The Name Badge Does Not Sell Your Business

Blank name tagAt the close of a large entrepreneur event, a small business owner came up to the registration desk and offered a suggestion. He felt like his name badge should have more than a name. He wanted a badge filled with all his information: name, company, title, website, email and phone. Then, he would talk to more people and more people would talk to him.

In an effort to help himself, he went ahead and scribbled all his identifying details in fine print below his name. Unfortunately, his details were written so small it required someone to lift his badge up close to read it.

In his view, his networking experience was hindered by only having a name to identify himself and others. The name-only tag “forced” him to have a conversation, instead of oddly reading someone’s detailed badge to self-select whether he should engage them.

My empathetic response, “I understand how you might feel more information on the badges could help you. I appreciate your suggestion. I do feel that you can open more doors, when you directly talk to people. Perhaps we have a different view of the value of these type of events and networking.”

My non-empathetic response, “Your name doesn’t open doors. It won’t sell you or your business. Your story, your enthusiasm and your passion are what engages others. It’s awkward to read someone’s name and then turn away. Then again, maybe we have a different view on what sells you and your business.”

What was not revealed to him was that it was intentional to only have a name on each badge. Why? To provide an everyone the opportunity to connect, share and learn. A convenience for each attendee to have an open door to sell themselves, their solutions and their business. Written words never sell. Written words affirm. It is the verbal story, the questions, the conversation that closes the deal. It is the interaction that really matters. It is looking someone in the eye and asking, “What do you do?” The name on your badge only facilitates an easier way to start the conversation.

No matter how many words you use to invite someone into to your lair, the offer is only as good as what you have identified through an engaging dialogue. A conversation. A two-way exchange. It answers, what can you do for me and what can I do for you? Value is created by the time you invest to ask, listen and qualify. It is the ongoing assessment that takes place during the conversation that defines opportunity. The number of conversations you have helps you measure the success or failure of your valuable time spent at an event or networking.

Business owners sometimes feel if they are equipped with mountains of content, leave behinds and written justification, the buyer will sell themselves.  In fact, written content is just an invitation. Invite to learn more. Invite to perk interest. Collateral and content does not sell a product or service. Collateral documents and illustrates. People are best for selling goods and services.

Networking and events give you a formalized occasion to have a dialogue. To learn and share. Those that will not talk to you because of your name-only tag are short sighted and often losing the opportunity to learn the real value of you, your offerings and your ideas. Conversation requires a back-and-forth tailoring of information that can be customized to your address your precise needs.  We only buy what we need. The listener is always waiting for you to make it about them. In their mind, they are waiting for you to tell them how you help them or solve their problems.

Less information on a name badge gives you the polite excuse to inquire, “Tell me what you do.” A badge or name tag should never give you reason why not to engage. Ask. Inquire. Question. That is how you benefit from any event. Do not hide behind a 3 x 4 card hanging around your neck. Use it as a chance to address the person by their name. “Jim, what is your reason for attending the event today?”  ”Mary, are you an entrepreneur?”  This provides you the best opportunity to qualify, inquire, learn and discern if the person has something to offer you and you have something to offer them.

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. – William Shakespeare

By Jamie Glass, President and CMO of Artful Thinkers, follow: @jglass8 @artfulthinkers

The event noted in this post was the Innovation Arizona Summit 2013.  Read more about the event here.

When Do You Create a Board of Advisors

iStock_000005458028XSmallThere comes a time when assembling a group of experts to help grow your business is considered smart leadership and a business best practice. When you reach a stage in your business where you have exhausted the collective internal experience, knowledge and skill to achieve your next phase of growth — create a Board of Advisors.

Every purpose of creating a board will differ for each organization. A business owner may be faced with great opportunity for rapid growth or significant challenges from conquering the next ascent in revenue, market or product expansion. The appropriate time to consider assembling a board is when the business path forward is less clear or cluttered with obstacles that could derail you from achieving your business goals. You have reached that period in your business when their is more “unknown” and you fear what you don’t know.

A Board of Advisors is different from local peer groups, leadership councils, service providers and executive mentors. Your board is a committed team of individuals working on your business. Advisors should have congruent skills that compliment your leadership. As an example, you may find that by adding a distinguished industry expert or technical guru best serves the next phase of your business  Adding market or sales expertise can open new doors, while a finance or legal expert can provide insight to reduce risk.

Experienced executives want to help entrepreneurs, startups and leaders that seek advice to grow their business.  It validates their business “wear and tear”, while providing meaning and value to their experience. The board should round out your executive court, as these advisors are typically not available to hire as full-time employees and can be “unaffordable” for smaller businesses. They also may be those exclusive experts that will always be in a role of advising and never work for a single entity.

The reason you bring experts together as board members is to increase effectiveness and efficiency in decision-making and strategic planning. A board will perform best when there is an exchange of ideas in an organized environment, centered around a single business issue. The board format is designed to solve problems. Each board member brings a different set of experiences, viewpoints and resources. Having a board working together with you to assess challenges and discuss opportunities, gives you invaluable advise that can save you significant time and money versus the “learn as you go” approach.

Board of Advisors are not in a role of governance. They do not have fiduciary responsibility to protect shareholders or investors, though they should be very responsible in providing any guidance related to financials or spending company money. Only an elected Board of Directors for a public corporation or non-profit have governance over a company. The Board of Advisors is a non-binding group of mentors and experts that work collectively with company leadership to achieve your business goals.

Advisors should be completely aligned with your goal and mission and also be able to challenge you by providing recommendations and views that will differ from your own. You do not want a board that agrees with all your ideas or thinks as one. Why waste your time.  They should differ in expertise and have the ability to assess short-term and long-term strategies, out loud in a group discussion, without fear of reprisal.

A board is typically five to six members, excluding the CEO or business owner.  A Board of Advisors should consist of experienced and skilled individuals in varied areas where your business is lacking in comparable talent. In the early stage of a business, Board of Advisors are typically unpaid and may or may not have a long-term financial commitment through future equity.  As a business leader, be cautious of giving away ownership in your company early, this could be a note of contention with future financing.

The commitment of an advisor should be a minimum of two years.  It is valuable to set a term limit in reviewing board members, as you company is expected to grow and you need to be able to add new board members with different skills during later stages of your business.  Board members must also be committed to attend meetings.  A small business will typically meet with the entire board every 8-12 weeks.  If a board member misses more than two meetings a year, consider replacing the advisor.

Board members should not be family members, employees, contractors or service providers you pay for other functions in your business. It creates conflict of interests. Though a board of advisors are not employees, you should treat your advisors as accountable members of your C-suite. Set expectations, ask for help and use your board to help you achieve your goals.  If you simply assemble your Board and provide an update report on the business, you are wasting valuable resources and time.

Board of Advisors are trusted members of your inner circle. You can share with them confidential information and discuss highly sensitive matters that are not open for discussion with anyone else in your company. Your board should consist of credible experts that will provide insights you can not gain from any other resource. They should open doors, help you gain new customers or strategic partners and provide actionable ideas to help you achieve success. If you want to grow, create a Board of Advisors.

“You sit at the board and suddenly your heart leaps. Your hand trembles to pick up the piece and move it. But what chess teaches you is that you must sit there calmly and think about whether it’s really a good idea and whether there are other, better ideas.” – Stanley Kubrick

Jamie Glass, President and CMO at Artful Thinkers @jglass8

Investing in Co-Selling Partnerships to Grow

iStock_000022899520_ExtraSmallSmall businesses and entrepreneurs can greatly benefit by selecting co-selling partners to drive revenues. Utilizing another company’s sales and marketing resources may be a great channel to aggressively extend reach and acquire new customers.

Co-selling partnerships with businesses selling complimentary products and services to your target customer can be smart business. These partnerships can cut existing sales costs and even accelerate growth in market share. The best sales partners create a synergy between respective offerings. There should be a “natural fit” of how the products and services add value for the customer. The buyer should inherently understand why you would partner, not question as to why you did or if there is any benefit in buying from a single vendor.

Co-selling partnerships can reduce sales costs. There is a required investment in sales and marketing to grow a business. The costs of a sales team can be crippling for a new venture or small business.The overhead expenses that enable a sales person to be trained, productive, and armed with the right marketing tools, technology and product support can be onerous in the earlier stages of an organization.  Lack of initial investment often produces lack luster results and can actually cost the business even more with unexpected turnover or lengthy sales cycles. Businesses need a specific budget and defined cost of sales to properly staff, train and equip a sales organization to get results.

Time-to-market and time-to-close can be reduced through co-selling partnerships. A new sales hire ramp-up time can be 3-12 months, depending on price of goods to be sold and anticipated sales cycles. Ramp-up requires an “blind faith” investment of time and resources. A business has to invest in sales with nothing more than the anticipation and belief that something is going to be sold. It is a huge price to pay and has great risk. Utilizing a trained and experienced sales team through a co-selling partnership can help you bring revenues in while you invest in building your own sales team.

Co-selling is not free. There are costs of co-selling partnerships. A strong partnership requires investment in training and account management resources to keep top-of-mind awareness with your co-oped sales team. You also need to provide sales and marketing tools to properly equip the team to sell your goods and services. You need to be available when they have questions and to support them throughout the entire sales process.

You also need to create an incentive as to why a sales person in another organization should throw your offering into the mix. Higher commissions, faster time-to-close and value-add to the customer, are all good reasons; however, remember — sales people need to be sold too. If you extend the deal time or complicate the sales process, it will never work. Make it easy and valuable for the sales team through your co-selling partnership.

Incentives matter in co-selling. If the paired companies benefit but not the people selling, the partnership will fail. You need to set up a partner agreement for commissions and shared revenues.  A typical commission in a co-selling relationship starts at 10% of net revenue on the deal for a qualified lead pass. This type of agreement puts the burden back on you to close the deal. You are basically paying for marketing and an introduction. If the partner does all the work, including closing the deal, you may provide an incentive of 20% or more just to get that customer on your books. The structure of the agreement and commission rates should be based on your financial projections and cost of goods and associated expenses in managing the customer post-sale.

What doesn’t work? Relying on commission-only sales teams and partnerships that are by name only. There are business owners that believe they can get a motivated, committed sales person to work for free. The odds of making this type of relationship work are close to nil. The relationship between a company and it’s sales team, whether a direct hire or partner, is measured by the commitment from both sides. Small businesses may have to tier commission levels based on the ramp-up of sales or find ways to create early non-cash incentives; however, no one should be expected to go out and sell without a financial commitment. The words “you get what you pay for” should ring loudly if you are thinking about commission-only or finding people to sell for you because they like you.  Sales people that are really good at closing deals are expensive because they have a huge ROI.

Attributes of great co-selling partners to consider are the size of the partner’s sales team, market reach, relationships with your customer and available support the sales team receives in training for new products. The partner must have the means, connections and existing relationships to introduce your products to market. Co-selling means they will take an active role in selling. Again, partners by name only often produce little value.

If you choose to use co-selling partnerships, embrace the model and build support for the partnership. Show your loyalty through your commitment to make the partnership last and benefit everyone including the customer, the sales person and the partners. Create value by talking about the partnership and promoting the relationship. The results you get from this co-selling will be directly tied to the amount of time and resources invested in the partnership. You have to give to make it work and really pay off.

In reality, the only way a relationship will last is if you see your relationship as a place that you go to give, and not a place that you go to take.” – Anthony Robbins

Jamie Glass, President and CMO at Artful Thinkers @jglass8

Related to a series of posts on partnering.  Also read: Sales Referral Partners Lead to New Customers

Innovation Arizona Summit is June 11, 2013

Innovation Arizona Summit
Innovation Arizona Summit
Network with hundreds of your peers while meeting up with incubators, accelerators, funders and investors, entrepreneur program groups, education and supporting growth organizations. The Innovation Arizona Summit, brought to you by MIT Enterprise Forum Phoenix and the Arizona Commerce Authority, takes place on June 11, 2013 at the Tempe Center of the Arts. A must-go affair for all startups, business leaders and innovators! Attendees will experience an event jam-packed with resources and experts committed to helping entrepreneurs.
 
