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5 Steps: When You DON’T Make the Sale

9 Mar

You’ve spent a lot of time and energy working on a prospective client proposal and presentation. Then you learn that you didn’t win the bid. After you overcome your disappointment, what do you do next?

Below are the 5 Steps to take when you DON’T make the sale:

  1. Contact the client to learn which company they selected and what the “tipping points” were for the selection. Letting the client know that you merely want to learn if there are any areas of growth or consideration that you and your colleagues can improve upon for the future. Be sincere and authentic in your desire to get their feedback and suggestions.
  2. Evaluate the selection criteria from step 1 above. It’s important to determine if any of the selection criteria are areas you can improve upon, change, or are simply are beyond your control. You can learn a lot from your “losses.” Do you see a trend in the reason you’re losing business? Is the trend something that can be changed or is it a fixed trend.

    Example: If you are in hotel sales and you lose business because of your location, you can’t change that – but you may be able to find positives in your location to counter the client’s objections. However, if you lose business because you don’t include breakfast in your room rate, that’s a fairly simple fix.

  3. Establish an internal “trace date” to follow-up with the client based on benchmark dates: (1) If it’s a meeting planning contract, contact the client 30-days after the event to touch base on their event. (2) If it’s an annual contract, contact the client 90-days prior to the end of the contract term to determine level of satisfaction. (3) If it’s the sale of a product or service, contact the client 30-days after purchase to gage satisfaction.
  4. Create a Google Alert under the client’s name to follow their progress, company news, and press releases. Staying on top of a prospective client’s news opens opportunities for you to drop them a congratulatory note for a positive outcome in their company or a door opening for you to approach them with a new product.
  5. Maintain communications long after the initial “loss” is over. Given the Internet resources currently available, it’s easy to find ways to maintain communications with a prospect:
    • Connect with them on LinkedIn
    • Subscribe to their company’s blog or RSS feed
    • Create a “Stock Alert” (if they are a public company) to follow upswing in their company that may open new opportunities for you.

“Losing is only temporary and not all-encompassing. You must simply study it, learn from it, and try hard not to lose the same way again…” — John Wooden, Legendary UCLA Basketball Coach

Top 5 Reasons an M.A. in English is Useful in Business

26 Feb

People often ask me if I think my Master’s Degree in English is useful in business. I find it a curious question since the answer seems so obvious to me. However, since it’s asked so frequently, I’m offering the following top five reasons:

  1. Communication Skills: My coursework improved my written and oral communication skills. When you’re pursuing your M.A. in English, you learn to write clear, concise, well-documented research. You also learn to orally communicate your arguments in classroom discussions with peers and professors. It’s one thing to have an opinion and another to be able to clearly and cogently discuss it with others. And, whether you’re writing emails, blogs, or reports for your colleagues, these skills are timeless.
  1. Critical Thinking Skills: Writing, research, and critical analysis are the foundations of a master’s degree. You learn how to accept constructive criticism of your work and use that criticism to improve and grow. You learn how to conduct research, organize that research, and then use inductive and deductive skills to facilitate an outcome. Regardless of your business environment, this is a skill set that transfers beyond the classroom.
  1. Consideration of Varying Viewpoints: An essential foundation in the study of English literature is literary theory and criticism. Literary theory is the systematic study of the nature of literature and of the methods for its analysis. By studying the many schools of literary theory you learn to view literary works through a variety of lenses. Learning to analyze information from many different perspectives offers the opportunity to grow your thought processes. Understanding the various schools of thought translates into the ability to do so in the business world. You learn to be open to new business models and methodologies.
  1. Commitment to Long-term Goals: One of the most arduous tasks a student will undertake is the research, writing, and presentation of their master’s thesis. The process generally begins as you reach the final semester of your coursework. The length of time it takes to complete your master’s thesis will vary — but it always takes longer than you think. I was given great advice by my thesis chair to, “pick a topic/writer you feel you can live with for the next year or two.” As in business, you may not enjoy every task your job requires, but if you’re pursuing your passion, it makes it all worthwhile.
  1. Conceptual Thinking Skills: Individuals who have strong conceptual skills typically have excellent cognitive abilities. These skills include thinking creatively, formulating abstractions, and analyzing complex situations as well as understanding issues and solving problems. Conceptual skills allow a manager to visualize the entire organization and work with ideas and the relationships between abstract concepts. It also enables an effective manager to weed out those variables that are inefficient and/or detrimental to a successful outcome.

