The More, the Merrier…Not!

May 22, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Posted in Networking | Leave a comment
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It seems that in the world of business networking, the more the merrier seems to be the mantra of the day.

Sure I get it but I don’t believe it. I know that the thinking is:

The more people at an event the more you are likely to meet someone that might be a good connection and vice versa.

But really, does that bear fruit? Think about it. Sure hanging out at a bar or restaurant drink in one hand, business cards in the other can make for a good time. And yes, you can certainly meet people. But unless there is substantive follow-up so that a relationship and trust can be built, nothing further will happen. And many people, even those that fancy themselves to be excellent networkers don’t really take the time to engage in the necessary follow-up and plant those relationship seeds that will, hopefully, bear some short or long-term, fruit.

But what about a smaller, more intimate networking gathering of 6,8 or even 10 people gathered for a meal, each given a few minutes to talk about their business, with ample time for questions and discussion.  All of a sudden the relationship building part of networking starts sooner, right there at the table, and hence the follow-up after the dinner can be much more substantive with a better shot at real networking ROI.

I think there’s a time and place for both types of networking but at this point in my networking, I’d much prefer smaller get-togethers to the ones that make you shout above the sounds of the crowd and the music that is often playing in the room.

What about you?

You Say Goodbye and I Say Hello

March 1, 2012 at 9:03 pm | Posted in sales | Leave a comment
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You say goodbye and I say hello.

But here’s the thing, I’m not referring to the disconnect in our personal lives but rather the disconnect that can occur in our business relationships as well.

  • The client is pleased with the work you’re doing but you’re losing money for each hour that you work on the project.
  • You are attempting to do everything that the client asks but somehow no matter how hard you try you can’t seem to meet their demands.
  • The client is convinced that you are overcharging them despite the fact that you have kept them apprised of the hours accrued and dollars spent every step of the way.

You say goodbye and I say hello. It all boils down to simple communication. Or as it seems to be in many situations, not so simple communication.

In my almost 25 years in business I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to communicating. Everyone seems to agree that it’s critical to be on point in all business situations but just how to do so can be a bit elusive.

Here are a few things that you can do:

  • Document everything. Seems simple doesn’t it but how many times has there been no email trail to fall back upon when a miscommunication arises.
  • Attempt to make everything clear and concise right from the beginning. If you start with ambiguity it will only get more confusing with time.
  • Don’t let matters fester. If you feel that there is a disconnect address it immediately before it gets blown out of proportion.
  • Kiss…yup “keep it simple stupid.” Don’t make things unnecessarily complicated.
  • Agree to disagree but also agree to try and work it out if and when a problem arises.

Keeping these few rules in mind will help to ensure better communication and more smooth business relationships.

Remember, we can work it out.

You Say Goodbye and I Say Hello

March 1, 2012 at 8:54 pm | Posted in sales | Leave a comment
Tags: , ,

You say goodbye and I say hello.

But here’s the thing, I’m not referring to the disconnect in our personal lives but rather the disconnect that can occur in our business relationships as well.

  • The client is pleased with the work you’re doing but you’re losing money for each hour that you work on the project.
  • You are attempting to do everything that the client asks but somehow no matter how hard you try you can’t seem to meet their demands.
  • The client is convinced that you are overcharging them despite the fact that you have kept them apprised of the hours accrued and dollars spent every step of the way.

You say goodbye and I say hello. It all boils down to simple communication. Or as it seems to be in many situations, not so simple communication.

In my almost 25 years in business I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to communicating. Everyone seems to agree that it’s critical to be on point in all business situations but just how to do so can be a bit elusive.

Here are a few things that you can do:

  • Document everything. Seems simple doesn’t it but how many times has there been no email trail to fall back upon when a miscommunication arises.
  • Attempt to make everything clear and concise right from the beginning. If you start with ambiguity it will only get more confusing with time.
  • Don’t let matters fester. If you feel that there is a disconnect address it immediately before it gets blown out of proportion.
  • Kiss…yup “keep it simple stupid.” Don’t make things unnecessarily complicated.
  • Agree to disagree but also agree to try and work it out if and when a problem arises.

