FOCUS or Follow One Course Until Successful

The ability to focus is a skill – it is not innate.  Here are some suggestions that will increase your ability to concentrate on a task and achieve even more in your business.
  1. Remove items that regularly break your focus. When you are looking to concentrate on the task at hand turn off your phone, shut your door, relocate to a neutral location, turn off your computer alerts and remove any material that is not relevant to the task.
  2. Connect to the task. Tight rope walkers and lion tamers have no trouble staying focused.  Of course, not every task is exciting or even interesting, so you may have to connect with the significance or impact of the task, rather than the actual activity.
  3. Know your energy level. Most of us have certain times of day when we are at our best.  Block those times for tasks that require the most concentration.
  4. Don’t give in to distractions. When someone enters the room, or when a door slams, keep your concentration on what is in front of you.
  5. Ask yourself where the block is. If you are chronically unable to concentrate on a specific task, perhaps something about what you have taken on is not right for you. If that happens, consider whether you are being fair to yourself by forcing yourself to continue with it.
  6. Set time limits and set goals. Set strict time limits to complete subtasks. Enlist a colleague or coach to hold you accountability, to monitor your progress, and to apply gentle pressure when necessary.
  7. Know the big picture – but focus on the task at hand. If you keep mulling over the large, long-term consequences of your actions, your mind will shut down to keep you from becoming overwhelmed.
  8. Use caffeine and sugar sparingly. True, they stimulate concentration, but their effects last only 30 to 60 minutes.  Instead, try five minutes of light exercise, which will perk you up with no side effects.
  9. Take breaks. You should be able to concentrate on one task for about 40 minutes. Then take a five to ten minute break.  When you come back to the task you will be able to take a fresh look.
  10. Reward yourself. Know what reward you will get once you complete the task at hand.
YOUR CHALLENGE THIS WEEK:  When you have to get something accomplished – simply, Follow One Course Until Successful, yes FOCUS, FOCUS, FOCUS and you will achieve even more.

Choose Your Words Carefully

Consider the words of Rudyard Kipling – “Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” From the very beginning of time, the ability to communicate has played an important role in our world. We have all experienced the power of the spoken word. If you truly want to excel, pay special attention to the words you choose. An unknown source describes the most important words in the English Language as follows…. The six most important words: “I admit I made a mistake.” o Don’t be afraid to say it, apologize for it, fix it and move on. The five most important words: “You did a good job.” o Giving praise doesn’t come naturally to everyone, make it genuine and sincere. The four most important words: “What is your opinion?” o Whatever the question, whatever the subject, everyone has one, use this as a means to greater understanding. The three most important words: “If you please.” o These very simple words can change the way you relate to people, and the perception they have of you. The two most important words: “Thank you,” o Not by coincidence these words also known as the MAGIC WORDS. – Say them often enough and MAGIC will happen. The one most important word: “We” o Recognize that you are not operating alone and give credit where it is due. The least important word: “I” Therefore, whether you are out making sales calls, building meaningful relationships, or working in the office, our words are a reflection of who we are and ultimately will reflect in our success both personally and professionally. YOUR CHALLENGE THIS WEEK: Look for opportunities to use these “important words” and notice the impact that they have on others.

Dangerous Discounting

It seems that everyone is focused on price. It seems that everyone wants a deal. The larger retailers spend a ton of money promoting in the media and it would seem that because of this we are all required to do the same. You’ll hear them say, “Don’t worry, we’ll make it up on volume.” Don’t be fooled by this. The fact of the matter is that most businesses on average return about 10 percent on sales before tax. This means that after deducting the cost of the goods or services sold and all expenses incurred in running the business, there is 10 percent of the original sale price left as your profit. So if you discount say by 10 percent then the 10 percent you are giving away is the same 10 percent you would have made in profit. So typically, a 10 percent discount will leave you with no profit. Here is another example to demonstrate the dangers of discounting. If your present gross margin is 30 percent and you give a 10 percent discount, you need to increase your turnover by 50 percent to make the same amount of profit. Discounting is not always bad.  If you have obsolete or seasonal stock or specific cash flow requirements this can be used as a specific strategy, however, there should be specific cut-off points when using these strategies.  When planning the profit for a particular product be sure to calculate how much you plan to sell at full price and how much you plan to sell at a discounted price for the lifetime for the particular product. Many smaller retailers will discount because their competitors are and not really consider what it might be costing them.  One of the main reasons small businesses discount is to acquire customers.  It is far more profitable to work out some clever marketing strategies than to discount for this reason. In reality, experience shows that most customers attracted to a business through discounting, rarely if ever comes back again. Discounting in business should be dealt with very carefully.  Because it is so prevalant, business owners get trapped into thinking that it is a legitimate and profitable strategy and are often the worst offenders within an organization. Clearly there is more to it than meets the eye and it should be used with eyes wide open. YOUR CHALLENGE: The next time you are inclined to discount, stop and review the profit margin and look for other marketing strategies that will create the same effect without impacting your bottom line.

