Woody Allen once said that 80 percent of success in life is just showing up. Now granted, Woody Allen also defended dating his adopted daughter by saying, “The heart wants what it wants,” so holding him up as a paragon of sound judgment may not be my best move. But if Woody is right, then I (another man whose history of poor judgment and worse choices would give a prudent person pause) would offer that the other 20 percent of success is following up.
Entrepreneurs often fail on both these counts. Showing up is more than merely putting in a physical appearance. It’s also intellectually showing up. When you show up intellectually it means you are truly listening to your customer’s needs and pain points and crafting a solution to their problems. Instead, too many solution providers come into a sales call with a solution in mind and then expend copious amounts of energy trying to convince the customer that the prefabricated solution will fit the customer’s needs. When you sell hammers, all you see is nails.
I see a lack of follow up torpedoing more deals than a lack of showing up. Some vendors (and I admit I have been one) practically make you beg for a quote. They get busy, and I get that.
They have bigger and more exciting quotes to write; I get that, too. But I have an immediate need, and if they aren’t there immediately, well, there can be only two outcomes. Either I will get someone else to do fill it; or, I will realise that my immediate need wasn’t all that immediate – or indeed, even a need.
I’ve seem more deals evaporate that way than ones that collapse. In fact, I have lost more deals because of a lack of follow up than I have lost to price, to competition, or to outbreaks of the plague (an admittedly low percentage of my losses), added together.
So why do we do it? Why do we fail to follow up to be responsive to existing or potential customers? The most common excuses are:
Saying you don’t have time to follow up is ridiculous. It’s like receiving atrocious service in a restaurant and being told with a shrug, “Sorry, we’re really busy.”
Being the charmer I am, I usually respond by saying “that’s the kind of problem that tends to solve itself.”
Not following up because you are too busy resolves itself in the same way that water finds its own level. Customers who don’t want to get poor service or have inordinate wait-time go elsewhere, and you’re left with a clientele that is the appropriate size for your capacity to deliver.
Not exactly a solid growth strategy. You had better hope that this clientele size matches up with your ability to make a profit or you will “too busy” yourself into bankruptcy. Not having time to follow up is akin to saying you don’t have time to be successful.
You make time to be successful, and if that means biting the bullet and hiring more staff or weeding out the low performers, then that’s what you need to do.
Too much on our plates
Having too many things on your plate may at first seem to be the exact same condition on as being too busy, but it really isn’t.
How often do we find ourselves with hundreds of tasks that would take only a moment to complete, but we become so overwhelmed in the minutia that we don’t get them done? Or we tell ourselves that because it will only take a minute we don’t have to worry about it.
The task gets pushed and pushed, and pretty soon the opportunity is gone. This isn’t a case of being too busy; it’s being too disorganised.
This can be easily fixed either by delegating effectively, getting a highly organised assistant to nag you into getting things done, or training and discipline. But whatever you do it has to get done.
Related: 5 Mistakes To Avoid In Sales
Bottom of the pile
Not all business opportunities are created equal and to treat a low potential or low yield opportunity the same as you would a game changing opportunity is just soft-headed. But you can’t keep stacking “higher priority” opportunities atop the less promising leads, otherwise there will never be any follow up.
Instead of piling on top of the opportunity that requires follow up, delegate the opportunity to a lower level worker – it’s a great learning opportunity and you risk very little by giving it to them.
Remember those who cannot be trusted to handle small projects won’t get the opportunity to handle large ones.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
There’s More To Team Management Than Leadership
When you’re running a business you need to ensure that your employees are on your side, helping you to make profits. Giving them job security, taking them seriously and treating them with respect, will go a long way in enhancing loyalty and productivity.
The staff that work for you determine:
- How happy your customers are with your business
- The quality of the things that you sell
- The costs that you incur to sell your products and services
- Your risks – the things that can go wrong and how much it costs you
All of these things determine your profitability and how competitive your business becomes. How do you ensure that everyone is on the same side and helping you to make profits?
