Bootstrap Business Development

Taking steps to build your business

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Business Sales: Three Common Sales Scenarios and How to Handle Them

Many small biz owners whose products and/or services seemed to “sell themselves” pre-Great Recession are finding themselves on the short end of the experience stick when it comes to now necessary sales skills.  Follow this link to an article I wrote on the subject for Merchant Processing Resource’s Small Business Corner where I cover some very common sales scenarios and suggest some simple approaches to handling them successfully.

  • You’re not sure who you’re dealing with.
  • Your prospect doesn’t seem all that interested.
  • You aren’t sure how much time to spend on a prospect who seems interested in buying from you.
  • You don’t know how to tell if the prospect is blowing you off by asking for a proposal or if they are really interested in making a decision to buy from you.

#3 and #4 are closely related, so I stuck to “Three Common Sales Scenarios” – although I guess I could have used #3.1

Business SalesHere’s an excerpt:


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Building Credibility With Your Small Business Customers

I’m proud to be a contributing author to Merchant Resource Processing’s Small Business Corner.  Follow this link to “Building Credibility With Your Small Business Customers” 

Building CredibilityHere’s an except:


Meet Blog Formatting Guru Delia Rusu


A huge part of my mission at Bootstrap Business Development is sharing valuable resources with small business owners.  Today I’d like to introduce you to Delia Rusu.  I just “met” her today via Decisive Minds Ultimate Blog Challenge (BTW you should take Michele’s challenge on if you’re posting a blog.)

Delia is all about formatting your blog – and I love her tagline “Helping Women Bloggers Stay in The Genius Zone.”

While Delia’s focus is on formatting (she doesn’t ghost write or create content for clients) you’ll want to subscribe to her blog as her writing is as entertaining as it is informative (which is very meaningful to me as this is what I strive for as a content writer.)

In particular, I especially want to recommend her post “How to Set Up Categories and Tags for Your Blog” – she drills right down and is able to make what for many have found to be really difficult (and perhaps have read a few other posts that seemed to confirm that fear) very simple.


Dull to Shine

 While you’re there be sure to sign up for this easy to follow tutorial


What a Trip to a Great Hair Stylist Can Teach Small Business Owners

by Annie Kile

OK – for all you fella’s out there who might think there’s nothing it for you to read this post just think about the last time your wife or girlfriend came home with a haircut or hair color she wasn’t happy with.  I’m going to bet you either said (or were at least thinking) “Why didn’t you just let the stylist know what you wanted?”  Maybe they did let the stylist know. Maybe the stylist didn’t listen.  Maybe the stylist didn’t ask.

Great hairstylists provide their clients with great consultations.  They know that’s the only way to discover their client’s wants, needs, problems, and preferences.

Every small business owner (male or female) needs to discover their customer’s or client’s wants, needs, problems, and preferences.

And that, my friends, is what this post is all about.

Expert versus Know it All

I’ve suffered through a few pretty awful haircuts but I’ve come to learn I know when I’m in trouble.

Scenario #1:  The stylist washes my hair, walks me back to her chair, pulls out a comb and scissors and is ready to start chopping after asking a few superficial questions such as “So, how much do want me to cut off?”

Scenario #2:  After letting a stylist know what I wanted, looking in the mirror, I’m thinking this doesn’t look like what I asked for. Upon questioning, the stylist says “Don’t worry, I know what I’m doing.”

Unfortunately, sometimes it appears to our customers and clients that we aren’t listening, or even all that interested, in what they have to say.  After all, we’re the experts, we know what we’re doing, and we’re here to serve our customer’s best interests.  That’s rather hard to do unless you are completely clear as to exactly what your customer’s “best interests” are.

You might be thinking “I don’t do that!”  But you just might have fallen into a rut where you ask the usual suspect questions – which may, or may not, serve to identify your client or customer’s wants, needs, problems, or preferences.  And this can translate into a new customer going elsewhere, or losing a customer whose wants, needs, problems, or preferences have changed.

Take a Seat

Style Seat is an online service “to discover and book a salon, spa or professional online.”  They posted a piece on their blog :  “Tips on How to Give an Amazing Client Consultation.”  The tips they’ve included are as true in a hair salon as they are at any small business.

The first point they make is a critical factor in small business success:

“Consultations are crucial to making your client feel like you’re listening to them and that they’re being taken care of.  The better you can do this, the more they’ll return and refer you to their friends.”

Every savvy business owner knows that keeping an existing customer is less expensive than finding new customers.  Additionally, a general rule of thumb is that 80% of your business should come from referrals – again, having an existing customer refer new business to you is less expensive than finding new customers on your own.

The second point they make is equally critical:

“Consults can get tricky because a client may not speak up if they have questions or concerns.”

It’s really easy to think when a customer or client doesn’t express any concerns or has few (if any) questions during our presentation or consultation that we’ve hit the nail on the head and are certain to make a sale.  Actually, there’s a pretty good chance that we’ve missed the target completely.

