Decisions That Can Help Carry Your Business Through COVID-19

Hep Carry Your Business Through COVID-19This is a difficult time for small business owners. The pressure is higher than ever for companies that already lived on narrow margins. Right now, smart moves are necessary for pushing your business into the future. Fortunately, we live in an era where technology is on our side, as long as we know how to use it. Here’s a look at a few types of tech that can aid business owners now:

Connecting While Apart

Social distancing never looked so efficient:

  • Video chat software and other virtual connection tools allow your team to meet from the safety of their own homes.
  • Remember, you need to take a tailored approach to virtual meetings to ensure they go well.
  • If you haven’t already, make sure your team is using secure communications to prevent fraud or data leaks.

 Fostering A Healthy Workspace

Keep your people safe once in-person work resumes:

  • Make sure your HVAC and air-filtration systems are up-to-date.
  • Consider having UV-C lights installed into your HVAC system to kill germs in the air.
  • Use HEPA-Filter vacuums to clean carpets regularly, and consider installing inexpensive fresh carpeting.

Moving Forward With Confidence

Set your business up to thrive in the post-COVID world:

  • Make a note of software that helps you thrive remotely, and continue to use any tools that will stay useful in the office.
  • Focus on expanding your digital marketing efforts, and hire an SEO expert to ensure you’re hitting the mark.
  • If you nail a virtual routine, consider going fully remote, which saves money on office space and widens your pool of potential employees.
  • Connect with 3SixtySMB for an assessment of other areas where your business might improve.

We are in an unprecedented moment in history. Small businesses are dealing with risk, but they’re also facing an opportunity. Take the initiative and use the right tech to your advantage, and you could see a brighter tomorrow than you’d ever imagined.

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Guest Article by: Elena Stewart via https://www.elenastewart.com/

The Importance of Delivery to Keep a Small Business Financially Stable

Customer Delivery and RevenueToo many times we see businesses focus so hard on winning new business, they forget everything that follows the initial customer win… The stark reality is that only focusing on the initial customer win will ultimately lead to a large majority of businesses’ failures.

Let us share with you a brief example. A few years back, 3SixtySMB worked with a firm that was in the consulting services industry… This firm had seen six years of exponential growth, until they hit snag and had four years of declining bookings numbers. Their CEO thought they had strong brand in the industry and couldn’t for the life of him understand why their bookings numbers were declining. Afterall, they always had a large number of projects in the pipeline to be completed and even had a waiting list for new projects. As part of our work, we reviewed the business in its entirety and found multiple areas of improvement for the firm. But there was one area that was sticking out like a sore thumb: their services delivery. To start, they had hundreds of thousands of dollars in backlogged projects that were either undelivered or taking longer than they initially planned. The CEO saw this as a full project pipeline with a waiting line to begin new projects…“a problem any business would be lucky to have,” he quoted. In reality, it was the exact opposite.

Where the CEO had seen a healthy pipeline of activity, in actuality, it was a list of customers with growing frustration to how long their projects were taking to complete, and customers that sales could not sell to. As we spoke with various customers, their frustrations began shortly after the sale was finalized, as they were sent to a virtual purgatory waiting for their projects to commence. Many of the customers described it as feeling, abandoned… Their frustrations didn’t stop there. Once their projects officially kicked off, they were quickly met with delayed deadlines and longer than projected project schedules. Although the end result of the work was typically more than satisfactory, most customers said they that they looked for another firm for future projects. These challenges within the delivery cycle directly affected revenue; waiting customers were unable to sign off on new work, and once the work was actually completed, they were so unhappy with the process, they made the decision not to spend with the firm again. There was also another side effect. Word of how slow and sluggish this firm was began to spread throughout the industry. As a result, they were losing net new business without even knowing it. At the end of the day, this CEO was so focused on the sales team and the decreasing bookings numbers, he completely overlooked delivery. He was putting continuous pressure on his sales team to deliver new bookings that he was literally burning them—and the customer base—out, while the main issue for declining bookings was actually the result of a poorly designed delivery process leading to unhappy customers.

