Winning on Purpose

Little Johny knew he'd risked all and become 'king of the beach'
Little Johny knew he’d risked all and become ‘king of the beach’

Do you know what you need to do in order to win?

On purpose?

I don’t mean what feeling you need to have, or what attitude you’d like to adopt, what the latest book has told you to do, or what the latest technological marvel is that you need in order to ‘make it’.

Maybe there is some other chicanery that might convince you that you are doing something useful for yourself or your business, when actually, things couldn’t be further from the case.

 

In my experience, the number one reason a businesses fails is lack of focus.

Thats right, not lack of hard work, or lack of funding (though this is a major issue in itself) or lack of sales or lack of many other things that might in themselves be problems. Lack of focus.

Or more precisely, being so busy you don’t do the things you need to do in order to succeed.

Sometimes you know what those things are, but don’t want to do them. Because they are hard to do, complicated or take a long time. Sometimes something much more interesting comes up that you’d rather spend your valuable time on.

You spend time on ‘make work’. Chatting to ‘contacts’, networking because it feels like selling (it’s not) driving around the place to meetings you must be at, even though nothing ever comes of them.

All this while you put off doing the things you know you need to be doing. Like cold calling, or writing that proposal, or following up on that bad debt. You know, all those messy, awkward, difficult things.

Or maybe like a lot of people you are too busy!

Too busy to do the things you need to do in order to make a difference to your business. Whether its yours or the one you are working for.

Too busy to take a moment to plan the next week, month or quarter. Too busy to look up to see what problems you are about to hit square on. Too busy to deliver on the things you’ve already promised you’d deliver.

Or maybe you are too busy to be able to spot the next opportunity when it presents itself.

Worse, sometimes you don’t know what it is you need to do in order to win. Thats when you have a real problem.

In that case, you just work harder and harder and spend more and more time stressing about winning, when you in fact have no clue what success looks like, or indeed how to get it.

You need to have a laser like focus on what it takes to succeed. What you need to do to win. How much you need to sell, or who you need to see, or what problems you need to deal with.

And then deal with them.

Don’t put it off. There isn’t any other work that’s more important than the work you do to ensure you win.

Do things on purpose.

Rather than letting things happen to you, make things happen for you!

Don’t allow the distractions to drag you away from doing the things you know you need to do in order to make things go well for you. Don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today.

Do the things you want to avoid early in the day, get them done, feel that achievement, and go on to enjoy the rest of your day, making sure you are doing other things that lead to success. Make sure you are not allowing lack of focus to edge in, and steal away valuable time and resource.

And if you really don’t know what it takes to win, you’d better learn, fast.

 

All Sales Problems are Management Problems

Face it, you should be selling more.

You’d like to make more money, you’d like to increase your market share, you’d like to get one over on the competition. You need to increase cash flow!

But your commercial director is telling you times are tough. Rates are under pressure, and the competition is doing crazy stuff to win business.

Your sales manager tells you that the team are working so hard they are wearing themselves out! They are struggling to find new leads, and once engaged in the sales process everything takes longer then ever to progress.

Or maybe you are your own seller? You do everything in your ‘one person band’ including product deliver, finances, accounts and everything else, and there is never enough time to devote to finding the next client or even to properly look after the ones you already rely on.

Selling is hard, times are tough, people harder to get hold of these days, buying is automated, margins are being squeezed, your suppliers are driving increasingly hard bargains, you’re no good at negotiating, you never know how to introduce yourself, the competition do such a good job, recruiting good people is really hard, you don’t pay enough to attract the right talent, marketing don’t supply the right leads, your website is rubbish, your CRM system is antiquated, your sales collateral is out of date, your inbound strategy is flawed, your pricing isn’t competitive, your product set is below par, you don’t have enough awareness in the market place… The list goes on.

All or some or none of these things maybe be true. But thats not the point.

‘He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else’ (Benjamin Franklin)

Either you manage the sales team or the sales team manage you. Either you mange your sales process, or the sales process manages you.

All sales problems are management problems.

Hire, train, and retain the best people in the market. Have a sales philosophy. Something that will stand up to the most demanding scrutiny. Have a plan – what you need to do in order to win – and make sure your sales people (or you yourself) stick to the plan.

Its that simple. And that difficult.

