Sunday, June 16, 2013

Senator, Shut UP!

There's a story about me that's been reported in a couple of national publications. I've never confirmed it and I'm not going to now, but I am going to repeat it because it illustrates perfectly a point I want to make. (Which means I'm passing on hearsay and rumor about myself, refusing to be an authority on my own life. Aren't you glad you subscribe to this newsletter?)

I was working with a client--a well known and powerful senator--on his personal selling skills. As Selling Power magazine reported the story:

"On Maher's second day in Washington, he set up a roleplay for the senator who quickly turned it into a filibuster.

"'Senator,' Maher allegedly broke in, "shut up!"

Stunned, the senator did just that--for a moment anyway. But every time he tried to speak, Maher interrupted, talking over him, refusing to let him squeeze in a syllable. When Maher started shaking a figure in the man's face and lecturing, the senator reached the point of apoplexy. That's when Maher flipped on the VCR and played a tape of the senator doing the exact same thing the day before--to another legislator, a less powerful man--but one whose vote the senator needed.

Maybe I Said That, Maybe Not

I work with some of the most intelligent people in the country. And I respect all my clients. But if I had done something like this, it would have been because sometimes you simply have to demonstrate to someone how his behavior makes the person he's hoping to persuade, feel.

Most salespeople realize that the days are long gone when they can ram a product down the customer's throat and choke off his or her objections. The rest of us need to realize it as well. Particularly those of us in management. Because though we never try to do it with superiors and seldom try it with peers, too many of us are still in a cram and ram mode when it comes to our subordinates. Which doesn't tend to generate wholehearted, enthusiastic support.

A few years back, Psychology Today reported a study of top executives, comparing those who had gotten "de-railed" in their careers with those who keep moving on up to senior management. The most common problem among the "de-railed?" Insensitivity to others: an intimidating, bullying, abrasive style. Which means a lack of empathy, an inability to look inside themselves and find a piece of themselves that's very much like whomever they're dealing with.

You may think of yourself as the stereotypical tough boss with a heart of gold, "crusty but benign," like Lou Grant from the old Mary Tyler Moore show and so many other TV and movie bosses. Those who work from you may not be getting the same picture.

Even many of us who'd never cram and ram are frequently guilty of not listening. Not observing. Once again, this is an especially serious problem in management. There's always a tendency for managers to talk too much and listen too little, to ramble on and waste our people's time.

People with less power have to act interested in what we say. So we start believing we're fascinating, and we talk too damn much. We know we should spend more time listening, but we seldom do.

If power corrupts, the first thing it corrupts is the little voice in our heads that tells us when to shut up.

Tip: Shut up.

Technology Investment in the Small Business Sector - Where Should You Put Your Money?

Earlier this year, The Federation of small Businesses (FSB) and Intellect created a joint report, based on an internet survey completed by 2,200 members, to grasp how small companies are utilising technology to grow and create jobs. We will discuss the key findings of this report below and what opportunities these offer you and your business.

With around 4.8 million different SMEs in the United Kingdom and a difficult economic climate to battle with, small businesses have to be innovative and economical in order to survive and grow. Creating the best possible use of the latest technology for instance cloud hosted desktops opens up a lot of opportunities to boost the performance of your organisation while keeping up with the competition.

In a report created by the Federation of small Businesses (FSB) and Intellect, some key trends stand out concerning how and why small businesses are investing in technology and outsourced IT solutions.

59% of small businesses see technology as being beneficial for innovation

Innovation and growth go hand in hand. The rise in user friendly technology has allowed us all to embrace our inner geek. We're slowly morphing into a world of budding app creators, infographic designers and web site builders. Every month holds a brand new invention that might provide your business the edge over the competition like the rise of cloud hosted desktops, so stay informed and keep creating.

95% of small businesses use email and 62% see the benefit that technology has for communicating with existing customers.

The fast pace of innovation means there are currently a great number of ways to speak with existing clients and targeting potential prospects. Nowadays, devices integrate so seamlessly, which makes communicating with your customers a great deal easier and more unified. Our email syncs with our smartphones, hosted telephony solutions, instant messaging and video.

While email is still the most efficient type of communication you must ensure that your platform allows you to do so in the most effective method possible, be that sharing your calendar on-line with colleagues, sending out branded email templates or blocking spam. Indeed, plenty of SMEs are using hosted email services and cloud hosted desktops to provide such functionality.

76% of small businesses see cloud services and cloud hosted desktops as having a positive impact on business innovation.

