Business Management

You Can’t Handle the Truth!

If you saw the film, A Few Good Men back in the early nineties you’ll definitely remembe r Jack Nicholson as Col. Nathan R. Jessep saying those words to Lt. JG Daniel Kaffee, played by Tom Cruise. It was the turning point in the movie.

How about you?

  • When is the last time you asked your clients to tell you – no holds barred – how they really feel about  your products and services?
  • When you screw up an order how often do you personally ask the customer
    what you can do to make them happy?
  • How often do you hide behind voice and email instead of talking directly to your customers?
  • How often do you ask your boss how you’re doing and I’m not talking about the almost totally useless annual reviews?
  • When is the last time you asked your employees what they’d do differently to make the company better if they were in your shoes?
  • How many days, weeks, and months go by without you listening – really listening – to the people who care about you and your company?

Do you have the courage to handle the truth?


Becoming a Master In Your Business

Golf is a difficult game to master. Many professional athletes in other sports will tell you that it is number one in difficulty to master.

Creating a beautiful painting, extraordinary photo, or a digital video that makes moves people to cry or laugh or feel is also a province of the masters.

How do you then master these things – assuming you want to?

  1. You get the best coach or teacher you can afford.
  2. You watch and listen to the masters – your role models.
  3. In golf you play with players who are better than you and you learn from them
  4. Creating beautiful images means spending a lot of time in museums listening to what the artist is saying.
  5. You learn what the masters do that nobody else is willing to do.
  6. Then you practice, practice, and practice.

What makes you think that if you want to be the best and create an extraordinary business (or an extraordinary life) that you can do it without following these same rules? What makes you think you can create a website, read the latest on social marketing and some other business books and then call yourself an expert – a master? What makes you think you can be successful when you focus on yourself, how much money you can make, as you feed your ego?

The masters will teach you that by focusing on creating value for others you will be on the path toward mastery – a path with heart.

If you want to be a master then find someone who is already a master – someone who has walked the walk and just doesn’t talk the talk. And, then beg them to teach you. Listen to them with your heart and not just your ears.

Then practice what you’ve been taught and what you’ve observed. What is it that you will do that nobody else will do?

Do these things and one day you will indeed become a master.

Now it will be your turn to help others who want to follow your path with a heart.

Time to Get Unglued

From what I understand people are mailing less and less letters using the postal service. Seems like email took care of that the way Craig's List took care of newspaper classified ads. And, if you live in Philadelphia, there is a chance you're going to get mail this week that could be a decade old – another reason why people have stopped using the post office.

Here's what I really don't understand. Since everyone (and I mean everyone) knows that the art of sending a paper letter is rapidly becoming obsolete, why do so many charities and non-profits continue to send return address labels as an incentive or thank you for a donation?

I decided to start keeping all the ones I get to see how they might add up. Here's a photo of a pile of them  on my office floor. By the way, that is Max who walks into the frame 99% of the time when he sees a camera. And, Toby the Cat thinks he is hiding in the upper corner since his head is covered.

These organizations send me these labels with a letter asking me to donate to their charity or cause. Many of them are environmental organizations which makes me wonder how they justify papering the country with more paper. I checked them out and these labels were made from paper that used to be a tree.

What exactly do you do with thousands of address labels? And, why are companies still selling labels when the non-profits in this country are willing to give you all you want for free?

Here's what I really think. I think the people that run these organizations send out millions of labels soliciting donations because that's what they've always done.

I understand that many non-profits are having a difficult time in raising funds the last few years. They blame the economy.

Maybe it's time to find a different way to engage with potential donors. Save the cost of your next label mailing and sit down with someone like Gail Bower who can help you understand that while you call us donors we're also your customers.

Good Vibrations

Ever try typing with one of these things on both your hands? I don't recommend it. In case you're wondering why it has been a little quiet here lately, the photo to the right is the reason.

Carpal tunnel troubles have caught up to me.

I felt this coming on for a couple of weeks and ignored it. So, now I'm paying the price and trying to get back to being able to type at more than 10 words a minute. 

Don't expect to find me wearing them in public. I'd rather be caught wearing a kilt.

