Archive for business triage

Increase Sales; Take a Snake Oil Salesman Test and Implement Corrective Action

Posted by on September 21, 2013 with 6 Comments

snake oil sales

 

In my last post I asked the question if your team’s execution is turning your sales consultants into snake oil salesmen. What I found interesting is the calls I received from past teams I have served. They sounded something like; “Hey, what are you doing sharing our dirty laundry in your blog? Everyone here knows you are talking about us…” In this case I shared that I am writing about a common problem I have observed over the last 30 some odd years that I would say most companies have in some degree or another. This post is for the business owner, and or leadership team to quickly determine if your salespeople tasked with driving revenue are perceived as “snake oil salesmen” in your market and how to quickly fix this sales problem to insure your sales team hits your growth goals.

 

As I shared in the last post, snake oil salesmen in the Wild West would travel from town to town selling their snake oil. They would make a number of promises and few were actually true so they could never return to the same town twice. They were knowingly being deceptive to close the sale. What I have observed as a common problem that prevents sales teams from experiencing explosive growth is when salespeople are selling based on what they understand to be true, have been trained that is true, and often what was once true but no longer true. If your salesperson is knowingly lying to customers to close the sale and make his or her commissions you do not need a blog to advise you on what action to take.

 

How do we know if our salespeople are unknowingly perceived as snake oil salesmen today and what can we do to quickly repair this and build a foundation of trust required to serve your markets?

 

I look at each new team in three ways;

 

Observe and Listen

 

Unfiltered Data

 

Open Ended Questions with Buyers and Market Influencers

 

 

 

Observe and Listen

 

I live in the markets I serve. So go out and meet with 10-12 customers and observe what your salespeople say, promise, and listen to what your buyers say. These four legged sales calls are critical as nothing speaks the volumes as current market unfiltered comments.

 

What do your buyers have to say…?

 

Did your last order ship on time?

Did you last order ship complete?

Did your product solve the problem your salesperson said it would solve?

Was the problem solved completely?

Did the buyer receive timely follow up from your salesperson, customer service, others?

When the bill arrived was it correct at the promised sales price and terms?

 

In one industry buyers told me: “your salespeople are the used car salespeople of this industry”…ouch!

 

 

Unfiltered Data

 

What does the data say? This is where, particularly new teams struggle with my approach to seek truth. Seeking truth by the way is the first step in my next book as it is a critical step in serving any market and building a strategy on a strong foundation. In the seeking unfiltered truth step you may be labeled a Heretic as I have been,…but let it go as your critics will all love you down the road when their bonuses grow 2X.

 

What kind of truths do we need to look at?

 

What is your actual on time shipments?

What is your current order turnaround capability?

What % of your orders ship complete?

What is your quality problem occurrences as a % of total orders shipped and total parts shipped?

What do customers say? Specifically, did your product or service completely solve the problem it was promised to solve?

Does your product or service solve the problems your web site and sales literature says it solves?

 

 

Open Ended Questions with Buyers and Market Influencers

 

Last we gather open ended buyer feedback. Our goal is to capture our buyers and leading influencers’ perception, feeling, confidence in our brand promise. Are we living up to our brand or are we branding backwards? Have we successfully planted our brand and executed it….or are we branding by default and the frustrated market thinks we do one thing and its no wonder we are losing business because that is not what we do( anymore). To gather this information I highly recommend you ideally meet with customers and potential customers your team has called on without the salesperson in the room. Your goal is unfiltered feedback. If meetings are too difficult and or costly, then conduct phone win loss interviews.

 

Some questions that have served me well over the years include;

 

So tell me some of the challenges your business is facing today? ( I am listening for problems we solve and the buyer is unaware we have products and services to solve them)

 

When buying what are the top criteria and considerations you use in choosing a vendor partner?

 

How did our team do in meeting those important criteria and needs?

 

Have you and would you refer us to someone in your network as a great vendor? Why or why not?

 

There are many win loss questions I have used but the top three are at the core and will get the conversation started. If you want other open ended questions you can go here , as well as here. There are a number of excellent thought leaders in this space and their web sites are below if you prefer to hire an outside firm to conduct win loss.

 

http://www.zhivago.com/revenue-growth-services

 

http://www.healthtrendresearch.com/about-us

 

http://under10consulting.com/about/

 

* there are many more firms that help teams with win loss but the above individuals I know and are confident you would have a great experience with if you are looking for win loss analysis.

 

So you have determined your salespeople are in fact (like many) perceived as snake oil salesmen?

 

What do you do?

