Recently my daughter and her friends had a weekend break in Amsterdam to celebrate the birthday of one of the group. They stayed at a small hotel off the beaten track which had been booked at random from the internet and as a result weren’t expecting anything out of the ordinary.
When they checked in the receptionist looked at each of their passports, making notes as he did so. Later that day the birthday girl returned to her room to find a small cake, a bottle of Cava, four glasses and a note wishing her a happy 24th birthday.
This is what’s known as a Sili feature; Small Item, Large Impact. In this case it must have cost a handful of Euros and a few minutes of their time but the effect was enormous. In a world where there is so much choice we’re always looking for a reason to select one option over another and people raving about something (no matter how small) will usually tip the balance.
The upshot of all of this is the girl’s sister has already booked in for a long weekend at the same hotel and we’ll give the place a try later in the year when we visit the city for an exhibition at the Rijksmuseum.
Here are some other Sili feature ideas :-
- a small hotel we stayed in where everybody from the barman to the chambermaid called us by our names.
- a beachside restaurant that always serves a complementary single-glass bottle of Cava at the end of a meal.
- when a client re-visits your offices the receptionist asks if they would like the drink they chose on their previous visit.
- a client receives a hand-written note from a supplier on the anniversary of their first deal thanking them for being a client.
There are no end to these ideas and they all have a 3 things in common: they’re cheap to provide, take little time to do but make the recipient feel special and valued.
Ask yourself this: what can I do that will cost next to nothing to provide but will completely take my clients by surprise in such a way that they will want to tell other people about it. The answer will be your very own Sili feature.
Recently Avana Bakeries, a cake factory based in Newport Wales, announced that 650 jobs were under threat of redundancy. A well run and profitable company only a short time ago and now this. How could it possibly have happened?
Simple really, 85% of their turnover was from one client. The client decided to buy elsewhere.
This is what we can learn from Avana’s fate: a good profit is not always a good profit.
Too much revenue from too few clients is easy to manage and so more profitable but it’s also highly dangerous; a bit like living on the slopes of a sleeping volcano: sooner later it’s going to blow and when it does it’s going to feel mighty unpleasant.
You might argue that like Avana you have no choice; the revenue is there so you take it and I’d agree but I’d also stress that your sales function should be utterly focused on winning business elsewhere. If they are unable to do this you must either change the way they sell or change them.
Active analysis and management of your revenue/client spread is a vital element of businesses these days. You decide the mix of small, medium and large clients you want and then set your sales team to achieve it.
It takes time. It takes focus. It takes a sales team able to achieve it but in today’s fickle world active client portfolio management is vital.
Be in control of how your business grows!
I like my business development to be like my food: simple but tasty. Let’s see if this little lot tickles your BD taste buds like it does mine.
1. Always do what’s best for the client.
Short term gain, long term loss or short term loss and long term gain? Your call of course but personally I always aim for the latter.
If you’re in sales and people have a need it’s not too hard to get them to take your option and if that’s the right thing for them to do well fine but if it isn’t say so and move on.
Only a few days ago I was speaking to somebody who I wanted to come on my Business Growth Programme but when she outlined what else she was doing in her business it was obvious to me that taking on the overhaul and upgrade of her BD capability would have been too much and I told her so. Lost the deal but hopefully gained another layer of trust.
2. Be great at what you do.
An obvious thing to say but not one that always translates easily into reality. Too many of us settle for “getting by” especially when we have all sorts of time/money/people/project pressures dragging us down. Occasionally all of us (definitely me included) succumb to this and do second best work.
A tick-box “that’s done let’s move on to the next” mentality does not create delighted clients. The question to ask is “If I were the client would I be thrilled with what I just did for me?” – if the answer is no you know what to do next.
3. Always make your clients feel good.
Never belittle them, bamboozle them with jargon, say you’ll do something and then don’t, make them feel out of control, overload them with things you can do instead and finally never under any circumstances go back on a verbal promise you made.
I can almost imagine you reading this and shaking your heads in disgust at the very thought that you would do those things. The truth is we all do them from time to time it’s just that we’re usually too busy to notice.
A study in America found that most referrals were given by people who had enjoyed the experience of dealing with the supplier; the quality of the outcome was important but of secondary value!
4. Keep them informed at all times even when it’s bad news.
I was trained in the recruitment industry of the late 80s which was a different world to the one we live in today but one thing that has remained the same is that people do not like to be the bearer of bad news. An understandable but flawed belief.
Whether you have good news or bad news people like to know what’s happening and if you don’t tell them they’ll fill the void themselves and probably not in a good way. Much better to drop the odd email over to reassure your clients things are still on track or make that phone call/visit if things are not. The sooner you do this; take the heat and then come up with a plan the better.
