Monday, October 29, 2012

Knowledge Is NOT Power

For generations, society's mantra to us was, "Knowledge is power." And that knowledge equaled power. As long as this continued to be subjective, unproven, society kept singing the mantra.
The Internet comes along, knowledge increases 10,000 percent over night, and society chases the knowledge in greater numbers. More people are getting PhD's and double master degrees than ever before. Stress-related diseases increased 100% last year alone.
What's wrong with this picture?
The subjective is now objective. You don't need any stats for this. Use your instincts. You "know" this already just with your own life. It's time for this cultural trance to awaken from a belief that has now proved itself incorrect.
So, then, what really needs to change?
Well, it didn't ever really change. The ladder was leaning against the wrong wall, that's all. We can't point fingers; we are just now seeing the mantra. The motivational trainers like Tony Robbins sing this daily. What's different is that we no longer can deny the truth of it. My grandma told me long ago, "The proofs in the pudding."
Do you relate to this? Even in a small way? Great! The good news -- it only takes 30 seconds to shift your perspective. That's several 30-second times throughout the day until its totally gone. It will not take long though. The real key that I'm getting into now will override the ole mantra much faster.
The real key to success is action. Think about it. We already have tons of information swirling in our heads that we haven't used. So, when were you going to use it? Someday maybe. When you are sitting in the rocking chair in retirement community? Now, don't get me wrong, it isn't too late to start it then either. But gosh darn it, who would want to wait until them. Not I. And I don't think you either. There's more energy available the younger you are.
Stop chasing more knowledge. Start taking action with what's already available. When you use up what's available, then reach out.
"Action leads to success." Adopt this new mantra. Set the books aside. Pick up your brain instead. Start with a short and quick action plan with a clearly defined goal. Not a "long drawn out take a month to do" plan. Keep it simple. Keep it short. Don't overwhelm your mind with anything else. Then you are returning to the ole' mantra. Don't wait until the kid's soccer game this weekend.
Stop what you're doing. It will only take three minutes. Go ahead; grab the Post-It notes. Aren't they beneath the paper stack to your left? I play Post-It note roulette on my office wall all the time. It's quick, easy, fast, and I can spend more time taking action. In my case, writing more.
Tony Robbins says, "The only thing that makes a difference is ACTION! Action is the foundational key to all success."
Okay, you hesitated. Couldn't find the Post-It notes, huh. Okay, use a full sheet of paper, I won't tell. Write down two goals. Yes, you read right, TWO. They could be something you've been putting off, or two that have been rumbling around in your mind the past few days. Right now, this instant, write. Do it before another distraction occurs. Make it clear in your mind, hold that vision a few seconds, then write the goal down. I don't care if you can't spell it or if the grammar isn't right. As long as you know what it is. Leave the details out, hold the vision, and staple the goal to that vision and bring them together with a finger snap.
Good job! I'm proud of you. Took some extra coaching. But I know you at least have their focus. Promise, you will not move your mind away until you've made two decisions.
Okay, done that. Now write two steps for each decision that you can do today. Now, go ahead, think what can you do right now to start. I know, I know, you're saying, "Catherine, dah, I've already started I wrote two decisions down." You're right. You have already started. Two pats on the back. Now the next step is going to be just as easy. What is it? Remember; take to get it from the knowledge you already have.
Is it lose weight? Then pick up the phone and call a few of the gyms to find out more? What about taking a daily walk or parking in the furthest part of the parking lot when you return from lunch or go shopping? What about not munching on those potato chips while you're reading this?
Do you want to write a book and have been "waiting" for the table of contents to magically appear? Pick up the pen and start wherever the mind is at. Most books are never written from page 1. Take that action.
When you complete that action, figure out the next or start the next. Trust what's already inside of you. It's there. You just haven't used this process frequently enough. Go ahead. Start. The water's fine. You know that.
You will find that once you start taking that first step, the universe will begin to send all that you need. Mix that with what you already have, and then reach for the knowledge. Not before. This is the same story with writing a nonfiction book. Stop researching first and write first. Get all your knowledge out, and then reach.
Set a quick, simple goal, then take action, and see the momentum. Don't reverse it. Okay, I can see you are well on your way today. Now print this article out and reread it tomorrow and the next. Let it move you with inspiration and desire for your dreams to come true.
You deserve that!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Taking Advantage of Trends: Cocooning

