Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Death of a Salesman

Death of a Salesman is a 1949 play by Arthur Miller and is considered a classic of American theater. Viewed by many as a caustic attack on the American Dream of achieving wealth and success without regard for principle, Death of a Salesman made both Arthur Miller and the character Willy Loman household names. The play is a characterization of a tragedy of the downfall of a great man, whether through a flaw in his character or a mistake he has squandered, depending on your viewpoint.
It was greeted with enthusiastic reviews, received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1949, the 1949 Tony Award for Best Play, as well as the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Play. Death of a Salesman was the first play to win these three major awards, helping to establish Miller as an internationally known playwright.
Do you remember how the story begins? Willy Loman returns to his home in Brooklyn one night, exhausted from a failed sales trip. His wife, Linda, tries to persuade him to ask his boss, Howard Wagner, to let him work in New York so that he won’t have to travel. Willy says that he will talk to Howard the next day. Willy complains that Biff, his older son who has come back home to visit, has yet to make something of himself. Linda scolds Willy for being so critical. As the story unfolds it is one failure and one disappointment after another. It’s a downward spiral for poor Willy and if you recall it doesn’t have the happiest of endings.

Are there days in your Business when you wonder if you will ever make another sale? Do you sometimes feel that the selling process is a mystery with no rhyme or reason to the process? Are you and your sales team well liked and good at building relationships with your prospects? As we have come to learn, the sales process doesn’t have to be hard and the results can be predicted when you have a system. Imagine, if Willy Loman had a coach, someone that held him accountable for his actions, there could have been a much happier ending.

With that thought in mind I'd like to give you our "Top Ten" checklist where you can determine and rate the overall health of your sales effectiveness and performance. Rate each of the following questions on a scale of 1-10. 10's are good and 1's, not so much!

1. We use scripts in all of our initial contacts with customers (phone, face to face, walk in, internet, etc.) Score____
2. We measure all of the variables of our sales process, including such things as the average number of appointments before the sale, the conversion rate (prospect to client), sales cycle etc. Score____
3. We have a proven, defined and written sales system. Score ____
4. We provide our sales team with effective tools to help them to convert prospects more effectively (demonstrations, samples, etc.) Score____
5. Our sales staff has regular, formal training on both product knowledge and sales skills. Score____
6. We use the most current technology to track the sales team’s activity, such as appointments, prospect lists, etc. Score___
7. We motivate our sales team effectively using time tested motivational techniques. Score____
8. We follow up with prospects that didn’t buy from us to find out why. Score____
9. We have regular sales meetings. Score____
10. Our sales team has a terrific relationship with all of the other departments. Score____

So how did you do? If you scored 80-100 points, you could be seriously considered as the new lead in the play called “The Life of a Salesman”. 60-79 points, you are in the running for the part. 40-59 points, you need to spend a little more time on your scripts and refining your style. Less than 40 points, it's time to turn off the TV, take some classes in the evening and get up early to start writing the scripts for the parts of your sales system. More importantly, it might be time to hire a coach to help you through the inevitable ups & downs you will experience! The decision is yours, is it time to create or refine your sales process and live the life of abundance you deserve? Will you continue to explain and blame others for your poor results? It’s time to tell the world you mean Business! Start a plan today to Put some “life into your salesman” and give yourself the chance to score 100 points. Maybe, just maybe someone will even write a story or a play about you. A Pulitzer Prize? Who knows! Imagine that!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Lost Art of the Personal Touch

When was the last time someone sent you a card to say, “thanks”, I really appreciate you or I want to thank you for a job well done. Maybe someone was thinking of you and just wanted to say they miss you and sent you a note to tell you that. Perhaps a family member that lives across the country wanted to say they were thinking of you and look forward to their next visit. There are countless examples of cards or letters you could receive for a variety of reasons aren’t there? Conversely there are numerous reasons you could send a card or letter to brighten someone else’s day. So how come you don’t anymore? I think we are generally a well intentioned society, it simply seems that we are overloaded and overwhelmed with so much to do that this little gesture has been pushed aside.

Oh, there are those cute e-mail cards you can send that open and do some very cool things. Especially at Christmas, there is a variety of talking animal’s, playful children, snowmen, angels and well, you know the ones. Somehow it isn’t quite the same as when someone takes the time to send a very personal note to you, specific to your relationship to let you know they care. Those e-mails are usually deleted soon after, whereas a card has a way of ending up on your bulletin board and kept for a longer period of time. It seems a little more authentic and personal doesn’t it?

The interesting thing about all the technology we have today is that the human element has almost been removed from the way we interact and do Business with people. A few years ago when the internet started to become popular, there were many companies that announced this was the way they were going to do Business, totally automated, totally electronic and very efficient. What many have learned is that loyalty and relationships aren’t built in an environment devoid of human interaction.

The pendulum has swung back again to actions that are referred to as, online and offline marketing strategies. Let’s face it, people want to do Business with people that they know, like and trust. The more you can create an environment of caring and appreciation of your clients, the more stable and secure your Business will become. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for using every bit of technology we now have at our fingertips to grow our Business as I’m sure you are. After all, today we can reach a larger and better targeted audience who is actually looking specifically for our products or services online. There is a much different dynamic in the sales process when a client comes to you ready to buy because they like what they have seen and read about you and your Business on the internet. The difference lies in whose decision it is to buy. When you try to sell something to someone, it’s your decision being forced on them. When someone wants to buy something, it’s their decision!

