How to Better Respect Small Business

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How to Better Respect Small Business

I had two recent experiences that made me think differently about respecting small businesses.  And if you are in the business of marketing, selling, servicing or supporting small business that’s an important thing.

The first was while reading some research. The research said that Small business owners overwhelmingly see themselves as unique and define themselves additionally by their unique contributions to society. 

And I thought why do we so rarely acknowledge and respect small business owners for how they respect themselves?

Sure we respect them by acknowledging their value as a customer, their membership in an industry, their work ethic, their entrepreneurship, their common pain points, their challenges, their contributions to job creation as a whole and blah blah blah…..but don’t you see it?

There is little unique about that to the Small Business owner, instead it’s a wide swath acknowledgement of them as a group which exactly not how they see themselves individually.  And there is nothing respecting their unique contributions to society.

Last week I tagged along with my wife to a local business association gathering at a new restaurant that recently opened in town.   There had to be near 40 local businesses represented sipping on wine and appetizers.

This was not how I remember these meetings way back when I used to attend in another life.   This meeting was about toasting to the “Alan’s business that is driving the benefit tomorrow night for the family who lost their home in the fire last week.” It was about the “needed sponsors for the summer band series”.  It was about how proud the association was for being the “sole group responsible for installing a landmark historic clock in the center of town”.   So little of the time was promoting their business and when they did – 80% of them shared how “different” they were than any another accountant, or restaurant, or mortgage broker, or Mary Kay representative they knew.

So why do I (and I suspect, we) forget so often what our eyes see, our ears hear and our research tells us about acknowledging and respecting a small business?

What if we were to ask more often “What are you most proud of”,  “What defines you” or “What contribution as an Small Business owner inspires you?” when we talked with small business owners? What could we do with that? What would we learn?   What if we identified their perceived or real unique differentiators and societal contributions and embedded those into our variable data printing or emails or CRM data or Facebook pages we build for them?  The leverages are infinite.

Respect anew the small business owner in the ways they respect themselves. It just makes sense.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

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Don’t Worry About Your Customers!

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Don’t Worry About Your Customers!

Are your customers perhaps small or large businesses? If so, just forget about them.   Don’t waste your time focusing on them.  Quit obsessing and trying to impress, help, sell, service or support them.

It is a colossal waste of time.

Yet it’s what we’ve all been trying to do for so long we can’t think of any other way to think.    We love our customers.  We study them, observe them, train on their industry, study their social footprints and websites and basically stalk them hoping to learn what makes them tick and hence how to talk, market and generally influence them to love and buy from us.

And we wonder why the open rates are low, the quotas seem too high, the service levels sketchy and the NPS scores kinda meh.

We should think differently.

We should worry about your customer’s customers.   When you able to do that and do it gloriously; then you truly mean something and can influence them.

  • Is one of the clients you supply a small Sign& Painting company? Go and understand – better than they do – how local and state governments work their bid processes when they are looking for a client like yours.  Then you are different than any other supplier because you are worried about your customer’s customer and that is what they care about too.   And guess what – your sales go up along with theirs.
  • Is one of the clients you supply an automotive shop? Go and understand – better than they do – how consumers really shops online for service when they are looking for a client like yours.   Then you are different than any other supplier because you are worried about your customer’s customer and that is what they care about too.    And guess what – your sales go up along with theirs.
  • Is one of the clients you supply a small 3 chain restaurant? Go and understand – better than they do- the how consumers leverage social media in driving business to and from restaurants for a client like yours. Then you are different than any other supplier because you are worried about your customer’s customer and that is what they care about too.    And guess what – your sales go up along with theirs.

It is not semantics.  It’s a paradigm shift.   Think first about your customer’s customers.  How do they act? What do they think?  What’s important to them?  What influences them to work with your customer?

When you bring that to the party in new perspective, ideas and insights, you bring what really matters to your customer and regardless of what you sell, service or support, you’ve strengthened the partnership and profitability for everyone involved.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

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2 Little Things Driving Me Nuts about Sales Advice

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2 Little Things Driving Me Nuts about Sales Advice

I’ll pontificate with the best.   And there are a couple of things I don’t agree with regarding sales advice of late that are bothering me enough to do just that.

Difference here of course is that when I pontificate I am right.  🙂

Presentations Should Never Lead With Info About Your Own Company.   Wait, what? If I had a dollar for every post, newsletter, tweet, LinkedIn post and e-book of late that said this I would be rich and then actually I would be poor cuz’ I wouldn’t sell anything.

I get it.  Everyone says your presentations should lead with and be about your client, the result of your research, your discovery and how your company solves problems or drives revenue.  Yes, I get it.   But the reality is your company, its credibility, its experience, the friends it hangs out with and the intelligence of its people are always a concern for a prospect especially in this democratized world where a 1 person operation with a slick website and a social media presence can look like a big boy that has done nothing but looks like it has.   Buyers and prospects are more wary than ever because while a national and global marketplace is advantageous to buyers, it is no assurance that providers are inherently credible.

