Are Your Sales People Suffering From QDD?

Are your Sales People Suffering from QDD?

Your marketing team developed a lead gen strategy that seems to be dropping a number of potential opportunities into your marketing and sales funnel. The accounts feel like they have a good possibility of becoming orders since they are from your core industries and you know they are buying products and or services just like yours. You have been tracking what looks like a strong return on marketing dollars invested based on the number of new opportunities. The entire senior management team is excited and is waiting in anticipation of hitting the sales and profit numbers. However as the sales leader you are not seeing these opportunities moving along the sales journey from opportunity to prospect to lead, and you are not seeing closed sales dollars? Why? Your salespeople are suffering from QDD.

I get excited when a team finally embraces the concept of marketing and driving what should be warm opportunities to my sales team. They took the time to do the market work and determined problems their markets have and positioned their products as solutions to those current problems. They understand your company’s value proposition and have launched your message. The number of new opportunities is climbing each week and reviewing some of the account names you know they buy a product or service like yours…but you are not seeing new orders? How can this be? Having lived this scenario more than I care to admit, what you are experiencing is QDD; Quick to Disqualify Disorder.

As I have shared many times; “Salespeople are like water and they always find the path of least resistance”…In this case it is easier to disqualify a prospect than qualify one. When presented with new opportunities sales super stars say; “awesome, I know they buy products like I sell and I will one way or the other figure out the problems they currently have and sell them”. If your salesperson is suffering from QDD they say; “ah, I have heard of this company( even if they haven’t) , I tried to sell this company six years ago( one voice mail) , I doubt they will buy, they are probably happy with their current supplier and just price shopping us, so I will follow up.” Do you hear the difference in mind set? The sales star understands the value he and your products bring and is excited to help serve one more person. The salesperson suffering with QDD will “go through the motions” but already believes he or she will not sell the account. The sales star is seeking to serve, the QDD salesperson is focused on disqualifying the opportunity quickly so no one asks the status and next step to win their business. Who do you think will win the sale?

How do you know if you have someone on your sales team suffering from QDD?

By the Numbers

The first thing I do is look at the numbers…how many opportunities has this person been given in the last 3-6 months and how many went from possible opportunity to lead to close? Compare this to others on your team and if you find a disproportionate amount of opportunities are not turning into qualified leads, your salesperson has QDD.

By Mix

Review the product mix sold by your team. Quickly you should see a few patterns emerge. Look for anyone on your team who does not meet a similar product mix. What I am particularly looking for here is new products, sales from products you have been aggressively marketing. Salespeople suffering from QDD will have their product mix heavily weighted with older products or services in your offering.

 

By Margins

Assuming your marketing group has done their job and the products you have and are launching are brilliant solutions to unresolved market problems, you should have priced them at a higher margin based on the value they provide. Salespeople with QDD will have the lowest blended profit margin for their area of responsibility. They do not understand how to sell value so they take a commodity and relationship selling approach.

By Listening

Sales super stars will focus on the value, the value the customer will receive once their problem is solved. They are excited to help the customer, serve the customer they are shocked if they don’t move to the next step in the sales process. Salespeople with QDD will tell you their (your) customers are all about price and we are too high. The shame is when I interview buyers on why they do not buy as I do, rarely is price even on the list. What buyers do say is the salesperson did not seem to understand my problem, did not listen, and therefore I did not trust their solution. You very likely could of, should have won their business, but because your salesperson is suffering from QDD the buyer lacked trust. You will also hear another why you are not able to break into this account and it will sound something like; “he’s got a great relationship with his current supplier and won’t even consider us.” Relationships are important don’t get me wrong, however if a buyer trusts you can better solve a problem than a current supplier you should at least move to the next step in your sales process and not be dismissed so early.

View the CRM

Take time to review the CRM entries. Sales stars will be logging discussions, and have future appointments scheduled and maybe even new business quoted. Salespeople with QDD will have a series of entries that say; “left voicemail” and “sent email” and the prospects will only have one or two entries. Sales stars know you need to engage with buyers 8-10 times before activity occurs. QDD salespeople go through the motions, as if to say; “yes, I did my job, I made the call, but they obviously were not interested or they would have called me back,” They are focused more on showing activity than driving results.

So how about your sales team?

Are you hitting your sales and profit goals?

