The Entrepreneurial Spirit Within

What does it mean to have an entrepreneurial spirit, and how do you know if you have it?

For me, I knew (or at least in hindsight, I would come to know) that I was an entrepreneur at the age of 13. It wasn’t even a word that I knew or even understood at the time, but I had an instinct for business. There was something inside me that understood how to take a 5 cent piece of candy and turn a profit–that is, until I got caught selling candy at school.

An entrepreneur has a vision, sees an opportunity then has the commitment to follow through. Do you have what it takes?

https://youtu.be/EXAs8_jgKlE

MSNBC’s Your Business

On Thursday, I was swept off to a land far, far away.

OK, not that far away. But TV has to be dramatic, doesn’t it?

Even though I was close to home, I visited the homes of millions by appearing as a guest on MSNBC’s Your Business, with host JJ Ramberg. I was featured as an expert on referral networking (imagine that!) and spoke about how it can positively affect small businesses. The entire experience was easier than I expected and JJ was well-prepared and professional–and I’m sure glad she was, because it really helped ease my nerves.

And of course, I couldn’t get out the door without using referral networking. The producer asked if I could refer her to other BNI experts to be featured guests! (Who knows–maybe it could be YOU!)

Check out the clip below and tell me what you think.

Counting Your Referrals

Referrals are the backbone of word-of-mouth networking, am I right?

So if you reach out 100 people with a referral and ten reach back, did you give 100 or ten referrals?

Many would immediately assume the higher number, because let’s face it–100 is better than 10. But that isn’t the case!

But WHY is this?

I come to you today with a Vlog (video blog) of this exact question, asked of me during the BNI US Conference in April.

Can You Pinpoint the Benefits of Your Product or Service?

Sales training often teaches us that customers make buying decisions based on (1) their emotions (“Sell the sizzle, not the steak!”) and (2) the value the product or service brings to them.  Marketing specialists capitalize on customers’ emotion-based buying habits.  Customers choose a product or service based on its benefits, not its features.  The features are simply the bare-bones facts–the elements or significant parts–of the product or service.  The benefits are its value to the customer–how it will solve their problems, eliminate their pain, and make life glorious.

Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

To understand the difference between features and benefits, let’s think about a car:

Features of a car

  • V-6 engine, dual exhaust, front-wheel drive, sunroof, significant interior legroom, heated seats, heated glass

Benefits of those features

  • V-6 engine–ability to pull onto the highway without hesitation (and to impress your friends)
  • Dual exhausts–higher fuel efficiency and more power (and it sounds groovy and also impresses your friends)
  • Front-wheel drive–more interior room because of the lack of a driveshaft tunnel
  • Sunroof–the open feel of a convertible with the safety and security of a sedan
  • Legroom–greater comfort while driving long distances and more room for your growing family
  • Heated seats–cozy motoring on frigid days and nights; greater back comfort on long-distance trips
  • Heated glass–the convenience of not having to scrape icy windows in the winter

The more perceived value a benefit offers, the higher it gets ranked in your decision to purchase.  Objectively, a sunroof is not a significant feature, but if it makes you feel a bit like a race car driver, perhaps that benefit raises its value for you.  Heated seats are nice too, but they might not rank high in value for to people who live in a warm climate and wouldn’t strongly influence their buying decision.  The benefits of dual exhausts, however, might have perceived value for all buyers–better fuel efficiency, more power, and a sound like your beloved but departed ’57 Chevy.

What does all this have to do with your referral marketing message?  Simply this:  Most businesspeople, without thinking about it, talk in terms of features.  As professional experts and salespeople, that’s what they’re most familiar with.  They’re not accustomed to looking at their products or services from a customer’s perspective.

In formulating the message you want your networking partners to convey, your challenge is to put yourself in the customer’s place.  What are the benefits of your product or service?  How will it make the customer’s life or business easier, more comfortable, more satisfying, more profitable?  How can you shorten and simplify your message so that others can communicate these benefits more clearly and surely?

