How To Choose The Right Organizational Structure

It’s the fourth quarter, and that means it’s time to finalize budgets for 2017. One of the budget considerations is determining what staffing will be required to carry out next year’s goals. This planning process has caused me to stop and consider: does my current organizational structure make sense?

Here we will look at three key organizational structures and considerations a small business should take into account when determining the right structure to achieve its business goals.

Business writer Kristie Lorette says that a small business can achieve both efficiency and effectiveness by implementing one of three primary organization structure options: functional, divisional or matrix.

Functional: A functional organization is one in which the hierarchy of the business is based on the job role of each employee. The structure features groups of employees who are focused on a common goal. For example, all accounting roles would be on an accounting team. Even if you only have two or three employees who fulfill the marketing role of your small business, you would structure it so one person is in charge, such as the vice president of marketing. His team would consist of a marketing manager and a public relations manager. This is a traditional organizational structure.

Divisional: The divisional organizational structures place specific roles within divisions or business units, products or regions—decentralizing specific functions. For example, you could divide the United States into four divisions: north, east, south and west, and each division would have its own specialists, such as a marketing director. Each division would then have its own employees.

Matrix: A matrixed organizational structure is a hybrid of functional and divisional organizational structures. The matrix organizational structure works more like a team. Instead of department heads, each team has a leader. Matrix organizational structures bring together employees who focus on a project, but fill different roles from across your business. The matrix organizational structure often works if your business serves different geographic regions.

If you have a small business, how do you take in elements of these organizational structures? It depends on your growth. For example, says Lorette, if your business starts out by only serving the local city where the business operates, but eventually serves the state, you might start with one structure and change to another one to better fit the needs of your business and its customers.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution, no right or wrong. Try elements of each of these structures to see what works best for your business.

Source: Kristie Lorette is a marketing copy and content expert who works with small business owners and entrepreneurs who struggle to market their business effectively to attract the right clients on a consistent basis. What separates her service from other marketing professionals is that she only works with small business owners and only specializes in creating marketing content and copy. Because of this, Lorette’s clients receive proven, effective and extremely specific step-by-step information on exactly what they need to do to attract clients with their marketing. As a result, those who work with her attract more clients and make more money than that would have on their own.
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Build Unshakable Confidence During Shaky Times

We all know that the world today is not what it was 10 years ago, or even five years ago. Our mobile phones, laptops, tablets and televisions frequently depict images of the political, financial and international upheavals that have an effect on our economy.

With so many stressors and distractions, it can be a challenge to stay confident and maintain a positive attitude as a leader. In a recent article, highly regarded sales coach Joel Garfinkle shared 10 tips for building an unshakable confidence. Here is an excerpt from his article:

1. Know that things will not stay the same. They will change, they will get better. In the meantime, recognize that you can’t change the direction of the wind. But you can change the direction of your sails.

2. See the bigger picture. We’ve had economic and financial crises over the past 80 years. From the 1929 Great Depression, lines at the gas pumps in 1973, Black Monday in 1987, the 2001 dot.com bust and the Great Recession in 2008-2009. With each economic crisis, we haven’t just recovered; we have seen a very positive turnaround. You will get through this.

3. Take action that shows you are in charge. Perhaps the most frustrating part is feeling that your situation is out of control—that you can’t do anything about it. Instead, take action, even if it’s small steps, to show you can make a difference in your own future. This will empower you and build your sense of self-confidence.

4. Cut back on expenses. Make small adjustments to your spending habits and lifestyle. List all your expenses and see what and where you can cut. Instead of looking at budget cutting as a pain, consider it a challenge or opportunity.

5. Bring in extra income. You could get a part-time job or spend a few hours a week doing something extra to bring in more money. Or consider asking for a raise or working more overtime.

6. Limit the amount of news you take in. In one day, you can easily read the paper, watch the internet and then consume the TV news stations. All of this is overkill and will just reinforce the negativity. Limit how much news you take in. This will help you not get overwhelmed and swamped in doubt and fear.

7. Use your savings—it’s a rainy day. You know the adage, “Save for a rainy day.” Guess what? It’s raining! Now is the time to use the money you have put aside. Tapping into this rainy-day fund might take some of the pressure off.