Do you have one salesperson consistently missing their goals?

 

Are you seeing this salesperson not moving opportunities through your sales process to the next level?

Are you concerned one or more of your sales team has QDD?

 

QDD cripples sales growth efforts. Arguably all good sales stars have a bit of ADHD , but this along with a compelling desire to serve and win they charge forward believing they have the talent and products to win. QDD salespeople believe if new sales were out there they would have already won them. They are not sold on how sales occur today and are waiting for things to get back to normal. Well, this is the new normal and they must adapt.

The first step in solving any problem is identifying you have it. If this post made you wonder about one or a couple of salespeople on your team I recommend you take the five steps above to learn if one of your team members is QDD. Aside from lost sales that could have, should have been won, I want to warn you QDD is highly contagious and must be identified, quarantined and cured as soon as possible. This condition is curable if the salesperson agrees they want to fix it. If you have a team member who does not agree they have symptoms of QDD and are not willing to change you must quickly remove them from the responsibility of calling on new prospects and possibly explore more of a service to existing customer’s role.

 

 

Add Inside Sales…Fix Sales Problems

"serving customers with inside sales"

by Mark Allen Roberts

In my last post I shared how salespeople need to learn their A B C’s in terms of account segmentation to insure their salespeople  are spending time in areas that match your sales plan and insure sales goals are achieved. Nothing drives your CEO crazier than finding out your sales team is not hitting plan, and six months into the year he discovers sales is not executing the go-to-market plan everyone agreed to follow. One way I have used to insure sales teams execute sales plans is the implementation of inside sales. The first reaction I always receive when presenting inside sales is:we can not afford it. My answer is always;

You Can Not Afford Not To Have Inside Sales to Hit Sales Goals

In this post I will share my thought process on why inside sales is even more critical in today’s selling environment than ever before, how inside sales can turn cold calls into warm calls, increase sales with your C accounts, increase new customers, and reduce your current cost per sale and add more profit to your bottom line. Inside sales also offers a number of other benefits we will discuss, but I hope the above mentioned benefits are enough to keep you with me.

How has the sales environment changed in the last 5-8 years?

I used the same process I would use in a market trying to determine shifts, I interviewed a number of sales people and listened to what they are experiencing selling products in today’s market. Some of the common comments included:

My buyers have to justify each expenditure to the “higher ups”

C-level executives need to sign off on all orders

About 70% of what marketing gives me I do not use.

I have to speak with all kinds of people I never had to sell before; CTO, CMO, CEO, CFO…

Customers are not stocking up and they are taking much longer to buy, while our marketing programs try to reward customers to buy volume, but they are buying Just In Time

My buyers have the C-suite recommending competing vendors to our products and my buyers are spending time chasing these leads the C-suite read about or heard about at the country club…

My buyers say they are “cautiously optimistic” about our economy and therefore are not cutting Purchase Orders

Couple some of the above with the studies that indicate 70% of buying is occurring before the buyer makes contact with a salesperson even the most adamant skeptic must agree buyers are buying differently today and the sales process must adapt if you plan on hitting your sales numbers.

Inside Sales can turn Cold Calls into Warm calls

In addition to staying in contact, touching, your C Accounts, inside sales can establish trigger alerts through Google Alerts that give them a heads up when a trigger event occurs that may indicate a sales opportunity. For example, let’s say a manufacturing plant expanding has been proven to be a trigger event for turning suspect customers in to prospects and even quotes. Inside sales can establish a limitless number of Google Alerts to let them know when a trigger event occurs in the market. Your alert would look something like; “Ohio Plant expansion”. When that alert is triggered inside sales can search Linked in by company, make phone calls and send your product information to the right person ant the right time. Marketing should provide template tools to insure the communication connects to possible buyer pain points for this type of buyer by market. If the alert is for one of those large accounts, in your market sweet spot you have wanted to sell, inside sales will send information and make contact then introduce the field sales person. A common transition would sound something like ; “ as we have discussed it sounds like you are exploring products to support your plant expansion, we have our product specialist in your market on September 15th, would you like me to set up a time for him to meet with you and better understand how we can help you? “ I recommend providing inside sales a finder’s fee bonus on accounts they feed to outside sales that turn into orders. I often use some % of the first order’s profit.

