Archives for April 2007
A lot of entrepreneurs run into trouble when they don’t go out and actively sell.
Selling is hard.
And most people are not natural born sales people. But it’s selling that brings in the bread. Nothing else you do matters if you’re not out selling.
The best thing most companies can do is find someone who can sell. But barring that, the best thing to do is take the leap and go out and start selling. And spend considerable time on it. Whatever it takes. Once you get your first sale, don’t stop. Keep the ball rolling and push even harder.
Introducing … ICON! It’s a little acronym I put together to make understanding the selling process easier. From preparation, to sealing the deal. Step by step.
Invest, Connect, Organize and Nail it Down
Step 1. Invest
This is where all your prepartion happens. Put in the time to know everything you can about whatever you’re selling. Play with it. Try and break it. Find out who the competition is. What do they have that you don’t have? What features and benefits are most important to your customers? Who ARE your customers?
The more answers you have, the less likely you’re going to be caught off guard. And the more confidence you’re going to have. The caveat of “investing” is that you don’t get stuck here. Give yourself a set time frame to learn as much as you can, and then hit step 2. That’s where you’re going to get the valuable feedback you need to really invest anyway.
Step 2. Connect
It’s time to get out and bang on doors. Selling is not waiting for customers to walk in the door. It’s going out and getting them. There are a lot of ways you can do this. Here are a few:
- Cold calling. It has a bad reputation, but done right, it’s the best place to start when you’ve got nothing. The key is to not try and sell anything. Drop in and introduce yourself. Find out a little about the potential customer, leave some propaganda, and get out. Then drop by a month or so later and let them know about your latest and hottest deal. The most successful sales people I know go out and knock on doors. Or just call people up. They have no fear and no lack of confidence.
- Trade shows. Just about every industry has some kind of trade show. Get a booth or if that’s too intense find a strategic partner or a broker. A lot of times sales brokers bring in a cast of the people they represent to their booths. This cuts down your cost for the show, and you’ve got some pro sellers right there to help you lock in the deals.
- Venture out. Just get out and meet people. Get involved in community events, team sports, hobby shows. Make conversation with people wherever you go. Become a member of your town SBA (Small Business Association). Connect, connect, connect.
- Join the circus. Hey, if you thought cold calling was tough, strap on a chicken suit and go parading down the street. The idea is to get attention. A friend of mine was hyping his own home-made version of the movie Jackass. He called up the media and gave them a time and location and told them they were going to set one of the “stars” on fire as a stunt. Now, they’re not THAT crazy. He had no intention of doing that. But when he got there the police and a couple of firetrucks were waiting. So was the media. And that attracted a crowd of people. He sold a bunch of DVDs that day and got some press.
Step 3. Organize
The less your customers have to do to complete the sale, the better. Make it easy. Do the work so they don’t have to. If they have to do more than fill out a credit application and write you a check, that’s too much.
If you need a bunch of technical information, sit down with them. And YOU fill out the questionnaire while you go through it with them. Organize delivery. Organize the setup and the training and whatever else needs to happen. Make it easy. This kind of service wins out every time.
Step 4. Nail it Down
A sale is half done once you’ve got a signature on the dotted line. It’s completely done once you get paid. You can get all the way up to the point where it’s time to sign up, and lose a sale. This is where you pull out your last ditch incentives. “If we can lock this in right now …”.
If you get a half-baked commitment and then no promised phone call, follow up. Show up. Bring a freebie. Be accessible. Invaluable. Available. And ready.
So there it is. That’s how to be a sales ICON.
Now where’d I put that chicken suit …
I like to try different things and see what sticks.
Most marketing tactics don’t give you rapid viral results. Those little gems are always found sparingly, and a lot of times “going viral” just happens by chance … you reach a few key influencers and everything rockets up from there. Zoom!
The only way to force a campaign to go viral is to target key influencers with it. That’s easily done if you know them already. If they’re part of your network. Otherwise, like I said, you throw it out there, and hopefully a couple of influencers come across it.
But as long as your costs are not exhorbitant, lots of experimenting is always good. The more you do, the more you see what sticks, and the more influential people you add to your network along the way.
StumbleUpon has a really nice and easy advertising model. For 5 cents a click, 50 bucks will bring you 1000 people. And maybe more … I’ve had over 1200 of you swing by from Stumble Upon so far, and although the results didn’t match the “viralosity” that Collis achieved, I’m very happy with them.
The Results Of The Stumble
Increased daily traffic. Up about a 20% since the beginning of the week.
Increased RSS subscribers. Up 10% and growing.
