The Business Edge Blog

January 22, 2013

How to Engage in Conversation with Your Customers

love customers

How to Engage in Conversation with Your Customers

We know that it is important to build a relationship with our clients and customers.  People do business with people they Know, Like and Trust – the KLT factor.  People also feel better doing business with people that care about them.

Clients have asked me to help their new employees, sales people and service people learn a few new tips to break the ice and engage customers in conversation.  After our workshops I follow up and ask what new approaches worked well for them.  A few that work well for many types of businesses include:

1.  Ask a Different Question – (other than “May I help you”)

“How are you today?”, ” What brings you here today?”,  “What is on your schedule today besides this?”

Cautions:   Be prepared to participate in the conversation, not just fire question after question.  Don’t press for more if their responses are short.  You still get points for trying.

2.  Extend a Compliment –

If appropriate, comment on how cute a child looks or how well behaved they are.  Extend a compliment on something that looks attractive – purse/briefcase, phone cover, glasses, shoes.  If you are in their home, find something to compliment them on.

Caution:  Avoid coming across as someone in dating mode.  Stay professional.

3.  Use a surrounding object as an anchor –

If you notice the car they drive, ask how they enjoy owning that model of car.  If they are carrying a shopping bag from a store, ask if they enjoyed shopping there.

4.  Ask for their help or advice –

Ask if they have tried a restaurant you’re curious about.  Ask for their input on something you’re working on like determining a great spot for a vacation.


Please share what works well in your business. I look forward to hearing from you.  You can email me at or join the discussion below.

Until next time – Remember to mind your business!


August 15, 2012

7 Keys to Success for Business Owners – Part 4 – The Marketing Plan

Every once in a while I meet a business owner who says they don’t need to market their business. I congratulate them and ask them how they know that they don’t need to market.  Usually they have as much business as they can handle currently and think that more marketing will only increase the number of people wanting their product or service.  They are probably right on both accounts.  So, what about the option of expanding the capacity of the business?  Why choose to stop marketing?  I like the saying –

“Don’t wait to dig your well until you are thirsty.”

In my interpretation this means don’t stop marketing because your business is at capacity now.  If anything happens to the current clients you’ll be looking for more.  If you decide to increase the capacity of the business, you’ll need the additional clients/customers to fill the new capacity.  In most businesses marketing today does not mean new customers tomorrow.  Prospects need to know about you, grow to like you and trust that you will meet their needs.  That means you should be marketing your business all the time.

I ask my clients to create a Marketing Pie.  Draw a large circle on a piece of paper.  Divide the pie into quarters by drawing a big + through the middle.  Then divide each of the pieces in half by adding a large X through the middle of the pie.  You should now have an 8 slice Marketing Pie.  Each section of the pie will represent something you actively do to market your business – active marketing, not passive marketing like an ad in the phonebook.  If you represent your business in a BNI group, or attend other networking groups where you promote your business (and not just chat with friends) label one slice of the pie Networking.  If you have a booth at quarterly business tradeshows, label a slice of the pie Tradeshows.  If you educate your prospects by giving seminars, label a slice Seminars.  If you consistently write a blog promoting your business, label a slice Blog Posts.  Consider all the other marketing you do and if it is active, label a slice of the pie to represent the activity.  If you have more than 8 active marketing strategies, don’t make your slices smaller, create another pie!  If you have unlabeled slices in your one and only pie, let’s talk!  We need to fill the empty slices with something you will add to your marketing strategy.

You should have at least 8 active marketing strategies identified on your pie.  The next step is to schedule the activities (each slice of pie) on a calendar so that you know when, where and what you will be doing to actively market your business.  This becomes your Marketing Plan.  If you are blogging or giving a 60 second commercial for any of the marketing activities, you can enter the blog topic or perfect referral that you want to mention in each of the calendar entries.  One of my clients has developed a spreadsheet with the months across the columns and the weeks down the rows as well as room for the topics for each of the social media sites he uses.  He plans his marketing activities a couple of months in advance so he can keep an eye on his marketing plan.  Click here to download a copy.

What does your marketing pie look like?  How well did it fill a calendar and create your Marketing Plan? How many hours a week do you spend actively marketing your business?

I look forward to hearing from you.  Share your comments below.

Until next time – Remember to mind your business!

March 13, 2012

Spring Cleaning Your Business

Spring Cleaning

My last blog talked about looking at your business from the outside to see the image your potential customers see and cleaning up your image during the extra daylight hours provided by Daylight Savings Time.  Today I hope you’ll take a look at your business from the “inside”.  It’s time for Spring Cleaning – so why not take a look at our business systems and see what outdated systems we can clear away?

Often we roll along in our businesses and don’t even stop to question if things we are doing are serving us well.  Of course they were great ideas when we instituted them, but can we adopt a better system?

Let’s say you’re a handyman or a contractor and often have to run to the hardware store for those “little items” that a job requires.  How do you handle all your project receipts and how do you bill your customer for one part when they are packed in 4’s?  Is your current system serving you well, or is there a better way?

