9 Social Graces and Business Etiquette Tips for Building Relationships

In business, one of the fundamental measures of success is the ability to build long-term, profitable relationships. These profits are not necessarily a reflection of just dollars and cents. Relationships can be profitable by measure of intangible assets, such as knowledge, experience, goodwill, association and reputation.

Businesses and societies are created, built and sustained by people working together towards common goals. It is often equally important in driving towards these goals to rely on who you know, in addition to what you know.

In the quest for driving toward optimal outcomes in any relationship, valuable connections begin by passing the initial test of making a good first impression. These early encounters are often evaluated by a person’s conformity to cultural norms and social graces.

DEFINITION: Social graces are skills used to interact politely in social situations. They include manners and etiquette, which are specifically accepted rules within a culture for the application of universal manners.

It is from these initial first impressions, by chance or circumstance, where relationships are built or discarded. The best foot forward in developing a solid partnership requires a foundation of mutual trust and respect. How that evolves, is through a continuation of good communications, transparency and honesty.

“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” Peter Drucker

Adhering to good business etiquette and social graces helps to open doors and keeps them open. Here are some tips and goals for making the best first impression and building treasured relationships that last a lifetime.

9 Social Graces that Impact Business Relationships

#1: Listen Up. It is critical to be a better listener than talker. Listening is one of the hardest skills to master in life. Our brains are wired to always be on, sifting through new ideas, making opinions and calculating our next move. It takes practice to “manage” all of that activity and just listen. It doesn’t mean you have to be silent. Social graces remind us to pay attention, don’t interrupt and let others speak. First impressions are often based on our ability to listen. Read more on this topic in Listen Up or Lose Out.

Goal: Be a Better Listener.

#2: Make Eye Contact. The inability to make eye contact is probably what loses more people’s interest in the first 10 seconds than any other social grace. Maintaining eye contact in direct communications shows you are interested in what the other person is saying. Be careful not to make it awkward or stare. Not all first contacts are made face-to-face; however, a good tip is to assume they are watching you through whatever device you are using. Imagine they can see where you are looking and how well you are paying attention. Sit up, focus on the conversation and talk directly into the speaker. Eliminate all distractions.

Goal: Give Everyone Your Full Attention.

“Looking someone directly in the eyes during a conversation is the key to making any social or professional connection. We rely on eye contact to communicate and connect with one another on a conscious and unconscious level.” – Psychology Today 

#3: Be On Time. Provide the best opportunity for making a great first impression by being on time. Aim for five minutes early in all cases. Being on time is the most costly way to lose opportunities and harm relationships, even before they start. Every second you leave someone waiting is a second they are building up another reason why they are not interested in what you have to say. This applies to meetings over the phone, online or in-person. Being on time shows respect and that you care about the relationship.

Goal:  Be the First to Arrive.

#4: Remember Names. It’s all in a name. If you show the lack of attention to remember a person’s name, you probably will lack the attention to detail required to achieve the goals in the relationship. Paying attention during introductions, writing down a person’s name and collecting their information are critical for fostering any relationship. You are better asking someone to repeat their name, then calling them the wrong name or calling them the generic “you” because you neglected to remember their name.

Goal: Get the Name Right.

#5: Ignore Hearsay. We all know how important it is to not judge others. There are many that find their lot in life to influence others with their opinions or share idle hearsay. It is not acceptable for justifying why you do or do not engage in a business relationship. In leadership, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is listening to gossip, chatter, noise and other’s unsolicited judgments in lieu of gathering your own facts and making your own first impressions. He said, she said, they said has no place in business. This does not mean you ignore fair and critical input, it simply means to use “facts” and your own experiences to determine the value in your potential relationship.

Goal: Get the Facts.

#6: Pass on Aggressive. One sure way to prevent any relationship from moving forward is being passive-aggressive. It is probably the #1 business communications violation. This doesn’t mean you should not speak up or participate in the conversation. In fact, not purposely withholding or participating in the conversation can also be a passive-aggressive behavior. Eliminate conversation roadblocks, such as: talking over people, negativity, ‘mansplaining’, interrupting others or giving back-handed compliments. When you begin a sentence, “You always…,” you have entered the danger zone. “Just kidding,” tells others you probably meant exactly what you said. Explaining the obvious is one way to shut down any 2-way dialogue. Aggressive has no place in social graces.

Goal: Avoid Stubborn ‘Know How’

#7: Understand the Culture. We are global. Relationships form at the bases of cultural differences and acceptance. We all have something to offer. This requires awareness and knowledge of cultural norms, behaviors and expectations. Cultures can be defined by demographic and sociographic boundaries like geography, language, heritage and ethnicity. It is also important to recognize that there are cultures within businesses as well. Do your homework in advance. Are gifts acceptable? Do you present a business card? In what direction? Do you use a title? What is the best attire? Ask others who are native to the culture, read, research and use Google. Ignoring cultural social graces when they venture outside your own “world” displays a lack of care and willingness to develop good relationships. It’s ignorant. Respect others and how they do business to get the most out of your relationship.

Goal: Understand the Cultural Impact

#8: Acknowledge and Respect. You never know who you will meet in life and how that person can change your future. The guy in the old pick-up truck driving down the road in Omaha might just be one of the richest people in the world, imagine that chance encounter to develop a meaningful relationship! Being open to other’s ideas, listening to their stories, being present when the ask for your attention are all vital social graces to building good relationships.

Goal: You Can Learn from Everyone

“I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university.”– Albert Einstein

#9: Thank You Matters Most. Two of the most important words in any relationship are thank you. Taking nothing for granted and respecting others time and space, all can be summarized with a note of gratitude. Thank you. Thank you for taking the time to meet. Thank you for your follow-up. Thank you for reaching out. Thank you for the introduction. Thank you for your consideration. Thank you for your help. Perhaps the outcome will not give you what you had hoped when you first engaged with a person; however, how you show up and pay your respect will be remembered forever. Acknowledging others actions shows you care and that is the ultimate social grace.

Goal: Always Give Thanks!

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. I look forward to staying connected and continuing the conversation.

Jamie Glass, CMO + President of Artful Thinkers, a sales and marketing consulting company.

12 Ways to Use Videos for Growing Your Business

Here are 12 ways you can drive awareness, influence and engagement through the use of video. In fact, you may even see an uptick in revenues because videos have proven to be very good for business.

  1. Vlogging: There is a growing shift from blogging (written) to vlogging (video) because of the domination of YouTube as the number one video content sharing platform. It is also very easy to get started, as you only need a video camera, YouTube account and great content to potentially become a world-renowned video star.  Helpful Resource: Vlogging vs Blogging: The Complete Run Down Plus Pros & Cons
  2. Video Podcasts:  Podcasting popularity continues to rise with 57 million Americans listening every month. Podcasters have seen a steady climb in audiences over the past 10 years because of better technology, discoverability and sheer volumes of content in this format. Video now helps podcasters differentiate themselves, grow emotional engagement with their audience, increase sharing and deliver content with a longer shelf-life.
  3. Training and How To’s: Two of the top three uses for videos are ‘explainers’ and ‘how-to’ videos. Audiences prefer easy to follow video instruction over references that are in writing or audio only.  This content is easily shared on internal portals, websites and social channels to reach the broadest audience. In a 2017 video use survey found 62% of businesses have an explainer video and of those 97% said that their explainer video has helped increase user understanding of their product or service.  Additionally, 81% said that their explainer video has helped their business increase sales. (Source)
  4. Commercials and Advertising: In ‘Marketing Charts Usage Trends’ report it is noted that in the past two years, video advertising has the highest usage growth rate for B2B marketers.  Source  Digital advertising has higher performance ratings over out-of-home (OOH) and traditional network media channels.
  5. Product Demos:  Animoto reports that four times as many consumers would rather watch a video about a product than read about it.  According to Wyzowl’s The State of Video Marketing 2017 survey, 84% of consumers have been convinced to make a purchase after watching a brand’s video. Experience and testimonials effectively sell products and services. Video is best at capturing the consumer experience. (Source)
  6. DIY Videos and Product Placements:  There is a growing use of product placements on YouTube and other social media platforms because of the relationships their easily defined demographic audiences have with content creators and celebrity endorsers. Celebrity vloggers provide a perception of authenticity by reaching out to their loyal followers and sharing product information.
  7. Edutainment: Educational entertainment videos are utilized to increase engagement and retention for learners through the use of  game-based learning experiences and various types of digital entertainment. It is often used to create video content series, character-based programs and simulations.
  8. Thought Leadership: Thought leadership videos are the 5th most popular video content type for businesses as they help to share expertise with a global audience. TED is a perfect example how videos can be effectively used to share complex, thought provoking and cultural ideas. TED is a non-profit global community that hosts online TED Talk and Conference videos of experts and thought leaders on hundreds of science, business and global topics, in more than 100 languages .
  9. Branding:  Video empowers brands share experiences by reaching and influencing a targeted audience through engaging digital stories and visual interests.  Video is the most powerful format for storytelling, helping businesses captivate buyers, build trust and create loyal followers. Why video matters in branding, YouTube reaches more 18-34 and 18-49 year-olds than any cable network in the US.  Generation Z, made up of 84.7 million kids born between 1996 and 2010, yield the future spending power so it is essential businesses connect through digital channels.  Where are your buyers? Online, watching videos!
  10. Corporate Marketing: Approximately 78% of businesses use video on their website or product site, and 72% use it on social. Small Biz Trends reports businesses using video on their websites get 41% more traffic and see a 157% increase in organic traffic from search engines.  The average user spends 88% more time on a website with video. Corporate communications are utilizing video to showcase their cultures and work experiences. They are also valuable in ensuring content visually expresses the brand identity, leadership principles and core values of the company.
  11. Sales and Ecommerce:  Wyzowl reports 84% of consumers have been convinced to make a purchase after watching a brand’s video. Video on a landing page can increase conversions by 80% or more. Red Stag Fulfillment reports using product videos on ecommerce sites can increase product purchases by 144%, with video driving more ecommerce conversions than social media.  Buyers research products and services online before they buy and most are looking for video content. Video is also viewed as innovative for sales presentations and pitches. Don’t be afraid of taking a boring presentation and making it an more engaging with a visual video representation that directly addresses the needs of your buyer.
  12. Shareable Marketing Content: Social Media Examiner reports that 74% of social media marketers use visual assets in their social media marketing. (Source)  92% of mobile video consumers share videos.  If the content is available online, it’s likely to be shared with others.

Zenith’s Online Video Forecasts 2017 report estimates that consumers will spend an average of 47.4 minutes a day viewing online video this year.   Mobile video viewing will increase by 35% to 28.8 minutes per day in 2017, and will rise by 25% in 2018 and 29% in 2019.

The most important consideration for business leaders are that videos are treated as an investment to create an asset.  Be strategic and methodical in your video production, focusing on quality and consistency to get the greatest ROI. 

Click here to read more about the value of video for growing your business.

 

Jamie Glass, CMO + Founder of Artful Thinkers, a sales and marketing consulting company.

BONUS: Check out this helpful visual guide for building a YouTube channel. 

Create a Successful Youtube Channel
Courtesy of: We Are Top 10

Nothing in Business is Free

Let me just repeat what you have heard before, NOTHING is free, especially in business. Free will cost you something. The individual or company that offered you something for “nothing” is expecting “something” in return, whether it is your time, your information, or your money.

Yet, we seem to easily succumb to free offers. Marketers have been ringing that bell for centuries and we continue to show up! Pavlovian Conditioning has taken hold of our reactions and behaviors towards free. It is as if we are hardwired to respond to free. It often requires thought-processing and discipline to not react to “free,” even for curiosity’s sake.

As defined in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we are motivated by our hierarchy of human basic, psychological and self-fulfillment needs for survival. Free brilliantly feeds our deficiency and growth needs, as it can be perceived to be less work, little time, no money. It’s free! Or is it?

