3 Tips to Make Your Resolutions Sticky

December 27, 2011 at 8:46 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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OK so this is one of those “heading into the New Year” type of posts but honestly, it’s applicable most any time of year.  I mean we do make resolutions (i.e. goals, intentions, plans) all the time and we know that, well, we don’t always stick to our plans.

Here’s how to make them more sticky:

Write them down. This is an old cliché but it’s recognized that what gets recorded has a better chance of being accomplished. Print out your resolutions and put them on your bulletin board, in your wallet, on your desk, anywhere where they will be visible to you on a consistent basis. Not a “print” oriented person? Ok then, type them into notes and have them visible on your computer/tablet/phone screen.  It really doesn’t much matter where they are just as long as they are visible.

Make them public. Yes, tell friends, family and co-workers. It’s human nature to not wish to “fail” in public so make your resolutions known to all. (Note: it might get annoying if you become subjected to constant reminders about your resolutions or plans. Be prepared to suck it up and deal with people’s helpful {aka snide} comments.)

Make them doable (although a bit of a stretch is OK too). Setting unachievable goals is a plan that is doomed for failure. Make certain that your resolutions are doable and that even though you might need to work hard to accomplish them, they are certainly within your power to accomplish. And don’t be too easy on yourself. Working hard to accomplish your resolutions should be considered a positive task and not punishment.

So there you have it. Three really simple ways to help you make your resolutions a reality.

As for me, I don’t require an official “start date” to get things rolling and I guess I make “New Year’s” resolutions all year long.

How about you?

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Are You a CPA Lost in the Land of Introductions?

December 19, 2011 at 8:09 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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In the world of business networking accountants are an interesting lot.

It seems that in almost every networking group there will always be one or more CPAs. Big firms mid-sized and solopreneurs too, by all appearances it seems that accountants recognize the importance and value of networking.

But let’s take a closer look.  (Disclaimer, this viewpoint is based upon my personal experiences and over 25 years of business networking:) )

We all agree that networking is clearly a two-way street.  I help you, you help me and together we grow our contacts and connections that will (hopefully) lead to business.

The introductions don’t necessarily have to be to direct clients but rather, introductions to referral sources are terrific as well. But proactive introductions are the name of the game.

And here’s where there seems to be a bit of a disconnect.  I know that accountants are integrally involved in their client’s business. They see the upside and down and are more than fully cognizant about revenue growth or decline, problems with attrition, management issues and more. They simply have to be knowledgeable in order to do their job effectively.

So, to my thinking if they are armed with these insights, wouldn’t it also make perfect sense for an accountant to introduce clients to various resources that can add value and (potentially) assist in the different aspects of the business that need improvement.

The introduction can (and should) be gentle. This is no “you MUST use this person to help you fix ______, but rather, the introduction is positioned as a suggestion and frankly, a value-added to the accountant-client relationship.

But in my experience and in the experience of many (most) of my networking contacts, these introductions are far and few between. In fact, introductions from accountants to possible referral sources are just as infrequent as those to direct clients.

What gives?

I think that I understand the situation. Accounting professionals will make introductions when their clients asks specifically for the name of a resource, like, for instance, an outsourced CFO or attorney. In fact, if an accountant didn’t have resources to recommend, the client might even question the paucity of their professional contacts.

But, if there isn’t a specific question, if the introduction stems from simply an observation of needs, well, it appears that many accountants don’t take the lead and make the connection.

Who loses? Well, the client for sure but also the accountant because, to repeat, good networking is reciprocal. People who provide introductions to the accountants in their database would appreciate introductions in kind and when they don’t occur, well the introduction flow stops altogether.

I understand the feeling of vulnerability that comes with making introductions. We all do because our professional reputation is on the line, and so, we are careful with our intros making certain to do our own due diligence to ensure that our introductions are solid and credible.

We also know that by making introductions we add value to our business relationships and therefore come to be seen as a true business resource.

I would think that all accountants wish to be seen in a similar light. It is only when accountants start to initiate networking connections with their clients and referral sources that they will be functioning as a true business advisor.

The Rules in the Networking Playground

December 16, 2011 at 5:32 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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This is a post that I did some time ago but my recent, less than spectacular networking experiences, have indicated a definite need to post this again.

