Unlocking the potential of female entrepreneurs with a new ‘self-assessment’ kit

Despite a dramatic increase in the number of women starting a business in the UK, women here are still lagging behind other more mature entrepreneurial communities. Women in the US are still twice as likely to start a business as British women.

MP Lorely Burt’s recent report Inclusive Support for Women in Enterprise, concluded that if support meted out by Government Departments and local authorities were ‘inclusive’, it could lift Britain’s GDP by 10 per cent by 2030.

Gender gap

According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of self-employed women has increased by 34% since 2009. By comparison over the past five years the number of self-employed men has risen by just 15%.

Enterprise Nation’s Home Business Report 2014, found that of the 2.9m homepreneurs in the UK, 64 per cent of them were women – equating to around 1.7m women running businesses from home, contributing an estimated £180bn to the British economy alone.

So why are they still not reaching their potential?

Studies show that the problem around women starting is not ability or commitment – more that they are likely to find it more difficult than men to obtain finance, they also have a lack of awareness of the support available – as well as that level of self-belief that often propels men towards higher growth.

Self assessment kit

A new Government-funded Skills Assessment Kit (launched last week) works on the basis that women have exactly the same ability as men to start-up, and through gentle questioning, identifies gaps, and suggests an individual training and advice programme to address these issues and unlock female potential.

This in turn will help in time to dispel the myth that to be a successful entrepreneur, you need to display the qualities of a classic risk-taker stereotype. The hope is that it will lead to a world where being steady, careful and competent is also a key predictor of entrepreneurial success.

The Self Assessment Toolkit is designed to help women-led firms reach their potential by identifying gaps in knowledge, experience and confidence, and offering practical help to take their business to the next level.

It has been developed by small business network Enterprise Nation in conjunction with psychology experts and moderated through focus groups and early-stage trials conducted with female entrepreneurs.

Practical help

Open to both men and women, although concentrating its efforts to attract and help more female users, the kit teases out niggles and worries through subtle questioning, analysing the answers to build a picture of strengths and weaknesses and outlining a programme of support. It will even supply contacts and offer introductions to relevant accredited experts via the Enterprise Nation Marketplace.

The marketplace lists more than 11,000 experts and business coaches all over the UK including Northern Ireland and Scotland, who can offer advice on marketing, leadership, building a team, digital know-how or finance.

Hosted by small business network Enterprise Nation, it is hoped the new free-to-use kit, which comprises a questionnaire and produces a bespoke training programme, will also encourage more women to consider entrepreneurship as a career path.

To take the test, go to follow the link here.

Does your business have a purpose beyond profit?

Let me ask you these 4 questions!

  1. What is your business’ purpose?
  2. Have you set a growth target for next year?
  3. At what point will you have grown enough?
  4. What is the social and environmental implication of you growing an extra 1%?

Most people I meet struggle first of all to articulate their business’ purpose in a sentence. If they do define the purpose, it’s usually a bland statement along the lines of to be number one in such and such marketplace”.

They will then quote their growth target, and tell me all their underpinning assumptions before defining “too much growth” as when they can’t support that growth with the necessary business infrastructure and inputs (IT systems, processes, human resources etc). Finally, I usually get a rather blank expression to the last question because it’s not something they’ve thought of before and “it’s impossible to measure”. In essence, they have implicitly and mistakenly assumed that all growth is good.

mh1This, for me, is unconscious capitalism; an addiction to economic expansion. An addiction which has left us chasing profits, constantly striving for more and never feeling satisfied.

In psychological terms, this is called being on the hedonic treadmill, i.e. as we make more money, our expectations and desires also adapt and rise in parallel, so that we’re caught in a trap of chasing growth without any permanent increase in happiness.

It’s no coincidence that human consumption is now outstripping what the earth can produce. According to the New Economics Foundation (nef) we need 1.5 earths to match our current demand for renewable ecological resources and services.

In 2014, we went into deficit with the earth in August and we’re on track to require the resource of two earths well before the middle of this century.

We’re quite simply living beyond our means and turning resources into waste faster than waste can be turned back into resources. The image above illustrates how individual countries are contributing to this ecological debt. It’s embarrassing to see the UK on the leader board, needing a land area 3.3 times the size of the UK to support our lifestyles.

There is good news however – we can all do something about it! But I think it’s helpful to understand how we ended up in this position in the first place.

Our preoccupation with profit was borne out of the industrial revolution and the creation of a new academic discipline – Economics. According to the economic model, business operates like a machine. You put resources in (capital, labour, land), process these inputs and get profits out. The purpose of business, as most economists see it, is to transform factors of production into profit for the benefit of the investors.

This view of the world is based on scarcity, win/lose, either/or, and survival of the fittest.

However, the world has become much more complex and inter-connected since those simple machine metaphors were first developed. Technology has increased the breadth, depth and speed of connections and we can travel to places faster than ever before. While economics is now evolving as a discipline such as with the rise of behavioral economics, the legacy of industrial economics lives on.

