For the past 40 years, every sales trainer and guru in the world has been teaching some variation on “solution selling.”
As you’re probably already aware, solution selling consists of solving a customer’s problem rather than selling the customer a product. You ask questions to find out what’s really needed and then propose a solution to satisfy those needs.
The opposite of solution selling is “spray-and-pray” selling, which consists of dumping information on the customer and expecting the customer to figure out what’s useful or important.
Given that solution selling has been around so long, you’d think that spray-and-pray selling would be a thing of the past. You’d think wrong, though. Spray-and-pray is alive and well inside many companies.
For example, I recently called an online conferencing vendor and asked a simple question: “How can I give a webinar where attendees pay to attend?”
What I wanted to hear was: “Here’s how simple it is (demo), and here’s how much it costs (price quote).” Instead, I was asked to provide my phone number so a salesperson could call me back. Then, when he did call me later that day, he:
I responded as follows:
Just a quick sales pointer… Like most customers, I usually feel overwhelmed with too much information. Directing me to a page with a dozen videos has the opposite effect that you want. It makes me think that the application is complex and will take a long time to learn and use.
If possible I need you to focus on what *I* need specifically, not everything I could ever possibly need. I want to give a webinar and charge for it, with the absolute minimum of hassle.
I have enough on my hands thinking about the content; I don’t want to think about the mechanics, except the barest minimum. Can you help me visualize how easy this is going to be? Because right now we’re headed in the opposite direction.
That was two days ago and I haven’t heard back from the guy. Maybe he was offended. Who knows? Was I asking too much? I think not.
If the salesman had proposed a solution to my problem that was simple and straightforward, the next sentence out of my mouth would have been: “How soon can we get started?” Instead, I’m checking out other vendors. (Suggestions welcome!)
I’d guess that from a quarter to a half of all B2B sales engagements are delayed or prevented by vendor-inflicted information overload. What’s ironic is that there are two well-known sales rules that, when followed, eliminate spray-and-pray selling:
In other words–and I think I speak for most customers here–don’t make things more complicated. Just help me solve my problem.
By: Geoffrey James
Sales people, sales organizations and sales teams have to change the way they are handling customers today in this very competitive world. The old ways of selling are changing and require all sales people, sales managers and sales organizations to think differently.
Here are 10 essential selling principles that most sales people and sales organization either get wrong or don’t implement:
People and companies buy things only in an attempt to solve a problem. Sales people spend too much time on the offer rather than assuring the buyer that the product, company and individual will solve the problem. This typically results in presentations that are too long and prices that are too low. Focus on how your product and the company can solve the three most critical problems your client is trying to solve.
I have seen sales people spend hours creating presentations and then become so dependent upon the slideshow and every detail that they are no longer aware of vital buying signals. You being present is more important than the presentation. Of course, you want a great presentation, but never become so dependent that you are unable to know what is important, who the influencers are and when you are getting the buy in and when you are not.
It is my experience that sales people miss opportunities to build trust by not asking the hard questions. This either comes from naivety or a lack of proper training to truly get in communication with the client. I was on a sales call with one of my top people and while he was presenting to the group I sensed that the decision-maker wasn’t buying what he was saying.
I interrupted, “you don’t believe a word of what he is saying, do you?” The client started laughing and said that was exactly what he was thinking.
Ask these questions: “How do you feel about our price?” “How do you feel about our term?” “Why would you do business with me when you have done it with our competitor for so long?”
If you don’t get the answers to the hard questions you will find yourself not closing deals and not learning why.
No one buys a price, ever! I have been in sales my entire adult life and have been tricked by thousands of buyers who said “price is the only issue.” Your buyer may seem obsessed with price, demands your lowest price and claims the budget cannot be violated. Despite all this, every one of them will pay a higher price.
When I start a presentation I make it clear to the prospect that my intention is to have the product or service being used by the client this week. “Thanks for your time today, my goal is to have my product to your company by the end of this week.”
The customer usually then tells me they have no intention of doing anything that quickly, at which point I simply say, “I understand. I just wanted you to know my intention.”
You have to present with confidence, not arrogance, and set the stage early that you know your product can solve their problems.
