Ever heard the common wisdom that business owners scare away prospective customers when they are too open about their stances in politics, religion or any other subject that might spark controversy?
Anyone who still thinks that is true should look at Fox News, with its edgy conservative stances. It consistently crushes CNN’s more neutral news coverage in the ratings.
Pick a side and stick to it
It’s more powerful to be polarising than it is to be neutral.
I am an evangeliser of the idea that the 80/20 ratio – 80 of sales often come from 20% of customers – applies to many things. What if 80% of your sales came from the 20% of buyers who either really love you or hate you?
Sure, not everybody should do it. I don’t particularly do this with my consulting business. I don’t have a fight to pick for my business – but many other business owners do.
I certainly have raised my profile on the side with the hornet’s nest I accidentally kicked when it came to my website CosmicFingerprints.com. It takes the position that the existence of code proves design in living things, and the atheist position is not scientific because every single code we do know the origin of is designed.
This argument landed me in one of the world’s largest atheist discussion boards, the Internet Infidels Discussion Board. (You can see a summary of this debate and the responses at http://www.cosmicfingerprints.com/dna-atheists.)
Soon my talk “If You Can Read This, I Can Prove God Exists” was getting discussed on more than 2 000 websites. The episode made me far more famous among people who advocate the design argument than anything I could have without the participation of the atheists.
Being controversial can work in your favour – sometimes
It doesn’t take politics or religion to stoke such controversy, either.
Health systems, genetically modified anything, gluten, vaccinating children – these are all things that spark fierce arguments. What in your industry could allow you to do the same?
Here are tips for inciting arguments that juice sales:
Find your Goliath. The real power of this is you can get the attention of people who hate you much easier than from people who like you. If you want people to notice you, go into the enemy camp and sink a rock into Goliath’s head. Then chop his head off and hold it up by the hair for all to see. Everybody will notice who you are. You go from shepherd boy to king overnight, as those who agree with you rally to you in the fight you started with the enemy.
Make your enemy your customer. They may end up becoming your best customers. If you sell a controversial book, probably 10% of your customers will be people who hate you. They will become a market for your book, and they will write half the Amazon reviews. Hate can be a powerful motivator. Can your business channel it?
Attack legitimate weaknesses. This is about exposing a truly embarrassing weakness in your opponent, not just annoying them. Most people who are on the line are afraid to walk across the line and poke someone in the chest to say that person was wrong. Doing so will surprise your opponent and win attention among supporters. It sure did when I showed that every single code whose origin is known to man is designed. I demonstrated that the other side had no scientific support for its position.
Be doggedly courageous. If you’re going to do this, you have to be persistent for the long term. You have to be constantly a thorn of your opposition. This is war. So decide whether you have time as an entrepreneur to be fighting a war.
Pick a field of battle. In every market, there is a small percentage of super-rabid enthusiasts that pay attention to everything – whether model airplanes or stereo equipment. They always know the score. Let’s say you come up with a breakthrough, something that truly disruptive: A model airplane that flies 10 times as far, a superior speaker. Your strategy should be to find a way to clearly demonstrate your product in some kind of competition or venue where people say, “Wow! This guy really backs up what he says!”
Employ these strategies, and you may be turning controversy into sales in no time.
Could this strategy work for your business?
6 Questions You Should Be Asking When Coaching
Top athletes have coaches because they’re winners. Business leaders should be the same.
Whether you’re a CEO looking for a mentor, coaching your management team, or structuring a coaching programme for your managers to implement, there are six questions that can help anyone get better at anything.
Dr Marshall Goldsmith is a best-selling author and world-renowned business educator and coach. He has coached top CEOs, including Alan Mulally, former President and CEO of Ford Motor Company.
The key to a successful coaching programme is simple dialogue and establishing responsibility. The person being coached must understand and agree that success lies in their hands. They must take responsibility for their actions.
Once every few months, have a direct coaching session. Ask (or answer for yourself) these six questions:
- Where are we going?
- Where are you going?
- What are you doing well?
- Do you have suggestions for my improvement?
- How can I help you?
- So you have suggestions for me?
4 Ways To Develop The Leaders You’ll Need In The Future
One of the most challenging aspects of leadership development is consistently and effectively identifying the next wave of leaders.
One of the most challenging aspects of leadership development is consistently and effectively identifying the next wave of leaders.
It can be easy for those at the top to forget that eventually someone will have to take their place at the helm. And ignoring that fact has lead to issues with succession planning, unwanted turnover and other challenges in leadership development in many organisations.
2016 High Impact Leadership research from Bersin by Deloitte asked 2,422 HR and business leaders from around the world how well they believed they could discover new leadership talent. Just 35 percent of respondents said they were above average when it came to successfully identifying and developing leaders.
To understand why this is, consider the typical leadership development paradox. Traditionally, the first step is to choose who has leadership potential, then develop their skillset. Logically, however, this makes little sense.
How is it possible to identify effective leaders if employees have yet to receive any type of leadership development?
Here are four ways to properly identify better qualified candidates for leadership positions:
1Stop choosing potential leaders based on unrelated skills
Gallup’s 2015 State of the American Manager Report, which studied 2.5 million manager-led teams in 195 countries, found that the top two reasons employees are promoted to management positions are because they were successful in a non-managerial role or because of their tenure with the company. Neither of those criteria have any proven correlation with leadership skills or relevant experience.
Create a better means of measuring for true leadership potential. Look at the culture of the organisation and envision what it would look like for someone to lead by those values.
Also consider how successful leaders evolved over time in the organisation. Then use that information to make a list of recognisable traits to look for as signs of leadership potential.