Let’s say your business is a service organization that creates a client file for each new client and needs input from a number of sources.  Do you easily lose track of how long a file has been sitting waiting for additional information?  Do you have a system in place to monitor how long a file has been waiting?  If you do, is it working for you?

Think about the elements of your business that could use a Spring Cleaning or sprucing up.  Share your thoughts with us below.

Holly Hanson                      Licensed Professional Business Coach

February 28, 2012

Use Your Extra Day (Feb 29th) Wisely!

An Extra Day This Year!

It will be here before you know it.  It only happens every 4 years so it’s a special day.  How will you spend yours?

 As a business coach I am encouraging my clients to find ways to develop their marketing plan for 2012 in more detail.  Here are a few of the things we’re talking about:

> Who is your ideal client?
> What issues do they face that you can solve?
 > Do you speak directly to your client’s issues in your marketing materials?
> Where can you find a group of your ideal clients meeting together?
> Do you have a signature talk that you can present to a group of your ideal clients?
> Are you networking at least 6 hours per week?
> Do you set a goal for each of your networking events?
> If you use social media to connect with your ideal clients, do you have a list of ideas that you have collected throughout your work that provides you with a ready list of topics?
> Do you have a “well thought out, well strategized, robust 2012 marketing plan” so that you are continually marketing on schedule?

If you are networking regularly it’s probably time to update your elevator speech.  I’m amazed by the number of times I have overheard someone say to a business owner they see all the time – “I didn’t know you did THAT!”  Choose something you do that is not in your current elevator speech.  Add it to your revised speech.  Let me know what happens!

Let us know how you spend your “extra” day and the results you see in your business! 


January 31, 2012

What My Clients Are Saying About Their Energy Level

As a business coach my clients are telling me they feel out of balance, tired,  stressed.  Some say they lack energy.  I often use the following tool to help them understand why they feel the way they do and thought that it may be helpful for others as well.

We all have 100% of our life energy.  Even though sometimes we feel we have much less than we had at another point in time, we always have 100% available to us.  The question is how much of our total life energy are we giving to each of the six life arenas?

 Life Arena
























Steps to complete the table:

  1. Guesstimate the percentage of life energy you are giving in each of your life arenas at the present time.  Remember – they need to add up to 100%.  Enter your current allocation in the Present column.
  2. Study the numbers you placed in the Present column and decide if this is really the life energy distribution that gives you life satisfaction.
  3. Enter the life energy allocation you would like to see in the Ideal column.

Once you know the areas of your life that are out of balance, it is easier to see why you may feel tired, stressed, or lack energy.

Let me know what your scores look like and the steps you can identify to bring your life energy closer to your ideal.  If you need help with more ideas, let’s talk!

December 6, 2011

Quick End of Year Goal Review

What Kept You From Achieving Your Goals?

There are only a few weeks left of 2011.  I am encourging all my clients to begin thinking about their goals for 2012.  It is also valuable to spend some time reviewing your goals for 2011.  Let’s assume there is at least one goal that you did not make as much progress as you h0ped to make.  We’ll call this the “missed goal”.

Let’s borrow tools from the world of Quality and review what happened to this “missed goal”.  Apply the 5 Whys looking for Why or Where the process failed.  Shallow answers like “not enough time” or “too busy” are not allowed.

Let’s pick a goal most people can relate to – invoicing for all the time spent on client’s work.

#1 – Why didn’t I invoice for all the time spent on the client’s work? – I lost track of the actual time I spent

#2 – Why did I lose track of the actual time? – I got interrupted and the interruption took me away from the client’s work longer than I thought it would

#3 – Why was I interrupted? – I answered a phone call (or answered an email, or allowed someone to interrupt me)

#4 – Why did I allow the interruption to happen? – I didn’t have a system (or process or the discipline) in place to allow the call (or email, or person) to wait until I finished what I was working on.

#5 – Why was the process or discipline absent? – I never realized that this was such a contributing factor to the overall success of my business financial situation.

So what would be a great goal for 2012?  Implementing a system where calls are returned when I am finished working on what I am doing, emails are read and replied to twice a day, and I let people who interrupt me know when I will be available – not now – unless the building is on fire!

Apply the 5 Whys to your “missed goals” of 2011.  My bet is that you’ll be better able to define goals for 2012!  Let me know what ah-ha moments you find as you do your quick end of year goal review!

November 22, 2011

Black Friday and Your Business

 Is Your Business Ready for a Black Friday?

Many of my clients hope to grow their businesses.  I love to be able to help them do so.  My concern is always their readiness for the growth they desire.  We work hard to develop and implement the systems to allow them to actually handle the growth.

There are numerous stories of companies featured on a show like Oprah (or a newspaper review) that fail shortly thereafter.  What happened?  Let’s imagine a small boutique hand-made chocolate business in a small town.  Everyone loves the chocolates and the shop and it’s a special treat to receive a small box of just 4 of the chocolates.  The unique blend of flavors and the background of the owner makes them Oprah worthy.