Businesses have long engaged in serving up plenty of free. It’s common practice in sales and marketing to drive a response and entice you into engagement. It is every consumer’s responsibility to select and filter what is offered for free. Determination of the right outcome should be guided by the general economics rule that there is nothing for “free” and everything costs something, including doing nothing.

Ways Businesses Utilize Free to Win You Over

  • FREE Content and Media
  • FREE Software and Hardware
  • FREE Goods and Materials
  • FREE Expertise and Advice
  • FREE Tools

What did you give up in exchange for free?

The holy grail for any business, beyond revenue, is data and intelligence about your identity, your activities, your interests and most importantly, your needs.

Quid Pro Quo

Content is king to marketers. It’s the best “perceived” free offer to get you to engage. What is understood in the exchange of information, is that the all important free whitepaper you download, webinar your register to attend, article you read online has a price – usually your identity. Simply, content has economic value.

You see, it wasn’t free to produce the content and the business needs a return on their marketing investment. For you, that give-back will undoubtedly end up in a difficult unsubscribe moment if you aren’t really ready to commit to an ongoing relationship. If the marketer is savvy, they will want to also get your phone number, address, title and some other profiling data bits for future courting. It is quid pro quo.

Quid Pro Quo: Something that is given to you or done for you in return for something you have given to or done for someone else.

Your action, your click, your interest is valuable to a marketer. The intent was there all along and if you play along, it is assumed everyone understands how “free” works. Businesses will entice you with expertise, knowledge, fun facts and top secret insights to get you to volunteer your privacy and enter the game of quid pro quo.

Game or business, it is how the process works. Nothing is assumed and nothing should ever be hidden in the way it all works. It should all be out in the open and transparent in the collective activities. You opt-in, you share, you provide open ownership of your data and you are officially connected as a prospect. A lead of sorts, unqualified perhaps; however, still a potential buyer. A customer in waiting.

In the end, this work of trying to engage you all leads to the creating a “pool” of contact-worthy participants. What is often not considered by the willing participant in the quid pro quo game is the cost of the free content that openly converts you to the property of that collector, and potentially being sold to other “like” collectors who have a shared interest in your interests.

Free Creates Data

It’s money, it’s transactional, it’s business and you are now an asset. You see, there are fortunes to be made in owning your data. In fact, we are now in a new era where capturing and encapsulating it all has led to a lot of hording of data that businesses are trying to now figure out how to better monetize.

Businesses have become data-driven in all aspects of how they function, market and drive growth.

Data is entwined with nearly all facets of sales and marketing today. Being the controller of interested buyers or attentive consumers is gold to a business.

The data economy is driving corporate growth. Your data has value and it requires ROI for those that are putting the effort and resources into the collection process. Your data fuels the pipeline of opportunities, so there should be no surprises when the emails land in your inbox, the phone rings or there is a knock at the door to pry into your true interests when you responded to free. It’s just business.

Marketers strive for a qualified participant in the free quid pro quo game that willingly provides some level of profiling qualifications to subject themselves to continuous follow-up by people and technology. These subjects become part of the bits and bytes in corporate databases and lists, that may or may not be sold to others. Of course this doesn’t only apply to the collective efforts around “free” content and event trafficking.

Quid pro quo is not just a philosophy, it’s a tool for businesses.

Sometimes it isn’t as visible as a registration to get free content. The agreement to engage is deeply embedded into automation and intelligence to drive deeper relationships. To a business, that means converting you to a customer and driving up your customer lifetime value.

The free hardware to use the service provider or software, that’s not free. That’s a tool to get you to be committed to a long-term relationship. The coupon for a free sandwich is to get you to pony up for another item on the menu. The offer to buy-one-get-one-free is to drive you to put that item in the shopping cart, along with more items because you got such a great deal.

And the offer to use the software for free at the basic level (also known as a freemium offer), is to get you in as a subscriber. Once converted to a user, the intent is to upgrade your service to the feature-rich version. Nothing new or nefarious, it’s just the software business.

Marketing wants you to engage, face-to-face, virtually or through your actions. You are part of the customer acquisition costs (CAC). Companies are heavily investing in and relying on technologies for gaining your identity They are collecting IP addresses. they are buying into marketing tools and utilizing sniffing techniques that can identify your geography, company email extension and maybe full contact details to win you over as a customer.

Actions Pay Volumes

These digital sniffer advancements watch, harvest and store your every move. Yet, you didn’t get anything for free… or did you? Your free browser, your free social platforms, your free operating systems, your free applications, your free videos are NOT free. You are paying for them through your actions.

Smartly, the collectors of all this “free” stuff then sales the insights and actions based on your profiles to advertisers and other businesses for a hefty premium. Businesses exist and thrive on your shared experiences. It is what has built today’s largest global companies. Of course we all know (or should know) that it’s never really free. There is a cost to using what you perceive is free. It’s your mind-share and eventually, your wallet-share.

One of the most costly free offers to business is corporate advice. We all like to believe that advice from experts, who willingly share expertise and opinions, is all free. Actually, it can create quite a bit of distraction to those that willingly collect “free” tidbits from those that don’t have a truly vested interest in your success or business. It’s easier to give without consequence. As the receiver, you are the one that must pay the price for how your respond and react.

Advise is also quid pro quo. Advisors might want your like, your share, your referral, your call, maybe just an bit of recognition and praise. Taking the advice has a cost in your time. How you apply the advice will determine the actual cost. If right, it may be a total win. If it’s the wrong “free” advice, it could cost you and your business a fortune.

You may think you are getting something for nothing, but there is a price to pay for everything in business as well as daily life. 

Opinions cost you if they are generic. The best advisor needs to spend time understanding your vision, strategy, goals and anticipated outcomes.

There is no doubt that the voluminous amounts of content in all forms is flowing fast and can be head-spinning. There are countless free ideas, suggestions, opinions, facts and sometimes falsehoods to help you do better. Proceed with caution! Words have consequences, even when they are free. Even if you are just giving your eyeballs and time, it has a cost to you and value to the creator of free.

My free advice, remember it’s quid pro quo and there is no free lunch.

Jamie Glass, CMO + Founder of Artful Thinkers, a sales and marketing consulting company.Additional Read:  What is the Real Value in Free

 

Rewarding Your Loyal Customers

Whether you are selling products or services, every customer that has made a commitment to buy from you deserves the “loyal” treatment. Why? It is in the best interest of every business to retain customers. Loyalty impacts revenues, profitability, satisfaction and even productivity.  In other words, customer loyalty ultimately defines long-term success.

Here are a few other compelling stats that reinforce the value that retention and loyalty provides to an organization:

  • A repeat customer spends 67% more than a new one. (BIA/Kelsey)
  • Increasing customer retention by just five percent, boosts profits by 25 to 95 percent. (Bain & Co.)
  • 75% of companies with loyalty programs are seeing a return on investment. (Experian)
  • Once a provider loses a customer, 68% of consumers will not go back. (Accenture)
  • It is 5-25% more expensive to find a new customer than get a previous customer to buy again.

Market and analyst research commonly reinforces the fact that customer loyalty drives profits and growth. Sales leadership will often concur, as most of those hunting for new customers agree it is harder to get new buyers than to sell additional products and services to an existing customer.

The most common disconnect in business is the failure to ask customers to buy again. The competition loves when companies fail to invest in retention and loyalty.

Loyal customers are an extremely valuable asset to your business. 

Loyal customers are the best advertisers, through word-of-mouth, testimonials, case studies, and events. They are social, sharing experiences in person and online, which heavily influences buying behaviors. 49% of people say they rely on recommendations from influencers when making purchase decisions. (Twitter and Annalect, 2016) Loyal customers are willing to actively help build better products and services with feedback, testing and exposure to development processes.

In order to gain and maintain loyal customers, it requires an investment in retention. Customer retention is part of the buying journey and it should be part of the core sales and marketing strategy. Retention can not be taken for granted, it requires significant effort. The worst investment for a business is to heavily invest in finding a new customer and then losing them to the competition through ineffective retention programs – or just failing to ask them to buy again!

Companies must dedicate people, processes, programs and budget to maximize the true value of loyal customers.  

Retention strategies require a deep understanding of who your customer is and why they buy from you. It requires customer intelligence beyond the basic demographic, social and behavioral details archived in deep data archives, like CRMs or financial repositories. It begins by knowing your customer.

Can you answer these questions about your most loyal customers?

  • What does it feel like when they buy from us?
  • What needs do we satisfy or pains we resolve?
  • How do we improve our customer’s life?
  • Why do you trust that we will deliver what we promised?
  • When have we exceeded your expectations?
  • When have we let you down?

Because customers are the best marketers for your products and services, they require your constant and consistent attention to retain them as loyal buyers. Maybe start with a simple thank you. When is the last time you thanked your customer for just that, being your customer?

One retention strategy that is often used in consumer product and retail industries (B2C) are loyalty programs. However, programs for rewarding loyalty have are now more common in B2B industrie

A loyalty program is a rewards program offered by a company to customers who frequently make purchases. A loyalty program may give a customer free merchandise, rewards, coupons, or even advance released products.

Common Types of Loyalty Programs:

  • Frequent Buyer and Affinity Programs: These programs often have a gamification aspect through tiered point systems or memberships. They provide special incentives, access or upgrades to products and services. Cash back rewards can also be used as incentives in these types of programs. These types of programs have long been used by travel companies, though they are now more common in other industries.
  • Exclusive Offerings: Companies will often reward their most loyal customers with offers that are not open to the general public. It is a way to create a special bond and relationship with the customer. Exclusivity is best when personalized to the customer, exclusive and inclusive.
  • Advisory Councils:  Customer voices can help drive innovation and should be at the forefront of all development, marketing and sales programs.  Listening to customers can save companies time and money in product development, go-to-market strategies and testing of product features and new services. The most loyal customers appreciate the opportunity to offer their advice. An advisory council is a prestigious recognition of the value the customer provides to the company.
  • Buyer and Community Groups:  These types of programs can be virtual and local. It provides loyal customers an opportunity to engage with like-minded fans, while making a social connection to the brand, product or service. It is a great way to drive influence through the customer’s shared experiences and sense of belonging to something special.
  • Samples and Free Trials:  Freemium offers help build an audience of loyal fans that can be later used to market and sell paid value-add solutions, products and services. This is common in the digital world and for SaaS offerings. Consumer products have long used sampling to find and attract new customers. It is also a way to retain existing customers by extending lines of product types.
  • Program or Product Upgrades: Software companies learned early on that if you get a customer to continually upgrade their product, lifetime value increases exponentially.  It takes major disruption to move loyal customers off products and programs that have frequent upgrade components, as the investments are usually pretty heavy in the implementation phase and upgrades are a way to sustain value.
  • Customer Events: Opportunities to personally engage with the “faces” that create the products and services for a particular company are best at live events. They can be exclusive to customers and also be opportunities to invite in prospects. Software and technology companies have used customer events to reward their clients through high-end productions and activities, including access to founders, innovators and celebrities.
  • Rewards and VIP Incentives through Earned Points: Customers earn points based on purchases to use for additional services, products of special offers. Through loyalty cards, coupons and even online programs, customers can see the tangible benefits of staying loyal at time of purchase or through customer-only reward websites.
  • Discounted Renewals and Subscriptions: Commonly used in SaaS programs and media, this is a way to retain customers with deeper discounts for longer renewals. The best way to retain a customer is through auto-renew subscriptions and continuous service agreements.

When you create the structure of your loyalty and retention programs, ensure that the benefits and reward system is relevant to the customer experience. Know what is most valuable to your customer. Ask your customers, listen to their requirements and watch the competition when you are designing loyalty reward and retention programs. Research is paramount to the ultimate return on any program investment.

