Business Success Series: Confidence

You Have To Have Confidence
You Have To Have Confidence

You Have To Have Confidence

If you go to any sales seminar, you will be taught important sales skills such as how to overcome objections and close the deal. The problem with this training is that you will not likely learn the real objection from the customer. Why? Because the customer may be telling you that your price is to high. Yet time and time again consumer surveys indicate that people do business with people they like and trust.

It is not that price is not important, but a customer is not likely to react to a low rate if they do not trust the messenger. And if they do not like and/or trust you, they are even less likely to let you know this is the reason why they are not interested in your services. It is much easier to say to you that they received something better somewhere else instead of you sounding like someone with whom they did not want to do business with.

There are many keys to the creation of trust. In this article we will address only one of these. That is confidence. If you do not have confidence and the customer does not feel this confidence, it will be virtually impossible for them to trust you. What are signs of lacking confidence? Over the phone it can include:

  • A hesitation in delivering answers;
  • Not knowing what to say when;
  • Talking instead of listening (or rambling is a better description);
  • Lack of a confident tone.

Ask yourself, how confident do you sound when you speak to your client or prospect? If you are not confident, why not? Is it because you do not know what you need to know or you have a hard time projecting what you know?

If the problem is that you do not know what you do not know, then stop trying to fake it and start learning! You need an educational plan that makes sure you are constantly learning. This plan should be multi-faceted and include attending live classes, reading books and articles, on-line courses and more. Do not concentrate on one aspect of your business. For example, if you are a real estate agent you would have to learn technical details such as how to properly price a listing and also become an expert in sales.

If your problem is projecting your knowledge, you need to practice. Role-playing is an excellent method of practicing conversations with prospects. Go out and join organizations and participate in their activities. Here are two possibilities:

  • Join a networking group through the chamber of commerce or BNI. Volunteer to present information to the group or an individual who wants to learn.
  • Join Toastmasters, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping their members become public speakers. It is very inexpensive and most areas have local chapters and you can obtain more information on their website, toastmasters.com.

Here is even better news. If you use the methods we have outlined above, they all will lead to networking opportunities and more business. This is why you should favor live classes over on-line classes when possible. Put yourself in situations in which you are surrounded by others and can network among these groups. Force yourself to engage in conversations.

The key to this networking? Listen! Those who have confidence do not feel the need to talk about their knowledge constantly and they are continuously learning from others. Confidence is a major key to success that may be missing from your arsenal. And if you are not sure if it is missing, ask others.

Becoming an Expert is The Key to a Successful Business Model

Why Become An Expert
Why Become An Expert

Perhaps you are servicing the real estate industry in some way as a real estate agent, loan officer or closing agent. Or perhaps you are servicing consumers who purchase homes as a financial planner, insurance agent, accountant or tax preparer. In either case, you are in a unique position to advise people on the most important financial decision they make in a lifetime. We don’t want to minimize other financial transactions, however, purchasing a few thousand dollars worth of stocks or bonds is just not in the same category of importance as purchasing a $400,000 home that will be an investment and shelter for one’s family. The same is true for a house that is to be rented and becomes the "cornerstone" of your investment portfolio.

Because the purchase is so important and because there is such a myriad of people involved in the process, when you are serving this industry, positive differentiation becomes a major issue to be overcome. What we mean here is that it seems that just about every other person is a real estate agent or one of the other professionals we just mentioned. If you are going to be successful in the long-run, you must differentiate yourself from these other providers.

In this case, the problem becomes the solution. There are so many in this industry that are part-time, not focused and not serious about their jobs that the opening becomes very wide for you to step up and differentiate yourself by becoming an expert. There is no stronger method of positive differentiation than making yourself stand out from the crowd as an expert in the midst of those who are deficient with regard to their knowledge and ability to help clients with important decisions.

Positive differentiation represents one advantage of becoming an expert. There are other advantages as well. For one thing, competition in this industry sometimes makes the services we deliver seem like common commodities. If it looks like we are all selling the same thing because we are all offering the same thing–the prospect will be focused on the only thing that is different–the price. When you highlight instead the fact that you are an expert delivering expert advice, the focus moves away from price. It is an undeniable fact that people will pay more for dealing with an expert. When we have a complex legal or medical issue, we are much more likely to seek out an expert rather than go on-line and try a “cut-rate do-it-yourself” alternative. Remember, in this industry we are advising people with regard to their single most important financial transaction.

