Welcome to 2022! As we kick off all kinds of new goals, initiatives and strategies, the one question hat exists for all of us is how we engage with our clients. The past couple of years has most likely changed the way you communicate, but also how your clients like to communicate with you. What may have worked for you in the past (things like: networking coffees and lunches) may not work today. I do remember the days when email was a brand new technology, and smart phones didn’t exist. However much I yearn for those simpler times, our abilities to engage with our clients and potential clients has expanded exponentially. Believe it or not, it is much easier to get in front of your customer base that is ever has before. Here are some ways to help you stay front and center with those you want to do business with.
Social Media – if you are not engaged with at least one social media platform, I encourage you to sign up now. It is a free medium to not only gather valuable information about your industry, competitors and market in general, but it is a platform for you to share all the great things that make you shine.
Exclusive Events – who doesn’t like to feel special? This doesn’t mean you have to plan a big catered event and spend a lot of money. What it does mean is create an “exclusive” experience for your client. What do they love to do, and how do they like to spend their time outside of work?
Referrals for Them – how can you refer business for your client? Who can you connect and make an introduction that will enhance your client’s business and your market share with them?
Consistency – the frequency of your interactions helps to keep you and your company at the top of anyone’s mind. This can be done through: email, phone calls, texts, face to face meetings, sharing educational resources, social media, invitations to special events, and more.
We can’t always dictate how business comes to us. If you own your own business, or are in any kind of sales role (and that means a lot of us!), asking for the business is one of the main elements of your day/ week / year. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if business came to us in exactly the same way we requested it?
Sales outreach efforts come in a variety of ways. It may be through:
Cold calling – or asking directly for the business. This can come in the form of a variety of communications channels, but most likely it happens over the phone or in person. You get an immediate response, even if that response is a “no.”
Referrals – this type of business is where you’d like your business to come from. Past and current clients giving your name to another business owner to reach out to you is golden.
Indirect Marketing channels – this can come in the form of email blasts, blog posts, direct mail pieces, or social media campaigns. You are trying to encourage a response, but are not immediately in front of your target customer so the response may be missed, skipped over or not at the top of their mind.
Brand awareness – this style of sales outreach is also more indirect, but keeps your brand / image / style in front of a wider range of potential customers on a regular basis. Building a brand can be tricky, and consistent communication and audience growth is key.
Response timing and style – believe it or not, how you respond to questions, inquiries and all around conversations about your community and industry will set you apart in your business. Customers want to connect with people who are a resource, and that can respond quickly.
With each of these strategies, it is also important to remember how your target customer likes to be communicated with. You may leave a voicemail, and they respond with an email. Others may only want to talk to you on the phone or in person. Navigating the communication process to attract and retain your ideal customer will help keep business coming your way.
How many times have you told yourself “when I get to X then I can do X” ? Or “when I save (a certain dollar amount) then I can buy X”?
I hear this excuse a lot, and I’m calling it an excuse, because the truth of the matter is your power doesn’t rest in the unknown. Living in a world of uncertainty is not great. In fact, it can be stressful and debilitating if you let it. So how can you take back your power?
Start with a the smallest step – you got it, start doing something! The smallest step towards what you want and who you want to be is everything. This first smallest step can be as simple as making a list of what you want to achieve. If you get stuck here, then reverse this list and write down what you don’t want to achieve.
For example: if you have a financial goal of: When I save $1000 in my emergency fund, then I can start planning to remodel the guest bathroom. Ok – great goal to have, but have you even considered what your guest bathroom remodel will entail? Will it be new paint and fixtures, or a full gut job taking the room down to the studs? Have you gotten estimates on what your project will even cost? Putting the steps together, even before you are ready to pull the trigger, will (believe it or not) open up the path to achievement. You may find out that the steps of your plan aren’t hurdles at all, and that the tools already exist for you to get started.
2. Overcome the mindset that “others take away my power.” This is a good one. I, too, have gotten all excited about a new idea only to have those close to me (my spouse included) take all the wind out of my sails. It is not because they think my idea is a bad one, necessarily, but perhaps more to do with the fact that my idea isn’t interesting to them. This is where the planning part of your strategy needs to come into play. As yourself these questions:
Why is this goal important to me?