Beginning the next day there is a line at the door.  The inventory is sold out within a few minutes of opening.  The rest of the people in line can’t be served.  The owner who personally hand makes each piece of chocolate is as busy as he can possibly be trying to keep up.  He calls in all the troops to help in the candy kitchen.  With extra hands and extra bodies the kitchen seems to shrink in size and the chocolates turn out slightly differently than they do when the owner alone makes them.  Everyone works hard and creates enough chocolate for Post Show Day 2.

The internet orders pour in as well as the customers through the front door.  Internet orders are delayed to serve those actually in the store.  Extra packing and shipping materials need to be bought before all the internet orders can be fulfilled, not to mention actually making the chocolates to ship!  The normal order/fulfillment system can’t handle the flood of orders and some get lost.  Online customers aren’t happy with the time it takes to ship those that eventually get filled and shipped.  The owner used to hand pack orders and now others are doing it who have never done it before.  You can imagine that things have changed.

It’s like a Black Friday for the business, but lasts longer.  It takes a while to recover.  The loyal local customers can’t wait for the buzz to subside so the shop can get back to normal and the chocolates get back in stock and hand-made by the owner.

So, the growth that you’re looking for……are you actually ready for it?  Are your systems expandable?  Do you know the rate of growth that you can sustain?  If the rate of growth comes faster than what you can handle, what is your plan?

It’s nearly Black Friday.  It’s nearly 2012.  What growth are you looking for, and how will you handle it?

Share the growth you are looking for in 2012 and how you have prepared your business to handle it.  I look forward to hearing from you.

November 1, 2011

390 Years Later – Thanksgiving For Business

 Thanksgiving for Business

As a business coach I am often amazed by the great ideas people have for starting a business or developing new areas for their business.  There are typically no limitations other than our own resources of time and money.

One of my newer clients is an immigrant from a former communist country.  He spent a few minutes telling me what life was like as a business owner in his former country.  Not everyone could start a business.  It required asking permission.  It often depended on who you knew and how much you were willing to pay to move your paperwork up through the ‘system’.  And finding customers?  Staying in business?  All difficult and required pleasing all the right people all of the time.  Even conversations with neighbors could affect your business.

In contrast we may have to pay to register our business and jump through a few hoops to make certain we are doing things the right way as we go about conducting our business, but business life is good here.

As you plan for your Thanksgiving season, take a moment to give thanks to all the businesses involved in making your Thanksgiving everything you hope it will be.  Give thanks to those who gathered together for the first Thanksgiving dinner 390 years ago.  They risked everything to leave their homelands with the hope of more freedom.  Give thanks for those that have protected our right to do business as we know it for the past 390 years.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all –

September 6, 2011

The #1 Business Lesson from Not Having A Barbie

Business and Barbie

When I was growing up my Mom decided that she did not want me to have a Barbie.  She felt it set unrealistic expectations of what I would grow up to be and the life I would desire.  She probably was right.

Some business owners (regardless of Barbie ownership) don’t understand that it takes hard work and a good plan to get to the point that there is a red convertible in the drive, closets full of clothes, a house with many rooms, an RV and endless other toys for time off.  Sometimes they get frustrated and quit because they are not reaching the expectations they had for their business success fast enough.

Do you have a business plan?  Seriously – even if you have been in business for a decade or more – do you have a sense of where your business is compared to where you planned it to be at this point in time?  What expectations do you have for the future?  How will you get from where you are to where it is you plan to be?  Some business owners “make it” and it looks easy, like Barbie’s life.  The rest of us need to know where our customers will come from, how to reach them, how to serve them well, and how to set up systems and procedures as we grow so that we are not the limiting factor in the business.

It’s starting to feel like the end of the year with the fall weather.  Reflect on where your business is relative to where you had planned for it to be this year.  If you are not where you hoped to be, there is still time to make a difference.  In planning for next year, set aside time to develop a business plan.  It does not need to be as formal as a banker would like to see, but something that helps outline action steps you need to take and that you can refer to throughout the year and make adjustments as you go along.  Need help?  Let me know.  This is where a Business Coach can help!

August 23, 2011

Time Management Lessons From A Little Book

Time Management 101

Eat That Frog! – by Brian Tracy

As a Business Coach I find that many of my clients need help with Time Management.  I’ve found that a little yellow book helps them understand the basics.  Eat the ugliest frog first thing every day.

In less than 120 pages broken into 21 chapters, a topic is presented and exercises provided to implement the concept in your life.  It is not intended to be a quick read.  The process is to read the chapter, determine how it relates to the work you do and complete the exercises.  Then begin to incorporate the concepts into your daily routine.  Is it a magic bullet?  No.  It takes work.  You need to create new habits.  Habits take time.

I find that a great way to be held accountable to actually reading the book, doing the exercises and implementing the concepts is to join a group using the book as the framework.  That is what my Boardroom group is doing.  We meet twice a month.  The homework is to read a chapter or two, do the exercises and report back to the group.  Is it easy?  No, but working together as a group provides support and a place to brainstorm the implementation in your own life.

Is Time Management an issue in your life or business?  Have you found ways to solve your Time Management issues?  Share your comments below.

Interested in joining a virtual group to improve your Time Management skills while being held accountable for doing what it takes to improve your productivity?  Let me know below.

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