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Posts from March 2013

HEALTHY EASTER BASKET ALTERNATIVES FOR KIDS!

According to the National Retail Federation, Americans are expected to spend more than 2 billion-dollars on traditional Easter candy this year. To avoid all the sugar and processed candy consider filling your kids' plastic eggs with stickers, temporary tattoos, or marbles if they are old enough. Additional sugar-free alternatives include Play-Doh, glitter, or even spare change. Experts recommend creating a themed basket such as a spring garden basket filled with shovels, seeds and gloves, or a summer fun themed basket filled with a new bathing suit, beach towel, flip-flop, sunscreen and a hat, and skipping the candy completely. That would go over like a lead balloon in my house!
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HATE YOUR JOB? DON'T VENT ON TWITTER!

Some German researchers are reminding everyone that venting publicly about your job or boss on Twitter is not a good idea. They have created a tool called FireMe! It works with Twitter by using an algorithm looking for telltale phrases indicating a person has tweeted something negative about their job. The user then receives an automated tweet from FireMe! that warns: "Can you imagine if your boss gets to know that you said: 'I hate my job so much.' You said that on Twitter and the whole world can see it!" The response also has a link to a page with their FireMeter! score-- a percentage chance of being fired. The percentage is based on how often they mentioned their job negatively in the last 100 tweets and how often they swore. (Gizmodo)
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Are Your Expectations Clear?

The fastest way to derail your plan is to be vague or unclear about what you expect for your business and from yourself, your management team and their direct reports.  Employees do not engage when expectations aren’t clear.  Actually, the number two reason people quit their job is because they don’t know what’s expected of them and therefore can’t determine whether they’re making any impact.

Whatever you expect in terms of performance should be documented in writing, agreed to and signed off on.   A great place to begin determining which expectations to set is with job descriptions/models as they contain the main functions for each role, providing you a great framework.  The following are three things that should be included in each expectation, along with some examples.

1) What?
Communicate specifically what they need to do/accomplish and for what purpose.  For example if you’re setting prospecting expectations, be clear about what behaviors you need them to perform:  phone calls, face-to-face meetings, networking, new business generation, referrals, public speaking, community service, etc.    To state that you expect them to generate new business is too vague.  Rather, define what you consider to be new business, aside from the obvious.  Would a former client who hasn’t done business with you for two or more years be considered ‘new’?   How about business from a different division of an existing client?   What are your goals for their phone call activities – appointments, referrals, a definite ‘no’?

2) How Much?
Clearly state this using numbers and data.  Adding on to the above new business example, you might state:  You are expected to write $100,000 in new business; or, you are expected to close 10 new clients; or, you are expected to make 80 phone calls weekly to non-clients.

3) By When?
In order to figure out whether their performance is satisfactory, they’ve got to know when you will inspect what they have/haven’t accomplished.   To continue with the example:  You are expected to write $100,000 in new business by June 30, 2013.  You are expected to close 10 new clients by March 31, 2013, each with a minimum order of $5,000.  

When you provide clearly stated expectations your employees understand what they must do to be successful.  This is a great gift from you to them.  It also provides you with the certainty that they have no questions about what you expect. This mutual clarity and commitment are both crucial for your business growth.
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BRITS CAN RENT MOURNERS FOR FUNERALS

How SAD is this? A British company called "Rent-A-Mourner" provides fake mourners that will attend your loved one's funeral for just 45 Pounds an hour. Ian Robertson, the company's founder, said he was inspired by the popularity of similar services in Asia. The service works like so: The client meets with the hired mourners ahead of the service then gives them a background on the life of the deceased. Robertson explained, "They will be informed of the deceased's background, achievements, failures etc. so they can converse with other mourners with confidence." Rent-A-Mourner currently has a staff of 20, comprised of Robertson's friends -- as opposed to actors. He said, "We were actually inspired by the market growth in China. The Middle Eastern way is to provide wailers -- crying women -- as opposed to the quiet, dignified methods we use." The company is in its second year and Robertson said their bookings are up "50% year on year." He added, "At the moment it's not the sort of thing most people can treat as a career, but if it continues to increase in popularity then crying on demand could soon become a highly-prized skill." (The Sun)
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Leadership and the Art of Change

Life is a long process of getting used to things you started out to change. – Frank A. Clark

As the story goes, it was on June 4, 1783 at the market square of a French village of Annonay, not far from Paris, that a smoky bonfire on a raised platform was fed by wet straw and old wool rages. Tethered above, straining its lines was a huge taffeta bag 33 feet in diameter. In the presence of “a respectable assembly and a great many other people,” and accompanied by great cheering, the balloon was cut from its moorings and set free to rise majestically into the noon sky.