I noticed my sales team was presenting long after the buyer had seen enough. So I took all of our presentations apart and broke them into five stages. At the end of each stage I require them to ask, “have you seen enough information to make a decision?” This worked like a miracle with customers saying, “no I haven’t,” allowing the sales person to continue with the presentation. In other cases the buyer closed 80 percent faster than previously or we found out we didn’t even have the right decision-makers in the room.
Most sales people make this mistake because most of us were taught to build value, then show the price. This results in a buyer that, no matter how intrigued they might be by your presentation, is wondering the entire presentation what the cost is. This results in your presentation being interrupted over price rather than the customer being able to evaluate what your product or service will do and how that relates to the price.
After letting the buyer know my intention is to get the product to their company this week, I then share the price. “Before I demonstrate how my product will solve your problems, I want to share with you our pricing so that you have it while I present the product.” Initiate price — don’t wait to answer “how much?”
They may tell you before the presentation, “that is too high,” at which point you can simply agree with the customer. “Of course it’s too much, you haven’t even seen what it will do. Allow me to show you why it’s this price and what it will do for you and why it is the best value in the marketplace.”
Bringing price up early makes you look confident, shows you have nothing to hide and takes out the mystery. Bring price up early then use the rest of the time building value.
I have made the mistake many times where I put too much attention on the decision-maker and missed the influencers. Ask, “Who else other than yourself will influence your decision or that you would like involved?” Find out why they are important to the decision and what is most important to them.
Free trials without some timeline and commitment to invest money and energy almost never work and become cash flow problems for the company that offers them. Grow up and close the deal or go get another customer, because free will break your company.
Too many sales organizations never insist on closing a deal for fear of appearing to be a nuisance. If you truly believe in your company, product and service, you must learn how to insist on closing the transaction now. I have made the mistake too many times of not practicing enough urgency and then having time and events beyond my control steal my deal. Your sales team should train and drill on how to press without being unprofessional or appearing to pressure.
By: Grant Cardone
You might think that fitting in will help you get ahead in business, but it’s not true. Standing out is the only way to reach your fullest potential. It’s also the only way to build strong relationships.
Connecting and fitting in are two different things. As counterintuitive as it might seem, trying to fit in will actually prevent you from authentically building relationships, especially with successful people. You’ll never be able to connect with high-level people if you don’t have a high-level sense of self. Being a misfit is to an entrepreneur’s advantage: Choose to stick out, think for yourself and be yourself.
If you do this right, you’ll reap a lot of rewards. Your relationships will be stronger, your profits will be bigger and your business will become more respected. Here are five benefits you’ll enjoy by being a misfit:
It’s easy to build fake relationships. It’s easy to lose them, too, because as soon as you stop doing what the other person wants and start acting like your real self, that person will leave you.
When you choose to be yourself and stick out, you’ll attract people who like you and your business just the way they are. You’ll build lifelong relationships with them because you’ll like the same things and have the same goals.
Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. Don’t chase fitting in. If you do find yourself chasing a client, collaborator or mentor for the wrong reasons, don’t beat yourself.
Instead, remind yourself that there are 7 billion people on the planet and that you should focus on only those who like the real you.
It’s not easy being an entrepreneur. When you’re starting a new business, it can feel like you’re sinking into a pit with 1,000 heavy weights piled on top of you.
You’re constantly facing the reality of waking up the next day broke and desperate. Under these conditions, it’s easy to start entertaining the idea that you’d be happier and richer if you returned to your corporate job. But this is just an illusion.
In his book, No More Dreaded Mondays, Dan Miller discusses the breakdown of millionaires in America, with business owners comprising 74 percent of them.
Your best chance at becoming a millionaire is to start your own business. Yet, this is a risk that most people never take: A 2013 report by Babson College showed that only 13 percent of the population is involved in a startup.
With almost two-thirds of millionaires being business owners, do you want to be a part of it?
Steve Jobs popularized wireless keyboards and mouses starting in 2003 even though many of his competitors were still using wired keyboards and mouses. Pablo Picasso started depicting his subjects from a multitude of viewpoints even though his contemporaries were using a single viewpoint.
Fitting in is bad for business. The more you try to make your product like other people’s or attempt to make a product for everyone, the less profitable it will become. Gross margins in mass-market segments tend to be slim in comparison. There’s just too much competition.
By entering niche markets with a misfit product, you might enjoy higher margins and other benefits.