Compounding this view are common myths around money. Money was never meant to be something we accumulated. It was simply something we could trade. It was invented to bypass problems with the barter system as a substitute store of value. E.g. if you had a goat but needed fabric, you had to find someone with fabric that wanted a goat. It was much easier to exchange a goat for money and then to use that money to buy fabric from anyone with fabric to sell.

In Conversation with Nigel Dodd from Nesta UK on Vimeo.

This is something echoed by Dr. Nigel Dodds, professor of Sociology at The London School of Economics and author of the Social Life of Money. He argues that we’re experiencing a moment of realignment in the world’s monetary landscape and our perceptions of money are strongly influenced by language and culture. We talk about money as a noun (something we have and can accumulate) rather than a verb (something we do and exchange).

If you have 7 minutes, I thoroughly recommend watching the highlights from Dr. Dodds in conversation with Nesta where he talks about what money means to us and the rise of alternative currencies like bitcom, time banking and the Brixton pound.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t make profit or that capitalism is bad. What I’m saying is, that we need to look beyond creating profit to creating “value” and add the value we create for people and the planet alongside the value for shareholders, i.e. the triple bottom line. This might be valuing social impact in terms of charitable donations and hours spent training people, or looking at ecological impact in terms of bags of paper waste per year, kilometers travelled by bike and your carbon footprint.

I strongly believe that a small shift in our thinking like this can have a BIG impact on our behaviour and create a better, more sustainable model of business. I’d like to leave you with a quote from John Mackey from Wholefoods which I’ve carried around in my diary for years to remind me of what matters;

Just as people cannot live without eating, so a business cannot live without profits. But most people don’t live to eat, and neither must businesses live just to make profits. 

I know that many of the business owners in the Women Unlimited community already have a purpose beyond profit and I’d love to hear if you have any advice for people in defining their purpose and how you measure your triple bottom line.

Thank you for all your ideas and contributions as always!

photo credit: deathtothestockphoto

Don’t miss the Top 10 ‘Perfect Planning’ questions for 2015

This year we want to get down to the nitty-gritty and answer your ‘Burning Business Questions’. So if you have a question you would like answered, head over to our Q&A page and get in touch.

To kick us off, we have Nadia Finer, a micro-business coach who specialises in helping women max-up their micro-business. Nadia provides solutions and ideas to help solve your most pressing business challenges and dilemmas.

So let’s get started with this question from one of our community members – a graphic designer in Shrewsbury.

I’m a creative soul. I like to go with the flow, in life and in business. Should I be planning for the new-year? Personally, I’d prefer to see where the wind takes me. Planning takes ages, requires spreadsheets and makes me feel claustrophobic. What would you advise?

Over to you Nadia!

Hi there, creative soul. I feel your pain – the idea of endless spreadsheets brings me out in a rash.

But, rather than flowing into the New Year in a zen-like fashion, I’m all fired up and raring to go. The start of the year is an amazing opportunity to ramp it up, don’t you think?

Yes, planning sounds dull and not very glam. Perhaps it’s reminiscent of long, boring meetings when you worked for a corporate or a large organisation. You thought you’d ditched all that in favour of being wild and free. And maybe you’re too busy doing “fee earning” work which pays instantly (ish), but in the long-term you’ll make more cash, if you have a concrete kick-ass plan of action.

I’m not a great believer in manifesting stuff, or the laws off attraction, I’m afraid. However, I do believe in setting goals. If you have an inspiring but achievable goal, you write it down and look at it on a regular basis, you’re statistically a lot more likely to make it happen. Without a goal at all or any idea of how you’ll get there, you could end up plodding along, or chopping and changing more often than a supermodel.

If you ever find yourself flitting between ideas, chasing after random impulses and jumping from one strategy to the next, planning will sort you out, and save you a shed load of time. It will help you focus your energy, time and resources on finding the right clients and making more money.

I wonder if your aversion to planning is keeping you all cosy and snuggly right there in your comfort zone. If you’re happy with your business exactly as it is, then don’t bother planning, sure. But if you’d like to move things forward and grow your business, you have to plan!

With no plan, you could end up wasting time, money and making some silly mistakes – best case scenario. Worst case, you end up running the wrong kind of business with the wrong kind of people.

Personally, I think “planning” is due for a rebrand. Let’s give it a twist. Rather than seeing your design work as your creative outlet, why not put your creativity to work ON your business too – and create an awesome plan of action for 2015.

I work with clients all over the world to put exciting plans in place to help boost their businesses. It needn’t be boring. Done right, it can be super exciting and give your ambitions a big kick (where it’s needed!) You’ll leap into the New Year, filled with motivation; focusing like a laser.

Some people love spreadsheets. Some people loathe them. And that’s OK. Don’t let the excel mafia force you into using a medium you hate. If big pieces of blank paper are your preference, go with it. I’m a fan of planning in style, with all the coloured pens and sticky notes a girl could possibly use. So, that’s what I do. Simple.

