Limit The Options To Close The Sale

choicesEver had those days where you just want a simple product, but are overwhelmed with the amount of choices involved? Let’s say you want to buy a MP3 player for Christmas and wander into Best Buy thinking it will be easy – but what colour do you want? What brand? Should it be water proof? Do you really need Bluetooth? What about the batteries it takes? There have been so many times where I go to buy something and am simply put off by the amount of options available that I lose interest in the product and put it off getting it – or sometimes I don’t get it at all!

This got me thinking to the typical sales person who tries to sell a “complete” solution to someone who doesn’t really need all of the bells and whistles. Offering the right solution to potential customers is critical to closing the sale, but giving them a list of too many options is bound to turn them off. Once your prospect suffers from information overload, they’ll either delay the decision or lose interest. Here’s what you should do to prevent this from happening:

Discuss Their Exact Needs: The first step of any successful sale’s process is having a deep understanding of what your prospect is looking for, meaning that you need to have an in-depth conversation with them – probably multiple conversations actually. It’s no secret that you need to develop a relationship with your potential clients since it’s rare that you’ll sell someone a product or service on your first meeting. As such, when you’re getting to know them you need to see what exactly they’re looking for in a solution and if you can concisely offer them the service instead of saying things like “You might like A, but B and C are probably better! And we can’t forget D, E and F either.”

Custom Tailor A Solution: Chances are that you may not one concise solution available to solve all of a customer’s problems, which is why you offer them so many solutions. In this case though, it would help a lot if you move things around to make a solution that best fits for them, that way they have all of their problems solved in one fell swoop. Sure, it might be a bit of a pain, but there’s no doubt that they’ll appreciate the effort you put into making something work for them. This will also limit their options to their yes or no, making the close dramatically easier.

By making the decision process for your prospects easier and making their choices meet their needs, I guarantee that you’ll have more success with closing sales.

Mastering Efficiency For Better Business

2594377_origThis past week I had the pleasure of taking part of an internal strategy summit with all of the Presidents of the different Wish Group companies, as well as attending our quarterly meeting with all of the companies. Admittedly, one of the challenges that we face with having so many different companies under one umbrella is a unified focus. While I’m perfectly happy with the success of each company all they have achieved, I adamantly believe that if all of the companies combine our synergies, we can become a much more efficient unit.

In fact, the heavy focus of this quarterly meeting was on efficiency. As with all of our meetings, we pick one theme and message to drive home to the team and our leaders felt that efficiency was certainly something that any company can always improve on. As such, from both our strategy summit and our quarterly meeting, here is what we are doing to increase our efficiency that can be applied to any company.

Re-examine How Things Currently Work – The first step towards making anything more efficient is taking an honest look at how things are currently working. I say honest because if you keep telling yourself that everything is perfect, nothing will ever improve. Examine some of your shortcomings and try to assess what mechanics you can put in place to streamline processes that will make you work smarter.

Assembly Line Principle – One of the analogies that we used to drive home efficiency is one of the most successful business efficiency success stories of all time – the assembly line. Henry Ford was famous for taking a long, complex process and turning it into something that made it significantly easier to produce more cars in less time. The main idea behind this was to have staff focus on using their strengths, instead of spreading them thin by trying to do everything. This is incredibly difficult at a start up company as everyone is always wearing multiple hats, but try and discover what tasks your team members excel at and whenever possible give them those tasks.

Trust Your Team – Tying into the previous point, once you’ve discovered what areas your team members are adept at, trust them to complete their task. If you’re constantly worrying about the kind of work your team is doing, it’ll leave less time for you to focus on running your business. Have faith that your team will always produce the best work possible.

I’m certain that efficiency is always top of mind for your company, so I’m curious to know what tasks you think you could be doing more efficiently, and what you want to improve on in your company.

Is There A “Give Up” Point?

virgin-galactic-crashSomething that really struck a cord with me was the news about Virgin Galactic’s failure of their SpaceShip2. The story itself is really tragic, and ended with the death of one of the pilots. There is a lot of speculation on what exactly went wrong, but that doesn’t matter. In the end, pioneering this new field of Space Tourism will continue to be inherently dangerous. Should they continue with this work though?

