Building Trust with Your Customers Helps You Reach Your Goals Faster-1

Building Trust with Your Customers Helps You Reach Your Goals Faster-1Tell me, do you think you will benefit if your clients trusted you more? What are those benefits?  Likely answers could be you’d:
1. Gain more customers
2. Get repeat orders
3. Make more money
4. Earn more respect in the community you service
5. Lead a more contented life for having done your job well
Hm… let me think. These are the objectives of your business! If you are trusted more, then it leads to achieving your business and personal goals, faster!

If people trust you, they won’t mind paying extra
The best news about this whole trust business is that you can charge a premium for trust. Trust can be a fantastic investment into your business.

Trust does involve some risk
Charle H. Green, a noted expert on trust, asks: Have you ever recommended a competitor to one of your top clients? This is the acid test of establishing trust in selling. A salesman who willingly shares information that would serve the interest of his customer — even if it’s about a rival — is actually putting his customer’s interests ahead of his own and the customer is not so dumb that he would not notice it. He would reward the sales person with more trust and most likely will strike the next deal with him/her!
If you are able to manage a short term business risk for the long-term benefit, you would have no problem establishing trust with your customers.

Trust can overrule cynicism
Building Trust with Your Customers Helps You Reach Your Goals Faster-1

I’ve often heard people say “it doesn’t work this way in the real world…”
“It’s a dog eat dog world out there..…no body trusts anybody, anymore…” This is a sort of cynical outburst that only trust can overcome.
Have you ever wondered why when you go out to buy a mobile phone, a watch or a TV set, why do you always go to your most trusted dealer?
There could be glowing testimonies on the net for a brand that your dealer does not stock, but you would disregard all that and out aside your cynicism and still go to your old dealer —

Because when it comes to actual buying, you want your “own” dealer, even if his store may not be as swanky or uptown as the one advertised in the newspaper.
Winning brands build trust relationships. They constantly back-up their best marketing plans with the best service. And that builds trust.

Elements of trust in the next post

Trust is the foundation of any successful relationship. If you would like your customers to trust you more and want to know what to do, we will talk about elements of trust in the next post and recommend you a book that will help you do that.

About the author: Chaitanya Sagar is an expert in small businesses and is the CEO of, an online marketplace for services like writing, business consulting, research, software, online-tutoring etc. You can find good service providers and collaborate with them on p2w2.

Building Trust with Your Customers Helps You Reach Your Goals Faster-1

Picture credits: Dideo Spoon CairoCarol

The changing rules of the game in a small business

change and small businessesWhen you play Basketball, which game’s rules do you follow?

Sounds like a silly question. But do you know that in your small business, you could be playing by the rules that are no longer relevant? You know it when your revenue is stagnant; you feel stagnant.
If you are a small business, you have to morph as per the new rules or die. When you play by the old rules, you become irrelevant; customers and employees leave you; profits lag; people don’t scale. The rules of the game

change fast. Are you aware of the changing rules or are you busy in the routine of the day?

What do I mean by the ‘rules’? They could be:
1. Extent and the nature of marketing you do
2. Extent of work you delegate
3. Cash reserves and working capital required
4. Number of employees on bench

And when do these rules change? Some events happen that trigger off the change. E.g.

1. When you win a large contract
2. When your product goes beta
3. When you hire an employee; when you hire substantially large number of employees
4. When you get investment from someone otherthan yourself or immediate family

Obviously, these rules and the changes are not exhaustive.

Have you experienced the changing rules yourself? After you realized, what activities in your small business did you change?

Picture credit: Linnybinnypix

Use LinkedIn to Generate Revenue and Grow Your Small Business

How can linkedIn help small businessesLinkedIn is a good tool. But it’s boring. When was the last time you found something funny in LinkedIn? Yeah. There are articles talking how to use LinkedIn. But most of them are equally boring laundry lists of all LinkedIn can do. Not something that will be useful to you. Some just waste your time. “Talk to [people] on phone” lists LinkedIn’s own blog as one of the things you can do using LinkedIn. That list has no meaning for a small business. As a small business owner, my priorities are simple. Generating revenue is one of the highest priorities I have. Can LinkedIn contribute to that? How?

