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.

Has your business already closed for Christmas?

I was at a networking event last week when one of the people I was chatting with said that they wouldn’t be doing much work the week before Christmas.   I asked why and I have to say that their answer astounded me!

Well, the person explained, I won’t want to be out working, the people I work for will be winding down for Christmas; no one will be interested in doing any business… His reasons seemed endless.

I pointed out that I would be working right up until Christmas Eve, certainly until the lunchtime.  Also, that I wanted new business right up until then and I certainly wanted work early in January.  Not working Christmas week could mean that it would be the second week, maybe even the third week, of January before things really got moving again.  It happens every year.  Think about all of that lost business; the sales momentum lost.

So, my question is a serious one.  Has your mind-set already closed your business for Christmas?  Are you thinking, no point looking for new business? No point contacting existing clients? No one will be interested in doing business?  If you are, you have already closed for Christmas.

Really successful people don’t follow the herd, they do something different.  So, instead of closing early for Christmas, why not make sure your business is well and truly open and ensure that not only do you have a better December than most but also a far better start to 2019?

Will It Make The Boat Go Faster?

I have to say that I love this book and if you haven’t read it I highly recommend that you do.

The book was introduced to me some years ago at an Entrepreneurs Circle event where Ben Hunt-Davis was the main speaker. Ben was part of the GB Men’s Rowing Eight that won gold at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. It is the story of how after years of winning little they changed the way they worked and the result it had; a gold medal.

David and Ben BW
Me with Ben Hunt-Davis

I remember one of my fellow attendees saying that listening to some bloke talking about winning a gold medal in rowing (for an hour) had nothing to do with their business and it was a complete waste of their time. They couldn’t have been further from the true value of his story. But no amount of trying could convince them otherwise.

You need to read the book but this, in a few words, is the basis of the story. After yet another defeat the crew sat down to discuss what they could do about it; how they could change things. And that is where, ‘Will It Make The Boat Go Faster?’ was born.

The premise was that they would measure everything they tried by – Did it make their boat go faster?

Fighting amongst the crew – did it make their boat go faster? Not surprisingly – No.

Lack of sleep – did it make their boat go faster?

A certain training method – did it make their boat go faster?

Everything they did was given the same test. Did it make their boat go faster?

If the answer was ’Yes’, they did it again and if the answer was ‘No’, they didn’t. It was that simple.

So, if you haven’t got it already, what’s that got to do with your business?

Well, you can run exactly the same test on your business; whatever your goals are. More sales, more profit, better training of staff, it really doesn’t matter what it is. Just run the test.

For example: you produce a new sales advert. Did it make the boat go faster? In your case did it generate more sales? If ‘Yes’ you run the advert again, if ‘No’ you change the advert. You run a workshop. Did it make the boat go faster? In your case did it have the result you were hoping for? If ‘Yes’ the workshop was a success, if ‘No’ it needs to be changed or dropped.

Many things in your business will be done the way they are, just because that’s how they are done. Most without any real thought as to if it’s the most effective way of doing whatever it is.

I was at a large office block recently where at the beginning of the day, when most people are arriving for work, the lifts don’t stop at the first two floors. Why? Because it gets people into the building faster.

So, why not try ‘Will It Make The Boat Go Faster?’ on your business and see what results you get? You might even win a ‘Gold medal’!

Practice makes permanent!

I expect that you have heard the saying ‘practice makes perfect’. Well in reality this couldn’t be further from the truth, as no matter how much practice you do, if what you are practising is wrong, you will just become very bad at whatever it is you are doing.

Some time ago I heard a better version of the maxim from Nigel Botterill; he added a perfect at the beginning. ‘Perfect practice makes perfect’. And of course this makes perfect sense. After all, that’s why I have drum lessons because my teacher will ensure that I am practising correctly; even down to the way I hold my sticks.

But better still, and therefore more valid, I think, is something I heard Tim Henman say when he was commentating on a match that Andy Murray was playing at Wimbledon. It covers the real truth and benefit of practice. ‘Practice makes permanent’, he said. And that really is the key. Whatever you practise, good or bad, it becomes permanent. And it is exactly the same with us as business owners.

As a business mentor often it is the business owner who has been in business for a good number of years which is the hardest to help. Why? Because they are set in their ways. Practice has made what they do permanent. And, as any tennis coach will tell you, it is very hard to change a bad swing; sometimes impossible. The only chance is if there is a real willingness to change and then a great deal of practice!

