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5 Simple Ways to Minimize Workplace Distractions

We’ve all been there – those days we sit at our desks, chasing our tails and getting next to nothing done. It’s hard to stay focused these days, especially with so much technology at our fingertips. Emails rolling in; office, home and mobile phones ringing; instant messages popping up; it’s never ending. But what happens when you have a deadline to meet and can’t afford to keep being interrupted? Here are 5 simple ways you can minimize office distractions and get down to business.
  • Do Not Disturb – It’s so simple, we often overlook it, but simply setting aside time and letting others know it’s not ok to interrupt can do wonders for your productivity. Shut your office door, hang a handwritten “do not disturb” sign on the handle, and put your nose to the grindstone. 
  • Use Your Phone Features - In today’s day and age, it’s simple to take control of your communications, especially with a feature-rich virtual phone system.  Forward your calls to voicemail or have another team member handle them for you until you’ve completed the task at hand.
  • Avoid Juggling – As a small business owner, you’ve inevitably had to learn how to multi-task, but believe it or not, this isn’t always conducive to accomplishing your to-do list. What often happens is that you end up running in circles, wasting time and not really getting much done. Instead, try planning your day out and group similar activities together to make the most of your time.
  • Be Honest – Everybody gets overwhelmed from time to time. If you’re busy, be honest with people. If someone on your team continuously interrupts you when you’re in the middle of something, have a heart to heart and set some boundaries. 
  • It’s all about Willpower – Successfully managing workplace interruptions often boils down to willpower. You have to be committed to taking charge of your schedule, planning out your day effectively and closing off the world while you’re getting something done. It’s challenging, but you can do it if you set your mind to it and make it a priority.
Distractions in the workplace are a necessary evil. It’s how you handle these distractions that will be the difference between a struggling small business and a success story. Put these five simple tips into action and you’ll be amazed at how much you can get accomplished!

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posted by Rebecca Daneault @ 10:08 AM

How to Choose the Right Phone System for Your Business

Whether you’re a one man show or a growing organization, telecommunications is one of the most important factors to the success of your business.  Virtual phone systems provide an optimum solution, particularly for those companies that are on a budget, because they are feature-rich yet affordable. The thing is, when it comes to actually picking a phone system, the choices are many and the process can seem overwhelming.  Here are a few things to consider and questions to ask when you’re choosing a business phone system.

Do you need a new phone number, or do you already have an existing one?  If you have a number that you’ve already used to establish your business, be sure to choose a phone system and provider that allows you to port your existing number with no interruption in service to your customers.  You’ll also want to consider whether you want to get your own toll-free number, and if so, whether your system allows for that.

Do you have room for equipment? While some larger, traditional phone systems may appear to have a lot of bells and whistles, they also typically come with a lot of large and costly equipment. The beauty of a virtual phone system is that it’s completely web-based, so even if you’re working out of a tiny home office, you can still have a powerful telecommunications system in your corner.

Do you need multiple extensions? Many basic phone systems come with just one or two main extensions, and charge extra for more. If you have a large or growing team, or just prefer to set up multiple extensions, you’ll want to be sure to choose a virtual phone system that provides unlimited extensions.

How many minutes do you need? If you run a small operation, you probably don’t need a ton of minutes. On the other hand, if that business requires you to field a lot of phone calls, or if your team is on the larger size, a plan with more minutes might make more sense. When you’re looking into phone systems, be sure they offer packages that suit your needs and don’t include too many, or too few, minutes.

What extra features would you like? Phone systems aren’t one size fits all. One of the biggest ways they differ is in the features they offer. Consider what things might make your life easier, like visual voicemail, find me/follow me, or group calling, and do the research to choose a virtual phone system that includes these features at little or no extra cost.

Finally, when you’re choosing a phone system for your business, don’t forget customer service and support. You want to be sure that if and when you need assistance or have questions, there will be someone there to help. Keep all of these things in mind, and you’ll be much more likely to end up with a virtual phone system that is a perfect fit for your business.

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posted by Rebecca Daneault @ 5:10 PM

Effective Selling – Overcome Your Fear and Become a Sales Master

Some people could sell ice to an Eskimo or hay to a farmer. Unfortunately, not everyone has the inherent talent and, well, guts it takes to be a stellar salesperson. The fact remains that to be successful in small business, you have to effectively sell yourself, your products or your services. So what happens if you’re an absolute wiz at what you do, but haven’t a clue at how to deliver this information to prospects and land new clients? Here are 4 simple techniques to help you overcome your fear and become a master at closing the deal.

Get an Attitude Adjustment – One of the biggest hurdles would-be salespeople face is the idea that they have to be pushy in order to get the job done. If you’re one of these people, try adjusting your attitude to view yourself and your team as problem solvers, instead of a pushy sales force. Whatever the nature of your business, your products or services provide a solution to your customers’ needs; otherwise you wouldn’t still be afloat. Position yourself to communicate that solution to your prospects and you’ll win their business.

