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Sunday, 28 March 2010

Take a Deep Breath, Close Your Eyes and Go For It!

Some time ago, I worked with two nice and competent young women to develop a marketing strategy for some software that they were designing for small hotels. It was very clever and would cover just about every aspect of running a small hotel including bookings, purchases, room allocations and so on.

The software was designed for small hotels so the definition of the market was reasonably easy at the time. Initial beta tests proved very successful and early adopters were enthusiastic.

However, try as I may, I could never get my clients to agree to launch Version 1.

“No, no”, they said: “We have to fix a few glitches before we can launch” and that went on for months. In the end I decided that we were going nowhere and pulled out. I don’t know whether the project ever launched and I suspect that it didn’t.

The key to it all was, of course, an aversion to risk. The feeling persisted that if they launched prematurely, then there would be problems and complaints, so they decided to go on and on making sure that it was perfect.

The problem is that the pursuit of perfection is specious; one can only approach perfection and never actually achieve it. The trick is to assess the risk of doing something and then to decide the percentage of risk that one is able to accept.

In the end it is really a matter of judgement, rather than analysis and that requires a measure of both experience and courage. Risk is a constant in life and the clever thing is to minimise it without adversely affecting the decision making process.

At some stage it is necessary to close down the thinking and worrying process, and go for it. After all, if Leonardo had been risk averse, he would have painted the Cistine Chapel floor.

For more information visit http://www.maa-uk.co.uk/

To contact us email to ivan.goldberg@maa-uk.co.uk

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Selling Isn't Telling!

Some time ago, I was interviewing for a trainee sales person and I saw a nice young lady, very presentable, well groomed and articulate. It all seemed encouraging until she suddenly proclaimed that “I would be good at sales, I have the gift of the gab”. Interview over.

My mentor, the Sales Sage of Wythenshawe, Phil Copp, used to say that for most sales people, the opposite of speaking isn’t listening, it’s waiting. And that means that I can’t wait to tell you how wonderful our product is.

How often have we been enjoined to ask questions and then listen carefully so as to discover precisely what it is the customer needs?

So many companies consider that the most important part of sales training is knowledge of the product to the extent that the trainee comes out of the sessions with an intimate knowledge of the materials, the production process, the name of the production manager, the colour of his socks and so on, but very little concept of what the product will DO for the customer.

If a sales person is in front of a buyer it seems to me self evident that the product, per se, is a given. What the customer really needs to know is how it will solve his/her problem. In other words, not what it IS, but what it DOES. We should be selling solutions not products.

How then to change the approach? It’s all a matter of the difference between open questions and closed questions. Open question begin with “Who, why, what, where, when or how” while closed questions start with “do, have, will etc” all of which can be answered either yes or no. Open questions demand an answer.

The key then is to ask the question and then LISTEN! People love to talk about their issues so just wait until the reason that you are there emerges, as it surely will. That is the time to explain what the product (or service) will do for the buyer emphasising the solution to his/her problem.

The moral of the story? The most important criterion for a buyer is peace of mind, the knowledge that the deal is a good one for him/her and for the company and that he/she can sleep soundly at night without worrying about you and your products. Just telling the buyer about the product won’t go anywhere towards solving a problem; it can often exacerbate it.

For more information visit www.vistage.co.uk and www.vistageblog.co.uk
To contact us, email at ivan.goldberg@vistage.co.uk

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Answer the "What's In It For Me?" Question

Most organisations forget,or worse don't even realise, that the customer is always thinking “what’s in it for me” and then go on to measure "what's in it for them" using lagging key indicators such as profit, sales and debtor days when looking at their numbers. These measure what has happened in the past rather than what is going to happen in the future.

Managing the business by focusing on past performance is much the same as driving a car by looking into the rear-view mirror. The challenge is to create value for the customer and find ways to measure "what's in it for the customer."

Future customer-focused key indicators are by far the best means for determining the direction in which your company is going and there are many which can come under that heading.

A typical example is on-time delivery which is an excellent indication of how well your company is currently functioning. If all of the operations are running smoothly, there's a good chance that on-time delivery is within acceptable parameters.

The key here is under promise and over deliver. In other words give a realistic and rather conservative estimate of delivery time, and then beat it. A neat point is to call the customer to say that you’re sorry but you plan to deliver a day or two early – will that be alright?

Another key indicator is the time you take to answer an enquiry. Customers and clients will take your speed of response as an indication of your interest in their enquiry and after all, their enquiry is what matters to them. Professional firms can be noticeably lax in their response to clients’ enquiries and actually delivering on the “I’ll call you back in a couple of hours” is often a vain hope.

Remember that the client or customer assesses everything on the WIIFM basis – that is, What’s In It For Me? How will I benefit from this, not how will YOU benefit. Accordingly make sure that your Key Performance Indicators are not lagging but leading, that is, are customer focused not past performance focused.

It is, of course, essential that you measure everything and keep records of what happens. It will mean the collection of new forms of data as well as the normal monitoring of the financial numbers but the effort is well worth while. Do it well, and the financials will demonstrate the value of what you are doing.

If you would like some more ideas on customer-focused indicators, email me at ivan.goldberg@maa-uk.co.uk
For more information visit www.maa-uk.co.uk

Sunday, 7 March 2010

You Gotta Accentuate the Positive, Eliminate the Negative

In the cheerless days of 1944, when the Second World War was at its height, a little song became very popular. Written by Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen and performed by the peerless Bing Crosby, Accentuate the Positive, Eliminate the Negative, became a hit both in the USA and here in the UK.

That song still has a resonance today because we do have a tendency, however unaware we may be of doing it, to inject negative words into our conversation.

Starting a sentence with “no”, “but” or “however” are used, whether we like it or not, to gain or consolidate power and they can have a really serious effect on the listener.

If you watch out for it, you will see how using those words can engender intense resentment, either conscious or unconscious, and they can stifle rather than open up discussion.

Teams and people react to verbal stimuli from leaders, both positive and negative and for obvious reasons, we should always look to “accentuate the positive” rather than the reverse,

One of our top Vistage speakers, Marcus Child, cites the example of the football coach who exhorts his team to “Stop moving the ball sideways” or “Don’t use the long ball” or “Don’t give up so easily”, all negatives. Rather be positive and tell your team what they CAN or SHOULD do and illustrate your thoughts with positive consequences.

Marcus says that even replying to a “thank you” with “no problem” is a double negative! A far better answer is “It’s a pleasure!”. All in all, it is a matter of habit and one we need to watch out for in order to “Eliminate the Negative”.

For more information visit www.vistage.co.uk and www.vistageblog.co.uk
To contact us, email at ivan.goldberg@vistage.co.uk