A gut reaction is to say “no, they should obviously stop with this because it’s too dangerous.” But Virgin Galactic remains undeterred, and will in fact continue forward with their company. Personally, I agree that they should continue as well. Space travel being dangerous is nothing new. In fact, earlier last week saw another spaceship malfunction too, which was luckily unmanned but still could just have easily ended in tragedy and ended up costing millions. NASA, of course, will continue their work despite the loss of the scientific equipment and resources.

Commercial space flight seems extremely dangerous, but it’s far too simple to forget that commercial airline flights took years of trail and error as well to get to safe standards. Even then, there are still unfortunately accidents involved with there flights, as pioneering commercial flights took plenty of years of persistence and unfortunately there were good pilots lost to reach the formula to what we have today. The same principle applies to the automotive industry, as accidents were a regular occurrence when cars first appeared and there were many civilian casualties in the process.

The fact that this sounds cold isn’t lost on me, but hear me out. Virgin Galactic is on the forefront of this industry and truly pioneering what’s to be expected in the future. Science fiction stories have romanticized what space travel could look like centuries away, but we have many years until we reach that point – if we ever in fact reach it. We are going to have to put up with the grim reality that if we seriously want to take a stab at making space tourism and commercial space flight viable, there are bound to be more casualties. Is it worth it? It may be a tough pill to swallow and face, but throughout history there’s always a tough road with tragedies, but in order to make progress it’s sometimes necessary.

I’m very curious to hear your opinions on this matter, both from a personal perspective and from an entrepreneurial point of view. Should Virgin Galactic continue with this endeavour?

Setting Standards and Expectations

setting-expectations-and-standardsSurely you’ve heard people mention in passing that they live by a “code”, but what does that mean exactly? While I could delve into many different territories here, something that I believe all “codes” follow is that they set certain standards and expectations.

Standards and expectations are important because they dictate vital elements of how your business will operate, like how you’ll treat your clients and who’s accountable in your organization. If you try to operate your business without setting any form of standards to follow, the results are guaranteed to be disastrous.

To me, these are the three most important people you need to set standards and expectations for:

For Your Clients – This should naturally be your priority. Who will be the point of contact for clients? How will you communicate with them? What type of tone will you use, professional or casual? How do you want them to perceive your organization? These types of questions may seem arbitrary, but if nothing is set in place before your team starts liaising with clients, the disorganization will be obvious. There are few things more annoying than multiple people from your organization reaching out to a client to ask the same questions.

For Your Co-workers – Another equally important set of standards that you need to have in place are for your coworkers. You may think that you have them in place, but are you sure that everyone truly understands what they are? This goes far beyond simple things like a dress code. This means that everyone understands deliverables for each project, how much time to allocate for different clients and who will deliver what work. Again, this may sound arbitrary, but you might be surprised once you discover what people on your team are expecting from each other – and from you.

For Yourself – This point ties in with what I was discussing earlier when I mentioned living by a “code”. When you set standards for where you work, then it makes sense that you should set standards for yourself, correct? While everyone’s idea of ideal expectations will differ, sit down and pencil out what exactly is important to you. How will you treat your clients? How often do you want to regroup with your coworkers? Are you realistically making enough time for yourself and your loved ones? These things matter in the long run. Once you have an idea of what people can expect from you, make it known to them.

One last thing I want to mention about expectations and standards is that once they’re set, don’t neglect them. While not having standards can be pretty rough, setting them and not following through is much worse.

The Challenges of Executing and Delivering

Wish_Group_Summer_ReunionWhether you only have one employee or 50 employees, execution will always be difficult. By execution I mean of course the way that you are completing tasks that will grow your business, and deliver positive results either to your leadership in the company or to yourself.

As I mentioned in my last blog post, the Wish Group went away for our bi-annual team building trip a couple of weeks ago. During these trips we like to have an overall theme for the event that will put a focus on the learning we’ll accomplish, with this year’s theme being execution.

The main goal for these trips is of course team building, but taking the time to discuss challenges and triumphs with your team is also an excellent way of doing that. When it comes to executing, we focused on four different areas that were loosely based on the four disciplines of execution, with a spotlight on sales of course:

Make Important Goals – The only way to achieve great success is to make goals that you can focus on. It may sound simple, but without a goal to focus on you simply won’t have the same drive that other sales people or companies have. One of the tasks we asked everyone at our Summer Reunion to complete is to write down their Wildly Important Goals for the year. This first step is really what sets the tone for how you’ll achieve success, since it’s important to actually define what success means to you!