Your ticket is the biggest opportunity from the organizations committed to helping you grow your business with the best advice, tips on what has worked and hasn’t worked, along with how to avoid pitfalls are in one place! Three featured presentations are open for all attendees. Registration is $25 plus $20 for entrepreneur breakout sessions or seven special sessions for only $75.
 
Get you Ticket, RSVP Now!
  Event Schedule – details here
 
Exhibitors
 
Sponsorships available –

Good Business Leaders Use Intuition to Make Decisions

IntuitionDecision making is constant in business. Advancing products, engaging employees, responding to customers are top priorities, all while keeping a careful eye on the bottom line. It is the basic function of a leader to be continuously selecting priorities and taking action. Multitasking and constant awareness come with the territory of being in charge. The only stop to the ongoing process is shut-eye. Not resting, deep sleep.

Every person, whether in a leadership role or not, confronts hundreds, thousands even tens of thousands instinctual decisions throughout a given day. Some are instantaneous, or as we classify “automatic”, while others require in-depth analysis.

We all have an internal analytic engine, taking everything we know, we collect and can reference based on experience to churn out a decision. We are the greatest sources of our own big data!

As technologists find ways to host, gather and exploit bytes by the billions and trillions of data from others, our own brain functions as the largest processor of data. Enabling us to act quickly or deliberately, at the speed of which best suits the need for a decision. Not everyone utilizes their “big data” engine in the best way, whether from a lack experience or knowledge, impairment or perhaps ignorance to what the data shows. The result, bad decisions.

In business, some can be plagued by the constant role as Decider-in-Chief. This often results in procrastination or delayed decisions. The common impact is action taken “too late”. The organization depends on a leader to make impromptu decisions, while also taking deliberate actions to lead to the “best” decision given a certain set of facts. Organizations need deciders to execute plans, activate programs and assign activities that drive results.

Good leaders often have a good sense of intuition. They use gut check analysis and set plans into action, without the noticeable analysis that others might use in trying to determine the path forward.  Where did they acquire such skill?  Repetitive decision making. Leaders know they have to make decisions, they are accustomed to their role and have the experience of accepting fault and risk with taking action. This training builds confidence and a strong basis for intuition. Making decisions over and over again in practice builds an intuitive leader.

Some researchers claim that intuition results in a physical experience, a shiver, an image or the often unexplained deja vu.  Others may use the intuitive nature of a dream to set a plan into action. The remembrance seems to create a comfort in the decision, having the sense of knowing the outcome. Beyond the intangible means from which confidence results, the facts are that when decisions are needed, strong leaders will act. Knowing inaction often results in increased pressure, stress and potential problems, making a decision, right or wrong, seems to give a sense of relief.  Decisions invoke power and progress.

There is no magic in intuition, it’s brain power. It is knowledge. Intuition is using information, filtering and making a judgment based on experience. The continuous practice of using intuition creates a platform to control quality of decisions and use of perception or quick insight, without compromising confidence.

Intuition is not “inherent”, it is learned.  The origin of the word dates back to the 1400′s as a reference to contemplation. There are many times that intuition will lead to proven conclusions; however, a leader will not always use it quickly and without process. There is often a misnomer that intuition means instant, without regard for facts or experience. It does not. It means using your better judgement and trusting your thoughts, your ideas and your role as a decision maker. It is using your intuition to move forward.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” – Steve Jobs

Jamie Glass, President and CMO at Artful Thinkers @jglass8

What is the Real Value in Free

freeFree is zero, nada, zilch, nothing. In the mind of the consumer, free means whatever you give away for free has no cost to you. The same applies to your time. If you are giving away your time for free, how do others adjust to understanding your “real” value? Do they realize your true worth?

Most people are very leery of free offers. Based on experience, we are trained to look for the fine print, the exceptions and qualifications.  Our better judgement tells us that there is usually a “catch” to getting something for free.  A free day at the spa comes with the catch of attending a vacation rental sales pitch. A free juicer included with a top priced refrigerator comes with the catch of spending more on a product just to get a small appliance you may never use. A free soft drink when you buy the big meal comes with the catch you have to super-size your entire meal. If we are always suspect to the catch, how does that reflect on the perception of you giving away your time for free? Maybe there is a catch.

We are all very susceptible to the attraction of a free offer. Free works. We often all like to take advantage of free! Significant purchases are emotional. Free sparks our interest, it draws attraction to possibilities. Free also plays on the strong emotion of fear. The fear of losing out on the free.  Will someone else get our free?

What is not often measured is the “buyer” remorse of a free offer.  Why?  Well, you didn’t pay for your free, how can you be remorseful. You got what you paid for – zero, nada, nothing. You can’t return “nothing”. Your stuck with your free.  The cycle continues, giving and getting for free and then we are left wondering was it worth our time as the giver or receiver. It might be easier to leave the emotions behind and get to the real offer of people paying for your services. Paying for your valuable time without an emotional gimmick.

Free feels like it should have value. We perceive that whatever we get will be of greater value than what we have to give to get it.  It is very difficult in business as a service provider and solopreneur to not give away your time. We often justify this as a “marketing and sales” expense.  Unfortunately, the expense is not something you can list on your expense records as a tax deduction. You can not expense your hourly rate as a cost of sales. It’s lost time or to put in a more feel good term, an investment.

When you give away your time, what you do and who you are is represented as free.  It may appear to be a good idea. If you give your time away regularly others will soon see that your time has no value and what you perceive to be a great gift often goes unused or disregarded. Are you creating the perception that you are “free” for the taking?

The best advice for giving away time for free is to set a specific free time budget.  How many hours can your afford to give away each week?  Also, keep your “power of negotiation” at your central point of where you do business.  Meeting at coffee shops and for lunch may seem like a convenient way to give away your free services; however, you are no longer in a business setting, which demonstrates that your business is the priority.

We all desire to help others, pay it forward and do good. The best good you can do is to make sure that you get value for what you do. Free is a teaser, a sample. Maybe it is required to build a relationship and establish an opportunity for a transaction.  Then again, maybe if what you give away for free is so valuable people will actually pay you for it. Limiting your exposure and risk, means you have limited availability to always give away your time and services for free. Use your time wisely.

If you were to offer a thirsty man all wisdom, you would not please him more than if you gave him a drink.” – Sophocles

Jamie Glass, President and CMO at Artful Thinkers @jglass8

Additional read:  Nothing in Business is Free 

What is Your Business IQ?

Fresh ideas, concept wordsThe question is not related to your personal or business intelligence, it is your business Innovation Quotient (IQ).  Your business IQ is connected to how you manage change and performance improvements in all facets of your organization, from operations to product. The origin of the word innovate goes as far back as the 16th century. It is simply introducing something new or different.

There are some companies that are perceived to “own” innovation and are frequently on lists of the most innovative companies. Expected and recognized mainstream mega brand companies like Apple, Google, Amazon, Nike, Target, Coca-Cola recently topped Fast Company’s 2013 Most Innovative list, along with newer innovators like Pinterest, Sodastream, Tesla, and Yelp. They all have visible innovations and a high “product” IQ.  We come to expect they are doing something new and different all the time.  What we do not see is how these businesses innovative internally. How they get on these lists takes more than smart, cool products. We don’t know how often they change employee policies, management teams, adopt new software programs or retire practices that no longer get results – unless you are Melissa Mayer of Yahoo!

What is your business IQ?  How often are you “innovating” the 4 P’s: product, people, processes and policies?  If you were to rate how innovative your company is today, on a scale of one to 100, with 100 being the most innovative, where do you rank?  If you are never changing, you probably have a low business IQ.  If you are always changing, your business IQ should be close to 100.  The most realistic place to be, without completely disrupting or killing your business, is to aim for above 50.

If you are an innovative trailblazer with a high IQ, congratulations and press on!  It is difficult to stay on the forefront and constantly introduce “new” into a business. Trailblazers make change and as a result, often make money. They innovate, pivot and innovate again. Maverick companies with high business IQ are in a continuous cycle of innovation and change.

If your business is lacking in the innovation department, it may be time to set new company standards.  If you asked everyone on your executive team to provide you a recommendation of an old idea or way of doing something that needs to be retired, without measure of cost or risk to the business, what do you think would be on the list?  Perhaps it is time to find out.  Innovation begins by identification.  Where there is opportunity in your business to innovative, there is opportunity to improve.

Old or young, businesses need to always be monitoring their business IQ.  Innovation takes place within companies as well as in products and services.  Being an innovative company requires a constant and systematic evaluation of how the company will stay competitive and continue to grow or maintain sustainable profits.  The lack of innovation is a one-way ticket to performance doldrums.

Not all innovation is good and there are certainly small and big failures to note.  One point is certain, if your business is low on IQ, it is probably not maximizing the potential of products, people, processes or policies.  Start by asking the questions first. What needs to go? What is holding your business back?  Identify where you can improve your business IQ and then go — innovate!

If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.” – Peter F. Drucker

Jamie Glass, President and CMO of Artful Thinkers

Avoid Being Distracted by Shiny Pennies

iStock_000014402814_ExtraSmallA common challenge for business owners and executives is to avoid “tripping over shiny pennies.” What does that mean? It is the attraction and distraction of the newest, latest, greatest shiny object in our path.

We all seem to have a trained eye to spot the bright copper commodity at our feet, no matter where we are headed. The shine is overwhelming. We stop. We pick it up. We put it in our pocket. Then we declare our latest “find” to be lucky. A sign of great fortunes to come.

Shiny pennies reflect a fiery glow that is hard to avoid. Old pennies lack the shine and sleekness that keep our attention. They seem drab. They are tried and have traveled far, gathering dirt and grime along the way. They often find homes in jars, drawers and bottles. New pennies have power. We have willed the new penny with charm, a source of inspiration, as we traverse along the pathway of possibilities.

The penny is representative of all the ideas and opportunities that land in front of us, one right after the other. Every time we stop to evaluate a new idea, we are taking our attention away from our current plan of action.

Navigating through the countless opportunities, or shiny pennies, requires determined focus and unbridled commitment to a planned strategy.

Unfortunately, in business the sparkling object we stop and pick up is often worth exactly the minted value – ONE CENT. Consuming ourselves by the possibilities of what the perceived lucky penny might bring can actually cost a business many pennies, if not fortunes.

New is not to be avoided. New keeps us innovating and testing. The overwhelming desire to continually focus on the new penny in our pocket, can be a big distraction from working on the current business plan. Shiny pennies have a time and place. Some will need proper evaluation and careful consideration. If you are feeling consumed by all the shiny pennies, set a time in your day or week to focus on these new ideas.  Plan for “new” within your plan. Budget the costs associated to testing the new ideas.

Apply the “penny test” in our course of evaluation.  What is the real cost associated to adding this penny to the jar of other shiny pennies?  Will you spend more in product development, sales and marketing?  How will it change your business model? Is there an impact in supply chain and distribution?  How will customer’s respond?  Every new penny that you stop to pick up needs thorough testing and vetting, with an effective cost-benefit analysis. The amount of work to evaluate the penny is expensive, so not every penny is worthy of much attention.

Be cautious of the allure of the sleek and sparkly new. After all, it is just one cent – shiny or not.  If you are always tripping over pennies, you might just fail to see the dollars falling from the sky.