Small businesses are constantly looking at ways to work more flexibly and cost effectively. Cloud services are in high demand because of the way they allow you to:

• Save money - on hardware by using the resources of a cloud provider

• Optimise operations - provide global, 24/7 access to tools

• Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD) - provide your staff the flexibility to work from any device

• Improve data management - Increase information sharing, collaboration and thus improve information accuracy

• Attract talented employees - who may not want to work in a traditional work environment

With the internet powering the creation of thousands of new businesses and unleashing a whole new wave of start-ups and competition, there is a new generation of tech savvy small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) coming through. It is important that you continue to invest and prioritise technology in your overall business development plans to keep pace with your competitors. By ensuring that you're aware of and have access to all of the services and support available to you for example utilising cloud hosted desktops or outsourced IT solutions, these are things that can keep you ahead of the game.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Buyers Remorse Can Kill Your Paycheck

Whenever "Buyers Remorse" strikes your client, it is clearly going to cost you money, one way or the other. When a person works on a commission basis and a cancellation happens, it usually comes out of your next paycheck rather quickly. Sometimes you can resell your client and refresh them as to why they purchased in the first place. It helps to find the client's "why" at the time of the sale, as a closing tool to make the sale in the first place.

We are talking about, Buyers Remorse, you may have experienced it firsthand at one time or another. Don't allow this subject to be the elephant in the room. You are ready to close your sales deal, the criteria has been met and the client is ready now.

At a time when you were buying that pretty car, then later felt like you spent too much money, you may have personally experienced buyers remorse.

Maybe that time you had somebody at your kitchen table selling you a funeral plan or an insurance policy and later decided that not only do you not need the product, you do not intend to part with your hard-earned-money.

This is how buyers remorse feels to your clients. Unfortunately, this is exactly what cancellation of your sale consists of and really hurts at payday.

Call your client after a cancellation of your sale. You sold it, now it is your responsibility to try and work it through. It helps to verbalize to your client that you do understand how they are feeling, as you attempt to save your sale. It also helps to know that once in awhile, nothing that you say or do will save your sale. At that point, let them cancel and do refund monies immediately.

If they paid you by check, write them a refund check from your business account.
When they pay by credit card, refund a credit through your merchant credit card account promptly. Do not make the client wait for any refunds due to them.

Your promptness and understanding, may very well bring your client back to you, after they are ready. Let it simmer for a month or so, then give your client a follow-up phone call. The client will appreciate that you did this and did not pressure them and perhaps in the future, go forward after all, with you and your company.

When a client is price shopping, sometimes you closed the deal and then their afterthought is with the lower priced item for sale by a competing company. Match the price, if you can and if you are authorized to do so. If you own the company, you do do have wiggle room when it comes to price points.

There are laws to protect consumers and merchants must abide by those laws. Relationship selling is a must. Please the customer and ask for referrals. Especially, when you know that you have a great product and your company is golden. Be that a Cancellation or a Sale, ask for referrals. Remember, they purchased from you first. They must have liked you and your product, even if they did cancel as an end result.

We cannot always control situations. Every family is different. Every potential sale started with a single thought that your buyer had at the time they engaged you in conversation.

Deliberate Intimidation and Other Jokes

Then there are the Marvin Winchells of the world, those who try to intimidate deliberately.

"Marvin has to let you know that he's really too important to be dealing with the likes of you," one of Marvin's vendors complained. "He's always late for meetings. He'll keep you cooling your heals while he chats on the phone about his golf game. He's got that huge office. Giant desk. His chair is a leather throne. The two cloth chairs for visitors are smaller and shorter. The topper is, he's actually whittled down their legs. And the front legs are shorter than the back. So you can't get comfortable, and if try to balance anything in your lap, it slides down to the floor."

"An old trick," I offered. "I think psychiatrists used to use it."

"Sure. I've heard of it, but I've never known anyone else who actually went to the trouble to do it. Then he has to act distracted and disinterested in anything you have to say. And shake his head while you're talking as if he's much too smart to believe a word of it. And of course, nothing you do is ever right--or ever likely to be."

"And at the slightest excuse," I offered, "the screaming starts. And the demands."

He chuckled, "You know Marvin."

"I was in sales. Every sales rep knows a Marvin."

He nodded. "Saying Marvin is high maintenance is like saying cancer is annoying. With all aggravation and all the hand-holding required, I was spending more in antacid than we were making on the account. So one day I get a call."

"From Marvin."

"Don't be silly. Marvin's much too big a deal to call me directly. I get a call from Marvin's secretary. She says, Please hold for Mr. Winchell, please." This is typical Marvin. Then he'd leave you hanging there for 20 minutes. Only I'd had enough. So I say, The only thing I'll hold for Mr. Winchell is his trophy wife. And I can't do that right now cause I'm busy canceling his last order--his very last order."