Using LinkedIn is about how you get in touch with people, and do business with them in various contexts. Below are some practical ways to help you in your small business.

Account opening and lead generation

If you have list of target customers (individuals), titles or companies, search them. You can search by industry, current or previous titles, current or previous companies, within a postal code etc. Get your target list of individuals in this search. Then figure out the most trusted route to those individuals. The most trusted route is the connection

to the target through a first degree connection. You could preferably ask for a referral and you have a leg-in the company.

Finding the decision makers and influencers

When you sell to large corporations, understanding who you are talking to and who the decision maker/influencer will help you strategize your sale. There’s no use selling to someone who can’t do much. Using LinkedIn, you can find out who the decision maker is and could have alternative ways to reach them. You can do it by looking at job titles in an organization. But very often, that gives you partial and incorrect information. You can get more accurate and ‘tacit’ information by gathering information from others in the company.

Accumulate reputation and make referrals long lasting

Recommendations feature in LinkedIn has an eBay or p2w2 effect on your reputation. All your contacts can see it and are on for a long time. It’s an accumulation of your online reputation. When you delight a client, ask them for a LinkedIn recommendation. Those who visit your profile can see your reputation. In the offline world, a referral you get can only fetch you a few contracts. But here, you can make the recommendation long lasting and touch many more than just a few referrals. How can LinkedIn help small businesses and entrepreneurs?

Follow your customers and de-risk from personnel changes

With LinkedIn, when your clients shift from one company to another, they move with you because you connect with the person – not the company. That’s good for you. With your contact’s move, there’s a known person in the new company that gets your leg into the company (that’s assuming you have good terms with the client. If you have bad reputation, it moves across companies too.)

Using the same strategy to know the ‘influencers,’ i.e. making your connection wide within the company so that when your key contact leaves the company, you have others to fallback on. You de-risk your account from personnel changes.

The above are the ways you can generate revenue. If you are keen on exploring more about this, I suggest you read this eBook (Can LinkedIn increase your sales) published by Jill Konrath. Pages 5-8 have the crux of what this eBook has to offer. It’s worth the read.

Tap into push button expertise; position yourself as a subject matter expert

LinkedIn Answers has been reasonably successful. We wrote about it in our previous post (5 good marketing and HR websites for a small business). If you ask a question related to your business, you can be reasonably certain that you get multiple good answers. As a small business, you have many questions and few answers. You can use LinkedIn Answers to tap into expertise of many people. Just ask.

Alternately, you can position yourself as a subject matter expert in the subject you want to be viewed as an expert and answer questions posed by others. The more ‘best answers’ you accumulate, the better you will be treated an expert in your subject.

In my opinion, the above covers the ‘high impact items’ of how LinkedIn can help small businesses. That gives you 80% of the value understanding 20% of the items. If you are really interested looking for a laundry list (other other 80%) of all you can do on LinkedIn, here are a few links that will help you do just that.

20 Ways to Use LinkedIn Productively 20 Ways to Use LinkedIn Productively

Ten Ways to Use LinkedIn Guy Kawasaki's article on LinkedIn

The Right Way to Use LinkedIn The Right Way to Use LinkedIn

How can LinkedIn help your small business

Picture credits: 1. LinkedIn (top): Mario Sundar 2. Enlightening (middle): Jurvetson 3. Sunset & the Thinker (bottom): Esparta

p2w2-SBL: 5 Good (Marketing, HR and Other) Websites for a Small Business

Tools for small businessesSmall businesses have different DNA. If you are a small business, you are small, with limited budgets and they have a lot to do. You constantly have this urge to ‘scale up’ – in revenue and people. You have meager resources and employees. And face high risk. So want stuff to work out-of-box and give you returns.

That’s why we have put together 5 great resources for small businesses that will help you. These resources will give you strategic assets. Like if your employees use Manager Tools, they will be far better employees right away and that improves the quality of employees you have without having a pay a bomb to a soft skills trainer. The other resources below are equally good.

Marketing voices

Marketing Voices is one of THE best Internet marketing podcasts I have ever heard. Jennifer Jones, the host, interviews the who’s who of social media marketing and you get to hear the cutting edge of Internet marketing. Of late, the podcast has become shorter and better. Jennifer Jones hits the nail on it head and gets it over with. There are no long conversations. She does not look to fill the time as much as she wants to give the most within the shortest span of time.


