Black Friday Should Be a Monthly Business Strategy

So here we are again, the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, a day because of a  business strategy to see black ink instead of red ink on the balance sheets for many businesses.  Today retailers, especially the “big box stores,” may finally reach the black because their low ball prices are finally drawing in the buyers.

business-strategyFor small businesses here in the US, Black Friday should be a monthly business strategy where financials are reviewed and strategic questions are asked.  At this time of year, some small business owners are in a panic because they have not been watching their numbers outside of their cash flow. As to business strategy, what’s that and who has time for that?

Once again we return to the four letter dirty words in small business, plan, goal and do it. Yes I know do it is two words, but it is only 4 letters.

As mentioned in previous postings, strategy is a word from the Greek language and means for a general to deceive his enemies. For mid size to small businesses, this means to:

  • Review the landscape
  • Identify the competitors to centers of influence
  • Determine who are the ideal customers
  • Review the marketplace using a SLOT analysis
  • Evaluate market trends, past and present
  • Look to future market trends

From all of this structured and proactive thinking, a business strategy or strategies will emerge and a strategic business plan will also begin to evolve.

business-strategyWhen the planning has crystal clarity, then goals can be developed as a means to execute (do it) the plan.  By reviewing the plan monthly, 12 times a year, the mid size to small businesses will not be suddenly scrambling on Black Friday to make sales goals, profitability, etc.  Another competitive advantage is prices may not have to be lowered to meet financial targets.

Back in the 1990′s, McKinsey in its research discovered a 1% increase in price will yield a 11% increase in profitability when all factors remain constant.  Conversely, a 5% decrease in price results requires an additional 18% in sales to maintain current profitability. Those Black Friday specials are based upon high volume as well as a lot of impulse shopping.

Black Friday is a business strategy that has evolved into a conditioned behavior for buyers.  Why not make Black Friday a conditioned behavior for your small business?

business-stratgegy

If you are intimidated by the strategic planning process, then consider this eBook, Triage Business Planning – Know Exactly What to Do and When to Do It.

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Thanksgiving A Day of Thanks Today and Every Day

Today here in America is the national holiday of Thanksgiving. This is a day of thanks to honor the early settlers to this country and the Native Americans who helped them through their ignorance of this new land. Families and friends are gathered together to give thanks for their blessings from the last 12 months.

a-day-of-thanksGratitude, giving thanks,  is one of my positive core values.  Each evening my first thank you is to the Lord for all the good events of the day and the continued blessings he gives me from my husband, daughters, sons, grandchild, sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews, cousins, friends and colleagues.

Having written about having an attitude of gratitude and thanks many times, I believe every day is a day of thanks and not just this one day a year.  Now being somewhat older, I appreciate each day more and more because I know the end of my years is much shorter.

So many of our problems would be far less with a smile or a good morning to a complete stranger. Giving thanks is not about isolating gratitude to just one day, but rather including gratitude in our daily behaviors.

a-day-of-thanks

When a new visitor to my church catches my attention, I intentionally start a conversation with him or her by welcoming to our church and encouraging him or her to return. For me, I am thankful the Lord provided us with another friendly visitor who may return and enjoy our communion of fellowship each Sunday.

We all have the power to make each day a day of thanks, a day of Thanksgiving without all that delicious food. Here in the US we are so fortunate to receive the blessings of those who have gone before.  Even our poorest are richer than the poor from other countries because of those blessings. Unfortunately, many fail to see their blessings because they are more concerned about the blessings of others.

May you and yours enjoy a wonderful day of Thanksgiving even if you are not here in the US and remember to make each day one of gratitude and appreciation for what you have. My personal thanks for continuing to be regular readers of this blog and sharing it with others.

 

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In Sales, Is Seduction Necessary?

If we are professional salespeople, do we need to seduce our ideal customers or potential buyers?  I recently read a marketing blurb sent to me where the word “seduce” appeared respective to sales.  For me, this word suggests that our potential customers or clients will not accept us on face value and so we must undertake some other questionable behaviors to lure them to buy from us.

sales-zig-ziglarZig Ziglar said “sales is the transference of feelings.”  I firmly believe in his simple definition because people are emotional creatures first and foremost.  When we recognize the power of feelings, we can not only increase sales, but build powerful and enduring relationships that will last for years to come.