One of the biggest established trends on the market front today, and still gathering momentum, is cocooning - the desire to perform the majority of social and cultural interactions (working, entertaining, relaxing, etc.) from home, rather than by going outside the home. This trend was strongly reinforced by the 9/11 tragedy, as many people began to review their lives and, sometimes for the first time, consciously decide how they wanted to live them rather than just letting life happen to them and going with the flow.
This poses an obstacle for many businesses who rely on brick and mortar style storefronts and foot traffic, as well as for those in the entertainment industries who rely on people "going out" for a large part of their income. The advent of home theaters, rec-room "bars" or "cafe corners" - sometimes better stocked and appointed than local business versions - and similar cocooning-based home improvements are becoming more and more popular as people are rediscovering the delights of having friends and family over for social time as opposed to meeting them outside the home in a third-party establishment. This trend is here to stay, according to all economic markers, so what are some of the ways in which your business can take advantage of this trend rather than being diminished by it? Here are some ideas:
1. Create a "house call" option for whatever you do. Now of course this doesn't work in all fields, but you'd be surprised how many it can be extended to, given a little creativity and thought. For example, a new car dealer might consider creating an exclusive "We bring it to you!" option for pre-qualified buyers, where interested parties can submit an application online, choose the model they're interested in from an on-screen "sales lot" and have a sales person drive it to their house for the test-drive and negotiations. Where can your business create a house-call option to encourage cocooners to purchase with you?
2. Reconfigure services and other offerings to allow for in-home variations of previously outside-only availability. For example, the recent boom of home-delivered DVD rentals does just this - you pay a consistent monthly fee and keep the movies as long as you want, sending them back when you're ready to trade them in for new titles. No longer do you need to leave the house to stay home for movie night - the ultimate expression of cocooning. How can you recreate your service or product to meet your customers' desires to stay in?
3. Consider adding "companion services" that make your service or product more attractive to cocooning customers. A pizza delivery service now offers free movie rentals with a qualified purchase as part of their "specials and sales" menu. These creative combinations save customers time and money, and offer strong incentives to remain loyal. How can you partner your offering to create this sort of option for your customers? Hint: what are your customers likely to be doing or needing during or near the time they are using your service/product?
The trend of cocooning offers many challenges to traditional businesses, especially those that rely heavily on showroom sales and foot traffic income. However, with a little creative thinking, you can turn this obstacle to your benefit and pull ahead of the pack where your competitors are concerned. My advice? Stay home one day and examine all the things you do that could be improved or eased by some version of your product or services. See where you hit snags or annoyances in your goal of living, working and having a good time at home. Imagine your ideal customer at home - then do your best to keep him there.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Taking Advantage of Trends