Define Your Lead Measures – Even if you have a goal, what’s the point if you don’t have a practical way of reaching it? I put an emphasis on practical because it’s common to rush towards a goal instead of tackling it strategically. The best way I can explain this is with a common weight loss analogy. Your important goal may be to lose 50 pounds, but you can’t just make this goal and hope for the best. You’ll be keeping track of how much exercise you’re doing daily and even how many calories you’re taking in. The same thing applies to your sales team. Sure, they want to close a certain amount of deals, but victory lies in preparation. They’ll need to keep track of who they’re contacting, what prospects make the most sense to reach out to and what hasn’t been working for them in the past, just as a few examples.

Track Your Progress – It’s hard to admit, but there are only winners and losers when it comes to sales and business. People don’t pay to see two sports teams kick a ball around and not keep track of who wins. We pay to see one team win, which means another team has to lose. Keeping a scorecard of all of your successes will keep you focused on your goals in two ways. On one hand, having a visual record of the times when you didn’t quite reach your goals will motivate you to keep trying harder to turn those failures into triumphs. On the other hand, with the notes you keep from your lead measures combined with your scorecard, it’ll be extremely rewarding to have a solid trail of your success and how hard you’ve worked to get there.

Accountability to Yourself and Your Team – Your plans, your efforts and triumphs don’t mean anything if you don’t hold yourself accountable by actually following through with your action plan. It’s important to understand that this means keeping track of your failures too, because you’ll never be able to improve if you don’t look at both sides of your endeavors.

As you can clearly see, executing is by no means an easy task, and overnight results shouldn’t be expected. Like with most things in life, if you want to achieve greatness, you’ll need to take it one step at a time. And like most things as well, the first step is always the most difficult – but after that I guarantee that you’ll be able to do it!

Ups and Downs of Working on Holidays

working-on-holidaysFor many of the Canadian business owners I know, this past two day weekend turned into a four day Canada Day long weekend – for better or worse. While some entrepreneurs may be taking a well deserved break, the majority that I know will probably be working in some capacity during these days off.

Throughout my years of working holidays, I’ve come to discover that although there are many advantages of working those extra hours, there are also disadvantages that you don’t fully realize:

Disadvantage #1: Missing Out on Family Time: Long-weekends were made for family-gatherings. When working all weekend long, you miss out on time spent with your family that you will never get back. Take the time to put down the laptop and set aside the work, and just enjoy good company. Surrounding yourself with the love and kindness of your family will help you get back to your work with more purpose.

Disadvantage #2: Burning Yourself Out: Taking a break has actually been proven to increase your productivity. If you continuously work yourself to the bone, when the time comes for you to meet an unexpected deadline you simply won’t have the energy or stamina to do so. Pace yourself.

Disadvantage #3: Draining Your Creativity: Putting all your focus on one project may seem like a good idea, however, it’s not beneficial if you are trying to come up new creative solutions. Taking your mind away from a project will allow your mind to wander and come up with incredible new solutions to old problems.

Of course, working during a holiday definitely has its advantages:

Advantage #1: Capture Opportunity: When the rest of the competition is sleeping during the holidays, working allows you to capture opportunities that would have otherwise been taken by your rivals. Entrepreneurs want to maximize their business’ potential and continuous hard work allows us to do that.

Advantage #2: Momentum: Like I mentioned in a previous post, once you stop, it’s hard to start again. We’ve all heard that before in many different aspects of our lives, and work is no different. Keeping a steady working momentum allows entrepreneurs to keep pushing forward because they almost forget how to stop. As any entrepreneur will tell you, achieving success requires persistence.

Advantage #3: Cut Down Your To-Do List: As you run from meeting to meeting, your to-do list often gets larger and larger. Now that you have those extra couple of days, it’s time to cut down some of that list. In fact, this might be the perfect time for you to focus on lesser tasks you’ve been pushing aside, leaving the priority tasks for your return to the office.

As much as we want to continue pursing success by working hard, balance is required to get there. The best entrepreneurs don’t have a fully “off” mode. They’ll lounge by the pool or lay on the beach relaxing, but something will always spur their next great idea.