I can guarantee, that unless you are literally the ONLY player in your market, someone is taking cash off your table, by out promoting you and out selling you.

What are you going to do about it?

(With thanks as ever to my mentor in all things Dave Gifford)

How to get more customers

I’ve had an email from a lovely lady called Christine who offers a very modern service. With more people working remotely and not wanting to get tied up in bricks and mortar offices, her ‘Virtual Assistant‘ services sound like a dream come true for busy executives.

But like any new business Christine needs to attract customers. And not only attract customers, but attract them on a consistent basis. This sort of thing can often be feast or famine…

Its a well trodden road for new businesses. People start up a new business, and full of the first flush of enthusiasm spend money on getting set up and getting ready to go, only to stand back a week or a month later and wonder where their revenue is going to come from. They maybe do a bit of networking, or send out an e.shot, or maybe even use Facebook and Twitter.

A few customers, come along, and often, because they are small businesses, and by definition don’t have much in the way of resource, the attention turns to dealing with the customers they’ve won. Which results in the flow of new business getting choked off. Which means in a few days, weeks or months, they are back at square one.

Winning, and consistently winning new business is the hardest part of the job for even big business – just look at Tesco – so there is no reason why it should be easy for small businesses.

I think ‘in bound sales’ is a very attractive method to try, seemingly easier to do than ‘out bound’, but in my opinion, nothing is more effective than getting out there and talking to your customers, and learning what they really need.

But whichever way you favour, the trick is to think about customer acquisition differently. This is the magic ingredient if you like.

Instead of thinking of yourself as a virtual assistant, as in the case of my friend Christine, or a flower shop, or a drum tutor, or whatever it is your business is, you need to think of yourself as ‘Vice President in Charge of New Business Generation!’

There are two types of business, as my mentor Dave Gifford would say, new business and repeat business – and one doesn’t come without the other. There are many ways to arrange sales for your organisation. You could adopt an approach of being highly differentiated, such as Christine, or maybe an exclusive art dealer. This means you will deal with relatively few, but high value customers.

Or you can take a leaf out of the discount retailers handbook and trade on price. That means being the absolute cheapest you can be, which means you have to be the cost leader to win as well. Often a position open to only the biggest businesses.

But irrespective of which approach, you still need to find new customers.

I’ve often seen new businesses set up and position themselves on the high end / differentiated end of the market, only to panic when the customers don’t start to flow in.

Mistakenly thinking this is because they are too expensive, they often drop their prices in desperation. They may well be too expensive, but this in itself isn’t the reason they aren’t attracting customers. And all they have done is eat into their margins. So as well as struggling to sell anything, they are now finding it increasingly difficult to turn a profit.

The easiest way to position something is through price. People generally think expensive things are good quality and high value, and cheap things are poor quality and low value. So pricing high quality things at a low price often confuses the customer. Worse, people know there is no such thing as a ‘free lunch’. So they simply don’t believe the claims of the business that sells top quality stuff at low low prices. Making it even harder to sell  – a vicious circle!

It’s better to stick to your price, one that demonstrates good value, and allows you to turn a profit (which most people don’t object to either strangely enough) and concentrate on bringing in the customers.

Put another way, simply dropping prices is not enough. And sometimes its even counter productive.

Selling is easy.

There, I said it! Selling is easy!

You just need to know what the customer wants, and how much they want to pay for it, and then sell them that.

The trick is talking to enough customers.

Whether that’s ‘Face to Face’ as a good old fashioned sales rep, on the telephone as a sales canvasser, or through a high tech website based content marketing operation, using the latest social media marketing techniques.

Talking to more people = more sales. Period.

Asking more people to buy from you = more sales. Period.

It’s a fact that most sales operations fail, not because they are too expensive, or the product isn’t good enough, or the marketing let them down. It wasn’t because the economy was busted, or that credit was hard to get. It wasn’t because the sales person wasn’t a good enough negotiator.

It was because they didn’t see enough people.

There isn’t a single sales problem that can’t be solved by seeing more people. The very first thing you should do when concerned about the strategies you employ to win business, is try to get a sense of whether you are doing enough. Or doing whatever it is consistently enough?