Why should anyone feel intimidated by someone like Marvin, someone with such massive insecurities that they feel they need to go to such lengths to gain an edge? This is a person you should be feeling sorry for. What could be more pathetic than the image of this guy down on his knees in his best, overpriced, dressed-for-success suit, shaving down those chair legs?

Tip: Never be intimidated by someone who thinks his best shot is winning through intimidation.

They're usually just telling you that they're in competition with the world and that--without the intimidation--they don't believe they can win. And they're usually right. They try to blow themselves up like a balloon--hoping for larger than life--and when it doesn't work, when the balloon pops... Well, you'll never see a greater change of scale--a greater loss of stature--in any human being.

Any good negotiator would love to run across a Marvin Winchell. An unethical one could take him for everything--including the defective office furniture.

Friday, June 14, 2013

A Healthy Business Profit Does Not Guarantee a Healthy Future

A successful business is one that is making a profit, paying the bills, and letting you live comfortably, right?

Wrong. A healthy profit does not guarantee a healthy future. You might have made profit this month, but what about next month... Can you guarantee future success?

Profit measures what has happened, but it does not recognise everything that enables your business to generate that profit today and into the future. Your daily efforts, employee contribution, marketing and most importantly, client perception and trust, will all contribute to future success. Developing these aspects of your business adds value - and it is value that measures what will happen in the future.

To better understand this concept, think about how you would prepare yourself to invest in a company. You could either look at its current profit level, or you could look at the price, its future potential, the value of its stock and whether this value will increase over time.

Making a judgement based on profits would seem unreasonable, and like an investment, your business has the ability to increase or decrease in value overtime. Thankfully, unlike profit, you have full control over how much value your business holds for as long as you continue to invest in it.

Once you believe and understand that it is value driving your business success, you can look forward rather than back, and profit will naturally drive everything in the background.

Here's how to increase your business value?

• Differentiate your business: a business that has unique capabilities and stands out from its competitors is more likely to be recognised, and rated, by customers. Providing an unparalleled service creates long-term, profitable customer relationships. If you don't have a differentiating factor, create one. Whether you make your focus about being the fastest, most reliable, or most customisable service, there are two rules to follow. Ensure your differentiating factor is as specific as possible, such as 'Delivered within 24 hours - always', and make sure you can always fulfil it.

• Form strategic and collaborative alliances: strategic alliances can be a great source of growth, for example; connecting with a complementary company may allow you to tender for work you may not be able to deliver on your own. To make the most out of a strategic alliance, be clear on your desired outcomes, prepare a business plan and SWOT analysis of your joint alliance, and set specific time lines and trial time frames.

• Develop your brand: an established and recognised brand builds market credibility over time, and such a reputation can help sustain revenues through growth. Perform some internal research and understand what three things define your business. Use these as the building blocks of your brand. It's also important to enhance the emotional appeal of your brand, whether it be touching imagery, or a reminder of your company's longstanding role in the community. A brand will endure far longer if it doesn't appeal purely to the rational side of people's brains.

• Retain important staff: key staff members who are experienced are a valuable asset. Provide a work environment that is enjoyable to be in, create opportunities for career progression, empower your team by encouraging an open dialogue, and acknowledge individual contributions. Provide these opportunities and incentives and your team will want to help you create a valuable business.

• Strengthen systems and structures: having procedures and training manuals in place strengthens your business value. They provide the ability to quickly train new staff, create accountability and ensure everyone is working on the same page. Create training documents, incorporate a project management system, and regularly hold team meetings to keep track of everyone's expectations and outcomes.

Creating a valuable business is not a difficult process, but one that relies on an understanding of what it is that determines your success; not your profits, but the employees, customers, operations and services bringing it in.

Passing Score For The PMP Exam, Is There One?

Is there a passing score for the PMP Exam? The simple answer is no. There is no set official percentage that you have to obtain in order to pass the PMP Exam. In the early years 61% was the stated threshold, but several years ago the PMI changed that requirement and that is no longer the case. Since then, the PMP Exam is differently structured and the scores are strategically calculated.

To explain this further, here is a passage taken straight from the PMI's PMP Handbook:

"The passing score for all PMI credential examinations is determined by sound psychometric analysis. PMI uses subject matter experts from across the globe to help establish a point at which each candidate should pass the examination(s) and the examination point of difficulty. Data that shows how candidates actually performed is cross referenced with the subject matter experts to ensure that the point of difficulty on each examination is healthy."