Misfit products are those that don’t fit into the mass market. They offer massive value but only to a few individuals. Your goal should be to dominate a tiny niche market and grow out from there. Don’t try to spread yourself out over every market and grow in. It doesn’t work.
Have you ever gone to a meeting with 10 or more people and tried to get anything done? It’s impossible.
As Susan Cain put it in her New York Times article, “The Rise of the New Groupthink,” “decades of research show that individuals almost always perform better than groups in both quality and quantity, and group performance gets worse as group size increases.”
Misfits, on the other hand, move fast. What they lack in size, they make up for in mobility and creativity.
Fitting in might feel like the best way to get people to respect you, but it’s not. Fitting in only creates the illusion that other people respect you. They let you in. You let them in.
No one rocks the boat. Everybody feels equal and happy. But no one is respected.
The only way to be respectable is to stand out. This means being a little aggressive and defiant. Certain types of assertive and rule-breaking behaviors are attractive. In fact, a 2012 study by the American Psychological Association found that people rate defiant and surly misfits as more admirable than their polite and group-oriented peers.
Don’t be a jerk but don’t be afraid to rock the boat and stand out either. People will look up to you for it and be inspired to stand out, too.
By: Isaiah Hankel
Speaking on stage in front of an audience of people is a wonderfully scary privilege. You have a large group of people’s undivided attention, and you can have a direct impact on their lives (and potentially your future). Here’s how not to screw it up:
1. Tell great stories. If you read nothing else in this article, focus on this tip. Think about stories you can tell that are interesting but also have a lesson learned in them. We all have stories we can tell, but will those stories resonate with an audience? Will the audience be able to relate to them? If you use a visual presentation — PowerPoint, Keynote, etc. — like I do, it should be an accompaniment to your stories.
2. Do NOT read your presentation from your laptop, or worse, notecards. Listen, I get it, speaking in front of an audience can be nerve-racking. But you know what, you agreed to do it! So give the audience and the event the respect they deserve. Practice your presentation and know what you’re talking about it. If I ever find myself losing my train of thought, I just glance back at what slide I have up on screen. If I’m not using slides, I just make a quick self-deprecating joke and move on. The worst thing you can do is sound like a robot on stage.
3. Use video to increase your comfort on stage. Some of you may remember doing this for school projects back in the day. You’d record yourself giving a speech and watch it back to see how you did. The more you do this, the better you’ll get at it. For me, I used to host a live daily video show to engage with an audience and it helped me become more comfortable. Try this yourself. Invite a few friends or colleagues to watch you “rehearse” live. Have them give you constructive feedback that you can work on.
4. Don’t be the “stats and quotes” person. I’ve seen this so many times. Someone gets on stage to talk about something interesting, and instead of giving their perspective, their presentation is littered with statistics from other websites and quotes from other people. You can surely back up some of your talk with stats and quotes if needed, but you should first and foremost share new information and offer your own insights. Without knowing it, people will find great quotes from your talk that you didn’t even think were great.
5. Use Guy Kawasaki’s “10 20 30 Rule of PowerPoint.” I’m a visual presentation guy. I believe even the greatest speaker can have people distracted by their phones or laptops. I like to use big bold images and text in my presentation. Guy Kawasaki was my inspiration for this with his 10 slides, 20 minutes, 30 point font. I don’t follow this specifically, but it’s the backbone to my presentation. If I have any text on a slide, it’s big and void of long sentences (short bullet points are great). Typically my presentations are 20-30 slides, but mostly because I like to accompany my stories with photos I’ve taken or interesting photos I’ve found on the web (that I give photo credit to of course).
6. Bring the energy! I recently had the pleasure of watching James White of Signalnoise.com give a talk. He jokes that he had 750 slides in his presentation, and while I don’t think there were actually 750, there were a ton. He used his slides to create energy and engage the audience. Some were funny, some were his work, some were bulleted lists he referenced over and over. Yes his slides were great, but it was his energy that brought the entire audience out of their seats when he finished his talk. I’m not a high energy guy at all, but just by moving around on stage, having confidence when you speak and engaging with the audience makes a huge impact. If you have energy, the audience will give it back.
