Archive for the ‘Visioning’ category

Cold Calling Step 7: Build Engaging Supporting Materials

August 4, 2010

One of the final elements of the cold calling preparation process is to make sure that you have meaningful and stimulating supporting materials for those times when the prospect does not have the time to speak with you and asks you to send “something.”

This too is a great opportunity.

Since we all learn differently, it is certainly reasonable to expect that some people prefer the written word. A focused, compelling and clear presentation is the chance for you to make an impression without being interrupted.

And having the shell of it prepared in advance, allows you to respond quickly while the call is still very much present in the mind of your prospect.

My supporting e-mail has a handful of core elements:

  • An acknowledgment of thanks for the opportunity to write to the person
  • The Value Proposition or to put it another way, “why you should read this e-mail”
  • An overview of our company (what we do and how we deliver)
  • Any validation that we deliver what we say we do. Sometimes, this means listing some recognizable customers or awards from prestigious organizations.
  • An overview of what the prospect can expect to find in the attachments. This usually translates into key features that might resonate with the prospect.
  • The next steps (when follow up is planned)

I always include my phone number.

And I always try to address my prospect by name in the body of the e-mail and mention their company too. As Guy Kawasaki says, “Though it may seem obvious, you would be surprised how much of a difference addressing a customer by name can make. Good customer service (ed. note: and sales) makes the other person feel as if she is the only customer or client that matters.”

When it comes to PowerPoint presentations, I try to create an interesting story centered on all of the items present in a script, only with more graphics, color and detail. I use very little text and try to connect the thoughts for them.

Remember, that every thing that you are sending impacts two brands – your company’s and yours. Details matter, particularly at this stage, if you wish to become not only irreplaceable, but also irresistible.

Cold Calling Step 3: Creating the Presentation Script

July 14, 2010

When it comes to cold calling, there is tremendous value in organizing one’s thoughts in advance.

Doing so in writing has significant advantages including (1) being better prepared as to what you wish to convey, (2) thinking you are better prepared which translates into being able to speak with greater confidence, (3) establishing a baseline so that you can emphasize what resonates and eliminate what doesn’t and (4) being able to actively listen because you are no longer concerned about inadvertently not mentioning something important.

My mentor, Carl Epstein, taught me an exceptional scripting tool, which I would like to share with you in today’s post. There are several elements in the structure of this type of script. These scripts should be written in bulleted form so that it does not sound like you are reading it and because bulleted writing typically eliminates excess or needless words.

Here are the elements:

(1)    Introduction: This is simply an opening statement of courtesy and may be as simple as “We haven’t spoken in a while. I wanted to catch up with you and share with you what we are doing and see if we can help you advance your business.”

(2)    Vista: This section is where we bring in the business benefits. In essence, you are “painting the future” here. Effectively introducing the value that your product or service provides early on is critical in encouraging your prospect to invest more time in hearing the rest of your presentation. They choose to listen because your product or service may be addressing a real need for them.

(3)    Product / Service Information: This is where you speak in detail about the key elements of your service or product. The purpose of this section is to connect the business benefits to your offering. The prospect should be able to realize the direct relationship between your product and the benefits that he or she is hoping to receive.

(4)    Action of Buyer / Reason for Action: However, just in case the prospect can’t, it is critical to reintroduce the benefits and tie them tightly to your offering. Here you review what you offer and connect it to the business value.

(5)    Ask for the Order: It is here that you present the request for the “next step.” It could be the order or a meeting or a demonstration but, regardless, it is imperative that you be clear about what you are requesting and that you make a definitive request.

(6) Common Objections: The last element is to prepare a list of common objections and responses. Before you begin and even more likely, after you have made a few calls, you probably will be able to anticipate why someone may reject your offering (cost and time required to implement are some typical examples). You should anticipate these questions and prepare responses so that you are immediately ready to address these objections. Remember though – after addressing the objections, you must ask for the order again.

If you have prepared this script properly, you should be able to effectively deliver this presentation in two to three minutes.

