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Are You Always The Decider? That’s No Way to Grow

For this week’s Blog, I’d like to share an article by Peter Economy published in Inc. focusing on teaching your employees how to sharpen their decision-making and you’ll reap many rewards, including a better workforce.

Every day, you and the people who work for you need to make decisions. Many decisions. As the leader, you may take it upon yourself to make the most critical ones,but for the company to thrive you have to be sure that the people who work for you develop this essential skill. One of the best decisions you can make, therefore, is to devote time to helping your team improve their decision-making. Here’s how.

1. Encourage autonomy

If you have delegated authority to your employees and solicited their input, avoid dictating to them how they should do their jobs or micro-managing their approach to problem solving. Instead, spell out the goals or desired outcomes and then let them decide how to achieve them. When your employees know what is expected–and you give them the autonomy to develop their own solutions–they will become adept at making good decisions, even if that inevitably entails learning from bad ones. As your people learn how to make better decisions, they will build confidence and autonomy.

2. Be a good role model

The rapid demands of day-to-day operations often require managers to respond on-the-spot, but whenever possible take the time to make informed, intelligent choices.Model for your employees the way in which you arrived at an informed and timely decision by gathering facts and assessing the available data, always focused on what you think is best for the organization. If in doubt, or if the situation permits, make it a group exercise–and don’t be afraid to ask for plenty of input. But never lose sight of the fact that what you want to model is the importance of a confident, timely, well-informed decision.

3. Provide reality checks

As your employees learn and become more autonomous, offer timely feedback on the quality of the decisions they’ve made. Avoid the temptation to wait until you feel feedback is warranted, or to ignore it altogether (easy to do if the decision proved wise). Always be coaching. If the feedback is positive, tell them what went well and why you want to see more of it in the future. If decisions were less than optimum, educate them of the full consequences of their choices and ask them how they might do things differently in the future to avoid the same results.

4. Foster a sense of security

The whole point of encouraging your people to make decisions is to provide them with an environment in which they can learn how to think for themselves, and to take risks when necessary. If you don’t do this then your employees will constantly rely on you for direction. Your time will be under even more pressure, and your employees won’t be growing in their positions. When your people can make good decisions themselves, you win more time to do other things for your business and your employees become more responsible and more effective.

5. Reward the behavior You want

Get in the habit of praising employees when they make decisions. Be specific about how their efforts fixed a problem and benefited the organization. If they decided to reach out to a customer with an additional order update, for example, and you feel that that decision strengthened the customer relationship, let them know that they made a very good call. Virtually every act of initiative can be seen as a decision, so be alert to chances to praise good choices. When you do, you’ll see many more of them being made.

If you need help with making the most of your time and helping your team improve their decision-making, and you are in Chicago, Oak Brook or surrounding areas, contact us today if you feel you need some coaching on this topic!

Greg A. Lee is also available on Advicoach.


cutting the red tape

Cutting the Red Tape

Cutting the Red Tape with Big Companies

In the last post we talked about how to bring the big-company mindset into your business and your team. This will help you overcome the mental obstacles that will keep you from being successful. Now, that you’ve learned how to overcome that, we’re going to talk about who your fish is. It’s important to know about the fish you are looking for before you put a plan together. We’re also going to take a moment to talk about the cutting the red tape that you may encounter along the way.

The most important thing to know about your fish is their purchasing habits and procedures. There are four main things you need to work on in order to be successful:

  1. Responsibilities: You need to know who has influence over purchasing, who does the actual buying and who can kill a deal if they want.
  2. Get on Their List: You need to know how to get on their list of people to buy from. Your name needs to not only be on the list, but at the top of it and in as many categories as possible for the more interaction. Ask about a procurement program and what you need to do to go through the application process.
  3. Lingo: You need to learn the company’s unique language and communications methods. These could include report names, buzzwords and even the nicknames they have for their employees.
  4. Fiscal Budgets: It’s essential you know the fishes fiscal budget, so you know exactly when they are planning their expenses for the year.

