Tom shares three steps to restore profits in the new economy.
It’s not enough to expect better for and of yourself, you should anticipate more from your customers. I call this Getting Ahead of Customer Expectations. Indeed, you should be highly invested in anticipating what they will do next, what their expectations are, and how you are going to fulfill them. The fundamental mistake most small businesses make is believing that the product and business model they have provided is adequate for customers needs, and that customer demand can be altered through marketing and advertising. It’s rather arrogant when you think about it. As small business owners, we are all inherently flawed and to presume that the customer should adapt to how we want to do things is insane. Yet, customers make accommodations all the time for poor business models thereby reinforcing these false assumptions. Getting ahead of customer expectations is the process of thinking like a customer, for the customer. This is nothing new, but small businesses are the least equipped to embark on an unbiased exploration of consumer perspective. Nonetheless, our success depends upon understanding how buyers think, which means unlearning that what we want to do for customers is somehow more important compared to what they expect or […]
There are two kinds of top achievers. There are the ones that can focus on the ultimate goal and everything falls into place behind it. Picture the star football player that sets his sight on The Super Bowl. Everyday he reminds himself what all the effort is for, knowing that the pain will lead to the goal. Then there is the rest of us that want to do something better everyday knowing that the amalgamation of continual effort will deliver the desired results. In an athlete, this is the football player that puts all his energy into fundamental techniques knowing that only a master will make it to the big game. Both approaches work. Both require continual technical improvement with unrelenting effort. 99.9% of us can’t pull it off because we are not superhuman. We need structure, training, and small successes. I like to call it, Improving the Odds. I am a fairly average martial artist. Over the past dozen years or so I have overcome my fears, physical limitations, and intense competition to survive class, tournaments, and sparring sessions with really good practitioners. I’ll never be great, but I have survived because I work on improving my odds of […]
I would say that most of my conversations with owners about their businesses will circle back to the need for growth. More revenue, more profit, more customers, more market share, more products, more services… And what is almost sure to follow is plea for growth that doesn’t involve, well…growing. As in, “Our goal is to grow this year, but not in October because we are already busy that month…” The simple truth is that in order to grow, you have to do more business than before. You will have to stress the system one way or another. There are no shortcuts, no tricks to soften the impact. You can’t just call it “organic” growth and slip it past the team. Real, permanent growth requires preparation, marketing, management, and celebration. And stress. There will be surprises. You’ll work late. You’ll spend money you did not plan on. You might give up, but you will still suffer the unexpected ups and downs. Sometimes, companies do grow without forethought, but these are the same companies that shrink unexpectedly, so let’s not embrace that paradigm. You do have an alternative. It’s called Intentional Growth. It involves identifying the steps that will lead to more […]
What do you really know about a potential buyer? Does your qualification process only consider the types of projects and revenue? What happens if you fail to pick up on the customer’s buying style? Even a project that seems a perfect fit may be managed by a buyer whose priorities don’t match what you offer. If your product or service is tooled for high levels of service and customized solutions, then a steady stream of price shoppers will suck your resources up and drive your margins down. Likewise, if your value is derived from depth of resources and simplified options, you won’t line up well with buyers that want to control the process and customize the solutions. The more time you waste on mis-matched opportunities, the lower your margins. It gets worse. On the occasions that you do wrangle a well-suited customer to the negotiating table, will your fear of losing the order drive your price down unnecessarily? There’s a better way to qualify opportunities. Pay attention to the clues and you will derive the customer’s buying style and assess how it will apply to this particular project. There are three primary buying styles, but most customers have a secondary […]
Tom shares three steps that will turn your Request For Proposal responses into high value sales.
I am proud to be a valuable resource to so many companies and their managers, but please stop asking me to how to define individual jobs. A job description isn’t going to fix anything, help anyone’s career, or add value to your business. And trust me, your customers sure don’t care….OK, I’ll take it down a notch. Job descriptions have a place in organizational documentation and many employees do need the definition and structure to better understand their roles. However, before you embark on a wild goose chase to define a job, please honestly answer for me WHY? Is it because you are finally going to give all those performance reviews, but you need to first tell folks what they are being evaluated against? Or, are you having performance issues and think that job descriptions will clear that up or at least give you a tool to reprimand with? Perhaps you want to narrow the focus of those individuals that seem to stick their nose into other people’s work? All of the above? (For a good explanation on the HR reasons why to use job descriptions, check out Salary.com, which is my favorite resource on this subject.) Before anyone can […]
There was a time when I would have celebrated with you that your best prospect had just sent in an RFP (request for proposal). Now when I hear those fateful words, I shake my head and wonder what went wrong? By the time the customer has formed an RFP, most of the value in the project has evaporated. That’s why RFPs exist – they are to ensure that the customer doesn’t pay more for something than they feel it is worth. However, the amount of profit that someone is willing to let you earn is based on their perception of value, risk, and reward. Not yours. There is substantial additional value in your intellectual property, expertise, and innovation. An RFP assumes that these intangible contributions are value-added (read: free). How did the customer come to all these unfounded conclusions? Simple. You never gave them any reason to expect differently. Here is what is supposed to happen: You identify your target customer. Then you tailor your message to speak their language and establish you as an expert in your field (marketing). Next you seek out these targeted prospects (lead generation) and engage them in an intelligent conversation about their needs, pains, and intended outcomes (business development). If […]
Dear Customer, My apologies on behalf of myself and our team for delivering a great job. We have failed to exceed your expectations and for that we are truly sorry. I am refunding 10% of your bill, which represents the premium for the value proposition that you paid for in good faith, but did not receive. -Your Humble Supplier Based on what I hear many owners and executives say about their products and services, the above letter needs to go out to customers everywhere. I visit dozens of businesses and speak with scores of business owners every year, and most honestly believe that they are delivering best in class results to their clients. In their defense, on any given day someone in their firm does something admirable, but that alone does not a great company make. Good people and good companies have the same qualities through and through. When you slice one up, each piece is full of pure awesomeness, which is why some companies really are worth more than others. Unfortunately too many firms wrongly believe they are that great through and through and therefore diminish the value of superlatives with every presentation, pitch, or promotion. Admit it, if […]