The Customer Mindset

MyBook

Developing strategies to grow revenues really excites me.  It’s what gets me jazzed.  Ideating, innovating, and brainstorming, mixed with good old fashion common sense usually always provides the best path forward.  The key is listening.  Listening to the business, the market, the employees, and most importantly listening to your buyer.

I’ve spent the last decade studying, observing, learning, testing, and monitoring results that are achieved with various go-to-market strategies.  Many companies spend too little time developing the strategy and plan to take their product or service to market.  They make or produce something, price it, and give it to Sales to sell.  Make it, and they will come.  Not really.

The Age of the Customer has arrived.  No longer does the sales person control the sale.  If you believe your sales team is in control think again.  The buyer has all the control.  Many well-respected sources indicate up to 70% of the buying process being complete before a buyer meets with a sales person.  Your buyers have looked you up, researched you, watched you, and asked about you before you even knew they existed.  Do you know where they found you?  Do you know who they talked to along the way to ask for advice or opinions?  Do you know what they read to educate themselves on this purchase?  This is all very important work.

I am proud to announce my new book The Customer Mindset: Thinking Like Your Customer to Create Remarkable Results.  I wrote this book to provide an actionable roadmap for those charged with growing revenues. The book is filled with real-life stories, frameworks, and methods for mapping your buyer’s journey.  By creating a visual map of the journey your buyer takes on their way to the cash register, you will be better able to create a sales and marketing process that assists in this journey.  Remember, the buyer is in control.  Once you recognize and accept that, then you can get started focusing on how to help them through their journey versus spending your time trying to figure out how to sell them.

I want to thank the more than 5,000 readers of my blog who inspired me to go deeper.  To provide more detail.  To be more prescriptive.  Thank you so much.  I also want to thank David Moncur who has been a great friend and inspiration, not to mention the best creative mind I’ve ever worked with.  It is his firm, Moncur, that designed the awesome cover – front and back – of my book.  Thanks David.

I hope my blog, my book, and my stories continue to help you grow your business by providing strong leadership, innovative thinking, and a discipline to focus on doing the right things that maximize your results.

Get Specific -4 Ways to Make Your Business Conversations More Effective

Business People Meeting Growth Success Target Economic Concept

 

Your eyes are glazed over.  You’re trying to be discreet but you can’t help looking at your watch.  Is it over yet?  As meeting standards go this one is pretty brutal. It’s dull, boring, lacking insights, not informative, it’s basically a disastrous waste of your time.  Have you ever encountered one of these meetings?  Here’s a daring question – have you ever been the one driving one of these meetings?  If your answer is “no way, I’d never run such a terrible meeting”, I’d say you should probably spend a bit of time on self-reflection.  We all have coordinated and run meetings like this.  We’ve all wasted someones time at one point or another.

Here are 4 Ways to Make Your Business Conversations More Effective:

  1. Prepare – Do some homework on the individual you’re meeting with and the company.  It’s not enough to just throw out facts about the company or industry.  With the advent of social selling you’ve got to know your buyer – the human behind the decision.
  2. Ask good questions – Dump the “what keeps you up at night” question. So boring.  So predictable.  Kind of shallow.  A rookie question.  Have a hypothesis of what you believe keeps them up and night and throw it on the table.  Of course that requires having completed Step 1 above.
  3. Know what’s going on in the world – Don’t take a political stance, but know what’s happening in the world, the markets, etc.  Election year impacts, the Brexit issue, the Middle East conflicts, the Puerto Rican debt default. People enjoy spending time with people who have a bit of depth.  You don’t need to be Alan Greenspan, Warren Buffet, or Seth Godin, but you do need to have ideas and opinions beyond your company’s.
  4. Manage your time – Arrive early.  If you’re on time you’re late.  I get tired of hearing how bad traffic was.  Sales people today, especially in bigger cities think they can use traffic in Seattle, LA, NY, Boston, Atlanta, etc., as an excuse and people will just understand.  If you want to be like every other sales person walking in the office than great.  You will be – just like every other.  You want to be different?  Give yourself extra time.

One final extra tip.  Please show up with some energy.  No, you don’t have to drink 17 Red Bulls before you walk in the door.  Likewise you don’t want to be Eeyore either. Find the balance between excitement and control.  Do all of these together and you’ll run an awesome meeting.

