The Success of No

It’s not easy to hear “no” from people when you’re trying to be successful in your own business. I know that it feels bad to hear people say “no” to you, after all, you sell something amazing and the whole world could benefit from what you sell. However, the latest estimate is that there are over 7 billion people. I can’t imagine how stressed out I would be if I were trying to serve 7 billion individual clients within my lifetime. But as I shared about on Monday and I’ve shared about in the past, we should say “no” to things because not everything is for us personally, not to mention the really big reasons that people don’t buy stuff like language, sex and location (I can’t use a menu written in Japanese (I speak English), book on prostate health (I’m a woman), or map of Sydney, Australia (I have no plans to visit Australia)).

So honestly, hearing people say “no” is one of the biggest gifts for us. Why? Because it allows us to focus on those we can actually help and are ready for what we’re selling. The better care we can give to our customers, the more likely they’ll find great value in what we offer and more likely they’ll recommend us to someone who will be an equally good match for us.

The other thing to remember is that someone’s initial no may be just because they don’t know, like and trust you yet. In today’s very crowded market place it takes longer to convert someone who is kind of interested to a client simply because of the huge number of marketing messages they receive each day. Rather than freaking out because your efforts aren’t immediately successful know that and plan for your success to be achieved over time. Don’t give up because you’re not a viral sensation and on every news site every day. Very few people are able to do that, and most are there for reasons that we would rather not be known for anyway.

So the next time someone says “no” to you thank them for being honest rather than becoming a miserable pain in your butt and let them know that you’d love to keep in touch with them in case they change their mind in the future. Don’t go for the touchdown on every play, just make forward progress.

Who Really Counts?

Today I want to address a really important topic: how successful you are vs. how successful you could be.  The secret lies in something we’ve talked about before, and yet I’m amazed by how many business owners and clients I talk with that don’t understand or refuse to accept just how important this secret is.  The secret, of course, is customers.

This week I was talking with a client after doing some work for them and was told that my work was inaccurate because they were a reseller, not someone who actually created what they sold.  They weren’t an Amazon or Walmart type business, they had a very specific niche and only sold a very specific type of products.  In their mind my marketing advice was only applicable to someone who actually made the products, not someone who was just reselling.  It brought up a couple points I want to highlight with you today.

First, reselling doesn’t change the product.  Just because Amazon sells tablets and computers, doesn’t make their items any different than those sold on the creating company’s website or in their store.  It’s the same exact item, just sold in a place that has access to lots more customers than most individual sellers do.

Second, who said that reselling was any less important than being the primary creator/seller?  We’ve already established that resellers are still selling the exact same product as the creators.  Just because you didn’t create something but you sell it doesn’t mean you can’t take pride in what you’re selling or believe that you have an important job of helping more people connect with what you sell.

Third, what really matters is the customer.  As a seller, whether the creator or a reseller, the only thing that matters is helping your customers.  While not all business owners operate to the standards that some do, I would never sell/resell or recommend anything or anyone I did not personally understand or have some experience with.  No, I may not be able to rebuild the car I drive, but I would recommend it based on the experience I’ve had with it.  I would not try to sell it or similar cars to someone else however since I don’t have the technical experience to talk shop and fully support the customer should they buy it.  If you can’t tell your potential customer about the benefits and drawbacks as well as answer their questions about it and support them in their use of the product, are you really offering a service to your customers?

Being in business only for the money is like being given a fish tank full of water without fish. It’s great, but without the fish it’s really lacking something.  Be involved in your business and what you sell, know it inside and out, and be able to support your customers fully.  You’ll get more positive reviews, recommendations and sales that way.

“I’m a fan of music, first and foremost. So I do things from the perspective of a fan.” Pharrell Williams

Customer Service Success

This month we’ve been talking about taking action, and one area of a business that usually means action is customer service.  Usually when people reach out to you with a question about what you offer, an issue with what was delivered or (gasp) to thank you for doing a great job, some action is required on your part. Maybe you have to help them troubleshoot your item, maybe you need to explain what certain terms mean, maybe they just want to know that you’re there if they need you.  Responsive customer service centers in a business can really be a valuable asset to a business, and likewise a poor customer service department can really kill you. After all, if there’s no one to help you, wouldn’t you leave a bad review and tell people not to buy from them?

