Collaboration is fun!


You may well have picked up – because I mentioned it more than once! – that I have a pet project I have been collaborating with Trevor Lever on.

What started out as a one book project soon became two books as we realised that we had enough material to split into two bite-sized, practical handbooks. These will be How to Have Fun Selling and How to Have Fun Marketing.

These first two books will be specifically aimed at accountants in practice but will later be combined into one book for any professional who struggles with sales and marketing.

The collaboration has been a perfect way of focussing on a specific group of people who need help. I know the target audience very well, whilst Trevor knows all about the material we are conveying.

As part of the information gathering stage we had two days of working together to make sure that I captured all his great stuff. Everything was recorded so that I could go back to the converstations when I came to write the two handbooks.

I was able to give Trevor insights into how accountants thought – which he sometimes found astonishing – so he was able to give specific guidance into processes and procedures to help unstick specific problems.

I have learned a terrific amount and, as Trevor has passed on his great teaching materials too, I have been able to confidently transfer some of what I learned into a half day workshop.

My husband Jeff has had ‘fun’ adapting Trevor’s cat images into some great pictures to add some colour to the books. After all you cannot create books called How to Have Fun … if they are not fun to read!

What I have learned (on top of Trevor’s sales and marketing insights) is that if we are able to find fellow professionals to collaborate with, we can enhance our own businesses and provide something different to our customers.

This has no downside and will often lead us into some really interesting areas of learning we had not considered before.

So be open to opportunities and see where they will lead!

Fiona 🙂

Which cat are you?

Some of you will have seen my post on LinkedIn talking about a great meeting I had with Trevor Lever of TLC.

Trevor has been a great supporter of my business over the years and is a terrific sales effectiveness coach. Although Trevor is now looking to take a bit of a back seat these days he has been kind enough to share his brilliance with me.

I am very pleased to say that he has given me care of his cats as he doesn’t have as much use for them as he did! I am sure he won’t mind me sharing them with you.

There are four sales cat types: trader cat, poacher cat, farmer cat and hunter cat. As business owners we will often have an affinity for one particular cat but need to be able to ‘play’ at being any cat.

Trader cats are the classic networkers who work hard to develop advocates they can trade referrals with. Reciprocation is the name of their game.

Farmer cats spend most of their time working with existing clients to increase the value of goods and services they can ‘sell’ to them – they concentrate on cultivation.

Poacher cats stalk businesses with the types of clients they want and their clients away. They will use differentiation to make themselves appealing to customers.

Hunter cats are excited by finding new opportunities and new customers who have never used their type of service before. Hunters use education to help new clients understand what they have to offer.

I have to say that of all these types of cat I myself have been least comfortable with being a hunter – and I expect most accountants would feel the same way.

However, I have had to become much more brave in approaching brand new customers since I have started my new venture providing workshops and mentoring for members in practice.

I have had to become more of a “hunter”. It really has not been enough to stay in my corner of the forest waiting for people to come to me!

Although it has been a challenge I am becoming braver by the day!

Fiona 🙂

For a great job use a professional

Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 11.49.22Just because you have the time doesn’t mean you are the cheapest solution – or the best!

I know I have written about this topic before, but I do think it is important for business owners to be comfortable with outsourcing work they are not expert in to people who are.

We are currently having an extension built which has entailed a complete re-plan of our kitchen (we currently don’t have one).

We started planning last summer and first on the list was finding a good builder. Fortunately, I know a couple of people who have had building work done recently and as luck would have it both had used the same builder – and highly recommended him.

Now Derek (said builder) has been in the trade for many years and knows local surveyors, electricians and plumbers. So he was our one-stop-shop for all the services we needed to engage for the project.

It has been fascinating to watch how he juggles all the jobs needed to get the project completed.

Of course, it has taken quite a bit longer to finish than we had originally thought – mainly because I am very impatient and always think jobs will take much less time than they do.

But this extra time has given us longer to make key decisions about what we actually want. Meaning that the final result will be much better than it would have been had we rushed.

By using a professional who really knows their trade we have been forced to properly plan and take time to do it right.

I think this is true of many jobs.

Sometimes the urge to do a job ourselves that we are neither skilled or equipped to do is overwelming. “I have the time so I might as well give it a go” is the mantra of many DIYers.

The result is often a Heath Robinson job that can remain unfinished when enthusiasm runs out.

I see this all the time in business too. The number of marketing, sales and business plans that are stuffed into drawers unfinished could fill the Albert Hall.

So my message is: if a job is important to you, make sure the job is done by the most appropriate person who will do the best job – and this might not be you.

Fiona 🙂

It’s all about relationships!

image001One of the key ways small business owners in the service sector get business is through referrals – either from customers or from strategic introducers they know well.

But many of us are not very good at requesting referrals or managing the referral process. We often don’t even know the value of a good referral to our business.

In fact, how many of the referrals you get are of the type you want? Or do you end up meeting with prospects, which have been referred to you by a ‘good’ referral partner (by good I mean someone we feel knows our business needs), only to find that they are not the type of prospect you need at all?

Unless we take some level of control over the referral process it is unlikely we will get exactly the type of introductions we need.

One way of taking control is to build really solid relationships with a few referral partners who are regularly updated on they type of business you need – and similarly keep you updated on the business they need. That way you are more likely to get the leads you need.