Increase sales with your C accounts

Working with the VP of Sales and marketing you can establish strategic touches. Some that I have used include;

  • “thank you for your recent order, people who purchased ____have also purchased _____”
  • “I noticed you have not ordered since __________ and I wanted to check in on you”
  • “You asked to be kept in the loop on new products, did you see our _______ click the link in this email and it will send you to product information”
  • Promotions – I recommend a quarterly product focus, and have inside sales send an email and within 7 business days call to follow up, “did you see we are running a promotion on _______”

The key focus is service not sales. Inside sales tone and voice should be about helping the customer. All communications must feel relevant to your buyers and timely. When I say timely I am referring to communications that feel like they came just when the buyer needed them, like you know them.

Increase new customers

As we discussed above, inside sales will be constantly being alerted to triggers that may lead to new business. In addition, now that field sales have only A and B accounts, they can work the targeted accounts in their market opportunity profile.

Reduce your current cost per sale and add more profit to your bottom line

What does it cost your company to have a field salesperson call on an account?  For years I have used $500 as the cost of a call, but it may have gone up. You need to add the salesperson’s base, expenses, medical and all overhead to determine a cost. I have heard some people tackle this different way by having a daily cost of a salesperson model. Whatever you use, there is a cost. What is the cost of losing a key customer? The cost of losing a C account? What does an inside salesperson cost? In most cases their targeted compensation is 1/2 that of a field salesperson, and their only expenses are added phone calls and postage.

If you do not have inside sales today, I recommend a phased approach with regards to field sales commissions. In some cases, which will be an eye opener to many, the C accounts are the vast majority of your field sales commissions. Let me say that again in a different way; the majority of the commissions you are paying your best and brightest field salespeople who are not growing current accounts or opening targeted new accounts would have probably come in anyway, even without a field salesperson. I often implement a split commission structure in the first year as we transition to inside sales and this gives field sales time to refocus and not realize too much of a hit on their targeted compensation in year one.

Inside sales helps focus  on creating the greatest return on sales investment

Quick numbers…. Let’s say your field sales team member is costing you $700 per day. Let’s assume, because the field sales person has time to work current customers they increase their base key account sales by only 3%. Let’s also assume you reduce your account attrition by one key account per territory, and the salesperson only opens 4 new key accounts per year. In addition, as I experienced personally, your C accounts are now feeling you care about them , that they are important , and you are reaching out frequently with solutions to problems they were surprised you knew they had and C account sales grows over 10%. Inquiries from the internet speak to a live person and have their questions answered quickly and all inquires are treated like they could be customers. Your cost to support C accounts has decreased by 50% increasing your ROI on sales compensation invested…..I’ll say it again ;

You Can Not Afford Not To Have Inside Sales to Hit Sales Goals

The last benefit I also realized from inside sales is it often becomes your farm team for field sales. Your inside salespeople gain valuable experience often dealing with some of your most demanding customers. They learn your product lines and the problems they solve, your markets, and as your team grows often they can be called on to serve in a field sales capacity. They also learn to rely on the buying process you have taught them and when they venture out into the market follow it because they have experienced how having a sales process that mirrors how customers want to buy drives sales results.

So how about you…do you have an inside sales model?

What benefits have you realized from having inside sales?

What do you do strategically to insure inside sales and field sales work well together?

Given the shifts in how buyers are buying today, an inside sales position is key to insuring your sales team makes quota.

“Pushing Mud Uphill” …Launching a New Product or Service Without Four Clear “Yes’s”

launch new products like pushing mud uphill

One of the most exciting things you can do in business is launch a new product, service, or entire business for that matter. As high as six out of ten US adult consumers are thinking about launching a business at any given time. If you chose to take the leap yourself, you will experience what I refer to as the “50 ugly truths…” but in so doing you will become stronger, and if you survive you will ultimately help people solve problems.

I can’t imagine anything more rewarding than helping someone solve a problem they thought there was no solution for. If this is true, then why do over 70% of new products (businesses) fail?

They fail because they failed to answer “yes” to four simple but key questions.