8. Be willing to take on additional responsibilities. As companies downsize, the “survivors” are often asked to pick up the additional work. Understandably, this causes resentment and hard feelings. Instead of complaining, look at this as an opportunity to increase your value to your organization. Then, even if you are laid off, this additional experience and responsibility will make you that much more employable.

9. Surround yourself with positive people. Put an end to the pity parties. As Richard DeVos, the founder of Amway, once said, “Few things in the world are more powerful than a positive push. A smile. A word of optimism and hope. And you can do it when things are tough.”

10. Spend more time with the people you love … doing the things you love. Turn off the TV or computer and work on your golf game. Surprise your spouse or partner with breakfast in bed. Volunteer at a homeless shelter or your local humane society. Look for reasons to celebrate the people you love and the friendships you’ve enjoyed over the years (in good times and in bad).

Source: Joel Garfinkle is recognized as one of the top 50 coaches in the U.S., and the author of seven books, including Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level. He has worked with many of the world’s leading companies, including Google, Deloitte, Amazon, Ritz-Carlton, Gap, Cisco, Oracle and many more. Subscribe to his Fulfillment@Work Newsletter and receive the free e-book, 40 Proven Strategies to Get Promoted Now! Copyright ©2005-2016 Joel Garfinkle, All Rights Reserved.

Eight Ways To Sleep Better And Live Better

Are you getting enough shut eye? An article in Harvard Business Review recently referred to a survey of more than 180 business leaders. It revealed that four out of 10 (43 percent) of these leaders do not get enough sleep at least four nights a week. Such sleep deficiencies can undermine important forms of leadership behavior and eventually hurt financial performance.

If you’re not getting enough sleep, follow these tips from The Sleep Revolution by Arianna Huffington.

  1. Set a cool room temperature.
  2. No electronic devices starting 30 minutes before bedtime.
  3. No caffeine after 2 pm.
  4. Pajamas, nightdresses and even special t-shirts send a sleep-friendly message to your body. If you wear it to the gym, don’t wear it to bed.
  5. Do some light stretching, deep breathing, yoga or meditation to help your body and your mind transition to sleep.
  6. When reading a book, make it a physical book or an e-reader that does not emit blue light.
  7. Ease yourself into sleep mode by drinking some caffeine-free tea.
  8. Before you turn off the lights, write a list of what you are grateful for.

Try these tips for a good night’s sleep and feel the positive results for your business.

Source: Arianna Huffington is the author of The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time. She is also the founder of The Huffington Post, the founder and CEO of Thrive Global, and the author of 15 books. She has been named to Time magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people and the Forbes Most Powerful Women list.
Compiled by Cassandra Johnson

Tips For Vendor Partnerships

You get a last-minute call from a top customer for a 1,000-piece order. Who are you going to call? You will reach out to the vendor you can count on, that’s who!

Vendor management allows you to build a relationship with your suppliers and service providers that will strengthen both businesses. Vendor management is not about negotiating the lowest price possible. Vendor management is constantly working with your vendors to create partnerships that will mutually benefit both companies.

1. Share information and priorities. The most important success factor of vendor management is to share information and priorities with your vendors. Appropriate vendor management practices provide only the necessary information at the right time that will allow a vendor to better service your needs. This may include limited forecast information, new product launches, changes in design and expansion or relocation changes, just to name a few.

2. Balance commitment and competition. One of the goals in vendor management is to gain the commitment of your vendors to assist and support the operations of your business. On the other hand, the vendor is expecting a certain level of commitment from you. This does not mean that you should blindly accept the prices they provide. Always get competitive bids.

3. Allow key vendors to help you strategize. If a vendor supplies a key part or service to your operation, invite that vendor to strategic meetings that involve the product they work with. Remember, you brought in the vendor because they could make the product or service better and/or cheaper than you could. They are the experts in that area and you can tap into that expertise in order to give you a competitive advantage.