A couple of additional thoughts:

  • The script that is written at the outset of an engagement always evolves over time. Each call allows you to tighten the language and become more succinct. Edit the script regularly until it is efficient and can be said more simply. (I call this “getting your voice.”)
  • After a while, you should discover that referencing the script is no longer necessary. The act of creating the script and repeating it frequently allows for a more natural presentation.
  • Of all the sections, the Vista section is usually the most important because if the business benefits are not clearly presented, the prospect will choose to end the conversation.

Fortunately, if you have followed Steps 1 and 2, you have a set of likely business benefit candidates upon which you can draw.

What to Evaluate When Hiring Executives

June 16, 2010

There are certain items that are prerequisites when hiring an executive. Ideally, the candidate should be either knowledgeable in the industry or the skills that are required by the organization to fulfill its mission.

Typically, when I enter the hiring process, the candidates have been vetted in these areas. What I look for are the leadership qualities that are invariably required for success.

Here’s my Top 10:

(1) Positive Energy: Staff always takes their cue from the person on top. If that person isn’t excited about coming to work, every staff member will be affected by that malaise.

(2) Energize Others: Effective leaders need to motivate and inspire.

(3) The “Edge”: This is a term borrowed from Jack Welch. It speaks to the ability to make tough decisions

(4) Vision: Any effective plan starts with a direction. You can’t lead people unless you know to where you are leading them. Part of this skill is the ability to “see around the corners,” and anticipate what may occur and manage for these eventualities.

(5) Execution Skills: The effective leader needs to help people identify the right tactics, sequencing and hold them accountable for delivering results.

(6) Passion: This is a higher level of positive energy. It’s more about a deep and resounding commitment to the client, the staff, the shareholders and the work.

(7) Crisis Management: Crises happen and they happen to everyone. A leader must be planning oriented, possess a cool head and be able to take charge when everyone else is losing focus.

(8) Authenticity: Leaders must be true to their own selves.  This trait also addresses the leader’s ability to recognize his or her strengths and weaknesses and compensate for both.

(9) Ability to Learn: More than ever, today’s leader must be able to learn about their industry, their people and the world around them.

(10) Commitment to Teach: The fundamental role of leadership is to grow the next generation of leaders. Patience and a desire to educate are therefore core to the effective leader.

This list is not sequenced by importance and, naturally, the degree of strength in any area is relative to the “heart of the assignment.”

You can be efficient with things but you can only be effective with people

May 2, 2010

I really love my clients…they are all so eclectic and so varied. They have a unique way of thinking and my role as their guide is always interesting, stimulating and challenging.

This past week presented an unusual opportunity and I wanted to share it with you. It reminded me of one of my favorite management aphorisms — “You can be efficient with things but you can only be effective with people.”

This particular CEO is remarkably gifted. He can see both the vision of where he wishes to go and he knows the steps he must take to get there. When someone is this gifted, he or she tends to move faster than those around him. This particular leader is busy – no make that very busy. He’s always onto the next plan and how to lead the team there. Fortunately, he builds his team with equally fast thinkers and implementers so he is very effective in producing results.

But when he does demos of his products, he speeds through them. You can almost sense a palpable catching of the breath on the other side of the web ex or go to meeting demo as his audience tries to keep up. And frankly they can’t…which brings us to today’s aphorism.

Efficiency is about time, effectiveness is about getting the result that you want.

You can speed up equipment, you can accelerate a process but no matter what you try, people will ALWAYS learn at their own pace. Understanding this human element is critical to being effective whether it be in presentation, motivation, education or just plain-old discussion…and it certainly applies to every relationship that is worth building.

“You can be efficient with things but you can only be effective with people.”

Trends that You Should Worry About…

January 1, 2010

Lately, I have been “heads down” more than ever working with companies on redefining their strategies. In these conversations, I am often asked what surprises me the most. Here are a few observations.

The biggest surprise to me has been the pace at which whole industries have begun to disappear. As fast as one charts the list, another one needs to be added. The postal service, newspaper and magazine publishing, television, and retail stores are just a few.

