Create a sound business strategy

Strategy is an overused term these days and the foresight in most cases is limited. When confronted with revenue growth, most companies focus on expansion into new geographic markets. Heard the age old saying numbers don’t lie ? A look into the financial model would reveal the the impact of such decisions and the growth metrics that the company would gain rather than just relying on instincts.

One mistake most business CEOs and startups in particular make is to utilize off-the-shelf strategic templates in a bid to realize quick results as they are usually time starved and stressed. But the results are usually disappointing as the outcomes are short-sighted and usually tactical rather than strategic in nature.

Below is a step by step method of developing a business strategy.

Developing a business strategy in 10 steps

1. Define and embody your true north

This is termed a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) or your grand vision or purpose. Term it however you like, but it is what your business is set out to do and the reason why it exists. The true north should consider what success means to the company, its customers and the environment that includes market and economy. w Vision is an abstract word that means different things to different people.

2. Define your USP

Your strategy has to take into account your customer and how you deliver value to your customer that is unique from other competitors in the marketplace. You don’t want to swimming in a red ocean. Your strategy should look into how you can differentiate yourself either in terms of service quality, delivery models, pricing, product innovation etc.

3. Be specific about your target audience

Without understanding your customer and defining the right target audience, the chances are you are going to shoot in the dark or spread yourself too thin to see any tangible results. This results in poor sales, inefficient marketing and overall business failure. Defining the audience and focus area helps channel your resources and energies on delivering true value. By defining your revenue operations and integrating sales and marketing, you increase your chances of success.

4. Monitor for growth

If you aren’t growing and your growth trend is a flat line or worse, declining; you have to be really worried. Growth is essential to be able to invest into people, processes and technology. Growth can be defined in terms of revenue, technology innovation, R&D etc. The area you want to focus on is dependent on the nature of your business and which area delivers the goals you’ve set for the company. Be defining the areas of focus, it gives the business the clarity in terms of budgets it needs to allocate for various resources.

5. Data ! Data ! Data – Use them for decisions

Do you use your gut alone to make decisions or couple it with data? And is that data credible and useful ? Your strategy is as good as the data you use to make decisions. Tracking data and knowing what data is important to monitor is critical to helping business CEOs understand their business better and steer it in the right direction.

Business CEOs need to look into data about every function of their business and derive meaningful information rather than be perplexed by the swarm of data. Business dashboards and visualization tools can help you take informed decisions.

6. Don’t underestimate your results for the long term

We usually make the mistake of over estimating the results that can be achieved in the short term and under estimating what we can achieve in the long term. Businesses tend to make short term plans as the current markets are very dynamic. Consider the risks involved from political, economical, social, technological, legal and health perspectives and plan in mitigation into your strategies. Great companies treat strategies as an annual exercise making it long term yet giving them the ability to evaluate and tweak it periodically.

7. Pick your strategy team and invest time

If you want your managers to take strategy seriously, make them do their own research and prepare relevant information in advance of your strategy meetings.

8. Evaluate the performance periodically

A strategy is only good if it is executed well. It’s recommended that the strategic plan be reviewed and tracked monthly or quarterly. As the strategy covers various functions of the organization, key executives in charge of departments need to take ownership to execute the plan.

A great way to track the progress is using KPIs that help track the current progress and forecast the track to achieving the goals using leading metrics. Ensure that the goals reach all departments and that every person in your organization can relate to it and be clear how they contribute to achieving it.

It’s easy to set and forget unless you put it onto a calendar. This way you can keep track of the progress periodically and promote effective and more productive meetings. Strategy may start at the top as its a senior executive responsibility but needs to encompass the entire organization and keep the team set on the overarching goal.

4 Things which helps in ‘Decision Making’

Idea, Information and Experience

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Life of a entrepreneur never happens to be either flat or at 90 degree growth. Among all the things which matters, ability of ‘decision making’ matters the most, because this is what makes an entrepreneur. Even if somebody is not an entrepreneur, he is known by the decision he makes and not by plans he is having. ‘Decision making’ is nor a process, neither it has any rule book; it is the result of state of mind, which helps us to win over our fears without losing the sight at risk, reflect promptly and act more promptly. During the course of my professional and entrepreneurial journey, I have gathered few point which helps in improve decision making ability.

