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Helping Your Team With Change

On purpose I have titled this article ‘Helping your team with change’. One often misunderstood concept of change is that we want to change the team or change the people. If this is your starting point, you are doomed to fail. It is not the new situation that often creates the resistance, it is the uncertainty of what is going to happen. Either with the circumstances or with their personal situation. This is the main reason why people object instantly and question the change, often in a very defensive way. Questions like, “Why do I need to change?” or “What is the reason for changing this?”

I therefore recommend to flip this completely. When leading companies and teams, we need to show the vision and direction we are heading for. We also have to show what the new situation will bring. Explain the new situation and show how it is going to be beneficial to the individual. I have seen from experience that people are clever enough to understand that sometimes they need to change in order to commit to a common goal. If your team members do not see the need to change, help them understand it.

Years ago I worked in a company which was not known for embracing change and for over 20 years the company was run in the same way with nothing ever really happening. Then crisis hit our industry and in order to deal with this changed economy, change needed to happen. My starting point was to make clear to everybody what the end goal was and what we wanted to achieve (share the vision). I then explained to everyone what needed to be done (share the mission). At this point people were invited to contribute to the actions that needed to be done.

 

Many years ago I learned the following:

Tell the team, and they will know

Show the team, and the will remember

Involve the team, and they will learn

 

It has been on my whiteboard since, and I have applied this in Holland, Sweden and in the UK. And especially when change is concerned it is a very powerful reminder that effective change only happens when people are involved in the process.

 

The second thing we did was doing DiSC assessments and training with all the office staff, including the foremen of the warehouse. This was never done before and people were very anxious of the outcomes. Be profiled sounded very scary in itself, but what freshened even more was the next step when we discussed the profiles in small groups. The workshops however became a very big success, because people realised that the profiles were actually them. Also they understood that there was no right or wrong in the DiSC profiles. It was an assessment of who they were.

I still believe that one of the other elements for the success was my open involvement as a Managing Director. Also my profile (including some obvious characteristics) were scrutinised by the team. Some of them were basis for some nice banter among the team. For me the most fascinating outcome was to a few members of staff had worked together for decades, without really understanding their co-workers. With that understanding it was much easier to work together, because we all react in different way to various situations.

As said at the beginning. You cannot lead a team or any group from a big tower, shouting instructions. Especially in change processes it is vital you are seen as the leader. Show the team you are also going through the challenges and paces of the change. This will help them to overcome theirs and join you in the process.

Again, change is not scary in itself. The scary bit comes in, if we do not know why we change or what the change is for. Make clear to your team what destination you are heading for and what direction you are going. Trust your team with the responsibility to adjust their own course along with yours. This will give you credibility as a leader and much more success for the change.

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Positioning Your Marketing For Better Results

How you position your product or service is vital to your success, whether you choose to do it proactively or reactively, and by reactively, I mean you don’t do anything at all about your positioning.

What then is positioning?

Positioning is how you make your product or service appear different to your target audiences’ perception. It is the standout points that come to your audience when they think of your products or services compared to your competitors. When you think of Harrods as a shop, what do you think of? Probably exclusivity, wide range of high quality products and outstanding service. That is the way they have positioned themselves and there is no confusion when comparing them to Lidl.

Why is it important that you proactively position your product or service?

It is vitally important that you position your product or service so that you can create that level of differentiation against your competitors, otherwise the market will just position you as yet another supplier of these products or services, which will normally result in more price pressure on your offering.

With a powerful positioning, it will help you stand out from all the other marketing messages that they are regularly bombarded with.

The whole point of this positioning is to keep your product or service foremost in your target audiences’ mind when they are looking for a solution that you can offer.

Before you position your product or service there are 2 questions you need to ask yourself;

  1. Why do your existing customers buy the product or service from you? Most often, they purchase from you because of what the product or service does for them, not just what it does. A design company I met did their market research and learned that they were winning business, not only because of their design expertise, but because they truly listened and offered solutions in a simple format that the customers could easily understand.
  2. How is your product or service different to your competitors? What benefit does your offering bring that makes it stand out? Remember, all customers are tuned into WIIFM, What Is In It For Me. They don’t care how good you tell them you are, they only want to know how they will benefit. Market research of existing customers will give you this information.