Confessions of a Podcast Addict

6 Feb

It started as most addictions do – slowly, stealthily slithering into my day. It began with just 10-15 minutes before work – then, another 20 minutes during lunch. By the end of the day, it consumed my entire commute home from work. And, before I realized it, I was spending my weekends mainlining it like a two-bit junkie – my iPhone ear buds snuggled comfortably in my ears as I listened hours on end to multiple episodes of The Moth, This American Life, Welcome to Night Vale, and Serial. I now confess…I’m a podcast addict! Since the beginning of time, we yearn for engagement in a great story and interesting characters – It’s the reason we’ve loved to read a good book or watch a great movie. Now, we have new ways to consume these stories.

Podcasts provide modern mobility for on-demand storytelling in a format with few boundaries – They’re working their way into our mainstream digital media and opening doors to new audiences one download at a time. Businesses, non-profit organizations, and entrepreneurs are podcasting their content to new audiences around the world. They now have this new tool in their arsenal to expand the reach of their brands, deepen their customer engagement, and further their knowledge leadership. Everyone has a story to tell and everyone enjoys listening to a great story. Using podcast technology to share your story can be a powerful resource…use it wisely.

Top 4 Sales Tips for Success

28 Jan

While there are many great tips for increasing your effectiveness as a sales person, these consistently prove to be among the top 4 sales tips.

  1. Demonstrate Respect
    When you take the time to learn a client’s business and her professional needs, you’re demonstrating respect for her as a client and a person. This might sound simple, but it is no longer the norm and therefore bears repeating. Given the easy access to information via the web, there really isn’t any excuse for not doing the homework needed before calling. A “cold call” should be “warmer” with our present day access to data.
  2. Respond Promptly
    There is nothing that loses a sale faster than not returning a phone call or email in a timely manner. Understandably, you won’t always have an answer to a client’s questions or share the same sense of urgency that she has, but at least demonstrate “signs of life” when she leaves a message or sends an email. By responding to her call/email, you’re at least acknowledging receipt and providing an estimated time for delivery of the information requested. That said, be sure to meet that deadline with the necessary information and/or a status update.
  3. Communicate Effectively
    Many of you who know me are aware of my personal disdain for written or electronic communication that includes multiple font types, font colors, and font sizes. The most flagrant of these occurs when someone has obviously “copy/pasted” a section of the email from another email or document. If you’re going to do this, at least take the time and demonstrate the professionalism to ensure that ALL fonts are consistent throughout your communication. Failure to do so gives the impression that you are not a person with attention to detail. For me personally, this would make me question your attention to detail in the handling of my business.
  4. Create a Long Term Relationship
    Granted, not every piece of business will be the right fit, at the right time, at the right price. However, the care, respect, and attention given during the sales process will provide future success. If clients are treated as partners in business, they will be more likely to refer others and use your product or services in the future. Customer service is the most frequent differentiating factor in making a sale.

We can automate many processes, but people still do business with people, and there’s not an app for that!

Time to Learn Something New

21 Dec

Each year during the holiday season, we close our offices to recharge our batteries. It’s also a great time to work on side projects that require uninterrupted time; time without phones and drop-in visits from colleagues. I also like to use this time to catch up on my own continuing education. So, what’s on my list this year?

PODCASTING
I started learning how to create podcasts last month. I started slowly at first. I quickly realized it requires my undivided attention. It involves both technical skills and creative skills. Mostly, it requires my time and a quiet office. Therefore, it’s the number one skill on my list that I want to improve upon over the next couple of weeks.

READING
I read all the time. However, there have been some business books on my “to read” list that I haven’t had the time to dig into. These are on my list for the next couple of weeks.

I may not accomplish or master everything on my list, but I know I’ll have a great time trying!

 

Networking is Not for Dummies

18 Dec

Successful networking is more than just walking up to strangers at an event, introducing yourself and your business, exchanging business cards, and closing with a handshake and a promise to call. Successful networking requires planning. It’s essentially like going on a group sales call. You have to prepare a plan, lay some groundwork ahead of the event, and define measurable goals for yourself. Fortunately, the Internet has made all of these steps so much easier and less time-consuming.

Who will be attending the event? Whether it’s a holiday party, the Chamber of Commerce breakfast, or an association meeting, knowing your audience is important. Make some phone calls; ask to see the RSVP list; and review your list of business prospects to seek out those target-rich attendees that you want to meet.

What is your networking goal? Do you want to meet a potential client that has been unwilling to set an appointment? Or, do you want to meet someone you’ve only heard about in your business community? Knowing what your goal is will also help you determine if the networking event was successful. (I always love asking sales people if the event was successful and they say “yes.” Then, when I ask what made it a success, they appear stunned as though it’s a trick question.)

How are you going to prepare for success?