Words are important and how we employ those words in our marketing to sales scripts are also very critical. Additionally, many in business are seeking the quick fix.  Words like “seduce” conjure an easier way, a quick fix to bolster lack luster revenue.

As William Holden noted in the 1954 movie, The Executive Suite, the quick fix starves everyone. There is no quick fix in sales, in business or in life.

Sustainable business is built upon authentic relationships where people walk the walk, talk the talk or as some say walk the talk.  When we believe we must “seduce” customers, this sounds to me like we must trick them.  No wonder so many believe that those in sales are like the carnival “hucksters” or used car salespeople where trickery is very prevalent.

If you or your small business wishes to increase sales, then just build and develop authentic relationships with your ideal customers.  Remember not all sales leads are good ones.  Be discriminating in what sales leads you wish to pursue. You may find you will not need to “seduce” less than good fit customers.

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Sales Leadership Temperament of Dependent Part 37

So far after conducting hundreds of Innermetrix Attribute Index profile assessments, I have yet to encounter this internal temperament for those in any sales leadership roles. An individual with this particular temperament displays:

sales-leadership

What this means those with this temperament have attitudes about their selves which can “be easily influenced by the opinions of others.” In sales this capacity to be easily influenced is not a good trait.  (Source: Innermetrix Attribute Index)

With the neutral self-esteem, these individuals neither “overvalue or undervalue their own self worth.” However with the negative role awareness they may “allow the opinions to others to sway them one way or the other.” (Source: Innermetrix Attribute Index)

This negative role awareness suggest at this time, these individuals are “hesitant about exerting a lot of energy in one of their primary roles.”  Additionally, if they were in sales leadership roles or any other roles, they may be “seeking outside approval from others before making such an investment.”  This confusion may have this individual becoming “more easily distracted” and may “avoid commitment due to this fact.”  (Source: Innermetrix Attribute Index)

Not all internal temperaments are good fits for sales.  This is why knowing the person’s external and internal temperaments is essential to finding the right person for your sales leadership role. The Attribute Index is an incredible powerful talent assessment.

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Adopt the Make My Day Marketing Attitude

Many of us remember Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry telling the law breaker to “make my day.” What would happen if we as small business owners to sales professionals took that “make my day” to heart and made it part of our overall marketing attitude in a positive way?

marketing-attitudeFor me, I abandoned traditional product based marketing or what I now call “pitch promos” back in 2005 and embraced education based marketing through article distribution.  Of course I had to change my marketing attitude to fully appreciate this new perspective.

Now I truly appreciate sharing what I have learned and more importantly sharing the efforts of others. For the goal is to two fold:

  1. Educate potential ideal customers
  2. Connect to the value drivers of those same customers and centers of influence

By making the day of those around me, I am no longer “pitching the promos” but rather emotionally connecting to those individuals on a positive level. This change is now integrated into all marketing activities and works far better with my positive core values or business ethics.

So what does “make my day” marketing attitude look like?  Here are some examples:

  • Tweet newly found business articles, statistics or even info-graphics
  • Update LinkedIn by sharing the LinkedIn Pulse articles of others or even your own
  • Read a non-fiction book related to business and post your review at Amazon
  • Connect with other writers and work together to contribute to an online publication such as Worldwide Coaching Magazine or eMile People Development
  • Establish yourself as a business columnist like I did for the now Chicago Tribune/Post Tribune or NBiz Magazine
  • Offer online courses or webinars
  • Open a Slideshare account and uphold educational, informative, no pitch promos PowerPoint presentations
  • Send a daily gratitude card to someone such as a client, vendor, center of influence, or even a complete stranger who received an award or some other achievement
  • Engage in meaningful conversation when meeting someone new for the first time, stop with the “promo-pitches”

Zig Ziglar is quoted as “an attitude is a habit of thought.”  When we adopt a marketing attitude, we begin thinking of others first instead of our own pocketbooks. And in that process, we may actually learn a little more about our ideal customers as well as our industry.  This is the extra benefit of education based marketing.