Now that we’ve talked a little about what you need to know about your fish, let’s a quick look at cutting the red tape.

Bureaucracy might as well be a four-letter word with the emotions it stirs in all of us. “Red tape” is a necessary evil, but one you can use to learn from. There are two ways to learn from their system:

  1. Analyze their activity.
  2. Review their correspondence.

Being an outsider looking in can have its advantages too. If you hate dealing with the “red tape”, imagine how their employees feel dealing with it. If they need to crunch some numbers, offer to do it. If they need more info, make sure you are giving it to them in a user-friendly way.

The things we talked about in this lesson will help you prepare for the big approach. If you need help with cutting the red tape, and you are in Chicago, Oak Brook or surrounding areas, contact us today if you feel you need some coaching on this topic!

Greg A. Lee is also available on Advicoach.


find large clients

Find Large Clients

How to Find Large Clients

There are a number of factors to take into consideration when prepping yourself and your company to find large clients for you to work with.

Today we’re going to start with a brief look at the three paths every business faces and show you which one is the path to success. Then we’ll talk about the mindset it takes to attract the big fish.

There are three major paths a business can take when trying to find large clients:

  • Snail Speed
  • Shooting Star
  • Catch the Big Fish

Snail Speed

Most business owners ended up working themselves into the ground without much reward or success. This is what happens when you fool yourself into thinking you will find quick success. You may also find yourself following this path when you are afraid of change.

Shooting Star

This describes a business that shoots to the top so fast you are overwhelmed and don’t have the right resources in place to adapt. This can also happen from being overwhelmed by small clients and not taking the time to find large clients, which will sustain your business after the small client sales slow.

Catch the Big Fish

This is the path that allows you to build at a steady pace that you can manage by not allowing your customers to outpace you. You can do this by putting these tips to work:

  1. Attract, keep and lock in big clients.
  2. Integrate “big business” culture into your company and employees.
  3. Acquire the expertise you need to grow.
  4. Have the courage to make changes as you grow.

Now we are going to transition a bit and talk about the “big fish” mindset. It may sound easy to just find and catch that big fish, but if you are stuck in the small business mindset, you may find it harder than you think.

Think of all the benefits of aiming at bigger clients:

  • Inexpensive
  • Highly Profitable
  • Longevity
  • Security

In order to find large clients, you need to believe your company can make a difference with their business. It’s easy to get into the thought that a large company doesn’t need anything from a small business like yours, but this is entirely wrong!

Once you take a look at how big companies operate, it’s important to know which ones are the best fit with your company. One of the best ways to get in the door is by knowing someone on the inside who can put in a good word for you.

If you’re not sure where to start and feel a little intimidated about catching big fish and you are in Chicago, Oak Brook or surrounding areas, contact us today if you feel you need some coaching on this topic!

Greg A. Lee is also available on Advicoach.


position your business

Position Your Business for Big Clients

Position Your Business as the Perfect Bait for the Big Fish

You need to position your business so that it is the perfect bait for your biggest fish. In the last post we talked about how to learn about your big fish and prepare for the first contact you’ll make with them. This first contact is essential to your success. You need to instill confidence in them. They need to know you can fulfill exactly what you are offering on time, at a good price and at the quality you promise.

Today we’ll actually go through the big approach and how to make that perfect first impression. Before you put together your approach plan, you need to choose with big fish you’re going after. Take a look at your notes and the research you’ve done about prospective fish. Then decide which one will be the easiest approach to start out with.

There are a series of things to go through in choosing which fish to start with. They are:

  • Position Your Business
  • Compile Your Hit List
  • Select the Best Target

Position Your Business

You need to position your business to make the first move by listing your revenue streams, id and list your operational procedures, where your fish is initially positioned, your big-customer research, and putting it all together.

Compile Your Hit List

Start with a list of all the companies you’ve been considering. Then narrow it down to the ones who know could use your products or services. Don’t overlook obvious choices, whether they are big or small. Even small companies could be big fish in the future.