What will allow me to do differently than I’m doing now?
What will not moving forward with this goal mean to me?
Who and what do I need to have to accomplish this goal?
3. Find your own path. Many years ago, I was on a long flight by myself and was seated next to a guy who ended up having a remarkable conversation with. It is not always the case that we get seated next to strangers and end up having a hours long bonding session, but this one stuck a chord with me. I never got his name, but the conversation we had was powerful. I can’t even remember how the conversation started, or even what the specific topic was about. The feeling I got when the flight was over was a feeling of understanding, sense of self and aspiration to be more centered in who I was. This gentleman exuded a high sense of self confidence, humbleness, and total lack of insecurity in who he was. We were sitting in coach, and as we exited the plane I watched as he made his way over to the limo driver who was holding a sign with his name. An assistant greeted him, took his carry on bag and escorted him into the waiting limo at the curb. I felt like I had been given a gift that day. This person was obviously someone who had achieved financial success, but took the time to have a hours long conversation with me (a complete stranger) in coach on an airplane. WOW!
4. Share your power. The best way to feel powerful is to give it to others. Think of yourself as a magic fairy who can wave their magic wand and drop power into the hearts and minds of others at any given moment. Something as little as a kind word of encouragement, an open ended question, or a little nudge in the right direction through an introduction is a spark that someone else needs to reclaim their power.
5. There is enough power for all of us. I sometimes come across other people who hang on to their power like it is their last lifeline on this earth. They are afraid to “give their power away” because that will mean that there is less for them to have or control. Here is a secret: power is not limitless. Allowing others in our lives to rise up will create even more power to us.
Do you have a new idea for a business? If so, congratulations! According to the Small Business Administration, more than 600,000 new businesses are started each year in the United States. Small businesses also account for almost half of the workforce.
As you are getting your business established, a good first step would be to meet with an accountant. The best time to do this is after tax season (May through December). Accountants will typically have a lot more time to meet with you post tax season, and most first time consultations are free. When I first considered starting my own business, my CPA (Certified Public Accountant) was one of my first calls. Everyone’s financial situation is different, and this is not a one-size-fits-all arrangement. Depending upon your current tax filing status (whether you are single, married,have dependents, etc) having a business incorporation strategy will be key to how you not only protect yourself as a business owner from certain liabilities, but also how you can take advantage of certain tax deductions and benefits.
Creating a new business entity (and this is separate from just establishing the name of your business) is not expensive, but in my opinion necessary. Let the experts walk you through this. Some ways that you could structure your business include:
Unincorporated business with one owner or jointly owned by a married couple
Unincorporated business with two or more owners
Registered business composed of active, general partners and passive, limited partners
Limited liability partnership
Partnership structure that shields all partners from personal liability
Limited liability limited partnership
Type of limited partnership with some liability protection for general partners
Limited liability company (LLC)
Registered business with limited liability for all members
Professional limited liability company
LLC structure for professionals, such as doctors and accountants
Incorporated business composed of shareholders, directors, and officers
Incorporated business that is taxed as a pass-through entity
Corporate structure for professionals, such as doctors and accountants
For-profit corporation that is certified for meeting social and environmental standards
Corporation formed primarily to benefit the public interest rather than earn a profit
I’m excited for you to start on the journey to establishing your business! Tap into the experts in your area to ask what is the best fit for you. If you are unsure of who to contact first, reach out to your local Chamber of Commerce, SBDC Office, or business network to get referrals.
The only thing that is ever constant is change. Working in commercial real estate, I see trends and fads come and go. New concepts, ideas and formats for business are tried and dismissed; molded and shaped until something makes sense.
Even though the past year has forced change into our lives and work environments, change is ever present. How we work the best isn’t always determined by a pandemic. The office sector of our workforce has been one that I get questions about the most. With the technology available to us, remote working is here to stay – and had existed for many people for years.
A recent article published by Joseph J. Ori on http://www.globefest.com titled “15 Reasons Why Office Demand Will Remain Robust Post Covid” outlines what to expect for office users this year.
