surprised, that I figured they’d be a 2 or 3.  What happens is magic.  They start explaining why I’m so much better than a 3.  They list my attributes, and before you know it, they’ve talked themselves into being a 9, and they’re ready to sign on the dotted line.  I just sit back and let it happen.

The key to using reverse psychology effectively is honesty.  You’re not going to sell jaded consumers by pulling the same old marketing tricks.  You have to go with something novel, refreshing, and unusual:  the truth.

Does Your Brand Match Your Company Culture?

11-5 Company values & branding smallIn 2008, BP shelled out $211 million for the design of its Helios logo, which, the company asserts, represents many things, including heat, light and nature. Who would have guessed that BP would face costs amounting to billions of dollars (and counting) after the Gulf oil spill two years later? Today, the company continues to pay for that spill, even as it runs ads to present the company as caring — and green.

Massive companies may have the resources to survive a disastrous split between their message and their actions. As a small business owner, however, you need to impart consistent messaging between your brand and your company values. It's a two-way street; just as your company culture must drive everything from products to customer service, your brand needs to drive the same things.

Culture Comes First

Company culture is not just about the work environment or even customer service. It's about everything that your company believes and does to get products and services to your customers — and keep them happy thereafter. Of course, you need a well-defined product or service before you start a business. But, if your company has not developed its culture before you move forward to develop your products or services, you run a real risk of having unhappy employees, dissatisfied customers, or both.

Citrix, which develops software for remote employees, is an extreme example of a company that fully integrates its company culture into its products. The company touts a culture to "work better, live better", which includes flexibility in the mix. The company promotes flexibility through a product that empowers remote workers with mobile workspaces. The same product that promotes remote work capabilities to customers provides flexibility within its own employee community, as well. As an added benefit, their software product is probably very well tested before it goes to market!

Granted, most companies do not sell products or services that are likely to directly improve the quality of their employees' lives. But there are many ways to integrate the company culture into the brand.

So, if your surgical center culture promotes caring and individual attention, make sure that your operating environment does not look like an assembly line. Or, if your company is dedicated to delivering top-quality widgets, customers should immediately recognize your genuine shock and willingness to go to extremes when an occasional widget is delivered in less-than-perfect quality

The bottom line is that customers are often drawn to products and services based on the underlying company culture. Deliver that culture, and they will promote your products with positive reviews.

Your Brand is More Than a Logo

Your marketing campaign is an important means for getting your name out to the public, but a cool logo and good advertising cannot ensure a company's success. When your company culture drives every aspect of your business, you naturally take a holistic approach that can more easily drive your brand forward.

Zappos may be one of the best-known companies in this regard because it is dedicated to this practice. They see all employees— whether or not they normally interact with customers — as reflections of their brand, even when they're off the clock. Zappos takes a broad view of its brand. It's not just about shoes, clothing or even customer service. It's about the full customer experience. And its culture extends beyond their specific brand to the entire industry. They want to make sure that their customers deliver a message through word-of-mouth and social media that the best advertising cannot accomplish.

A Well-Defined Culture Organically Drives Your Brand Marketing

Companies that follow their cultures in everything they do have a natural advantage when it comes to marketing their products. Their marketing campaigns are often less expensive to develop and more on-point. This just makes sense when you consider what can happen when you sit down to formulate your advertising message. When you focus on the product alone, you can struggle to find ways to differentiate that product from the competition.

When you have a clearly-defined company culture that incorporates the big picture, however, you broaden your messaging options. If a pickle company, for example, started as a family business focused on its home-made quality, their advertising message might focus on a unique mix of old-family recipes (spicy, garlicky, super-sour or even a variety of pickled veggies), hand-packed jars or all home-grown ingredients. They might even face the dilemma of having to choose from too many great campaign ideas, but this is a nice problem to have. As long as your brand is connected to your company culture, you can use those ideas for future campaigns.