In order to effectively implement any type of customer retention strategy, it means you need start with good data.  Know your customer, what they buy, the average purchase, frequency and their value. This will help determine the budget and costs to retain customers.

The data can then be used to create strategies for account-based marketing loyalty campaigns and retention programs, as well as (ABM) programs for sales. The more data, the better the targeted planning and results of any reward program.

Finally,  loyalty requires carefully devised communication and marketing strategies, internally and externally, to fully benefit from any loyalty program and retention ROI.  Awareness and engagement will drive influence and action. The time that it takes to create the program needs to be met equally with the investment in time and resources to get the word out about how it ultimately benefits the customer.Your

Retention and loyalty is very rewarding.  With all effort and investment in capital, time and resources, be sure to measure the results in sales, productivity, profitability, satisfaction and lifetime customer value.

Jamie Glass, CMO and Founder of Artful Thinkers, a sales and marketing consulting company.

Be Loyal to Your Brand Loyalists

Brand loyalists are committed to the vision, demonstrating unwavering allegiance and constant support to a product, service, person or institution.

These brand ambassadors embrace the culture and community created through the brand experience. They understand and speak the language of the brand. And they eagerly embrace the symbolism and association of everything that the brand represents.

Brand loyalty is expressed through a faith and commitment to an organization, a product, service, an idea or philosophy. It is measured through the consistent interactions, such as a purchases or tenure, irrespective of the cost, time, competition, or convenience.

Brand loyalists are flag-wavers, collaborators, devotees, steadfast and should always be viewed as trusted advisors.

Loyalists are truthful. They speak their truth. They will share the good, bad and ugly and often remain loyal through the ups and downs. They are committed to the success of the brand and feel it is representative of them, as showcased by their admiration. That relationship means they will not hold back. They will fight the disloyal and challenge the brand owners to be heard and understood. They have an important voice and they expect to be trusted and respected by those they show such abiding support.

It is essential that owners and representatives of the brand facilitate the valuable conversations and engage directly with their loyalists by first knowing how to identify them. Brand ambassadors have unique and collective traits, motivations and characteristics. They are individual and they are part of groups. They are consumers, clients, influencers, employees, partners, community members, competitors, investors and family members. They all are vested stakeholders in the brand. Brands must be able to identify them individually through demographics and behaviors, as well as by their affiliations.

Once the loyalists are identified, it is critical that the brand knows where their loyalists are hanging out.

  • Where can you meet your loyalists face-to-face?
  • How do they communicate and share experiences?
  • Where are they spending their time?
  • How do they buy your products and services?
  • Where do they get their information?
  • Where do they buy the t-shirt and flag?

Healthy brand cultures are supported by communities and provide opportunities for loyalists to gather, share and participate in the brand experience. Forrester analysts noted that insight communities allow companies to build a relationship with their customers, and gain a better understanding of the deep-seated values that their customers hold. Many marketers emphasize the online experience to develop communities; however, this is only one way to engage directly with your loyalists.

Where to Build Brand Communities:

  1. Your own backyard. Start at all your location(s). Communities should be onsite, both for consumers and employees. Create meetup spots at your offices, plants, retail outlets and corporate headquarters as hang-outs. People that gather in your space get to witness firsthand the brand ecosystem. They are able to see and learn how the brand is built, engage with the people that create the experiences and participate with those that operate in the day-to-day and are faces of the brand.
  2. Neighborhoods where you serve. Go local and elevate your brand in the communities where your loyalists engage with your company, products and services. Participate in local events and support local interests. People want to be able to interact directly and know they are joined in the communal causes. This is extremely important when you are looking to grow your global brand. Loyalty must be localized, driven from those that are able to provide a native experience, with all the cultural nuances and represented on the ground in those geographies. Authenticity is when you let go of your “center of the universe” and show up on their turf, anywhere and everywhere your loyalists participate with your brand.
  3. Social gatherings. Join in the conversations taking place where you don’t own the medium or channel. In addition, create your own conversation channels where your stakeholders can engage with fellow loyalists. Sponsor events, both virtual and in person. Be live and alive, listening and learning through active participation. Provide opportunities to socialize and share, whether it is a company gathering spot, retail hot spot or social platform.
  4. Digital experiences. Create two-way digital exchanges. If your website is just a site for information download and only pushes out content, it is not an experience! You want to share experiences and allow followers to participate with the brand. It should be a push and pull mechanism. Otherwise, it is not an experience. It’s content. Loyalists will consume information; however, they really want to engage. They want to feel worthy of providing insights, advice, experiences and know they are valued beyond just providing revenue. Give them the forums and ability to participate in your digital world.
  5. Direct service. Every touch and conversation is an opportunity to invest in and create new loyalists. Do not let this moment pass by without taking active measure to participate in a direct dialogue. Question what is top of mind for them. Why are they carrying your flag? How can they help you address challenges and provide feedback? This is for all stakeholders – every person that touches your brand. Service is more than just fixing an immediate problem, it is awareness, communication and a pledge. It is how you create a brand experience, promise and value.

Four Ways to Engage Brand Loyalists

#1: ASK – If you want to know how loyal your ambassadors are, ask them. Use surveys like Net Promoter Score to gather feedback and rate their experiences. Identify who and define your audience by individual characteristics. What journey did they take to become a loyalist? Gather the data and use it as a basis for measuring loyalty over time.

#2: SHARE – Let your loyalists share their experiences with others. Don’t hide your loyalists! Their stories are your best brand apparatus. It is estimated that more than 70% of people will buy based on the recommendation of others, so let the people speak! The best employers get their loyal team members to recruit and refer people for open positions – it saves money and deepens loyalty. Provide the opportunities via forums, media, channels, events and content where people can tell their stories about being a brand follower. This is not brand content created by the brand, let it be user generated. If you have three places where people are sharing their stories and producing UGC, find three more. In fact find 30 places and imagine how many stories can lead to referrals and fill your pipelines with new and loyal buyers.

#3: PARTICIPATE – Brands are built over time and they need nurturing and attention. Be front and center with your most avid fans and understand the pains and fears of those that are not embracing your brand. Get involved in feedback groups, onsite visits and exchanges with other brands and experts. Create loyalty programs and utilize reward systems, if applicable. A 2016 study found that customers who are members of loyalty programs generate between 12 and 18 percent more revenue than non-members. First and foremost, show up and listen. How can they help you improve processes? How can they test new product and service ideas? What can you do to ensure they stay loyal to the brand? These are conversations that can advance your company and brand. Reward them for their participation. Ignoring them will only cost you, as it is five to 25x more expensive to find a new customer than retain an existing relationship.

#4: UNDERSTAND – Every person that touches a brand, from the maker to the buyer is part of the brand experience. Why are they your customer, employee or partner? How are you visible in the community? Why does the competition love you and fear you? How do investors and family members of your team talk about the brand? Know that makes them tick, their pains, their experiences and how to create (and recreate) happy moments. Highly-engaged customers buy 90 percent more often and spend 60 percent more per transaction, according to the Rosetta Consulting study. Analyze the information on a regular basis and use it to improve the company, the buyer experience and leverage those that are most committed to the brand. Know the value and exploit it.

For a business, engagement leads to retention as noted by Rosetta Consulting, in that engaged customers are five times more likely to buy only from the same brand in the future. It is dollars and sense.

For marketers, brand enthusiasts are the best source of content. They are the real-time storytellers, the dreamers, the advocates and the believers. They are also the protectors. They are vested in the brand. They want it to do well.

You don’t earn loyalty in a day. You earn loyalty day-by-day.  Jeffrey Gitomer 

Loyalists are essential to long-term success. Be part of their world and go to where they hang out. Know them, listen to them, grow with them and value their service. Gratitude and appreciation will accelerate loyalty.

Be loyal to your loyalists.

Jamie Glass, CMO and Founder of Artful Thinkers, a sales and marketing consulting company.

Coordinate and Communicate Touchpoint Strategies for Greater Impact

How many touchpoints does it take to convert a target into a buyer? 

Marketing and sales experts will often quote a common belief that it takes seven touchpoints to convert an identified target to a customer. This is a good rule of thumb for budgeting and planning. Pipeline data and analytics should confirm whether this is true within your organization.

Whether three, seven or 13 touches are required to convert a target to a buyer, the fact remains that well-coordinated touchpoint strategies between sales and marketing are critical to fully maximize the value of any investment in customer acquisition. This applies to people, methods and technology. The key to successful returns on this investment is identifying the “best” mix of touchpoints that amplify results. And this requires constant analysis, agility and oversight by sales and marketing executives.

The initial step in maximizing the impact of touchpoint strategies begins with a coordinated sales and marketing plan detailing each touchpoint used for awareness and engagement.

The touchpoints plan should outline every organized touch along the customer’s buying journey. From the initial stages of targeting and brand awareness campaigns to engagement with a sales professional, all touchpoints should be deliberate in activity, call-to-action and expectation of results. This applies to both B2B and B2C.

A touchpoint is defined as the contact made with a customer or prospect in the buying and selling process.

What are the most frequently sales and marketing touchpoint strategies used to convert a target from awareness to engagement?

  • Email: Outbound, Inbound
  • Phone: Outbound, Inbound
  • Web: Sites, Landing Pages
  • Advertising: Digital, Print, Display, Broadcast
  • Social Media
  • Content: News, Opinion, Blog, Online, Print
  • Events: Webinars, Trade Shows, Sponsorships, Speaking Engagements, Hosted Events
  • Direct Marketing: Mail, Email, Phone, Subscription
  • Point-of-Sales Display and Storefronts
  • Meetings: Online, In-Person
  • Employees and Stakeholders
  • Referrals, References and Word-of-Mouth

As you can see from the list, it is easy to find at least seven methods to reach your target audience. Each method can have multiple uses and characteristics. Experience, time, target types and cost will help determine the most effective methods for selling your products and services.

It is vital to utilize a mix of touchpoints and apply them to every single target to increase your conversion probability. Obviously, the goal is to convert with fewer touches; however, it is essential to plan for the complete mix.

Touchpoint strategies should not be left to circumstance. A touchpoint plan must answer who is responsible for each touchpoint, the medium that will be utilized, what will be said and how it will represent the brand. It needs to outline the schedule of activities and KPIs set against the expected outcomes to benchmark and measure success. Again, touchpoints should be married to the customer journey to ensure that every touchpoint is fully utilized to push and persuade the contact to buy.

A touchpoint plan should outline:

  1. Roles and responsibilities
  2. Medium
  3. Frequency and timing
  4. Key messages
  5. Call-to-actions
  6. KPIs
  7. Investment

Consistency in outreach, timing and messaging for all areas within the plan requires alignment to the business goals and should be shared company-wide.

One of the greatest failures is not leveraging the entire customer journey to completely benefit from all touchpoints. This happens when sales and marketing are not setting expectations on how, what and when touchpoints are utilized and who is responsible for delivery.

Resources that can help coordinate effective and consistent touchpoint strategies across an organization include:

  1. Company fact sheets and FAQs to ensure everyone is speaking the same language
  2. Brand guidelines help organizations articulate and represent the company in look and feel
  3. Content libraries and online resources that are maintained with the latest marketing and sales support materials
  4. Corporate templates for presentations, emails, marketing communications
  5. Marketing technologies (MarTech) and customer relationship (CRM) management platforms to help organize and manage critical touchpoints in the sales and marketing process
  6. Communication and event calendars to keep the organization informed of when there are opportunities to engage with key targets and customers
  7. Company events and training that detail the plan and set expectations for everyone’s role to support the outcomes
  8. Reports and dashboards that show the results of each touchpoint and ROI

Everyone in a organization sells. This means everyone should fully understand and value the sales and marketing coordinated touchpoint strategies. It is the leadership of sales and marketing that must then work hand-in-hand to ensure that the investments made into touchpoints are actualized to generate results.