  • Make a realistic list of people who you would like to meet and why. What can they contribute to your business and what can you contribute to their business? Successful networking is a win-win proposition.
  • Use LinkedIn to see if those individuals are “connected” to others in your LinkedIn network. Then, reach out to those you know and ask them to introduce you either by email prior to the event or at the event.
  • Determine the objective you would like to achieve. Do you want to ask for business, to set an appointment, or to establish just the first step pending a phone follow-up?
  • Learn what interests your prospects enjoy. With the Internet and social media, it’s not hard to learn something about a person’s hobbies, reading interests, favorite sports teams, or travel experiences. See if you have anything in common outside of the business. Something you might be able to use to lead into a conversation. Caution: There’s a difference between doing some research and stalking. You don’t want to come across creepy, just interesting.
  • Be knowledgeable. Read the news the day before and day of a networking event. Try to hit the following sections: Sports, Money, and Weather. You’ll notice that I stay away from politics or local government. (Politics, religion, and local government are still taboo topics and far too unstable to use in your first meeting with a prospect.) This information will help you in any conversation.
  • Be a good listener. This sounds so old-fashion and redundant, but you’ll find your best conversations are the ones where you listen more than you talk. Effective listening skills give a lot of insight into the other person’s business needs, problems, and how you might be able to solve them with your product or service.
  • Ask educated questions. Do your homework. Learn about your client’s business, their competitors, and the environment in which they operate. As the saying goes, “people have to know that you care before they care what you know.” Demonstrating knowledge of their company and that you’re willing to put in the effort to learn about them will go a long way.
  • Be authentic. Be honest. Be responsive. There’s nothing that can ruin a reputation or relationship faster than inauthenticity and dishonesty. If you don’t know, say so. If you don’t care, don’t pretend. And, if you say you’re going to do something, do it.

Networking can be a very positive and productive experience. Take the time and effort to make the most of each contact along the way.

Change the Company You Keep?

1 Aug

Each week I make time for personal and professional development. I find it invigorating. Given the magic of the Internet, we now have so many options to grow our knowledge base. For me, I enjoy listening to podcasts, reading ebooks and articles, and watching TED Speaker videos. While we’re all pressed for time, there are so many alternatives that there’s something for everyone.

Most recently, while listening to one of my favorite podcasts, “Get Busy Living” with Benny Hsu, I was reminded of something my mother used to tell me; “You become the company you keep.” Meaning, choose your friends and colleagues carefully.

Benny’s podcast topic, “Why Choosing Who You Spend the Most Time With is So Important for Your Future.” Benny argues, we don’t pay enough attention to the people with whom we spend the most time. He cites a theory by Jim Rohn, a personal development expert, who believes that we become the combined average of the five people we hang around the most. Rohn suggests that the combined influence of our “circle of five” contributes to our attitude, health and income.

Additionally, entrepreneur Todd Smith writes, that our “associations are some of the most powerful factors in determining who you become and what you accomplish in your life. As an example, if we hang out with pessimistic people who are critical of us, their negative comments will likely impact how we view our abilities and our self-image.”

So how do we gain better control of this situation? The first logical step is to disassociate from the people who contribute negative energy in our space. If the “toxic people” are part of our work environment and thus impossible to completely avoid then we need a plan to limit our exposure and time in their presence. While we can’t control the people around us, we can control how we respond and react to them.

Second and equally important is the energy we spend in broadening our circle of influence. Quite simply, we need to better fill our time and emotional space with positive, supportive, and enthusiastic people with whom we have shared interests. Consequently, we reduce our time with negative influences. And, thanks to the Internet we are able to connect with positive, supportive people by finding local groups, organizations, and online discussion forums. We can now meet new people and connect through blogs, email, Skype, and podcasts. Positive support and influences are more accessible than ever before.

So I leave you with this challenge. If the people in your “circle of five” are not providing you with the positive, supportive, and enthusiasm you need to grow it’s not too late. Change the company you keep. Expand your circle of influence outside of its current inhabitants. A positive environment has a much more powerful influence on our lives than we realize.

What has been your experience?

Winter Reading List

20 Dec

Does this holiday season provide you with an opportunity to catch up on some reading? Below are some of my favorites that do more than just provide philosophical, theoretical, and anecdotal platitudes. These books provide case studies, well-documented research, and usable information to effect change in yourself and/or your business. Some are newer than others, but regardless of their publication date, they remain timeless.

Start-Up Nation by Dan Senor
With the highest number of startups per capita of any nation in the world and massive venture capital investment, Israel is one of the world’s hubs of entrepreneurship. This book offers case studies and interviews with some of Israel’s most brilliant innovators. It explores the circumstances and policies that yield a country that fosters a business climate in which risk is embraced and good ideas are given a chance to grow.

The New Rules of Marketing & PR: How to Use Social Media, Online Video, Mobile Applications, Blogs, News Releases, and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly by David Meerman Scott
The book offers a step-by-step action plan for harnessing the power of modern marketing and PR to communicate with buyers directly, raise visibility, and increase sales. It shows how large and small companies, nonprofits, and other organizations can leverage Web-based content to get the right information to the right people at the right time for a fraction of the cost of big-budget campaigns.