Right, let’s get cracking!

Don’t bother with New Year’s resolutions made in haste after too much wine where you tell your friends you plan to turn over £10 billion next year – instead, spend some time making powerful plans, backed up by clear actions, to boost your chances of reaching your goals.

I recommend taking some time out from your business – even just an hour or so every month, to really think about your plans for the coming months. Start with your overall goal or ambition and chop it into manageable chunks. You wouldn’t eat an elephant all in one go would you?

To help you get started, here are my top 10 ‘perfect planning’ questions

  1. How was your 2014? How do you feel about the progress you made?
  2. What are you going to do differently in 2015?
  3. What would a super successful 2015 look like?
  4. What’s your income goal for 2015?
  5. How much cash would you like to make each month?
  6. What will your money-making activities be?
  7. What does your goal equate to – each month? e.g. How many clients or sales per month?
  8. Who are your perfect clients?
  9. What’s the problem you’re solving for them? What value are you delivering?
  10. How will you reach out to and attract your perfect people?

Spend some time working through these questions either on your own, or with a colleague or coach and your plan for a super successful 2015 will emerge. If you do nothing, and don’t put a plan in place, where will you be this time next year? Chances are you’ll be in the same situation, just 365 days older. Don’t be that person.

And to help you create your plans in style, I’ve designed an easy to use Action Planner workbook to help you get organised and on track for the year ahead. It will help you think and work logically, helping you max up your business and, ultimately, increase your revenue. I hope you enjoy using it as much as I enjoyed making it.

So what will you do now? Let me know in the comments below.

Photo credit: deathtostockphotos.com

Struggling with your business plans for 2015? Start with ‘why’

It’s a new start to a new year and many of you will be wrestling with ideas and business plans for 2015 and beyond. You want to put your best foot forward when it comes to your messaging, your marketing, branding and the actions that are going to turn your objectives into reality.

Regardless of whether you’re just starting out, or whether you’re refining, reinventing or topping up plans for an already successful business; Simon Sinek’s iconic video Start with Why, will give you enough inspiration to take you through to 2016!

Simon’s key message is…

People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it…

There are some great take-aways in this video which will help you gather your thoughts and plans for the new year. (Even if you’ve seen it before, you can still find something valuable in it for your business!)

As always, let us know what you think in the comments below – and a warm Happy New Year to you and yours…

Photo credit: Deathtostockphotos.com

New! Got a burning business question: We want to hear from you!

Recently Julie and I were talking about all the fabulous women who make up the Women Unlimited community and how much collective expertise there is.

So we thought, why not ask some of our super successful women to grab a question and answer it online so everyone can share in their knowledge and experience.

So here’s where you come in…

Got a Burning Business Question?

Send it to me at Jayne@womenunlimitedworldwide.com and every week we’ll pick the best question and have one of our subject matter experts answer it for you. If you’re happy to have your name on the question fine, if not let me know in the email and we’ll use an alias.

What’s not to love?

Get your questions coming in and look out for our new Q&A ONLINE – starting in the New Year 2015.

Oh and if you want to become one of our subject matter experts – drop me a line with Subject Matter Expert in the header and a couple of lines on the topics you feel you have expertise in, where you have had success, and why you would be qualified to advise our fabulous community.

Thanks again and DON’T BE SHY – we want Women Unlimited to be your ‘go to place’ for education, inspiration and motivation!

Jayne x

 

Pitching for new business? Avoid these 3 common mistakes

Pitching for new work is an expensive business activity. Done well (and to have a decent chance of success), it requires a lot of time, a lot of effort and can take people’s focus away from other important areas of the business for an intense and possibly prolonged period.

When you tot up the time (and money) businesses invest in participating in pitches, it’s an expensive activity to undertake.

Of course the winnings justify that effort and expense, I hear you say. And yes that can be right – if you win.

But what if you don’t? Typically clients will invite 3 or 4 businesses to pitch, and some will invite a lot more.

And unlike the Olympics, coming second or third doesn’t bring any medals. The cold truth is that second or third place merely means you lost. All that energy and effort and time spent away from other areas of your business has been to no avail.

This may sound pessimistic but my point is, that if you really are going to go for a pitch, it needs to be one you have every chance of winning. You need to be confident that your chances of success are high.

From our work in helping teams bid in competitive pitches, there are a number of common mistakes people make. These hurdles can seriously hamper you gaining that winner’s trophy. I’ve selected three of them for this article. Ensure you avoid them at all costs to improve your chances of winning.

Mistake 1 – Being scared to say a polite ‘no’

Clients don’t just select a supplier on the lowest cost. Equally important to them, is whether they feel they can work easily with that business and its people. They also look to what additional value that business will bring them.

