Leverage Your Smallest Billboardstring(32) "Leverage Your Smallest Billboard"

With your business card, you have an opportunity to hook yourself into the minds of people you meet while networking.  Sure it’s a lot smaller than a roadside sign, but it can be as effective as a catchy billboard nonetheless.

Business Cards

(Image courtesy of mrsiraphol at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

For its size and cost, the business card is probably the most powerful marketing tool you own.  Take one of your cards out right now and look at it.  Does your current card accurately reflect your business’ personality–and your own?  What kind of first impression does it make?  Is it memorable?  If  not, it will probably get tossed into a drawer full of ancient, bent, forgotten cards or dropped into the nearest circular file.

Of course, you can’t expect your business card to do all the heavy lifting by itself.  It can’ t tell the whole story about your company.  It’s not a brochure or a catalog.  It has limited space, so you have to choose your words and images carefully.  Nevertheless, your card should present a professional image that people will remember.  A business card can make or break a client’s first impression of your company.  In fact, this little billboard makes as much of an impression as your personal appearance.

Choose a card style that’s appropriate for your business, industry, and personal style.  If you’re a funeral director, you don’t want to be caught handing out Day-Glo cards with cartoon figures on them.  If you’re a mechanic whose specialty is converting old VW Beetles into dune buggies, a formal, black-on-white engraved card will probably be thrown out.  Start with the style that best supports the business image you wish to project.  Regardless of the style you choose, make sure the impact remains consistent.

Here are five different card styles for you to consider:

  • Basic Cards–This is a good card style when utility is all you need.  It’s a no-nonsense approach that can appeal to clients and prospects who would not be impressed by fancy design features.  The design is simple and the information is clear and concise.  A basic card is usually printed in black ink on plain white or cream stock.
  • Picture Cards–Having your face on a card–whether it’s a photograph, a drawing, or a caricature–helps a contact remember you.  Images representing a product, service, or benefit your business provides, can help you communicate your business better than dozens of words.
  • Tactile Cards–Some cards are distinguished not so much by how they look as by how they feel.  They may use nonstandard materials, such as metal or wood, or have unusual shapes, edges, folds, or embossing.  Tactile cards tend to be considerably more expensive but, for some businesses, this unusual card may be worth the investment.
  • Multipurpose Cards–A card can do more than promote your name and business–it can also serve as a discount coupon, an appointment reminder, or some other function.  It may also provide valuable information that the average person might need.  For example, a hotel may include a map on the back of its card for any guests who are walking around the vicinity.
  • Outside-the-Box Cards–A wildly original, fanciful, or extravagant presentation can draw extra attention.  Creativity knows no bounds–except the amount of money you wish to spend.  Some examples are cards made of chocolate, cards fashioned into a deck of playing cards, or cards that fold out into a miniature box that holds small items.

In closing, I have one last, very important task for you.  Look closely at your business card again and after ensuring that it truly and positively represents you and your business, check for the essentials–your name, title, company name, address, phone number, e-mail address, and website.  If someone wants to contact you after receiving your card, you sure as heck want them to be able to reach you.

Ya Gotta Know Your Audience!string(28) "Ya Gotta Know Your Audience!"

Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We were having some wine the other night with a friend who had just come from a private jet show in Geneva, Switzerland (sounds like fun!). He was telling us about what a great job one of the exclusive, high-end private jet companies had done to wow their potential customers.

He said that they gave a new iPad to each invited guest in which they had loaded all the specs for their various jets, including apps that let the prospects choose the plane they were interested and create a custom interior from all their choices – woods, carpeting, leathers, etc . . . They could see what their new plane would look like right there on the spot. Brilliant!

Everyone seemed extremely impressed with this high-tech marketing tool, until it was handed to someone my friend recognized immediately – Bill Gates, Founder of Microsoft.

His words? Something like, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Someone had failed to think about how the Founder of Microsoft would react to being handed an Apple product to use in the process of a potential sale. It’s a small detail, you may think, but you really have to know your audience. What may seem like a small detail to you could end up being huge to your potential customer and could make or break the deal!

Have you witnessed a situation where someone didn’t think about their audience and blew an opportunity? If so, please share it here–I’d really like to hear about it.  Thanks!

Is It Really All About the Customer?–YES!string(47) "Is It Really All About the Customer?–YES!"

In this video, I discuss a recent e-mail I received from a friend and colleague which really surprised me and made me realize that sometimes things which I think are totally and completely self evident to others may not actually be obvious to some people at all.

