Trade show protocol: Don’t sit down

You invest time, money and energy to create a presence at a trade show, so you can meet prospective customers, and possibly close some sales on the spot. You’ve had a display made to help tell your sales story, and you hope to attract traffic into your space.

Only you’re far less likely to get the visitors you want if you’re sitting down. People are reluctant to intrude on a sitter, rather than approach someone who’s standing. Not only that, when you’re sitting you look low-key and tired, just the opposite of the image you want to project. Yeah, it’s hard to stand for a whole day at a trade show, smiling, looking welcoming, chatting with visitors who may or may not be prospective customers. But that’s why you’re there.

If you need a rest — or  a bathroom break — schedule somebody else to man the booth while you’re gone. Somebody to stand on his feet, till you get back.

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Dangerous myth: Cut price and increase sales volume

When competition pressures you to cut price, don’t think you can maintain your profit level by increasing sales volume. “We’ll make it up by selling more. Lower price means more sales,” is almost always a fatal belief. Lowering price often fails to increase volume. And even if it does, trimming your profit margin on each sale usually puts you right on the edge of business failure.

If you lower your price, your competitors may go still lower. Soon your market is ‘racing to the bottom’ and nobody can make a profit. Don’t think you can beat the system. Let your competitors lower their prices. Keep your own sales up by selling harder. Show why you’re worth a fair price. Your business needs a decent profit to stay healthy.

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Keep an eye on your cash flow

It’s surprising how many small business owners don’t really understand cash flow. That’s why they fall behind in paying their bills.

Cash flow does not mean profits. You can have decent profits and lousy cash flow. Cash flow is the cycle of money flowing into and out of your company. You need to know how long it takes to collect money owed to you versus how much you need to pay your bills on time. Unless you have a large amount of your own working capital to take up the slack, customers who pay late force you to pay late.

To maintain a decent credit rating — and avoid a financial melt-down — it’s vital to manage your cash flow. Watch out for a shrinking bank balance, declining sales volume, and inventory build-up. Any or all of these are warning signs that money is going out faster than it’s coming in. You have to take steps to get them in balance.

There are many possibilities, depending upon your situation:  increase sales, raise prices, improve collections, bill in installments, trim costs, decrease inventory, accept credit card and PayPal payments — or borrow money. Whatever you choose to do, don’t let cash flow get out of hand. Your first obligation as the boss is to keep the money flowing.

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