Recently I learned about a surprising stance that eBay has on customer relations: unless someone has spent money with you apparently it’s not required to respond to messages that are sent to you.  Yes, I had a question about something that was being sold and I wasn’t getting a reply from the seller, so like any smart individual I went looking for answers (aka the nearest door to beat down and complain about the seller) and I discovered eBay’s policy.

So let’s just be clear what this means: there’s a good chance that if someone inquires about a product you sell that they’re at least 50% of the way interested, after all, if they weren’t really interested they wouldn’t make the effort to contact you.  And YET it’s apparently logical to not reply to queries.  Sounds like a great way to increase your sales, doesn’t it!?  Needless to say that buyer lost that sale from me and any potential future ones.

So we’re back to one of my pet peeves: communication. If something as simple as a quick email reply could get you a sale, wouldn’t you take the time to do it? What do you think?

The Start of Spring

One of the keys to running a successful business is being aware. You need to be aware of what’s going on, aware of what your business needs, aware what your customers need, aware of what’s going on in the world, aware of what’s going on in your niche, and aware of when things need to change. If you’re not aware of what’s going on in your business, you’ll never be able to recognize when things are happening, when new things are needed and when things are hurdling out of control.

I had to stop and pause this week because I saw a chipmunk out scurrying around and it’s much too soon for them, or so I thought. But it reminded me that sometimes we get caught up in what we’re doing and what’s going on that we miss the signs. The good news is that spring is the perfect time to get started on updating things and growing your business. For spring to happen, for your business to be successful there are some things that need to happen.

Spring seems like all of a sudden there are just flowers everywhere and you can’t believe it. The truth is that it’s been happening slowly over the past few weeks, you’ve just missed the signs. To businesses it may seem like the answer to everything is to be viral, but what those who go viral quickly learn, you have to keep going viral for lasting success. So while viral’s nice if you can make it happen, it’s not what I recommend for consistent success. Instead I recommend you follow the guidance of spring and instead work on consistent, lasting growth and success throughout the life of your business. If you’re consistent with your marketing efforts and with your work with clients you’ll never deal with a lack in clients or be concerned about how far behind you are. It’s time to stop trying to be viral and start consistently helping people.

Spring is also known as the bringer of new things. Very few businesses can exist successfully on just one product created just one time, or one client purchasing one time. While a music store may only sell music, they’re always getting new songs and new artists. While an accountant may always work with numbers the numbers always change and tax rules change each year. Very few writers live off only one book. Your willingness to bring in a new perspective, try something new, work with a new client or partner with another business could be the breath of fresh air you need in your business to get you out of your slump or passionate about your business again.

Consider this week as your chance to shed the chills of winter and move into the warm fresh air of spring. Let go of what’s holding you back as a business and step into what will help you grow. Not sure? Contact me and I’ll review your situation and share my thoughts for what spring can be for you.

Will You Be My Customer?

One of the biggest challenges in business is getting potential customers to say yes. With Valentine’s Day this weekend I thought it was appropriate to talk about things that need to be in place to get people to say yes to the sale.

1-answer all questions. This is one of the big reasons why people don’t buy, they have questions you haven’t answered, concerns you haven’t addressed or aren’t clear on what you’re selling. If you do sell something that you don’t list all the answers to potential questions for in an easily accessible place, make sure that you’re easily and frequently accessible so you can quickly answer their questions before they get cold feet.

2-there’s no spark. In romance a spark is the stuff stories are made of, and business is no different: people want to know that not only are you special and offering something special, they’ll be treated with respect and value too when they become your customer. I would be hard pressed to come up with a business that has no competitors, so showing your spark, your vision, your personality, your leadership and your perspective are essential to standing out and convincing a potential customer you can provide them with what they seek.

3-offer great value. You don’t get engaged to and marry the scary neighborhood tramp just so you can say you’re married, you choose to make that commitment with someone who you feel compliments, supports, helps, improves, grows, enjoys and loves you. A business is no different, people don’t just buy for the sake of spending money, they want value from you.

Which point will you work on this week to increase your conversions?

Customer Conversions and Conversations

Last Wednesday I shared about the power of people. Today I want to take that conversation one step further and talk about the 4 things you can do to increase your sales and improve your customer satisfaction.

It starts with explanations. The devil really is in the details for many business owners who fail in this very first step. When things aren’t explained properly you aren’t able to get past the first step. Countless business transactions every day are lost because the first step was such a doozy that customers couldn’t get over it. Maybe you didn’t make it easy to buy, maybe you didn’t explain what you sell, maybe you were missing important details, and the customer got lost, and you lost the customer.

