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Archives for May 2007

Motivate Your Distributors To Increase Sales

Distribution Trucks

Distributors do a lot of heavy lifting by managing all your small orders and packaging them into one neat number for you each month. They’re also the gateway to a lot of retailers and other businesses.

One of the misconceptions about distributors is that they go out and sell your stuff for you.

Most do, but the truth is, they have thousands of products that they represent and it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. On top of that, they’re first concern is getting their customers what they ask for. Selling them something new is a distant second.

But with the right motivation, you can get their attention and get them working hard to bring in some sales for you.

Anatomy of a Distributor: What They Want

A good distributor has a good sales team and what that team wants is a product they can sell easily. And they want to make more money. Uhm … that’s pretty much it.

How to Get Your Distributors Working For You

Okay, so now you know what they want. What you need now is a list of strategies that feed that motivation.These are all things that are used with great success to motivate a distributor’s sales team:

1. Deals

Salespeople often work on a combination of salary and commission. If they’ve got 5 or 10 different brands of a particular product, they want to push the ones that make them the highest commission.

When you first start up with the distributor, offer them a 5 for 4 deal. Get five for the price of four. An easy way to manage this is to tell them you’ll just take 20% off the invoice. And offer this deal during the months of x, y and z when competition is fiercest in your industry.

Make sure you contact them and let them know when the deal is running so they can take advantage of it. Another thing you can do is put all the deals on an annual calendar and present it when you approach a new distributor. This shows them that you’re there to support them.

2. Marketing Materials

“Giveaway” product samples are always helpful. And shirts, golf balls, mugs, pens and all sorts of paraphernalia with your logo plastered tastefully on them are good promo items for both the salespeople and their customers.

There’s also a special kind of brochure used by distributors called a Contact Sales Sheet. It’s one glossy card-stock page printed on both sides. On the front is a big graphic of your product, and on the back is a quick sales pitch, product ordering info, and a place for the distributors contact info.

Get a few hundred of these printed up for your distributor. Download this Sales Sheet pdf I put together and use it as a guide to create your own. You can create it in Word or Acrobat and then send it to the printers or take it to Kinkos.

3. Cash and Prizes

Everybody loves cash and prizes.

One of the things you can do to really incentivize your distributor’s sales team is to contact the Sales Manager or VP of Sales and Marketing and offer up some prizes or giveaways like sports tickets or gift certificates to great restaurants for the team.

Make sure you’ve got a nice branded envelope so everyone knows where they came from. This helps keep up a strong relationship with the manager or vp because you’re giving them some tools to help motivate their team.

To tie this kind of incentive to performance, you might ask the manager if you can go in and pitch the sales team with a bonus program. Something like a $1000 for whoever makes the most sales for you that month. Or two prizes of $500.

Grab the Bull by the Horns

These are all great ideas. They’re used all the time and they help rocket up your sales. They get your brand into the hearts and minds of the people out there selling it and get your products into the hands of customers. And there’s one more strategy that works extremely well …

Get your own sales team out there knocking on doors. Once you’ve got some distributors on board you can go direct to customers. When you make a sale, ask them what distributors they use and match them up with one that carries your products. The more sales you get for the distributor, the more they’ll like you and believe in your brand.

And the more effort they’ll put into helping you sell.

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The Most Important Task On Your To-Do List Today

Matthew McConaughey

“Have a beer”.

Or something just like that. The idea comes from Matthew McConaughey in an interview he did on Leno or Conan (can’t remember which). It’s not the absolute most important task on the list. But it’s just as important as all the rest.

On Your Own Terms

Making a commitment to stop and smell the roses can be difficult. It’s an exercise in living on your own terms. In setting the rules. In balance. And it’s not just a good idea, or a fun idea. It’s a critical leadership skill.

Rather than just following tasks that have to be done, you’re defining them. And you’re making the time to take care of all your best assets; family, friends, your health. When all those things are good, they don’t distract you from the serious tasks on your list.

Most of the time they’re simple things like have a beer. Go for a run. Play the guitar. They’re things we never seem to have time for. And need to make the time for.