Subscribe to Marketing Voices in iTunes


SpyFu is a very different resource. It’s a website where you can key in a competitor’s website and get great competitive insight on PPC (pay per click) and Organic search results. E.g. You can get how much ad budget your competition spent, on which keywords, who the major competitors for certain keywords are, and on which keywords does the website rank high in organic search results.


Manager Tools

Manager-tools is a podcast that gives ‘tools’ to managers. Michael Auzenne and Mark Horstman strike a conversation every week about soft skills – how to manage your time, how to leave voice mails, how to have one-on-one conversations with people who work for you. What I like about the podcast is that the suggested behavior is sensible and practical. Though they do talk about what managers do wrong, they do that well and only enough to make the point.

If you wanted a mentor who taught you or your employees what to do, you can find one in Manager-tools. If used well, Manager-tools can convert ordinary employees into strategic assets and can influence the culture of your company positively.


Subscribe in iTunes

LinkedIn Answers

LinkedInYou may know LinkedIn but am not sure if you know the power of LinkedIn Answers. Whatever questions you face in your business, you can pose that in LinkedIn and get very good responses to your questions. What’s even more wonderful is that you can search the archives and see if someone else posted the same question and check out what the responses have been. It gives you insights from multiple experts (or not so experts) at the same time and saves you time.


You can find many articles of topics important to you What I like about is sensible advice. E.g. Check out this article – How to Sell in 60 Seconds. The author upgrades your selling capability. There’s a large archive of such articles.

I hope you enjoy these resources. If you

know some other resources that are as good as or better than these websites, please let me know. Many small businesses read this blog. You will be able to help them by telling me.

Picture credit: tanakawho

Small business cash flow crisis: Psychology, not economics, is to blame

cash flow

You may find it a little hard to believe — at least I did in the beginning — that one of the biggest challenges faced by small business owners is not lack of demand or depressed sales but a poor choice of where you source capital and where you deploy it.

Nearly 84% entrepreneurs don’t make smart choices about their funding source. That’s the finding of recent survey done by UK-based Bibby Factors Northwest.

The outcome is that nearly half these ventures fizzle out within the first three years of operation. Just imagine — what a colossal waste of someone’s time, money and dreams!

After a careful analysis of this situation, I came to the conclusion that at the root of this problem is not economics but psychology.

At the first sign of trouble, a typical response of a small entrepreneur is either to get his bank overdraft extended, or dip into his savings. Both are big mistakes, yet 84% businessmen respond to a cash crisis in this knee-jerk fashion according to the Bibby researchers.

As I understand it, this happens because, a small entrepreneur, who often has a lot of his personal savings at stake in the venture is typically inward-looking and averse to taking big exposure, usually to his own detriment. Unfortunately, this kind of “tunnel vision” on capital issues does not help him in the long run. Instead of insulating him from risk, it turns out to be a costly decision.

“Let me tide over this crisis” seems to be the response as opposed to tackling more permanent funding source of deployment issues.

Cash flow crisis is typically caused not because of lack of funds but because of incorrect way of:

  • Where the funds came from
  • How the capital was deployed

Short term source of capital puts pressure on your cash position

Bank overdraft is short term capital. If you dip into savings, they last only for a short time. If you buy machinery by taking a short term loan, the machinery will only pay you back in a few months if not years. But the bank overdraft will not wait until so many months. It has to be paid off immediately. Similarly, if you buy the machinery by dipping into your savings, that cash will get locked in.

In both cases, if you change the underlying business economics, you don’t have to dip into your savings or draw from bank overdraft.

To understand the business dynamics and to figure out which source of funding is more appropriate for your business, I would suggest the following resources to small business owners:

  • Turn to accounting and

    financial professionals. A quick review of financial statements by a trained eye can help detect slow collections, poor financial management, overextended accounts payable or other warning signs, early before the house gets on fire

  • Financial institutions. Visit a bank for assistance with a line of credit, an accounts receivable loan, or factoring or other such vehicle to ease the cash crunch
  • Join Business groups. They are the best source for peer consultation. Get peer consultation.