2Broaden leadership development to more employees
People learn and grow at their own unique pace. Requiring that an employee reach a certain position or be with the company for a certain number of years before they’re offered leadership opportunities holds back those who might be ready for more responsibility now. Or even worse, it might push those who aren’t yet ready into leadership roles.
Instead, let leadership development be a company-wide initiative. This gives more people the chance to take the next step in their career. It also creates a larger pool of possible great leaders to draw from across the organisation.
3Track progress and growth
There’s no way of knowing who is ready to step up and lead unless development is monitored. Remember that this is a process. Employees need feedback from their mentors and coaches to know for certain what skills they’ve mastered as well as where there can still be improvements made.
Develop a way to assess progress for different leadership positions, and be clear with employees and coaches about what success would look like in different situations. For instance, explain what is expected of a first time project leader.
Get everyone on the same page about the developing leader’s responsibilities and how that should guide their team.
Then collect thorough feedback from all those involved. Ask the leadership candidate what challenges they faced as well as where they think they thrived. Pose the same questions to those they supervised and organisational mentors.
Over time, this will reveal patterns that make it easier to identify who is best suited for leadership in the long-term.
4Focus on continual leadership development
There is no such thing as too much experience. There is always more that can be learned. After leadership candidates have been identified, continue to nurture them. This keeps employees from feeling that they have plateaued, which is unfortunately common.
The 2014 Insigniam Middle Management Survey: Middle Management’s Critical Role In Saving Company Innovation looked at responses from 200 middle managers from around the world. It found that only 15 percent of managers believe they will ever be promoted to the next level of leadership at their company.
Whether intentionally or not, employees who have proven their leadership abilities are being told that their leadership journey is over – and this hurts both them and the organisation. Encourage a steady stream of highly trained and skilled leaders working their way up by demonstrating that there is no end to development.
In order to clearly see who the next wave of leaders is going to be, employees need to be given the chance to hone and exercise their skills.
That means redefining how leadership potential is identified and providing each employee with the chance to develop personally and professionally.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Have You (Really) Put Your Business To The Test?
You should constantly test things in your business to see if they’re working. In that direction lies success.
There’s a pretty famous saying that people in business like to use: Always be closing, or ABC. It’s a very sales-driven concept that suggests that whatever you do, you should always be closing a sale.
I used to like that way of thinking: Drive your pipeline growth, work on the numbers and push the sales as hard as you can all the time.
That approach definitely works for certain types of businesses, but after a while it can be soul destroying work that leaves a business a bit hollow. So over the past few years I’ve been working on a tweaked methodology.
I call this method of building and selling: Always be testing or ABT.
The concept is simple. You should constantly be testing things in your business to see if they’re working. If they are working, great, you can then start testing how to improve them. If they’re not working, you find out and can start testing fixes for the problem.
This applies to your team, your product, your day-to-day strategy for selling, customer acquisition and anything else you can think of.
Start testing yourself
The obsession with testing things started in my personal life. I was doing it without realising what I was doing. I started waking up 15 minutes earlier every month and after a while I was spritely and awake by 5:30am and walking my dogs or working while everyone else was asleep.
Then I stopped eating sugar for a while to see if I’d feel better. I did. That didn’t last but I then stopped drinking coffee to see if I’d sleep better. I did. So now I don’t drink caffeine of any kind after 3pm.
I found that I was constantly testing out everything that I did and tweaking my life accordingly. So one day I realised that this model would probably work in my business: Small, frequent tests with specific goals in mind to try to learn something new or verify something old.
Testing requires reporting
Setting up tests is not difficult. But tracking the results of the test requires preparation. Interestingly, when I moved Nic Harry from a pure e-commerce company into physical retail, I discovered how slow real world retailers have been to use technology to track changes they make in store.
With nicharry.com we have been able to test, tweak and track results for years. I have many tests and lots of data to pour through when I want information about a decision. I can make a change on the homepage and see if it leads to more transactions than the previous homepage tweak. If it works, great, if it doesn’t, I go back to the way it was.
I decided to take this type of thinking into our flagship store by treating each wall and window as a web page. We kept notes of which socks were on which walls and which socks sold better where in the store.
After a few months we had figured out which walls were the hotspots in the store. Then we started to move the socks around and see if we could influence who purchased what just by placing the socks in a different place.
This type of tiny testing environment helps me understand my stores, my team and me products with granular detail. However it wouldn’t be possible if my systems weren’t set up properly to help me track these changes.
Why test something that works?
People often ask me why they should test something that is clearly working. Well, what if one day your product stops selling and you don’t know why? What if your core revenue stream dries up over the course of a few months or years and you haven’t noticed?
Testing helps me to stay in front of my problems. I can think of a stand out example of a company that stopped testing and ended up losing: Blackberry. Do you remember them? I do, but not many people will in a year or two.
It’s also worth remembering Kodak. Kodak was founded in 1888 and thrived for a century, literally. Then it stopped testing in the face of innovation all around the company and from within. In 2012 Kodak filed for bankruptcy protection. The ironic part of the Kodak story is that digital photography killed their business. Why is this ironic? Kodak developed the first digital camera in 1975 but didn’t test it in the market. They were worried it would eat into their existing business.
If only they had tested the product before they dropped it. Tests do not have to be large and complex. Implement systems that allow you to track the changes in your business whether online or offline. Then engage with your team about how they can help you to measure and manage the tests and then start with something small.
Testing for no reason is futile. It’s imperative to know what you’re testing and why. Once you’ve figured out your goals, start testing and never stop.
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