It’s also given Zoomstart some exposure to a wider audience. I think the benefits of that are longer term which is what I like to see; strong, steady growth.
The Technorati Faves Train
What a crazy, brilliant idea.
I didn’t jump on board because I wasn’t sure it was my thing. And I was pretty busy writing other posts because my main focus is to write stuff that’s fit to be a Post of the Week.
The Results Of Missing The Train
Technorati Faves. It took me for a ride anyway. Faves have Jumped from 5 to over 50 and still climbing. This is something I’m going to pay regular attention to in the future. Want to get my attention? Add Zoomstart to your Technorati Faves.
Although Gary reports that he hasn’t seen a huge increase in traffic, I see this as something that adds more long term value as well. Potentially a lot of value. It’s just a matter of some key influencers coming across his status on the Technorati top faves list and loving his content.
Always Experiment With Your Marketing
One of the things I’ve wanted to do is add some free downloadables to Zoomstart. It’s something that I know works. So my first Ebook is something I’ll be working on over the next few weeks and I thank all of you for your input. It’s been invaluable.
Whether the Ebook goes viral or not, is not a concern. It’s one of many fronts to wage a campaign on and a diverse investment in different marketing strategies always works the best.
Experiment. Try something tried. And try something not yet tried.
Easy to say. Difficult to do.
The other night I watched Tony Scott’s Sci Fi thriller, Deja Vu, starring Denzel Washington. It got me thinking because in it, they have a fictional wormhole viewer that allows them to see backwards in time exactly 4 1/2 days.
The premise is that they’re using this viewer to solve a crime after it’s already happened by watching the events leading up to it as they unfold. The kicker, is that this gives them the opportunity to change what happened. Maybe.
Every Business Has Its Deja Vu Moments
We’ve all seen them. They’re the “Uh oh, this is gonna go bad” moments. We’re presented with a situation, and somehow, we know we’ve seen this before. We recognize them for a number of reasons:
- Experience. Been there, done that. It blew up last time. It’s going to blow up this time.
- Objectivity. If you’re not the one responsible for executing “the right way”, then it’s easy to say, hey this is the right way. For the person that has to execute it the right way; if they can’t, it’s easier to just do it the wrong way. It’s easier to do what you know. No matter how wrong it is.
So it comes down to having the right people. Because either, you’re not sure how to do it right, or you have someone who knows, but doesn’t know how to make it happen. Even more importantly, it comes down to recognizing a deja vu moment so we can change an otherwise inevitable outcome.
Making The Opportunity To Do It Right
I firmly believe that, as a leader, you don’t always have to have the best idea. But you do have to recognize the best idea. The only way to seize the opportunity when something doesn’t feel right, is to stop and recognize the deja vu moment when it occurs.
Don’t slough it off. Don’t let it pass by unrecognized. And know that you’re going to need help.
By their very nature, these moments slip by us because we kind of feel that something is wrong. We’re just not sure what. Or why. Or how to define it. And mostly, we don’t know how to fix it.
You might need help from the resident guru in your team. You might need to hire some big guns from outside your company that have the experience and can show you exactly how to do it right. It’s a hard sell to say “Hey, there’s something wrong. But I don’t know what it is. Or how to fix it”. Investigate it anyway. Talk to people. Get input.
Hindsight is 20/20. It’s easy to figure out what went wrong after it happens. Deja vu offers us a huge opportunity because it’s 20/20 foresight.
Well, maybe not quite 20/20.
Since I first started Zoomstart I’ve thought of a number of things I’d like to do to add some value to the site.
I’ve had some great success in the past with free downloadable resources. A flash measurement converter I put together was picked up by an Italian PC magazine. And I recently got an email from someone at the Fermilab National Accelerator Laboratory regarding it.
I hope my converter calculations are all in line. Wouldn’t want to be known as the guy who was responsible for blowing up the Galaxy!
The Ebook Marketing Study
As a free downloadable, I’ve decided to put together a short little free Ebook over the next few weeks. Now, I know I can’t write 100 pages, but I can write 1. And I can even write 10 or 20.
But on what?
A key part of every business plan is asking the market (that’s you guys) what people want. Find a need or a desire and fill it. Simple. A lot of companies don’t do this. They simply have an idea that THEY think is brilliant and unleash it on the rest of the world.
If the rest of the world doesn’t think it’s brilliant, the company packs up its tent and goes home. So, even though I have a few ideas on what the Ebook should be about, it only makes sense to ask all of you, “what do you think?”
So, What Do You Think?
First off, I have to rule out a few topics. I’m not going to write an Ebook on Afrcian body art. It’s kinda cool. It’s just not my strong suit. It has to be on business or money, and for now I’m staying away from the old “make money online” stuff that a lot of people are writing about.