7. You don’t have to tell jokes. Many aspiring speakers make the mistake of trying to be someone they are not when they’re on stage. Most of the time this is by trying to be a comedian. You don’t need to tell jokes to make an audience laugh. If you aren’t used to telling jokes in front of an audience, your speaking presentation shouldn’t be the place to start. I tend to use topical humor that doesn’t require the delivery of a Dane Cook or Jerry Seinfeld. When the Brett Favre inappropriate text message photo ‘thing’ was timely, I used it in a slide when talking about taking more photos for your social media content strategy. I had three bullet points in my presentation, with the last one being a quick jab “Don’t take photos like Brett Favre.” People loved it because it was relevant to the subject I was talking about and it was current news.
8. The audience is afraid of Q&A. Listen, we aren’t all Gary Vaynerchuk with people clamoring to ask us questions about great wine, the Jets, etc. If you want to leave room in your presentation for Q&A, be prepared to have the audience not raise a single hand. Think about it, when was the last time you raised your hand in a crowded audience? I personally love doing Q&As because I think people always ask me more interesting questions than I ask myself.
When I know I’m going to have Q&A time at the end of my talk, I give the audience a heads-up at the beginning of my talk and say something like “Hey guys, I’ll have 10-15 minutes at the end to do Q&A, please write down a question or two while I’m talking so I look popular at the end when everyone raises their hands.” By doing this simple thing, it primes people to be ready to ask questions at the end. If I don’t say that at the beginning of my talk, I’ll call the audience out and say something like “It’s time for Q&A, if you don’t raise your hands, I’m just going to start answering random questions that come to my mind: My shoe size is 15. I love cheez-its. Sorry, I’m not single.” Maybe you don’t feel comfortable doing something like this, but it works. The audience just needs that kick start to get them going.
9. Don’t like Q&As? Take questions after your talk, off stage. The first couple times I spoke in front of an audience, I didn’t want to do Q&A. Event organizers aren’t going to force you to do Q&A and if you’re honest with them, they’ll tell everyone to ask you questions afterwards. This is an easy way to not have to interact with the entire audience’s questions, and you can talk to people one-on-one off stage. I’ve created some of the best business relationships I have by doing this. People aren’t afraid to talk to you one-on-one, whereas they probably don’t want to speak up in front of the entire audience.
10. Be yourself. I know this sounds so typical of an article like this, but it’s absolutely important to remember. The more you try to act like someone you’re not on stage, the more people will see right through you. The more you act like yourself, the more confident you’ll seem, and the more the audience will be able to relate to you.
After working in the glossy world of corporate life, a business professional who goes it alone might at first find the change a shock.
Here are a few of the things nobody thinks to mention until you’ve already set up shop.
Because the company is a startup, there’s no HR division, accounts department or administration team. So it’s just you, the company founder, overseeing all these administrative tasks.
And when you’re out on the road meeting potential clients, nothing gets done because you’re not there to do it.
With several key departments missing from your workforce, outsource some of these tasks. These contractors will need to be fully briefed to work to your specifications. That saps time but, without the manpower to get things accomplished in-house, you have no choice.
If you need someone to brainstorm with, find a business partner or hire your first team member.
As passionate as you may be about your enterprise, the person you might try to hire may not be. Top people rarely want to join a company they don’t know for less pay, fewer benefits — and less certainty.
You need to market yourself and your brand. Share your vision and woo potential employees so that they will see the positives of a startup: more responsibility, the opportunity to learn new skills and possibly an equity share.
Once you have an employee on board, keep that person.
It’s crucial for the team to bond, otherwise discontented employees will quit.
You might think you’ll be tripping over angel investors or venture capitalists who want to buy into your business. But finding the right investor for your needs may be tricky.
Before you start raising capital, ask yourself some hard questions: What’s the true value of my business? What share should I give away? What terms will be fair?
Consider what else you need from an investor. Some come with a wealth of experience that a startup founder can tap into and can offer a mentoring relationship as well as cash.
Marketing a new venture is no walk in the park. You want clients to buy into your business. But they don’t know your brand, so you have to work extra hard.
You’ll find yourself talking to the guy at the bottom of the chain of command at some organizations and it can be like walking through a minefield trying to figure out which discount to offer to get your foot in the door.
Gaining recognition for your brand requires persistence. You also need patience: Deals take much longer to close than you might initially realize. Resilience is necessary for bouncing back if you lose a client.