In my mind, it’s completely clear and non-debatable that that the customer is the most important entity when it comes to the success of any given business.  Realistically, however, it’s quite common for business owners to get caught up in the aspects of business they think take precedence over everything else when challenges arise and it’s easy to forget that the most important aspect of business is ALWAYS the people paying for the service.

In this short video, I explain why, in business, the customer is hands down the most important player in the game.  It’s not that the customer is always right–believe me, they’re not–but without the customer, you have no business.  If you are conducting your business with the belief that you, your business partners, your franchisor, your vendors, or anyone else is more important to your success than the customer then, I hate to break it to you, but that belief is absolutely bunk.  Even the legendary Henry Ford acknowledged during his lifetime that the customer is the ultimate key component in business–watch the video now to see what he had to say about this topic and, also, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic so please leave your feedback in the comment forum.  Thanks!

Is It Possible Your Follow-up Tactics Aren’t Doing You Any Favors?string(72) "Is It Possible Your Follow-up Tactics Aren’t Doing You Any Favors?"

I once had an interesting conversation with an associate who was surprised that she’d gotten flak from a referral source for taking five days to follow up with a prospect that the referral source had referred to her.  My associate explained to me that she doesn’t like to follow up with prospects for four or five days because she doesn’t want the prospect to feel like she’s too eager.

I told my associate that I strongly disagree with her follow-up strategy.  My reasons why are outlined in the following paragraphs . . .

When building relationships, it’s always important not to let much time lapse without following up the first contact. Within twenty-four to forty-eight hours, send your prospect a note expressing your pleasure in communicating with her. It’s still too early, though, to send business literature or make any move toward sales promotion.

Follow up early, but don’t push beyond the prospect’s comfort level. Once the prospect has expressed an interest in your products or services, provide information about them, but don’t force it on her. Continue presenting your products or services, but avoid the hard sell. Focus on fulfilling her needs and interests. Your goal should be to keep your prospect aware of your business without annoying her.

Remember, to secure the long-term loyalty of your prospect and convert her into a customer, you must first build a relationship, and that relationship must develop through the visibility, credibility and profitability stages. It may take a while, but if you’ve selected and briefed your sources well, you’ll speed up the process.

Always, always, always remember to follow up with people, in any situation, at the very least within seventy-two hours. There’s a reason people commonly say that the fortune is in the follow up . . . when you follow up quickly with people, your reputation will benefit, your business will benefit, and eventually your pocketbook will benefit as well.

Do you have any unique and effective ways of following up which have helped you attain success consistently?  If so, I’d love to hear your tactics–please share them in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

The Four-Letter Word That Should Be in Every Networker’s Vocabularystring(73) "The Four-Letter Word That Should Be in Every Networker’s Vocabulary"

“Sell” may be a four-letter word, but it’s certainly not a “bad” word . . . far from it.  “Sell” is a word that should be in absolutely every networker’s vocabulary.

 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run across businesspeople over the years who are fantastic networkers, but they think that just because they know how to network, they don’t need to know how to sell. They think that people will like them, and then their products or services will sell themselves. This kind of mentality is unfortunate because people who think this way may be leaving business on the table.

Anybody who’s experienced and successful in referral marketing will tell you that sales skills are needed in every part of the referral marketing process–not just in closing the sale with the prospect.

From the very beginning, you must sell yourself to your potential referral source. A referral is not a guaranteed sale; it’s the opportunity to do business with someone to whom you’ve been recommended. You still have to close the deal. You have to make it clear that you know how to sell, and that you can and will provide the products or services you’re expected to provide. If you can’t make that first “sale,” your potential referral source won’t become your referral provider.

Beyond selling yourself to the referral source, you have to sell yourself to the prospect to get that first appointment. Then, once you’ve made the appointment, you have to persuade the prospect to buy your product or service. This is the part that usually comes to mind when you hear the word “sell.” However, in referral marketing, closing the deal with your prospect is neither the beginning nor the end of the selling process. The sales process is all about keeping an ongoing relationship with the client or customer. This is something that the best referral marketers know and understand.

 What are some of the tactics you use to continually sharpen your sales skills and/or ensure that you continually invest in an ongoing relationship with your clients/customers to actively keep the sales process afloat?  I’d love for you to share your thoughts and ideas in the comment forum below–thanks!

Give Me One Good Reason I Should Do Business With Youstring(53) "Give Me One Good Reason I Should Do Business With You"

SHARK-TANKA few months ago, I started watching some episodes of “Shark Tank” and I got hooked!  There are some serious business lessons that can be learned by viewing the show and I saw one of them last week while I was watching a rerun from a previous season (it’s sad, I’m completely hooked now and I’m checking out past episodes).

