Key influencers play a critical role in every business. Decision makers are guarded and guided by inside and outside advisors and gatekeepers. How you manage your trusted advisors can help or harm your business.
Influencers know they have the power to change or compel action. It is the business leaders responsibility to validate and control the effect of influencers. Those who sit closest to authority and are granted permission to persuade, have a direct impact on your success. Do you know who is currently sitting at your table of influence?
In order to responsibly manage your influencers, take time to identify those that are in your inner circle and those effecting your judgement. Inside your business look at department heads, executives and even top revenue generators whose opinions impact your future. Who are your squeaky wheels? Are they helping you make better decisions for your business or slowing down how you operate? Influencers can be carriers of good and bad advice, they may be motivated by selfishness. It is up to you to vet, challenge and manage your influencers for optimal results.
One way of evaluating an influencer is to ask them what they believe are your highest priorities. Are they up-to-date on your current business plans and growth strategies? Do they know the profile of your most profitable customers? If not, it is the perfect opportunity to align your thinking. Define and clarify what is most important to you and your business. Let them know how they can help you.
To get the best results from your influencers, provide regular updates on business goals, initiatives, challenges and opportunities. Acting as gatekeepers, key influencers can open doors to new ideas, solution providers and even make introductions to customers. They also have the ability to close doors. As the final decision maker, you are ultimately responsible for those that make it through the “gate”. Challenge those that have the authority inside your business to say no. Know who they turned away and why.
Update your outside advisors quarterly about key initiatives and strategic objectives. These influencers, such as accountants, legal counsel, wealth managers, business consultants and top vendors are connected and often sources for essential referrals. They act as a conduit for information and potential services that can help you achieve your goals. If your influencers know your interests, they can better serve you.
Know that influencers get things done. They effect change. They make things happen. You need to know who they are and leverage them for maximum impact to your business. Lead influencers to your expected outcomes. Manage them for the best results.
There is a constant drum beat in business circles that summers are difficult for getting anything done. There are a variety of excuses that justify this belief, including, “everyone is on vacation“, “people don’t work when kids are out of school“, “buyers are not engaged“, and of course “decision makers are unreachable“.
The hard reality is these excuses are self-fulling prophecies. We are more wired, more connected, more engaged today. Business is not done during the hottest months of the year because we assume we will get a no before we ask for the yes.
The facts prove people are working all summer. Monthly average work week data shows that we work the same amount in the summer as we do all year round. Decision makers average 49 hours per week. We are more productive than ever. So, why are you not capitalizing on the hottest months of the year?
The Dog Days of Summer are the best time of the year to build up prospects, qualify leads, refresh your marketing strategies and compete for mind share. While everyone else falls into the excuse trap, you have an opportunity to make noise and get noticed.
Laying back until September to heat it up your marketing and selling efforts only pushes you into the most distracting time of the year. Right after Labor Day, decision makers are budgeting for 2013 and events are abundant. Daily sales calls peak and we are all flooded with competitors emails and advertisements trying to capture top of mind awareness. Simply, your odds are much better to get noticed during the summer months.
Here are some suggestions on how to capitalize on the final dog days of summer:
1. Reach out to current customers. Estimates are that it is 7x less expensive to get business from a current customer than a new customer. Update your current customers on your latest business activities and see if they are ready to buy more.
2. Prospect for opportunities. Run reports from your contact database to see who has not been reached in the past six months. Put them on your priority contact list and create a campaign to heat up some buying interest. Activity creates action.
3. Build sales plans for key accounts. Spend time to craft detailed sales plans for your top prospects. Identify decision makers, buying cycles, budgets and key influencers at your top target companies. Read up on their latest news and research their business to identify critical needs. Use your sales plan to carefully craft the value proposition for doing business with you and then set the appointment to make the pitch.
4. Promote, promote, promote. As others hold back until after Labor Day, you have the opportunity to use public relations and social media campaigns to gain attention. Take advantage of the slower news cycles and go for the headline. Do whatever you can to get the attention of those seeking your products and services.
5. Summer close out sales. There is a very strategic reason why Christmas in July sales dominate the dog days of summers. Retail outlets and online storefronts are looking to clear out inventories. The other reason is June, July and August sales are the time people will typically start shopping for school and holidays. Consumers expect a deal.