Here are some of my ideas:
- How to manage your money
- Property staging
- Beginning swing trading
- Sex, drugs and fear. And how they sell
If you like one of these ideas, leave a comment. Make a case for your pick. And of course, I welcome all your ideas on other subjects that fit in with the mix I’ve listed.
It’s not just about the coolest phone anymore. It’s about the coolest phone service.
Rogers has just finished putting together a high speed wireless data network in Southern Ontario. It’s the first of its kind in North America. What they’ve really done is connected the cellphone to the web like never before.
And they’ve upped the ante for every other cellular provider out there with video calling.
Up and till now, video calling has been relegated to landlines, clunky contraptions, James Bond movies and Skype. Going ultra-portable like this is a huge step.
The network is limited right now. And they only have one phone, the Samsung A706, that’s HSDPA ready. But the cell biz is a heavily competitive business. It won’t be long before Rogers expands the network, and adds more phones into the mix. And once some of the big players jump in, video calling should expand pretty quickly.
Here’s What The Phone And The Network Can Do:
- Video Calling. The big feature here. The cellphone paparazzi just got a whole lot faster.
- YouTube. That’s right, surf your way through YouTube right from your phone.
- Video on Demand. Sports clips, news, celebrity gossip … pick your poison.
- Radio on Demand. XM radio anywhere, anytime. How long is it going to take before everybody has their own ‘On Hold’ music.
- Music. Maybe radio just doesn’t cut it. You want to listen to what you want to listen to. Cool. Download music or listen to streaming clips.
- Mobile TV. How many people are gonna get fired over this one after taking an hour long bathroom break at the same time every day.
Check out the Rogers Vision demo. Cellphones and text messaging have changed the way we communicate on the go like nothing before them.
Well, hang on. There’s a new revolution in town.
If you’re not too familiar with chess, not to worry. Read on.
Chess has a long history. It’s been around for at least a thousand years in its current form. And for good reason. It’s been teaching Kings, Queens, Emperors and other power brokers about strategy since its inception.
It’s also a game that’s full of rich symbolism. Castles, Knights, Bishops, Pawns; every piece takes us back to thoughts of ‘the days of old’. I’m going to attach some symbolism to some of the pieces to get you thinking about how to approach a problem, and then I’m going to show you some of the key strategies that chess teaches.
These are all things that are applied by successful companies today.
Attacking A Problem, Piece By Piece
The Rook. Or castle, moves straight ahead, back, or side to side. It’s a forceful piece. Think of it as military power. In business, think of it as size and strength. The Rook is a great defensive piece. It’s not fearful, and offensively it can sweep in quickly and own a section of the board. Or a slice of the market, since we’re talking about business.
The Knight. Even today, if you own horses, it’s a good sign that you have money. A thousand years ago, having a stable full of horses meant great wealth. The Knight, or horse, is financial power. The knight moves in an L-shaped pattern and can jump over other pieces. It’s most effective in the center of the board. If you can drop a load of cash into the middle of a situation, you can have a say in what happens. Of course, with Knights and cash, you need to have a sound exit strategy, or you could lose them.
The Bishop. Politics, negotiation and influence all fall under the realm of the Bishop. In business, it’s about making connections. It’s about managing a situation or sweeping in to clean it up. The Bishop travels diagonally and often seems to come across the board out of nowhere. Oops, I didn’t know you knew so-and-so.
So those are the things you can leverage to your favour; size and strength, capital, and connections. Now on to the strategies.
Business Strategies From Chess
Keep the pressure on. With every move you need to force your opponent to make a predictable defensive move. This is how you stay in control of the situation and prevent them from taking action of their own. They’re constantly reacting. Putting out fires. Unable to execute their own strategy.
Every move counts. A bad move is a wasted turn. You lose time, ground, momentum. You run the risk of losing control of the situation and finding yourself on the run. Great chess players and business people are very conservative during the opening with what they do. But once they’ve gained some ground …
Every asset counts. In grandmaster chess, if you lose a piece and fail to take one on your next turn, it can cost you the game. Business can be that competitive. You need every asset that you have to gain an edge. Once a grandmaster is two pieces up on an opponent, victory is practically assured. The momentum picks up and it snowballs from there. Use everthing you’ve got. If you’re not using it, sell it and turn it into cash that you can use.
Chess teaches you to take complex situations and heavy pressure and deal with them. It teaches you strategies that are intrinsic. The value is in their very nature, sort of the way you can always count on gravity to make an apple fall on someone’s head. It just is.