Know Your Target

Improvements to your marketing and sales is a guaranteed way to improve bottom line profits when it is done correctly. One common mistake that many small and medium business owners make is not identifying their target market correctly. Failing to identify your target correctly results in many lost marketing dollars. So, how do we identify the target market? The simplest way to accomplish this task is to ask your customers. Ask them to fill out survey sheets, ask them during the sales process, or ask them when the opportunity arises. By asking your customers, you will be able to find the unique traits of who needs your products and services and you can build a profile of your ideal customer. Once this profile is built you can begin to explore the numerous ways to reach other buyers that fit your demographic. In advertisements you can start to write your advertisements in a way that only the people who might buy your product pay attention to it. People pay attention to advertisements that are targeted to them specifically. The ads do not need to be clever, unique, and they do not have to be professionally produced. All the ads have to do is hit that target customer. You hit that target customer through a headline that gets them to stop and read your ad. It is ideal to run a couple of different ads and have a different way to measure the effectiveness of each ad. That way you know which ones work and which ones do not. Hit the target and your advertising is effective. YOUR CHALLENGE THIS WEEK: Use the information from your current customer based to begin building the profile or profiles of your ideal customer.

It’s Not What You Say

An often quoted communication study done by Dr. Albert Mehrabian, revealed that 93% of our communication impact comes from the WAY we deliver our words. If this is the case, AND every single day we have the opportunity to present ourselves and our ideas to others, than we cannot underestimate the importance of strong presentation skills. Here are a few things to consider…. Your Eyes. Be sure to connect with your audience. When answering a question, address the person directly, make eye contact while making a specific point. When used naturally it communicates to the audience that you are engaged, that you care and it can create a level of intimacy even with a larger audience. Your Hands. Use your hands for emphasis not distraction. Most of us can recall a speaker with the nervous habit of jingling coins in their pocket, twirling a pen, or playing with a laser pointer. Instead stand tall, use your hands with purpose to illustrate comparisons or make key points, and when not gesturing keep your hands at your side in a relaxed position. Your Voice. We have all experienced speakers that were monotone and droned on, losing their audience. Try increasing your vocal range. By telling a story, using a joke, smiling, or asking questions throughout your presentation you will naturally change the speed, dimension and range of your voice. Your Feet. Moving with purpose during your presentation demonstrates confidence. When answering questions move toward the person you are addressing and speak directly to them. Deliberately moving from one side of the room to the other allows you to engage more of the audience and keeps their attention. Use your feet to ‘own the room’. Last but not least – practice, practice, practice. When you practice, be sure to practice how you will use the physical space, the inflections you will use to emphasis points, practice the stories you will use, and look for opportunities to engage your audience. YOUR CHALLENGE THIS WEEK: Pay attention to the 93%. When listening to others speak, notice the WAY the information is presented. When you are doing the speaking, take note of your eyes, hand, voice and feet!