I’m not saying blather about your years of experience, testimonial and client lists in slide after slide in your presentations but you must at least lead with stories that build the trust and credibility of you and your company with like clients and prospects and then move into your key learnings and what your company brings to the table for the client.

The Client Should Do All (or most) of The Talking:   Really?  I’ve heard and read this like from the beginning of time – and I still see it and hear it daily.   But talk to the best sales reps out there.  It’s not true.  These sales people who are killing it are experts, challengers, loaded with insight and play a consultant role with prospects and clients.  They do a lot of talking, a lot of teaching, a lot of the story telling, and a lot of the credibility building as well as some of the listening.  They don’t just sit back 80% of the time and just take notes through the sales process.    The key here is these sales folks inspire their clients to share and talk honestly about their needs and their ambitions as a result of sharing their insights and by asking great questions.  It is far closer in effective sales to be ~ 50%/50% between client and sales rep than 80%/20% in favor of the client.

These reps know that Interrogation is Not a Sales strategy.   These reps know that what they provide has to be different and more worthy than what the client or prospect can find on the company website or brochure and that requires communicating.  These reps know the mastery of communication and conversation is not excelling at a mute Freudian analysis absorbing the soliloquies of the prospect or the client.

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You may disagree with my take on both of these nagging feelings about sales advice.  In fact, I expect many of you do.  But you would be wrong.  (Or maybe, it is possible, remote-though possible, that I am wrong).

Either way – only good comes from thinking about these two or discussing with your teams or colleagues; They are important places to focus

 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

Mark’s Blog

That Hero Formula

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That Hero Formula

In a recent post,   Haven’t You Changed Yet? 3 Things Sales People Must Do Now I got a few questions about the 3rd piece of advice around storytelling, particularly about the Hero Formula.

  1. The customer who feared/resisted change or was down on their luck.
  2. Took the leap of faith.
  3. Ran into some unexpected challenges.
  4. Recommitted to the effort.
  5. Achieved mastery and had awesome results.

The hero formula has different iterations and is hugely popular in movies of course (think Rocky, Good Will Hunting, The King’s Speech and a dozen more).  But it is great in sales (no matter what you sell,  be it products or ideas).  And it is great in marketing and business (think Apple/ Steve Jobs, the band Aerosmith etc.).   Good stories stick and help you sell whatever it is that you do.

I got some questions about how it really sounds with a product or service.  Here is an example and it is true – I’ve heard it first hand from people in the trenches.   That is the key- don’t make stuff up.   Instead, craft (as I did here) the truth leveraging the formula- you’d be surprised how often success follows the formula.

  • “An electrician I know lost most of his commercial business in a bid. CVS stores were his life and now they were gone.  He needed to get into residential work in a big way and started smartly to build an online presence like a website, a Facebook page and trying to blog etc. as he knew the way word of mouth works is changing.  But he did it on his own and it was a huge amount of work for him and his family- much more than he thought.  He called us for a reorder of business cards one day and I started sharing how we could do a lot of that work managing his online presence making it so much easier for him and 4 months later he’s got close to 1000 followers on his Facebook page and gets about 30 solid leads a week off his website for residential work.”

The nice thing about hero stories is they don’t have to be yours.  You can share regardless.  “One of my colleagues has a client that…” will work just fine.   Hero stories are sticky sticky sticky.  They are centered on the Hero and how your product/ idea or service helped the Hero in their journey to success.   That’s nice.  And better, that’s effective.

 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

Mark’s Blog

5 Phrases You’re Not Using Enough

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5 Underrated Phrases

Words matter.  Don’t let anyone tell you different.

“Tell me more about that…”  Great at client meetings, great in customer conversations, great in coaching sessions and great at parties!  You don’t lead unnecessarily, you don’t shut someone down and you don’t force anyone down any path they don’t want to go.  You learn and they get to talk and share.  Great sales people know this.  And any of you actors out there know this is the one of the keys to great improv acting—it always keeps the conversation moving and don’t we all want that?

“We love you…”  What is wrong with us?  Do you think your customers give a flying hoot that you “value” them or “appreciate” them or “thank” them?  Blah Blah Blah.   Don’t you really love them? And if not, shouldn’t you?  (Their business puts food on your table).   Use “love“, “adore” or “cherish” in your print materials or email marketing and even those live conversations or voicemails.  There’s nothing wrong with saying “You folks are one of our absolute greatest customers”.  Make it your own—but make it different and real.  Get above the clutter and stand out.

“Let’ me figure out what I can do.”  Who knows why we humans default all the time to what we “can’t” do.  It’s maddening and so hard to break.  But you say the same thing except far better by saying “Let me think about it and come back with what can be done.” Vs “I can’t do this.”   It’s a world of difference be it at work in service, sales and even in your personal relationships.  Positive Resonates; Negative Detonates.

