The Honest Economy by Marcus Sheridan

Below you’ll find an email from my friend Marcus Sheridan of The Sales Lion (www.thesaleslion.com – great website, download his e-book, it’s amazing).  Marcus is a fantastic speaker and was recently selected to speak at a TED event and has received rave reviews for his talk – you can click on the link below to see the video.  In his comments below he mentioned 5 things you can do today to Embrace the Honest Economy and Change Your Business Forever – what are you willing to do?

 

From Marcus:

At this point, you and I have a choice. Be it the way we live our life or run our business, we can walk to the beat of the way “it has always been done” as well as the way “the other guys do it” or we can make a divergence in the road and clear our own path from this point forward.

When it comes to marketing you and your business, this reality has never been so true. Please stick with me for a second so I can explain…

As some of you are already well aware, two weeks ago I spoke at a TED event near Washington DC. As one who speaks a lot, this 11-minute talk was the hardest thing I’ve ever done on stage. I literally poured my heart and soul into it because it’s a message I so firmly believe in. I also know, without a shadow of doubt, that any business or individual who embraces this approach will positively change their industry, build their brand, and create more paying customers in the process.

I’m calling this movement “The Honest Economy ,” and it’s my hope you’ll consider joining the movement today-and also hugely benefit in the process.

And what is The Honest Economy? Simple, it’s one that’s not based on cheap sales tactics, poor financial practices, or slick ad copy. Rather, it’s fundamental core comes down to two essential elements: Great communication and teaching.

This is why content marketing is something I talk about so very much on The Sales Lion. When all is said and done, we’re just trying to be better teachers and communicators.

But to make this simple, I’m going to mention 5 things you could choose to do that not only are fundamentally based in truth and honesty, but will have an incredible impact on your business, brand, and bottom line. Here they are:

5 Ways You Can Embrace The Honest Economy and Change Your Business Forever

1. Answer every question-positive or negative-you’ve ever been asked by a prospect or customer. Turn each question into a blog post title, and then just answer it. Hold nothing back. Be real. Be consistent. Make this a culture.

2. Write a manifesto about something you seeing wrong in your industry, and then show it to the world. (Yes, this takes guts, but you’ll be amazed at the results.)

3. Make an offer to customers no one else in your industry is willing to offer. (Car Max did this with their 5-day money back guarantee in the used car industry and it worked out pretty well for them 😉

4. Make a section of your website called “Who we are not for.” (Believe it or not, it’s more important in your copy that you tell people who you’re NOT for (your product, service, etc.) than who you are for. I’m sure no one does this right now in your industry, but if you do, you’ll see the powerful psychological effect it has on customers and prospects.)

5.  Show your “secret sauce” by making a video explaining how you do what you do . As mentioned in the TED talk, if McDonalds showed the world how to make their secret sauce, don’t you think it’s time we showed ours?? Whether you offer a product, a service, are B2B or B2C-please consider showing the world how you make your secret sauce.

2 Requests that Could Change Your Life and Mine as Well 

I have two sincere requests on this day my friends.

1. Choose one of the above challenges . Tell me, by hitting “reply” to this email, which one you’re doing (or will do) and why. I ask this because I want to be a part of the journey with you.

2. I need your help spreading my TED talk. In order for the talk to be considered by TED.com (only 2% of all TED talks make it to the main TED.com website ) I really need to get the views above 10,000 by next week (currently it’s at 4,000 after the first two days). If everyone that receives this email just clicked on this link and watched the video once, we’d be way above that number. And if everyone shared that same video on Facebook or Twitter, the results would be astounding.

I’m not usually one to ask my readers and subscribers for favors, but today, I am. I do sincerely need your help and hope you’ll consider going to YouTube and at least watching the message-The Honest Economy.

As always, thanks everyone and I can’t wait to hear your responses to the 5 challenges above and see which you’ll choose.

Marcus Sheridan

How Fast can you Close Deals?

When I’m asked a question like this I immediately start to wonder if this prospect is the right fit.  Why are they asking this question?  I get it, you’re looking for Return on Investment, I understand completely, you’re putting out money and you want to know the value of what you’ll receive in return and here’s the answer…I don’t know yet.

Let’s face it sales can be a bit of a crap shoot.  Anyone who guarantees you increases in sales/revenue at “x”% is without question lying.  A couple things we need to consider:

 

  • What’s your currently sales cycle?  Why is it that long?  Are there challenges that contribute to the length of the cycle or is it just that long?
  • Who is your potential buyer?  And why?  How do you connect with the potential buyer currently?
  • Do you have a presentation or marketing materials?
  • How do you price?
  • Who’s your competition?  What do they do really well?  What’s unique about you?