3SixtySMB follows the motto “the customer is everything,” and in order to get this firm back on track, we implemented a few changes to their process, communications, and tracking with that motto in mind:

Project coordination – It was a tough pill to swallow for this firm’s CEO when it was recommended they hire a project coordinator which would be a cost to the business… It was this person’s function to maintain project coordination from the initial start of the project, all the way to end of it. At the end of their day, their job was to stay on top of clients and internal staff to ensure that each and every timeline item outlined within the project was delivered and on time.

Before the win – Before a customer agreement was even signed, we created a process to ensure that a mutually agreeable project timetable was in place… This was a joint effort between the sales and delivery teams to ensure that the sales team is promising a feasible timeline to the customer. This was then relayed to the customer to ensure that proper expectations were in place from a timing and delivery standpoint before an agreement was signed.

Project kickoff calls – Each new deal that was won had a kickoff call immediately set up by the sales team… The purpose was simple: explain to the customer exactly what they just bought and establish clear and definitive next steps for the project based on the pre-approved timeline agreed upon in the sales process. This allowed for each and every project to start off with momentum and a clear timeline of deliverables, while effectively passing the customer to the delivery team without them feeling abandoned.

Project milestone documentation – After each kickoff call, the client was supplied with a document that detailed each and every step within the process… The primary goal was to ensure they had full visibility of the project. This also allowed the firm to use the document as a measuring stick to ensure deliverables stayed on track. As certain items were pushed out, this document was updated and then shared back with the client for full visibility of how changes affected the timeline.

Project tracking – We have a saying of “what gets measured, gets done,” and that is what was implemented within this firm. Utilizing some customization within Saleforce.com, we were able to build out a full reporting structure around the various stages of each project contracted. This reporting structure not only allowed for the project coordinator to easily maintain focus on each project daily, but it allowed for the team to group together weekly to review project statuses during their team meeting.

Weekly project status meetings – We all hate meetings, but again, what gets measured, gets done… These meetings were typically held between sales, delivery team, and management, with a goal of understanding the various project statuses. This allowed for the entire team to understand where each project was with regards to status and to find ways to move along stalled projects as a team.

Communication – We emphasized communication—both internal and external. Internally, sales was copied on all messages that went out to the client. This ensured that they maintained up to date on project progress. Externally, we pushed to over communicate with clients as well. The goal was to ensure that they didn’t feel abandoned, while allowing them to feel as if they had control over the overall project timeline.

Once the firm became adjusted to the process, project completion times were cut significantly without sacrificing overall quality… These changes, along with a few others, allowed the firm to double sales within the first year of implementation, while seeing further growth as time progressed.

When it comes to building a winning business, the initial customer win is less than half the battle. Regardless of your industry, it is as important to have a strong customer delivery platform as it is to have a strong marketing and sales strategy. Step back and think about some of your latest purchasing experiences. Did you have a good or bad experience with them? Now think about how that experience will influence your willingness to go back to those same businesses. Well, the general public thinks exactly the same as you do, and good experiences lead to repeat business while bad experiences lead to never returning to that business again.

Let’s dive in a little deeper:

Repeat business – Quite simply, the number one reason to ensure proper product and service delivery is to ensure happy customers… And happy customers can and will return! And, let’s not forget that new customers are hard and expensive to win in the first place. Happy customers are easier, faster, and much less expensive to bring back, time and time again, making any business more profitable over time.

Happy customers are also exponentially more likely to not only continue to purchase but expand their purchases as well… In the B2B space, I’ve seen $100,000+ annual relationships start with a small $10,000 purchase.

Speed of delivery – After analyzing thousands of small businesses, a core theme that is a killer for most is their ability to deliver their products and services in a timely manner. Not only does it frustrate customers having to wait, but a waiting customer cannot buy more… So, not only is making your customer wait turning them into an unhappy customer, but you’re hurting your chances for that customer to buy from you again.

Customer referrals – Another side effect of a happy customer is they tend to tell their friends and co-workers of their experiences… Customer referrals are the lifeblood of a small business. They tend to be a much lower cost of customer acquisition and close much faster than a net new win. And the process tends to be cyclical as they tell their friends, and so on. There are many good small businesses that solely function on referral business. However, again, on the flip side, customers can and will tell their friends about negative experiences as well.

Online reviews – No longer do customer experiences stay within an inner circle of friends and family; there are literally hundreds of websites and online forums that customers share their experiences on… Regardless of whether you love or hate these sites, the reality is customers are on them daily sharing their own experiences (good and bad)… Too many negative reviews can literally kill a business.

