Nobody Good

Standard

Nobody Good

It sticks with me; a glorious opportunity. 

It was on a large conference call.  The leader was talking.

“We asked hundreds of small business owners this same question about who they think of when faced with this challenge.   And do you know what they said?”

(Long pause) 

“Nobody”.

Wow.  Nobody!  That is wonderful!!

It grows wearisome to enter the market place and find that you are yet just another competitor.  

It grows wearisome to plan, to process, to test, to test some more, to test yet one more time and then find out you are pretty much like the other guy. 

It grows wearisome to follow the “shiny bright thing”, or to dig up “old tapes” from another company that didn’t get it right or to just chase the “short term gain”.

I don’t want to follow, dig up or chase anymore.  I want to invent.  I want to lead.

So when you ask an audience and the answer is “Nobody” or “I can’t think of anyone” or “No idea”, realize that that is the sound of glorious opportunity yet to be embraced.

Have at it. 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

Mark’s Blog

Mark’s Twitter

P.S.  “Nobody” is opportunity on an individual level too.  Ask your team, your boss, your colleagues “Who do you look to for __(fill in the blank)__ ?”  If the answer is “I don’t know”; that space is yours for the taking!

Angela’s Assist

Standard

Angela’s Assist

“What are you buying it for?”  

 “Oh, that’s wonderful…”

 “Let me do that for you…..”

 “I think you should grab a couple more…”

 “That looks beautiful on you…..”  

 “Oh, I don’t like that one on you so much, not conservative enough…”

 “You know what would really make that look sharp…. is a belt..”

 “A necklace will really tie it together and show your personality…”

“You may want to grab another blouse with the 50% off promotion and mix and match this.”  

 “Good luck, I know you’ll get the job”.

Yep.  That’s pretty much verbatim what sales associate Angela said to my 23 year daughter 2 weeks ago as we shopped for her first real business suit as she was about to interview for a customer service role in one of the largest investment firms in the world.

 It was a memorable almost “wow” service experience as her mother and I watched Angela guide her through the buying process.   She wasn’t pushy; she wasn’t hovering as in fact, Angela was helping two other customers at the same time.

 It was however, so smart.  It started with the right question.  Not just “What are you buying?” But, “What are you buying it for?”

 The rest of her comments and questions make smart sense.  They are honest.  They are helpful.   They are overtly credible and said with the tone and content that she has “totally been here before”.   And it was in the end,  not about the suit at all – but about the goal our daughter had in mind – landing that job.

 She did land that job.  [Today, in fact :)]

And while the business suit Angela helped pick out for our daughter probably wasn’t the reason she got the job, it sure didn’t hurt and better, what a great lesson in customer service Angela gave her to steal from for the interview.  It works on a lot of levels.  

You can steal shamelessly from Angela too.  Read the comments she made and the questions she asked.   Think about them.  Apply accordingly.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

Mark’s Blog

Mark’s Twitter

PS:   If you’d like to see Angela in action, head to the clothing store Ann Taylor at Pheasant Lane Mall in Nashua, NH.   I’m sure she won’t mind that I sent you there.  🙂

3 Keys To Giving Great Advice Fast

Standard

3 Keys To Giving Great Advice Fast

Smart sells.   Smart and Fast sells even better.

If you are in the B2B space there is little more valuable today than insight.  Insight is attractive.  Insight gets attention and sets you apart from competitors.  Insight leads to influencing client behavior which leads to sales. 

Good advice giving is important today especially in the abstract service spaces like online digital marketing or insurance or payroll services or social media services etc- you get the picture.   And Business owners (especially SBs) are pressed for time and even more pressed for advice and counsel. 

So when they talk with you Mr. or Mrs.  Salesperson or Consultant; they expect you have something smart to say or something to share that they did not know before and the reality is, they have very little time to stand around ( or hang on the phone) to answer your 20 questions and wait for you to absorb, analyze and provide that insight. 

So if you are charged with having to provide important tips or advice in very little time to a prospect or client, how do you do it?  And how do you do it fast? 