 

  1. Determine what your capabilities actually are today.
  2. Communicate those capabilities to your sales team, buyers, and market.
  3. Do what you say you will do, consistently over and over again.

 

If you determine what you are currently doing and capable of doing does not meet the market criteria and requirements of today you must create a roadmap to quickly be able to serve your market as they now require.

 

So how about your company?

 

Do you do what you say you will do? Consistently?

 

Does your team consistently execute your brand promise?

 

Do your products and or services do what you promise on your web site and sales literature?

 

Are your salespeople told to “just make it happen” and they are promising things that were once true but are no longer true?

 

Do your salespeople know disconnects between what your brand promises and what you deliver but feel it’s “politically incorrect or safe” to share them?

 

Do you have a sales force sink hole brewing just below the surface of your sales team?

 

 

When you boil down why buyers buy and why buyers do not buy the root is always: Trust. The quickest way to establish or reestablish trust is do what you say you will do.

Stalled Sale? … Put a Price Tag on Doing Nothing

Posted by on August 8, 2012 with 5 Comments

Stalled Sale? … Put a Price Tag on Doing Nothing


When I train sales teams one of the common questions is; “How do I fix the problem of the stalled sale?” Sales stall and buyers go dark for a number of reasons. I have heard numbers as high as 30%-50% of pending sales in pipelines will stall and possibly never happen. One technique that gets the sale back on track to close is assigning a price of doing nothing and reinforcing it with your buyer(s).

If you have been in sales for any length of time you have experienced the stalled sale. You set out on a journey with your buyer.You had a great meeting with the buyer and influencers, you presented your solution to the identified problems, you had all the buying signals, and the buyer indicated you will get his business but then the sale seems to stall. Key buyer deliverables are missed, your follow up voice and emails are not returned and unfortunately you have probably shared your anticipated new sale you thought was in the bag with your manager who is now driving you nuts with “where’s the order?” This buyer journey now seems to have stopped or maybe just stalled. What should we do now?

Buyers always have choices;

  • Buy from you
  • Buy from your competitor
  • Try to make do and fix it themselves
  • Do nothing

How do you fix stalled sales and drive them to a close?

Once you have diagnosed and prioritized buyer pain you must assign a value on the buyer doing nothing.

Assuming you have listened and now clearly understand the problem the buyer is trying to solve, what is the cost of doing nothing? For example, let’s say you are selling industrial equipment that is more efficient and saves energy. Very quickly you can assign a weekly dollar value of not making a decision and not fixing the problem. Once you identify that cost in dollars, energy inefficiency, or other measurements share that information with your buyer(s) and all sale influencers. In this same example you may also identify the cost of lost production if the current equipment fails. When you first determined the requirements for the buyer and his team, you should already have identified these pain points, their assigned threshold and value. For example, if a CEO is involved they are focused on driving revenues, bottom line profits and eliminating any risk that stands in the way of executing their vision. They know what a lost order is worth. The CFO knows what their overall energy consumption is and you can identify how your product can reduce this cost and by how much. CFO’s struggle with manufacturing variances and the real dollars associated with them.

Your follow up communications will take the tone of wanting prevent the pain we identified early and reduce or eliminate that pain’s associated cost as quick as possible as opposed to a acting like a typical commission junkie needing a fix.  Your communication becomes about wanting to serve your client, and they are about your client and not about what you want. (The sale)

What are your buyer’s pains?

What is the cost of your buyer doing nothing?

Are there buyer pains that cannot have a cost of doing nothing associated with them?

Has your team used this technique? If so please share how it worked.

The stalled sale can be very frustrating and the longer the sale lags the higher your chances are of losing the sale. A phrase I share with a number of teams is “time kills sales deals” and I have personally experienced this to be true. Our job as salespeople is to clearly understand the problem, its pain, and assign a cost if the buyer does nothing.

“Clean Sales Management” …the Secret to Profitable Sales Growth

Posted by on February 4, 2011 with 1 Comments

 

 

As the leader of your sales team are you able to quickly identify market shifts, buying process changes, and the needs for new products and or services? Or do you, like 90% of the sales leaders out there seem to be playing catch up, always chasing what you should have done? “Clean Sales Management “is a practice, a methodology, which entails gathering market information in the market, belly to belly, if you will, with buyers. When you practice clean sales management you will find your sales team seems always ahead of your competitors in sales, new products, as well as overall customer satisfaction.

