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Don’t Do this In Your Business! December 23, 2008

Posted by David Dirks in Local Brand Development.
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David DirksMy furnace needs to be looked at because it’s not operating well.  So I do what I usually find helpful and call a friend who told me a while ago that they found a great furnace guy.   He is local, very good technically, reasonable, and “very nice”.  So far so good.  I called and was told that he may or may not be taking on new clients.  A couple hours later I get a call from his office saying, “he’s too busy and can’t help you”.   That’s it?  Ok, I know it’s winter and he’s bound to be busy…probably a one-person furnace repair show.  However, he and his business missed an opportunity.

What was his opportunity?  For starters, he didn’t even try to take on a new account.  He could have very easily asked me if I could wait a few days.  But even if he is booked solid from now until 2020, he missed an opportunity to build some local goodwill and improved his ‘local brand’ appeal.  Gee, I’m OK if you can’t do it, but how about giving me a name or two of someone else I could call?  Wow!  He would have improved his average with me by 150% if he’d just had made a referral to another furnace repair place.

I understand that if you’re in a small business, it’s often hard to see the forest of opportunities when you can only see through the trees.

Here are some lessons learned from todays episode:

  • Try to save the sale and make it work if you can.
  • Don’t leave your potential customer without options.  Make an effort to steer them to another solution, even if it means giving business away to a competitor.  They’ll remember you for it and probably be very thankful.
  • Think bigger.  If this guy is so booked that he can afford to turn down business, then he might want to think about expanding his business.  Maybe hiring someone to pick up the business he can’t cover?  Think. Think. Think.

Of course, I did ask if they could recommend anyone else.  “Nope”.  Great.  Not only do you NOT want my business, you don’t want anyone else to have it either.  Like the American General during the WWII Battle of the Bulge said in his reply to the German General who asked for his surrender: NUTS.

I feel better now.

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Winning by letting others win December 21, 2008

Posted by rickbron in Achieving goals, Bronder On People, Dealing With Competitors, Fixing performance problems, Power.
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The Big Dogz know that winning is not always getting your way. Sometimes it pays to get the ideas or agendas of others implemented rather than your own. Here are some tips to help you be more effective as a solution leader in your organization:

 

  • Try meeting with key people before the problem solving session to get some idea of their thoughts. Spend time with them to help them build their case for presentation in the meeting.

 

  • Be alert for signs of resistance during solution discussion. Tone and non-verbal signals are important. When you see resistance, try to bring it out in the open where you can deal with it. An effective way to get the resistance out in the open is to ask a closed ended question with your assumption. For example, “Are you concerned about the cost of this solution?” They will answer yes or no. If yes, you got it out in the open. If no, follow up with “What is your concern?”

 

  • Analyze the cost of getting your way. Does your solution help your personal goals versus the goals of the organization? Are you acquiring a reputation as a person who has to win every situation, no mater the importance to you? If the issue is not that important to you, let others take the lead.

 

 

  • Ask others, like your manager or a trusted colleague, to provide you feedback on your actions in problem solving sessions. Are you monopolizing the conversation or pushing your agenda? Look to get feedback that you are cooperating and getting others involved.

 

  • Before you go into a problem solving session, take time to discover the needs and goals of others at the meeting. You will be able to get more support for your idea if you link it to others’ needs. Sometimes the needs of others’ outweigh you personal needs. Keep your options open.

 

 

  • While you are presenting your idea, identify areas where you are willing to compromise. This will encourage others to fill in the details of your solution that they support. Ask others what are the no compromise issues about their solutions. Accept these points and offer compromise in other areas if you can.

 

  • Find a role model. Look for someone who does an effective job of driving solutions and getting everyone to participate. Observe them and experiment with what they do.

 

The Big Dogz know that winning does not always mean g4tting your way. There are others in the organization who have good ideas. Be the one who gets others to contribute. You will win in the long run.

