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Archive for October 2011

Follow Your Dollars

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“If you go to work on your goals, your goals will go to work on you. If you go to work on your plan, your plan will go to work on you. Whatever good things we build end up building us.” ~~Jim Rohn

My parents used to joke when I was a kid that we built our dentist’s new office.  Braces were expensive, after all.  Seriously, though, I am sure you have some businesses you support on a regular basis—veterinarian, auto repair, eyeglasses, lawn care, and so forth.  When was the last time they returned the favor and sent you any business?

This is actually easier than you might imagine but is not without some effort on your part.

The first thing to do is actually assess the scope of the opportunity available to you.  Rather than trust to memory I highly recommend you get your checkbook(s) and credit card statements and start working through them.  Take the last six months as a representative sampling.  You can add older, bigger ticket items later.

For each vendor (especially the personal local ones although grocery stores and power companies are worth considering, as well) fill out the following details:

  1. Name (business/contact)
  2. Frequency (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc)
  3. Monthly amount
  4. Annual amount
  5. Five year amount

A monthly hair stylist at $40 per visit is $480 per year.  How long have you been going?  Five years?  That is $2400.

You can see that this will add up quickly so do this for every business you work with.  Armed with this you can move to the next step.

Many of these businesses would be willing to work with you; they just do not have a system or viable method.  This is where you must be creative and find that solution for them.

Again, this is easier than it might appear.  Look through your list and tackle those you do the most with and have the best rapport with.

Here are a few examples to get you started.  Certainly, post any other ideas you have, too, to help others.

Let’s start with a Financial Planner that regularly uses the hairstylist (and looks successfully well-groomed as a result, by the way.)  How can these two work together?  As a customer, what does the Financial Planner do when in the chair?  Read, watch TV, chat.  Here is an opportunity—if you can see it.  I recommend that the Planner meet with the Stylist away from the salon where they can talk.  It might be good to actually buy them coffee (or lunch) and recap the relationship before pitching the idea.  Here is a possible scenario.

Dawn: Thank you for joining me.  I wanted us to get away from the salon to talk business.  I have enjoyed being a client for the past five years and was very glad to refer some of my clients to you, too.  I wanted to ask if you would be willing to help support my business, as well.

Carol: I very much appreciate your business and the referrals.  What do you have in mind?

Dawn: As a client I receive your quarterly newsletter and see that you have local businesses advertising in there.  Would you give me space for a year?

Carol:  Gladly, Dawn.  The annual rate is $500.

Dawn: Actually, Carol, I was hoping you would do that at no charge in return for the referrals and loyalty over the years.

Carol: I have never thought about that before, but it makes sense.  I am glad to give you the space.  Is there anything else you would like me to do?

Dawn: As a matter of fact there is.  Could I leave one of my newsletters in your waiting area?

Carol: Please do.

Smart business people can appreciate that reciprocity works both ways.  If your Stylist (in this example) is reluctant you might want to reconsider a different service provider.

What could a veterinarian do for a carpet cleaner?  The carpet cleaner brings her pets to the vet and many of the vet’s other clients have animals that make a mess in their homes.  The carpet cleaner could regularly clean the vet’s lobby.  The veterinarian could include an occasional (or even regular) article on carpet care in his newsletter—written by the cleaner.  The carpet cleaner could leave brochures and business cards in the lobby.  The vet could sponsor a fundraiser or other event.  They could share a business expo booth together.  The possibilities are endless.

Your action step this week includes two components.  First, do the analysis of where you are spending your money.  This is great for budgeting, anyway.  Then, brainstorm all the ways you can work with your biggest vendors and commit to approaching three over the next week.  This is a strategy with a lot of upside potential.

© 2011 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.
All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.

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Written by bniguy

October 30, 2011 at 2:03 am

How Can I Help You?

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“Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking, ‘What’s in it for me?’” ~~Brian Tracy

At your next networking event mentally step back a moment and scan the room.  It is usually full of people hoping to make connections and find business.  As noted in week 9 (Frustrated) we found that most people attend networking events with the “What can I get?” mentality and become frustrated when they find that people do business with those they know, like, and trust rather than a stranger they are just meeting.

The nameless crowd jostles and schmoozes with limited results.

If you would like to take a different path there is a simple shift of behavior you can employ and it starts with simply taking on a specific role.

Think back to when you last hosted a party.  Your objectives were to make sure everyone had a good time.  You kept the drinks filled, let them know when food would be served (and what it was,) showed them to the restroom, and made sure to introduce people to others they would enjoy getting to know better.  You arrived early and stayed late.  It was work—at some points more than others—and yet you still had fun.  After a successful party you are already considering the next one.

The next time you go to a networking event adopt the host mentality.  Arrive early and help the true hosts with actual last-minute details.  Get to know the layout of the room(s) and find out the agenda.  As other networkers arrive greet them, help them get started in the room, and introduce them to people they would benefit from meeting.

This simple shift from being a guest (passively waiting for opportunity) to being a host (actively helping others) can have a profound difference.  Hear me; however, this is not a silver bullet or some magic shortcut.  It is an attitude you should always adopt at every function and once engrained in your psyche will make the desired difference—over time.

Your action this week is to attend the next networking event as a host.  Commit to maintain that posture all evening (or afternoon) and avoid the temptation to fall back into the guest patterns of anonymity.  Set a goal, also, to introduce three people to someone they don’t know.  Over time the law of reciprocity will pay handsome dividends.

© 2011 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.
All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.

Written by bniguy

October 23, 2011 at 2:08 am

How am I doing?

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“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” ~~ Ken Blanchard

The winds of change are always blowing.  Most business owners are too busy delivering products and services to take much notice.  Ignore it long enough, though, and you won’t know what hit you until it is too late.