Now that you have a good understanding of the difference between features and benefits, I hope you’ll come back next week to read the follow-up blog post I’ll be doing which will teach show you exactly how to zero in on the benefits of your business.  Until then, if you have any questions about features vs. benefits or any thoughts you’d like to share regarding this post, please leave a comment in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

True or False?–Your Best Source of Referrals Is Your Customers

Do you believe your best source of referrals is your customers?  If so, think again . . . the reason people sometimes fall into believing customers are there best source of referrals is that they’ve been trained to believe it and have never pursued any other source of referrals.  The only referrals they’ve ever received are from customers.

Don’t get me wrong–customers and clients can be a very good source of referrals and I’m not denying that.  However, many businesses (especially big corporations) are out of touch with the fact that other referral sources are available that can be extraordinarily powerful.  Clients, although often the most readily available sources, are not necessarily the best or steadiest sources of high-quality referrals.  The best sources in the long run are likely to be the people you refer business to.  When you help another businessperson build his or her business, you’re cultivating a long-term relationship with someone who’s motivated to return the favor by bringing business to you, who’s sharing your target market, and who will work systematically with you for mutual benefit.

With a well-developed referral network, you can realize more good referrals from one or two professional referral sources than from all your customers combined.  Why?  Because these professionals are better salespeople than your clients and they spend more time in contact with your target market.  They know how to sell to your client base.  They talk your talk.  If you’ve done your job of educating and training them to refer business to you, they can communicate your value better to their contacts.

There’s also a built-in challenge with viewing customers as referral sources.  If you’re spending part of your time with a customer trying to get referrals, you’re generating a conflict of interest.  Instead of devoting all of your time and attention to the customer’s needs, you’re diverting part of that effort toward your own self-interest.  Instead of devoting all your time and attention to the customer’s needs, you’re diverting part of that effort toward your own self-interest.  The customer may sense that they are not getting full value–and the truth is, they may be right.  You may be sending mixed messages.  You may be polluting customer service time with “gimme business” time.

Yes . . . you can expect to get referrals from a happy customer, but you’d better make darn sure the customer is indeed happy.  This means keeping your attention–and your motivations–focused on the customer’s needs when that is the purpose of the visit or call.  However, there’s nothing wrong with asking for another appointment specifically so you and your client can discuss how you can help each other.

What’s the best referral you’ve gotten recently (think about the referral you’ve been the most excited about)?  Where did that referral come from?  I’d really like for you to share your answer in the comment forum below because I’d love to get a conversation going about the diverse array of avenues from which good referrals can be generated.  My goal in writing this post was not at all to discount customer referrals, but rather to emphasize that they are not solely the best source of referrals–great referrals can come from many places.  For that reason, I’d love to hear where your most recent standout referral came from so please share your story with us–I know more people in addition to me would really like to hear about your experience!

 

Making Business Personal Is Sometimes a Very Good Thing

In this short video, business networking expert Charlie Lawson demonstrates how powerful storytelling can be in relation to networking for your business and he does it by none other than . . . you guessed it . . . telling a story.

The fact is, you can tell someone what you do for a living all day long but chances are, that’s not going to make you stand out.  You need to start relaying true stories about how your products and services have had a significantly positive impact on the way your customers feel and the quality of their lives.

As Charlie says, “The story is what gets us and the more we make our stories about what we do in business personal, the more results we’re going to have.”

Do you have a powerful, standout story about how your products or services have impacted your customers?  If so, I’d really love to hear it–please share your story in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

 

Tactics for Tapping into the Customer’s Perspective

Last week I posted a blog explaining why I believe that understanding the buyer’s perspective is one of the most important keys to selling.  Today’s post is a follow up to that post because I want to take this opportunity to offer some tactics for tapping into the buyer’s (i.e., the customer’s) perspective.

Learning and adapting to the issues and whims of the buyer while moving the sale forward to a conclusion is a complex and intricate task.  Attentive listening can help you, the seller, determine if the buyer is putting you off or merely attending to pressing internal demands.  Personality profiling (come back on Monday, July 22nd for details about Personality Profiling) also helps by giving you knowledge about how to craft your sales and reporting program to the style of communication most comfortable to the client.  All customers like to be communicated with in a manner that is most familiar to them, and knowing their personality profiles helps the seller customize a sales approach for each unique individual.  One form of customer communication is the product presentation, which has a strong influence in a successful sale.