Keeping these few rules in mind will help to ensure better communication and more smooth business relationships.

Remember, we can work it out.

Everybody Loves A Winner

February 21, 2012 at 8:51 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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That’s right, everybody loves a winner. We all tend to gravitate towards the people that are positive and confident, enthusiastic and well, joyful.  And while they might not ALWAYS be a winner of new business and corresponding revenues, they seem to approach things with an upbeat attitude and don’t dwell on what is bad.

How do you come across? Are you generally positive and upbeat or do you reply to the question “how are you doing” with a somewhat morose “hanging in there”.

Everybody loves a winner or at least everybody loves someone that doesn’t bring them down. Maybe the sympathy vote works with your family and perhaps even your friends but don’t try to use it with your business contacts and at business gatherings. (You’ll find people flee from you like from the plague.)

Times are tough. We’re all out there slugging away and trying to make it. Everybody likes a winner or at least the person that communicates as if they are one or are confident that success is in their future.

You’ve Made Me So Very Happy

February 20, 2012 at 5:32 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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You’ve made me so very happy.

You’ve experienced it right….that very first rush of sheer joy that comes with the word “yes” spoken by a prospect that you’ve been trying to win for so very long.  They’re now a client!

Yep, it was a long haul. The proposal went out and then there was the usual waiting (and guessing) game. Calls and emails back and forth and true to your stellar sales competencies you were able to stay on their radar screen. Damn right! Stayed on the grid and yes, won the business. Okay sure, there had to be a little re-negotiation and so maybe the terms of that original proposal were changed, but what the heck you’re thinking, that client is MINE and they’ve made me so very happy.

That is until that re-negotiation on terms and budget has pretty much eaten away all of the profit in the project. In fact, you are almost losing money for every hour spent on their work and the pleasure that came from the win is starting to wan now that the economics of the situation are more evident.

Sound at all familiar?  Salespeople tend to be a pretty emotional lot and just to be safe, need to follow a few guidelines BEFORE bursting with unbridled joy about winning a new client. Here ya go:

  1. Make sure that any re-negotiation is really something that you can live with financially. Don’t bend on price until you are totally certain that you can “afford” to do the program.
  2. Don’t let your emotions color your business sense. Evaluate the project carefully and then determine how / if it fits into your core competencies.  Having a client say “yes” to a project that you are not fully comfortable delivering is one that should be cause for extra caution.
  3. No matter how willing you are to simply give in to win the project, a successful negotiation calls for flexibility and concessions from both parties. When it’s a one-sided negotiation, the project is pretty much doomed from the beginning.

So be careful and make sure that the happiness you’re experiencing doesn’t cost you time and money in the long-run. Take your time, evaluate carefully and you’ll wind up with a more mutually advantageous project.

What is Public Relations?

February 15, 2012 at 8:17 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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As a sales trainer, I am often asked about the difference between branding, marketing, advertising and public relations. I thought that I’d go straight to an expert, Alan Winnikoff of Sayles & Winnikoff Communications and ask him to weigh in and clarify a couple of key points.

It’s pretty enlightening.

What is Public Relations?

PR is the art of getting you, your product, your service or your company into the media, which is defined as TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, websites and blogs, as well as social media.  It pertains strictly to editorial coverage. It’s not advertising.

How does it differ from marketing and branding?

It’s a great question because the answer is constantly evolving.  Traditionally, PR is one discipline under the marketing umbrella.  Today, however, the line between where PR stops and other branches of marketing begin is much fuzzier than it once was.  Social media is a great example of that fuzzy line.  To be successful in PR today, you have to understand and be able to manage and execute social media campaigns. Many of our clients expect that to be within our scope of services. Yet, many marketing companies fill a similar role.

So there is more overlap than ever between PR and the rest of marketing. Those borders will probably continue to shift as the media landscape keeps changing. With that said, there are a lot of things PR people don’t do and never will. For example, we sometimes are asked to do advertising campaigns for prospective clients.  As noted above, we don’t do advertising and don’t have an expertise in it.  What we do offer are a range of strategic partners. Those partners enable us to offer clients a much broader scope of services.