When growing a business, it can be all too easy for a firm to focus on new customer wins as customer bookings are the lifeblood of a business… But, if you are not a customer centric business with a focus on product delivery, you’re setting yourself up for failure. And in the long run, you’ll just end up drying up the well. Becoming a customer centric business doesn’t require a whole heck of a lot of money; a majority of the businesses we find that are struggling with delivery simply lacked a defined and measurable process around delivery. With a little bit of process and measurements in place, what gets measured, will be done!

 

How to Develop an Account Planning Strategy – Infographic

It can be difficult to figure out a routine that helps to streamline account strategy. How do you manage contacts and leads and follow-ups and use your resources in the most efficient manner possible? It can be overwhelming and lead to a lot of inefficiencies. And there’s the notion of trying to figure out how to personalize that account strategy, too. Luckily there are ways that you can use accepted account planning strategies to do just that.
Of course, you can start by figuring out what type of account you have – number of employees, industry, etc. But to really personalize things, you need to layer in the individual needs of the owners, employees, and customers in order to get a better understanding of how you can best manage the account. What does that mean for your processes and your account development? This graphic helps you understand it.

Click To Enlarge

How to Develop an Account Planning Strategy

Via Salesforce

This is a guest post by Quip

 

How to properly prepare and host a virtual meeting

How to properly prepare and host a virtual meetingBefore mandated separation was in place, we all spent an incredible amount of time in virtual meetings. It was an essential part of how we all worked, but now that we are all stuck working from home, virtual meetings are a way of life. As a result, people have somewhat forgotten some of the essential rules for hosting and taking part of conference calls and online meetings. The purpose of this article is to share some quick tips to ensure you hold better and more efficient virtual meetings.

