Speed and creativity are the entrepreneur’s greatest weapons. I have a passion for fast cars, but my passion for speed is not limited to pleasure behind the wheel. It includes my business because speed is an important strategy in business.
Two people whose books influenced my early career and made me err on the side of speed were Brian Tracy and Mark McCormick. Both men believe that most great ideas are killed or copied by others while people pursue perfection in developing them. I fully believe that a good idea executed quickly—even if it is less than perfect—will massively outperform a perfect idea that is implemented six months later. In addition, you’ll get months’ worth of leads that much earlier.
Two decades ago, I had the opportunity to spend an entire morning with one of the highest-paid marketing consultants in the world. For three hours over coffee and breakfast, he barraged me with questions about how I did business. Each question was followed by another and then another at an exhausting pace. He then offered a suggestion or comment. As it happened, each thing he suggested for three straight hours was something I was already doing.
Finally, almost in exasperation, he asked, “What would your clients pay three times as much for?” I told him I didn’t know. Now he urged me to think, pointing out that if I charged all my existing clients three hundred percent more, I wouldn’t need to worry about attracting a bunch of new business. In one fell swoop, I would have reached my financial goals. I thanked him for his time, picked up the check for breakfast, and began to drive back home.
In order to build rapport beyond the superficial stages, you have to get the prospect to talk to you. The best way to accomplish this is to ask open-ended questions. Open-ended questions are questions that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no. They demand a more detailed response. Not only does this method build rapport, since you allow the customer to respond without interruption or contradiction, but it also provides you with valuable data for use in the sales presentation.
• Where are you from, Jack? [In states with rapidly expanding populations, like California, Florida, Arizona and Nevada, this is a good question, since the majority of people were born elsewhere.]
• What is the most important part of your job?
No business wants to give bad service, but most do an alarmingly average job at best. Why? Take your pick.
- Most businesses don’t have enough staff to give great service.
- You haven’t defined what great service is.
- Staff are not trained on how to give great service.
- Staff are not rewarded for giving great service.
- Staff are not empowered to give great service by making their own decisions to quickly resolve issues in the customers’ favor.
- You don’t charge enough and therefore don’t pay enough to attract great talent to your business, or people who care.
- Customers’ expectations are unreasonable to begin with.
Did I miss anything?
Like most successful entrepreneurs, I’ve made plenty of mistakes, some of them major, some of them minor. What many new entrepreneurs don’t understand is that you learn much more from mistakes than successes. And you will make lots of mistakes.
The trick is to expect mistakes and make them cheaply enough that they don’t sink you. As long as you live to fight another day, you are succeeding and zoning in on where you’ll make your profits.
Let’s talk about the major pitfalls so that you’ll be able to learn from my mistakes and avoid them. At the peak of my martial arts business, one of my clients broke away and started his own organization, one that mimicked mine but charged 60% less than what I was charging. I thought I could stand up to that since, despite his rhetoric, I knew he had no money to promote his product.
Often, especially in situations where you spend a lot of time with a particular client, there is the temptation to cross the boundary and share personal information or problems. In the course of normal conversation, they may even ask questions or probe about your personal life.
You need to be open, but in reality, they are not interested in your problems. Do not be conned into sharing them. Find out everything you can about your customers, while saying little or nothing about negative aspects of your own life. As the Chinese say, “Keep the tiger behind the bamboo.” This will only add to your sense of control. Since you seem to be in complete control of everything, it will also help build your reputation faster.
Never tell your customers about your problems; they don’t care.
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