Question 1

Do you clearly understand the problem you are trying to solve and does your product (service) solve that problem completely? (if you have already said “no” stop, gather more data)

Question 2

Are there enough people, a market of people, with this problem to meet your desired ROA? ( if your answer is “I think so” stop and validate)

Question 3

Do the members of the market you validated as big enough have the ability to pay to solve their problem? (there are all kinds of problems we all have, but we are not willing to pay to fix)

Question 4

Are the members of the market you validated that is big enough, with the problem you solve, and ability to pay, “willing” to pay now? (there are many problems we have, and we have the ability to pay for, but not the willingness to pay for)

If you answered “Yes” with current market data (not data from three years ago when you first came up with this idea) go for it!

But remember; An Idea is not a product and it’s definitely not a Business.

Where most entrepreneurs blow it …as Jim Collins refers to it is; Hubris. They believe because they have launched products in the past and they were very successful they trust their gut and intuition that there new endeavor will also be a huge success.


So what happens if you launch based on emotion and Hubris?….

Your sales may come, but slowly

You will miss ROA targets

Need to add investment, instead of cutting bait

Your sales team (who trusted you) will push mud uphill each day…the good ones will leave due to frustration

You strain your entire organization (who is probably already multi tasking) morale suffers

You demonstrate to your market you do not know them

Personally you will become frustrated, aggravated, distracted, and you will loose focus

How can I rattle the above off so quickly?…Because I have done it. I have experienced the rush of growing companies by launching new products and or new divisions and when I find what feels like a huge unsolved problem in a market ….I get excited (emotional).

Instead of gathering current market date, I used to move into; validate my gut mode.

Instead of admitting what I did not know… and finding answers…I relied on past experiences to get me through the unforeseen roadblocks.

I have felt the emotion that builds, and heard that little voice in your head that says; “I don’t care what engineering, marketing, operations, and sales thinks we should do, or the more information they want to gather…we need to launch before someone else beats us to market”

What I lacked back then was a filter…simple filter that quickly cuts through the emotions and feelings and quickly lets you know if you have an “idea” or a “business”. The above four questions are the filter I recommend everyone use PRIOR to launching your new product, service, or business.

How about your company….

Have you ever had to push mud uphill?

While your team loyally pushes mud uphill, what is the opportunity cost of their time?

Do you have other questions to add to the filter to insure the products you launch do not fall into the 70% of those that are an expense without a ROA?

Again, having launched products, services, even new businesses in my career I understand that inner rush of adrenaline that makes your creative juices fire on all cylinders…I do. Maybe it’s an age thing…but I now highly recommend a pause, a strategic pause, before you launch and ask yourself the above questions.

To insure you maximize your percent of wins and your ROA for new products, make sure you use a filter, get the four “yes’s” prior to launch.

If you do not use mine above, I have also used the economic value added model back in the day. This model helps insure decisions are not made of Hubris.

Whatever you do, do not rely just on your gut, and or your key accounts, friends, and family members saying “go for it”.

If you would like to read more about this topic, I recommend you read;

Tuned In

How the Mighty Fall

Delivering Happiness

Entrepreneur Best Practices: #14 Customers will Stiff you…But Don’t Let Them Burn you…

money burning

The majority of customers are honest hard working people, like you, looking for someone to help them solve their problems. They do not have a problem paying for the value exchange they receive from you. There are however those low life’s out there who will engage with you and have no intention of paying you. I included this in my eBook: 50 ugly truths about starting your own business…and why you should do it anyway, as it often shocks and infuriates new entrepreneurs. Although these low life’s will attempt to stiff you, you don’t have to let them burn you.

I can still remember the first person who failed to pay me. Although it was many years ago, it was one of those tough leadership muscle building lessons during bootstrapping. I was asked by an investor to engage with one of his portfolio companies to figure out what was wrong and turn it around. I have played this role a number of times serving VC’s and Angel investors and I enjoy the assessment and turnaround of entrepreneurial teams.

When I first met the young CEO at the helm of this organization my gut said run away. He was an arrogant young man who was irritated that I was even asked to help fix his team’s poor performance. He was irritated the board and the investors did not seem to buy his explanation that the reason for his shortfall to goals was: a poor economy. He was concerned that I would share what I find with the investor who brought me in to serve his team, and for the first two months he instructed his team to run their answers to all my questions by him prior to answering me. (Another sign I should have run away)

I tried to build trust and I advised this young CEO the issues I discovered and made recommendations. One recommendation was the need to explain the problems he solves for his clients with an aggressive messaging plan targeting his optimum buyer personas. His response was one I have heard by CEO founders before…” we do not need marketing…the market clearly understands what we have…I just need hungrier salespeople.” (So he cut their base pay to make them hungrier) He could not have been more wrong. Since he instructed his team to not openly share information with me I went into his market and interviewed his past, current, and targeted new customers. I found the market was in fact aware of his business, but they consistently did not understand how this business could solve their problems…the market branded his business by default.