6. Refresh your sales and marketing strategies. Review your strategic plans. What has worked, what is not working and what market opportunities exist for the business in the next 18 months. Tactics follow strategy. If you are only doing the work and not evaluating the impact on your strategy, you could be heading in the wrong direction.
7. Pivot now. Review your key performance indicators and adjust if you are are going to miss your mark. Making a change now can benefit you in the last quarter of the year. Don’t wait, start executing your changes and new strategies to achieve your business goals this year.
It is time to heat it up! You have fewer people competing for attention and business right now. Take advantage of it. People receive fewer emails, fewer calls, so use this as an opportunity to make a direct connection today and set the wheels in motion to capitalize this year.
First impressions for your business are made by people that open doors, make cold calls, attend networking meetings and answer your phone. They are delivered by your marketing communications like social media and websites. How confident are you that your potential clients are greeted warmly and with a direct invitation to do business?
Years ago businesses paid someone to sit at a front lobby desk and answer every inbound call and greet every walk-in appointment. The receptionist qualifications were measured by friendliness, service-orientation and attentive disposition. The standard phone greeting of this time was “Thank you for calling, how can I help you?”
When is the last time were greeted this way? Today we are often met with automated attendants and empty lobbies. Some businesses have completely eliminated any dedicated space to a welcome station and filled it with another cubical. My impression is that first impressions are not a priority for this business. The decision that customer experience may be too costly to employ a dedicated person, may be costing you business.
It is not difficult to think back to a bad first impression. I recall three in the past weeks. One top restaurant asked me to wait outside in 110 degrees because they did not open for four minutes, yet the door was unlocked. Another restaurant hostess asked me to stand until my party arrived even though every table was empty. A technology company, which had a sitting place upon entry, left me for 20 minutes while employees stared at me. Not one person asked why I was there or if I needed help. I remember all of these first impressions, vividly.
Noted in a recent New York Times article Praise Is Fleeting, but Brickbats We Recall, “Bad emotions, bad parents and bad feedback have more impact than good ones. Bad impressions and bad stereotypes are quicker to form and more resistant to disconfirmation than good ones.” Sited from Roy F. Baumeister, a professor of social psychology at Florida State University in a journal article he co-authored in 2001, “Bad Is Stronger Than Good.”
How your employees are greeting the public, networking, making introductions, and opening doors for others is a direct reflection of hiring skills, company culture and leadership. Business owners, CEOs and managers own the customer experience. Every employee is responsible for making a positive first impression. How are you reinforcing how positive first impressions are made in your business?
Customer experience is a financial decision in business, unless revenues are low on the priority list. Reputation management is critical and costly. A bad review is hard to overcome. You can’t erase the Internet or someone’s memory. People use others professional and personal experiences as a reason to buy or not buy. Bad experiences are viral, whether online, through social media, on sites that track reputations or by word-of-mouth. Once word is out, it is permanent. You own it!
Every experience starts with the greeting. Take time to review how your potential and existing customers are greeted today. This applies whether you are selling B2B or B2C, for every industry, in a building or online. Use “secret shoppers” and have them rate how inviting, caring, and enthusiastic they were welcomed to do business with you.
Customer service is a pillar to good business. Customer experience starts when the phone is picked up, the door is unlocked or a web site is visited. We may not all have the luxury of hanging up a flashing “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign to greet everyone. We do have the luxury to manage and train our messengers to provide an outstanding first impression.
Invest in your greeting. Define, train, test and continually reinforce how you want to insure a positive first impression. It your opportunity to create a long-term valuable relationship with your customer.
Jamie Glass, CMO and President of Artful Thinkers, a sales and marketing consulting company.
This is an easy-to-use reference of various groups, associations and service providers in Arizona that help businesses with financing, strategy, venture development, M&A, growth and mentoring services and business networking.