“If had a penny for every strange look I’ve gotten from strangers on the street I’d have about 10 to 15 dollars, which is a lot when you’re dealing with pennies.” – Andy Samberg 

Jamie Glass, President and CMO at Artful Thinkers

Racing to Close the Sale

iStock_000003423890MediumThe sales process provides a road map to follow when you are driving toward winning new business. The course begins with identifying a prospect and traverses through a series of events to the finish line. The intended destination on the map is the “close”. The place where you complete the sale, where you can declare you have won the race!

All sales people desire the race to be short from start to finish. Sales people hope to navigate around a few laps versus taking a long and winding road trip with many starts and stops. Experienced sales people have the endurance for the longer trek; where as, new sales people often lack patience and the will to stay seated for the extensive ride.

Most “starts” in the race never make it to the finish line. They breakdown somewhere in the process. The early racers may believe they are driving a qualified opportunity, yet fail to make the needs analysis turn or drive off the road at negotiation. By laws of averages and experience, more than 90% of opportunities that start will fail to get all the way to close. No matter the product or service, for every 10 qualified starts only one winner will result.  In other words, nine out of 10 deals will never make it to the close.

Winning or losing creates great anxiety in sales. The race to closing is arduous. Gripping the wheel, staying on course, focusing ahead requires concentration, skill and patience. The better drivers know they need to use their road map and not veer off course. The effort to get to the finish line can be months and even years with large deals. The pressure to close can drive sales people to make some simple driving mistakes.They take shortcuts to get to the finish line, avoiding key road signs that tell you whether you are approaching the finish or have miles and miles to go. Worst, they give up and quit the race.

One of the best indications for assessing how close you are to the finish line is to ask for agreement at every turn. “Are we there yet?”  It is true, the repetitive process of asking “are we there” can get annoying for some; however, you need to identify your road markers.  You need to know how close you are to the end of the race. The only way to know is to ask if you and your prospect are in agreement. You don’t want to end up at the finish line and find out your paying passenger jumped out long ago.

Every turn you make in the sales process requires a pit stop. Stop. Check to make sure the prospect is still engaged, agreeing to the journey and willing to go the distance.  If you fail to engage at the check points, you will mostly run out of gas and never see the checkered flag. You successfully end the race when you cross the finish line with your new customer seated next to you and you both are headed to the winners circle.

“The winner ain’t the one with the fastest car, it’s the one who refuses to lose.” – Dale Earnhardt

Jamie Glass, President and CMO at Artful Thinkers @jglass8

Wishing, Wanting and Hoping Does Not Work in Business

What works in business is “doing”. Executing the plan requires effort. It is the muscle, the labor and the heavy lifting that gets the job done.

If you are wishing a prospect calls you to buy something, the wait is long. If you are wanting people to respond to your awesome tweet, the anticipation is agonizing. If you are hoping a great venture capitalist recognizes your incredible invention, your desires can go unfulfilled.

The message is not harsh or meant to burst your bubble. It is a direct call to action. Your wish, want and hope strategy needs reconsideration. It is not time to give up. It is time to change your strategy. Winners get rewarded for hard work. They do what others won’t do and that is how they win.

The sales person that makes the most calls, nurtures the most relationships and asks for the close multiple times, makes the sale. The marketing person that gets their message out through multiple channels using frequency and smart engagement tactics sees return on their marketing investment. Business leaders who knock on many doors to showcase their compelling business models that are producing multiple returns with predictable growth get the call backs from the investor community. Those that are putting their nose to the grindstone are realizing the rewards. The rewards of hard work.

Ambition needs to be equally measured by production. In a recent board meeting, the discussion soon centered on what we want to accomplish in the next five years. A boisterous board member remarked that the question was not relevant. The room became silent. Finally, someone asked him why would we not want to focus on our goals and define our strategy. He starkly replied, “You don’t have anyone to do the work.”

Every business needs leadership, directing activities and measuring accomplishments. Great leaders inspire others to believe they will be winners and thus hard work will pay off. The fact remains that without the “doers”, leaders are really a figure head. A strategy without anyone executing the tactics is a failed strategy. Labor is what drives businesses forward. Those that execute in the business are those that bring in the revenue, open new markets, and create innovative products.

The amount of time defining the mission, vision and strategy of your business needs to be matched exponentially by the hours of “doing”. Plans without the work tethered to tactics are simply great ideas. Goals are achieved through sweat. A vision is actualized through production.

Wishing, wanting and hoping are great for daydreaming. Put your dreams into action. The performance of you, your business and your teams are visible in hard evidence. Facts. Results. Failures. Accomplishments.

As you analyze the hours in your day spent on strategy and planning; multiple that amount of time by 10 and that is the minimum time you need to apply to working in your business. In other words, every hour of strategy and planning needs to be matched by 10 hours of laborious action. Match your planning time with a report card of hours worked on your to do list. The outcomes are a result of the effort. Measure your business success by the achievements, the outcomes, the results.

Wishing, wanting and hoping in business creates a crisis in confidence. Wishing is obscure. Wanting is desirous. Hoping is improbable. Doing is concrete. Working is absolute. A commitment in confidence is defined by action. Execution moves a business forward. Nike reminds us all the time to “Just Do It”. The simple motto is one that all businesses and leaders need to follow. Do it. Get it done. Then start again and just keep doing!

“The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense.” – Thomas A. Edison

Jamie Glass, President and CMO at Artful Thinkers @jglass8

Sales Referral Partners Lead to New Customers

Coins and plant, isolated on white backgroundUsing partnerships to grow your business is smart business. Partnering drives market awareness, aligns your brand with other credible brands, opens doors to new customers and can even provide value-added products and services to increase your average sale.

There are different types of partners, which are defined by the level of engagement and the agreements each party enters into to manage the relationship.

Sales Referral Partners are the entry level of business development partnerships. This type of partnership has little accountability and responsibility for performance. The value of this strategy is often used to grow market credibility or to align with a partner that has strong relationships with your prospective customers.

Entering into a partnership for referrals is a first step to test the waters in a relationship. It allows both entities to measure the commitment, willingness and effort required in working together to develop business. A sales referral partnership gives you the ability to determine if this is simply a PR initiative or will actually grow revenues. You can also monitor the organizational support in sales and marketing required to get deals closed.

The relationship can be a one-way lead pass or a two-way referral agreement. Both parties need to determine the best opportunity to refer business by passing on leads, receiving referrals or both.

Sales Referral Partners can be “handshake” in nature if you do not plan to hold anyone accountable for the outcome. It is commonplace for business service professionals who network together to develop non-binding relationships to help open doors and extend value by making credible introductions to other service providers or their respective clients.

If you plan to use compensation as an incentive to drive referrals you need a legal agreement, signed and executed between both entities. Compensation is a way to show appreciation for the referral and is an incentive to work together. If your partner offers to pay you for referrals, you also want to make sure it is in writing.

There are two ways you can determine the referral compensation.  Referrals can be compensated at the same rate as your sales commission.  For example, you can offer a set figure between 5-10% of the net proceeds of any closed deal.  You can also set the commission rate at the percentage of your average marketing spend to acquire a new customer. No matter the rate chosen, it should be perceived by your partner as rewarding and drive the expected behavior. Make it worthwhile for someone to act as your front-line sales person and help find you new customers. If the rate is not worthy of the effort, you can expect to pay few or no commissions, as you will likely not drive the behaviors needed to get a referral.

If you do choose to enter into a binding agreement that includes compensation for referrals, you need to set rules just as you do for your own employees. Specifically outline in your agreement how payments will be made and when the partner will be paid. For example, will you pay when the sale is made or when you are paid by the new customer? Be sure you state in your referral agreements if the referral fee will be paid over the lifetime of the relationship or for only the first sale.

It is critical that you track all your sales referrals, whether you enter into a formal agreement or simply take an email of a lead pass from a trusted business partner in your network. Enter the lead into your CRM with the proper tag to identify who gave you the lead. Enter when you receive the lead and monitor the progress of the lead as it moves through your sales pipeline. Measure all your partners quarterly to see how they are helping you grow revenues. It will provide you intelligence in how to manage the relationship for maximum profitability.

If you do enter into a sales partnership where the other entity is representing you on the front-line, you need to equip your partner with the same tools and resources you provide to your own sales team. You need to give them the ability to introduce you, what you do, the problems you solve and the value proposition of your products and services. Spend time providing regular updates about your business and services to keep your partners informed and engaged.

Top of mind awareness in this type of partnership is essential to getting value from your relationship. When you provide value, you will get value in return.  A partnership requires efforts by the giver and the receiver. Be persistent in developing good partnerships, measure activities and reward the efforts of those that help grow your business.

“Try not to become a person of success, but rather to become a person of value.”
– Albert Einstein

Other types of partnerships that will be discussed in future posts include Co-Selling Partners, Channel Partners, Strategic Partners and Investment Partners.

Jamie Glass, Founder, President and CMO of Artful Thinkers

Growing Your Business by Word of Mouth

ChatIf you had to solely rely on word of mouth and referrals to grow your business, could you? Would you?

It depends on your word of mouth power, the factor from which you attribute new customer acquisition by recommendations from others. The ultimate test to measure your word of mouth power is to forecast the growth of your business through a single source — referrals. Would you miss your revenue target or exceed financial expectations?

Word of mouth (WOM) requires talkers. People who are willing to stake their reputation on telling others about you, your business and your value. Word of mouth marketing (WOMM) may be the most cost effective way for you to grow your business, if you have invested in creating an army of talkers. Talkers are promoters, followers, happy customers and raving fans.

WOM marketing and advertising is often advocated as free. This is simply not true. The outcome of word of mouth may be free from cost of sales. WOM requires a significant investment. An investment in resources that will carry your message forward. An investment of time educating others on the value of your products and services. An investment in exceeding customer, partner and employee expectations. Acquiring new customers may factually require a smaller investment than buying ads and cold calling; however, it is not investment free. You need to invest in your word of mouth strategy to make sure it really pays off.

You can invest in a WOM strategy by giving people a reason to talk and by continually asking others to talk about you and your business.

Invest in WOM by giving people the proper tools to share your message. Talkers are your most valuable source for marketing, if they can speak from first hand experience. You can buy fans. Buying fans does not create loyalty or truth telling. The best talkers are those that trust you will deliver your value. They are someone who has found your solution to be worthy of sharing and promoting to others.

Knowing what others are saying about you and your business is measured by the amount of customers acquired through word of mouth.  If no one is referred to you by WOM, that is a danger sign. People are not telling others about your value. A bigger red flag might translate to a reputation problem.  When is the last time you asked your fans, customers or employees to spread the word? Are they enthused to get the word out or hesitant to refer others to your business?

People talk about what they like, what they trust and what they value.  All of these are earned markers of success in business. You earn them by doing a great job and exceeding expectations. The markers are currency. A currency that is transferred by word of mouth referrals. Start by setting your marker to do great work and then ask people to start talking. When they start talking, you have power. You have the power to win new customers by word of mouth.

“I would rather earn 1% off a 100 people’s efforts than 100% of my own efforts.”  J. Paul Getty

Jamie Glass, Founder, President and CMO of Artful Thinkers

Over the Hill or Through the Woods

iStock_000021617437_ExtraSmallThe beginning of every year is an opportunity to set your direction and communicate your path forward. It gives you the chance to review and define your goals, personally and professionally. For everyone else, it gives them the ability to know how to best support and follow the leader. Does everyone that can impacts your business know your 2013 plan?

The lack of a defined plan for the year, leaves everyone taking their “own” best path forward. In the end, this may not produce or represent the organization’s goals or objectives. People will be moving, activities will be happening, yet you may be headed to exactly where you did not “plan” to go. It is up to you to stop the wandering effect of your business and your followers. Set the direction. Communicate your exact plan. If you don’t have a plan, create one now — before it is too late.