Select the Best Target

Once you’ve got your list narrowed down, you need to decide which one is the best fish to start with. You need to consider a couple of things:

  • Which have the most purchasing resources to spend?
  • Does their company vision compliment yours?
  • What are their employee incentive programs as they relate to your products/services?
  • What’s the company’s real need for you?
  • Will the partnership lead you off-course?

Now you should have a target in mind to start with. It’s time to plan your approach and execute that plan.

Here’s the step-by-step plan to help you make a good first impression:

  1. Build and analyze your database. Divide your leads into three different categories: hot leads, great fits and secondary leads.
  2. Send out introductory mailings to your target to introduce yourself, your company, services, products, and vision. They need to be short, clean and concise.
  3. Follow up with your first phone call 2-3 days after they would have received the mailings. During the phone call find out whom you need to be speaking with in the future and try to set up a meet with the right person.
  4. Follow up your phone call with another mailing that thanks them for taking the time to speak with you and offer more details about your products/services. Use this letter and opportunity to set up a meeting to do a presentation.
  5. Follow up the letter with another phone call a couple of days after they would have received the letter. This phone call is to help you further develop your relationship with the prospective client. You should also be able to set up a presentation meeting with them.
  6. Call again a week later if they haven’t agreed to a meeting or presentation. Ask if they received your creative letter (the second one) and if they have a minute when you can stop by and introduce yourself in person.

Now, don’t be upset if you don’t seal the deal right away. Some people simply take a little longer to woo. This can all be a little intimidating at first, but when you know you are offering a quality product/service, you can’t go wrong.

Once you’ve gone through this process and make first contact (and hopefully a good first impression) it’s time to put your best face forward, which means sending the right salesperson to seal the deal.

If you need help putting together your approach and make a good first impression, and you are in Chicago, Oak Brook or surrounding areas, contact us today if you feel you need some coaching on this topic!

Greg A. Lee is also available on Advicoach.


maximize your business

Maximize Your Resources – Part 2

Maximize Your Business

Today we’ll look at how to maximize your business as a resource. Last time we talked about the first three areas to work through in maximizing your current resources. They were:

  • Recognize the obvious
  • Unconventional breakthroughs
  • Face the facts

Today we’ll cover the next three, which are:

  • Reveal your business’ soul
  • From breaking even to breaking the bank
  • Stand up and stand out

Reveal Your Business’ Soul

Every business has a soul and you likely felt it the strongest when your business was just starting. It’s that passion, newness and momentum you had at the very beginning. Sometimes that can get lost along the way as your business gets stagnant and set in its ways. You have to break out of that rut and get back to your business’ true soul and use it to maximize your business.

The philosophy of putting your client’s needs above your own is the true key to success. You need to serve your clients not sell to them. They want to build a relationship based on trust, not a used car. Add to these responsibilities your ability to solve problems, handle special situations, be a friend to your clients and focus on offering valuable, high quality products/services. Only then will you get back to the basics and find you have more resources than you thought.

From Breaking Even to Breaking the Bank

One of the classic and most used ways to attract clients is to offer them a ridiculously low price on their initial purchase and lock them in for future purchases. You see this approach with movie or book clubs and even credit card companies who offer lower interest rates for the first six months.

Essentially, you are offering them a deal on their first purchase and then you offer them back-end and add-on products along the way. These are naturally higher prices and will bring them in to more of an intimate relationship with you and your company.

Stand Up and Stand Out

You need to stand out from the pack among your competitors. They only way you can do this through consistency and value. You do this by discovering what your USP (Unique Selling Proposition) is and perfecting it. Here are some tips to help you find and develop your USP:

  1. Look for unfilled needs in your industry.
  2. Use preemptive marketing.
  3. Use a technique that is clear and to the point.

This wraps up this post. If you need help with any of these areas or to learn more about how to maximize your business, and you are in Chicago, Oak Brook or surrounding areas, contact us today if you feel you need some coaching on this topic!

