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A-Z of Business: V – Values – Your Guiding Principles

You may think of value as being the value you provide to your clients.  This, of course, is important.  After all, if you are not providing value to your clients (or customers), why should they work with you?  The value of your product and service needs to be clear and tangible to them if you are to have a sustainable business.

However, just as important are the values which drive you in your business.  Values are what you consider to be important.  They link into your vision, your mission and your strategy.  They are your guiding principles.

Values are also part of your brand – the personality of your organisation.

As well as guide you, they can be a barometer in decision making.  Let me take an example.  Let’s say your values are:

  • Quality
  • Teamwork
  • Integrity
  • Customer delight
  • Innovation

If there is an opportunity to buy into a joint venture which stacks up financially with a quick and generous return on investment, but the quality of the offering is lower than your current product or service offering, this will undermine your values of quality, customer delight and possibly integrity.  So, while on paper the deal may appear lucrative, the net effect is likely to be negative as people stop trusting your brand and you lose customer loyalty.  If you lose customer loyalty, this will, in turn, impact your revenues.  Remember it is more cost effective to keep an existing customer than it is to attract a new one.

But more important than that is your reputation.  Working counter to your values undermines your brand and your brand values become different to your espoused values.  They become your reputation – what people are saying about your company when you are not in the room.  It is important to really understand the values which underpin your business.  So, here are some questions for you:

  1. What is important to your business?  Truly?  (This is no time for self-deception)
  2. What do you want your clients and customers to be saying?
  3. How is this different to what you imagine them to be saying now?
  4. Are your values supported in your decision-making processes?
  5. Your marketing?
  6. Your logo?
  7. Your website?
  8. Your communications?

Remember that everybody in your organisation is an ambassador for your business (for good or ill), so it is important that they buy into your values with their own behaviours and attitudes.  To what degree are your values reflected in the following:

  1. Your hiring processes?
  2. Your hiring decisions?
  3. Your inductions?
  4. Your training?
  5. In your leadership style (and that of your other managers)?
  6. In how you the performance of your staff is managed?

Perhaps your lived values are different from the values you would like to be known by?  If so, it is possible to change them.  However, it requires a structured and integrative approach.  They need to weave into everything and to underpin everything with buy-in from each and every member of your staff – otherwise it is just a PR exercise which will backfire.  Getting this right can create more customer loyalty, more employee satisfaction and attract new business to you.
© Tricia Woolfrey 2013

About Tricia Woolfrey – click HERE to find out about the author.

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A-Z of Business: S – Selling: Your 6 Steps to Success

Sales

Sales are the lifeblood of any business and the ability to sell is an art-form.  That’s why sales people get paid so well.

It’s also inextricably linked to reputation.  So, whatever commitments you make in the sales process, it’s important to be sure that you can meet them.  It can be tempting, especially if you are chasing targets, to make a sale at any cost.  Promising impossible delivery terms, or unworkable modifications, just to get them to sign the order, can be an expensive mistake.

Conversely, being honest with a prospect if you feel your product isn’t right for them, increases your credibility, your reputation and the potential for future sales and ongoing referrals.  Your prospect understands that you have their best interests at heart so they will trust you should their needs change in the future.

Selling requires a variety of skills, from the ability to build rapport, to excellent listening and communication skills.  The ability to handle objections is possibly the most difficult component and was the subject of a previous article (view).  It requires the ability to influence effectively (view) and to negotiate well (view).

Following is a simple sales process.  To illustrate it in action, let’s suppose you are selling a printer:

  1. Build rapport
  2. Background information
    • How long have you had your existing printer?  What features are you looking for?  What kind of volume do you need it to produce?
  3. What problem are you trying to solve?
    • “We’d like to save money on ink; We’d like to improve reliability and print quality and we’d like to increase the number of functions – ie print on A3, collate reports and staple”
  4. What effect is the problem having on you?  This helps the prospect to identify with the pain of the problem.
    • “The current printer is slow, unreliable and often breaks down – last time it meant that the reports weren’t ready for the board meeting.”
  5. Suggest a positive outcome to their problem.  This will move them from the pain of the problem to the pleasure of the solution, making them more open to saying “yes”.
    • “Our model XYZ123 will produce high quality print, 50% faster than your current printer at a 20% saving on your current cartridges.  Not only that, it will collate and staple your reports for you.”
  6. Ask for the sale – the most important part!
    • There are various closing techniques, the simplest of which are:
      • Direct – “This seems to address all your needs whilst making savings for you.  Would you like to buy this model?”
      • Assumptive – “When would you like it delivered?”