If you have a plan and you have not shared it, this is the week to get it done! People and businesses need goals and plans. You can work endless amounts of time, expend great energy and spend a lot of money to end up in the wrong place. How did that happen? Usually it is because everyone is not working collectively on the same outcome. Everyone is heading in a direction, but it may not be the “right” direction.

As a leader, it is critical to everyone working with you that they understand your strategy and goals for the business. A plan provides the road map empowering you to define the activities and tasks. It opens the door to assigning responsibilities and setting accountability. More importantly, it gives you the capability of making a pivot or shifting your plans by creating a benchmark for how you will measure success along the path forward.

Working on a shared and communicated plan, gives business leaders a reason to stay in touch with employees, measure their progress and assess performance. People thrive on accomplishments and desire feedback. Knowing how they are contributing to the success of the business can only be measured by stated goals and objectives.

Get everyone working together. Options may be limited or options may be bountiful based on the path you choose to take the business. Communicate your choice. Will you be headed over the hill or through the woods. What will be in the basket full of goodies you will offer to your customers, vendors, employees and partners. How do they prepare to avoid risks? What will be awaiting when they arrive at the determined destination?

Your team is waiting for you to tell them the story. How it begins this year and how it will end. Provide regular updates and know that people will be looking for you to lead them in the direction you have shared.

“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” — Henry Ford

Jamie Glass, Founder, President and CMO of Artful Thinkers

Don’t Confuse Confidence with Enthusiasm

Enthusiastic blonde woman wearing big glasses.

Business leaders, entrepreneurs, sales people and marketers utilize enthusiasm to draw people to their ideas. They passionately motivate us to follow and take action.  Enthusiasm creates an emotional attachment.

Beyond the emotion, we soon find ourselves wanting more.  We want to trust that we should follow, not follow blindly. We need proof that the words are supported by facts. We need evidence. We are convinced by confidence.

Enthusiasm opens the door, confidence is the closer. We are attracted by enthusiasm. We believe in confidence.  Enthusiasm is selling, marketing and promoting.  Confidence is demonstrating, providing proof and creating trust to solve problems and fulfill needs.  Knowing the difference is very important.  Knowing how to balance the two requires expertise.

A person that lacks confidence will often exude excessive enthusiasm to mask insecurities or lack of evidence.  Have you ever found yourself so engaged by a sales person that you forget you are being sold? Enthusiasm wins. The result may be buyer remorse or worse, deception. Perhaps a new hire enthusiastically convinces you that they can “do the job” and soon the facts do not support reality. A very expensive mistake for a small business – costing the company time and money.

On the flip side, a confident person can be so overtly confident they fail to listen to others or fail to create a following.  Confidence is not arrogance. Confidence can easily delude rational thinking.  The love of power convinces the most confident they can not fail, thus losing all sense of humility and gratitude. When you look around you and no one is cheering you along, your confidence has removed your ability to attract others. There is no emotional appeal. You are now the leader of no one.

Confidence is defined as full trust; belief in powers, trustworthiness, or reliability of a person or thing, belief in oneself and one’s powers or abilities; self-confidence; self-reliance; assurance.

Enthusiasm is defined as absorbing or controlling possession of the mind by any interest or pursuit; lively interest.

How do you create balance and avoid the extremes? The perfect blend of confidence and enthusiasm is pitchman Ron “Ronco” Popeil.  He used demonstration to prove his inventions were viable and trustworthy. He used hype and selling to capture our mind share and imagination.  Who can forget his famous, “But wait, there’s more!”  Son of an inventor, Popeil is one of the most famous marketing pitchmen.  He showed you how you could dice onions, so you won’t shed a tear.  How you could depend on his electronic dehydrator to feed your children healthy fruit snacks instead of candy.  The lessons in all the infomercials where about solving a problem. Confidently.

What is the financial impact when you expertly blend confidence and enthusiasm?  Many of the Popeil inventions, most designed by Ron’s father, sold over 2 million. Ron Popeil is not rich solely from his fishing poles and spray on hair inventions. He is rich because he used enthusiasm to get our attention followed by confidently demonstrating how he solved our problems. He sold it. We bought it. We bought his confidence.

Whether you are pitching for investor dollars or motivating your sales team, you must build trust.  Demonstrate reliability and accountability.  Show the why.  Why you, why your company, why your ideas, why now.  Then use your persuasive personality to make sure the message is received, understood and people are left wanting more.

Enthusiasm without evidence is hype.  Hype doesn’t convince anyone, only gives us reason to be suspect.  Don’t oversell, don’t undersell. Confidence alone is mundane. Lead with enthusiastic confidence. A moderation of the two, equal but not separate, wins.

“Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.” Norman Vincent Peale

Jamie Glass, Founder, President and CMO of Artful Thinkers

Take the Chill Out of Cold Calling

iStock_000014805390_ExtraSmallCall reluctance is experienced by all business professionals, no matter their role.  Executives returning messages from upset customers, accounting personnel calling on past due notices and technology team members shopping for service providers.  Imagine if your entire day’s success was measured by the number of calls you made to convince strangers to buy your goods and services.

No. Not right now. No, thanks. Not interested. Maybe. Not in our budget. Hang up. Send me information. Yes.  That is the typical day of a sales person who is building their pipeline, repeated over and over again.  And we wonder why it is hard to find and retain great sales people. There are not many of us who would put at the top of our career ambitions to be rejected several times a day.

Cold calling is rarely listed as a favorite work activity; however, for millions it is what pays the bills. Selling is fundamental to our economy. There is no business until something is sold. Embracing the fact we all need to make cold calls, how can we take the chill out of one of the most important activities in business?  Here are a few tips to prepare for a day of cold calling:

1.  Know your target market. Every buyer is unique; however, they will have similar demographics, sociographics and psychographics. Spend time understanding the common data characteristics, along with behaviors and motivators.  For example, if you are targeting a small business owner, know what drives them to change.  What fears do they face in making buying decisions? What would benefit them the most personally and professionally when they say yes?  The more you know about them, the easier it will be for you to make a “warm call” into a known, targeted buyer.

2.  Feel the buyer’s pain. There is a natural tendency for inexperienced cold callers to talk about their reason for calling more than finding out why the buyer would benefit from their products or services.  Stop. Listen. If you are doing the most of the talking, you are losing.  You will never hear the buying signals when you are spewing facts, features, and generic benefits.  The best technique is to understand and relate to your buyer so they have confidence you are doing what is best for them, not you.

3.  Quantity matters. It is far easier to deal with rejection if you can get a “win” during your calling spree.  Plan with enough time in a single day to make calls in blocks of several hours. One, right after the other. Hang up, dial the next.  If you stagger your calls throughout the day or over longer periods, you are simply prolonging the pain. Dial until you get to yes and then dial more. Target how many yes calls you need in a day to hit your weekly and monthly goal.

4.  Needs analysis pays off.  Do your research on your buyer. You will be expected to speak to their individual business needs. There is no excuse to cold call blindly. “Google them”. It takes seconds now to find valuable data online about buyers.  You have access to profiles in LinkedIn, you have company websites with executive profiles, products and company information, public reports and news. Do your homework.

5.  Call with intent. What is your goal in cold calling?  What qualifies as a “yes”?  As with any business function, have a goal and objective with every call. The only way to get to the yes is to ask – ask for the sale. Get agreement along the way of your presentation and make sure you are aligned in your mutual objectives. You are solving a problem for the buyer. Countless deals are lost because people think making the call is the goal. That is not the win. The win is getting the deal.  Ask for their business.  It only counts when they say yes. When they say no, ask again.

A sales person has to remain calm in the chaos of measurable rejection. They have to keep their eye on the “prize”.  One more call to a yes.  One more opportunity to use their real skills and talents of negotiation and the power of persuasion to fulfill a need.

Respect and reward those that you depend on to make the calls to grow your business.  If you are the cold caller, prepare to win.  Know your target, be diligent in your process and never forget to ask.  It is the glimpse of hope, the possibility of acceptance and the incredible satisfaction of closing a deal that keeps a cold caller motivated. Commissions aside, most sales people will say they get the greatest reward from winning.  Winning when a customer says yes!

For every sale you miss because you’re too enthusiastic, you will miss a hundred because you’re not enthusiastic enough.” – Zig Ziglar


Jamie Glass, Founder, President and CMO of Artful Thinkers

Additional Sales Related Posts by Artful Thinkers

http://www.artfulthinkers.com/prepare-to-hire-a-sales-person

http://www.artfulthinkers.com/questions-sales-candidates-ask-that-should-stop-the-interview

http://www.artfulthinkers.com/a-bad-sales-hire-can-crush-a-small-business

http://www.artfulthinkers.com/5-essential-topics-for-a-winning-sales-proposal

 

 

Think with Yes in Mind

iStock_000020490072_ExtraSmallOne of the biggest challenges business leaders and entrepreneurs face is to keep an open mind to new ideas and other people’s suggestions. Employees, advisers and sales people all seem to have a new and improved way for growing, building, doing or fixing something.

Emails flood your inbox while proposals stack high on your desk. The company suggestion box stays filled with endless brainstorms.  You solve one problem and then there are dozens of better, faster, cheaper ways you could solve the next.  You can not ignore the influx.  Nor should you.

Great leaders thrive on contributions of others, no matter the format or context.  There is always the opportunity that one recommendation could save or make the company millions of dollars.  A customer satisfaction survey could help you enhance your product.  An employee recommendation could help you reduce cost on your next infrastructure project.  A shareholder could enlighten you about a rewarding strategic partner opportunity.

Staying in a “yes” state of mind requires great skill and discipline.  It requires you to be approachable, literally operating with an open door for easy access to anyone and everyone.  You have to be focused and an expert listener.  The presentation of a suggestion may be masked within a complaint or shared by someone that doesn’t regularly get an audience with the ultimate decision maker.  You have to be able to decipher the hidden meaning.  You have to be thinking yes this idea or information could make a difference.

When approached, if you are thinking yes you are open to possibilities.  If you are thinking no, you are closed to suggestions and in the mindset of  impossibilities.  It is a dangerous position for the person at the helm to be closed to new approaches and ways of doing business.  You will soon be on an island as others are discouraged from sharing information or guidance.  You eliminate contact with those that can help you the most.

How do we get into thinking no all the time?  It requires time to be in a “yes” mindset.  Time is a precious commodity for leaders. We also have been trained to say no before we say yes.  In fact, good salespeople are trained to overcome your no.  Showing resistance when you are approached by a sales person is only a challenge.  Sales people learn early in their careers that it is often seven no’s to get to the yes.  Saying no only makes them more persistent.  It is far easier to say yes!  Yes, send me some information.  Yes, tell me why you would recommend we adopt this idea.

Always thinking yes before no does not mean that you implement every suggestion.  In fact, with being so open and approachable, it will be easier to discern what should be put on the list of possibilities.

Never limit what you can accomplish by thinking no before you think yes.  Maybe, just maybe, it will change how you and your business accomplishes all your goals and objectives in the coming year.

Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.” ― Gandhi

Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

2013 is Here to Stay

iStock_000019254561_ExtraSmallAnother New Year. We made it, despite the ominous predictions of the Mayans and challenges that seemed insurmountable. We have a whole year to put four new numbers at the end of every month and day — 2013 is here to stay.

As the hours tick away and we realize there is no turning back to a year gone by, we may spend time reflecting on the past for all the greatness or demands that became part of our personal history.  How much time should we reflect on what was and what might of been?

We put a lot of pressure on ourselves and others as we leap ahead into the first day of a new year. Though the date is only a marker in time, it brings significance to recall where we have been and where we want to go.  We are conditioned to set goals, broadcast resolutions, make commitments.  We are all lined up in business to start our annual sprint toward revenue targets, profits and sales quotas.  Departments and executives lay out the vision and business plan. We stand and cheer as we round the corner and “pass go” to do it all again. We give ourselves and others another year to achieve great success.

