Tag Archives: culture

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

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!

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?

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?

The Most Important Interview Question

23 May

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, “I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.” . . . You must do the thing you think you cannot do. – – Eleanor Roosevelt

Who are the successful people in your life? Why are they successful? What do they know that others don’t? How did they learn to be successful? If you can answer these questions, then determining the most important interview question should be easy. We all want use the interview process to hire the right people for the right job. Therefore, let’s take a leap of faith and agree that asking the right questions will yield the right employee for the job.

The Question
We’ve all been through manager training courses that gave us a list of questions to ask; behaviors we should notice; and techniques for determining aptitudes. However, the most important question in an interview:  “What obstacle or challenge in your personal or professional life have you overcome or resolved and how?”

I have been fortunate to know many successful people over the years. Some success is measured by money. Some is measured by independence. Some is measured by the ability to live out a dream. No matter the yardstick of measurement, each person achieved his/her success by overcoming a significant obstacle or challenge. Then, they used that experience as a springboard for their future ambitions.

The Answer
That said, it’s not just the answer a job applicant provides, but the way in which he/she expresses himself/herself. I like problem solvers and individuals who think outside the box…creative thinkers unafraid to step out on the ledge. I want him/her to be able to clearly define their challenge, explain the process of resolution, and identify a usable outcome. As the adage goes, the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Ultimately, the obstacle or challenge is far less important than how they tackled it and how they determined a process of resolution.

What is your most important question?

Making Time for Retrospection

5 May

I haven’t written an article for my blog in a while. It’s certainly not for lack of something to say, in fact quite the contrary. There are so many topics worth discussing lately that it can be overwhelming. With information flying at me from so many sources and at lightning speed, I often find myself on the verge of information overload. Sound familiar to anyone else? So with all of this two-way information at hand, why have I not contributed to my own blog? Well, I’ve been taking time for some retrospection.

Retrospection: Proactive vs. Reactive
“The act or process or an instance of surveying the past.” – – Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Quite often we find ourselves in a perpetual forward motion. Have you ever felt that the tools we’re using to better manage our time, clients, businesses, and family have now turn the tables on us and taken control of our lives? Between our Outlook calendars alerts, Google alerts, Task List alerts, Reminder pop-ups, and smartphones buzzing, beeping and singing at us, it occurred to me that I forgot to schedule time to breath!

So, it’s not that we never stop to reevaluate our lives, priorities, clients, businesses, and family. However, we usually do so when we encounter some convergence of due dates or inciting event that causes us to take pause, reboot, and adjust accordingly. In other words, our time for retrospection and reprioritizing are reactive. I think we can all agree that we could reduce our stress, increase our productivity, and enjoy our personal/family time if we took a proactive approach to the act of retrospection. But then retrospection is just the first step.

Introspection: Part of the Process
“A reflective looking inward. – – Merriam-Webster Dictionary
In the context of this discussion, the inward reflection is part of evaluating and reevaluating our business goals and their alignment with our personal goals. I think we all feel better when we’re enjoying our work life and personal life. We find greater balance, satisfaction, and peace when our clients, colleagues, family, and friends are happy and satisfied. We feel a greater sense of accomplishment when we’ve met all reasonable expectations of those in our two worlds.

Now, how do we begin? Well, each of us needs to find our individual path. For some, talking with colleagues, friends, and family, provides insight into our priorities. Others may seek spiritual guidance, guidance from a personal or professional mentor, or simply a quiet escape to the beach or mountains away from the noise of our busy world.

Some Tips to Consider

  1. Old School (but it works for me): Use a yellow legal pad and draw a line down the middle of the page. In the left hand column, write down the results of your retrospective process. (a) What have you been doing that you know you want to improve upon or simply do differently. (b) Where has your energy been focused? (c) How has your time been allocated?  In the right hand column, write down how you’re going to make the adjustments. Feel free to brainstorm with others involved so you get perspectives other than your own. Moreover, involving others in reassessing business priorities and goals increases the chance that you’ll gain support and buy-in for these changes.
  2. Overcoming Fear: Let’s face it, the greatest barrier to any change (personal or professional) is the fear associated with that change. Will we make the “right” decisions? What if we fail? What if others don’t like our retrospection and their corresponding future changes? At the end of the day, we need to remind ourselves that we will never make everyone happy 100% of the time. Change is scary whether you’re the one initiating the change or the one experiencing the change. However, as I continue to be reminded, change is always easier when you are proactively changing versus reactively changing.
  3. Looking Back to the Future: Retrospection allows us the time to analyze our past, and redesign our future. It’s the time to hit the Control+ALT+Delete and “reboot” our systems.  We need to embrace our successes, learn from our failures, and be excited and invigorated about our future.