The Deliverables

For any idea to be worth something, there has to be some real benefits to it. There are plenty here:

  • Burn-out control. Every battery needs recharging
  • You can bring in new and fresh perspectives on difficult problems
  • It forces you to delegate, lead and direct rather than just doing everything yourself
  • Quality of life and authoritive leadership go hand in hand
  • There are more opportunities in a wider picture

On your own terms … it’s a bold way to look at things. Just like I like it.

So what’s the most important task on your to-do list today?

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Not-For-Profit Companies

Recycling Bin

The main goal of a not for profit company is to leverage good-will from the community to make life better for those less fortunate.

They get a bad rap a lot of times because some of them are started with the only intention of making a profit for the people who started them. Bad NFPs often have hefty administration costs (salaries and executive expenses) that take away from the money that’s supposed to go back into the community to do good.

This is why a lot of well intentioned people that give to charities want to know what the administration costs of the charity are. They want to know how much money really goes to the cause.

When I was just out of school, I started working at a recycling plant. It was a not-for-profit and it was a good experience. It taught me a lot about how to get things done with few resources and a lot about leadership and hard work.

There are three key ingredients that a not-for-profit needs to be successful. If you’re thinking about doing something for your community, this is what you need:

1. Low Overhead Costs

The building we had was leased from the city for the grand sum of $1.00 a year. Not a bad deal. I don’t know how easy it is to find places like that anymore, but if you have the support of the local community, surely someone will give you some space. Or lease it out to you for next to nothing.

2. Get Stuff For Free

Donations are the lifeblood of every NFP. Our forte was cardboard, newspaper and office paper. We would collect all this recyclable material from local businesses with a couple of trucks. We’d sort it and bail it up and then we’d sell it to a paper mill or a broker.

While charities rely mostly on financial donations, not-for-profits generally operate more like a real business. Most of the revenue they earn is profit that goes to cause they champion because they sell goods or services that cost them next to nothing, but that have real value.

3. Get Cheap Labour And Volunteers

That was me. And quite a few other people.

Other Things

The business model is pretty simple. Most of the hard work you have to do is the networking and resource gathering. To do that well, it helps to:

  • Be active in the community to garner support and resources
  • Talk to the press and get exposure
  • Throw events that invite people to participate and contribute
  • Make sure you fill a real need by re-using things that people don’t want

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Meme Racking

Meme Rack

Yep, the memes have been racking up for a bit.

It seems I get tagged for one every week. Since I write 5 posts a week, participating in all of them would take up about 20% of my content. That’s a little much. I like participating in them. I also like efficiency.

So I thought I’d save up a few and do them all at once …

1. Being Productive Online

I was tagged by Charity over at Design Adaptions for this one. I think I answered this somewhat with my last post on Getting Things Done. Online … same deal.

2. Eight Random Facts About Me

Robin from Fortune Watch tagged me for the “8 random facts about me” meme. Here’s four:

  • I’m the only person I know that doesn’t own a cell phone. Seriously.
  • The most comfortable shoes I ever bought were a pair of Hawk skate shoes. I bought two pairs. I miss all four of them deeply.
  • When I was 9, our Siamese cat saved me from the Rottweiller down the lane when it got loose one day. Never mess with a Siamese when she’s decided she’s not going to run.
  • The Diving Bell spider lives underwater in a pocket of air that it brings down and traps beneath the web it weaves in the water flora. It’s not a fact about me, but it’s a fact. And it’s pretty cool.

3. If I Could Only Read 5 Blogs

Nate tagged me for this one. This one is really hard. Not because I don’t have 5 favorite blogs but because I really don’t want to leave a lot of other blogs out. Blogging can be amazingly rewarding. Done right, a blog is full of blood, sweat and tears. And if I drop by your blog even occasionally, it’s because you made it worth my time. And well worth it.

  • Smart Wealthy Rich. Jon makes me think. He makes me need to comment on what he writes. He’s also been a huge supporter of Zoomstart. Which compels me to write on the odd day when I don’t want to.
  • Nate Whitehill. Nate’s been another huge supporter of this blog. The beauty of his blog is that he’s a true up-and-coming entrepreneur. He’s not going to tell you how to do stuff that doesn’t work. It’s tried. It’s tested. It’s true.
  • Copyblogger. I don’t read Brian Clark’s blog everyday. But when I need to … I really, really need to.
  • Freelance Switch. Cyan, Jack and Collis have put together a blog of immeasurable success in literally a matter of weeks. And not without good reason. Just read it.
  • Jane May Blogs. This girl is gonna take over the whole freakin’ internet. Watch and see. And learn.

