When you go onto a car dealer’s website, a bank’s website, or anyone else who is dealing with large quantities of money there is usually a calculator that allows for customers to type in their information and get a general estimate of what their amount due is for that particular product or service. Go to Fleetway’s website (www.fleetwaycapital.com) and you won’t see a calculator on our website, nor will you see estimates on how much other customers are paying for the same product as you. Are we shooting ourselves in the foot? Not necessarily!
When you enter in the information that the lease calculators ask for, you are getting yourself compared to other customers who have similar information as you. They have built in rates, numbers, etc based on a few factors that they have asked you for. Typically, a lot of these numbers you enter are from drop down menus that ask you for a range. Do you think you’ll get an accurate monthly payment by selecting a salary range from a drop down menu? Not really, but you’ll get a general idea of what you can expect to pay. A lot of these companies that have leasing calculators on their website also aren’t asking for your credit score – this is a sensitive subject which a lot of companies leave to the part where they ask you to fill out a lot of information, get you excited about what you are about to purchase and then give you an answer on whether or not your credit qualifies you to use their product or service. Poor credit scores mean higher interest rates while higher credit scores mean lower interest rates – these are factored into monthly payments and when you fill out a leasing calculator, this isn’t taken into consideration giving you an inaccurate payment amount.
We don’t include a payment calculator because we know there is a lot to take into consideration before we lend money to our customers. We look at the person as a whole from family life to career – we want to make sure that we are helping people out the best that we can. We know that payment amounts are intimidating and we don’t want to scare off our customers by giving them wildly exaggerated numbers when we don’t know what type of equipment you want, for how long you plan to lease/finance it, the price of the equipment, etc. We want to give you an accurate amount before you begin to look elsewhere.
It may sound strange but we want to make sure we aren’t giving our customers an inaccurate payment amount online when we haven’t spoken with you and gotten the full story on what your financial and personal background may be. Leasing calculators are not always accurate and don’t take into account a lot of information that is relevant to deciding what your monthly payment is going to be. We want to make sure we help each individual customer to the best of our ability and we want to build a relationship with each one personally. We pride ourselves on relationship building which gives us the ability to help people out better. Do your research and call companies and speak with them personally before you settle on a number that you got off of a company’s lease calculator!
Recently, we heard about Facebook conducting an experiment without the knowledge or consent of its users. They placed more negative content in the newsfeed of users to see whether status updates would generate more negative content from that specific user. OkCupid did a similar experiment on its users – telling users they were 90% matches when, in reality, they were 30% or lower matches. They also experimented on users that showed that if someone does not post a picture, messages were more likely to be exchanged but when a picture was put back up on the same account, messages diminished or stopped altogether. Finally, a story that came out today shows that Google searches can determine market crashes (see the full story here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2708746/Google-predict-stock-market-Researchers-search-engine-spot-crashes-BEFORE-happen.html). So if these big companies can do these experiments, can’t you?
OkCupid said in a statement, “If you use the internet, you’re the subject of hundreds of experiments at any given time, on every site…That’s how websites work” (BBC). OkCupid is right – whenever you visit a website, cookies are placed on your computer that tracks your activity whether you like it or not. Companies who do e-mail campaigns can track how long you opened the e-mail for, what you clicked on, for how long you visited the link, and several other things. They can also track the people’s activity and send them more information that relates to what the user was viewing and clicking on.
You can take advantage of these “experiments” too. Depending on the size of your business, the amount of money you have and the time that you have to complete it – you have the ability to conduct these large scale experiments. But most small businesses don’t have that complete ability. However, if you have a CRM database software – you do have the ability to track customers’ activities. Many CRM software providers who provide e-mail capability give you the ability to track what your customers click on and view. You can run reports on these e-mails and sell to your customers better based on what they are spending more time on. You can also target customers better by having a better idea of whether or not they are viewing your e-mails and opening them and reading them or not. If they aren’t reading them, you don’t need to send them an e-mail as frequently. If they are reading them, you can send them more information that they need.
Go on forums, check your social media accounts – see what customers are talking about. Talk to customers when you have the ability and ask how business is going – are they complaining about new laws imposed on the industry? Is local business growing or slowing? Take note of this so you can sell better. A smart salesman is a better salesman!
Is your business currently stagnant? Have things leveled out so the money isn’t coming in as much as you would like it to be? Well, in addition to the several tips that we have discussed previously (networking, social media, etc), there is a simple way to get more leads without paying for lists of calls to make.
A lot of major industries (we specialize in financing tow trucks, so in this example we are going to go with what we know) such as towing, there are state and nationwide organizations that many business owners belong to. Many of these organizations list their member directories on their website without you having to search tirelessly or spend money to become a member. Some organizations do this, but not all – so be aware of this. Research the industry to see what organizations are set up for business owners within the industry.