3 Keys

  • Set the Table Correctly Before Asking Any Questions At All:  It’s a rare day when you can amble up to a business owner or chat with them while they are calling in to place and order, and start to pontificate smart advice.  At a minimum, a question or two usually needs to be asked.  But it’s how you preface asking those questions that makes a difference.  Tee up the questions with a statement that respects the appeal from the customer/ prospect’s perspective.  “I know your time is short so let me ask just three quick questions about your business so I can then give you something interesting to think about”    Business owners love the words “quick” and  “three” ( they know when it is over!).  And you have totally respected the time issue.    Do this and you have just improved your chances of your questions being answered honestly and completely enough as he/she wants what you want –to give/get good insight, fast.
  •  Be an Industry Informant.   There’s nothing wrong with taking a tact that starts with “You know what I’m hearing from a lot of the accountants I’m talking to these days…” Or “I gotta say the contractors I talk to today are hammering social media and print marketing pretty equally..”   This approach doesn’t respect the client’s individual business needs (yet) but makes you sound very smart (you must talk to people just like me every day!) and therefore the advice has credibility.   And of course, nothing is more influential to a business owner than what other businesses (who are just like them) are doing.   Key here is you have to leverage Lines of Business or even some deeper segmentation (gulf coast contractors for example) that appeals to clients’ sense of your industry intelligence. 

  

  • “Think” / “Consider” vs. “Do”:  The worst kind of advice to give to someone you don’t know that well just yet is to tell them to “do” something.   Particularly in those more complex, abstract services and especially when those people you are talking about are business owners who have a pretty large sized ego, pride and sense of entrepreneurialism.  Know your audience.  Telling someone to “do” something can get backs to arch so to speak.  Try “Consider some payroll options, a few things to think about are how much time you spend per month…”   Or “One thing to think about is investing in some kind of trackable answering service…”.   Semantics?  Nope.  Insert the word “do” in the last 2 examples and pretend you’re a business owner talking with someone you just met.   Yeah- fun uh?  Encouraging business owners to “think” and “consider” is smart.  Not when you are suggesting buying a pen or upgrading to larger quantity – that’s fine use a form of “do”.  But when you are in those more complex products or services, it shows you get how these folks work and that you are advising not closing at this stage. 

Be Smart and Sell More! 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

Mark’s Blog

Mark’s Twitter

Surprisingly Attractive

Standard

Suprisingly Attractive

It’s why we like to fish.  It’s why we like Bingo and love gambling.  It’s why some of us even like checking the mail ( any kind of mail I suppose).  It’s why we like looking for seashells or walking thru old cemeteries or even trolling for old friends on Facebook.

We like surprises.  We are wired that way.   There is a thrill and pleasure of seeking – yet not really knowing what you are going to get or find.   There is a ingrained yearning, a waiting and a hoping for good, interesting or just plain “cool” stuff to surprisingly appear.

I know people like that.  People on the “cool” end of things.  People like Mike who whenever you see him, you know he’s got something exciting to tell you, to teach you – heck – even his emails you don’t open right away cuz’ you have to be ready to take it all in. 

People like Mary, David and Walter who when you are talking with them face to face or on the phone,  are constantly surprising you with stuff or ideas to the point you walk away and write it down, google it or better – act upon it.

There are a handful of colleagues I roll the dice with often and on some days I land the  800 lb. Wicked Tuna of surprises talking with these folks.  Brilliant stuff that makes you want to cash in and celebrate on the spot.

Surprise attracts;  good surprises especially.   All of the people above are successful, are always surprising and have huge fan clubs or client lists  and are on the speed dial for more than a village of folks. 

Are you a constant pleasant surprise to your customers? To your employer? To your family?  Shouldn’t you be?

Are you offering valuable ideas, insight or selfless help to the point you attract people, prospects or those in need to you?  Shouldn’t you?

If not you, is your company, your division or your team constantly surprising in a good way?

Good Surprise is great.   We like it.  We yearn for it.  We manufacture entire industries around searching for it.  And those individuals who do surprise well, tend to be the accomplished  types who are magnets to those around them.

Surprise is, when you think about it, surprisingly attractive. 

Go do that.

 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

Mark’s Blog

Mark’s Twitter

Educate

Standard

Educate

Educate.  It’s part of the sales process many can’t get used to.

But sales people have to do it.