If you’re reading this sentence, you’ve been tagged. It’s now your sworn duty to carry on one of these memes. Or all of them.

Or start one of your own.

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Getting Things Done: Zoom Start To Zoom Finish

Task List

I came across a great post about blogging yesterday that was guest blogged by Leo Babauta over at Freelance Switch. His own site, Zen Habits sounded catchy so I wandered by and found a really great post about getting things done.

Leo reframes GTD to ZTD (Zen To Done) and he makes some great points along the way. I’ve had some great experience pushing 20 hours worth of work through a 12 to 13 hour pipeline (day). So I thought I’d share a little of my own GTD philosophy here.

GTD: The Zoom Method

This is a list of personal productivity strategies that I’ve put through the meat grinder. They work for me. If you’ve got your hands up in the air, don’t surrender quite yet. Give ’em a whirl.

1. Keep one list

I use a pad of lined paper. Very high-tech. I divide it into big picture stuff, tasks, and miscellaneous ramblings. Whether you use a pad of paper, a day planner, a Palm Pilot, Outlook or the wall next to your desk, keep only one list. On one page. If your list is longer than that, it’s time to stop listing and start doing.

Big picture stuff is longer term. Maybe a week or a month or so into the future. If something sits there undone for too long I cross it out. It was meant for someone else’s picture.

The task list is the daily or through-the-week stuff that needs to get done. Pretty straight forward.

Ramblings. Phone numbers, events, addresses, pricing, brain-waves. This is where I jot down stuff on the fly. Info. Reminders. Some of it needs to be put into a permanent archive like an address book. And some of it just needs to make sure I get to the dentist at 3:00.

2. Prioritize, consolidate, ruminate and delegate

Prioritize the things on your list. If you’re not sure what to do first, do the stuff that makes you money first and the stuff that costs you money last. Other than that, knock off the easy stuff and then settle in all relaxed on the tougher stuff.

It’s okay to jot down things on napkins, sticky notes, business cards and whatever. But at the start of the day I put all this stuff into my organized list. Remember, keep one list.

I’m always adding to the list. When it starts to get messy, I rewrite out whatever is left on it and add a few new things as needed. It might seem kind of slow and silly, but I do it as needed and it helps me ruminate or, think about, the stuff I need to do.

The easiest way to knock stuff off your list is to get someone else to do it. Sometimes someone else can do better than you can anyway. Delegate.

3. Everything has a place

Whether you’re controlling a 24 square foot piece of desktop real estate or a hundred thousand square feet of manufacturing facility, everything has a place. And at the end of ever day, it needs to go back there. No excuses.

I know, you’re just going to use the whatchamacallit again tommorrow. So make that place where it belongs a little more easily accessible. And put it away when you’re done with it, or at the end of the day. Whichever comes first.

This is the absolute cornerstone of keeping any physical space organized. No matter how big or how small.

4. Keep it simple

Spend less time planning what you’re going to do and more time doing it. I can’t make the Zoom Method to getting things done any simpler than this.

If I could, I would.

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Does Your Personality Fit The Business?

Wagon Wheel

Some people are good at “this”. Other people are good at “that”.

Your personality should fit the needs of the business you’re in. There are some personality traits that are well suited for most businesses in general. But some business ventures require certain personality traits to really solidify success.

And some, just require “personality“.

Some Horses, A Carriage, And A Whole Lot Of Personality

Last summer I was at a party and I met a woman who had just moved into town. She was a natural conversationalist, very friendly, and very outgoing. She had just recently moved here from a small tourist town and told me about her business there, her success, and what happened after she left.

She had run her own carriage tour business. There were three such businesses in the town and she was very happy that hers had been the most successful of the three. She was always booked solid, and she didn’t achieve that by having the cheapest rates. She did it by being the best tour guide.

She couldn’t bring her horses or her business here when she left so she sold the business to a man who had wanted to buy it from her for a while. She stayed on and worked with him for about a month before she left to help him get up and running.