It’s not your website (unless it physically cant get traffic to it) its not the product, its not the price. Its not the promotional materials. Its not the location. Its not any of those things! Its just that you aren’t talking to enough people.

The point is that most people would rather mess around with their website, or the marketing mix, or tweak the advertising rather than do more canvassing, or make more calls, or see more people, or whatever else it takes to win. The chances are, you know how to win business already.

It takes time, and it’s messy, and that’s why you don’t do more of it.

Clearly you have to have all these other bits right. You have to have a differentiated product, and you have to understand your market. You have to understand how pricing works and how it can reflect on your  product or your  brand, and you have to know when to discount and when not to etc.

But ultimately, to get more customers, you need to make more calls.

And that’s the bottom line.

 

 

 

 

 

How to ask for BIG money!

british_money_185257
Big Money

One of the biggest weaknesses I see in sales people, whether they are new to the job or dyed in the wool veterans, is a problem when asking for ‘big’ money.

The stutter on the price, or the hesitation is bad enough. But I’ve even heard sales people tell a prospect to ‘sit down’ because the price is coming and it’s clearly going to knock them off their feet! Or worse,  they start to go there with discounts before the price just asked for has even sunk in…

The one idea to get your head around is the link between price and value.

The issue is that if we think there is a problem with the price, or we think that the thing we are selling is expensive – it means we don’t value it. And that’s clearly problematic for the person we are asking to buy.

Business is a battle for the mind

The fastest way to position a product is through price. You don’t need expensive advertising campaigns or loads of PR. You don’t need website links or social media chatter.

Basically, if something is ‘expensive’ I perceive it to be good. 

If something is cheap, I perceive it to be not so good.

All things are relative, and your perception of reality IS your reality.

If I am considering cars for instance, I intuitively understand the ‘premium’ pricing of a Lamborghini or a Ferrari sets it apart from the day to day ‘run abouts’ of a Ford or a Fiat.

Interestingly, many of the cars in today’s marketplace are actually owned and made by the same people. So for instance, Ferrari is owned by Fiat. Volkswagen owns Bugatti. At one time Ford owned Jaguar and so on.

In reality, the difference in these products is very slight. They all take us from A to B. They all do it with four wheels and an internal combustion engine. They all run on air filled tyres and have some kind of exterior shell to protect us from the elements.

The only REAL difference in any of them is the price! And its the price that helps us understand the value the sellers are trying to convince us these products deliver.

Everything else is just buyer justification. Once we have decided we want to buy something everything else from the packaging to the warrantee is designed to justify the purchase to ourselves.

Ever thought about insurance?

Even the briefest investigation into our once  a year purchase must lead to the conclusion that its a huge gamble to buy insurance? The actual chances of something going wrong, heaven forbid, are really small – which is why the insurance companies are able to make so much money!

We bet against ourselves having problems with our cars, or houses or holidays or health, and for the vast majority of people nothing ever happens. And the insurance company keeps the money.

We justify it by asking ourselves ‘what if’?

I justify buying new golf clubs by telling myself they will make me a better golfer. I justify buying new clothes by telling myself I need look good to feel good. And so on.

And inexorably tied into our feelings of want and need are the prices of things. When we buy something that we want to make us feel good, a new car or a computer or a piece of jewelry – we intuitively understand that more is more. The higher the price, the higher the perceived value.

On the other hand, if we have to buy something we need for other than purely hedonistic reasons, like insurance, we want to get it as cheaply as we can. We don’t value it in the same way, but we convince ourselves we need it, so we want to drive the cost down as much as we can.

Is it like that for your product? Are you selling something luxurious like fast cars? Where the high price is actually an aid to your ability to sell? Or are you selling something like business services or marketing? The value of which is much harder to ascertain?

What you have to grasp is that according to the value sets we have all grown up with, the more expensive something is, the more we automatically perceive it to have value (generally speaking).

Actually under pricing yourself or your product or stumbling over the price / cost implies that you think its expensive. This so fundamentally undermines your efforts its not true. If you want to paint a picture of a highly valuable product, you need to do little else other than price it highly, and then come over as completely confident in that price.

You know that feeling that the sales people are weighing and measuring you when you walk into the Porsche garage? That’s exactly what happens! The prices there are really helping the sales people. If you can’t afford them you shouldn’t be there.