Trendwatchers calls it "Mass Class." Other sources refer to it as "high-touch." Whatever you call it, the trend toward mass availability of high-quality, sophisticated and status-rich products and services is upon us, and businesses who wish to survive in the coming years would be wise to heed it's call. The era of life lived on price-points is fading - people are no longer willing to accept "just barely good enough" items as long as they are the cheapest. They are holding out instead for offerings that reek of quality construction and customized personal attention - gourmet coffees and luxurious imported pastries are taking the place of a quick cup of cheap joe and a snack cake for breakfast, and 200+ thread count, design-embossed linens are the bare minimum, even in the guest room.
Even companies that offer reasonably nice items at affordable prices are going to suffer in this economy - their products simply won't hold up to comparison with the new items coming onto the market to meet this need. And services that offer even good customer service will no longer cut it - you have to offer the sort of personal attention to detail and customer relations that were previously the purview of the personal attendant or butler. You have to know your customer, their tastes, their requirements and their preferences, and you have to be there first, with better quality offerings available in a wide range of customizable options, or you don't stand a chance of holding the attention of this new consumer market.
So how can you take advantage of this growing force in the market? Here are a few ideas to get you started:
1. Create or expand at least a portion of your product line or services into the realm of Cadillac quality - make it resonate with fine engineering and attention to detail. Retrain the sales force to focus on the customer like they would focus on their own purchase, and empower them to sweeten and personalize deals to meet the customer's needs - without the sort of back-and-forth with the management that creates delays and gives prospects time to reconsider their decision.
2. Create a value-add follow-up system so that existing customers are transformed into valued friends of the company. Go beyond offering them special deals and upgrades not available to the general public - these are merely par for the course. Consider sweetening the pot by offering special events, private screening of popular upcoming movies, private concerts with popular bands and similar incentives and rewards available only to existing customers. And make sure that your staff is trained to deal with them as they would a VIP member of a private club - because that's the atmosphere and mindset you need to cultivate if you are going to retain your clientele.
3. Aim your marketing at the "high-end" and exclusive outlets rather than focusing on discount venues and value-based advertising. Create an atmosphere of exclusivity, quality and prestige - make your customers feel smart, well-educated and socially superior for joining with you in their purchasing ventures.
And note the wording in that last sentence, for it encapsulates the heart of this trend - your customers are not "buying from you" anymore, they are partnering with you to improve their quality of life. This is the new mindset to embrace if you want to play a part in the economy of the future - what was once a simple purchase is now a quality of life issue. Welcome to your future.

Sunday, September 30, 2012


Do you make resolutions every year only to find that your resolutions have fallen by the wayside. Research shows that most resolutions don't last past the second week of January. Why? That's what this article is going to concentrate on, and how you can keep your resolutions on track. The most popular resolutions are to lose weight, stop smoking, eat better, get a better job, start my own business, spend more time with my spouse/kids, you can fill in the blank with your resolution. One of the main reasons resolutions aren't kept is that we make too many of them at once. So, the first step in keeping resolutions is to do them one at a time. Especially for weight and smoking cessation, it is important to take little steps before you get to the main goal. For example, for those of you trying to quit smoking, studies show that long term smokers (10 plus years) have a hard time quitting cold turkey. So, what I did, was to keep a book and I wrote down every time I had a cigarette. Then each day I tried to cut one out. Did I slip sometimes, yes, but eventually I got down to 5-6 a day, and then quit from there. The patches work once you get down to 5-6 a day. Tip: Cut them in half or quarters and they last longer. The same principles work for diet changes. Eat the foods you like but cut down on the portions and eventually put some healthier foods in your diet. The big thing in weight loss is to moderate what you eat. If you eat dessert every night, try cutting out one night a week for a month, then two, and so on. Eventually cut it down to a couple of times a week or eat low fat desserts. Walking is a great exercise. Try it before you go to work, or during lunch, or after dinner. As for spending more time with the family. Try to make Sunday a family day. Have a special family dinner night, movie night, game night. Pick things that everyone likes or take turns coming up with themes. You will all have to be flexible. Ladies, your husbands don't like going shopping, any more than you like their sport watching. Everybody will have to compromise. While people have all kinds of excuses for weight, smoking, diet, and spending time resolutions, they even have more when it comes to making a change in their profession. When we talk to folks about starting their own business they have all kinds of excuses why it won't work for them - they don't have the time, it's too much work, it doesn't work, they don't have the money, they don't think it will work for them. Well, with all of those excuses, of course, it isn't going to work. If you go into something not believing you will be able to succeed, guess what? You won't.
Let's break down those excuses... Excuse 1 They don't have the time. Sure they do. They watch Television, play on the computer for hours each night, and for many hours over the weekend. Take a half hour each night or a couple hours over the weekend and you can start a business. Yes, in the beginning some of that time will be spent organizing yourself to get started, but once that is done you are ready to move forward. Excuse 2 ...It's too much work As stated earlier, once you set yourself up, 30 minutes of calling a couple nights or days per week to get a deal and possibly make $3500 to $5000 for under 10 hours, seems worth the work. Let's see that comes to $350 to $500 per hour. If you find this too much work, then stay with your day job for $10-$15 per hour. Excuse 3... It doesn't work Yes, it does, we are living proof, and so are the many other investors out there. Unfortunately we are too busy to try and convince people who don't have any motivation to do anything, to do so. If you wish to work a paycheck to paycheck job the rest of your life, so be it. However, those of us who have left that world will never go back because we like the control we have over our future, and yes, it does work, however, the secret is, YOU HAVE TO BE WILLING TO WORK AT IT. Business is not going to come to you out of the blue. You have to look for it, and people have to know that you are there. Excuse 4... I don't have the money Yes, this can be an obstacle. However, there is a lot of educational material out there that is not outrageously priced. Rather than printed material, look into electronic format. It is usually substantially less. Read up on the various strategies. We have an enormous amount of material on our website in articles and newsletters that provide a wealth of information. Check out books in your library or buy used books. Check out coaching programs. Yes, many are expensive. However, we offer our Partnering For Your Success Program for a very affordable initial fee, and then we partner in your success. If you don't succeed, neither do we. We put our money where are mouths are. Excuse 5 ...It won't work for me With an attitude like this one, nothing will. You have to be willing to work. Short of winning the lottery, nothing is just going to drop into your lap. Even real estate takes work. Just running ads and sending e-mails is not going to make you rich. You have to have something to offer to people. You need knowledge and know how in order for people to work with you. So, if one of your resolutions this year is to start your own successful business, take a look at our website ( and contact us. Remember, take your resolutions one at a time, and eventually you will succeed with them all.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Creative, Inexpensive, and BIG Value Marketing Gift Ideas

