Sales & Marketing 4 (and final!)

Welcome to the 4th and final instalment of Sales & Marketing. We’re going to take a peak at a real life small business in my home town and see what makes his long standing family owned business outstanding. It’s a rental business and they make the business of renting look like a lot of fun. Here’s to Ward’s Rentals of Lethbridge.

Passion. The fundamental driver behind all sales and marketing.

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Tribute to the Families of 9’11

It is the 10 year anniversary of 9’11. I wish to dedicate this blog entry to the families of those who were directly affected by the tragedy.

Much has been said and written about this tragedy. Without a doubt, the implications of 9’11 are global. Without losing sight of, or minimizing this global magnitude, I wish to dedicate this simple prayer on those families directly affected, now mourning for 10 years at the loss of a loved one.

Prayers for the Families of 9'11

The LORD bless you and keep you;
The LORD make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.

Amen

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Sales & Marketing 3

Sales and marketing video episode 3.

Enjoy, tweet, post and share!

And as always, comments please!

Dan

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Sales and Marketing Part 2

After taking a wee break from my blogs, I am back! Thanks for returning to visit.

My last post was addressing sales and marketing. As you read through previous posts, you’ll see that it’s a topic I’m pretty passionate about. Let’s continue down that path.

The new world of sales and marketing is service focused. Customers have too many options to be put under pressure by anyone. Recently, after completing a transaction with a customer, I asked about the experience they had with other companies also competing for their business. I do this on every sale, by the way, whether I get the business or not. There’s a mini-lesson for you.

Their response was that although I wasn’t the cheapest company, they really appreciated the service and the attention to detail. To them it was worth spending a little more.

Take note, it’s the little things that matter. Here are three things to do before every customer interaction to help you keep focused:

1. Think through the first 2 minutes. Exactly what you’ll say when you introduce yourself. Picture yourself smiling. Picture them smiling. Set the tone in those first 2 minutes and you’re on your way.

2. Check your appearance. Ever noticed how you walk a little taller when you’re all dressed up? Put a suit on a man and he grows a couple of inches! Well, the same is true for sales. The better you look (and smell), the better you’ll feel.

3. Surprise them. I am getting in the habit of asking my customers what their preferred coffee is. And then I bring it to them! Nothing warms up the relationship building process quite as quickly as a warm cup of java. Plus, it serves my addiction well.

Focus on the little things. Do them better than anyone else. You’ll be surprised how well received this is by your customers.

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Sales and Marketing Part 1

This is the first of a multipart video series on Sales and Marketing. The old world of sales was filled with high pressure tactics and a ‘close at all costs’ strategy. It’s never been a system I subscribed to. The new world of sales is customer-centric and service focused. It’s about time!

 

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3 Easy Steps to building your business

My family and I were having a dinner conversation a while ago. During the course of conversation, we were discussing jobs and business. I asked Cole “what does it mean when you own your own business?” His answer is the subject of this entry. I’ll break his answer into the three natural segments he gave me.

“Well, first you have to get a little shop.” He couldn’t be more right! You have to start by establishing the basis of your operation. Not every small biz needs a store front or a ‘shop’, but you need to decide what it is you stand for, where you’ll be working from and

what exactly you hope to achieve. BE SPECIFIC! You have to be super clear on what your ‘shop’ is and what you plan for it to be. Call it vision, mission, unique selling proposition or whatever you want. Your little shop will begin to take on it’s own DNA the minute you open the doors and you need to clear on what that DNA is to look like or else it will evolve into whatever the strongest personalities on your team will make it. Step 1: build a little shop.

“Then you have to get really popular with your customers.” Owners, this is sheer gold. The single most important function of an owner, the one place he must begin, sustain and an increase momentum from now until the grave is sales and marketing. Packaging, delivery, follow up will all be able to happen, but not until you get sales flowing. The world is full of really fantastic business ideas that flared up like fireworks and died just as fast. You get some investment money, build your dream shop and then run out of cash because you have no sales. It’s a dark road, but not a lonely one. If there is any one thing you must become obsessed with, it’s sales and marketing. It’s not that you can’t hire great people who can help with this. But like the building of your shop, it needs direction. It needs your DNA. Step 2, according to an eight year old, Get popular with your customers.

“And then you can build a bigger shop” This is the dream stage. You’ve got sales momentum. Your customers are calling and your product is moving. Now you can continue to build off of what you started and continue to grow the business into whatever it was you envisioned to begin with. A bigger shop doesn’t mean you don’t have to work anymore. It just means you have to work differently. And it means that you have resources at your disposal you didn’t have when you started. That gives you options. Those options feel pretty dang good. Step 3, grow into a bigger company, organically.