1)      ‘Invisible’ is ghost and it is meant to scare you only: We often get scared by some invisible fear, which has been bequeathed on us by our social structure and…

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Limitations Do Not Apply in Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurial Ambitions

DefyLimitations
Are you a person who lets perceived limitations dictate what you can and cannot do? If so then entrepreneurship is definitely not the right option for you. Why else do you think entrepreneurs are described as risk takers and innovators? It is because they are a group of individuals who do not view a challenge as limiting but rather as an opportunity to grow and excel. Were average people pause and contemplate, entrepreneurs look and pursue. So what limits you from truly becoming an entrepreneur?

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The innovation & presentation secrets of Steve Jobs

Carmine Gallo, in his talk demonstrates how extraordinary leaders such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and others communicate the vision and the value behind their service, product, or brand. Gallo addressed the Stanford GSB as part of the Mastery in Communication Initiative’s Expert Speaker Series.

As the author of both the Innovation and Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, Gallo might even rival Walter Isaacson for his insights into the Apple icon. But while Isaacson is an expert on the narrative of Jobs’ life, Gallo’s special knowledge lies in his understanding of Jobs’ creative abilities. As he told me, Steve Jobs’ most important strength lay in his ability to transform products into dreams. And this can’t be faked, Gallo argues. To sell desire requires passion; and to turn products into dreams requires us to pursue our own dreams.

Social Media Intelligence: Monitoring vs. Measurement


Are we all ready to talk about the Elephant in the room now? Hell Yeah !

We all know how important word of mouth is, and social networking is like word of mouth on steroids. As a business, it’s vital to tap into and join online conversations not only about your brand, but also those about your competitors, your industry and your areas of expertise.

2011 seems like a year of awakening for companies with increase in social media spending. It’s becoming ever important to track the performance of key marketing initiatives. Depending on the social media platform and specific activity being tracked, you might have the option to take one or two approaches: monitor or measure. Nope, those 2 words aren’t the same! Let’s take a look at how they are different when it comes to tracking social media efforts.

Let’s look at difference between monitoring (listening) and measuring (tagging) social media initiatives, by taking a simple analogy based on listening to music.

Monitoring is like tuning into a radio station on your car stereo.

You could choose your favorite type of radio station (i.e., pop, jazz, country, etc.), but you’re still at the mercy of the radio station to actually play the music you want to hear.

Measuring is like creating a custom playlist from your personal music collection for an MP3 player. Every song is a favorite because it’s from your music library, and the playlist fits the particular activity or mood you’re in.

Keys of Social Media Optimization

In terms of tracking and optimizing social media initiatives, there are three keys: monitoring, measurement, and management. All three of these areas are different but complementary. Organizations may only have one option such as monitoring and in other cases all three options come together to complement each other.

MONITORING Social Media (Listen)

Most social media tracking is currently done with monitoring solutions, which leverage the APIs of each platform (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.) to pull predefined metrics and dimensions into web analytics reporting. In most cases, any data at all is fantastic ! Kind of like picking up a clear frequency in the middle of nowhere. Data such as demographics are invaluable to organizations.Various tools such as Radian6ThoughtBuzz, Buzzmetrics, Sysomos help companies with regards to Social Media monitoring. A careful study of the organization’s needs in alignment with it’s business and social media strategy has to be done to make the right choice. ThoughtBuzz does a fantastic job in gauging demographics with a proprietary algorithm.

Some limitations of monitoring/listening approach are that companies can’t tie any of the social data to actual visitors on their other web properties, and they also can’t obtain any additional custom metrics beyond what’s already provided by the social media platforms. It’s a “take it or leave it” scenario. Because we can’t actually tag a Facebook fan page or Twitter profile page, most companies just leverage the data that these social networks provide. While we can’t tie monitoring data directly to website activity, we can use predictive modeling to understand the correlation between various types of social activity and the website’s KPIs.

Post globalization, business have started becoming more regionalized and localised targeting the niche market segment. It is ever more crucial for companies to gather social media insights on a local level. This is one critical area where most social media monitoring tools fail miserably. Accuracy in terms of providing regional content is critical. The trouble is most content is US centric. ThoughtBuzz, a SM Intelligence solution solves this problem by providing country specific indexes. It’s by far one of the best value for money solutions that gives a comprehensive coverage and detailed insights.

MEASURING Social Media (Analyze)

There are 2 kinds of analytics – social media analytics and web analytics.

SM analytics provides insights such as tonality, discussion themes, influencers, source analysis etc. The accuracy, relevancy and comprehensiveness depends solely on the effectiveness of the Social Media Monitoring solution.

Even if you haven’t launched an outbound social media strategy, you have to keep a pulse on what people are saying — good or bad — about your company, competitors and major trends. And, by representing your company in a positive, authentic way, you can build credibility for your expertise and business and link to customers and prospects quickly.