I look forward to receiving your tips, feedback and suggestions!

Resetting Expectations

7 Mar

I was enjoying my morning ritual of coffee, newspaper, and favorite morning talk show when the host brought up the topic of our 24/7 work lives. He used the term “reset expectations.” My ears perked up. This is such a great phrase. Let’s face it, the lines between “work hours “and “personal time” have become blurred by the accessibility that mobile technology provides. We have become inextricably connected to our jobs and as such, we begin to respond to every email regardless of the time of day or the level of importance. So, how do we regain control of our lives and our jobs? We reset expectations.

What is Resetting Expectations?
If we answer our emails within minutes of receiving them regardless of the day of the week or time of the day/night, then we have set an expectation. Our clients, friends, colleagues, now expect to receive a response immediately. If they don’t, they will send the infamous “did you get my email” email reminding us that we usually respond within seconds of the “read receipt.” Furthermore, we begin to feel guilty or negligent if we don’t respond right away. Well, unless someone’s life or safety hangs in the balance, that email can probably wait until I’m back in the office tomorrow. We need to “reset expectations” so we can regain balance in our lives.

Triage Your To Do List
I think we can all agree that the volume of email requests, text messages, and comments from our social media connections inhibits our ability to manage our time most effectively. The first step in resetting expectations is to establish a triage process. The dictionary defines triage as: (1) “The determination of priorities for action in an emergency.” (2)”The process of sorting victims, as of a battle or disaster, to determine medical priority in order to increase the number of survivors.” We’re probably all more familiar with the medical application. If we go to the emergency room, the first place they send us (after collecting insurance and verifying payment) is to “Triage.” In that room a nurse makes an assessment of the urgency of our situation and prioritizes our condition relative to others.

In medical triage, we wouldn’t want someone awaiting a rhinoplasty procedure to go into surgery before a patient in need of heart bypass surgery. While the person awaiting their nose job thinks it’s pretty important, of course everything can’t be equally important. If we want to reset expectations we need to triage our requests from friends, family, clients, and colleagues to ensure the most important things are getting done first and the most important emails are being answered first. It doesn’t mean we don’t love everyone equally, it just means that we need to be more efficient, healthy, and at peace.

Communicate Expectations
Of course we can’t reset our expectations in a vacuum. We need to communicate with our clients, colleagues, and family so there isn’t any misunderstanding. Suggestions:

  • Evaluate the scope of services you have with your clients and ensure you communicate and mutually agree upon the times you will be accessible. Set/reset the expectation of a reasonable time frame for discussions, deadlines, and status updates.
  • Use your auto-reply. Don’t just say you’re out of the office. Instead, be specific about the day, date, and times you will be unavailable and leave emergency contact information.
  • Show some self-discipline. Just because you can answer that email quickly, don’t. Unless you’re sitting in the dentist office with nothing else to do, chances are it’s an interruption to what you’re doing at the moment.
  • Put down the Blackberry and iPhone during family/social time! We all do it subconsciously. We reach for our phones, glance at our emails, look away from our conversations, and convey (though unintentionally) the message that something may come across our phone that’s more important than the person/people we’re with at the time.

Warning: I’m going to try to reset my expectations. While I am eager to receive your comments, feedback, and most of all suggestions, I will not be checking my blog via phone during dinner this evening.

“A Fish Always Stinks From The Head”

3 Mar

While many cultures claim the proverb as their own, the interpretation is consistent. If a government, business, or organization fails, it is the leadership that is the root cause.

I think of this proverb often lately. Why? Well, I suffer the frustration of poor customer service on a daily basis. Am I unique in my suffering? I don’t think so.  I really don’t think I’ve set my expectations too high either. In fact, if I set the bar any lower, I could step over it! Let me give you an example and let me know if any of this rings true in your life.

When I contact a sales person at a company for a quote on a product or service they provide, I expect a returned call. When they say they will send a proposal, I expect them to do so. If they are unable to accommodate the scope of my request, I expect them to pick up the phone and let’s talk. Don’t just ignore my voice mails and emails. Bottom line, care enough about your reputation and that of your company to treat prospects with respect.