I like to play Chessmaster occasionally. The game has a great interactive tutorial section put together and hosted by several chess grandmasters. And there are dozens of preset computer players with radically different styles to play against.
And when it comes to business, remember, the game’s chess not checkers.
Yesterday I got tagged by Rob over at Yack Yack to join in on a meme. The challenge; to write a post about why I blog. You know how these things work. You write whatever the meme calls for and then you tag 5 more people to do the same thing to keep it going.
My first thought was, who should I tag? And who would be interested and who wouldn’t be?
Well, I couldn’t just do this without wrapping a business concept around it to share with everybody. So here goes …
Decisions Are Made Before They’re Made
When you walk into a meeting, a boardroom, or a shareholder vote where there are big decisions to be made, the outcome is already decided. More than a few executives have been thrown aside and more than a few people have lost control of the businesses they started and built up from nothing because someone else effectively campaigned to make it happen.
There is a fair amount of politics in business. It’s human nature. And it can rip a company apart from the inside out.
At the same time, if you know what needs to be done. If you know what the right decision needs to be. Then you have to get everyone on board before that decision is made. Leading with vision means getting everyone on board with an idea and then executing that idea.
If you surprise people with a new idea, you might be the one who gets surprised. But when you communicate your vision effectively, other people can see it. They can get used to it and make it their own.
Recruiting For The Meme
So, rather than just writing about why I blog and tagging a few people and possibly having it go nowehere, I thought I’d see if anyone was interested first. I sent out some quick emails late last night. I sent out 9 and I got 8 responses back. From the 8 people that responded, I got 7 thumbs up and 1 decline.
These are all great blogs from different corners of the globe. Everyone here has their own unique voice and they’re worth checking out. Here they are:
Nate is the Scottsdale entrepreneur
Jon is the philospher
Gregg is the contender
Robin Bal is the guy who’ll help you watch your fortune
Anthony is the bloggist’s blogger
Mark is a very funny guy
and Scot is a collector of interesting things for you to read
*Update. Ms. Q (tardy about checking her email!) got back to me. And coincidentally, she wrote a post about why she blogs … the same night I sent the emails … cue (or miscue) twilight zone music.
*Update. The Paper Bull has jumped into the arena. It took 4 tags from different people to get him to charge. Which is another good boardroom lesson; Sometimes you need some help to get everybody on board.
Hopefully, over the next couple days they’ll ponder the big question. Why? I’m looking forward to reading what they each have to say. As a side note, Rob’s fun little Tumbleweed Ratio WordPress plugin is available to download and try out.
Oh, and I almost forgot. Why do I blog? Because I can’t write 100 pages.
No, I don’t mean freak out.
When you’re building a business or a team, or anything, success means growth. Growth means more to manage. And that means you have to lose control. Or rather, give it up. Delegate. Pass it to others.
Leaders that don’t, hit a wall. Growth stops. Moving forward stops. And a lot of times, dissension wells up and sparks a downhill slide in everybody else’s ability to even care about what’s happening.
Control Is An Illusion
Give it up. If it comes back to you, it was always yours in the first place. You’ve probably heard this before in reference to the things that we love. It also applies to leadership, because if we care so much, if everything has to be exactly perfect, we run the risk of losing it by trying too hard to hang on to it.
As a leader, if you’ve got too much on your plate, it’s hard to stand back and look at the big picture. And at the top of the leadership hierarchy, this can hurt a business faster than anything. It means there is no vision. No comprehensive strategy. More importantly, it means no one is making sure there is.
The details are important, but how they all fit into the larger puzzle is just as important. As a leader, the big picture is your job. The details are someone else’s.
How To Lose Control
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- One step at a time. If you hand over everything all at once, a lot of things will go wrong. Delegate you details one step at a time. Make sure the right tasks go to the right people. You’re not just offloading work, you’re building a hierarchy, a team, and a whole process of growing and getting more done.
- Things will go wrong. It’s going to happen. It HAS to happen. It’s just part of your and everyone else’s learning process. A lot of times you’ll know what is gonna go wrong. And you’ll be there when someone drops the ball to make sure it doesn’t roll down the hill. Your team learns. And they’ll have more respect for your knowledge and experience. And your leadership.
- Let your people own it. I’ve seen many people micro-managed to the point where they just don’t care to turn on their brains when they show up to work. It’s a self-defeating cycle. The more you micromanage people, the more you have to. Give people direction. They’ll find their own way and take a lot more pride in their work. When you figure it out yourself, when you have to make it happen and you do, you get a huge sense of accomplishment and confidence.
