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Be Prepared

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“Adventure is just bad planning.” ~~Roald Amundsen

Professional athletes know the value of careful planning.  Pilots rely on the thoroughness of checklist actions.  Generals in battle and CEOs of the largest companies in the world all rely on solid plans.  Some teams believe that given enough time to plan—say two weeks in a football season—they can be invincibly prepared for any team.

On a personal level we all know that the more carefully we plan the more likelihood of success in almost any endeavor.

Why, then, do so few sales professionals preplan their sales calls?  Appointments with decision-makers are rare and failure to plan is like planning to fail.  When surveyed, the most common reasons are that they plan on the way to the appointment, relying on experience to guide them through.  Or, they either don’t know they should or don’t know how to preplan a customer contact.

There are three main sales calls you should prepare for.  Specifically, these are:

  • The first call you make.  This is essential under the heading of good first impressions.  Also, if you are lucky (and luck favors the well-prepared) the customer might buy on the very first call.
  • The last call you make.  This is when they buy, when you ask for the order, when you solicit a final decision.  Prepare fully for that one.
  • The next call.  Ultimately, this is the most important opportunity you will have to impact the process.

The bottom line is that you should prepare for every call.  Time invested here can save significantly more time than repairing damage or replacing prospects.

There are many great resources to help you define your pre-call routines.  Here are a few elements to consider:

  • Develop a written sales call objective.  Visualize the desired results all the way to the ticker-tape parade.
  • Take care of the nuts-and-bolts such as who will be there, where will you meet, what is the dress code, how much time will you have, if food is involved what is it, who pays for it, and so on.
  • Do your detective work by reviewing the company’s website, press releases, management team, investor packets (if publicly traded,) industry issues/trends, and current suppliers, to name a few.
  • Design your needs analysis questions.  What are their “hot buttons?”
  • What do you plan to “show” or share?  Do you have all the pieces you need?  Do they work?  Do you know how to repair/replace them?
  • Anticipate concerns and objections.  Strategize your responses.
  • Appreciate the differences between your solution and the competition’s answer.
  • Quantify meaningful benefits to this particular customer by dollarizing the return on investment.
  • Define your closing strategies and clear the path for the next steps.
  • Be prepared to handle surprises.

Military people often say that no plan survives engagement with the enemy.  General Dwight D. Eisenhower noted that, “Plans are nothing; planning is everything.”

I remember doing a software demonstration at a trade show in London.  The whole morning I was able to demonstrate transactions that involved printing a bar code, scanning it in, and updating a database back in the United States.  Everything ran flawlessly.

My time on stage arrived mid-afternoon, though, and by then nothing worked.  The power differences in the UK had fried my little printer.  It was now morning in the USA and heavy intercontinental data traffic made bidirectional transactions impossible.

I had done the process so many times before, though, and successfully pantomimed every step.  The audience followed along and we signed three very important customers before the day was out.

Be flexible as well as prepared.  The decision-maker is not you.  If you wind up in a situation where they are ready to sign in the first sixty seconds, simply shut up and take the order.  Be a boy (or girl) scout and be prepared for your next call.

© 2013 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

February 17, 2013 at 2:43 am

WIIFM

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“Data is not information, information is not knowledge, knowledge is not understanding, understanding is not wisdom.” ~~Clifford Stoll

One element that cannot be overstated is to understand the difference between features and benefits.  Features are simply facts.  They neither engage nor inspire and do not impel action or deliver an emotional connection.  Features are a list of what that never considers why or, as the title notes, “What is in it for me?”  Your prospect wonders, “Why should I care?”

That is a good question and one you should be able to answer.

Here’s an example of features you might see in the newspaper or on a showroom floor.

“V-6 engine, dual exhaust, front-wheel drive, sunroof…heated seats, heated glass.”

As you can see, this is a list of features you may or may not entirely understand or appreciate.  Now consider these same features from a BENEFITS perspective.

  • The V-6 engine helps you pull out into traffic quickly.
  • Dual exhaust improves fuel efficiency with more power when starting out
  • Dual exhaust also adds a “throaty” sound to the engine.
  • Front-wheel drive gives you more legroom.
  • The sunroof gives you the open road feel of a convertible while still having the added structural security of a hard-body sedan.
  • The sunroof is quieter than a convertible.
  • Heated seats make chilly mornings easier to take.
  • They also add comfort on long trips.
  • Heated glass lets you clear windows in winter without manually scraping them clean.

These benefits put the other person “in the driver’s seat.”  Some of them appealed to you specifically while others did not.  The better you know the product and the better you can assess your prospect’s needs the more connection you will make.

Ideally you want to lead with just a few that matter.  My list was long and is too much for everyone.  Three is a good number.

If it is winter or the person lives in wintry region, lead with the areas about that, such as heated seats and heated glass.  If it is summer then lead with the sunroof, instead.

Some people want fuel efficiency.  You can line the features up with that.

Some want power or to impress their friends.  You can align the features of the very same car for that.

You need to know what you have and, most importantly, what they want.