Andy Bounds, from Liverpool, England, is a sales communication expert who reminds us that the ” . . . prospect is really interested in the total opposite of most commonly delivered product presentations.  The prospect really only cares about his or her own present and future, whereas most presentations focus on the seller’s past and product features.”  Andy reminds us to talk about what the product will do for the customer rather than its features.  His favorite phrase is, “Customers don’t care what you do; they care about what they’re left with AFTER you’ve done it.”  He uses the word “after” to keep the product presentation focused on the customer’s needs, and recommends the following customer-oriented questions:

  • “What are you looking to achieve after our work together?”
  • “What would success look like to you as a result of this project?”
  • “Looking back a year from now, what will need to happen for you to think things have gone brilliantly?”

Nothing works perfectly every time, and being able to read the customer’s buying signals is crucial to making necessary course corrections that meet the customer’s top-of-mind concerns.  The state of the selling art allows masterful salespeople to combine a little science with human relation strategies to create a wonderful buying experience for the consumer, while still maximizing the seller’s commission.  Most of the time, timing is everything, which is why we wanted to take the time to share several concepts, strategies, and techniques to help you land the hesitant customer in front of you (whose hesitation may have nothing to do with your product).

Are there some additional tactics for tapping into the customer’s perspective which you’ve personally had success using?  If so, I’m eager to hear them–please share your thoughts in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

 

Sales: The Buyer’s Perspective

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in an airport waiting for my plane to arrive and I struck up a conversation with the young man sitting next to me.  He was wearing a nice suit, carrying a laptop, and appeared to be traveling on business so I asked him if he happened to be traveling to the same business event that I was.  It turned out he wasn’t headed to the same place but we ended up having a very interesting conversation about sales.

He explained that he’s somewhat new to the sales industry and that he has found it a bit difficult to achieve the level of success he had envisioned when he entered the field.  I offered him some advice about what I believe is one of the most important keys to selling and I’d like to share it with you here as well . . . it’s understanding the buyer’s perspective.

The way I see it, selling has everything to do with finding out what the customer wants, is able to pay for, and then making the deal (assuming you can provide the product/service).  If it were really that simple, however, there wouldn’t be a demand for salespeople; buyers could get all they need from a machine.  But, in fact, many buyers head off to go shopping for a product or service with only a vague sense of what might satisfy their needs.  Turning a buyers vagueness into clear solutions is the job of the salesperson.  Always remember that the buyer is looking for the best solution, delivered in an effective and pleasurable manner.

Buyers are multifaceted, and when they shop, they weigh the many pros and cons of a potential purchase.  Some of these they will share with the seller, while many other thoughts they will keep to themselves.  Learning and adapting to the issues and whims of the buyer while moving the sale forward to a conclusion is a complex and intricate task . . . and it’s the responsibility of the sales professional to ensure it happens.

Brian Roach, a friend of mine who sells computer technology told me about a great concept he calls the sales clock.  He describes it this way:

It’s a great day.  You answered a call from a new prospect, met with their team to discuss your product, and . . . they asked you for a proposal.  Soon after delivering your proposal you started your wait for their decision.  The sales clock ticks as you wait on the fate of your proposal.  It may tick a long time before hearing back from the customer, and as the seller, you don’t know if you are being ‘stiffed’ or if the customer is swamped with other pressing priorities.  Whatever the reason, waiting out the sales clock can be stressful.  The last thing you want is for your own stress to create a negative impact on your prospect.

Brian reminds us that ‘it’s all about the customer,’ in the sense that the customer is the ultimate buyer, but the seller also has to earn a commission, meet monthly targets, and ensure proper work scheduling.  Brian’s sales clock reminds us to always look at both the customer’s perspective as well as the seller’s demands with each sales scenario.

I have some tactics for helping you, the seller, determine if the buyer is putting you off or merely attending to pressing internal demands and also some techniques for effective communication which will help you tap into the customer’s perspective and I’ll be sharing them with you next Monday so be sure to come back then and check them out. 

In the meantime, I’d love to get your take on some other ideas that you believe are important keys to selling so please share your thoughts in the comment forum below. Thanks!

 

Training Referral Sources to Generate Referrals for You

If you interact with your clients, customers, referral sources, and contacts with a referral mind-set, show them that you are a giver, help others, and continually and strategically give referrals, you’re modeling the behavior you want others to exhibit toward you.  By itself, however, that’s not enough to train them to give you referrals.