SM analytics can help you better understand prospective and current customer needs, increase visibility and generate leads. But it takes a lot of time and energy to stay on top of all of this in a manual, piecemeal fashion.

Web Analytics related to social media activities can actually be measured in some cases, meaning that companies can tag them just like they would any normal website, application, or campaign. In essence, companies can instrument or tag certain social media activities in any manner they like – choosing the level of reporting, dimensions, and metrics they need rather than having them prescribed to them by the various social media platforms.

For example, a marketing team might want to know how visitors are specifically interacting with a particular social application on their Facebook fan page. Armed with pathing and conversion funnel reports, they can better understand the user experience and fix potential fall-out points in the application. In addition, another advantage of the measurement approach is that the social media initiatives can be viewed in the context of a company’s larger online presence (i.e., treating social media initiatives as an extension of your company’s online world), and organizations can gain deeper insights into cross-domain pathing behaviors and conversion.

Currently, there are four main social media activities/areas that can be measured, not just monitored, across the leading social media platforms:

  1. Social media campaigns: Any URL or shortened URL (bit.ly) can have a tracking code appended to it so that traditional campaign tracking can occur.
  2. Facebook apps: Unlike Facebook fan pages (monitoring only), the applications and custom tabs can actually be measured and optimized.
  3. YouTube branded channels: In some cases, companies are given control over a widget area at the top of their brand channel, which can be customized to include a custom player, other content, and SiteCatalyst tags.
  4. Facebook Connect/social plugins: Any embedded Facebook features on an external website can be measured in SiteCatalyst to understand their effectiveness and overall impact.

Although the measurement options are fairly limited right now, social networks are constantly evolving and will allow more tagging opportunities in the future. It has been challenging for small and large organizations to keep pace with all of the changes happening in the social media space – let alone understand how their social media initiatives are performing. Fortunately, ThoughtBuzz has strong relationships with the leading social networks and partners which can help companies to more effectively optimize their social media investments.

MANAGING Social Media (Engage)

As the volume of social media venues and conversations rises, it quickly becomes a time- and labor-intense process to effectively track, converse, monitor and manage them.

Social media management solutions help manage outbound and incoming online interactions — along with other small business marketing activities — in a more efficient manner. They streamline and consolidate how you listen to and participate in relevant conversations on various platforms they’re taking place — blogs, social networks like Twitter or Facebook, and other public and private Web communities and sites.

Social media management tools can also help you to integrate social networking activities with your other marketing programs. These can include other online activities, such as Web sites, search engine marketing campaigns, contact management systems, and email marketing, as well as offline marketing, such as events or white papers.They also help you to more easily monitor what people are saying about your business, and by automating the process of delivering your outgoing messages through multiple social media outlets simultaneously, help you to amplify your social media presence across several social networking sites.

You can also help mitigate damage should negative conversations about your company emerge by quickly responding to complaints. Social media can also steer people to your other marketing programs, where it’s easier to individually track and manage individual customer and prospect interactions.

Some social media engagment/ management activities include:

  • Creating content on multiple places, such as a blog, Twitter, a Facebook page, etc.; monitor and scan the views, decide what comments to approve, and respond to replies on these sites
  • Scanning Twitter followers for conversations you may want to join, or checking your RSS reader subscriptions for relevant articles and new ideas
  • Checking the Social Media Monitoring dashboard to see when andwhere your business is mentioned on the Web
  • Creating and monitoring a community and topics on a site such as Facebook or LinkedIn

Let’s face it, social media isn’t a one way traffic and neither is it a simple task. It’s a lot to handle and it’s difficult to measure short-term payback on social media efforts. While taking care of brand advocates, preferences and awareness, you simply cannot ignore other marketing activities such as SEO, email marketing, contact and sales management etc.

ThoughtBuzz helps organizations achieve communication lines with an organization’s fans and users interacting or conversing online through its engagement console and action center. Other tools and dashboards can be used to complement the toolkit. Check out Mashable for the 5 superior social media management tools to complement the toolkit.

What Responsible Business Leaders Should Do

Perhaps the slowdown already has made an impact on your company. Or maybe you can see it coming but aren’t sure exactly when and how it will hit. In either case, the most important thing is to keep your wits about you and not succumb to five common mistakes companies often make when times get tough.