Once you have asked and answered the above questions based on your in depth market research, you can start creating your positioning strategy.

Your positioning strategy must clearly define who your ideal market are, how you will reach them in large numbers, what they are truly buying from you (Their WIIFM), who your competitors are and most importantly, what makes you different.

In addition, your positioning strategy must focus on the following;

Be focussed, Make sure that each marketing message you send out only covers one product group or service solution at a time, do not try to market all your offerings with a one size fits all strategy.

Connect at emotional level; Use your market research to understand what the emotional reasons are for customers buying what you offer and use these emotive reasons in your message.

Customer Benefits; Focus on the benefits the customers achieve by selecting your offering so that they make a deeper emotional connection to your company.

Is your offer believable; Will customers reading your marketing message be able to easily understand and believe the message?

Are you credible; Are you able to supply proof of what you are stating?

Once you have gone through all of the points listed above, you can start creating your positioning strategy.

The most important place to start is with your ideal customer. Often businesses will define their ideal customer as any person who wishes to purchase from them, but often, many of these customers cost the supplier a great deal in lost time and profits because of the level of questions, process changes and complaints they make, so do you truly know what the characteristics are of your ideal customer?

With your marketing message and positioning, you only want to attract customers that are a pleasure to deal with and who make the sales process simple and quick.

The best way to determine your ideal customer is to look at your current customer list and pick out those customers you really love dealing with and then work out what makes them stand out from the other customers.

Most importantly, you need to determine if you have different ideal customers for each of the product ranges or service solutions that you offer.

Once you understand who you want to target, you can carry out the next important step and that is your in depth market research. You only use your ideal customers for the research as you want to only know why they buy from you and what makes you different to other suppliers in the market place. Your message and positioning you create must be focussed on attracting high volumes of ideal customers.

Once you have completed your market research, you will have a clear understanding of what truly makes you different and stand out from other suppliers in the market. From this information you can now create a powerful statement that highlights your uniqueness in your offering, but remember that this must be stated from the customer’s perception, not yours.

Once you have created your positioning statement, test it out on a number of ideal customers to see how they react to it and if possible, ask them for their feedback on the statement. From the feedback, you will be able to make any changes to the statement until you are truly happy with it.

Finally, it is extremely important that your whole team are trained on it, they must understand the important aspects of it, know where it came from and lastly, use it on every customer they come into contact with.

 

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So Why Should Customers Buy From Your Business?

I meet regularly with a wide variety of sales people. The point most of them want to discuss with me is what they need to do to win business in the current tough market, however, in each meeting I manage to turn general and lively discussions into absolute silence every time I ask them my question.

I ask each person the same question and the deadly silence that follows the question shows me that sales people often only think about prospects and customers from their own perspective and seldom look at the situation from the customers or prospects perspective.

The question that I ask is;

“If I am your ideal prospect and when we meet I ask why I should buy from you and your company, as opposed to a competitor, what would you tell me?”

Many of the salespeople start by telling me about their broad range of products or services, but they are quickly silenced when I say that their competitors tell me the same thing. They then tell me about their personal service, large stock holding and many other features, but none of them are compelling enough to make them stand out from their competitors.

If you are a sales person, business owner or marketing person in a business, I ask them what does your business really do? What is it that you do that makes your customers keep buying from you?

What is obvious to me is that sales people think they know what their business does very clearly. But when they are challenged, they go back to the most common clichés used in the book with generic statements about breadth or quality of products or service, being customer focussed, offering outstanding service and many others. The problem with all of these statements is that they are all very generic and do nothing to make one business truly stand out from another.

Almost every sales training course that I have seen highlights the difference between features and benefits, yet so few people really understand what that difference is.

The main difference between a feature and a benefit is all about from the perspective in which you look at the product or service. Features are all about how sales people look at their product or service and benefits are how customers or prospects view the product or service. Customers are considerably more interested in what the end result is of using your product or service rather than all the details of how it works.

If you are serious about reducing the number of pressurised price negotiations and lost orders your business or salespeople are experiencing, then it is vital that you spend time understanding what it is that your business does for your clients that keeps them coming back to purchase more and more and which makes you stand out from your competitors.

