Increase Sales: Fix Broken Windows In How Your Team Sells

Increase Sales: Fix Broken Windows in How Your Team Sells

 

 

Is your sales team prepared to win and achieve their sales goals  today? Do your salespeople consistently exhibit the discipline to drive profitable sales growth? Do your salespeople clearly understand your expectations and they are accountable to them? One way to insure your sales team breaks the growing global trend of sales teams not achieving sales growth goals is to fix broken windows in your sales organization. In this post we will discuss where to look for broken windows that are hurting your sales performance.

 

I am very thankful to a number of my mentors over the years. They taught me how to capture and leverage the voice of the customer and how to serve customers by providing industry insights and best practices to improve their bottom line. One mentor taught me how to listen, actively listen for unresolved problems. Mentors help salespeople understand the discipline required to drive profitable sales growth and to be accountable for key behaviors that if performed consistently will drive profitable sales growth. Having disciple and being accountable is not about doing 1,000’s of things perfectly. Being accountable and having discipline is about is having clear goals and expectations on how you will achieve those goals. As the sales leader it is about inspecting what you expect and understanding the behaviors and attitudes to support key goals.

 

I am very proud of my children. My dream for my children was I would grow a business and give it to them one day to run. In running the business they would learn the life lessons I experienced and have financial freedom. I discovered about 15 years ago this was only my dream. My children had much different plans. My daughter became an amazing artist and now is the social media marketing manager for a company driving 3-5 times the traffic to their trade events and website leveraging her artistic skills creating innovative content. My son has a burning desire to serve and protect others and a police officer.

 

Over the holidays my son and I were talking and he shared something called “Broken Window Theory” and I thought it was fascinating. Broken window theory suggests that visible signs of crime like cars stripped and up on blocks in the street, street signs missing, traffic lights not working, people consuming alcohol in public and other anti- social behaviors create an environment for more crime and more serious crimes. The theory suggests that policing methods that target minor crimes such as vandalism, public drinking and others create an atmosphere of order and lawfulness, thereby preventing more serious crimes.

 

In the 1969 a psychologist named Philip Zinbardo from Stanford ran an experiment. He parked a car with no license plates in two neighborhoods. One that was run down, broken windows and signs of crime and one in an affluent neighborhood in Palo Alto California. The car parked in the run down neighborhood was vandalized within 10 minutes. Next he smashed the front window and what he observed surprised him. Others in the neighborhood with vandalism and other crimes joined in and within 24 hours the entire car was stripped to the frame. Who did the vandalizing is what was disturbing: It was respectable adults in the community often with their children not …street gangs.

 

The car in Palo Alto remained untouched.

 

The findings from the study?

 

Unintended behavior leads to a breakdown of community controls

 

One broken window leads to many if left unaddressed

 

Disorders drives fear and withdraw from community laws and norms

 

Even the best citizens in a community can start bad behaviors if the behaviors are left unchecked

 

My son has been a police officer in a large city now for a number of years. He has personally experienced how policing and correcting what seems like minor misdemeanor crimes helps bring a neighborhood back to life. He has seen the impact having the discipline to enforce common community norms and expectations that support a safe and prosperous community and how this reduces crime significantly.

 

“Ok Mark, this is all interesting … but how does this apply to driving profitable sales increases year over year?”

 

I thought you would never ask!

 

How many broken windows exist in your company’s sales organization?

 

Do you know where to look?

 

The good news is you have a good smart team and there are many things about your company you and your team should be proud of. When I did business development consulting work I asked a lot of questions and looked for broken windows that are signs of much bigger sales problems to be solved. It is not unusual for my past clients to not even see the broken windows they walk by each day. Many broken windows have been broken for years and they became “ how we do things around here”. New team members will see them immediately but if they want to survive they learn to look the other way. Instead of repairing the broken windows teams try to just cover them up.

