Archive for the ‘Training Courses’ Category

My biggest business mistake?

Well, it may not turn out to be my biggest ever in the fullness of time, but it’s certainly the most expensive to date in terms of time invested and lack of earnings. And I see entrepreneurs making their own version of it all the time, day in, day out…

As many of you know, my background is in sales & marketing communications in the broadest sense: telephone sales and face to face sales, sales training, market and marketing research, brand, product and service positioning and development, and so on.

As my story unfolds some of you will undoubtedly ask yourselves “Why didn’t she see that coming?” The short answer is that, left to our own devices and sometimes the input of well meaning but usually insufficiently qualified friends and loved ones (that’s if we even listen to anyone), our perspective is that we’re too close to see the wood for the trees and will not allow us to do what an eagle does: constantly switch from the panoramic ‘big picture’, zoom in to the detail and back again.

The Big Idea

What do most individuals do when they cut loose from corporate land and set up their own stall as a brand new entrepreneur? They do what they enjoy, they’re good at and what comes easily to them: their own Big Idea.

But, I reasoned, very few if any would have acquired the skills of the composite sales & marketing background that I had. So, unless they’d been planning and transitioning gradually from employment into doing their own thing – whether that’s setting themselves up in a job where they are the boss or starting a business that they intend to grow, franchise and/ or sell – this is where the cracks often start appearing: They’re open for business but where are the customers who should be beating down the door to get at them and their fabulous offerings?

Now I don’t claim to know loads about how to build a business into an empire – the idea had never occurred to me – but I do know that I’m very good at helping others get the clarity and necessary skills to communicate the value and uniqueness of what they have to offer, and build their own businesses, so what better than to create a course dedicated to that? One that would:

  • Teach them skills that would easily enable them to win business that would recoup their investment many times over in double quick time
  • That they could fit their learning in and around their business
  • That enabled pinpoint their specific needs
  • That allowed them to design their unique route through the course with their own coach/ trainer
  • That provided exercises that let them safely test out their new learnings…
  • And worksheets to complete that enabled me to measure their understanding and use of their new learnings

I even began to think that maybe I could could grow this into a business that could be franchised at some point… oh, heady stuff, indeed! 😉

A little aside

It’s not long ago, only beginning of the noughties, that the Internet was young, as was online social and business networking. The creation, hosting and optimization of websites was in the hands of a select few self styled experts – the first release of WordPress was not until May 2003… It happened to be in this era that I created the course so you could argue that the need was greater then for interactive sales & marketing communication skills because there were fewer affordable routes to market for start ups and small businesses. Yet to offset that, I’d venture that the economy was more buoyant and there wasn’t a trend of corporates ousting employees wholesale, effectively to make their own way any way they could…

Back to the main plot…

So I had a tremendous time designing the course: By the time it emerged many months later onto the unsuspecting world it was indeed my beloved, treasured, beautiful, clever baby.

What I discovered then was that I could find very few business owners who would commit themselves to doing the course. Did they not trust the course and me to deliver? Did they not trust themselves to step up?

I was chatting to a member of a business brainstorming group I ran and it was the first time he really understood the scope of what the course covered and helped businesses to achieve. His comments were along the lines of:

“Brilliant concept. Fantastic service. Utterly wrong market. They’ll never appreciate its true value or pay you what it’s worth.”

I was flattened

In hindsight he was absolute right, of course. For ages I went around muttering and bewailing the fact that most owners of small businesses – the very ones who most needed the help I was offering them – would rather complain about the ‘sad state of things’ (i.e. not enough profitable customers) than do something to alter that state.

So what could I do?

Two things.

The first was to take the sales skills parts of the course – telephone and face to face – and target owners of businesses that had a dedicated (or even semi dedicated) sales person or persons who were under performing. I found that they would pay the money for the employee to go through the training and learning far more happily than if they themselves had to do the work.

The second, and this came later, was to fully take on board the realization that you can’t sell what you think people need – especially when that seems to them to be so huge it’s everything strong>including the kitchen sink.