Greg A. Lee is also available on Advicoach.


maximize your resources

Maximize Your Resources – Part 1

Maximize Your Resources to Increase Your Profits

Over the next few posts we’re going to talk about how to take a hard look at your current resources and get the most out of them. This can help your capital go further and increase your profit margin. Today we’ll cover three different ways to maximize your resources with what you already have. These include:

  • Recognize the obvious
  • Unconventional breakthroughs
  • Face the facts

Recognize the Obvious

Sometimes when you are too close to something, you can’t make out the big picture. You need to step back and really take a hard look at the resources you currently have in front of you. You are surrounded by opportunities that can boost your career and help your business become more successful.

Unconventional Breakthroughs

Don’t sit around waiting for breakthroughs you need to create them yourself. You will not be able to maximize your resources if you sit around waiting for breakthroughsyou need to create them yourself. A breakthrough is merely a new way of doing things or finding a new thing to do for the same or better results. You should be having regular brainstorming sessions and encouraging your team to come forward with breakthroughs or ideas any time they have them.

Some great examples of breakthroughs are:

  • A health and beauty company discovers a side effect of a product that can be re-marketed and sold.
  • A company creates a roll-on deodorant inspired by the shape and size of a ball point pen.
  • The founder of Nike poured rubber onto a waffle iron and created the most innovative and successful running shoe ever.

When attracting or strategizing for a breakthrough there are some key objectives you need to keep in mind. They are:

  1. Look for the hidden opportunity in every situation.
  2. Look for at least on cash windfall for your business every three months.
  3. The more value for your client, the better your breakthrough.
  4. Create multiple streams of idea to find the best breakthroughs.
  5. Effective breakthroughs remove all risk or resistance.

Face the Facts

Before you can put your breakthroughs to work you need to face the facts of the processes and systems that are not working for you and work to correct or get rid of them. System analysis is a good way to do this. Once you have a listing of your strengths and weaknesses, you need to compare those to the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors.

There are some great questions you can present to you and your team to get a handle on where your business is right now. They are:

  1. Why did I first start this business? Why am I in this industry?
  2. What products/services did I offer then? Which were the most popular?
  3. Why are my customers/clients buying from me right now?
  4. How did I generate new customers/clients then?
  5. Which of my marketing efforts were bringing in the best results?

Once you’ve got some answers to these questions, you’ll know better how to approach your weaknesses.

These three areas we’ve gone over give you a jumping off point for how to maximize your resources. If you need any help with your strategic or systems analysis, and you are in Chicago, Oak Brook or surrounding areas, contact us today if you feel you need some coaching on this topic!

Greg A. Lee is also available on Advicoach.


turning prospects into customers

Turning Prospects into Customers Overnight!

Today I’d like to talk about turning prospects into customers and retain them for future marketing to. While, your marketing is doing its job, you need to be working on turning those prospects into customers. There are a few key ways to draw them in and seal the deal. You need to be:

  • Inviting
  • Informative
  • Enjoyable

The biggest fear of most new customers is the dread buyer’s remorse. You want to avoid this at all costs and this should be mitigated if you’ve provided a quality product/service that delivers on the marketing claims you’ve made.

However, this can still occur. There are two ways to deal with this:

  • Offer to refund money-no questions asked
  • Offer a bonus they can keep even if they return the product

These offers alone will also mitigate buyer’s remorse because the customer will trust you more, just for offering these things.

There are number of other ways to turn a prospect into a customer:

  1. Offer a special price as an opportunity for you to test the market.
  2. Offer a lower price with the reason of pushing inventory to pay a tax bill, for your kid’s’ braces, or another tangible reason. Customers love that this makes you feel so much more human.
  3. Offer a referral incentive.
  4. Offer a smaller, more inexpensive product first to build trust.
  5. Offer package deals.
  6. Offer to charge less for their first purchase if they become a repeat customer.
  7. Offer extra incentives-longer warranties, free bonuses if ordered by a set date.
  8. Offer financing options, if applicable.
  9. Offer a bonus if they pay in full.
  10. Offer special packaging or delivery.
  11. Offer “name your own price” incentives.
  12. Offer comparative data or other comparison tools.
  13. Offer a trade-up or upgrade to something they already have.
  14. Offer additional, educational information to help them make the decision.