One of the worst haircuts I ever got in my life occurred when I was too timid to ask questions or voice my concerns – and this was done by a stylist I’d been going to for over a year!  It will come as no surprise that I never returned and certainly didn’t refer anybody to her ever again.  You think I would have learned, but this same train wreck of an experience happened again with a stylist I’d never used before when, once again, I didn’t speak up.  Never went back or referred to that stylist either.

Neither one of these hairstyles were so bad that I couldn’t be seen in public.  But they weren’t want I wanted, didn’t meet my needs, and certainly weren’t styles I preferred.

How to Give and Amazing Consult

So far we’ve been talking about what can happen when we fall into the trap of thinking we “know what’s best” when, in fact, we don’t have enough information.  However, while I’ve gotten butchered enough to know when I need to get out of a stylist’s chair – I’ve also come to know when I am in good hands.  Again, the tips Style Seat provides for giving an amazing style consultation hold true for any business.  Here’s my interpretation of those tips from a perspective that holds true for any small business:

Communication is key.  If you’re working with a new customer or client it is useful to first establish some common ground.  While people’s time is important and they don’t necessarily want to “chat” – a few pleasantries exchanged can be essential as this helps gain your customer’s trust and they will also tend to be more comfortable about asking questions and sharing concerns with you.

You don’t know if you don’t ask.  The key to asking the “right” questions during a consultation is to be sure you are asking open-ended questions.  What are open ended questions?  The simplest definition of an open ended question is a question that is impossible to respond to with a “yes” or a “no.”  Instead, they are questions that are designed for a response that will provide you with information and insight into your customer.

Show and tell.  Even though you’ve asked the right questions, it is still possible to misinterpret your customer’s response.  Neither you, nor your customer, necessarily sees the world or interprets what’s been said in the same way.  Not to mention that your customer or client might not be exactly sure what it is, or how to express, what will meet their wants, needs, problems, and preferences.

What will solve this problem is a good old demonstration.  No, I’m not suggesting that you present some kind of “infomercial” – demonstrating comes in many forms.

Provide an example.  An obvious example when selling a product is the product itself – but when you include examples of how the product has worked for others this can lead to the customer clarifying or declaring a concern.  This also works when working with clients for those of us running service-based small businesses.  Rather than demonstrating a product, creating charts, graphs, infographics and the like will provide the same opportunity to receive clarification and uncovering concerns from clients.

And I would be remiss if I failed to point out that stories are perhaps the most powerful way to give your client a “real world” example.  For one, a story “shows” the value of your product and/or service.  And, even if the story doesn’t resonate – when you tell a story during a consultation (such as how your service helped another business or customer successfully) if the client you’re in front of doesn’t relate to your story, they are apt to tell you why (giving you more information.)   It is also important to note that stories are a two-way street.  Encouraging your customer to “tell you their stories” can provide you with information they may not have shared via those open ended questions you’ve asked.

Don’t tell – educate.  While we don’t want to come off as a “know it all” and while we’ve established how important communication, demonstration, and examples are for gleaning the information we need in order to best serve our customer’s best interests – there is still a need to educate customers and clients.

This is true even though today’s consumers are perhaps the best informed consumers in history.  The Internet literally places information at the fingertips of your customer, and it is a rare consumer who has not done at least preliminary research online before heading out to buy a product or service.

However, this doesn’t mean your customer or client is an expert or has a complete handle on what is, in fact, best for them.  If this is the case, rather than telling a client what they need, educate the client.  Educating the client involves “who, what, where, how and why.”  For example, the “who” might involve educating a client about why they need to outsource because they simply don’t have the time or the people on board in their business.

You may need to educate about “what and how” by explaining a process step-by-step.  You may need to inform a customer as to where a product comes from and/or how it is produced.  And, it almost goes without saying that customers who understand “why they should buy from you” are customers that do, in fact, buy from you.    

Listen – don’t lead.  Listening is a completely different process than hearing.  You hear what someone is saying simply because they are speaking out loud.  Listening requires attaching meaning to what is being said.  Too often we’re thinking more about what we’re going to say before we’ve really listened to what our customer is saying.  Which isn’t listening, instead this kind of “listening” usually results in leading or prompting a customer to “say what we want.”  It also contributes to our interrupting a customer before they’ve finished – both of which often result in our not hearing important information from the customer.

The goal of a truly expert hairstylist is to know that every time their client looks in a mirror they think “Wow! I love my hair!” and they know the first step to achieving that goal is an amazing consultation.  Our clients and customers may not literally be looking in a mirror, but we can think of our services and/or products as mirrors – and when our customers take a look in that mirror we want them to think “Wow!”  We want them to be completely satisfied and happy with their decision to buy from us.  And we know that the first step to achieving that goal is an amazing consultation.

Content is definitely King. If you’re business isn’t providing dynamic, meaningful content to your customers and prospects that develops their trust in your business, you are losing business. Not enough time to do that? That’s where I come in.


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Creativity and The NonProfit Organization: An Equal Opportunity Personality Trait

By Annie Kile

Creativity is our best resource when it comes to inspiring the innovative ideas, approaches, products, and services that grow strong, successful nonprofit organizations and for-profit businesses.