There was an entrepreneur on the show by the name of Raven Thomas.  Raven started a food business called, The Painted Pretzel (pretzels covered with chocolate and other confectionaries).

She had a pretty good business and, according to the panelists (The Sharks), a product that was delicious. After a fair amount of discussion, Lori Greiner (one of the Sharks) got down to the end of the conversation and asked, “Why should we invest in you?”   I realized at that moment that this was the big question and I knew Raven’s answer could make or break the deal.  Raven replied to Lori with… “The main reason is that I have two little kids and . . . (blah, blah, blah, blah, blah).”  I immediately paused the show, looked to my wife Beth, and practically screamed “She just blew it!  She totally gave a relational answer to a bunch of transactional SHARKS!  They don’t care about blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, they want something closer to ‘show me the money’ than ‘I love what I do!’” 

Beth replied, “You have to know your audience when you are talking about your business.” Her statement was spot on.   Before I started up the episode again, Beth and I talked about how crucial it was for Raven to speak the language that the Sharks speak if she wanted them to invest in her.  She needed to speak a language focused on opportunity, growth, ROI, and cold hard cash.  Instead, Raven talked about how she felt about her business and how it related to her children.  Her answer failed to include anything at all that the Sharks would relate to as serious, analytical business investors looking for reasons to convince them Raven’s business would be a wise financial investment.

I resumed watching the episode so I could witness the train wreck which I was sure was about to ensue.  To my astonishment, Robert Herjavec gave Raven a “do-over” (I really like this Shark – if I ever have the chance to be a panelist on a business show, I’d like to think my style would be similar to his).  Robert looked at Raven and gave her a chance to give a better answer by saying to her, “Let’s do that again.She took a moment and said, “A good reason to invest in me is that I had to walk away from a $2 million deal because I did not have the capital to fill the order . . . and that door is still open.” This answer was a show stopper—it completely landed the Sharks’ attention.  Within a few moments, Mark Cuban (Shark and owner of the Dallas Mavericks) offered Raven $100,000 cash and distribution of her product at his stadium and at each location of the movie theater chain he owns!  She, of course, said yes to Mark’s offer.  As a result, she now expects that her company’s sales will exceed $1.2 million dollars this year!

The lesson to be learned here is that it is absolutely imperative to know your audience and tailor your comments to suit the people you’re talking to.  This is an extremely important lesson in both the business arena and the networking arena.  In fact, it’s one of the main reasons why I recommend that when you first meet people, you begin by asking them questions about themselves prior to speaking in length about yourself.  The more you know about the people you’re talking to, the better able you will be to craft your own message in a way that effectively resonates with them.

I’d love to hear either a success story or a horror story that you might have about people “knowing” or “not knowing” their audience.  Please share your story in the comment forum below. Thanks!

Facts + Stories = Powerful Messagesstring(35) "Facts + Stories = Powerful Messages"

In this video, I talk to Ireland-based business networking expert Sandra Hart about the importance of embedding the facts about your business within the form of a story.

When you’re networking or advertising for your business, the most powerful way to present your message is to use a story to ensure your message is heard.  Facts by themselves are, for the most part, simply not memorable to most people.  If you are a banker and you tell people that you specialize in offering low-interest home loans, people may remember that your bank offers loans, but whether or not they remember what kind of loans you specialize in is left to chance.  However, if instead of simply stating that you specialize in low-interest home loans, you tell a story about how you helped a young family of four to overcome their financial struggles by granting them a low-interest home loan, and how this enabled them to purchase their dream home in the sought after Sunny Pines community, you can bet people are going to remember you when they run across someone looking for a home loan.

Remember, facts only tell but stories sell . . . why is this?  Because people don’t emotionally connect to facts.  People emotionally connect to stories and this is what makes stories memorable.

What is an example of a memorable story you could tell about your business that would powerfully present a fact (or several facts) about the products/benefits/services your business offers?  Please share your story in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

Jim Blasingame: ‘The Age of the Customer’string(53) "Jim Blasingame: ‘The Age of the Customer’"

I have been good friends with small business expert Jim Blasingame for over ten years and I can fully attest to the fact that his knowledge of what it takes to achieve success in small business is unparalleled (but don’t take my word for it, check out his bio below*).  I am excited to announce that just a few weeks ago, he released a revolutionary new book that will change the way the we think about buying and selling.

This short video offers a quick overview of the premise of Jim’s newly released book, The Age of the Customer, which focuses on the momentous marketplace shift currently taking place that is affecting the way we all do business.  Watch the video now to get a glimpse of what this significant marketplace shift means and to gain an awareness of the greatest danger it presents to business owners across the globe.