This additional value could be the learning curve that a supplier already has with them. It may be the supplier has systems or approaches to share, which make the client in turn more efficient, or it reduces some hassle in their working lives. It may be that they specialise in that client’s industry and can bring expert knowledge.

The temptation when an ‘invitation to pitch’ lands on the desk, is to accept it and start drafting your proposal or other such response straight away. You will however, improve your chances of winning if you are more selective in the number of pitches you go for.

Think carefully before you dive into writing. Prioritise those invitations where you already have some knowledge, or an established relationship with the prospective client. The time frame given to pitches is typically very short and it’s tough building enough rapport with the decision-makers to get them to trust and select your business for the task.

Here’s an example… In working recently with a design agency, we found they were diverting a considerable amount of ‘fee-earning’ time, to pitches where they were just another agency the client had invited to ‘make up the numbers’.

We created a ‘to bid or not to bid’ evaluation tool. It had a number of criteria to evaluate each pitch against, and in turn, assessed the agency’s chances of winning.

In time, it meant the agency politely declined more invitations but this enabled them to focus on the pitches where:

a) they knew some of the client contacts already and had more insight about the business

b) where they knew they had a chance of winning because of their sector expertise and

c) where they felt their creative output and client experience would surpass the current incumbent

Over a period of six months they found, not only had their win rate improved, their profitability and turnover was also a lot better.

Try this: Think carefully when an invitation to pitch comes in and don’t be afraid to say a polite ‘no’ if you feel your business is being invited to just ‘make up the numbers’. See if the client will let you know the competition you face and assess whether you have the strengths and approach to outshine them.

Also, if you don’t already have some relationship with the prospective client and haven’t already been in discussion with them at some point, consider whether you really can create a strong enough relationship with them during the pitch timescale (by christol). Will you really be able to convince them to say yes to your proposition?

Mistake 2 – Not getting to grips with the client’s brief and wider issues

It’s worth stressing that as soon as you decide to accept an invitation to pitch, you need to go through any brief or instructions the client has sent, again! This is particularly true if you are facing a pitch involving procurement professionals on the client side. They will have stipulated stringent rules and deadlines surrounding how your response should be submitted – ignore them and you are likely to lose the pitch.

The client’s brief or invitation to tender will only tell you so much, which is why wherever possible, you should request to meet relevant people in the client’s organisation to ask further questions. If you don’t have a pre-existing relationship with the client, this is also crucial in helping you build rapport with the decision-makers in the time you have available.

Use any opportunity you get (either in a meeting or over the phone) to find out more about the situation leading to the pitch and what the individual decision-makers are looking to gain from the pitch outcome. See how the pitch outcome fits in with other plans or business goals and what the longer term objectives are for this client. How would your involvement (if you were successful) fit into the bigger jigsaw?

Also, don’t be afraid to ask the client how they want you to present your pitch submission, if it’s not clear from the brief they’ve sent. Avoid creating a proposal document or presentation which jars with them or which is so detailed they haven’t got time to read or sit through it.

Try this: As soon as you accept an invitation to pitch, ask for a meeting with the client to undertake your fact-finding. There will be limited time available in the pitch schedule and you need to be able to ask your questions and develop your understanding sooner rather than later in the proceedings.

Try and meet or speak with as many of the decision-makers as possible in advance. Each will have their own thoughts and agenda about the pitch and its outcome. You need to ensure your proposition is aligned to as many of those personal agendas as possible.

Mistake 3 – Producing a generic pitch response

The time and other pressures people face when trying to juggle responding to a pitch with doing their daily job, mean there can be a temptation to regurgitate old pitches for speed and ease.

Don’t do this.

It’s easy to spot a generic pitch response when you receive it, and it only demonstrates to the client that you couldn’t really be bothered. It can also force you to put in lots of useless information for them to wade through (in the hope that at least some of it will resonate). This will only irritate them more.

If you’re pitching to this client, then pitch to this client. Tailor the proposal document and pitch presentation to their situation and issues. Draw on examples that show you’ve tackled projects, issues, orders etc like this before; and above all, play to the decision-makers’ preferences in the way you set out and style your document and presentation.

For example, if you know a decision-maker is particularly short of time, do a summary of your proposal with the key points for him/her.

In tailoring your pitch response, it’s important to talk more about the client and less about you. When you do talk about you, it needs to be relevant to the client’s situation. They probably won’t be interested in your organisation’s history to date, but they will want to know how you can help them and what track-record you have for this.

If you have gleaned a lot of insight in your fact-finding and rapport building, you’ll be better placed to put together a clear and attractive proposition to them. It will be one that tantalises the client, with the solution and added value they’re after, at a price which is highly competitive.

It’s not always possible to find out who you’re up against in a competitive pitch, but if you do uncover this information it can be invaluable. Use this insight to evaluate how your bid is likely to compare to your rivals – see if any of your contacts or suppliers can give you a steer on the likely strategy your rivals will adopt in this pitch.