But that’s just a small setback. So get up and get back out there selling.
A healthy cash flow is key for a startup and success at securing financing from a bank is far from guaranteed. This means getting paid is crucial but customers don’t always respond to bills on time.
It may be tempting to threaten to cut relations with a nonpaying customer, but is it the right move? Will this burn a relationship that you took so much time to build?
Set automated reminders to help you remember to gently chase after payments owed. Sometimes customers just have so many other bills that yours — from a small player — ended up at the bottom of the pile.
While entrepreneurs go it alone because they’re passionate about their business, they must consider the costs to their personal life.
There’s no such thing as a 9-to-5 schedule for the company founder and no holiday when he or she can take a complete break from work. Unless you have a business partner to share the workload, you cannot just hand over the reins and head out the door.
And when it comes to maternity leave, forget it. When my second child was born this past summer, I took one week off. This is where having a co-founder or # 2 becomes so valuable.
By: Ambareen Musa
You’d be hard pressed to find an entrepreneur who wakes up every morning, heads to the office, sits at his or her desk and contemplates how they can disappear from the insanity, go around unnoticed and ultimately create forgetful products and services.
On the contrary, the most successful entrepreneurs have an insatiable appetite for doing and saying things that place them at the center of a conversation (dare I say “attention”), and they thrive on the ups and downs of starting and growing a business. What’s more, they live and breathe to create companies and experiences that people — customers, media and the general public — will remember.
To gain some insight on this topic, I tapped Billy Dec, my very first “entrepreneurial experience” so to speak.
Dec, for his role, imparted some hard and fast lessons on me, mostly in the form of long working hours and pressure to reach certain “numbers.” My work was about as close to a hustle as one could imagine, but I loved it. By age 24, he had made me the director of marketing and PR at Chicago-based Rockit Ranch Productions, the company he started with partners Brad Young and Arturo Gomez, who to this day remain the key players in that thriving business.
In addition to being my first “teacher” in the business school of life — which is the way I refer to it because there is no B-school on the planet that can prepare you for getting screamed at by R. Kelly’s manager or corralling 20 penis-headband-donning drunk girls from a bachelorette party into a stretch limo — throughout the years Dec has continued to feed me valuable insights about living life as an entrepreneur.
“Mostly,” he remarks, “it’s about living creatively and continuing to pursue things that excite you. And find a number (meaning money) that you can live with and once you hit it, enjoy it. The rest is gravy.”
For him, it’s been continuing to open a variety of unique, upscale restaurants in Chicago with partners Young and Gomez like Sunda New Asian, Ay!Chiwowa and The Duck Inn. In real life, he was appointed to President Barack Obama’s White House Advisory Commission on Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders. He also recently filmed a pilot airing on a major network (a food and beverage travel show) and recently showed up as a guest star on Criminal Minds.
This guy really gets around.
Brands and companies, by nature, are an extension of their leadership. How do you ensure that, no matter what, you leave an impression on those who matter to your business? As an entrepreneur, how do you make yourself memorable?
According to Dec, here are several ways to ensure memorability:
In my experience, most effective entrepreneurs are “highly networked.” Meaning, they leverage relationships, often early on in the life cycle of a company or project, to gather the resources (capital, talent, etc.) needed to get things off the ground. Beyond the initial stages, they continue to use their network to open doors in a variety of ways that can range from entering new market segments to mergers and acquisitions.
“Networking and relationship building has been a way of life for me,” Dec says. “I never look at new or potential contacts for ‘immediate gratification’ nor do I try to fit them into a specific category. Rather, I spend time cultivating a relationship, knowing that if the time is right down the line they may be an important building block for my success or vice versa.”
In other words: never pass up the opportunity to relationship build with someone that might not be your target demographic. The more friends, contacts and interactions that you have the better off you’ll be. And who knows, you may just end up hanging out with the president.
Ever wonder why certain celebrities or artists walk the red carpet in some absurd get-up? Or why athletes, usually resigned to wearing uniforms, decide to sport crazy hairdos or tatted-up arms? Finding a “shtick” is often a great way to stand apart from every other person in the room, and also makes you easier to spot in big crowds.
As long as I’ve known Dec, people have identified him as the guy who always wears a baseball cap. The opening quote from a Chicago Tribune article reporting about his appearance on Criminal Minds said it best:
“You know it’s a special occasion when you see Billy Dec without a hat.”