It is easy to blame the product or the price for lack of sales, but often the issue is more about not having aligned your solution to the client’s needs.  Remember that selling is an art-form.  Do read the objection-handling and negotiating articles mentioned above for more information.  Also, why not call for some 1:1 coaching so that you can have a personalised input on how to improve your sales success?  Call me on 0845 130 0854.

© Tricia Woolfrey 2013

About Tricia Woolfrey – click HERE to find out about the author.

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A-Z of Business: P – Product: Ten Questions You Need to Ask Yourself

Products and Services

If you don’t have a product or service which delivers value to your customers and prospects, it makes building a profitable business almost impossible.  Having an inferior product isn’t something you want to risk your business or reputation.  In this day and age, competition is very tough, consumers are fickle and markets are constantly changing, so it’s important to make sure you are delivering what your customers want.

Having the best product or service isn’t enough in itself if you don’t have everything else right.  However, it is an essential component.  When looking at your products, consider what are you offering and how does it benefit your customers?  What need is it fulfilling?  What are the strengths and weaknesses of the product or service?  This is where you really need to listen to your customers.  It’s easy to acknowledge compliments – they make you feel good.  It takes a lot of strength to be open to negative feedback.  However unreasonable it may seem, there is always at least a grain of truth in in it.  Be gracious in receiving negative feedback because you can really turn around a negative situation and create a raving fan out of a disenchanted customer if you handle it right.

Customers can fulfil a need in a number of ways.  For example, if your business sells washing machine repairs, then your customer has the option of either repairing their washing machine, getting someone else to do their laundry, buying a new washing machine or resort to hand-washing.  So it’s important that you get your product right so that you become the obvious choice.

If you want your product to be a best-seller, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What need is your product (or service) designed to fulfil?
  2. What are the strengths of your product (or service)?
  3. What are the weaknesses?  If your customers were being really picky, what would they be saying?
  4. What are you doing to address those weaknesses?
  5. Who are your top 5 competitors?
  6. What do they offer that you don’t and how can you address this?
  7. What is another way your prospects might fulfil the need?
  8. How can you make your product a better option?
  9. What feedback about your product (or service) have you been ignoring and what are you going to do to address it?
  10. What processes do you have in place to make sure your product (or service) is the best?

Steve Jobs, one of the greatest innovators of our time, talked about surprising and delighting the customer by looking at how to excel, not just meet the competition.  He thought in terms of simplicity, elegance and sexiness (of the product, of course!).  By contrast, I know of a man whose business failed because he insisted on providing his service using old, outdated technology and old, outdated principles.  You have to constantly re-invent and improve if you want to thrive.

 

© Tricia Woolfrey 2013

About Tricia Woolfrey – click HERE to find out about the author.

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A-Z of Business: O – Objection Handling – The Ten Essentials

Objection handling

 

Objections are an inevitable part of any selling process – whether you are selling products, services or an idea.  It is the part of the sale which leaves all but the very best sales people, influencers and negotiators trembling behind a façade of the “this-doesn’t-bother-me-at-all” faux-smile.  It’s what keeps most would-be sales people hiding under a duvet of busy-ness so they never get to make the call which could result in the rejection they fear so much.  And this is because they personalise the “rejection”.  They make it about themselves rather than a legitimate (or smoke-screen) concern. 

Sales is really a numbers game and you need to get through so many rejections before you can make one sale.  Objections are often a signal for more information and here are a few ideas to help you through with greater ease:

  1. First and foremost, don’t take it personally.  You can no more be an effective salesperson without objections as you could be an effective car without wheels.  Think of objections, instead, as “feedback”.
  2. The second “secret” is to build emotional resilience.  That’s a big subject to which I devote a whole chapter in my book 21 Ways and 21 Days to the Life You Want.  However, one quick way of building resilience is to view every experience as a learning opportunity.
  3. Prepare by listing all the objections you think you may receive – here are some common ones:
    • Price
    • Delivery terms
    • They already have a current supplier
  4. Practice active listening so that you really understand what they are saying, not what you want to hear or what fits into your well-prepared script.
  5. The easiest objection handling technique (and there are many) is the shopping list technique.  It flushes out any possible objections up front.  To do this, you need to elicit all their wants in advance and write them down.  When they have finished, ask “Anything else?” until you are sure you have everything.  Then say “So, if we meet all these needs, you will want to go ahead?”  This, of course, is assuming that you’re actually speaking to the decision maker.
  6. Think of your offering in terms of features and benefits.  Let’s say that you are selling a gardening magazine.  The feature may be that it is full of interesting articles by some of the country’s top experts.  The benefit might include some of the following: that it will provide easy-to-follow answers to all their gardening problems right when they need it so that they can enjoy a beautiful garden all-year round; they will spend less money on plants which were never suitable for their garden in the first place; they will be able to enjoy a hobby rather than be frustrated by the lack of progress; they will learn new skills, and create a space where they can relax/have fun with their kids/entertain friends/grow organic vegetables to make healthy meals for their families; they will have more time to enjoy being in their garden rather than working on their garden, etc.  The idea is to find out what they want and sell to those rather than have a blanket list.
  7. Avoid giving too many benefits because you dilute the message – just focus on their specific wants and needs.
  8. Move them through negative states into the positive state you want them to experience, ie. from cynicism to curiosity to openness and finally to enthusiasm.  I cover this in my Influencing for Better Business course.
  9. Once you have taken them through each of their shopping list items, ask if there is anything else they need.  Then, for any ongoing objections ask “If I could deal with this, would you be ready to go ahead?”.  Then come up with a solution to the problem that they are happy with. 
  10. When all objections are handled, ask for the sale.  You will be surprised how many people miss off this important element. 

