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The Difference is in the Listen

The Difference is in the Listen
By Talmar Anderson

I thoroughly enjoyed myself last week at a speaking event with a group of amazing business professionals.  They enjoyed themselves too though I suspect you would be surprised if I told you the topic was “Sales Strategies”. Don’t be! Sales can be fun and exciting. Remember, all the planning and operational structure can’t deliver profits without selling to your clients. If business owners have a common spot they can get tripped up on, it is in their sales process. Ohhhhhh…you heard me.  Your company will significantly benefit if you can develop an actual process in how you sell your products and services. Good sales process is all built around “the listen”.

Listening is when sales turns away from the pushing and coercive talking that feels like constant noise and reminds of us of slick, pushy car buying experiences. That “yuck” that people carry in their head when they even hear the word sell. It comes from the sales person that was so busy trying to get their point across that they forgot to check in with the prospect’s needs…much less if they had a pulse. So when you look at your sales process make sure you highlight the listen. The listen is often the portion of your sales process that is the qualifying.

When you qualify you want to hear what problem they have right now.  This requires you to stop talking about how awesome your company is within your industry.  You have to stop talking about how the price is amazing or for a limited time. You have to stop trying to sell your product or service. Just shhhhhhh. You want to listen for words and challenges that you KNOW can benefit from your company’s solution.

If you can talk less and listen more, you will more easily identify a qualified prospect.  The one that has a problem right now.  The one that is ready to buy your solution. The prospect that can truly benefit from what your company sells. And IF you have taken the time to listen, you won’t have to cram in all the details you know about your company.  You will know exactly which details are important to this prospect.  You will understand what the pain point is for the prospect and why they are talking to you about it today. Now you can simply offer your company’s solutions by highlighting how it can HELP their specific situation.

The difference is in the listen.  If we let the prospect tell us their problems and what they want for a solution, then we can help.  If we met every lead and potential person with a barrage of words that may or may not be pertinent to their situation NOW, we are far more likely to offend, be drowned out by their thoughts of escaping our pitch or frustrate ourselves with another “no” because we weren’t even talking to the right target market.

So when you are designing your sales process (not to be confused with your marketing…give me a call if you want to discuss this specific pain point!), please make sure that qualifying is a first piece to closing your sales. Starting your process this way will grow your closing ratio and build a client base that sees you as a solution more than a collector.

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Networking for Deeper connections that are looking out for your professional growth!

Deeper or Wider? Your Networking needs both!

Deeper or Wider?
Your business needs you to network BOTH ways!

by Talmar Anderson

I love words. What about you?  Network…net – work. It is both a noun and a verb. Which way do you network in your professional sphere? The noun Network is a group of people with which we associate because of a common interest. I would challenge that most of us actually consider our noun Network associations when we are booking our business development actions. Certainly some school chums and wine connoisseur friends may send you business if they can keep up with your newest offerings over the sports announcer’s chatter or the oakiness of the tastings. But let’s look at the verb network.  You KNOW I love action!

“Network (v.): To cultivate people who can be helpful to one professionally through employment or moving to a higher position”. Do you have a group that is actually looking out for your professional advancement? The good news is that there are more of these than ever before usually through professional associations, membership communities and continued education accelerators. [Talmar It Up Truth: Make sure they are working for you as much as they are working your wallet (always with the metrics…can’t help myself!).]

When networking for business, we tell ourselves that we are going to meet prospects so that they will buy from us and therefore help us advance our business success. This wide casting of your “net” can work if we are targeted about who will be in attendance wherever you chose to spend those networking hours.  How much access will you get to each attendee? Will the topic be conducive to what your business does? Will people there be interested in talking more about your business or will they be fighting to make sure they get the last appetizer before the food gets cleared? This is where some networking events can get a bad reputation.  If you go EXPECTING to be able to spend time and actually talk with someone to grow your business and network, you need to do a little homework before you commit.

It is time to go deeper with your network. It is up to you to understand what type of people attend these events and how the agenda will be a driven. If you sell to Human Resource Directors of companies with 5,000 – 50,000 employees, a BNI structured event is probably not going to be your best use of time with its brief intros and focus on one member. If you sell direct sales of skin care, the Bar (law firms) Association’s Committee on Economic Development may not be a great use of your networking hours. Long committee reporting and socio-economic considerations may not allow the entry point for what is happening in your business right now.

Look for groups that will cultivate the kind of conversations and / or people that will help you advance your business.  A group that can share common interests you have in your position within the company or industry. Then you plan for the time to allow consistent, uninterrupted and engaging conversation around your business topics! Crazy talk. I know!  Imagine that there could be a better place for a baker to spend their time than a panel on “How Service Industries will be Repositioned in the Government Sector” just because he belongs to a group that may have a prospect attending. Go deeper.

