You’ve been Framed!

I needed some pictures framed the week before last week (three in total) and, not having a Picture Framing company in my networking group, decided to contact four local framers by email. I could send the same specification to them all, right at that moment. It was Thursday evening at 9.00pm.

After a quick Google search I found my four framers; basically the four that were based nearest to me.

Next morning (Friday), just after 10.30am, I received my first reply. The company gave prices, a delivery time, and said that they were sure that they could help me.

Later that afternoon I received my second reply. The prices were much higher and subject to sight of my pictures. Again they included a delivery time, which was longer than that of the first company.

I didn’t hear back from the other two companies; my emails didn’t bounce, and to this day never have.

Given that the first company who had replied, had done so quickly, and that their prices were the best, I decided to go and visit them.

Their shop was busy, being a Saturday (in Guildford), but when I mentioned my name they knew who I was and what they had quoted. They asked to look at my pictures, confirmed that the prices given were correct, showed me the choice of frames and advised on suitable mounts. Then I asked about delivery. They said that they could have them done by the following Saturday to which I replied that I was having a dinner party that day and had rather hoped to have them on display. Their answer was just what I was hoping for: they would have them done on Friday.

To my delight the pictures were ready on the Friday and the framing was excellent.

Picture Frame David Wimblett

So, what can we all learn from this?

First, that speed really makes a difference as to whether you get a business opportunity or not.

Second, that a really well-worded quote makes a big difference. I liked the fact that they were so positive about being able to help me.

Third, that price is important, but not the only reason people buy. Had this company been more expensive I would have still checked them out because of the other two points above.

Fourth, that the actual personal sales experience needs to match, if not better, the pre-sales experience (which it did).

Fifth, that if you advertise your business you just must respond to the people that contact you. So many sales are lost to companies that don’t.

I am sure that there is even more that can be learned from my experience but my question to you is this. How would your business have done in similar circumstances?

6-Love, 6-Love, 6-Love. Oh dear!

Wimbledon started today and it got me thinking of tennis and from there to a time that I dropped into a David Lloyd centre, I have to admit without an appointment, but even so their customer service was far below what it should have been and certainly it lost them my business.

I have no problem with being kept waiting at reception. As I say, I didn’t have an appointment. I had explained what I wanted to the person at the desk, given her my business card, and she had then disappeared for five, maybe six, minutes, stopping on the way for a chat with one of her colleagues. On her return she informed me that the manager was too busy to see me and that he would contact me later that day – the next day at the latest. No problem with that? Well to be honest there is. Why let a potential customer walk out of your building without talking to them?

However, back to my story. While I was waiting I could see the receptionist, through the class panel of the manager’s office door, talking to someone (I guessed it was the manager) and it looked like they were having a good time, as there seemed to be a fair amount of joking around going on. As I left the centre I have to say that I was thinking: they had time to fool around but the manager had no time to pop out and see me. To say “Hello, sorry I’m really busy, but would you like to make an appointment?” How long would that have taken? What impression would that have made on me?

Now I don’t know how busy the manager was, but perception is everything, and I certainly was not impressed. I was offering a possible £20k worth of meetings’ business over the next year. Wouldn’t that have been worth a minute of his time – however busy he was?

But, that wasn’t where they really lost the match. That came later, as I have never, to this day, had a phone call from them! I just can’t understand it!

So, my question to you – are you totally sure that your sales staff, reception staff, whole team, are winning you business and not just letting it slip through their fingers?

If in any doubt, you can always employ a mystery shopper to find out.

Post in a box!

In the past couple of weeks I’ve come across two business owners with pretty much the same problem.  One had discovered that she was paying a monthly subscription fee to someone that in total had amounted to over £500 in the last six months.  Having asked her a few questions I discovered two things: first that she didn’t check her bank statements and second, that lots of her mail she threw away un-opened.  “It’s just junk mail”, she said.

The second case was much more worrying.  The person concerned had had someone knock on their door at 8.00am and proceeded to have their car taken away; it was on finance and they were months behind on the payments.

I had said, that’s impossible, it can’t happen like that.  They have to write to you, give you a number of warnings, give you the option to catch up the missed payments.  They just can’t turn up unannounced.  But, it seemed they did!  And the car was gone; with no chance of getting it back.

We discussed what could be done and in doing so I discovered the truth; a box with six month’s mail in it.  Not a single letter opened!  “It was only going to be bad news”, I was told, and they didn’t want to know.

Over £500 spent and a car taken away (along with getting a bad credit rating) all because post wasn’t opened.  Total madness!

So, are you ignoring any post that might just damage your business?  Or, for that matter, ignoring something else that might just damage your business?

Please, don’t act Ostrich-like, and bury your head in the sand, when you are faced with a problem.  Problems never go away; they just get bigger.  Deal with your problem today and you may just find that they are nowhere near as big as you thought.

The book you don’t read won’t help you!

I was asked recently why I was always reading a business book and my answer was very simple: development. After all, you can always learn.  Plus, the more you know, the easier things become.

One of the benefits I find is that by reading more than one book on any given subject is that I learn more.  The reason is that one author will explain a subject slightly differently to another and this difference, plus the repetition, helps me to fix things in my head.  Even then, I can always learn more about the subject.

