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A-Z of Business: X- X-Ray Vision – Know your Business Inside Out

Business performance

Your business results don’t reflect the effort you put in. Sound familiar?

If so, you are not alone.  Indeed, some of my clients have been working so hard that they are nearing burnout.  This is often because they are focusing on the wrong thing, which they believe to be the right thing.  This is why having a forensic view of your company – x-ray vision – helps you to focus on those factors which make the biggest difference to your success.  Working smart, not working hard is the difference which makes the difference.  Productivity, not activity.

For example, if you are spending a lot of time bringing in new business but haemorrhaging customers out the back door, your efforts will be as effective as attempting to fix a burst pipe with a sticking plaster.

Or perhaps you are spending your time bringing in new business that you don’t have the infrastructure to support?  Like building a house without it’s foundations.

Maybe your customer service is poor and you are busy sending out feedback forms when really the problem is that your hiring processes and training do not enforce your company value of customer satisfaction?

Or is your business booming but your customer’s aren’t paying their invoices?  This is where success leads to ruin.

So, x-ray vision on the essentials helps you work strategically – making the right decisions about how you spend your time and your money and what will be the best strategy to take your business forward.  The first step is to get yourself some key performance indicators.  These help you to measure your performance against target on areas you consider to be important, for example:

  • Turnover
  • Profit
  • Product revenues
  • Sales growth
  • Cost of sales
  • Costs
  • Performance against budget
  • Sales conversion ratio
  • New sales by marketing method
  • ROI (see individual blog about this)
  • Revenue by customer
  • Employee satisfaction
  • Employee performance
  • Revenue by employee
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Customer complaints
  • Customer complaints resolved
  • There are also various KPIs for:
    • Social media
    • Site engine optimisation
    • Call centre performance

Lies and statistics

A lot of clients view a nice big turnover as proof of their success and they just work very hard at increasing that number.  However, a forensic examination of the statistics will let them know whether there is also a healthy profit because if the ratio of profit to turnover is low, you are working hard for little reward.  It will help you look at what is creating the biggest profit and whether you need to make a loss on something to bring in profit on something else.  This is both an art and a science.  Also, if you are producing lots of nice big invoices but not getting paid because your credit control is not effective, that turnover is meaningless.

Here are my 5 steps to help you take control of your business with x-ray vision:

  1. Consider what KPIs you want in your business (the above are just a few examples)
  2. Regularly review performance against these
  3. Look at the relationship between them
  4. Decide what is causing the positive results and do more of those
  5. Determine what is causing negative results and take remedial action.  Make sure there will not be negative consequences elsewhere.

Remember that an x-ray shows you what is wrong structurally, it is up to you to find out the cause and to take appropriate action.

If you need help with any of this – it is hard doing it for yourself – do give me a call on 0845 130 0854.  I look forward to hearing from you!

© Tricia Woolfrey 2013

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

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A-Z of Business: U – USP – Why You Need One

Unique Selling Point

Do you really need a Unique Selling Point?  What happens if you don’t have one?  Well, unless you are in an industry with no competitors then your USP is what will set you apart.  It will give your prospects a reason to go with you instead of someone else.

In a struggling economy, you need all the competitive advantage you can get.  And if you are looking for a job, you need that competitive edge too. 

So, why should someone buy your product?  It is no longer enough to say “we are the best”, you need to say how.  And it needs to be based on reality rather than an aspiration that you are working towards. 

There was a wonderful sign displayed which went like this:

“We offer three kinds of service – Good, Cheap or Fast.  You can pick any two.  Good and cheap won’t be fast.  Good and fast won’t be cheap.  Cheap and fast won’t be good.  ”

At the gym yesterday, my personal trainer said the best advice he was given is to always think of yourself as number two so that you would still strive to do better.  This reminded me of the Avis USP which is “We are number two – we try harder.”  What a great USP which succeeds in turning a negative into a massive positive.

Apple’s USP is to think differently – they are the company best known for their innovation, having broken many technological boundaries.  They can be relied upon to be innovative, fun and customer-focused.

If you are finding it difficult to identify your USP, go back to testimonials you have been given by your customers.  It is easy to forget these but hopefully you have kept a log of them.  Also, consider what your competitors are doing and what they are promising.  How are you different to them?  What are the problems you are solving for your customers?

Let’s take an example.  For an IT support company, their customers may suffer from not being terribly IT literate, having to wait a long time before an engineer can fix their problem, or their technology is stopping them from getting on with their work

Let’s look at the customers’problem, potential USPs and their corresponding straplines:

  1. Waiting a long time for an engineer
    • USP – getting their IT problems solved quickly
    • Strapline – Your IT Support within 24 hours or quicker
  2. Not very IT literate
    • USP – use jargon free communication so that the problem is easier to understand
    • Strapline – Taking the Jargon out of IT Support
  3. Technology stopping them from working
    • USP – getting you up and running quickly
    • Strapline –Helping you to work when your computer doesn’t
  4. Frustrated that every problem seems to mean a new computer
    • USP – providing the simplest, most cost effective solutions
    • Strapline – Simple Solutions to Complicated Problems

Whatever your USP, do make sure that you live and breathe it.  You don’t want your USP to be “tried and failed” – it should enhance your reputation, not undermine it. 

© 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: 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: N – Negotiating With Integrity

Negotiation

Being able to negotiate with integrity is vital to profitability and also for relationships. Effective negotiation is less about winning as it is about creatively finding a way in which both parties get what they need.  Sometimes this will involve compromise, where each party makes concessions to the other.  Sometimes it will involve backing down in the interest of maintaining a positive ongoing relationship – short-term pain for long-term gain.

There is an art to knowing when to concede, when to power- through at all costs, when to collaborate and when to compromise, or even withdraw altogether.  Here are my top tips for negotiating with integrity:

  1. Be clear about what you want and the minimum you will accept but don’t talk about your minimum too early as it will weaken your position.
  2. Create a resourceful state prior to the negotiation.  Useful states are powerful, calm, creative, respectful and influential.
  3. Listen more than you talk so that you can ascertain what’s important to them and where you might be able to seek leverage.
  4. Always find points of agreement first.  This creates a “yes-set” which makes it easier for the other person to continue agreeing with you.
  5. Show the value in what you are offering so that the negotiation is not just about price.
  6. Use positive language such as “My price is…”.  Too many people use softer language such as “I’m looking for…” which is subtext for “I am expecting less so push me as much as you want – I will give in really quickly”.
  7. Use silence positively.  Once you have stated your price (or your condition, wants, needs), be silent.  Over-explaining weakens your position.
  8. Be clear about the specific need of the other party, sometimes we negotiate on the wrong thing.  They might be concerned about cash flow or speedy delivery over price for example.
  9. Price is just one area for negotiation but also consider discounts for volume, including training in the price, payment terms, contract periods, etc.  This adds value to the negotiation so that price becomes less of a block.
  10. Use “If you …I will” when talking about concessions.  Much stronger than “If I … will you” which tells them that you are ready to concede first, thereby reducing your negotiating power.

Negotiating is a powerful tool which can be very effective when used correctly.  However, applied clumsily, it can damage relationships and profits.  If you would like help, why not book some coaching by calling 0845 130 0854.

In the meantime, you might want to check out our Influencing Skills Course on 19th September, which also has some powerful techniques to help you.

© Tricia Woolfrey 2013

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

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