Heartbreaking Lessons from the Habs

Heartbreaking_HabsMany Canadians had faith in the Canadiens this year, as they were the only home-based team that made it to the playoffs. It’s no secret that I’m an avid fan of the Habs, so of course I found their loss this year particularly heartbreaking, given all that they had been through to make it that far. The team obviously knows where their weak points are and what they need to improve for next year. With the Habs learning lessons from their tough games, I also picked up on a few business related lessons while watching them play game six:

Stay Calm During the Unexpected – There’s no doubt that losing Carey Price to a knee injury had a massive impact on the Canadiens. While naysayers will argue from watching the series that they didn’t lose because of goaltending, it’s still a mental blow to the team. It was extremely difficult to predict they wouldn’t have their gold medal goalie in the game, but it goes to show that you can’t always expect things to go smoothly. The unexpected will happen – be it your company’s internet going down, a key presenter being suddenly called away or even dangerous weather preventing you from making an important business trip. You need to always have some sort of contingency plan, or at the very least, stay calm under the pressure of the unexpected.

Sometimes Your Best Won’t Cut It – I, along with many other people, believed that once the Habs conquered the Bruins, the cup was theirs. While the Rangers aren’t a pushover by any means, I assumed that by sweeping the first round and fiercely battling through their grudge match with Boston that they had built a solid momentum that would take them to the finals. They clearly tried their absolute best, but sometimes your best just isn’t enough. This is an invaluable lesson to learn when you’re an entrepreneur. Your pitch to a new client may have been the best you could do, but your best won’t always take you to the top, for various uncontrollable reasons. This doesn’t mean you should give up – far from it in fact, which leads to my next point…

Failure Makes You Improve – Montreal players have already said they were proud of their team and vowed that better days were ahead, which is nice to hear after a defeat. You need to have the same mentality when things don’t go your way as well.  It’s difficult to see your absolute best efforts crushed right in front of you. There are many people I know who latched onto a promising opportunity and gave it their all, only to be rejected and then they essentially gave up after that one experience. Don’t let failure stop you on your way to greatness. Everyone has failed in their life, multiple times, be it professionally or personally. As cliché as it sounds, you can’t let one failure crush your dreams. If everyone gave up on their dreams after one setback, the world would be a much different place.

You can learn many valuable business lessons in almost anything, be it sports teams or movies or anything in between. What are some of the most unexpected places that you’ve learned valuable lessons?

Don’t Let Fear Hold Back Your Entrepreneurial Instincts

Don’t-Let-Fear-Hold-Back-Your-Entrepreneurial-InstinctsIf you decide to leave your job and open your own business, there are a few things you assume you’ll leave behind as well. Job security, consistency and a personal life are what some people think they’ll leave behind – and sometimes this is true. The problem here is that when people really start to think about these things, they get worried, and that worrying more often than not leads to fear.

This fear can be used as motivation for some, but more often than not this fear will inevitably stop you from taking the plunge and stop you from creating your dream company. We’re all familiar with Franklin D. Roosevelt’s quote on fear: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” While the quote may be used quite often, that’s simply because it rings true, and if you can overcome your fear you will head towards greatness. Here are a few things that you need to keep in mind to keep your fears in check.

Take That First Step – No matter what your instincts may be telling you, the hardest part is taking the first step. However, if you find that the results from this first step aren’t encouraging, don’t abandon hope so quickly. Much like with losing weight, the first step is difficult and most get discouraged when they don’t see any immediate results. Just have patience, and know that the road is long but well worth it. Creating a business plan, getting your financials in order or reaching out to other entrepreneurs are just a few things that you can do to get you started.

Keep The Big Picture In Mind, But Take It One Step At A Time – Tying in above, once you take that first step, make a list of other goals you want to attain. You should keep the big picture in mind, like wanting to become a multi-million dollar company for example, but also make sure to have smaller attainable goals first. Acquiring a certain number of new clients, finding an office space and other similar things are small goals you can start off with. Meeting these smaller goals will keep you motivated as well, since reaching them will let you know that you’re well on your way to the end game.

Drop The Negativity – One of the biggest side effects from fear is the non-stop negativity that comes with it. Your fear makes you believe that you’re incapable of meeting your goals, or worse, that you don’t deserve to reach your goals. There’s no one way to get over this, but it’s important to know that this will take time. Write down what is making you afraid and then list off realistically if your fear is based on facts, or simply something you’ve made up in your head.