Sure there’s lot of  buzz and research about how prospects do all this learning  online about a business before they even get to a sales person.  I’ve preached that research before myself.  But I’m not buying that it is entirely true hook, line and sinker any more. 

I keep hearing prospects confused, unsure or frustrated about certain services or products.  I keep hearing prospects so busy at work and so inundated with messaging and marketing- they don’t have time to research and learn. 

If you are a company selling somewhat abstract  services like money management, digital marketing, brand development, risk avoidance, sales training, marketing solutions and the list goes on – you have to understand that many prospects just really…don’t understand. 

These prospects aren’t going to shout this out to you but not understanding stops any sales process or worse – prevents it from even starting.

Educating can happen with great marketing, branding or advertising but educating prospects live with real humans  (i.e. sales people talking with prospects) often gets above the clutter.  Face to face or voice to voice is the single most intrusive attention getting sales activity- and we must learn to better use it to teach vs. pitch.   

Learn how and invest in finding ways to educate prospects first.  Call to invite dozens to your live webinar.   Produce YouTube videos with you explaining the marketing place and call not for an appointment but to share links with your prospects.  Build education however brief into your conversations – not about your product or service but about the industry, the data, and the research – something intriguing that the prospect did not know.   Offer incentives to learn; not just to buy.

If you skip the “educate” part of the sales process and focus like always on the offer, the snazzy presentations, the closing skills and the sales contest then you’ll severely limit yourself with the number of qualified leads you could have really had.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

Numbers Matter

Standard

Numbers Matter

“You’ve been a customer for many years…”

 “We have a lot of customers where you are….”

 “We build a ton of websites for small businesses….”.  

 Shoot me now.

 Numbers matter.  

No specific numbers can sound like you are lazy.  No specific numbers can sound like you are reading from a script.  No specific numbers sounds like you don’t care.  No specific numbers says you are probably making it up anyway.  

Trust is low in the marketplace.   No specific numbers makes it worse.  Customers and prospects are yearning for numbers – real numbers, real proof that you are credible or that you do care.

If you know how long a customer has been with you in the number of years or months, share it.  If you don’t know- find out and share it every time you contact them.

If you know exactly how many customers you have that are just like the prospect you are talking to (i.e. exactly how many in their town/city or exactly how many just like them (their line of business) are already customers)), then share it.  If you don’t know- find out and share it every chance you can.

If you know how many websites or widgets or thingamajigs you have that people use or buy or love then share that.  If you don’t know- find out and then spit it out.

Numbers are credible.  Numbers are proof.  Numbers get attention.  Numbers earn you a first look or even a second look.  Numbers get you sales.  

Numbers Matter.  

 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

If You Knew, You’d Act Differently

Standard

Let’s start this post with Jeopardy like feel except that the answer to the following 6 questions is the same:

 What is, “You bet I would!”

 

  • If you knew small business prospects are 3 times more likely to act when you give dollar discounts versus percentage (%) discounts, would you handle your offers or pitches differently?
  • If you knew most small business prospects had already looked at your website before they called you inquiring about pricing, would you handle the call differently?
  • If you knew most small business prospects initially dislike being interrupted over the phone by sales reps, would you handle your call opening differently?
  • If you knew most small businesses think you are more credible if you give specific details (like “we are launching a 3 part welcome program to all new customers..”) vs. sharing a customer testimonial, then would you speak or market differently? 
  • If you knew that 3 out 4 small business prospects in Manufacturing, Construction and Healthcare have their interest piqued when you share information specific to their industry ( vs. say just 1 out of 4 Retail prospects care about information specific to their industry), would you plan your contacts, visits and marketing with these types of verticals differently?
  • If you knew that most small businesses don’t yet realize social media is the new and most sacred  “Word of Mouth”, would you talk about, advise, encourage and role model social media differently?

The above are true and just a smattering of real data about real small businesses I culled from the research done by firms like the Enterprise Council on Small Business (ECSB) and other reputable research orgs. 

Now you know.   Go forward differently.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

Drug Reps Selling Differently

Standard

An article from yesterday’s Wall Street Journal very much worth the read.   

Drug Reps Soften Their Sales Pitches

Interesting.  A Softer sell.  A different kind of sell.

And Sales are going up. 

