1001 Business Bedtime Stories… Mark’s Great Sales System

Mark’s simple and effective sales system… Truth 7

So you’ve got a great product or an awesome service but where are all your customers? Read on to see how Mark found his customers and sent his sales rocketing.

Once upon a time… a long, long time ago in a country not unlike Australia…

Mark was a graphic designer.

In fact he was a fantastic graphic designer. He had put together a small team of other passionate and inspired designers and together they created beautiful, eye-catching, ground-breaking designs. Yet despite his and his team’s talent, the work coming in was sporadic and the business was only just making ends meet.

Sometimes potential clients made enquiries about design work, and sometimes leads just walked in the door. Every now and then Mark made a few phone calls and sent out some emails prospecting for work, but this was only occasionally and usually just when the need for work was greatest.

The result of all this meant that sales were haphazard and work fluctuated wildly. One week the team would be flooded with new projects, the next everyone would be heading home early.

The stress of wondering if the business would survive each month was beginning to affect the quality of the work produced. Mark was finding his staff turnover was high because of the constant insecurity and worry.

Mark wondered, “How can I smooth out the peaks and troughs of work coming in?”

Mark was going grey.

The Bootcamp

Working in The Bootcamp with me, Mark came to appreciate that he would need a consistent sales strategy and system if he wanted to build a healthy business. He came to see that the only way a business can grow is by making regular and consistent sales. Of all of the Ten Truths, Truth Number 7, that nothing happens until we sell something, really struck home with Mark.

So we got started developing a simple and manageable sales system, and worked on increasing the sales focus of both Mark and his staff. To turn things around Mark would need to not only implement the new sales system but to work consistently at it, week in, week out.

And he did… and it took a lot of courage.

Mark found an easy-to-use customer relationship management (CRM) system, that had great sales funnels and pipeline reports. Then he set targets for himself and his team for numbers of calls to make, emails to send out and proposals to write and follow up. Every week Mark and his team had a 20-minute structured sales meeting.

Very soon things started to turn around, and just three short months later Mark could see a difference. By the end of the financial year the business was at a completely new level.

Now, a couple of years later, Mark has a stable team of 10 designers whose talents are being fully utilised. The business has a great pipeline of work ahead, and Mark now knows with a certainty what his resources are and how much revenue and profit the business will generate in the next three to six months.

And Mark lived happily ever after… The end.

Ask yourself… Where will you find the courage to make profound things happen in your business?

1001 Business Bedtime Stories… Kelvin Astounds His Customers

1001 Business BeTruth 5 marketingdtime Stories…

Truth 5, Marketing

Kelvin realises that his bike shop has one great opportunity to carve out a niche for his bikeshop and build remarkable business.

Once upon a time… a long, long time ago in a country not unlike Australia…

Kelvin owned a bicycle shop in Sydney.

Selling bicycles is not easy. There is so much competition as people can buy bikes at specialist bike shops or at big retail stores like Big W and Kmart, and, like everything else these days, you can even buy bikes over the internet.

Kelvin’s bike shop was doing ok but he was worried about the effects of both the big box retailers and all the online stores. Kelvin felt constant pressure to make his prices competitive, and knew that his repair work was suffering because customers would often ask him to just fit parts they had bought themselves online.

“How can I possibly turn the ship around?” asked Kelvin.

Kelvin was worried.

The Bootcamp

Working in The Bootcamp with me, Kelvin came to appreciate that it was imperative he change his whole approach to doing business. He realised that he could never out-compete the big retailers, and that fighting over the crumbs with his fellow suburban bike shops would be a disaster.

Looking into Kelvin’s options for revitalising his business we came across a quote from Chris Zane, a bike shop owner in America: “The only difference between our competitors and us is the service we provide.”

Kelvin realised the obvious truth of this statement.

He knew there was no difference between the bikes he was selling and those sold by his competitors. He knew they were all fishing in the same pool trying to catch the same limited number of fish, and that the only way forward was to create a new pond and attract enough of the fish away from the old pond to enjoy the fishing again.