Six thousand feet in the air it went—the first public ascent of a balloon, the first step in the history of human flight. It came to earth several miles away in a field, where it was promptly attacked by pitchfork-waving peasants and torn to pieces as an instrument of evil.

From the earliest days of man change has been a difficult proposition. We are creatures of comfort and creatures of habit. Shake up the apple cart and you will have a fight on your hands; especially if you are a leader. Take the workplace for example. In a recent survey commissioned by talent management firm Plateau and conducted by Harris Interactive, finds that 74% of workers-satisfied or not- would consider leaving if approached with another offer. In other words, change is always in the air – yes, even at your office.

Steven Covey said, “There are three constants in life; change, choice and principles.” And as a leader how you integrate those truths is an important part of your leadership style. Here are three insights about change that will challenge the way you think about it and how it can help you as a leader.

The change we want – looks outward. In leadership when we think about the changes we want it usually has something to do with someone else. Our grumblings often center on what someone at the office is doing; or not doing, that frustrates us. People are not performing at the level you want, there is too much in-fighting or office politics, performance goals are not being met, etc.

The change you want is the frustration of your leadership. It is frustrating because it has you focused on things at the margins that steal quality time in terms of productivity. All you know is that you are frustrated and something has to change. And unfortunately, creating change out of frustration tends to lead to unhealthy choices regarding change and does not help you in the long term.

The change we need – looks inward. One of the hardest things for a leader to do is to look inward with a critical eye. The British politician Nancy Astor said, “The main dangers in this life are the people who want to change everything, or nothing.” And so long as you want to change everything else but remain unwilling to change yourself it will remain an encumbrance on your leadership.

The change you need is the necessity of your leadership. It is when you honestly evaluate your strengths and weaknesses; your blind spots and attitudes that inward change begins. Improvement will only happen when you look honestly in the mirror and make the changes you need to make before expecting them from others. But it’s when you are transparent, ask for feedback, and demonstrate humility that you can begin to create a culture of change in your organization. And the day you learn to let go of the things you can’t change in other people is the day you let go of many of your frustrations as a leader.

The change we celebrate – looks upward. Max Depree said, “In the end, it is important to remember that we cannot become what we need to by remaining what we are.” In leadership the goal is not to sit back and rest in our comfort zones. We should constantly be striving to become what we need by embracing that which we must.  Change is a constant and we must welcome it and be open to it if we are to grow.  

The change you celebrate is the blessing of your leadership. It is a blessing when you forget about trying to change other people and change yourself. It is a blessing when you embrace your calling and purpose as a leader and fulfill your destiny not because you resisted change but because you dared to welcome it.

© 2013 Doug Dickerson

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Selling is a Whole New Numbers Game

When I started selling, one of the first things my manager shared was that ‘selling is a numbers game’.  He further explained that if I was diligent about making 30 calls daily, striving for 4-5 face-to-face appointments per day, based on their averages I would realize 3-5 sales per week.   He then asked me to choose either A-K or L-Z, handed me the phone book and said ‘good luck’.

For my training, he assigned me to a desk next to their top-billing seller affectionately known as ‘the bulldog’ and suggested that I listen, watch and learn from him.   Following are the three biggest lessons I learned that first year, how they hold true today and how they’ve changed the numbers game.  

Here’s what the veteran (name and station changed) would say when making calls:  “Hi this is Carl from WEEE and since I’m going to be in your area next Tuesday I was hoping we could meet to see if we can make some money together.”  He would begin each day repeating that same language 20+ times, day in and day out.  Since most prospects hung up on him, I vowed to use a different tactic.   The ‘aha!’ moment:  it wasn’t enough to represent a respected brand, the prospect had to believe they would benefit by speaking to and and/or meeting with us.