After a number of months the retainer payments were paid later and later and eventually they stopped. While he told me and his team the business was really struggling, he personally leased a Hummer, bought himself an expensive laptop and went on a trip internationally with his wife. (But that’s another post)

I was so connected to helping this team and investor; this company properly brand the business in the market I failed to pay attention to his not paying me. What started out as “ I will pay you next week…turned to next month…and after two months I was informed he can not pay, and he was actually shocked I would ask for the payment of my small retainer given the difficulties the business was having as he shared at a recent board meeting I was asked to attend”.

There are two schools of thought with customers who do not pay you. The first says write it off as bad debt and move on. In this case this young CEO went on to say “you don’t want to be known as someone who sues his clients do you?” (I later found he had said many times before, and had I done my homework on him this could have been prevented)

The only thing worst than not having customers is selling customers who do not pay.

The second thought is you have provided a value and you should expect payment. Customers who fail to pay will be sent to collections and or sued. I actually do want to have the reputation of suing clients who do not pay as this will help weed out the low life’s who become time vampires sucking the life out of you with no intent on paying. So I went to the courthouse filled out the proper paperwork and we went to court. The judge provided a judgment in my favor and as we left the courthouse this young CEO went on to say …” good luck collecting you @# hole” Sure enough after multiple attempts to collect he failed to pay . The next phase of this process required an attorney and we won that judgment as well with interest.

 

 

This young CEO stiffed me. However where I blew it was I became angry, I allowed it to stick to me.

 

Anger is an acid that only burns the container that tries to hold it.

 

beliefs

 

I let this young man’s poor ethics personally affect me. Anger left unchecked can turn to depression and leaves us feeling bitter. As I worked with new clients I built processes and procedures for the less than 1% of business owners out there who are the low life’s like this young CEO. That unchecked bitterness stayed with me and became a frequent thought; small business owners will stiff you if you fail to protect yourself. This thought repeated over and over again became a belief, stemming from one unethical young man. It failed to recognize a sea of very prosperous relationships I have enjoyed with past customers over the past 25 years, and it tainted my outlook. My coach eventually brought this bitterness to my attention and explained I needed to forgive this young man and move on… Not for his sake, but for mine.

 

 

What should you do if a customer stiffs you?

  1. Seek first to understand
  2. determine if this a deadbeat with a history of treating partners like this or someone who needs you to work with them
  3. cut bait early, with the first missed payment, services must stop
  4. if they refuse to pay, start collections proceeding immediately
  5. ask yourself what lesson ( often expensive lesson) can you learn for this experience to insure it does not occur again
  6. forgive their unethical behavior for your sake, not theirs
  7. move on, as the Bible says, “dust off your sandals and move on” As 99% of customers are ethical people
  8. do not allow this bad experience to taint how you treat current and new customers

 

Anger if left unchecked is like acid, and it only damages the container that tries to keep it contained.

 

As an Entrepreneur customers will stiff you but they need not burn you. One of the best ways to prevent serving someone that does not pay you occurs at the beginning of the relationship. Just as your customers are qualifying you early on, you too must qualify them.

 

Ask yourself…

 

 

Is this someone I want to work with?

 

What does the market say about this company? This person?

 

 

Do I trust this person with my money?

 

 

If you gut says “no” to any of the above move on to others who would truly value your product or service.

 

 

 

How about you and your organization….

 

 

How do you deal with deadbeats who try to stiff you?

 

 

Do they just stiff you…or do they also burn you?

 

 

Have you established processes and procedures that screams your lack of trust in new clients based on your bitterness?

 

 

Do your current processes and procedure cater to the 99% of ethical customers or the 1% who are the low life’s?

 

 

If a deadbeat makes it through your pre engagement qualification process, and if they do stiff you I recommend you engage the various collections procedures within the law, and you personally forgive them and move on to serving the 99% of those in the market who will value your product or service.