What is most important as a business Start-Up, SME, is that you learn, continue to learn and develop.  If you come from the corporate world things are very different in the world of small business, and if you are an expert in your chosen field that doesn’t make you an expert in business.  So, you must learn if you are going to achieve real business success.

The more you learn and understand about business, not only will you be increasing the odds of you staying in business, but it is likely that you will have more fun and make more money along the way.

Every book you don’t read won’t help you, and, what is more, every book you don’t read can’t help your business.  So, please buy or borrow a business book today and just see what a difference it makes to the way you think about business.  Almost any business book will be of benefit, but think about one of three areas: what you are good at, what you are not so good at, and motivation.  Then choose something that covers one of those areas.

And, don’t just think you have to read. Audio books and CDs are ideal for the car, train, plane, etc.

Here are a few books that I can highly recommend: The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs by Carmine Gallo, Playing with Fire by Gordon Ramsay and Blowing the Bloody Doors Off by Michael Caine.  Each could make an amazing difference to your business and will completely change the way you run your company.

Email overload?

It is a common problem for most business people these days. After all, the internet never sleeps and now nor do we have to.  Or, at least that is how it feels for a great many people.

So, how do we get away from this ever demanding, never sleeping, giant of communication, that none of us can now seemingly live without?  Well, in part, it’s easy:  don’t play the game! But of course that is easier to say than to do, so here are a few tips to help you.

1) Don’t have your email account set to auto-download.  Few can resist that little ping as yet another ‘important’ email is delivered into our Inbox.

2) Have set times when you look at your emails.  Putting email time in your diary may be a little extreme but I bet most other things are in there.  Breaking into something that you are doing to answer an email means that both things don’t get your full attention and effectiveness is lost.

3) Set an auto-respond when you don’t want to answer emails.  Evenings and weekends.  Something simple like – I am currently out of the office, all emails will be replied to, at such and such time.

4) Don’t open emails, read them, and then close them again.  Answer on the spot, it saves time and things being forgotten.  If you haven’t got the time to act on the email, you haven’t got the time to open it.  Answers can be just a few words.

5) If it can be said, phone instead.  Often we all get caught up in email sagas, tens of emails that could have been replaced with just one phone call (the same is true of texts).  Okay, you might not be able to call at 11.30pm, but then by not sending the email either you won’t be adding to the ‘email overload’.

If you are one of those who can’t resist the next email, but would really like to be able to, I hope the above will be of help to you.  Maybe other people have their own ideas on how to cure the problem?

And, of course you could just leave your computer, laptop, mobile phone, ipad, etc., turned off!

Networking – the biggest mistake: selling!

I was at a networking event recently with well over two hundred other business people.  About half way through the evening there was a speaker. He asked us all a question.  ‘How many of you are here this evening with something to sell?’  Just about every hand went up.  He then asked us another question.  ‘How many of you are here to buy something?’  For the second time my hand didn’t move, but what was more to the point, only a few hands went up.  The speaker then said, ‘Well you are all pretty much stuffed then aren’t you!’  Everyone laughed, but he had made his point!

So, what’s the point of networking?

Well, it’s certainly not to sell.  If you think about it logically, what are the chances of someone you don’t know, wanting to buy what you are selling, just at that exact moment?  Answer: just about zero.

There is only one reason to go networking and only one.  Forget collecting business cards, eating great food, or not so great food, and having a glass of wine.

Networking is all about the beginning of a relationship.  Finding people that are also interested in exploring the possibilities of a future relationship and who are happy to meet at a later date for a coffee.  That’s it! Nothing more.

So, forget all of your sales brochures and samples, and instead find out who is at the networking event, who may be a good contact for you, and how you in turn may be a good contact for them.  Locate them, introduce yourself politely, ask lots about them, ask interesting questions, listen intently and see if they would like to meet another time.

I promise you, you will soon have a diary of appointments, and not just a desk piled high with soon forgotten business cards.

Introduce Yourself

Often you will not have the luxury of someone else introducing you at a networking event, so it is important that you are practised in doing it yourself.

What makes this even more imperative is the fact that most of us make assumptions about the people we meet within the very first few seconds of meeting them.  What’s more, that first impression is hard to shake or to change.

So, what can we do to ensure that the first impression we give is the one that we want those that we meet to form?

Well, the answer, as with most things in life, is to prepare: to practise.

You need to define your message.  However you introduce yourself is what will be accepted by the other person.  Will it be with confidence and energy, or just dull?  What will make you interesting?  Please don’t say’ “I’m a – whatever you are”.  It’s just so boring!  Make yourself stand out from the crowd: be different from the masses and you will be remembered.  Another very important thing is to ask great questions.  Once you have passed the opening small-talk (but interesting) stage ask great questions.  People love to talk about themselves, so be interested in them; don’t just talk about you.

Then what about your appearance?  Do you look as you want to be thought of?  Do you look like people in your profession should look?  You may not think it is important, but remember those first few seconds.  It’s their judgement that counts, not yours, and that will gain you more business. Do you look successful; someone they would want to do business with?

Also remember that a great deal of communication is non-verbal: your mood can be picked up.  So imagine that you are on stage.  Before you enter any room, be it networking, a sales meeting, whatever, stop and calm yourself, put everything other than what is about to happen from your mind, imagine what you want to be, and then enter the room.

Make your introduction interesting and you will have better conversations. And, better conversations will lead to more opportunities.