The savvy companies that are marketing online today are finding a way to obtain your mailing address in addition to your e-mail as a way to keep in touch and let you know how much they value your Business. On the flip side of the online coin there are also companies that have not embraced any form of internet or database management strategies. I recently had an experience with a local Business that didn’t keep track of their customer list or what they purchased and wasn’t planning to implement anything in the near future either, hmmm!

The whole point of my discussion today, which I hope comes through, is that whatever you do online or offline, it needs to be related to building a relationship with your client of trust, appreciation and caring. Hey, maybe give them a call or send them a card or something out of the ordinary. Surprise them with a personal touch and that alone will have them think of you over everyone else you might perceive as your competition. One simple rule you must understand about all good sales and marketing is that it begins with putting other people first. Dale Carnegie said, “When dealing with people, remember, you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion”. Reach out and touch someone and find a balance between online and offline strategies and I believe the lifetime value of your clients will increase dramatically.

Entrepreneurs: How do You Empower Your Employees?

“The vision is really about empowering workers, giving them all the information about what’s going on so they can do a lot more than they’ve done in the past.”

Bill Gates, Co-Founder of Microsoft


A Business owner is often lamenting about how much time they spend working in their business and wondering how they can find more time for their family and friends or just to take a vacation away from the day-to-day worries. Have you ever thought about empowering your employees so you don’t have to be the “answer man” in your organization?

What’s empowering? Webster’s New World Dictionary defines empower as “1. to give power or authority to; authorize 2. to give ability to; enable; permit.” So why is empowering your employees important? Timothy Ferriss, author of “The 4 – Hour Workweek” said it best in his book; “If you are a micromanaging entrepreneur, realize that even if you can do something better than the rest of the world, it doesn’t mean that’s what you should be doing if it’s part of the minutiae.” Business owners who are interested in growing their business can become stagnated and growth plateaus, not to mention the 50 to 70 hours each week they are working to keep the business viable when they are the focal for solving any issues that may arise during a business day. By enabling, permitting or authorizing employees to solve problems that are normally solved by the business owner you free yourself to work on the business and not in it.

How do you empower your employees to act in your best interests? Here are several ways to ensure employees understand your philosophy of how to run your business, maintain the spirit of the company mission and ensure financial viability.

■ Share your vision and mission with your employees

■ Maintain an employee handbook (aka Policies and Procedures Manual)

■ Improve your communication skills

■ Learn motivational factors

■ Acknowledge people’s intelligence

■ Catch people doing things right

■ Be honest with everyone

■ Establish conflict resolution procedures

■ Educate on responsibilities and accountability

Creating a vision and mission enables your employees to understand your aspirations for future business and expectations for serving the marketplace today. Maintaining an employees’ handbook provides clear guidance for what is expected of them in support of the vision and mission while conducting day-to-day business and dealing with various circumstances.

Communication is probably the single biggest problem business owners have in empowering their employees and acquiring more time for themselves. Quality communication is critical in any organization, but it is crucial to an entrepreneur’s business success. If you can’t tell the story to your employees, vendors and customers of why your business should be successful, you will fail to take them on the journey toward that success you envisioned when you started your business. Learn to communicate well, in various medium, to gain the confidence of your employees and to convince them of their contribution to the success of the business.

Learn what motivates your employees to achieve the vision and goals you’ve established for your organization and then use it to inspire your workers to great things. It’s amazing how someone’s IQ seems to double as soon as you give them responsibility and indicate you trust them. If you believe they can achieve great things and communicate it to them, you will develop incredibly motivated employees. Part of motivation is to catch people doing things right and acknowledging it. Acknowledging success breeds more success.

Another critical element of empowering people is being honest with them. If you don’t feel you can tell them the naked truth you will lose their respect and devotion. Some business owners believe by not being honest about bad business news they are sparing their employees from anxiety and stress when all they develop is mistrust and fear of the unknown. Always be honest in your business dealings and truthful with everyone and your employees will stand by you like no other group can.

When you enable or authorize employees to conduct business on your behalf it is often prudent to establish conflict resolution procedures so employees can have consistent guidance in resolving customer, vendor and employee disagreements. Never assume that what you know is right for correcting disagreements is what everyone within your organization knows is right. Take the attitude that if it isn’t written down, it doesn’t exist as a policy. It will save you a great deal of discomfort when trying to resolve customer service issues.

Finally educating on responsibilities and accountability will help an employee to know the boundaries within which they are allowed to work for the benefit of your business. Timothy Ferris demonstrated empowerment when he wrote to his outside vendor customer service representatives in an e-mail after he realized he was becoming overwhelmed with requests for decisions on how to satisfy customer concerns or requirements as his business grew.

“Hi All,

I would like to establish a new policy for my account that overrides all others.

Keep the customer happy. If it is a problem that takes less than $100 to fix, use your judgment and fix it yourself.

This is official written permission and a request to fix all problems that cost under $100 without contacting me. I am no longer your customer; my customers are your customers. Don’t ask me for permission. Do what you think is right, and we’ll make adjustments as we go along.

Thank You

Tim”

After the e-mail was sent, his e-mails requesting decisions went from 200 each day to 20 each week and customer returns reduced to 3% when the industry average is between 10 – 15%.

If that is not the epitome of empowering the people that work for you, I don’t know what is.