Yet it can be hard to forget some of our nagging challenges and failures of the past 365 days. The reflection of what we did not accomplish can cloud our view of what lies ahead. Obsessive reflection deters progress. Could have, would have, should have really needs to be can, will and shall in the coming year.

We are all moving forward, together!  The earth is rotating and time is passing.  We can not stop our momentum. Some may want to slow the inevitable; however, there is not a time machine to take us back.  If we continually reflect on the better days of the past, we will miss the turns we need to take in the future.  We will be left behind.  It happens to very successful businesses and leaders as they get mired in their own greatness and fail to see what lies ahead.

We must focus on what can get done, what we will accomplish in the New Year. Historical performance gives guidelines of the best path forward.  At every fork, we need to turn to previous decisions and analyze how well we executed on each task or goal to determine the reality of which turn we take in the future. We don’t drive always looking in the rear view mirror. Watching what is behind, does not allow us to focus on what’s ahead — in life or in business.

Memories serve great purpose. Predicting the future requires history.  It is important to use past performance, decisions, data, research to better predict future outcomes.  It does not mean we should get buried in our past or mesmerized by our own reflection so that we fail to see the path forward.

We should all take time to reflect – briefly.  Use our past to build our map to the future. Know our goals.  It’s time to move ahead. The 2012 bus is leaving the station. The calendar tells us so.

As we move forward into 2013 with celebratory optimism, it is up to everyone to make choices that make us better and more prosperous.  Hope burns eternal. So, clink that glass half full and let the confetti fly! One thing is absolute, 2013 is here to stay.

Happy New Year!

Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

 

How May I Help You?

If you provide service as part of your value, the first opportunity you have to learn about your customer’s needs is to ask one very simple question, “How May I Help You?”.  These five words will enable you to define the pain and opportunity. Carefully listening to the response opens the door for how you can provide the greatest value, how you might actually help!

Asking someone how you can help them may be viewed as a conversation opener. It does provide a moment to engage. Engagement is critical in moving a target to a potential buyer or consumer of your goods and services.  What better way to get the dialogue started by asking how you might fulfill a request or need.

Asking someone how you can help them is different than using professional etiquette to ask, “How are you today?”.  Though this is a nice sentiment, it doesn’t require you to stop and listen. In fact, most people use this as a long form hello or welcome.  Many will respond with a trite and unemotional “good”, when in fact it may not be how they are at all. It limits your engagement.

The better way to open up a dialogue with a potential customer is to ask how to help them.  It requires you to pay attention.  It means you have to participate in a conversation that will have to use your perception skills, your listening skills and your problem solving skills.  A much higher demand upon your brain than a rehearsed canned response of “good”.

A person skilled in the art of providing outstanding service will anticipate the potential requests that will ensue from the question of how you can help.  The proposition of providing outstanding service also demands that the response demonstrates how you plan to deliver the help or better qualify the type of help that will best serve the customer’s needs.

Expectations of your engagement will be defined when you ask how you can help someone.  It is up to you then to determine how you can deliver that help or point them in the right direction.  The first impression is set by your willingness to open the door, invite someone in and learn of their requirements.

Here are some easy ways to remember how to create the greatest value of HELP:

H = HOW the person defines their need when you ask how you can help them. It is your opportunity to determine HOW you can be the best in serving them when you ask the question.

E = EXPECTATIONS are set when a person is asked how you can help them.  Knowing exactly what is expected gives you the opportunity to WOW them with your determination to provide outstanding service.

L = LISTEN carefully when you ask someone how you can help them, as they will assume you will hear and understand their needs.  Your first response will be their first impression of how good you will be in helping them resolve their problem or attain their goal.

P = PREPARE to deliver when you ask how to help.  Every request may be unique; however, you have standard services that will fit the needs with or without some customization.  Know your responses and the value that you will provide in helping them.

Most important, when asking someone how you can help them, is to respond with honesty.  If you cannot help, tell the person you are not able to help.  It is a measure of your integrity.  If you can extend yourself by giving them a referral to others that can help or pointing them to another resource, you will be a better service provider.  Your value to help does not require you to actually provide the help, only yield to a pathway to gets the person to where they can get the help they need.  Then you are truly a great service provider.

Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.  ~Mohammed Ali

By Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

Best Gift to Any Business is a Referral

Are you looking for the perfect gift to give your customers or clients this holiday season?  There is one gift that has far greater lasting value beyond a spoken word of thanks, a sparkly holiday card or overflowing basket of nuts and baked goods.  It is the ultimate gift — the gift of a referral.

When you tell a client or company that you believe in what they offer, so much so you are willing to tell others, you are bestowing a very special tribute. Beyond the confirmation, providing an unsolicited referral requires thought and work. It is a bit like the effort of making a homemade holiday gift versus buying all your gifts online. You have to think carefully about the need and fit between the referral and referee. You are attaching the value of your name as an endorsement to the product or service.  You will forever be the link between the buyer and seller. Your gift will often be appreciated more because of the effort you put into the “making” of the gift.

Another reason for giving a referral as your holiday gift this year is the financial value. Customer referrals are instrumental for business growth.  In fact, the value of a referral can even be more than a single purchase, especially if the client offerings are complex or dependent on developing long-term relationships with valuable prospects. Your gift can shave months off of the sales cycle.  A referral can reduce the cost of sales and customer acquisition costs. You could be gifting a customer and potentially a profitable customer with significant real lifetime customer value (LCV).

Your word matters and your actions speak louder than your words.  Everyone is grateful for a ringing testimonial.  It serves great purpose to have your endorsement out into the marketplace to attract buyers for your clients and show your support.  The actual gift of a referral is going beyond championing your like and approval.  It is an affirmation that you believe both sides of the transaction will benefit. You are providing a seal of approval for an engagement between the buyer and the seller.

Yes, we all want customer recommendations on LinkedIn, Yelp and on our Facebook and Google+ pages. It is good business practice to endorse your customers and clients when they buy your services.  This will encourage them to do the same for your business.  Word of mouth and online reviews are proven to work.  Market studies show buying decisions are impacted by referrals, as noted in HubSpot’s example of the impact of social media referrals: 71% More Likely to Purchase Based on Social Media Referrals [Infographic]. These endorsements are reviews of our work. They are critical to marketing today.

Knowing the value of a review and recommendation, the referral puts financial value to your words.  As you put together your shopping list this holiday season, think about the best gift for your customers.  A gift that only you can provide by making a meaningful connection.  A word of gratitude followed by an invitation to do well.  A contact that can lead to revenue. Give the ultimate gift to those that pay you. Give back by giving them a customer!

The greatest gift is a portion of thyself.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

By Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

Have You Identified and Protected Your IP?

TrakLight

Intellectual Property (IP) isn’t just for the engineers – every business has IP. Have you identified and protected yours? This doesn’t have to be an expensive, lengthy process. Traklight makes it easy to identify and protect your IP today.  Traklight understands that every dollar counts when you are launching a start up.

ID your IP is an easy to use, cost effective program designed by a team of legal professionals specializing in IP identification. The result: A report unique to your business that outlines your potential intellectual property and what you need to do to protect it.

The IP Vault is used to store, organize and verify your IP.  Simply upload to Traklight’s secure site and we’ll time-stamp, store and protect your documents.  A perfect tool, giving you easy access and peace of mind that your ideas are safe and critical dates can be verified by the click of a button.

As inventors, you may ask if the AIA makes inventorship and some of the record keeping and dates obsolete? Traklight’s Chief Product Officer Eric Menkhus shares the following insights:

  • The US patent system is about to undergo one of the most extensive changes in its history, moving away from “first to invent” system that has been the backbone of the US patent system for as long as any of us can remember.
  • The America Invent Act (AIA) will start being phased in starting in March 2013, implementing many changes that will move the US patent system closer to the systems of many foreign countries.

Will the change make inventorship obsolete in the US? After all, most foreign jurisdictions operate on a “first to file” system that rewards those that file a patent application first and not those who invent first.  The short answer to whether inventorship will still matter in the United States is YES!

The AIA will not move the US to a pure “first to file” system. The AIA implements a system that rewards the first INVENTOR to file. So, proving inventorship of the patentable subject matter will still be an important step to obtaining and/or defending a patent.

Date of invention will still matter, although in a different manner than under the old system.  In the “first to invent” system, the person that invented first received priority when to applications were filed on the same invention, so proving an invention date was critical.  Under the new system, the date of invention can still be important in situations in which one party is trying to prove that the other merely copied their invention and are not inventors and cannot, therefore, obtain a patent on the invention. Being able to show when an invention was made and other important dates such as publication, etc. can greatly assist an inventor in proving that someone else filed an application based on learning about the inventor’s idea.

So what does this mean? This means that keeping updated notes and dates will still be important under the AIA.  Don’t throw away those inventors’ notebooks! Or, of course, you can migrate your inventors’ notebook and other records online using Traklight’s IP Vault so you can have third party verification of dates, times, etc.

Visit www.traklight.com to learn more about identifying and protecting your IP. Before you disclose your IP, before you raise capital, before you go to market.

By Mary Juetten, Founder of Traklight (Version of the article first appeared on Womentorz)

Disclosure:  I, Jamie Glass, serve on the Advisory Board for Traklight.

Steve Blank Opens Library of Entrepreneur Tools

Steve Blank creates Open Source Entrepreneurship by posting a series of tools and resources.  The guru of the lean startup movement continues to give back and support the entrepreneur community by organizing helpful resources.

Visit his post at http://steveblank.com/tools-and-blogs-for-entrepreneurs/ for the plethora of tools, tips and resources every entrepreneur should bookmark.

The link has also been added to Arizona Capital and Growth Resources: http://www.artfulthinkers.com/arizona-capital-and-business-growth-resources.

Prepare for a Happy Business New Year

There are only a few weeks left that will define how your business performed this year. Are you happy with the anticipated results?  If the answer is yes, are you prepared to deliver the same performance next year or go to the next level?  If the answer is no, are you prepared to deal with the obstacles and challenges that prevented you from achieving your goals this year?

There may be little time to change the results of 2012. There is plenty of time to prepare for changes in 2013, if you start now.  Pivoting from your current trajectory requires strong leadership and preparing a detailed plan to execute starting the first day of the new year.

Reviewing the past several months, is your business foundation strong enough to build the next phase of your expansion?  Your foundation needs to be durable, providing the necessary support to accelerate current business practices that will generate more revenues and improve overall performance.  A business that is built from repeatable practices for product development, sales, operations, marketing and service, is a business that is ready for sustainable growth.

In your evaluation of the past year, if you are not convinced your business is running at maximum capacity or operating efficiently, it is well advised to spend the final weeks of the year to identify the primary obstacles and demands your business require to get on track for better performance in the coming year.  In other words, now is the time to invest in your business to get it on track for growth.  Do you need to invest in people, products or infrastructure?  What will it require in time and finances to build a strong foundation for future growth?

One of the biggest challenges for small business owners is to look outside the day-to-day operations to see the threats and opportunities for growth.  If you do not have an advisor, seek help from peers who can give you an objective assessment.  You want to have a comprehensive plan with orientation toward your business goals and tactics that can be executed upon by your committed team members at the start of the year.  Your plan needs to be opportunistic and realistic.

Now is the time to plan for the coming year.  How much do you need to invest?  Will you need to pivot from plans that have not provided expected results in the prior months?  Your team is waiting for your definitive plan of action.  They want to know where they are headed so they can meet your expectations.  Take the steps necessary to get ready for the best possible outcomes in the coming new year.  The action you take today, will impact where you end up next year.