1. Be smart and thrifty, but don’t panic. This, too, shall pass.
Economies go through cycles of expansion and contraction. It’s what we all learned in college economics courses (back then, of course, we weren’t really paying attention). The trouble is, while academics can pontificate on the cyclical economy, real business people have to live through difficult economic events. We love the expansionary times, but the contractions can be painful. If you’re smart, you’ve managed your balance sheet well and can ride out a period of slow or no growth. If not, you may have to make some cuts. Just be careful to trim fat and avoid cutting muscle as much as possible.

2. Marketing is muscle, not fat. Be careful about cutting it.
Just as the savviest investors view down markets as a time to buy when everybody else is selling, the savviest marketers know recessions are a great time to pick up market share. They understand that by maintaining their budgets (or even increasing them) they may not come out ahead during the down times, but they can pick up market share that will pay off in the long run. Marketing dollars in a recession are like oxygen on Mt. Everest—the less there is in the surrounding environment, the more valuable the amount you possess becomes. Cutting your marketing spending is a sure way to give ground to competitors who may be more aggressive during the downturn.

3. Don’t lose focus by chasing business you wouldn’t normally want.
When clients and customers get nervous about the economy, they cut back their spending. For you that could mean fewer transactions, smaller purchases, or possibly both. But if you try to broaden your core product or service appeal to please a wider audience, chances are you’ll make your best customers even less satisfied, giving them one more reason to stay home or spend less. There’s a reason you don’t pursue certain types of customers when times are good, and that reason probably hasn’t changed. Do your best to stick to your knitting and enhance the value you provide to your best customers. They may decide to make their cutbacks in areas other than yours.

4. Don’t discount.
It’s easy to rationalize discounting during a downturn, for your company’s sake (“it helps to drive business”) as well as for the sake of your customers (“they’re struggling and need the help”). But whether times are good or bad, discounting your price discounts your product (BusinessWeek.com, 4/14/08) in the eyes of your customers. There was a time in the 1990s when McDonald’s (MCD) and Burger King (BKC) put their Big Macs and Whoppers on sale so often that they trained their customers never to pay full price. That created a margin problem from which it took them years to recover. If you need to make your products more affordable (to generate volume, goodwill, or both), do so carefully and deliberately. But lower the price instead of offering a discount.

5. Don’t neglect the elephant in the room.
We live in a 24-hour information cycle. When news breaks, people know it, and economic news breaks every day. You don’t have to be an economist to know the business environment isn’t in the best shape right now, and the point is brought home to your people in a personal way every time they go to the grocery store or fill up their gas tanks. Even if your company’s revenues have held up, your employees know there’s trouble afoot and they’re nervous. Make sure they know you’re on top of things and have a plan.
There’s no telling what lies ahead over the next several months. We may pull out of our economic rut more quickly than anticipated, or we may be in for a prolonged rough ride. But clients and customers will still need to eat. They still need transportation. They still seek entertainment, clothing, vacations, chain saws, pet food, perfume, office supplies, computer servers, tractors, and machinery. As the market tightens up, the best positioned players will survive and thrive. Avoid the mistakes above and you’re more likely to be one of them.

Ten Great Excuses for Avoiding Business Development

1. I’m booked for at least six weeks. I couldn’t handle another deal if it landed on my desk.

2. My business development discussions, if I get into a good one, take an hour. I only have 45 minutes to make calls now so I should wait until I have more time.

3. This isn’t a good use of my time. Somebody else should source leads and I should deliver work.

4. I’m not good at it so what’s the use? (And I sure can’t tell anyone this, so I’ll make up another reason.)

5. In my business, leads only come through referrals. Proactive outbound business development, even networking, doesn’t work. Why bother?

6. I’m deathly afraid of selling.

7. If I reach out to prospects, I will sound like a used car salesperson. Since I’m a professional, I can’t set up that dynamic.

8. I know how to talk about what I do (I think). Yet, for some strange reason, the words never come out right.

9. I don’t even know who to contact. I have the time and the will, but what do I do?

10. I hate selling.

Pick your poison: You’re too young or too old. You’re better in the mornings and it’s late in the day. If you get into a conversation, you will need to get your boss on the phone, and she’s not around. Dog ate your Rolodex.

Regardless of your reason, the end result is the same; another day goes by and you don’t work on business development.

#1 Reason Professionals Fail at Business Development

Full-time sales people spend all day selling. They show up to work, grab their Starbucks (or, if you live in New England, Dunkin Donuts), and start contacting customers. Maybe they start at the break of dawn and sell till midnight. Maybe they wait until the crack of noon and only sell until tea time. Regardless of the time commitment they put in, if they’re working, they’re explicitly selling.

