Productivity

Business improvement tips: make the most of January

Jeff Haden
Business Journalist

Jeff Haden is a bestselling ghostwriter, speaker, Inc. Magazine contributing editor, and LinkedIn Influencer

Jeff Haden
Business Journalist

Jeff Haden is a bestselling ghostwriter, speaker, Inc. Magazine contributing editor, and LinkedIn Influencer

It’s January. Things are a little quieter. Time to take a breath and relax, right? Not the case, argues Jeff Haden. It’s business development time.

If you’re in retail, or B2B, or professional services – okay, probably any business or industry – you had a rough last few months. The holiday season and end of year rush were busy, stressful, and chaotic.

Now that January is here you can relax, right?

Maybe not.

The January lull is the perfect time to capitalise on what went well, learn from what went wrong, and investigate the technologies and processes that can set your business up to have an outstanding year.

Here are a few business improvement ideas worth looking into.

A hand triumphantly holding a scrunched up piece of paper.

Make templates

While every customer is different, most of your proposals and contracts are not – at least not in large part. Gather up some of your “winning” proposals, pull out the best parts, and create a template you can easily modify when you develop a new lead.

The same is true for contracts or for any documents you commonly provide, and there are plenty of apps out there that can help you create templates that can be scaled across the business.

Your communications should always be crafted to meet the individual needs of a potential customer, but in most cases the bulk of what you will say will be relatively straightforward. Build your business strategies so you can focus solely on winning the customer.

Refine your pricing

You know what you normally charge – but what if a customer asks for a blend of services you normally don’t provide? What if a customer asks for a bundle of products you normally don’t provide?

Now is the perfect time to think about the past few months and proactively create pricing plans that cover unusual situations.

In the process you might discover an entirely different way to market and sell your products and services.

Build references

In my business references are critical, and the worst thing I can say to a potential client is, “I’ll have to get back to you with a list of people you can speak with…”

Create a list of past clients who are willing to speak on your behalf. While you’re at it, see whether you can leverage those great relationships to land new customers.

And go a step further and ask some of your vendors and suppliers whether you can help them. Even though the holidays are behind us, never forget that it’s better to give than receive.

Create an internal FAQ

As the owner you have all the answers. Your employees may not.

While it’s understandable when an employee can’t answer a customer’s question, it’s extremely powerful when they can answer queries with confidence and authority.

And don’t stop there; make your FAQ a living document that gets updated regularly.

Play the "What can we do without?" game

You may not think so, but it's likely you're spending money on something you don't use and therefore don't need.

Gather your team together and go through all your expenses. Don't focus on reducing a particular cost; ask if you can do without it. Try to make it fun. You'll be surprised by how many things you spend money on are, at best, "nice to have" instead of "need to have."

There's an additional bonus to playing the game as a group. Your employees will start to think in terms of cost control, will more freely embrace the cuts you decide to make. They might even come to you later with their own business improvement ideas. 

Embrace that you don’t have all the answers

Your employees are very smart. That’s why you hired them.

Try this. Get them together and describe a problem: marketing, sales, operations, business development, business strategy – it doesn’t matter. Ask if they have ideas. Then sit down and be quiet.

At first, one or two might hesitantly offer an idea. Don’t critique those ideas; just nod your head as if to say, “That’s good. What ideas do the rest of you have?” Show you’re still listening and not judging.

Very soon the discussion will take on a life of its own, and you’ll find out just how smart your employees are.

Lots of tools are scalable, but harnessing the power of your employees’ creativity and insight is the most scalable of all, because it’s infinite.

Business trends change as the market evolves.

Read about why email might be a thing of the past.

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