“One important reason for increased space demand will be due to new office space layouts. Post-Covid, the open office concept, which most companies adopted during the last 20 years, will be out the window and cubicles will be back in style and so will more and larger conference rooms, wider hallways, more individual offices, larger kitchens, lobbies, and meeting areas. This will require many existing office tenants to demand more, not less space.
The primary sector that will adopt a work at home or hybrid workforce model is the technology industry. The total office market in the US is approximately 12.5 billion square feet and the tech sector accounts for 20% or 2.5 billion square feet of the entire market. Even if the tech sector sheds 20% of its total space for work at home programs, this will only amount to 500 million square feet or 4.0% of the total rentable space. The increased demand from the growing economy and new space layouts will more than offset any of the potentially 500 million square feet of space lost from tech industry work at home programs.”
Here are a few things I want you to consider as you think about how you work the best:
Does your work environment play a factor in your productivity?
Do you have a need for daily collaboration?
Does having a private space make you feel more comfortable in an office environment?
And here are some final words of support during this crazy time: even though our work and work environments are changing, there will always be opportunities to share your talents.
Competition amongst businesses, and people, can be energizing and productive. Competition allows us to keep our eye on the ball and consider on a regular basis what others are doing in our space to be successful. Competition can be a healthy part of your business growth.
What happens when other like-kind businesses enter the marketplace, and even <gasp> market to our own customers?
I think it is a natural inclination to react to competition by verifying and validating your value to your customer base. I would even bet that if you have experienced a competing business in your market that you went on the defensive. You drove by their shop, and even sent a “mystery shopper” inside to spy. You probably tried to find out what their “special offers” are, or what they are doing differently to stand out. You would then immediately pass of these new ideas as “fads” and “temporary.”
Here is where competition can help us. Competition should always be considered, even if there isn’t an immediate threat in your market. You should always be working to improve and win over your customer base on a constant and continual basis. What else keeps you on your toes?
As we delve deeper into our competition, I want to ask you the following:
Who are your competitors? They might not be who you think they are. For example, who would have thought that your phone would be the competitor to your TV?
What makes your competitor your competitor? Identifying how and why your customers use your goods or services is key.
Are you a one-time purchase, or something that is needed on a frequent basis?
How easy is it to buy a product or service from you?
What does the sales experience look like at your business?
What does your follow up time after a sale is made look like?
I hope you are using these tools on a regular basis to evaluate your business experience, and not only when the threat of competition is looming.
Let’s switch gears and talk about synergy. Like-kind businesses can also be synergistic. If you take a look around the community you live in, you will probably notice many synergistic business that are located right next door to each other. Take the home improvement industry. In most communities, there are multiple home improvement stores located on opposite corners, or within blocks of each other. Why does this happen you ask? Because of synergy. While two businesses may appear to carry the same products, more than likely if a customer can’t find what they are looking for at one home improvement store, the other one will have it. These two businesses are relying on the customer base in that community to shop at both, for different reasons. One store might offer a better supply of lumber, while the other might feature more garden items. The same can be said for the banking industry. How many high traffic intersections are home to more than one bank or credit union? What appeals to one customer base can create an appeal to a different customer base for different reasons.
What are the lessons learned here?
Continually evaluate your business to determine its strengths and weakness so you won’t even have to defend it to a new competitor.
Determine what your business does best, and create synergy with those around you. It is a-ok to be a specialist, and not be a “one stop shop.” Decide if those synergistic businesses can create a referral network for you, instead of trying to compete.
I love getting a little extra. The extra shot of espresso or added whipped cream to my coffee drink, the discount for being a frequent customer, and even receiving some free expert advice – it adds up over time when I am considering how to patronize the businesses in my area. As business owners, when do you provide value (for free), and when do you ask for a commitment (by way of a financial payment)?
Being in commercial real estate, having additional experts on speed dial is a great added benefit to my clients (who are business owners) and for my own business.. A few areas of expertise that I value in my business is that of an attorney and a CPA. Reviewing complex real estate contracts, to evaluating how a business is established (or dissolved) and the profitability model are some of the areas I like to lean on my expert friends for. Over the years, I have had these experts provide a quick insight or perspective to my clients, as well as develop long standing and profitable (for both sides) relationships. When I followed up recently with one of these friends, I asked him how he determined how much advice to provide up front without the expectation of a fee?