Contacts who are not involved in your strong-contact network may not be aware of what is involved  in the kind of true referral networking that you are conducting.  Often you will have to coach them as you go, letting them know exactly what you are doing, why you are doing it, and what they may expect from your efforts.

Let’s say you’ve heard about a colleague whose stolen credit cards have been used to run up some big charges: “Stephanie, I’ve been talking with a colleague about your identity-theft problem and have arranged for him to send you a number of internet links that will help you quickly straighten out your credit problems.  I also know a lawyer who specializes in this field.  Would you like for me to contact him for you?  I hope you’ll keep me updated on your progress, and let me know if there’s any other way I can help.”

Similarly, if you’re passing a referral to an untrained but potentially valuable referral partner, let him know exactly what you’re doing and suggest ways he can reciprocate: “Jim, I know a specialist who provides the exact services you say you need.  I’ve known him for fifteen years and have used him many times.  He’s good, and he’s trustworthy.  May I ask him to call you?  And by the way, if you know a general contractor who constructs steel-frame buildings in the Valley and can use the new kind of fasteners I sell, would you please consider giving me a referral?”

By talking openly about what you’re doing, you’re not only modeling the behavior you want from your potential referral partner, you’re getting him to think about it, which is an essential part of learning.  You’re also asking him to practice it in a way that will help him repeat the behavior later.  It’s not a guarantee that he will reciprocate, but it makes it more likely that he will get the idea and respond in kind–at first, out of simple gratitude; later, out of the realization that a continuing referral relationship is good business for both of you.

One of the best ways to train a referral source is to go to a professional referral-training seminar and take your source with you.  This way, you will both be trained by an expert and will be speaking the same language–the language of referrals.

If you have an additional tactic for training referral sources to generate referrals for you, I’d love to hear it.  Please share it in the comment forum below. Thanks!

We vs. Me

While it may not single-handedly solve all the economic problems facing the world today, a new model of community and networking may well be the key to pulling the global economy out of the effects of the long-term global recession.

Networking has always been a powerful strategy to get business by giving business and connecting with others. Community and networking will be a particularly potent formula for success and prosperity over the coming decades.

Michael R. Drew, publishing expert and friend of mine whom I’ve known for 13 years who has helped me achieve bestseller status five times over, has some interesting ideas about the importance of building relationships to succeed in business.

Michael and his coauthor, Roy H. Williams have a very interesting theory in their new book Pendulum [www.penduluminaction.com/bni]. After reading the book, it confirmed in my mind why business networking is positioned to grow massively over the next three decades.

As Michael and Roy explain, societal values follow a cyclical pattern that shifts every 40 years from a “Me” based society, which values feeling and looking good now, instant gratification and cares little for long-term consequences to a “We” based society, which values community and working together for the good of the whole. Roy and Michael have 3,000 years of data to back up this theory.

The rumblings of this transition from “Me” values to “We” values have been evident over the past decade. Once successful business models that embraced exceptionalism and fierce competition are failing and going the way of Chapter 11 bankruptcy. These cycles influence the effectiveness of networking, too. In a “We” cycle, the strength of an individual contributes to the strength of the whole. For example, when established professionals partner with newer, “junior” professionals, both of the partners and the consumers each benefit from the relationship—win, win, win. Knowledge and wisdom are shared, and then blended with new ideas and innovation. This increases the value the end user receives from the relationship.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, traditional marketing strategies focus on hype, promises of bigger, better and more and ‘guarantee’ dramatic results with minimum input. Consumers today are tired of these messages, and instead they are drawn to messages of authenticity, transparency and lasting relationships. They want to work with companies and people who deliver on their promises and actually care about those they are doing business with.

What does this mean for you as a member of a networking group? While business schools and economic experts will speculate and deliberate about the causes of the current economic downturn, knowing the current trend of society’s values can help you succeed by doing what you’re already doing–building relationships through networking. The philosophy of Givers Gain® matches the current values of a “We” cycle in society today.

Good networking groups are all about building relationships and working together as a community to help others reach their goals. What goes around comes around in a very real sense. Business networking is an ideal place to capture the power of this concept to help you reach your own goals by helping others reach their own.