I couldn’t finish this article without my bonus tip – limit your sales calls and sandwich them in between enjoyable activities that give you a sense of achievement.  This helps you to stay resourceful and to maintain your energy levels and resilience. 

If you would like to learn more about how you can handle objections, why not book for a coaching session, or onto my next Influencing for Better Business course?  Investing in yourself in this way can really yield exceptional results.  Call 0845 130 0854 for more information on how to accelerate your success.
 

© Tricia Woolfrey 2013

About Tricia Woolfrey – click HERE to find out about the author.

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A-Z of Business: C – Customer

Customers are the lifeblood of any business.  It doesn’t matter how good your product or service, if you don’t have customers willing to buy, you have nothing.  In such challenging times, and considering the cost of attracting just one customer (have you ever done the maths on this?), customer retention is a stronger strategy than customer attraction could ever be.

Yet, it seems that customer care has taken a back seat to profit.  A short-term tactic with long-term consequences.  And yet, effective customer care does not have to be costly.  Not only that, you can expect to see your profits increase as your customers stay longer, buy more and refer more.  And the benefits don’t end there – your employees will be happier.  I am always struck by the check out staff at supermarkets who don’t acknowledge you – how unhappy they look.  I pay extra where the staff are happier – it makes such a difference to the buying experience.

Below are my top ten tips for customer retention.

All customers:

  1. Acknowledge them by name if known, and a warm smile – a genuine smile even comes across over the phone.
  2. Tell them you’ll be with them in a moment if you are busy with someone else.  If it will be more than a moment – let them know in advance.  Set realistic expectations.
  3. Ask yourself how your processes and actions serve customer needs and affects their experience .
  4. Make sure your staff are knowledgeable and find answers to questions if in doubt.  Saying “I don’t know” is just not acceptable.
  5. Under-promise and over-deliver – essential for trust.  Do keep them updated if delays are foreseen.
  6. Hire and train staff who have a strong customer service orientation – be uncompromising about this.  Any apathy or negativity affects profit and morale of other staff members.
  7. Treat your customers how you want to be treated yourself.  You know how it feels when you are respected and when you are treated well.  I am reminded of a friend of mine who recently reported that she closed her bank account as her bank was offering new customers a better interest rate, despite the fact she had been a loyal customer for years.

The biggest risk factor in terms of customers is how you deal with them when there’s a problem.  Here are my top tips to deal with unhappy customers:

  1. Respond positively and empathetically:
    • Thank them – their feedback is a gift and helps you improve your business.
    • Be quick to apologise authentically.
  2. Inform them of what you will do with their feedback – and then make sure you do what you say you will do– it will help build your business in all kinds of positive ways.
  3. Resolve problems quickly and thoroughly.  Be sure to give a little extra to make up for the inconvenience.

Responding well to complaints can not only redeem you in the eyes of the customers but make a complainant into an ambassador for your company, bringing in new business.

Finally, one last thought – do make it easy for people to do business with you – don’t let apathy be your only weapon for customer retention.  Delight them and make raving fans.

To your success!

Tricia Woolfrey

PS  Customer attraction and retention are a very complex area – to book a consultation to find out how you can gain more business through customers new and existing, call 0845 130 0854.

© Tricia Woolfrey 2012

About Tricia Woolfrey

Tricia Woolfrey is a business, performance and productivity coach, helping people to succeed in their business, and for their business to succeed. She has extensive experience with clients across several business sectors, including IT, telecoms, event management, entertainment, recruitment, finance, PR, coaching and therapy, support services, legal and more, ranging from large corporates to start-ups and the solo-preneurs. 

Prior to running her own consultancy, she was Group HR Director for a multi-national organisation and is a member of the Chartered Institute for Professional Development. Her integrative approach to change has had profound results for individuals and organisations alike.

“The results there were nothing short of fantastic”- Guy Apple, VP Marketing & Sales, NVT, UK

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