We all can hope for the one touch that leads to a conversion. Those tales often are ones that are repeated in company folklore. The facts remain, it most frequently takes multiple touches to successfully convert targets to leads, then leads to buyers. Coordination between sales and marketing only increases results and impact.

Work together and expect more. Create your plan, set your targets, define your activities and measure your success. That is how you will maximize the results of your coordinated touchpoint strategies.

Jamie Glass, CMO + President, Artful Thinkers, a sales and marketing consulting company.

Marketing Works for Sales

How does marketing best function in an organization?

Marketing works for sales. Marketing works to generate revenue. Marketing is part of the sales engine.

The primary role for marketers is to coordinate with revenue-generators on the required plans, tactics and activities to successfully identify buyers, build pipelines of opportunities, accelerate conversion of new customers and grow existing business.

Marketing must work hand-in-hand with those that have the responsibility for generating revenue to grow and sustain a business. As head of both sales and marketing in my career, I can definitely affirm that success only happens when the two work as one!

Marketing is not a silo and should not operate as one. Marketing must have a symbiotic relationship with those responsible for selling. Unless a business takes on debt to fund operations, there is no revenue in which to function until something is actually sold. The more that is sold, the more operating cash there is to flow into marketing programs and initiatives. If marketing requires a bigger budget, it must facilitate more sales.

Sales is also not a silo and should not be looked upon as a single functional group within an organization. Sales must inform and coordinate with marketing to make this relationship achieve maximum success. The fact is everyone in the company is in sales. Every employee has influence and everyone should directly or indirectly support the selling of an organization’s products and services.

One of the most important steps for sales and marketing leadership, along with the CEO, is to agree upon how the organization will communicate and measure success. The organization needs a common language that everyone understands.

A CMO or head of marketing must ensure the entire marketing function is equally accountable for revenue based on these terms, as are those working in a sales role. Everyone in the marketing organization must be knowledgeable and operating daily to achieve and/or improve upon the identified business performance metrics. The marketing benchmarks must also align to how the entire organization articulates business goals and measures success.

Key Business Metrics for Sales and Marketing

Revenue – Revenue is the amount of money a company takes in over a specific time. It includes deductions and discounts. Most companies will reference this in a P&L as top line and measure it over time as top line growth. Sales and marketing share responsibility in generating revenue for a business.

Customer Acquisition Costs (CAC) – This is the price paid to acquire a new customer. It is the combination of sales, marketing, research, and product or service related expenses used to bring in a buyer. Businesses can utilize this important value to set budgets for sales and marketing. CAC management ensures the business is putting enough capital toward winning the number of customers it needs each year to achieve the revenue goals. CAC should also be used as a barometer for efficiency and effectiveness, along with a benchmark on how the company performs related to their competition.

Customer Retention Rates – Customer retention rates are the percentage of acquired buyers (customers) who continue to buy services over a certain time period. You will often hear that it costs seven times more to find a new customer than retain an existing one. Retention is an important metric. Existing customers are also a gateway to value-add services. Retention should also be analyzed over time and value.

Customer Attrition Rates (CARs) – Opposite of the retention rate is rate of attrition, also commonly called “churn.” Customer attrition rates is the percentage of customers lost over a defined time period. This metric is also usually a leading indicator for customer satisfaction, efficiency in delivery, product use and product or service value. Sales and marketing strategies to reduce CARs are as important to acquiring new customers.

Lifetime Value (LTV) – This is also sometimes called lifetime customer value (LTCV). It is revenue (value) of a customer over the life of the relationship (time). LTV helps sales and marketers understand the potential impact of growing the value and extending the timeline as a customer. This important data point also helps businesses understand the costs of losing a customer. LTV can be used to measure brand equity.

Overhead – Overhead is all non-labor related costs used to operate the business. It is considered fixed expenses regardless of the number of customers or revenue generated by the business. Overhead is often seen as controlled costs and a topic of discussion during budget reviews. Sales and marketing should combine efforts in overhead management to ensure processes, technology and people are not overlapping or creating extra costs. For example, sales automation and marketing technology should be evaluated together to ensure the business maximizes value and works unilaterally to combine all data inputs and resources to effectively manage the customer journey.

Fixed and Variable Costs – These are the monthly expenses used to operate the business. Variable costs align to the amount of goods or services produced and these will increase or decrease based on the volume of production. Fixed costs are not associated to production volume and include costs such as office space, equipment, advertising and insurance. Businesses will utilize costs as a metric on how much is invested into sales and marketing for production.

Profit Margin – Profit margin is the percentage of revenue above the cost of the product and/or service. Think of it as the mark-up. Profit margin can be evaluated by the overall business revenue, as well as by product and service lines to determine the health and ROI on costs related to sales and marketing. Gross margin is the percentage of difference between revenue and cost of goods sold (COGS), divided by revenue. Net margin is the percentage of revenue after operating expenses, interest, taxes and preferred stock dividends. If you are operating in the black, your profit margin is positive and if you are operating in the red, your costs and expenses are greater than the revenue coming into the company. Profit margins can also be utilized to evaluate the health and sustainability of individual customers or segmented customer profiles. It is an important metric for sales and marketing in strategic account management.

Pipeline – Pipeline is a defined series of steps and stages between starting and completion the sales process. It is often valued by the total dollar amount of all identified sales opportunities. The process can be defined as a variety of sales and marketing actions, most commonly prospecting and buyer identification, qualification, meeting, proposal, close and retention. For evaluation, each step or stage will often be assigned a weighted dollar value (percentage) based on the likelihood to close (win). This calculation is often used in forecasting and predicting sales run-rates.

Pipeline Growth – This is the percentage of growth of the associated dollar value of the sales pipeline over a period of time. Pipeline growth can also be measured by numerous variables such as number of prospect opportunities (deals) in the pipeline, types of opportunities, product or service lines, or by territory. Most organizations evaluate pipeline growth monthly. It is important for sales and marketing to analyze growth over different intervals to determine any seasonal or buying cycle variables that will impact sales. Pipeline is a critical metric to determine the future health of the business. Sales and marketing activities are directly connected throughout the pipeline journey and coordination is critical for supporting growth, conversion and retention.

Sales Forecast – This is an estimate of future sales. Forecast accuracy is often a hot topic within a business, as it enables a business to make operational and investment decisions based on predictive future revenues. The sales forecast, often prepared by sales reps and weighted based on analytics and accuracy, informs the business leadership on how to manage daily cash flow and resources. Ideally, forecasts should be visible to the entire organization in real-time through shared sales automation tools and online pipeline reporting. It helps inform employees how the business is predicting performance. Transparency keeps people accountable.

Conversion Rates – Conversion rates can be applied to multiple marketing and sales tactics within the sales pipeline. It is calculated as a percentage of specific actions. Marketers often use this in the early stages of the sales cycle, as defined by a call-to-actions. It is measuring the rate a person converts to the next stage by taking all types of actions. These can be measured as response rates, volume of calls, incoming emails, online comments, web visits, clicks and purchases. Sales often measures conversion as a percentage of win/loss on proposals or quotes and purchases. This is a valuable metric and it should be combined with the length of the buying cycle to determine where sales and marketing can invest resources to accelerate conversion rates.

Customer Satisfaction – Most businesses utilize a customer satisfaction rating or ranking to measure the health of the customer relationship at a given point in time. A common metric for measuring customer satisfaction is Net Promoter Score®, or NPS®. The NPS rating is derived from participants that are surveyed based on one question, “How likely is it that you would recommend [brand] to a friend or colleague?” Those that provide a rating of 9-10 are considered promoters and 0-6 are detractors. NPS is calculated from the percentage of detractors minus the percentage of promoters. Those that score 7-8 are considered passive. Influence is a strong category for marketing initiatives. NPS can help an organization determine the best way to build a strong influencer campaign for existing business referrals and add-on sales, as well as utilize to increase LCV and retention.

One of the common pitfalls that occurs when businesses align sales and marketing metrics is to try to give single credit to one function. Obviously, this happens inherently through commission programs. However, visibility and communication can be universal in a business. It is a shared responsibility that does not have to be solely recognized through compensation. The common language for defining success is the starting place!

Let it be known, when a company surpasses revenue targets, everyone wins. If a company misses their revenue target, everyone is accountable for the performance. That means everyone must answer to the identified measurements the company puts in place to track performance and results.

The purpose of a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is to empower the organization to achieve the business goals through a series of strategies and tactics. Marketing is reliant on the sales function to convert identified opportunities into actual dollars. If we all work united in the pursuit of revenue and customers, then together everyone achieves more! Go TEAM!

Jamie

President + CMO at Artful Thinkers, a sales and marketing consulting company.

What is Your Gig?

Have you been reading all about the gig economy and the massive expansion of people taking gigs and working independently?  Payroll numbers keep dropping and gigs are up!

In the past when I thought about people who are doing a “gig,” I assumed they were playing in a rock band. That is not true today. In fact, there are millions of people doing “gigs” that are not at all related to music or putting on a show.

What is a gig today?

A gig is often a job and project that is temporary, without a set number of hours or defined length of time. A gig is not employment. Gigs are global. Those that take on gigs can often do so working remotely, sun-up to sun down. Gigs offer flexibility and diversity.

Gigs became more prevalent through the expanded use of the Internet, beginning with old school job boards and temporary work websites. These have now morphed into specialization communities, social sites and platforms for crowd sourcing, online recruitment, talent management and project collaboration based on identified skills and types of expertise.

Though the term is trending now, gigs aren’t just for hipsters and millennials. They aren’t only relevant to teens, working moms and dads or those that need a little extra cash driving people around in their own car. Gigs are growing across all types of industries, geographies, and for all ages and levels of expertise.

We call this collective group of alternative workers the gig economy. They are contingent workers, freelancers, contractors, outsourced talent and independent workers, often doing short-term engagements without a set number of hours or employment benefits.

Some say we are in a freelancer revolution. Intuit predicted that by 2020, 40% of American workers would be independent contractors.

More than 53 million Americans are now earning income from work that’s not a traditional 9-to-5. That’s 1 in 3 workers. Source: Monthly Labor Review, October 2015

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), “Gig workers could be in contingent or alternative employment arrangements, or both, as measured by BLS. Contingent workers are those who don’t have an implicit or explicit contract for long-term employment. Alternative employment arrangements include independent contractors (also called freelancers or independent consultants), on-call workers, and workers provided by temporary help agencies or contract firms.”

Companies are driving the gig economy.

People are in high demand to fulfill gigs. They provide immediate expertise for limited work or short-term assignments and they often are able to provide quick turn-around on projects. Businesses are highly motivated today to utilize people that will take on work as a gig. Global corporations often utilize those in the gig economy for a variety of projects and tasks, from technical to creative.

As an example, language service providers have a huge network (600,000+) of translators and linguists that work independently or as freelancers. This group consists of native language experts that localize and translate all types of content in hundreds of languages, as well as do gigs for product testing and reviews for some of the world’s largest consumer, manufacturing and technology brands.

It was reported by CNBC in October 2016, that over the past 20 years, the number of gig economy workers has increased by about 27 percent more than payroll employees, according to CNBC calculations using data from a study by the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution.

The top industries sited for utilizing freelancers for gigs include transportation, healthcare, communications, technology, arts and entertainment and construction. Companies often list cost savings in benefits, overhead and administration when utilizing people to do gigs. Most will work remote, require little training and can work from any where in the world, reducing office space requirements. They will often use their own equipment and materials, which also creates further savings for businesses.

Why would an experienced corporate executive want to be part of the gig economy?

I believe the inherent richness of taking on “gigs,” where you can apply creativity, inventiveness, and strategy experience across various companies, is perfect for an executive. Imagine collaborating and advising all types of businesses, applying your seasoned experience and knowledge gained from other “gigs,” to then celebrate in your client’s success. It’s rewarding and stimulating. It is also feeds a need and desire to problem solve, stay relevant and never stop learning.

