Could you be looking in completely the wrong direction?
Are you polishing your website to add that extra 10% when instead you should really be trying to find new customers?
Are you putting all your efforts into generating leads and prospects when your products are tired and off-target?
Or, maybe you’re busy building up a fantastic network of strategic partners to deliver new leads to, but failing to bring in business for yourself?
Why do we do this?
Well, there are a number of reasons. Often it’s the little things that have the greatest power to divert our attention, like an unexpected visitor, an intriguing email, and all too frequently the invitation for a tea break.
But we also do it to ourselves. How many times have you spent a Monday morning or Friday afternoon skimming your emails rather than tackling anything big or new? Perhaps it is a form of self-sabotage when we delay in tackling difficult projects, or answering unpleasant questions; preferring instead to let them stew while we graze on easier tasks.
But while it is true that we all need (and benefit from) a breather every now and again, it can lead to a false sense of security. We are enticed by the lure of a comfortable place away from challenging tasks and decisions. And once there, we fail to innovate and grow, settling instead to tread water and busy ourselves with less important things.
How can we combat it?
Be conscious of the risk of distractions and instead become more self-aware. If you know the common culprits that tend to derail your attention, you can take steps to manage or remove them.
Here are some suggestions to get you started:
Distraction is a common problem, but it can be overcome. The key is to concentrate on the bigger picture, remember your mission and keep your goals front of mind. It is unlikely you will enjoy every task that comes with running your own business, but with your attention focused on the job at hand you will at least power through it quickly.
Do you have any tips of your own to boost productivity and combat distraction? Let me know in the comments below.
Can you remember why you started in business? Why you decided to do what you do, in the way you do it?
Why you are in business is the most important question to answer. Knowing your ‘why’ frames every decision you will make, every person you will hire and every client you will take on. It gives your business direction and has the power to differentiate it from the competition.
Without it, anything will do, and while that seems acceptable when you first start out, down the line it can cause you real problems.
If you regularly find yourself hesitating when making decisions, doubting past actions or ruminating about the future, then you’ve perhaps lost sight of your ‘why’.
If this sounds familiar, your first task is to reconnect with it.
What is your core belief, the driving force behind what you do? Even if you’ve never said it aloud or immortalised it in your business plan, the likelihood is your business began life as a spark of inspiration or perhaps even a desire. Succinctly define it!
But, while a clear description can give you clarity and purpose, without action it is nothing more than an idealised concept. You need to use it! Take your ‘why’ further and consider how you can apply it:
And finally, the ‘why’ should inspire what you do. Whether you sell products or services, your ‘why’ should be reflected in what you offer your clients as well as in the operational processes and practices that support it.
So, with all these things in mind, don’t neglect or overlook it any longer. Think of your ‘why’ as the very essence of your business. It should guide your decisions and actions with laser-like precision, focusing and unifying your efforts to ignite momentum.
What's your 'why'? Have you ever lost sight of your ‘why’? Do you have any advice of your own? Let me know in the comments.
So this is your chance to impress. Your ‘elevator pitch’ - A 60-second window to capture the interest of a potential new connection, sparking a few thoughts, planting a few seeds, deepening the engagement and hopefully encouraging them to take some sort of action.
You’ll need to speak clearly and make sure your counterpart/s understand the fundamentals (your name, position and company name), plus what your business does (some form of punchy description of the business, its products and typical clients).
And of course to make that essential good impression you’ll also need to drop in:
And, that’s all within the moment of a brief handshake or introduction.
So how can you possibly do it? Well, the answer of course is that you can’t possibly.
It’s impossible to cram all that information into any kind of civilised two-way conversation. Believe me, I’ve seen people try and what results is a desperate, rushed stream of garbled words and mixed messages.
The smarter alternative, that avoids overwhelming your prospect, is – the art of inference!
Rather than awkwardly rattling off a list of points, instead focus on planting key facts that will project a story about yourself. Give just enough information to allow the person you’re talking with, to infer the rest without the need for a lengthy explanation.
Think about it - Your goal is merely to pique interest. Your pitch is an invitation to talk more, rather than a full audition. You want your prospect to choose to take things further.
So, with so many opportunities to network over the coming weeks (dare I mention the Christmas season looming upon us?), now is the time to perfect your powers of inference.
Here are ten thought prompts for developing an introduction that is distinctive and memorable (for all the right reasons):
The key to the perfect pitch is simplicity and brevity. Keep it succinct, people don’t like to be over-sold to. No one will retain the detail if you go on too long. They’ll just remember how you made them feel – probably like they wanted to escape.
How do you introduce yourself? What’s your ‘elevator pitch’? Let me know in the comments below.
For more networking survival tips also check out our 'Survival Guide To Networking' free e-book.
Too soon? As a business owner, you’ll know that time flies by. If you recognised any of the symptoms or advice in my earlier Summer Doldrums post, then you may be looking at a window of maybe 2 or 3 months before the next seasonal milestone lands. Winter is coming.
