Mentors: Because they’ve been there and done that!

Do you need a mentor? If you’re navigating tricky new territory in the marketplace, chances are that your mentor has probably had to navigate a similar situation at some point in their past. They can share their advice on how best to maneuver through a challenging situation, and lessons they’ve learned through similar experiences from their past.

A mentor’s primary role is to provide you with counsel in the execution of your responsibilities. A business owner or CEO’s job is all about doing the right things and doing them effectively. A mentor’s job is to ensure that you focus on the most important aspects of the job, and that you do them well.

Justin Norman CEO of JD Norman Industries started a manufacturing business without any operating experience before. To compensate for his lack of experience Justin developed relationships with mentors with either sitting CEOs or retired CEOs who are in a phase of their life where they enjoy mentoring and answering questions. Norman explains, “The stuff that I’ve seen for the first time in my life others have seen it 7 times before. So I’ve gained a lot of insight from that because it’s clearly a blind spot of mine going through the growth and the operations of the company for the first time.”

Mentors can also help you set career and personal goals, hold you accountable, expand your network of contacts and provide insights into the “little things” that can make a big difference in growing your business and in developing your leadership skills.
When selecting mentors you should choose a mentor who is working or worked in a similar industry as yours. Your mentor should be someone who inspires you with the success of their career and whose professional achievements you hope to emulate. Because they’ve learned a lot and developed many skills in their career, they’ll be able to guide you towards the best ways to learn the skills you’ll need to achieve similar success.

Metrics: Are Yours Helping You Grow Your Business?

MetricsDo your business metrics keep your business focused and moving toward your vision? As a small business owner or CEO of a small business you are paid to describe the future (your business plan) and then create it. This requires vision and execution. The path to any vision is rarely as smooth in execution as it is on the drawing board. Like most flights on an airplane getting off course is expected. The key is how quickly you and the pilot can course correct.

To make mid-course corrections you need an instrument panel or dashboard.  The business dashboard as a metaphor for critical metrics to measure business performance originated years ago at General Electric.  Just as you use the speedometer, oil gauge, fuel gauge, and other instruments to monitor the status of your car as you drive, you want to keep track of key indicators of the performance of your company. Like the dashboard gauges, your metrics allow you to continually assess your progress and detect any potential problems.

An effective dashboard provides you with the information you need to make good decisions that keep your company out of harm’s way and moving in the right directions. This means that you must select reliable and predictive metrics. Armed with the information they provide, you must be able to use them to help decision making. This isn’t always easy. Consider the fact that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and other top central bank officials failed to see the housing crash coming as late as December 2006.

With all the resources at their disposal coupled with the years of experience identifying economic trends, how did they miss the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression? Were they looking at the right metrics? Or did they interpret them wrong? Or did they just make poor decisions based on what they saw? We may never know. But their failure to execute on this key leadership lesson points out how important it is to have metrics that inform you well enough in advance to take corrective action. 

Your choice of business metrics and the importance you give them show what you value. If you value customer service or new product development, for example, you make them central to your business metrics. You include it in your dashboard.

By instituting key business metrics across functions and groups and at every level, you directly link individual performance to measurable outcomes. This sends a clear message that not only do you care about customers and revenue, but so should everyone else, since they are accountable for the results measured by their particular metrics. Clear accountability is essential for executing this leadership lesson.

Whether you manage a small administrative staff or a  global company, you need business metrics to keep your business on track. Having a solid business plan is essential but that’s not enough because of the dynamic nature of the marketplace. This is especially true for small- and medium-sized businesses. Juvo Products manufactures assistive living products for seniors and people with mild disabilities. Because they are a growing early-stage business they must remain extremely nimble. As Park Owens, President of Juvo Products explains, It’s a matter of how quickly you adjust and how flexible you are. How quickly you can react.  I would say 50% of our business plan was right on and 50% was off.”

