Basic Business Survival Skills: Making Sure You Always Have a Job

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No one in business was prepared for what happened when the coronavirus invaded the United States. Overnight, it literally upended the nation’s economy, leaving American workers not knowing what to think about the future.

While some workers are doing well, others are underemployed, and 13 million are jobless. Whether you’re a CEO, just entering the workforce, or someone in-between, such confusion and uncertainty begs the question “What’s it take to survive in a job today?”

What businesses are looking for are people with the ability to adapt, learn, perform and progress so they can contribute to the organization’s success. To … Read the rest

How Presenting Makes Careers

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It’s easy to understand why so many otherwise capable people are distressed, anxiety-ridden, and almost paralyzed if they’re called upon to make a presentation — even a friendly audience of three — let alone 300. They often reveal how they feel by starting out with “I only wish I had more time to prepare” or “I’m not really good at public speaking.”

Unfortunately, what follows proves it. It isn’t surprising that with successful presenters the story is different. We view them as possessing leadership capabilities, as well as being committed, competent, and rising stars. As more than one person has … Read the rest

Helping Customers Navigate the Pandemic’s Emotional Challenges

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Now that we’re once again getting open for business, this raises the question of what we’ll be talking about with customers.

Millions of Americans remain unemployed, more are still on furlough, while others are underemployed. Countless businesses are on the brink and others are going over the edge. Too many families will remain in the grasp of financial hardship for months, some for years.

And then there’s coping with upended lives, dashed dreams, sleepless nights, endless worries, mind-boggling stress, as well as the painful after effects of social isolation. In such circumstances, who would dare minimize, let alone turn a … Read the rest

Will the Customers Come Back?

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When we narrow down the current COVID‑19 economic situation, we’re all in the same boat.

No matter who we are or what we do, getting back to doing business hinges on having customers. Whether we like it or not, there’s no guarantee they will be there. Although it may be disconcerting, here’s why:

  • Some customers will decide they don’t need us. Their situation will have changed and they’ve moved on.
  • Others will have found new solutions. Competition will be fierce with appealing options popping up everywhere.
  • More customers than we dare imagine will have simply disappeared, whether individuals or companies.
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The Only Message Customers Want From You

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It only took the pandemic a couple of weeks to turn it all upside down — including marketing and sales. And along with it has come an endless tsunami of email messages flooding consumer email mailboxes. It was war, with 50 percent to 80 percent off sales, “Lowest prices ever,” “Free shipping — Free returns,” “Final Markdown,” “Sale ends in 4 hours and 17 minutes,” and BOGO offers.

It seems like a domino effect — emails to customers from well-meaning businesses streaming to smartphones and computer desktops. One company starts it, and everyone else follows with their version of the … Read the rest

Five Self‑Deceptions That Hold Us Back

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As human beings, we’re experts at deceiving ourselves, all because it’s so easy for us to think we know more than we do. As a result, we do less than our best work, miss out on opportunities, and mess up our decisions.

To be sure, self-deception is one way we keep ourselves safe. We use it to fend off enemies that would expose us to troublesome situations. No one escapes; we all do it. With self-deception it’s easy to believe the little voice inside us is right.

Although we may picture ourselves as rational human beings who process information objectively, … Read the rest

What Customers Want to Know About Salespeople Before They Buy

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They may not say anything, but don’t be fooled. You’re not home free, no matter how long you’ve been in the business or how good you are at sales. Customers look you over and check you out. Here’s what they’re thinking, “Is this someone I want to conduct business with?”

It’s a funny thing about customers. They not only know they need you, but they want to believe you’ll treat them right, that you’ll take care of them. So, if this is how you want to be viewed, get yourself prepared. A good way to start is by answering the … Read the rest

Going Against the Grain: Contrarian Thinking Can Put Us on the Right Track

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It makes business more interesting when there are a few contrarians around. A Jeff Bezos, a Steve Jobs, or an Elon Musk — those who challenge commonly accepted assumptions. They stir our placid mental waters to get the creative juices flowing.