 

Let me help you see the broken windows that I have seen because you too may have grown accustomed to seeing them and may walk by them everyday and they are hurting your business development and sales growth efforts…

 

Majority of salesperson’s time spent in non-sales activities

 

“Hi how are you meetings” …Salespeople bringing donuts to their distributors with no other business reason for the visit, no one at the distributor even knew you were coming

 

Not being properly groomed

 

Company car dirty inside and out

 

Not making eye contact with customers in meetings

 

Sales people not taking notes in meetings

 

Salespeople not having a pen visiting a customer job site and having to “remember” the requirements

 

No pre-call plans 

 

No CRM entry for future meetings or past meeting notes

 

Outdated company brochures in sales associate’s vehicles

 

Damaged and stained brochures from not being properly stored used in customer presentations

 

Poor or no customer follow up

 

Not following up on leads provided, QDD disorder

 

Salespeople leaving sales training to make/ take phone calls

 

Customer email not responded to in 24 hours

 

Out-dated sales process

 

Salespeople working on laptops in meetings and not paying attention

 

Missing team weekly meetings

 

Salespeople openly criticizing others on sales team, others on other teams ( not constructive criticism ) 

 

Not responding top your email of voicemail in 48 hours if you asked them to

 

No plan to achieve their sales goals

 

Showing up late to weekly meetings

 

Salespeople playing feature and benefit bingo 

 

Not being prepared for weekly meetings

 

No cadence for how often they visit with each customer

 

Not completing expense reports timely

 

Poor interpersonal exchanges with team members from other business groups

 

Talking too much in meetings with customers

 

Salespeople who have never been trained in sales (product-yes, sales-no) 

 

Not understanding their customers’ businesses

 

Not understanding their market or market language

 

No dollar value in CRM for new opportunities identified

 

Not understanding how your product or service impacts your customers’ bottom line

 

Not qualifying potential customers

 

Salespeople seen as just another rep not a trusted advisor

 

Salespeople not spending the majority of their time in sales behaviors

 

Not updating sales stage in CRM

 

Asking poor questions in meetings

 

Poor listening, talking over customers 

 

Selling on price not value

 

No ideal customer profile so everyone could be a customer 

 

Company vehicle not maintained

 

Poor to no relationships at key customers

 

Key account budgets/goals… but no strategic growth plans on how to achieve them

 

Only knowing the buyers at key accounts no relationship with other influencers 

 

Sales pipeline bucket not a funnel 

 

Poor new product sales 

 

Poor sales customer visit trip planning (more time driving and flying than in front of customers)

 

No formal sales process

 

Salespeople staying at very expensive hotels

 

Salespeople submitting very expensive dinners without customers

 

If you see some of the above you have broken windows that need to be repaired before your team can experience explosive sales growth.

 

The above are some broken windows I have observed but there are plenty more I am sure.

 

How about you…

 

What broken windows have you observed in your sales teams that are negatively impacting your profitable growth plans?

 

Do you have associates in key sales leadership roles that have not been trained to lead salespeople?

 

Are their politically incorrect secrets that your salespeople know but are afraid to discuss?

 

If we allow broken windows in how we sell they hurt our ability to drive profitable sales growth and increase shareholder value. We are not saying everyone has to be perfect and 1,000’s of things. What we are saying is we need discipline and accountability in our sales teams. As the leader you need to set the expectation and insure compliance. If you observe a behavior that is not consistent with what your team has identified as your core values you must be safe to address it and correct it. If not the little broken windows become chaos and good team members in your sales community will start behaving in ways counter to driving profitable growth.

 

In our next post we will discuss common marketing broken windows to look for and repair.

Invisible Products; Death of your New Sales Goal

It’s that time of the year again with sales plans being launched and new commission plans being distributed. Meetings have occurred, financial modes built and presentations to the board done and the year’s sales plan was approved. Unfortunately, a number of teams will fail to achieve sales goals (often again) because their products and services are invisible to potential buyers.

I met with an entrepreneur who called and asked if I could help in fixing his sales problem. We met and after I asked him a number of questions I quickly understood what he described as “needing to fix sales his sales problem”.