Also, we are not dealing with other experts.  That is important.  When addressing other colleagues and industry professionals they can live in the world of features and be right at home.  You tell a computer technician that this PC has a 2 Gigahertz processor with 4 Gigabits of RAM and they know what that means.  Everyday people try to translate that to speed and size and the effective computer salesperson knows how to do that.

My rule of thumb is to simplify things so that a twelve-year-old can understand it—at least enough to realize that they like it or not.

Go ahead and highlight the benefits you provide.  Consider some of your favorite customers and remember what problems you solved for them.  A simple (and highly effective) shortcut is to ask them.  You have been meaning to call and say hello anyway.  Here’s a good excuse.

Find out the main reason they chose to spend money with you.  They sought a benefit, not a feature.

After that list all the features of your product or service and identify as many benefits as possible for each one.  You will find yourself speaking in your customer’s language before you know it.

© 2013 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

February 10, 2013 at 5:12 am

Let it Grow

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“Being comfortable isn’t the way to learn to expand your abilities.” ~~Thomas Perry

Scarcity or abundance?  We all bump against this view over and over again.  Your philosophy here guides your actions that ultimately drive your results.  Follow that path to see a solid definition of self-perpetuating beliefs.  If you have a scarcity mentality your actions become increasingly desperate…making you less referable.

Do not misunderstand.  You must compete for new business—even within your referral group.  The first thing you have to do is establish relationships.  The second thing to do is to foster trust through competence.  Trust is earned, not granted.

Even when you join a chapter that has pre-established relationships, you are not cut off from future business.  Let’s consider one example.

You are a chiropractor and join a referral group only to find out that the fitness instructor has a referral relationship in place with another practitioner.  If you demand that the prior relationship end you gain the reputation of an assassin and damage credibility and trust.

Instead, turn to abundance and look for opportunities to collaborate.  If you step back a moment you can appreciate that the fitness instructor already likes chiropractic work—not a given in every mind.  Find out what the fitness instructor likes best about the other doctor—areas of specialty, and so on.

Seek an introduction with the other professional.  You may find they are strong in areas you are not or work well in areas you dislike.  Perhaps they excel in accident cases and you do not.  Once you start flooding them with these patients reciprocity is bound to take hold.

Even if you line up well on paper you can still work together.  You can do joint screenings at neutral sites where decisions are based on personal rapport or location convenience.

The bottom line is to seek new opportunities and expansion of possibilities.  Abundance is where you look for it.

© 2013 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

January 27, 2013 at 8:48 am

Who Loves Ya, Baby?

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“In sales, a referral is the key to the door of resistance.” ~~Bo Bennett

This post may be a little controversial so let’s just wade right in.  Most people make the mistake of believing that customers are their best source of referrals.  I heard your mental door slam.  You don’t believe it when I say customers are NOT the best source and appreciate the sentiment.  Customers can and do provide referrals and can be exceptional sources.  However, over the long (and often short) run, strategic alliances run circles around them.

With a well-developed referral network you can realize more good referrals from one or two professionals than you could ever see from all of your clients combined.

There are a number of reasons for this and I will simply address two concepts.  The first is to consider the strengths of other professionals.  The second is to consider the dynamics of customer interaction.

Let’s level the playing field first by making the assumption that you demonstrate integrity, are experienced (with a decent customer base to draw from,) and are competent.  These can be speed bumps in any process, so let’s assume you are a professional.

Let’s also assume that as a professional you have established some business relationships along the way.

This puts us at the starting line to draw comparisons.

As you add clients they often need services you do not provide.  These can be nicely complemented by other professionals.  Examples include power-washer and painter, event planner and caterer, mortgage provider and closing attorney, to name a few.  If you are in the second seat of being referred (or consulted) by the lead company (or hub firm) then you can appreciate the situation and may crack that mental door back open a little.  The shortest path to success for the second seat professional is to drive business to the hub firm whenever possible.  Drive business to the Realtor and many downstream professionals come along for the ride.

In addition everyone along the line is a better sales representative than your clients.  When properly trained and motivated they can see the opportunities and introduce those referrals in a steady stream of activity.  In some cases they even have a vested interest in your success.

Now let’s consider the dynamic of customers, as well.  If you are spending part of your time with them to generate referrals you are diverting attention from their needs to your own.  Customers will not trust this dynamic long or often.

It is certainly possible to build asking for referrals into the process and there are key points where this is seamless and natural.  However, pressing too hard can terminate the entire relationship, so tread lightly.

Finally, there is also an important significant benefit in building productive relationships with other professionals—namely feedback.  A professional can tell you when your price is too high, your message too vague, or your offer too weak.  Customers just vanish quietly into the night and it takes a lot longer to correct a faulty course.

Let me close with one of my favorite quotes.  “Teamwork is so important that it is virtually impossible for you to reach the heights of your capabilities or make the money that you want without becoming very good at it.” ~~Brian Tracy

Make your team work!