When I started in PR, our mission was considerably more tactical:  Get your client ink. Period.  Now much of our time is spent helping clients figure out their positioning and branding. This needs to be done – and done well – before we ever make a single call to the press.  This is because just getting the client into the media not enough.  Context is critical. The story has to help drive your client’s business objectives.

PR professionals are much more marketing strategists than we were 20 or even 10 years ago.  That is a huge qualitative difference.  PR has become more sophisticated and complex than it was back in the day.

Can PR be relevant for small businesses or is it really only for large companies?

PR can be a great service for small businesses and start ups.  Editorial coverage is always more credible to the end user than advertising.  However, it’s tricky because, while everyone wants to see their business in the press, there are some hard questions that need to be asked first.  Primary among those is: What is your news hook? You may have a nice business, but just doing well isn’t enough to get that ink you’re looking for.  We live in an extremely competitive and fast paced media environment.  Journalists need news to be able to write about you.

As PR professionals, it’s our job to listen to your story, process all of the information you throw at us and figure out the news hooks.  A good PR person can almost always dig out and articulate that compelling angle.  It’s what we are trained to do.

There have been times (fortunately rare) when we’ve had to walk away from a potential project, just because there’s no there there.  It’s easy for everyone close to a project to drink the Kool-Aid and believe that there is an appealing story to tell.  But journalists are the final arbiter. If it’s not compelling, they will quickly throw cold water on it.

It’s always difficult to turn down business, but experience has taught us that occasionally (with apologies to Charles Dickens) it is a far, far better thing to pass on a project than to have everyone frustrated – the client, the journalist and the agency.

What exactly does a PR firm do?

Our job is both strategic and tactical.  As discussed above, the strategy involves developing positioning, finding the news story and figuring out the best way to articulate it.  Then we put a plan of action into place that is a roadmap for achieving the agreed upon objectives.  Usually we write a press release, a short email pitch and other documents to support our pitch.  At that point we can begin to reach out to the media with the story.

We offer both business-to-business (b-to-b) and business-to-consumer (b-to-c) PR.  The process is similar but the execution can be very different.  In a b-to-b campaign, we focus on additional objectives, such as speaking opportunities and bylined articles.  With b-to-b, we are aiming to reach a specific audience that will help our clients connect to their potential customers, so the messaging is extremely targeted.  If you are going to do b-to-b PR, you need to be able to talk about your client’s business as fluently as the client does.  So you need to be a quick study!

Consumer PR is a bit easier to grasp.  If you have a product for moms, you want to reach moms.  If you have a TV show, you want to go after the TV critics.  Chances are, the pitch is simpler.  On the other hand, the expectations can be higher. One well placed story for a b-to-b client, in The Wall Street Journal, say, can make you a hero. If you are pitching a TV show premiere, you are expected to generate a massive amount of hits.

Clients also often want to see creative ideas, such as events, stunts and email marketing campaigns, to name just a few.  While nuts & bolts PR is still an essential part of any campaign, ‘cookie-cutter’ is a dirty word in our business.  Clients assume that to break through the clutter, you are going to have to come up with some pretty impressive original thinking and you’d better be prepared to show you’ve got the goods.

Then there is the question of return on investment.  In a difficult economy, where every dollar must be accounted for, everyone wants to know ROI.  PR, unfortunately, doesn’t always work that way.  It can be difficult to quantify precisely what success looks like.  We sometimes have clients who want to know exactly how many eyeballs we will reach, the reach and frequency and the dollar value.  PR resists those kinds of benchmarks.  We can provide circulation numbers, for example, but what does that really tell you? So, hiring a PR firm can be a bit of leap of faith. And, even when we get great press coverage, it doesn’t guarantee you are going to see more sales or more viewers or more business.  A well executed PR campaign builds awareness – motivating the end user to move beyond that call to action is not guaranteed.

What’s the best way to start an engagement with a PR firm?