I just counted the Modules in the original business owners course – 29 of them (15 on soft skills training and 14 on sales training)! :-(

Understandably, people will only intend to buy what they believe is necessary to get the desired solution. I’ve discovered that can be either a bit more than they think or a lot less! So it took a while we now have a range of solution based offerings as opposed to “look-what-I-know-and-can-help-you-learn” process-based offerings…

To paraphrase something I heard recently:

“Concentrate on the destination not the method of transport”

What clangers of your own would you be prepared to share?

Linda


Just do it!

… is a line that appears in our Build Firm Foundations course because we think Nike have got it right.

Yet it applies to anything in your life or business that you know isn’t right and needs fixing.

You’ll always be able to think of a thousand reasons (excuses) why it’s not quite the right time for you to improve your sales and marketing skills:

  • You’re too busy servicing (sometimes unprofitable) existing customers
  • You have more quotes to get out to potential customers
  • The payroll needs to be done
  • The VAT needs to be done

The list is potentially endless. Then you wonder, six months or a year down the line, why you’re in much the same position as you were, yet your competition, whom you believe in truth to be no better than you, is charging ahead.

Well maybe your competition just got smart and decided to invest a little time learning how to better position itself so that it demostrates its understanding of the target market’s problems and pains and has the best solutions for them.

Unlike my partner’s son’s line of business, this (and other areas of sales and marketing) isn’t rocket science. And you don’t need a high priced consultant to show you how to do it. Do you remember Portia Nelson?

You are the only impediment in your progress, not the demands of your customers, the quotes for potential customers, the payroll or the VAT man. If you’re not completely happy with your company’s performance isn’t it time you figured out how to fix it?

Once you start and see how it all fits neatly into place, you’ll wonder what on earth took you so long!


Sales, marketing, research: What do you want?

Hi there

I know you’re visiting (from the stats and because you tell me so when we speak terrestrially) but many of you are not interacting online.

Is it just because you’re reserved or shy? Or do we need to focus more on certain areas to provide you with the help you need to successfully grow your business?

Now’s your chance to shape the way this blog site develops:

  • What do you enjoy reading or learning about?
  • What do you want to see more of?
  • What would you like to know more about?
  • How do you believe we could help you become more successful?
  • What information or skills would help you grow your business?

Don’t just sit on the sidelines – Join in!

Give me your comments and suggestions – I look forward to receiving them and acting on them.


Win, keep and grow happy customers

Leigh Wallinger from Arteka commented on our Customer service and customer care article.

He suggested a customer satisfaction survey as one way of discovering how well your company meets its customers’ needs as well as giving you the opportunity to fix anything that’s wrong before it becomes a major issue. He’s right and it’s something that any small business can carry out in-house, without costing a fortune.

Leigh’s solution also legitimately gives me the chance to plug our Fact Find Your Way To Success course for those of you who’d like to carry out such a survey and want to ensure that you do it right!

We ended up having a proper live conversation and I thought it would be helpful to link to his company, Arteka.

If your company is based in the UK and provides IT/ communications services, you know that your sales and marketing skills aren’t up to scratch and are unwilling, or believe you are unable to rectify that, it might be worth your while exploring whether Leigh can help you.


Fact Find Yor Way To Success

Are you sitting on a gold mine of untapped information?

Do you need to know what your customers really think of the products or services you provide?

Would you like to explore the potential of a new or previously failed market?

We’ve made Fact Find Your Way To Success, a session of the full Selling For Business course, available as a stand alone course for those of you who are quite happy with your sales and marketing skills but want to carry out prospect or customer research and aren’t sure how to best go about it.

If “Fact Find Your Way To Success” were delivered in the traditional way in a classroom with a trainer, it would be a jam packed, full-to-bursting, one-day course. In all likelihood delegates would not have a clue what questions they needed to ask the trainer until they had gone away and tried to implement their learning in their business.

Our way is to provide it to you as a downloadable executable file. You can read through the entire course at your own pace and place then use the Discussion Document that accompanies the course to clarify the aims of any research you intend to undertake.