But something was missing. And after leaving and then stopping in a couple months later, she found that the business was floundering. The problem? Personality.

The man she sold the business to wasn’t as outgoing or as engaging with the customers as she was. I guess he didn’t have the whole “Spokesmodel” thing going on.

Now this isn’t to say that he couldn’t be quite successful in another business. But whether he didn’t have the passion to talk about all the little town’s sights day after day, or he just wasn’t a charismatic tourguide, he didn’t fit the business. And the business didn’t fit him.

Every business has it’s needs. So does every business owner. When the business and the owner fill each other’s needs, the result is success.

What does your business need from you? What do you need from it?

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Leadership Hats: The Dunce Cap. And Why It’s So Important

Paper Dunce Cap

I’ve been thinking about the different hats that leaders and entrepreneurs have to wear lately. Like the inventors hat, there are a lot of important hats. And this one just might be the most important of all. Why?

Sometimes you just have to dumb it down.

There are a couple of reasons why the good old rolled-up-paper dunce cap is so important. One involves options and the other involves ego.

1. How Many Options Are Too Many Options?

Options are good to have. They’re necessary. Without options, you can’t negotiate or form flexible solutions. But what if you can think of so many options that it literally paralyzes you from being able to take action. All of a sudden, having options doesn’t seem like such a good idea.

The Perfection Wall

It’s great to be able to rip apart a situation and open a whole world of possibilities. But there’s something called the perfection wall. When you can’t get past asking “what’s the best option here?” and just make a decision, you can hit that wall.

And it hurts.

And one of two things happens. Either you make no decision and the clock runs out and no decision BECOMES the decision. Or you make a less than perfect decision.

Might as well just put on your trusty dunce cap and make that less than perfect decision right now.

2. Big, Bad Egos Make Big, Bad Decisions

The absolute worst thing to do when you don’t know, is to pretend you do. Executive decisions are just that. Decisions. They’re not necessarily ideas. You don’t have to have the best idea. You just have to go with the best idea.

Leadership by ego is a great way to fast-track bad decisions. As a leader you’ve got a team. Put on your dunce cap and utilize the whole team to get the best ideas you can on the table. And then pick the best one.

Tips For Geniuses

Here’s a couple tips to help you cut through the infinite options and make great decisions quickly:

  • Got two great options and can’t decide between them? Flip a coin (this is my personal favorite).
  • Hand the decision off to your protege. And in your best Yoda voice tell them “Decide you must. Learn, you will”.
  • Put on that silly paper hat. And don’t take it off until you’ve made a decision.

It’s good to dumb it down sometimes. It makes you unstoppable. Because if you don’t know that you can’t do it, there’s a good chance you can.

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The Devil’s In The Details Of The Deal

Counting Rice

It’s always very important to look at both the big picture and the details of any business deal. While the big picture can give you a rough idea of how things look, it’s the details that can add up, either in your favour, or against you.

To give you an idea of how important the details in a deal are, I’ve got two stories:

1. The Power Of Co-Branding

If you’ve checked out my About page, you know that I used to be in the bottled water industry.

Well, back then we had a good customer who wanted to put together a co-branding deal with us. Basically, that means our brand and theirs on the label. They had several brands, which complicated things. And after crunching all the numbers I found that the proposed deal couldn’t make money.

But we did it anyway. Luckily.

Within a month the volume of product they were taking literally doubled. And not only did the deal become profitable because of this, but it became one of our best accounts.

The detail we didn’t see was that our customer started pushing the product. And hard. All because they now had their branding on the label too. Co-branding deals can be very good strategic alliances.

2. The Emperor, The Mathematician, And A Chessboard Full Of Rice

This is an old fable. It’s one of those ones that you never forget.

A long, long time ago, the Emperor of India was introduced to the game of Chess by one of his wisemen who was also a brilliant mathematician. The Emperor loved the game so much that he wanted to reward the man and asked him to choose a reward.

The wise man chose rice. Yep, rice. He asked that one single grain of rice be put on the first square of the chessboard, 2 grains on the second, 4 on the third, etc. Each square would receive double the amount of rice as the last square until all 64 squares were accounted for.

