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My Take On Conventional Business Wisdom For SMB

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Posted by John Beveridge on Aug 16, 2017 1:27:54 PM

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If you're like me, you spend a bit of time everyday on LinkedIn and other places checking out what your peers have to say. Ocassionally I see something that catches my eye and click through to read the article.

Most of the time, I get something out of the articles I read. Other times, I shake my head in wonder. So with tongue firmly in cheek, here's my take on some of the conventional business wisdom the experts share with us.

Richard Branson: Put Employees Before Customers

If you're a hippy billionaire who goes parasailing with Obama, this is great advice. For SMB business people who are street fighting every day to survive, not so much. Because for us, without customers, we don't have employees.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating for treating your good employees poorly. Good employees are hard to find, so we need to do everything we can to keep them. But we're not Fortune 500 companies where bad employees can hide for years and remain employed. We don't have that luxury - if someone's not pulling their weight, they have to go. We need to deal with those situations quickly.

But there are lots of things we can do for employees that our enterprise competitors can't. If you're a good employee in an SMB company, you will be given a lot of responsibility quickly. And we don't have to wait for annual review cycles to recognize good employees. If you're doing your job in a way that adds to the profitability of the company, we can find a way to take care of you. And we don't have much of a choice. If we don't take care of you, you will find someone that will.

For me, the customer is the most important thing in my business universe. They give me my living and they allow me to provide opportunities for others. If you take on a customer, you should never give them less than 100%. If they're an overly demanding or abusive customer, you need to deal with that situation quickly too. Just like the bad employees, we can't carry bad customers. They can be a cancer to an SMB company. But as long as you're taking their money, you need to do what you agreed to do for them to the best of your ability. 

If you don't like the way the relationship is going, either address the issues or fire them. Don't give them half-ass service because they're a bad customer. Or you can go eat granola with Richard Branson.

Cold calling should be part of your sales process

I linked to an article I found on the web, but I see this all the time on LinkedIn. It's presented as a macho thing - real men (and women) cold call! The reality is that technology has rendered cold calling obsolete. If you're like me, you're just too busy to answer your mobile phone unless you recognize the number as someone you want to talk to. You listen to your voicemail and delete unsolicited messages 2 seconds into the call.

So you shouldn't expect your sales people to be successful by cold calling. More and more B2B businesses are realizing this - Demand Gen Report found that 31% of respondents expect 26-50% of their revenue to be attributable to marketing sourced leads in 2017. This means that instead of relying on sales people to generate leads by cold calling, their relying on inbound marketing tactics like content marketing to generate leads.

For knowledge industries like professional services and technology, you're selling expertise. Effective content marketing helps promote your expertise by offering potential buyers samples of your expertise to help them frame solutions to problems they face. The sellers that are most helpful are the ones that will eventually be rewarded the business. If you're relying on cold calling to generate leads, your more likely to be viewed as annoying than helpful to potential buyers.

You should embrace failure

I'm sorry, but failure sucks. I should know - I've failed more than I care to admit. I always tell the young people I work with that the only stupid mistake is one that you don't learn from. But that doesn't mean that you should make mistakes so that you can learn from them. I want to give my people (and myself) the ability to analyze the situation and make informed decisions. But if I make a mistake, I'm accountable for it. In an SMB company, failures can have serious consequences.

Maybe my thinking is based on the way I was raised. I knew from a very young age that the world isn't fair and that I was solely responsible for the outcomes in my life. We didn't have participation trophies when I was growing up.

The reality is that there is nothing noble about failure. It's terrible - if you're driven to succeed, failure is depressing and is something that you want to avoid at all costs. This means that you should undertake the preparation necessary and do the hard work to minimize the chance of failure. Keep in mind that failure has consequences on others, including the employees that Richard Branson loves so much.

For every Steve Jobs or Bill Gates that overcome failure, there are hundreds who you've never heard of because they failed. If you fail like I have many times, learn from it and move on. Don't embrace it. Tell yourself that you will do everything possible to avoid failing again.

I'm sure that there are many out there who disagree with my thoughts. Have a go at me in the comments section! 

Topics: Business Management

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