We went to a new restaurant Saturday night. Well, it's sort of new. The building it is in has housed at least 4 other restaurants in the past ten years. They all failed. I heard this one was doing well and we agreed to meet friends early so I didn't even think about reservations. That could have been a big mistake but we got lucky.

The parking lot was full when we arrived at 6pm. Luckily someone was just pulling out carrying a doggie bag so I know they ate. I mean how early do these people dine around here? Anyway, it was obvious that the "new" restaurant was a hit.

So, what was different that allowed this place to flourish while 4 other people lost their shirts.

Everything!

They did a total makeover. The place was remodeled from top to bottom. The food was fresh, excellently prepared, well served and priced extremely low compared to comparable places. And, then there is the thing I can't quite describe. Let's call it a new vibe. The place felt good. People were having fun.

You can't buy a vibe. You have to create it. You can have a bad vibe or a good one. Apple has a good vibe. Microsoft not so good.

The same place, person or product vibe can be 180 degrees different depending upon who is receiving the vibrations. For example, I love New York City's vibe. But, you have to drag me to visit LA. Yet, I have plenty of west coast friends who feel just the opposite and Pittsburgh friends who don't have much good to say about either place.

What kind of vibe are you creating for your company, products and yourself? If you're not tuning your vibe to your type of customers you're missing an opportunity. Trying to have one that appeals to everyone comes off as out-of-tune and off key. It doesn't feel like it was meant for anyone.

Are you clients picking up good vibrations? Are you giving them excitations?

Whooooosh!

If you are hearing a whooshing noise above your head this week it might be the sound of March quickly flying by. In fact, almost one full quarter of 2010 is in the books and now would be a really good time to take an honest look at what you’ve done so far this year to meet your personal and business goals.

One of the problems many small businesses and self-employed one-person firms face is the up and down of sales versus delivery. When you’re the person responsible for both sales and delivery it is easy to get into that kind of a cycle which is deadly to cash flow.

I’m guessing you already know that if you’ve been working at this for any time. So, what’s the answer? Here are a few to consider:

  • If you sell services stop selling your time (by the hour billing) and start selling the value you bring to the project. You can’t make more time and you’re probably already working plenty of hours. But, you can bring more value to projects and when you do then you deserve to be paid for the value you bring. The key is to agree with the decision maker as to what value you bring and how it will be measured. Then you can both agree on a price that is fair for both of you.
  • If you’ve grown and now have staff working for you then you can spend more time marketing and selling. Get out of the office and out with your customers and prospective customers. I’ve never understood people who have their largest lifetime investment in their business spending their time in the office. Or, worse, spending their time in the office micro-managing the people who are producing for them.
  • Hire the best you can find, pay them like they are the best (since they are) and get the hell out of their way. Now you can go do what you’re supposed to be doing and that is marketing and selling.
  • If you’re using some of the new marketing techniques like social media, blogging, etc., please develop a strategy around how you are using them. And, make sure you measure the results.
Follow-up.
  • For all my life I’ve been amazed at how people just don’t follow-up. And, too often, they don’t even do what they promise. They will spend money on bricks, mortar, equipment, and stuff. They’ll spend money on ads, trade shows, and entertainment. They will hire a consultant to give them processes to follow and then they will sit back and wait for the money to come in the door. If you’re a small business owner and you’re only in it for the money, I think your chance at being exceptionally successful is slim.
  • You still have to do the work. And, I’m not talking about busy work. You can spend hours a day on Google or whatever on your computer. Unless that is part of your sales and marketing process and you complete the entire process, you’re deluding yourself.
  • Separate yourself from everyone else. Do it with the most extraordinary service, quality, speed, and products. Make it fun to do business with you. Make it an experience to remember. We had major storm damage in our home this past weekend. The first company to arrive to take a look at mitigating it arrived with flowers that are still on our kitchen counter. They are now on their 4th day of working for us. Nobody else brought flowers. I bet they spend over a $1,000 a year on flowers. They will more than recover that on this one job.
  • Stop doing business as usual. Forget what you did last year, the last five years or the last twenty-five. What are you going to do this year that is focused not on how much you can save on flowers but on what marketing and sales ideas you can invest in that will let you hit those goals you set back in January.