The options really are as limitless as you make it. You can use these or other ideas to find what works the best for your business, products/service and target market. Remember this…

“By making it inviting, easy, informative, non-threatening, educational, inspiring and fun to do business with you, you’ll loft your company above the competition.” Jay Abraham


Developing a Strategic Plan

Why is developing an awe-inspiring, game-changing strategy so difficult for leaders to do?

Some of my best clients have their eyes glazed over when we start talking about developing their business strategy.  I don’t blame them, understanding what “strategy” actually means is intimidating enough let alone how one goes about developing an effective strategy that ensures your business success.  So unfortunately, many leaders, whether big company executives or small business owners, never end up investing the time necessary to plan for their organization’s future.

So, for those that feel they lack the experience, know-how, or understanding of what to do and how to go about developing a business strategy, an effective way to get started is simply asking yourself “What would you like your business to look like in 12 months, if things were to go really well?”

  • What would your business look like?
  • How much revenue would your business be generating?
  • How many customers would you have every month?

Once you have a feel for where you’d like to take your business, you’ll need to truly understand how important it is to you to reach these goals.

If it’s anything less than a 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale of how important these things are to you, you should probably forget about developing a strategic plan.  You’ll most likely never get to the point of executing the plan.  You’ll always be too busy and too involved with your daily business activities to “work on your business” so why waste your time in developing a strategy you will never execute.

So in other words, instead of spending all of your time working in your business, invest some specific and focused time working on your business.  Developing a strategy doesn’t need to be complex.  Simply putting your mind to thinking about what your business needs to look like 12 months from now will set you on the right path.


Decoding WOM Messages

Today’s lesson will talk about how word of mouth messages are delivered and how you can influence those messages.

There are essentially 3 methods of word of mouth:

  • Expert to Expert
  • Expert to Peer
  • Peer to Peer

When experts are talking about your products or service you will usually receive an amazing rush of sales and new customers, so obviously this is one of the best things that can happen. You can also help to facilitate this by offering free products to experts for them to review.

Expert opinion can also bring about new ideas that help to fuel new products, services and operating systems within your company. If you take the time to change or develop the opinions of even a small group of experts, you will have the opportunity to help your market explode.

There is a standard word of mouth delivery system that, in most cases, takes a few years. But, you can speed this up into only a few weeks. The standard system is:

  • First impressions from an expert
  • Organized trial of your products or services
  • Pooling peer experiences

It’s important to know exactly who is advocating for your products and service. Take the time to find out who they are and reward them. While, you may already have a customer service system for filing complaints, do you have one for compiling praise? Most likely not. If you take the time to show these people appreciation, they will help take your products and services to the top.

  • Some of the ways you can show them appreciation are:
  • Invite them to a customer appreciation dinner
  • Offer to video tape their testimonials
  • Ask to interview them for feedback to improve with
  • Offer them a premier customer membership
  • Ask them to join a referral incentive program

There are lots of things you can offer your biggest fans to help spread the word about your products and services.

Conventional media has been around forever and while it can still be effective, it’s lost a little of its luster over the last few years. There are a few reasons for this:

  • Expensive and doesn’t necessarily return results
  • Boring, lacking something fresh and new
  • Too short of a time slot to offer enough information

While these are all true, there are ways you can make conventional media work for you. For the information to be effective it needs to be presented in the right sequence, come from the right sources, be relevant to the target customer, be credible and be delivered at the right time in the medium.

We’re going to switch gears a little and talk about the two phases of the product adoption cycle. Traditional media is great for taking you through the information stage where you can offer the information you need to your potential customers, but it’s not so great for measuring the results of those efforts.