Like a number of us I set out in 2011 to become healthier. I drifted from my workout plan and I found myself being less intentional about what I was consuming to fuel over the last three months. I found a number of articles on “eating clean” . The basic premise of eating clean is to consume less processed foods and intentionally set out to eat foods that are closest to their raw natural state. For example, we should consume raw broccoli and carrots instead of popping open a can and quickly microwaving this canned, processed, solution. It’s about staying away from consuming junk food.

As I thought about eating clean it reminded me of how I have found the most success in leading sales and marketing teams when I was out in the market, intentionally consuming feedback from buyers directly with my teams. When I would struggle in my sales and marketing leadership is when I was so focused on forecasting and CRM system stage reports that I failed to have an intimate understanding of what was going on in the lives of my markets and the problems of our buyers. Sure, my sales teams participated in weekly conference calls provided weekly call reports, and one on one calls with my team members, however I see now those communications were processed.

Developing sales plans based on phone conversations with your salespeople is “sales management junk food.”

I heard it once “salespeople are like water and they will take the path of least resistance to a sale” and what I have experienced is they strive for quick fixes and shortcuts, often band aides to cure gapping wounds in the repeatable sales process.

When you practice clean sales management you;

  • Are in the market more than behind your desk
  • observe your salespeople in action, with buyers
  • know why buyers buy from you…and why they don’t
  • compare sales report data to what you observe at the source ( raw and unprocessed)
  • stop looking for a salespersons “Ass to kick” and focus on solving problems
  • identify the injuries to your repeatable sales process as the shifts occur and adjust so they do not become gapping wounds
  • become stronger at conducting business triage
  • find your leadership is stronger due to your direction being driven close to the source
  • meet and exceed your sales goals
  • meet and exceed new product sales goals
  • poor performers are eliminated from your team quicker
  • buyers trust your overall organization more
  • sales are more profitable
  • gather sales representative data points and build sales tools that address trends as apposed to chasing each salesperson’s perceived needs based on the last buyer they spoke with

 

So how about your organizations…are you ready to practice Clean Sales Management?

 

How often are your sales leaders in the market working with their teams in front of buyers?

 

Do you and or your sales leaders feel chained to your desk at corporate analyzing CRM updates and creating forecasts no one ever hits?

 

Do your competitors keep beating you to the sale with new products and or services?

 

Do you believe your sales team provides “raw” feedback or “processed “information based on what they think you want to hear?

One resolution I ask each sales leader to practice is to intentionally set out to work in your markets, belly to belly with buyers to insure you practice clean sales management.

"Leader, You Don’t Have to Go It Alone!"

Posted by on December 3, 2010 with 2 Comments

When I asked CEO’s and business leaders where they turn when they face a problem in their business I heard two common answers and one that disturbed me. The common answers were;

  • I call someone in my network
  • I talk to my spouse

However the answer that also bubbled to the top frequently was;

  • nowhere,… that is what I am paid to do, solve problems so I figure it out
  • 

The third response disturbed me… when did business leaders decide they need to go it alone? When was it decided we need to have all the answers? I tell my clients in fact I do not have all the answers,… but I do , based on my experience know what questions to ask.

So let me get this straight….

  • if you want to improve your golf  game you have no problem hiring a pro for a few lessons
  • If you want to get fit you join a gym and hire a personal trainer
  • If you sprain your back you see a doctor ,enter a rehab program with a physical therapist to get you back in shape and out of pain

But if your business has a problem…you feel you must go it alone based on your gut?

Market leaders have the emotional intelligence to know what they know as well as what they do not know. They seek help from experts that complement their gifts and realize faster and much more profitable growth.

So where do you turn when your business needs help? Why?

“Leader, You Don’t Have to Go It Alone!”

Are You Looking For “An ASS To Kick”…” Throat to Choke” or a Solution to a Problem?… (There is a difference)

Posted by on June 11, 2010 with 6 Comments

When things go wrong, (or not according to plan) how do you and other leaders in your organization react? (go ahead, be honest…it’s just the two of us…) Do you and other leaders look for “What ASS to Kick” or “What Throat to Choke”? Or do you focus on determining and defining the problem and setting out to develop a creative solution?

Your answer will determine if you are on a “market leading” team, or a “market Losing” team.

Predictably our President Obama used some hard talk, harsh rhetoric in a recent interview. I am not going to debate if he was too cool and calm to this point, and if he should have or shouldn’t have said he was looking for “What ASS to Kick”. What I want is for you to watch this You tube clip of the interview and ask yourself how it makes you feel if this was someone you reported to.

Go ahead click this link…I will wait…

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQ3nSUdsOeU .

Ok, so how did it make you feel?