 “Who besides yourself…?”  Add any ending to Who besides yourself as in “has a say in the decision”, “wants to review”, “would like more info”, “would benefit from a demo”?  Too often we push our contacts away (whether we know them well or they just answered your call) instead of protecting them, their contributions and frankly their egos.  Always include, never insult unintentionally by presuming they do not play a role in the next step.

So you’re all set, this will get you (insert pursuit, dream or goal)”:  Easier than it seems but sadly at the end of most meetings, transactions or purchases we limp along and wrap up the pricing, the purchase order or the specifics of the next contact instead of inserting how what just happened is so critical to what the client or the business wants.   They don’t want the copier you’re selling; they want more time to focus on real work.  They don’t want business Facebook page built; they want to get more customers because they’ll be found more easily.  They don’t want to just list out action items for the next meeting; they want to know how what they did today is going to make a difference.  Tie off each meeting or interaction that way no matter what you do—you’ll solidify the value and strengthen the partnership.

 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

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Haven’t You Changed Yet? 3 Things Sales People Must Do Now

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Haven’t You Changed Yet? 3 Things Sales People Must Do Now

You know it’s true.

You know that when a prospect calls, fills out a web form or pings you with an email these days that they have already and absolutely done research about you, your products and your company.  Like a lot of research.

I’ve read a dozen studies that say most folks are 50% to 75% through the sales process by the time they get to you, the live breathing sales rep.

Well that stinks.  It’s sure not like the old days.

Remember the days when prospects or clients needed you to tell them all about your company, the products, the pricing and the options?  Yeah, I do.  It was like the early 2000’s was the last time that was real life.  But now there is the internet, the websites, the blogs, the reviews and all that good stuff.  What do the prospects need you for?  (Answer: to confirm pricing, terms and other such mundane stuff it seems).

But it doesn’t  have to be that way.   There are three things you should be doing all the time now dear sales person, before and during that time when that phone rings, that load leads or that email arrives.

 

  • Differentiation is Your Lead Story:  If the prospect is contacting you – they already have a need; so ease up on hitting the needs discovery so hard up front for criminy sakes.  Instead, focus on differentiation and do it presumptively.  An old colleague of mine taught me the critical question sales must always answer for prospects; “Why with all the competitive alternatives available to me, should I buy from you?”  OK – you know that is important but you need do this presumptively without being asked.  “Yes, it runs around $60 a month and what makes that unique versus others that may offer the service is….”  Or “My guess is you’ve looked hard at options here, one thing to consider unusual but awesome about how our products delivers is…..”    Your job with differentiation as your lead story is to snap the prospect out of price or terms shopping – that’s where they think they are when they call you – and that is what you must change.

 

  • Teach Existing Customers Something New Every Single Day:   Some of the best sales reps in the world don’t like the leads they get today.  They really don’t.  The leads they get today as I’ve said are often folks who have so much research available to them that by the time they contact you – you’re just a talking head sometimes confirming stuff they already know.   The best sales people create their own leads.  They educate and teach before the need arises or do so in such a way that they create the need and therefore are front and center playing the role of a human (and way more engaging) source of research and information than the web.  And they teach about new products and services for sure but in such a way that they are problems solvers and industry challenge averters and hurdles faced but that help to succeed.    Maybe you’re in the lead generation business in your role, maybe you are in the closing end of it too.  It makes no difference – teach, teach, and then teach some more.

 

  • Be a Story Teller:  You know what doesn’t work all that well on the web?  Customer Testimonials.  They really don’t.  No offense to any of the talented marketing folks who nurture, create and publish testimonials.  Some are effective for sure; some are even emotionally moving videos about using a product.  But by and large, the quotes, the blurbs and the statements supporting the products and services on a website or brochure are let’s be honest, not always believed to be credible to the prospect.  But a story told by a real sales person like you who had a real interaction with a real customer who better yet,  looks a lot like the prospect you are talking to;  A story told well that way – now that has influence!   Get good at telling stories.  You all have them.   You have those real success stories with real customers.  (Bonus tip; Fit your story into the Hero model for greatest impact;  1) the customer who feared/resisted change or was down on their luck 2) took the leap of faith 3) ran into some unexpected challenges 4) recommitted to the effort 5) achieved mastery and had awesome results!).  Story telling was never part of anyone’s sales training class – that I can assure you; but it darn well should be now!

 

Times change.  Technology changes.  Buying processes change.   Make sure you are too.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

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Pardon Me While I Sell You This Chair

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Pardon Me While I Sell You This Chair

Mark’s Blog

4  essential reminders on how to really create interest and sell just about anything.  In just 139 seconds.

 

 

 

Till Next Time,

Grow The Business.

Mark