Word-of-mouth will heft a heavier punch in the coming years as well. Your customers will listen more attentively to the recommendations of those they know, like and trust. In today’s global market, a word of recommendation can reach others across the globe. So can a heated complaint. Consumers want to see that you walk the walk more than they want to listen to you talk the talk.

Faceless corporations and big businesses are struggling. For many, they’ve lost the personal connection with their audience or customers. As an entrepreneur, there is no need for you to fall by the wayside with failing businesses. By working together in this “We” cycle, you can help build each other up through relationships and referrals, increasing the success and profitability of businesses in your community. These small actions will be far-reaching and may do more to turn this recession around than many other larger-scale efforts

By participating in networking and working to give back to business owners and community, you will be doing your part to create a stronger economy worldwide—and a stronger global economy makes a better world for everyone.

I’ve read Pendulum and I was so impressed with it that I wrote an endorsement for it. This book is a must-read for anyone in a networking organization. I feel so strongly about this that I’ve arranged with Michael for all readers of my blog to get a free copy of the book. [www.penduluminaction.com/bni] All Michael asks is that you cover shipping and handling costs (shipments outside the US are more).

Get your free copy of Michael and Roy’s book today. Read it. Then use the insights they share to keep building relationships in your market, because Givers Gain®—especially in the current “We” cycle. As you give to other businesses through networking, they will give back to you, too—and that is how we all can take part in pulling the economy out of a recession.

The Profit Puzzle of Business

I recently had several business associates ask me about finding a good model for a business plan that they can use for their franchise.

Being able to market your business is, to a large extent, based on understanding your business.  Understanding your business begins by creating a plan.  One of the best models I’ve seen is one that I have used and recommended for years.  It’s called the “Profit Puzzle.”  It was developed by a good friend of mine – Don Osborne.

Below are the key categories (or puzzle pieces) that Don uses in his system.  If you need, or want, to produce a business plan for your business.  I recommend you check out www.ProfitPuzzle.com.  Just remember – once you have a structure for your plan – it requires that you commit a fair amount of time and effort to actually complete the plan (the plan doesn’t complete itself!).  You have to do the hard work to think about what goes into each part of the puzzle.

Check out Don’s  categories below.  They are very thorough.

My ‘Apple’ Experience

It was a few days before Christmas and the malls were incredibly packed.  My eldest daughter needed a new Apple laptop for college and I was going to get her one as a Christmas gift.

Apple’s in-store customer service is legendary and I would soon experience it firsthand. I went to Victoria Gardens, an outdoor mall near my home in Southern California.  I walked up to the entrance of the Apple Store and the first thing I saw was that the place was wall to wall people. No, really – I’m not exaggerating – it was literally wall to wall people.  I think if there were any more people in that store the Fire Marshal would have had to empty the place.

I stood at the door and was dreading the idea of going into this packed store and waiting forever for service. I took a deep breath and walked through the entrance.  I was no more than two steps into the store when I was greeted by an Apple employee. I expected her to instruct me where I needed to go in order to take a number and wait for service.  Instead, she said, “how can I help you?” I was a little surprised but, I told her what I was looking for.  While standing in the middle of the store she paged someone from a mobile device.  She told me he was the expert and could set me right up with what I needed.  After a few moments Chris was standing next to me answering my questions.

Within minutes of walking through the door I picked what I wanted.  Chris swiped my credit card with his telephone and instantly sent the receipt to my email address.   The entire transaction was done in a fraction of the time I expected in a store that was busier than I thought possible.

A good friend of mine, Stewart Emery wrote a book called “Do You Matter?” A major premise of the book is the idea that customer service is all about the “experience” people have in the transaction of business.  I’ve been to the Apple store a few times now and I can say with conviction that each time has been an amazing experience in customer service.

Another thing Stewart talks about in his book, which the Apple company seems to truly understand,  is that “culture eats strategy for breakfast.”  The Apple culture of customer service is light years ahead of any other computer company I have done business with – period. No computer company has come close to giving me such great customer service (some other computer companies even rank amongst the worst service I’ve ever had).

Well done Apple.  I will be back again… and again, and again.

If you’ve had a similar customer-service experience, I’d really enjoy hearing it.  Please leave a comment and tell me about it.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
1 2
   Follow Me

Get every new post delivered to your inbox