Try this: Start your proposal and presentation on a fresh canvas. It actually will save you time in the pitch process, in comparison to trying to shoe-horn what you want into an old proposal. Spend more time carefully planning your pitch response, to save time later when writing or having to rewrite it.

Summary

Pitching for new work is tough, but the rewards can be fantastic if you are successful. It’s important though, not to underestimate the time and involvement pitches take, and to be selective about the invitations you accept. Fielding a successful pitch submission requires you to invest a lot of time in understanding the client and creating a proposition which they feel is 100% tailored to them.

Treat pitches very seriously and plan them carefully. If you haven’t got the time to do a pitch justice, think twice about bidding for it. Losing it may scupper your chances of working with this client in the long-term – not just on this particular piece of work, but with others too.

For more pitch-winning tips and support you can contact Michelle Daniels over at Extended Thinking  You can also read more great articles by Michelle here!

Let us know what you think in the comments below – we’d love to hear from you.

Photo credit: Deathtostockphotos.com

The art of selling: How to kick-start your sales process – New 3 part series!

It may not surprise you to know, that there is a process behind effective selling, but would it surprise you to know there is also a process involved in preparing to sell?

Some business owners jump right into the selling process without doing the preliminary work that helps maximise their chances of success. At times this hasty approach can work, but for the most part, it will be bound to fail.

The simple fact is, no one will buy from you if they don’t want what you’re selling or believe that they need it.

The 3 stages of selling

The process of selling can be broken down into three distinct segments – pre-selling, selling and post selling – and yes, this does mean that the second you’ve completed your sale, you are still in selling mode.

In this, the first in a series of three posts, we are going to consider the work you need to do in pre-selling mode.

Pre-selling

There are a variety of elements that go into your pre-selling work and in this post we are going to examine four of those essential activities:

  • Knowing your ideal client
  • Understanding the problems your ideal client is struggling with
  • Conveying benefits rather than features
  • Understanding the essential role your brand values play in creating truly engaging conversations

So just how well do you truly know and understand your clients?

A lot of us believe we know our clients or customers but if you scratch beneath the surface we don’t always know them as well as we think we do.

The first thing to do here is produce your ideal client/customer avatar. This is a really important exercise to carry out and it’s a process that has been spoken about a lot recently in a variety of markets.

It’s easy to think you know exactly who your ideal client is, but the process of creating an avatar based on the attributes of your ideal client, can be hugely helpful later in your marketing and sales efforts. So don’t be tempted to bypass the activity, it’s well worth the effort.

As an exercise, this can take anything from 45 minutes to 2 hours of your time to fully complete.

To get started, begin by answering the questions below. If you would like the full listing of questions to create your client avatar, click here and you can download your copy.

  • What is your ideal client’s gender, age, marital status and line of work?
  • Are they employed, self-employed or a freelancer?
  • What is the size of the company they work for or own?
  • Is it a local, regional or global company?
  • When was the last time they bought something similar to what you are providing?
  • How did they buy it? – Instalments, one lump sum, credit card, direct debit, PayPal?
  • Exactly what is their decision making process as they purchased your service or product?
  • How do they like to spend their free time?
  • With whom do they spend their free time?
  • What are they most passionate about?

These are just a few of the questions you can use to get you thinking more deeply about your ideal client.

Savvy business owners understand that their prospective clients and customers go through a process before they purchase and this process can alter at various times.

It is essential to appreciate the concern that your client or customer could feel when dealing with a new service, product or business proposition. It’s also important to value and understand the hesitation that your client or customer could be feeling.

Many clients tend to have a higher degree of uncertainty, doubt and worry when considering whether to purchase from someone they know little about.

The higher the price, the greater the uncertainty and doubt in the mind of your client. That’s why it’s so crucial to build a brand for your business because it helps to position you in the minds of your potential clients.

What is your client’s problem?

When you create your ideal client avatar, you also need to focus on discovering what kind of problems or issues they are struggling with. Although this can develop as part of the work you do on your avatar, it is such a vital facet of the pre-sale work that I recommend approaching it as a separate exercise.

Simply asking: “What are you struggling with in your business?” will generally be the most effective way to discover what challenges your client currently faces. Ultimately, of course, if you can provided a solution to their problems then making a sale becomes a whole lot easier.

And the best way to find this out is to ask them directly.

Garnering this information through one-to-one conversations, focus groups or a survey, is a great investment of your time and something you should do on a regular basis.

Remember to make sure you are specific when asking these kind of questions. Often people tend to speak in broad terms, for example, they might say: “I need more clients”, “I need to get to grips with technology”, “I want to get promoted” or “I’m trying to lose weight”.

Although these responses might seem clear cut, in fact they can often benefit from greater explanation and detail. After all, your view of a particular problem might be a million miles away from your client’s view of the same issue.