Cleaning House

I want to do a little housekeeping today. Does this happen to you? You get so busy with so many projects you wake up one morning and think, "Oh, wow, I forgot to let people know about that!" Some of this post falls into the "personal information I share with readers category." And, some of it, I hope, will be of value to you in your life.

Let's get started:

  • Joann and I are going to be grandparents again. My son, Ryan and his wife Sue, are expecting in mid-July. Meanwhile, their daughter Rylie is celebrating her 1st. Birthday tomorrow. I bet I can find a photo of Rylie to share with you.
  • I'm now doing a syndicated podcast. It is called, "Around the Water Cooler." So far, I have conducted three interviews with best selling authors Seth Godin, Dan Pink and Tim Brownson. You can find them and subscribe on iTunes by searching for Bob Poole or Around the Water Cooler. Also, you can go directly to the podcast website. Here is a link to get you there. The subject of the podcasts will be stories and tips about sales, marketing and leadership as well as interviews with authors and business owners and entrepreneurs. If you'd like to be on podcast with me to discuss your business or anything related to sales, marketing, leadership or creativity – please drop me an email at [email protected] and let me know.
  • What have you done that is extraordinary this week? Send me an email to tell me and I'll send you a book or audio book. Make sure you send your mailing address too.
  • My friend, Gail Bower, says "I've seen your book title not as title, but as an expression quite a bit lately. I think your title is surfacing because of raised consciousness. We've been working with the same car salesman-like sales tactics for years. Social media has changed a lot about transparency, openness, etc., at the same time self-awareness generally has increased and thus people's "crap detectors" have become more acute. Evolution!" If you see Listen First Sell Later being used as an expression, please send me a clip or photo. We'll see if we can compile enough for a collage.
  • I bought an iPhone this week. It was my first Apple product purchase since 1994. First, the packaging had me drooling. The box arrived looking like it held jewels instead of a phone. It was gorgeous. The inside packaging and instructions all continued the theme of beautiful design and a feeling of this is something special. When I plugged it into iTunes it began to sync with my computer. In a couple of minutes it had totally synchronized Outlook, all my email accounts and passwords and I was downloading email and making calls. And, that was just the beginning. You'd have to pry this from my hands to get it from me now. And, I'm seriously considering making the Apple leap the next time a PC starts crashing (or maybe when I have to upgrade from XP to Windows 7).
  • My speaking schedule is picking up and we're booking for the fall and early winter already. I think that is a good sign for both the economy and the fact people want to learn about how to sell and market in a world with unlimited choices.
  • Want to change people's lives? Start with your own first. We're always quick to want to change things and people around us before we give some real thought to our own life. Listen to yourself first – then decide what change your want and what change you can influence.
  • Peter Keady is a fine photographer. He's an even finer human being. He made a change from being a professional photographer to becoming an ordained minister and youth pastor. Now he is using his photographic skills to help kids who are in danger of being sucked into drugs and gangs. That's changing people's lives after changing yourself first.
  • If you are wondering when I'm doing my next video, it is coming soon. I wanted to do a series on Customer Styles to help you communicate and sell. Then I got the idea to hire a couple of actors and take them on location and make an entire series. That has proven to be a challenge for a number of reasons. So, I'm going to do both! I'll start the YouTube type videos soon and I'll talk about styles and then we're also continuing our search for a way to produce a more comprehensive video without breaking the bank. Unless, of course, we turn it into a product which might happen. Stay tuned and look for the new video link soon.
  • Over the last three years, I am proud to say, we have brought together an amazing team of people to help with your sales and marketing needs and solutions. These people really rock and I would never have found 90% of them if it were not for social media marketing and finding a tribe. I deliver some of these services and a team of over a dozen people deliver the rest from their offices all over the country. We can manage the process for you or turn it over to you for direction and management. We're flexible and fun to work with. We now can offer you the following services:
  1. Sales and Marketing Workshops, Seminars and Keynote Presentations
  2. Sales and Marketing Strategy and Coaching
  3. Web, print, animation and film design
  4. Videography and photography   
  5. Idea creation and design
  6. Copy writing   
  7. Database design and implementation
  8. Website security and IT services for small businesses  
  • And, last, from the I'm Afraid It Is True files comes a story from Rahway, NY. It seems a family decided to have fun with all the snow so instead of making the usual snowman in their yard, they decided to sculpt their own version of Venus de Milo. Rahway police told the family they had to put clothes on the offending piece despite their own reservations that it looked much better without the bra and towel. Rumor has it John Ashcroft is a frequent visitor.  I'll let you decide.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Wrong

Does your company have a blog?