The best place to start finding this out is by asking some of your ideal customers why they use your business over any of your competitors. What is crucial in getting to the correct answers during this process is ‘digging deep’ with the questions until you understand what it is that your business does for your customers and how this builds an emotional connection to your business.

Very often business owners are very surprised by the answers they receive as the reasons are often very different to what they expect. What is also interesting, is that many times there are different points that stand out for different market sectors, so knowing what your business does may not involve only one answer.

I followed up with one of the companies that could not answer the question. Before we got our meeting going, one of the salespeople jumped up and told me that he had found an answer to the question for his retail customers.

They had gone and found out that his business shipped 99.6% of their orders on the same day they received the order and that they also scored over 99% on order accuracy shipped to their customers. With this feature, he was able to tell his retail customers that they could offer their customers a 48 hour delivery service which they had found out, far exceeded any of their local competitors. They now have at least one stand out point from their competitors, but need to go out and find some more.

So if I was your ideal prospective customer and I asked you why I should buy from you and not one of your competitors, what would you say?

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Optimism, the Skill that can take your Sales Success to Another Level!

Everyone in business is looking for something that is going to make them more competitive in the current business market. Should we network at more business meetings or perhaps become more active on social media sites? Change the process on how we interact with our customers or perhaps have a strategy for developing a new market to sell to? Create a new marketing plan? There is another solution that you can put into place quickly and easily. Sales people that understand that it is emotions that drive buying decisions will also know that optimism is a key skill to master. Before you start thinking that this is just another article on the soft skills that does not relate to a financial outcome, evidence shows that optimistic salespeople generate considerably more sales.

One of the best case studies on optimism comes from the work of psychologist Martin Seligman.  He worked with the sales team at insurance giant, Metropolitan Life to help them increase their sales performance. He worked with the sales team and from the measurements he put in place, he found that the sales people who scored high in optimism sold on average 37% more than those who scored low. In addition, their customer retention increased as well.

How does your sales team react to the challenges that the market throws their way? Are they discussing new strategies and ideas for building deeper relationships with clients or are they just telling the management how bad the market is? In other words, are they a glass half full sales team or a glass half empty sales team?  Salespeople should be concerned that they do not become too negative when markets become tougher.  So what message or mood is the sales management team sending to your sales team?  What message is your sales team communicating to customers and prospects?  How many of your sales team are starting their sales meetings with words like, “I know that money must be tight for you” or something similar. With an opening like that, they are just inviting considerably more price pressure on themselves.

So what can the sales management do to turn around any negative moods and comments in the sales team?

There are five behaviour traits found in salespeople and sales organisations that have a high level of optimism.  Start helping your sales team and increase your sales by teaching them to all your salespeople.

1:    When faced with challenges, optimistic salespeople ask themselves better questions.

  • What’s good about this?  Top salespeople know that in sales, they will always face challenges which will teach them valuable lessons and make them better sales people.  Optimistic salespeople keep challenging themselves as they know that to become professional salespeople, they need to keep learning new techniques and challenging themselves to gain more understanding about sales processes and people in general. They know that the more they invest in themselves, the more money they will make for the business and themselves.
  • Optimistic salespeople build understanding and then take control of themselves and the process they are using, then they take action and this action produces results, and results increase motivation and deliver increased success.

2:    They remind themselves that a challenging business period is temporary, not permanent.

When business is a rather slow or challenging, optimistic salespeople speed it up by taking care of their best assets:  their existing customers.  They invest more time in looking for new products or services they can promote to them.  They know the economy will turn and when it does, the prospect will call them not their competitor who has been sitting in his office comparing sad stories with his negative colleagues.

3:    Optimistic salespeople choose who they associate with wisely.

Jim Rohn quotes, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”  Who are your salespeople spending most of their time with, the glass half full or the glass half empty people?  What kind of emotional effect is happening within your sales force?  Is it healthy, positive conversation or is the sickness of negativity spreading amongst them?  Here’s the difference.  The negative salesperson says no one is buying.  The optimistic salesperson says someone is buying…I just need to find him or her.

4:    Optimistic salespeople generate results, not excuses.

They know that being a salesperson is a great profession because they can control their outcome.  Top salespeople read books, watch videos and find people who can help them look at other ways of doing business in tough times. They work smarter than their competitors that are still wishing the easier old days would return.   Top salespeople invest in learning so they can outsmart and out sell their competitor.  Optimistic salespeople don’t look for greener fields.  They cultivate greener fields.