Accelerators and Growth Advisors
- Galvanize Phoenix
- ASU Entreneurship + Innovation
- ASU Startup Accelerator
- Arizona Small Business Association (ASBA)
- CKS Advisors
Investment Bankers (FINRA Registered)
- Alerion Capital Group
- BMO Capital Markets
- CKS Securities
- Columbia West Capital
- Dinan & Company
- JDB Capital Partners
- Greenstone Capital
- Oracle Capital
Angel Investor Groups
- Arizona Technology Investor Forum (ATI)
- Desert Angels
- Biltmore Angels
- Thunderbird Angel Network
- Angel List Arizona
Venture Capital Sources and Funds
- Arizona Innovation Accelerator Fund
- Canal Partners
- Tallwave Capital
- Agility Ventures
- Greyhawk Capital
- Pinnacle West
- Epic Ventures
- RCT BioVentures
- Solstice Capital
- C3 Capital, LLC
- ASU Entrepreneurship + Innovation Programs
- Arizona Center for Innovation (AzCI) – UA
- Center for Entrepreneurial Innovation Gateway (CIE – Gateway)
- Northern Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology (NACET)
- AZ TechCelerator
- ASU Biodesign
- Research Corporation Technologies
- Innovations – City of Chandler
- Game CoLab
Collaborative and Shared Work Space
- Big Bounce
- Galvanize Phoenix
- HeatSync Labs
- Spread the Weird Studio
- Union WorkSpace
Associations and Support
- Arizona Tech Investors (ATI)
- Arizona Technology Council
- Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA)
- Association Capital Growth Arizona (ACG)
- Arizona Entrepreneurship Conference
- Arizona Small Business Association (ASBA)
- Ellevate Phoenix
- Girls in Tech Phoenix
- Startup Grind Tempe (Meet-Up)
Pitch Contests & Competitions for Capital
Chambers of Commerce
- Arizona Chamber of Commerce
- Chandler Chamber of Commerce
- Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce
- Gilbert Chamber of Commerce
- Glendale Chamber of Commerce
- Mesa Chamber of Commerce
- Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce
- Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce
- Tempe Chamber of Commerce
- Tucson Chamber of Commerce
- Green Chamber: Greater Phoenix
- Greater Phoenix Black Chamber of Commerce
- Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
- The Entrepreneur’s Library by Cayenne Consulting
- Arizona Venture Capital and Private Equity list by Cayenne Consulting
- Startup Professionals Blog by Martin Zwilling
- Gust – connecting startups with investors
- Gregslist of Arizona Software Companies by Greg Head
- Link to resource about early stage financing terms and options by Startup Professionals Inc., Founder & CEO, Martin Zwilling.
- Entrepreneur resources posted by Steve Blank
- MIT Open Courses on Entrepreneurship
A sales proposal is your persuasive argument as to why the client must choose you now to solve their problem. Proposals need to be positively articulated with a sense of urgency and demonstrate how the client wins.
Sales people and consultants often neglect the most important part of a sales proposal, the statement of why the client needs to buy now. I have watched presentation after presentation where sales people talk about themselves, their company and their amazing, fantastic, one-of-a-kind solution. It’s the feature marathon and often leaves you falling asleep or gasping for any air left in the room.
Successful sales proposals must always begin with a conversation about the client. Those inclined to start talking about themselves before the customer are likely to fail. Why? Customers want to talk about their issues, not you!
Whether you plan to present your proposal in writing, in person or through an online presentation, every sales proposal must include the following five essential topics in this order:
1. Statement of Understanding
2. Needs Analysis
4. Pricing and Terms
5. Next Steps
The Statement of Understanding is your opportunity to showcase the research you have done prior to presenting to the client. Always start your proposal with what you learned about the client. Gather facts about the client from their web site, annual report or press release boiler statements, along with facts gathered in talking to the prospect. Make it brief and affirm that you have done your homework.
Be sure to include one or two sentences about the area of business you are targeting for your proposal. If this is a finance proposal, talk about the financial situation. If it is a technology proposal, talk about the functions in the company that will be impacted by your solution. The Statement of Understanding is a confirmation. It should be no more than one or two paragraphs (one slide) about your knowledge of the client.
Needs Analysis details all the work you have done to qualify the prospect. Here is where you make your case as to why the company needs your services or products. Whether you are a single person selling advisory services or a Fortune 500 company sales executive, you must define why the client needs YOU based on their needs.
Warning! Do not use the needs analysis section to sell. It is a series of facts of why they need your help. Think of it as your presentation of due diligence. In conclusion of your detailed needs analysis, summarize the needs in bullet form to easily reference again when the buyer reviews your proposal.