As it turns out, the start of a new decade is a good time for a little contrarian thought — for looking at things differently. In fact, it may be helpful since we’re entering a period that will present us with far-reaching changes and daunting challenges. In other words, a time when we can benefit from getting tougher with … Read the rest

Without Customer Trust Nothing Else Matters

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When the contractor didn’t deliver the proposal as promised, the homeowner called to find out when to expect it.

“Sorry about that,” was the reply. “You’ll have it later today or tomorrow.” When it arrived, what passed for a proposal was a “cost estimate” and a hand-drawn layout lacking specifics. It appeared to have been dashed off on the way over. The contractor came recommended, but the homeowner chose another company due to a lack of trust.

Hands down, customer experience is today’s #1 marketing hot issue — and for good reason. Up to 82 percent of customers who leave … Read the rest

Why Salespeople Don’t Make More Sales

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Things don’t go well for some salespeople. Simply put, they say they want to sell, but their numbers tell a different story. What’s missing? What needs to change?

The answer may rest in how they view their job. We can call it task tunnel vision. It’s common throughout business organizations, including sales, and here’s how to spot it: “That’s not what I’m hired to do. I want to sell. Just leave me alone and let someone else do all that other stuff.”

Whether salespeople recognize it or not, they are like many others who are self-defining when it comes … Read the rest

How to Avoid Becoming Obsolete on the Job

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Millions of us wake up one morning to the haunting realization that we’re losing the battle to avoid becoming obsolete on the job.

It affects those in their 20s, while others don’t see the darkness descend until they’re much older. Some are high school dropouts, others are college graduates, or successful professionals. It can strike anyone.

Oxford researchers Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osbourne, according to a USA Today article, estimate that “forty-seven percent of American jobs are at high risk of automation by the mid 2030s.”

Some may run faster or be in denial, but Steve Tobak got it … Read the rest

Mistakes That Doom a Company’s Marketing

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Marketing has never been a laid back, trouble‑free game anyone can play. Today, it’s far more perilous than ever, particularly since prospective customers are moving targets. Just when you think you have them figured out, they’ve moved on. If you don’t know what they want and the way they want to get it, they’re gone. If you disappoint them by betraying their trust, they’ll strike back. Bank on it.

Today’s customers are touchy and unforgiving. They’re in charge and they know it. While marketing can play a key role in a company’s success, it’s a fragile function; its efforts can … Read the rest

A Checklist: Nudges to Move Your Career in the Right Direction

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When you’re asked to explain why you should be promoted, get a raise, or have a new job, it can make you feel uncomfortable. Why? Because you’re forced to talk about yourself — something mother told you never to do. Besides, who will believe you?

Well, there’s a better way to get noticed without having to say a word. You can nudge your career in the right direction. Here’s a checklist so you can see how you’re doing — and what you need to do:

  • Possess awareness. Be sure your antennae are always up! Never stop observing and gathering information,
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Keep Your Sales From Running Out of Gas

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Too many salespeople find themselves running on fumes when it comes to prospects. “I get up every morning and ask myself the same question: Who am I going to talk to today?” asked a life insurance salesperson who had been in the business for 30 years. He’s far from alone.

Closing sales is the goal, but that takes keeping the prospect tank full of gas. So, what can you do about it? If you go to the supermarket, there’s someone giving away free samples. If you watch what’s going on, some of those taking samples buy the product; it’s the … Read the rest

If You Don’t Fix It, You Can’t Succeed

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Hard skills and soft skills aren’t enough.

The job world is changing so rapidly it’s next to impossible to know what to do even in the short term to get ahead, let alone five years down the road.

Now, a debate rages between which is more important, hard skills or soft skills. Those for hard skills focus on the need for specific knowledge to meet job performance standards and expectations.

On the other side of the table are those who say the hard skills path can lead to dead ends, to obsolescence. They bet on possessing interpersonal skills, such as … Read the rest

Think Like a Customer or Lose the Sale

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“Don’t fall into the trap of thinking like a customer. If you do, you’re done!” This warning has been pounded into the heads of salespeople — and it will follow them until their last day on the job.