5:    Optimistic salespeople are constantly sensing new opportunities.

They know that to outsmart their competitors they need to be innovative in the way they communicate with their customers. They know that they have to help their customers see new opportunities and market places for the product or service they supply. They just know if they look hard enough and help their customers, there is always a solution to be found.

Optimism may be considered a soft skill but an optimistic mindset will generate great sales results.  Optimistic salespeople are easier to manage.  If you are looking to reduce the drama and negative sales stories in your business, start teaching your sales people on the above 5 points and get them to invest their time on coming up with new solutions and strategies for helping their customers buy more. Optimism is a skill that can be learned; just help your salespeople make the choice. Optimism does not mean turning a blind eye to tougher business conditions, but rather looking at the market place and deciding that there must be a better way of tackling the market and growing profitable sales.

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Alignment, the Secret to Modern Business Success

One of the biggest challenges facing modern businesses of all sizes is how to take the business to the next level of success and profit without the cost structure getting out of control. One of the biggest costs on most businesses Profit and Loss Statement is salaries and wages, or in simpler terms, people.

As a business leader, your challenge is to get more out of your people without making them work ridiculous hours or chasing them around barking orders. What would it mean to your business if all the people you employ were passionate about the business, understood and believed fully in the goals and ideals of the business and strived each day to deliver the goals and results their job was designed to deliver?

In the past, business leaders have often resolved growth challenges by employing more people and trying to get them to generate additional sales and improved customer service, only to find out much later that the growth in overhead costs has cancelled out the growth in sales. It has often been said that any business is only as good as the people in it, and today this statement is probably truer than it has ever been.

So how do we as business leaders and managers go about getting more out of the people we employ?

A famous quote states; “A fish rots from the head down” and this is true for any business or organisation. The senior leadership of any organisation is where any strategy to get more from the people must start. The leadership of any business must give clear direction, rules and goals for all members of the business to follow, including the most senior directors.

Being a leader in a business is not just about explaining the goals and rules of the business, but inspiring the team in the business to become passionate about what the business is trying to achieve and why it is so important. Many leaders forget that you can only lead people, not a task or a job, and as such, it is the way the people feel and view their jobs that often makes the difference between a company that slowly moves forward and one that continues to outperform its competitors regularly. True leadership is about inspiring people where they care as much about the results and performance of the business as much as the directors and owners do.

Another key function of leadership that is often overlooked in modern business is that of retaining and developing the key talent currently in the business and to be constantly on the search for new talent to bring into the business to develop. Many of the business owners I speak to in the UK today, tell me that they often get very high numbers of people applying for jobs with them, but finding real talent in the market place is becoming more and more difficult. It is therefore very important that the most senior leaders in any business must align the culture and perception of the business to attract the kind of talent they are looking for and to retain the talent already within the business.

From this the owners must make sure that the structure or organisational chart of the business is aligned to deliver the goals and results the business is looking for.

It is amazing how many businesses have compromised their structure to fit the people in each of the roles which often results in lack of clarity about ownership of each area of the business and also major communication challenges within the business.  This is what happens when the structure is not aligned with the results the business is looking for.

Once the structure is in place, it is vital that the job roles are aligned with the structure and results the business is looking for. One of the most common methods of creating a job role is to focus on what you want the person in the role to do, so the job role often becomes a long list of things to do and the overall function of the job role is then lost. A better way to create a job role is to start with the outcomes or results you are looking for from the job role and then define what the role must do in order to deliver those outcomes. Each job role must also have a measurement or set of measurements connected to it so that the person in the role and their leader can quickly and easily measure how the job role is performing.

I was recently working with a business on this very matter in their sales department and all the sales people told me that on average they spent around 10% of their time on sales and the rest on other functions and duties. When I investigated the matter, it turned out that most of their time was spent doing other departments work, the structure and roles were not aligned to deliver increased sales, the very thing the business was looking for!

Once this is all done, look at the structure as a leader and make sure you have the right people in the right roles. This is often a very challenging step for a leader to take as it often comes with the fear of upsetting people or causing disruption to the business. As a leader in a situation like this, take a step back and look at the bigger picture and just ask yourself, how much upset, lack of results and frustrations are being caused to the business and the team with the wrong person in the role. The answer to this can very often be a huge eye opener.