Symptoms of the problem were described as;

  • failure to achieve new product sales goals on the last three new product launches
  • failure to grow new accounts, “it’s like my team is running a bread route
  • 0nly 40% of sales team achieved their sales goal last year
  • We lost one of our top accounts we have sold for 12 years
  • We lost two of our top salespeople in the last 3 years
  • I failed to hit the numbers I promised our board

Well I can understand why we were meeting…however what happened next was even more disturbing,… he went on to share how he felt I needed to fix the sales problem:

  • Sales Training – my guys need sales training, they need to sell through buyer objections
  • Time Management – they need to spend more time calling on new accounts
  • Compensationwe need to change our comp plan to there is more of an incentive to sell new products
  • PeopleI have been trying to put this off but I probably should hire a VP of Sales to herd these cats.
  • Product Trainingwe need to do a better job of training our sales people on products features and benefits
  • ProcessI want a defined repeatable sales process , sales forecasts have been a joke , I need to know production can count on the sales forecast we give them

This is always interesting ….a hard driving entrepreneur calls and asks to meet with me, and they share their problems then proceed to tell me how to fix them. (I would love to just once have the courage to say; “If you know the problems and how to solve them…why did you call me? “ ) Now I know how my doctor must feel when my right knee is acts up. As opposed to just sharing my symptoms and where it hurts, I proceed to share how other doctors have fixed my right knee since tearing my ACL years ago and explain how he probably should go inside my knee and clean up the cartilage, drain some fluid and probably give me a prescription for pain and an anti-inflammatory… (Sorry doc).

I agreed to help with one condition; I would meet with buyers in his market, his salespeople, and we would regroup to make sure we have an accurate understanding of the “why’s” the above symptoms are occurring (clearly understand the real problem) and then develop a corrective action plan, a roadmap to achieving his teams sales plan.

What we found were a number of what the entrepreneur believed to be true were areas we could improve, however the leading reason why his sales team was not achieving plan, particularly new product sales was his products were invisible to his market’s buyers in the process buyers were using to search for solutions to problems they were having. This team’s web site was basically a virtual brochure that talked more about who they were and not the problems they solved for their marketplace. With 70%-80% of they buying process being done prior to potential buyers calling one of his salespeople, competitors had much more influence on buyers early on, helping them shape how they believed they needed to solve the problems they were experiencing. His salespeople were being invited to quote much later in the sales process as “one of three competitive quotes required to keep their preferred vendor honest.”

When I shared this market information his first response was…”this may be true with consumer B2C products but not B2C customers.” However when I shared specific account interview notes with buyers he was much more open to discussing his web strategy. I shared that your products need to be found when buyers are doing their homework. Once a potential buyer finds your site you have a minute to win it as I discussed in a previous post. I connected him with a web SEO expert I have used in the past and helped him interview web site developers to address this root invisible problem in the heart of his marketing.

How about your products? Are they invisible to potential buyers?

If you conduct a Google search, right now, are your products found? (go ahead minimize this blog right now and search. I can wait…type in an inquiry in the form of you looking for a solution to a problem; do not use your product brand name)

Are your products found on the first page?

Was there more than one entry found for your products?

As you look at the page, if you were a buyer who would you think is the market leader in solving the problem you were searching?

Are there any case studies or customer feedback? Any for your product?

Companies spend millions designing and developing new products but often fail to invest in marketing. In the above example this entrepreneur spends on average $280,000 in new product design and molds, another $27,000 in new brochures and a few trade ads, $9,000 for a booth and attending his industries’ trade show, and he had a friend of the family who did web sites on the side do his web marketing?

This entrepreneur had a sales team committed to achieving sales goals. Could they use some product and sales training? ….yes. Should we modify the current compensation plan to reward new product and new customer sales? …agreed. Should we work on designing a repeatable sales process based on how buyers were buying…absolutely! However if we take the time to do what I call “the market work”, his real problem was a marketing problem and not a sales problem. His biggest problem to solve that would produce the quickest sales return on investment was his web marketing. His web site had not been optimized, to the best of his knowledge…ever.

Products listed on web sites in the form of virtual brochures are invisible to buyers desperately search to solve urgent problems they have and must be solved and are basically the death of your sales plan . Yes you can have your salesperson’s cold call until the dogs come home, but why not invest in your digital salesperson and start conversations with buyers much sooner in the sales process.

Here’s a Banana For Your Baby… (your business)

 

 

One of the most difficult parts of serving entrepreneurial leaders is telling them a part or their entire baby (their business) is ugly.  Some self proposed consulting experts say; “focus on the positives, build on successes” and not to risk their monthly retainers. I choose to ignore the obvious politically correct answers and add value by presenting market truths.