  • Interesting to read what happens when a sales rep becomes a resource to the physician.  
  • Interesting to read what happens when a sales reps shifts focus on providing more help to the physician’s patients.
  • Interesting to read what will happen when a sales rep becomes a real help to the physician allowing her to get more time to see patients.

It’s not a stretch to replace each word physician in the bullets above with Small Business Owner or Banker or Distributor etc.  And to change each word patient to customer.   

Nope, not a stretch at all. 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

Embrace First

Standard

Embrace First

The best business advice I ever got was about 10 years ago.

She hauled me off into a side room and said “At least embrace the culture first, even for just a few minutes, before you go ahead and change it”.

Seems timely these days.

A lot of us have new responsibilities. Some even have a new job. A whole bunch of us have new customers we are calling on. And even if you don’t have any of these, it’s a new year and most of us have something or someone we are charged up to go about and change.

But here’s what you gotta know.

You have to take those “few minutes” first to embrace, to learn, to build some trust, to analyze what levers you can really leverage. Those few minutes can be literally a few minutes, but more likely it’s longer than that. It can be an hour, three days, a week, two weeks or even a couple of months. And that’s the problem some times; – we have so little patience once we’ve decided that change is needed.

But remember that that culture or department or team or customer you are trying to go change already exists. It’s a real thing. It’s not like you are starting from nothing. It likely has some people, processes or strategies that do work or are wicked smart or have already brought the effort forward from someplace that was much worse.

Ignoring that is stupid. It’s not about going slow. It’s about going smart.

So take the “few minutes” to embrace it, them or the group. Get close. Listen. Don’t’ talk. Take a few steps to the right or left and embrace again. Get close. Listen. Don’t talk. Rinse and Repeat.

And when you think those “few minutes” are up and you’ve listened enough, force yourself to add a few more.

Change is big and change is good but change works far better when you start with an embrace.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

3 Little Words That Will Rock Your World

Standard

It’s not “I love you” cuz’ I don’t.  Not really. 

But no worries ( and sorry if I just rocked your world :)), those aren’t the 3 little word types I’m talking about anyway.

Actually, I’ve got 3 sets of 3 little words that are a heck of a lot better than what we usually say.

These words are perfect for pros in Sales, Marketing, Training, Leadership or just plain ol’ Life in general and should be used all day long.

So good are these 3 little words that they will Rock Your World.  They will do better than that and make Glorious your entire 2012 if you chose to use them liberally. 

So the question is, do you want to improve your performance, have people really love you more, crush quota or get promoted this year?

Oh Hell Yes!  (Um…These are any of the 3 little words I am talking about- but I like them).

Here they are.  Print these and tape this across you’re the face of your smartphone- that way I know you won’t forget them. 

  •  What I Can: Oh to have a dollar for every traditional phrase I hear of “there is no way” or “I can’t” or “It is not possible to hit that date” and I’d be super rich.   “What I can” followed by the word “do” or “say” or “give” is so much better.  Simple psychology here- focus on the positives or what is within the realm of possibility.  The opposite i.e.  “can’t” is an automatic tension raiser.  Use “what I can” this in sales, coaching and collaboration and people, no matter what you do, will see you as someone who always says “yes!” 

 

  • What We Believe”:  This is especially for you sales and marketing types.  Usually we blather on about “What we have” in the realm of the products or services, or options and promotions etc.    Instead of starting your sales and marketing conversations with “What we have are ____ and ____…” replace it with “What we believe is small businesses should take advantage of______ “or some phrase like that that espouses intelligence.    Customers/ Prospects know your darn products (heck they went online before they called you!).  What they want is advice and counsel.  They want a company or a person that has an opinion, a belief.  It’s less risky that way.   They want to hear what you believe.  Do this and you will make more sales.

 

  • “What Most People”:  Throw away everything else – these are the most powerful words in sales,marketing and training.  There is comfort (especially in a sketchy economy) in what other “like” people or businesses do.  Just lead with these 3 words!   You don’t need to explain it, tee it up or cringe before you say it.  “What most people buy is the _____”.  Or “What most people say is within 120 days they see great results”.   You get it.  But no one really says it often enough.  People and businesses (especially some say, small businesses) wont’ move till they know it works and most others are doing or using it.  Say it 50 times a day or more and you win!    

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

 Mark