"Tis the season to be jolly!" A great attitude is easy to have when you design your gifts with a lot of thought and don't allow the experience take you to the cleaners.
One of the traditions I like at this time of year is remembering all the people that were there for me this past year. Especially those that didn't receive anything in return for it -- in the smallest or largest way.
Meaningful gift giving does not have to be expensive. In fact, some of the most precious gifts are the ones that cost very little, but mean a great deal because of the time and effort it took to select, or create, and mail.
Here are eight ideas I have used over the last few years. You can use these as Christmas gifts; add them to your "leave-behind" marketing package, a referral thank you, or "thanks for helping me" gift.
It does make a difference if your logo or advertising information is on the gift. It does affect the perceived value on their part and can make a difference in your relationship. Make the choice to add your information or leave it off with their perception in mind. Remember, marketing is all perception and not product or service.
1. Purchase discontinued note card sets from Hallmark and other card shops during the year. If you call and ask your nearest store as to the time of year when they discount "previous season" items, they will gladly tell you. You can save from 50% to 75% on these items.
2. Create a logo candy jar. You can purchase candy jars with different seasonal markings. Then create a stencil with your company logo or web site address (I prefer the web site address). You can buy the stencil supplies and the empty candy jars at your local craft store like MJ Design, Michaels, or online. They sometimes have the mailing boxes to match. Add a bow with your business card. Keep the jar nice so they want to keep it out in the open for that season. Jars for the Easter season are great with the miniature eggs in them and are not likely to get completing jars from other suppliers. After dinner mints are great for the contents. If you return frequently, bring a refill with you.
3. Give a business journal. Borders and Barnes and Noble have all sorts of sizes and designs. For business journals or marketing journals, I usually buy the 8 ½ x 11 size (usually under $10) at Borders and then I write three or four marketing ideas in the journal that specifically apply to them.
4. Give a gift they can take home to their child(ren). Most business or marketing gifts are for everyone at the company or for them. Sometimes giving without a "marketing angle" attached increases the impact. Especially if you remember their child's birthday.
5. Create a family cookbook with 10 or so of your favorite (or personal family) recipes. Add your contact information on the back. Use the software, Clickbook ( to transfer it from your word processing software into a real nice booklet fast and easy.
6. Give them a subscription to one of the favorite magazines. I love writer's magazines and writing, so receiving something I am so passionate about along with the gift of learning is perfect for me. If you get two, call the company and turn it into a two-year subscription. You can add to your card this idea if they already have a subscription. Do they have a hobby? Do they have a goal or working on a particular project? There are tons of magazines out there. You can also add to the card a list of web sites they can find more information on the topic. You can send a card with the subscription information in it separately so they know to expect it and to contact you if they don't receive it.
7. If you have great penmanship or creative on the computer, buy blank note cards and add their name on the front of the each card, like "From the desk of..." "A personal note from..." The fact that you took the time always makes an impact. Want to add a little more? Place a stamp on each envelope for them.
8. If they have a home office and you are into crafts, cross-stitch a wall calendar holder. It has a hook, nice border that shows past the large calendar size and business card sewn in with a place for them to hang their favorite wall calendar or you can send them a calendar with it the first year.
It is normal to value the gift to the value of the client/customer. You can just send everyone the same gift or you can match the gift value to the value you received from him or her.
Don't forget your bartering exchanges or the people that just "opened your doors."