 

As an aside I bumped into the investor who asked me to help this young CEO and now the list of vendors he has stiffed is very long and his business continues to suffer missing key performance indicators and has high turnover. I call it “Business Karma”; others say “what comes around goes around.”

 

Markets. like people, trust or do not trust businesses. When markets hear often enough that someone in their community of service providers is a deadbeat, the market ostracizes that owner, that business, which only further accelerates their death spiral into personal and business bankruptcy.

 

Entrepreneur Best Practices: #13 Hire Strategic Partners… Not “Marketing Tools”

tool acc backgrounbd

 

 

As an entrepreneur you will have a number of people approach you to “help you grow” your company. Far too often these local “experts” are really “marketing tools” who are like the terrible boy friends on the popular show Tool Academy focused on themselves and not aligning to your objectives and are not trying to solve your problems. So how do you know if you are dealing with a strategic partner or a tool? In this post I will share how to discern the “marketing tools” from strategic partners.

I was sitting in my favorite coffee shop reading before my first appointment and off to my left, …the pitch was on. First of all the meeting I was listening to should have occurred in private and not in a public place, this young entrepreneur needs to learn to… police his rounds.

It was painful for me to listen and not walk over to the table and tell this young entrepreneur to quickly dismiss this person posing as a thought leader and strategic partner but who was obviously a marketing tool. Some of the lessons we must learn in the bootstrapping phase build our future leadership muscles, so I hoped this experience would not be a too expensive lesson.

How did I quickly know this guy pitching was a marketing tool and not a key strategic partner? Maybe it’s from personally being taken advantage of by fast talking marketing tools early in my career, or maybe it’s a by product of what my daughter used to call “ sparkly’s” in my hair now. Maybe it’s from knowing what I know as well as what I do not know?

As an entrepreneur cash management should be your top priority. Investments must accelerate the achievement of your objectives and align with your flight plan. They should be tied closely to a measurable goal that is in alignment with one of your key initiatives.

Back to the conversation…the pitch was on. From what I gathered the entrepreneur’s sales were down over 30% and felt his problem was marketing or the lack there of. The person pitching worked for a marketing firm, and from what I could gather the only tool they had any real experience with was print ads and direct mail. Therefore the solution to this entrepreneur’s problem was direct mail and print ads. I have lived this “marketing play “many times over the past 25 years with various actors (vendors) pitching me and the companies I was serving. Sometimes it’s a new website, search engine optimization, PR, social media, media buys, email marketing,  new brochures…and the list goes on.

 

tool acc

 

 

How do I discern the “marketing tools” from strategic outsource partners?

 

 

Below are the things I look for to quickly dismiss tools

 

 

Tools talk more than they listen

 

Tools talk about their solution as a “cure all” for all my needs

 

Tools can not produce a list of past customer referrals as they often only have one transaction with clients and move on

 

Tools argue with you and keep coming back to their solution as if it were the only way to solve your problem

 

Tools lack an understanding for integrated marketing and dismiss other strategies they do not understand ( but as proposed thought leaders, marketing experts,… they should)

 

Tools cloud the discussion with industry terminology they do not explain (they try to baffle you with BS)

 

 

Tools do not listen to your goals; they are focused on their goal: getting your money

 

Tools do not ask a lot of questions

 

Tools do not share the downside, the risk, or the expected return on investing in their tool(s)

 

Tools take cell phone calls and text messages when they are supposed to be focused on your needs during your meeting

 

Tools avoid ROI discussions, and when you bring it up, they change the subject

 

Tools do not ask about how your buyers buy, nor have an intimate understanding of this process themselves

 

When (if) Tools follow up, they will be connected to getting your money and not in alignment with your goals ( they can’t because they were not listening)

 

 

 

It was pretty easy to make the above list as I sit here listening to the pitch as within 20 minutes this marketing tool violated most of them. I hear the tool discussing; the need to “merge, purge and perform list hygiene” as well as the need for a 12 month commitment for various ads they will test, and how the 12 month commitment will help the entrepreneur with the media buy… What is the problem the entrepreneur has? Shouldn’t you know this prior to pitching your solution?

 

It makes me want to scream: RUN AWAY!

 

 

 

As an entrepreneur your main focus is now on building your business and not working in it.

 

 

 

A proven strategy to grow your business is to align yourself with market leading strategic partners who are thought leaders in their space.