If your baby is ugly I prefer to tell you so we can develop a plan based on current truths to help lead you and your organization to a position of market leadership.

The quickest way for your baby to become ugly is to stop focusing on understanding your market, its buyers and their problems and start focusing on your growth objectives.

 

Last week I had dinner with my friend Graeme from the UK and he told me a joke that made me laugh, and also reflect on what it is often like to serve some organizations and their leaders.

 

 

So this guy is walking through the park and comes upon a woman with a baby stroller and she is crying. Trying to console her asks what is wrong… The young mother goes on to say that everyone says her baby is ugly and it really hurts her feelings. The stranger goes on to assure her that babies are cute and he was sure her baby was no different. The woman stopped crying and thanked him for his kind words. As he started to leave he said “Once again, I am sure your baby is not ugly…and oh, here’s a banana for your monkey”.

Having served a number of teams over the past 26 years I have experienced these integrity moments when I must share market driven truths with aggressive, entrepreneurial leaders. Often discovered truths are ugly. If the leader and his or her team is truly focused on authentically, passionately serving their market and increasing shareholder value they hear the market truths and ask me to guide them in developing a corrective roadmap.

If the leader and or their team however lack the emotional intelligence to hear constructive market driven feedback…I loose a client, and once again I am labeled a Heretic ( the person who stands up against group-think)  as Art Petty discusses in his recent blog post.

I am curious…if your baby needs a banana do you want me to tell you?

Are you sure?

 

Do members of your team have the moral courage to give you a banana when they need to?

 

Have you fostered a culture that welcomes bananas?

What goal is more important to you…your ego or becoming a market leader and increasing shareholder value?

 

One of the first stages of a fall from market leadership that Jim Collins discusses in his book: How the Might fall is; Hubris born of success.

Does this describe your senior leadership team? Your owner?

 

When asked to serve a team that is struggling or just suck, I prefer to gather current market driven data and present the current reality. My clients pay me to help get them back on course and I must be a good steward of their investment and present market truths.

Would this approach work with your senior leadership team? Why or why not?

Want to Jump Start Sales and Morale? Write a “Passion Statement” For Your Business….

 

Business leaders for years have been taught to write a mission statement, a values statement , distinctive competence, and their Unique Sales Proposition. Leadership teams are sequestered off to three-day retreats to write these statements only to often return and go right back to practicing what prompted the retreat in the first place…Why? The reason is far too often is the “work” they did at the retreat was all “head work” and lacked “heart work”.

The quickest way to jumpstart sales as well as the morale of your team is to create a “Passion Statement”.

 

So what is a passion statement? A passion statement is something I help my clients to create that explains;

  • what problem your product or service solves?

 

  • who do we solve it for? Who are our buyer personas?

 

  • what emotion does our solving the problem create in our clients?

 

  • what emotion does solving our clients problems create for us?

 

If you study companies who have become market leaders they very seldom set out to build huge profitable companies. In the majority of the cases they saw a problem that someone had and set out passionately to solve that problem. Their focus was not as much a business as it was a quest.

For years we have heard; “fake it until you make it” , unfortunately however you can not fake a passion to serve your clients and your market.Your customers will quickly detect inauthentic commitments to serve.

An authentic passion ( quest)  to serve your markets unresolved problems takes your business to another level in the minds and hearts of your market.

 

Let me give you two examples of companies I have helped. One is a typical stale example without passion often find after interviewing their team and their customers, the other a passion statement we all can rally behind.

Example A

 “our business’s purpose is to create wealth for our owners and shareholders. We plan to accomplish this by charging the maximum price the market will bear for our product and service and we plan to hold our employees and partners accountable to this objective…” ( don’t worry once the CEO understood this was his teams’ perception ( and his customer’s) of why they were in business we helped them to change this )

 

Client Name not shared for obvious reasons

 

Example B

 

“Our passion is to helping consumers with physical disabilities from the waist down experience the rush and  freedom that results from riding a motorcycle.We are committed to helping our clients connect to their passion or riding”

 

Mobility Conquest

 

 

Which company would you like to buy from?