That can be a tricky question for a lot of us. If you are in real estate, like me, your paycheck doesn’t come until the business is fully complete (and sometimes not at all if a deal falls through). For others, a payment structure is established at the beginning and an invoice is provided for payment for the time it took to complete the job – whether the outcome was good or bad. If your business sells a product, then the exchange of payment for the product usually happens at the same time (unless the product needs to be ordered, then payment is usually placed up front and the delivery of the item comes later).
As business owners, we need to carefully consider how much up front value is comfortable for each of us. Here are some things to evaluate about your business:
Will up front value increase the propensity for a sale?
Will up front value create a higher sale?
Will up front value set you apart from your competition?
Is there a cost to providing up front value?
I am asking you to think about value in a little different terms. For many years, the term “value added” was the norm. I think it was a very popular fast food restaurant to coined the phrase “do you want fries with that?” The value add proposition was born. In this day and age, value can be tangible, but value can also be perception. The expectation of value needs to be established at the start, so the buying decision can then commence.
The beauty of our businesses is that we can determine what value we can and want to provide. What you may become surprised with is what your customers actually are willing to pay for. Those “value add” offers could work in your favor if structured and marketed the right way.
Even the most put together, self assured person can struggle with confidence. It is intimidating to make the cold-call, give the presentation and ask for the business sometimes. How can you overcome those obstacles and feel confident?
I want you to remember that you never have to be 100% prepared for anything. Part of your internal confidence quotient is your ability to connect the dots. I used to get all up in my head about an upcoming meeting if I wasn’t 100% sure of everything. Rest assured, I bet there isn’t a single person in the room that is at 100% either!
What can you do to give yourself that confidence boost?
Find out what THEIR goals are. We tend to want to share our needs first, especially when time is limited. Wait on that. The best way to boost your confidence is to give a boost of confidence to the person you want to connect with. If you can validate and understand their goals, your likelihood of setting that next meeting is high.
Why would (insert name) want to meet with you in the first place? I have met a lot of salespeople over the years who, when I ask them this very question, answer it with an elevator pitch of their best product or service. That’s not what they want to hear. Here’s a secret: your potential customer wants you to identify their biggest issue, problem, or success. They want to be understood and know that you know what they want. Find those common goals and interests, and make connections outside of your product or service.
Bring something of value. I bet you have a pretty good handle on your industry. What is something that you have learned that could enhance their productivity, connections or profits with no sales commitment with you? I’m not saying to give away the farm with this information, but give them a taste of your value.
Offer your network to others. It is one thing to ask for a referral from others, but how about offering to use your network to refer as well? This goes right along with that value add item, and can be a pretty powerful tool.
Show genuine gratitude. Even after a first meeting or connection, when I hope you are sending a “thank you” note or email, thanking others for their contributions to your business and life are essential. It isn’t just a feel good, but solidifies your presence in their life and creates connections into a greater understanding of both you and them.
Slow down. When we are nervous, we go fast! It’s a physical response. Our heart beat quickens, our palms (and other areas) start to sweat, we exhibit a sense of urgency. Take a deep breath, and focus on taking it slow. When I first started public speaking, I had to mentally tell myself to speak at the pace a four-year-old could follow. Slow and articulate speech shows, and builds, confidence. It allows you to annunciate your words, and carefully consider your responses and thoughts before they leave your mouth. It also allows you to focus on listening to others, when you are not in such a hurry to respond!
Confidence building is an ongoing activity. As someone who works in commission based sales, I have had my highest highs and lowest lows in the same day! You can build strength and confidence around daily practices, so the major ups and downs won’t affect you as much.
Ok 2020. I got it. I’ve struggled, and muddled, and fought against the “new normal” long enough. This year was a teaching moment for all of us. While we are days away from putting it all behind us, as many of us like to say, I think we are on the horizon of realizing who we really are.