Most CPAs (or technology consultants, or lawyers, or management consultants) show up in the morning and start doing accounting. They crunch numbers, manage teams, and take client meetings. Maybe there’s an hour and a half window in their schedule in the late afternoon. Here’s what most of them won’t do with that time: business development.

That’s right, 9 out of 10 professionals agree that engaging anything but business development in their open time slot is best to whiten teeth and freshen breath. The number one reason that professionals fail at business development: finding something else to do, or doing nothing, when they could be developing business.

Nancy Reagan Says

You will not grow your practice or be as successful as you can be until you stop avoiding business development.

Fortunately, the answer is simple: Start selling now.

Unfortunately, it is not that easy to take a deeply imbedded behavior (not selling), flip a switch, and be able to do today what you did not or could not do yesterday.

Nancy Reagan’s solution to drug addiction was, “Just say no.” For a few people, this might have been enough, but for the majority a greater effort was clearly needed in order to effect change. It was probably no easier for an addict to just-say-no as it might have been for a homeless person to just-buy-a-house. It doesn’t work like that.

And it doesn’t work like that for professionals who want to develop business.

You can’t “Just Say Go!” and magically develop a hankering for dialing the phone. For the most part, it takes a robust personal change effort to make the transition from business-development-avoider to focused-client-developer.

Breaking the Business Development Avoidance Rut

If, indeed, you want to stop avoiding business development, remember:

  • Respect the effort. Realize that it takes significant time, effort, energy, and sometimes resources to develop business and stick with it. If you do not have a healthy understanding and respect for the serious work of systematically developing business, you risk false starts. (This is akin to what Mark Twain said about quitting smoking: it’s easy to do and he’s done it a thousand times.)
  • Leverage your team. Seek help if you are stuck in a sales avoidance rut. Breaking out of a rut alone is extremely difficult. You will find help in the form of a peer, coach, boss, or someone else. Whoever it is, involving the right people increases your chance of success.
  • Develop an ongoing strategy. Before you engage ongoing business development, know what tactics you are going to employ and why. If you have a clear end goal, and know how each tactic you undertake helps to get you there, you will have the best chance of success. Business development is a mission. Make sure you know where you are headed before you set out.
  • Just Say Go! Resolve to start developing business. Until you have a personal sense of urgency around business development, you will not start doing it. While just-saying-go is necessary in order to get you started, it is definitely not sufficient for success. Still, you need to first get going in order to have any chance of success. As Wayne Gretzky says, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

We make light of excuses for avoiding business development in order to raise the issue. Breaking the cycle of excuses and starting to develop business is never as easy as it sounds. But you can do it. Do what you need to do to prepare for success, know what you are going after, and then “Just Say Go!”

By Mike Schultz (Source: eyesonsales.com)

“I’m interested” is not a synonym for a sales opportunity

When you hear the words “I need” and a description of what’s “needed” do you immediately start to design and quote or sell? If you do, at the end of the sales process, you often hear “Great Idea but It?s too expensive”, don’t you!

Can you really afford to waste time selling with the outcome being “sorry, not enough budget”?

Up front and immediate qualification of things like cost vs. budget is a must for any sales process. It’s the reality check that can get you a sale or let you scale down the expectations of your prospect so they can get a solution at their budgetary level.

Yes, I did say “up front” as in way before you even start to sell, as in the first call! – Up front qualification for budget availability, how to get cash obligated and available, the evaluation and buying process, how things get bought and who needs to be involved to get to yes.

It’s all done in about 1 minute on the very first sales approach call and its results tell you if you have a prospect, have money available to buy and even if you should continue with the selling process because there is a reasonable chance for a sale if you do.

Here are some steps for doing this:

1. First off, do some research and understand the target company, especially how and why your product or solution can help.

2. Next, make a short 30 second commercial based on your findings that can quickly and succinctly say what you do, relate pertinent issues, benefits and problems solved and let you ask if it’s something that the prospect needs or would adopt.

That’s not “ABC”, that’s up front qualification.

3. Next find and define who would be right to hear that commercial at the highest level of responsibility and authority, relate to it and give you a true assessment of need/value on the spot.

4. Then make the phone call to that person and use the 30 second commercial.

After the commercial, ask for and qualify the possibility of need or value for what you have explained from the person you are speaking with. Ask it this way “Is this an idea that can benefit you and your company?”

5. If yes – ask how, why, reason, problems solved, impact.

This creates a link between you and the person that you have called for the sales process to begin that, if persued properly, you have the basis of selling value/ROI and not cost and you know it has possibilities to yield a sale based on those criterion.

