* This article originally published in Inc Magazine Written by Inc : Staff writer
There are several good reasons why every small and medium-sized business needs to build and maintain an effective customer pipeline, but perhaps the most important one is that failing to do so can jeopardize your financial stability, says Yoon Cannon, a business growth expert, author and keynote speaker at Paramount Business Coach LLC. “If 80 percent of your company’s annual revenue is riding on 20 percent of your total customer base, then you risk a devastating hit to profitability from losing just one or two of your biggest clients,” she says. Grant Car done, author of Sell or Be Sold: How to Get Your Way in Business and in Life, adds that a pipeline structure is “essential to the long-term viability and growth of your organization. It is impossible to be too aggressive in this area.”
The thought of building a customer pipeline can be off-putting to some business owners and managers, but that is most often because they lack knowledge about what the process entails, says Hunter Belington, a principal at Closer Consulting, which specializes in the recruitment and development of sales professionals. “They aren’t sure what goes into one or how to manage it.” But building a customer pipeline doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult, especially if you break the process down into a series of key stages.
The goals of a customer pipeline include creating awareness, generating leads, converting leads to sales, boosting transaction value through upwelling and cross-selling and increasing frequency through reorders and repeat sales. You should begin by mapping out the sequences that best align with your ideal target market profile and the products/services you would most like to begin or continue offering them, Cannon suggests. “The low-hanging fruit is often your lower-price offerings in the early stages, and that’s a good place to start. But you should begin thinking about what you can offer at higher price points that might eventually provide a greater return on your investment,” she says.
The pipeline creation process should include measuring performance in each stage of the process, setting benchmarks against existing performance and establishing the potential for improvement. The pipeline must provide you with accurate metrics so that over time your understanding of the process and your ability to measure and boost performance will improve, says Jeff Connelly, a professor at the Acton School of Business and president and CEO of CMIT Solutions. “It is important to break down the process into phases so that you can measure each one. You can only improve it when you are able to measure it.”
Gathering, analyzing and leveraging customer information are critical activities, says Cannon, who breaks the process down into seven key stages. Stage one is prospects who respond to a free offer, indicating a willingness to learn more about you and your business. A subgroup of people who express interest in a low-risk offer emerges in stage two and is further refined by those who complete that transaction in stage three. “From the prospects in the first three stages, you should be able to identify those likely to be interested in your mid-price offerings. The ones who complete that transaction become stage five customers,” she explains. The final two stages are the high-price-point interest group and the high-price-point customer group, typically representing about 20 percent of your customer base but up to 80 percent of your profits.
It is important to note the nature of the customer information that is most valuable in an effective pipeline. For the most part, general demographic information provides little value; it is customer contact data, information requests and purchase patterns that are most useful. This crucial information can be leveraged through a segmentation process such as that described by Cannon, as well as through customer relationship management (CRM) and direct marketing. With CRM, employees answering incoming calls can know exactly who the customer is and what he or she last ordered. The same data can be used to do a better job of targeting direct marketing efforts, regardless of media channel.
Finally, building a culture of performance, learning and continuous improvement is essential to wringing maximum value from your customer pipeline. Metrics and performance benchmarks are part of that effort, but incentives, morale-building and fostering an enthusiastic atmosphere that is conducive to your business goals are at least as important. “For many SMBs, a culture of performance means a change in behavior to consistently measuring performance metrics for the first time,” Cannon says. “Continuous improvement is about a consistent focus on a daily or weekly basis to monitor results and change variables as needed in order to better meet your target market’s needs and do a better job of motivating them to become customers.”
*This article was originally published in Philadelphia Business Journal Written by : Yoon Cannon
Many companies are trimming down on payroll to weather today’s tough economic storm. But, staffing decision affect both budget and revenues. While high turnover certainly bleeds resources, low turnover can also inhibit a company’s growth if that staff has gone stale. Seniority should not win over stagnant.In either case, recruiting the right later talent will be vital to survive tough economic times and to thrive in years to come. Although more people are out looking for work today, business owners will still have to compete to attract and recruit top level talent. Here are seven steps and reminders for effective recruiting.
Step 1: Identify your company’s ideology.Before your start looking outside for who you need, you have to first look inside at who you are. More than your company’s mission statement carefully think through what your company’s ideology is. A greater purpose – a greater cause will sustain your people and challange them to perform at higher levels. What is one thing you stand for? What one core value are you most passionate about? How clearly is that message communicated throughout every aspect of your company?
Step 2: Dream plan your trophy employee profile.Most hiring managers and business owners are not specific enough as to who they are looking for to fill needed roles in the company.a. Write down the top five skills needed for the bench you are trying to fill.b. Rank the top five personal qualities you can not live without.c. Rank several characteristics you know you can not live with.d. Rank top three factors that your trophy employee is motivated by.Have exact written profiles not just for the upper level positions, but also for entry-level positions like receptionists, assistants, and even the interns. Poor performance at any level can clog up the whole system. Conversely, exceptional entry-level teams add tremendous value to your company’s growth. And, don’t just keep this information in your head. A written list will help you from not compromising on those things you already established at critical and important.
