Is Facebook Destroying Your Business Opportunities?

Dis-LikeWhile I’m most known for presenting on Sales Intelligence (how to search for information on other people), I am also often brought in to discuss the opposite — Personal Branding (how to control what others find when they are searching on you).

During my program preparation, I’ve witnessed and heard stories from executives where people have done damage to their reputations based on what they post on Facebook. Worse, this damage has caused the posters to miss out on major business opportunities. Most often, the person posting had no idea the damage they did to their own business or career.

While many of the posts were pure stupidity, some exhibited the “law of unintended consequences,” meaning the post itself was rather innocent, yet it was negatively interpreted by others. Following are some examples of both:

  • A financial services firm was looking to hire a video production company for 10 on-location video shoots, averaging about $12,000 per shoot. If all went well in year one, the firm anticipated needing 20 videos in year two, and possibly for many years thereafter. A production company came highly recommended and based on a review of the company’s reel, website, testimonials, and the founder’s LinkedIn profile, the company was going to get called in for a bid — it would be their project to lose. Prior to picking up the phone, the firm’s marketing director went on Facebook, as he wanted to get more information on the production company’s founder (as she had some very impressive professional credentials and he wanted to see her friends and who he might know). What the marketing director saw was shocking. The founder’s Facebook posts looked like they were written by a junior high student, and they contained numerous grammatical errors. In addition, there were vitriolic posts against people who she disagreed with, other business professionals, and even past clients. Needless to say, the call never went out, and she lost out on nearly a half-a-million dollars in business. And she’ll never know.
  • I was delivering the keynote presentation at a large association meeting. In preparation, I randomly researched a number of the association’s members and their companies so I could ensure I tailored my talk to their interests. One of the members, the president of a large company, had multiple Facebook posts sharing his disdain for labor unions. I can only think that he thought his Facebook page was private. Why? Because in doing further research, one of the newspaper articles I read was about the upcoming negotiations this president was about to have with the union representing his employees. Oops.
  • An exceptionally talented woman posted on Facebook that her husband had a “successful medical checkup that morning, and although all was looking good, there was still a long road ahead.” She probably just wanted to share the news with her friends. But the “law of unintended consequences” was about to strike. This woman was also on the short list to get hired for a six-figure marketing job. After the post, she was not even included in the final list. The small business that was going to hire her didn’t want to take the risk of large health-care cost increases, or that the woman might one day request weeks off to care for her ill husband. Unfair? Yes. Heartless? Probably. Illegal? Maybe. Realistic? Absolutely.
  • In preparation for a very important meeting, an executive who had attended my Know More! Selling program wanted to practice what he had learned. To ensure relevancy and that he provided value, he went online to research the other meeting attendees. In reviewing one of the attendee’s Facebook pages, he saw a post she made about the newly crowned Miss America, Nina Davuluri, whose parents are from India. This woman was aghast that a “foreigner” was named to represent our country (Miss Davuluri was actually born in New York) and the racist post continued, even comparing Miss Davuluri to Osama Bin Ladin. Needless to say, the executive brought his six-figure opportunity to a different company. In addition, there were more than two dozen others who added equally racist comments to the original post. Of course with a mouse click, it was easy to see who they were, where they worked, the businesses they owned, etc.
  • A company executive posted on his Facebook page his strong support for a Republican candidate in an upcoming election. What this executive didn’t know was that a major new business prospect was a strong Democratic supporter. The new business prospect took his seven-figure contract elsewhere. There’s nothing wrong with posting your political feelings online, just know that in so doing, you could be alienating 49% or 51% of your prospects and clients, depending on your geography.

Remember that nothing is private online. Even though you may have set your Facebook and other social media settings to “friends only,” over time, as you click on links, watch videos, and play games, those setting may return to default, which typically means “wide open for anyone to see.” In addition, what you post online can be archived, and made searchable, forever.

Happy posting.

Posted in Facebook, People Search, Personal, Personal Branding, Reputation, Social Networks, Social Selling | Tagged , , , | Comments Off

Don’t Let Crooks Steal Your Tax Refund: Identity Theft Prevention Tips

Woman working on taxes at computer(BBT) – To itemize or not to itemize, deductions, exemptions, interest income and capital gains – you have a lot to think about when you’re doing your taxes. While you’re preparing your return, don’t overlook a consideration that’s every bit as important as whether you owe or are due a refund – tax-related identity theft.

