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Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Those of you that know me know that one of my passions is entrepreneurialism. In fact I spend most of my time working with both new and seasoned entrepreneurs every day. It’s rewarding, fun, and challenging.

Because of this love, it shouldn’t be a surprise to you that I like the site freeenterprise.com, a project of the US Chamber of Commerce. It was started to encourage those who would like to start a business, those that have, and those that wish to support those who are entrepreneurially minded.

While freeenterprise.com posts regularly about small business, what I really like about this site is the video contest they’ve been running encouraging people to tell the world what entrepreneurialism means to them. Once a video is up, the Free Enterprise Community is encouraged to vote on their favorite videos. The contest is almost over and they are down to the top 5. All are great videos. All are very encouraging and/or inspiring. Here are my 3 favorites in order from top to bottom. To view the rest of the vidoes, visit freeenterprise.com’s video page.

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Is it? Is your story alluring? Does it beguile, bewitch, or enthrall? Is it fascinating, engaging, maybe even mesmerizing? No? It can be…it’s all in how you tell it.

I was thinking about the TV show This American Life the other day and remembered an interview of Ira Glass, the host of the show. It was an excellent interview that spoke to the importance of not just telling a story, but telling it well and telling it with a rhythm that holds the audience and makes them want to discover the meaning of the message.

When I thought of this interview it made me think of Bobby Rettew, a good friend and a great videograpther. Every time I’m with Bobby he tells me, “It’s all about the story. You have to ask the question, ‘what’s your story,’ and then tell that story in a way that engages.” It sounds simple enough doesn’t it? It is…it’s just not easy to do.

If you feel the story you use to describe yourself or your business falls short of the adjectives listed in the first paragraph of this post, watch the interview of Ira Glass below. It’s packed with good advice and it’s only 5 minutes long. If you want more, visit Bobby’s Blog, read up and then connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. He has links to these sites on his blog. He’s a smart guy and you’ll find he’s very helpful.

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Your Sales Pipeline


Some call it a funnel and some call it a pipeline. Either way I’m talking about putting potential customers in one end with the hope they will come out the other side as a sale.

Selling is not a perfect business. There is emotion, fear, desire, and need involved. People buy for many different reasons. It would be nice if we could just walk up to a customer, show them our product and they write a check. Does it happen? Sure! Just not very often!

Instead of looking at sales as a one time thing, we need to look at selling as a process. Similar to how a farmer sows seeds into a field, you need to sow an interest in your products into your customers. Not every seed will sprout, just like some of your customers won’t be interested in what you sell. That’s why farmers sow so many seeds, they expect a percentage to fail.

Every time you show your products to a potential customer, they start to travel down your sales pipeline. Some slide right through and buy right away, some won’t even consider going in the pipe and others meander down the pipe as they make their decision.

It often takes time for your customer to get to the end of your pipe. It could take days, it could take weeks. It doesn’t matter! The point is to keep the pipeline full.

So how can you feed the people in your pipeline so they don’t turn and walk out the way they came in? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Thank you cards. When someone shows interest in one of your products, but doesn’t buy, send them a nice thank you card for considering what you’re selling and let them know you will follow up at a later date, or offer a buying incentive. (so much off, free case, something like that)

2. If it’s a trusted customer, offer to leave the product with them to test for a few days. This is called the “Puppy Dog Close”. Once you get it in their hand and they get used to using it, they’ll want to keep it.

3. Be sure to mention the product each time you see the customer. This is not being pushy. This simply gives them another opportunity to buy. Remember! We live in a busy world. We all need reminders from time-to-time.

Since I specialize in training sharpeners, while on the road, I take some time and ride with a few of my students when I can. Almost all the shear sales I see them make are not impulse buys, but the result of sowing interest in the shear over time.

How do you keep guiding customers into your pipeline? Well for starters, be sure your customers know you sell shears and/or other products. Then be sure you have some to show! You can’t sell from an empty wagon and people like to touch and feel before they buy. Give them something to touch and feel!

One thing is certain, your customers will buy what you’re selling from somebody. If you take the time to show them what you have, and remind them of it, they will eventually buy from you!

Image: saleslogistix.com/services/Pipeline – SalesLogistix is a consultancy focused on implementing the most complete and usable SFA / CRM systems. They provide advisory and services for any SFA system, implement / extend Salesforce.com, develop custom Salesforce applications, and sell add-on products for Salesforce.com users.

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It never ceases to amaze me how foolish people can be. I’ve been involved in a group in my home town called The Business Fellowship for some time now and we had a really great speaker scheduled for this last meeting, so I decided to invite a few friends; three in fact. One immediately said yes, one couldn’t make it because he had to go out of town, but one responded to my e-mail with this reply:

“I’ll pass. I already have more work than I can or want to do.”

I spent the rest of my day shaking my head over that one! Now understand, this fellow is a contract employee in a very stable industry and really does have all the work he could want or need. But my question is, what is he doing to build his professional network in case he ever finds himself looking for another company to work with? Networking is not always about finding more work. There are many reasons to network. Let’s look at some of the reasons Jeff Taylor talks about in his book, Monster Careers: Networking.