If you have to ask the price, you're in the wrong place!
If you have to ask the price, you’re in the wrong place!

If you can, then you are a bona fide prospect. In fact the psychology of the purchase is that you get a lot out of the fact that most people cant afford that car. That’s probably why you are buying it in the first place!

How much?! 

Ultimately, the reason you cant ask for the big money, or your stumble over the price is because you think that the product you are selling is ‘expensive’. In other words it isn’t valuable enough.

You don’t have faith in the thing you are selling in the first place. Therefore your chances of actually convincing the prospect of value are very slim indeed.

Go back to basics. Why are you selling what you are selling? How does it benefit the customer?

Look for success stories you can share with your clients to ‘back up’ your claims and the pricing structure that is attached to your product.

Speak to some of the more experienced people on the sales team. What do they think of the price? How do they ‘justify’ it to themselves? Never mind the clients!

Programme yourself to believe, and you will believe.

“Buyers only buy when buyers believe” (Dave Gifford). And you have to make them think that you believe, in order for them to believe.

And if you cant convince them?

Fake it until you make it.

All the world is a stage, and all the sales people players!
All the world is a stage, and all the sales people players!

Sales is about performance. Telling stories and turning the dial up on your language and approach so that you can convince the client you mean what you say is pure performance.

Asking for the cash is no different. Just do it. Practice saying it. Practice saying it until you can do it without that psychological stumble or the reflexive offer of a discount before the client has even asked for one!

The subconscious isn’t discerning. If you tell it something often enough you start to believe it! Ask for the cash with enough conviction for long enough and before long you’ll believe every word you say.

Otherwise, maybe you shouldn’t be selling it in the first place?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These Brilliant Ads Show Print Isn’t Dead!

I’ve got a confession to make.

I love adverts.

I was that kid who stopped playing to watch when the commercials came on the TV.

I’ve always been a student of ads. Radio ads, Posters, TV, Cinema – All sorts and shapes and sizes. I love looking at them, I love talking about them and trying to understand how they might work.

Most of all I love working in an industry where I get to design ads and see them working for my clients.

Here are some amazing print ads I found while looking at a new site (to me) called Soozi Q which seems to have a fantastic line in quirky, interesting and very compelling content. Warning, if you visit it, be prepared to lose an hour or so of your day!

Enjoy

GunKid

helpnotlikeHitlerLegoLollyThere are a few more at the link to the Soozi Q site too. Let me have a look at your favourites?

And whats the best medium? TV? Radio? Or as this might suggest, is Print still king of the hill?

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My Blogs 2013 Report Card

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog. Its meant to compliment the recent top ten posts of the year blog I published.

There are some really interesting stats in here. Not least that the blog has been read in 131 countries (wow!) and America and Canada have the second and third highest readership.

Most interestingly though, is that all the top blogs this year were actually written last year! So maybe they have a little bit of staying power, but more likely I haven’t been able to show as much love and respect for this blog this year. This confirms it, but it was something I thought was the case anyhow.

Enjoy, and please let me know what thou think?

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 23,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 9 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

My Top 10 Posts of 2013

Happy New Year
Happy New Year (Photo credit: James Marvin Phelps)

There will no doubt be an absolute flurry of these type of posts from all over the blogosphere over the next few days, but its actually a pretty good exercise to undertake. I get to look back over the stuff I have done over the last 12 months of course, and I’m almost always surprised at what I wrote about!

But I’m really interested in what the readers of the blog thought of my posts. And while there are a number of ways to measure this, comments, shares and what have you, its probably safe to say that the posts with the most readers were the most popular.

Of course its also the case that these most read posts aren’t necessarily my favourite or even what I’ve thought of as my best work. It seems particularly perverse of the blogosphere to reward the writer in that way. Its almost always the case that what Ive thought as my best work is read the least, and the stuff I do quickly or in a less thoughtful manner is the stuff that proves most popular!

Anyway, here we go, the most popular posts on this blog in the last year, by number of readers – I hope you discover something you missed and something you like!

Oh, and have a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year – I look forward to seeing you back here for lots more of the same!

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Why asking for the clients budget is almost always the wrong thing to do
Do Women make better sales people than Men?
Is Sales the Right Career for Me?
The Most Inappropriate Ads of all Time?
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