The Power of Problems

"Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning." - Bill Gates

Listen to other people’s problems because problems are often opportunities in disguise – especially the problems of the customers and clients you serve. In every problem there is an expression of a need. Needs can very often be translated into additional products and services for your business.

For example, many of my golf course clients in Florida were asking where on the Internet they could advertise their websites to golfers in the Northeast so they could persuade them to visit their courses in the winter. At the time there were no good options, so I created some by building an Atlantic City Golf portal, a New Jersey Golf portal, and others. This allowed me the opportunity not only to help my clients, but also to sell them ad space on my Northern sites to help them drive traffic back to their sites.

Ten Major Elements of a Good System

“If you put good people in bad systems you get bad results.” - Stephen Covey

Make sure each system you develop contains the following ten elements:

1. The name and purpose of the specific system. Write a clear, concise statement of the result the system is intended to accomplish and give the system a brief, descriptive name. For example, the sales system should produce X number of prospects and sales per month.

2. A diagram of the system. The system should be presented in a diagram showing the sequence of steps and how they relate to each other.

Are Your People Doing What They Should—OR What They Want?

Excellence is the gradual result of always striving to do better.

Back when I was in the karate consulting biz, I hired a guy to sell. He had been one of my customers and he told me he was great at sales. For a couple of months he did okay. Then he found out he liked creating the content we were selling far better than actually selling it. Slowly but surely he made fewer and fewer sales calls until he was spending almost all his time creating content. Sad to say, I let a couple of months go by before I asked him why we had no sales. He made a passionate plea about why he needed to be creating content and that he was just TOO BUSY to make sales calls. Great, but we already had someone on staff who produced the content rather well—ME!

I have a number of clients who have someone on their staff who insists on writing their monthly e-newsletter because “they are the only ones who can do it right.” Now, there is certainly nothing wrong with this if that person’s job is MARKETING. But if that person’s job is sales, then it’s not a task they should be doing. They should outsource it to my professional copywriters, and give them some input and direction if needed.

Why is someone in sales spending two days writing an e-newsletter rather than selling?

Simple—they would rather be creating than cold calling. You see this a lot with “salespeople.” They offer to do the newsletter, the e-blast, and stuff envelopes, and pretty soon they are too busy doing just about everything else to actually sell.

Selling is hard, selling is measurable; most of this other stuff is not.

This scenario is by no means limited to sales. Just this week one of my new employees spent the entire day correcting typos on one of our information sites. When asked why, she said because a customer had taken the time to write in and point out the mistakes. Great, but I couldn’t care less if there are a few typos on a site with 10,000 pages of content. I am selling ideas and solutions, not English grammar!

Some golf pros love teaching and are never in the shop, others hate being out in the sun and are excellent in the shop. This might be a problem, or it might not, depending on the club. The fact is, people gravitate to what they like to do (or feel most comfortable doing). And they do it very quickly, without telling you or anyone else. Heck, sometimes they don’t even notice it themselves.

Unfortunately what this also means is the job they were hired for—their core function—is running at half speed, and that’s at best. This means something critical is NOT getting done in your business.

This gives you two choices if you want to get the most from your employees:

1. Assuming that position is open, allow them to do the job they gravitate towards, although it’s rarely the one they have been hired for. In some organizations, usually larger ones, this can work out and at least they will be doing something they are passionate about. In smaller organizations it will usually leave a gaping hole.

2. Manage your expectations with a brutally detailed position agreement that leaves no wiggle room for wandering off in another direction. If they want to volunteer to do something else, add it to their position agreement.

People quickly gravitate to doing the work they like. You must continually make sure that’s the work you need done.

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Measuring the Intangible for Tangible Results

No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.

There are lots of concrete things business owners can do to measure the performance of their businesses. You can measure profit and loss, the number of clients you have, your market share, or the number of widgets that you can produce in a day.

These are all important measures that can be seen in black-and white reports, but there are other less tangible items that should be also be measured.

Most business owners have a feel for how some of the more intangible factors are helping or hindering their performance. The problem is that a feeling is not an accurate enough measure of important factors like:

  • brand/name awareness in the community
  • customer satisfaction
  • employee morale
  • systemization of your business
  • cutting edge ideas

All of these factors are vital to the long-term success of your business. It is not easy to quantify some of these subjective categories, but think of yourself as a judge in an ice skating event. There is no black-and-white measurement of performance on ice, —a bunch of judges hold up numbers and –the other competitors can be judged plus or minus that score. You must do the same for your business.