 

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Moving Beyond SMART Goal Setting

Years ago I read that Peter Drucker was the author of SMART goal setting criteria.  I had also read that Zig Ziglar was also the author. Regardless of whom established these criteria, they have been around for well over 30 years.

smart-goal-settingYet, we continue to read about everything from the decrease in the obesity rate, ongoing failed business strategy execution and even missed sales targets. So what gives?

Maybe it is time to move beyond and re-frame SMART goal setting to WAY SMART goal setting:

  • W = Written as something almost magical happens when we write down our goals.  If you disagree, just think what happens when you leave your written grocery list at home.
  • A = Actionable for without action the goal is still a wish or a dream
  • Y= Yours because if the goals is not yours, there is no intrinsic motivation to achieve it.
  • S = Specific, extremely specific
  • M = Measurable, if you cannot measure it,you cannot manage it
  • A = Aligned to one’s purpose, passion and plans
  • R = Realistic in its attainment. It would be hard to build s skyscraper with just a shovel
  • T = Target date for without an end date, the goal remains a dream

Why Re-Framing Is Necessary

Written

Possibly SMART goals worked in a culture where people had to write down everything because there were no SMART devices. Today, we can employ SMART devices just like we used to do with pen and paper. The only thing we must do is to take action by writing the goal down.

Actionable

Thinking and doing are horses of entirely two different colors.  This is why Actionable is now essential. Today knowledge is no longer power, but applied knowledge is where true power resides.

Yours

When goals are set by someone else, unless we as individuals want to achieve that goal, the likelihood of successful achievement has been reduced. Goal ownership is also essential and this may be also due to cultural shift where people do not listen and fear their elders like they did in previous generations.

Aligned

Far too often when goals are not aligned to one’s purpose, one’s passion and one’s plans, the individual becomes off balanced and disillusioned.  Just like the fine gears of a hand crafted watch,  goals must work together in alignment to ensure SMART goal setting success.

If you are unhappy with today’s results and want to achieve tomorrow’s goals, then maybe you should move beyond SMART goal setting into WAY SMART goal setting. The Results Tool (a goal setting worksheet) is part of this goal setting workbook that includes a proven goal setting process based upon WAY SMART goal criteria.

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Do You Really Have Bad Business Strategy?

Are you one of those business executives desperately seeking a new business strategy because this year’s results were pardon the expression “all wet?

business-strategyIs seeking a new business strategy a fairly common end of the year or quarter business behavior?

Are you reaching for some quick fix instead of truly assessing the real problems and not the usual symptoms?

Have you ever considered your business strategy might be OK to even good?  Maybe the problem is something else?

Do you feel right now that I am pointing my finger at you?  Are you feeling a little uncomfortable?

Well, you should because before you hire that next business strategist, small business coach, executive coach or high price consulting firm possibly you may wish consider the following reasons why today’s results will not get you to tomorrow’s goals.

 

Assessment

Some business executives believe they know how to assess their business operations and immediately jump into their profit and loss statements. This is one way, but not the only way and such an organizational assessment will miss many other limitations and opportunities.

Imagine for a moment going to the doctor with a headache and your doctor immediately schedules you for brain surgery without ordering any diagnostics or assessments.  Would you have confidence in his or her recommendation?

business-strategySo if your current business strategy is giving you a headache, why are you considering brain surgery before you assess what is really going on?

Additionally, if your current business strategies are not working and new ones are sought year after year because today’s results are not realizing tomorrow’s goals, then investing the time to assess the organization is the first step.  This organizational assessment can be informal to formal. However, employing  a more formal organizational assessment every 3 to 5 years based upon specific criteria such as Baldrige can uncover critical gaps.