It took a lot of courage, but he did it.

Working in The Bootcamp Kelvin developed a whole new approach to running his bike shop, an approach based on providing astounding service. Kelvin was determined that the service customers received in his shop would leave them surprised and delighted.

How did Kelvin do this? A number of great ways: he implemented a life-time free flat tire repair service, he offered a no-questions-asked replacement guarantee for all bikes and accessories for up to six months after purchase, and he taught his staff that from now on the word “No” was banned and no customer request could be refused.

Soon the word started spreading about Kelvin’s astounding service, and people would come into the store just to check it out. The place was buzzing most days, and the staff loved doing whatever they could to amaze their customers.

A couple of years later, Kelvin’s business has grown so much he has just moved to a new location three times as big. With his great service Kelvin has succeeded in creating a whole new fish pond.

And Kelvin lived happily ever after… The end.

Ask yourself… Where will you find the courage to make profound things happen in your business?

Business Plans that work

A business without a Business Plan

achieves everything in it!

Yet, why do they have so little impact?

We all know the mantra: If you want to have a successful business, you need to have a Business Plan.

A truer word has n’er been spoken, yet does that mean that a business with a “Plan” will by default be successful?

All cows eat grass. This animal eats grass…

ergo it must be a cow!

No, obviously not. Most business plans don’t have much of an impact on the success of the business because nobody in the business feels the “Plan” has anything to do with “what gets them out of bed in the morning”. It is just one of those things that you “ought” to have, all the books say so!

You probably have a “Plan”. It might be based on a “Business Plan Template” you found. You filled in the blanks and fiddled with it a bit. It makes the bank happy. It looks great, it feels good in your hands, and when you finished it, you felt that warm and fuzzy feeling we often mistake for business achievement in the absence of more solid evidence. But when was the last time you even looked at the thing?

First things first

Let’s start at the beginning: Why is it again that we even need a “Business Plan”?

The purpose of creating and having a business plan is twofold:

  • To spell out exactly where the business is headed and how it will get there.
  • To have a fixed set of criteria to “test” every decision in the business against.

If your Business Plan meets both of those criteria, wholly, you can be sure it won’t be kept in the bottom of a drawer. It will sit on top of your desk; it will be dog-eared, and smudged; it will have coffee stains, scribbles and doodles all over it. You will look at it every day and so will everyone else who has anything to do with it.

Business Plans that live

So how do you create a “Plan” that will be so alive?

There are 6 key criteria that a Business Plan must meet for it to truly add to the success of the business:

  1. It must be a “live” document and be kept “live” by the people directly affected by it, today.
  2. It must have been created by the people directly affected by it, at the time of its creation.
  3. It must be created in ways and in terms that are meaningful to the people who have created it and who maintain it.
  4. It must be based on the “Guiding Principles” of the business.
  5. The “Guiding Principles” in turn must flow from the “Mission” or “Purpose” of the business.
  6. Finally the “Purpose” of the business must be a clear expression of the “Values” and “Aims” of the people who ARE the business.

As you can see, this means that before you even start to think about putting a “Business Plan” together, you need to focus inwardly, individually or as a team. You need to get very clear about what “gets you out of bed in the morning”, what the purpose of being in business is at all and how you decide what to occupy yourself with in this business.

Personal Values

A good way to start this process is to do an exercise to determine what your top personal values are. There are a lot of tools available to help you with that process. One of them, a personal values checklist is available on this site on the downloads page. Once you are really clear about your personal values, the values that you want your life to be about, right now, it is time to think about the “Purpose” of your business, and how that purpose or mission connects with your personal values.

Research all over the world clearly shows that a business “Purpose”, “Mission” or “Vision” that is solidly grounded on your own personal values is an absolute indicator of the success of your business. So: WHAT are you in Business for? What is THAT all about? It may be about money, but often it is about so much more than money: What will you get from having a successful business? What will that give you? How will you know that your business is successful, and what difference will that make to you? Or your family? Or your customers?