Yes, we need to meet new people. Yes, we need to be open to possibilities. But, if you surround yourself with successful people looking for and creating topical discussions you are far more likely to form a DEEP network that gets you, your business goals and can EASILY refer you qualified prospects. That is makings the best use of your networking time and opportunities! Now GO! Grow!

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Group selfie

Time with Others: Networking in Peer Groups

Time with Others: Networking in Peer Groups

By Talmar Anderson

Time with others IS important to help your business grow but once again we have to know what each group is doing for you, your company or your sanity! For your prospects, today’s world offers the internet which is saturated with choices. Each of your prospects is trying to choose between a sea of words that are supposed to motivate trust, help them like your business brand and make sure they know you offer a credible solution to the problem. This overwhelm is why relationships and the in person piece is so important to build a successful business.

As leaders with limited time, we need to be honest about the value we receive from each group and check in to ensure it is meeting those goals. Being in the right place and consistently allocating some of your precious time can reap great rewards. Here are 3 ways Networking in Peer Groups can offer benefits.

  1. Straight up networking to get your meet on! Joining a consistently meeting group that is about sharing contacts and giving you new opportunities to meet new contacts can be very helpful. Phone calls and sharing a knowing look with other members during the events can build a bond that can be reignited and re-shared each time you see each other again in the future! This culminating effect means you don’t have to start over every time you have an opportunity to talk about your business. These people are learning more about you and can find ways to work with or refer to you each time they get to interact with you. Because you will need to be consistent for this to work, make sure you are networking only with groups that have prospects or strong referral sources specific to your business.  These groups are about BUILDING your business so be ruthless with choosing the groups to share your time.

 

  1. Peer groups for learning can really help business owners and professionals “fill in gaps in their education or experience” as I like to say in my company. Often time these groups can give you a quick and direct step up in areas that you feel less confident or unsure.  These meetings are conducive to people that feel they want to learn surrounded by others with the same experiences and needs.  This bond can give you the opportunity to find motivated and focused individuals on a similar path. These groups can help alleviate that feeling of not knowing where to find answers.

 

  1. Then there are the peer groups that can ease stress, create true laugh therapy opportunities and build a community that can give you space to vent or celebrate.  These groups can be mastermind meetings or wine gatherings but allow for a consistent opportunity to build a supportive and important space with people that you have common interests.  While there may not be an obvious tie into your business model, you need this space just as much.

 

Peer groups and networking aren’t new.  This concept of meeting together with like-minded people has been around for centuries for a reason! Because you could do it alone doesn’t mean you should.  Surround yourself with people that can help you and your business get “there” through inspiration, information and old fashioned “been there done that” stories. If you do not have a place and people that can allow you to talk through or completely distract yourself, you will get overwhelmed and stressed out.  Your business is ALWAYS better served if you can be present, happy and focused with your work days.

 

Make sure you are on the Talmar It Up mailing list so you know about events to stress less, learn more or get insights!

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Where are you coming FROM, Dear?

Where are you coming FROM, Dear?
by Talmar Anderson

Let’s talk about the most significant way YOU can take control of your company’s spending AND earning.  Truly it is a simple process that can be rolled into conversations and takes just minutes to track…and yet, most of you are NOT DOING IT! Seriously, you are breaking my heart.  Be nice to Talmar and start doing this EVERY SINGLE time you have a prospect conversation or inquiry. These two questions can significantly lower your expenses while increasing your income.  This is not sunshine I am blowing. Check this out…

I want to know, I mean actually detailed and counted, know where you are getting your leads. When anyone asks about your services, your company’s pricing or how to work with you, stop and focus! I know your adrenaline starts pumping and you are trying to figure how to close the sale before you have even determined the problem, your solution and if it is a good fit but take an extra pause and invest in gathering data for your own business.

You must take the time to ask them how they heard about your company. You owe it to your own business to make sure to get more than “the internet”. Are you advertising on Facebook? Have you invested in SEO? Did you hire someone to manage and write a blog for your company?  Wouldn’t you like to know which marketing dollars are working for you?? This is our opportunity to know! Follow up questions take just another couple of minutes.  “Was it an ad or did you read an article?” “What were you searching for when you found our information?”

If the person on the other end of the telephone says “I met someone at a networking event that mentioned you”, make sure to ask if they got the name of the person.  What event were they at?  These details can ensure you are networking where your prospects are as well as make sure to acknowledge the referring person!

And let’s talk about that referring person. Are they a former or present client? Are they in an industry that is complimentary to yours? Consider that if you continue to get referrals from the same “type” of person you could start a targeted marketing campaign focused on these areas.  Then we take note on your referral tracking system/ worksheet/ notepad. I don’t care where just do it and make sure you can get to it for review!

