By Joan Nowak
While experience can be a great teacher, learning from others' experiences--successes and failures--can save you time, money and a lot of frustration. So when it comes to growing your small business, here are some mistakes you want to avoid or fix.
Mistake No. 1: I Can Do It On My Own
Most of us became entrepreneurs because we are experts or skilled at something and believed we could do it better than our competitors or maybe our current boss. But building a successful business requires more than technical know-how. None of us are experts at everything. So surround yourself with other experts to fill the gaps. Whether you hire employees, sub-contract work, create joint ventures, work with coaches/consultants or develop strategic alliances, the support you need is available. Don't try to do it all yourself.
Mistake No. 2: Great Products the Market Doesn't Want
The best products or services will go unsold if you are talking to the wrong people--those who will likely never buy! Investing your time and money promoting your products or services to people who don't have the resources, authority or need--today or in the future--is both frustrating and costly. Who are the ideal customers for YOUR products and services? Be clear on this, find out where they are and how to reach them and then apply your resources to pull them in.
Mistake No. 3: Talk More Than You Listen
If you want to earn a customer's business, you need to solve their problem or fill a need. So, before you jump into your sales pitch, take the time to ask questions, listen carefully and determine what the customer needs. Your features and benefits are only relevant when they solve a customer's problem or fill a need. Successful people tend to be good listeners--so you'll achieve greater success when you spend less time talking and more time listening.
Mistake No. 4: No Follow Up
Investing resources to generate leads for your company without a proven method to convert them to paying customers is a costly mistake. Whether potential customers come to you by phone, email, online or in person, a system for consistent and timely follow up is key to sales growth. Take the time to develop a procedure for moving prospects to customers. Take advantage of technology, templates and scripts for efficiency and effectiveness. Be consistent and watch your sales soar.
Mistake No. 5: Disjointed or No Procedures
Documented procedures for all the critical tasks and operations is a key to efficiency, consistency, continuous improvement and profitability. Yet despite the benefits, it's ignored by too many small businesses. This mistake becomes obvious when you hire and train new people, attempt to outsource or start losing customers due to poor service or missed deadlines. Take it one at a time, but make written procedures a priority in your business. The results will surprise you.
Mistake No. 6: Hiring on the Fly
"Quick to hire and slow to fire" describes many small businesses. A strong team of people to support your business is certainly important, but only if they are the right people. There are proven hiring systems and tools, including a job description and clear goals, to help small businesses attract and retain quality people. Always hire with a purpose, invest in training, commit to developing your team and be willing to let go of those who don't fit.
Mistake No. 7: Roller Coaster Marketing
For many small businesses, marketing activities and spending looks like a roller coaster, up and down based on how busy you are or how sales are doing. If your marketing is sporadic, your results will likely be the same. The key to attracting and retaining customers is consistency. It is better to do 5-6 lead generation strategies well and consistently than doing 10-20 of them periodically.
Which of these mistakes are impacting your growth and profit? Make it a priority to fix them--one at a time, if necessary. The sooner you do, the sooner your sales and profit will grow.
About the Author: Joan Nowak, Business Coach, Speaker and Trainer, inspires and helps small business owners create the changes needed in their business to achieve the income and lifestyle they want. Her 7P System brings together all the key elements of business success, and breaks them down into simple, easy to implement strategies -- so clients achieve real results - more sales, profit, control and freedom - quickly and easily.