Guiding Principles

Then it is time for step 3. This is where the actual creation of a purposeful and impactful Business Plan starts. The “Guiding Principles” of your business are the principles that every decision and every action in the business is guided by. It will be the litmus test for everything you do.

If a decision you, or someone else in your business, wants to make conflicts with the “Guiding Principles” there are only two options:

  1. Don’t make the decision
  2. Amend the Guiding Principles

There is no alternative. Putting a set of Guiding principles in place will be one of the most powerful things you will ever do for your business, and once you have them in place they will form page 1 of your Business Plan.

Here are some random samples of “Guiding Principles” I helped clients design in the last year:

  • Our behaviours are: Open, Trusting, Professional and Safe
  • All our processes add value
  • We leave the environment better than we found it
  • We deliver more than expected
  • We deliver when we say we do.
  • Shareholder value is increased every year
  • All our employees will have a stake in the business
  • There is life outside the business for our people
  • We own our competitive advantages
  • We are a positive force in the communities we are a part of.

In future articles I will write about the next steps in the process to create Business Plans that make a difference.

Further reading:
  • “It is not the Big that eat the Small, it is the Fast that eat the Slow” by Jason Jennings and Laurence Haughton
  • “The E-Myth revisited” and “E-Myth mastery” by Michael Gerber
  • “The one-minute-manager series” By Ken Blanchard et al.
  • “First Break all the rules “ by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman
  • “The Fish series” by Stephen C Lundin et al
  • “Maverick, the success story behind the worlds most unusual workplace” By Ricardo Semmler

Blue Oceans and clear pools

Blue Oceans and

Clear Swimming Pools

Or the business lessons I learnt in an Italian “Piscina”

By Roland Hanekroot, New Perspectives Business Coaching

A few years ago I spent 4 months in Italy looking for the answer to the meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything. Sitting on piazza’s, sipping espresso, licking gelato and letting the Universe speak to me without distraction felt like a good idea. (By the way, it was a good idea and She did speak to me, but that is another story!)

One of the many exciting experiences I had while in Italy was going for a swim in a local swimming pool.  I had taken up swimming as a serious strategy on the way to everlasting life a few years previous and was keen to continue the regime while waiting for the universe to send Her messages.

Most of us have some knowledge of Italian traffic; we take great delight to relate crazy traffic stories on our return from Rome or Naples. Italian traffic does indeed seem to operate along different rules than traffic in Australia, but the truly crazy traffic of Italy is to be found elsewhere, namely in the local swimming pools on any afternoon of the week. My first introduction to the council swimming pool in Florence was a heart stopping experience.

Bloodbath

There must have been 500 people in the pool, swimming in 500 different directions and all trying to find clear water. My pursuit of life everlasting took a backseat to my pursuit of life right then. I crawled out of the pool 10 minutes later with a bleeding nose, bruises and scratches all over my body, as if I had been in a pub fight.

I realised that I needed to change my approach to keeping my hard-won level of fitness during this summer of Chianti and Pizza. The competition was simply too fierce, there was only so much water to be found and everyone had to battle it out in the bloodbath that is the Florence Piscina

“How to make the Competition irrelevant”

I was reminded of this experience recently when reading a great book called “Blue Ocean Strategy; How to make the competition irrelevant”. In order to continue my swimming and fitness regime I had to find a pool where I could swim my laps, and zone-out without fearing for my life. I did; It turns out that Italians hate early morning exercise, it doesn’t fit with their life style at all, especially in summer, and so even though the pools open at 7.00 am, nobody comes near a swimming pool until about 10.30.