4. Build partnerships for the long term. Vendor management seeks long-term relationships over short-term gains and marginal-cost savings. Constantly changing vendors in order to save a penny here or there will cost more money in the long run and will impact quality. Other benefits of a long-term relationship include trust, preferential treatment and access to insider or expert knowledge.

5. Seek to understand your vendor’s business too. Remember, your vendor is in business to make money too. If you are constantly leaning on them to cut costs, either quality will suffer or they will go out of business. Part of vendor management is to contribute knowledge or resources that may help the vendor better serve you. Asking questions of your vendors will help you understand their side of the business and build a better relationship between the two of you.

6. Negotiate for both. Good vendor management dictates that negotiations are completed in good faith. Look for negotiation points that can help both sides accomplish their goals. A strong-arm negotiation tactic will only work for so long before one party walks away from the deal.

Whether you’re a multimillion dollar company or a small business with a few employees, these vendor management tips will create a win-win for both businesses.

Source: Jim Bucki is the director of computing technology at Genesee Community College. He serves on several committees at the college and in the public sector that provide expert insight on efficient operation of organizations. His wide variety of experiences across multiple industries has given him the ability to see where opportunities for improvement lie. Most recently he led a team of representatives to investigate the possibility of outsourcing some of the county’s operations.

How To Lead Innovation

There may be a time when you need to take the lead on innovation in your organization. The distinguishing aspect of leading a special-purpose team is that you’re not in control; you can only influence behavior. You’re tasked with figuring out how to do something new, so what you do in the formative stages will greatly impact the team’s chances of success?

1. Keep team size small, even for big projects. In Silicon Valley, the “pizza rule” has taken hold. If you can’t feed a team with two pizzas, your team is too big. Once a group gets beyond five to seven people, productivity and effectiveness begin to decline. Communication becomes cumbersome. Managing becomes a pain. Players begin to disengage, and introverts withdraw. When it comes to team size, less is more.

2. Pay attention to group chemistry and emotions. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon point to three factors that make a team highly functioning. 1) Members contributed equally to the team’s discussions, rather than letting one or two people dominate; 2) Members were better at reading complex emotional states; and 3) Teams with more women outperform teams with more men. The emotional component—how we feel when we are engaged with a team—truly matters but is all too often never discussed. Pay attention to how the people you’re inviting onto your team relate to others. Always give credit to your team rather than take credit yourself, and practice empathy at all times.

3. Don’t go overboard with diversity. Can too much diversity be a detriment to team chemistry? Researchers at Wharton think so. Too much diversity of “mental models” can be a drag on forward progress, say professors Klein and Lim. If members of a team have a shared, organized understanding and mental representation of knowledge about the nature of the challenge, it can enhance coordination and effectiveness when the task at hand is complex, unpredictable, urgent and novel. The researchers concluded that team members who share common models can save time because they share a common body of knowledge.

4. Establish a group process. A group without a process is like a ship without a rudder. It will have a harder time innovating. Establish team rules at the outset. Address how you’ll treat each other, how you’ll respect each other and articulate how much of time each member is committing to the team. Effective teams establish clear goals and rules at the outset, and hold each other accountable.

5. Pay attention to the 3R’s of innovation: Result, Reputation and Residuals. What motivates people over the long haul is not money, but intrinsic rewards. As the team leader, keep the three R’s in mind: 1) Result: If you hit your target, you’ll have another accomplishment on your track record; 2) Reputation: Your status in the organization rises. Senior management will be delighted. Colleagues will talk you up, praise your contribution, and invite you to join future projects. 3) Residuals: the lasting payout of participating in a successful collaborative team is that you get to see your “product” being used by customers, both internal and external. You know you’ve made a difference, solved a problem or created an opportunity for the organization, your team and most of all yourself.

Source: Robert B. Tucker is a renowned global futurist and innovation keynote speaker with a client list that includes more than 200 of the Fortune 500 companies. President and founder of The Innovation Resource, Tucker is an internationally recognized pioneer in the field of innovation.

Compiled by Cassandra Johnson

17 Questions Good Communicators Can Answer Easily

tm-pilbox.global.ssl.fastlyWhether you regularly speak in public and write online, or you mostly express yourself over email, being a good communicator is part of every single job description.