 

Before we judge the president too harshly… do you or your organization allow and practice this behavior of blame storming? You sure? When I saw this interview I first thought his language was predictable in the sense that the news media was challenging his calm demeanor during this crisis. So I expected some much stronger language. However when someone in a position of leadership takes this bully approach it quickly makes me feel like they are not a part of the problem or solution. It as if they are a leader trying to distance themselves from the problem as opposed to owning it and being a part of the solution.

When a business leader speaks like this to his or her team ( or me) , they are basically saying…” I don’t know what to do…I am frustrated…my assumption is you know the problem …the perfect solution, and you are choosing not to work,…you are not motivated( accountable)  to execute what needs to be done for one reason or another…and I am tired of looking bad” It’s ok to admit a problem frustrates you. However it is not ok to take your frustration out on others.

Leaders who jump into blame storming mode are more concerned about how the current situation makes them look…”politically”. They are actually fear motivated as they are fearful of how the current situation may somehow attach and tarnish their personal reputation. Blame storming is about reducing their exposure, their fear, by becoming “above” the situation. The trouble is when you enter fear mode, your creatvity needed to solve the problem shuts down.

Do you feel you would be loyal to a leader so quick to look for someone to “Throw under the bus?”

 

Market leaders gather data and perform triage not to find a “Throat to Choke” ( hold people more accountable) but to establish truths versus relying on their gut and intuition.

Market leaders clearly define the problem and humbly seek the advice of experts that have solved problems like this in the past. They seek out advice and develop a plan, a roadmap to a solution based on the data gathered and they manage the process not the people.

Market leaders use problems and challenges to strengthen their teams, and their teams loyalty to them and the organization.

So again I ask….What kind of organization do you work for?

 

Is there ever a time “ASS Kicking” or Throat Choking” is the solution? (I don’t think so but hey…I may be wrong. so please share)

 

Should we seek out “who to blame”?

 

Or

 

Should we clearly define the problem and set out to solve it?

 

Or do you believe ( as one CEO said to his senior leadership team before a  board meeting) : “We need to identify a fall guy for —– as I do not want it on my head”

Again, feel free to argue with me…but I believe people come to work with the desire to add value, the desire to make a difference. If you truly have an accountability problem then shame on you as the leader for allowing it to result in a problem ( disaster) like you are now facing.  Accountability problems do not just show up one day, they fester over time.

As the leader, your job is to create a culture that focuses on the problem and not the person. 

Your role is to  rally your team to break through problems and roadblocks. ( not look for someone to  run over)

Choose to be a Builder in 2010….not a Wrecker

Posted by on January 12, 2010 with 0 Comments

 

I enjoyed a recent column in our Scottsdale Republic by Michael Ryan. He published a poem tiled; “Which am I? “ He was not sure who the author was but the message lives even stronger today than it did seven years ago when he first shared it.

When times get tough we usually see one of two behaviors in organizations;

 

Teams begin infighting and blame-storming

 

Teams unite, grow stronger, and emerge as market leaders

 

Ryan goes on to discuss how “Instead of working together to solve problems, some people seemed more willing to battle one another.” I see this far too often with large clients in which managers retreat to their silos and start shooting missiles at each other instead of competitors.

So I have to ask… 

what kind of a team do you work for?….

A market leading team that discusses real issues and works together to solve them?

Or…

A market loosing team of managers so concerned with covering their own rear ends they wouldn’t know an unresolved market problem or a roadblock to providing a positive customer experience if it bit them?

No matter how others in your organization may be acting under the pressure you have a choice.

Chose to be a Builder.

  ( less than 10% of your team will choose to be builders) 

I hope you enjoy this poem as much as I did.

Which am I?

 

I watched them tearing a building down.

 

A gang of men in a busy town.

 

With a ho-heave –ho and a lusty yell,

 

They swung a beam and the sidewall fell.

 

I asked the foreman, “Are those men skilled.

 

And the kind you would hire if you had to build?”

 

He gave me a laugh and said “No indeed,

 

Just common labor is all I need.

 

I can easily wreck in a day or two

 

What other builders have taken a year to do.”

 

I thought to myself as I went my way,

 

“Which of these roles have I tried to play?”

 

Am I a builder that works with care,

 

Measuring life by the rule and the square?

 

Am I shaping my deeds to a well-made plan,

 

Patiently doing the best I can?

 

Or am I a wrecker who walks the town,

 

Content with the labor of tearing down?”

 

- unknown author

 

 

I would like to add a few lines….