The other buggers

The authors of Blue Ocean Strategy make a similar point about business and competition. Most of us business owners look at our competition and ask: How can we stand out from the crowd, how can we be better, quicker, cheaper than the other bastards? In other words, we go to battle with our competition for the same dollar, the same customer. But what might we see if we step outside that battle for a minute? What might we see about the market and our business in it? What other opportunities are there? And how can we access those opportunities? What can we do to find clear water in the pool, so we can focus on doing what we do best instead of spending all that energy trying to beat the competition?

It is tempting to engage with the battle right in front of us and become absorbed by it. But is it really the best place to direct our energy? Maybe we can find a different field to play in all by ourselves?

My own example

Let me give you a business example from my own experience. I normally refer to myself as a “Business Coach”. There is no accepted definition of what business coaching actually is, but there is a successful franchise company that also describes its services as “Business Coaching”.  Because I also refer to myself as a business coach, I am by default in competition with this company and swim in the same pool with them even though my approach and services are very different from theirs.

For a while I was tempted to compete head-on with this crowd, to develop marketing materials and products, services and packages that were better, cheaper, quicker, faster than theirs. In other words I felt compelled to try to compete with them for space in the same swimming pool.

At some point I realised the stupidity of this strategy. To do so I would have to change my personal values, my philosophy and my approach to my clients. That is not a tenable proposition obviously, and it became clear to me that what I had to do instead, was to find my own swimming pool. Being able to settle into my favorite stroke without concerning myself what stroke everybody else was swimming and if I was about to be run over. It took me some time, but I have found that pool and I am so much happier for it.

Find your own pool

So this is your mission, should you choose to accept it: Go out and find your empty swimming pool, where you can swim powerfully on your own, being able to focus on your own stroke as opposed to everybody else’s.

To find this empty swimming pool you need to ask yourself a few simple questions:

1) Who are the potential customers of my services?

2) Which group(s) of potential customers don’t buy (or virtually don’t) from my company or from my competitors?

3) What are all the factors that we and all our competitors already compete on with each other?

4) On which factors are none of us competing?

3 Case studies:
  • Financial planning for gen Y:

A Financial Planning company I worked with some years ago went through a strategy planning process with me in which we asked questions like those above. The process turned up that all financial planners were trying to out-compete each other on the same factors and all aimed at the same clients.

The owner of the company saw a trend in society that indicated that young generation Y’ers were holding off buying their first bit of real estate and electing to continue to pay rent in the trendy inner city areas of Sydney. He suspected that when Gen Y’ers turn 35 they too start to think about having families and homes in the suburbs and that they would need a substantial nest egg to put down as a deposit. The other thing he noticed was that Gen Y’ers as a rule want nothing to do with financial planners, and vice versa.

He put these observations together and developed a really funky and smart offering aimed at helping Gen Y’ers prepare for the day that they do want to buy a home to raise their family in. Initially the fees they earned from these services were minimal but over time it has become a golden business, and essentially without competition. My client swims in his own pool and practices his own stroke.

  • Smart video productions:

Another client of mine produces video productions. To create his own swimming pool he has found a way to produce a professionally edited and cut 3 camera coverage of an event for the price of single camera operator. The difference this makes in quality is enormous. He is now swimming in a pool all by himself. For particular types of events (awards nights, school events, weddings etc) and a particular type of client, his competition is irrelevant.

  • Renovating Sydney’s terrace houses:

Finally I have another example from my own days as a builder in the crowded Sydney renovations market. We came to a realisation that 80% of Terrace houses fit in one of 5 design templates. At the same time most terrace house owners want to open up the back of the house to the light, bring the bathroom into the middle of the house and update the kitchen etc. Putting these two realisations together meant that we were able to offer a standardised design-and-construct service that nobody else was able to match. Very soon clients were knocking down the door and we stopped worrying about the competition.

Do your thing

If you would like to create your own swimming pool, your own golf course or your own private trout stream for your business, why don’t you come and have a chat with me. I can assure you there is nothing more fun and rewarding in business than swimming in your own pool.

The book I referred to is:
  • “Blue Ocean Strategy” by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne

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