Category Archives: Small Business

100 Points Per Week, Part III

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Well, from a points perspective, last week was pretty good.  This was mainly due to an event we did on Thursday.  Of the 165 points for the week, 99 were related to the event.  That’s a good Score Card but those points are only as good as the follow up.

Social events are an important part of my referral marketing strategy and one of the main ways I make new connections.  It is how I make it easy for my referral partners and clients to refer me.  Lots of planning goes into events but they can be very productive from a relationship building perspective.  The Certified Networker Night on Thursday gave us as opportunity to recognize clients, provide a speaking opportunity to a former client and important relationship, renew old connections with current and former clients, and meet new business people who could either become prospects or good referrals or connections for members of my network.  I was also able to use one of my clients as the caterer and thus promote her business while giving her business.

So the proof in the pudding will be in the coming weeks.  How many opportunities did we create and how many of those will turn into business, not just for me but also for my clients who attended the event?

I’ve got house guests coming on Friday, my brother, Paul and his wife, Betsy.  They are easy company and I’m really looking forward to the visit.  But have to keep the focus this week and set things up for the next.  They’ll be here for 10-11 days so I’ll need to be creative with my marketing and communications to not let things drop while remaining a good host.  When you are the Chief Cook and Bottle Washer, these are the types of things that can put a big dent in the pipeline if you let them.  We’ll see how I do.

 

The Sales Process Is Stuck. Now What Do You Do?

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In my conversations of late, the importance of the sales conversation becomes more and more apparent.  So often we forget what our purpose is.  It starts with our purpose as a person, works its way through our purpose as a business person, and ends up in what is our purpose for this conversation, email, or whatever.  We often get lost in that journey and end up focusing on the less important and/or irrelevant; the “what” or the “how”.  If the question is “What do you do for a living?” then what is our purpose in answering?  Are we trying to sell something, make a connection, find common ground, or are we seeking a way to help the questioner?  Keeping our eye on our purpose, or the “why”, can completely change our perspective and the tenor of the interaction.  I’m back on my “why” jag, so that means another visit to http://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action.html.

So many times, we get stuck during a sale.  The “stuck” comes from the prospect not moving forward, not answering phone calls or emails.  Or it may be that they are just not making a decision; more information, more questions, another meeting or call.  Our response to this is more information, more meetings, more calls.  We sweeten the deal with more features or services.  We drop the price.  We tie ourselves into pretzels to close the deal.  We use our best “overcoming objections” techniques and overwhelm with superior firepower.

However, often when you reach this state of “stuck-in-the-sale” what’s needed is to revisit why they sought you out in the first place.  Why were they in the market for your product or service?  What was it that they were trying to accomplish?  What was their purpose?

A client recently related a story to me about a prospect of his.  The prospect had worked their way through what is a very long and rigorous process for buying a business.  They had passed all the qualifiers and the deal was ready to close.  But out of the
blue, the prospect pulls the plug.  Backing out. Changed the mind.  It’s a no-go.  But Bill, savvy and wizened old sales guy that he is, met with the prospect and revisited the prospect’s motivation for wanting to buy a business in the first place.  They talked about his goals and what he hoped to accomplish through business ownership.  The conversation reminded the prospect of their vision and renewed their enthusiasm.  Their fears were overcome by their dream, the “why” behind the sale.

Determining the customer’s “why” in the beginning provides you with the information you need to keep them focused on their true intension and needs.  You truly become a consultant/advisor and establish a completely different relationship.  Revisiting the customer’s original “why” helps you to provide the best solution you can while creating a more lasting relationship built on trust.  This level of trust is the first, and most important, step in the referral process.   But that’s a whole other conversation.

Are you stuck right now with a client or prospect?  What can you do to get unstuck?

What, More On Social Media?

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These days it’s hard to go for long without hearing about social media. Weather Channel is Tweeting, athletes are tweeting and Facebooking, politicians are tweeting, alerts and updates popping up on the computer. It’s all fun and interesting but left unmanaged, can become a black hole that eats up large chunks of valuable time. So, from a business perspective, how much is enough and which media are the right ones? Of course, the answer to that is, “It depends.”
We network to meet other sales professionals and expand and deepen our referral relationships. However, another valuable aspect of your network is that of providing support and information. Most of us are fortunate to meet regularly with a number of experts, some of them in the area of social media and internet marketing and support. So if you have questions about what you should be doing in the world of real time marketing (to quote a favorite source, David Meerman Scott) you may find some answers right there in the room with you. How about Jeff Sheehan, Donna Lang, Danny or Sarah from Yepser, or Stan Schnitzer, PR consultant? Or Carol Shepherd, Eric Flamm, Erik Seifert, or Doug Wheeler to help sort out the technology to plug you into the cyber world? Or Betsy Rhame-Minor or Michelle Hutchinson, or Stan Schnitzer to help you craft that that social media message? If you are interested in learning about how social media might fit into your marketing, you might want to spend a few minutes with Dan Greenfield and ask him about the Social Media Makeover on 8 November. Looks like a good place to start. http://bit.ly/rsFNWZ
Make good use of the great resources you are already connected to. If you look around you, you will find an abundance of talent that can help you with building your business. Social media is only one of the areas represented by some real pros you already know. Have a conversation with the; broaden and deepen your referral relationships. Lend your expertise to them, and in the process, expand your information network, as well.