The problem is that people tend to think that creativity is one of those “have or don’t have” traits. Creative people write the Great American Novel, paint masterpieces, conduct symphony orchestras, design beautiful buildings. Creative people are geniuses able to come up with solutions to complex problems such as figuring out what gravity is or those who create fantastical inventions that profoundly change the world.

You might think you’re just not the creative type – but we’ve got news for you:

If you’re human – you’re creative.

Remember having to run the 50 yard dash in grade school? Most likely all of your classmates had the ability to run. It is equally likely that many – even most – of your classmates ran faster than you. That experience may have caused you to think “I can’t run” – but, of course you actually could run. You just came to think of it as something you weren’t good at – and we tend not to pursue things we don’t think we’re very good at.

But most of us could train ourselves to run a 5 or 10K race – even a marathon. We might start off pretty darn slow – but, after awhile, we’d get better at it.

Just as you can train to run, or train to become an accountant, or train to learn how to type, or train to learn how to drive – you can train to release your creativity.

While some people tend to think of themselves as “not a creative type”, others have a tendency to compartmentalize their creativity. For example, you might be very creative when it comes to landscaping your yard. You visualized, researched, planned, and planted a front yard that is both envied and enjoyed by your neighbors (who, by the way think you are exceptionally creative.)

Now, you might think of yourself as fairly creative in the garden, but don’t see yourself as a creative problem solver or innovator at work. However, those “creativity skills” you use in the garden are equally available to you at work.

If your still have trouble thinking of yourself as “creative”, try taking a few minutes and think about things you enjoy doing “just for fun.” Visualize yourself engaging in these activities and you will find plenty of evidence demonstrating your creativity skills – and these skills are transferable.

29 WaysWhat inspired this post is coming across this great little video “29 Ways to Stay Creative.” The video doesn’t contain any earth shattering techniques to unleash your creativity. Instead, the video provides simple things we can do every day to improve not only our ability to think creatively – but increase our faith in our ability to be creative as well.

Strengthening our belief that we are capable of approaching challenges and opportunities creatively increases the likelihood of developing the innovative ideas, approaches, products, and services that grow strong, successful nonprofit organizations and for-profit businesses.

Not to mention the joy living creatively brings into every facet of our lives.
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Nonprofit Strategic Innovation: Harnessing the Forces of Change to Your Advantage

Planning for Change

 1bA high school basketball coach who lost all of his key players to graduation would be crazy to use the same tactics to create a winning season with new players who possess different skills. Instead, he needs to assess his current team members – how they play together (internal forces), as well as how they play other teams who have also changed (external forces.) Once he does this, he must come up with innovative strategies and tactics (new strategies and tactics) in order to achieve a winning season even though things have changed.  The coach must manage what has changed both inside the team and outside the team.

Change is often not something we think of in terms of management.

We tend to think of change as something that happens to us, rather than something we voluntarily make a decision to perpetrate upon ourselves. If something changes for the better we welcome that change. If something changes for the worse – we do our best to soften the blow.

Especially in today’s challenging environment, most organizations conclude their major challenge is to respond to change that has been thrust upon them from without. More specifically, more and more organizations are stymied responding to the negative impact of the obstacles and problems this change from without brought about.

Actually both external AND internal forces perpetrate change – and they are most often interrelated. A change from without causes changes within. It only by going through a formal process to identify these external and internal forces that we can create strategies designed to prepare for change as well as plan for change.

First Things First

The problem is that many organizations tend to establish strategies – or the “what” they need to achieve in order to respond to change before they identify the forces of change. Forces of change can be external, such as changes in government or the economy – but these forces can be internal as well, for instance bringing a new CEO, board member, or other employee on.

To make matters worse, many organizations will skip designing overall strategy and jump right into instituting tactics – or the “how” they will achieve their strategies.

On top of all that, because they have not identified specific external and internal forces of change – not to mention how they interrelate – quite often these “new” tactics simply mimic tactics that worked to maintain a status quo that no longer exists.

What “always” worked before change most always doesn’t work (or at least as well) after change has occurred. Instead, organizations must use this information to develop innovative – new and different – strategies and tactics specifically designed to mitigate an organization’s current status.

This is a post I wrote while working with Yngage Team of Experts, a group dedicated to helping nonprofits succeed through innovation and creative strategic development. If your non-profit needs assistance with content writing, strategic planning, board development, or other issues contact me today.
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Why SMEs Should Get Engaged to their Employees

by Annie Kile   March 2013

Recently I wrote a guest post on Merchant Processing Resource’s Small Business Corner.  This short, but power-packed post is all about how Small Business Owners can leverage employee engagement to attract and retain high-performance, highly-productive employees.   It also gives employees who work for over-controlling bosses some sound, logical arguments that it is in the best interest of the business for their boss to “Get out of the way and let me do my job”  without making the mistake of actually telling them to get out of the way and let you do your job.

Hop on over for a quick read you can take to the bank.  I’d love you to come back here and leave a reply that tells the tale of how Participative Management Principles (they’re in the post) have impacted your small business or your relationship with your boss.

Oh, and while you’re here, take a minute to sign up to subscribe to my blog — button’s to your left 🙂