If you have played the role of wrecker you should not despair,

As wrecking is easy for those who do not care.

 

To add value, now that is the to pass through the camels eye,

It is there leaders are born solving problems that arise.

 

Having the courage to often stand alone, to be a part of the solution,

 

When their peers partake in political pollution.

 

 

Ok, so I wasn’t meant to be a poet. But I have worked within a number of organizations that lack leaders willing to be a part of the solution. When we focus on the problem and not attacking the person we are often called “heretics”.

The best way to add value to the team is to be a builder and not a wrecker.

 ( there are far too few builders these days)

Builders identify and solve problems. They flip what is perceived by most to be a problem and turn them into opportunities to add value.

 

 

Wreckers take the easy route quickly criticizing and tearing down creative new ideas and they often overlooking roadblocks and broken processes for perceived personal safety.

 

So who will you choose to be in 2010?

 

Thanks again to Michael Ryan for the above Poem.

Proven Steps to Profitable Growth; Step one Truth, …Understand Your Internal Truths

Posted by on November 25, 2009 with 7 Comments

 

One of the roles I must play to truly serve my clients is that of a “Heretic”. I often listen to business leaders discuss how what distinguishes them, their team, their product or service in their marketplace. They confidently state ; product quality, our service, and my favorite of all…our relationships is our competitive advantage… Bla…Bla…Bla. That is when I need to explain that in today’s competitive global economy, quality, customer service and relationships are not differentiators. Very quickly some leaders become defensive and start discussing how “I don’t understand their industry…” and they often start sharing how “their competitors suck”. Again, you may have weak competitors, but the fact that you may or may not be better than competitors that suck is not a way to differentiate yourself or create a sustainable competitive advantage…(sorry)

The Bible is provides us some very clear advice in this area…” “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? ( Matt. 7:3) and this advice rings true as leaders must look within their own organizations and establish their internal truths.

 

Having a core competency in; service, quality, or market relationships is not enough anymore.

 

Your team must have something that differentiates you in your market as Jack Trout explains in his popular book: Differentiate or Die. The authors of the best selling book: Tuned In, refer to this as your “distinctive competence.” The difference between a core competence and a distinctive competence is the latter differentiates you in your market.

You must gain a clear understanding of your distinctive competence in your strategic planning.

 

Assuming you established Market Truth as I discussed in my previous post, the next truth you must clearly understand is your internal truth(s). To help my clients establish their internal truths I like to ask a number of questions;

  • What do your customer’s say your team does better than your competitors?
  • What are the strengths and capabilities of your team leaders?
  • What is your team’s track record in terms of market growth over the past five years?
  • How many new products have you launched in the last three years?
  • Did those new products meet or exceed your launch objectives and ROI targets? Why or Why not?
  • Has your team introduced existing product(s) into new markets in the past two years? Did you meet or exceed your sales goals?
  • What is your current unused capacity that does not require additional investment?
  • What is your team’s ability to raise funds to support growth?
  • Do you have the access to funds to support your growth?
  • When was the last time you or one of your team’s leaders spent time in the market?

 

For example, I was asking these questions with one of my new clients in the past and their senior team all said the same thing but in different ways; “ we are not good at new…” What was interesting however was that at the recent off site strategic planning meeting it was decided that they would leverage new products to hit next year’s sales objectives. When I interviewed some of their key accounts they too confirmed this teams poor track history in launching new products. One clients said “ they are a great vendor, but they launch new products before they are ready, so we plan to wait six to eight months after their next launch to insure the product has all the bugs worked out before we buy…” Ouch!( their sales plan was not in alignment with clients waiting six months to buy) Again , what was disturbing was the mid level managers and their key accounts all knew a truth that the only people who failed to see were their senior management team. Sometimes senior leaders see issues and put band aides on them hoping they will heal on their own.

As you plan for a profitable future year … Rip Off the Band Aide(s) and Position Your Business For Growth in 2010.

Another new client wanted “more sales” . However, when we reviewed their internal truths the reality was they were currently at 90% of their production capacity and could not service new business. Had we launched a plan to gain new customers we would have frustrated those new clients as well as existing customers ( and their employees) as their service levels would have suffered. As we peeled this onion further we found a large percentage of their current orders were not profitable. So what the owner saw as a need “more sales” was actually a problem with a sales compensation model not in alignment with overall sales profitability.

You must establish internal truths, distinctive competencies, and identify your weaknesses when building your strategic plan. What we are discussing is about  

leveraging what you have. I am not saying as leaders you are not to improve weaknesses and bridge gaps . However what I am saying is you must authentically and openly humble yourself and your team to your internal realities.