“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” ― Yogi Berra

By Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

Letting Go of Old School Business

We are working in an agile, lean, bootstrapping world.  We are delivering big data globally, in nanoseconds.  We manage and run businesses 24/7 with on demand expectations from customers, employees and vendors.

Are you operating your business in modern times or like it is the 70′s, 80′s, 90′s or even the last decade? Your established ways of doing business may be holding you back. You may be out of touch with what can move your business forward now. It is time to let the “old school” business practices go and embrace progress.

Aged leadership techniques for running businesses that worked 20 and 30 years ago are great for television dramas, but not for motivating others to help you create a thriving organization.  Managing from top down with authority and control is counter productive to collaboration and innovation.  Dictatorial bosses are not respected today.  Confrontation and intimidation were once seen as ways to “control the population” of workers.  Today, it is misguided and creates resentment, all barriers to inspiring others to come together to solve problems and flourish in the workplace. Is your leadership style up-to-date?

Work environments that are open develop greater trust and equality in mission.  The millennial workforce is community driven, with a sense that you do well by doing good.  Parents and institutions work hard to instill the values of sharing. It is expected to carry over to the workplace.  Openness and freedom of expression are as important as basic rewards and even compensation.  Younger generations will work hard, but old carrot and stick approaches are less appealing than basic respect and the feelings they experience by doing good work.

Retro is cool for clothing and design. It doesn’t appeal to where people want to spend a good portion of their day. Are you keeping up with the times?  Are the visual clues in your office showing you are fresh with new ideas or stuck in generations past? Is your desk cluttered with paper files, stacks of business cards or even shelves loaded with management and leadership books that were promoted two decades ago?

Here are some clues that you may be stuck in your old school business ways.

Micro-management feels good.  No one wants to be controlled by the overlord.  If you are running the numbers every morning, watching arrival times and wondering how to squeeze out another ounce of productivity, it is time to refocus your energy. Today, results and outcomes move businesses ahead of their competition.  Align your team with organizational goals and expectations. Celebrate accomplishments.

Dress code policy is a regular meeting topic.  Ties and nylons are bygones as standard office attire. Loosen up! You want people to be comfortable when they are working hard.  Innovators want to collaborate with peers, not be addressed by the “suit” in the room. Do you represent yourself as an equal that inspires others or someone that dresses to impress?  If your employees are impressed, it is because you empower and motivate them.

You love your big executive suite.  Big offices represent old austerity days.  Everyone knows you earn the big bucks with your title. The expansive office gives the impression you are unreachable and untouchable.  It does not increase your cool factor. If you have spent a big budget on office decor, it shows your priority. How about an office ping pong table, an employee lounge or creative think tank room?  Big offices exclude you from working with your team.

If you have a time clock on the wall, you are truly old school.  There may be legal reasons you may need to track or “clock” hours; however, time clocks bolted on the wall give the impression you are still operating in the industrial world.  Computer software can be set up on any standing office computer or tablet and help you remove the visual of ancestral ways of tracking every second of work time.

Your technology budget for 2013 has a large line item for new desktop computers.  Laptops, tablets, smartphones are how productive people operate today.  Information available via online “secured” vaults and in the cloud storage provides convenience to vital documents and programs. Carry-on computing gives you freedom and accessibility to work from any where at any time.  Times are changing and desktops are definitely old school.

Are you still using out of office notes?  Throw the pink slips away. It’s not new, it is called voicemail. Use it. Return the calls left for you.  It reflects your follow-through and respect for others.  Better yet, encourage your team to find you via text and call you on your mobile device.  Make it easy to be in touch.

There may be financial, legal and security reasons that you can not leave all your old school ways of doing business behind.  Make sure that there really is a reason for holding on to the older ways you conduct business.  If the only reason you are using old school business techniques or tools is inability or lack of interest to change, you will be left behind. Your employees see it.  Your customers know it.  Your vendors and suppliers are pained by it.  It’s time to move into the new school of doing business.

Today is apps and accessibility, cooperation and alliances, nanoseconds and responsiveness.  Being a progressive in business creates more opportunities for growth, in people, profits and productivity.  Let the old go and go anew.  You might like the results.

Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning. – Benjamin Franklin

By Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

Prepare to Hire a Sales Person

It is the time of year that businesses start to look at their anticipated revenues and question if they can increase the top line with additional sales resources.  A sales person is an investment in your business. Preparing for the role within your organization is as equally important as hiring the right person.

Before you hire anyone, have you created a sales plan?  The sales plan is where you define your revenue goals for the year, the budget for required headcount and support resources, and the tactics you will employ to achieve your goals.  At a minimum, you must define what you are willing to invest into the selling of your products and services for every expected new dollar of revenue.  Once you make this calculation, set your budget based on your investment requirements and expected returns with new sales.

Now that you have your sales plan outlined, here are some steps to help you get ready for hiring a new sales person:

  • Sales Role: Will your new hire be a direct, field sales person or an inside sales person?  A direct sales person will have a larger budget for travel and expenses, in addition to higher compensation.  The expense of a direct sales person can be offset by a putting in place a higher quota.  A direct sales person is expected to negotiate larger contracts and develop profitable long-term relationships over the phone and in person.  An inside sales person will conduct all of their selling over the phone. They will be qualifying opportunities, making online presentations, negotiating and asking for the business over the phone.  Inside sales people will have a smaller quota and also typically sell smaller priced products and services that do not require face-to-face presentation and negotiation.
  • Job Description:  Create a job description that clearly defines the requirements for the role, responsibilities and expectations of what the sales person must deliver.  Be specific. State the sales goals, types of customers they need to sell and how they will engage with prospects.  Will they be a “hunter” or a closer or both?  Will they need to have existing relationships?  How much experience in your industry?  Note how your sales person will be measured and how you view success.
  • Quota and Territory:  Generally inside sales quotas will start at $100,000 to $250,000 in new business revenue per year.  The defined quota will always depend on the sales price.  A direct sales person can be expected to have a quota of $500,000 to $1,000,000 a year in sales.  Again price of product will help set the quota, along with experience of the sales hire.  If you hire someone with no experience in achieving a million dollars in sales, they probably won’t hit a million dollar quota no matter how much they sell you on the prospects.
  • Comp Plan and Incentives:  Detail how the sales person will be compensated.  Typically there are three factors in sales compensation:  sales commissions on new business, incentives to exceed quotas and bonuses for quality or quantity.  Define your compensation and commission rules.  When will the sales person be paid?  You can set different commissions for different products, based on profitability.  The average sales commission is 4-8% of top line sales revenue.  One word of advice, the easier the plan is to follow, the more focused your sales person will be on achieving plan instead of trying to figure out when and how they get paid.
  • Sales Process:  The sales process defines the steps a sales person will engage to find, qualify, present, negotiate and close a deal.  If you know the process, you can better hold a sales person accountable to how they manage their sales funnel.  It will also provide you data on how many leads you need to support the number of deals you expect to close each year.  Data is your friend in sales.
  • Marketing and Sales Support:  Sales people will typically work independently; however, you can shorten the sales cycle by providing sales tools and marketing support to help educate the customer, drive the process forward and substantiate the value propositions of your products.  Prepare a training plan to educate the new hire on what they will sell.  A minimum requirement for any sales person is a CRM tool.  Your prospects and clients are a company asset.  Track and manage the data and make sure it is stored in a company repository.
  • Measurable Success:  Before you make the hire, know exactly how you will measure their success.  A sales person, no matter the level of experience, will have a ramp up before they start closing deals.  Your sales cycle can range from weeks to years.  The more complex the sale, the higher price of your products and the more consultative the sales process, the more likely it will take six months or more before you see traction with even the most experienced sales person.  Your only exception will be to hire a person that already has relationships with your targeted customers.  The ramp-up will decrease with selling experience; however, you will pay a lot more for this type of sales person in base and expected overall compensation.  Do the math.  Can you invest more early on to increase odds of higher returns with a shorter sales cycle?

An investment in sales is one of the most important decision an owner makes in the life cycle of a business.  Making a bad sales hire can crush your business.  Prepare and plan for success.  Set reasonable expectations and measure performance.  Sales is a numbers game.  Know the numbers, inside and out.  Know what you spend.  Know what you want in return. Know how the sales person will achieve the sales goals.  Prepare your plan so you know what success looks like and then execute your plan.

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” ― Benjamin Franklin

By Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

Virtues of a Trusted Advisor

The role of a trusted advisor is honorable.  A business leader believes you can help them achieve their goals, overcome their challenges and drive new opportunities.  Your advice is so valuable to the business, they choose to invest valuable resources, including time and money, for your guidance, products and services. They trust you can make a difference.

In the position of power, an advisor must demonstrate characteristics of greatness.  An advisor must garner the trust needed to challenge, collaborate and guide leaders in personal and professional ways.  The considerable distinction of being a trusted advisor must be representative of virtues that such power bestows.

Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founders of the United States, listed his 13 virtues in a notebook. He referenced the virtues to measure how he lived each day. The virtues included temperance, silence, order, justice and humility.  He developed the list of virtues when he was 20 years old and used it in some form, according to his autobiography, for the rest of his long life.

Though there are hundreds of virtuous characteristics, there are a few common virtues practiced by many high quality trusted advisors.  What would you include on your list of virtues to guide you in the expected role of a trusted advisor?  Here are ten virtues that top my list:

Ten Trusted Advisor Virtues

  1. Diligent – Be a good steward. Spend other’s resources with care and great due diligence to maximize a positive impact. Value other’s money as if it is your own.
  2. Integrity – Be honest and ethical in your role as a confidant.
  3. Silence – Listen to learn.  Advising others requires you to listen and learn before you conclude and guide.
  4. Courage – Challenge ideas, policies, programs and standards with candor, evidence and experience.  You need not be right, you need to state your beliefs with conviction.  It is your role.
  5. Credible – Prove you are worthy of trust.  Believe in your ideas and recommendations. Convey your belief with proof.
  6. Share – Take part in the business.  Be a partner. Contribute by sharing ideas and making valuable connections.
  7. Reliable – Be present in real time.  Demonstrate your loyalty by being available to help when help is needed.  Be on time. Deliver on time.
  8. Logical – Solve problems with logic.  Business decisions can be emotional.  Provide the logical pros and cons to help others make sound decisions.
  9. Wisdom – Use your knowledge and judgement to be resourceful.  Experience has value.  Speak and advise on what you know and when you don’t know, find other resources that do know.
  10. Respect – Respect those you advise and respect your position of power.  The quality of your work will be demonstrated by your ability to deliver, real and actionable advice. Earn respect by doing.

Virtues are often referred to as ethics.  Virtues are your moral compass, how you conduct yourself. As a trusted advisor, you have the responsibility to demonstrate the value of your advice. Trust is earned. It is not to be taken for granted. Your word, your actions, your work, your products, your services, all must represent the values you profess.

If you are so bold to declare your personal and professional virtues, take the time to measure the impact of your chosen words.  Do your virtues help you to better help those paying for your guidance?  Deliver what you say you will deliver. Be virtuous and then you will be trusted. A Trusted Advisor.

So our virtues lie in the interpretation of the time.” – Shakespeare

By Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

Share this:

Be in Your Business Now

As a business leader, you have three options of where to put your focus. The Past. The Future. The Now. Being present in your business now, gives you better leverage to improve from your past with the valuable foresight to manage risks and opportunities in your future.

21st century businesses require real time accessibility and responsiveness to meet the changing tides of immediate customer demands.  Innovation is quickly driving businesses forward and leaving many behind. Being disciplined on the point of convergence of past and future, enables you to put 100% of your business efforts into the business now.

It is important to know who you are, where you are coming from and where you are going. The past provides insights that can help your business pivot and shorten learning curves.  As a leader, you depend on the knowledge gained through good and bad experiences to improve performance and business outcomes.  There is only one path to progress.  You have to move from the past to the future through your business now.

