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.

The Not So New Phenomenon Known As Branding

January 5, 2012 at 9:19 pm | Posted in Branding | 1 Comment
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I’ve been in business for more than 20 years and during that time have worked with hundreds of companies across pretty much every vertical and in organizations large and small.

Back in the day my clients hardly (Mmmm, perhaps never) said the word “brand” but in our sales strategy meetings we talked about:

  • Why do customers buy from you versus your competition?
  • What do people say when they talk about your product/service?
  • What’s the perception of your company?
  • What makes your company different?
  • How do you improve your customer’s situation / experience?

And so on.

The word brand wasn’t mentioned but what I do know is that we drilled down on much of what is discussed in today’s branding sessions.

So what’s my point?  Simple.

It is logical that a strong, well-respected brand should help to increase sales. Yes, should help, but cannot guarantee, greater sales. Why?  Well that’s simple too.

Having a strong brand doesn’t ensure that a tightly aligned sales process is in place or that the folks that are tasked with going out and bringing in the business are even competent to do so.  It doesn’t ensure that sales conversations with potential customers will be done exquisitely and with finesse.

Want to be successful?

Develop your brand but make sure that the folks involved with actually “selling” the products (or services, it hardly makes a difference) are actually ready to perform at the highest level and that the infrastructure is in place to support them.

Really want ROI from your branding efforts? Make sure that you’re paying an equal amount of attention to the sales component as well as to branding and marketing.

Bridge the gap and be more profitable. Really.

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.

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!

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