Ask the Right Questions – There’s a reason why people have two ears and one mouth. One of the keys to successfully closing a sale and landing a new client is carefully listening to your prospects. Ask the right questions to learn about their needs. Then you can offer them customized solutions. In addition to showing them the impact your business can have on their needs, it will also show prospects that you’re truly interested in them, and not just their wallets.

Identify a Need and Fill It – When you first started your business, you surely did research to determine whether there was, in fact, a need for your products or services. Selling involves the same strategy. When you take the time to learn what the needs are of your target market, you can develop a solution that will essentially sell itself. All of this before you even step foot in front of a potential client. You’ll be armed with knowledge and well prepared to overcome objections and convince your prospects that you can help them.

Step Back – The cold, hard truth is, not every prospect is going to turn into a paying customer. If, at the end of a meeting with a potential customer, you feel that you truly wouldn’t be a good fit, step back and disengage. If your services or products are of good quality, you shouldn’t have to chase people. Know when to walk away, for everyone’s sake, so you don’t create a negative association and potentially burn any bridges, closing the door to future opportunity.

Selling doesn’t have to be that dreadful task you continuously put off. To the contrary, if you put these simple tips into action, you can effectively and confidently engage your prospects, deliver your message and seal the deal to bring in new business.

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posted by Rebecca Daneault @ 12:12 PM

Thinking of Relocating Your Business? Here are 6 Tips to Make the Move Go Smoothly

People choose to relocate for a number of reasons - better opportunity, lower taxes, growth, cost savings – you name it. Uprooting your business can be nerve wracking and stressful because there are so many things to consider. The good news is there are a number of helpful tips that can help make your transition to a new location as smooth and stress- free as possible.

Plan Ahead – Months before your scheduled move, sit down and hammer out as many of the logistical details as possible. If you plan on renting an office or retail space, take time to scout out all the possibilities before settling on one. The more time you allow yourself to consider every angle of your relocation, the more prepared you’ll be.

Communicate – Be honest and open with your employees and your customers, giving them plenty of notice about the move and how it will affect them. If possible, involve your team in every step of the moving process. When everyone’s on board, the entire transition will go much smoother.

Clean House – If you’ve been in business for any amount of time, chances are you’ve accumulated a bunch of things you may not necessarily need. Take your move as an opportunity to go through the items you’ve collected over time and get rid of what you don’t need. This will help you start fresh at your new location.

Consider Staffing Options – If you’re relocating to an entirely new state or will be expanding in your new location, you may have to hire new staff once you’ve completed your move. Plan ahead and consider working with a staffing agency that can help get people on board and ready to go once you’re up and running again. Again, if your move means having to dismiss existing employees, communicate and give them as much notice as possible.

Market, Market, Market – If you’ll be penetrating a new market where you’re relocating to, start marketing your business before you move to get some exposure and get people excited about the new opportunity that will be coming to their area soon. Take advantage of local marketing opportunities like Groupon deals, Facebook ads, and custom “grand opening” coupons. Join the local Chamber of Commerce to get a jump-start on networking with other local business leaders.

Tie Up Loose Ends – Relocating can be overwhelming, making it easy to forget the last minute loose ends you might have. Make a list to help you remember what needs to be done, like recovering rental deposits, changing your address with the post office, posting a sign at your old business with details about your new location, and updating your website to reflect your relocation.

Moving your business, whether it’s across the street or to the other side of the globe, can be quite a task. We can help! Our virtual phone systems are completely portable, so it’s one less thing you’ll have to worry about! By preparing ahead of time and knowing what to expect, you can help make the transition much more manageable so you can be up and running in your new locale in no time.

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posted by Rebecca Daneault @ 6:23 PM

5 Compelling Reasons to Go Paperless with Your Business

These days, it seems that everyone is jumping on the paperless bandwagon – and for good reason. Aside from the positive impact it has on the environment, and the tens of thousands of trees that can be saved by eliminating paper usage, there are a number of other benefits for your business to go paperless. Here are 5 compelling ones.

  • More Efficiency – When your team doesn’t have to constantly search for paperwork, they’ll be able to focus on more important things, like sales and making your business more successful.
  • Cost Savings – Going paperless saves you more than just the cost of paper (which, by the way, can cost around $40 per case). You’ll also save on the cost of equipment, like printers, toner and storage for all your paper documents.
  • Improved Customer Service – In a paperless environment, everything is available at the click of a button. This means faster response time which equates to improved customer service. Plus, your customers and prospects will be impressed by the professional mobile environment that you run your business in.
  • Faster Collections – Paper-based billing comes with inevitable delays – you’ll find yourself waiting for customers to receive your invoices, then send you a check. By switching to electronic billing, your receivables will be more streamlined, saving time and resulting in better cash flow for your business.
  • More Secure Backup – Storing paper can be risky. What happens if there’s a fire, flood or other disaster? Going paperless lets you maintain electronic documentation, which is inherently safer (provided that you take the appropriate backup precautions).