At work everyone believes that they are getting something (such as money) and are giving something in return (such as time and effort). They are weighing up in their mind “how much am I giving, how much am I getting in return and is this fair?” If they believe that they are:
- Giving too much or
- Getting too little
- Then this is unfair, and they won’t work well (poor productivity – how much they produce).
The manager needs to:
- Know what people are thinking about what they are giving and getting and
- Manage the giving or getting side
- So that people become more productive
In a smaller business you sometimes cannot afford to pay more or provide the sort of benefits (pensions, medical aid, bursaries etc.) that larger firms can and so the staff may be unhappy, not be productive and be on the look-out for something better.
How do you increase happiness without money?
- Job security – knowing that you will still have a job next year – and that you will get paid on time.
- Contributing to the success of the business. If you train staff to have the knowledge and skills to do a better job and you then encourage and support them to do this then they are happier, and you increase profits. If you then share some of these profits with the staff that helped you to make them then everyone wins!
- To be taken seriously and treated with respect. If you do this then staff are happier, and they will also treat your customers with respect.
- To be part of the team. You can often do this by having a regular briefing on what your plans are and discussing ideas. Because staff are doing the actual work they will often have good ideas and then will be motivated to implement them – it was their idea after all!
Staff leaving you all the time is a can destroy significant value. If you implement the strategy above, you will have happier staff that are more productive and a more profitable business.
Jeff Bezos Reveals 3 Strategies for Amazon’s Success
One of the richest men in the world shared his leadership tips for running a company.
“It remains Day 1.” That’s how Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, signed off in his 2018 letter to shareholders. He’s been propagating the “day 1” mantra for decades, and it’s meant as a reminder that Amazon should never stop acting like a start-up – even though the company now boasts more than 560,000 employees and more than 100 million members of Amazon Prime, the company’s paid service for free shipping on select items.
Here are some of the most useful nuggets of wisdom Bezos shared in his letter and during a recent onstage interview:
1. Standards are contagious
Bezos says he believes high standards are teachable rather than intrinsic. “Bring a new person onto a high standards team, and they’ll quickly adapt,” he writes. “The opposite is also true.”
If a company or team operates with low standards, a new employee will often – perhaps even unwittingly – adjust their work ethic accordingly.
He also says that high standards in one area don’t automatically translate to high standards in another – it’s important for people to discover their “blind spots.”
Try making a list of your duties, then ask trusted colleagues to tell you which responsibilities are your greatest strengths. If certain things from the list don’t come up during the conversation, it might be useful to think about how you can up your personal standards in those areas.
2. Set clear, realistic expectations
If you’re looking to raise your standards in a particular area, the first course of action is to outline what quality looks like in that area. The second is to set realistic expectations for yourself – or for your team – regarding how much work it will take to achieve that level of quality.
Exhibit A: You won’t find a single PowerPoint presentation at an Amazon company meeting. Instead, teams write six-page narrative memos to prepare everyone else for the meeting.
Bezos says the quality of the memos vary greatly because writers don’t always recognise the scope of the work required to reach high standards.
“They mistakenly believe a high-standards, six-page memo can be written in one or two days or even a few hours, when really it might take a week or more!” Bezos writes.
3. Stay involved with the people you’re serving
Whether you’re selling a product or service, it’s a good idea to make sure you never lose touch when it comes to the people you’re serving – no matter how high up the ladder you climb.
Bezos says he still reads emails from his public inbox (firstname.lastname@example.org) as a way to keep his finger on the pulse of what’s happening with Amazon customers.
He says he believes focusing on what customers are saying is much more important for success than focusing on what competitors are doing, and he often compares customer feedback to company data to see where they misalign.
“When the anecdotes and the data disagree,” Bezos said at a recent leadership forum at the George W. Bush Presidential Center, “the anecdotes are usually right.”