Local. Search. Engines. Sounds like a no brainer, right? Some people tend to forget that these are gold to people looking for people to contact. Type in a city and state, what are you looking for and just hit enter. Pages will come up immediately of local business owners in the area you looked up. Many times, companies will pay the bare minimum to have their company listed on these directories and depending on what business you are in, you can target these smaller companies or the bigger ones who are listed in bold, have several reviews and are generally placed on the first page. Begin by cold calling these companies you find and get new business rolling in.
Go to your past customers. Do they need additional services from you or know of anyone who does? This is a no-brainer, get in touch with people who have used your service and are happy and ask them for referrals directly.
As we discussed in a previous post, think outside of the box when it comes to procuring new customers. Get comfortable with making cold calls, because that can drive new business. Cold calling is intimidating to many people but it helps to get new business. Remember that you are going to have to make several calls to one person in order to get a definite yes or no, but if you are a small business owner who started from the bottom, this can be a walk in the park. Get comfortable and get confident and go out there and start making money for your business!
Forums aren’t just for teenagers looking to talk to other people for their love of dragons, Twilight or Pokémon anymore. Forums, dependent on your industry, allow for customers to comment, discuss and ask each other questions. Forums can be incredibly helpful if you know how to properly navigate them.
Forums are largely a place for customers within an industry to share their love, ask questions, post news, and more. Companies tend to steer clear because it can be tempting to respond in a selling manner to the customers of competitors or people who may complain. This is not what forums are for and, in many cases, you can be kicked off by the forum administrator. If you work for a company and are considering joining a forum within your industry you are going to need to hold off on advertising your product/service and not respond to negativity. What you should be doing on these forums is more asking questions to gain better insight, commenting on posts and not aggressively selling your product/service. Customers don’t want to feel like they are getting sold to every time they move an inch and forums provide the escape from that.
When joining a forum, always make sure it is within your target industry. If at all possible, look around at the posts – are people posting regularly? What do they tend to post? If it’s spam postings, you may want to steer clear because it may be a waste of your time. If people aren’t posting frequently enough, you may also want to stay away and find one where people are more active. If you want to advertise, can you? How do you go about doing that? Can you interact with customers in a messaging format? Many forums (for products, at least) have product sections that post for sale ads – can you reach out to a customer and potentially make a sale without posting it in the comment box where it may get ignored? You want to make sure the forum is worth your while before you begin to sign up.
Kanye West and a sales person arguably are two completely different people. Kanye is a rapper with strong messages, an incredibly publicized marriage to Kim Kardashian, has a child with the name of a direction and is overall an incredibly controversial figure in pop culture today. A salesman is someone who works hard for their money and salespeople abound in numbers – virtually all business grads start as salespeople (sometimes, depending on the company and job) and work their way up. But, in order to be in the 20% of salespeople who make 80% of the sales (80/20 rule in sales), then it might be time to consider taking a few notes from Kanye West.
Now, I’m not saying to study Kanye’s every move, word spoken, outfit worn, etc. That would be a bit excessive and inappropriate. But take a look at how Kanye carries himself – he has likened himself to Jesus Christ. Now, this is outrageously egotistical and has made Kanye to be a polarizing figure in the public eye. But, what a salesman can take from that idea is confidence in oneself. Being confident and owning yourself and what you are selling is fighting half the battle. A customer does not want to hear “uh” “um” or “I don’t know” when they get a sales call; if you don’t know what you’re selling, then why are you on the phone? Thoroughly educate yourself on the product, your company and your customer. Never ask a question you don’t already know the answer to. Be confident and convince yourself of success whenever you make a sales call. Map out what you want to get out of the potential customer in the first call – is it setting up a meeting or getting them at least interested enough to check out your product/service online? Know what you want before you go in so you are confident in what you are about to try to sell.
Kanye likes to break the mold of “normal”. We’ve discussed in a different blog – the idea of thinking outside the box and this is crucial when making sales. Be different than the others when you make a sales call. This can be difficult as many companies have rigid sales call protocol, but if you can see where you can help out a customer even in the smallest of ways, you are breaking the mold. You want a customer to feel like you are personally helping them out, giving them special treatment, even if you offer the same thing to another customer in the next sales call. Break the mold and come up with a different way to make your sales pitch or connect with a customer. Actively listen to what their needs are and see how you can creatively help them out.
While Kanye is definitely controversial, he shows us what it is to own what we do and to own who we are. He may take that to a whole other level with the intense self absorption but it shows that if we are confident in who we are, we can get people talking. Getting people to talk is what helps to spread the word, and this can be seen in referral advertising done by your customers. Your service may not be the cheapest or best quality or anything like that, but you can make sales just by having the confidence in yourself that you can make it.