When establishing metrics, beware of metrics that:

  • aren’t easy to collect data that’s accurate or complete
  • are complex and difficult to explain to others
  • complicate operations and create excessive overhead
  • cause employees to act not in the best interests of the business, just to “make their numbers”

John Menzer, CEO of Michael’s describes how he and his management team use metrics to manage their business. “We talk about what we saw in our stores and we ask,” What are the three things we need to adjust for the weekend to maximize sales and earnings for the weekend?” And we make those changes on Friday. What do we see in competition? How are the promotions doing? Do we need to make any adjustments because of that? So we’re running the business on a kind of weekly basis, but our Merchandising Team is probably running on a daily basis. Even marketing is maybe running on a daily basis now because the economy is just so tough. We are changing on the fly even based on weather. We’re now using weather service and we’ve incorporated that weather service into our modeling and pricing and promotions. So if we know a snow storm is coming, we’re going to get that promotion in earlier rather than later.”

If you are committed to accelerating your company’s speed to vision you need to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do your metrics allow you to proactively respond to challenges and opportunities?
  • Do you have systems in place that make it easy to regularly monitor your metrics and course correct to achieve your goals?

Your honest responses should go a long way for you putting in place the metrics and systems you need to navigate in today’s tough economy.

How to Retain Customers in the New Economy

Learning how to retain customers is essential for surviving in the New Economy. Without customers you have no bushow to retain customersiness so caring for them and nurturing relationships with them seems like an obvious strategy. Think again. Poor customer service is the number one reason customers stop doing business with their current supplier/provider. In fact according to a Harris Interactive study 86% of consumers stop doing business with a company due to poor customer service.

Companies spend huge amount of their budget attracting customers to their business only to lose them due to the customer experience they deliver. Trying to grow your business without a solid customer service program in place is like trying to fill a bucket with water that has gaping holes in it. Unless you fill the holes you’ll never fill the bucket.

What holes should you fill first? It depends on your business but to a Right Now study the top three customer service problems were:

  • 73% Rude staff
  • 55% Issues weren’t resolve in a timely manner
  • 51% untrained staff

Also according to the US Small Business Administration 68% of customers stops doing business with a company due to indifference. This means if you want to drive your customers away in droves you should ignore them,treat them rudely, serve them with uninformed staff and make them wait for issues to be resolved.  This is an obvious recipe for disaster.

Most businesses know that it costs 5 to 6 times as much to get a new customer as it does to keep an existing one and that existing customers are more profitable than new customers. So why don’t more companies do a better job learning how to retain customers? Lack of focus, training and follow up are the likely culprits. Many businesses seem to be saying, “I don’t have time to take care of my existing customers because I too busy chasing new ones!” If this is you or your business, STOP IT!!!

If you want to survive in the challenging times we live in you must fill the four biggest holes in your customer retention bucket. Put these simple, proven and powerful strategies in place starting today.

1. Pay attention to your customer. Don’t ignore them or take them for granted. Use whatever means available to you to cultivate a relationship with each and every customer.

2. Don’t hire rude employees and fire the ones who are. Companies like Zappos and Southwest Airlines take great care to hire people who are wired to give great service. If they are rude to anyone during the interviewing process they are rejected.

3. Train your people to effectively address your customers’ issues. Investing in the training of your front line staff is like making direct deposits in your customer relationships.

4. Resolve issues quickly, effectively and personally. Everybody makes a mistake. Admit it, resolve it and move on. 92% of customers who leave due to poor service would come back if they get and apology, receive a discount or get an invitation to observe improvement in customer service.

Implementing effective strategies in these four areas will give you a fighting chance to survive in a competitive marketplace.

If you want to thrive in the New Economy then you’ll need to up your customer service game and learn how to retain customers at whole new level. According to Peppers and Rogers Group 81% of the companies who excel in delivering customer experience are outperforming their competition. Customer  service excellence is a formidable competitive advantage. How does your company’s customer experience delivery stack up with your competitors?

To learn how well your company’s customer service initiative are contributing to your success take the Growth Positioning Survey.

Sales Coaching : When Do You Step In on a Sales Call?