But how can you really know if it’s something you’re good at?

Here are 17 questions that can help you identify whether you’re awesome at communicating—or a bit rusty. (And don’t worry if it’s the latter, there are simple ways to improve each of these skills.)

1. Do You Have a Message?

People are bombarded with information every day. Make sure you know what it is you want to communicate—this could be as broad as your brand or as specific as the main point in one email. (And remember, if you can’t boil your message down in a sentence, chances are, it’s not clear.)

Related: How to Send Emails That People Won’t Dread Receiving (It’s Easier Than You Think)

2. Do You Use Stories?

Stories are a great way to connect with people on an emotional level—and they make you more memorable. Try and find a story that reinforces your message.

Related: 5 Steps to Turning Any Interview Answer Into a Memorable Story

3. Do You Use Numbers?

If telling a story doesn’t seem quite right, consider using data. It’s a powerful way to reinforce your message or argument. And think about different ways to make thosestatistics stick in the minds of the people you’re speaking to.

Related: How to Quantify Your Resume Bullets When You Don’t Work With Numbers

4. Do You Use Active Voice?

Active voice puts you at the center of the action. It’s clearer—and more impressive. Consider the difference between “The crisis was solved by me earlier this morning when a solution came to me,” and “I solved the crisis by coming up with a solution.”

Related: Is Passive Voice Holding You Back at Work?

5. Do You Use Jargon?

Let’s be clear: There are some terms that everyone in the workplace uses to simplify things—like if you refer to certain meetings or tasks with abbreviations. By all means, keep doing this. However, jargon risks alienating, or at least annoying, people. So, save “low hanging fruit” for apple-picking.

Related: 10 Annoying Buzzwords the Whole Office Would Be Better Off Without

6. What About Clichés?

You read that something is “the new black,” “the secret sauce,” or “one in a million.” Rolling your eyes? That’s what happens when someone uses a cliché. We’re so used to seeing and hearing these they don’t have any impact.

Related: 7 Cliché Email Phrases That Drive People Up the Wall

7. Are You Very Wordy?

Sure, details and context can be helpful. But if your emails and presentations are full of extraneous words and facts, your main points can get lost in the shuffle. Everyone appreciates clear, crisp communication, so if something you’ve put together feels likes it’s running long, take the time to see what you might cut.

Related: Are Your Emails Too Long? (Hint: Probably)

8. Or, Are You Overly Brief?

It’s also possible to overcompensate and veer too far to the other extreme. Particularly if you’re replying to a recruiter, client, or someone very senior, take the time to write full sentences and include proper salutations and sign-offs. It’s probably not a good time for a one-word or one-line response.

Related: 4 Reasons You Haven’t Gotten a Response to Your Email

9. Do You Consider Overall Format?

If you’re crafting something comprehensive, you’ll want to think through how you can make it skimable. Maybe bullet points will work, or you could give each paragraph a heading? That way readers can scan your email or thought-leadership post and find the section that’s most relevant to them. There are loads of different ways to format articles. Numbered lists (like this one!) often work well. Use blogs and websites you find particularly easy to navigate as inspiration.

Related: 10 Presentation Rules You Had No Idea You Were Breaking

10. Do You Proofread?

If you’ve already spent a lot of time writing something, it’s tempting to hit publish straight away and be done with it. But you’ll get a whole new perspective if you let it rest. Time’s always short, but if at all possible give a draft 24 hours to rest and then re-read it. (Not possible? Even 30 minutes can make a difference.)

Related: 4 Proofreading Tricks That’ll Help You Catch More Typos)

11. Do You Ask for Feedback?

I cringe when I look back at some of the things I’ve written in the past. My writing’s improved because I’ve had some fantastic mentors who’ve taken the time to give me feedback. If you want to improve, ask for feedback from someone whose work you admire.

Related: 4 Steps for Asking for (and Getting) Truly Honest Feedback

12. Are You Direct?

Especially if you’re broaching a tricky topic—and it’s all the more tempting to beat around the bush—your best bet is to straightforward. Don’t expect people to guess what’s going on in your head. Be polite, but be clear and honest.