The above should give you a pretty good idea of what to ask for.  Sit down with the firm and tell them your story.  Then listen to how they respond.  Do they really get you, are they able to articulate the news hooks, do they have a sense of where to take this story and how to roll it out?

PR firms are usually averse to writing proposals because a good proposal is hard to do!  It requires significant brainpower, creativity and time, all of which are finite resources, at best, on any given day.  But (and I will probably live to regret saying this), if I were on the other side, I would insist on a proposal. I would particularly want to see that roadmap I referred to earlier. Let’s see what the agency has in mind and how are they going to differentiate what you are selling from everything else out there.

I do strongly advocate that you refrain from asking an agency for a proposal unless you are serious.  It’s very frustrating for a PR firm to spend the time and effort writing a proposal when a prospective client is just kicking tires.  Respect our time and our professionalism.  Too many times, a prospective client is more than happy to take a proposal (“Hey, sure, why not?”), knowing that the request is not really going to go anywhere.

Once you retain a PR firm, keep your expectations realistic.  You probably won’t get onto The Today Show or into The New York Times or People Magazine unless you have something pretty significant to say.  Sometimes, a slow build grassroots campaign, with coverage in a lot of smaller media outlets, blogs and social media, can be as effective as the big ‘home run.’ Also remember that it often takes a while for the stories to actually develop. You aren’t going to see your first press hit on the day you sign the LOA.  So be patient.  You have the right to demand to know the status of things and your agency should be keeping you closely updated as to its progress.  But stories can sometimes percolate for weeks or longer before they see the light of day.

Alan Winnikoff is co-principal of Sayles & Winnikoff Communications, a boutique PR firm with offices in New York City and New Jersey and strategic affiliates in Los Angeles and London.  The firm specializes in arts, media and entertainment clients, as well as non-profits.  The firm has a sub-specialty in content, projects and businesses for kids, families and parents.

Hit Me With Your Best Shot

February 11, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Posted in sales | Leave a comment
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oHit Me With Your Best Shot

We’ve all had some sort of experience that bears resemblance to what I’m saying here:

  • You’re doing some prospecting and have gotten into the rut of thinking that every phone call is going to end in voice mail. You go on auto pilot and then oh no, the prospect answers their phone. Yu’re not really prepared and fumble through your intro losing their attention and your confidence as they politely disengage.
  • Your phone rings and you answer while looking at the computer screen and not really paying attention, only to find out that the caller is someone that you’ve been trying to reach forever.
  • You have a new business pitch and don’t have the time to prepare and practice.
  • Your new hires are handling inquiries but aren’t trained well enough to do it effectively.
  • Your social media campaign has gotten the phone to ring but alas, you don’t know what to do with the inquiries

And on and on…the examples are plentiful.

Hit me with your best shot because sometimes that’s your only shot.

Practice make perfect or almost perfect anyway. Don’t begin to think about pitching a new client or reaching out to a long desired prospect without being prepared to handle every aspect of the communication.

Train your staff. Who is the first impressionist on your team?  Are they trained and skilled to do the job? Do you pay them enough?!

Don’t be foolish enough to engage in any lead generating tactics without being 100% certain that you know what to do with the leads.

Remember that there is no ROI from any of your marketing endeavors if you don’t plan in advance. Now, hit me with your best shot.

Can’t Ya Hear Me Knocking

February 8, 2012 at 8:45 am | Posted in social media | 1 Comment
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Can’t Ya Hear Me Knocking?

Well of course you can. You can hear me knocking but you don’t know how to let me in.

Okay, pathetic analogy right. Perhaps, but it fits the bill I think.

You see SEO and SEM can get them knocking and  (may) provide you with the visibility that you crave. Yes, it can bring eyeballs to your site, callers to your phone and emails to your in-box, BUT—do you know what to do when they are at your door?

Do you:

  • Know how to communicate your value proposition in a compelling manner?
  • Effectively probe for wants and needs and exploit both
  • Uncover and overcome their hesitancies and stalls
  • Have the ability to stay on the grid during a lengthy sales cycle
  • Do you know how to close?