Actually, that’s the basis of a solid sale- Perceived value and or ROI, not cost!

6. If no, or you get a weak maybe, stop selling, say thanks and move on to the next prospect.

Don’t waste sales time on this one. Yes it’s OK to say “Thanks for your time and your honesty. I can see that our solution isn’t applicable to you” and then ask “Do you know of a colleague that could use my solution” and you might get a great prospect to call. Even an introduction.

7. If yes, ask about and learn the process for moving forward and facilitating the outcome being a funded PO.

Ask “If we do have a worthwhile solution for you, who along with you would need to be involved in evaluating, adopting and purchasing your concept”?

That teaches you who to approach beyond your initial contact and does not insult the person you are speaking to. Even more important, since your idea or solution has already been acknowledged as worthwhile by the prospect. using this question also lets you ask them for help in moving forward.

You will get that inside help or as we call them in sales the inside CHAMPION who can sponsor you and your idea/solution up the ladder, a very valuable inside ally in any sales process.

Remember, don’t say “who is the decision maker”. It?s an insulting question because it says to your suspect “you are a peon so tell me who to go to.” WRONG!! The “peon” is the gate keeper and can help move you forward or kill a sale because they are usually the resident expert that the decision maker consults for value.

8. Get Budget qualification up front – Get it qualified immediately in this first call. After the 30 second commercial gets receptivity or the caller has finished telling you what they want to buy, in either the proactive or reactive situation, state a rough cost right then to your suspect for the solution and ask if there is a budget for implementing the concept if it?s a worthwhile idea.

Yes, I did say bring up budget and possible cost right away and yes it violates every sales rule that you have learned.

Don’t even think of continuing the sales process without knowing the answer to this budget and budget process in call # 1 because the answer you get reveals the time and process needed to get the sale and your prospects perception of “how much” they think your solution should cost. It lets you measure if it?s worth your time v the ultimate sales value as well.

Don’t be afraid of this question so early in the process. It tells you if you can proceed with your idea.

It also lets you ask and understand what the company’s usual process for evaluating and ultimately purchasing your idea is.

That’s a clear road map to a financial yes, the key to the PO so get it and work it. That’s also true when you get a call from a “potential” customer telling you that they are going to by a specific solution just like yours.

End users rarely have a handle on real costs nor have they correctly obligated enough budget so do not spin your wheels without qualifying need v probable cost and available budget.

Incidentally, doing so lets you advise them re their budget inadequacy and it?s an opportunity to sell a starter system using the available budget.

Remember, people do things for their reasons, not yours. So instead of deciding that you know a prospect needs your service and trying to ram it through, follow the steps above, use the 30 second commercial up front and you will avoid chasing rainbows that do not become sales.

Tangible Results for you:
Because you are working with solidly qualified prospects who have or will spend the $ for your solution, you will up you close rate and reduce the time it takes to get the sale. More income faster from more sales—That’s a great equation for business development types isn’t it!

Neil Licht
Senior Training Manager, Instructor and 25 year sales industry veteran

6 easy steps to closing a sale

I came across a very interesting article by Geoffery James on closing a sale in which he breaks down the process or in fact gives structure to the mystery of closing a sale.

Here are the six steps, as described in the post above.

  • STEP #1: Ignore the ABC Strategy

More often than not, the ABC (Always Be Closing) strategy has been adopted as if from the Sales Bible. Very rarely do sales people understand how put off their clients would be by being pressurized to take the deal. The last thing you’d want is to make the client avoid doing business with you.

Its important to modify and use ABC so that so you do “always remember to close” – close for the next step, close for how long the evaluation will take, close for who along with you needs to be involved, close for budget info, process, availability, close for mutually agreed to exploration points, analysis points, specific basis for evaluation, specific basis for deciding to purchase.

  • STEP #2: Cultivate the Right Mindset

I believe that to be truly successful in any role that you are in, you have just got to be proactive and think out of the box. This is one of my favorites. Geoffery quoted “The clock has only one time – right now!”,which is so true when you want to win a deal.You have to be persistent.

Simple things such as remembering to send a tailored follow up letter or email to the customer within one day of the meeting would make it a deal or no deal. But to be a good closer, you have to back off when you have to. For example, when you realize that by going through with this deal, you would be alienating the client or damaging the relationship or company reputation, it’s best not to go for closure.