6 Tips to Run a Successful Home-Based Business

Many entrepreneurs make their homes into their businesses. With no mandatory meetings, set schedule or co-workers, this might sound like the perfect work situation, but if you are not personally disciplined your might not get very much done.  While using your home as your business office gives you a great commute, you’ll also face challenges that you might not have considered. You might even need to change some bad habits in order to make working from home, work for you.

Here are six tips to run a successful home-based business.

1. Dress the Part

Working at home in your pajamas all day sounds appealing, but what effect does it have on your productivity? Even if you’re working at home you need to shower and get dressed. It will help you start your day, No one is saying you should throw on your best suit, but getting ready in the morning will help you get your mind on the business.

2. Set a Schedule

One of the perks of working for home is that you aren’t running on anyone else’s schedule. This can be a great thing because you can truly make your own hours. Flexibility is great, but to get the most out of your business, you still need to have a set schdule. Since you work from home, you may decide you don’t want to be nine-to-five; maybe you want to work noon to 8 p.m. It’s completely up to you – but stick to it, and be productive in those eight hours.

3. Discipline

When running home-based business discipline will be an important factor. If you want take a two-hour lunch break, no one is there to stop you! Still, you must remain focused and dedicated to your daily tasks. The last thing you want to do is make a habit out of slacking off. Your lack of productivity and sales will be obvious at the end of the month.

4. Leverage Technology

If you’re going to run a business from your home, you need all of the same amenities you would have at an office. You will need a computer,, high speed internet, a landline phone, and a reliable all-in-one copier,printer fax machine. You also want to get a smart phone, so that you can catch calls and emails on the fly. You need to be prepared to communicate however a client or customer wants to.

5. Create a work area

Working from your couch all day sounds good in theory, but trying to be super productive in an area where you’d normally kick back and relax is counterintuitive. Set up a space dedicated to getting work done and get in the “work” mindset while you’re there. It’s best if it’s a work space with a door.

6. Protect your personal time

When you are working at home, it can be easy to forget how many hours you’ve actually work each week. You don’t want to slip into being an unhealthy workaholic. At the end of your day, shut down your computer, plug up your cellphone in your office and don’t check email anymore. Even though you are working out of your home, your need to keep your work life and personal life separate.

There’s no set way to run a successful business. If you’ve decided run a home-based business, follow these steps so that you can stay on track.

Why You Need to Think of Your Communications as an Asset Not an Expense

11-3 Communications as an Asset smallIn today’s business environment, most companies view their communications systems as an operational expense with no added value. They perceive communications systems as a cost that has little to no effect on the bottom line. Often times, their mindset is correct. If a company has not utilized the full power of an up-to-date communications system, then it really is just another expense.

Cloud communications is changing this. As cloud communications technology becomes more advanced, companies are able to use a multitude of features to gain a competitive advantage over their competition. Leveraging cloud communications provides businesses with a competitive asset that empowers its users to grow. Below, we’ll explore three key benefits cloud communications provides businesses and how it will become a strategic asset for your growth:


Cloud-based phone systems can be tailored to meet the needs of each individual user. Whether you need to record a call for training purposes, answer your desk phone from your cell phone, or gain insight as to how you should staff your phones at your call center throughout the day, a cloud phone system will help you become more efficient and operationally cost effective.


The speed to implement change is a major competitive advantage for any business. Cloud communications systems provide instant analytical information so companies can make data-driven decisions.

Service providers, such as Nextiva, can grant its customers instant access to new features. As all updates are deployed through the cloud, you do not have to rely on having a technician come to your business location to update your system.


Little upfront cost is needed when switching to a cloud communications system. There is no expensive hardware to install, and you only pay for the number of lines that you need. Additionally, a plug and play approach is used so systems can be set up quickly. This provides a scalable solution for all businesses.

Cloud communications is an ever-evolving technology. Its efficiency, along with its increasing functionality, is giving companies a competitive advantage over those who are slow to adapt to change. The more that cloud communications integrates itself into your network, the more of an asset it will become.   

Mondays with Mike: 5 Ways to Get Paid Faster

11-2 Paid Invoices smallThe default payment period for most of us who bill clients after services are rendered is 30 days.  When you examine your receivables, though, you see those 30 days often turn into 45 days or even longer.  Think about the difference it could make to your cash flow if you could significantly reduce the time you wait for folks to pay your bill.  As it turns out, you can.  And it’s not even that difficult.