The best SEO/SEM in the world won’t bring you new customers if you can’t do the above.  Want a free valuable ebook that can help you with these things? Email me!

Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?

February 7, 2012 at 8:44 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments
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Got your attention, huh? Do ya think I’m sexy?

Well, what’s sexy right now is SEM and SEO and all manner of social media involvement.

I’m not a luddite; I use and love them all. But folks…really…remember that PEOPLE execute and close business and with all this attention (and budget) being thrown at “getting to the top of Google” there isn’t anyone left with basic and fundamental sales competencies. (Don’t get me started on getting to the top of Google—that’s another story entirely.)

But back to the point that I am trying to make here.  All of this search engine and content marketing stuff is awesome. Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not discounting the critical importance of paying attention to this seemingly ephemeral world of SEO but what I am saying is that you also better be paying strict attention to what happens in the “real” world.

People buy from people and unless you run an internet-based,  click only business you need to get your arms around:

  • Presentation effectiveness
  • Sales processes and procedures
  • Great hires in the sales arena
  • Sales competencies (fundamental to your success!!!)
  • Touch point management

And the list goes on.

We’re all working with tighter budgets these days so be smart. Before you buy into a SEO/SEM program that will pretty much wipe out the rest of your business development and marketing budget consider how and if you will be able to capitalize and monetize the visibility and potential leads that (might) be coming your way.  Apportion your budget wisely and you will get an even greater ROI from a totally integrated sales and marketing program

How a Busy Sales Trainer Can Also Be a First-rate People Connector

January 18, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Posted in Networking | 2 Comments
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The other day I announced via social media that I had made a New Year’s commitment that called for me to make 10 (networking) introductions per day.

Yep, that’s right. 10.

I immediately received a barrage of emails from folks that were simply incredulous. “How in heaven’s name do you have the time to do that?”. “How in heaven’s name do you know that many people?” (Really, “heaven” was mentioned several times:) )

Simple I said and so in the hopes of shedding some light on my methodology (some might say madness) I decided to share my tips:

1.  I set a quantitative goal and like I said, my particular number is ten. But, that doesn’t have to be your goal, not at all. The important thing is to have a goal and to stick to it. No excuses, just do it. You know that you can. (Hint, like with all goals you should set one that is a wee bit of a stretch but can definitely be achieved if you work at it.)

2.  I’m incredibly proactive and by adopting that model, I am better able to make a higher volume of introductions.  I don’t wait for low hanging networking fruit (“Hey Adrian, do you know someone that can……”). Rather I look for connections that might have longer-term value and don’t necessarily equate to an immediate piece of business.

3.  I keep in mind that introductions to referral sources are as good as, and maybe even better than, introductions to a client. One good referral source can equate to many introductions which should (potentially) lead to business. A client is, well a client…a good thing for sure, but might not turn into many additional referrals over time. (We all know that some clients are truly raving fans and tell many others about our products/services. That’s terrific but there are just as many clients that are very closed-mouthed and don’t spread the word regardless of how pleased they are with our business.)

4.  I keep (mental) track of the folks to whom I make introductions. So, for instance, if you tell me that you network with and get lots of business from ____ firms, I do everything in my power to introduce you to as many ____ firms as I know.  So for example, if you’re on the receiving end of those introductions from me you should be thinking  like this:  Gee, since Adrian is introducing me to so many ____ firms, perhaps she’s like to know more of those types of companies too. Maybe I’ll introduce her to the ones that I know and that she doesn’t.   Makes sense doesn’t it?

5.  I try very hard to be creative when making introductions.  Let’s say that you know some of your contacts share a particular hobby. That might be enough to start to a terrific relationship that can potentially yield lots of business opportunities. How about introducing two of  your own business vendors to each other recognizing that since they are going after similar types of clients (i.e. owners of small business) and since they are not competitive they can probably help each other big-time.  How about 2 people that actually do the same thing but who specialize and work in different segments. They might be able to refer business to each other. You never know and if you don’t make introductions, the possibilities are crushed before they even start.

So there ya have it. Just a few ideas on how to be a more prolific networker.  Told you that it was simple.

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