Networking Separates You from the Pack
If you had two applications in front of you and both were from people that are new to the work force, but equally qualified; which would you look at more closely? An applicant that is well networked (student counsel, volunteer, school newspaper, toastmasters) or one that isn’t?

Networking Catches You When You Fall
If you are laid-off or your company goes under, wouldn’t it be nice to have a solid group of contacts that can help you land that next job? If you’re self-employed, this same group can lead you to your next client.

Networking Opens Up New Possibilities
Sometimes you’ll run across clients you never thought to call on, or a career you never thought to pursue.

Networking Makes You More Valuable to Your Company
Power people network! How many potential colleagues could you meet while networking? Lots!

Many people think networking is just for entrepreneurs or salesmen, but the reality is everyone should be networking. Don’t be like my friend who was so fast to say no. Consider all opportunities to meet people and build relationships. This group may not have been a good fit for him, but he’ll never know. Here’s hoping all that business never dries up! ­čÖé

Reference: Monster Careers: Networking, Chapter 1, Pages 5 – 6

Image: successfromthenest.com

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Brand Tags


Seth Godin mentioned Brand Tags in his blog a while back. I thought it would fit nicely with what I wrote about Joe Dannelly’s Two Columns branding exercise. Hop over to Seth’s blog and read his post, then give Brand Tags a try.

To view what others say about the different brands, click the link on the top of the page that reads, see what other people have tagged it. This exercise will help you see how you, and others, view some of the most popular brands on the market; which will help you brand yourself better.

Image: mleak

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Brains on Fire®

I attended an Upstate Entrepreneurs and Small Business Owners meeting a few months ago. Joe Dannelly was the speaker. Joe works with one of the most progressive Idenity and Branding Companies I know, Brains on Fire┬«. Hearing Joe speak was a real treat for me because while I’d love to be able to hire Brains on Fire┬« to help me brand Wolff, with a starting price of $85,000.00, they are a little out of reach for my budget! Just the same, even though Brains on Fire┬« caters to high ranking companies, both nationally and internationally, they showed concern for local small business as well when they agreed to speak to this group.

Fisk-A-Teers

During Joe’s presentation, he talked about the work Brains on Fire┬« did with Fiskars┬« Shears. They helped Fiskars┬« develop a Community Website for Scrapbookers called Fisk-A-Teers. It’s a brilliant marriage between a hobby and a supplier that does two things as far as I see it:

1. It’s an excellent way to promote the Fiskars┬« brand.
2. It provides a powerful medium for Scrapbookers to learn, swap ideas, show off their crafts and build friendships. These things lead to loyal customers!

Two Columns

One more thing I wanted to share with you from Joe’s presentation was an exercise he had all of us perform. Each of us had to take a sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle of it. In the left hand column, we wrote down 3 or 4 of our favorite brands. In the right column, we wrote what we loved about those brands and what draws us to them. After a time of sharing, Joe told us to fold the paper in half and ask ourselves, “Does this list of things I love about these companies describe my company?” It was a great exercise!

I could go on and on about Joe and Brains on Fire┬«, but the best thing I can do is point you to their blog. It’s an excellent source for anyone in business!

Image: cssa_ucsd

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Close a Sale Like a Kid

My youngest son Aidan (5) has been on an Indiana Jones kick as of late. In fact, it’s pretty much all he talks about. He’s seen one of the movies (under heavy supervision by mom and dad), he plays the Lego online Indiana Jones game and he’s even put together his own version of an Indiana Jones Outfit.

His latest acquisition is a little Lego Indiana Jones figure. Charles, my oldest son Ian’s (11) friend, let him “borrow” it. Aidan was elated! But it wasn’t long before the time to return the figure started to draw near, so Aidan started coming up with a plan to talk Charles into letting him keep the figure longer.

He started reasoning with his brother that Charles had plenty of these figures and should let Aidan “take care” of this one a little longer. Ian wouldn’t bite.

Aidan then moved on to his sister Mia (8). He figured she might be able to work her feminine wiles on Charles and get her to convince him to let Aidan keep Indy. Mia was repulsed!

Well the day to return Indy finally came. Aidan realized he wouldn’t be able to elicit any help from him siblings, so he hitched up his britches, walked up to Charles and asked a simple question, “Charles, may I keep Indiana Jones a little longer?” Do you know what Charles said? “Sure Aidan, you can keep him a while longer.” I’m willing to bet Aidan will ask for another extension and that eventually, Lego Indy will be a permanent part of the O’Donnell household. We shall see.

So what is the point of all of this? Aidan asked. It would have been easier for him to just assume Charles would say no, return Indy to him and go home, but he asked. Did you know more sales are lost because salespeople don’t ask for the sale than any other reason? When you have an opportunity to sell something to one of your customers, don’t just hand it to them and hope they will buy. Ask for the sale! The worst they can do is say no. What do you do when they say no? Well that’s a topic for another post.

Lego Indy Image: gazraa

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