Once this is all aligned, it is important that the marketing strategy of the business is aligned with the key customers in each market sector they are looking to attract. It is interesting to hear how many business leaders complain about the large quantity of potential customers who contact their business and just waste their time. The key factor they are not seeing is that it is their marketing message that is attracting these people to contact them. Know the market place you want to be active in, identify your ideal customer in that sector, understand what your point of difference is in the market against your competitors and then align your market strategy and communication to attract the kinds of customers you really want. Then do this separately for every sector you wish to be active in.

The next step is to make sure that your sales process and all the people who take an active role in it are aligned with the marketing strategy and communication so that a consistent level of profitable success is achieved.

This process can then be applied to every department in your business and also to your supplier agreements and processes.

This may all seem like an article that points out the obvious, but the reason I have written it is because over the many years I have been a business leader and later a coach and consultant, I have very rarely seen it put into place across and entire business and as a conscious strategy.

It is vital that as a leader, you regularly test and check to make sure that each department and your business is truly aligned, the results you will achieve will make the investment in time worth it.

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Key to success in today’s competitive market

What’s the key to success in today’s competitive market?

In the majority of businesses in the UK today, the biggest figure on the cost section of any Profit and Loss Statement is almost always; wages and salaries. The challenge facing most business leaders is to make sure that this cost on the Profit and Loss is actually an investment and not just a cost.

One of the major reasons for keeping this a cost in many businesses is when you have the wrong people in your business. Having the wrong people can create a number of challenges which directly effect efficiency, customer service and profitability in the business.

To start with, let’s have a look at the different kinds of people you can end up with in your business and the possible effect they could have on your business.

The first group you just don’t want or need in your business are those that can turn almost every positive into a negative. They love to go around sharing their feelings of doom and tell people millions of reasons why things cannot be done or achieved. They suck every aspect of enthusiasm and energy from the business and can have a major effect on a business or department. As a leader, I am sure you have met these people and just imagine trying to inspire them to help you achieve goals or results.

Then we have those who have the answer to every question, well that is until you ask them to go and implement the answer. They are always free with their advice and can’t wait to tell everyone about how fantastic and clever they are, however, they never ever seem to get going and actually do or achieve anything. These people have a habit of frustrating any team they are members of and reducing the capability of the team to reach its targets. How would you go about driving change or new ideas into your business with one or more of these wonderful people around?

The next candidates we can experience in our business life are those who make sure you know they are around and will appear to support you and tell you how wonderful things are to your face, but the minute you leave the office; they get their knives out and start the stabbing. They have great ability to split teams, drag others away from focussing on the goals and slow every process down as they are masters of misinformation. Often they are admired and respected by other members of the team as they believe that they have the boss’s ear and that they have great powers of influence over any decisions. With their powers of dividing the team, often energy, focus and direction are lost in the teams or businesses they are members of. As a leader with these types of people in your business or group, how will you inspire the team to a continuous level of increasing success and results?

The last group of people we really need to watch out for in our business or departments are those high flyers who appear to achieve great results but who break every rule and rarely follow company systems or processes. They are happy to step on colleagues as well as clients to make sure they fuel their own egos and get the results they are looking for. They are not team players and will often break teams down as all they are looking for is their own results. They do everything their way and as such; the overall result of the team or business is often of very little importance to them. As the leader of a group with these types of people in them, you could have an enormous task trying to pull the team together and inspire them to new levels of success and achievement. It is vital that you recognise this type of people, as once they are in a business it is often difficult for business owners or leaders to get rid of them as they are fearful of losing what they think are highly skilled and effective people. Almost every business I have worked with which had one of this type of people in it, the owner knew in their heart what was going on but were just too scared to lose the person that they turned a blind eye to the effects they were having on the team and the business as a whole.

Now that we have highlighted a number of different types of people which we don’t want in our business, what types of people do we want in the business to make sure we can run a business which is happy and consistently achieves the results we are looking for?

We need to build a business made up of people who not only have the skills we require in the business, but who also engage with the goals and vision of the business, but what is more, people who understand and can live with the culture of the business.