Which company would you like to work for?

Which company is “selling” you and which company is “helping you buy”?

 

If you had to state your company’s passion statement today…is it more about what you want? Or is it about serving an unmet need of your customers? ( by the way, I do not mean the statement written on posters, shared in quarterly meeting …I mean the mission your team ( and your customers) perceive it to be)

 

Who would you rather compete against… company A or B? Why?

Ok …I hear you CFO’s and bottom line driven CEO’s out their saying …”Ya… but…” so let me assure you that if you study the most profitable market leading companies they have a passion statement.

Still not a believer? In my next post I will share the signs that you need a Passion Statement.

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

 

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.

Are You willing to go the extra mile in customer service like Chick-fil-A?

A third key consideration for leaders and owners of businesses when building upon a foundation of truth is your Motivation. Specifically what are your real objectives and motivation for your business? I often find when helping clients about six months into an engagement the leader’s true motivation is shared once trust is built. It is often not the stated goal and the team are executing strategies and tactics that are not in alignment with the real objective. So early in my relationship with a new client I seek out the leader’s true motivation.

Some common objectives include;

want to be cash positive by (date)

want to retire, so build this business and position it for a sale

want to give this business to my children, please set the business and my children up to win

want to sell my business

want to grow at least 20% per year

want more profitable customers and less of those who do not truly value my product or service

The common objectives are usually stated as “I want’s” not what they plan do for their markets. However market leaders consistently speak in a voice that discusses the difference they plan to make in the lives of their customers.

One of my favorite fast food stops is Chick-Fil-A. I hesitate in calling this fast food as the food I receive is good and the people who work at Chick-Fil-A treat you like you are their only customer. As I travel throughout the US, if I need to grab a quick lunch I look for the nearest Chick fil-A. I order my food and at the end of each service experience I consistently hear “my pleasure”. As I look around the restaurant I am always amazed at the amount of activity they consistently execute to add value for the customers they serve. This week they posted pictures of a gingerbread house making event they held last week and in the future a Christmas ornament making class for children.

When others are afraid to not be politically correct the person at the counter in Akron said “thank you, and have a Merry Christmas, God bless you and your family.” At first this was such an interruption it caused me to pause. It’s sad really when wishing someone a merry Christmas is an interruption, but as the recipient I can’t say how much this meant to me. Traveling this time of year is difficult and for a brief moment I did not feel alone.

So how do large organizations consistently execute a service level above and beyond the expectation? It starts with their leader, and the leader sharing their true motivation. A few years ago I attended a Christian business event and the president of Chick fil A , Dan Cathy ,was the speaker. He shared how they are a faith based company built on biblical principles. You can listen to him yourself as he talks about his team here. One of their key tenants was “going the extra mile”. This is in reference to the Bible passage in Matthew 5:41 . As the owner and president of Chick fil A spoke, he shared how going the extra mile for a busy mom is pulling out her chair and putting fresh ground pepper on her salad. He shared how it actually, form a cost stand point, costs very little, however the impact they consistently see in sales increases year over year are significant, , or as their website states; “we are here to serve more than sandwiches”. They have seen consistent growth for the past 41 years.

Market leader’s focus on a goal bigger than themselves and their personal desires.

Market leaders are on a quest to make a difference for their market and customers in their markets they serve.

How about you and your organization…are you on a quest to make a difference in the lives of your customers?

Or are your employees shouting “next” and supplying the bare minimum?or good enough?

Is your team on a quest? Or are they working a plan they signed up for but honestly where never committed to?

If you have an opportunity, go to a Chick-fil- A for lunch and decide…is this how you are making your customers feel?

The good news is you can!

If you currently are not on a quest…find one!

Once you understand current market truths, and you have identified your internal truths, you must understand your leader’s and your team’s motivation. Market leading teams sign up for a goal that is bigger than them and meeting ROI’s. They sign up for quest’s to make a difference in the lives of those they serve…and interesting their financial results consistently outpace their competitors.

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!

 duck

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.