Are you using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and other social media for your business?

You need to be. You already know that.

But, do you know you need to wrap a strategy around how you are using all these amazing tools?

And, do you know you need to measure the results?

Otherwise, you're wasting a lot of time and you're going to give up.

And, that would be very wrong.

Photo compliments of yuan2003

Interview With Dan Pink

Dan Pink, author of the New York Times bestseller “A Whole New Mind” has another best seller. It’s entitled “Drive – The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.”

I had the privilege of speaking with Dan today and discussing “Drive” and Motivation 3.0 among other subjects. Here is a recording of the interview. It is about 26 minutes long.For the sales people reading, you might enjoy our discussion on the merits of eliminating sales commissions.

I’ll also be posting a transcribed version sometime in the next 24 hours if you’d rather read than listen.

Enjoy.

Did You Just Sucker Punch A Potential Customer

The growth of SPAM in your in-box is supposed to be flattening out. I thought so too but since December I've seen a large growth of junk coming in here.

The cost to to deal with it is estimated to be over $130 billion worldwide. Estimated U.S. cost is $42 Billion. A number of factors make up the cost including Spam control software and hardware, licensing fees, IT cost, and the greatest – user productivity cost.

There are professional spammers who send out millions of pieces of junk mail, hijack IP addresses, scrape email addresses, and use third-party servers. Sadly, a small number of ISP's are happy to sell their services to spammers at a premium price.

Here is what I don't understand though. People hate spam. For a legitimate business (by that I mean one that isn't engaged in ripping people off) to engage in spam is like personally visiting a potential customer in their home or office and and when they open their door you sucker punch them right in the face.

In the last 5 minutes, I have received spam email from:

  • Netflix – which has become one of the worst offenders in the country
  • File Center Inc. – which wants to offer me a lower price for something I don't use
  • A professional spammer who is selling Viagra at 83% off.
  • A photographer offering some kind of software 
  • And, of course, a letter telling me I keep forgetting to pick up my $16.5 Million in Nigeria

By the end of today the list will grow to hundreds and too many of them will be from small businesses who think it is okay to buy a list of email addresses and then start sending to them. Others will be from people who got a list from a friend who got it from a friend who told them it was okay to email.

Here is the fact. If someone has not specifically told you that you have permission to send them email and you are emailing them – YOU ARE A SPAMMER!

I don't care if they did buy something from you within the last year. If they didn't give you specific permission to email them – YOU ARE A SPAMMER!

It's really simple. It's not gray. It is black and white.

No Permission = No Email Marketing

Photo compliments of Dave77459 on Flickr

Walk Away

A bit of advice if you're thinking of starting your own business. Sometimes you won't be able to choose who you work with. But, if you decide to coach, consult or mentor others, you have a choice and you need to think very carefully about it.

A friend from Australia is considering launching a new consultancy to help companies greatly improve their customer experience – or guest experience if you are in the hospitality business. She wanted my advice as a friend and as someone who has been providing these types of services for 25 years.

The most important piece of advice I gave her was to choose carefully who she agrees to work with. That might sound strange when you are just starting out and are looking for any kind of work from anyone. Shouldn't you accept the job and take the money even if you're gut says this client isn't right for you?

NO!

You will not be happy. The client is not likely to be happy. And, you'll leave the engagement feeling like you got too close to a black hole and it just sucked all the creativity and energy out of you.

When your gut says tells you to walk – walk. After first talking with some prospects, I've realized their way of conducting business or even their business ethics are not in alignment with mine. I nicely walk away. I've seen prospects publicly berate their staff (sometimes family) while telling me about how they need to do something about attracting more talented employees. I walked. And, I've been asked if I would be open to padding an invoice and splitting the money with the client. I ran.

Life is too short to spend it with people who make you feel the way I described.

You know what I'd do. Now, you have to make your own choice. 

Photo compliments of Jeremy Brooks