When we become an expert, we also change the sales process as well as the focus. When we sell from a perspective of there being no discernable difference between us and the competition, we constantly will be trying to convince prospects that they should be doing business with us and not this competition. When you are an expert, you can now occupy a different position within the process. People seek out and desire to do business with experts.

Think about it–why should we be convincing people to do business with us instead of having people seek us out and approach us? The first model is the equivalent of twisting arms. If you feel you are twisting arms on a regular basis, you will soon get exhausted and burned out. That is why being an expert represents a much more effective long-term business model. It is easier to sustain because it takes more preparation but less energy within the sales process.

Expertise represents the better long-term business model also because the secret to building a successful long-term business is the creation of a referral base. Long-term, you will need to get off the treadmill and build up a foundation of success. Well, people are more likely to refer their friends, family and business associates to experts rather than ordinary sales people. Why bother to refer people to those they do not particularly respect and admire?

Finally, the most important factor with regard to your long-term success and expertise will come from within. When you have a well-founded belief that you can serve your prospects better than others and not just because of your enthusiasm and charm, you will have the confidence to sell. It is this confidence that will be key in overcoming such obstacles to sales success such as call reluctance. Bottom line is, when you are more confident, you will be more effective. Why wouldn’t you want to become an expert?

Time Management Part I: Business Success Series

Time Management
Time Management

Time Management

There is no doubt that time is a business person’s most precious resource. In fact, time is everyone’s most precious resource. We never realize how precious time is until we run out of it. George Burns had 100 years, yet he never had time for his final performance.

We all waste too much of this precious resource. Many years ago when we began teaching methods of improving time management skills, we introduced the concept of 1435 in order to prove a major point. What is 1435? It is the number of minutes left in the day after we waste five minutes. For the average person, we waste over one-third of our workday, either procrastinating or working on tasks that will not help us achieve our long-term objectives.

The key to getting more done? Developing a sense of urgency with regard to what needs to be accomplished. A simple exercise will demonstrate the different state of mind that we must achieve.

Imagine your last vacation. The serenity of knowing that you didn’t have to check messages or get up at a certain time. Perhaps you had no special agenda. After a few days of unwinding, work was the furthest from your mind (hopefully).

Now think of the day before you left on that vacation. Do you now have a different memory? Was that day a little more stressful? We would venture to say that the day before you left was your most effective time management day of the year. That day you accomplished more than any other. You quickly determined priorities and went about achieving those priorities. If you failed, you would not get out of town on time. The day before vacation you had an urgency about what needed to get done. The key to better time management is to develop this sense of urgency every day of your life. How do you do that? Perhaps we should take more vacations!

On a more serious note, the first step in getting more done is realizing what you need to accomplish. Once you have a clear mission, you will realize that many of the tasks that now occupy your time are actually keeping you from achieving your goals.

Let’s take a look at an example of linking your mission to your actions. Think of a customer you could not move off the fence for weeks or months. Perhaps they purchased. Perhaps they did not. Either way, the process was a waste of your time. Even if there was a sale hanging in the balance, think in terms of the opportunity costs of lost time. Calculate how many hours you spent on this transaction. The perpetual shopper can consume hundreds of hours of your time. The more time you spend with the customer, the more likely you will feel obligated to keep going to receive a return upon your investment. But what a cost! Hundreds of hours to achieve a paycheck of _____?

More significantly, how much could you have earned had you spent these hundreds of hours marketing and working with more productive customers? In reality, the hours that you are spending with shoppers are actually preventing you from marketing and developing relationships that would be much more productive.

So what do you do with the shopper? First, you might accomplish a more thorough job of assessing their goals and needs up front. Perhaps you are encouraging unprofitable relationships by forcing action when the potential customers are not psychologically ready. Simple questions regarding their goals might give you a clue to their intentions. Ask about their last purchasing experience, how long have they thought about purchasing, have they searched before and not purchased and if so, what has changed at this juncture?

Should you fire these people? Of course not. Nurture the relationship by giving them goals to meet before you become actively involved. If they insist upon monopolizing your time without a reasonable chance of return benefits, refer them to someone else who would appreciate such a referral–perhaps a neophyte. Chances are those who are less experienced have much more time on their hands and can use the experience to learn. What better way to learn customer service and negotiation skills than on live customers. Perhaps you may be entitled to a referral fee if they get lucky.