  1. Change your terms.  So simple, most of us don’t even think about it.  Why exactly do we offer 30-day terms?  Because that’s the way we’ve always done it.  Now your established customers might not be thrilled if you suddenly changed your terms to COD or Net 10, but there’s no reason on earth you can’t bring new customers on with terms that bring your cash in quicker.  Just do it.
  2. Offer bank financing.  Now this option works best for high-dollar purchasing, but if you set up a program through a local bank to offer free or low cost financing, you can remove all objections to purchasing.  You’ll pay a fee to the bank for the service, but the best part is you get your cash up front, and any collections in the future are the bank’s responsibility.
  3. Accept credit cards.  I’m astonished how many businesses still go the paper invoice, antiquated check route.  You can literally turn any smartphone, iPad, or tablet into a credit card reader, so there’s no reason not to swipe your customer’s card on the spot.  You’ll pay a small percentage for processing, but you have access to funds right away.  No need to remember to pick up stamps and wait for months for a check to arrive.
  4. Build a reverse cash flow model.  The old-fashioned model is to build a product or deliver a service and wait for the customer to pay.  But think about the way Dell revolutionized the way we buy computers.  Rather than building machines and waiting for people to show up at a store, Dell took orders (and payment,) built their machines to customers’ specifications, and then shipped the computers out.  Even if you’re delivering a service, find a way – like an annual service fee – to get your payment up front, and you’re radically altering your cash flow.
  5. Change your billing frequency.  If you provide a service on the 1st of the month, but don’t bill until the end of the month on 30-day terms, you’re looking at roughly two months before you see your money.  If you start billing weekly, or even daily, you’ll see payments arriving throughout the month, ultimately far quicker than you would if you held your billing until the last day of the month. 

So often we blindly follow established practices – like 30-day terms – with no good reason other than that’s the way it’s always been done.  In today’s market, though – given that you can send money anywhere in the world instantly – there’s no reason we can’t change the way we do business in a way that benefits cash flow.

How to Network Effectively

10-28 Networking smallWhen you think about networking, the heavy exchange of business cards might come to mind, but there’s so much more to it than that.  Being effective at networking is crucial to your business success. Regardless of what product or service you provide, you’ll need to sell yourself first. Building trust relationships with strangers is an important skill to develop. When you meet potential clients, first seek to be more interested than interesting. If you figure out how to be helpful to a new contact – people will help you and your business grow. In the digital age it’s easier than ever to stay connected to new people. You just need to know how to get the most of our your networking.

Here are some tips to network effectively.

1. Be Interested

Networking with someone new is much more than just handing out your business card and moving on to the next person. You need to take a moment more to get to know them a little better and let them get to know you, too. Talk about them first, then if asked discuss what your business does and how your solve problems. Business cards get lost and mixed together, but first impressions last a lifetime. Get them something to remember you with.

2. Prioritize at your events

Only focus on making five key contacts at any networking event. While you might want to meet everyone there, but you won’t have the time to maintain all of that communication. You need to move through the room, and meet some great people and call it a night. You should have a target list, but don’t worry about who is likeliest to call you for your product, service justfocus on making new friends. You never know who they could refer you too.

3. Ask for Recommendations

Ask for a warm introductions from satisfied customers, current clients, personal friends and mentors. They can be your best sources for recommendations. Ask this group of people to pass your name and information along should they find someone who may benefit from your help.Just remember that once a friend-of-a-friend gets in touch with you, be sure to give your new prospect the positive experience he or she is expecting, otherwise you could lose two relationships.

4. Communicate

To make networking work, you have to keep in touch with people. No one likes to only be contacted when something is needed of them..If you are professionally networking you need to cultivate your new contact to build trust.

