Tag Archives: nonprofit

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 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!

My Five Must-Reads of the Week

26 Jan

While attending conferences, enduring airplane flights, and attending networking events, I’m often asked what my own five must-reads are daily and weekly. So, the curtain is lifted.

These are my five go-to sources:

  1. Inc.com / @SalesForce
    Geoffrey James is a contributing editor at Inc.com, where he writes an award-winning blog. Each article offers bite-size pieces of information that can better your work life.
  2. Fast Company
    Fast Company focuses on progressive business media brand, with editorial focus on innovation in technology, leadership, and design. Fast Company inspires readers to think beyond traditional boundaries stretching traditional boundaries to create the future of business.
  3. The Blog of Tim Ferriss – Experiments in Lifestyle Design
    Tim is a writer, lifestyle coach, business advisor, and lifestyle mentor. His books, blog, and podcast offer great tips and hacks for your work life and professional life.
  4. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope is an entrepreneur offering online courses to help you manage your career. She has founded four startups each built with a focus on a community. She documents her experiences in this blog.
  5. HuffPost Small Business
    Featured blog posts, bestseller lists, and reviews. If you’re looking for a quick snapshot of material to pick from each day, look no further.

Let me know what great blogs, articles, or podcasts you can’t do without!

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.

The Conundrum of Paralysis by Analysis

27 Apr

Many years ago in a land far, far away I worked for a boss that suffered from “paralysis by analysis” in her search for “riskless risk.” As the proverbial Knights of the Roundtable, otherwise known as her Executive Team, each week we thrashed our way through the jungle of data, risk assessments, and possible alternative outcomes. Unfortunately, our quests often resulted in a dead-end. Why? Well, no decisions were ever made until the decisions made themselves. In other words, her indecision resulted in the least innovative and risk-free decisions. Additionally, no new results were generated since the “decisions” kept the business static. Her fear of making the wrong decision resulted in a stagnate company allowing others soar passed us.

How does this happen?
Every year or so, the business world identifies buzzwords/phrases that become common colloquialisms in boardrooms and executive offices around the world.

  • This could be a “game changer.”
  • We need to go after the “low hanging fruit.”
  • He’s a real “thought leader.”
  • We want to be “industry leaders.”
  • We need to be “innovative.”
  • We need to “get ahead of the curve.”

While these are great phrases to add into sales and marketing proposals, as well as year-end reports to corporate offices, they all have a couple of things in common. First, they need to be effectively sandwiched between a strategic plan on the front end and measurable goals/metrics on the back-end. Second, everyone around the table needs to accept that there is a certain level of risk and potential failure on the road to success. Identifying and evaluating that risk is the responsibility of managers. Being willing to shoulder an acceptable threshold for risk is the responsibility of a leader. And therein lies the rub.

Paralysis by Analysis
If this term doesn’t sound familiar, then let me explain the symptoms of the disease. The overall company or work group goals have been agreed upon. Then, each member of the team is tasked to research options, alternatives, and projected outcomes. Lastly, the team reassembles for a two-hour meeting and everyone throws his work on the table. The group goes through each scenario upon which discussion and brainstorming ensues for the greater portion of the two hours. With minutes left on the clock, the boss asks for the recommended plan of action. In other words, what decisions should be made based on the previous week’s work and this one hour and forty-five minute meeting?

Have you guessed the punch line? That’s right, no decisions were made. Instead, the topics were sent back to “committees” to explore further options and come back to the group with recommendations. So, the next question is why? Weren’t the options presented viable ones? Didn’t anyone agree with anything that was recommended? In fact, there were several options that could have been approved. Actually, there were an over-abundance of suggestions that could have yielded decisions. So what happened? Quite simply, the fear of making the wrong decision or alienating those on the opposing side of the decision now paralyzed everyone from making any decision.