Steps 3: Do your research.You need conviction in the interview when you sit eyeball with the potential trophy person you want to recruit. You may be your applicant’s first interview or your interviewee may have been on 14 other interviews prior to yours. Knowing your top three competitors’ pay packages, benifits, culture, advancement opportunities and what their ideologies are will help you do steps for through eight.
Step 4: Have a USP for each of your job openings.As a small business owner you may not be in the financial position to out bid all of your competitors in order to attract the best staff. But, knowing what everyone offers can help you leverage your company’s best qualities. Each of our job openings should be presented in print and in the interview with its USP – unique selling position. Contrary to common beliefs, money is not primary motivator in recruiting the best talent. Also, a job opening isn’t just a bench that is empty. Include those weak-performing benches as well in your interview process.
Step 5: Search and find your draft picks.Don’t just rely solely on a staffing agency. Open the nets much wider to find your diamond-in-the-rough. Have a staff meeting and brainstorm a list of where to find these draft picks. If you want the best players on your team you need to engage other people’s ideas, resources and creativity. Success is never accomplished alone. Make sure your USP is clearly communicated in each of the recruiting strategies.
Step 6: Stage your company.If you wanted to sell your home to the highest bidder you would pay careful attention to how you stage your home. As a business owner or hiring manager you need to stage your company to help you recruit the highest talent. Pay careful attention to all the details that contribute to communicating your company’s ideology. Is the physical space and work flow aligned with your core values? Is your existing staff a strong reflection of your company values? Effective business-staging will articulate your company’s core ideology. Like pieces of a puzzle you will know when you meet the right candidate – and they will too.
Step 7: Create competition in the interview process.You do not need to conduct group interviews to create a competitive atmosphere among your potential candidates. But your attitude of competition does matter in not just recruiting someone, but in recruiting them right. The person whom you hired may have turned out to be your only applicant, but they do not need to feel that way.The goal to win the competition makes people work for the job. It’s important to set the tone that the applicant wants you more than you need them. When they are recruited right, they arrive wanting to be there, greatful to be there, and work hard to stay there.
We’re not the only ones to experience a storm. Animals have an innate sense when a storm is approaching. While the turkey will hide to weather the storm, the eagle will fly to a high spot and wait for the winds to come.
When the storm hits, it sets its wings so that wind will pick it up and lift it above the storm. While the storm rages below, the eagle is soaring above it. The eagle does not escape the storm. It simply uses the storm to lift higher. As a business owners you can use recruiting strategies as wind to lift your company to higher levels of success above this economic storm.
Yoon Canon is CEO of Paramount Business Coach. She has successfully started four other companies, interviewing over 15,000 applicants. She can be reached at email@example.com or 215-292-4947.
*This article was originally published in JP Morgan Chase Ink magazine Written by : Lawrence Houck
What can you do to maintain momentum with fewer people on board?
Reprinted from JPMorgan CHASE & CO.
In this time of tightening budgets, many groups at JPMorgan Chase need to do more with fewer employees and resources.
The challanges that managers and employees face can be considerable, but there are some steps that people can take to help themselves and their groups manage through these though times.
A POSITIVE THING
“The dirst think (to think about) is morale,” said Yoon Cannon, a business coach and consultant.
“The positioning must be right so that when you give the message that the business is restructuring or reorganizing, it doesn’t create a sour environment,” Cannon said.
It helps to see the changes as a “growth opportunity for your team,” she said.
When resources are limited, it gives people a chance to re-evaluate the job they are doing and to come up with new, creative ways to get things done, Cannon said.
“You need to make sure that each individual is performing at their best,” she said.
Managers should solicit contributios from employees about what that a team can do a better job with the resources that are available.
“If they take on the cause of the company and the company’s challanges, it helps the staff take ownership,” Cannon said. “When they take ownership, they start to think differently.”
That new thinking is key to identifying areas where greater efficiency gains can take place.
“You start getting fresh ideas and the group is really so much more powerful that one or two people trying to solve these problems,”Cannon Said.
It’s also important to addess individual concerns regularly, she said.
“Be careful not to just have contact with someone on a monthly basis or think that group contact is contact enough,” she said.”That’s not going to give (managers) a true heartbeat for the organization.”
Individual conversations help manager understand the concerns that people might not feel comfortable airing in a group setting.
“They then can give them the right tools to overcome and turn frustration into energy,” she said. “A lot of times, it could be a short, five to 1–minute conversation that can turn people around in their attitude.”
While creating the right attitude is essential, that alone won’t help you meet the challanges of doing more with less.
It’s also important to take a hard look at the current workflow of the group, according to productivity consultant Sara Caputo.
“First and foremost, you should make sure there is real clarity around the team’s or department’s goal,” she said.
Clarity is important becuase a group may have to make choices about what can and can’t be done. “Some things need to shift” Caputo said.
Like Cannon, Caputo said there is opportunity in the loss.
“We can hit the reset button, revisit our goals as a team and get energized around them,” Caputi said. “That’s the best way to get the team on board.”