 

Retailer Strategies: Beating the Big Boxes December 20, 2008

Posted by David Dirks in Building Foot Traffic, business strategy, Buzz Marketing: Lowest Cost/Highest Payoff, Marketing Buzz, Recession: How to Beat It!, Retailer Store Strategies, Sales Strategy/Tactics.
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David DirksA regular reader of our blog, a marketing director of a two-store retail operation, recently sent me this note:

“I have stumbled across your site via Google, and have found many useful tips, and ideas to use in our day to day operations with my previous employer in the retail industry.

I am now in the retail world, and although similar in the “customer focused industry”.   I am finding it harder to come up with ideas to draw in foot traffic for our unique, upscale home & garden boutique.  We capture e-mails & information, send out mass e-mails with flyers, intimate wine & cheese events that have a store wide sale during that event.  I’m in the process of creating a newsletter for launch Jan 1, and our owners are constantly running a sale of some sort (which I think devalues the product if there is a 15-25% off sale every day).

Do you think you can help? I need something that will create a buzz quickly, our owners want fast results…”
I called her and we had a nice chat.  For the most part, she is doing many things already that will pay bigger dividends as time goes on.  She’s new to the retailer she works for now and has some excellent marketing skills.  After our conversation, I sent her an email recapping some of my thoughts.

I thought you might find them helpful, so I’ve added my summary to her below:

Thanks again for taking the time to chat with me today.  We’re glad that you’ve found the “Running with the Big Dogz” blog helpful to you.

I thought it would be good just to quickly recap a few items we discussed:

  • It seems that you are already creating additional customer value by developing your newsletter and adding other ‘event’s’ to your store schedule.
  • Increasing the number customers that are added weekly to the customer database will become more critical as time goes on.  I would recommend capturing all customers, even those who are from out of town.  You can still send them an electronic version of your newsletter if the newsletter is packed with tips & advice on gardening, basic skills, etc. The out-of-town customers will be your internet customers of the future.
  • Your strategic advantage against the big box competitors in your market is your ability to drill down to the customer level. The big boxes have no customer level tracking whatsoever.  If you capture POS data for every customer, you’ll soon have a treasure trove of demographic and buying data that will help you refine your product/service set as well as target very customized offers to your customers based on their historical buying habits.
  • Web-based sales should be a high priority and acceleration of for expanding sales/service via the internet is key.  You indicated that they had already begun some minor commercial expansion of the website but I would make it a much higher priority than it is.  Internet sales may or may not overtake your in-store sales but the goal is to add incrementally profitable revenue streams.
  • Your ‘girls night out’ program sounds excellent and we discussed creating a similar package for the men too.
  • I highly recommend reducing or cutting completely any marketing spend on flyers or ads in free distribution periodicals.  As I noted, it might be better to spend that money on more ‘one-to-one’ marketing programs like your demographically target events, targeted direct mail offers, and more investment in commercializing your website.
  • We also discussed the alternative of possibly empowering your sales team to offer an instant X% discount for buyers who need just a slight push to make the sale that day.  It may be a much more constructive way to offer a discount ONLY IF NECESSARY to keep a customer from walking out.  It might be more effective than the constant “gotta sell everything today at a discount” mentality.  The caveat is that if the “deep” discounting works and your profit margins remain stable, then it may make sense to keep doing it.
  • To get more mileage from your PR marketing efforts, especially for your special events, I’d call and develop a relationship with the business editors at the major paid circulation newspapers and other periodicals.
  • One of the best ways to help ‘sell’ a marketing proposal is focusing on the benefits (not the features of the program) and use real examples from other high performing businesses to demonstrate that the concept has a track record of success.

Based on what I heard today, you are on the right track and are doing the things that will provide you with the recession-resistent flow of business.  It will take time but it will come.  Keep up the great work!

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Have a burning marketing and/or sales issue?  Feel free to email me at dirksmarketing@gmail.com and see if together we can come up with some ways to solve it.

Giving feedback to your manager December 12, 2008

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Feedback, Management, Managing up, Performance issues.
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The Big Dogz always welcome feedback. Even when the Big Dogz are in a management position, they openly request and value feedback. Giving feedback is easy when the manager asks you for it. Not all managers are like the Big Dogz! Sometimes it is difficult to give your manager feedback, especially when they are not open to the notion of getting feedback.