Without these results you can’t fine tune your marketing and therefore can easily miss the boat and lose potential customers and waste a whole lot of money. Once a consumer has the information they need, they’ll go through a verification process as they analyze whether or not the purchase was a good one. They generally get their information through:

  • Direct experience with the product
  • Interaction with peers using the same product
  • Experts’ experience
  • Scientific journals and other resources
  • Independent reviews and opinions
  • You can accelerate this process by:
  • Providing your own demo’s and free trials
  • Offer them indirect experience through the experience of others
  • Offer a good true story that can be passed around

Once you have the ability and are able to work through these concepts, you will be able to target your customers much better.


Harness the Power of Word of Mouth

Harness the Power of Word of Mouth

How to Harness the Power of Word of Mouth

Today we’re going to talk about how to harness the power of word of mouth. Including the six step process to success and the 30 (that’s right, I said 30) ways to harness the power of word of mouth. So, let’s get started!

There are six steps to harassing word of mouth:

  1. Understand your customers’ values and priorities, this will help you understand why they would buy your products.
  2. Understand the different adopter types: innovators, early adopters, middle majority, late adopters and laggards.
  3. Identify which decision stages are needed for your product to be adopted.
  4. Use the information from steps 2 & 3 to figure out which wording and word of mouth tactics are going to work using the Decision Maker Matrix (we’ll talk about this in a minute).
  5. Put together the resources for the highest word of mouth impact.
  6. Create and implement your word of mouth campaign.

The Decision Maker Matrix is based off years of trial and error by George Silverman. It essentially charts to different concerns you may come across when working with different adopters and putting together a decision process for each one.

We are now going to move on to the 30 ways to harass the power of WOM:

Use Experts

Experts can come in many forms and all their opinions should be taken into consideration when putting together a WOM campaign. Some experts to gather information from include:

  • Customers
  • Suppliers
  • Experts
  • Salespeople
  • Experts’ roundtables
  • Experts’ selling groups

Seminars, Workshops & Speeches

These venues are a perfect opportunity to gather information. People who attend these types of events are used to giving feedback, so you can use a survey or other method to gather information you can look over later. Some events to use are:

  • Speakers program
  • Seminars
  • Group selling
  • Dinner meetings
  • Peer selling groups
  • Teleconferenced experts’ panels
  • Trade show events/opportunities

“Canned” Word of Mouth

The concept of “canned” word of mouth is using hard and online products to get feedback and offer information at the same time. Some ideas for these are:

  • Videotapes
  • Audiotapes
  • World Wide Web
  • CD’s

Referral Selling

As we’ve talked about before a referral program can help with a variety of things in building your business. By using some of the following tactics and opportunities you can find out exactly what you need to do to generate positive word of mouth. These tactics and opportunities are:

  • Testimonials
  • Networking
  • Referral Selling Program

“New” Media

The concept of “new” media is the use of up and coming media sources and opportunities to get the word out about your products and services and listen for the feedback about them. Here’s some of the “new” media options:

  • Hotlines
  • Faxback services
  • Web-based word of mouth, such as forums, e-mail, etc.
  • Call centers

Using Traditional Media for Word of Mouth

Using traditional media is a great way to get feedback. These are still considered main stream ways of interacting with the public and consumers. Some traditional media outlets are:

  • Customer service
  • PR
  • Placements
  • Events
  • Promotions
  • Word of mouth in ads, sales brochures, or direct mail
  • Salesperson programs, sales stars, or peer training,
  • Word-of-mouth incentive programs (“Tell-a-friend” programs)
  • Customer gifts they can share with their friends (articles, how-to manuals)

Internal Word of Mouth

  • Encourage employee word of mouth and sharing feedback with family, friends and others
  • Offer rewards or commission for word of mouth success

As you can see there are tons of ideas you can work with to harness the power of word of mouth marketing. If you need help with any of this, and you are in Chicago, Oak Brook or surrounding areas, contact us today if you feel you need some coaching on this topic!

Greg A. Lee is also available on Advicoach.


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