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
You Don’t Have To Go It Alone: How To Find A Mentor As A Freelancer
Need a mentor but don’t know where to start? These tips can help you find your perfect mentorship match.
As a freelancer, having enough time to not only grow your business, but also grow your career can be challenging. Who can you turn to for guidance when you’re the boss? For those who strike out on their own, putting time and effort into finding a mentor (or several) can make a huge difference in establishing a successful freelance business.
Among small business owners who have professional mentors, the five-year survival rate for their businesses is 70 percent, according to a survey by BCSG; among those who don’t have mentors, the five-year survival rate is half of that.
Now that you’re settled into the new year, it’s the perfect time to reach out to your network (or establish a new one) and find a group of mentors. Here are some tips for identifying those who can help you achieve your personal and professional goals.
Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses
As a freelancer, it can be challenging to find the time to step back and examine your professional strengths and weaknesses. While it can be tempting to rely on a mentor to give you guidance on where you need to improve, you’ll get much more out of any mentorship relationship if you’ve done some self-reflection first.
Both will provide you with a detailed explanation of your personality, including analysis about workplace habits, relationships and ideal career paths. The results will help you understand how you interact with clients and colleagues, as well as what types of careers and working styles are likely to be a good fit for you.
If you need more help determining your working style or how to achieve the next step in your career, a career coach could be a great investment. Finding the right coach can help you develop a strong understanding of your own personality and work style. Once you know more about yourself, you’ll be able to better identify mentors who can help you play to your strengths and improve upon your weaknesses.
Form relationships through networking groups
Once you’ve had time to reflect on your professional needs, it’s time to find a mentor. As a good first step, look into virtual and in-person networking groups where you can meet people in your industry.
Networking groups and programs, like Entrepreneurs’ Organization, allow you to connect with other freelancers and business owners so you can learn from what they’ve experienced over the course of their careers.
This can help you find a mentor who’s also gone through the challenges of becoming a freelancer.
The location of your potential mentor can be a determining aspect as well. Having a mentor that lives close by gives you access to knowledge of the local trends and makes it easier to scheduling a quick chat. Meetup.com offers access to thousands of organisations around the world in sectors ranging from outdoors and adventure to fashion and tech to writing. If one event looks interesting, take the time to attend and talk to the other participants. One (or more) may have helpful insights for your career.
Keep in touch with former colleagues and associates
Just because you’ve decided to strike out on your own doesn’t mean you can’t still rely on former coworkers, bosses or other working relationships that you developed before becoming a freelancer.
Those you’ve worked with in the past are already familiar with your working style and approach to business, which is helpful context for any mentor/mentee relationship.
Make sure to keep in regular contact with former colleagues, especially those you admired when you worked together, so that you can use each other as a resource for professional questions or opportunities. Haven’t been in touch for a while? Reaching out can be as simple as sending your congratulations about a new job or reminiscing about an old work memory, but it can go a long way toward helping secure a valuable mentor.
Seek out people who inspire you outside your professional realm
Inspiring mentors can come from unexpected places, not just your professional bubble or your fellow freelancers. Take a few minutes to research interesting organisations in your local area, perhaps through volunteering, and get involved where you can.
Other volunteers might come from unique backgrounds and work in different fields or industries, so their points of view can provide you with unexpected perspective that may help you think about a challenge or client differently. A mentor from a different field has a unique opportunity to see your business from the outside and won’t be bogged down by conventional solutions.
Finding a mentor is one of the most valuable investments you can make for your future as a freelancer and for your personal work enjoyment.
Mentorship makes a difference all the way to the top – 71 percent of CEOs said having a mentor directly improved their company’s performance according to a study in a book by Suzanne de Janasz and Maury Peiperl.
Beyond the financial returns you can see from mentorship, having advisors you trust can make freelancing feel less overwhelming and more rewarding. So, make sure to put yourself out there and start building your mentor relationships.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
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