As you review, you look for similarities. If previous customers are a strong source of referrals, make sure to be in front of all of your previous clients in some consistent way that reminds them to refer to you.

That is how this can really focus your expenses while increasing income.  If we find that our leads and clients are NOT coming from internet searches, than you may be able to move a significant part of your SEO budget to a focused direct mail “thank you” campaign to previous clients. Now we are not spending money that is not converting and we are focused on marketing to referrals we have PROOF converts to clients.

Take the time to ask.  The time to document.  This will move you away from “thinking” you get your clients from point A or being “pretty sure” that they are coming from Point B. You will KNOW how to spend marketing money that converts to paying customers. THAT is the definition of a win/win!

Now GO! Grow!

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phone notebook and glasses

What to Do BEFORE your Hire, Part 3

What to Do BEFORE your Hire, Part 3
By Talmar Anderson

Today we discuss the last piece in this 3 part series addressing some of the actions you can take BEFORE you spend your dollars on employment ads, block out time to review resumes and weed out the unqualified people that would rather work in a cave than in a culture like the one you have built in your company. Over the last month we discussed:

  • Creating the transitional work list – and helping you play catch up HERE
  • Considering where they fit and who they talk with operationally HERE

This third piece, on actions you can do before you even start the employment ad, can keep a business owner stalled in the hiring process especially if this will be a newly created or defined role. “Where I am getting the initial cash outlay to bring this position on?” Don’t get stalledI say take action.

Hopefully you are hiring because your deliverables are trending up and growth is knocking on your door.  But sometimes the next leap in your business growth is a position that may not be 100% billable or billable at all!  From Assistants to Project Managers to operational point people, investing in the structural staff to allow your organization the space and process required for real growth is pushed out because the ROI (return on investment) is not a direct cash payout on the income line.

What can you do to help ease the increase in your payroll? Start a new sales effort. I know it seems crazy to suggest MORE work but action creates the opportunity for cash to flow and more clients to come in your business’ door.  So roll out a strategic marketing campaign to get a new push of cash rolling in over the next 90 days. Can you incentive additional work that pulls in deposits, partial payments or even pre-orders? Focus on either your highest profit margin products and services or deliverables that will be specific to the new employees work load. This can give your payroll a real chance to be covered more quickly. Not to mention that with that added work you will best be able to enjoy the benefit of an extra pair of hands meeting those deadlines more easily than ever before.

The key is to start this sales push WHILE planning your hiring needs.  Make a plan. Develop your hiring process.  This is an operational need that will be used throughout your whole career.  There is a reason that everyone can relate to all the HR horror stories.  We have all been there.

Regardless of your industry.

Regardless of your specialty.

Regardless of whether you run a brick and mortar operation or a professional services firm.

Even if you are an ecommerce or technology solution company.

If you are committed to growing your business then you are committing to the hiring process. Growth is the same for all business.  Growth = More people.

Now GO! Grow!

 

P.S. Make sure you are on the list to be first to know about Hiring resources for your business as they become available and I’ll send you a FREE Test you can use to see if you need to hire an employee or can work with Independent Contractors! Click HERE

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Do This BEFORE You Hire! Part 2

Do This BEFORE your Hire! Part 2
By Talmar Anderson

We are in the middle of a 3 part series addressing some of the actions you can take BEFORE you even place your first employment ad to give yourself a chance at success in your hiring process! While finding, hiring, and training your new hires for your own business can be challenging for most employers, I am excited to be focusing on this short series for small business owners discussing what can be done BEFORE you even place that employment ad to get the most out of your new hires. The first step started with a great way to ensure you can keep the new employee busy while rolling them into your organization.  Check it out HERE if you missed it.  Now we are going to address pieces that can wreck-havoc on the organization as a whole if not carefully considered BEFORE hiring. Let’s talk about a plan for the oversight, daily communication and work environment…in other words “who is the boss” and “where they park themselves”.

Getting help can keep a business owner so focused on the candidate and whether they are really qualified or if they will be a good fit culturally, that they can forget to think about HOW the new role will fit into the current business’ day to day operations.

  • Is there physical space for them?
  • Will a new hire be happy sitting next to the door of the bathroom?
  • If you work out of your home, will you have them work from your house? How will that work with your family? Is the new candidate allergic to cats?
  • Do you have space in your office for a new table set up for once a week face to face meetings?
  • Do you have the equipment or access to tools they employee needs to perform the job (if there a phone jack if answering lines? Can calls easily be forward to a company phone? Will they need a desktop or a laptop?

Physically consider how a new employee will be accessing and performing the job.  This allows you to carefully advertise for and screen a candidate that will have success in the environment you are planning.  Are they a loud talker? You may have difficulty if they are supposed to share space while working the phones for your events.