To gain their perspective and learn about their business, I would have to ask questions.  New questions would lead to new perspectives.   No more one-sheets or statements about how far our signal reached, or how many people were listening unless those facts were important to the prospect.   If they might ask ‘so what?’ then I wouldn’t make the statement.  Another ‘aha!’:  prospects always interpret our value propositions as sales propaganda.   

Although I began to get more appointments, and prospects appreciated being in the spotlight, there was still something missing.   The ‘numbers game’ wasn’t working.
Days filled by appointments with the wrong people weren’t bringing sales success.   The third ‘aha’:  greater focus was needed, our ‘ideal’ prospect had to be identified; we were meeting with people who had no intention of buying from us.  What a waste of time, energy and resources!

Fast forward several years, add in technological advances, social media and a mobile target customer and, guess what?  These three lessons still hold true.  It’s still all about the prospect, not us; the prospect doesn’t really care about our claims to fame with other companies, they need to know how we’ll help them improve; now more than ever having a defined ‘ideal target’ is critical, focusing on fewer, pre-qualified prospects is better than filling your pipeline with suspects yet to be vetted.

Selling is now a whole new numbers game.  Our business development behaviors must be more precise.  Prospects are on the move today, so several different methods of communication must be used to reach them.   We need specific plans for how we’ll reach out to them, with what medium, in what order, how often and with what message.  

Prospects today are savvy.  Before your first face-to-face meeting, they’ve checked you out on-line and formed an opinion as to whether you’re a thought leader in your space, or their best option. .  If you’re not familiar to them, you’ll have to add several components to your marketing and business development processes to gain their attention and create interest.  
        
Because anything and everything can be instantly researched, today’s purchaser expects you to know something about their lives, business needs and buying patterns before you approach them.  Gone are the days when business owners will take the time to educate you about their business.  Remove yourself, your company, your product/service from the conversation; make it all about them as it should be.  Reading from a script and treating every prospect the same was never really acceptable, today it’s not tolerated.  If business owners would find fewer, more targeted messages in their inboxes, they’d likely be inclined to return more phone calls and e-mails.  

It’s time to re-think the sales numbers game you’re playing.

As you write your 2013 sales play book, consider creating three separate business development plans.   One each for ‘touching’ prospects you’ve met and those you haven’t; a third to uncover opportunities for lift from current customers.   With each, define when you’ll call it quits.  

Once outlined, written and communicated, you’ll likely find that being precise about and measuring specific activities will lead you to greater productivity, referrals and sales.  

This article was published in Greenville Business Magazine December, 2012.
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LIFE IS HARDER TODAY THAN IT USED TO BE!

A British survey finds people of 2 generations think younger people have it harder today than their parents did. The survey was conducted by health retailer Holland & Barrett and questioned 4,000 people. 68% of those surveyed said they believe today's generation is forced to endure more hardship than young people 40 years ago. 41% of 20-somethings surveyed said they experience regular or constant stress, while just 15% said the same 40-years ago. Top concerns for the younger generation include body image, being overworked, and money worries. Authors say young people are commonly viewed as living for today, when in reality they are looking ahead and investing in their health and savings.
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LIFE IS HARDER TODAY THAN IT USED TO BE!

A British survey finds people of 2 generations think younger people have it harder today than their parents did. The survey was conducted by health retailer Holland & Barrett and questioned 4,000 people. 68% of those surveyed said they believe today's generation is forced to endure more hardship than young people 40 years ago. 41% of 20-somethings surveyed said they experience regular or constant stress, while just 15% said the same 40-years ago. Top concerns for the younger generation include body image, being overworked, and money worries. Authors say young people are commonly viewed as living for today, when in reality they are looking ahead and investing in their health and savings.
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Are you looking for ‘love’ in all the wrong places?

I’ve jokingly said that the first three months I was in business I did just that. Not being from here, I spent time networking with everyone and anyone I could get introduced to in the hopes of expanding my contacts. However, a better approach quickly became apparent.   Here are lessons from the trenches, so to speak.
 
Define your ideal target customer and figure out how to succinctly state that to someone else.
Mine is the Owner/CEO/President of a business with $2MM to $20MM in annual revenues, with 3+ sales people, that has been operating for a minimum of 3 years.  
 
Know which events your ideal targets are likely to attend.
Much can be learned through trial and error, but let's minimize the errors. I’ve learned that my ideal targets are more likely to attend events centered around philanthropic/charitable, educational, political/government, economic development and/or health and welfare issues; and/or they’ll join groups with like-minded individuals of similar stature.
 