So, basically this means that there is no set percentage to pass or fail the PMP Exam. This level varies for each exam and is reflective of the exam's overall difficulty and how well all the student's taking the exam score. As well, each question is given an individual rating and weight depending on its level of difficulty.

As for the structure of the PMP Exam, it is comprised of 200 multiple choice questions. There are 25 questions that are considered pretest and are randomly and strategically placed throughout the exam. They do not affect the final score and are used to test the validity of future exams. So, it is only the other 175 questions that will be counted in the final score. These questions cover the 5 Process Groups (Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring & Controlling, and Closing). It is worth noting that the PMI does not specify a passing score for these areas either. On your PMP Exam scorecard each area is broken down and given a rating of Proficient, Moderately Proficient, or Below Proficient.

As for the PMP Exam Simulators that you use for your training, most (including ours) do have a passing score, with the score of each area of expertise broken down further. A score of 75% is generally what everyone aims for. When practicing, aim for this score and you should be well prepared for the Exam and up for the challenge.

The PMP Exam is tough, but understanding how the exam questions and scoring are structured should help in preparation and your overall success.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Move From Family Business to B-School

Applicants who have worked in a family business sometimes worry that their professional profile won't measure up when compared with other MBA hopefuls with more traditional employment paths. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Every year, top schools accept students who will go back to work for the family business. In fact, 9 percent of the applicants accepted into the Harvard Business School class of 2014 had worked for, or planned to work for, their family-owned company.

Business schools strive to compose a cohort of diverse personalities and backgrounds to guarantee lively discussions, so depending on your role in the company and the type of business itself, your experiences would likely add a unique perspective to the class.

Part of your school selection research should focus on what types of resources and support for family businesses are offered by your target programs. For many applicants, a one-year MBA program is ideal since you won't need the internship and recruiting opportunities that job-switching students in two-year programs rely on.

I advise applying to the best schools that you think you can get into because they will offer a great education as well as the best networking opportunities. Also, think about whether the school's geographic location will help you build a network which would directly help your family business.

Family business management has emerged as an important discipline at business schools as second- and third-generation family members realize the need for specialized skills in order to take over the reins and create a more corporate work environment. Over the past decade, schools have introduced courses and clubs on family business, founded centers dedicated to the subject or launched concentrations in this area.

Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management has a Center for Family Enterprises. Columbia Business School, stating that 80 percent of businesses worldwide are classified as family businesses, offered a course this spring on Family Business Management. And students and alumni of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School can participate in the Wharton Family Business Club.

If the school offers a student club focused on this group, reaching out to current members for their insight on the program's benefits might prove invaluable in your decision-making process.

As with any winning application, the strategy in this case is to show in detail how an MBA degree will help you further your professional goals. Explain with specifics what you need to learn in order to grow the family business.

Paint a clear picture of your vision for the company's future, and leave no doubt as to how an MBA will help you make an impact on the business after graduation. That way, the admissions committee understands why business school is the logical next step.

For your essays, start brainstorming some of the challenges your business has faced, and come up with examples that show how you as a family worked to overcome those obstacles. Business schools place a high value on teamwork, and what better way to show commitment and follow-through than by demonstrating you know how to work well with others to achieve a common goal?

As many applicants know, the ideal recommender for an MBA application is the manager to whom you report directly. However, if your immediate supervisors are relatives, you'll need to get creative since you cannot have a family member write your recommendation letter.

Can you approach a supervisor or manager from a company you've previously worked for? Or have you worked closely with any clients or vendors that can speak to your managerial or leadership abilities?

Our client Bill had been working for the family business, a manufacturing company in Baltimore, for three years after college.

After brainstorming for recommenders he could approach outside the business, Bill hit upon a retail vendor that had been supplied by his company for more than a decade with whom he'd built a strong relationship. Since this vendor was evaluating Bill on many similar criteria as a direct supervisor and was an objective, outside source, he turned out to be the perfect choice.

In the end, Bill's family business-based application fared well next to candidates coming from a corporate background. He was ultimately admitted to Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business and University of Virginia's Darden School of Business, and chose Darden to be a little closer to home.

Alberto Gimeno, director of Esade Business School's International Family Business Lab, recently noted in the Financial Times that "Concepts such as honesty, pride, loyalty and long-term commitment... are everyday practices of successful family businesses around the world."

If you're planning on pursuing an MBA to learn how to take your family business to the next level, take pride in your professional circumstances and know that business schools will value your accomplishments and responsibilities, whether acquired at a Fortune 500 company or under Mom and Dad's tutelage.