You can even take it further and include these guys as part of your team. I have this type of relationship with a marketing expert. If one of our clients needs what the other offers we introduce them in a joint meeting (which is free to the client). We discuss their needs, and offer a way forward for the client, after identifying the key areas they need to address.

This is a very powerful model because everyone benefits. The referrer benefits because they are seen as a problem solver who can find solutions beyond their area of expertise by their client; the referree benefits because they have a solid introduction to a potential new client; and the client obviously benefits because their problems are solved with the minimum of effort.

So, if you are looking to grow you business in a controlled manner, review how you get your referrals and work on how you can get a higher quality of introductions.

Fiona 🙂

Big is not always beautiful!

Contracts

It may seem strange advice to beware of winning big contracts. After all most small businesses dream of catching that biggee which will set them up for the future. However, many a great small business has failed because they won a big contract with a large corporation.

The biggest problem is cash flow.

Large companies will often demand slow payment terms, which means it can be several months between paying employees and suppliers your end and receiving payment for your services. It is important to remember that even if you have agreed 30 day payment terms the cash will usually come in quite a but later than that. This is particularly problematic in the current economic climate where banks are reluctant to lend money to tide you over the interim period.

If a large proportion of your business is geared to fulfilling one large contract you leave yourself exposed should the large company you are dealing with has financial problems themselves.

Also, if you have to neglect your traditional client base whilst you complete the large contract you may find you have no business left one the contract is finished.

Now, I am not suggesting you never bid for large contracts. What I am saying is go into the process with your eyes open. Put away your rose tinted spectacles and examine fully what winning the contract will truly mean for your business. Are you prepared to accept the risks as well as the rewards?

Finally, there are professionals out there – such as your accountant – who can help you, so use them.

Fiona:)

 

A little help from my friends!

In my last blog I complained of being uninspired after a long winter.

Well things have moved on a bit since then and I am feeling much more positive now. One of the reasons for this is that I have had a little help from my friends!

At a small networking event I go to at the end of each month, where I meet up with several of my key strategic partners, I complained that I was uninspired and was looking for something new.

The response was ‘Why didn’t you say? You’ve been pretty busy over the last couple of years and we thought you were full – not looking for new clients/challenges!’

A great lead has since been given to me from this group, which I think will be the type of challenge I am looking for. The same introducer has other good leads to give me if I need further new work.

As a result of the same meeting I am having a 121 this afternoon with a couple of great business people I have known for a long time to see how we can refer and work together.

What an excellent outcome from just asking for a little help.

Sometimes I think we assume our strategic introducers and contacts know exactly where we are an what we are looking for. But how will they know unless we tell them!!

It’s been a good lesson for me to remind me that it is not good enough just to talk generally about our businesses at networking events. To get real results we have to be clearer about what we need and specific about how people can help us.

Coincidentally, a couple of leads have come from my website. One was not so hot, because he was attracted by the look and feel of the site, but on reading it he realised I did not offer what he needed. However, he still contacted me just in case! I was able to refer him onto someone who could definitely help.

The second website lead could be a great in the future, but the business was not quite ready for the help the owner was considering – putting together a business plan to get bank funding. However, I was able to set him on the right path so he could make progress.

Was it that I had put out vibes into the cosmos and the cosmos has answered? I don’t think so. But I do think that we need to be open minded to receive good opportunties – and we are not always open to new challenges and situations because we are stuck in a rut.

So get out there and be positive.

Fiona 🙂

Beware of big contracts

Contracts

It may seem strange advice to beware of winning big contracts. After all most small businesses dream of catching that biggee which will set them up for the future. However, many a great small business has failed because they won a big contract with a large corporation.

The biggest problem is cash flow. Large companies will often demand slow payment terms, which means it can be several months between paying employees and suppliers your end and receiving payment for your services. It is important to remember that even if you have agreed 30 day payment terms the cash will usually come in quite a but later than that. This is particularly problematic in the current economic climate where banks are reluctant to lend money to tide you over the interim period. Secondly, if a large proportion of your business is geared to fulfilling one large contract you leave yourself exposed should the large company you are dealing with has financial problems themselves.

Also, if you have to neglect your traditional client base whilst you complete the large contract you may find you have no business left one the contract is finished. Now we are not suggesting you never bid for large contracts. What we are saying is go into the process with your eyes open. Put away your rose tinted spectacles and examine fully what winning the contract will truly mean for your business. Are you prepared to accept the risks as well as the rewards?

Finally, there are professionals out there – such as your accountant – who can help you, so use them.

Posted via email from Jop

Business Book Club – Launch!

  • How many business books do you have sitting on your shelves unread?
  • Do you always intend to do more business reading, but never get around to it?

 If so then join our Business Book Club.

Every couple of months we will be reading books by either new UK authors or pioneers in business strategy, such as Stephen Covey who have paved the way in which business operate.

The choosen book for September/October is:

Sales Therapy: Effective Selling for the Small Business Owner, by Grant Leboff.

 

 

Comment on the book on line – by posting comments here, or by joining the Bright Dimension LinkedIn group.

Join us in a Bristol Pub for a meet up – email bookclub@brightdimension.co.uk for more info.