Avoid the blame game altogether: if a problem arises quantify it; think of some options; engage the client; agree a way forward and then deal with it. Blame and excuses can wait (forever if I had my way).
5. Check they’re still OK when the dust has settled.
This is a really simple thing to do. Between 6 and 8 weeks after you have completed the work/transaction re-establish contact to see if everything is as it should be.
If the deal was a big one give them a call; smaller deals would warrant a letter (signed in ink by you) and smaller deals should be dealt with through email or social media. The outcome is the same: the client feels you care about them and hey, if there are any issues you can dive in and sort them out winning you even more client brownie points.
So there you have it. 5 ways to create a trail of happy clients none of which need special training or are expensive to do and yet the result……. well, why don’t you try them and find out.
I recently bought a painting from an art dealer in Birmingham. As soon as I saw it I knew I had to have it and my wife was even keener than I was. Not really a great place to start our negotiations.
Anyhow, we engaged the sales person in conversation and she did everything right. I did what I was trained to do and got to a certain stage of negotiations (established basic grounds for the deal) and then announced we were going to clear off and think about it and could they have their “best price” ready in case we came back.
So 45 minutes later and with a glass of Australian Chardonnay sloshing around inside me (they didn’t train me to do that in sales school) we headed back. Bless her – she had moved the picture into a separate room and set everything up for a private viewing – damn I hate to be a foregone conclusion!
We arrived back to see a 7% price reduction, a good start but we could do better, we proceeded to present a split front: Mrs Ames was keen with me less so (lies lies lies – I wanted it more than she did) and we had researched the painter on the internet only to find his works were going in America for less.
“How much less?” she asked – first chink in the negotiation armour methinks. I was honest and told her which represented a 15% reduction from the original price. She frowned, said she would have to check with a director and left the room. A little too soon she came back and said it was my lucky day and she could do the deal. Result! Or was it.
I’m now left thinking I could have got another percent or two off the deal and maybe she’s feeling she should have come back with a counter offer so neither of us are entirely satisfied.
What she should have done was come back with a long face and suggest that despite her best efforts that price could not be allowed. However she could knock off 12%; would that do? Fantastic! I accept; sign the check and everybody goes home happy.
Negotiation is a very important aspect client customer care – without it nobody knows if they have really got the best deal.
The important thing is that everybody feels they could not have done any better in the deal. So keep slogging on until you reach a stone-faced “no” and then decide if the deal on the table works for you. Done!
Most people who’ve been on a presentation course have been taught to “tell ‘em what you’re going to tell ‘em; tell ‘em; tell ‘em what you’ve told ‘em”. And then the internet came along.
Whether you want to get a song on your iPod that you’ve just heard on the radio; download an ebook onto your Kindle or find something out you can can do it in seconds. No waiting; no build up; no preparation just click, click, click, done.
The upshot of this is that our attention spans have been slashed. We’re not quite sure what we want but we want it now and we want lots of it!
Back to presentations then. Start a presentation with an agenda screen followed by one about your company and you’ll have the audience reaching for their Blackberry’s faster than you can say “and we have 9 offices throughout the UK”.
Nnnnnnoooooo!!!!!! Just face it, NOBODY CARES and if they do they’ll Google you.
Imagine Steve Jobs starting one of his famous presentations with an agenda screen and then telling us all about Apple. We don’t want to hear that – we want to hear about the next cool device Apple are going to bestow upon us and that’s exactly what he gave us. What we wanted.
So here it is folks; the 1st rule of High-Impact presentations: always start your presentation with something that they can relate to.
- A topical story with a message
- Something controversial
- A bold statement followed by a declaration that you’re “going to show how this is true”
- An audience participation exercise
- Anything but an Agenda or an About Us screen.
In other words if you were presenting to a room full of pussy-cats you’d start off by talking about goldfish. So the next time you’re building a presentation the first thing to do is figure out what their “goldfish” is and open with that!
This is the first of 7 blog posts all dedicated to the same end: delivering hi-impact presentations.
This guest post is by Mark Britton of Crimson. Mark is from the “it’s all about the revenue” school of marketing with a 10 year track record of B2B technology sector success to prove it. He is now the Marketing Manager for Crimson, a successful Microsoft Gold Partner specialising in Microsoft Dynamics CRM particularly in the recruitment world.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my chosen profession of marketing but there are too many marketers out there who do their best to reinforce the stereotype of a flaky dreamer, pondering over which shade of red to use in their logo.
The Professional Services sector might call what I do business development, charities would call it Outreach, but I’m proud to say I’m a marketer and here are the top 5 things I think every professional marketer should be delivering for their company.