So how do we go about dealing with any of those types of people who we do not want in our business, but are sadly already in the business?

The most important strategy to implement with all people in your business is to have relevant measurements for each position and person in the business. These are often called KPI’s, Key Performance Indicators. There are two common errors that many business owners and leaders make with their people!

One is that they often do not measure all the people in their business. It is vital that all people are measured in the business so that if any reviews or appraisals are to be carried out, the owners or leader can deal with real facts of the performance of the person and not just subjective feelings. It is also a great deal easier to follow disciplinary processes when hard facts are in place.

The second error is that when they do measure a person or a role, they often measure what they do and not what the role is expected to achieve. It is important that all roles are measured against the results that the role must achieve and not just on activity.

To take your business to the next level of success and growth in today’s very competitive market place, the performance and quality of your people in the business are most often the reason that makes your business stand out from your competitors.

What are you doing today to make sure your business has the right people in the right roles to ensure the growth and sustainability of your business?

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Does your recruitment process include the right filters?

The key to sustained growth and success in the modern business era, is having not only the right people in your business, but inspiring them to deliver results and improving success while enjoying what they do.  The most common statement I hear from business owners and leaders is the challenge they have to interview and recruit the right people for their business. Understanding how to recruit effectively is now one of the key skills for any business. What I am looking to do in this article is provide some key points that will help all people involved in recruitment gain a deeper understanding of how to develop a better recruitment process.

The majority of recruitment processes I have seen, focus almost entirely on determining whether the candidate has the right skills to do the job and whether they have had experience in the required field, whilst very little, if any time or effort is placed on finding out if the person being interviewed will actually fit into the business or department.

A business owner I worked with for some years summed up recruitment in probably one of the best ways I have heard. He said that before gaining an understanding of what needed to be done in a recruitment process, he had spent most of his time in an interview trying to sell his business to the candidate, now he goes into every interview with a completely different mindset, he sits there thinking, “Why should I give you a job, how are you going to help me achieve the goals of my business?”

We need to recruit people who not only have the skills we require in the business, but who also engage with the goals and vision of the business, but what is more, people who understand and can live with the culture of the business.

So how do we determine this and then include it into our recruitment process so that it filters out all the types of people we don’t want in our business and lets through those who are going to help our business move forward with increasing results and success?

Let’s look at the key elements of a well designed recruitment process.

Firstly, we need a well thought out and documented job role. It is vital that when we create a new role in any business, we start with what we want this role to produce, namely the output of the role. It is amazing how many job roles we regularly come across where the role is made up of bits and pieces of many roles, which causes communication breakdown and confusion within the business.

The majority of job roles we see consist mainly of the actions and things the person needs to do, with very little emphasis on the outcomes each area of the role need to deliver.

Other important aspects that a job role should include are who the role reports to and how the role will be measured.

Secondly, a very important component to have in place to improve your recruitment process and build the right filters is the vision or goal of the company. With this in place, you will be able to question any candidates very deeply to see if they connect emotionally to the vision of the business and whether they will able and interested in helping build the kind of successful business you are looking for. This will help filter out all the kinds of people that are just looking for a job and are not really interested in helping you build and achieve the goals you are looking for. The key to making this part of the recruitment process successful is by asking in depth and open ended questions.

Thirdly, we need to have some culture or value statements for the business. What I mean by this, is the core things that the company stands for. As an example, a business I know had three key core aspects in their business; Excellence, Elegance and Exceptional care and in the beginning of the interview, the owner would ask any candidate what they understood by these points and to give some examples on how they had in their past delivered on these points.

Fourthly, we need a well documented and written process which includes all of the above points to make sure that whoever is involved in the recruitment process does it consistently in the same way. Once the process has been documented, the creator must train all other people on this process and make sure that they truly understand why each step is in the process and why it is important that they follow the process.

Lastly, we must focus on the key skills and experience required for the role. To evaluate these can involve practical testing and evaluation, however so many business owners are reluctant to include these tests because of the time they take up. Just ask yourself this, would it be more beneficial to take an extra hour or so during the interview and increase the chance of getting your selection correct, or rush the interview and have to live with the wrong person in your business for months or years?

Recruitment is probably one of the most difficult but most important processes for any business owner to get right as the success a happiness of any business is built around the people within the business.