Simple, But Powerful

I will share a tip with you that can make all the difference in your business. I am sure that you have heard this tip before. I am sure that you will think this tip is so obvious that you might even tune out and discard the learning as a ‘dah’. Quite simply this is the most frequently overlooked concept in business today. Would you like to guess? It can be described as a fundamental principle that applies to every business, it doesn’t matter the size, the industry, the location or how long you have been in business. This principle should be a non-negotiable that every business owner has imprinted on the culture of their organization. Well, here it is: Do What You Say You Will Do! So why does such a simple concept cause most businesses to fall short more times than they over-deliver? As simple as it may be, it would seem that if someone is willing to make a commitment to do something, at the time the commitment is made, they truly intend to fulfill that commitment – although it doesn’t make sense, often times, that is far from the truth. A few examples that you might be able to relate to: “I’ll send you that information when I get back to the office.” But instead you get back to the office, other things consume your day, the day ends and the information was never sent. Why? Perhaps you were using the line casually and didn’t consider other priorities that would take precedence. “I’ll followup with you on that.” But days, even weeks go by and no call or email. Why? Perhaps you were using the line to end a conversation and had no real intention of taking action. “We’ll get it done right away.” But instead you continue to stay focused on other activities and don’t start work on the new project for several days. Why? Perhaps you have a commitment to another customer that is coming due and do not intend to disappoint them at the expense of this customer. “I’ll order that tonight so we will have it first thing in the morning.” But you know the supplier has already gone for the day, yet you want to leave the impression that the customer standing in front of you is important. I’ll bet you can think of an example that happened to you recently as a customer – or perhaps even one that you are guilty of! YOUR CHALLENGE THIS WEEK: Pay close attention to the commitments you make and be sure that you are prepared to Do What You Say You Will Do. Even consider doing MORE than what you say you will do and delight your customers.

Sell by Asking

When it comes to selling, your customers quite literally have all the answers. Many businesses look to their marketing to bring in more leads.  What can often be overlooked is the effectiveness of converting those leads into paying customers.  So how do we increase our conversion rates? Have you ever answered a question with a question?  Would that make a difference to your conversion rate? The answer is “Yes!”  Asking not only increases your conversion rate, but if done right, it ensures that the sale becomes their idea and not yours. Asking questions also means active listening. You can ask questions about your customer’s business, family, hobbies or goals just make sure that you are listening with sincere interest. By asking questions and listening, you are letting them know that they are important and what they have to say is worth hearing. Also, by asking questions you are remaining in control of the conversation.  As soon as you start doing all the talking you are no longer in control. Remember that the person asking the questions sets the direction for the conversation. If the customer is dominating the conversation by asking you questions to try to shift the conversation by answering their question with a question.  When using questions you are encouraging the customer to communicate, establishing their needs, directing the conversation, diffusing tension and inviting discussion. In journalism there are six key questions used in the interviewing process which are equally useful in sales – who, what, where, when, why and how.  Be sure to use them all. Learning the art of questioning and listening is the key to increasing your conversion rate and well on the way to creating a continuing customer relationship.

Getting Referrals to Work for Your Business

You may or may or not know that this week is National Referral Week. In an effort to jump start small businesses – and remind them of the power of a single referral – John Jantsch (author of Duct Tape Marketing) launched Make a Referral Week in March of 2009. The goal of the event was simple: To provide 1,000 referrals to 1,000 deserving small businesses across the country. Referral based businesses can either take a passive role or an active role in generating referrals. Those that take a passive role, create satisfied customers and spend their marketing time and dollars trying to get their message in front of as many potential customers as possible, then they are relegated to waiting and hoping that the phone rings. Those that take an active role, do things a little differently. 1. Give awesome service that creates ‘raving fans’ instead of just satisfied customers. The only reason people talk about a service or product is because it was extremely good or extremely bad – make yours exceptional. 2. Make sure you thank your customers and ask them to tell your friends about you. Think back to the last time you were personally thanked for your business. It doesn’t happen often, so when it does we remember it. 3. Let your customers know up front that you will be asking for referrals later on. Don’t hit them cold – let them know that you are a referral based business and give them the chance to think about whom they want to refer. 4. Making giving a few referrals a condition of doing business with you. If you really want a business that runs on referrals than make it a rule that for people to do business with you, they have to give you referrals. 5. Ask for a referral when people buy from you (or even when they don’t). During the sale customers’ emotions are running high and they are happiest to give them. When customers don’t buy they usually feel a little awkward, and may feel obliged to help you out in a situation like this because they have just said ‘no’ to making a purchase from you. YOUR CHALLENGE THIS WEEK:  So as part of National Referral Week – consider your businesses approach to referrals and make the commitment to take an active strategy. And remember givers gain.