 

 

10 Phrases to Eliminate from Business Conversations

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As a curious, and active, participant and observer in business, I have developed a list of 10 phrases we should all strike from our business conversations. They add no value, and in many cases subtract from it.  While some of these may seem far fetched, I’d challenge you to zone into your conversations and listen for them.  They are in fact present in many business conversations each and every day.  Here they are, and what the person you’re talking to actually is hearing:

  1. Trust me – If I have to say these words, apparently I haven’t earned it.
  2. Believe me – Whatever I’ve told you must seem a bit far fetched so I’m left with this long shot request.
  3. To be honest – Up to this point I’ve been lying. But this next statement…is the complete and utter truth.
  4. I’ll tell you what – I’m annoyed with you.  You’re not trusting or believing me, so now I’ve just got to tell you how it is.
  5. Look – The ultimate smack-down.  Let me help translate this so a 5 year old can understand.
  6. It is what it is – I can’t tell if you believe me, or anything I’ve said.  I’m close to surrendering.
  7. Dude – I’m failing fast and scrambling to connect any way I can.  By the way, this is only used between guys…at least in my experience.
  8. I can’t say – Why not?  Well, this information is on a need to know basis and you don’t need to know…so I can’t say.
  9. We’ll figure it out – I’m not exactly sure what your concern is and why you’re worried about it.  I’m not about to try to understand it right now but “trust me” we’ll figure it out later.
  10. There’s no way – This one I find intellectually thought provoking as I have heard this used so many times in business. To be so “negatively definitive” about anything I find quite interesting. Imagine if any of the following people heard “there’s no way”…in fact you already know how they’d respond: Steve Jobs, Michael Jordan, Walt Disney, Jack Welch, John Chambers, Marc Benioff, Ronald Reagan, John Adams, George Washington,  JP Morgan, Thomas Edison…shall I keep going?  There’s always a way.  The question is NOT if there is a way, but instead, am I willing to do what’s necessary to find a way?

What are your favorites?  And what phrases get under your skin that I didn’t capture?  Looking forward to hearing!

5 Tips for Running a Better Business Meeting

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We’re all busy.  The last thing we need is to attend another meeting. The minions gather around the board table and talk, ponder, and pontificate.  Time seems to stand still.  We’ve all been in meetings when we felt an overwhelming desire to be watching paint dry than to hear one more syllable uttered in the dungeon the business world refers to as “The Conference Room”.  In fact, so ineffective are most meetings that we’ve taken to naming our conference rooms with fun names so as to distract those weary attendees into thinking fun is on the other side of the door to Pebble Beach or Gilligan’s Island. So is there any way to spruce up our meetings?  Is there such a thing as an effective meeting?  Yes there is.
The next time you call a meeting follow these simple 5 steps:
  1. Prepare.  Know your material.  Know the salient points you’re trying to communicate.  Anticipate questions and formulate responses.  People hate showing up and feeling like their times been wasted because the leader doesn’t seem to have a clear agenda.
  2. Get revved up.  Have some energy for goodness sake.  Attending a meeting where the leader is monotone, or worse distracted or bored is a fate worse that death.  Show some energy, and respect, to those who have showed up at your request.
  3. Take frequent pauses and solicit responses.  No one likes to be lectured to, especially for 90 minutes – the average length of a business meeting in the U.S. according to the University of Tulsa.  Asking questions like “does that make sense?”, or “what do you think of that?” will keep people engaged and thinking.
  4. Take notes.  At the end of the meeting circle back to those who raised comments, concerns, opportunities, etc.  This lets the attendees know that when they are invited to one of your meetings they are engaged and expected to interact.
  5. Acknowledge great ideas.  The definition of “conference” is; a meeting of people to confer.  If you didn’t want anyones opinion you wouldn’t have asked them to join the meeting.  Even the best ideas, the best laid plans, the best strategies can be improved if you’re willing to listen.

Following these steps will keep your co-workers active and position you as a leader by demonstrating first and foremost your respect for everyone’s time, highlighted by your ability to efficiently navigate the team from topic to end-state.

 

Innovation Paralysis

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Many companies talk about innovation. Being innovative or even inventive can sound inspiring to prospective investors and employees. The promise of innovation can often attract new talent or keep impatient customers at bay. Hold tight, our new and improved version is on its way. We’re innovating as we speak.

The fact is the most companies aren’t innovative at all. Most are copycats. Copying another company’s idea is easier to do and carries less risk (assuming you’re not infringing on any copyright or patent laws). After all they’re the ones who have invested in true innovation.

For the most part, companies – even yours, may struggle with innovating. The biggest reasons for this struggle can be attributed to fear. Perceived fear is an emotion so powerful that it stops most of us in our tracks from taking action. It’s a mind game that creates countless scenarios that fill us with thoughts of failure and ridicule. We forget that most of the greatest inventions and innovations in history were the result of countless failures. Think of Ford, Edison, Jobs, and even JP Morgan. The fact is that failure fuels passion and passion produces results.

