Thursday, 3 March 2011

Wake Up to a New Way of Life

It's been a full twelve months since my last post on this site. Much has happened in that time and it's a new and exciting period in my life. If you have enjoyed reading posts on Reflections then I invite you to check out Wake Up Be Inspired where much of my attention has been this last year.

We look forward to seeing you there.

With much gratitude and appreciation for your support.

Simon ;-)

Monday, 22 February 2010

Build relationships to grow your business

I'm always delighted to introduce business people to others who may be able to help them do something different.

Often, as small business owners, we get so wrapped up in our own "stuff" that we miss the glaring opportunities right in front of us. These opportunities are more than just a simple sale for our product or service but can be strategic alliances or partnerships where the sum of the whole is far greater than the constituent parts.

An example of this followed a recent discussion I had with a theoretical competitor where I can offer a service that she wanted to bring to her clients. By teaming up she is able to promote my product and fill a room for us both to make money.

Had we not created this strategic partnership I would not have run the event, as I wouldn't have made the time to promote it, and she would not have had the opportunity to add my product to her portfolio. In fact she may have had to invest time and money in developing her own product and then build awareness and credibility for it.

In this case two "competitors" are able to promote a new product (for her) to a new market (for me) and everyone wins. She gets to expand her portfolio, I get to expand my client base, and the clients get a new service which adds value to them.

It's easy to get defensive and secretive about our clients, our developing products or services, and how well we are doing in business. It's even easier in fact to sit down with people offering similar products and services and explore the greater opportunity that exists through strategic partnerships.

Moreover, my experience shows by working with someone else, the likelihood is that we are able to deliver a service more quickly to the market place because the partners hold each other accountable and keep their promises to each other!

Look to your "competition" and see what you can find as the greater opportunity...

Saturday, 13 June 2009

How not to sell

I was cold called last week by a company who left a message saying "we want to talk to you about business coaching". My assumption was that this was a potential customer.

When I called back it was very apparent that I was speaking to someone in a call centre because of the level of noisy conversations in the background, not to mention the music from the radio!

Being curious, as I often am because of the opportunity to "research", I decided to let Heather do her stuff. She proceeded to ask me how business was doing and went on to ask how I got my business. I told her that I wasn't in fact looking for business coaching work right now as I was focusing on Speaking with Power, as well as BNI and my other business interests.

Undeterred she went on to tell me about her fantastic service that offered a website with guaranteed traffic and unlimited update capability. This got my interest knowing that one of the ways to help your site improve its search engine ranking is regular content updates.

I listened intently for about 35 minutes, asking all the right questions and getting lots of promises. Heather told me it would cost £399 plus 12 monthly payments of £60 before very crudely jumping straight in with "how would you like to pay - debit or credit card?"

I responded by reminding her that I had not yet decided to proceed and would she send me the information to confirm what she had told me. Flustered, she then wanted me to go to a website to look at the information. However, as I was in the car this was not going to work so we arranged to talk again the following day at 2pm.

Sophie called the next day, 20 minutes late. By this time I had researched the company and the numerous websites that had discussions and complaints about the service being offered. Oh, how I love the internet for easy access information!

Sophie told me that Heather was off sick today so she was calling on her behalf. She did not know how much I knew so asked if I had any questions.

I repeated that I wanted to see exactly what I was signing up for before making a commitment and after a rather protracted conversation I was able to establish that terms and conditions were in fact on their website. I printed them off and she went straight with how was I going to pay. Rather annoyingly for her, I suggested she call me back once I'd had a chance to read through the document.

I did indeed read the conditions and highlighted at least 20 points that raised questions for me. Needless to say Sophie became even more frustrated but tried to answer my queries anyway. The fact that she had to keep putting me on hold to ask her manager told me she really didn't know what she was selling and no real idea how the service was supposed to help me.

We finally got through all my questions and I admitted that I saw little point in continuing our discussion because "I didn't feel that she was providing the type of service I need". Sophie responded with obvious irritation and told me she thought she had answered all my questions and could not see why I didn't want buy.