5. Maintain

Once you meet someone, you should follow within five days. Then they should here from you again within 60 days to schedule a follow-up lunch or coffee. To keep yourself top of mine you can It’s a good idea to connect on LinkedIn Twitter or Instagram to keep yourself in their sights. Even if you don’t speak often sharing their content online can build relationships. If you neglect new contacts your networking efforts will be in vain.

It can take a while to build up a solid, reliable network , but don’t get discouraged. Meeting new people and building your network will become second nature to you. And with a little patience, you will create a lead engine for your business.

The 10 Digits That Are Vital to Your Business

10-27 Importance of phone numbers smallWhile email and chat have become increasingly popular, many customers still prefer to talk to a live person on the phone. In order to do so, they have to be able to reach your business. That’s where your all-important business phone number comes in.

Cloud phone systems provide today’s businesses with unprecedented flexibility when it comes to their communications systems, and this extends to phone numbers.

Below are two popular phone number options available to businesses with a cloud phone system.

One Number For All

Your business can have one central phone number, such as a toll free phone number, that can route to multiple locations based on criteria you specify. This is a great option for companies that serve customers that are not centralized to one area.

This concept is also common with customer service centers. Have you ever called a toll-free number and then been routed to a location in your city or state? I recently called AAA for roadside assistance, and based on the phone number I was calling from, they routed me to an agent in my local area.

The beauty of cloud phone systems is you have unlimited flexibility when it comes to your call flows. Based on the phone number of the inbound call, you can determine the best location, department or individual to answer the call without the caller needing to dial multiple numbers to reach the desired destination.

Multiple Numbers for One Business

Alternatively you can have multiple phone numbers route to one central business location. If you choose to have multiple numbers, say with different area codes to show a local presence, cloud phone systems allow you to route all of these numbers to a central location. When you, or a member of your team, answer the incoming call, the number the caller dialed will appear on the phone so you can answer appropriately. For instance, if the customer dialed the number for your Phoenix office and the call was routed to your headquarters in Los Angeles because of criteria you specify, the user can still answer, “Thank you for calling our Phoenix office, how may I help you?” 

This type of call routing and phone number usage is great for marketing purposes and companies that want to appear more local, such as real estate agencies where local expertise is important to customers.

Your phone number is vital to your business, and you now have more options than ever when it comes to call routing and call forwarding thanks to the advancements of cloud phone systems. Since they are hosted in the cloud, these systems offer significant scalability and flexibility, and they can be adjusted as frequently to meet the evolving needs of your business without the hassle of costly equipment and maintenance fees.

5 Ways to Win the War Against Digital Distractions

10-23 digitally multi-tasking smallIn a 2009 National Public Radio interview, Dr. Clifford Nass, who was a noted Stanford educator, harshly referred to multitaskers as "suckers for distraction and suckers for the irrelevant." He was referring largely to students under the control of their digital devices, but it applies to the business world as well, because multitasking does not increase productivity; it reduces it.

Where multitasking was once considered an essential skill for anyone pursuing advancement in the business world, newer research asserts that the human brain best handles one thing at a time. Unfortunately, most workers are faced with constant interruptions on a daily basis and every digital advance makes matters worse. With a little common sense and dedication, you can take control over digital distractions. Here are five habits to start developing today.

1. Use Personal Peak Times Effectively

Your brain is still more powerful than any electronic device — provided that you schedule your day based on its ebbs and flows.

For example, as a general rule, high-thought level work is best handled in the period from late morning to midday due to body changes after awakening. This is the time to turn off any unnecessary devices and allow your brain to handle high-level tasks, such as creating presentations or analyzing financial reports. Between about noon and 4pm, distractions take hold of the brain more easily, so it makes sense to hold off on emails, texts and any other unessential digital interruptions until this time.

Of course, not everyone follows the same circadian rhythm. You need to monitor your own patterns to determine when to put all unnecessary devices away and when to allow distractions.

2. Exercise Device Control

Just about everyone in the working world has a PC. Most have smart phones and an increasing number of workers have tablets, as well. But, how many of these devices pertain strictly to business?