Between 2011 and the end of 2013, the IRS says the agency caught and stopped 14.6 million suspicious returns, and doubled indictments and sentencings in fiscal year 2013. Criminals acquire taxpayers’ Social Security numbers and personal information through a variety of means – including data breaches, lost or stolen wallets or old-fashioned dumpster diving – and use it to file fraudulent returns in the hopes of getting a refund.

“Tax identity theft is particularly insidious because it targets Americans during a vulnerable, hectic time,” says Trey Loughran, president of the personal solutions unit at Equifax. “The sheer volume of tax identity theft cases reported by the IRS is astounding. Consumers need to be aware of this growing problem and what steps they can take to help protect themselves.”

Fortunately, certain steps can help Americans minimize tax identity theft risks:

  • Don’t wait to file. Filing early makes it less likely an identity thief will file first using your name and information. If a crook does attempt to file a fraudulent return in your name, the IRS will be better able to flag it if the agency already has your valid return in hand.
  • Guard your mail. During the first months of the year, many important tax documents move through the mail and identity thieves know this. They may steal W-2s, financial statements and other important documents right out of your mailbox. Consider using a locking mailbox or a post office box to receive and send tax documents, or e-file.
  • Protect your PC and all your digital devices. E-filing can be a fast, efficient way to do your taxes, but you must protect your computer with up-to-date anti-virus and anti-malware software, and use a secure Internet connection. Password protect all your devices.
  • Don’t fall for scams. If you receive an email, text or phone call that purports to be from the IRS, don’t respond – especially if the request is for personal information. The IRS only contacts you through postal mail, and will never ask you for your personal information.
  • Vet your tax preparer through the Better Business Bureau to ensure you’re dealing with a legitimate tax prep service. Never sign a blank return for someone else to complete.
  • To protect children and seniors, consider completing Form 8821, which authorizes a person to receive all IRS communications for the individual named on the form. The authorization ensures that if a criminal files a return using your Social Security number or that of a dependent child or senior adult, you’ll receive all IRS communications.
  • Contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit immediately if you receive a notice from the agency stating more than one tax return was filed for you, that you have a balance for a year you didn’t file, or that you received wages from an employer you don’t know. You’ll also need to file a police report and complete an identity theft affidavit.

“Tax return fraud continues to be a growing threat,” Loughran says. “Taking protective measures can help taxpayers avoid becoming victims of tax identity theft.”

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Your Sales Team – Wise Investment or Money Pit?

hire-right-3DCheck out this great book, Hire Right, Higher Profits, about hiring and training sales teams by Lee Salz.

The sales team is the primary revenue source for most businesses. However, this revenue is not without significant cost. If not carefully managed, this revenue source can easily become a money pit. There are five areas business executives should watch to ensure they make wise investments in their sales teams.

Hiring. In most organizations, if a new idea is proposed that costs $25,000 to implement,  blue ribbon panels are commissioned, meetings are held and a decision is ultimately made. After all, the company is considering a significant investment which requires careful consideration.

However, when a company is hiring a salesperson at a salary of $25,000, there isn’t nearly the same level of due diligence performed. Yet, it’s the same $25,000! In essence, the worst mistake a company can make is to hire sales people. Adding headcount to a sales team should be viewed as an investment made in revenue. Recognizing that this is an investment is a critical first step toward driving sales team profitability.

As executives evaluate sales candidates, there is a perception that they can hire great salespeople. Unfortunately, there are no great salespeople. They don’t exist! The issue is the word “great.” Greatness isn’t a standalone quality, but rather an attribute of the relationship between the salesperson and the sales role in your company. Don’t believe it? How many sales people have you hired – great resume, fantastic track record, polished appearance – and they failed in your company?

If you believe that there is an entity called “great salesperson,” you must also agree to one of the two of the following statements:

“When the salesperson arrived at my company, she completely forgot how to sell.”

“Our company is the absolute worst company to sell for in the history of business.”

After all, what other choices could there be if this person is truly a great seller? Companies with highly profitable sales teams don’t search for great salespeople. Their quest is to find the right salespeople with the potential to be great on their sales teams. While this may seem subtle, its impact is not.

This quest begins with a 360-degree analysis of the role to determine the factors that impact investment performance. Once all of those factors are identified, an evaluation program is put in place to contrast candidates with those performance factors. Now, instead of looking across the desk wondering if this candidate is a “great seller,” potential investors (which is what the executive team becomes when adopting this philosophy) are looking for synergy – or lack thereof – between the candidate and the needs of the role.