Changing the Sales Narrative

Why is thinking like a customer dangerous? It’s the noxious notion that leads down the dark and dismal path to serious trouble — lost sales. If you dare to let yourself think like customers, you may be distracted from your mission and become overly understanding and sympathetic, even finding yourself walking in a customer’s shoes.

Yet, successful salespeople … Read the rest

How to Get Testimonials That Boost Your Credibility

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The unspoken question in every customer’s mind.

“I want to believe you, but can I trust you?” is the unspoken question customers ask salespeople. The devil in every sale is customer doubt. Specifically, a salesperson’s lack of credibility. Slow down. Forget about “updating” your “professional profile.” Why? To put it graciously, too many are being “massaged” by salespeople who think they need to “enhance” themselves. But, customers aren’t fooled; bad experiences make them suspicious and they back off from saying “yes.”

The tool that helps bridge the “credibility gulf” is the customer testimonial. But wait a minute; don’t roll your … Read the rest

Messing Up on the Job Without Even Knowing It

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There’s everything right about looking out for yourself and your career. Right now, with more jobs than people to fill them, it’s easier than ever.

One month in mid-2018, job postings exceeded the number of unemployed by an eye-popping 659,000. With this happening, it’s no surprise that 3.6 million workers voluntarily quit their jobs in the first seven months of 2018. This 2.4 percent quit rate was the highest since April 2001.

No one can miss the message: more vacancies and not enough takers to fill them equals better opportunities and higher pay.

But not so fast. All this may … Read the rest

How to Mess Up a Company’s Sales

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Thousands of salespeople work in conditions that are stacked against their success. Even though it’s 2019, the belief persists that “nothing happens until someone sells something.” Repeated so often, no one challenges them.

Yet, those six words help explain why salespeople are given “special treatment” by management and barely “tolerated” by others. Salespeople are frequently viewed both as separate and more than equal. When co-workers complain about the sales department, someone says, “Hey, they bring us the business, so suck it up and smile.” This dismal view has long passed its expiration date. Even so, it’s disturbing since so much … Read the rest

Sales Strategy: Don’t Let Low Hanging Fruit Hold Back Your Sales

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When things aren’t going well, salespeople often give in to the quick and easy sale in an effort to get through the troublesome “dry spells.” Others become so addicted, they never reach higher. It’s easy to fall under the spell of the lure of low‑hanging fruit.

Yet, those who excel in sales develop skills that add value to their careers and enhance their confidence. They also know that going after low-hanging fruit prevents them from raising their sights, caps their capabilities, and keeps them from embracing challenges.

It also earns them a reputation they deserve, but not as members of … Read the rest

How Meta Roles Boost Your Career

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There’s nothing more amazing than the endless incidents of mind-bending foul-ups by otherwise successful companies. Every employee has stories, ranging from miscalculations and costly errors of judgment to downright avoidable mistakes.

It doesn’t seem to be getting any better. Years ago, “silos” were a serious issue causing poor communication, confusion, misunderstanding, and counter-productive internal competition.

Then came the “We’re all on the same team” movement that morphed into the “knock down the office walls” movement with everyone having a “desk for the day.” Now, we’ve moved to silos of 2019, with employees donning head phones, sending emails rather than chatting … Read the rest

Crack the Prospect Code and Win More Sales

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Why do so many meetings with prospects fizzle out and go nowhere? Is it just the way it is, so we should just accept it? Or, is it possible that our “this is what went wrong” explanations are merely excuses for failing to turn prospects into customers?

As sure as Friday is pizza night, salespeople are drawn to prospects like kids to puddles of water. No argument. But what about the other way around? How much thought do salespeople give as to whether or not prospects are drawn to them? Is it possible that the drive to make the sale … Read the rest

How to Get More Work Done (And Be Happy Doing It)

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Most everyone has figured out that performance expectations keep going up. To put it bluntly, we face the challenge of doing more in less time. And it’s not about to change anytime soon.