So, if you are new to business, or been around a few years, is what you are doing, what you practise each day, what is becoming a habit, good for your business? Because, if not, you could be damaging the very success of your business in the long term.

It’s something I think we all need to think about very carefully!

Good but not quite Carling!

Do you remember the Carling adverts? I think I like the cricket with the nun’s one the best, but I also like the office escape. If you don’t know the adverts, it’s where a guy does some amazing feat just to fail at the very last moment.

And that is exactly like a great many businesses’ marketing. There is some great marketing about but most fails just when it might have converted into a sale. And that’s just the case with a piece of direct mail (door drop) we received from one of the estate agents in our town. We were just about to put our house on the market when a card dropped through our letterbox.

‘Just SOLD in your area’. The design was good, the photos lovely, each picture had ‘sold’ printed on it – just what we needed. But then I turned over the card and they lost our business.

You see they are looking for ‘…similar cottages to yours…’ because they can sell more. Well we lived in a large three storey semi-detached Victorian house. And to my mind, if they don’t know the difference, that’s going to be a problem for me.

Now you might be thinking that some delivery company did the door drop. Well, even if they had, a good estate agent would know which roads were lined with cottages. As it happens I saw the person doing the door drop; it was a suited young man who looked very much like an estate agent. Now I’ll be fair, in our road there are both cottages and houses, but that’s where the ‘good but not quite Carling’ comes in. This guy (the estate agent) to a point was doing a great job, but he failed just at the last moment, because he wasn’t thinking about exactly where he was posting his marketing cards and it cost his company business.

So, is your marketing Carling or not quite Carling?

Sherlock Holmes gets it!

I watched an episode of Sherlock recently, ‘The Sign of Three’, and I must confess I was beginning to think that maybe I could be doing something better with my time.  But, the last ten minutes, or so, saved the day; because it made me think about business.

So, what’s Sherlock Holmes got to do with any business?  Well, he’s a pretty good detective, and in business we should always be looking for clues, such as to business trends, customer delight and staff morale – to name just three.

And something that caught my attention was when Sherlock was ‘helping’ Mary with the seating plan for her wedding.  She asked Sherlock if this particular person should sit at the top table and Sherlock said no.  When Mary asked why Sherlock replied, ‘Because he hates you and barely thinks about you.’ She replied, “Really?”  Sherlock then explained, “…Second Class post, cheap card, bought at a petrol station…”

The thing is this is also the case with many businesses.  They use 80gsm paper, manila envelopes or cheap off-white, thin card, Second Class stamps, leaflets printed on their inkjet (often crooked), and much, much more; everything for as little money as possible.  Now I’m not saying that you should throw your money away.  But, when talking to clients and prospect customers, what does cheap stuff say about you?  And, more importantly, what does it say you think about them (your client)?

As Sherlock says, do you barely think about them?

Little things can make a bid difference to the success of your business so make sure you get them right.

Their phone went dead!

I rang a prospective new supplier today – at 9.37am. After ringing for ages the phone suddenly went dead. Maybe they weren’t open yet, I thought. I rang again, this time at 10.52am. Again the phone rang and rang and rang. Again it suddenly went dead. Did I try a third time? No!

That company lost what could have been a huge amount of business for them. Why? Well, for any number of reasons. Their phone is left unattended for hours. When it’s not answered it just goes dead; not even a boring answerphone message. At least with an answerphone message I would have known the business still existed. There’s lack of customer care. Lack of organisation. Lack of thought. I could go on. What’s certain is that nothing is saying we really value your business.

So do you know what happens when someone calls your business? Is the phone always answered? How many times does it ring before it’s answered? What is said when it is answered? A bored ‘Hello’ or a helpful ‘How can I help you?’

You could be spending a great deal of money on advertising only for it to be wasted by how your phone is being (or not being) answered.

Why not run a little test? Ring your office the moment it opens, then again half-way through the morning, again just before lunch, during lunch, just after lunch, half-way through the afternoon and lastly just as you are about to close (but not all on the same day). You might be surprised at the results.

I know of a company where the receptionist wore headphones; no one heard the phone ring and no one knew she often didn’t answer it when it did.

In my business the aim is to answer the phone within three rings (by the office staff). Should the phone ring more than three times then the person nearest a phone picks it up. It doesn’t matter who that member of staff is as they have all been trained on the best way to answer a call.