 

The problem may be the way you deliver feedback. Most people are reluctant to receive ineffectively presented feedback. Most people are happy to receive constructive feedback. Effective feedback is about a result or a behavior that affects a result. It is not personal. When you give feedback, be specific and cite examples. Avoid labels — both positive and negative labels. Statements like “You were really professional in that presentation” or “You looked unprepared in that presentation” are not useful and do not tell the recipient exactly what is your feedback.

 

Examples of effective feedback are:

  • Our objective was to address the objections of the customer. In the presentation you made to the customer, I saw you use sarcasm in response to a question the customer had. You said …
  • I know you are working to be an effective coach. In our last session, you identified three specific actions I could take to improve my performance. I appreciate your focus on helping me.
  • Our relationship is important to me. I get frustrated when you raise your voice when correcting me. Yesterday when I showed my progress report, you shouted at me.

 

Here are three ways to approach your manager if you have effective feedback for them:

 

Ask them directly if they want feedback.

Before you approach the manager, make sure you have at least one positive piece of feedback to deliver. The first step is to get the manager alone and ask, “Would you like some feedback?”  Pay special attention to how the manager answers your question. If you get an uninterested or frustrated “Yeah, what?” kind of response, deliver your positive feedback and move on. Obviously, this manager is not really interested in getting feedback from you. If you are fortunate and work for one of the Big Dogz, they will respond in a positive and eager way, encouraging you to provide the feedback. When you get this response, give the positive feedback then any corrective feedback you may have.

 

Ask them for feedback on how you are contributing to the manager employee relationship.

If you are not comfortable asking your manager if they want feedback, then ask them to give you feedback about your relationship. An example of this question is “I value our relationship as manager and employee and I want to make sure I am contributing to that relationship. Could you please give me some specific feedback on how I am doing?”

 

The manger will undoubtedly have some feedback for you. Some of it will be positive, some of it corrective. Whenever the manager gives you the feedback, listen to what they say and respond with “Thank you”.

 

Once the manager is complete, thank them for taking the time to help you. If your manager is paying attention, they will ask you for feedback on how they are doing. Now you can deliver your feedback.

 

Ask them to coach you on a behavior you think they need to improve.

This is an effective technique to use with a manager not open to feedback. You identify a specific behavior you want the manager to change, and then you ask them to help you avoid the behavior. Your manager may be constantly interrupting you in meetings. Using this approach, you would ask the manager to help you reduce interrupting others in meetings. Ask the manager to give you specific tips or techniques that will help you to reduce this behavior. If the manager keeps interrupting you, go back and ask for more coaching — ask them how they would stop interrupting. It may take awhile, but this technique will work with your dedication.

 

Giving feedback to someone who does not request it is difficult. The Big Dogz know if they are flexible in process, they will eventually succeed in getting that feedback to the manager. Try these approaches and let me know how it works for you. Email me rbronder@gmail.com

 

 

Beating a Recession – 8 December 10, 2008

Posted by David Dirks in Innovation: Not Just for the Big Dogz, Recession: How to Beat It!, Retailer Store Strategies, Sales Strategy/Tactics.
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David DirksI’m always on the prowl for ideas that can help combat the economic slowdown.  Here are two that I think are more than worth considering:

  • Become a disruptor in your industry or business. Creating products, services, or processes that disrupt your competition and put them on the defensive is a sure way to create market differentiation.  As I always say, the key to any Big Dogz performance is how effectively they differentiate themselves, in a positive manner, from their competitors.  Apple’s iPhone is a great example of a disruptive product.  Who would have thought that a computer company would introduce a product platform that not only is superior to its competition, but has the ability to disrupt the entire cell phone industry?