Selling the Invisible: A Field Guide to Modern Marketing by Harry Beckwith
Today it’s estimated that nearly 75 percent of Americans work in the service sector. Instead of producing tangibles–automobiles, clothes, and tools–more of us are in the business of providing intangibles–health care, entertainment, tourism, legal services, and so on. However, according to Harry Beckwith, most of these intangibles are still being marketed like products were 20 years ago.

Beckwith argues that what consumers are primarily interested in today are not features, but relationships. Even companies who think that they sell only tangible products should rethink their approach to product development and marketing and sales. Beckwith provides an excellent forum for thinking differently about the nature of services and how they can be effectively marketed.

The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future by Chris Guillebeau
An easy-to-use guide complete with valuable lessons from those who’ve learned how to turn what they do into a gateway to self-fulfillment.  It’s all about finding the intersection between your “expertise” – even if you don’t consider it such — and what other people will pay for.  You don’t need an MBA, a business plan or even employees.  All you need is a product or service that springs from what you love to do anyway, people willing to pay, and a way to get paid.

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
Gladwell explains that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing. Along the way he explains the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band.

Call Me Ted by Ted Turner
An innovative entrepreneur, outspoken nonconformist, and groundbreaking philanthropist, Ted Turner is truly a living legend. This book explores journey that begins with his difficult childhood to the successful launch of his media empire to the catastrophic AOL/Time Warner deal. Ted became one of the richest men in the world, the largest land owner in the United States, revolutionized the television business with the creation of TBS and CNN, became a champion sailor and winner of the America’s Cup, and took home a World Series championship trophy in 1995 as owner of the Atlanta Braves.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on these books or others. Enjoy!

Knowing Amazing People

28 Aug

Amazing people never stop amazing us. Some of us are inspired and motivated by their amazingness. And, some of us use their amazingness as a benchmark by which we measure our own accomplishments, goals, dreams, and ambitions.

Who Is Amazing?
Amazing people are those who defy all naysayers. They press forward against the winds of negativity and ignore the voices of doubters. In fact, amazing people thrive on proving doubters wrong. They’re competitive. They do not benchmark themselves against others, but against their own previous personal best. They exceed the expectations of others and with each success they set the bar higher for themselves and others. Amazing people overcome obstacles becoming stronger with each hurdle they jump.

Why Are They Amazing?
Is it nature or nurture? Do amazing people set out to be amazing? It’s my opinion that part of their amazingness is that they’re unaware of it. They’re too busy being amazing to really give it any thought. In fact, if we ask them, they probably are genuinely unaware of the influence they wield. They defy convention and gain momentum through their accomplishments. Subsequently, their amazingness grows organically.

What Can We Gain from Amazing People?
Amazing people help us realize what is possible. They remind us that our dreams, goals, and ambitions are limitless. They teach us that being unconventional yields great rewards. They teach us the importance of fearlessness and pressing through our fears in order to grow. They give us optimism and share their enthusiasm to push beyond our own conventions and boundaries so we too can become amazing.

Do you know any amazing people who have shared their amazingness with you?

Are You Invested?

1 Jul

I’m a voracious reader. I’m always in the middle of at least 2-3 books of which, at least one is a novel. I recently finished Inferno by Dan Brown. Without coming across like a book critic, let’s just say that it wasn’t worth the time it took me to drudge through to the end. Quite simply, the plot was thin, disjointed, and read like a travel log through Italy, I realized one of my greatest disappointments was my lack of investment in the characters. I didn’t care enough about the protagonists even though I read Brown’s other books.

Eager to cleanse my disappointment, I browsed through every bestseller list reading reviews, editorials, and sample chapters. Once again I realized I was looking for a novel with characters worthy of my investment. The story’s important, but a really great protagonist can make just about any story more interesting. The best fiction writers create characters that are multi-dimensional, relatable, and charismatic. The reader wants to spend time, invest time with him/her. They want to be an existential part of the story.

This investment in the main characters holds true in all aspects of life. Think about your best friends – – Your favorite bosses – – Your mentors and colleagues – – Your favorite sales people. We have choices. I go out of my way to purchase and service my car tires from a certain shop because the guys are honest, genuine, and always pleasant. I can probably buy the same tires and other car services elsewhere for even a few bucks less. But I like these guys and I’m invested in them as people.

Ultimately, whether we’re talking about characters in a book or the people with whom we do business, it’s the connection we have with the individual that makes the difference. Like the books we read, we want to work with people who are invested in us and with whom we are invested. Who is worth your investment?

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