Usually, it was (and is) a branded cap from one of his companies paired with a nice shirt, jeans and cool sneakers. He’s like a walking billboard. Casual yet buttoned up, very resonant of the way he and his partners operate their businesses.
According to Dec, the being-identifiable thing has to come off as “natural and not forced.” I definitely agree with that, otherwise you just end up looking ridiculous and making everyone around you feel awkward. Kind of like if Ellen DeGeneres started wearing short skirts and high heels. So, so weird.
Ahh, communication. That pesky little concept that makes or breaks even the most well-intentioned relationships. It seems so easy, yet for many — particularly busy entrepreneurs who have millions of things to remember on any given day — it’s the most difficult aspect of building a business.
For years I watched Dec meticulously collect business cards; make notations about the when, why, and where they met; enter those contacts into an extensive database; and follow up with them personally. It seemed almost obsessive, but once I began implementing the technique it made perfect sense: people genuinely remember you if you genuinely remember them.
So how do you make the communication authentic and memorable?
“Suggest a get-together to help them out with something they need, invite them to an event you think they’d be interested in attending,” he says. “In general, always be of value to others. Don’t think about what you can take.”
A decade later, I watch the CEO (also an entrepreneur) of my company operate similarly, and he’s often the most likeable guy in the room. There’s really something to this, folks.
Being a connector is different than networking. Networking means you make an effort to meet a lot of people to expand potential opportunities, but connecting individuals who may benefit from knowing each other without an immediate benefit to you is probably the nail in the coffin of making yourself memorable.
Dec gives a great example from his early days at Rockit Ranch, when a tremendous amount of time was spent creating entertainment experiences for large scale brands.
“If I was putting on a fashion show I would draw together contacts I’d met spanning different areas including designers, salons, models, liquor companies and more,” he says. “This exposed everyone to new potential partners and consumers and ultimately allowed them to tap into my resources, so everyone benefited.”
In terms of being memorable, Dec has it down. With probably just as many “detractors” as he has “supporters,” I’ve never seen anyone better than he at creating experiences that people want to talk about, much of it a direct result of his careful orchestration.
While it does take a tremendous amount of conscious effort, strategic calculation and careful execution, the truth is, being memorable has exponentially positive effects when it comes to spreading the word about your brand.
Now, get to it. Make some memories. After all, no one wants to be forgotten.
By: Rebekah Iliff
As an entrepreneur, conquering challenge and failure is essential to the success of your business. You can learn to cultivate that resilience by training your brain to stay positive when times are tough.
“People tend to have a cognitive bias toward their failures, and toward negativity,” says Matthew Della Porta, a positive psychologist and organizational consultant. Our brains are more likely to seek out negative information and store it more quickly to memory.
Of course, that bias is not always bad. Acknowledging problems and facing failures can lead us to better solutions. But too often, we go overboard, and beat ourselves up for our failures or let ourselves dwell in the negative.
By consciously increasing our focus on the positive, we start to even the balance. We find a happy medium where we can address failures and challenges without letting them get us down, leaving us more motivated, productive, and likely to succeed.
Try these three tips to help you train your brain to stay positive
Negative events loom large unless you consciously balance them out. “When you’re faced with challenges, it’s important to take stock of what’s going well,” Della Porta says. Thinking about the good in your life can help balance that bias, giving your brain the extra time it needs to register and remember a positive event.
To help your brain store positive events, reflect on what you’re grateful for and why at least once a week. Write down your blessings, such as the opportunity to pursue a career you love or a family that supports you. If you prefer a daily habit, then keep a nightly log of good things that happened that day. “Just keep it very short,” Della Porta says. “If you try to hammer [gratitude] home, then it becomes mundane.” Day One, a journaling app for Apple devices ($4.99), or OhLife, a free email-based journal, can to help you do this.
As any politician or advertiser knows, the more often you hear a message, the more likely you are to believe it. The same goes for messages about who you are and what you are capable of doing. By repeating positive affirmations with conviction several times each morning, you are training your brain to believe them. “Over time, you’ll start to internalize them,” Della Porta says. Repeat your affirmations silently if you feel self-conscious.