We’ve said this over and over, but can’t stress it enough, time is our greatest resource. Every day we waste our time in a variety of ways. If you ask every business person for a self-assessment, almost all of them would reply: I need to manage my time better. In the next segmentwe will become more specific by adding pointers that may help you conserve your most precious resource. If we have more time, we can make more money–with less stress! Certainly that is not a bad goal!

Testimonials: Business Success Series

Have Your Customers Say It
Have Your Customers Say It

Have Your Customers Say It

Credibility and trust. Selling is a relationship business and without these key elements any sales person will be struggling in the dark trying to overcome an enormous handicap. What do you say when a potential seller or purchaser asks the key question:

Why should I do business with you?

Do you think that anyone has answered that question with the truth if the real estate agent in question does not return phone calls or is generally a poorly educated or prepared agent? The standard answer?

Because I am a great agent or —— and I will do a great job!

Think of your potential customer or client as an employer. Do you think anyone an employer interviews admits that they will show up for work late constantly and will generally perform poorly? Yet, how many people have you seen hired by an employer do just that?

When your previous customer, a vendor and/or even one of their neighbors states that they would not go wrong by hiring you, there is very little that you can add which will boost your cause any further. Does this mean that you must get several people to call before a listing presentation or bring an entourage with you? Of course not! The most effective means of communicating this message is through the referral letter or testimonial.So the question remains, how are you going to get that person to trust your answer to this statement? The most effective way is to have someone else (preferably several someone elses) say that you are good instead of you tooting your own horn. There is nothing more powerful than a third-party recommendation.

You see referral letters everywhere. Next time you bring your car into service at a new car dealership, peruse the bulletin board and you might see some letters praising the department. These quotes from satisfied customers become powerful segments of advertisements when you receive flyers asking you to try a product or attend a seminar.

How do you obtain more referral letters? Of course, the easiest solution is to ask for them. Many of us do not even bother to follow-up after a transaction, let alone secure a letter from a satisfied customer. Calling a customer after the transaction is far from our only solution.

One place to look for referral letters is among your vendors. These people should be motivated to help you–or they should not be your vendor. Do you think that a letter from “the bank” or a settlement agent will not have as much of an impact as a satisfied customer? Think again–these players handle hundreds of transactions and are considered experts. Just make sure to coach them on pointing this fact out:

“I have been in the real estate business for 10 years and have been involved in over a thousand transactions and Mary Smith is the best…”

The second way to boost your portfolio with solid referral letters is to use a customer satisfaction survey. It is true that many people just won’t sit down and write a letter, no matter how many times you ask. The only solution for these people is to obtain a quote from them verbally and type up the letter for their signature (not a bad solution–anything which gets the job done!) or to provide them with a fill-in-the-blank alternative. Today email also works for both of these alternatives. The important thing is to obtain permission to use their quote.

A follow-up survey can provide valuable information in addition to testimonials. You can learn about areas for improvement and also can use the opportunity to ask for referrals. Just asking whether they would refer you to someone else is not enough–leave a blank so that they can fill in a name.

Be sure to leave plenty of space when asking for a general opinion of your service. Each positive quote becomes the basis for a testimonial or what is known as “social proof.” To increase your response rate even further bring the survey to the closing or signing and have the participants complete the survey immediately. This will increase the rate of response from 20 percent to more than 80 percent, without follow-up phone calls.

Now when you go to a listing presentation you can be armed with as many forms of social proof as you would like. You can combine these quotes in a flyer that highlights your reputation. And don’t forget to use actual names. Anonymous quotes are not very effective. Use the quotes in every mailing and newspaper advertisement within your arsenal. What could be more effective than presenting with an army of people at your side?

Communication: Business Success Series

Communication
Communication

Communication

It is no secret what your customers are looking for from you—whether you are selling to consumers directly or you sell business-to-business. They want communication.

Lee Iacocca once said—“Tell what you are going to say, say it, and tell them what you said.”

While there is no arguing about the fact that great communication is one of the essential keys to success, this is one area that many of us fail. And to make matters worse, many of us do no know just how critical it is to excel in this area—

  • Our customers have been conditioned to expect poor communication from their providers. So this is one area in which we have the potential to exceed the expectations of our customers.
  • Communication skills have slipped as we have moved into the computer age—especially verbal skills. How many sales people are excellent public speakers? What an excellent opportunity to differentiate yourself from your competition.