Onboarding. Many executives believe that – once they’ve hired a salesperson – the hard work is over. And, why shouldn’t they believe that? They’ve just hired a great salesperson! Hand the new salesperson a phone book and send him off to sell.

Highly profitable companies recognize the real work is about to begin when a new salesperson investment is made … for both the new salesperson and the company. This work comes in the form of an onboarding program. Onboarding is commonly seen as completing new-hire paperwork and getting the salesperson’s office ready to go. While administrative work needs to be done, that does nothing to protect the new investment or ensure a healthy return on it.

During the recruiting process, the evaluation program helped the investors make an informed decision prior to extending an offer to the candidate. The new salesperson arrives at the company with potential, but a program is needed to ensure the potential becomes reality – in as little time as possible. After all, every minute that the seller is on the bench, not yet ready to sell for the company, she is merely a cost on the books.

The starting point in the development of a sales onboarding program is the end. In other words, without identifying the program objectives, it’s impossible to create effective onboarding curriculum. The investors need to clearly identify the finish line for the onboarding program based on expectations they have of those new salespeople who successfully complete it. Those expectations are identified in the context of KNOW-DO-USE. If a new salesperson has successfully completed the onboarding program…

What should they KNOW?
KNOW refers to information like product knowledge and territory analysis.

What should they be able to DO?
DO refers to actions like conducting a sales calls or delivering a corporate presentation.

What should they be able to USE?
USE refers to tools or systems like a CRM or order management system.

KNOW-DO-USE provides the framework to identify the desired onboarding outcomes. With that, the onboarding curriculum is designed to lead the new salespeople to this finish line.

How do you know they are meeting expectations? Investors want visibility into the performance of their investments. There should be quizzes, a final exam and simulations to ensure proficiency has been acquired. If the new salesperson does not meet expectations, based on what the investors have documented as their expectations of someone who has successfully completed the onboarding program, there is an opportunity to protect the company by ending the investment early.

Managing. There is an age-old debate on micro versus macro management. Micro-management is often defined as constant, in your face management. Macro-management is aligned with the French “laissez-faire” philosophy of leave them alone. The debate seems to be limited to these two extremes. Yet, top performing companies cast this debate aside and take on a different philosophy.

Hiring and onboarding are seen through the lens of an investment in revenue. Managing the sales team falls in line with the “investment philosophy” as well. Each salesperson on the team represents an investment made on behalf of the company. When investors consider investment opportunities, they look for a sound business plan. This is the same philosophy highly-profitable sales teams have in place to ensure there is a strong return on investment.

The investor team develops a sales business plan template which is structured in a “wizard-format.” The plan is designed so that the investors can get a high level of confidence in the strategy, tactics and measures for each member of the sales team. Once the plan is completed by the salesperson, an investor call is held during which the the salesperson presents the plan for acceptance.

During the call, the investor team asks questions to instill confidence in their investment decision. Once accepted, periodic calls are held to update the investor team on sales business plan implementation progress.

Rather than argue micro-management or macro-management, these companies have a management structure in place that positions them for a high return on their sales team investment. Those sellers that perform well receive additional investment (time, dollars, resources, etc.). Those that don’t, they find their business ventures no longer funded.

Measuring. There is no end to the data associated with sales and it’s easy to get lost in it. Worse yet, it’s common for executives to focus on the wrong data points. Companies that recognize that the sales team is a revenue investment develop their sales metric management system designed to help them analyze performance.

Many start their system with “revenue” identified as their first metric. Yet, revenue is not a metric. It’s a result of the right metrics being delivered upon by the sales team with the right frequency. Companies can’t affect revenue, but they can affect the behaviors that lead to it. The investor team identifies a series of metrics that indicate that the business is on track. There are four criteria for each metric that is to be included in a sales metric management system:

1. Measurable. It is easily quantifiable as opposed to merely gut-feel.

2. Meaningful. The data point indicates something of importance to the business and seller performance.

3. Trainable. If a seller is deficient in this area, training can be provided to improve performance.

4. Goal-oriented. As it is measurable and meaningful, a driver is needed to ensure it is achieved.

With a sales metric management system in place, the investors have the ability to monitor the corporate investment and take swift action.