One of the mistakes small businesses make is trying to be a bigger shop too early. Most don’t want to, or know how to go through the stage of building the small shop and then sticking with it until sales are strong. We want to shortcut it to a bigger shop, so we take our loan money or investor money and throw it all into fancy equipment, state of the art technology and great facilities. Those things all look and feel like a real, successful business. But without sales, they will very quickly become a huge liability. So be cautious of spending money on those things if your business didn’t create the cash to do it with. Buy only what you need to fulfill your sales and marketing promises and leave everything else to grow organically into the business. Build a little shop first. Get really popular with customers second. Then, and only then, can you build bigger.

Thank you, Cole, for the business growth wisdom.

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Lego Blocks of Business

I’ve always been a big fan of Lego. I still am! I’ll admit that I have an ulterior motive when buying Lego “for my son”. I could explain my obsession with Lego in under 10,000 words, I’m sure, but there are only a handful of nerds out there that would enjoy that as much as I would. So I’ll spare you the verbal barrage. Instead, let’s take a look at 5 subtle business and life lessons learned from the great building block hobby.

1. It’s better when shared with someone. I really liked Lego on my own, but I’ve found it be exponentially more engaging when I get to share the time with my son. Life is like that. Business is like that.

2. Instructions are helpful. You learn to follow instructions with Lego, especially with some of the more advanced assemblies you find out there. The lesson from those instructions is this: Someone has already figured this thing out. Just copy what they did and you’ll get the results they had! Too many people go through life and business thinking their problems are unique and their challenges isolated. It’s like trying to assemble a Lego Death Star without instructions. You’ll get there eventually, but you better have some time on your hands! “Borrow” the wisdom of those who have gone before you and follow their instructions. There is nothing new under the sun!

3. EVERYTHING is assembled like Lego. Your car, your house, your computer, your plumbing system — it’s all just Lego. The pieces look different, but the principles are identical. (I think that’s why I get such a charge out of the trades business.) We often miss opportunities in life because we say to ourselves “I’ve never done that before.” If you simplify the problem to a Lego puzzle, then there is nothing “I haven’t done before” that I’m not willing to try. It’s just Lego.

4. The real fun starts after the initial build. Building the Death Star is fun, no doubt. But what happens after you’ve completed the Lego project and you’ve enjoyed looking at it for a few days? It needs…improvement. Modification. A little expansion, growth and creative input. I walk into my son’s room and there are Lego creations laid out all over the floor. Most of them are modified, blended and otherwise altered versions of the original. Want to know why he feels so free to modify? Because he keeps the instructions. Rarely does he go back and rebuild it to spec, but if he ever wants to, he can. That little ace-up-the-sleeve is all you need to give yourself permission to try creative things with your business. YOU CAN ALWAYS GO BACK!

5. Play with your creation. Some people build Lego and then put it on a shelf. You’ll miss out on the creative process mentioned above when you do that, but you’ll also miss out on the opportunity to just sit and play with your new toy.  I believe that the business you build is a lot like Lego. Once you’ve got it built, play with it a little. Don’t shelve it and look at it with pride. Play with it, enjoy it and look at it with pride. Interact with the team you’ve assembled (you’ll find out that people can be a lot of fun!). Interact with the customers that have become loyal to you (they’re kind of cool, too!). Enjoy the fruit of your labour. Business can be fun, amidst the pressures and stress that come with it. Find the fun and take advantage of it!

Final assignment: Go buy some Lego, find someone you love, and build something together. Then tear it apart and get creative. Then play.
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Characteristics of Successful Companies

I’ve had the privilege of visiting dozens of small businesses and interacting with hundreds. I’ve learned to pay close attention to what I see, wanting both to help out where I see opportunities, and to steal shamelessly what I can for my own business! Here are what I’ve seen as the top two characteristics among these companies. You’ll have revisit my blog for the rest of the top ten list later…

1. Urgency. Companies that succeed recognize that a customer looking for service has many options. If we should be so lucky as to get called on for that service, we must move mountains to get that customer taken care of immediately. This is the case for the companies pushing $20 and $30 million as it is for those with $1 or $2 million. Urgency communicates empathy, professionalism and a deep understanding of a customers potential apprehension in calling.