Of course, we must also factor in the fact that your customers remember very little of what we say. We find ourselves having to repeat key factors of the transactions we are creating. All the more reason that we must be clear, concise and absolutely timely with our communications.

In order to improve our communication skills, we must understand the skills we must have in order to communicate well. Here are some of these skills—–

  • Time management skills. What does time management have to do with great communication? Have you ever not called someone back promptly because you were too busy?
  • Honesty. Too many times we communicate that we can achieve too much in order to get the deal in the door. We then are put in the position of defending our results throughout the process. It is hard to communicate well when we are covering our tracks.
  • The ability to overcome call reluctance. Sometimes we have the time to call someone back—but we don’t because we procrastinate. This is often true when the news is not good. Good communication means prompt communication—no matter what news we deliver.
  • Public speaking skills. This is one area that many sales people are deficient. How much more effective would you be if you could speak as a leader in front of small, medium and large groups? This is certainly one place in which you can differentiate yourself from your competition.
  • Writing skills. Many times we must write letters to solicit business, update our customers, prod them to action—in addition to other situations. Are your writing skills reinforcing your status as an industry expert or are they just adequate to get the job done? In this day and age it is tough to hide poor writing skills when we are sending emails on an hourly basis.

As you can see—communicating takes many skills and the factors that comprise great communication are much more complex than one would think. Because of this—improving your communication skills and results take a significant commitment. You should start with a plan. This plan should include specific actions and goals.

For example, if you are interested in honing your speaking skills you might join Toastmasters and practice presentations.  The goal may be to develop a presentation and deliver it confidently within six months.  In addition to the goal of delivering the presentation, you must have a goal you would like to achieve through the presentation. We lose our incentive to improve if we do not see results.

Finally, you must understand that our everyday communication must be proactive—not reactive. If we are just responding to fires and calling when we have to—we will never be delivering beyond the customer’s expectations. If you communicate information they were not expecting when they are not expecting it, you will put yourself in position to shine and develop a loyal advocate.

Choose Listing Language Carefully

Choose Listing Language Carefully
Choose Listing Language Carefully

Listing Verbiage Affects Results

The words that real estate professionals choose to describe a property in listing ads could potentially result in the home selling for a premium, suggests an analysis that looks at listing descriptions and their effect on sales price and probability of sale. For example, property descriptor words in listing ads, like granite countertops and wood-burning fireplace, can help net higher sales prices.

Researcher Bennie Waller, a professor of finance and real estate at Longwood University in Farmville, Va., found that each property characteristic mentioned in a listing increases the sale price by just under 1 percent and its probability of selling by, on average, 9.2 percent. “That means a listing with 15 additional property characteristics sells for roughly a 13.5 percent price premium,” says Waller, who excluded standard features in his analysis, such as bedrooms. Waller and his co-authors examined more than 16,300 transactions between March 2000 and February 2009 from a south central Virginia MLS.

The study also found positive opinion words can also help boost the sales price. For example, words such as “beautiful” or “fabulous” could help increase the price by 0.9 percent, the study suggests. In other words, 10 positive words could bump up the sales price by potentially 9 percent, according to the study. “You have one or two seconds to capture the buyer or buyer’s agent’s attention, and you need to sell [your home] as effectively and efficiently as possible,” Waller says. “You need to carefully choose your vernacular, but at the same time, not become verbose. There can be some puffing, but too much of it will encourage the buyer to look elsewhere.”

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Working With First Time Homebuyers

Working With First Time Homebuyers
Working With First Time Homebuyers

Working With First Time Homebuyers

The market for first-time homebuyers is as hot as it has ever been. With the government offering tax incentives, home prices down and interest rates low, homes are the most affordable in history. Most of the recovery of the real estate market in the past year has been focused upon the lower end of the market.

Whether you are a real estate agent, insurance agent, tax professional, loan officer or other professional, it is hard not to be effected by this market. Quite the contrary, many are stepping up to focus upon this segment of the market. This is not a short-term gold rush. Even when the market normalizes, first time buyers typically comprise close to one-half of the purchase market.

It is not enough to say that you are going to focus upon this segment of the market. Those who are going to service renters must understand that these people have special needs. The home-buying experience will be their most significant financial transaction and it is important for the experience to be a positive one instead of a nightmare.

What are these needs? They need someone to learn from. That means you should not focus upon this market unless you are an expert. You should anticipate the questions they have and be ready for answers. As a matter of fact, it would be a great idea to provide them with a sheet of frequently asked questions (FAQs) in your area of expertise. There is so much information being thrown at these people that they are not likely to remember what you tell them. Don’t limit this information to FAQ’s. Also include printed information about the process–including graphs that demonstrate the flow.