Knowledge is power and preparation is one of the greatest keys to success in business; The Age of the Customer arms you with the knowledge you need to prepare your business for lasting success.  CLICK HERE FOR A FREE SAMPLE OF THE BOOK.

After watching the video, reading through the free book sample, or reading the entire book, I’d love to hear your thoughts on Jim’s ‘Age of the Customer’ concept–please leave your feedback in the comment forum below. Thanks!

  * Jim Blasingame is one of the world’s foremost experts on small business and entrepreneurship, and was ranked as the #1 small business expert in the world by Google.  President and founder of Small Business Network, Inc., Jim is the creator and award-winning host of The Small Business Advocate® Show, nationally syndicated since 1997.  As a high-energy keynote speaker, Jim talks to small business audiences about how to compete in the 21st century global marketplace, and he talks with large companies about how to speak small business as a second language.  A syndicated columnist and the author of three books, including Small Business Is Like a Bunch of Bananas and Three Minutes to Success, which have sold almost 100,000 copies combined; his third book, The Age of the CustomerTM launched on January 27, 2014.

 

5 Key Things You & Your Referral Partners Must Know about One Anotherstring(74) "5 Key Things You & Your Referral Partners Must Know about One Another"

So often, I see people who are frustrated about not getting more business referred to them. After all, they say, isn’t that what business networking is all about?

What many of these people don’t seem to realize, however, is that they need to actively share information (5 key things, in particular) about themselves with the right people before they can expect to have business referred to them by the people in others’ networks.

The fact is, it’s not enough that you’re great at what you do and can offer a lot of value to new clients. To win referrals from networking, you need to ensure that your contacts have all the necessary information about you and your skills so they can go out and persuade third parties to come and purchase your product or service. It’s amazing how many people fail to recognize this.

There are actually five key things that are essential for the members of your network to know about you before you can expect them to refer business your way. Equally, you need to know these same five things about them so you can reciprocate.

I call this process of reciprocal sharing of information the GAINS exchange, based on the first letter of each of the five essential informational pointsGoals, Accomplishments, Interests, Networks, and Skills:

  • Goals: What are the objectives that are important to you; what are the problems you want to solve? Not just financial and business goals, but also personal and educational objectives.
  • Accomplishments: What big projects have you completed in business or as an employee? What are your accomplishments as a student or parent?
  • Interests: What are the things you really enjoy doing? The music you like to listen to, the hobbies you spend time on, the sports you like to play or watch? People are more willing to spend time with people they share interests with.
  • Networks: Each of your contacts is a part of many networks. Do you know what these are, how big they are? Each of us has the potential to connect with hundreds or thousands of people if we cultivate these resources.
  • Skills: What do you do especially well? What are the professional areas in which you excel? Don’t be afraid to share this information with your contacts, and learn about the talents and abilities of the people in your network as well.

These are not mysterious pieces of information. They are facts we are exposed to every day, if we look for them.

By remembering the GAINS exchange, you can make sure you don’t overlook this essential information about your networking contacts.  Is there an additional piece of information you make a habit of giving and getting when it comes to networking relationships?  If so, what is it and how have you found it to be effective?  I’d love to hear your ideas and experiences so please share your feedback in the comment forum below—thanks!

Could You be Making Things Harder Than They Really Are?string(55) "Could You be Making Things Harder Than They Really Are?"

In business, there are endless opportunities to learn from the successes and mistakes of others who have ventured into the entrepreneurial waters before us.  So, why is  it that we often ignore the lessons we can learn from others’ mistakes and doom ourselves to making the same bad decisions?  People in business and sales do this all the time.  For example, there are tried-and-true sales techniques that are so simplistic it doesn’t seem as though they can really be effective so we write them off and try to reinvent the wheel.

Many times, we try to re-evaluate, improve upon, and complicate these simple yet proven techniques and all we’re really succeeding in doing is making things harder than they really are!  One of the biggest mistakes that people in business (and especially in sales) make is not listening to the people who have experience.  For some reason, they assume that they have to know better . . . and the truth is, they don’t.  There is nothing like experience–it beats education every day of the week.  The only thing better is a combination of education and experience . . . or a willingness to learn from other people’s experience.

There are many basic sales techniques that any good salesperson knows to be effective.  They don’t look for something more complicated or involved because they know from their own experience, as well as from the experience of others, what works in sales and what doesn’t work in sales.  If you’ve read my book, Masters of Sales, you may have read things that seemed to simple to be effective or you may have seen ideas that you’ve heard before.  The fact is, instead of being dismissed, these tactics and ideas should be embraced.  True Masters of Sales learn from other people’s success and remember that sometimes the simplest ideas can have the biggest impact.