© 2013 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

January 20, 2013 at 9:11 am

Take it to the Bank

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Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish. A little knowledge that acts is worth infinitely more than much knowledge that is idle.” ~~John Quincy Adams

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine a pipeline you have built where qualified prospects flow to you in predictable ways.  You can turn the valve open or closed whenever you like in order to vary the timing, frequency, and volume to meet both your current capacity and need.

This is exactly what you have in place with your effective word-of-mouth network and it all starts with relationships.

I’ll give you two analogies to consider.  The first is fishing.  Ineffective word-of-mouth marketing is like fishing with dynamite.  You set the charge and then react to the results.  Maybe nothing comes up—you were in the wrong place or it is the wrong time.  Maybe lots of fish bubble up and you are beyond your limit so opportunities go drifting by un-served.  Further, are these the best fish or just the current ones?

If instead you knew which fish were where, why, and when you could selectively work with the ones you want.

Here is where the fishing analogy frays a little so let’s consider forestry and selecting the right materials for construction.  For some projects you need pine, for others oak, and for others yew trees are exactly the type you need.  If your friend has a forest and you walk through together identifying the trees that are the right type and size you can harvest them later as needed.

Abraham Lincoln said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

This process is not for everyone you know.  It is developed by establishing and nurturing productive relationships with selective strategic partners.  However, they will never show you the “good wood” until they know, like, and trust you.  So sharpen the saw by getting to know your business partners better and demonstrate your ability to take good care of every introduction you are granted.

© 2013 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

January 13, 2013 at 6:11 am

Set the foundation for success

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“The best teams I’ve encountered have one important thing in common: their team structure and processes cover a full range of distinct competencies necessary for success.” ~~Jesse James Garrett

There is a vast difference between self-employment and business and one of the most comprehensive explanations is the B-I (Business-Investor) Triangle from Robert Kiyosaki.  Here is the illustration.

From Kiyosaki's Guide to Investing

The foundation of business success is a clearly defined mission and we will consider this as the first post of 2012.

Clearly defining your business’ mission statement provides focus and serves as the guiding framework for all the decisions that follow.

There are two main components to a mission statement.  One is more esoteric and the other more practical.  You can think of the first component as spiritual or philosophical.  It is usually unattainable…more of an ideal.  The second part is measurable and specific.  Naturally, both elements are complementary and work in harmony.

The philosophical mission for the company is where the organization focuses on what life-enhancing value can be brought to the marketplace. Henry Ford’s original mission for the Ford Motor Company was simply, “to democratize the automobile,” implying his wish to make automobiles affordable to the masses rather than just the wealthy few.

This was revolutionary in its day.  Many of Ford’s brick-and-mortar decisions were just as revolutionary partly because they emanated from this guiding philosophy.

The concrete mission is more tangible in nature and usually resembles to be the largest player in this space, or to realize revenues of x, or to provide services to x many customers, and so on.

Together, these concepts are foundational and serve as the basis of your business plan.

Your action this week is to get a three-ring binder and list eight tabs that correspond to the topics we will soon cover.  Specifically these are:

  • Mission
  • Team
  • Leadership
  • Cashflow
  • Communication
  • System
  • Legal
  • Product

Populate the Mission section with your philosophical mission and tangible mission.  The tangible mission should include timeframes such as the next ninety days, the next year, the next three years, and the next five years.

© 2012 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

January 8, 2012 at 2:11 am

Posted in business, HowTo, planning

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Lifelong Learning

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“All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded the individual.” ~~Albert Einstein

We started to consider the skills and techniques of doubling the results of your networking efforts on the first Sunday morning in January and have continued every week throughout the year.  Thank you for staying the course.  I certainly hope you have found some value in the fifty-two sessions presented.

Although networking is the recognized leader in building business relationships that work, there is no ready college course on the material.  Hopefully, this information provides some illumination.  Hopefully, too, you have applied these principals and enjoyed twice the results this year than you saw last year.  You can do the same again in 2012 by following the same principals again.  One of the nice benefits of having completed every topic is that now you can now access all of the information at your own pace, rather than an arbitrary weekly rhythm.

Go back and revisit them all—in order—and speed through the areas that you are already proficient at and take your time in the soft spots.  Set your goals for the year (or shorter time frame) and set measurable targets.

Life is a continuous opportunity for further learning, so consider committing to continuous education.  There are many resources readily available and I present a short list of candidates for your consideration.

Endless Referrals Bob Burg

The World’s Best Known Marketing Secret Ivan Misner and Virginia Devine

How to Work a Room Susan RoAnne

Networking for Success Robyn Henderson

The 29% Solution: 52 Weekly Networking Success Strategies Ivan Misner and Michelle R. Donovan

Unlimited Referrals Bill Cates

Let’s Connect Jan Vermeiren

Business by Referral Ivan Misner and Robert Davis

Build Your Well Before You Are Thirsty Harvey McKay

Building the Ultimate Network various contributors

Your action this week is to set your plans in motion for next year.  Start by reviewing each entry and define a method to polish the existing skills and augment the others.  Give yourself the gift of continuous learning and have a very Happy Holiday Season.

© 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

December 25, 2011 at 2:03 am