You must think of yourself as a teacher as well as a business person. When they see you as a teacher rather than someone trying to sell them something, they are more likely to listen to your advice. How many times have transactions gone awry because people went off in the wrong direction because there was not enough of a level of trust? People trust teachers.

One characteristic of a teacher is someone who has loads of patience. Expect that questions will be asked two and three times. Expect your clients to not always follow-through the way you would like. All through these bumps and bruises, you will need to exercise an extraordinary amount of patience. You are not their parent. You cannot get angry with them. You are their teacher.

Help them prepare. You have heard this a million times: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Nowhere is this saying more appropriate than with regard to the home purchase process. For example, having them spend time with a loan officer getting a pre-approval will not only give them more confidence to purchase, it will remove a significant amount of stress from the process. Questions will be answered, issues will be resolved and now the search can occur with a focus on the goal of finding the right home instead of two processes that are occurring at once.

During the process, do not assume that the clients understand what you are saying at all times. Do not use technical language that may be common to your profession but foreign to them. For example, when you speak about rates going up and down, do not assume that the clients know exactly how that affects their payments. They are even more likely not to know how rates moving may affect their payments after the tax factor is figured into the equation. They might not even understand what the mortgage payment is comprised of and other areas they will be responsible for such as home maintenance.

If you are an expert in your industry, you must also align yourself with other experts. The first time buyers will be looking for recommendations. Going back to the tax issue, they may want to talk to a tax professional who also may be able to help them file forms to take advantage of the tax credit if the state and/or federal government is offering one for which they qualify. Referrals of other professionals removes more stress from the transaction because once again, they can focus on the purchase instead of shopping for all of the services associated with the transaction.

In addition, referring them to other experts also makes it more likely they will experience a smoother transaction. On their own they are more likely to obtain the wrong information or hook up with service providers who don’t provide the best customer service. Referring experts such as yourself with good service records should be the least you can contribute to the transaction.

Of course, these referral relationships should go both ways and these high level relationships should increase your business in the long run. A strong referral starts you out in a position of trust which again is imperative if you are going to lead first time buyers through a successful and stress-free transaction.

Define and Grow Your Sphere - Part One

Define and Grow Your Sphere-Part One

Define and Grow Your Sphere - Part One

The term “sphere” might be the most overused term in sales and marketing literature. For some, the sphere is represented by one’s immediate friends and for others it is someone’s previous customers. In reality, your sphere includes these elements and much more. It is when we define the sphere in the right way that we actually find out how important our sphere actually is with regard to our marketing plan. In the long-run, our sphere should be the basis or foundation of this plan.

First, what is one’s sphere? A sphere is comprised of those you who know and you know them as well. Put it this way–if you were walking down the street and passed someone–would you say hello? If you would, they are part of your sphere. In addition to this relationship component, there is also a component of commonality. There are those you don’t know, but with whom you have something in common.

For example, let’s say you go to church or temple. There may be 500 families and 1000 members of the group. You probably know 50 of these people because you live near them, sit near them or even have served on committees with them. But there are 950 people that you don’t know whom are part of the sphere. The “commonality” component adds the largest numbers to your sphere while the relationship component adds the most important individuals to your sphere.

Now that we have defined the sphere, let us look at the specific components of a sphere. In all, there are seven all-important segments of one’s personal sphere–

Friends, family and neighbors. This part of your sphere is comprised of those with whom you have the closest relationship. Covey would say that you have built up an “emotional” bank account. This can be the most important segment of the sphere because the members have a vested interest in helping you succeed. And many times it is under-utilized because call reluctance keeps some from calling on the personal segment of the sphere.

Previous customers. This segment of the sphere is well defined in practice and literature. Sometimes this segment is interchangeable with the term sphere. There are many “customer relationship management” (CRM) programs available to help sales and business people keep track of and deliver value to this segment. One important point–if you are new in your present industry, be sure to include the previous customers from your previous industry. These are people you have served and with whom you have developed a relationship. Starting with these customers puts you on “second base” instead of home plate.