Food for thought: According to the United States Department of Labor, 890 deaths occur outside of the hospital/emergency room daily. In 2001 through 2002, there were 6,628 deaths that took place in the workplace (fact from OSHA) and over 1,200 of those deaths were from heart attacks. Surviving cardiac arrest diminishes 7-10% each minute without immediate CPR. Is your workplace prepared in the event of such an emergency?
Having an AED (Automatic External Defibrillator) in the office is incredibly important. While nobody wants to think of terrible situations such as an employee having a heart attack, it can happen and it is better to be safe and prepared in the event. Having employees trained in CPR (a quick course that can be taken locally or have someone come in and teach everyone) can also be beneficial. Most people don’t like to think of the scary and terrible things that could happen, but they can and they do happen everyday. It is better to be prepared for an emergency like that to happen than to be caught without any preparation at all.
Do your research on AEDs and consider purchasing one for your work place. Put it in the care of someone who understands how to use it and make sure they know to check it regularly to ensure that it is properly working. Look into having employees trained in CPR; having local CPR classes posted for employees to attend voluntarily could be a viable option or having someone come in and teach everyone in one day is also an option. Be prepared for the worst to happen because if it does, you can keep your employees safe.
Feeling overwhelmed by all the different functions that your small business needs to have in order to be successful and efficient? You are not alone – accounting, finance, marketing, sales, management, human resources, and any other areas where your business has hired employees for can be a lot to take on. Business owners sometimes feel the need to hire more people or give more responsibility to one person which can backfire; hiring more means spending more and giving more responsibility to one person when they may or may not be well versed in the area can be a dangerous path to go down. That’s why there is outside help and sometimes business owners need to learn when to stop and ask for help.
Depending on what industry you are in, hiring outside help may be beneficial. Paying an outside marketing firm to do your mail outs, e-mail campaigns, maintain your website and social media can take a huge stressor off the plate. These small things may seem like a hassle or even seem unimportant, but they are huge if you want to get your name out there and generate more business. Additionally, as we have discussed in previous blog posts, you can also network which does a lot of your marketing for you. By joining a networking organization or group, you attend and participate in a comfortable environment, and have the business generated for you. But your online presence is massively important and some business owners just don’t have the time to make sure that all their bases are covered. By hiring outside help, this can diminish your time spent slaving over the computer and more time out making sales, but it also helps because these website/SEO/social media companies focus on your company fully. You pay them to be focused and dedicated to your online presence, in a more attentive way then the average small business owner could. Scared to spend on an outside firm? Create your website on a website designer that has great analytics tools and readily accessible help – this can also help diminish the stress that comes with managing your online presence.
Financial, selling, and accounting can be pricier when it comes to getting outside help, but it’s not infeasible. There are small accounting firms that help small businesses get going and get moving. Hiring an additional employee to cover these areas may be a better course of action if you, the owner, are overwhelmed. You can train the employee to cover more ground with finance and accounting. Depending on what industry you are involved in, outside sales may be beneficial or it may be beneficial to hire one salesman to conduct all of your sales. Be sure to train your new employees to be fully versed in company ideals, your mission and everything in between. The more knowledgeable the employee, the better they can sell your product or service.
There is a lot to take into account when it comes to asking for help, but recognize when it is time to do so. If you find your business suffering due to lack of time spent creating your product or doing your service, then it might be time to consider getting additional help. Are you spending more hours on administrative tasks then you are living your life and enjoying your business? This could mean the time to hire outside help or hire another employee. Growing your business is important, but it shouldn’t be overwhelming. Do your research, ask current employees and look at how business is doing in order to decide your next step.
With the violence that is currently going on in the Middle East and with allegations that Russians shot down a Malaysian airliner, governments around the world are split when it comes to how to deal with a Russian President who is running wild on the world stage. While calls for sanctions are running rampant on all news outlets, many have problems with sanctioning Russia because of the fact that Russia is one of the largest oil exporters – especially to the United States. What does this mean for your small business?
While there are currently economic sanctions in place against Russia, calls for tougher restrictions are being called for due to the alleged terrorist actions that the Ukrainians are saying are responsible for the Malaysian Airliner being shot down in Ukraine airspace. While several officials find it odd that a commercial airliner would fly through a war zone’s airspace (with air missiles having been launched previously in the Ukrainian/Russian conflict), innocent people were killed and a terrorist organization is potentially to blame. If stricter sanctions are imposed upon Russia, there may be a great dependence on other countries for oil, which would increase the price at home. Additionally, any opposition from government officials to drill in the U.S. for oil (in particular, the oil shale that was discovered in New York and Pennsylvania) may be placed on hold in order to help oil demands throughout the country. The United States has one of the greatest dependencies on oil production and if a major player were to begin to diminish their exportation of oil to the U.S., we may be facing a pricing issue. Higher oil prices mean higher costs to conduct business – is your company prepared?