Riskless Risk
If 2+2 equals 4, then you don’t run a risk of waking up one day to find that 2+2 equals 5. That’s riskless risk. In other words, riskless risk does not exist. Moreover, the best decisions are only deemed successful after they’re made. If you have the ability to look into the future and know that your risky decisions are going to all pay off, then head to Las Vegas and win big! After all, when a smart risk is taken, the joy of success is that much more rewarding. And, if you’re fearful that one wrong decision, no matter how small, will bring down your company/organization, then you’ve built your company/organization on a house of cards.

When you make educated decisions in a timely manner you move your organization along the path to success. Evaluate your threshold for risk and move forward with confidence.

Managing Your Non-Profit Like Your For-Profit

21 Feb

Business is business. Whether you’re managing a for-profit company or a non-profit association, there are common denominators that demonstrate few differences between the two business models.

As with any business, your goals guide the path you set to achieve your desired outcomes. By simply breaking this down into five common goals, it’s easy to see the similarities. Regardless of your business model, these five desired outcomes are essential to achieve a healthy organization that remains relevant, fiscally strong, and ensures loyalty among members/clients:

Goals of Your For-Profit Organization

  1. Generate income
  2. Minimize expenses
  3. Ensure customer satisfaction
  4. Increase customer base and market share
  5. Achieve profit for owners and/or shareholders

Goals of Your Non-Profit Organization

  1. Generate income
  2. Minimize expenses
  3. Ensure member satisfaction
  4. Increase membership and community awareness
  5. Accrue financial reserve for long-term financial viability

To remain focused on the main goals/objectives of your organization, I compare planning and decision-making to a bicycle tire. Often referred to a “hub and spoke” model, it clearly demonstrates that your core goal (represented by the hub of the wheel) remains strong and supported by the actions and strategic plans that lead to the hub (represented by the spokes of the wheel). 

Bike Tire1So how does this analogy prove useful as you manage your organization? It provides a touchstone for each decision you make and each work group or committee you establish. All strategies and tactics should lead back to supporting the hub.

As such, continually ask these questions of yourself and your colleagues: Does my plan or decision support the hub (goal) of my organization’s overall desired outcomes? Are my decisions, project work group, or committee contributing to the overall goal? If so, how do I demonstrate that connection? If not, do I need to reevaluate the relevance or strategic plan of my work group or committee?

That said, how does this apply to the adage, “business is business?” It simply means putting aside your own personal feelings, personal agenda, or decisions in the best interest of the business. This is easier said than done. However, an inability to do so results in failure if not today then tomorrow. Your first obligation is to the business and the health of that business and its employees, shareholders, members, and stakeholders. Keep in mind that the leadership and management you provide today determine the legacy you leave tomorrow.

Not All Managers are Leaders

31 Jan

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – – John Quincy Adams

I’ve always been fascinated by the difference between a manager and a leader. Actually, fascinated may not be the right word; let’s say that I’ve been perplexed and often frustrated. I think the genesis of my frustration is a potential fallacy that a manager should be a leader. However, anecdotal evidence has proven that just because someone manages people or departments does not mean they are leaders. Many managers are not effective leaders.

So let’s put aside all of the fancy research and management/leadership style models and simplify the concept. What differentiates a manager from a leader?

What is a Manager?
Managers have subordinates. A manager executes the plans, decisions, and goals driven from upper management. A person becomes a manager by virtue of his position. The followers are generally the manager’s employees. Followers follow the manager by default of management and supervisory hierarchy.

What is a Leader?
Leaders have followers. A leader is someone who influences the behavior and work of others in the group’s efforts towards achievement of specified goals in a given situation. A person becomes a leader on basis of his personal qualities. The followers of the most effective leaders tend to follow by choice. Followers have bought into the leader’s vision, personality, and most importantly, feel a respect for the leader’s knowledge and abilities.