Compensating. “You’re only as good as your last sale.” This is one of the worst expressions ever uttered as it conflicts with how businesses are measured. Wall Street looks at tomorrow much more than yesterday. And, it is this expression that leads companies to develop flawed sales compensation strategies.

Traditional thought is that sellers are paid an incentive over their salary because they sold something yesterday. Profit-focused companies pay an incentive to get more sales in the future. Their focus is on growing a healthy sales pipeline in addition to winning accounts. When companies pay for yesterday’s news, their performance chart resembles an EKG.

The common starting point when developing a sales compensation plan is to ask:

“How much do we want our sellers to make if they achieve plan?”

While this is an important question, it should not serve as the foundation for the compensation plan. Since paying dollars beyond salary is a further investment made by the company the foundation question to be asked is:

“By paying an incentive (bonus, commission, etc.) to our sellers,
how will that help us get more of the sales we want in the future?”

The answer to that question helps to guide the development of a sales compensation plan that not only rewards for yesterday’s results, but for a healthy sales pipeline.

Each of these five areas has a major impact in the profitability of your sales team. While it may seem like a large undertaking, the result of transitioning your sales team to a “revenue investment philosophy” is exactly what the corporate bottom-line needs.

Lee B. Salz is a leading sales management strategist specializing in helping companies build scalable, high-performance sales organizations through hiring the right salespeople, effectively onboarding them, and aligning their sales activities with business objectives through process, metrics and compensation. He is the Founder and CEO of Sales Architects, Business Expert Webinars and The Revenue Accelerator. Lee has authored several books including the just-released Hire Right, Higher Profits.
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Is Your Business the Next Target?

targetWhat Can Happen if Your Firm is Hit with a Data Breach or Identity Fraud

More than 40 million credit and debit card numbers including PIN numbers and security codes were recently stolen from Target Stores. If you shopped at Target between November 27 and December 15 and paid using your credit or debit card, it’s likely that the bad guys now have your account information.

The news media has of course made this story front-page headlines, and rightfully so.Thankfully, if you do become a victim, as long as you report suspicious behavior on your credit or debit card to your bank in a timely manner, you won’t be held liable for any malicious purchases. Your bank will issue you a new credit or debit card number, and outside of the hassle of re-creating all of your recurring billing accounts, your inconvenience should be quite minimal.

As a consumer, you should be concerned by this extensive breach. If you’re an executive at or the owner of a small- or mid-sized business, you should be terrified.

Think about it … By all accounts, the bad guys were able to insert malware on the devices Target uses to swipe card information so that when a card was swiped, all of that information was stolen, including PIN numbers (although, supposedly, the PIN numbers are encrypted and therefore debit cards should still be secure).

Target is a multi-billion dollar company that most likely invests millions of dollars in security. Yet they were still breached. How much does your firm spend on fraud and business identity theft protection? Could your company be the next victim? Unfortunately, the answer is a resounding YES.

In a recent survey by Lumension Security, 40 percent of businesses reported that their firm was the victim of a targeted attack in the past year. The FBI estimates that nearly 100% of all small businesses will be hit with a security breach at some point. How can that be?

First off, it’s important to remember that a breach does not necessarily mean organized crime attacking your company’s computer system via sophisticated hackers. In today’s world, a security breach can be as simple as losing a laptop or mobile phone, because so many of our mobile devices now have access to customer and employee information. It could be the person who cleans your office walking off with employee files that include social security numbers. It could be a rogue employee stealing information from your company’s database. It could even be someone swiping the hard drive from the photocopy machine you recently sent in for repair (yes … most photocopy machines have a hard drive in them that store every copy ever made).

The problem is, as a company executive, sticking your head in the sand and doing nothing following a breach is no longer a defense. In the past, if you lost your mobile phone, you replaced it and didn’t worry. In today’s world, if stolen data is traced back to your company and it was found that your company did not appropriately respond to a breach, your company’s executives and board members could be held personally liable. Just look at the class-action lawsuits Target is already facing. What do you need to do if your company is a victim?

Unfortunately, the answer is not a simple one. There are 46 state laws that need to be followed — yes, if you have customers or employees in more than one state, you must follow each state’s specific requirements. There are breach plans that need to be developed.  There are letters that need to be written to customers and other stakeholders. There are fines that need to be paid. There is public relations work that needs to be done. Target can put a SWAT team on this to take care of it. If you work at a dental office, a manufacturing company, a marketing firm, etc. who on your team is going to take care of it?