1 Developing a Compelling Value Proposition
A value proposition is what you sell to your clients, is more than just your offering and building one is the most important job a good marketer can do to make a big impact on their firm’s bottom line. Without it, all the fancy campaigns in the world won’t save you. A powerful question to answer is, “What result do I uniquely guarantee to deliver better than anyone else?”
Also remember it’s not what you provide but also how you provide it that counts. A restaurant with great food but lousy service is doomed to fail; a positive client experience is crucial.
2 Creating Unique Selling Points to help your firm stand out
Guess what a client will use to decide which supplier to buy from if they cannot choose between them? No prizes I’m afraid: always the cheapest. So providing strong USPs will help you win new clients, keep existing ones and protect your margins and, in my humble opinion, the challenge of delivering USPs rests firmly with the marketer.
Some might think it would be impossible to create one feature or offering that is unique and they would be right however, by combining a number of them together it is possible to make anything stand out from the competition.
3 A Salesperson in Print
Copywriting – or the art of persuasive writing – is one of the greatest skills I’ve been fortunate enough to discover. While many marketers and advertising agency staff are frustrated artists seeking to entertain and wow, true marketers understand that words (be they in display advertising, website pages or a sales letter) are like having a salesperson in print.
Direct response advertising using persuasive copywriting is about making a connection, overcoming objections and, crucially, eliciting a response. The fascinating science of direct response advertising has been studied for over 100 years and I can’t think of a better place to start than reading books by famed copywriter Drayton Bird. Robert Bly has a book specialising in business-to-business copywriting, too. The grandfather of the subject is Claude Hopkins and his book Scientific Advertising can be downloaded for free here.
4 Articulating your Value
Good sales people are charming and fun people to be around, but few in my experience are able to translate their mastery of the spoken word into print.
This is where a good marketer can take the baton and contribute to a winning team. In today’s socially connected online world, the written word has taken on a new and powerful dimension. A good marketer should shadow sales people in the field and study the objections sales people are faced with to avoid the ‘ivory tower syndrome’ that blights most poor marketing.
5 Show me the money (perhaps my favourite)
Bringing in a steady flow of qualified leads makes every business grow and run smoother, be it through cross selling or new business.
If you know a marketer in the business-to-business world that harps on about brand building, run a mile. Brand building should always come second to a solid lead generation machine. In B2B marketing your brand is primarily built through one-to-one relationships and how well personal promises are kept. Therefore, true brand building doesn’t happen until you have the leads to begin with.
If your marketer can’t demonstrate how they’re delivering the right type and number of leads, put a rocket under them. If that doesn’t work, fire them because that is what you should be paying them to deliver.
Connect with Mark on LinkedIn here.
It’s that time of year when some of us reflect on the year that has just passed and perhaps anticipate the year ahead. Well if you’re one of these people (I am has it happens) then perhaps this list will help you to be more successful and less stressful in 2014.
1. Be clear what your mission is
I know what you’re thinking “I can’t believe he started with that lame-ass old chestnut”. Well I have because it’s the single biggest factor in controlling stress and most of the other messages listed below depend upon this being right.
All you need to do is write down in 100 words or less what it is you want to achieve in 2014. I’ve also included things in my personal life but you can restrict it to just work if you like (personally I wouldn’t but it’s your call).
When you’ve done it ask this one simple question: do I believe I can do this? If the answer is “no” back to the drawing board.
BTW I have just done this and it was a great experience.
2. Say “no” more
I’ll keep this simple: when somebody asks you to do something or go somewhere this is the sequence of questions to ask yourself.
- Will this help me to complete my mission? If so then accept.
- Do I have a choice? If not then get on with it and look as happy as you can.
- Do I have the time? If not then say no.
- Will I be able to call in this “off message good deed” in the future? If not then say no.
- For everything else say no.
3. Delegate or Outsource whatever you can.
Obviously available people and available funds are crucial factors here but whenever possible pass things to others to do. One word of warning here: whether you are delegating or outsourcing you must do it properly or it will just make things worse. Delegate don’t abdicate.
4. Don’t schedule all your time
I’m the absolute worst for this and yet it’s the thing I need most: free time. Foolishly I fill my working week with one thing after another and, worse still, I also fill my personal time with weekends away and evenings out. Mrs Ames hates me doing this!
For me this is a disaster. I need free time to think, recharge my batteries and be spontaneous and if I don’t get it I feel increasingly depressed. In, 2014 I am going to achieve this by a combination of rigorously applying the first three rules.
BTW on the subject of weekends …… what a great time to reflect, relax and regenerate as well as build some memories for your creaky old age. We like to have something in the diary every couple of months which we diarise in January. We might not know what we’re going to do but we know when we’re going to do them.
I think you can get as much from a long-weekend as you can from a week away sometimes but it’s usually cheaper and doesn’t burn as much holiday. Whilst most people do this the difference is sitting down in January with your brand spanking new calendar and blocking them out.
