Be Persistent Without Being a Pest - Part 1

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Beware of pest-like behavior

Successful business owners understand that the DNA of their personality must contain the 3P's of Entrepreneurship: passion, perseverance, and persistence. Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs are unbalanced, with passion often overshadowing the other two. And when they are "overly passionate" about what they do, but without understanding how to effectively channel that passion or have underdeveloped interpersonal communication skills, they will come across as overbearing, tactless, and even desperate.

In essence they have created a combustible mix of annoyance that causes a customer's "sales-pest alert" to be activated. When this happens, customers become turned off and alienated very quickly. It can then become an extremely difficult challenge to reverse a customer's perception, partly because the experience has confirmed their negative preconceived notions of "typical" salespeople.

For small businesses who mainly target large corporations, there exists an art and a science to securing and growing healthy, prosperous customer relationships. Although, it often takes a long time to get through some of your prospects' doors of opportunity, you have to be able to knock on those doors with a velvet hammer.

I am going to break up this topic of persistent, "non-pest like" customer communications into 2 parts. Part 1 will cover what to communicate and Part 2 will cover how to communicate it. So, let's look at what the content of your interactions should be with prospective corporate customers.

Value Drivers for Corporations

As you target different customers, there is a common denominator that they are all looking
for... VALUE! Whether you sell widgets or windmills, if you expect to build a prosperous relationship, your product or service better do one of the following for your customer:
  1. Make money
  2. Save money
  3. Solve a problem that does 1 or 2
  4. Make job easier to do 1 or 2
  5. Provide new learning that help them do 1, 2, 3, or 4
If your product or service doesn't satisfy any of these five, then I would strongly argue that you are not providing value. And in the current economic environment, most corporations are not going to spend money on something that is not providing them some type of tangible value.

Measure your performance to prove your value

One of the keys to demonstrating value in one of these five areas is having performance metrics derived from data collected from your previous customer engagements. The critical importance of selecting the right performance metrics is that they must be: 1) important to your customers, 2) relevant to their goals and 3) demonstrate your past successful performance.

If your customers value cost savings, then having metrics that show how your product/service has saved money for previous customers is crucial. If your customers are focused on service levels, then you need to have metrics that demonstrate your ability to maintain high service levels. If your customer is focused on providing a high level of customer satisfaction, then having metrics that demonstrate how well you keep customers pleased is a non-negotiable.

Unfortunately, for many small businesses that I have dealt with, collecting data used to generate performance metrics is not a business practice that is utilized often enough. Without capturing data, it will be very difficult for you to effectively prove that you can deliver on one or more of these five value drivers.

Before engaging your next prospect, you need to collect and analyze relevant data in order to assess whether or not your product or service would really add tangible value to their operations. Doing your due diligence in this area prior to contacting them will help to ensure that your customer interactions will be time well spent - for you and them. They will definitely appreciate you for that (even if you don't get a sale right away).

Passion is a necessary element for any successful entrepreneur. However, you need to be able to demonstrate controlled passion not just about what you do, but how well you do it. When you are able to clearly prove your tangible value to customers and can effectively communicate that in a consistent, non-intrusive way (see Part 2), you run a much lower chance of being perceived as a pest.

Empowering Champions,
Paul Wilson, Jr.

Make sure to check back for Part 2.

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Decision '08

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Although this is an election year, many people have some crucial personal and professional decisions to make that may have a far more profound direct impact on them than who the next president of the United States will be. Why is that? Because with the typical pace of the government decision making today, if often takes a long time for new policies and laws to directly impact your life. This definitely will be the case with a new administration no matter who wins. On the other hand, the career and business decisions that you make during this season of your life will have an impact much sooner.

Critical decisions that many people are currently wrestling with include: Should I stay in business and weather this economic storm, or should I search for something a little more stable (relatively speaking)? Is this the time to implement my exit strategy and start a new business? Should I change my job/career and do what's really in my heart to do?

Why are the answers to these questions so important now? Even though the country may be sinking into a recession, people and corporations are still going to buy competitively priced, high quality goods and services, and corporations will still need problem-solving, value-adding employees. The main difference in their decision making between now and few years ago is that they are going to be much more selective and value conscious with how they spend and invest their money.

An economic downturn presents a great opportunity to chart a new course, especially for entrepreneurs. One person's problem is another person's chance to provide a needed product or service. One company or industry's challenge could present the perfect opportunity for an entre/intrapreneur to demonstrate their expertise and experience through a new solution that delivers tangible value (see "Just Like Jazz").

Therefore, as you go through your decision making processin this tumultuous and uncertain economic environment, ask yourself: How will you differentiate yourself from your competitors or co-workers? How will you demonstrate value to your customers or employer? How are you going to win when it seems like everyone else is resigned to losing?

Yes, these are challenging times. But, as an ancient Hebrew proverb (hint: from the Bible) states, "If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done." If you are an entrepreneur or intrapreneur, this is not the time back down, but to branch out and go against the flow. After doing your due diligence, develop your plan, overcome any doubts or fears, step out in faith, and seize your moment to ignite your life. Let your personal "Decision 2008" be one that positions you for positive and prosperous future!

Empowering Champions,
Paul Wilson, Jr.

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