Take a topic like employee morale and score it from minus ten to plus ten with zero being neutral—where you have as many unhappy as happy employees. Where do you stand right now? If you are not well into the plus side, you have problems.

Let’s take a statement that might be part of our strategic plan like, “We are a cutting-edge company in our industry” and try to measure it in a way that makes it more tangible.

Here are a few of the questions we ask at Legendary Marketing to measure that intangible statement on a scale of minus ten to plus ten.

  • Do we visit our competitor’s websites once a week and look for new products or services?
  • Do we scan the trade magazines and trade websites to look for mentions of what they might be doing?
  • Do we attend industry trade shows and events?
  • Do our people attend seminars and conventions to increase their knowledge?
  • Are our staff reading books and listening to audios that increase not only their job-specific skills, but more general skills like time management and communication skills?
  • Do we look outside our industry each month for ideas that we could apply to our business?
  • Do we come out with new products and ideas at least once a quarter?
  • Do we effectively communicate our forward progress and leading-edge status to our employees?
  • Do we effectively communicate our forward progress and leading-edge status to our clients?
  • Do our clients and prospective clients view us as a leading- edge company based on the comments and emails to or about us?
  • Do we upgrade our internal technology every quarter to improve the speed and performance of our employees?

By reviewing each of these questions each month, we can come up with a number and measure our relative performance as a leading-edge company. There are lots of other areas in which we try do exactly the same thing. Tracking and measuring these intangibles will only make your business a better place to work and a better functioning, more profitable business. Think of all the factors in your business that would be good track, then follow
this system for doing it. You will quickly discover that what gets measured gets done and that it quickly gets done better.

What gets measured, including the intangibles, gets done—better.

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Legendary Closes

One of the reasons mature people stop learning is they become less and less willing to risk failure.
John Gardner

The professional salesperson knows that every prospect has a close that fits him or her—one that appeals to him on a most personal level. The secret is to find out which one will resonate most deeply with your prospect so you can obtain a favorable response and make the sale.

There are several closes below that have been successful for decades in selling. Although you might know some of them by other names, anyone who has been in sales for even a short period of time will recognize many of them. Others may be new to you. You might like some of them; you might hate others. It’s important to be completely comfortable with the closes that work best for your style and personality. As you go through the following closes, adapt them to match your style and selling situation. Whichever closes you choose to adopt, practice them, role play them, and perfect them. The more you practice, the more they will flow naturally. The one thing that is certain is that if you don’t ask prospects to buy, they won’t.

Very often a prospect’s question or objection gives you the perfect segue into closing the sale and you must be alert for such opportunities. This is also called the conditional sale because it sets a condition that if met results in a closed sale.

For example:

Prospect: How quickly will I learn French with your program?
Salesperson: How quickly do you want to learn it? Obviously the sooner you start, the sooner you will begin enjoying the benefits. Let’s get things going now.

* * * * *

Prospect: Do you have it in red?
Salesperson: If I can find a red one, do you want to take it with you?

The Straightforward Close

Mr. Miller, based on what you have seen, do you think that Legendary Country Club is the type of club where you would like to become a member?

The Assumptive Close

Always assume that the prospect is going to buy. The assumptive close handles the sales interaction as if you were certain that the prospect would buy.
Mr. Miller, based on our conversation it seems like this solution meets most of your criteria. Would you like to start using it at once before the price increase?

The Alternative Close

The alternative close is perhaps the best known of all closing techniques and has many variations, depending on the exact circumstances. Another common name for it is the “either-or” close. This close gives the prospect the choice between buying and buying, between yes and yes.

Shall we put an offer in on this property, or the first property we looked at today?

* * * * *

Would you like to start your dance classes tonight, or would tomorrow night be more convenient for you?

When you give the prospect a choice of free benefits, it is much more difficult to say no:

“Would you like the free gift or the free month of service?”

When your prospect is on the verge of making a buying decision, the most direct way of closing the sale is to ask how he intends to pay for it. This approach can best be used when a prospect has made the decision to buy, but is asking unrelated questions—the kind that prevent him from giving you the order.

At this point, “Will you be using a credit card or cash?” is the best way to take control of the sale and complete it.

Each one of the previous alternative closes offers the prospect a choice. No matter which one they choose, they will feel committed to buy once they have made the choice.