So, while the sun is shining, it’s important to pick things up, especially rebuilding any momentum you may have lost during the summer holiday season, so you can fully and readily make the most of the back-to-work autumn term.
(And if you followed the guidance in my earlier post, you will already have a head start on your plans.)
A strong strategy of attack will have several cross-supportive stages. Like an avalanche, each stage should build on the previous one, layer upon layer so it eventually triggers a powerful rolling momentum. If executed well, not only will your business end the year on a high, but you will have created enough power and momentum to give you a running start on the new year too.
Good strategies are unique, bespoke and reflect the specific goals you are aiming to achieve in your business. However, common themes should include:
Ultimately, and this is simultaneously the best and worst thing about running your own business, you have to own your strategy, and make yourself accountable. Announce your key dates and targets to your team, use a countdown clock; think of it as a launch plan. And launch. Make it happen and make it work.
How are you gearing up for your next big push? What do you do to ignite momentum, in yourself and in your team and partners? Let me know in the comments.
Have you ever had to sack a client? Or have you ever wished you could?
Clients and client relationships come in many forms. They can be the most reliable partners and brilliant vocal advocates. Yet, at the other end of the scale, there are those that are unreliable, erratic and difficult to work with; clients that restrict innovation or whom you feel obliged to undercharge. They can easily become a negative downforce, cursing your business into a sleep-like state; preventing it from achieving its full potential.
If you recognise a client has any of the following traits, then it is time to re-evaluate your working arrangement and consider whether the relationship is really worth continuing. After all, it’s your business, and it was founded on vision and independence. You should not end up begrudging or resenting your clients!
Warning signs of a sub-optimal client include:
If these attributes are an agreed part of the client proposal, then that’s one thing. And, if you’re able to offer instant responses or 24/7 support, then that can be a brilliant part of your customer service strategy. However, when this is not part of the deal, and there is no provision or costing for the extra level of resourcing that these exceptional demands require; your daily operational activities can quickly become adversely affected.
Certainly, a regular prune of your client list is one way of ensuring your business runs more smoothly. And, with fewer problems to contend with, you can focus on acquiring and servicing the right prospects.
Don’t do this in anger though, or without a strategy: Just as there are many benefits to managing away a bad client, there are also risks. Your hard earned reputation may become a casualty if your customer feels they have been rejected or let down when you part company. Things can also become unpleasant or awkward if you worked closely with them, or will continue to operate within the same network.
And, avoid gimmicks and easy fixes at all costs! Ignore any friendly advice you receive telling you to get a client to sack you by ‘simply’ doubling your prices, giving them a substandard service, or handing their account to a junior member of staff. Trust me, word will get out one way or another about your poor service or sudden price hikes, which will only serve to spook your existing clients and deter new ones.
So, how can you successfully manage away a client, whilst suffering the least collateral or reputational damage? Take due consideration and then follow these four steps to ensure the split is as professional and painless as possible:
Although ‘bad’ clients are an almost inevitable part of running your own business, you can try to reduce your exposure at the outset. Set clear boundaries from the start and implement a filtering process to check customers’ suitability. Most importantly, then have the confidence to say no if you don’t think they will be a good fit.
Have you let a client go? How did you do it? - Let me know in the comments section below!
By Kevin Sheldrake (originally posted as a guest blog in April 2016 in the excellent Re: Accountancy blog).
Do you have a Benefactor Client? Someone who: Probably has a strong presence in your industry; they are easy to manage; you have a good relationship with them; and the custom they give you is longstanding, reliable and lucrative.
Maybe the ongoing work is a bit of a given. Maybe you don’t have to work too hard to keep them happy, or to keep the income flowing. Maybe you’ve already come to see them as a bit of a ‘Golden Goose’ to your business?
Don’t get me wrong, there are many advantages to having a Benefactor Client:
Sounds great, doesn’t it? However, these highly desirable benefits and opportunities come at a price, and a flipside that can pose a significant risk to your business:
With some regularity, I come across a business in the grip of turmoil, where they have lost their comfortable Benefactor Client and suddenly found themselves needing to make up a substantial shortfall in income and brush up on all the skills and activities they have neglected.
While there is no need to kill the goose (drop an existing Benefactor) or avoid acquiring one, some smart planning is required to make the most of the opportunities, without over-exposing yourself to the risks. These four tips are a good start:
Benefactor Clients are an excellent way to give your business a boost or give it some stability in a rocky period. But, you should always keep your business moving forwards. Don’t let yourself become reliant on your Golden Goose, you just never know when it might be poached by a wily fox or meet some other misfortune.
Look for new opportunities and continue to forge new relationships and connections. Grow your presence and visibility in your industry on your own terms to work towards your business goals.
What are your views on ‘Benefactor Clients’? How do you balance your resources and time between Benefactor Clients and smaller clients? Let me know in the comments.