Is there a simple lesson you learned from another business owner/entrepreneur which has helped you achieve success in your business?  I’d love to get a conversation going about this in order to share simple tactics for success and important lessons learned so we can all lessen our risk of making things harder than they really are.  Please share your thoughts in the comment forum below. Thanks!

 

Selling Goals vs. Life Goals (Pssst…They’re Related!)string(65) "Selling Goals vs. Life Goals (Pssst…They’re Related!)"

I can almost hear the groans now . . . “Another discussion about goal setting?–How boring!”  Well, boredom comes from repetition, and without repetition, masterful achievement is not possible.  Reading more, practicing more, and understanding more about goals bring this part of selling into a normal daily routine where it motivates and guides those who are masters in the field of sales.

Our lives are directed and pulled by conscious and subconscious desires, which when aggregated become our future vision.  This vision (whether to lose 25 pounds and be athletic or to consistently earn $10,000 commissions and be wealthy) is directed by our destination goals, but the more finite process goals help us get there.  Treat each daily detail as an important process goal to achieve, and indeed these small ones will accumulate so that ultimately our larger vision becomes our reality.  It is easy to derail our dreams by self doubt, other people, and external events, so the only way to keep the vision alive is to transform it into tangible, goal-directed behavior.

Most goal-implementation plans require getting other people enrolled in our personal program.  This is where person-to-person selling comes into the picture.  In this instance, selling means convincing other people to give us something they have in return for something we possess.  In a traditional view of selling, the buyer exchanges her money for our product.  But in the real world, every person sells continually–whether ourselves on a first date, our beliefs, or our knowledge.  If we sell successfully, we might achieve a goal of having an enjoyable evening date, public  recognition, or personal satisfaction as a return from our effort.

Setting the right environment to complete a sales transaction might include bringing flowers on the first date or artfully crafting a storefront window to allow those walking by a glimpse of the buying opportunities to be found inside the shop.  The sales trainer might say, “Your goal is to create an environment (a stage) that causes your customer to feel like a VIP taking delivery on his Rolls Royce.”  The sales process is a very social activity, one that creatively mixes the buyer’s goal of owning a solution with the seller’s complex goal of meeting company targets, earning an income, and personally helping the customer.  Learning this craft of goal satisfaction is never ending and forever challenges the master seller.

While I was working on the book Masters of Sales, a woman named Joan Fletcher wrote me and told me a noteworthy story about a very successful young salesman.  In spite of his sales awards, his corner office, and charismatic charm, he still felt he was just scraping the surface of success . . .

Even though dutifully creating written goals, his level of self satisfaction was low; until he realized that the big picture was not just about how much money he earned, or the big house, or the number of sales he hoped to close.  The big picture was his vision about what he truly wanted to achieve in all combined areas of his life.  Once he discovered this realization, his renewed selling accomplishments became directly tied to setting aside money for his daughter’s education fund, to have time to help coach his son’s soccer league, and to work in his yard.  Even with more personal goals than before, his sales results climbed higher.

The thing to always remember is this: Work goals, selling goals, and life goals are all intertwined and each one will always influence the others.  Now the question becomes: what do YOU truly want to achieve in all combined areas of your life and what are some ways you might make a conscious effort to streamline your work, selling, and life goals in order more effectively work toward your future vision?  I’d love to hear your thoughts so please share any/all feedback you may have in the comment forum below. Thanks!

 

The Darkside of the VCP Process®string(33) "The Darkside of the VCP Process®"

The dark side of the VCP Process® occurs when people get disconnected from what networking is really all about–they’re not carrying out the VCP Process as it is meant to be carried out and that’s when everything goes wrong.

As I mentioned in the video blog I posted last week, Jack Canfield, Gautam Ganglani, and I are currently working together on a book about networking.  Today’s video is, again, one of several short videos I’ll be posting which cover networking topics that we will be focusing on in the book.  These videos are the result of brainstorming sessions for the book and in this particular video, I explain the networking disconnect–the unfortunate occurrence which takes place when everybody comes to a networking event to sell yet nobody comes to buy.

If you have a story relating to the ‘networking disconnect’ which fits the criteria I describe in the video, please visit www.SubmitYourNetworkingStory.com to submit your story for a chance to be published in the upcoming book on networking that Jack Canfield, Gautam Ganglani, and I will be publishing.  Also, I’d love for you to briefly summarize your story in the comment forum below as well.  Thanks in advance for your participation!

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