Understanding your team’s strengths, as well as weaknesses and limitations insures the strategic plan you write for 2010 growth objectives is obtainable.

Market leading organizations clearly understand market and internal truths.

 

 

 

Market losing organizations can be identified by strategic plans not in alignment with their market or internal capabilities.

 

 

 

 

What kind of organization do you work for?

 

 

Does your 2010 strategic plan rely on effectively launching new products? (even though the last launch was supposed to sell 2,000 and only sold 2?)

 

 

 

Does your senior leadership team have the horsepower to take your business into a market leadership position?

 

 

 

Are you relying on those that got you’re here to get you there in the future? How’s that working for you?

 

 

 

Does your 2010 strategic plan count on you leveraging a capability your team does not have?

 

 

 

Have you reviewed the “why’s” your team failed to meet some of their objectives in 2009? Have you corrected what you found?

 

 

 

If you failed to achieve some of your 2009 strategic plan targets was it a “strategy” or “execution” problem? …you sure?

 

 

Market leaders understand the importance of identifying internal truths when strategic planning.

 

 

 

Market leaders understand the power of leverage. They leverage their distinctive competencies that solve market problems.

Rip Off the Band Aide(s) and Position Your Business For Growth in 2010

Posted by on November 7, 2009 with 1 Comments

What are you aware of that is broken in your business? You know that area, person, process, perhaps website that is not producing? It’s that area that you know you need to address, but you have tabled for now as you focus on bigger fish to fry. If you can’t admit perhaps it’s” broke”,(like a number of those who ask for my help)  let me ask you another way: What is that area that you know is just not right, but you slapped a band aide on to “get through until the business comes back to normal again”?

The reality is you will never see your business like it was unless you identify the areas that are roadblocks or worst yet broken ,and fix them.

I remember when my children were very young and when the would fall down playing and scrape a knee or elbow they did not want me to clean the minor scratch or put some medicine on it….they wanted a band aide. Band aides are magical in that once the problem is out of site they were miraculously healed. Tear filled faces became filled with smiles and the desire to get back to the play that resulted in the injury in the first place.

The difficulty came at night, before their bath when we had to remove that band aide. Back in the day, in an effort insure they did not fall off,…band aides were once glued   your skin and the removal of them caused some pain and or irritation. So what do you do? Do you slowly pull the band aide off? No, what you learned to do was to rip the band aide off quickly. Yes there is a momentary pain, but not nearly as long as trying to slowly remove it. Once the band aide is removed you can assess the true nature of the injury, clean it, and apply medicine to insure it heals and does not become infected.

As I work with a variety of companies in a number of industries I uncover band aides in a variety of areas; broken processes, people who are not adding value and should have been dealt with long ago, people in the wrong roles, websites that scare customers away instead of begin a discussion, antiquated costing systems, poor marketing, the use of old selling practices, …and the list goes on.

What I find is most leaders are aware of the problems, but quickly mentally ranked them, they performed a triage and determined what needed to be addressed immediately, soon, or something we can slap a band aide on and deal with it when the business gets back to normal. There is also some who seem to hope and pray they just go away.

The reality is you may never see the days you consider normal again.
If today is the new normal , what would you do differently moving forward?

The recommendation I give to my clients is to; reset their understanding of the market and their business. In that process we will identify band aides that were slapped on areas that needed repaired and now have become infected. The only way to determine if those broken areas miraculously healed themselves, or if they became infected and may be costing you business, is to rip them off quickly, and rip them off now.

Over the next series of posts I plan to share the process I have used to help businesses; launch new products, launch into new markets, grow in existing marketing, and rebound when they were faced with rapidly decreasing sales, profits, and market share. My commit to you is they are practical and you may even scratch your head and say “well it can’t be that easy”…the reality is; yes, it is.

I am not sure what caused it, or when it occurred , but leaders at some point decided problems were complex and therefore required complex solutions that none of us could execute if we had to … if the truth be told. The reality is when you boil problems down to their true essence there are no new problems. The problem may on the surface look or feel new, but in reality it has existed before. Identifying problems and the road blocks standing in the way of your team’s success and solving them is what we are paid to do.

How about your business…when I ask the question; what is broke and you know you need to fix it but it will be painful? …do you think about?
Are you sure the band aide you slapped on it long ago is working? How can you be sure?
Are you sure underneath that band aide you don’t have a festering infection that may spread throughout the body of your business? ( and worst spread to your customers)
Did you just address an area by “Ripping off the Band Aide”? If so please share what your learned.