More than ever, networking has become an essential skill for every business person. Taking the time to meet others in your industry and discover ways to help them and how they can help you can be both rewarding and lucrative. Unfortunately, not everyone has learned how to network effectively, and yes, many out there are not playing well in the networking playground.

Could this be about you?  Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do you forget to keep someone who has given you a reference in the loop?
  2. Are you neglectful in saying thank you when someone gives you a reference?
  3. Are you slow to follow up on introductions?
  4. Are you reluctant to reciprocate and give leads because you’re waiting for your contacts to specifically ask?
  5. Do you have difficulty in sharing introductions?
  6. Do you respond to cyber introductions with a sales-oriented email that is “all about you” (complete with attachments)?

If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, you need to polish your networking skills.

The art of networking requires much more than eating a muffin at a Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting. You need to know how to effectively communicate with others, build strong relationships, and make the most out of online and in-person networking opportunities. No, it’s not easy, and it’s certainly time consuming, too. But, the benefits of successful networking can be instrumental in growing your business.

How do you transform yourself from a networking nightmare into a networking pro? Here are five straightforward ways to help you improve your networking image.

Be Appreciative

You won’t keep a contact for long if you’re not showing your appreciation for their efforts to help you. If someone has given you a lead or valuable information, say “thank you” in a big way. Write a hand-written note. Take them to lunch, or send a donation to the charity of their choice. An email “thank you” is weak and doesn’t really cut it when the person has gone out of their way to be helpful to you.

Be Proactive

Don’t wait for someone to ask you for a specific referral. Be proactive. Mention that you have an interesting person for them to meet. Communicate the synergies that can be shared. Introduce influencers to other influencers. No, they might not be the end person who uses the product or service, but they can introduce the person to possible end-users.

Be Efficient

With online networking sites and emails, it’s so much easier than it used to be to introduce others. Use technology to your advantage and encourage those around you to do the same.

Set Up Small Informal Networking Events

You don’t have to depend on large networking organizations to plan your events. Take the initiative and plan your own networking breakfast or lunch for your contacts. Put together a regular get-together with a group of like-minded people and start expanding the circle to increase the networking opportunities. (Contact me for more info about “Six in the City”.)

Follow Up and Follow Through

Establish a timeframe for which you follow up with new contacts and follow through with helping others. If possible, it should never take longer than 24 hours to get back in touch with someone. This is particularly true for email and phone introductions which can become lost in the shuffle very quickly.

Stay on the Grid

Networking is an ongoing process and unless you have the good fortune to be in the exact right place at the exact right time, you will need to demonstrate staying power with all of your valued networking contacts and referral sources.  That old cliche “out of sight, out of mind” is very true in the networking playground.

One last thought, networkers have good memories and bad reputations tend to be very sticky. Pay attention to your tactics and networking manners. It will serve you well.

Looking Ahead to 2012 and Wishing and Hoping that it Will Be Better

December 13, 2011 at 8:28 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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As befits this time of year I am working with several clients that are interested in putting together their sales plans for 2012.  This includes taking a close look at 2011 and seeing what worked, what didn’t, understanding why, looking at the financial ramifications of it all and then devising a comprehensive plan to address the shortfalls and maximize the positives. We look at where they can be better, faster or even newer and understand how they can be an improvement over the competition.

It’s an in-depth activity and requires an ability to honestly face the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s not always pretty and it’s never easy.

But there are some clients that refuse to engage in this effort. They’re “busy” and can’t get to doing it just yet, better to wait till after the holiday season.

And so we schedule a date for sometime in January when I know they’ll put it off again.

Might I even be speaking about you?

Nope, it isn’t necessarily a fun task especially after this rather disquieting year when most everyone experienced some sort of business downturn.  It’s definitely easier to just close the pages and move on to the next year.

But frankly, that’s not smart and in the long run, will simply cost you time and money.

You need to stop and take stock of your business development initiatives and assess what you need to do more of and less of in the coming year. Where do you add value and how can you convey that to your prospects? And who are those prospects…do you need more of the same or should you be looking at different markets?  How do you fare in the face of competition? What changes are indicated and what sales processes must be initiated or changed?  And on…and on!

Wishing and hoping that 2012 will be better is just plain wrong. It might be a groovy song from the 60’s but it certainly won’t make you successful in the coming year.

Start today.