After you’ve done your best to explain things and the sale is in progress you take the time to ask them what else you can help them with, and what you can do better. Some people call this upselling, others just see it as adding more value to your customer. If your customers came in through an initial product/service offering they may not be aware of what else you offer that they’re also looking for. By asking what else you can do for them and indicating some of the other things they may be interested in based on their current purchase, you’re able to do your #1 goal: help more people. And if your query discovers they weren’t satisfied with their purchase you can find out what you can do to make the experience better for the next customer.

Then you involve your customers in the development of your company. You send out surveys, get feedback on products and services and find out what else you could help them with that lines up with your current offerings that they are looking for. The best way to keep your customers coming back are to offer (more) things that they want! If you know what they want because they specifically told you what they want and it’s in line with your company’s products/services and mission, look into developing it. If it doesn’t line up with your company look into doing a joint venture with another company so you can support their customers and they can support yours.

Finally make sure you take the time to appreciate your customers. People like to know that the choice they made is appreciated. It can be as simple as a note/email thanking them, and as valuable as a discount or free gift. Customers have thousands of choices for just about every need they have today, if they’ve chosen you make sure they know that you recognize this and appreciate them for choosing you.

Do these 4 steps with every customer and you’ll not only increase customer satisfaction, you’ll also have better conversions and retention.

The Cost of Christmas

We’re just a few hours away from celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah is ending and Kwanza is just a few days away as well.  It’s the season of celebrations which can be a really good thing and it’s also a challenge for business owners.  We’ve talked about a few of those challenges this month, today I want to talk about one last challenge: the cost.  Is it really worth it to go through all this effort for just a few days of celebrating?  From travel plans to gift stress to time off to kids off to customer demands, it’s a really stressful time of year.  So, is it worth it? I believe it is.  The way I see it, it’s an opportunity.  Not every opportunity should be grabbed, but with so many people in buying mode, it’s almost stupid to not jump on the bandwagon in even little ways.  Let’s look at two examples of ways that businesses are taking advantage and winning this season.

Starbucks this year has made a brilliant move.  If you’re not familiar with the coffeehouse giant, they sell made to order coffee, tea and other drinks, snacks, and related products like cups and coffee beans and tea.  If you’ve ever purchased a mug or cup for someone or anything else that’s a funny shape or has the potential to break like coffee mugs do you know you stress out about buying and wrapping and gifting them.  This year Starbucks made the investment to pre-box all of their cups that are for sale.  Simply, it’s brilliant: there’s no hassle with trying to wrap or protect it, it’s a simple box to wrap.  If I was planning on gifting a mug or coffee related products to someone this year I would shop there for that reason.

You’re probably familiar with the WestJet YouTube holiday videos.  For the past couple years they’ve surprised people with gifts, things they told Santa they wanted.  It’s a big hit and really cute to watch. This may not bring in the immediate sales potential that Starbucks’ move did, but it does build confidence and interest in their brand. It’s also a great example of my real point today: the holiday seasons is really about the people in our lives and showing and spreading love.

Is there really a price you can put on those smiles in those videos or the relief you feel when you don’t have to wrap (and break) a mug? Is there really a price you can put on doing something for employees who have supported you and your business dreams all year long?  Is there really a price you can put on making a difference in someone’s life?  Yes, I’m sure some want to come up with numbers because that’s who they are.  But that’s not Christmas.  Christmas is about remembering that everything we do, every choice we make is about and for people.  So go out there and celebrate some people tomorrow.  Let them know you appreciate them and are thankful for their role in making your business a success.

The Problem with Perfection

As business owners we face lots of challenges. If you want me to make you a list I can certainly write you up one that will be longer than any kid’s Christmas list to Santa.  One of the most noticeable aspects of business and life is our presentation.  From how food looks on a plate, to how clean your house looks, to the packaging choices on your physical product or the design you chose for your website, for most people how something looks is one of the first things people notice.  Today I wanted to share a few thoughts about presentation and a little holiday cheer reminder.

Let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way first: when things don’t look good or they don’t meet the expectation we have it’s pretty noticeable usually.  We see the spelling mistakes, the unkempt floors, overflowing garbage, or dishes in the sink that create a perception of someone or their business that can impact all decisions you make about buying from them going forward.  As a consultant the presentation is one of the things that I work on most with clients, and one of the things they’re most resistant to change.  I’d be rich if I got money every time someone said to me “yea, yea, I know that, but I need more traffic/hits/sales/likes” etc.  Yes, I know you need more sales and traffic, just about every business owner does. But the chances of getting the sales from the traffic are much smaller if you don’t take care of the stuff you supposedly know about.  If it’s that simple and it could make that big of a difference in your business, how many more sales do you want to lose for refusing to do it?