Having the right people in the right positions in your business can mean the difference between long term profitable growth and struggling to keep the business moving forward. We all know what impact a person with the wrong attitude or mindset can have not only on their own job, but on the happiness and productivity of those around them.

When last did you review your recruitment process?

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Is Your Marketing a Cost or an Investment?

We know that to grow our business we need to market effectively to generate new customers, however, as soon as business slows, one of the first things to go is the marketing budget! Why is that?

One of the main reasons for the marketing budget being cut as soon as money becomes a little tighter is because very few business owners actually understand whether their marketing is working for them or not.  Unfortunately, some professionals, such as accountants and bank managers will often tell business owners that their marketing is an expense and when cash flow becomes tight, they recommend that expenses are cut.

What if we could really understand our marketing strategies and be able to measure them in such a way that we knew with certainty which strategies were generating excellent leads that are in turn generating profitable sales. When our marketing budget generates profitable sales regularly, then our marketing budget stops being an expense and becomes an investment.

So where do we start to convert our marketing budget from an expense into an investment?

The place to start is with an effective marketing plan that is built on sound market research and involves a clear understanding of who our ideal clients are for each market. For more information on how to do this, please read my articles on, “Marketing, the forgotten piece” and “Outside In marketing.” Once we have this plan in place, we must also include a process for measuring each strategy that we use so that we are able to quickly measure if the strategy is working or not.

Measuring market strategies always seems to be a big challenge for the business owners I meet as they all seem to believe that measuring their marketing is very difficult, if not impossible. In all the years I have been teaching marketing principles, I have yet to find a strategy that cannot be measured. One of the keys to being able to effectively measure marketing strategies, is to make sure that all members of your team are involved with the marketing plan and that they fully understand why each of the processes are important. In the majority of businesses we come across, any marketing strategy seems to often be a spur of the moment decision by the boss and very few other members of the team seem to even be aware of the strategy, so any measurement process becomes hit and miss which feeds the belief that measuring marketing is very difficult. When the team are involved with the marketing plan and each of the strategies in the plan, it is considerably easier for them to understand why it is necessary for them to ask new prospects how they heard about the company and to record the results. One of the reasons why measuring new leads is very difficult for many businesses is the fact that very few even have an enquiry form for team members to complete, most of them just use a book or any scrap of paper lying around. When building a marketing plan for your business, it is vital that you have an enquiry form that has all your various marketing strategies on it to remind team members to ask the question and to record the answer.

Once we have the front end measuring process in place, we can then design how we trace enquiries through the business so that we allocate and measure sales against each of the strategies we employ. At first reading, this may seem very difficult to do in your business, but I have found that in the majority of cases a simple solution can be found by just making a few easy changes to the current process you are using.

Some of you reading this may be wondering if it is really worthwhile making all these changes to your current sales process just to measure the various marketing strategies you have in place. To answer this question, just stop and think about how much money you have invested in the many marketing strategies you have put in place over the years and then ask yourself how many of these strategies could you hand on heart say really generated profit for your business? So many business owners have invested thousands on a strategy without knowing if this strategy was generating any business for them or not. On the other hand, I worked with a business owner who cancelled an advert they had been running because they thought it had become old and stale. Within two months their sales had started dropping off at an alarming rate, so we put the advert back with a measuring process in place and sales started streaming in again, measurement showed that this advert costing just £200 per month was generating 19 sales per month with an average margin of £60 per order, a return of £1140 of profit against an investment of £200.

Once you are measuring your marketing strategies you are in a powerful position of being able to use your marketing investment wisely. At a glance you can tell which strategies are working and which need to be changed or withdrawn. At this point your marketing budget has moved from being a cost into being an investment as you can measure the returns. While you are running marketing strategies without knowing whether they are working or not, you are just throwing your hard earned profit at opportunities without measuring the return, the same profit that you have had to work really hard to earn.

But just think of this, if all your marketing strategies are working well and generating profitable sales, what is your marketing budget? Every time you invest £500 into your marketing it is making considerably more than this in gross profit off all of those sales you are generating. At this point, your marketing budget becomes self funding as whatever you invest generates considerable return for you.

Marketing your business successfully is one of the key points in any business to master if you are looking to take it to another level of success, but it is absolutely vital that you understand and measure your marketing activities so that they do not become a huge expense on your profit and loss account.