Approach prospecting as you did dating.
Keep your ideal criteria top of mind. When you were searching for that special someone you knew which characteristics you wanted them to have and whether any of those were negotiable. Most of the people you met weren’t a fit; some were worth dating for a while; a few made it to the final cut. The same applies to prospecting.   You must discern whether the people you meet are a fit, in need of your product/service, have the money to invest with you and are worth your commitment, energy and resources. They’ll be checking you out in the same way. The mutual end goal is a long-term relationship.
 
Create a list of your top 20-25 ideal target customers and keep it with you at all times.
Introductions and referrals are precious. Seek them. When you share your list of ideal targets with others, it makes it quite easy for them to tell you whether they know them or not. Oftentimes it acts as a trigger leading them to think of others who may benefit from getting to know you. Ask them if they're willing to make an introduction and then coach them on what to say.
 
Remember, people refer others who are like them.
Large clients will refer other large clients. Small business owners will know and refer other small business owners. For the most part, women refer other women; men refer other men. This is a natural occurrence. If you stay true to your ideal customer definition, you’ll get introduced to those who are a fit and you’ll avoid spending time with suspects who don’t end up doing business with you.
 
Prospecting is about opening conversations with others to determine whether there may be an opportunity to work together. Be clear about your purpose, stay true to your ideal customer definition and you’ll soon find how effective targeted prospecting can be.
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3 Leadership Lessons from Mariano Rivera

I would like to be remembered as a player who was there for others –Mariano Rivera

In announcing his forthcoming retirement from Major League Baseball at the conclusion of the 2013 season, Mariano Rivera will certainly be bound for Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame. By the numbers Rivera has no equal. His stats speak volumes as to his skill as a dominant relief pitcher. Rivera enters the 2013 season with a career ERA of 2.21, 1,119 saves and 608 strikeouts.

In recognition of his stellar career it is worth noting the leadership lessons that can be drawn from his career and how these principles transcend the game of baseball. These are life lesson every leader can learn from and apply. John Wooden once said, “Success comes from knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.” Certainly Rivera did that and you can too. Here are three take-away leadership lessons from the career of Mariano Rivera and why they matter.

How to enjoy every season. Rivera entered the Major Leagues in 1995. After 19 seasons it will be over and he will enter a new chapter and phase in his life. Every leader goes through seasons. And just as Rivera enjoyed seasons where he finished on top with World Championships, there were also lean years for the team.

The leadership lesson to learn here is that each season is to be embraced with enthusiasm, passion, and a desire to win. Your leadership will be called upon and tested. You will face obstacles and challenges. You will experience the thrill of victory and taste the disappointment of defeat.

The important thing to remember is to enjoy the journey regardless of the outcome. The mark of your leadership is found in the discovery of making the most of every season and opportunity that comes your way.

How to be a team player. Rare in professional sports today, Rivera’s entire career was played in the famous pin stripe uniform of the New York Yankees. It was only fitting that all of his teammates were in attendance at his retirement announcement.

The leadership lesson to learn here is that of being a team player. In his retirement announcement interview Rivera was asked about being labeled the greatest of all time. Rivera responded by saying, “First of all, I don’t feel I’m the greatest of all-time. The reason I say that is because I’m a team player. If it wasn’t for my teammates, I would never had the opportunities.” This summarizes both the power and importance of teamwork.

The mark of your leadership is found not so much in what you can achieve individually as rewarding as that can be, but in how you can be a part of something greater than yourself.

How to leave with your head held high. Rivera will leave at the end of the season celebrated as the game’s greatest closer.  When asked how it feels to exit the game he said, “There’s nothing to be sad of. I did everything within my power to enjoy the game, to do it well, to respect baseball. I have so much joy about that. So to me, there’s no sadness. I would say joy.”

Rivera’s legacy as a baseball player is secure. It is Hall of Fame material. What about your legacy? As a leader it is being created by the work you do, the decisions you make, the service you render, the obstacles you overcome, the lessons you learn, and your desire to leave your mark on the world.

Your calling is not to be a Rivera, but to be the best version of yourself as the leader that you were created to be with passion and purpose. With a touch of class, Rivera simply showed us the joy of doing it.

© 2013 Doug Dickerson
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