The Action Close

In the action close you ask the prospect to do something to accelerate the process and help them make a positive decision.

Shall we head over to the design center and pick your carpets?

* * * * *

Shall I get the car detailed for you while we finish the paperwork?

The Minute-or-Cents Close

If you have a prospect who is stuck on price, the way to handle it is to break it down to ridiculous proportions. This is how life insurance has been sold for decades, but this type of close works just as well selling any mid- to high-end product, especially to value-oriented prospects. When you show people how little your service will cost them on a daily basis, it makes it much easier for them to justify, or rationalize, the purchase.

Due to the efficiency of this machine, your copies will only cost about one cent per copy. I am sure you will agree the savings this offers easily justifies the investment.

* * * * *

This website, with all the features and benefits it offers, comes to just $9.95 a day.”

* * * * *
Membership in our health club is just a dollar a day.
Isn’t your health worth a dollar a day?”

The Puppy-Dog Close

This close is often used when a prospect is hesitant to purchase because of price. The “giveaway” close, or puppy-dog close as it is often called, allows the prospect to enjoy your product or service for a period of time before making a final decision on whether to buy. Once the prospect has experienced the product in a risk-free way and been treated well by your staff, he will almost always buy. He’d almost be embarrassed not to.

Here’s an example of a close with a copier machine playing the role of the puppy:

Ms. Prospect, we have already agreed that you need this new copier. The speed and sorting capabilities will enhance your business. With your permission, I am going to have a machine delivered to you on Monday and let you see first hand just how valuable it will prove to be for your business. If at the end of two weeks the advantages are not readily apparent to you, I will remove it with no questions asked. Shall we go ahead and set that trial period in motion for you now?

There are almost an unlimited number of ways to close a sale. I’ve covered just a few of most successful ones here. Try them, say them out loud, and role play them with your staff.

Find the closes that seem most natural for you and put them into action at once.

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Do You Feed Your Brain for Success?

Think of your mind and the knowledge and skills it contains as you think of your body. What would happen to you physically if all you ate each day were large jelly-filled doughnuts? If, on top of that, you cut down your exercise to zero and drank only chocolate milkshakes? Within a very short period of time, you would gain a huge amount of weight and be physically incapable of even simple activities. Your health would fail rapidly, and eventually you might even die.

If, on the other hand, you eat three balanced meals a day, work out regularly, and sleep eight hours each night, the chances are you will wake up feeling great each day. You will live a long, healthy, productive life. By investing in your body in the form of eating the right foods and exercising regularly, you maintain your body in good shape.

So it is with the brain, if all you feed it are sitcoms, soap operas, dime novels, and sensational magazines, you are, in effect, giving it jelly doughnuts for food. If the only parts of the newspaper you read are the sports page and comics, you are drinking high fat chocolate milkshakes that will put on pounds and slow you down.

There is a large sign on the door of my dentist’s office that reads, “Ignore your teeth, and they will just go away.” If you do not work out your brain by providing it with new and interesting material, you are simply letting it waste away. You will also be hurting yourself because new and interesting material could help you better your life. The less you stimulate your mind, the less inclined it becomes to help you accomplish your goals. The more you stimulate your mind, the more information it will crave, and the faster and more substantial your progress will be.

The very fact you are reading this post means you are making an effort to upgrade your business and personal skills. This is a great start, but don’t let it end there. You should put aside time each week to work out your mind just as you do to your body. Seek other books and information, attend seminars, and listen to audiotapes on a variety of topics that will aid you in your business and your life. The time and money you invest in the pursuit of knowledge will return to you one hundred fold far quicker than you ever thought possible.

Brian Tracy, President of Tracy Learning Systems, a company that specializes in human development, and author of many excellent audio programs, says “The single most valuable piece of advice I could ever give anyone is to invest three percent of their income in themselves.” He maintains that people who follow this rule ultimately become the most successful people in the country in their chosen fields.

Life is too short to try to find all the answers for yourself. By drawing on the knowledge and experiences of others, you can shave months or even years off the time it takes you to achieve your goals and objectives. The more of this specialized and boiled down knowledge you acquire, the quicker you will move ahead.
“This amazing cunningly clever series is loaded with practical, proven methods and techniques to attract more customers and make more sales than you will be able to handle. These little known marketing strategies are the keys to great business success!” – Brian Tracy, world-famous sales, management and motivational author of over 45 books.

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