Related: 5 Keys to Being Blunt at Work—Without Sounding Like a Total Jerk

13. Do You Think About Which Channel to Use?

Should you use a tweet, an email, a phone call, a Facebook post, a blog or a keynote speech to deliver your message? Your decision will be based on who you are and whom you’re talking to. For difficult messages, I always prefer speaking to someone on the phone or face-to-face over email.

Related: How to Create Social Media Posts That People Will Actually Read, Like, and Share

14. Do You Vary Your Style by Medium?

In the same way that you speak to your colleagues differently to how you speak to your parents, what’s appropriate on Twitter might not be OK in an email to your CEO. If you’re unsure whether you’ve got the tone right, check in with a trusted colleague, before you hit send.

Related: 23 Mistakes Even Smart People Make Online—and How to Fix Them Fast

15. Do You Take Time to Get to Know Who You’re Connecting With?

There’s no point in opening your mouth or putting fingers to keyboard unless you know a bit about who’s on the other end. Taking the time to get to know your audience is critical to being a good communicator.

Related: The #1 Thing You Must Do Before Any Speech or Presentation

16. Did You Study Up on What Matters to Him or Her?

Google Alerts are a great way to make sure you’re always up to date with what’s going on for the people you’re in touch with. Have a customer who’s obsessed with productivity hacks? Make sure you’ve got a Google Alert set up and then you can shoot him the best articles or know you’ll have a conversation starter the next time you meet up.

Related: The Free, Career-Boosting Google Feature You Should Be Using

17. Do You Keep in Touch on a Regular Basis?

Truth: It’s a lot less awkward to ask for an invite, an intro, or a recommendation if you’re not reaching out for the first time in months (or years) to do it. Once you know who the other person is and what he or she cares about, keep the connection warm.

And this isn’t just for one-on-one relationships: Consistent communication through engaging with followers on social media or through regular blogging or sending out a newsletter reinforces the fact that you care.

Related: The Final Step to Networking Success

Strong communication skills will help you as you climb the ladder in your career. So, pat yourself on the back for all of the ones you’ve got down, and schedule some time to work on any areas for improvement.

Compiled by Felicity H. Barber

It’s Time For SWOT

In many organizations the end of summer signifies the beginning of the budget process. In order to be ready for budget development, you first need a marketing plan. But in order to develop an effective marketing plan, you need insight into … well … the obvious—your market!

The SWOT analysis is a valuable step in your situational analysis. Assessing your firm’s strengths, weaknesses, market opportunities and threats through a SWOT analysis is a very simple process that can offer powerful insight into the potential and critical issues affecting your plan.

The SWOT analysis will be a useful tool in developing and confirming your goals and your marketing strategy. It begins by conducting an inventory of internal strengths and weaknesses in your organization. You will then note the external opportunities and threats that may affect the organization based on your market and the overall environment. The primary purpose of the SWOT analysis is to identify and assign each significant factor, positive and negative, to one of the four categories, as we explain below.

Strengths. Strengths describe the positive attributes, tangible and intangible, that are internal to your organization. They are within your control. What do you do well? What resources do you have? What advantages do you have over your competition?

You may want to evaluate your strengths by area, such as marketing, finance, manufacturing and organizational structure. Strengths include the positive attributes of the people involved in the business, including their knowledge, backgrounds, education, credentials, contacts, reputations and the skills they bring. Strengths also include tangible assets such as available capital, equipment, credit, established customers, existing channels of distribution, copyrighted materials, patents, information and processing systems, and other valuable resources within the business.

Weaknesses. Weaknesses are factors that are within your control that detract from your ability to obtain or maintain a competitive edge. Which areas might you improve?

Weaknesses might include lack of expertise, limited resources, lack of access to skills or technology, inferior service offerings or the poor location of your business. These are factors that are under your control, but for a variety of reasons, are in need of improvement to effectively accomplish your marketing objectives. Weaknesses capture the negative aspects internal to your business that detract from the value you offer, or place you at a competitive disadvantage. These are areas you need to enhance in order to compete with your best competitor.