Many of these questions may seem silly but here’s why I ask:  We can typically shorten the time it takes to get to a decision maker but the sales cycle is the sales cycle.  You should not expect any major changes to the amount of time it takes someone to close a deal just because you’ve hired an outsourcing firm.  That being said it’s not uncommon for us to close deals in half the time it takes you but for others it may take longer.  It depends on the complexity of the deal, the process necessary to get the deal complete (RFP, multiple decision makers, large vs small deal, etc).  We find that many of our clients don’t have a strong grasp of their target market or they target someone they want to be a client but will never be one.  We find that many of our clients have little marketing materials that are usable while others have too much and it can become confusing for the prospect.  We don’t rely on marketing material but it can be a good conversation starter so it’s certainly helpful if done right.

When we ask you about your competition there’s nothing that drives me more insane then hearing you say “Well, our people are smarter and our service is better.”  As if your competition would actually say, even if it were true, that they hire below average staff and their service stinks.  This is the equivalent of telling your prospect “blahblahblahblahblah”.  What makes you unique, if you don’t know, it’s time to figure it out or you can forget competing – you’re essentially making yourself a commodity and now it’s all about price.

Pricing.  Oh pricing, it can be the devil in this relationship.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve taken a prospect into a decision maker for a deal that would double the revenue of their company only for them to price the project so far out of the realm of possibility that the prospect is literally in shock.  They loved you, you came highly recommended, they felt you could deliver and make them shine like the rock star they are and you blew it with cocky aggressive pricing and then you blamed me for losing the deal.  Here’s the deal, when it comes to closing with outsourced business development, it’s a partnership.  You rely on us to ensure you have a qualified lead, a decision maker with a budget and a strong connection either personally or professionally.  We rely on you to showcase your value, deliver high quality and always on time, and to price competitively.  We can go to bat for you if you’re within reason but if you’re off the mark, there’s nothing we can do to help.  In fact we’ve probably damaged that relationship by bringing you in the door.

So how fast can we close deals?  I don’t know, it’s different for every client.  Some happen within the first 2 months while others can take a year or two.  If you’re not viewing business development as an investment in your company’s future then perhaps it’s not right for you at this time.  If you’re counting every dollar and every minute that goes by you’re not seeing the forest through the trees.  Business development is about building the relationships that are going to change your business and when was the last time you built a long lasting, happy client relationship over night?

Prospect Rant #5 – They said they had connections

Rant #5 – They TOLD ME they had great connections

It’s now 6 months later and we have no meetings scheduled.  I have to admit I love this one because it can happen across the board.  It can be your $225k hire, the retired military leader, the retired Agency head, the “commercial expert” or the newbie, etc.  You’re paying for action not cards in a rolodex.  How many former executives do you know that actually handled the sales process?  Not too many – so why would you expect them to do it for you?  You hired them for one reason and one reason only – to make introductions for you and now in order to see your investment flourish you need to pair them with someone who can communicate the opportunity and move the opportunity forward.

It can also happen with your in-house Business Development person, anyone can say they know people and how many CRM’s are filled with names and numbers that represent a person they met once at an event 5 years ago?  Again Business Development is about connections, strategy and execution.  You’re looking for someone who can figure out the puzzle, methodically go about meeting and meeting with your desired prospects, communicate in the most effective way the value that prospect would receive in working with you and moving that prospect along the pipeline IF they are the right fit.  The last thing you want is someone trying to cram a square peg into a round hole.  You want right fit clients and you need the person who is willing to walk away from a deal if in the short or long run they know it’s not going to work.  The frustration and potential damage to your reputation just isn’t worth a few months of revenue.

Let’s be honest, sales is a crap shoot.  There really is no way to tell if someone you interview really has strong connections or not (unless of course you’ve seen this person in action over a long period of time).  There’s also no way you can identify their strategic capabilities or their desire to execute.  What does work is communication and accountability.  This in no way implies you should be a micro-manager however there does need to be a standard for how information is delivered to you and vice versa.

Where have you been?

I’ve been AWOL, definitely MIA from this blog – a huge No-No.  I know this and yet the business required so much of my time these past few months that I neglected the one thing I know people look for – information.  Yes I was busy, new and existing clients, a pipeline to die for, and most importantly recreating our structure.  2012 taught me a few things – like having policies in my head was probably not a good idea, sure I communicated them (or so I thought) but how was anyone to really know what I expected if it wasn’t on paper?  So it’s now on paper.