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Make your Writing or Marketing Projects your Top Priority

When you finish your eBook or print books, you have a product you can sell. After you finish the book be sure to write the all important sales letter. The sales letter is the key to sales flooding in. Each book will market another book. Books help promote your service as well.
Like a messy room full of clutter, you just want to close the door on your project. If you really don't want it now, then make it OK not to do it. Or, if you are blocked in some way discover what that means and keep taking baby steps toward your dream.
Or, if you are like me you may want to look at the consequences/results of not doing it. These are some of the consequences that pulled me to finish my latest two books:
1. If your book doesn't get read by thousands of people this year your unique useful message goes unheeded. I know you want to make a difference and your book is your legacy and lasting gift to give.
2. Your business will just amble along, and you'll still be an hourly worker having to be present or even travel while you earn money. A book creates a lifelong income for you, and when you market online, you don't have to travel or speak. It's the easiest and most profitable way I know..
3. You miss the chance to build your creditability and become the expert in your field. The side affect of publishing your book is that it is your billboard, your business card, that builds your clients' and customers' trust and support. These people are your best sales force. Don't limit your expansion and success by not including them.
4. You won't enjoy the most ecstatic feeling of accomplishment, exhilaration, and adventure that creating and completing a writing or marketing task can bring you.
Take my lead. Treat your project as urgent! No matter what reason you have for not doing it, do as professional speaker and friend, Rita Kahn, says, "So what, do it anyway!"

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Seven Pricing Pointers

Find the right figure to make the highest profits.
1. Don't shy away from charging a fair price for your offerings--you deserve to be rewarded for your time, talent, risk and investment.
2. Keep your price within the range of what customers are willing to pay.
3. Remember that prices for the same products and services vary dramatically by geographic location. Remember the end user manuals for buyers and sellers. Some students with reprint rights sell them for $50 and others for $100. It all depends on the area of the country they live in.
4. The price you can expect to receive is determined in part by your distinct background, talents and skills.
5. Check out the rates of local competitors before settling on a price.
6. When estimating your expenses, consider costs associated with bookkeeping, travel, research, telephone calls, mailing and delivery.
7. Don't set a price so low that it endangers your financial well-being or your sense of self-worth.
Remember your time, knowledge and energy has got a dollar figure, and you want to get what you deserve. You have to make a living just like everyone else. You have bills to pay, a family to take care of, and yourself to take care of. So be sure to take all of this into consideration when you set your pricing. If you are still not sure on how to do that see our 5 part article on Setting Your Fees.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Almighty Buck