What is the Nexus?
In my opinion, the ideal situation is when a manager is also a leader. Reality, it doesn’t always work out that way. Often, managers move through the “system” by navigating the designated ladders of professional ascension within a company or organization. Sometimes it is merely the result of seniority and company tenure.  And, their ascension may not be a reflection of their leadership ability, but a reflection of their management ability. Whether that’s a bad thing I’ll leave to your discretion.

In contrast, a leader is often chosen for his/her ability to move people, to move platforms, to facilitate change. As such, a leader provides direction, vision, and motivation. A leader is less concerned with ruffling the feathers of others since his followers tend to be believers. They trust that the leader is driven by a shared success and they want to be a part of that success. In contrast to a manager’s ascension, a leader’s ascension from within an organization is often a result of their successes, both measurable and intangible. The confidence others demonstrate for the leader elevates their corporate capital. Do all leaders make good managers?

Dilemma
When a manager is not an effective leader it often creates a barrier to decision-making thus hindering forward movement. Over the years, I’ve learned that more is often lost to indecision than the wrong decision. A manager lacking leadership skills frequently suffers paralysis by analysis. They spend so much time considering alternate options (fearful of making the wrong decision) they relent to inaction. Subsequently, their inaction and/or hesitancy result in a loss of confidence by subordinates creating future barriers to success.

Are you a leader, a manager, or both?

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!

Don’t Send Them Away From Your Website

11 Mar

Now that information is so freely accessible through the Internet, websites need to be more than a “store front” for your association; they need to be a resource for information that is useful and can’t be found elsewhere.  As they phrase goes, “content is king.” The most robust association websites provide content that offers value to its members, keeps them returning to the site, and encourages them to forward your information (a link to your website) to other members and prospects.

Why Is This Important?
One of the greatest challenges for associations is finding relevance and creating value to its members and communities. One of the most cost-effective ways to meet this challenge is to create and maintain a website that is a knowledge center. Websites need to offer robust content, useful information, user-friendly resources, and ways for members to become engaged in your association’s community.

Do and Don’t
Here are just a few do’s and don’ts

  • Don’t just supply links on your website to other websites that provide the information they’ve come to your website to find. While this is a shortcut to offering resources, it takes people away from your website. More importantly, it conveys the message that someone else has better information than you can provide. Result, they will “bookmark” those websites and leapfrog your association’s website the next time they need similar information.
  • Don’t neglect to update your resources and information frequently. This will provide both relevance and increase your organic search engine optimization (You’ll increase your visibility on a Google search.)
  • Don’t be one-dimensional in your content. Chances are your association’s members have an array of needs, interests, and ways they find value in their membership. In other words, your website needs something for everyone; your content needs to be balanced.
  • Do update your content often. If members don’t see new information each time they visit your site they won’t find a reason to come back. Once you’ve updated your content, send an email to your members highlighting the new content they will find on the site. If they go to the site often enough, it will then become a habit. Note: Sending this email on the same day of the week each week creates anticipation.
  • Do be a knowledge center/knowledge leader. People return to websites that demonstrate knowledge and expertise in their field. They like to have one place to locate all information without going to multiple sites. Use the expertise and thought leaders in your organization to demonstrate the level of knowledge your organization represents.
  • Do utilize social media, video, webinars, and blogs to offer multiple ways for people to engage in your organization. People learn and consume information in different ways. If your membership is multi-generational, it’s important to provide vehicles for communication and information dissemination in ways that are accessible to everyone. Added benefit: Using multiple media tools increases your visibility on a Google search.

Next Steps?
Let’s get started:

  • Define the core value of your association. What does (or can) your association offer that can’t be found elsewhere?
  • Fill in the Blank: “We want our members, prospective members and the communities we serve to think of us as ____________.”
  • Create a plan and process for updating your site, keeping it relevant, and discussing the analytics. What web pages are popular, how often are members coming to the site, and how is your engagement is being effected.
  • Ask for member and community feedback along the way.

While this is just a brief overview, remember that a robust association website provides content that offers value to its members, keeps them returning to the site, and encourages them to forward your information to others.

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