Choose two to three affirmations that represent your values and goals, such as ‘I can handle whatever comes my way,’ ‘There is plenty of time,’ or ‘I’m getting better every day.’ The repetition will influence the way you interpret negative events, making you more resilient. “Especially if you’re predisposed to negative thinking, this can be extremely effective,” Della Porta says.
Each time a negative thought arises, we choose how to respond. If left to our own devices, we tend to dwell. Our brains home in on negative events so they seem much bigger and more significant than they are. To combat that, start by imagining the thought as separate from yourself, as something you can observe and deconstruct. “Get in the habit of distancing yourself instead of dwelling,” Della Porta says.
Next, challenge negative thoughts that are unfairly self-deprecating. For example, if your startup doesn’t get the traction you hoped, you might think, “I’m a failure.” That’s untrue and unproductive. Instead, practice interpreting the same event differently. You might say, I worked really hard but I didn’t account for a quirk of the market, so I’m disappointed, but now I’m going to try again with new information. That interpretation is gentler, truer, and more proactive. “At first, [this strategy will] be hard and you’ll think it doesn’t work,” Della Porta says. “But over time, it’ll become automatic and negative thoughts will be less likely to come up. No one does this naturally; you have to learn and practice.”
By: Nadia Goodman
When it comes to growing their startups, many entrepreneurs are so focused on gaining new clients and customers that they fail to effectively address the need to retain those they already have. This is counterproductive considering that it’s far easier (about 50% easier according to Marketing Metrics) to sell to existing customers than to brand new prospects. All gung-ho and fresh out of the gate, startup entrepreneurs often find it more exciting to focus on customer addition, but ignoring customer attrition could eventually spell their downfall. In the spirit of Ben Franklin’s age-old idiom that “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”, here’s a look at five customer retention tips for entrepreneurs.
Never Underestimate the Value of Retention
For those who feel that customer retention plays a relatively minor role in helping a company grow a healthy bottom line, here are a few statistics you might be interested in. According to Bain and Co., a 5% increase in customer retention can increase a company’s profitability by 75%. And if those numbers don’t impress you, Gartner Group statistics tell us that 80% of your company’s future revenue will come from just 20% of your existing customers. Still not sold on customer retention? One final statistic provided by Lee Resource Inc. should give you plenty to think about: Attracting new customers will cost your company 5 times more than keeping an existing customer.
Implement an Effective Customer Retention Program
Many entrepreneurs believe that if they have a great product or service and provide an outstanding customer experience, customer retention will naturally follow. And if this is your startup philosophy you would be right … but only for a while. Customers don’t owe you their loyalty. You have to earn it — continually. Having an effective customer retention program in place gives you the ability to identify, track, and custom promote to those customers who are most likely to become loyal, long-term sources of revenue. For service oriented businesses a customer retention program from early on may not be necessary, as the quality of the service and support provided will determine the rate of retention. However, product driven businesses, which depend heavily upon same customer sales, will find customer retention programs invaluable.
Avoid Misreading Your Customers
Misunderstanding how customers think is a proven way to keep retention rates heading south. And it’s not just a problem with startups. According to statistics provided by Bain and Co. in the Harvard Management Update, 80% of companies surveyed said that they offer superior customer service, but only 8% of their customers agreed with them. Ouch. IBM’s customer relationship study of 2011 sheds more light on just how wrong companies can be about what their customers are thinking. When a number of companies were surveyed as to the reasons they thought their customers followed them on social sites, a majority of companies listed discounts and purchases among the least important reasons. But when the customers themselves were surveyed, they listed discounts and purchases as the major reasons for following a company on a social site. To avoid misreading customers, companies need to focus more on actual customer behavior, not on the predicted behavior of a certain demographic. This is where web-analytics comes in, as it provides data that shows you a customer’s past and present behavior, thereby allowing you to better predict their future behavior and strategize accordingly.
Engage Customers Through Social Media
Socializing with your customers can build retention if you do it correctly. The key is to dial down the corporate presence and give your customers a voice and a forum to connect with other customers, and then let them build the traffic. As you build your Facebook fans and twitter followers, stay engaged with them and establish “alerts” to keep you constantly informed and able to immediately comment on whatever is being said (both good and bad) about your company. As you identify those customers (followers) who are the most loyal, send them personalized “thank you” emails. Including incentives and coupon codes that they know are meant just for them. It will make them feel even more important and appreciated. You always want to take care of your social media savvy customers, as they can either be your most powerful advocates or your biggest PR nightmares.