As is to be expected, there are going to be several news updates, conferences and meetings in regards to how to proceed with the issue that is Russia. President Vladimir Putin is becoming an increasingly larger issue for more governments who try to stay out of foreign affairs. Governments can’t sit idly by while Putin acts in whatever manner he chooses, something has to be done to control his actions. Many people think that military action might be the best course of action however, this is costly (both financially and humanely) but sanctions may be an increasingly preferable path to take. The price of sanctions hit home though, and hopefully your business is prepared for the aftermath.
Let’s be real here – most of your customers have no idea what half of the business terms you use on them mean. This differs from business to business and industry to industry but when it comes to financial terms like “liability insurance” or certain fees with strange names “dock fees” “credit card processing fee” this can confuse people. When you are dealing with large amounts of money and big asset purchases, customers need to have phrases broken down into simple terms that they will understand. This is how you stay a step ahead.
If your company charges fees for several different things, then the salesman in charge of the sale must lay out where someone could get charged. Want to have stellar customer service? Show customers where they can save themselves from being slammed with fees, whether that means saying they should pay in check instead of credit card or to avoid doing a wire transfer because of the associated bank fees. Customers who feel that you are on their side will remember and appreciate that and will continue to use your company’s business as well as refer potential clients to you. Think a step ahead of a customer always, do this by thinking of how you would react in a situation. Fees, weird language that you don’t understand – would you ask questions? When conducting business, pretend like the customer has no idea what you’re talking about and break down for them every little thing for them so they can’t ask you questions. This also helps with wait time when conducting a deal or completing a sale – if a customer knows ahead of time all of the paperwork they need to bring or fill out, their wait time is shorter and they are on their way quicker which makes them happier.
Think a step ahead and thoroughly explain terms and conditions to customers. The less questions you get asked, the happier the customer is. Nobody wants to be confused when it comes to spending money – they want to know everything from the start. A knowledgeable customer is a happy customer and a happy customer will do your marketing for you. Word-of-mouth marketing is a huge part of Fleetway Capital, or anyone’s, business. Happy customers want others to use the same service they are because it’s so great and you can help work towards that by making sure the customer knows what they are getting and there aren’t surprises.
Upselling – used heavily in the restaurant business as a way to have guests spend more money on their bill. This happens by the waiter or waitress, after your order has been placed, asking if you would like to have an appetizer with that or if you ordered drinks selling their more expensive drinks (seasonal beers on tap don’t tend to land on the happy hour menu). Finished with your meal and asking for the check? Waiters and waitresses will ask if you’d like desert and they usually tend to try to sell you their most expensive one. Only one person ordering desert? While sharing is an option, the waiter will typically try to persuade you into ordering one for yourself because it’s “that good”. This is upselling – getting your customers to buy more when they weren’t initially thinking of doing so in the first place.
What about retail? Retail has more blatantly subtle ways that they upsell you; impulse buys are the items that surround you or are placed at the counter so that when you are waiting in line you’ll either pick something up without really thinking about it or while you’re checking out, you’ll throw that pack of gum onto the pile. Retail upsells by blatantly putting items of easy access in your face, but without saying “BUY ME!” this is their subtle way of upselling.
But what about corporate finance companies or companies who maybe don’t have physical products to put out to the customer? Upselling probably seems less important or even nonexistent. But this is actually probably the most important aspect of your business. When customers come in, after you’ve pitched to them your service and they are planning on using your company, they are ripe for the picking to get them to spend more money. It doesn’t hurt to ask things like “well you’re in the landscaping business and we just had a tough winter, maybe you’d be interested in adding a snow plough onto your truck now before winter hits so you’re prepared?” It is blatantly subtle, you’re asking them to spend more money while not being in their face about it; you’re simply asking if they’d be interested in your company helping them out further for their future. You’re helping them to consider investment rather than spend more money. This goes for any financial industry; do you sell insurance? Well, if your company offers multiple insurance packages maybe you could ask the new client if they’d be interested in having additional insurance on their home, auto or other assets. Look into your company’s service offering and see where you can get customers to buy more. If you offer it not as something they are spending more money on but rather an investment for the future, customers will be more willing to listen to your pitch.
Upselling is easier than it would seem to be, after you have already made the sale (this is when the customer is most interested and would be most open to hearing about how they can spend more) you can usually hook them by casually asking if they’d like to upgrade or invest in something else. Even if they say they aren’t interested, you have at least planted the idea in their head for them to consider for later. Many customers will remember what you initially tried to sell them and if you ask again if it is something they are interested in, many customers will agree at a later time. Think where you can get customers to spend more; it’s not a sales pitch, per say, but more of a casual conversation about how they can upgrade or invest. Something to consider!