Electronic devices make it easy to take your work home with you, but they also let you bring your home life into the office. Granted, this is only fair if you want any form of work-life balance. But, if you want your work quality to be high, you need to avoid the temptation of personal distractions whenever possible. Keep work-related devices active while on the job and schedule appropriate time into your day for device-checking and social media updates.

3. Choose the Right Device for the Task

Just because you can browse the web from your smart phone, doesn't make it the right tool for remaining on-task. Jumping from window to window on a three-inch screen or being forced to close an app when you run out of memory are other types of distractions. Don't be fooled into thinking that a phone in the hand will save valuable time. Even if you have to walk over to your PC or tablet, you will save time and focus by having the power and screen size to properly perform the job at hand.

4. Put Web Site Distractions Off to the Side

Speaking of distractions, every web page seems to have a million links. It's just about impossible to avoid clicking tempting web page links, but a great way to forget what you're doing is to jump from link to link. So, open those links in a new tab or window, and immediately return to the original page to maintain your primary flow. Once you finish with the present page, the distraction will be there when you want it — if you haven't lost interest.

5. Placemark the Original Task

How much time do you spend back-tracking when you return to a previously-interrupted task? You cannot avoid important customer calls, but you can get in the habit of marking your place before you start talking. So, if the phone rings while you are mid-sentence in a report or adding up numbers in a column, ask the caller to hold on for just a moment. Finish that sentence, or at least jot down a quick note describing where you left off. Don't worry — the interrupter will understand.

Only the Cream of Interruptions Should Rise to the Top

Scheduling interruptions is a lofty goal, but no one — from office workers to top brass — is immune from someone waiting in the wings to disrupt that schedule. Interruptions may be unavoidable, but they also short change the people who need your help. Not every interruption ranks priority one. Power off unnecessary devices and take a critical look at remaining interruptions to give top-notch service to your customers and your company.

How to Use LinkedIn Groups to Reach Your Target Customer

10-21 LInkedIn Groups smallLinkedIn touts itself as the most professional social networking site. It’s focused on letting you reconnect with old colleagues, leverage your existing network and it’s also a great way for business owners to reach your target customer. LinkedIn users tend to keep their profiles focused on their work experience and relevant skills. LinkedIn is not about connecting with strangers. It is a place where people trust those with whom they connect. One of the best things about LinkedIn is the groups you can join. Here are some tips on how to reach your target customer via LinkedIn Groups.

1. Do Your Homework

There are thousands of LinkedIn groups, as a member you are limited to joining 50. There are many groups with the same exact topic, so look for groups who are most active. Don’t bother with groups of less than 500 people. If you head to the group page and see many conversations started by many different users, it would be wise to join that group.

2. Don’t Sell

Many people are leery of hard sales tactics in their LinkedIn groups. Group members have joined for valuable and diverse industry insights – not to become targets of a marketing campaign. Also be careful with sharing links. Some group members are notorious for spamming LinkedIn groups with self-serving links. Groups with admins look out for these behaviors so you risk getting the boot when you do this! Focus on dialogue here, not sales.

3. Start Conversations

Posing questions for open group feedback is always a good idea. It’s also a great way to build engagement with your target customer. It could be a valuable tool for understanding customer insights as well. Links to relevant material on your blog is a helpful ways to begin a conversation, if you not too overtly promotional. Be sure to comment and give feedback on other posts in the group. Make your presence one of modest authority. By getting your name and face out there to your customer, group members will start connecting with you directly.

4. Create Your Own Group

Once your presence in a group has been felt and you’ve begun to make connections outside of the group setting, this is a perfect time to branch off and create your own group. Creating your own LinkedIn group is a way for you to invite new connections you’ve made in your groups. Your group can be a tangent off of the original in a way that is much more specific to your industry. Invite people with whom you’ve had a friendly rapport.. Check out my group Smallbizchat on LinkedIn to see how you might what to run your own group. 

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that LinkedIn is restricted to your personal resume. Many of LinkedIn’s users head to the site specifically for answers and professional advice. LinkedIn groups are like a door or opportunity for you to build relationships with a flood of new target customers. If this is where the majority of target customers spend time online, building a LinkedIn group could be a great investment.

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