Run Relevant Promotions
What was that statistic again? Oh yeah, 80% of your future revenue will come from 20% of your current customers. Promotions can be a very effective way of retaining customers by keeping them actively engaged with your brand. The key is to run relevant pander-free promotions that reward customers, make them feel good about doing business with your company, and encourage them to do more of the same. Loyalty programs are a good way to encourage and reward repeat business. Special discounts can also be effective, especially when they are tailored to those customers whose behaviors indicate signs of possible defection. On a more personal note, promotions such as sending promotional gifts, birthday cards, or staying in touch over the holidays with business Christmas cards are additional ways to express appreciation and potentially increase customer retention.
When it’s all said and done, being passive about customer retention only leads to greater attrition. Companies that play an active part in communicating with customers to keep them engaged and better meet their needs and expectations, are well on their way to achieving the prime objective of any customer retention program; greater customer loyalty.
By: Alex Lawrence
Someone on Linkedin shared this stat with me last Friday regarding sales and their follow up. I was completely shocked! Makes me question a few things…
Makes me question a few things…
Do you believe these results? What does your organization do to prevent these statistics from getting out of hand?
By: Sarah Battiste
Many people assume that you have to be good at networking to be successful at it. While some people are naturally talented at small talk, seasoned entrepreneurs know that networking requires more than a smooth elevator pitch.
Some people approach networking with the belief that it’s important to know a lot of people. I agree with my wise granny Maitland Johnson who said, “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know.”
Networking is not a numbers game. It doesn’t matter how many business cards you pass out or whom you can instantly impress. Instead, successful networking is the process of fostering friendships and cultivating genuine connections with clients, colleagues and peers.
Often, those who talk the most are the least successful networkers. Effective listening is a much better approach. To apply the 80/20 rule to networking, spend 80 percent of your time focused on the person with whom you’re speaking. Keep your sales pitches and self-promotion to a minimum — to just about 20 percent of the conversation.
Instead, speak with them. Some networkers approach others in an almost predatory manner. Not unlike what happens to other creatures in the animal kingdom, when people feel like they’re being hunted, they flee. Don’t think of networking as self-promotion. Instead, focus on how you can better connect with those in your business community.
People who attempt to exploit networking events will find their tactics are ineffective and self-defeating. Alternatively, those who seek out chances to be of service to others will quickly expand their sphere of influence and form mutually beneficial business relationships.
Unless it’s a speed networking event, don’t try to hop from one conversation to another in a matter of minutes. The first five minutes of a conversation at a networking event usually involve introductions and polite small talk. Only after you spend some time with someone can you discover his or her true personality and interests.
When you take the time to truly connect with someone, you begin to form the foundation of a professional relationship. The strength and longevity of your business relationships will depend more on the quality of your connections than the quantity. You might find your efforts more effective if you choose to speak to two or three individuals instead of 20.
You do yourself a disservice by networking with the same group of people every time. At networking events, it’s common to see clusters of professionals chatting and often these individuals already know one other. When you socialize with individuals you already know and ignore everyone else, you lose out on the opportunity to form new connections.
Purposefully split off from the group if you attend a networking event with others. Interact with someone you don’t know or might not have ordinarily met.
Break out of your comfort zone and introduce yourself to someone new. Deliberately look for professionals in a different industry or social group. These individuals may help you develop new ideas and discover a broader range of opportunities.
A common networking mistake is talking about business too soon. Instead, take time to establish rapport and form a connection of substance.
Stories help people connect to one another by engaging the senses. Even in a business setting, stories have the power to capture hearts and minds. Spend 80 percent of a conversation trying to encourage another person to reveal his or her stories and 20 percent telling your own.
The questions that people tend to ask at networking events these days have become so common they feel canned and inauthentic. You’ll likely receive a bland response if you ask something like “What do you do?”
To stand out from the crowd, avoid the usual topics. Ask unique open-ended questions to encourage a person to share a personal story. A question like “Whom do you most admire?” can reveal someone’s background, philosophy and motivation.
With a little bit of patience and practice, you’ll build your social capital, expand your sphere of influence and form solid, mutually beneficial business and personal relationships.