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.

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

Help Me, I Think I’m Falling In Love Again

January 16, 2012 at 11:36 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Oh Joni, I don’t know what it is. Could be that I’ve been working so hard to win new business or maybe I’m just plain easy and want to love those new prospects that come my way, but really, shouldn’t I have learned my lesson by NOW, 24 years after launching this business.

Are you like me? Do you fall in love with clients so quickly that it makes you blind to signals screaming out watch it, this client just might not turn out the way you want!

Do you believe so strongly in yourself that you just “know” that you can make it good, make it better and well, make it right?

I know that I’ve fallen into that love-trap more times than I really wish to admit but well, maybe I’ve gotten more cynical, less needy or just plain smarter and recognize all of the red flags BEFORE I get into trouble.

For instance:

  • The project is so far out of your sweet spot that you’re going to lose money, time, sleep and credibility for every minute that you’re working on it.
  • The client is asking you to do things that just don’t feel right  (defer billing, overlook something that seems legally binding, talks poorly about your competitors). You know what I mean, right?
  • The decision-makers at the client change so frequently that you can’t even keep track of them and you’re losing time and money in meeting after meeting where you meet the “new” client team.
  • The “direction” of the project changes multiple times while you’re still in proposal stage.

It’s nice to be in love with clients but a good dose of reality should keep the stars out of your eyes.

And when all else fails, a good pre-nup can help you to avoid a financially devastating and business crushing divorce.

The

The World of Discounts, Coupons and Should I Cut My Price in a Recession?

January 9, 2012 at 8:04 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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I’ve been a sales consultant/trainer for 20+ years and in the last 2 years have seen more discounting, couponing, “special” offers and give-aways than in all my years in business. I do understand that this is a direct result of what has been an unprecedented poor economy and of course, there is the seductive pull of Groupon, LivingSocial, Bloomspot and so many more. I’ve been tempted myself and have even reached out to several of these sites only to have my emails ignored:) And many of my clients, well, even if they’re not interested in going the way of Groupon, many of them are running scared and looking at how to slash their pricing in the hopes of staying alive.

But really, is this the best way?  Here are some questions to ask yourself:

*  Will cutting your price undermine your brand and cause confusion and desertion in the marketplace?  The last thing that you want to do in a recession is lose the customers that you have. Will cutting your price cause them to shift their loyalties elsewhere?

*  What’s going to happen when the recession ends (and end it will one way or another!)? Will you be able to “re-adjust” your pricing? (Didn’t think so.)

* Can you even afford to eat into your margin and will slashing your prices / fees undermine your very financial solvency?

* Can you provide the same levels of quality deliverables and exquisite customer care at a lower price point? Note that if you cut back in these all-important areas you will lose even more clients and perhaps damage your brand forever.

So what’s a business to do? Here’s a thought. How about instead of cutting your prices and looking for all manner of discount “deals” you attend to what you provide to your customers, like an amazing product or service that delivers real value to the market, service that is so outstanding that folks wouldn’t dare go the way of a lower cost provider, impeccable attention to what the market wants and then attention to what they need (need takes second place to want) and keeping your finger on the pulse of all this with customer surveys and Voice of Customer research.

So before you make what could be an irrevocable change in your pricing strategy, think of alternatives and move carefully. That slash in price just might hurt your business forever.

Welcome to the New Year: How to Avoid the 3 Deadly Sins of Selling

January 3, 2012 at 9:14 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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So here we are smack at the beginning of a New Year.  Yes, I know that we have simply turned over a page on the calendar but it feels good you know. A fresh start and all that stuff. (Hey, I was the person that actually liked the start of school with its newly sharpened pencils and clean and shiny binders.)  But I digress.

Do you have high hopes for this coming year?  Gonna do some things different are you? Well, how about for starters fine-tuning your sales strengths and yes…avoid the 3 deadly sins of selling.

So what exactly are thee sins?  Here ya go:

Thinking that marketing is sales and vice versa. Marketing is not sales…repeat after me, marketing is not sales. Like that old refrain…you can’t one without the other. So why is it that so many people are starting the new year with new marketing campaigns, making resolutions to “jump” into social media and looking to twitter to help them make their way, enhancing web sites et al and are not even thinking one bit about their sales process, sales competencies abilities to follow-up, follow through and close those prospects and leads. Really. If you want to waste your money, go ahead and do it but if not, then please spend as much time and consideration to the sales aspect of your business as to the marketing end. You’ll be glad that you did (Umm, you’ll actually “bring in” that business that marketing attracted in the first place.)

Thinking that networking is an endgame in and of itself. Hah. Wish it would be so but it just isn’t. Networking is an ongoing, never ending initiative that requires eternal vigilance to make it pay off. And yes, you can have a one hit wonder derived from a networking meeting in which nothing more than showing up was involved. But those bits of success are far and few between and what is really required is strategic vision and a plan and design for how you will go out there onto the networking playing field and win the game.  (Hint: the networking game is circular, not linear and if you play it well then you just might be rewarded by what comes back to you.

Taking those leads, contacts, dormant accounts, friends and so forth and letting them languish in your base. Really. Why do you need thousands of people in your CRM or even on your Constant Contact email newsletter list if you are not gong to work these contact effectively and efficiently staying on the grid so if and when a project or a lead is around you will, in fact, be on their mind and get the pleasure of a connection. Why bother? If you can’t deploy the three I’s (and if you don’t know what those are please connect with me and I’ll share the strategy), then you shouldn’t be out there trying to win new business. You won’t be getting any ROT (return on time). Period.

Ok then…make a personal plan to abolish these sins and move forward into your most successful year ever.  Ready?

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?

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.

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