Hitting the reset button means that everything you do gets a second look, said consultant Olivia Fox of Sputfire Communications.
“In having to do more with less, you will naturally have to get better at priorization,” she said. “It will force you to delete things from your to-do, should-do or could-do list, which is some thing you should do anyway.”
For recommended being ruthless in deciding what truly needs to be done. This is essential, she said, becuase focusing solely on being efficient won’t get you where you need to be.
“Are you being efficient, or are you being effective?” Fox said. “You can be efficient”at all the wrong things.”
Kathleen Alessandro, president of Energized Solutions, agreed that deciding what needs to be done is an important early step.
“Departments, tea,s and companies need to come together and clarify what our priority is,” she said. “We can’t just assume that when other people are let go and we’re left with the same amount of work that when other people are let go and we’re left with same amount of work that we can do it. We’re deluding ourselves to think that it can all get done.”
Alessandro said managers and employees should also take a close look at their work process.
For example, are employees using e-mail in an effective way in the office, or does it interrupt the workflow and cause distractions? Basic discussion about best practices in the workplace can bear fruit.
“I think we have to revisit what are not necessarily useful things that we’ve learned to do over the last 10 years,” Alessandro said.
Alessandro added that incorporating the changes into the culture of a workplace is essential because running leaner, more efficient organizations is a business change that is here to stay.
“It’s not just that there’s layoff in the company or that there’s a bit of a downturn,” she said. “This is a whole different 21st century model.”
Created on June 26, 2013 Written by CNN Staff Writer Ask a Small Business Expert: Yoon Cannon
Yoon Cannon is an author, motivational business growth keynote speaker and highly sought after business coach. She delivers dynamic, high content, inspiring messages to audiences across the US and internationally. She has helped thousands of business owners and executives rapidly increase sales, productivity and profits. She has served audiences in: B2B, Direct Sales, Healthcare/Bio Tech, Family-Owned Businesses, Franchises, IT Companies, Law Firms, Small Business, Sales Teams and more.
Over the past 20 years Yoon has started 4 successful companies and sold 3 of them. She knows what it takes to attract a steady flow of new clients. Her first business was a marketing company which quickly grew into 6 new branch locations managing 30-80 sales reps on her team. Yoon’s depth of insights as a business growth expert will help your audiences improve results in accelerating their business growth.
1. What is your business background? Over the past 20 years I have started 4 other successful companies and sold 3 of them.
2. What challenges did you have to overcome?
Many. I once put too much trust in one of my managers who ended up stealing my clients and starting her own business losing a value of a quarter million dollars in life cycle value.
3. What advice do you give to startups who are struggling?
a) Define your VALUE – Differentiate your product or service from the competition. Customers purchase b) Troubleshoot the ISSUE – Identify where the gap is in your business.
c) Understand and define your TARGET MARKET – When I coach entrepreneurs with struggling businesses too often their target market is just not specific enough. Many businesses may have several different types of target market.
d) Put up the “bat signal” for HELP – An experienced business coach can serve as your guide and mentor to accelerate turning your business around.
4. How can an entrepreneur choose the right business coach?
A. Make sure the business coach has had experience starting and growing their own successful businesses and not just their current biz of business coaching. A business coach coming from a corporate background doesn’t understand what it’s like to be that entrepreneur who is wearing all the hats. Of course, don’t ever go with a coach who makes you feel “stupid” … there’s a lot if that out there
B. have the business coach present to you a process that makes sense to you that will take them from where you are to where you want to be.
“As a type A personality, it was easy for me to get sucked into the ‘workaholism’ syndrome. 9/11 was a huge wake-up call that shouted the reminder to me that we never know how much time we have left here on earth.”
9/11 inspired me to completely change the business I was in. When 9/11 happened I was running three different businesses at the same time – a large performing arts center, a retail store, and a production company – with 35 people on my payroll.
As a type A personality, it was easy for me to get sucked into the “workaholism” syndrome. 9/11 was a huge wake-up call that shouted the reminder to me that we never know how much time we have left here on earth.
No one ever says on their deathbed that they wished they worked more or achieved more. When we face death and tragedy we all evaluate the relationships in our lives. As a working mother with three children (two at that time), 9/11 inspired me to create instead a lifestyle business, so that my new business could be built around my family which would allow me to be available for them on their schedule. I didn’t want to miss out on enjoying my family and loved ones.
I ended up selling all three of my businesses and started my lifestyle business which is my coaching practice. The majority of my work is virtual, allowing me to be at home in the mornings to see them off to school and available for my kids when they get home at 3pm. I choose how much I want to work each week. I can work anywhere in the world, so when we decide to pick up and travel I can work around that no problem.
My lifestyle business also comes with the added perk of no overhead. I used to have a high maintenance- high overhead 5,000-square-foot building. Plus, my lifestyle business offers me a leveraged business model which allows me to work a fraction of the time while earning 10 times more than the traditional billable hours model.
I think the anniversary of 9/11 each year serves an important reminder for us all to prioritize and cherish investing in the relationships of our family and loved ones.