Twelve Personal Branding Tools You Must Be Using

December 10, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I recently read this post from Joe Pulizzi and thought that it was so right-on and valuable that I decided to share it here on The Blatant Truth.  Such simple things but oh-so powerful. Thank you Joe for making this information very accessible.

From Joe:

I started to seriously work on my personal brand back in 2007 when I left my “real job” and started what is now the Content Marketing Institute.  I can honestly say that working on my online brand was the #1 thing that moved us from a company of “1” to a real organization.

Although I’ve refined my approach over the years, here are twelve tools and activities that are a must to make sure your personal brand is as powerful as possible.

1. Google Profile –  Before Google+, your personal Google Profile was important merely from a search engine perspective.  When people searched on your name, Google Profiles tended to rise to the top.  Now that Google+ is becoming a force, your Google Profile is more important than ever.

2. Google+ —  See above.  It’s hard to say what Google+ will become.  Right now, it’s a sandbox for social media play.  That said, with Google’s integration of Google+ into both Profiles and Gmail, it’s a force to be reckoned with.  Here’s my advice…get an account, get your profile in order,  and start to experiment.  If you need an invite, let me know.  Here’s my account.

3.  Twitter –  My favorite tool for growing your personal brand.  Great content and ideas get spread, get you followers, and magnifies your presence.  Use the 4-1-1 method:  Every day share four posts from other influencers that are important to your target audience, share one original content post about your business that helps tell your story, and share one “sales” post that overtly asks for something.

4.  Blog –  If you are in marketing, you need to be positioning yourself as an expert in your niche field.  The blog should become your personal branding home base.  I’ve blogged, on average, two times per week for five years.  In addition, I also have a website for my speaking, but you can simply use your blog for this if you wish.  Simply put, if you are not blogging, creating a powerful personal brand online is almost impossible.

5.  Facebook –  Like it or not, Facebook is a must.  Some very influential people in your network like to connect via Facebook (as opposed to LinkedIn), so like it or not, you need a presence there.  Share at least one to two times per day, more personal than business if you can.

6.  LinkedIn –  The best contact database I have.  The first thing I do after meeting people (in person) is to connect via LinkedIn.  Be sure it’s updated and that you note and link to all your current and former places of employment.  The more you can integrate with other pages in LinkedIn, the better.

7.  About.Me –  I use this as my social media hub.  Not sure how long this will last, but for right now it seems to be getting traction.

8.  Foursquare –  I’ve been able to set up multiple meetings with associates simply because when I checked in to a particular location I found that they were in the same city.  Without Foursquare this would not have been possible.

9.  Video – Have at least one presentation video of you doing your thing.  If you don’t, get one made the next time you do a speech.  If you don’t have a speech coming up, create on like this from Sally Hogshead.

10.  Testimonials – If you get a testimonial, please ask your “fan” to submit it to LinkedIn so you can keep track of it.  Very important to rounding out your LinkedIn presence as well.
11.  Commenting – At least twice per day, comment on a blog post that is relevant to you or your business. It will pay you back 10 fold.

12.  News Releases – Anything news worthy should accompany as news release. Any excuse is a good excuse for a news release…but make them count.  In this release about our news release site with PR Newswire, we use smart keyword tagging throughout the release.  When sites pick one of our releases up, they are pointing to our web pages with the right keywords.  Priceless.

And finally, make sure you have a professional head-and-shoulders picture (pay to get one done) and be consistent across all your channels.  The $250 I spent for my photography was well worth the ride.

Tips for Selecting the Right Sales Trainer or Coach

December 4, 2011 at 11:21 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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It’s almost 2012 and many companies and individuals are starting to think about improving and increasing their sales in the upcoming year. They are also pondering the idea of bringing in a professional resource to help them get to the proverbial “next rung” and making that decision can be vexing.

So, in the spirit of the holiday season, here’s what you need to think about when selecting a sales trainer/coach for yourself or your team:

1)    Interview the person very carefully and be attuned to not only their resume of accomplishments but also to their tone, manner and conversation style.  How you communicate something is equally as important as the words and concepts being shared, and certain styles of communication are known to “turn-off” the audience. Buyer beware!

2)    Find out if you can see the trainer “in action.” No, I don’t mean a video that appears on YouTube or their website. Mostly these are edited and are also very brief snippets of the person in action. Rather, you’d like to see and hear them engaging in real-time with an audience and handling the questions and push-back as well as how they keep the attention of the crowd. (When ALL else fails, a video is better than seeing/hearing nothing. Note to trainers everywhere, now is the time to build a library of videos for your site and YouTube!)

