I used to know a pub landlord who would regularly criticise the merits of certain rival establishments. At first I would take his caustic comments as worthy advice, and steer clear of said drinking-holes as if they were riddled with the plague. However, after a while I came to realise, he only criticised a rival pub when he considered them to be a genuine threat to his business.
So if I heard him commenting on the poor nature of another bar, I would purposely visit that pub, and you know what? More often than not, the pubs had great merit and were well worth the visit!
More importantly, my respect for my local pub landlord plummeted and I never listened to his advice again. In other words, in trying to kick his rivals he ended up kicking himself!
This is a trap that is easy to fall into with your own business, especially if you have close rivals vying for the same orders.
Never allow yourself to get involved in a war-of-words about your competitors – the only worth-while way to build good, sustainable business relationships is to focus on the benefits of your service, not the weaknesses of your competitors.
It’s not about trying to take the moral high-ground, but it is about making sure your own glass is double-glazed first rather than throwing stones at other people’s windows!
Next time, look out for…
L – Living the brand you are (whether you like it or not!)
In today’s modern business world, your customers are increasingly under pressure to find the right solutions to their problems as quickly and cost-effectively as possible. They want to buy from suppliers who they know, like and trust – and don’t really want to go through the hassle of trying out new faces. This can be a massive challenge for you if you are trying to break into new markets and businesses.
Joining forces with other suppliers can your customers and you. The benefit to your customers is that you can offer them a wider range of services than what you are limited to by offering only your own – for instance, if you are a graphic designer, it makes sense to team-up with a web-designer and a photographer. This would mean if your customer wanted a new web-site you could manage the whole project and your customer could save time and effort by using someone who they know, like and trust for the entire job – you!
The benefit to you is that your customer thinks your great, you can often charge a fee for project-managing the job and you develop a relationship with other suppliers that should result in you being on the receiving end of being offered work when they get projects with their customers – win win!
A word of warning though – make sure you only get into a business relationship with other suppliers you also know, like and trust. Getting into bed with bad bed-fellows can be disastrous, leading to the souring of relationships with your customers if they receive a bad service from one of your team-ups.
Get it right though, and the benefits for you, your customers and your team of suppliers can be great!
Look out next time for…
K – Kicking your opposition is like kicking yourself!
This is a simple tip to put into practice but one that will transform your customer meetings.
I spend a lot of time in hotel foyers and coffee shops having meetings with clients (both prospective and existing) and in the time before and after my meetings I tend to eaves drop into the meetings going on around me. A little naughty of me I know, but the insight it gives me into the selling skills on display is enlightening.
On the whole the meetings are usually between someone trying to sell their product/services and someone who they want to be their customer – but I often struggle to tell who is who, because the balance of the meeting is all wrong! All I hear is the salesperson talking and a whole load of silence and nodding coming from the other person. All wrong!
If you’re a salesperson and all you can hear is the sound of your own voice then you will inevitably struggle to find out about your customer, and why they should buy from you. Why? Because you’re spending the meeting trying to be interesting and talking all about yourself and your product/services and not being interested enough in your customer and what is important in their world.
In future, when in meetings with prospective customers, have a pad in front of you to make notes (a record of what your customer is saying) and write along the top W.A.I.T.
This stands for WHY AM I TALKING? Because if you are, then you shouldn’t be – it’s far better to be interested in what your customer has to say, than trying to be interesting with what you are saying!
Next time look out for…
J – Join forces with other suppliers to become a super-power (but beware of bad bed-fellows!)
I know lots of people who spend lots of time hoping their business will be a success. Don’t get me wrong – we all hope we’re going to be a success in business. But the problem with hope is that it is a very small word that in reality doesn’t get us very far…on its own!
For instance, I hope to win the lottery at the week-end – but I’ll have absolutely no chance unless I buy a ticket! Also, I hope (one day) to own a very fast sports-car…but the chances are I won’t unless I put a plan in place to get one.
So hope on its own is kind of hopeless unless you attach it to a plan. Now the thing about planning is that (if you’re not careful) you can soak all your business-time into making plans and not actually doing something. So make sure your plans are based on action, not pondering. Doing, not refining! (Remember, it’s better to be good, than planning to be great!)
If you have an idea, get it done and get it out there – don’t think about for too long otherwise it’ll end up in planning hell and never get done. The best way to find out if an idea is any good is to try it out – only then can you improve/change it. Get it road-tested; don’t leave it on the ramps!
If you don’t put some action into your business, all you’ll have is hope – and that on its own is hopeless!
I – Interested in your customers is better than being interesting!