After an exchange of views I suggested we go back to my first point:

"Heather had told me that I could have unlimited updates and these would be done by personal account manager and there was no charge for this. You [Sophie] have confirmed this is true, but the second paragraph states that updates are done free of charge for the first 30 days. This implies that you will not in fact update as Heather had told me. I want a service that if I needed to, could update every single day, by telephone, knowing it would be done. You can't or are unwilling to do this, so the service is not what I need."

Sophie then proceeded to tell me that I would never need such a service and it was ridiculous!

I thanked her and told Sophie that she clearly did not understand MY business and how I might want to develop it in the future via my website(s).

Still not listening she told me that their service would do exactly what I wanted and if I did want to update everyday, I could do it myself using their software.

Bored by now, I repeated myself yet again and finished the call, astounded that this company could be so inept.

If you're providing a product or service then it is important to recognise that a) some people won't need or want what you are offering, and b) if people give you feedback on the product or service that suggests you are not meeting their needs or wants, at least have the decency to listen to what they have to say and respect their opinion.

The customer is always right, even when they might be misguided. They want what they want or need what they need, and in any event they are the customer. If you think you can help them realise that what they think they need is not in fact what they actually need, and your product or service can truly help them, then give them the respect they deserve and educate them with care.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Back up or risk losing all

Sometime ago a colleague in BNI gave the audience a useful fact in a 60 second presentation that he gave that really struck a chord with me.

He said research showed that 90% of small businesses that suffered a massive loss of data due to an IT system failure, go out of business within two years. A frightening thought that had me urgently schedule an appointment to further understand the risks and more importantly, implement a process that mitigated against the risks.

The irony is that the simplest and very cheap solutions are available and I was delighted to get something in place for less than the cost of a night out with the family.

This last weekend I was merrily working away when my laptop crashed. It turned out that the hard drive was completely dead and the data on it was lost. Imagine how I would have felt, not to mention the potential impact on business, had I lost 20+ years of research, training material, manuals, seminar audio programmes, video presentations, coaching notes, family pictures, music etc etc.

Thankfully I listened to my BNI colleague that day and apart from the few days of inconvenience without a laptop, we were up and running very quickly. In fact, I got to spend a little more time on the phone, much of which in the sunshine and peace and quiet of my garden. There's always an upside!

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Increase sales - Help other people

If you want to increase your sales then the first step is to stop selling.

Most sales people are so focused on getting the sale, meeting their targets, keeping the boss happy, achieving their key performance indicators (KPIs), getting the cash or simply "screwing" the prospect, they forget why they are really there. They are there to solve someone's problem; save them money or time, achieve their dreams, provide comfort or security, deliver exceptional service and so on.

So, the easiest way to do the deal is to remain clear on what it is people are looking for and help them get what they want or need. Stop selling and look for the ways to help. Sometimes of course, the prospect doesn't even know what their problem is so helping them gain clarity on that is essential.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Excellence in presentation skills will increase sales

Listening to an educational programme today I was impressed by the excellent presentation skills of the teacher and his ability to engage the audience. He drew them into his story that had them making a purchase without a second thought.

This wasn't manipulative techniques or a crude sales pitch. It was simply a strategic process of building rapport with the audience and creating the space for them to make an informed buying decision that met all their needs.

The presenter used his great ability in telling a story to hold the state of the audience in a way that had them relate to it [the story] as if they were playing the starring role.

Why was it so enthralling?

1. He built rapport - The teacher engaged the audience from the start. He used his skills to have the audience listen attentively and with anticipation.

2. He managed their state - If you want the audience to get excited, you need to be excited yourself. If you want the audience to be inquisitive you must stir their imagination so that they are curious and eager to know more.

3. He told a story - By using a story, a tale that the audience could relate to, he drew them in. They were able to see themselves within the story and began to make internal connections that resulted in the natural next step of needing to buy.

People buy from those they know, like and trust.

When you create the space for this trust, from a position of the buyer, rather than a seller, the relationship becomes such that people actively seek out the purchasing opportunity knowing that you will be helping them "solve their problem" or "providing the solution". Buying becomes easy for them.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Speaking with power to create sales

Everyone of us has to speak in public to "sell" something. It may be how you earn your living such as a business development role or sales representative, or that you have an idea, a suggestion or proposal that you want someone to "buy in to". It could be that you simply want your spouse, partner, child or friend to agree to something you would like them to do, but in any event you are selling a concept, an idea - you are looking for agreement.