Last week, I went into a high end department store to buy a present for a newly engaged couple. I went to the registry and met with the manager. She told me that 80% of the gifts for a couple is now purchased on line. This is good news for the retailer because it can pay less commission, as there is no sales rep involved in the purchasing transaction.

What was shocking to me was that manager told me that when an item is returned to the store, it gets applied as a negative sale to her commission. She is running harder just to stay in place. And the store is comfortable making her role obsolete.

Another recent trend that I find fascinating is the increasing need to create engines as opposed to creating businesses. Zappos is a great illustration of this process done well.

Zappos had become an Internet business legend, so to speak, for its ability to sell footwear. Its use of social media to promote and service its business is very well known.

In July, Amazon announced its intention to purchase Zappos. The deal closed in November.

Today, less than two months later, Zappos has transformed itself into a clothing site. The engine that it has designed and the practices that it has implemented are being used to allow it to enter a whole other segment of the clothing industry.

What does all this mean to you?

For starters, if you have been doing business in a traditional way, start rethinking your business model because your next competitor can come from anywhere.

The Real Risk in Risk Management

November 25, 2009

It’s not uncommon to find businesses all over this country talking about the impact the current economic environment is having on their operations.

Just yesterday, I was speaking with my good friend, John Fodera. John is a partner in Eisner, LLP’s audit and risk management services group. He spends his days discovering how to reduce risk and streamline operations, while making sure that his clients remain compliant with regulations a diverse as labor law to SEC requirements. Not surprisingly, he hears about the impact of the recession all of the time.

As our discussion progressed, it became apparent that John brings some fresh thinking to these conversations. One of the thoughts that we shared is that cutting staff is not always the best way to deal with a slowdown in business.

John explained that the “knee-jerk” reaction is always to reduce costs and sometimes this is truly appropriate. But, like any other challenge, there are always opportunities.

When companies are concerned about business, they are more apt to rethink the way that they approach the marketplace. Leadership will also find that staff will be more open to trying new approaches. This is typical when the risk of remaining with the status quo exceeds the risk of trying new things.

Reaching out to existing customers and discovering and sometimes re-discovering what is valued in one’s offerings – and what isn’t – can change what is being sold and how it is being presented to other potential clients.

When something is not valued, often, the cost associated with adding and delivering that capability can be stripped out. Suddenly, the product may actually be more valuable because a level of complexity is removed and the cost associated with developing, selling, delivering it and training others has been reduced. Out of such discussions, many competitive advantages and opportunities are born.

And in an age where technology is changing as rapidly as it is, an economic downturn can provide the impetus to create new ways to produce meaningful value.

As John would probably tell you, the real risk is when you are not rethinking your business.  But don’t take his word for it.

Just ask the people running the newspaper industry and the postal service.

The Changing Face of Marketing and What It Means to Your Company

September 6, 2009

The message has always been the brand and the brand has always been the message.

Marketing and marketing communications have traditionally been about what is conveyed to the public and to a company’s employees but the changing face of customer service may be altering the way we think of this important role.

As more and more small and mid-size companies shift into creating ways for customers to help themselves – see this article on Southwest Airlines, a not so small company – perhaps it is time to reconsider the role of marketing in the development of new programs and IT solutions.

The thinking here is that the customer experience is the brand, as much and if not more than the message. Large companies have known this for a long time. Small and mid-size companies need to recognize this.

Does their web portal reflect the important messages of the brand? Is the IT system that is being deployed throughout the company an extension of how the company wishes its employees to think of it?

One of my clients asked the other day if it’s time for a ne role, one that he called a “Customer Experience Officer.” In these tough economic times, I’m not so sure I would approach this opportunity by adding a new role.

Here’s what I would do…

(1) Insist that Marketing outline the key principles that all new programs and internal and external software solutions must incorporate. If these solutions did not reflect these tenets, they are not rolled out.

(2) Until these principles are second nature, marketing should be a member of all new programs (and I do mean all – not just software programs) and design teams.

(3) All graphical user interface developers on the IT side should have to learn and discuss how they are incorporating these principles into their solutions.

If you share this belief that people are attracted to your brand and what it represents, is there really any other choice?


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