- Balance being removed and involved. Keep in mind, that handing over the keys doesn’t mean you leave your team to fend for themselves and completely ditch out. Every once in a while you have to stand in front of your army and lead the charge.
I hope some of these tips can help your business and your other endevours. I went through this process myself a few years ago. I had far too much on my plate and I wasn’t sure that everyone else could step up and each take a piece of all the things I was doing.
They could. And they did.
In the ’90s, screenwriter Ron Bass was a screenwriting machine. He wrote many well known films including Rain Man and a number of Julia Roberts movies such as Sleeping with the Enemy, My Best Friend’s Wedding, and Stepmom.
He didn’t do it all alone. And he received a lot of criticism for this. But it’s a great example of how business works, and how going the extra mile can solidify your position in an industry and be very lucrative at the same time.
So who helped him write all these great scripts? Well, the Ronettes of course.
Ron Bass had a very lucrative deal with Sony Pictures. At one point, if I remember reading correctly, the deal called for him to write 7 scripts a year. He would get paid $1 million a script whether the movie was made or not. Not a bad deal.
Enter The Ronettes!
He always had a staff of writers and researchers working for him. Usually six or seven people. Usually women. Their job was to help polish up the writing. They would find the perfect joke for a scene. The perfect character name that had some symbolical meaning. Whatever was needed. They became known throughout the industry as “The Ronettes”.
In an interview once, Ron stated that he could probably write 6 screenplays a year all by himself. So why hire 6 or 7 people to help you write just one more? Have you done the math yet?
I don’t know what he was paying the Ronettes, but let’s say $50,000 a year each. Times 7 adds up to $350k. And that still leaves $650K for Ron because he was able to write that one extra script a year.
Not bad. And on top of that, the scripts were better than they would have been without all that research and input that the Ronettes contributed to the process. Even if they cost him that whole extra million, his reputation and position in the industry was solidified by the quality of the work being produced by his team.
If you can bring in new people and leverage their work to gain additional business that pays for their efforts, you’re ahead of the game. And chances are, you have existing people or assets that aren’t being leveraged to their fullest potential. Find those opportunities and you’ll knock it out of the park.
Just thinking to myself … ‘Shanettes … Hmm … doesn’t quite have the same ring to it’
I thought I’d do some blogging about blogging.
I sat staring at the screen for a few minutes. And nothing happened. Zip. Zilch. Nada. I got nothing. The problem: I really didn’t know what to write about. I needed an angle. Maybe I needed to appreciate my readers? Maybe I needed to talk about my WordPress plugins?
Maybe I just needed to write. Something. Anything.
And then I realized I was.
Step 1: Write
But don’t just write, write what you know. Write what you have a passion for. If you can talk endlessly about Star Trek’s “The Trouble with Tribbles” episode, then that’s what you write about. You might not have a huge audience, but you’re writing. And that’s the key. Practice makes you better.
I get some amazing accolades from people for what I’ve been writing here on Zoomstart. And you guys have no idea how much that means to me. Somewhere around here are 2 or 3 half finished screenplays, and a binder full of comics ideas. A lot of the business stuff that I write about comes from ideas I jotted down for a business book that I wanted to write, titled oddly enough, Zoomstart.
I came to the realization that I can’t write 100 or 200 pages. Of anything. Can’t do it. But I can write one page at a time. I love it. This fits. It’s me. If all you can do is write a word or a paragraph, then that’s what you write.
And when the time is right, you’ll be read (red).
Step 2: Network
I’ve been writing Zoomstart for about 3 months. And I’ve been doing it with no search engine traffic (google just indexed the site last week) and no previous online network to kick things off. All my traffic has come from going out and leaving my 2 cents on other peoples blogs. Sometimes I leave 3 cents.
In the last 3 weeks, my RSS subscribers and daily unique visitors have both doubled. People are linking here and dropping by to comment regularly. And some amazing things have happened; Conversation. And inspiration.
To talk effectively, you have to listen. To write, you have to read. To build a network, you have to do both. People won’t come just because you built it. But if you go out and take the time to just say “hey”, or you contribute to the conversation without asking for anything in return, they will.
And if you’ve put some effort into step one, they’ll come back. And they’ll bring other people with them.
Step 3: There Is No Step 3
You’re probably on to me by now … there is no step 4 or 5 either.
Sure, there are other things that are important if you want to be a blogging warrior. Things like SEO, branding your blog, ad optimization. All sorts of things.
As long as you write and network, all that stuff will fall into place along the way. If you don’t write, and you don’t network, then none of that other stuff really matters.
Write. Network. It’s tried and tested. It works.