It is essential to develop a system that solicits and deals with feedback on a regular basis.  There are five main reasons that most small business owners do not engage in this arena.

The biggest reason is a fear of negative feedback.  Humans are wired for approval and have a huge fear of rejection.  It may be hard to believe but all feedback is valuable and constructive.  Often there are side benefits of our service we didn’t expect and do not appreciate without the positive feedback that identifies it.  Once known, we can strengthen and systematize it for greater effect.  The same is true of negative feedback.

Your customers can identify new strategies and products that enhance your current offer, if you ask and listen.  They may have developed workarounds that are unnecessary with training or are worth addressing with redesign.

It is important to listen completely.  You should not ask for comment unless you are willing to accept negative responses.

Another set of reluctance reasons revolve around who to ask, when to ask, how to ask, and so on.  Human resource professionals often employ a 360-degree review that includes supervisors, peers, cross-staff, customers, support personnel, and so on.  As a business owner, consider asking everyone.  That would include customers (of course) as well as vendors, staff, business advisors, and the like.

When to ask is initially tied to touch points in the process.  After initial delivery, for instance, or upon project completion.

It is always advisable to build the feedback loop into your delivery process.  Cleaning companies will often checklist what they accomplished and encourage feedback.  Ideally, the same format is used with every visit.  You can solicit feedback on portions of your process as they occur.  How easy was it to place an order?  How helpful was our sales rep?

One last reservation that holds business owners back is a concern that they do not want to waste anyone’s time.  I submit that this is a cop-out.  If you solicit feedback every time you won’t see 100% response.  Adults will choose to respond or ignore it if they truly are too busy.  Silence is not golden, though, and you should always work for a high response rate.  Simplify the questions, incentivize the response, and value the feedback to raise the rate.

Your action this week is to take three specific actions.  First, examine your sales process and identify feedback points you can use.  Once marked, develop a simple tool (survey, perhaps) and began to gather and track results.  Finally, seek out 360-degree systems in place with your business partners and model their effort as possible.

The underlying key is to incorporate this into daily activity.

© 2011 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.
All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.

Written by bniguy

October 16, 2011 at 2:05 am

The Bell Tolls

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“I’ve found that luck is quite predictable. If you want more luck, take more chances. Be more active. Show up more often.” ~~ Brian Tracy

In week 14 we talked about some of the considerations of magnetism (specifically about Giving Flavored Answers) and last week we opened the conversation about introductions.  We’ll combine the two and elaborate on the importance of tooting your own horn.  Most of us are reluctant to brag.  In some cases we do not want to represent ourselves as needy, either, so it is a dilemma when some helpful soul inquires with an innocuous, “How is business?” or some similar question.

The typical response, “Everything is fine” does not engage any further.  A very common response would be an enthusiastic, “Business is great!”  This implies one of two things.  First, just as stated, business is great.  Second, business is not really great but I don’t want to go into it.  The problem with this typical response is that it does not encourage inbound referrals.  Business may be great but I assume you could handle more, so why not position yourself properly to welcome that?

Instead of simply replying by rote, inject some reality into your responses.  Here are a few examples you might consider:

  • The third quarter was excellent and we are ramping up for a strong fourth quarter, too.
  • We’ve added eight clients so far this year with a goal of twenty, so are doing well but a little behind the pace.
  • I’m taking a course now to shorten the sales cycle.
  • We are just about to enter the slow season so I am more actively networking these days.
  • If things continue we should be adding a new sales person next month.
  • Sales are up over last year although a little under our projections.

As you inject these responses it sets up an opportunity for a success story, presented a few weeks ago.

Your action this week is to come up with two responses for each of these mundane questions, memorize the response, and start using them immediately.

  • Q1: How is it going?
  • Q2: What’s new?
  • Q3: How’s business?

© 2011 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.
All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.

Written by bniguy

October 9, 2011 at 2:00 am

Let me please introduce myself

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“Although it is generally known, I think it’s about time to announce that I was born at a very early age.” ~~ Douglas Horton

Networking is all about connections and connections begin with introductions.  Since introductions are the gateway to networks paying attention to them is an essential, and often overlooked, component.

Introductions take place in formal settings and informal.  Both are valuable and opportunities to take care of.  This week’s topic is brief and yet so profound that it actually spans two weeks.

Let’s set the stage for effective introductions by considering how many misconceptions they can clarify.  A complete introduction includes all the elements of a good news story, answering who you are, what you are about, and why it should matter to the person you are meeting.

Who you are should be self-explanatory but too many of us simply refer to our business or profession as though it was our identity.  If you want to remain anonymous, this is an excellent strategy.  If, however, you want to be more memorable (trust me, that is the goal) then this is not enough.  Emphasize what makes you different.  A short tag line is an effective tool.  “I am the entrepreneur’s CPA” says much more than just another number-cruncher.  “We specialize in helping golfers shave strokes off their game” moves you into a class of your own.  As you can see, these short introductions convey all three elements and actually begin to facilitate the next introduction, as well.

A more formal introduction takes place when you are speaking at an event.  Writing that will simplify the process of the informal introduction, as well.

Your action this week is to develop a formal introduction.  Here is a simple framework to consider:

  • Name and business
  • What you offer
  • Credential and major accomplishments
  • Mission statement and purpose
  • Recent story about how you helped someone (include a happy ending and facts)

Bear in mind that this introduction should be tweaked and adjusted for each situation.  When providing a written introduction please type it (not handwritten) in a large, clear font and keep words short and simple.  Eliminate jargon.  Do this today and next week we will expand on your results.

© 2011 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.
All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.

Written by bniguy

October 2, 2011 at 2:35 am