We changed how we “on-board” a client.  We found that most clients had a ready, fire, aim approach to new business development and for many the idea of target markets was anyone that breathes.  We revamped our Client Acceptance Protocol and it made sense to create one for each new client so our consultants could more easily stay on task.  Our government contractors say,” it’s easy we just focus on this agency and that agency” and yet each of these agencies has multiple silos with separate decision makers so how do you know where to go in each agency?  We’ve found that a more in-depth market review and analysis in the beginning leading to a Client Acceptance Protocol for each new client prior to pipeline development led to a stronger understanding of the client’s unique capabilities, an easier transition for the consultant to communicate most effectively with prospects and it gave the client a better understanding of our strategy.

We did a billing and invoicing policy for our clients so there are no longer any questions regarding pay structures, how it’s handled and more importantly for me who handles it (and guess what …it’s no longer me)(side question – what are the things taking up your  valuable time that could easily and cost effectively be outsourced?).   We updated our Client Acceptance Protocol and it’s in the hands of everyone in the office so we all stay on task when it comes to marketing and new client engagement.  No longer can we choose to bring on a client if they don’t fit the mold (we call this rescuing puppies).  If they don’t fit, they don’t fit and we’ll be glad to introduce them to someone else who may be able to help.  In fact over the past several months I’ve given 5 opportunities to my competition – they were just a better fit.

Rescuing Puppies is the phrase my husband chose one night about 4 years ago as we were talking about a client that just wasn’t the right fit but I knew we could help them if they would just let us do our work and stop the self -sabotage.  Of course all of our pets are rescues and there is definitely something in my core about helping and taking care of others, but sometimes, in business, I want to help them more then they want to really help themselves.  As it turns out this particular client really wasn’t ready or willing to make the changes necessary for them to thrive.  This is something we see every day with smaller companies.  Almost 5 years into the business we can now spot a “puppy” a mile away and while we may have a personal relationship with the owner and we may want to see them thrive, we know the total costs will outweigh the benefits.  How often do you take on a client that isn’t the right fit?  What have you done to ensure your clients truly fit within your target?  Where are your policies?  If you’re like me you communicated, or at least thought you had communicated the policies and yet for some reason the same issues kept popping up.  Many thanks to Susan Katz, the Growth Coach for helping me to realize that it was easier to get the policies out of my head and on paper then it was to expect everyone to be mind-readers.

So while I’ve been missing, it was time well spent.  Look for our next blog on Prospect Rants.

Self-Evaluate: Are you a Giver or a Taker?

A few months ago, I read Bob Burg and John David Mann’s Go-Givers Sell More, the follow-up to their national bestseller, The Go-Giver, a work aimed at inspiring individuals to shift the focus in their lives from getting, to – as the title suggests – giving. Applying this concept to the workforce, Go-Givers Sell More emphasizes the importance of generosity in business transactions. As I perused its pages, I was forced to face the facts about my own altruistic intentions like a child who’s just realized that the tooth fairy isn’t real. When I did, I realized a troubling truth: I had become a taker.

As someone who runs a company that’s a part of the sales industry, I have a business that depends on introductions. When I stopped to really think about the current state of affairs at Springboard at that point in time, it occurred to me that for some reason, my referrals had come to a screeching halt. It was time for me to accelerate into high gear and drive my business forward, but before I could, I had to seriously evaluate what was going wrong with my business.

It’s easy to get caught in the hustle and bustle of daily obligations and tasks, and I had certainly fallen into the habit of so doing. I had become so busy, focusing on clients, family routines, and checking off my day-to-day to-do list that I had forgotten to incorporate one crucial element into my life: giving. Whether you want to call it karma, cause and effect, or something else entirely, Burg and Mann have gotten it right: receiving without reciprocation is bad for business.

I made the decision to make a change and make it my mission to give. I started building connections and providing introductions that I had promised in the past but forgotten to follow through on. I used my Motorola Xoom tablet to make connections on social media networks on the spot as I’m interacting with people in person. I seek out reasons to establish meaningful relationships with more and more people around me.

But intentionality has a lot to do with the outcome of your endeavors, I’ve learned; you can’t have a quid pro quo attitude, constantly expecting equal exchanges from others. Instead, you must focus on acting purely for the sake of helping others, without selfish goals in mind. If you’re hoping to give merely to get, then you’ve overlooked the thematic issue in this post entirely. Here’s the thing, though: once you give without expectation, you will get back. Since realigning my focus, I’ve received introductions and opportunities I never thought possible. And for every two introduction I make, I get back at least one.

If your referrals have dried up, take a page from Go-Givers Sell More and make it a point to give business opportunities away to others.

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