Present and previous co-workers. This segment would include everyone you have worked with in this industry and previous industries. Many have worked with hundreds of different people. You may have helped someone start a career. Perhaps you have promoted someone. These relationships can be turned into dollars because you have good will built up. If you work in an industry where turnover is rampant among sales personnel (for example, as a real estate agent or loan officer), every time someone leaves the industry the sphere they have built up disappears unless you take the initiative to work with them and turn them into a referral source. In reality the group of “previous practitioners” makes a great referral source because they are familiar with screening prospects and they are known as having expertise in the industry. In other words, don’t let your previous peers from this profession or your previous profession go untapped.

Previous prospects. Previous prospects are important for two reasons. First, if they choose not to do business with you, they might change their mind sometime in the future. Perhaps they decided not to purchase at all. Keeping in touch with this segment is essential.

On the other hand, there are prospects that you were not able to help because of one reason or another. Perhaps they had bad credit or no savings. You should be referring these people to those who can help them (perhaps credit counselors) so they are more likely to become clients in the future. Those who receive your referrals that are comprised of those you can’t help are helping you with your future business and can become important referral source on their own. It is said that “someone’s garbage is someone else’s treasure.”

As you are reading this article, your eyes should be opening wider as you see your sphere expanding in scope. And, we are only half-way through our definition. Stay tuned for the next segment.

 

Presenting A Lead To A Partner

Presenting A Lead To A Partner

Presenting A Lead To A Partner

Many sales trainers will tell you that the key to obtaining more referrals is asking for the business. Absolutely false. If it were true, why have trainers been beating this into our heads for years and most of us still are not comfortable asking? The key to getting more referrals is putting ourselves in the position to ask. When we place ourselves in the right position, the business transaction will take place naturally. If it feels uncomfortable or is forced–it is not right.

Of course, an important question follows: How do you put yourself in a position to ask? This is a fairly complex issue and involves everything from market positioning to the delivery of great customer service. In this article, we will address only one positioning technique–the delivery of value to a business-to-business partner. Why do we start with this particular activity? Because there is no one area that demonstrates so effectively that asking is a finely tuned skill and not merely walking around and pleading.

Specifically, what we are referring to here is delivering a lead to someone who can deliver many leads to us. The law of reciprocity dictates that we deliver value to those who are delivering value to us. Within the real estate industry–it would not be unusual for real estate agents, loan officers, settlement companies, insurance agents, financial planners and even CPAs to “trade” prospects. The question is–how do you do such and achieve the most value in return? Have you ever delivered a lead to a partner (or a potential partner)–and never received anything in return? Here are some very important considerations–

First, make sure that this lead is not a one-shot deal. You must make lead generation an overall part of your business plan. Otherwise, your partner will not see you as a long-term valuable resource. They are more likely to see the gesture as a one-time windfall and look elsewhere for long-term value.

Secondly, target the right people. While it is always right to reward a present partner that delivers value to you on a regular basis, you must recognize that your business plan will sometimes require that you use your resources to develop or solidify new business relationships. Unfortunately, we usually select those WE want to service. The sales process is not about us–it is about the needs of whom we are serving. We must select based upon–

Lack of relationship interference. If they cannot use us in the long-run because of their established relationships–they are not the best recipient of our value.

Loyalty. How loyal are they to their partners and/or vendors? If they are not loyal to their present partners, what makes you think they will be loyal to you? In some respects, this aspect is a tough balancing act with the first point because those who are loyal are more likely to have relationship interference.

How are they going to treat your customer? Can they deliver great service? Your name is going to be on the line here (and hopefully again and again). Do not leave the results to chance.

Are they ethical? This aspect covers everything from them doing what they say they will do, to staying on the right side of the law.

Next, you must make sure you deliver the prospect in the right way. What we are talking about here is a business deal. Asking for the business is more than a question. It is a business negotiation. Make sure they know exactly what is expected and when. They must be in total agreement as to what they are to deliver.

Finally, you must follow-up with a vengeance. A key to success in sales is diligent follow-up and there is no area within sales in which this adage will prove to be more true than in this situation. If you do not follow-up appropriately, you are opening the door to such statements as “I haven’t had anyone to send.” If they did not have the business to allocate, why would you have selected them to utilize one of your most precious resources? You must show them that you are serious with regard to making sure they hold up their end of the business proposition. The longer you go without follow-up the less chance you have of collecting your reward.

You have heard this before–success is not an accident. Neither is failure. What we are talking about here is planning for success. Your precious resources could lead to very valuable relation-ships that will help you succeed. Or you could wind up wasting the chance. Which will it be?