Opportunities. Opportunities assess the external attractive factors that represent the reason for your business to exist and prosper. These are external to your business. What opportunities exist in your market, or in the environment, from which you hope to benefit?

These opportunities reflect the potential you can realize through implementing your marketing strategies. If it is relevant, place timeframes around the opportunities.

Threats. Threats include factors beyond your control that could place your marketing strategy, or the business itself, at risk. These are also external—you have no control over them, but you may benefit by having contingency plans to address them if they should occur.

A threat is a challenge created by an unfavorable trend or development that may lead to deteriorating revenues or profits. Competition—existing or potential—is always a threat. Other threats may include intolerable price increases by suppliers, governmental regulation, economic downturns, devastating media or press coverage or a shift in consumer behavior that reduces your sales. Get your worst fears on the table. It may be valuable to classify your threats according to their “probability of occurrence.”

The implications. How can you use the strengths to better take advantage of the opportunities ahead and minimize the harm that threats may introduce if they become a reality? The true value of the SWOT analysis is in bringing this information together, to assess the most promising opportunities and the most crucial issues.

Source: Tim Berry is the founder of Palo Alto Software, a co-founder of Borland International, and a recognized expert in business planning. He makes several notable appearances in Fire in the Valley, Swaine and Freiberger’s classic history of the PC industry, and is the originator of plan-as-you-go business planning. Today, he dedicates most of his time to blogging, teaching, and evangelizing for business planning.

Ready For A Change? Start Now.

The market, your competitors, technology and customers’ tastes, needs and expectations are always changing. If you don’t change, you’ll get left behind. Change is painful, almost unbearably so, but it’s a vital element in bypassing the status quo, keeping a company current and breaking into higher profits.

Here are five tips for driving change and maintaining your competitive edge.

1. Start at the top. If you are leading an organization or department, begin by determining who’s willing to get on board and who will continue to use the obsolete practices that could lead the company into a downward spiral. To motivate the rest of the company to change, you must get rid of those who won’t get on board.

2. Take your message to the masses. Company employees need to hear your vision for change; you cannot rely on others to accomplish this task because you will be very disappointed by the outcome. Many team members may have been itching for change, and are frustrated and disgusted by the absurd actions those in command. Your message will resonate with them and be embraced.

3. Cut out the nonsense. Get rid of time-wasting meetings that exist solely to air grievances. These are just used for political positioning within the company—nothing gets done, and there’s no objective. When you cut out these nonsensical areas and the panderers creating them, the message will be clear that change is happening.

4. Paint a vivid, realistic picture of what will happen if change is not made. A clear depiction is needed for true change to be seen as necessary and for it to be accepted. This must be tirelessly reiterated. Everyone needs constant reminders that companies can and do become extinct every day. Make your team realize that the pain of not changing will be much worse than making the changes necessary to be competitive in today’s market.

5. Provide incentives for those who embrace the changes and provide ample incentives to keep them on board. These don’t always need to be monetary; they can even be congratulatory symbols to show you notice their hard work. By inspiring people with your changes, they’ll have something to believe in, provoking them to champion your cause.

Change is the basic element needed to take a company into double-digit profits. By incorporating these five components, you will decisively lead your company into a profitable future.

Source: Steve Blue is president and CEO of Miller Ingenuity, a global supplier of safety-critical solutions for the transportation industry. He blended multiple technologies to transform the 60-year-old manufacturing company into a highly innovative global powerhouse. An author and speaker, Blue is a nationally recognized expert on leading change and showing companies how to double and even quadruple growth.

In Praise Of The Case Study

Every major buying decision today starts with research, from simple product information or delivery details to expert advice; from customer reviews to opinionated blogs. But there’s one type of content that is absolutely worth its weight in gold. It entertains, it informs and it inspires customers to buy, all in one readable package. It’s the case study.

Tell a story that people want to read. Case studies show the human face of your business—even if you sell widgets, case studies allow you to show your people working closely with your customers. This is about real people getting things done. All references to your products and services are in the context of a real-life situation, often where a problem is being solved. When potential customers read a case study, they are seeing your business through the eyes of your happy customers. That’s powerful stuff.

