Over the decades that I’ve been in business, I have found some truisms that I think would be useful for those of you who are still in the trenches. These are seven business and sales secrets that you need to know before you retire. (This blog post will cover the first three. Be sure to read Part 2, where I cover the rest of the secrets.)
It’s All Marketing
Jan Carlzon used to run an airline in Europe. I was privileged to read his book, Moments of Truth, many years ago when I was running some radio stations in south Florida. That’s when it hit me: It’s not the paid marketing that you do, but it’s the unpaid marketing that makes all the difference. Marketing is not a separate event, promotion, or one-off situation. You can’t just think about it in terms of a marketing department or marketing budget. I had to learn this secret the hard way. It’s all marketing, down to every point of contact with the customer.
I would advise you to take some time to list every touch point that a customer has with your business. (Using the five senses is a good place to start.) It’s the way the phone is answered, the way the invoice looks, the way you interact in person, the way your emails look, the way your correspondence looks, and the way your web pages look. You’re in for an eye-opener once you actually see every point of contact. You will quickly reveal sacred cows, comfort zones, and some status quo issues that you weren’t previously aware of. You’ll probably be surprised how many chances you actually have to make a positive impact.
Get Over It
As a young sales buck back in the dark ages, I was taught that the entire world was your customer. In media sales, the prevailing thought was, who doesn’t need advertising? Who wouldn’t need to be on television or radio? Well guess what? Many people can’t afford it, don’t want it, don’t understand it, and don’t want to take the time. Not everybody is going to be your customer (and not everybody is suitable to become your customer). Get over it.
Fish from the Proper Fishing Hole
Who are your customers? When I go to consult in a market, one of the first questions I’ll ask is how many total retail businesses there are in your marketplace. For the sake of this blog post, let’s say it’s a radio station with 100,000 retail businesses in the market. Next I would ask how many clients you had during your best years. Of those 100,000 total businesses, how many clients were on the air? The answer was usually around 400 or 500. If I asked if you could handle more than 500 clients with the inventory you had available to you, the answer is probably not. That means that you’re looking for the right 500 out of 100,000. So where is that fishing hole?
My friends and colleagues can attest to the fact that I’m not a fisherman. Yet once a year, I go fishing with a professional named Captain Jack. We always caught our limit of fish. When I’ve gone with other captains, I’ve been bored and fishless. I can assure you that you’ll never get bored if Captain Jack is at the helm. Tell him what type of fish you want to catch (my favorite is mutton snapper) and he’ll take you to a secret spot. The spot is so secret, in fact, that he’ll throw any GPS device overboard if he catches you with one.
How does he do it? Captain Jack studies fish; he doesn’t study fishermen. If you tried to model yourself after the best fisherman, you might think you need spiffy fishing clothes and expensive equipment. However, if you looked at Jack for the first time, you might mistake him for a homeless guy that lives on the beach. He realizes that studying the habits of the fish is most important. He pays attention to where they sleep, where/what they eat, what they like, and when the best time is to catch them.
When it comes to customers, fish in the right fishing hole. That means you need to study the customer’s (and employee’s) habits, preferences, and priorities. Don’t try to catch a fish the wrong way. It’s easy to mistakenly think that one type of bait can catch all fish, or one fishing hole houses every type of fish in the world. Jack knows that there’s a certain place to catch mutton snapper. You need to go about 30 miles offshore and use a line that can travel about 300-500 feet deep. We have to be aware of the habits of fish, customers, and employees alike.
This goes back to the topic of uncovery. I might love that process more than any other in the sales world. If done correctly, it determines whether a prospect is qualified or not. I’m a big believer in disqualifying most prospects. Of course, if you’re looking for the right 500 people out of 100,000, most are going to be disqualified. You should disqualify them fast. You should have a template, and you should have a very strong idea about who is right for your business.
If you have questions about applying these sales secrets, send me an email. I’d love to hear from you. If you need some emergency help I’ll see what I can do. Additionally, feel free to email me if there’s something you want me to address in my next blog post. Stay tuned for Part 2, when I’ll cover the rest of the seven secrets of business.