Strong leadership is required to lead an innovative company. If the CEO, owner, or leader lack the confidence required to discuss failures experienced by trying to innovate then a company simply won’t innovate. Unfortunately companies that take a follow-the-leader approach typically end up becoming irrelevant. The list is long and includes names like Kodak, Zenith, Pontiac, and Circuit City.

How do you know if your company is a company of innovation? Ask these questions?

1. Where are your growth ideas initiated in your company?
2. Was anyone ever fired for trying a new idea? Responsibly?
3. How often does denial come into your team meetings? The general belief is that alls well.
4. Are there regular meetings where idea generation is the only thing discussed?
5. Are off-the-wall, wild ideas solicited or is there more of a play-it-safe mentality that permeates your company?

These questions will provide insight into just how committed to innovation your company is.

Start Innovating: The One Question to Start the Discussion

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Is your business stuck in a rut? Are sales slow, stagnant, or even declining? Is your product commoditized or becoming irrelevant? How should you move forward?

The answer for most companies is obvious…innovate. The problem is not in the what, but in the how. Innovation is a challenge for even the very best and impossible for the newbies to the game of innovation.

Mature companies that produce known products or deliver staple-like services are the most prone to the innovation dilemma. They’ve done what they’ve done for so long that the mere test of time suggests they know what the markets need and what their buyers want. Arrogance and complacency drive their strategies and plans, and often times they are able to putter along treading water, buying time for “things to change”. They are not change leaders but change followers.

Here’s a simple question you can ask those you work with to get an innovation discussion going: What would Amazon or Google do? If Jeff Bezos owned this company, or Sergey Brin, what would they do to change things?

It’s quite possible the owner or other executives will balk and provide sarcastic responses like, “he’d probably dump the business”, or “if we had Amazon’s brand recognition we’d be in the clear”, or even “they’ve got millions to spend to do whatever they want we don’t.” Try to keep them focused. Remind them that each of these companies began as a dream and then moved into the realm of small business. They didn’t start out as the financial behemoths they are today. Each time their businesses got comfortable they broke them and started working on something new…consciously. If you had to break your business today how would you do it and what would you focus on next?

Innovation is not easy. It’s scary, unpredictable, uncertain, risky, and can be terrifying. To not innovate can actually lead to all of the same emotions. So if that’s true isn’t it better to be in control than to be controlled.

Ask that question today.

Is a Leader a Solo Act?

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Yesterday the Wall Street Journal published an article on Bill McDermott, the CEO of SAP. The article profiled McDermott’s rise within SAP and the fact that this German company will now be at the hands of an American CEO for the first time in its history.

McDermott has placed his beliefs front and center, stating that SAP must move quickly and innovate. “There is no speed limit on innovation” McDermott told a crowd at a recent event. But herein lies a fundamental problem that challenges  the “believability” of that statement. Can innovation happen through the efforts of one person alone or does innovation require a team?

Today’s most admired companies are those that innovate. Companies like Amazon, Google, Apple, and ExxonMobil are all at the forefront of their respective industries due to constant innovation. Additionally, their ability to innovate is often credited to their employees and the teams they have assembled to drive some of the best innovations and inventions of our times. Yet McDermott seems to have chosen a “go it alone” strategy having terminated most of SAP’s previous leaders of innovation.

SAP’s advisory board seems to be in full support of Mr. McDermott and has done nothing less than support him in his me, myself, and I strategy. But will it work? Here are 3 areas where McDermott’s strategy may go awry:

1. Collaboration breeds innovation – even the late, great, Steve Jobs saw the benefits of team collaboration when launching the first iPod as referenced in the book Inside Steve’s Brain by Leander Kahney. Teams were assembled to take a raw idea and bring it to life. Contrary to popular belief, Apple’s success wasn’t Steve Jobs alone.
2. Checks and balance. Not having a #1 or #2 on your team can lead to beliefs of invincibility and disillusionment. Every leader needs a strong next-in-line. Believing that only you have all the answers or ideas is very risky. Beyond the benefit to the business, having the right #2 will stretch and challenge the leader to explore options he or she might have otherwise dismissed.
3. Competitive Intelligence. Much like the reasons for #2 above, it’s highly unlikely for one person to be “in-the-know” on all things at all times. I rely on my team as a unit to keep us all up to speed on current and trending market conditions. Having multiple inputs from different folks minimizes bias and assumptions.

So will SAP’s strategy work? Time will tell.