It’s the benefits that matter

There is a saying – features tell but benefits sell

Features let your clients know the facts of what you’re offering. For example, if you are a coach providing guidance on career transition, the features of your coaching programme might be a 6-month coaching package, which includes one VIP day, 6 group calls and 6 one-to-one calls.

Those are the features but the benefits are exactly what your client gains by making use of your services or products.

Staying with the same example, the benefits of your coaching programme could be that it boosts self-confidence and independence, enhances relationships with co-workers, increases creativity and self-awareness.

Bear in mind that your clients are always looking for the advantages. Even if they are claiming to look for a certain function or attribute, it will be the benefit of the feature that ultimately solves their pain.

However, in some cases it can be difficult to determine between a feature and a benefit, so follow this straightforward exercise to get some clarity on the issue:

  • Write a list of the features of your products or services
  • What does each feature do?
  • What makes it unique and distinct?
  • What technical information is essential?

Against each feature write the answers to the following questions:

  • Why does it matter?
  • What problem does it solve?

Your benefits need to be as specific as possible. Remember, show don’t tell.

It’s the benefits that gets your clients delighted and emotionally engaged with you and your services or products.

What are your Brand Values?

Brand values are what your clients and customers see and feel during their contact with you and your business.

Once your brand values are established it’s essential to make certain that your client experiences these values in every aspect of your business.

Remember, a brand exists in the mind of your client. It is the intangible sum of thoughts and feelings regarding you, your business and your services or products.

A business can steer exactly how a brand is perceived but never has complete control.

So what are your brand values for your business? Be aware that you can have a collection of brand vales for specific services or products. Below are some examples of brand values:

• Accessible, cutting-edge, cost effective. • Unique, confident, reputable, elegant. • Unforgettable, value for money, caring. • Client commitment, every staff member counts, originality. • Clients first, excellence, quality.

If you can form a connection with your clients based upon shared values then that is the strongest bond you can develop.

Can you visualise the different types of conversations that you can begin to have with your potential client, when your values are in alignment?

If you would like to discover exactly what branding is, and how powerful it can be when you get it right; then click here and sign-up for the Blueprint Branding Master Class hosted by The Blueprint Practice.

When you put all of this together you will certainly be more than ready to begin your sales process.

I would love to hear your views and comments on preparing to sell. Is this something you naturally do or is this something new to you? Please share your thoughts in the comments box below and I look forward to connecting with you.

 

Why people buy: sex, salvation or success?

Sarah wearily placed her bag on the chair, and sat down for her coaching session with me, and sighed

I never realised that selling would be so hard, and that I would hate it so much. But I know I have to do it or my business will fail.

Sadly, Sarah is the not the only one of my clients who dread selling, and I know I hated it when I started my own business 11 years ago. Selling, closing the deal, cold calling, finding prospects were things I never did in my corporate job. No, that was for the sales and business development teams. Whilst I’d been on a few sales courses in my corporate life, nothing prepared me for having to sell my ideas and myself to a complete stranger.

It felt very exposing, as if I was asking someone I had a secret crush on for a date. Would they say yes, and validate me, or would I get a ‘no’, and feel deflated and gun shy? I also felt as if I had no control over the process, again like dating. If I followed up the day after our meeting, would I seem too keen, and if I kept on calling, would they think me desperate and thus devalue my offering?

I soon realised I was skilled at building relationships and having the initial conversation but clumsy and generally unsuccessful when I tried to convert that into cash. In desperation I signed up for sales training.

And not just one, quite a few…all with a different approach, very different trainers and radically differing philosophies. But the one thing they had in common – that theirs was the best!

Over the years, as my business grew, so did my confidence. Reflecting on that investment, and my now, seemingly intuitive sales approach, I realised that I had morphed the bits I liked from these courses into my own style. And that, is the key to enjoying selling. It feels natural, genuine, and is authentically who you are. When you approach sales in that way, and have a set of tools to boost your confidence, it will become much easier.

Here is my approach to selling:

1. Sex, salvation or success?

It has been said that people only buy for one of three reasons.

Will it improve their relationships?

Save them?

Make them more successful?

Think about what you are selling. But not in the way you would normally think about it. I want you to pretend that you are your ideal prospect. When they think about your offering, what reason from the list above would they have for buying it? What problem or pain do they have, that your offering will solve?

Take a piece of paper and divide it into two columns. On the left hand side write down all the problems and pains your ideal prospect has that are relevant to your offering. Then in the right hand column, write how you will solve those problem. Be mindful to use words that your prospect would use.

Once you have this list, you will be able to build trust with your prospect more quickly, as they will feel that you really understand their situation.

2. How many times until they say ‘yes’?

Over the years, there have been many sales experts that claim a prospect needs to meet you either face-to-face, or virtually, between five and seven times before they will buy from you. Yet, most people give up after the second or third meeting if they haven’t got a ‘yes’. Thus they lose any chance of closing a sale.

Like dating, you need to build a relationship – it takes time before someone will buy from you. It’s highly unlikely that someone will move in with you after the first date. Selling is the same.