Where they will perform all of their work must be carefully consider to provide the correct environment and tools for each employee to have success.  Once this is defined, reverse engineer it. Consider what traits someone working successfully in that particular type of work environment would possess.  Those traits are now a requirement for employment in this role.

Next consider who the new employee will report to and how. Not just training. Training is a finite time.  On a regular basis,

  • Who will answer this position’s questions?
  • How regularly will they be able to access their supervisor? Does that support your business and clients?
  • How frequently will the supervisor meet one on one? How often will they meet face to face?
  • What is the course of action if the new employee feels they cannot get what they need from the supervisor?
  • Have you considered if the new supervisor has ever managed employees? Do you need to offer them training and support?

Develop a path for communication – both for an employee to be advised and evaluated but also a resource or starting point for clarification and answers. The expectation of consistent meetings needs to be calendared and planned on before you hire whether they are being performed by the business owner or another staff member in the company. Management time will be required.

Small businesses lose good hires if they play this part “by the seat of their pants”.  Employees want to feel like they are entering a company with a clear role and contributing to a structured organization even if that organization is a company of one right now.  If their first mandate is to “figure out” how they can get the job done, you are very likely to be back in the hiring process in the next 3-6 months. It is not enough to know what you want them to accomplish. You must provide a space, communication process and support system to allow them to successfully contribute to your company’s growth!

Now GO! Grow!

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Do THIS before you start to hire! Part 1

By Talmar Anderson

If you speak to business owners that have had a rough time of finding, hiring, and training the first few hires for their own business….well, then you know business owners that are in the majority! I am excited to be focusing on a short series for small business owners discussing what can be done BEFORE you even place that employment ad to get the most out of your time with new hires. Let’s start with an easy step.

Start a Project List

Seeing a calendar consistently filing up and a “to do” list getting longer, business owners begin to get serious about the idea of hiring.  The stress of trying to find a candidate much less manage an employee can keep business owners stuck in the “consideration” space far too long. However one of the most limiting issues revolves around what to do if the new hire is not busy enough right away?

“I don’t want to pay someone to play on Facebook.”

“I can’t sit with them 100% of the day for the first two weeks.”

“The last person I tried drove me crazy with the “Now what? Now what? Now what”s!”

Hearing these excuses reminds me that most people will decide to hire on an impulse.  It may be an overwhelmed or stressed-induced impulse but the point is that there is VERY little consideration in their decision.  It is usually a decision that stems from the idea “I am tapped OUT”.  Either short on time or energy, a decision to hire leads directly to shopping Craigslist or Indeed for ideas for employment ads.

I would like to challenge you to start a different way!  Take note of that very first time you get an inkling that you will need help.  When you are noticing that you can’t get it all done by yourself, start a portioned off piece of your “to do” list.  You know those items on your list that you really would like to get to but keep getting pushed further down under immediate client needs and sleep?

I’d like you to start a project list.  These are the items that are not currently on your calendar to be completed in the next 30 days. This can include ideas for new markets, researching potential business tools or cleaning up a database. Capture all these great ideas and PARK them.  You know, the items that would 100% help YOUR company grow and get organized?  If it is not on your calendar now then it will be waiting until your calendar has available time. There is only one of you so these great ideas are put on hold until…well, either you can get to them or you have an extra pair of hands around….which leads to the point.

Take note that this is NOT their job description.  These are items that can be slowly addressed as time fillers but are NOT a priority. Most of these projects can be allocated (or at least the digging) as time fillers for any level or skill scope that may be required as a next hire for your company.

Hiring for a new business development person?

  • Hand them a list of adjacent markets you have been meaning to reach out and get to know.
  • Have them research new ways to be visable in your community.
  • Have them start on reconnecting with past clients.

Hiring a social media person?

  • Have them research and propose new avenues for messaging.
  • Have them investigate content statistics.
  • Have them learn the technology behind the up and coming social channels.

Hiring an Assistant?

  • Have them research a customer relationship management (CRM) software
  • Have them FULLY learn the CRM you are already using!
  • Have them research new ways to thank your clients

That list of overwhelming stuff on your never-ending “to do” list is a GREAT place to start planning projects for the in-between time with a new hire.  Either to fill the space waiting for clients to understand that they can use the new hire or to fill the space when the new hire is waiting for assignments from you!

Likely you are hiring so that YOU will have time to get to all those things listed out.  Over the first few months, you can move the deliverables or assigned workload to them as they get proficient at the role you hired them to perform. You will be able to lessen their assigned projects as you have more time from the growth of a newly trained and fully engaged employee!

THAT is what a strategic plan for your hiring can do for you and your company! Next time we will discuss what to consider before hiring by addressing the new employee’s work environment!

Now GO! Grow!

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