The gig economy is trending today with great buzz, yet it has been long in existence across all functions. As a corporate executive, I’ve been hiring people to take on gigs for 20 years in marketing, including web developers, creative designers, digital pros and software integration experts just to name a few. In finance, I’ve recruited accountants, auditors, controllers and investment managers for gigs. In technology, I’ve hired people for gigs related to coding, implementations, data management, process and workflows and so much more. Gigs are part of every company.

The gig is up!

No matter how you classify those working “gigs” today, they are actually profiles that span across all levels of expertise. They are growing in demand requiring extensive know-how to advise C-level executives and upper management on strategic initiatives and projects. Though they are designed for short-term projects by definition, I’ve worked for some CEOs for five or more years on what started as a gig.

Gigs are important to all business sizes. I’ve worked on gigs for small start-ups, as well as established multi-million dollar businesses. It’s the expertise that matters most. You could even say board members and advisors are all participants in the gig economy, providing a high level of practical skill and judgment.

The richness in experience I’ve gained through a variety of gigs that I’ve worked on over the past 20 years, has enabled me to apply my knowledge and skills across all types of industries, including retail, finance, technology, professional services, localization, media and even golf. The more gigs I get, the more experience and best practices I can share with other businesses in pursuit of their goals. It’s fulfilling and mutually rewarding.

I’ve long said, sales is sales and marketing is marketing no matter whether you are selling custom golf clubs or sophisticated business intelligence software. Without the overhead of taking on another executive, gigs enable a CMO and senior executive like myself to advise multiple companies across various functions – a big savings that can drive even bigger results. Whether I help a CEO set up a sales organization, write a business plan or implement complex marketing programs, the ability to apply past experience benefits everyone.

So what’s my next gig? I’ve had a very rewarding experience as the CMO at Welocalize. Working with this growing and vibrant organization since 2013, it is now time for me to venture on to my next gig (or two). I’m now going to apply the knowledge I’ve gained from a very interesting industry to helping more CEOs and business leaders – whether it is in globalization, product marketing, service line management, executive leadership or just plain old sales and marketing. It is my journey in an exciting history of being part of the gig economy through my own “gig” business, Artful Thinkers.

So, I’m ready to take on some new gigs! How can my expertise help you?

Jamie Glass,  CMO + President of Artful Thinkers, a sales and marketing consulting company.

EXTRA #1:  Today the gig economy is growing: Last year it was estimated that 34% of the American workforce were freelancers, and that number is projected to be 43% in 2020. How can you survive in the gig economy?

EXTRA #2: Do You Need an Outsourced CMO? 10 Reasons for Hiring an Outsourced CMO

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.

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

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 

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

2013 Marketing Forecast Report Summary by Software Advice

Guest Post by Software Advice, Ashley Verrill

Traditional forms of marketing, such as direct mail, print and television advertising, continue to fall out of favor with business-to-business marketers, according to our recently-released Software Advice report.

We received responses from 155 primarily executive-level marketers in a poll we called the B2B Demand Generation Benchmark Survey. They were asked about spending plans for the New Year; as well as which channels, content and offers they find most powerful for producing quality and quantity of leads.

The sample included primarily smaller businesses, with marketing budgets of $250,000 or less, although there was some representation in the tiers up to $100 million in marketing spend. The sample was also primarily from technology companies with less than 100 people.

01-channel-popularityOne of the first things we discovered were the most popularly-used channels. Email marketing to a house list came in as the most-used channel, followed by search engine optimization, social media (not ads) and trade shows.

These results reflect an increased focus on what’s popularly called “inbound marketing,” or driving traffic to your site from customers already searching for your product. Many times these channels are also lower cost. You’ll notice a correlation between the cost per lead of each channel and their popularity in the chart below. Trade shows was one exception to this trend.

04-cost-per-channelOne thing marketers need to be careful about, however, is the quality of leads from these channels. Even if the cost is low, it’s important that your return on investment translates over into the kinds of leads your getting from each channel. Lead scoring is one good way to measure this quality. This usually includes gauging factors such as the decision-making power of the contact, their purchase timeline, budget, industry, or what kinds of content they’ve interacted with or downloaded.

“If you just look at a program on the surface from a solely cost perspective you might never realize it’s just not bringing back the right people. You could end up with a whole database full of contacts of people that will probably never buy from you,” said Elle Woulfe, marketing programs director for Eloqua.

In this regard, the sample agreed that in-house email marketing and SEO provide the most high-quality leads because they are prospects that have proactively sought out your company or product. They’ve clicked on a link, and want to consume something that you are offering. While social media is popular, it has yet to produce such quality leads, at least as consistently as other channels.

Also interesting, 3rd-party lead originators and search engine advertising received the largest percentage of votes for being high quantity channels, yet they didn’t score high on the popularity scale. This is likely due to cost, but again these are often really high quality leads. Marketers should look at the total cost-to-spend ratio.

Despite marketers admitting social media doesn’t produce quality or quantities of leads on a consistent basis, the channel received among the highest percentage of votes for elevated spending in 2013. This more likely to do with the buzz than anything else.

10-future-spend-channelEven if you are a director of marketing and see how all of these programs perform, likely a CMO ahead of you is saying, “You need invest in these programs because that’s what everyone is doing.”

For questions about content, marketers didn’t mirror the trend as far as prioritizing high quality or quantity of leads. Videos, for example, was listed as the second most popular, yet didn’t score well on our scale for quality or quantity.

This is likely due large part to the marketers need to produce content in a way that customers want to consume it. Videos are popular because people don’t have as much time to read.

Content success has a lot to do with where you are targeting customers in the sales funnel. A video testimonial from a customer, for example, could convert really well for high-scoring leads that are near the end of the sales funnel.

Alternatively, a lot of content is used pre-funnel and not meant to be highly-converting. It’s more about getting the customer educated and developing preference over time. For this reason, a one-size fits all approach to content can backfire. You need to measure success against varying goals.

Guest Post by Ashley Verrill
Ashley Verrill is a market analyst with Software Advice. She has spent the last six years reporting and writing business news and strategy features. Her work has appeared in myriad publications including Inc., Upstart Business Journal, the Austin Business Journal and the North Bay Business Journal. Before joining Software Advice in 2012, she worked in sales management and advertising. She is a University of Texas graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism.

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

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

 

 

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.

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.

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.

Vision Statements are Worthless without Disciplined Focus

Entrepreneurs can spend countless hours crafting their vision and mission statements.  It is often assigned to every leader as a required task in strategic planning.  Business investors and advisors will ask you, what is your vision?  Imagine answering, “I don’t know!”

Do you have a vision? A mission? Business values?  Often guilt rises in those that have not defined their vision when questioned by those that “know”.  Thus the ritual begins.  The business owner starts to define the grand vision: What do I want to be?  What is our ideal universe?  What is our big hairy audacious goal (BHAG) as a company? What motivates us?

Tah-Dah!  The task is complete. Yes, you have a company vision.  Check the box.  Your purpose for existence as a business, which is now articulated in a small paragraph, makes it’s debut on websites, in business plans and sales presentations and supported in company marketing communications.  What is the value of this exercise?  Can you translate it to revenue? There are businesses that have you memorize the vision. Vision testing. They are driven by the belief that if everyone is united by a common vision, they will achieve more.

Granted, there is no argument that you need a strategy to win.  If your vision consists of words to satisfy the strategic planning process, your vision is worthless. A vision must be supported by disciplined focus to accomplish your business goals. It is what differentiates the good from great.  Why?  It is the ability to look beyond the visionary clouds and execute on your strategy.  Disciplined focus delivers results.

Vision is unlimited.  Vision gives you big picture, inspiration and motivation.  Focus influences your capability to execute on what is most important.  Real power to deliver on a vision comes when you narrow your focus, allowing you to concentrate and build confidence. Disciplined focus enables you to positively face challenges and create sustainability in your business.  It is the foundation for growth. “My success, part of it certainly, is that I have focused in on a few things.” — Bill Gates

Have you ever watched a 3 year-old in a grocery store walking along side their adult companion.  They seem to lack much interest in the whole shopping experience.  Suddenly, they set their sights on what is intentionally positioned at their eye-level to grab their attention. They make their escape with remarkable strength.  Bolting in a straight beeline, with determination, to the prize!  They have disciplined focus on the outcome.  They grab and go!  Vision. Focus. Results.

If you have a vision or are thinking you need to craft a vision statement, take a few minutes to define the expected outcomes from your declaration.  How does the vision help you focus on what is most important for your business?  How do you use your vision as motivation?  How will the vision help employees be better in their roles?  How will the vision drive the business forward?  Once you know the desired results, you can apply the disciplined focus to execute your strategy and accomplish your business goals.

“A clear vision, backed by definite plans, gives you a tremendous feeling of confidence and personal power.” — Brian Tracy

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

Ready to Engage Your New Customer?

The buzz in marketing circles today is engagement. How do you effectively hook potential customers into a committed relationship? The investment a business makes in the engagement process should be directly tied to revenues. If you expertly and skillfully engage, sales will increase.

Competent engagement helps a business target, influence, nurture and convert prospects to customers.  The more expeditious a business is in engaging with prospects, the bigger impact to the bottom-line.  How are you engaging your potential new customers?

The easiest way to initiate engagement is to view customer and wedding engagements as the same.  The difference between the two are in the details of tactics.  How you move from targeting into proposal are nearly identical in overall strategy.

Engagement begins by determining how to get someone to respond to your offer.  First, identify the target based on the qualifications of a “good match”.  Who is a suitable candidate for engagement?  What are the qualities you are seeking, both in demographics and social behaviors? Then you need to determine what makes you attractive to others.  Packaging and presentation of your “stand out” qualities are critical in the initial step of the engagement process.  Know where to direct your message and selling to the most qualified targets.

Second, you start the courting process, where all long-term valuable relationships begin. This step is more difficult to measure and needs careful preparation. You can spend a tremendous amount of resources influencing others and never get to the proposal. Laws of attraction and suitability apply.  Who you target, what you say and why they are a good candidate must already be known to successfully influence the “right” prospect.

Using engagement tactics like research, focus groups, asking for referrals can speed progress directly influencing better qualified prospects when cultivating relationships. Put out a few “asks”.  Look for agreement.  Identify the buying signals.  Know what makes this prospect want to engage further in the relationship.  Define what is in it for them. It might take some sampling and analysis to reach a successful outcome.

Third, define acceptable terms of the relationship.  Nurture your relationship to fully understand the “how and why” you need to partner.  Build upon the strengths of your bond through mutual consent. Constant communication, validation and envisioning the success of your relationship solidifies the “why”.  This is the beginning of a potentially long-term committed relationship, one that must be mutually beneficial.   Are you both in agreement? Create timelines and set expectations to help control spending, time and resources while nurturing your relationship.

Fourth, make the BIG proposal.  It is time to go all in and ask for the close.  Whether it be a hand in marriage or to partner in business, the only way to get to a “yes” is to make the proposal.  If you have taken time to go through an engagement process, building consensus along the way, you will have eliminated most of the risk in making the proposal.  Converting a prospect to a buyer requires you to “pop” the question.  It is time to seal the deal.

The opportunity to engage is there, are you ready to start the process?  Only if you are able to commit to an engagement, will you be ready to “tie the knot” with a new customer.

[W]hen you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.  ~Nora Ephron, When Harry Met Sally

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

Be Happy and Achieve More in Your Business

In a recent presentation by best selling author and NCAA Division I tennis champion, Roger Crawford, he asked the audience of business owners and executives, “Are you listening to your own head trash?” He explained that anxiety is focused on negative outcomes and it eliminates the possibilities.  Do you start your day thinking of the angst or promise of your business?

Several years ago, I was managing a small inside sales team for an entrepreneur with big dreams.  We were in the midst of creating the world’s largest, biggest, best company, EVER. We had a vision, a defined mission and we believed all was possible.