Living in your business past, with regret or admiration, does not give you the necessary focus to be centered in the now. “When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.” ~Alexander Graham Bell

Leaders that spend time relishing in their great accomplishments may be ignoring the unknown threats or countless competitors looking for better, faster ways to knock you off your pedestal.  Put the plaque on the wall, file the kudos and at-a-boys and know that your business needs you to be working on what’s next – now.

Likewise, if you are spending your business now redefining vision statements, missions and the company’s next BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal), you may be missing the bumps and obstacles that threaten you from achieving important milestones in your daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly journey.  Your revenues depend on you to zero in on the now.

One way to keep you in the now is to have a mission statement that puts you squarely in the present moment.  Starbucks puts its’ employee, partner and customer focus in their business now with their simple mission statement.  It says, ”Our mission: to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”

There is no arguing that you need business goals, strategies and plans.  The only way to work in the business now is to know where you are headed.  Every business needs short and long term goals.  There is a big difference in working in the future or working on the future — now.  You can be working on inventions that will change the world.  If you focus on how the world will be versus your invention, you will lose your edge in getting the invention to market.  A daydreamer trap for the creative mind.

Have you ever met an entrepreneur that has hundreds of ideas.  When you talk to them, they focus on all the ways they can improve on an idea, open new markets and make millions and billions — in the future.  They have 20 solutions for every problem.  Yet, there is always one thing that is missing in their enthusiasm for what’s ahead, their business now.

How is your business today?  What is holding you back this week?  What challenges are stopping you from being that billionaire NOW?  When you are steadfast on living in future, you are probably not paying attention to the work required to get you there.  If your employees always see you so far ahead of them, they often lack accountability to what they need to do to make the business a success today.

There is a fragile difference between a vision and an illusion.  Apple is a perfect example of a company dedicated to the business now.  We often look at each new product as ahead of it’s time.  Some will remark, how visionary!  Apple looks at their new products as another completed project. The next Apple inventions we will be enamored with are already in production.  Apple is constantly improving products ahead of their time by working in the business now.  They do so with an eye to the future, short term and long term goals; however, they produce and service in the now.  Innovation is part of their work culture.  We, their consumer, are focused on their future. That does not deter them from meeting our demands now, it only keeps us loyal.

Use your past to better predict your future.  It is good business intelligence.  Being present for your customers, employees, partners today is what has the greatest impact on revenues now.  Investing in your future, is working on your business now!  Don’t ignore what’s right in front of you.  What you uncover by working on the business now could define you and your company evermore.  

“Forever is composed of nows.” ~Emily Dickinson

By Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

Entrepreneurial Lessons from Your First Job

We have all had one. A first job. Someone looked you in the eye and said, “You are hired!” The decision confirms they trusted you to represent their business. They were willing to invest in you, train you, teach you how to earn a paycheck.

Your confidence swells with the first yes. Your stride is more brisk, your smile broadens. You did it! You are accepted, wanted and needed. Someone recognizes you for being a contributor. Then, the apprehension begins. What if they don’t like me? What happens if I make a mistake? Can I do this job? The overwhelming reality of being responsible of earning a wage is measured by the sudden onset of nervous excitement.

Many of the emotions and fears of starting your first job are similar to starting your first business. Entrepreneurs have to balance the adrenaline associated with being in complete control with the reality that businesses fail. Lingering in the bravado are facts from the Small Business Administration (SBA) that nearly a third of businesses fail within the first two years. Reverting to your confidence that says “just do it” because you are different and better, you focus on the statistical favor that you do have a 66% chance you will make it.

The first time you do anything is valuable experience. Recalling what you learned at your first job is an excellent way to apply past experience to a new first – starting your own business. Here are some tips to take from your first job that are nuggets of wisdom to apply to your startup venture:

1.  Embrace the Fear of Failing – You have an option to be paralyzed in fear or embrace the opportunity that if you try, you may succeed.  We all know examples of the person who tried over and over again, failing countless times before they finally made it!  They never quit. Using the knowledge of each failure, big or small, prepare yourself for the possibility of next time.

2.  Take Pride in Your Work – Others are counting on you to help them.  Any business is defined by satisfying a need.  If they need you, take satisfaction in your ability to help.  In the early stage of a new business, people will flock to those that are confident in what they deliver.  Uncertainty creates worrisome customers, or even worse, potential customers who never buy.

3.  Always Be Learning – You are glowing green at your first job.  You are a blank slate.  Your training is the groundwork for how you will perform. Soaking up expertise from those that proceeded you is smart business.  What you don’t know today, can propel your business to the next level. Find expertise.  Be a knowledge consumer.

4.  Businesses Reward Hard Work – As you master the skills necessary to do your first job and do it well, you soon learn that businesses reward performance.  Promotions and raises are given to those that work hard and do more than their peers.  Your customers will reward you for your hard work.  Their loyalty is associated to your ability to outperform your competition.

5.  Listening Skills are Important – Listening to your customers in your first job and in your first business is elementary.  Your customer is paramount to delivering products and services that meet the customer’s needs.  Failing to listen increases your odds of an unhappy customer.  Unhappy customers tell others of their experience.  Listening improves potential for high customer satisfaction.

6.  Time Management is Critical – There are no rewards for showing up late or missing work.  One of the most important skills acquired in the first job is how to manage your time.  You soon learn there are no acceptable excuses.  Juggling priorities becomes primary to your success.  Owning a business depends on the genius of multitasking.  You will work harder and that means you have to work smarter to get the job done.

7.  Handling Money Builds Trust – When you take money for any product or service, you are now accepting the currency of trust.  You are expected to provide equal or greater value in the exchange of cash for goods.  Exceeding expectations builds credibility.  Manage others money with the same respect you demand from those that manage yours.

The knowledge acquired from a first job is fundamental to a startup. How you apply that knowledge and skill will often result in similar or better experience as an entrepreneur. The mistakes are lessons of how to do something different. The successes are foundations to build upon.

Challenge yourself to reflect on your first job. What was the best lesson learned on your first job? Can you instill this in your values, culture and standards as a business owner today?

Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely. ~Auguste Rodin

By Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

Return on Marketing Requires an Investment

One of the most important decisions a business owner or CEO will make is establishing a budget for marketing. Like talent, product and infrastructure, marketing must be viewed as a necessity in business.  Marketing expenditures are essential investments for growth.

An average SMB (small-to-medium size business) will typically set a marketing budget at 4% to 6% of sales revenues.  There are several factors that can impact this budget.  As an example, a well-funded startup may invest 20% of revenues for aggressive consumer acquisition programs and advertising.  Notice, the “well-funded” qualifier.  Likewise, there is always difficulty in setting a budget for a pre-revenue company. Entrepreneurs will often spend most of their investments in product and then struggle to bring in sales. Startup costs must include marketing.  For every dollar invested in product, people and infrastructure, an equal dollar should be set aside for investment in sales and marketing.

Here are three simplified phases for marketing investment planning:

1.  Brand Awareness:  Your marketing investment should start with focus in reach and awareness including brand identity, a website, company advertising and direct and social marketing.

2.  Engagement: The second phase invests in additional marketing programs that support your sales efforts including lead generation, publicity, web marketing (SEO and SEM), market validation, events, advertising, presentations and customer case studies.

3.  Nurture:  Finally, maximize your marketing investments with customer communications, CRM services, loyalty initiatives and nurturing programs to maintain the valuable potential and existing customer relationships.  Once you have them engaged, use your marketing spend wisely to develop and grow your relationship.

After your marketing budget is defined, you will want to establish how you will measure the success of your investment.  ROMI is the acronym for Return on Marketing Investment.  The calculation is total revenue divided by marketing spend.  ROMI = Revenue ($) / Marketing Spend ($).

Some marketing activities such as branding, advertising, PR and social media are harder to track impact and influence. As a rule of thumb, the simple ROMI equation gives you a thumbnail sketch of your return on your marketing investment.  ROMI is a good KPI (key performance indicator) for leaders to use in the business dashboard.

If you are a startup or pre-revenue, the marketing spend will be set as your budget for purposes of forecasting. Some may argue that there should be other factors added or subtracted, such as attributable revenues; however, most businesses have a difficult time tracking every dollar spent on activities such as advertising. Start with the broadest “buckets” and as you increase your marketing reporting and tracking sophistication, you can scrutinize spending with finer analysis.

Marketing is an investment.  Success in ROMI requires budgeting, reporting and analysis in order to fully actualize the benefits.

In lean times, business owners have a tendency to cut marketing spend. Lost time and lack of investment, even during challenging periods, impacts long-term growth. The result may not be felt right away. It is an illusion. Prolonged periods of reduced marketing spend can dramatically reduce sales opportunities. The fewer dollars you put into a marketing budget the greater the exponential impact on future revenues.

Similar to an investment savings account, the more you put into your “growth” marketing account, the higher potential return on your investment. The more dollars spent on high risk marketing activities, the greater risk to returns. Any sound investment advisor, marketing or financial, will counsel a business owner and CEO to invest based on the organization’s risk tolerance.  Marketing investments should be treated like any financial investment.  Know your risk tolerance, invest accordingly.  If the business has low tolerance for risk, eliminate marketing spend in expensive tactics that are difficult to measure. Always diversify your investment to mitigate risk.

In order to qualify for a return, it requires an investment.  Failing to set aside funds to market is failing to invest in business sustainability.  Expectations of sales without an adequate marketing budget is a business built on luck. Though we would all like to be lucky, if you plan to sell something, invest in marketing to create the sale.

I have a problem with too much money. I can’t reinvest it fast enough, and because I reinvest it, more money comes in. Yes, the rich do get richer.” -Robert Kiyosaki

By Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

Leaders are Superior Deciders

Business leaders and entrepreneurs are faced with endless decisions. The effect of every decision can impact the forward motion of the organization, address critical business needs or simply keep operations steadfast.  Decisions are part of the bosses daily to do list.  How decisions are made reflects your effectiveness and judgement.

As a leader, you have the role as crowning decider. Confidence in your ability to make decisions impacts how others recognize you inside and outside your organization. Employees, partners, customers, vendors, investors and your market industry all evaluate your strength as a leader based on your decision making skills.

Being resolute and determined assures others you are unmistakably in the right position to guide the company. Responsibility and accountability rest on your shoulders, always.  Whether you delegate the actual decision making process to someone in your business or not, you own the outcome.

How leaders make decisions sets the pace of how the business operates and often to what degree it succeeds.

  • Fast Decision Makers:  High growth, innovative businesses require a leader adept to making rapid decisions, trusting intuition and using a high threshold for exposure to risk.  Failure is an option for this type of decision maker, as the decider is likely a pro at pivoting.
  • Moderate Decision Makers: Leaders that use managed growth strategies require a steady hand. They are assessors and consumers of strategic evaluations and advice to help mitigate risk.  Roadmaps, KPIs and measured milestones often guide this type of leader in their timing of decisions.
  • Slow Decision Makers:  Risk adverse companies who have a very low tolerance for failure, perhaps because of the financial structure, need a decider who will go beyond assessment.  They use defined research, analytic and data resources, detailed reports and experts to evaluate their decisions.  These type of deciders are patient and often are primarily focused on long-term goals and objectives.

Of all types of deciders, the biggest failure of any business leader is NOT making a decision.  CEOs and business owners are often surrounded by advisors and have multiple inputs into their decision making processes.  It can complicate the final call.  Talk is not cheap. Too many inputs can slow down decisions and increase risk.

Businesses fail in absence of making decisions.  New technologies can sweep them out of the market.  Hindered by bad personnel, companies can be drained of momentum and energy.  Capital issues can delay key projects and impact future revenue.  Making a decision, can negate these types of risks.