Life Long Learners Make the Best Clients (for Some of Us, anyway)

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Had a great conversation today with Graham Wickham, President and CEO of the Wickham Financial Group in Marietta, GA. Graham mentioned one of his agents, a new guy, made comment on a book he was reading. It brought to mind part of the definition of a good client for me: a life long learner. I’ve always enjoyed learning new things and reading. That pleasure seems to grow as I get older but I wish I had been more diligent about it when I was young. One of the best bits of wisdom ever imparted to me was by my old mentor and friend, Fred Yeager, of Met Life in New Orleans.  Fred once told me that “We don’t know what we don’t know.”  Kind of the premise of the book I was moaning about some months back, The Black Swan.

As we near the milestone of December 31 and prepare to cross into 2010, we hear the usual wisdom about getting your plan for next year complete. We all nod our heads and our hearts fill with good intensions but, ultimately, some of us will plan and most of us won’t.

I’m not sure what works for you. I do know that one needs to pause and reflect occassionally on what you are doing. Because as a business owner or independent sales person, you are sliding behind if you are not learning and adapting. The pace of change keeps increasing.

Discussions regarding the economy break out at the drop of a hat these days. Are we still struggling in recession? Are we in recovery? If we’re in recovery, what is the pace of it, how long will it last, is it temporary? And on and on. While staying current with all that, the most important question to consider is, “What does it all mean to my business and what do I need to be doing every day?”

With all this change and upheaval, it might be a good time to consider your business anew. Is your message (USP, Elevator Pitch, tag line) still relevant? Have customer/prospect needs changed? What are their current concerns and am I speaking to them? Am I providing the right products or services?

We will probably be attending various Holiday parties and functions; good networking opportunities, all. However, while meeting with clients, friends, colleagues, and prospects, this might be a good time to conduct a little market research and find out people’s concerns in the areas you provide solutions. A little Q & A could provide you some valuable information regarding who is in real need of what you provide and what their main concerns are. Maybe it’s time for some chages.

Besides, they will be impressed with what a good conversationalist you are if you let them do most of the talking.

What Is WOM and Why Do I Need Some?

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New Rules of Marketing (image)I picked up a book last week, The New Rules of Marketing & PR by David Meerman Scott. It set my hair on fire! I’’ll get on that topic another time, (not the hair, the book) but right now I want to comment on something that kept coming to mind while I was reading. That is, how people use the terms “word of mouth marketing”, “referral marketing”, and “networking” when talking about obtaining leads. I’’ll add another that I like better, “relationship marketing”. (That may be redundant, because marketing is about creating and maintaining relationships.)

But while reading the book, the term that kept coming to mind was “word of mouth”. The reason is, most of the business people I talk with seek the holy grail: referrals.

And so they “network”. They ask for referrals. They rely on “word of mouth”.

And this is where we are falling short.

Most of our word of mouth comes from our own mouths. There has been a lot written and said about developing referrals through building networks and developing relationships. Heck, that’’s my specialty and I’’ve learned from some of the best in the business, as well as through the school of hard knocks. But the old referral guru, Dr. Ivan Misner, said it a long time ago: word of mouth marketing. (He even created a marketing plan called the WOMBAT Plan.) But it was lost on me, like I suspect it is lost on most sales and business people. I got caught up in the tactics, the getting referrals.

Networking and building referral relationships are only one of the aspects of marketing by building word of mouth. Check out Dr. Misner’’s World’’s Best Known Marketing Secret and David Meerman Scott’’s books and learn about creating WOM. Dr. Misner’’s focuses on the fundamentals of good, old fashioned, hit the streets WOM; and Scott’’s is a high tech, changing everyday, got to keep up, cutting edge version. Both approaches valid; one a part of the other. The basic elements are the same: market, motivation, message. They just offer different media.