The almighty buck can actually be detrimental to your business. Think about it, if all you think about is how much you can make, are you really focusing on the other aspects of running a business. For example quality control, safety of your product, etc. If money is your only motivating factor, what corners are you cutting to make the Almighty Buck. If your focus is only on the Almighty Buck are you missing other opportunities, (to make more money), because the only thing you have on your mind is how much you can make. With the Almighty Buck as your only motivating factor you are destined to run into problems with your business. The corners you cut, the opportunities you miss, the people you disappoint, are going to be your downfall. We see and hear about the Almighty Buck more and more every day. We get emails that tout "Get Rich Quick", "Make thousands working only 2 hours a weeks", "Make Money Selling ____(put in a product name) from home". While, yes, we all go into business to make money, that cannot be your only motivating factor. If you are blinded or sucked into these schemes I can pretty much guarantee you, you will get nothing out of it. The only person who will make any money is the person selling it, and usually for only a short period of time. Then, they too, need to find the next "great opportunity". These type of offers play off of a terrible trait the majority of us in this culture have, "greed". Remember, if it sounds to good to be true it usually is. So, you ask, if I am not going into business to make money, why am I. Well, not to be evasive but only you can answer that. Also, I am NOT saying that you should not want to make money. We go into business to provide ourselves with a roof over our heads, the ability to cloth ourselves, and our families, feed ourselves, and help ourselves buy the things we need to keep going. So yes, money is important to us. However, it is not the be all and end all. The successful business owner realizes that how he runs his business, and treats his customers is paramount to staying successful. Think of some of the offers mentioned above. They sell their offer, the person gets it, realizes it won't work, and then bad mouths them. So yes, for a while they will sell, but will they ever get a repeat customer? Will that customer recommend others? Probably not. Those of us in business for the right reasons, in addition to making money, get repeat customers, and our customers refer others to us. And many of us have been in business long enough, have made our mark, are making a good living, and are giving something back. That is what the really successful people do. Look at Bill Gates, Jay Leno, Bob Hope and so many other owners of large corporations, in show business or sports. Not all of them are only in it for the money. All of these people contribute to a variety of causes. While you might not agree with some of their views, or the way they run their business; they all give something back. So remember, business is not always about the Almighty Buck, it's about how you treat people, and how you want people to think about and treat you.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Win The "Yeah But" Game in 5 Easy Steps

Next time someone tells you about a problem use these steps.
1. Listen politely, without offering any suggestions. Remember, it is not your problem.
2. Affirm that the problem is really important. Just say, "That sounds like a really big problem "
3. Ask, "What have you already tried (thought of) doing about the problem?" You learn all the suggestions to scratch off your list. And you subtly reinforce the capabilities of the person with the problem.
4. After you hear the answer, ask, "How did that work out?" You invite the problem holder to rethink his or her own challenge. Often that leads to a solution on the spot, with thanks to you for your brilliant suggestions. (Of course, you have not made any suggestions, but that doesn't really matter.)
5. Ask, "Is there anything you would like from me?" Often the answer will be, "No thanks, I have figured out what to do next." If you are invited to do something more, you can choose to accept or decline with a much broader understanding of the problem.
These steps will help you resist your own tendency to try to be a hero by solving someone else's problem usually before they even ask for your help. This game usually starts by someone lamenting about a problem instead of asking for help to solve it.
The invitation you are learning to decline is really about proving that the problem is unsolvable, that nobody can help, and that the problem holder is justified in giving up and doing nothing further about the problem.
Instead, you affirm the problem holder's skill and resourcefulness, without getting involved in the game. And you may become the hero after all.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