For many, the warm summer months and long days provide welcome relief after months of damp and gloom. However, for many independent business owners, it can mean weeks of uncertainty, disruption and a slow in momentum. Sound familiar? Then you may have a case of the summer doldrums...
As the summer holiday season approaches, many of us see our businesses grow quieter and our customers, elusive. This may be because they too are struggling to sustain trade in a quiet period. Or, because they are busy covering leave or, are on leave themselves. Whatever the reason, they often turn their focus inwards to keep their own businesses moving.
As you’ve more than likely found, clients are invariably distracted and far less receptive to new business commitments during this period. This for you can mean several weeks treading water in the doldrums with few new business opportunities.
So what can you do?
It is easy to see why some business owners dread summer. But, just as it’s possible to plan a strategy to negotiate the lead up to Christmas, it’s also possible to create one to avoid the summer doldrums and regain some control.
Here are few short-term measures and tactics you can bring into play this year to kick-start your efforts:
Give Your Business A Boost
Use The Opportunity
To steer clear of the summer doldrums next year and beyond, try these longer-term measures. Although they take more time to prepare, they will have a greater strategic impact:
…And remember, you will need cover too! Members of your team will no doubt need a break at some point in the summer. Make sure you have sufficient cover to stop clients slipping through the net and swimming away to your competitors.
Finally, don’t overlook your own downtime. The quieter summer months are an excellent opportunity for you to have a well-earned break. Spend time with family and friends or jet off yourself. Whatever you do, be sure to relax, reflect and recharge …because Christmas is just around the corner!
I’m keen to hear your experiences. Are you affected by a summer slow down? How do you avoid the summer doldrums? Let me know in the comments.
If you've enjoyed this latest post from The Boardroom Blog, be sure to join The Boardroom blog updates emailer and keep up with future all-original insights!
With so much emphasis in business on building empathy and rapport with prospects and understanding their needs, there’s an embarrassingly obvious part of the selling process that we can easily overlook.
Maybe we’re all just too polite, and fearful of coming across as pushy or salesy, but the maxim holds true: If you don’t ask you don’t get.
If you don’t proactively ask prospects to make a decision or ask clients to upgrade their orders, it’s unlikely that they will spontaneously seek these things out. As a result, your invested time and effort will go to waste, or worse, your competitors may tempt your prospect away.
Why does this modest act make us feel so uncomfortable that we are reluctant to do it?
There's two big barriers I frequently come across:
Remember your clients and prospects already know that you are a commercial entity and require sales to exist! There’s no shame in being upfront about this, and where along the way the key decisions are.
If you want to see your business grow, it is important you get into the habit of asking. Not only is it crucial to the sales process, but it’s also essential for all of your end-to-end marketing activities and any plans to scale up your business:
As a general rule, I bet you can always ask one more time than you think. So, rather than assume a client’s response, ask for one instead. If you don’t, a competitor will.
What's your experience?
If you've enjoyed this latest post from The Boardroom Blog, be sure to join The Boardroom mailing list and keep up with future all-original insights!
Overchoice: The more choice we have, the harder decisions can be to make. It may feel counter-intuitive, but giving more products, options and add-ons, can actually deter your customers from making a decision.
Too much choice can cause inertia. Overchoice can be paralysing: Customers may avoid or feel less motivated to make decisions or purchases. They can get stuck over-analysing and may not act at all. So, rather than greater choice increasing your sales, you may see it driving them down.
Too much choice can also cause anxiety. When many similar choices are on offer, decision making becomes harder. Each must be carefully weighed against the alternatives. The risk of making a poor decision increases in line with the number of possible outcomes added, and this additional worry is mentally draining for customers. It can result in them deferring, walking away, and feeling unsatisfied and regretful – and this is no way to foster a good working relationship and secure repeat business!
The solution? Be disciplined, simplify, and create a manageable set of choices that are distinct and easily comparable.
Rather than providing an extensive list of options, reduce and categorise them:
Of course, this simplification puts the onus firmly back on to you, to do the decision-making in advance. Do you think you could whittle down your extensive range of options into something that is both attractive and digestible?
If you've enjoyed this latest post from The Boardroom Blog, be sure to join The Boardroom mailing list and keep up with future all-original insights!
So… how do you get on your client’s or customer’s priority list? How do you earn their time? The answer: Make your business desirable. Make them want to do business with you.
Here are 5 tips to get you started:
It's frustrating when you try to sell, follow up a lead or arrange a meeting, and your prospect gives you the brush off. The familiar: ‘I’ll call you next week’; ‘we'll bear you in mind’; ‘drop me an email’, can be discouraging. Don’t be despondent. With a little fine tuning, you can easily make your business more desirable to clients and customers.
How do you ensure you are a priority for your clients?
This is the second part of ‘What If Everything’s Important?’. Make sure you stay on top of future unique updates by joining our Blog Updates emailer here!
Click Here for our calendar of upcoming The Boardroom events...
Join The Mailing List!
Add your details here to receive The Boardroom updates with unique tips for business marketing, strategy and customer management...