I like to use the Know, Like, Trust, Buy model when I think of selling.

Before someone will buy from you they need to:

  • Know you
  • Like you and what you offer
  • Trust you and that you and your offering will do what you say it will

This process of deepening the relationship with a prospect takes time and exposure. If you are selling to large corporates, it may be two or three meetings before you get the opportunity to even write a proposal. And if you are selling to private individuals, they may need to see your product repeatedly before they buy.

Once they know, like and trust you, buying from you becomes the next logical step.

Take a moment to reflect on your typical sales experience. How many times do you keep talking to someone before you give up? Before I understood this, I would generally have two coffees with a corporate prospect, and if nothing was in the offing, stop there and move on. Once I realised this, I then kept on with the coffee and relationship building, until we had a rapport and trust had been built. Soon enough, requests to pitch for work came in.

3. Remove the stalker mentality

Some of you reading the advice above would have immediately thought, ‘but that makes me seem like a stalker’. And yes, you’re right, unless you have a system and are communicating the steps of your sales process to your prospect.

Most often, as a seller, we let the prospect drive the sales process. We wait until they get back to us, we fear calling them to ask them how it’s going; we don’t want to be seen as too desperate, or we may try once and then give up.

Imagine if you drove the process, so you got the answers you needed on your time table?

Try this approach:

Create a plan for how many meetings you plan to have with your prospect. Think about the purpose of each meeting, your desired outcome and the ideal time frames.

For example, for a corporate it may be:

  • Introductory meeting
  • Meeting to discover more of their problems, pains and needs
  • Meeting to discuss your ideas for how to work together
  • Meeting to discuss a proposal
  • Meeting to respond to their questions
  • Meeting to agree details, and close the sale

At the end of each meeting agree the date of the next meeting, or if more relevant, when you will call them to have the next meeting in your plan. Doing this keeps the control with you, as you are driving the timings of the process.

It also removes the feeling that you are stalking them, as by agreeing to the timing for the next contact, they will be expecting your call or meeting.

Be explicit with them about what your desired outcome for the meeting is. For instance in the example above, the desired outcome for a meeting to discuss ideas, may be ‘to discuss how we could work together, so I could prepare a discussion document’. This then sets very clearly, that you intend the relationship to move forward.

4. Don’t waste your time

Very early on, you must ascertain if you are talking to the decision maker. I have wasted weeks in a sales process, not to mention countless hours creating a proposal, only to have it turned down from above, as I wasn’t able to get in front of the real decision maker. Ask your contact if they will be making the final decision, or are there others that need to be involved in the process? If so, get them involved early on in your discussions.

5. Set yourself up to succeed

Help yourself to do well at selling by setting a strong intention for each sales interaction.

Prepare by following this plan:

  1. Write down what your best outcome would be from the meeting
  2. Also write down how that would make you feel
  3. Write down what your prospects’ best outcome could be
  4. Then think about what you need to do, or how you need to be in the meeting to achieve that
  5. Then, last but not least, spend a few minutes running the meeting through in your mind’s eye, and imagine the room, the conversations, and most of all, how smoothly and successfully it goes, and how you achieve your desired outcome!

Successful selling is an art and a science! I love blending the practical processes, the steps and approaches, with the inner work…how it makes me feel, and I love that I can be totally authentic in the process.

Remember…through your relationship building and the ‘know, like and trust’ model, buying is the next logical step.

And the more prepared you are, and clear about the steps and timings involved, the more you are in the driver’s seat.

So, what are your thoughts? Do you know why your clients buy from you? Do you have a sales process or are you flying by the seat of your pants?

 

You can read more great articles by Wendy here!

Photo credit: Deathtostockphotos.com

5 reasons you’re not growing your business

To expand your business you need help. There’s only so much you can do on your own, and only so far your own skills will take you. What’s more, moving to a new level often means taking a big step: starting a new project, changing how you operate or opening up a new market. That means you have to bring in support, whether it’s the occasional freelancer or full-time staff. And that’s a huge block for many entrepreneurs and can stop you from growing your business. Learning how to find, delegate to and trust other people isn’t easy, but there’s no alternative if you want to beat your own limitations of time, knowledge or skills.

The first step to getting help is to realising why it’s so hard. If you’re struggling with finding ways to expand, you’re probably stuck because of at least one of the following five reasons. Change is all about altering your habits and your mindset, so here are some next steps to grow your business to match the size of your vision.

1: You don’t know what you want.

The first rule of getting in help is to know what you want from it. If your goal is ‘someone to do marketing’, or ‘help to get more sales’, you’re never going to succeed. You need absolute clarity.

What to do: focus on the outcome

Articulate the outcome you want. That might be: ‘I want to find a venue for my workshop’, or ‘I want 20 new clients in the education sector’. That means that you can then start to work out, very specifically, what you need to do to get that. When you’re hiring someone, you both understand exactly what you want them to achieve.  That’s much more motivating for anyone, and gives them a greater chance of success from the beginning.