 

 

Too often entrepreneurs try to become experts in areas that are far from their core competency and instead of growing their business they dilute their effectiveness.

 

 

I am a big advocate of strategically aligning yourself with outsourced partners that provide solutions that align with your objectives. I am not an advocate of hiring marketing tools with one tool that fixes everything they feel is broken.

 

 

When you look for a strategic partner with knowledge and skills to compliment your core competencies, you must quickly dismiss the marketing tools as their work will only deplete your cash and not produce your desired ROI.

 

 

How about your organization….

 

 

 

 

Do you want to share any experiences you have had with tools?

 

 

 

 

Has your organization ever hired a tool? How did that work for you?

 

 

 

 

What are some other ways to quickly discern tools from strategic partners who can help you achieve your objectives?

 

 

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

idea

At any given time 6 out of 10 US adults are thinking about starting their own business. Half of those will attempt to launch their own business. As I discuss in my eBook; 50 Ugly truths about starting your own business …and why you should do it anyway, they often enter into their own business with a false set of expectations. One of these false expectations is their “idea” is a product and even more disturbing is when they start investing to support their idea as a business. Recognizing the majority of those who launch a new business will fail within 18 months, one of the common contributors to their demise is not asking the right questions.

Before you ask friends and family for start up money, before you tap into your home equity and 401k, and definitely before you quit your day job…you need to play “20 questions”.

You must verify your “idea” can be monetized into a viable business before you launch.

 

20 questions to ask before you invest;

#1 what problem does your product or service solve?

 

#2 how big of a market is there for this problem? This pain and or need?

 

#3 how are those who have this problem solving it now?

 

#4 clearly articulates your secret sauce, other words what is your unique selling proposition?

 

#5 is there replacement products in existence that could solve the problem?

 

#6 who is the market leader in the space you plan to enter?

 

#7 how many other competitors are there in this space?

 

#8 what is your level of understanding of this market?

 

#9 is your idea a product or IP that can be patented?

 

#10 what stage is this market in terms of its lifecycle? Infancy, growth, mature..?

 

#11 what level of support will be required to serve this market? Do you personally have expertise in running a business?

 

#12 what are the distribution channels of this market?

 

#13 what is the buying cycle?

 

#14 what is the common payment terms for this market?

 

#15 Do the potential buyers of your new product have the ability to pay for it?

 

#16 is there any legal and or compliance issues this product must pass prior to launch?

 

#17 what do you estimate is the total costs per unit of sale, transaction

 

#18 what is the anticipated number of units sold in year one? What % of the market opportunity does this represent?

 

#19 what is the number of units needed to break even with your upfront investment?

 

#20 How much cash will you need, based on the buying cycle, the costs, payment terms and distribution channels to launch this product or service?

 

Once you have answers to the above we can start to have a good discussion about your new idea and how you may be able to monetize it. Unfortunately however far too often entrepreneurs get that rush, that “buck fever” and they stop asking rational , needed , questions and they attach their focus on the days when…

 

When they become millionaires…

When they are recognized in their community…

When they sell their business for millions and retire without a care in the world

All of these When’s can become a reality if you spend the time upfront understanding the market, its buyers and their needs.

Entrepreneurs must understand: You are not your market.

Although this idea you have may be so obvious to you, you can not assume nor extrapolate that assumption across the market without real market data.

If you have an idea, that may be the next iPod, do yourself a favor and play 20 questions before you invest one dime in making your idea a product or service.

How about your organization….

Do you launch new products or services because one of your Hippo’s says so, without market data?

Have you launched products that failed to meet ROI targets?

If you are in sales, how did it make you feel when you were given a goal, and told to make it happen …only to find out your marketing needed to “create a need for it”?

If you are the president or CEO, what processes and procedures do you have in place to insure your teams are asking at least 20 questions?

Market leaders understand the importance of building new products and services from the market need up, versus the ivory tower down.

Market losers have a; ready – fire – aim launch process.

Entrepreneur Best Practices: #6 Learn To Cut Bait …early

fishing 1 

Not all customers are good customers, and not all new business is good new business. Entrepreneurs are often faced with a dilemma; do I compromise my price, and or my service to make the cash register sing?…in these economic times I probably should right?

 

The answer is a definitive: NO.