Top 20 Entrepreneurial Best Practices to Make Sure 2010 is a Profitable Year

Posted by on October 28, 2009 with 6 Comments

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When I wrote my EBook: 50 Ugly Truths About Owning and Running Your Own Business…and 5 reasons why you should do it anyway I was responding to a number of misperceptions I was hearing from entrepreneurs.

Historically, at any given time six out of ten US adults is thinking about starting their own business. A number of new entrepreneurs are emerging that  I refer to as “necessity-preneurs “who were downsized and can not find new employment, are deciding to launch their own businesses as they want a much more active role in the security of their careers. The last group are cashing in their 401k and or borrowing from friends or family to buy an existing business and in a short amount of time realize they really just bought a job and they are quickly running out of cash.

One thing I have learned over the past 25 years of identifying roadblocks impeding businesses profitable growth is there really is not any new creations in terms of problems and strategies to grow a profitable business. Peter Drucker simplified it even further; there are only two considerations; innovation or marketing.

Just as I shared 12 mentor moments that I have used personally over the years to help businesses grow profitably, I have the Top 20 entrepreneur best practices that I have observed and lived over the years.

#1 “More” Sales or “Create Sales Velocity”?

#2 Dismiss or Distribute “Yafo’s” quickly …

#3; If Sales are Scary, You Can NOT Afford to NOT get Creative..

#4 Remember “The Law of the Locker Room”… it truly is a small world after all

#5 Tailor Questions for your buyers that Illustrate your Expertise and Prepare you to Serve their Needs

#6 Learn To Cut Bait …early

#7 You are Not Your Market

# 8 When Sales Get Rough…Look for Diamonds

#9 Don’t Let the Two Most Important Plates Drop

#10 “How” you “CHASE” New Business Matters….Do you want pepperoni with that new checking account?

#11 Follow the leader is a dangerous game, particularly when you follow Hippos…

#12 An “Idea” is not a product…and it’s definitely not a business

#13 Hire Strategic Partners… Not “Marketing Tools”

#14 Customers will Stiff you…But Don’t Let Them Burn you…

#15 Beware of “Smores”…Social Media Whores

#16 “Make a Wish” come true with Focused Passion

#17 intentionally reward the customer behaviors you desire …

#18 You will Receive Your Best Tips To Grow Your Company From Prospects Who Do Not Buy From You…

#19 Interview those who Exit and identify Roadblocks to Achieving Your Strategic Objectives…

#20 Exercise Your Power of Choice in Choosing Your Role on the Team…If Your Gift is Being a Duck….Be a Duck!

 

The above are by no means an all inclusive list of every entrepreneur best practice but they are some of my favorites. The post that seemed to resonate the most and create the greatest number of discussions was the difference between creating “more” sales versus “creating sales velocity” ( entrepreneur best practice #1).

 

 

How about you….do you have an Entrepreneurial Best Practice you use regularly and would like to share?

 

 

Of the above which best practice(s) resonate most with you?

 

 

Which of the above do most entrepreneurs struggle the most with based on your observations?

 

 

Is there a Key best practice not identified? (If so please add to the discussion)

 

 

As we move into 2010 which of the above Best practices do you feel will resonate most? Why?

 

Thanks for hanging with me  in this series of posts and I want to particularly thank those who have reached out to me personally to discuss this series of posts. As I have discussed, I enjoy helping entrepreneurs realize profitable growth and the strategies discussed are not new. One of my goals in blogging is to help business owners who may not be able to afford outside help at this time and I hope this blog adds value.

If you are wired to take on the 50 Ugly truths of starting and owning your own business and you have intentionally chosen to do it anyway I hope the above best practices were of value to you and your team.

Entrepreneurs will lead our country to economic recovery and I am proud to serve this innovative group of passionate problem solvers along with my other clients.

Entrepreneur Best Practices: #20 Exercise Your Power of Choice in Choosing Your Role on the Team…If Your Gift is Being a Duck….Be a Duck!

Posted by on October 26, 2009 with 0 Comments

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As the entrepreneurial leader you have natural gifts. Market leading entrepreneurs understand a key principle; you have the power of choice…chose to exercise your power of choice in choosing the role you will play on YOUR team. Market losers focus on what they are not, and try to become experts in all the areas of business and thus dilute their personal giftedness and ultimately their contribution to the team’s bottom line. Market leaders know what they know as well as what they don’t know.

Our Pastor at church has started a series on how we have a role to play in adding value based on the spiritual gifts we were born with coupled with those skills we developed over our life time. This message resonated with me both personally as well as made me think about a meeting last week.