I hired a small group of spirited, eager professionals that were responsible for driving the majority of the company revenue.  Failure was not optional.  Every work day, they had to pick up the phone and convince businesses they needed our offering.  In fact, the expectation was they had to sell 5-10 businesses a day.  Many days were filled with rejection and disappointment. Despite the constant “no”, they persisted.  Dial more, ask again, always be closing, fax another brochure were our mantras.  The result, we took a small company and nearly doubled in size every year for five years.

Looking back, there is no doubt that persistence paid off.  We all knew that if we made enough calls, heard enough no’s, we would get to the yes.  Four people dialing for dollars soon turned to a couple dozen sales people and eventually two floors of people making outbound calls.  We had the formula.  We had a predictable model that scaled. Open a territory, launch a new product, buy more leads, add more sales people, increase price, and the business doubles again.  It was simple math. No anxiety, just possibilities. Followed by success.

There was only one real threat to our growing business — mindset.  We needed to hire believers.  As a business, we had the tools, the resources and the product. We needed people that believed in “yes”, despite all the “no” they might hear.  Our culture would not tolerate negativity. Our success was built on a foundation of positive attitudes. We could train and manage aptitude. Attitude was the difference between making our number or not.  Negativity was eradicated quickly to draw in more positive thinkers.  Only winners need apply.

Do you believe in your possibilities? Do you inspire winning? Perhaps the real inhibitor from achieving success in your business is mindset.  Happiness is proven to contribute to the top and bottom line.  Regardless the perceived “insurmountable” roadblocks of any small business, belief and persistence are your best allies as an organization.  Positiveness rolls down hill.  It is your primary responsibility as a leader to project happiness and the “can do” attitude.  Prospects respond to cheerful problem solvers.  Vendors like doing business with people that make them feel good.  Employees are more productive in happy workplaces.  Investors want to believe, in you!

In a 2012 released study, “Happiness as a motivator: positive affect predicts primary control striving for career and educational goals,” researchers Claudia M HaaseMichael J PoulinJutta Heckhausen noted in the report abstract, “…when individuals experience positive affect, they become more motivated to invest time and effort, and overcome obstacles when pursuing their goals, in part because they believe they have more control over attaining their goals.

How do you set up your day to experience a positive affect?  Do you have a happiness ritual that puts you in the frame of mind to win?  How do you encourage happiness and inspire your employees?  In the startup phase of the company mentioned above, I would begin by blasting a song on the boombox in our little office.  My favorite play, “Here’s a little song I wrote, you might want to sing it note for note, don’t worry, be happy  In every life we have some trouble, when you worry you make it double, don’t worry, be happy.” -Bobby McFerrin

When I cranked up the volume each morning, I might see a little sneer. We started at 7AM. In the end, it was this song and our collective attitude that launched many successful careers.  We mastered our own happiness.  We mastered our destiny. We mastered hearing no and converted it to a yes. Yes to success.

As a business owner, you will face rejection by investors, vendors, partners, and customers.  Prepare yourself and set your vision on the possibilities.  Remove the head trash. If you read, listen or surround yourself with negative information, it probably will not encourage you to go out and do more. Negativity creates anxiety. Turn it off. Walk away. Choose to believe your hype, not others.

How can you inspire others to take your business to the next level?  Focus on what you and your team can achieve.  Set goals. Share the vision. Dream big. No matter how many no’s you get, believe in yes!  And of course, Don’t Worry. Be Happy!

Inspired by the motivational Roger Crawford, the Delivering Happiness movement and all those believers at Mastering Computers.

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

Manage Your Influencers for Optimal Results

Business TargetKey influencers play a critical role in every business. Decision makers are guarded and guided by inside and outside advisors and gatekeepers. How you manage your trusted advisors can help or harm your business.

Influencers know they have the power to change or compel action. It is the business leaders responsibility to validate and control the effect of influencers. Those who sit closest to authority and are granted permission to persuade, have a direct impact on your success. Do you know who is currently sitting at your table of influence?

In order to responsibly manage your influencers, take time to identify those that are in your inner circle and those effecting your judgement. Inside your business look at department heads, executives and even top revenue generators whose opinions impact your future. Who are your squeaky wheels? Are they helping you make better decisions for your business or slowing down how you operate?  Influencers can be carriers of good and bad advice, they may be motivated by selfishness. It is up to you to vet, challenge and manage your influencers for optimal results.

One way of evaluating an influencer is to ask them what they believe are your highest priorities. Are they up-to-date on your current business plans and growth strategies?  Do they know the profile of your most profitable customers?  If not, it is the perfect opportunity to align your thinking. Define and clarify what is most important to you and your business.  Let them know how they can help you.

To get the best results from your influencers, provide regular updates on business goals, initiatives, challenges and opportunities.  Acting as gatekeepers, key influencers can open doors to new ideas, solution providers and even make introductions to customers. They also have the ability to close doors.  As the final decision maker, you are ultimately responsible for those that make it through the “gate”.  Challenge those that have the authority inside your business to say no.  Know who they turned away and why.

Update your outside advisors quarterly about key initiatives and strategic objectives. These influencers, such as accountants, legal counsel, wealth managers, business consultants and top vendors are connected and often sources for essential referrals. They act as a conduit for information and potential services that can help you achieve your goals.  If your influencers know your interests, they can better serve you.

Know that influencers get things done. They effect change. They make things happen. You need to know who they are and leverage them for maximum impact to your business. Lead influencers to your expected outcomes. Manage them for the best results.

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

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

Questions Sales Candidates Ask that Should Stop the Interview

There are certain questions that should raise a red flag when you are interviewing sales candidates.  You are hiring a person who will be responsible for driving your business forward.

The sales person you offer the job is representing your brand, your company values and creates your business first impression.  This person is accountable for increasing revenues.  Know for certain, they will have a bottom-line impact on your business.  Positive or negative, the interview process is critical in making the best determination of the outcome.

There are questions and statements sales candidates make that are telltale of their priorities.  When you hear them, stop the interview, thank them for their time and move onto finding a better qualified candidate.  Your time is valuable and you need to find the best person for the job.

One red flag or alarming question is enough, no matter how many other green flag answers you were given during the interview process.  Avoid the energy of imaging “what if” or talking yourself into dismissing what you know was a clear indicator this candidate is not worthy of the job.  Don’t compromise!  Your business can’t afford a bad hire.

The biggest red flag is not having any questions prepared.  Ask everyone you interview, “What questions do you have for me?”  If the sales candidate responds that they do not have any questions, stop!  Any novice interviewee will have at least one or two questions prepared for any job interview.  This response tells you they have no interest in the job you are offering.  It also indicates they didn’t do any homework before the interview. Next.

Here are more red flag questions:

1.  “What opportunities are there for promotion?” We all love ambitious people.  The problem is that you are not hiring for a future promotion.  You need a person to do the job you have open right now.  This question may be a red flag that your candidate is more focused on telling others what to do, not doing the job themselves.  They may feel over-qualified.  They absolutely are telling you they are not interested in the current job opening.

2.  “How do I get leads?”  This is an indicator that the person may not like cold calling.  It is hard work.  There are some sales people that only perform well with nurtured, warm leads.  Your sales hire should be equally good at cold calling, as growing business with existing customers or well qualified leads.  No one really wants to take a job “dialing for dollars”; however, you have to hire someone that will do whatever it takes to find customers, including making a lot of cold calls.

3.  “What is my salary?” People who ask this question want security.  Sales is risky business, for the business owner and the new hire.  A green flag question from a qualified, competent sales candidate would be, “What is my quota and commission rate?”.  They might even ask you if there are caps on earnings and incentives for exceeding quota — even better.  When a person indicates they are hungry to earn more than what you project at 100% of their sales goals, that is a very good sign this person is used to winning.  A person that is asking about salary wants to know if they can live on the base pay.  Not good.

4.  “What are the hours and the vacation policy?” Sales is a do whatever it takes job.  If a person is worried about the hours they are working each day and when they get their first paid day off, they aren’t thinking about how much money they will make selling for you.  A green flag would be a question about how soon they can get into the office each morning.

5.  “Where will I be sitting?” Sales people should be able to perform anywhere they are located.  Whether they are in an office, cubicle, table or at home, good sales people will sit where they have access to a phone and computer.  This is a person that is not attentive to the most important qualifications needed for this position and they are wasting your time.

6.  “What qualifications are you looking for?” This is a red flag that the person did not prepare for the interview.  Researching the job and the company should provide indicators of what is important in this job. This is a sign the candidate may be looking for any job, no matter what you have to offer.  You need a qualified candidate that fills the job you have open now.  This question is also an indication that the sales candidate is not ready to make an assumptive close.  The assumption should be that they are qualified for the job and they do not need to be interviewing you for background information.

Making a hiring decision about a sales candidate is difficult.  You need to trust this person will take on the responsibility you give them to grow your business.  They must be accountable for delivering results.  They must be eager to learn and willing to do whatever it takes to win.  Most importantly, they need to be able to ask for the close and that means they need to ask you for the job!

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.

 

A Bad Sales Hire Can Crush a Small Business

The decision to bring a sales person into your business is the most important decision you make as a business owner. Financially, it can be very rewarding or it can be devastating to your bottom-line.  The reality is that your hiring decision can propel you to mega-success, crush your business or land you somewhere in the middle.

There is no absolute science in making good hiring decisions.  Know your associated real and opportunity costs of making a bad hire.  Calculate the risks of the person not working out before you sign the offer letter.  Will your business survive making a bad hire?  How soon will you need to pivot if performance is substandard?

Based on the financial risk assessment, you can qualify whether you should invest in a professional resource or hiring profile tool to reduce the risk.  In other words, decide if you will pay now or potentially pay later.

What else can you do to protect your long-term financial security as a business owner and make an informed decision about hiring a sales person?

Ask candidates questions related to sales activities.  Don’t focus on their industry knowledge.  Industry knowledge is trainable.  You don’t need a nurturer or relationships person.  You need a sales person that will ask for money!  It is the secret skill that will bring revenue in the door.  There are two types of sales people:  hunters and closers.  In the beginning, you will need someone who is good at both.  They will cold call, with or without leads, and they will ask for the close.  These are “rare birds”.  Ask questions about the candidates history with sales cycles, average size of deal, average daily cold calls, number of customers sold each year, and presentation-to-close ratios.  These are all indicators of past performance and predictors of future success.  When a resume lists awards for exceeding quota, that does not tell you what they sold in the past is going to translate.  You want to know what they did to exceed quota.  What activities made them successful?

Invest in training and sales support materials.  Basic training materials should be product feature and benefit lists, industry keyword definitions, product overviews, competitive analysis, market positioning statements and scripts of common objections and how to overcome them. Utilize your team of in-house experts to train your sales people.  Set up daily Q&A sessions with product engineers, marketers, customer service personnel and anyone else that touches the customer.  Share all the secrets, good and bad.  The more knowledge and access to experts the sales person has the better prepared they will be to overcome objections.  The first two weeks of any new sales hire should include at least two hours a day training and practice calls.

Set sales quotes and activities quotas. An experienced sales person may only close 1-2 deals per year, with an average deal size of $2 million.  You need to clearly outline your expectations and what you will inspect regarding number of calls, meetings, presentations, proposals and closes.  Assigning the closing numbers without understanding how many calls that might take will cost you severely.  You must know, for example, 500 calls or 20 face-to-face meetings may result in five closed deals at an average sale of $10,000.  If this doesn’t meet your expectations, adjust accordingly.  Then measure the number of calls to see if you are on pace each week.  Early indicators will provide you the opportunity to pivot quickly.