Oh, one last thing that we used to do with the kids was keep an adventure file. Anybody (mainly us when they were young) can put something in that relates to an adventure: magazines, TV programmes and later on, the Internet were a rich source of material. The kids LOVED it and we had some really great adventures together.
5. Create an inner circle of a dozen high value people.
Most of us know lots of people and the temptation (or offer) to meet up for coffee, drinks or even meals is ever-present. The result is seeing too many people who aren’t contributing very much to your mission.
My solution is to have an inner circle of people who I have decided can help me achieve my mission but who I can also add some value back in return. This last statement is important unless you want to be seen as one of life’s “takers”. Perish the thought!
So now you either see clients/prospects (see as many of these as you like) or your inner circle; everything else is likely to be an indulgence thus burning time and increasing your stress levels.
I think it’s a good idea to speak to or see 2 of your inner circle every month.
6. A place for everything and everything in its place
Organisation is the DNA of personal effectiveness. To me this means being able to a) have a clear desk and office and b) know exactly where something is when I want it.
This means different things to different people I know but to me it means: -
- Contact and personal details of all of my stakeholders: my CRM system
- Paperwork of any sort: a splendid filing system (used it for years)
- Paperwork associated with current projects: an A to Z concertina file
- Documents especially when I want to send them out to people: SharePoint and Box.net
- Useful stuff I’ve found on the web: diigo.com and Evernote
7. Use of a task management system
Had Microsoft thought that either your Inbox or your Calendar were effective ways of managing your workload they wouldn’t have bothered to spend all that time and money on developing Outlook Tasks. I agree with them on this one.
So get used to using Outlook Tasks to remind you to do your due tasks and store all the relevant information to that particular task. You can use Categories to group tasks together (say if they are all related to a project) and the Assign button to delegate them out whilst still keeping control of what’s going on.
I started using a system in the 90s when I had a Filofax which has been adapted for use with modern Groupwise products like Outlook. I rarely forget things and can have loads of projects on the go at once just because I use Tasks over bits of paper or my Inbox.
8. Book Time in the diary for larger tasks
Half the problem of over work (and therefore stress and failure) is that we don’t really have a handle on our spare capacity. “hey, Mike can you do this for Friday please?” … “Oh sure, just whack it over to me and I’ll take care of it”. What I should have said is “Oh, let me just check what I’ve got on and I’ll get back to you”.
I know that there’s that whole “the answers yes now what’s the question” macho bull5h1t vibe going on but face; it you only have so many hours in the day and only a percentage of those where you can do really exceptional work so why not get into the habit of reserving slots in your diary for bigger projects you have committed to deliver.
This makes it easy to check how much spare capacity you have before committing to more things that you don’t have time to deliver properly. Even better than that; if something really urgent comes in you can use your diary to reschedule less urgent tasks giving you the time to get right on the new one.
Great idea. It only works about 80% of the time. This is better than not knowing what’s going on.
9. Plan, plan, plan
They say a cliché is just on over-used truth in which case this is a massive cliché but if you fail to plan you really do plan to fail.
- Your mission provides you with your overall goals for the year.
- A quarterly plan denotes the next chunk of deliverables if your going to deliver your mission.
- The plan for the coming week enables you to prioritise and be ahead of the game.
If being in control is the Domestos of stress then plans are the Tesco’s you can buy them in. Rubbish metaphor but I think you get the idea.
10. Invest in Yourself
We are all too busy (apparently) to do anything else except work so any ideas of personal development are laughable. I don’t buy this for one minute but even if I did how are you going to get better at what you do if you don’t invest?
Now, I accept that a week’s course is probably not likely to happen but consider this: spend just 5 minutes a day reading/watching/listening to something that is new and improving adds up to nearly 3 days of improvement a year!
So try these sources of inspiration: -
- Watch Videos: try TED.com – this is my favourite
- Read Blogs: too many to mention but I do like Seth Godin’s blog
- Seminars: longer than 5 minutes I admit but stack a few days worth up and go learn something new.
- Books: I just don’t have the time to read as much as I used to. I can open a book halfway thru and read until I’ve learnt something useful though. Check out my favourite business books here.
- eNewsletters: pick and choose but a good newsletter can be an easy way to have new stuff delivered to your inbox. Sign up for mine here.
- People: probably the best source of new material and easily the most fun. Just starting a conversation is a start.
Never, never, never stop investing in your self. The cost of doing so is way too high.
So there you have it.
Ten ways that you can reduce your stress levels and make you more successful. If you think I’ve missed any please feel free to add your ideas as comments – I’d love to hear from you.
Have a prosperous, peaceful and very happy 2014 peeps.