There has been no better environment to find out what you are made of than 2020. Who were you before you were forced into quarantine? Who were you before you thought about the air that you breathe? Who were you when you went about your everyday and thought more about the errands that needed to be completed instead of thinking about adversity?
I’ll tell you who I was. I was someone who didn’t truly appreciate my home and my community. I was someone who put off until later the value of spending the time, making the memory and enjoying the sunshine. I was someone who would doubt my own abilities because someone put a thought in my head that said I couldn’t.
This year has been a series of teaching moments, and that alone has been a blessing.
What I have learned this year has been empowering:
I am married to my soul mate. My heart hurts for couples who have gone through break ups this year. Choosing your life mate is probably one of most important things you will do in life, and (in my opinion) way harder than raising kids. Spending more time than usual together is definitely a test of your relationship. I knew that my husband was this person long before COVID hit, but this year has been strengthening to our relationship in ways that make me excited about the future.
I have a voice that is unique and powerful. I used to overthink my blog posts, podcasts, emails…you name it. Drafts and more drafts would be constructed before I would feel confident enough to publish. What I have learned this year is that my voice, ideas and messages are not meant for everyone. And that is OK. Those that feel connected to what I have to say are who I am meant to be with and work with.
There is no roadmap for success. While there are always lessons to be learned from those that went before us, no one has lived and experienced this year. You create your own path, and you make the rules.
I don’t have a place for assholes. I was amazed at how much I “put up with” from other people. Whether it was the offhand comment, to just being, well, an asshole. I realized that I can’t change the world, but I can change how I react to it. How I show up in the world makes a difference, and has given others the strength to do the same.
We can create change even in micro steps. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and people’s minds, attitudes and deep seeded systematic racism won’t change in a day. We need to take steps, even the smallest steps forward each and every day to understand, become aware, and advocate for our fellow human beings in these great communities that we call home. I want to live in a world where the color of someone’s skin, the spelling of their name, which gender they identify with, or knowing their background doesn’t even give a millisecond of pause to anyone.
I want you to make your time on this earth the best that it can be. Share your talents with us. Show forgiveness and grace. Walk away from those that don’t serve you, and be a teacher for others to learn from.
“Check in with yourself before you check in with the world”
– Matthew McConaughey
How do you operate most days? Are you a morning person or a night owl? Do you enjoy bursts of activity, or quiet spaces? Do you like to live in the moment or are constantly planning for what comes next?
The truth is, we ALL operate on various frequencies that don’t always sync up with those that are around us.
I have realized that I am a morning person. I naturally wake up early (some days earlier than others), but don’t necessarily like to have to be put together early. I like my quiet time in the morning to get a cup of coffee, check the news / emails / social media and get organized for the day. I feel the most at peace when I have some space in my morning routine and don’t feel rushed to get out the door. But when I’m ready, I go all in. I thrive on the hustle and bustle of my day. I love meetings to create strategies and solutions, and most importantly provide value to my clients. I am charged up by moving the dial a little more and a little more towards the finish line.
At the end of most work days, I am ready to crawl back into my cocoon of home and surround myself with just my immediate family.
My frequency is a mix of quiet and calm and high energy and collaboration. I find myself thriving in both, and too much of one frequency can leave me pining for the other.
Our firm hosted a guest speaker at an event we had a few years ago. She traveled to our area from out of town, and was scheduled to fly out the next morning. Her hotel was about an hour away, and at the close of the event that evening one of my colleagues who was scheduled to drive her to her hotel had to cancel due to another commitment. I offered to drive her, and she politely declined (and reserved an Uber instead) telling me that she actually would prefer to ride with a stranger, so she didn’t have to be “on.” Needless to say, I was surprised to hear that she wanted to be able to turn it off. She gave a presentation on stage, and mixed and mingled with a large group of professionals for several hours and didn’t skip a beat. I admired her ability to recognize her own frequency, and how to give it a rest.
How many times do we push our own frequencies to the limit just so we can feel included? Or not let others down?
This year, especially, has tested our own frequencies. I think many of us have realized exactly how we operate on an even deeper level that we originally thought. My motive here in writing this post is to get you to think about how in tune you are with your own frequency, and that it doesn’t have to match others.