  • Start with the invite itself – Remember, everyone’s calendar is stuffed with various agenda items. With people jumping from call to call, it is easy for your meeting to get lost in the mix of all the others competing for mindshare on a calendar. One way to get your meeting to stick out is how you structure your invitation.
    • Streamline the subject. Subject lines should be clear and explanatory. Something such as: 3SixtySMB | Client Name Discussion Regarding Fridays Webcast and Next Steps – Wednesday 4/29 @ 1pm Eastern Time. A subject line like this one clearly shows the recipient who they are speaking with, why, and when… It is much harder to glaze over a subject line like this, and within seconds, the recipient knows exactly the purpose of the call.
    • Condense the body. The agenda should be clear and concise… Now is not the time to write War and Peace; no one will read it. Keep it simple.
    • Provide only a dial-in option when possible. Virtual meeting solutions are nothing new, yet people still do not understand the basics of how to properly use them. Nothing will throw off the tempo of a meeting more than waiting for someone to join because they waited last minute and need to download WebEx for the hundredth time. Or, listening to someone typing away on their keyboards because they forgot to mute their lines. Dial-in only options eliminate many of those headaches.
  • No back-to-back meetings – This is a standard meeting rule of thumb that people tend to forget… Always leave 15 minutes between meetings if possible; we all know how often meetings run over their allowed times.
  • Prepare for the meeting – Ensure that either at the start of the day, or at least an hour before the meeting, you share the background of the meeting with others from your team that might be joining. Items such as who you are speaking with and background for the call are critical pieces of information to be shared with them. This ensures everyone is on the same page prior to the start of the meeting. Again, everyone is busy, but you do not want your team showing up unprepared.
    • Take 15 – 20 minutes prior to the meeting to prepare yourself. Review notes, background, and remind yourself of who you are speaking with. Jot down a few very specific questions in which you plan on asking and your end goal for the meeting.
    • Be mindful of your background. When participating in video calls, this is especially important. Just take a few minutes to tidy up anything that could be seen in the background. And, ensure that whenever possible, you can mitigate noises or environments that could disrupt the meeting.
    • Always use a headset. This is a huge personal pet peeve for a few reasons. Most speakerphones are designed for one person to speak at a time… What ends up happening is the person on a speakerphone will continue to speak and miss those subtle cues that someone is trying to speak and just bowl right over them. Also, most speaker phones have horrible room acoustics and as a result, some people become difficult to hear. Laptops are worse; they are not designed for conference calls… If someone has their volume too loud, you get an echo that everyone can hear but them. You end up completely oblivious to the fact that you are making the call painful to listen to for everyone else… Plus, people tend to forget that their keyboard is attached to the laptop, and again, you end up oblivious to the fact that everyone can hear your extremely loud typing.
    • Start up a team chat. This will allow for you to coordinate as a team in the background as the call happens. This really allows for more of a team-cohesive approach to the meeting.
    • Prepare to join 3 – 5 minutes early – Virtual meeting platforms will fail you at the worst time. Prepare to join 3 – 5 minutes early; this ensures you give the meeting platform enough time to spin up properly. Nothing is worse than when your participants are ready but waiting on you to load up the virtual meeting platform.
    • Mute by default – Your line should be muted by default, and you should only unmute it when you want to speak. Whether you are in the office or at home, no one wants to hear the noise in the background, your heavy breathing while they are talking, or you taking a bite of a sandwich because you skipped lunch.
  • During the call, start with a proper agenda – Take care of roll call, introductions, meeting summary, and opening questions before getting started. The most important part of the meeting is how you set the stage, ensuring that everyone is on the same page on the reasoning of the meeting. Too many times people skip this part, only to find out 30 minutes into a meeting that the reasoning behind the meeting changed on the other side or they had a piece of critical information missing that changes everything. Also, if it’s a smaller meeting, try building a bit of a rapport before hopping right into things. A little bonding goes a long way!
    • Actively listen – There is a difference between listening and actively listening because there is a big difference between “what people say” and “how they say it”. Sometimes the nuances are in the way something is said, and those small nuances can be the difference between good and great meetings.
    • Be present/listen – Seriously, too many people forget the simple concept of being present and listening. Some believe they are listening, but they’re too involved in jotting down notes, or thinking of their next question and are really not present. As a result, they miss things… and nothing will annoy people more than someone that isn’t paying attention to what is being said asking questions that were answered previously in the conversation.
    • Take detailed notes – Part of listening is taking notes, lots of them… Many believe they can simply remember the fine details. However, after a few hours, those details can be forgotten. And of course, don’t be afraid to share these notes with co-workers. This goes back to doing your homework; note-taking and sharing are extremely important to ensure everyone has the most relevant information and is on the same page.
    • Never make assumptions – Too many make assumptions, and those assumptions lead to bad meetings. For example, these can be assumptions such as believing you know what the client wants, that the right people are on the call, the budget, and decision-making process… the list goes on. Never make assumptions, and always ask questions to understand unanswered details. Your meeting counterparts will respect that you are trying to understand their situation better.
    • Clear next steps – This is a big one… Never, ever end a call without clear next steps and a scheduled call! Nothing kills the momentum of a good discussion more than not having a scheduled next step. People are busy, and unfortunately, you are not always their top priority–almost anything can happen once a call ends. Without a scheduled next step, there is no guarantee you’ll get them on the phone again.
    • Summarize – Do not forget to summarize what was discussed in the meeting and ask for confirmation. We all hear different things at times, and it is critical to make sure everyone is on the same page before leaving.

Looking at it all written out seems like a lot of details to ensure a good virtual meeting, but honestly after a few calls, it should become routine and easy to follow… Given that 100% of all business is being done virtually these days, now is the time to make sure you are doing things right!

11 Tips to Realign Your Small Business for Success Today

Realign Your Small Business for SuccessWe are in some difficult times. With essentially the entire world on lockdown, business has been tough. We are seeing businesses freezing budget, pulling back on expenses and laying off employees in record numbers, just to keep their heads above water. All is not lost, business around the world is being conducted and people are winning new deals. It has just become more difficult. In times like these, we continuously need to remind our teams that the slowdown is not a result of their actions and that their hard work can and will eventually pay off. Our rule of thumb is you have to work two or three times as hard in order to close the same (if not less) business… No level of complaining will fix this problem—only good old fashion hard work will win the day! With that said, it takes more than simple hard work; you must also work smart. We’ve put together some quick hitting tips to help realign yourself for success:

  • Work Smart – Make no mistake, there is absolutely a difference between working hard and working smart… It’s the smart workers that are more likely to win the day! – Busy Isn’t Always Productive – 10 Tips To Becoming More Productive
  • Small Details Matter – Right now, business is difficult to come by and everyone is fighting for the same budgeting dollars. A great sports analogy comes to mind. Think of the Super Bowl, Word Series, NBA or NHL Finals: what differentiates the winners and losers? It typically comes down to the smallest of details that gave them the extra inch to win the day. In times like these, the difference of winning and losing business can sometimes come down to the smallest of details. – Sales Is A Numbers Game, How To Increase Sales Without Increasing Pipeline
  • Take Losses Gracefully – In business, you are going to get a lot of noes… Unfortunately, during times like these, there is no denying that the amount of noes vs. yeses is going to grow exponentially. Don’t take it personally; take a loss with grace, and down the line, it will pay off… – Take A Sales Loss Gracefully
  • Educate More, Sell Less – When business is taking a slump, it is only natural for management to push harder for sales. Here’s the problem: everyone is pushing harder for sales and bombarding their accounts with “buy, buy, buy” messages… This tactic not only frustrates clients but comes off desperate. Instead, find new and interesting ways to educate your clients. At the end of the day, the more educational and informative you are, the more likely clients are to stay engaged with your brand. It will make the selling process much easier when they are ready to buy. – Why Email Marketing is Broken, and How To Fix It
  • Develop an Account Management Strategy – It is surprising to see how many small businesses do not have a measurable account management strategy. Now is the time to develop a proper account management strategy, as it will strengthen the overall penetration you have with your account base and will increase sales without question. – Account Management Strategy 101
  • Dive In – Technically this falls in line with an account management strategy, but it needs to be emphasized. Within small businesses, we find that businesses only have one key buyer within their accounts… This is a huge mistake; not only does it put the account at risk if their primary contact leaves the business (or is laid off), but you are also missing out on the opportunity of finding additional buyers within the account. A rule of thumb is to have at a minimum of five active contacts within each account… The bigger the account, the more contacts. Some enterprise businesses could have upwards of 100+ different contacts.
  • Strengthen Marketing – One of the very first items to be cut during an economic downturn is marketing… This is an incredibly huge mistake for a business to make. Now is the time to double down and strengthen your marketing strategy. As mentioned earlier, during times like this, you need to work two to three times as hard to bring revenue in the door… Marketing is a key component to driving awareness and leads into the pipeline. Cutting marketing off is only going to increase the already growing gap in your business. – Marketing Performance Metrics Need to Be Just as Visible as Sales Metrics
  • Evolve Product and Services – Now is not the time to hold your ground with respect to your products and services. A common theme/mistake within leadership is to think you know better than your customers and prospects, making them conform to the limitations of your products and services. The reality is, in a buyer’s market, no one is going to conform to your business. They will simply move on to the next name on their list… Let’s not forget, we are all in the same boat together, and your competition will be all too eager to accommodate those client requests to win their business. – Social Media and Online Forums, Hidden Gems of Customer Insight, Landmark Case with TripAdvisor, Makes Businesses Think Twice About Reviews & Target Uses Local Retail Stores As Virtual Warehouses
  • Measure Everything – Continuous improvement is a strategy that is more important now than ever before… Establish baselines across the business and begin to measure them. Only once you start to properly measure the different aspects of the business, you can really know if the changes implemented are helping the business or not. – How To Make CRM Play A More Important Role In Your Small Business
  • Break Down the Silos – Silos make everything difficult, full stop… Break down those silos within your business to ensure your team can work effectively and efficiently together. The better they can align themselves now, the better they can react to market and customer needs. – The Importance of Interdepartmental Communication in Small Businesses
  • Know When to Let Go – Terminating an employee is one of the most difficult tasks we all have and quite frankly, always a last resort. However, in troubling times, now is not the time to hold on to dead weight within an organization. That dead weight can and will cost you precious time and money, and it could result in the loss of more employees, or even your business down the line. We are huge fans of doing whatever is necessary to help someone turn around, but there are just times were nothing will work. – When Terminating An Employee Is Necessary

In difficult times like these, it is important to continue down the right path and do everything that you believe is right to keep the business afloat… We are all in the same boat together, but unfortunately there are going to be some businesses that simply do not make it…

Have other tips? Share them below… If you need help, feel free to contact us any time!