Use case studies to gain media coverage. Case studies can be a fantastic way to get publicity. Written well, they are ready-made quality editorial material that websites and publications in your sector will thank you for. All you have to do is give journalists a good story, with a compelling angle, customer quotes and decent images. Don’t let your case studies become too salesy though, and avoid jargon.

Show your business in action, doing what you do best. Case studies can help you convince customers that you know what you are doing, demonstrate that you really are the expert in the field and prove that you will deliver on your promises. They show you rolling up your sleeves, digging in and going the extra mile.

Use as the ultimate testimonial. A case study is a chance to offer overwhelming evidence that you and your firm are the best in the business. You can do this by showing in detail how you provided your customer with tangible benefits—include evidence in the form of images, statistics and quotes. But don’t just ask your customers for quotes, otherwise they’ll provide a carefully-worded paragraph that will probably sound as if it was written by you. Have a proper chat with them, ask them about their experience of working with you and record what they say; the best quotes are conversational and unforced.

Once you’ve created your case studies, distribute them widely. Publish them on your website or in your email newsletters, make downloadable PDFs, give print-outs to your salespeople and share at trade shows and on social media.

Source: Rachel Miller is the editor of Marketing Donut, produced by Atom Content Marketing.

Seven Steps To Selling Anything

We’ve all heard this phrase in business—”Everyone is in sales.” It’s through selling that we help others buy in on our project and help each other reach our goals. That’s because, regardless of what you’re looking to achieve, you’re going to have to sell someone on at least some portion of it at some point. You might as well learn how to sell effectively.

Here, we share insights into a sales methodology known as Track Selling. Using these seven steps, you’ll achieve agreement throughout so both the seller and the buyer are comfortable and always get their needs met. Once you learn the steps, you’ll know exactly what to do in any situation whether you’re selling yourself, a product, a service or an idea.

1. Approach: A prospect’s first impression of you is critical. Is she comfortable with you? Do you seem to have her best interests at heart? People buy from you because they like you. Reinforce this feeling with friendliness and sincerity to open the sale and begin the relationship in a positive way.

2. Qualification: This is the information-gathering period. You will decide if the prospect is right for your product, service or idea by asking open-ended questions to uncover her needs or any potential problems or concerns she may have. By listening, you will show her that you respect her, are honest and are interested in the things that are important to her.

3. Agreement on need: Next, you will summarize the information you gathered in the previous steps to clarify the facts and demonstrate your understanding of her unique needs. Showing that you understand is critical because people will buy from you not because they understand what you’re selling but because you understand them.

4. Sell the company: Whether you’re representing a company or yourself, in order to build trust in your sales relationship, your prospect should be well aware of your history and your track record. Remind her of your past successes so she can feel safe and confident about buying from you.

5. Fill the need: Present evidence that shows the effectiveness of your product, service or idea by showing your prospect how it fills her needs. Understand that this person’s most pressing question is: “What will it do for me?”

6. Act of commitment: Once you’ve eliminated all doubt, this is the time to ask for a commitment. Don’t apply pressure—just remind her of the things you discussed such as: She likes and trusts you, she has certain problems that your idea/product/service solves, and you have a solid performance history so you are a trustworthy individual. Finally, the wording for your close is simple: “If I can deliver the idea/product/service we discussed in the time frame (state the delivery date) and at the price (restate the price) we agreed on, can you think of any reason why we shouldn’t move forward with this?”

7. Cement the sale: In this final step you’ll “cement” in your prospect’s mind the logical reason for her purchase, such as how ideally it fits her needs. You never want a prospect or client to regret that she trusted you, so this is also the point at which you should commit to a time to follow up. Always keep her updated on your progress and delivery schedule. Ongoing communication is the key to keeping your new sale sold.

As long as you use the steps in order, you can be creative, using them in any situation, with any type of person. Most importantly, each step allows you to focus on creating a win-win situation for both you and your prospect, using persuasion, not pressure.

Source: Roy Chitwood is an author, trainer and consultant in sales and sales management, and is president of Max Sacks International, Seattle.

Compiled by Cassandra Johnson