One such assessment I recommend is D.I.AL.O.G which looks at an organization from 5 to 10 employees to hundreds of employees through these seven criteria:

  1. Leadership
  2. Strategic Planning
  3. Customer and Market Focus
  4. Measurement, Analysis and Knowledge Management
  5. Human Resource Focus
  6. Process Management
  7. Business Results

As an instructional designer what is so great about this particular assessment is its affordability and speed of delivery. Much larger consulting firms will construct a tailored organizational assessment that will cost your business an arm and a leg.  This Internet driven assessment is affordable; provides relatively quick insight and has the capacity to deliver additional insight through the 20 minute one on one conversations with a selected sample of the employee population.

business-strategy-5-star-model

Business Misalignment

Jay Galbraith developed a simple graphic to illustrate why gaps exist in organizations.  Gaps prevent results from happening. His 5 Star Model for organizational development or what I prefer to call organizational excellence is where I begin with all clients.  I listen for gaps between:

  • Strategy
  • Structure (Organizational and physical)
  • Process/Systems (Operations)
  • Rewards
  • People

Of course many do not know if business misalignment actually exists until a formal assessment is undertaken.

business-strategy

Communication

Usually because business misalignment exists, this creates another barrier to effective execution of business strategy. Many organizations fail to consistently communicate their strategies in ways for their people to understand.

Much of this failure is because of the lack of trust in employees or the “We can’t tell them that!” attitude. Unless employees have crystal clear clarity regarding the business strategy from their perspective results will continue to limp along.

In today’s world where so much can be discovered via the Internet, keeping secrets from employees or believing them to be mindless robots is illogical and simply ridiculous. No, you do not need to give them the proprietary, financial information, but you can communicate to them with purpose and illustrate why this or that business strategy is critical to the organization’s success.

Leadership

business-strategyUltimately the buck stops here or at the door of leadership. The authors of Fail-Safe Leadership were ahead of their times when they published this short read on organizational excellence.

  • Organizations are comprised of people.
  • People lead and manage other people.
  • People are responsible for misdirected results or poor business results.

Unfortunately, the people at the top because of their failure to assess; misalignment and poor communication tend to blame everyone else.  Leadership more often than not is the real enemy for a business strategy not working. And yet leadership continues to blame the customesr, the employees, the competition or the economy.

Captain Wing It and the 4 Letter Dirty Word

Years ago a colleague shared a story about Captain Wing It. To condense that story is there are a lot of business executives who spray their actions (think strategies and tactics) all over the place and then pray something will stick. These folks are the Captain Wing Its.

Also the Captain Wing Its believe the word plan has all the connotation of a four letter dirty word.  I can say with 100% complete confidence that at least 80% of all businesses from 100 employees or less do not have a well thought out written, goal driven strategic plan that is actively revisited on a weekly basis.  Leadership leads with the ever present excuse of “I or we don’t have time.”

President Dwight Eisenhower said “Plans are worthless,planning is everything.”  This is even more true today.  Time must be invested to plan for tomorrow’s goals and to ensure today’s results are being achieved.

business-strategy

 

Your Next Step

If your business strategy is not working, then before you throw the baby out with the bathwater, consider re-reading this blog. Personally I do not like pointing fingers at people especially my readers, but enough is enough!

Now is the time to take intentional and purposeful action that will stop this yearly insanity of seeking that next quick fix business strategy to cure what ails today’s business results.

My final questions to you are these:

How many opportunities have you lost?

How much have you already invested in solutions that are not sustainable?

Can you afford another year of bad business results?

 

 

 

 

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Leaders Simply Take the Time to Listen

One observable leadership trait is forward thinking leaders take the time to listen. Listening is both an art and a skill that can be developed over time. Yet some in leadership roles fail to recognize how powerful this simple skill truly is.

leadersMaybe because I am what is called a low key salesperson listening for me is quite easy.  As I shared in my book, Be the Red Jacket in a sea of Gray Suits clear active listening has these 5 elements:

  • Clarity
  • Legitimize
  • Emotions
  • Agreement
  • Retention

Clarity is the process of separation.  By listening to separate the wants from the needs, the intangibles from the tangible, the knowns from the unknowns provides leaders with a key competitive advantage.

Legitimize is all about listening for the real problems. Many go for the obvious problems that are really symptoms in disguise and the real problem is never identified or worse yet corrected.

Emotions are internal to human beings.  We are emotional creatures.  This is where the non-verbal, the para-verbal (syntax, speed, etc) and the actual verbal words become extremely important.

