Resources for business growth

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Duquesne University’s 18th annual conference promises actionable advice to help businesses grow

Duquesne University’s annual Entrepreneur’s Growth & Networking Conference is designed to help the small business community stay competitive, find resources to grow, and network with other small business owners.
“The Entrepreneur’s Growth & Networking Conference is a place entrepreneurs and business owners come to learn,” says Christine Hughes training manager and business consultant at Duquesne University Small Business Development Center.
“With some 350 to 400 attendees expected, it’s always a lively atmosphere. The speakers are all experts in their fields and are excited about helping those in the small business community by volunteering their time.
“Workshop attendees always seem to come away from the sessions having learned at least two or three great tips they can go implement when they get back to their businesses.”
Hughes spoke with Smart Business about the event and what attendees can expect from the day’s events.
SB: Who would benefit most from attending?
CH: Some 50 percent of Entrepreneur’s Growth & Networking Conference attendees are new to business — they’ve been operating for fewer than two years. Some 25 percent have been in business between two and 10 years, and the remaining 25 percent have been in business for more than 10 years. The sessions and keynote speakers cover topics that could be considered important to any of these small business owners — sales tips, finding new sources of revenue, etc.
SB: What is the theme of this year’s event? Why was it chosen and how is it relevant to what’s happening in the market?
CH: Networking is the theme of this year’s conference. One of the keys to growing a business is increasing the number of contacts a business owner has. J. Scot Teachout, the morning keynote speaker, will offer tips on improving networking skills, and attendees will have an opportunity to put those tips into practice during the afternoon trade show.
Many business owners are strapped to their business and don’t have the time to go to local events to meet other business owners. In today’s connected world, facilitated by technology and the advent of social media, there doesn’t seem to be as many face-to-face networking opportunities as there had once been. But that doesn’t make it any less important. There’s a lot to be gained from stepping out of the day-to-day routine of running a business and meeting people in similar situations to learn how others are operating, talk to each other and see how others are solving what are likely common problems.
SB: What are some of the highlights of the breakout sessions?
CH: We’ve got a session dedicated to social media: A Small Business Guide to Social Media Marketing. Social media has become an extension of networking and an important marketing tool for younger businesses.
We’ve also lined up a session on sustainability: Why Greening Your Business Makes Cents. That’s been a popular topic in recent years and will cover ways business owners can build their business sustainably, keeping the planet in mind while increasing profit.
The afternoon workshops all center around increasing sales, from a B2B and a B2C, perspective, as well as tips on landing sales with large companies.
SB: Who is the other keynote speaker and what should attendees expect to learn from him?
CH: Jeff Broadhurst, the afternoon keynote speaker, will be talking about what he’s learned from leading Eat’n Park’s 9,000 team members. Playing on the theme: What would you do different if you knew what you know now, Broadhurst will also offer strategies business owners can implement while telling motivational stories about overcoming obstacles.
SB: Why do you think this event has continued to be relevant for the past 18 years?

CH: The small business community has been a great supporter of this event, which is now in its 18th year. They like having a place to convene and learn, adjust to new economic and technological realities, and discover strategies that help them remain competitive. Every year it’s an event that is lively, dynamic and interactive.

Keynote speaker to cover common sales mistakes, offer tips on a better B2B sales approach

JScotTeachout_PeakPerformanceJ. Scot Teachout, a sales process trainer, sales development expert and principle at Sandler Training, will be the morning keynote speaker and will lead an afternoon breakout session. In the morning, he’ll cover how to network more effectively, with tips attendees can apply at the afternoon trade show. And in the afternoon workshop he’ll discuss B2B sales.Teachout spoke with Smart Business to offer a preview of his sessions at Duquesne University’s Entrepreneur’s Growth & Networking Conference.
SB: What would you say are the more common mistakes small businesses make when it comes to B2B sales?
ST: Among the more common mistakes from people in business development and sales is telling prospects why they should buy from them rather than asking questions to find out why they might buy from them. People love to buy but hate to be sold — they buy for their reasons, not those of sales people. It doesn’t matter why a salesperson thinks a prospect should buy. What matters is what the customer thinks.
To correct this, I often as people to practice the 70/30 method — sales people talk 30 percent of the time and let the prospect talk 70 percent. And when salespeople talk, they should be asking questions.
The next most common mistake is not determining if a prospect can or is willing to afford the seller’s product or service. If they can’t afford it, move on; it’s not a qualified prospect.
It’s also common to find salespeople who fail to understand the prospect’s decision-making process, which includes the criteria that will be used to make a purchasing decision and the timeframe during which decisions are made.
SB: How does networking — a theme in this year’s conference — affect B2B sales? How might the two compliment each other?
ST: Networking is an effective method for generating sales in the B2B space. No matter how many people a business owner knows at some point they’ll run out of prospective customers. It’s imperative to meet new people and make new connections to generate new prospects.
SB: What do you hope attendee will gain from your talk at the Entrepreneur’s Growth & Networking Conference?

ST: Growth in business is all about sales and business development. Networking is an essential part of that process, but it must be practiced on a weekly if not daily basis in order to be effective.