Build your understanding on how to market successfully, measure every marketing activity you engage in, keep the ones that generate profit, change or get rid of those that don’t and soon your marketing budget will become an investment that helps your business grow profitably.

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How Much Value Does Your Sales Process Add?

The key strategy to grow any business has to be how effective it is at converting leads to profitable orders, or in other words, sales.

There are a wide range of beliefs held around sales people, from, “it’s what you do if you can’t get a proper job” to the pride and joy in being able to communicate with people and virtually write your own salary cheque. The most amazing thing I have seen is how little time and effort is invested in thinking about the sales process the business follows, how little time is spent training and developing the sales people on this process and why it is important.

Many business owners and sales directors still believe that to be successful at sales, you need people who have a good technical understanding of the product or service and who have the ‘gift of the gab’. They then spend most of their time managing their sales force around getting more and more activity completed, but very little time working on a sales process that adds value to both the prospects and the business itself.

So what do I really mean by a sales process? Many of you are going to immediately think about a heavily structured and scripted document that allows the sales people no scope for their own personality to shine and techniques to be used. Others may think immediately of the numerous telesales companies that call us many times a day with their very rigid scripts which allow for very little interaction. In both of examples, the only focus seems to be on getting a specific sale. Very little time and effort is placed on building a long term relationship and actually helping the prospect find a good solution to the problem or need that they may have. Sadly, many of the sales strategies being used today tend to create more of a negative feeling with people rather than a positive one.

With some of the more negative aspects of various sales processes out of the way, let me explain why I believe that having an effective sales process is so important.

I am a very strong believer that in business, the starting point for any strategy starts with the outcome you are looking for. A sales process must create a positive emotional experience for every customer or prospect that goes through it. 5 key areas a sales process must focus on are;

1. Filter out the prospects the business does not want as clients and focus time and effort only on the ideal prospects.
2. Deliver profitable sales by solving prospects and clients problems and needs.
3. Build long term relationships that keep customers coming back time after time.
4. Create customers of the business, not the salesperson.
5. Be simple and effective for both the prospects and the salespeople.

I am sure that many of you may be really interested with the wording of the first point, to filter out the prospects that the business does not want to sell to. Many people I have helped with their sales process have been alarmed that any sales process should want to get rid of any prospects, but just think to yourself, how much time have you or your salespeople invested into prospects where nothing has happened time and time again with the same people or company? Where would the sales performance be if we could find a way to focus on the real profitable prospects?

How well is your process and sales people focussed on solving problems rather than just selling as many products or services as quickly as possible? If it is just focussed on getting products and services out of the door, how does this make you appear different to your competitors? If you want to do a quick and rough check on how much value your sales process and people are adding, work out what percentage of all the enquiries your business handles involve a request for a lower price! If you have a fairly high percentage of requests for lower pricing, how much value are you adding to your prospects? Focus on adding more value in the sales process and just see how that margin creeps up.

One of the higher costs in any business is the client acquisition cost. This is not just measured in purely money terms, but also time. After a business has spent all this time and money on getting a prospect to a customer, it would be such a waste it if that customer only purchased once from that business. This is why it is vital that your sales process is designed to wow the customer the first time, but has a well designed follow up process that keeps consistent but acceptable levels of communication with the customer. This follow up process is probably the one area that the majority of businesses I come into contact with, fail on.

Probably the most challenging part of any sales process is the strategy that is needed to be developed to make sure that all customers become clients of the business, rather than just a client of a person in the business. How many businesses live in fear that if one of their sales people leaves, a bunch of customers will follow them to their new employer? Design this into your sales process from the start and you will lose considerably less customers if one of your salespeople leave. What is more, you will add value to your sales process as the customers will receive excellent service from whoever they deal with in your business.

Lastly, but very importantly, this sales process must be effective but simple to use so that communication between various departments within the business is easy to understand so that new employees can be quickly trained. It has also been proven, that simple processes always work better as people understand them quicker and they are easier to use.

If reading this article has challenged you to think about your sales process and wonder how much value it is adding to both your business and your prospects, or if you just want to grow your sales without employing loads more people. Go through the sales process your sales people are following and then ask yourself at each step if it is addressing the points I have listed above.