In the past, those with lots of experience fared well, but not today. Experience can hold us back, like running against a strong wind. Experience is about what we’ve done in the past and it has value in a never-changing environment. On the other hand, expertise prepares us for what we must do next so we can face the future with confidence.

The question, then, is how … Read the rest

How to Avoid Losing Customers to Competitors

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Many times you hear a salesperson say: “We service the heck out of our customers. They’ll never leave us.” But then a competitor walks away with an account. No one saw it coming or what went wrong.

You work hard getting new accounts, take servicing them seriously, and yet they still leave. Why? Think about it this way: you buy a new car — it’s just what you wanted. But after a year or so, you start thinking about the new models. That’s when little things about your current car start bugging you — it doesn’t have this-or-that, there’s a … Read the rest

Making Your Sales Proposal a Winner

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What to do before, during and after presenting.

To put the importance of proposals in proper perspective, they are far more than a vehicle for conveying your message. They are your message. Sadly, proposals that could be winners are often rejected. They may be filled with information, but the message gets lost and they fail to capture the recipient’s imagination.

To make sure your proposals get the attention they deserve, it helps to view them in three phases, before, during and after the presentation. Each one plays a part in moving your proposal closer to winning the business.

Preparing Your Read the rest

Getting the Fish on the Line

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How to get prospects to find you.

Twenty years ago, salespeople were expected to get in front of prospects. Today, those doors are sealed shut. Voice mail and e-mail messages are ignored. If all that isn’t enough, few customers are willing to stick their neck out and make referrals.

All of which makes prospecting frustrating and, unfortunately, bordering on useless. No wonder salespeople across the board plead for leads and, hoping to get lucky, keep their fingers crossed.

If you’re looking for an easy, quick way to find prospects, forget it. No matter what anyone may say, it doesn’t exist. … Read the rest

Salespeople Learn When They’re Listening

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Questions that keep prospects talking.

When asked why salespeople don’t close more sales, a company president answered instantly, “They don’t ask enough questions.” He went on to add, “They’re so focused on getting prospects to buy, they don’t engage them. That takes asking lots of questions.”

He’s onto something important. We’re in such a hurry to get across what we want to say to our prospects that we ignore what they want from us. As it turns out, today’s prospects won’t tolerate such insensitive behavior. They’re gone.

So, where does this leave salespeople? What are they to do if they … Read the rest

Motivations That Move Customers to Buy

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Why Salespeople Lose Sales

Contrary to what many people believe, most salespeople want their customers to make good decisions. They want them satisfied, whether it’s buying shoes, home improvement, a vacation package, a car, or an insurance policy.

Even so, salespeople accidentally lose sales. They leave customers unsatisfied, not dissatisfied. Customers become dissatisfied after making a purchase; if they’re unsatisfied, they walk away before buying.

Intent on rattling off features and benefits, salespeople forget they must understand the customer’s need to buy before the facts will make sense. In doing so, they overwhelm customers.

Why do salespeople do this? They … Read the rest

Ways to Keep Customers Coming Back

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Lots of money, effort and time go into acquiring customers, but not nearly enough thought goes into keeping them coming back. Sure, there’s the occasional offer or the “We’ve missed you” discount. All too frequently, we don’t pay attention unless they’re unhappy or turn up missing. Then, we get busy and try to get them back.

Such business behavior has unintended consequences. The cable companies are an example. Customers have learned to complain and threaten to leave unless they are given concessions. And how do you feel when a company unleashes the sweet talk after they haven’t heard from you? … Read the rest

Ways to Make the Right Reputation

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It always comes as a shock to learn that others see us quite differently than we see ourselves. More often than not, it can be distressing, particularly at work. “I don’t get it. I’m not that way.” Maybe not. But it happens. And when it does, a bad rep can stick tighter than super glue thanks to word-of-mouth and social media.

In today’s highly competitive workplace, reputation makes a difference. Your competition can be down the hall, across the country, or 10 feet away. It can be someone who wants your customer or your job — maybe both.

When it … Read the rest