Know your exit strategy.  What is the maximum time you can invest in a bad hire?  The answer can not be zero, because every hire has inherent risk.  If it is 90 days, then have a very specific plan with measurable key performance indicators (KPIs) that you can inspect every week.  You only have 13 weeks to determine if you will terminate employment or keep on staff.  Sales people are used to 90-day probationary periods.  You should have inspection points with planned exit strategies at 6 weeks, 90 days and 180 days.  Cut sooner and learn from your mistakes.  A year-long bad hire could close down your business if you are not well capitalized and depend on this new hire’s revenue to sustain your business.

Identify the characteristics that could be a threat or high risk to your business.  Character matters as much as sales skills.  You need to adequately assess the “fit” of this person in your business.  You are handing over the keys to your future.  Can you trust this person? Is this a person you would take with you to all your important meetings?  Does this person dream big?  Are they kind, friendly and positive?  Will your customers like this person?  If you can afford a hiring assessment by a professional, with tools that can define their character and skills, it will be worth the investment and potentially save you from making a big mistake.

Do your homework.  Never, ever skip reference checking.  Dig deep!  Ask community and business people that might know the person, look at their LinkedIn connections and recommendations.  Reference and background checks are as important as due diligence when buying a business.  You will be writing substantial checks to this person on a promise.  They will be creating your business first impression.  Reduce the risk by learning from other’s experience.  Again, it may be in your best interest to hire someone to do your reference checking to get a complete picture.

Finally, use your gut.  Do they represent you?  Your professional and personal instincts will serve you well.  A bad hire can scar you and make you timid in making a future decision.  Know that it can take four or five hires to find a rock star.  An early success in hiring a sales person is rare, so have a backup plan.

Sales people can make or break a business.  Know your upside and downside when hiring a sales person to promote your business.

Jamie Glass, CMO and President of Artful Thinkers.  Creative. Strategic. Results.

Who Makes the First Impression for Your Business?

Who Greets Your Potential Customers?

First impressions for your business are made by people that open doors, make cold calls, attend networking meetings and answer your phone.  They are delivered by your marketing communications like social media and websites.  How confident are you that your potential clients are greeted warmly and with a direct invitation to do business?

Years ago businesses paid someone to sit at a front lobby desk and answer every inbound call and greet every walk-in appointment.  The receptionist qualifications were measured by friendliness, service-orientation and attentive disposition.  The standard phone greeting of this time was “Thank you for calling, how can I help you?”

When is the last time were greeted this way?  Today we are often met with automated attendants and empty lobbies.  Some businesses have completely eliminated any dedicated space to a welcome station and filled it with another cubical. My impression is that first impressions are not a priority for this business.  The decision that customer experience may be too costly to employ a dedicated person, may be costing you business.

It is not difficult to think back to a bad first impression.  I recall three in the past weeks.  One top restaurant asked me to wait outside in 110 degrees because they did not open for four minutes, yet the door was unlocked.  Another restaurant hostess asked me to stand until my party arrived even though every table was empty.  A technology company, which had a sitting place upon entry, left me for 20 minutes while employees stared at me.  Not one person asked why I was there or if I needed help.  I remember all of these first impressions, vividly.

Noted in a recent New York Times article Praise Is Fleeting, but Brickbats We Recall, “Bad emotions, bad parents and bad feedback have more impact than good ones. Bad impressions and bad stereotypes are quicker to form and more resistant to disconfirmation than good ones.” Sited from Roy F. Baumeister, a professor of social psychology at Florida State University in a journal article he co-authored in 2001, “Bad Is Stronger Than Good.”

How your employees are greeting the public, networking, making introductions, and opening doors for others is a direct reflection of hiring skills, company culture and leadership.  Business owners, CEOs and managers own the customer experience.  Every employee is responsible for making a positive first impression.  How are you reinforcing how positive first impressions are made in your business?

Customer experience is a financial decision in business, unless revenues are low on the priority list.  Reputation management is critical and costly.  A bad review is hard to overcome.  You can’t erase the Internet or someone’s memory.  People use others professional and personal experiences as a reason to buy or not buy. Bad experiences are viral, whether online, through social media, on sites that track reputations or by word-of-mouth.  Once word is out, it is permanent.  You own it!

Welcome!

Every experience starts with the greeting.  Take time to review how your potential and existing customers are greeted today.  This applies whether you are selling B2B or B2C, for every industry, in a building or online.  Use “secret shoppers” and have them rate how inviting, caring, and enthusiastic they were welcomed to do business with you.

Customer service is a pillar to good business.  Customer experience starts when the phone is picked up, the door is unlocked or a web site is visited.  We may not all have the luxury of hanging up a flashing “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign to greet everyone.  We do have the luxury to manage and train our messengers to provide an outstanding first impression.

Invest in your greeting.  Define, train, test and continually reinforce how you want to insure a positive first impression.  It your opportunity to create a long-term valuable relationship with your customer.

Jamie Glass, CMO and President of Artful Thinkers, a sales and marketing consulting company.

What is Your Marketing Meme?

Will Your Meme Go Viral?

A meme (pronounced meem) is a packet of social information.  Marketing memes are word associations, beyond a tag line or slogan, that take complex concepts or ideas and make them simple and easy to communicate.

A meme is defined in Wikipedia as “a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena.”

Effective memes are potent messaging serums, dripped out over time that enter into our brains and stick. Think of your marketing meme as your viral message.  Who you represent, what you do and what you offer, tightly packaged into one memorable soundbite.

Memes are easy to replicate.  Good memes always communicate value and benefit.  It is the message you want propagated all over the world about you and your business.

I first learned about crafting memes from a Fortune 500 marketing expert who spent his time coaching several solopreneurs on how to market their own businesses.  To some, it may seem odd that an experienced marketing executive would spend weeks learning how to market themselves.  Admittedly, I was resistant at first. After all, I have been responsible for marketing multiple million dollar business for years.

Attitude and all, I threw myself into doing something I was avoiding — marketing me! It is hard to market yourself, let alone dedicate the time required to build your own marketing communications plan.  Truthfully, I needed the discipline and focus to develop my own meme. In the end, besides a business card, it was the best marketing investment I made in starting my own business.

An effective marketing meme is a single powerful statement that communicates the benefits of your products and services.  Here are some simple steps to help you craft an effective marketing meme:

1.  In one sentence, write down what you do for your customers.

2.  Next sentence describe the value you provide to your customers.

3.  Outline the problems you solve in the last sentence.

4.  Now start cutting! Combine the three sentences into one very simple, benefit-oriented sentence.  Answer who, what and why it matters in a single sentence.

5.  Test your meme with the following questions:  Can you repeat that sentence over and over again?  It is easy to remember?  Will your meme invite people to want to know more?

Memes are clear value propositions that roll off the tip of your tongue at every introduction.  An effective meme is not a slogan or headline. It is not an elevator pitch.  You rarely get 30 to 60 seconds to cite a rehearsed sales pitch.  It needs to be tight, concise and memorable.

Use your Meme Everywhere

Memes create lasting impressions. They are the words people will carry with them and tell others about you and your business.  Marketers often suggest that it takes seven times before a message really sticks.  It’s called the Rule of Seven. Will your meme be repeated by every person you tell seven times or more?  If so, then you have truly created an effective, viral marketing meme!

Invest time in creating your meme and start sharing it with world.  Repeat it often, in presentations, in meetings, on the web. Make sure your meme is a simple message that leaves us wanting more.

Special Note:  This post is dedicated to my friend and marketing mentor John Coyne.  He patiently worked with me to create my Artful Thinkers meme. His influence and teachings are still making an impact. He will always have a lasting impression. RIP my friend.

5 Essential Topics for a Winning Sales Proposal

Selection of Offerings

A sales proposal is your persuasive argument as to why the client must choose you now to solve their problem.  Proposals need to be positively articulated with a sense of urgency and demonstrate how the client wins.

Sales people and consultants often neglect the most important part of a sales proposal, the statement of why the client needs to buy now.  I have watched presentation after presentation where sales people talk about themselves, their company and their amazing, fantastic, one-of-a-kind solution.  It’s the feature marathon and often leaves you falling asleep or gasping for any air left in the room.

Successful sales proposals must always begin with a conversation about the client.  Those inclined to start talking about themselves before the customer are likely to fail. Why? Customers want to talk about their issues, not you!

Whether you plan to present your proposal in writing, in person or through an online presentation, every sales proposal must include the following five essential topics in this order:

1. Statement of Understanding
2. Needs Analysis
3. Recommendation
4. Pricing and Terms
5. Next Steps

The Statement of Understanding is your opportunity to showcase the research you have done prior to presenting to the client.  Always start your proposal with what you learned about the client.  Gather facts about the client from their web site, annual report or press release boiler statements, along with facts gathered in talking to the prospect.  Make it brief and affirm that you have done your homework.

Be sure to include one or two sentences about the area of business you are targeting for your proposal.  If this is a finance proposal, talk about the financial situation.  If it is a technology proposal, talk about the functions in the company that will be impacted by your solution. The Statement of Understanding is a confirmation.  It should be no more than one or two paragraphs (one slide) about your knowledge of the client.

Needs Analysis details all the work you have done to qualify the prospect.  Here is where you make your case as to why the company needs your services or products.  Whether you are a single person selling advisory services or a Fortune 500 company sales executive, you must define why the client needs YOU based on their needs.

Warning!  Do not use the needs analysis section to sell.  It is a series of facts of why they need your help.  Think of it as your presentation of due diligence. In conclusion of your detailed needs analysis, summarize the needs in bullet form to easily reference again when the buyer reviews your proposal.

The Recommendation portion of the proposal is where you will highlight the features AND benefits of your offering.  Now you can start selling. The same order that you outlined the needs of the client, is the order to present your recommendation.

Often sales people believe this is the most important part of the proposal; whereas, the buyer will still be stuck on their problems outlined in needs analysis.  This is why recommendation follows understanding and needs analysis, clearly stating the problem you are solving!  It is imperative to be clear and to the point in your recommendation.  Use key features and benefits in one or two sentences – outline format is best.  Don’t create a sales whitepaper on your product.

Provide supplemental collateral to the buyer separate from the proposal if more product information is necessary in making the final decision.  Hopefully, you covered product reviews and demonstrations earlier in the sales cycle before delivering a proposal.

Remember, PROPOSALS DO NOT SELL.  Proposals are affirmation to conversations you had prior in qualifying the client and getting agreement that you can solve their problem.  If you are using your proposal to unveil your services or product features and benefits, you have not qualified your buyer.  You will likely fail.

Now on to Pricing and Terms.  This should be one page (one slide).  Outline your pricing based on your recommendation.  If there are specific terms to the agreement, add them to this area of the presentation.  Terms and conditions should include time of agreement, dates for implementation, and milestones or KPIs to assess progress.  Avoid the dreaded commission breath when talking money by making it all about you.  Be steady, assertive and remember it is about the customer winning!

The assumptive closer will always conclude a proposal with the list of Next Steps.  Number the steps and make them fewer than five so you do not overwhelm the buyer with the fact their decision will require more work.  Be succinct and use action words.  The list should show the commitment by you, the seller, and the expectations of the buyer.

The Customer Bites on Your Proposal

Selling is creating a story that you can tell convincingly face-to-face, in writing or over the phone that addresses a customer need followed by an effective recommendation. Your sales proposal needs to be enticing and compelling to get the buyer to bite.  Organized proposals that put the customer first, will get more attention than those that solely focus on what you are selling.  When you focus on the buyer, you are a problem solver.  People like people who help them!

Flying as a Solopreneur

The Flying Solopreneur – Life as the Independent Consultant

Your mind is a beautiful thing, so don’t waste it.  Put it to use as a business.  All of your collective experience gained through enterprise successes and failures can be commercialized into a service business, if you are willing to fly solo.

“Solopreneurs” is the trending word for self-employed entrepreneurs, also known as independent consultants.  On the networking circuit, they are called “single shingles”.  Solopreneur means the business is you! Your commodity is available time.