So, what does this have to do with the title of this article? It’s my opinion that if this lack of customer service exists in a company, then it’s because it is tolerated. And, if the leader of the organization doesn’t know that his/her employees are handling prospective customers this way, then there in lies the rub. A good leader knows his/her staff. He cares about his service and his customers. The leader sets the tone of the company, the expectations, and establishes ways to monitor and measure against these expectations.

I’ve had the pleasure to work for some great leaders so I know value of their influence. Tom Marello, my general manager at the former Renaissance Hotel in Downtown Atlanta used to require his Executive Committee members to take at least one hour each day to walk around the hotel and meet the staff, and take the time and effort to coach them in areas of deficiency. Tom knew the name and family members of each of our 200 hotel staff. We worked hard to impress him and he worked hard to give us a great hotel product to sell.  The real winners were the guests/customers. We wanted them to respect us and respect our boss. We wanted to give them a great customer service experience because we had pride in our hotel and in our boss.

If you’re a boss, give it some thought. Are your employees a positive reflection of your company or department? If not, it’s not too late to “clean the fish.”

Your Social Media Strategy – Pulling it Together

26 Jan

The final step in this three-part process ensures that all of the work you did in steps one and two of “Social Media Strategies Made Easy,” are put to good use.

That said, by now you should see a pattern of behavior of your audience and be able to match up your social media objectives with the appropriate platforms to reach each. So, this final step is to ensure you “speak the language” of each of the social media platforms to execute your strategies effectively.

Facebook
If you are using Facebook as a “bulletin board” to announce product discounts, special events, pictures or accomplishments then it’s not really complicated. Build your Facebook Page and start posting. Utilizing coupons or discount codes can provide a method of tracking the efficacy of this tactic. If your business is a hotel or restaurant, include a “reservation link” that you can track a direct tie to your Facebook page.

However, if you selected Facebook to engage your audience in a two-way dialogue to get feedback, suggestions for bettering your product/service, or creating a social community, then it’s a bit different (and more fun in my opinion). You can build a Facebook page open to everyone (although I suggest close monitoring if you’re going to allow posting) or you can build a Facebook group that provides a more selective audience.

A Facebook Group offers your audience the sensation of membership and exclusivity. This also allows you to control who participates while staying engaged in a dialogue with a more intimate audience.

Important: As with any relationship (virtual or otherwise), it is important to be authentic, honest, consistent, and persistent. In a wired world, people expect immediate gratification and immediate feedback. If you just pop in and out, they will lose interest in your site and go elsewhere. Technology has shortened our attention span and a successful social media strategy takes this into account.

Tone: The tone of a Facebook dialogue is casual but tasteful. Your tone should be conversational and informative without being sales pitchy. Personality goes a long way to keeping people interested and returning to the site.

LinkedIn
If you’ve determined that some of your audience “lives” on LinkedIn, then this is where you need to be a thought leader. This social platform provides a great vehicle for demonstrating your knowledge and commitment to your industry. It will take some time to find your company’s “voice” on LinkedIn and some trial and error as to which LinkedIn groups and forums prove successful in engaging your audience. However, persistence and consistency will move your discussions to the top of the groups. The most successful dialogues are the exchange of best practices and participation in the Q&As of the platform.

Important: LinkedIn offers you the opportunity to put your professional face forward. However, be sure to solicit suggestions and advice from others as well. People are more likely to share in your discussion if they feel as though their comments are being considered and respected as well.

Tone: Keep a professional tone. Discussions should remain free of controversy and should not become too familiar. These are business relationships.

YouTube
Whether you choose YouTube or another video platform, adding video to your Facebook group and your company website creates a layer of interest. Keep videos brief, entertaining, and informative. As discussed earlier, the tone and environment for taping need to be professional and without distractions. Unless your business is the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, keep the video free of jumping dogs and flying coworkers.

Note: Adding video to your web site makes it more engaging, and will contribute to search engine optimization organically. Decide on the type of video most appropriate for your products/services. Examples: Training video, How To video, Customer Testimonial video, or Demonstration video.

Whatever your social media strategy, remember that it will require constant review and adjustment. As you progress and monitor your results, try new platforms. Remember to start simple and then experiment with growth. There isn’t a single strategy or template for success that works for everyone. Social media strategies are as unique as the people you are targeting.

Best of luck and have fun!

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