This is where the holiday cheer comes in.  I was out the other night and saw lights on a tree outside that were clearly done by the homeowner (they didn’t hire a professional company to come in and wrap their tree).  At first I was distracted by the imperfectly hung lights, but then I realized that that’s what the holidays, and business, are not about.  No, holidays and business are not about having the perfect product, the perfect gift, the perfect life and perfect 2.5 kids.  It’s about making the world a better place, being happy with our choices and spreading some happiness wherever we go.

Simply put there are no perfect products, businesses or people.  There will always be a failure or flaw someone will be happy to point out.  Yes, we should all do our best to not have the easily fixable mistakes and issues like spelling and dirt, but when it comes down to it there’s more to life and success, and some things work just fine with an error or two.  In this holiday season and as we wrap up another year in business I encourage you to worry less about the little things and more about those that matter.

The Choices of Christmas

Today in response to a lot of the discussion that’s been had over the past few weeks, I thought we’d talk about 2 holiday topics that are a bit contentious at this time of year: time off and sales. Life is full of choices. Each choice we make is usually made to the exclusion of other options. If you choose a career like army engineer or nurse you know you’re going to have some challenging hours. If you choose to run your own business it’s hard to leave it at the door when you get home each night since you are your business. If you’re a K-12 teacher you have to work with kids. If you don’t like the requirements of your career, you’re probably not in the right career. However, if all the other options sound worse, you’ve chosen the best you can for right now.

As business owners we try to do the best we can to make our customers, employees, suppliers and everyone else we work with happy because it’s much easier to deal with happy people than mad ones. The way I see it, we’ve probably only got a few more years of in-store holiday madness on Thanksgiving/Black Friday because all of the deals are going online, so there isn’t a great advantage to going to a store when you can get the same deal online (unless you enjoy that sort of thing). However, if you are going to make your employees work certain holidays, make sure to compensate in other ways like financially or giving off other days.

But the bottom line really is that you have to accept the choices you’ve made. If you’ve chosen to be a business owner for all of the wrong reasons you will be miserable. If you’re working a job you don’t like because you’re too lazy to get a better one or do the work of a better one, you have to accept that. Life and success are what you make of them, what will your choice be this year?

Holiday Expectations

We’ve entered the last month of 2014, how are your business goals going?  Are you on target with where you hoped you would be?  Today with thoughts of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday and the whole holiday season on my mind and just about everywhere you look, I thought we’d talk about a few ways that you can make the experience just a little bit better for your customers.

Black Friday/Cyber Monday: I thought there were some really great deals out there this year, the one thing that surprised me was how many online businesses had deals that were better on Friday than on Monday.  I know that lots of people shop on Friday because they’re off, but as a “cyber” business, you would think that they would participate more in Monday than Friday’s sales, or at least hold one thing back to put on super sale.  The question you have to ask yourself is are people expecting, as an online business, to buy from you on Cyber Monday and then when your deals aren’t that great do you miss out completely on the sale?  Make sure that you’re clear with your customers if you plan to participate and exactly when the best, great and just decent deals will be.

Giving Tuesday: I believe it’s important for businesses and/or business owners to give back to the community.  I always give a little extra or special discounts to military personnel, and I also donate to different charities personally.  I may not be a millionaire but I believe that giving back and giving to others is not only good for them, it’s good for you too.  The thing I noticed more than ever this year was the number of businesses who offered a discount for shopping on Giving Tuesday and offered to donate the same percent to a charity.  This not only gets you sales, it helps you do good too.

Expectations: As buyers we have expectations about what we order.  As sellers we try to communicate as clearly as possible exactly what we’re selling so our customer service issues are fewer and less costly.  When you purchase something and the seller says it will be delivered tomorrow, you expect it to be delivered tomorrow, even if you would have been OK with it taking a few days or even a week to deliver (just as long as you got it by the holiday or the date you needed).  But when they then contact you and say it’s delayed both buyer and seller get frustrated.  It’s always better to surprise your customers than disappoint them.

What will you do this holiday season to make it better for you as a seller and for the customers who make the season so merry?

“Eighty percent of success is showing up.”  Woody Allen