You Win With People

Is anyone surprised that this is where I chose to begin my monthly newsletters? The concept of "You win with people" is the basic premise that I have built my entire management and leadership style around. The quote and original concept was presented to me in high school when I read a book of the same name written by the Ohio State Football Coach Woody Hayes. Woody was known as a strict disciplinarian on the football field, but many people did not understand the depth of the man, as he was not only a football coach but a military historian, a philosopher, and a great molder of people (Coach).
The premise of Woody's book was built around the story of a new football coach who recruited a bunch of reasonably talented, but unmotivated, undisciplined football players. The team lost many more games than the won and the coach was known as a lousy coach of a lousy football team. The next year he focused on recruiting players who were more talented, and wanted to achieve, were disciplined, and focused on the success for themselves and for the team. Soon he became known as a great football coach with great football teams. Did the Coach in question change his playbook or coaching strategies? No, not really. Instead he found that the players make the team and having great players made for great teams, and made him a "great Coach" as well.
The premise is exactly the same in business. As a leader you have certain responsibilities to your company and your team. The first of which is recruiting. If there is one area where you can assure yourself of success as a leader it is in the area of recruiting. By surrounding yourself with talented, motivated people their success and your success is virtually assured. The people who work for you have the ability to make you look like a genius or a goat based on their abilities to think, react, and produce. The better your staff looks, the better you look. This concept is where a lot of "would be" leaders fail. They fail because they do not hire the best. They fail because they fail to fully utilize the talent of the people that work for them. And they fail out of fear. What fear, you ask? The fear that by allowing the light to shine on the people that work for them that they themselves will be passed over in favor of their subordinate. In reality, that very seldom happens, but that fear can sabotage even the most talented of leaders.
David Meyer, owner of Coaching for Tomorrow, has more than 25 years of management and leadership experience, having worked for companies such as Allied Stores, MCI and Nextel Communications. His mantra, "You Win With People" is based on the deep-seated belief that hiring, developing, and promoting the right people can lead to organizational and financial success. As amanagement and leadership coach, David works to instill that same passion in his clients by helping them understand the importance of strong leadership, strong teamwork, and strong players.
David has a Bachelor's in Business Administration from Elmhurst College and has been certified by both ACTION International as a Business Coach and the Coach Training Alliance. He also has received his CTM from Toastmasters. He is an Officer in the Denver Coach Federation and a facilitator/trainer for the Coach Training Alliance.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

