Beware: not all good profit is good profit.

Not sure I'd sleep easy knowing this.

Not sure I’d sleep easy knowing this.

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! 

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Posted in Business Development, Lead generation, New Business, Sales, Uncategorized

How to get a win:win deal when negotiating.

My new oil painting – beautiful!

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!

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Posted in Business Development, Sales, Uncategorized

The 1st Rule of Hi-impact Presentations as Practised by Steve Jobs

"Goldfish, goldfish, goldfish, goldfish..."

“Goldfish, goldfish, goldfish, goldfish…”

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. 

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Posted in Communication, Differentiation, Presentation Skills, Uncategorized

Guest post: The Top 5 Things Marketers Must do for Your Business

Mark Britton

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.

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Posted in Guest

10 ways to make 2014 more successful and less stressful than 2013

2014 New Year New Start

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

Task ManagementHad 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.

  1. Your mission provides you with your overall goals for the year.
  2. A quarterly plan denotes the next chunk of deliverables if your going to deliver your mission.
  3. 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

Self ImprovementWe 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.

Photo Credits:

Space Shuttle : photo credit: x-ray delta one via photopin cc

Clock : photo credit: gothick_matt via photopin cc

Task Management : photo credit: rintakumpu via photopin cc

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Posted in Achievement, Efficiency and Effectiveness, Inspiration, Lifestyle, Personal development

3 Simple Messages to you from me

Xmas Card

This will be the last post I’ll make this year and I wanted it to be more of a personal message to you, my readers and subscribers.

Firstly, let me thank you all for supporting me by reading my blog posts, making comments on them and sending me emails sharing your personal thoughts. I’m truly honoured that you do this and hope you continue to do so in 2014.

Secondly, in the New Year we’ll be formally launching our new website packed with tons of free videos, podcasts and PDF How-to Guides to download all aimed at making you more effective at business development and sales.

Based on our belief that there’s already too much stuff out there our aim is that find what you need in 2 clicks and learn what you need in 2 minutes. More on this in January though.

Finally, I’d like to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a prosperous and peaceful New Year and as the late, great Dave Allen used to say “may your God go with you”.

See you in 2014!

Posted in Uncategorized
Mike Ames

Passionate about making business development a profession not just a job. Built and sold a £40m group in less than 9 years. Doing it all again and loving it!

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