A common problem on coaching calls is the sales manager taking over the sales call or “stepping in”. Sales managers often ask “when is it appropriate to step in?” Some of the most common reasons given for stepping in are:

• The salesperson is really in trouble

• The salesperson has made a major mistake

• The salesperson is about to lose a sale

• It’s a very big sale

• The salesperson can’t handle the customer

Although all of these are very compelling reasons for stepping in, they are merely a symptom of a much bigger problem. If you have to step in on a coaching call, it’s a signal that you have failed as a coach on that call. Stepping in prevents the salesperson from developing his/her selling skills and it prevents you from being able to fully exercise your coaching skills. Once you step in, you are no longer an objective observer, but an active participant. This severally limits your ability to focus on what the salesperson is doing right or wrong. When you step in, you are telling the salesperson that this call is more important than his or her development.

If salespeople aren’t ready to make a call on their own, then make the call a joint call or a training call. But, if you agree that it’s a coaching call and salespeople are responsible for the outcome, then let them succeed or fail on their own merits. Your job at that point is to make sure your salespeople have learned from the experience.

Are You Pursuing The Right Sales Opportunities?

Success in today’s competitive marketplace often comes down to pursuing the right sales opportunities. This article explains why this is important and how you can make sure that you do it effectively?

The Problem

Many sales forecasts are missed and sales careers sabotaged by salespeople spending their time pursing the wrong sales opportunities.  This usually occurs because the salesperson reacts to the marketplace instead of attacking it strategically.

The Solution

High performing salespeople are more strategic because they focus on what’s important.

What sets these high performers apart is their ability to employ clarity of purpose, consistent communication to the marketplace, commitment to taking right action and the discipline to execute. These salespeople achieve excellent results because they know:

  • Their clients and the pain they are experiencing.
  • How their product addresses the pain.
  • What message clients need to hear to make a decision.
  • How to move their clients from decision to implementation.
  • When they can’t win.

Because they have a clear and consistent strategy for approaching the marketplace, they are able to focus on important and winnable sales opportunities.  They don’t get distracted by periodic “road kills” that may litter the highway of a major sale.  They also don’t get seduced by the allure of landing the “big elephant” when their chances of winning are slim or none.  The quickest way to zap your time and income is to spend $1,000 in selling effort to land a $100 commission.

To make sure they are pursuing the right sales opportunities, they ask themselves:

  • Is there a fit between the client’s needs and my solution?
  • Can I win?
  • Is it worth pursuing?

By developing the discipline to ask these questions regularly, answer them honestly and then acting on the answers.  Successful salespeople are able to say “yes” to the right opportunities and “no” to the wrong ones.

Work Smarter Not Harder

work smarter Work smarter not harder to get better results. This concept is easy to say yet difficult to do.   When the demands of your job and request from your customers increase how do you respond?  If your natural response is to just put in more time and effort you need to read on.

The Problem

Customers are becoming more demanding and management is always asking you to give 110% . You put out the effort but the results don’t reflect it and your job never seems to be done. If this how you feel then you could be caught in the activity trap.

Many times sales people get caught in the activity trap.  They find themselves running from sales call to sales call without showing much in return.  It seems like the harder they work the less effective they become. Emails, texts and calls from impatient customers never seems to end.

The Solution

If you are or think you are in the activity trap, then you need to step back and ask yourself these 6 questions.  Your answers should provide the focus you need to get back on the Right Track.

  1. Are you calling on the right customers? The one’s who have the ability and interest to buy now.
  2. Are your talking to the right person? The person who can say “yes” and “no”.
  3. Are you presenting the right solution? Your solution is unique in solving the customer’s problem or addressing a need.
  4. Are you presenting the right price? There is clear value established.
  5. Are you presenting the right reasons to buy? You’ve uncovered the customer’s emotional and stated needs.
  6. Is this the right time for your solution? Internal and external barriers have been identified and removed.

Your honest answers should provide you with the focus needed to get you back on the Right Track. By periodically asking yourself these questions you ensure that you work smarter and not harder.