How To Provide Outstanding Delivery

How To Provide Outstanding Delivery
Sales and Delivery
Two concepts and departments that must work hand in hand to provide your customers with an optimum buying experience. Whether you are in retail, wholesale, manufacturing, or service, the sales and delivery of your products and services will make or break your company.
Why is it then that so many companies fail to provide outstanding delivery of their services?
Is it because they have made conscious choices to annoy the customer?
Is it because they don't understand the importance of the final delivery to the customer?
Or, is it because they have lost focus on the customer?
My guess is that it is the latter of these three. As companies grow and expand, specialization begins to emerge as a method to streamline processes and improve the quality and consistency of product delivery. So Sales makes a sale and then turns it over to the "delivery machine". Sometimes that delivery machine is the checkout line at the front of your store. Other times it is a production department that has to manufacture and deliver your product. But in any case, it is not often that the sales person and the delivery person are one and the same, and that means handing off the customer to someone else in the organization.
Why is this important?
Because sales in the 21st century has changed from where it was only 5 or 10 years ago. Today, sales is much more about relationships and focus on the customer than it is about product. Many stores sell exactly the same products. Many service companies have products that are either indistinguishable from each other, or have qualities that are not easily measured.
In truth, many products have become commodities, much to the dismay of all involved.
So why should someone choose to buy from company A versus company B?
Because of the relationship that has been built between the sales person and the customer.
Think about why you shop at a certain grocery store or go back to a certain auto mechanic. 99% of the products are the same from one store to the next. Yes, in some cases convenience might be an issue. Yet you tend to favor certain stores, not because they carry Cherry Pop Tarts, but because the store appears cleaner and brighter, it's easy to do business there, and most importantly because the people there treat you better. Hence the customer/company relationship.
When your sales team hands over a sale to your delivery team, that relationship can be jeopardized if the delivery area fails to recognize their responsibility to the customer and their ultimate responsibility, not as a delivery group, but as an extension of the sales process and therefore the sales team.
Your delivery organization must think of themselves as an extension of the sales team. Their job is just as much about nurturing the relationship with the customer as every other part of the company. And to nurture that relationship takes time and commitment from the company as a whole.
In other words, the company/customer relationship commitment starts at the very top of your company and then extends down. It is the responsibility of the leadership of the company to foster the understanding of the customer/company relationship and give all of the players involved the processes, systems, and VISION required to turn that vision into reality.
Sales is now much more relationship based than it had been in the past and that means that your sales process no longer starts and stops with the sales team. In the 21st century, everyone that touches the customer (and many who do not) is now part of the sales process. And as such they need the same type of training, commitment, and customer focus that your sales team has. Failure to understand that commitment results in confusing operating results as sales plummets and customers become less, not more satisfied.
Let me give you a true to life example of how this happened to a company that I worked for years ago. I was working in the back office of a department store chain. Sales were bad and getting worse. Revenue was declining and losses were accumulating. The Executive Team got together to create a battle plan. More money was provided to the Buyers (those folks who buy the goods that sit on the shelves), and more money was given to the Advertising and Marketing teams to help create promotions that would bring more people into the stores. The Buyers were told that it was up to them to buy the right goods that the customers wanted to buy. The pressure on them was enormous as they flew off to various lands to find "the next hot thing".
In the same meeting, it was decided that all operational organizations needed to cut their expenses by 10%. Layoffs resulted in Accounting (1 person), Housekeeping (3 people), Warehousing (5 people), Store Department Managers (1 per store) and last but not least, Sales Associates (2 - 10 per store, depending on size).
You can probably guess what happened.
The Buyers did their jobs and purchased a wide variety of popular items, negotiated hard on the terms, and had them shipped to the warehouse. But the warehouse manager was short staffed and had problems getting the merchandise to the stores. When the sales advertisements hit the paper, not all of the goods were available. But the ads were good and customers came into the stores. Unfortunately the depleted sales staff was too busy doing merchandise counts for the nervous buyers to be of any real help to the excited customers. Department Managers, tried to shift resources in the stores, but found that the sales associates didn't know the merchandise, or any intricacies about how their "new" department operated.
Sales continued to decline, merchandise was marked down and sold at a loss, and the layoffs continued. They eventually went bankrupt.
The Buyers in retail are treated like the Sales Teams in many companies. When times get tough in retail, more money is allocated to Buyers to get customers into the stores. When times get tough in other organizations, more money is allocated to Sales to get more customer orders.
But cutbacks of those groups that touch the customers, or assigning them duties (like counting merchandise) that take away from their primary, customer-oriented responsibilities, look good on paper, but ultimately reduce the effectiveness of the organization.
Increasing focus on sales and decreasing focus on delivering on your promises is a recipe for disaster.
How do you get the two in synch?
First, start by understanding the relationship between Sales and Delivery. It doesn't do you any good to sell something that you cannot deliver. Likewise it does you no good to deliver something that is not what the customer wanted or ordered. That understanding needs to start at the top and filter down to every organization and every person in the company.
The commitment from the very top of the company must be that everyone who touches the customer is a part of the sales process and by definition, has a customer focus. That mantra needs to be continually reinforced across the company. It needs to be made clear to everyone in the company that the customer is really king. Anyone who touches the customer must have as their primary aim the satisfaction of the customer.
Next, reinforce that understanding by reviewing the organizational and departmental objectives to ensure that "indirect touches" of the customer are given the same weight that direct touches are. That applies to the Sales organization, the Delivery organization, Customer Support organization, Billing organization, Collections organization, and so on. It is up to the CEO/COO to ensure that the message is being received loud and clear to the entire management team and the entire company.
Ensure that departmental budgets and headcounts are related back to customer impact. Don't increase your sales force and then decrease your ability to deliver. And that means not confusing order efficiency (orders per person) with customer satisfaction.
Draw clear distinctions as to how customer touching employees will be rated and measured. Make sure that people who touch the customer are not measured on how many customers they touch, but how satisfied those customers are.
The trick here, if you will, is to figure out who touches the customer (satisfaction driven) and who does not (metrics driven). If you can do that you will go a long way to satisfying your customers and providing them with the services that they want and deserve.
David Meyer, owner of Coaching for Tomorrow, has more than 25 years of management and leadership experience, having worked for companies such as Nobil Shoes, McDonough, Allied Stores, MCI and Nextel Communications. His mantra, "You Win With People" is based on the deep-seated belief that hiring, developing, and promoting the right people can lead to organizational and financial success. As a management and leadership coach, David works to instill that same passion in his clients by helping them understand the importance of strong leadership, strong teamwork, and strong players.
David has a Bachelor's in Business Administration from Elmhurst College and has been certified by both ACTION International as a Business Coach and the Coach Training Alliance. He also has received his CTM from Toastmasters. He is an Officer in the Denver Coach Federation and a facilitator/trainer for the Coach Training Alliance and ACTION International of Colorado.