The Recommendation portion of the proposal is where you will highlight the features AND benefits of your offering. Now you can start selling. The same order that you outlined the needs of the client, is the order to present your recommendation.
Often sales people believe this is the most important part of the proposal; whereas, the buyer will still be stuck on their problems outlined in needs analysis. This is why recommendation follows understanding and needs analysis, clearly stating the problem you are solving! It is imperative to be clear and to the point in your recommendation. Use key features and benefits in one or two sentences – outline format is best. Don’t create a sales whitepaper on your product.
Provide supplemental collateral to the buyer separate from the proposal if more product information is necessary in making the final decision. Hopefully, you covered product reviews and demonstrations earlier in the sales cycle before delivering a proposal.
Remember, PROPOSALS DO NOT SELL. Proposals are affirmation to conversations you had prior in qualifying the client and getting agreement that you can solve their problem. If you are using your proposal to unveil your services or product features and benefits, you have not qualified your buyer. You will likely fail.
Now on to Pricing and Terms. This should be one page (one slide). Outline your pricing based on your recommendation. If there are specific terms to the agreement, add them to this area of the presentation. Terms and conditions should include time of agreement, dates for implementation, and milestones or KPIs to assess progress. Avoid the dreaded commission breath when talking money by making it all about you. Be steady, assertive and remember it is about the customer winning!
The assumptive closer will always conclude a proposal with the list of Next Steps. Number the steps and make them fewer than five so you do not overwhelm the buyer with the fact their decision will require more work. Be succinct and use action words. The list should show the commitment by you, the seller, and the expectations of the buyer.
Selling is creating a story that you can tell convincingly face-to-face, in writing or over the phone that addresses a customer need followed by an effective recommendation. Your sales proposal needs to be enticing and compelling to get the buyer to bite. Organized proposals that put the customer first, will get more attention than those that solely focus on what you are selling. When you focus on the buyer, you are a problem solver. People like people who help them!
Recently, I was invited to speak to a group of high school students and their teachers at the ASU Polytechnic campus. What I gained from the experience is far greater than what I was able to share through my decades of entrepreneurial successes and failures.
I was inspired. I was motivated. I was reassured. Partly, it was the kids who like science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Partly, it was spending time at a progressive technology campus that fosters growth and innovation. Partly, it was through the introduction of Arizona State University innovators who shared their pitches about their latest ventures.
Were we this exciting, inventive and determined when we were in school? Did we have this much wide-eye optimism that we could and would change the world? They believe they can solve all problems. They are not discouraged, they are encouraged. I know our future is very bright, if we do not kill their momentum with “no” and “you can’t”.
Ask 19-year-old serial entrepreneur Daniel Brusilovsky, founder of Teens in Tech Labs. He is working on his fourth start-up, or maybe he sold his fourth and is on his fifth and sixth. His success to-date is dizzying. He is our future. Standing on stage at the event, he was a true representation of what is possible in this world. He has more connections to VCs and angels than most veteran start-up and CEOs could ever dream. Why? He’s cool. He’s smart. He’s ambitious. He’s our future. Investment-wise, he has all upside!
I am absolutely certain that we are in great hands, if we really do want to be better and do more. Along with Daniel, my enthusiasm grew after meeting other entrepreneurs like Marcos, who is enthusiastically working on customer retention, the Maker Pitch winners that are bringing to market a medical device to build arm strength for wheel-chair bound people, and the two students that are working on providing clean water around the world. I say YES! I say go! How can I help?
And, then I met three men. ASU students who shared their pitch with me and the co-founder of GarageBand. They couldn’t look us in the eye, they were outside their comfort zone. But they had unbridled motivation telling us about their business. They are going to change and save lives. They will provide people living with autism needed mentors via an online community. They want to bring genius back into society, show autistic people how they can work together and give them access to tools they need to integrate successfully. They know it’s needed. They know people without autism do not understand and can not provide the help. They each are autistic. Yet, no matter how difficult and challenging it was to share their passionate business idea and plans, they did it. They are determined. They will do it. I will find a way to help!
Let us “experienced” get out of their way, provide them support and harness their creativity. Let us invest in their ideas and encourage them to do more. They are our innovators. They are our future. If we do, we can all say our future is very bright!
My presentation to Making Your Future: http://www.slideshare.net/jglass8/future-is-solving-problems-2012