Do you feel that you’re now over your fears, or are there still things that you feel are holding you back? I’d love to discuss this topic with you in more detail.

Why you Need to be a Thought Leader

why-you-need-to-be-a-thought-leaderAs I mentioned in my blog post last week, using social media is a great way to gain exposure and build your personal brand. One point that I briefly touched on was about sharing your unique industry experiences through social media channels, and how this will make you a thought leader. But what exactly is thought leadership, and why is it important?

The term itself is pretty self explanatory. It’s someone who has established authority in their work field and has become the “go to” person when you need to know about a specific topic. I’m not going to explain how to become a thought leader, as there are plenty of articles that do a great job of detailing how to create thought leading content. However, I do have three main reasons as to why you need to be a thought leader – and one cautionary piece of advice:

Kills Competition – The best thing about being a thought leader is that you’ll instantly kill your competition. Think about it, if you were a potential customer and had to choose between two different companies, which would you rather choose: the company that has a president who regularly produces content as an expert in their field, or just a regular company?

Lead Generation – Speaking to the point above, generating knockout content that provides your audience with great value isn’t just useful for building a following. There’s bound to be people who’ll take a look at your content and decide that your product or service is worth the price of admission, based only on the fact that you’re an expert at what you do.

Increased Exposure – Another benefit to thought leadership content is the amount of exposure it will get you and your company. This will bring many visitors to your website or blog, and with the proper linking techniques,it can be great for your SEO, PR and content marketing efforts.

However, be Prepared to be in the Spotlight – The piece of cautionary advice that I mentioned links directly to the point above, and most entrepreneurs don’t consider it. Love it or hate it, once you’ve become an established thought leader every piece of information that you publish will be under scrutiny, which can lead to some nasty dialogue between you and your newly expanded audience.

It takes a long time to position yourself as a thought leader, but the sooner you figure out why you should become one, the sooner you’ll begin the process of becoming one. Of course, I myself am still on this journey, but I’m glad I started sooner rather than later. Are you trying to become a thought leader? What pieces of advice would you offer anyone starting out?

Personal Brand Building with Social Media

personal-branding-social-mediaOne of the biggest challenges I’ve recently faced is jumping deeply into social media. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t understand the value of social media, I honestly just couldn’t dedicate an adequate amount of time to try and build a proper following. Fast forward to the present and I’m happy to say that I’ve not only been able to post consistently on my blog here, but also on my personal Twitter account.

But why even bother with a social media presence? Most entrepreneurs have been told time and time again that social media is important, but it’s rarely explained why it’s so important. Every user will define the importance in their own way, but for me, social media is a powerful tool to build your own personal brand. As an entrepreneur, you’ve probably started a business in the field of your choice, which means that you’ll be able to provide incredible value to your audience by sharing your unique insight, be it with short and succinct tweets or in-depth blog posts. Sharing these kinds of insights on your social media channels will eventually make you a thought leader in your field, but of course, this will take time.

When it comes to social media, another point that will take time and effort is growing your number of followers. For what seemed like the longest time, my Twitter account had only a handful of followers and refused to grow. After discussing strategies with a digital marketer, the two most valuable lessons I was able to learn was that (a) follow growth takes time and (b) I simply wasn’t being social enough.

These two items are very important to know for any of your social media efforts, be it for personal use or for your brand. The first point about follower growth is especially critical, as business owners become very disappointed with their lack of growth in a set period of time and abandon all of their social media channels. Using my own Twitter account as an example, after two months of consistent use, I now have 190 followers. This is following three months where I couldn’t break 40 followers. So what happened that made my follower number jump? It leads directly to the second point of being social.

It’s called social media for a reason: if you don’t join in on the conversation, then you can’t expect to see any kind of growth or engagement. Admittedly, one of the things I want to improve on is the engagement of my audience. While I do interact with my followers, I want to specifically try and reach out to more of them and get a regular dialogue going. You need to interact with your followers regularly, otherwise no matter what kind of information you share on your accounts, it’ll quickly become irrelevant.

What has your experience with social media been like? I’d love to discuss this topic more in depth in the comments below.