Market leaders provide value and realize a fair value exchange from their customers.

 

Market losers chase every sale, and often learn to regret those they should have passed by.

 

 

 

When you land an account, a customer you should have “thrown back” they often bring a new set of problems;

 

They are often “time vampires”…sucking the life out of you

 

They do not value your work and will always be working you to discount what your do

 

They become service nightmares

 

They often short pay you

 

They often become a collections problem

 

Sometimes you do the work and they never pay you (I particularly hate this one)

 

 

 

…that is why we must learn how to “cut bait” and get back to fishing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I enjoy fishing. I can spend hours out fishing enjoying nature and the quiet. It’s one of the few things I do that helps quiet my busy mind like church. Often times when I fish in a new fishing hole I am not familiar with… I get snags. You know …you have your bait in the water, and something takes the bait. It could be a fish, (and you hope based on how your fishing rod is bending a BIG fish) but more often than not you have a snag.

 cat fish

 

On rare occasions it actually is a large fish. One time I was convinced I must have snagged my bait on an underwater log and much to my surprise found a large cat fish on the other end of my line.

 

More often than not though whatever has my bait is a distraction, a snag and it is something that is taking me away from doing what I love to do…fishing and catching fish.

 

 

What we must build as entrepreneurs is the discipline to “cut bait” early and get back to fishing.

 

 

cut bait

We often waste too much time “hoping” we have a large fish on the other end of the line when there is a high probability you have a YAFO snag.

 

For example, ever since my eBook about the 50 ugly truths of being an entrepreneur came out and the pod cast with the struggling entrepreneur, I have been receiving email and phone calls.

 

I received a call from a local financial planner whose business revenue from fees has dropped over 40% in the last year and wanted to know if my 10 step process would work for a financial planner. The answer was quickly yes as I used this process in the financial industry serving a 401k third party administrator and we quickly grew his business. Keeping with my fishing analogy, I had a nibble.

 

After answering his questions he asked if he could take me to lunch to learn more…I have one on the line…(I think) As we enjoyed some great Chinese food, he wanted to know my 10 steps and how it works. I explained that that is what people pay me for, however I will be happy to share some success stories I have had using this process. As we closed lunch he asked I send him a proposal and he said …”but remember I am a financial advisor and not one of those big companies you help.”

 

To a fault I love helping people, so I wrestled with a price model that would drive the growth he needed and compensate me fairly for the time I would be giving his project. I developed a program that had a modest upfront cost, a monthly retainer and an aggressive compensation for me on every new account my work landed for him.

 

I compromised my standard price model to help him. We went back and forth for days with emails and eventually he asked for only the small upfront fee and no compensation on the business my work would bring him or monthly retainer….and I almost took it, bur instead…

 

I quickly cut bait.

 

I should have cut bait even sooner as in the flurry of emails I quickly learned he was more attached to the “cost” and not the “outcome “of my work. He has been paying a coach a modest amount per month for years and thought I should match or beat this price. I asked him to read all the nice comments people I have helped in the past put on my web site, linked in, and so on. I even gave him some past customers to call….but his attachment was on cost not benefits, and he definitely did not have a strong enough desire (yet) to have his problem ( pain) solved.

 

Where I blew it was not cutting bait sooner. As I have shared, I just love helping people, particularly leaders with an “entrepreneurial spirit”. However after I shared my compensation model and I modified it to meet his needs that we discussed, and he “snagged” I should have cut bait earlier.

 

 

While you wrestle with snags other fish are swimming by…often big hungry ones.

 

Market leaders know the value of cutting bait early and getting back to fishing.

 

Market losers chase every deal and compromise their business models, products and or services and are always disappointed in the end.

 

Having reeled in my share of tree limbs in my days on the lake, you spend time that could be out casting into better waters only to reel in something that at the end of the day does not put food on your table.

 

 

The opportunity cost of chasing bad business is too great.

 

 

How about your company….

 

 

 

Do you chase every deal …compromise your model to accommodate every snag?

 

 

 

How’s that working for you?

 

 

 

Have you trained your salespeople in the value of qualifying new business early, and the power in cutting bait?

 

 

 

Are you currently struggling with what you hope is a big fish….but you know has a probability of not putting food on your table?

 

 

 

 

 

CUT BAIT NOW…you will thank me…