 

Entrepreneurial Best Practices: #17 intentionally reward the customer behaviors you desire …

wolf 

There is an old Native American saying; “the wolf you feed is the one that grows”. Simply put, the behaviors we reward are those that are repeated. With that understanding it is critical market leaders intentionally reward customer behaviors they want and make customers pay for those that are not in alignment with your overall flight plan.

I flew back to Ohio last weekend on Delta/ Northwest to work with one of my new clients just outside of Columbus. At one point in my career I flew 3-4 days per week, every week, for just over 15 years so I guess I could wear the “road warrior” title. Back then air travel was not perfect, but it was at least predictable. I felt like the airlines and their employees valued my patronage.

On this trip I was greeted at check-in with a $20 fee to check my bag. Although I was aware Delta still charged a fee, it was an interruption for me as most of my flights this year have been with Southwest Airlines who does not charge for a checked bag. When I fly Southwest I feel valued, and the attendants and all their employees make me feel like a valued customer. When I flew Delta / Northwest this week I felt like a number, and I felt like I was being nickel and dimed.

So we board the flight and I noticed the amount of carryon baggage other people were trying to fit in overheads and under their seats. When I used to travel on British Airlines in Europe I was conditioned to check my bags and have a small carry on. As I watched people with panicked looks trying to stow their bags it dawned on me; the customers are responding to the charge for checked bags. Not only did we miss our departure time and take a considerable amount of time to board because some of the passengers bags had to be checked after all, but when we landed it also took a great deal of time to get off the plane. I noticed how slow things seemed to be moving so I timed how long from when the cabin door opened it would take for me, in row 23 to get off the plane. It took 13 minutes for me to walk through the cabin door.

Contrast the above experience with my flights on Southwest. People still have carryon bags but not nearly the amount I experienced on Delta / Northwest. Southwest is one of the most profitable airlines and interestingly they do not nickel and dime their customers. From what I understand one of the reasons Southwest is more profitable is their fast turnaround time at the gate.

As I walked to my connecting flight I thought about what I just experienced and was reminded how we teach our customers how to behave by the rules and rewards we offer them.

The key is market leaders understand to intentionally reward those behaviors that are in alignment with their team’s overall vision and flight plan for their business.

Market losers like Delta/ Northwest charge their clients because they can and not because they should with little regard for the overall big picture of profitability driven by turnaround at the gate due to quick boarding and unloading of passengers.

What about your organization….

What behaviors are you rewarding?

Are those behaviors in alignment with your overall vision and flight plan for your business?

What wolf are you feeding? And is that the wolf you really want to grow?

Do you have other examples of corporate led initiatives that feel like tripping over dollars to pick up pennies? If so please share…

For those in leadership positions at Delta / Northwest you have an opportunity to be seen as a market leading partner by your customers, or a market loser…it truly is your choice. You must focus on the flight plan you have developed to drive shareholder value and I hope overall customer experience is high on your intentional initiatives.

Entrepreneur Best Practices: #7 You are Not Your Market

look inmirror

Entrepreneurs often make a common mistake …they assume, and then they extrapolate.

They assume because they are a member of a market and they have a problem others too want to pay to have this problem solved. Secondly they fail to do research (after all it’s expensive right?) so they extrapolate.

When Entrepreneurs assume and extrapolate they lose.

When leaders rely on their personal experience, their gut and intuition they become one of the 90% of small businesses launched each year that fail within 18 months. When leaders with an entrepreneurial spirit in large organizations launch without current market data, their products are discontinued and removed from the shelf within 12 months…(and sometimes the leader joins their products in the recycle bin.)

Keep in mind: YOU ARE NOT YOUR MARKET!

 

How about your organization…

 

 

 

Do you have entrepreneurial leaders who shoot from the hip based on their past experience, their gut and intuition?

 

 

 

Have you ever launched something you, your wife, and all your golf buddies thought was brilliant only to sell 1/10 of what you forecasted in the ROI to justify production?

 

 

 

How do entrepreneurial leaders build their discernment muscles to rely more on market data and less on their gut?

 

 

 

Every once in a while someone will get lucky and hit the market with a product that solves a pain they had, and luckily many others have. However I would prefer to mitigate my risk by doing more homework upfront…

 

 

 

How about you?

 

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…

 

 

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