Another excellent example is a firm called Axiom.  Axiom is a disrupter in the rather tradition-bound law field.  What makes Axiom a disrupter?  It’s how they have harnessed the internet to create a web-based law firm.  Their attorney’s do not work from dark, hardwood-paneled offices.  Rather, they work from their homes.  The Axiom model hires the best attorneys from some of the top law firms in the country and gives them the freedom to work with clients in a web-based environment.  What value do their clients get?  Well, because they have dramatically lower operating costs compared to a traditional highpowered law firm, they can offer their services at rates that can be 50% lower than those charged by traditional, office-bound law firms.

How can you create products, services, or business processes that can create disruption in your field?

  • Empower your sales team to offer discounts on products and/or services, ON THE SPOT. For most retailers and service firms, this would give you heartburn.  Just the thought of empowering your peeps to give an on the spot discount probably gives you the jeebies.  However, there is a method to this seeming madness.  Note:  I’m NOT suggesting that your sales teams ask a customer if they want a discount.  That doesn’t work.  Rather, this is about helping a client who asks about a discount (“yes, I can give you 10% if you order this today”) or is on the fence teetering in the direction of a buy and needs just a little prompting.

Empowering your sales teams to offer a specified discount (I was only using 10% as an example…you can make it whatever you can afford) cuts through the red tape and can possibly save a sale that might otherwise walk out the door.   Customers today want a ‘deal’.  Empower your people to give it to them.  When the good times were here not long ago, you might not have worried about losing those kinds of sales.  The good times are gone.  But you already knew that.

Handling feedback from your manager December 5, 2008

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Coaching, Feedback, Managing up, Performance issues.
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Ouch! Getting corrective feedback is not always pleasant. The Big Dogz know that corrective feedback is the most powerful feedback — it helps you grow! So how do we handle feedback from our manager? Here is the Big Dogz view on feedback.

 

First, we must understand there are two types of feedback — performance feedback and behavior feedback.  The former is most easy to deal with. When your manager gives you a performance objective, ask your manager to provide a SMART objective.

Specific

Measureable

Actionable and aligned

Realistic

Time phased

In addition, make sure you can check on your progress without having to interact with your manager. With these conditions, you can assess your progress on the task and seek help or coaching when needed. These feedback sessions will not be a surprise to you. The Big Dogz take responsibility for their performance on an objective and keeps everyone informed of the progress.

 

It is the behavioral feedback that catches us by surprise. Of course, there are two types of behavioral feedback — positive and corrective. We sometimes associate the words compliment and criticism with these types of behavior. The first thing the Big Dogz do when getting behavior feedback is to look at the feedback as a positive event. Whenever your manager gives you behavior feedback of either type, try to associate the feedback to some objective or goal you are trying to achieve. Do not take it personally!

 

For example, if your manager told you that you were effective in answering question at your steering committee presentation, relate that feedback to your desire to gain positive visibility in the organization. If the feedback was corrective, for example, your responses to questions were ineffective; this feedback affects the same goal.

 

Not everyone is competent at giving behavior feedback. Be tolerant of managers who blurt out stinging remarks. They just do not know how to deliver feedback. Do not let their lack of competency impact the value you can get from feedback. In any feedback event, ask your manager to provide specific examples.

 

Stay calm and do not get defensive. Make sure you understand the examples. You do not need to agree that the examples are either positive or corrective! This is the best part of getting behavior feedback. Whatever the feedback, you now know how to respond to questions when your manager is present!

 

After you get this type of feedback, thank your manager for taking the time to help you grow. Go back to your cubicle or quiet place and reflect on the feedback you received. In most cases, the feedback has a great deal of truth associated with it. Try to find this truth and identify how you will be more effective in the future.

 

If you have an opportunity to be in a similar situation with your manager again, ask them to provide you with feedback after the event. With the right preparation, you can turn a corrective feedback into a positive feedback.

 

Although it is sometimes painful to hear behavior feedback, the Big Dogz always ask for it. In my own situation, I have learned to value corrective feedback more highly that positive feedback! It seems that I intuitively know when I engage in successful behavior. When I engage in ineffective behavior, I tend to shift responsibility (blame) to other factors like the timing, the environment or the other person. When I learn that I contributed to the ineffective result, helps me avoid those situations in the future.

 

Be one of the Big Dogz! Start asking for behavior feedback today.