Empowering others to make decisions is important in any business.  Provide others the capability of being creative and strategic in their role by decision making authority.  You want thinkers and doers in your business.  If they are only allowed to do, based on your decisions, you can stifle cooperation and confidence.

You may need to set limitations on decision making capabilities by your empowered team based on the business risk tolerance.  Budgeting is one way to put in business controls, along with road maps.  Define what has the most critical impact on the business and put in place the sign-off authority for those decisions.  For example, if a product development change can delay meeting a critical release date of a product or service, put in place authorizations to manage expectations with all stakeholders.

Whether a decision relates to products, markets, finances, technologies or personnel, a business can easily become paralyzed without a strong leader that makes decisions.  The final decision is the responsibility of the leader. Inputs need to be managed.  Assign a deadline and know when a final decision must be made, without exception.

As the decider, you have the ultimate power.  How you use your power is a reflection of your leadership.  Whether you choose to make rapid decisions or methodical, deliberate decisions, the action matters most.  Don’t let decisions, small or large, slow you or your business down.  Procrastination is deadly.  Lead by deciding.  Decide how you will lead. Decide now.

By Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

Capitalize on the Dog Days of Summer

There is a constant drum beat in business circles that summers are difficult for getting anything done. There are a variety of excuses that justify this belief, including, “everyone is on vacation“, “people don’t work when kids are out of school“, “buyers are not engaged“, and of course “decision makers are unreachable“.

The hard reality is these excuses are self-fulling prophecies.  We are more wired, more connected, more engaged today.  Business is not done during the hottest months of the year because we assume we will get a no before we ask for the yes.

The facts prove people are working all summer.  Monthly average work week data shows that we work the same amount in the summer as we do all year round.  Decision makers average 49 hours per week.  We are more productive than ever.  So, why are you not capitalizing on the hottest months of the year?

The Dog Days of Summer are the best time of the year to build up prospects, qualify leads, refresh your marketing strategies and compete for mind share.  While everyone else falls into the excuse trap, you have an opportunity to make noise and get noticed.

Laying back until September to heat it up your marketing and selling efforts only pushes you into the most distracting time of the year.  Right after Labor Day, decision makers are budgeting for 2013 and events are abundant.  Daily sales calls peak and we are all flooded with competitors emails and advertisements trying to capture top of mind awareness.  Simply, your odds are much better to get noticed during the summer months.

Here are some suggestions on how to capitalize on the final dog days of summer:

1.  Reach out to current customers.  Estimates are that it is 7x less expensive to get business from a current customer than a new customer.  Update your current customers on your latest business activities and see if they are ready to buy more.

2.  Prospect for opportunities.  Run reports from your contact database to see who has not been reached in the past six months.  Put them on your priority contact list and create a campaign to heat up some buying interest.  Activity creates action.

3.  Build sales plans for key accounts.  Spend time to craft detailed sales plans for your top prospects.  Identify decision makers, buying cycles, budgets and key influencers at your top target companies.  Read up on their latest news and research their business to identify critical needs.  Use your sales plan to carefully craft the value proposition for doing business with you and then set the appointment to make the pitch.

4.  Promote, promote, promote.  As others hold back until after Labor Day, you have the opportunity to use public relations and social media campaigns to gain attention.  Take advantage of the slower news cycles and go for the headline.  Do whatever you can to get the attention of those seeking your products and services.

5.  Summer close out sales. There is a very strategic reason why Christmas in July sales dominate the dog days of summers.  Retail outlets and online storefronts are looking to clear out inventories.  The other reason is June, July and August sales are the time people will typically start shopping for school and holidays.  Consumers expect a deal.

6.  Refresh your sales and marketing strategies.  Review your strategic plans. What has worked, what is not working and what market opportunities exist for the business in the next 18 months. Tactics follow strategy.  If you are only doing the work and not evaluating the impact on your strategy, you could be heading in the wrong direction.

7.  Pivot now.  Review your key performance indicators and adjust if you are are going to miss your mark.  Making a change now can benefit you in the last quarter of the year.  Don’t wait, start executing your changes and new strategies to achieve your business goals this year.

It is time to heat it up!  You have fewer people competing for attention and business right now.  Take advantage of it.  People receive fewer emails, fewer calls, so use this as an opportunity to make a direct connection today and set the wheels in motion to capitalize this year.

Jamie Glass, Outsourced CMO and President of Artful Thinkers, a strategic sales and marketing consulting company and Sales & Marketing Services Managing Director at CKS Advisors

Competing is Winning the Gold

Pictures: Stuart Ruckman - The Australian

There will be a total of 302 gold medals awarded at The Games of the XXX Olympiad.  There are more than 10,500 athletes competing from 200 nations and territories.  Every four years we create an engaged global audience that together watches, cheers and celebrates the world’s best compete for gold.  Humans love competition.

The definition of compete is to strive consciously or unconsciously for an objective as in position, profit, or a prize (Merriam-Webster).  When we join forces to compete, we become one.  Competitors seeking a prize.  Competing to win.  That makes us all winners.

We look beyond borders and differences and we unify to revel in athleticism.  We encourage those competing to push harder, overcome challenges and fight to cross the finish line first.  We celebrate individuals, teams, countries and the world.

Some say showing up is success.  It takes more than showing up. It takes competition to engage us.  Why?  Competition motivates, inspires and rewards.  It drives us.  It excites us.  It makes our heart beat accelerate.  It is an experience.  Flags wave faster, people stand taller, crowds cheer louder and we watch more intensely when the competition heats up. Good competitions get everyone involved in celebrating success.  Showing up is just doing a job.  Competing is striving to win!  We want to be with the winners.

Have you created a competitive culture in your business?  Does everyone on your team compete to win?  Whether we are awarded gold medals, business awards, new contracts, customers or simply a thank you, the best motivator to drive us is competition.  To win in business, you need to compete.  When you compete internally and externally, you will be rewarded. You will win.

There are many ways to compete in business.  You can easily set up internal competitions to meet deadlines, achieve sales numbers, launch products faster, reach new levels of customer satisfaction, increase profits, grow your customer base, or decrease errors.  There are great financial gains awaiting through external competitions.  Winning new business contracts, opening new markets, reaching higher industry standards, increasing shareholder value, gaining on the competition for market share, all will reward your business and will help drive your team to strive for more.

The worst statement made to an investor is “We have no competition.”  Beyond the absurdity and audacity, is the fear that if you have no competition, you won’t be motivated to win.  Investors love to put money in businesses that are competing in a race to the finish line.  In the eyes of an investor, the finish line may be an exit with a 5 or 6 multiple return on investment.  What is your finish line?  You always have competition, inside and outside of your business.  You always compete.  We invest in those competing to win.

If 200 nations understand the value of competing to win the gold, what is stopping you from doing this in your business?  Competing is winning.  Cultures that compete, win.  Create a culture that embraces winning.  Teams win when they know the goals and they have leaders that encourage them to complete.  They will compete when they are rewarded for winning.

The Olympic spirit is not a myth.  It is a reality. It inspires us.  It is a feeling that touches us deep in our gut and makes us feel emotional about trying hard to achieve something far beyond the reach of most of us.  This same spirit has the power to unite millions from around the world to participate by simply watching others go for gold.  When they win, we win.  Every gold, silver and bronze medal for Team USA, feels like all Americans win!  Every country feels the same about their exceptional team of athletes.  That would make us all winners.  Worldwide winners!

Most people want to be a part of a culture that celebrates winning and achievement.  When is the last time your brought your team together to motivate them to compete. Provided an opportunity to win. When did you last recognize others and reward individuals, teams and the entire business for winning?

Now is the perfect time for you to inject more competition into your business, into your culture.  You can blame it on the Olympic spirit!

We won!

By Jamie Glass, CMO and President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director, Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

 

Ready to Hand Over the Keys to Your Business?

Who is Ready to Drive Your Business Forward?

Business owners can easily be consumed by the short term activities of day-to-day operations.  Sole focus on immediate outcomes exposes any business to long-term financial risks.

Every business leader needs to mitigate risks associated to being the one in charge.  The value of a business is built upon the sustainability of the operating plan, with or without it’s leader.  As an owner or CEO, have you asked yourself the “what if” question?  Are you fully prepared to hand over the keys to your business today?

You may have imagined that some day you will be transitioning your leadership to a partner, an investor, the next in line or even family member.  You may see your fabulous retirement life through the eyes of selling your business in multiples above your investment. In order to realize your dream, you need to spend time and commit resources to adequately prepare for a favorable transition. When? Now.

Succession planning is critical to an effective transition.  Achieving optimal outcomes in transitioning a sustainable business requires years of preparation.  How confident are you in handing over control of your business to your successors today?  A successful transition plan gives the new leaders a complete operating manual.  They need to be adequately prepared to operate the business day one.  They need to be able to take your business forward to protect your investment and to benefit your employees, stakeholders, customers and partners.

Some owners avoid planning for the end of the business because of the time it takes away from working “in” the business right now.   The lack of preparedness puts your business value at risk. It is never too early to prepare for an exit.  Whether you are a small owner-operated business, mid-market company or family-owned enterprise, you need a definitive succession plan.  It should be part of your standard business.

Here are some tips on how to start your succession planning:

1.  Document company processes and procedures.  Everyone is not replaceable. Unfortunately, when a person leaves the business they take institutional knowledge.  Key personnel that do not document their knowledge or share it with their direct reports, cost your business long-term and expose you to great risk.  This includes the owners and founders.  You can mitigate that risk by making sure every employee documents their processes and procedures.  Start with key roles.  This is not a job description, it is a “how to” operating manual for every role in your company.

2.  Review your wealth preservation strategies with your advisors.  Meet regularly with your personal and professional financial team members to analyze your current situation and review your short and long term goals.  Be “in the know” at all times of where your business stands financially.  Use strategy and growth advisors to help you pivot the business, so that you can exceed your goals.  Update your business evaluations annually.

3.  Build a culture of knowledge sharing.  Create internal social exchanges and information sharing networks.  Use your company meetings to have one department or key player provide a highlight of their role and what it means to the business.  Reward employees for creatives ways they educate others.  Commit one hour a week per employee for education and cross-training.

4.  Host quarterly strategy updates with key personnel. Spend time with your “next generation” of leaders to share business plans, KPIs, lessons learned and company strategies.  They are the future leaders of your business and they may be executing your business plan.  Keep no secrets.  Share your wealth of knowledge.  Sharing keeps people engaged and actively participating in achieving business goals.

5.  Reward excellence in execution.  Find opportunities to reward performance for those that take initiative and demonstrate they are prepared to lead.  A business full of up and coming leaders, results in sustainability.

Exit planning helps you increase the value of your business today and in the future.  Investors and bankers should ask to see your succession plan.  As you plan your beginning, you need to plan for the end.  Make your investment of time and energy pay off more than you imagined.  Plan today to realize a profitable, rewarding and fulfilling end.

Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

 

Arizona Capital and Business Growth Resources

Along with Artful Thinkers, there are many great organizations in Arizona that support innovators, startups, entrepreneurs within the established business community from early stage to exit.

This is an easy-to-use reference of various groups, associations and service providers in Arizona that help businesses with financing, strategy, venture development, M&A, growth and mentoring services and business networking.

Accelerators and Growth Advisors

Investment Bankers (FINRA Registered)

Angel Investor Groups

Venture Capital Sources and Funds

Collaborative and Shared Work Space

Associations and Support

Pitch Contests & Competitions for Capital

Chambers of Commerce

Additional Resources:
This list was first published in 2012.  If you know of an organization that fits into the categories above, you can add the reference in a comment or email jamieglass8@gmail.com.

This list is maintained by Jamie Glass, CMO + President of Artful Thinkers.