When I meet with business owners and leaders the first thing I do is perform a triage of sorts. I ask a number of questions. I identify first if this is someone and a business I want to help. For example, I was asked to meet with a local entrepreneur about two years ago and when I discovered he wanted my help launching a smokeless cigarette that could help more consumers get addicted to nicotine and caffeine,..I chose to pass.

 

Secondly is the problem this business experiencing one I can solve? If not I refer them to one of my trusted network partners. I have a number of questions I use to identify what is and is not happening in the organization. Often the owner’s inability to answer some of my questions are answers in and of themselves. One area I need to focus on early is the owner’s objectives and motivations. Once I understand the true goals I can serve their team and provide the maximum value in the shortest time.

One of my questions that consistently creates a “pause” with entrepreneurial leaders is;

What are your dreams, your goals for this business and what do you personally want to do, and where do your gifts add the most value? ( not what you like to do…but what are you good at?)

 

What is often the case the entrepreneur started their business based on their personal gifts and seeing how their gifts can solve a particular market problem. They launch and realize success. Their desire to serve the market grows into a business and things begin to change. They start hiring team members, dealing with vendors, promoting the business, funding the business….and as time passes they move into a role of running versus doing their business. The shame is they focus so much energy on areas they are not naturally gifted in and they end up moving farther and farther away from their personal giftedness. When this occurs the owners stress increases, she feels like she is being pulled in 100 directions and nothing is getting done. The joy they once experienced when they first launched their business is gone…and now their business has become a job and no longer is a passionate quest.

I often shock business owners and leaders in this first meeting when I say;

There is a big difference between “making” widgets, and “running “a business that makes widgets…where are your gifts best used?

 

We are all uniquely wired with blessings we are to use to serve others. As that business consulting expert Jimmy Buffet shares…

“A blessing can become a curse if you keep it to yourself”

 

Our Pastor shared a story Sunday that I have heard before but this time resonated in a new way. It seems at the time of creation all the animals got together and decided they needed to focus on specific gifts as a group ; running, swimming, climbing and flying.

So the duck was an excellent swimmer but struggled with running. Not wanting to let the other animals down, he decided to focus on becoming a better runner. He trained to run faster and in the process got marginally better but tore the webbing in his feet. When he returned to the water he found he could not swim with the same expertise and speed he once had.

The rabbit was an amazing runner, but had difficulty swimming. So he focused on improving his swimming. In the process of doing so the muscles that made him a swift runner atrophied and when he tried to run, he could not run as fast as he once ran.

The squirrel was an amazing climber, but no matter how hard he tried he as not good at flying. After multiple attempts that ended in crashing to the forest floor he permanently injured his legs and this hampered his ability to climb with the same speed and efficiency he once had.

The eagle was amazing and the best at flying high above the earth and then quickly swooping down to capture her prey. He could catch the currents and seemly soar and dive without effort, but he was not efficient as a climber. He worked tirelessly to be a more effective climber, but in the process his wings became weak and he could not catch the updrafts he once could and could no longer soar to the heights he once exclusively owned.

 

Market leaders understand their gifts and use their gifts to serve their internal and external customers.

 

Market losers spend time trying to perfect areas that are not within their natural giftedness and ultimately reduce the value they provide their team and their market.

 

How about you…do you know your natural gifts and are you using them?

 

Are you in a role on your team that uses your gifts?

 

What should we do if we are in a role that does not use our natural giftedness?

 

As a business leader, entrepreneurial owner do you feel comfortable returning to your giftedness and hiring someone to run your business that is gifted in growing businesses?…why or why not?

 

 

I am not saying don’t learn about the other skills that can add value to your business. What I am saying is stay focused on serving your team and your market with your gifts. As the leader you will want to become aware of other skills , but do not try to become an expert in these areas as it will only dilute your gift’s contribution to the bottom line

 

I find one of the quickest ways to help businesses grow is to identify the various team members’ gifts, starting with  the leader and or owner, and making sure the role they play on the team is in alignment with their gifts. What is often he case is I give the owner a pink slip in running the business and I help find someone skilled at running businesses so the founder can return to their gift. They often express a sense of ….”am I allowed to do this…or is it OK for me to have fun again? “and my answer is always Yes! ( after all it is still your business)

If you are a duck…be a duck! You will swim much faster than those other ducks that are spending hours of frustration trying to become faster runners. While they dilute their gift you will remain focused on adding the maximum value by exercising your gifts.