3)    How familiar are they with your industry? While in-depth experience working in your “space” does not necessarily insure that the program will be spot-on, it does help to make the trainer / coach more conversant and comfortable with your “jargon” and the selling challenges that you encounter. (And yes, a good trainer can do the appropriate research and gather this data even if they don’t have extensive prior work experience in your space.)

4)    What’s included in the program? Will the trainer / coach be accessible to you after the training for follow-up questions or challenges? Do they have handouts and / or workbooks to share with the group?  Bottom-line, do you get anything other than their time / expertise!

5)    Yes, fees count. Do you feel that their fee structure is fair and in-line with the training / coaching industry? Remember that training is an investment and done effectively, you WILL see ROI from the efforts.

6)    Do you like the trainer? Will your staff like the trainer? Personality and “platform/presentation skills” play a very strong role in being an effective trainer. Don’t ignore likeability!

7)    What other credentials do they have?  Author? Speaker? Columnist?  Many trainers can bring a broad perspective and additional skills to your unique situation. These other skills can be highly beneficial and provide you with added value.

8)    If the trainer / coach has published a book on sales, make certain to get a copy for each of the participants. Authors tend to have quite a bit of well-deserved credibility and this will help you to obtain buy-in from the trainees.

And of course, trust your gut instincts but don’t rely on them exclusively. Engaging with a sales trainer or coach should be an extremely beneficial and rewarding experience.  Any questions, ask me…no obligation, of course!

Audience Resistance: If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them

December 2, 2011 at 8:43 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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I just read this blog post by Diane Diresta, Diresta Communications and thought that it was so spot on that I had to share it here.

As a sales trainer, I don’t always have the most receptive audience. Sometimes the training has been shoved down their throat by senior management; other times folks are just plain snarky and live in a world of negativity and “anti-learning.”

Read Diane’s advice on how to handle the situation:

You don’t need the audience from hell to encounter resistance. Resistance can occur in one-to-one conversations or in  small groups. Sometimes, resistance is subtle as in the passive aggressive participant. It occurs in sales calls all the time. Most presenters think of resistance as negative. Yet, research demonstrates that in sales calls, skepticism is actually a good sign and often leads to a sale. Resistance shows that the audience is engaged. Your job is to embrace the resistance and as in martial arts, use their energy to reverse the situation.

In sales presentations you can reverse negative questions. Objection: “You’ve never worked in our industry.”  Answer: “That’s exactly why you need me. I’m objective.”

Whether you’re managing a team, running a meeting, or giving a formal presentation, it’s not enough to be a good speaker. Effective public speakers must be able to manage the process. Group dynamics are ever changing and dealing with groups can be sticky. A  good leader or facilitator is able to change perspective and use a number of strategies.

I developed the 3D Strategy which works in most situations-Depersonalize, Detach, Defuse.

Step one: depersonalize. People come with their own emotional baggage. One woman walked out of a motivational speech because the speaker was wearing an Elvis costume. The audience member didn’t  like Elvis. It had nothing to do with entertainer’s talent or competence. So don’t take it personally.

Step two:  detach. That means that you don’t engage the ego. Once you go head-to-head with that heckler you set up a competitive dynamic. Don’t let your emotions get out of control. Ask questions; don’t defend. Use the power of peer pressure.

Step three: defuse. Dissipate the negative energy. One of the best defusers is humor. If you get tense, the negative energy will increase. Take a light, playful approach. You can’t laugh and be angry at the same time.

I’ve learned that when I embrace resistance, the audience is more engaged. Recently, I gave a speech at the NYXPO at the Javits convention center in New York.  Knowing that people would be checking their cell phones, I created a hash tag #dianediresta,  and told them to tweet any tips they’d like to share with their networks. What once was a negative is a great BIG positive. Now my message is going out to thousands of people.

Just like a grain of sand is an irritant to an oyster, over time that irritant becomes a pearl.

The anonymous author of this quote said it best:

“With every shift, with every change resistance is the natural order.  The tree resists the wind, the egg resists the chicks hatching and the cocoon resists the butterfly’s first flight.  Without resistance there could be no stability and there could be no strength.  Ultimately resistance is the promise of success, never of failure, always of success; yours, mine and every person’s everywhere”.

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