Adding Value To Your Sphere

Adding Value To Your Sphere

Adding Value To Your Sphere

Marketing plan and sphere of influence. These terms are referred to much of the time when one is talking about marketing. But there seems to be no clear definition of these terms. Everyone agrees that they are all very important. But no one agrees what exactly they are. Therefore, we will give you our definition.

Sphere of influence. A sphere of influence is comprised of two main components.

1. Those who know you and you know them. This component of personal relationships is the most important of the entire sphere.

2. Those you have something in common with. Though less important than the other component, this part of the sphere can be very significant when formulating a marketing plan. Of course how much you have in common is imperative. If you are over six feet tall, you have something in common with other tall people. But this is not important to your sphere. If you have attended a particular church for 20 years, this is something that may be very important in regard to your sphere. In regard to attending a church or a school, there will be those at the institution that you know and others with which you just have this membership in common.

The sphere itself is comprised of seven main categories. It is the organization of these categories that can be helpful when developing a marketing plan–

  • Personal: friends, family and neighbors.
  • Previous customers: from your present business and previous businesses.
  • Previous prospects: those who decided to purchase from someone else or those you could not serve or chose not to serve.
  • Previous employees: those you have worked with.
  • Vendors: those from which you purchase goods and services and those who sell the same to your targets.
  • Associations: academic, religious, business, civic, hobbies, interests, sports and more.
  • Professionals: doctors, lawyers, accountants, financial planners, etc.

So you know what your sphere is comprised of. How does that help you devise a marketing plan? In simple terms–a marketing plan is the process of delivering value to your sphere. A marketing plan should be focusing on doing four things–

  • Determining what is the highest value to deliver to certain segments of your sphere and how to deliver this value.
  • Prioritizing the contacts within the sphere–from highest to lowest.
  • Moving people and businesses into the sphere.
  • Moving contacts up in priority within the sphere.

In essence, the sphere should resemble a pyramid. At the top of the pyramid will reside the most important contacts within your sphere (and there will be less of them, of course). At the bottom are the less important contacts (perhaps alumni members you don’t know). You can see how this process of prioritization can direct your marketing activities.

You may be calling and/or having business meetings with those on top of the pyramid. On the bottom of the pyramid, you may be mailing or advertising to these people. If you must advertise, doesn’t it make sense to advertise to people with whom you have more in common?

Sphere segmentation and prioritization also helps immensely with the value proposition. Now you can determine how best to deliver value. For example, with vendors you should be focusing upon helping them build their business. Why should they help you if you are not helping them?

One last question focuses on the term prioritization. Simply, a high priority target contains the potential for a high concentration of business to refer. You also should have a close relationship with that target and should be able to deliver value to that target. For example, if your spouse had the potential for referring a lot of business, shouldn’t that be your top priority? Focus on what is important and you will have a better chance at improving your results.

 

Are You An Employee, Or… The CEO Of Your Company?

Are You An Employee, Or… The CEO Of Your Company? Do you view yourself as a salesperson? Or do you view yourself as the CEO of your own business? If you really want to lead the industry, you must view this as your company. This is true whether you work as a sole-proprietor out of your car or whether you work for a national company. That also means you must invest significant amounts of your money, time and energy in your business. And you must make this investment up front, not some time in the future.

For example, we can’t tell you how many sales people contact training companies and say–I know I need this training but I need to close a few transactions first. Then they go months or years without the training they need. They are running businesses that are always going to struggle. And most of them will eventually fail because companies that are under funded do not do well. If you have worked for such a company, you know what we mean in this regard. Those who are on “pay as you go” status never seem to reach the top. So here is the basic question:

Are you investing what you need to in your business?

Imagine if you were opening a retail store or restaurant. You would invest many thousands of dollars and hours before you rang up the first sale. This would include hundreds of hours of research and setting up the location. You would purchase equipment and inventory. You may pay a multi-thousand dollar franchise fee. And when it was opened, the hours needed to run the business would increase substantially. In the end, you would still be in a situation that poses a major risk because start-up businesses tend to have a high rate of failure in the first few years. Obviously the research and investment should help mitigate some of these risks.

Sales personnel don’t necessarily have to invest as many hours or as many dollars as one might starting a restaurant. But the concept is much the same. What do you need to invest in? Marketing, education, technology and more. Perhaps it is a laptop. Or it is the time to learn how to use a software program you have purchased for your laptop. Have you ever purchased a software program and not learned how to use it? In this case you have invested the money but not the time. You must make an investment of all available resources. Imagine running a store without the technology you need. Imagine running a doctor’s office without the knowledge you need!