In short, making the switch to a paperless environment can be extremely beneficial for your business. Combine this with your virtual phone system and all of its innovative features and capabilities, and you’ll have your business mobile and streamlined in no time!

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posted by Rebecca Daneault @ 9:33 AM

How a Virtual Business Can Compete with the Big Dogs

There’s a popular belief (or should I say myth) that virtual businesses don’t stand a chance in terms of competing with larger corporations. We’re happy to say that with the technological advancements we’ve seen over the past several years, this belief is fast becoming obsolete. Now any business has the opportunity to stand up against and successfully beat the competition, even if that business happens to be run out of the comfort of your living room. Here are just a few ways that you, as a virtual business, can be just as successful as your larger, brick and mortar competitors.

Believe in Yourself – Ok, I’ll admit - it sounds dreadfully cliché, but there is a lot of truth behind this theory when it comes to making your business succeed. Consider it a combination of confidence, bravado, optimism, fearlessness, and maybe even a little ego. The bottom line is, if you believe in your business and are confident that it will succeed, chances are it will.

Think Big and Be Creative – So what if it’s just you and a laptop behind your budding business? If you’re willing to think outside the box and be creative from time to time, you can achieve whatever you set out to achieve. Heck – I once heard of a virtual business owner who hired a handful of his friends and family just for an afternoon, to impress a potential client during a presentation. He was confident that he could get the job done, but wanted to portray an added level of trust to the client in order to seal the deal. Rule of thumb is this - just do what it takes to get it done.

Get a Professional Look – Just because you work out of your garage doesn’t mean your business image has to be just as raw. Take advantage of today’s technology and have a professional logo designed, get a website, order some business cards and get an 800 number. All of these things give potential clients the impression that they are dealing with a real, trustworthy business, which will help you stand up against the larger competition.

Hire a Virtual Assistant – Nowadays, it’s completely normal to have an executive assistant that is located across town, or even across the globe. With outsourcing services like oDesk and Elance, it’s simple to locate and hire a professional to handle your day to day tasks and help keep your business running like a well-oiled machine.

Create Your Own Virtual Company – Team up with other businesses in complementary fields that are also running virtual businesses to establish stronger, more robust networks. This is also a great way to increase business and get more leads.

These five things should get you on track to start digging in your heels and going after some of those bigger clients you may have thought were out of your league. And don’t forget to use all of the tools available to you, such as those we highlighted in our article Transitioning to a Virtual Office in 5 Easy Steps. With today’s technology and the shifting business model, the playing field is leveling and new opportunities are emerging for small, virtual businesses that were never available before. Don’t miss out!

posted by Rebecca Daneault @ 5:27 PM

Sales Call! Why Sometimes an Email Just Isn’t Enough

In today’s digital age, it’s becoming much more common to communicate through email or text than in person or on the phone. But sometimes in business, you really need that personal touch that electronic communication just doesn’t deliver, especially when it comes to closing that big sale. Here are just a few of the advantages of picking up the phone instead of hitting the send button.

Talking Builds Relationships – First and foremost, if you want to wow that prospect and land his business, the best way to do so is by laying a foundation for a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship. Speaking over the phone with your clients and prospects shows them that you really care and are willing to make time for them.

Real-Time Conversations Reveal Opportunities – If you only communicate through email, you never get the chance to get real-time feedback. While your electronic message will only contain information about the matter at hand, a live conversation allows you to ask questions and possibly reveal new needs and opportunities that your company can offer solutions for.

Your Message is Clearer – It can be difficult to decipher emotion, tone and attitude from written messages. Speaking over the phone, however, makes it much easier to convey your message clearly so that it is understood the first time, as well as answer any questions immediately as they come up.

Phone Calls Create a Sense of Urgency – Any good salesperson knows that the most important step in landing that big client is to create a call to action and a sense of urgency. Unless you’re communicating with someone who has already committed to working with you, chances are an email isn’t going to produce that important urge to get them to move to the next step. Over the phone, however, you can address and overcome any objectives and close the deal.

A Phone Call Gets a Response – People tend to ignore their email inboxes from time to time, which means getting someone to respond to you electronically could be a challenge. A phone call, on the other hand, elicits a faster response, which increase your chances of making that sale.

Emails, text messages and other electronic communications have certainly made our lives easier, but sometimes – particularly when it comes to making a sale – there’s just nothing like a good, old fashioned phone call. And we can help you make sure you’re always available, whenever that important call comes in with a virtual phone system, so you never miss another opportunity again.

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posted by Rebecca Daneault @ 4:33 PM