Submit the Discussion Document to us and claim your telephone consultation. We’ll email you with a choice of days and times to contact us, and you’re up and running! And we’re with you, providing email support for a whole month.

What are you waiting for? You’ll find all the information you need to get started at our sister site Selling For Business

Start learning now how you can implement fact-finding to grow your business!


Turn competition into collaboration

Once you’re happy in your brand you can help change competition to collaboration

I was recently invited along to a sales training workshop following a breakfast networking meeting I’d attended. Some people assumed I wouldn’t want to go as I’m an established trainer and the salesman running the workshop had a somewhat intimidating reputation that preceded him.

It was a small workshop made up of people already pretty successful in their chosen fields. As frank and open participation was encouraged and, as the trainer running the workshop and I had very different views on one of the techniques advocated, the session became extremely lively!

I had a thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening three hours (thank you Marcus, you’re one of a kind) and got to know about a guy I’d be happy to recommend to his target market. He knows more about me and is prepared to do likewise as and when the opportunity arises.

It became crystal clear during that workshop and our ensuing telephone conversation that, partly because our approach and styles of delivery are so different, we’re not in competition at all! And we each stand to benefit from our collaboration.

Make contact if you want to know more about either of us – Marcus will self admittedly make you very uncomfortable but, boy, will he get you results. I take a gentler approach and draw out your strengths, and I get you results, too.


Vive la difference!

Brand matters – to every business

It’s very difficult nowadays to come up with a product, service or solution that is totally new, truly unique and perceived by the prospect or customer to be the only solution to his or her problem. If you do manage to, you can bet your boots it won’t be long before the nub of your idea is copied and the competition is up and running and possibly undercutting your price too.

So how can you protect your business and profitably win, grow and keep your customers? You would have to be living well and truly in the dark ages not to have heard terms such as “mission”, “vision”, “brand value” and the like. Big corporations pay huge amounts of money developing the “brand” and equally vast amounts to lawyers if they think someone is infringing on it. The fact that you are not in the same league as BP, General Electric, IBM, Vodafone, Cisco et al shouldn’t put you off investigating what could be in this for you.

Maybe now would be a good time to do a bit of navel gazing and re-address what your company is all about, where it and you are at, where you want to be and how you intend to get there. None of this is new but it may have been a while since you’ve had the chance or inclination to do any strategic thinking.

How is your company different from your competition? Why should anyone choose to do business with you rather than any of your competitors? The way any company, regardless of size, positions its brand is fundamental to its ultimate success so it’s vital that you get it right.

One of the ways you can build genuine, enduring differentiation of your business brand is by giving it explicit core values, and endowing it with a distinctive and attractive personality that makes your customers think, for example, “I like these people. I know where I stand with them and they deliver their promise. They treat me like an intelligent individual, not some moron. They understand and care about my (business) needs and I can trust them.”

You must know who your main competitors are, so check out how they position themselves and develop a separate and unique position for your company and offering.

That’s logically when you should come up with a mission statement but, if you are going to have one, make sure it’s meaningful and believable. I know that sounds obvious but take a look around and see how many companies’ mission statements you would buy into. So take your time on this. Your vision (and the goals you set to attain it) may evolve but your mission statement is core to your company and remains constant. Test it out on your own people. You needn’t tell them that it’s your proposed mission statement; just ask for their opinion on how it sums up what your company is all about. Provided you’re not an overbearing egotist you’ll get candid feedback.

Once you have it right it is a prime weapon in your differentiation armoury and also doubles very nicely as an elevator pitch (a succinct and descriptive account of what your company does). If you want help with any of this just click on the link below. You’ll find “Build Firm Foundations”, a freely downloadable 4-part course, on the home page of the Selling For Business website.

Use the results of the suggested exercises to underpin all your sales and marketing communications and provide and build brand identity and consistency.


+44 (0)20 7209 1284

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"I was very impressed by Linda's determination to help and the constructive, but persistent, manner in which she identified issues and then tried to resolve them. After recent progress I was again reaching a stage where I seemed to be spinning my wheels, and she has given me fresh impetus to start moving forward again."

Bay