The Emperor thought this was a modest request and promptly called for his servants to bring the rice.

They very quickly ran out of rice. Thanks to one little detail the Emperor overlooked; the power of exponential growth. By the time you get halfway through the Chessboard, the amount of rice adds up to about 100 tons of rice. By the time you get to the 64th square, it adds up to about 450 billion tons of rice.

Or better said, about 740 times the total World rice production in 2004.

The devil’s in the details.

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Lost In January. No.

Lost

I’m in a jam. A big, big jam. And as I sit here thinking about it, I realize that nothing short of a full-scale riot can get me out of it.

I guess I better start at the beginning …

I watch about 5 or 6 hours of tv a week (manic, I know). Mostly news, and a little Leno. But one of those hours every week is dedicated to watching Lost. Well, a few days ago Mark Robinson picked up a story that was reported by Kristin Veitch on E! Online. Kristin got the news from her partner Marc Malkin who got it from sources inside ABC.

Still with me?

The news is this: Lost will not be returning in the fall. Instead, after this season concludes, it’s slated to not return again until January 2008.

Now I can deal with this. But the problem is, there’s a certain somebody around here and I’m directly responsible for getting her hooked on Lost. Yes, she’s a Lost junkie. And it’s all my fault.

It’s already been 3 or 4 days since I heard the news and I haven’t told her. And I can hear it now; “How long have you known about this?!!”. You know the answer. Too long. The only thing that’s gonna get me out of this is if Lost is ready to rock and roll come fall.

Here’s What You Can Do

I threw a few ideas together …

  • You can contact ABC and just tell them no. Lost in January. No.
  • Write your own blog post with a link to the Lost website. Maybe a couple million pings will get their attention. Make sure that somewhere in your post you make it clear; Lost in January. No.
  • Tell Shoemoney. Hey, he’s a big dog in the blogging world and an avid Lost fan. Maybe he can pull some strings and get me out of this mess.
  • I found a fan site where you can express some discourse. Check out lost-tv.
  • And last, well, we all know that Kevin Rose loves a good riot. Come on Kevin. Lost in January. No.

I know I got myself into this mess …

Maybe I should just tell her and get it over with.

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Every Great Leader Is An Inventor

The Inventor’s Hat

Whether you’re the CEO or an entrepreneur, one thing is always clear. You’ve got a lot of hats to wear. Out of all those hats, there’s one that defines the core of what leadership really is.

That’s right, you’re an inventor.

As an inventor you craft a vision, and then you make it happen. You might be doing all the heavy lifting yourself or you might be directing the execution of your vision. But that’s just a matter of scale.

The reason that a leader has to be an inventor is because it’s your job to define what it is you do as a company and how you do it. You’re writing the playbook. You’re mixing the formula.

Inventing Is In The ‘How’ You Do It

Whether you’re reacting to find a solution to a problem, or taking action to venture into new territory; what makes it unique, is how you do it. Anything you can do can always be done better. How much better, depends on how inventive you get.

Innovation is the key. Innovation is what differentiates you in the market. It’s not the fact that you cut costs, raised income or brought in new revenue streams that’s important. That’s business 101. It’s how you did it. And that, is vision.

That’s inventing.

Sure. There’s no point in reinventing the wheel. To build a good solid business, all you have to do is follow the “best practices” of business, right? Yes. And that’s leadership. Nothing wrong with it. But vision. Inventing. That’s not just leadership, it’s great leadership.

What Great Inventing Achieves

There are 2 things you want to acheive when you put your inventing hat on:

  1. Solve fundamental problems. There are a lot of short-term bandaid solutions to problems that become long term crutches. This happens when you treat the symptom of the problem instead of finding a cure for the actual problem. Great inventing gets to the root of a problem and solves it without creating new problems.
  2. Change the way the people do things. And for the better. You’re making the act of doing something better, faster, smarter, easier, cooler. The results of great inventing are best described with words that end in “er”.

The thing is, when you’re not inventing, you’re following what someone else already invented. And you get what they got out of it. No more, no less.

Inventing is your best chance to create zoom. To get more out of something. To take it further, faster. And create amazing solutions that change the way people do things. It takes creativity. It takes vision.

But hey, somebody has to invent this stuff.

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