Track your cash flows to get early signals

How many aspiring entrepreneurs venture into a business without so much as a primer course in business accounting?

Yet proper financial management is crucial to your business’ survival. Do your Receivables and Payables play nice with each other? Are expenses rising faster than profits? Is one skill more in demand than the other? How much do you need to meet your monthly expenses? Can you take a paycheck this month? All the answers lie in the numbers.

Let’s face it — as businesses grows; cash difficulties are bound to arise. This is especially true of start-ups, during sudden growth spurts, or during shaky economic times.

The real danger lies in failing to plan for such crisis, which can result in over-trading.

Other key causes of cash flow problems could be inadequate budgeting of income and expenses, not watching receivables, not setting goals, and trying to handle the company’s financial management single-handedly. Whatever be the reason, companies that are cash flow negative are simply spending more than their earnings.

Here are a few practical tips to avoid cash flow issues

Negotiate better terms with your customers

When taking on longer-term projects or clients, negotiate in advance for regular payments. Ask for payment at the beginning of projects and ‘front load’ invoices rather than ‘back loading’ them. Offer discounts for quick payment. Bill promptly and avoid slow pay/no pay customers. And finally, exceed customer expectations so they don’t have any reason to withhold payment!

If your customer does not pay on time, consider penal interest and implement it. It saves a lot of time and hassles, if all business terms, especially payment terms are discussed well in advance with a partner, especially an overseas partner, with whom disputes are harder to settle due to the distance issue.

Renegotiate or postpone payments

Check out if you can postpone your payments by either part paying the amount or by postponing it all together. If you have good relations with your vendors, and if you had helped them before, they will be willing to help you by allowing you to pay later.

Some of your payments can be brought down into monthly cash installments instead of a large cash payout.

Do background search and reference checks on new customers

Look before you leap. Perform credit checks on every customer you acquire. Ask for — and check out — credit references from past clients. This is quite an acceptable practice and no one minds it. Call other businesses that have had a relationship with the client. Keep your ears tuned in for any discordant note, a moment’s hesitation, and reluctance to speak about the client. These could be dead giveaways on the client’s past conduct in the marketplace.

Refinance your loans if it makes sense

Lookout for cheaper funding sources. Suppose you took loans on different interest rates from various sources. If your credit limit permits it, club these into one account on the lowest rate of interest with one lender. Or, you may be able to consolidate two or more loans into a lower-interest account and improve your cash flow. Explore these options.

Profit does not mean cash flow

Remember that you may be profitable – accounting wise. But if the invoice you raised is sitting with the customer, then your cash flow gets affected. In a bad situation, you may be unable to pay all the bills or salaries on time. Profits are important, but every decision has to be carefully weighed against its effect on cash flow.

Hold on to cash

Spending is easy. Earning is difficult. When you have cash, don’t take that easy decision. If you are spending a lot on expenses that are not necessary you can save on your cash. Are you spending on office décor, on full page color ads, on a color laser printer when an ordinary one would suffice? Don’t. You might trip and fall on the other side of the gorge. Hold on to enough cash reserves so that you can fight unforeseen cash flow issues.

Opt for credit insurance

Credit insurance can help mitigate the risks by protecting your bottom line against nonpayment–or even slow payment–of invoices, especially while dealing with overseas partners. These days, there are unit linked plans (cheaper than the usual insurance instruments) for every risk. However negotiate for better terms with at least two three insurance providers to cut the most cost-effective deal.

Try barter

You could reduce the strain on your immediate cash if you need goods or services from someone and can barter goods or services in return. Supposing there is a copywriting project posted by a team of website developers. They are looking for someone to write content for their site. Since they are

professionals like yourself, instead of cash payment for your services, you could opt for services in kind — get them to do some good graphics for your website that would boast your business. Of course, this option can be used only in limited circumstances.

The ideal situation for you would be to not even hear about a cash flow crisis. But that is not how real world is. You will run into cash flow issues. You have to think about strategic cash reserve so you can never run into crisis. Remember, when things get tough, the tough ones get going. If you have to become tough, plan for it.

Picture credits crazyneighborlady Amagill

Cash flow