If you’re Target, you can put a massive team together of lawyers, PR people, financial people, etc. who can get to work on the issue. Who are you going to call? Target can also manage the expense of a data breach. Can you?

On average, the cost of business fraud, when combining fines, legal costs, marketing costs, etc., is $188. Unfortunately, that’s per stolen record. Meaning, if you have 1,000 customers, that’s $188,000. 10,000 customers? $1.8 million. That is why it is estimated that 60% of small businesses that experience fraud will be bankrupt within six months following the breach.

The bad news is it is impossible to protect yourself from business identity theft and data breaches. The good news is there are some very easy steps you can take to dramatically minimize the risk. Conducting background checks on any outside vendor who has access to your customer and employee records (including janitors, photocopy machine repair people, etc.), carefully monitoring checking account and credit card statements, ensuring that mobile devices are encrypted, etc. are just a few of the steps you can take.

For a list of other ideas, please visit www.samrichter.com/protect to download a free guide on business identity theft and what you can do to decrease your company’s risk.

Another important step is to make sure you’re monitoring your businesses credentials like employee id numbers, business checking accounts, and business credit cards to make sure that information isn’t being sold on the Internet Black Market. It’s also important to have a mitigation partner in place when a breach occurs so instead of you having to do all of the work, you can instead pick up the phone and have a team of expert who will prepare your plan and guide you through the steps you need to take, depending on the breach.

For this, I highly recommend Argos Risk Defender. Learn more and get an incredible deal for the first few months at www.stopbusinesstheft.com

Don’t be the next business identity theft or business fraud target. Learn the steps you can take to decrease your risks and to properly prepare for when a breach occurs.

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Small Businesses Go Leaner, More Effective with Technology Tools

bp_tech(BBT) While the Great Recession convinced many big corporations to improve efficiency and reduce spending, small businesses have historically known the value of operating “lean and mean.” Many have never had another option, and have always had to accomplish more with less. Fortunately, technology is making it easier than ever for small-business owners to work smarter and more efficiently – and continue growing their businesses.

According to a recent SurePayroll Small Business Scorecard survey, small businesses are embracing technology as a tool to improve efficiency, with 76 percent saying they have changed their strategies to adapt to an increasingly technology-based economy.

Online tools in particular are useful, and many small-business owners are turning to online companies for support in key functions like payroll management, selling, communications, meetings and business development. Here are a handful of online tech tools that help small businesses operate cost-effectively:

For file sharing – Thirty-four percent of the business owners polled by SurePayroll use Dropbox, an online file-sharing service. This largely free service (you can upgrade to a paid business account) allows users to upload virtually any type of file to Dropbox’s server and then share and access the content from any Web-enabled mobile device anywhere in the world. The business version adds some extra features.

For payroll management – one of the most significant challenges for small-business owners—many SBOs turn to SurePayroll, an all online, wholly owned subsidiary of Paychex, Inc. Managing payroll solo can be costly for a small business—more than $2,600 per year on direct labor alone, SurePayroll’s research indicates. Mistakes can boost costs, especially if an SBO runs afoul of tax laws and requirements, and ends up facing IRS penalties.

Outsourcing to an online service such as SurePayroll.com makes processing payroll easy for SBOs.- It allows them to remain in control of their own payroll, while doing so affordably, accurately and efficiently. The system pays employees, automatically pays and files payroll taxes, and handles all necessary calculations and reports. Mobile apps allow SBOs to run payroll on the go.

Virtural meetingsGoToMeeting allows users to create a “virtual meeting” with up to 25 attendees in remote locations by combining visual and audio access. Using their own hardware, attendees can see and hear each other through the GoToMeeting interface and also view the meeting leader’s PC screen – a plus if the meeting includes a presentation.

Marketing – can be one of the biggest cost challenges for small businesses. MailChimp, Constant Contact, and IContact are just a few of the affordable email services that allow users to design email marketing campaigns and distribute to user-generated mailing lists. Campaigns can incorporate graphics and other user-friendly elements, and many tools are free as long as your campaigns meet distribution limits. For higher volume distribution, these services offer a range of paid options.

Small-business owners—84 percent in the SurePayroll survey—say technology, especially online tools, helped their businesses grow. With more tools emerging every year, small businesses are able to operate more efficiently, serving more customers quickly and with lower overhead costs.

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