The investment needed would vary for each person. For example, an insurance veteran of eight years moving into the real estate industry would not need to learn about available insurance coverage. On the other hand, someone moving from government should spend the time to learn this aspect of the industry. After all, if you are serving homeowners and prospective homeowners, you will need to become an expert in all aspects of the real estate process so that you can deliver maximum value to your clientele.

Some will need a home office. Others will need a marketing assistant. It is this needs analysis that is an all-important research step. For example, within the education category some may need to learn how to better utilize a computer. Others may need help learning how to communicate verbally or in writing. Still others may need public speaking training. Note–we have not even touched upon training specific to your particular industry.

When we counsel managers, we counsel them to hire candidates that understand that they are not applying for a position but to start a business. The manager must make these candidates understand what investment must be made for each individual. In effect, instead of advertising in the help wanted section of the newspaper, they should be advertising in the “business opportunities” section.

Those who wait for their employers to give them the resources to be successful will typically have a long wait—forever. Success comes from within. And the key to this success is finding the right elements of investment that are needed for each individual. These elements include time, money and energy. You can’t make it with just two out of three. Our question is…have you made the investment that is necessary to sustain and grow your business as the reigning CEO? There certainly is a big difference between an employee and a CEO!

The Basic Elements of Success

The Basic Elements of Success

The Basic Elements of Success

As a professional we tend to get lost fighting the fires of survival each day. We constantly win small battles, while we fall behind in the long term war of success. One day we look up and we are hopelessly behind competitors who have launched new strategies which cause us to initiate a fire drill as we play catch up.

We tend to completely re-engineer our overall plans once every five years, causing a major disruption in our lives, rather than trying to achieve a more sensible approach of continual improvement. When it comes to self-improvement there are two significant guidelines to which we must adhere.

First, we must improve constantly or we will be overwhelmed by our competition. Second, improvement must come gradually. Try as we might, there is little chance to transform ourselves overnight.

Let us assume that we can’t afford to take a year off to revamp our business strategies and we must embark on a rigorous path in order to keep up in a rapidly evolving environment. Where do we start?

The opportunities for personal and professional improvement surround us and we must make ourselves sensitive to these opportunities. Here are some suggestions:

Develop objectives. In what areas do you feel that you need improvement? Talk to a few of your successful peers. In what areas do they possess expertise that you do not. Perhaps you would like to improve your public speaking capacity or you would like to increase your automation capabilities. Make a laundry list of topics and develop your priorities. Remember, you cannot take on all projects at one time.

Visit the book store. Peruse the personal improvement and business sections. Pick up a few books relevant to your topics. These books will be a great source of information and will also help us determine what long-term plan of action might work.

Peruse industry publications. The primary purpose of these organizations is the advancement of its membership. There are a variety of training and marketing materials and events made available to members in different formats. Become involved in these groups as they represent wonderful opportunities to network and learn about opportunities for improvement.

Start attending seminars. Sometimes it seems as though industry seminars are attended by those who are not transacting business and are not attended by those who are doing business because these people are too busy. The truth is that each person needs a balance between business and learning experiences. If you are spending all of your time learning you are not accomplishing anything. You must achieve a balance.

Spend some time developing implementation strategies. Why don’t we spend time improving? Because we don’t find the time. Fires use up our available time because they scream louder. To improve we must make it a priority to do so. What are some examples of implementation strategies?

First, use your down time. Every person spends a certain amount of time in the car. Purchase CD’ and listen to them again and again. Instead of being up-tight because you can’t get to your appointment by blowing through traffic, make your trip more enjoyable and productive.

Second, schedule your learning time. Vow to spend a certain amount of time each week on learning activities. Schedule this time in your calendar. We schedule meetings, doctors appointments, vacations and more. Isn’t learning time just as important? The time expended does not have to be substantial–try an hour each week. Real improvement comes a little at a time through consistent & persistent energy.

Lastly, make your next vacation an improvement experience. Every time you go out of town to unwind, use the opportunity to take on an improvement project. Take a book on honing marketing skills as well as a mystery novel. You will find the experience will renew your vigor as well as the snooze time at the beach!.

Above all, improvement takes a solid commitment. This commitment should not be for a day or a week or a year. It should be for a lifetime. When we stop improving, our business will die.