  • STEP #3: Set an Objective for Every Meeting

We’ve all read and heard about setting SMART objectives. Yes that’s it Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. But in the world of business development, its shouldn’t be simply achievable but “Aggressively Achievable”. But you can’t be overly aggressive either. You can’t simply set an objective such as “I will close the deal today” when its a multi million dollar deal with multiple decision makers involved!

  • STEP #4: Constantly Check If You’re On Target

At all times during the sales cycle and during the meeting, you have to constantly keep track of where you are headed. The basic selling process is identifying the customer’s objectives, strategy, decision process, time frames etc. You should understand these aspects well to customize and tailor your product/ solution to satisfy those needs.

The ‘checking process’ : always ask open ended and non-leading questions which will help you get a feedback from the client on what you’ve just said and also to gauge the client’s response.

Bad Qn: Do you agree? / Does that make sense to you?

Good Qn: What do you think? / How does that sound to you?

Unlike leading questions, checking questions encourage the customer to provide you with frank, vital information. Example:

BAD:
You: “We have a first rate delivery capability in all key markets.” (The salesperson did not check after expressing this view.”)
Prospect: “How do you handle invoicing?”

Note that in the example above, the conversation has moved on and you have no idea whether the customer agrees or disagrees with the “first rate delivery” assertion.

BETTER:
You: “We have a first rate delivery capability in all key markets. Do you think that might be useful?”
Prospect: “I’m concerned you can’t meet our global needs.”
You: “I understand that you have global needs. Why do you feel we may not be able to meet them?”
Prospect: “We want feet on the street and you don’t have international offices.”
You: “It is important to have people deployed internationally. For that reason, we have partnerships with the top companies in regions where we don’t have our own offices. Would that address your concern?”
Prospect: “It might, providing you can invoice centrally.”

Note that in the example above, you are now learning what the prospect thinks and repositioning your company’s capability in order to build toward the eventual close.

Geoffery suggests that if you do the “checking” process right, the client will preemptively close the sale by saying something like “When do we start ?”.

  • STEP #5: Summarize, Then Make a Final Check

After all the product/ solution awareness and checking process, comes the closure. If the client hasn’t preemptively closed it, you’ve got to make the move. Here’s the mechanics of the close:

First, give the customer a concise, powerful summary that reiterates the benefits of your products or services. Once you’ve done this, make one final check – not for understanding but for agreement. Example:

You: “Our worldwide service capability will allow your employees access anywhere they travel, at a cost that’s significantly less than you’re spending today. How does that meet your objective?”

Now you’ll either get a green / red light. If there are any objections, it will come up. Handle it and then go for the closure again.

  • STEP #6: Ask for the Business

The most important of all steps – ask for what you are there for – the business!

You: “We are ready to start. Will you give us the go-ahead?”

If the customer declines, acknowledge that fact to the customer and then find out why. As appropriate, make a second effort. Regardless of whether you actually closed, end the meeting with confidence, energy, and rapport to make a positive last impression.

Thank the client for the business or reinforce the desire to work with the client.

Nevertheless, DO NOT FORGET to follow up with the client immediately.

“Have Breakfast… or…Be Breakfast!”

Interesting Read….

Who sells the largest number of cameras in India?
Your guess is likely to be Sony, Canon or Nikon. Answer is none of the above. The winner is Nokia whose main line of business in India is not cameras but cell phones.

Reason being cameras bundled with cell phones are outselling stand alone cameras. Now, what prevents the cell phone from replacing the camera outright? Nothing at all. One can only hope the Sony’s and Canons are taking note.

Try this. Who is the biggest in music business in India? You think it is HMV Sa-Re-Ga-Ma? Sorry. The answer is Airtel. By selling caller tunes (that play for 30 seconds) Airtel makes more than what music companies make by selling music albums (that run for hours).

Incidentally Airtel is not in music business. It is the mobile service provider with the largest subscriber base in India. That sort of competitor is difficult to detect, even more difficult to beat (by the time you have identified him he has already gone past you). But if you imagine that Nokia and Bharti (Airtel’s parent) are breathing easy you can’t be farther from truth.

Nokia confessed that they all but missed the Smartphone bus. They admit that Apple’s I phone and Google’s Android can make life difficult in future. But you never thought Google was a mobile company, did you? If these illustrations mean anything, there is a bigger game unfolding. It is not so much about mobile or music or camera or emails?

The “Mahabharat” (the great Indian epic battle) is about “what is tomorrow’s personal digital device”? Will it be a souped up mobile or a palmtop with a telephone? All these are little wars that add up to that big battle. Hiding behind all these wars is a gem of a question – “who is my competitor?”