Agreement is when the listener identifies and evaluates those areas where both the sender and the receiver agree.  Additionally the word agreement implies a subconscious contract.  Agreement provides a springboard for further development of the relationship especially in its earlier stages.

Retention is hearing what was actually said. This suggests the leaders have placed their agendas to the side. In many instances what has been said may have been ignored by others because they were too busy thinking of their next response or already thought they “knew the score.”

Yes listening, clear active listening takes an investment of time. Possibly more than one meeting may be required. Using the excuse “I don’t have time” or “I’m too busy” are just that excuses.

To truly hear what is being said is indeed crucial especially in today’s technology driven marketplace where some believe words on a computer screen reveal the entire meaning of the conversation. So if you wish to improve your leadership skills as well as your business results, then stop and take the time to listen.

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Take a Few Minutes to Dramatically Increase Sales Opportunities

“You won’t believe this, I couldn’t wait to tell you,” excitedly exclaimed my executive coaching client in a recent phone call.  She did not even allow me the opportunity to ask how she was before she started sharing how a few minutes provided a dramatic opportunity to increase sales.

increase-salesShe continued “We just had a meeting with an ideal customer who has the potential to become our largest client. He met with my boss and myself.  In that meeting he told my boss, the only reason I am meeting with you is because your salesperson sent me a handwritten note.  When I received that note, I immediately showed it to my sales manager and told him this is how business is done, with personalized gratitude.”

Even though my executive coaching client knew about writing thank you notes as part of the process to increase sales, she had stopped that behavior.  During our executive coaching sessions when she shared she had met with a new and qualified sales lead, I always asked “Did you send a thank you note?”  After several months, she then began many of our conversations with “I had six meetings last week and sent every one a personalized, handwritten,  thank you note.”

Now I know there are some services that offer cards with handwriting that looks like the senders’. These are nice. Yet my sense is a personalized, handwritten note with just a few lines can be far more effective to increase sales and costs a whole lot less.

What salespeople sometimes forget is people buy from people they know and trust. Personalized, handwritten notes achieve both of those objectives and provide a much needed springboard to increase sales.

I remember writing thank you notes back in grade school usually after my birthday or Christmas.  My mother sat me down at the kitchen table and I had to print, then later in cursive write a thank you to everyone who sent me a gift. Writing thank you notes is an ingrained habit.  Not to write one for me is just rude.

What I encourage my executive coaching clients to do is to go to the local dollar store and purchase packages containing anywhere from 6 to 10 cards. These are overruns from the much larger stores and where they sell for $3 to $7. Over the weekend when I was out running errands, I purchased several packages totaling $3.21 tax included as I had to write 3 thank yous for meetings I had the previous week.

increase-salesMy advice is if you want to increase sales opportunities, remember the personal touch is always best. If you have a few minutes to write an email to say thank you, you have the same amount of time to write a personal, handwritten thank you note.

Learn some other tips in how to Be the Red Jacket in the sea of gray suits if you truly want to stand out and differentiate yourself from all those other small businesses.

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Sales Leadership Temperament of Expressive Part 36

Being your own person is a good sales leadership trait. These words best probably best describe an individual with this internal temperament of expressive. These individuals have:

sales-leadership

Credit: Gratisography

The neutral self esteem provides a “solid and fairly accurate” sense of self worth. This neutrality allows those with this temperament to “neither under nor over value” their own abilities. Additionally, they  “set appropriate limitations” for themselves.  (Source:  Innermetrix Attribute Index)

Having the negative role awareness and positive self direction, those with this sales leadership temperament of expressive “are also very driven to follow” their “own sense of direction.” They believe “things are to be done a certain way.”   Additionally, they will “endeavor to ensure that they are done so” because this, to them, is a “key to success.”   (Source:  Innermetrix Attribute Index)

Finally, these individuals can be “tenacious when it comes to adhering to their own rules.” They are for the most part “punctual, conscientious and well organized.” (Source:  Innermetrix Attribute Index)

Having personally delivered hundreds of Attribute Index talent assessments, I have yet to have assessed someone in a sales leadership role with this internal temperament. The one temperament held by all top sales performers is compulsive.

If you wish to know if you have the top internal temperament held by top sales performers and to learn more about the Attribute Index, click here.

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