Business professionals worthy of being hired to fill a gap in an organization based on skill, knowledge and experience, should be open to the opportunity that multiple businesses may benefit and pay for that expertise.

The first step to determining if you are a good candidate to be a solopreneur is to convert your resume into a list of “product” features.  Once you have a good product description, then you need to determine if there is a market for what you are selling. In other words, will businesses pay for your time and the benefits you can provide?

As a solopreneur, you can save time and money by first drumming up attention from those that have witnessed your expertise in action.  Reach out to test your market viability through your network. Using the standard sales technique of asking for a referral, let people know you are open for business and ask your network to share your availability with others.  You may further extend your marketing message by offering referral fees to groups, partners and business associates that help you retain clients.

As a solopreneur, make sure your professionalism is demonstrated in your communications and social profiles.  Have a business card and professional web site that details your “product” and services. Create a professional business email account and secure your social site URLs, if you are going to brand your business beyond your name.

Working independently requires discipline and good time management.  You have to work on your business every day. Solopreneurs typically spend 20-30% of their time working on their business, leaving only 70% of the day working for paying clients.  Expect to dedicate at least three hours a day to marketing, meetings, invoicing and selling your services.

If you choose to be a solopreneur, build an advisory group of successful solopreneurs with expertise different than yours.  Meet once a month to share industry information and advice on how to best manage your business.  As a benefit, they may extend your reach by talking about you to their clients and network.  They should be your best unpaid marketers!

Solopreneurs succeed when they can fill a day of hard work, sharing knowledge and expertise and producing results for those that pay for that mindshare.  I am proud and excited to be flying solo as Artful Thinkers, it is truly an adventure.

Be not simply good – be good for something.” Henry David Thoreau

What Does the Brand of YOU Represent?

Winning in the Branding of YOU

Branding is an art and science for marketers.  They blend the key attributes of a product, service or company and position them to appeal to a consumer.

Using scientific research, data and analytics, the brand marketer artfully crafts visual and written communications targeting emotions and logic of the intended audience.  The ultimate goal is to drive to an action, such as buy or like me.

How does this relate to the branding of YOU?  We are all a brand.

Seth Godin defines a brand as “…the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.” 

It is how we present ourselves, talk about ourselves and how we are remembered by others.  Branding applies to all aspects of life, professional and personal.  It is the first and last impression of YOU.

If every encounter in life was a personal moment for YOU to brand yourself, what are the words and actions that repeatedly represent YOU?  More importantly, would you want everyone to repeat them over and over again?  Will you be remembered as “Have it your way” (Burger King) or “I’m lovin’ it” (McDonalds) or “Avoid the Noid” (Domino’s Pizza)?

Professional branding is critical for your career.  The words that others use to describe you, are your brand.  You own it.  It may be a definition that comes from a collection of interactions or a single opportunity you had to gain respect and credibility in a brief encounter.

There are several ways for you to represent the brand of YOU.

1.  Introduction.  This is your 90 seconds at a shot of fame.  Whatever comes out of your mouth or you share in an email, is your opportunity to make your brand pitch.  It is the firm handshake opportunity.  Face-to-face, you have an opportunity to say with confidence who you are, what you do and what you represent.  It is the YOU moment.  In email, it is your invitation to draw someone in to know and learn more.  It should be short, to the point and always conclude with a call to action.  Think of it as your 140 character tweet about YOU.

2.  Social Media.  What you post on the Internet is your brand.  And, it does live forever.  It is how you are represented on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, blogs, and so on.  In other words, the brand of YOU is everywhere you put a comment, post or uploaded something to the world wide web!  Before you hit send or enter, think how it represents YOU.

3.  Your CV.  A curriculum vitae (CV) provides a summary of YOU by experience and skills.  It is your brand summary.  Your CV should clearly articulate your strengths.  It is the summary on your LinkedIn profile.

4.  The YOU Meme.  The one way to control your brand is to have a practiced “meme”.

A meme is an idea that behaves like a virus–that moves through a population, taking hold in each person it infects.” – Malcolm Gladwell.

Your branding meme is what others take with them and tell others, over and over again.  It is your “viral” message.  A meme should delivered in 60-90 seconds and cover all the unique characteristics that you want others to remember about YOU.

The creation, care and management of the brand of YOU is very important. It has tremendous monetary value.  You are your best brand PR agent, you are the one to spread the word about YOU. The impression you make in the marketplace will confirm YOU are a good “buy” or confirm why people have no interest in buying what you are selling!  How others talk about YOU will affirm what YOU represent.

Take time to think about the qualities of YOU and what YOU represent, then how YOU can position this to others to create actions or get results.  Rehearse your meme.

Like You
Like the Brand of YOU

You can always improve on your brand; however, reputation management is a costly proposition if you have a damaged brand.  Even a lot of money can’t always repair a brand.  We all like brands that represent qualities that are good and positive. Be authentic, truthful and confident.  Make sure that your brand represents the real YOU.

Best Networkers Go Where Others Won’t Go

Yesterday I met with a successful executive coach who is starting to explore opportunities of expanding her business. She was sent to me by a trusted colleague and notable networking expert.  The typical goal of these meetings are to learn about our respective businesses and then make introductions or provide advice on how to reach new clients.  It’s the life of an independent business owner and consultant.

One of the questions I always ask people looking to develop more business is “who owns your customer?”. Often there is pause. Yes, I want to know who owns the relationship with your customer, not who is your customer. The reason I ask this question is to identify the strongest influencers of those potential new customers.  In my experience, it is the shortest path to multiple buyers.

An influencer provides reach and accelerates your ability to grow market share.  Research suggests that we “buy” when we are influenced by someone we trust.  In fact, ninety percent of consumers surveyed in a 2009 Nielsen Survey said they trust recommendations from people they know.

This is not only applicable in retail situations or online recommendations, but also in business services as well. The business community often gives their business to those that come through their trusted network of peers or with whom they have a past relationship. Why? It eliminates the vetting and testing. In the old fashioned sales vernacular, it saves time and money.

Here are a few recommended steps to reaching your influencer:

1.  Identify your influencer, ask yourself who “owns” your customer.

2.  Research your influencer.  Where do they meet?  Who is in their network?  Who are their customers?  What events do they attend?  What association and industry groups do they belong to?

3.  Start following. Not literally stalking of course, but follow companies and connections in LinkedIn, through social media channels like Twitter, Facebook Fan Pages and Google+.  What are they talking about?

4.  Go to events where they gather and start building your circle of influence.

The biggest mistake I see others make in networking to find business is they go to where their friends and competitors go. For example, I am probably less likely to get business at another marketing event, as opposed to hanging out at a physicians conference or speaking at a non-profit event about advisory boards. My competitors do not go to these events, or at least very few do. I get more time to interact.  I can learn more about their needs in a particular industry or market vertical.  More importantly, I can start to build a network of influencers face-to-face.

How do I get those in the room that have nothing in common with me enter into a trusted relationship? I start by listening.  I then offer to make introductions to my trusted network, when there is a good match. I share my knowledge to see where we have similar business interests, like expanding markets, growing revenues.  Sometimes I offer to participate in events as a speaker on mutually defined topics of interest. Finally, I look for ways I can help them achieve their business goals and give them a “sample” of what I have to offer at no charge.

The saying, nothing ventured nothing gained seems to work well in the world of networking for business.  Sole proprietors and consultants have little time to work on their business, as they are the business.  You need to be your own best PR agent and maximize your limited selling time effectively. If you are competing for air time in a room of people that look and talk just like you, that is an educational or skill expanding event. Learn about your craft and further your expertise.  Don’t expect to get customers at these events.

When you want to network for business, go where you expect to see the least amount of your competition. The fewer people that are “talking just like you” that are in the room, the better chance you have to find business. You also create more awareness about your services because you are not a peer. You have more “meme” time. That will drive curiosity, and that opens a door to “sell yourself”.

Venture Out and Be DifferentNetworking is a skill.  Before you say no or turn away from the idea of going to a meeting or speaking at an event of complete strangers, realize that this is where business starts.  Venture out.  Be different. Go where others won’t go.

The Transition Queen

Next Exit to the Future

Transitioning has become a way of life for many career professionals. This is especially true if you target leadership roles and consulting opportunities in the land of start-ups and working with entrepreneurs.

Some of the negatives of transitioning are summed up in lack of financial security, less control of outcomes and a life full of constant change for you and your loved ones.

The positives of transitions are the experience gained, the continuous learning from success and failures and of course the valuable connections and colleagues who become life-long partners in your professional journey.

For me, transitioning is what I expect and what I know.  It is my way of life.

Coming out of college, it was always suggested that you find a “good” job and stick with it. You ride the elevator up to the top, upgrading your positions and taking on more responsibilities along the way. There are many people that like that steady climb or even like to take a job and find sanctuary in the stability of staying put.

I soon learned that riding on the same elevator for very long did not provide me a lot of challenge and was difficult for a pure opportunist.  My ascent to leadership was early in my career.  I was fortunate.  It was my belief the more responsibility you gained riding up the chain of command, the more commitment you had to affect change, push for progress and even disrupt the “norms” of cultural beliefs and thinking.

I also learned that if you push too hard for improvements or change, you might soon find a transition in your near future.  It is disruptive and challenging to businesses, big and small.

Why have I anointed myself the Transition Queen? It is my career path and my journey.  It is also my value proposition.  I have seen, experienced and learned more through multiple transitions of which most people never see in a lifetime.  Transitions from mergers, transitions from completing multiple C-level consulting projects as a business owner and transitions in roles that hit the proverbial end of the road for me — I have experienced them all.

The first decade of my transitions were emotional and met with uncertainty. Today, I wear my transitions as badges of honor. I get to do more, learn more, meet more people, find new ways to make a difference. I realize now that transitions are opportunities to grow and face new challenges.

My honorary Transition Queen title is worthy of the rich experience and expertise gained along the way. Working in multiple industries, driving change in big and small organizations and finding solutions to meet consumer and business needs are immeasurable when collectively stored in one person.

Stacking Up Experience and Expertise

My problem solving skills are keener, my view of what can be done is brighter. I am confident I can help.  I am certain more can be done.  I have worn multiple leadership hats and I know there is always a similar process and methodology that can be applied to increase market share, grow revenues, commercialize products and create solid infrastructure.  

I relish the transition.  I seek it and sometimes even push for it to happen, or as I say to achieve my “self-fulfilling prophecy” to move on.  My ability to help others move faster and achieve more is my driver.  A motivator.  It is my life blood.  Change yes, change now, absolutely.  In the end, I have come to accept I am The Transition Queen.  

Now, on to the next big thing!

History in our Midst

I Have a Dream
History in the Making

In less than 48 hours, I had the unique opportunity to meet with two men that have made history. Historic by standards that won’t measure with well known names in history books; however, historic in business, politics and leadership.

Both men are in their eighth decade of life. Their experience is beyond the riches most can’t even fathom. One was a Holocaust survivor who built enterprises and rebuilt a nation. One has provided homes to thousands and funded community projects including a library and hospital wing.

Their advice and wisdom gives me hope. Neither sees our divides and obstacles today as monumental. All will be solved in time. They observe, they listen, they know.

My time with both was short. I knew in listening to them each offer me and my business colleagues advice, we were all wiser and more experienced. I know that even in the few hours I was in the midst of these historic men, there where pearls that could not compare to any time I spent reading or learning through my own success and failure.  How do you compare your own experience to people that have changed lives for hundreds, thousands and even millions?

Time with people that have made history is the most valuable time we have in any given day.  There is history all around us.  Some are quietly observing and waiting for you to ask “Tell me your story”.  The honor of meeting history twice in the same week is monumental.  I am changed and I know more.

What did I learn? We can do more than what we are asked to do today, we should do more for ourselves, our families and all mankind and take nothing for granted because you can make a difference.  Maybe even make history!