Once in a while, to intrigue my students I toss a question at them. It says “What Apple did to Sony, Sony did to Kodak, explain?” The smart ones get the answer almost immediately. Sony defined its market as audio (music from the walkman). They never expected an IT company like Apple to encroach into their audio domain. Come to think of it, is it really surprising? Apple as a computer maker has both audio and video capabilities. So what made Sony think he won’t compete on pure audio? “Elementary Watson”. So also Kodak defined its business as film cameras, Sony defines its businesses as “digital.”

In digital camera the two markets perfectly meshed. Kodak was torn between going digital and sacrificing money on camera film or staying with films and getting left behind in digital technology. Left undecided it lost in both. It had to. It did not ask the question “who is my competitor for tomorrow?” The same was true for IBM whose mainframe revenue prevented it from seeing the PC. The same was true of Bill Gates who declared “internet is a fad!” and then turned around to bundle the browser with windows to bury Netscape. The point is not who is today’s competitor. Today’s competitor is obvious. Tomorrow’s is not.

In 2008, who was the toughest competitor to British Airways in India? Singapore airlines? Better still, Indian airlines? Maybe, but there are better answers. There are competitors that can hurt all these airlines and others not mentioned. The answer is videoconferencing and telepresence services of HP and Cisco. Travel dropped due to recession. Senior IT executives in India and abroad were compelled by their head quarters to use videoconferencing to shrink travel budget. So much so, that the mad scramble for American visas from Indian techies was nowhere in sight in 2008. (India has a quota of something like 65,000 visas to the U.S. They were going a-begging. Blame it on recession!). So far so good. But to think that the airlines will be back in business post recession is something I would not bet on. In short term yes. In long term a resounding no. Remember, if there is one place where Newton’s law of gravity is applicable besides physics it is in electronic hardware. Between 1977 and 1991 the prices of the now dead VCR (parent of Blue-Ray disc player) crashed to one-third of its original level in India. PC’s price dropped from hundreds of thousands of rupees to tens of thousands. If this trend repeats then telepresence prices will also crash. Imagine the fate of airlines then. As it is not many are making money. Then it will surely be RIP!

India has two passions. Films and cricket. The two markets were distinctly different. So were the icons. The cricket gods were Sachin and Sehwag. The filmi gods were the Khans (Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan and the other Khans who followed suit). That was, when cricket was fundamentally test cricket or at best 50 over cricket. Then came IPL and the two markets collapsed into one. IPL brought cricket down to 20 over’s. Suddenly an IPL match was reduced to the length of a 3 hour movie. Cricket became film’s competitor. On the eve of IPL matches movie halls ran empty. Desperate multiplex owners requisitioned the rights for screening IPL matches at movie halls to hang on to the audience. If IPL were to become the mainstay of cricket, as it is likely to be, films have to sequence their releases so as not clash with IPL matches. As far as the audience is concerned both are what in India are called 3 hour “tamasha” (entertainment). Cricket season might push films out of the market.

Look at the products that vanished from India in the last 20 years. When did you last see a black and white movie? When did you last use a fountain pen? When did you last type on a typewriter? The answer for all the above is “I don’t remember!” For some time there was a mild substitute for the typewriter called electronic typewriter that had limited memory. Then came the computer and mowed them all. Today most technologically challenged guys like me use the computer as an upgraded typewriter. Typewriters per se are nowhere to be seen.

One last illustration. 20 years back what were Indians using to wake them up in the morning? The answer is “alarm clock.” The alarm clock was a monster made of mechanical springs. It had to be physically keyed every day to keep it running. It made so much noise by way of alarm, that it woke you up and the rest of the colony. Then came quartz clocks which were sleeker. They were much more gentle though still quaintly called “alarms.” What do we use today for waking up in the morning? Cell phone! An entire industry of clocks disappeared without warning thanks to cell phones. Big watch companies like Titan were the losers. You never know in which bush your competitor is hiding!

On a lighter vein, who are the competitors for authors? Joke spewing machines? (Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple, himself a Pole, tagged a Polish joke telling machine to a telephone much to the mirth of Silicon Valley). Or will the competition be story telling robots? Future is scary! The boss of an IT company once said something interesting about the animal called competition. He said “Have breakfast …or…. be breakfast”! That sums it up rather neatly.

Dr. Y. L. R. Moorthi is a professor at the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore. He is an M.Tech from Indian Institute of Technology, Madras and a post graduate in management from IIM, Bangalore