2. Training. If you are deliver this level of urgency to your customers, the next natural need is for diverse, consistent and frequent ongoing training. Through constant repetition of the goals and values, the vision of the company begins to set into the behaviours of the people. Through specific, reproducible systems those behaviours shape every customer’s experience from first contact through to final follow up.

Don’t be fooled, these two things don’t come easy and they don’t come cheap. A company that establishes urgency and training as a way of life has committed to an investment of resources. That investment shows up as extreme customer satisfaction and loyalty, but it requires time, energy and money to start the ball rolling and keep it going.

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Getting Unstuck

Flying 30,000 feet somewhere over Mississippi and taking advantage of inflight internet. I’ve recently read Bryan Tracy’s book, No Excuses!: The Power of Self-Discipline. In it, he talks about a special island he calls “Someday Isle”. Allow me to paraphrase his thoughts. Someday Isle is a place where procrastinators live. It’s where great ideas go, fester and die. It’s where dreams get parked and never get moving again. It sounds like this:

“Someday I’ll…get that dream job, start that blog, get married, have kids, volunteer, change my facebook profile picture, stop smoking, travel the world, change my underwear, etc, etc, etc.”

I would venture to say that Someday Isle is vastly populated. I bet you’ve been there, perhaps even live there now. The question is how in the world do I get off Someday Isle? How do I get my plans unstuck and begin moving down the path I’ve been wishing on for far too long? Here are a couple of ideas that might help.

  • Write it down. Something happens when you write your plans down. So start writing. Don’t let “write it down” get to Someday Isle too! Write you plans and goals, and give them realistic dates. Tracey says that 3% of the world has written goals. Is it any wonder that the island is so densely populated?
  • Plant a stake in the ground. Envision your goal completed. Get clear on what that picture looks like in your mind. Then imagine that picture is a stake you can drive into the ground to mark your destination. Put that stake out in front of you – it doesn’t matter how far out it is. Now start walking towards that stake. You may not make it there in a day, but you’ll be surprised how quick you’ll begin to see your goals come around. When you get off track, just find your stake, correct course and keep walking. It doesn’t have to be a straight line from where you are to where you are going. Walk left, walk left, slow down, speed up — it’s all good. Just don’t stop moving!
  • Plant reminders. The worst thing about dreams and goals is that they spend a lot of time in our subconscious but not much time front and center in our conscious thought. So, once you’ve written them and created a picture, plant some reminders where you’ll see them from time to time. A little sticky note with a couple of words can help. Attach it to a credit card you seldom use. Then, when you pull it out, whammy, the reminder smacks you up side the head. Plant reminders in your calendar so that they pop up on days you wouldn’t otherwise have thought about it. The key with this is to plant another reminder when you get the first one. Change it up, get creative and don’t let yourself forget! I’ve been doing this for years. I have reminders that have been popping up since about 1998 when I got my first US Robotics Palm 1000. Amazingly, many of those goals have been realized and they keep on growing! I’ve had to move the stake several times.

Hope that helps. See you someday. Now go change your underwear.

~Dan

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No Excuses

There are two kinds of people in the world, those give reasons, and those who give results. When I consider the new year and where I want to be going, I realize that I have been among the former group in 2010. I had a lot of reasons, some really great ones too, why things went the way they did. The trouble with focusing on reasons is that you become of victim of history. Reasons are, afterall, reflective in nature. So take your eye off the past for a moment and start to build the future with a results focus. When you do that, you’ll find that you can stop making excuses, and start getting to where you really want to go. Here are three quick and easy steps to a life without excuses:

1. You did it. Accept it, and move on. When you blame others you fall into the trap of waiting for them to do something before you can. Yes, there are outside influences. No, they don’t have to run your life (unless you permit them to). You did it. No excuses.

2. You must do it. In the same way as accepting responsibility for the past, you must accept responsibility for the future. Everything you will do in the future will be a direct result of your own action or inaction. Tough decisions must be made and you must make them. No excuses.

3. Red cars don’t fall out of the sky. Gee, thanks for that, Dan! Follow this: Ask yourself how many red cars you drove by on the way to work. Can’t answer, can you? However, if I task you with counting red cars on the way to work, you’ll be amazing at how many you see, and you’ll see ALL of them. Why? Did red cars fall out of the sky? No, you just chose to see them and your brain magically did what it’s programmed to do and found them. Success, like red cars, will not fall out of the sky. It’s out there, and if you look for it, your brain will magically do what it’s programmed to do and find it. Pay attention to your focus, padawan. You’ll find the object of your focus. Success, failure, or excuses.

No Excuses. Happy New Year. Go find some red cars.

~Dan

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