Don’t worry about being restricted by your goal. You can always change it as you go along, but if you don’t have a clear goal, any path you take will be fuzzy.

2: You can’t let go

Entrepreneurs succeed by being fussy about the detail, but there’s a point when it gets in the way. You’ll never find the time to grow if you want to be hands-on about everything. Letting go doesn’t mean releasing all control of something, but it means focusing on the outcome, and learning to find the right people to manage the processes.

What to do: start small and practice

You need to build up your own confidence and delegation skills, and so you need to practice. Start with a small, low-risk task. That might be entering 50 business cards into a database or creating a banner for your website. Write down exactly what you want someone to do and find someone to do it. If it works, repeat it with something a little bigger. If you don’t get what you want, ask yourself how you could have made your brief clearer, or been more specific about choosing someone. The key is to see this as a learning experience for yourself. Each time you bring in help, you’re improving your ability to do it, so eventually you’ll have the skills and confidence to outsource and manage big projects.

3: You don’t value experts

Now, you probably say you do. You respect your web designer, or accountant. But entrepreneurs tend to think they can, honestly, do everything themselves, unless they know it’s totally beyond them. This is great while you’re in a bootstrapping phase. However, if you’re going to get bigger, you’ll be competing with people and companies who probably have a lot more specialist experience. The other downside with doing everything yourself is that you’re probably taking a lot longer to do things than a specialist would. It’s amazing how quickly someone can work when it’s something they’re great at.

You might feel that you need to understand everything your business does, but if you’re going to grow, you will need to bring in people with different skills and learn to trust them.

What to do: prove yourself wrong

Again, start with something small, and something you know you’re not great at, or something that you don’t enjoy. That might be research, copy writing or admin – it doesn’t matter. If you know the text on your website is clunky and long, find a copywriter to improve it. If your marketing is stalled, book a session with a marketing consultant. Again, be clear about the outcome, brief as thoroughly as you can, and keep it low risk. You’ll probably be quickly astonished at what a difference it makes to have a specialist contributing.

4: You don’t know how to make big decisions

Business owners often get dazzled by opportunities, and hate to turn their back on what they feel are possibilities. But you need focus to succeed. Doing one thing really well will always beat doing several things half-heartedly (or not at all).

In reality, few opportunities are as straightforward as they seem once you’ve examined them. The fear of that reality too often stops entrepreneurs doing the hard analysis they should. Launching into something on a rush of enthusiasm is the reason why so many businesses get stuck in a frustrating, unsuccessful rut.

Great entrepreneurs make big, hard, rational decisions. Frustrated small business owners don’t. Which do you want to be?

What to do: work out the information you need

Write down an idea which has various options in it. Say it’s getting established in a new market, but you’ve got three different ones in mind. You need to decide which of those three markets gives you the best chance of success.

Consider what information you need to decide. That might be, for instance, the current size of the market, who the customers are, who your main competitors would be, what channels you would need to use, what new skills you’re likely to need, what it would mean for production or servicing that market, any regulations in that sector, and what connections you currently have. Focus on top-line information early on. You can narrow down your options as you get more in-depth.

If you don’t have the time or the skills, this might be a good chance to start commissioning an expert to do some of it. You don’t need a top-level business consultant: you might even find a good business student to work for you. Again, start small so you limit your risks and can keep an eye on it.

If analysing the information and making the decision is the challenge, consider taking on a mentor to help you work out the most suitable path.

5: You can’t break your vision down into practical steps

So you’ve got a great vision. You know exactly what your goal is. But it still doesn’t mean you know how to do it.

Maybe you know that writing and publishing a book will push you to the next level, but unless you know exactly what you need to do to make it happen, it’s not going to. Maybe you want to launch a new product range, or series of webinars: the same things apply.

What to do: create a road-map

Work out what you already know, and what you don’t. For a book, you’ll need to work out how you’re going to find time to research and write, how to find a publisher or self-publish, how you’ll get it edited and proofread, and how to promote and sell it. And how you’re going to fund all that.

Create a road-map of the project: a list of things you need to do, and when. You don’t need all the answers before you start, and it doesn’t mean you won’t change it. However, it means you can focus on the next step without worrying that something is going to be forgotten.

With the book, for instance, you should probably be trying to build up your own mailing list well in advance. If you’re aware of that, you can plan it into your workload and work on it gradually (or get help) so that it’s ready when you need it.

You might decide that in order to find time, you need to find someone else to help with your current workload: maybe your client admin, or updating your website. Maybe you could to commission someone to research how to self-publish, or track relevant blogs for important updates.

Buying in help is an essential way of allowing you to focus on what you do best and grow your business. If you’ve invested money in buying in help, it also provides you with an additional incentive to make something happen. Start small, start now, and watch the results as you learn how to make it work for you and your business.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below!

How to win your dream client with the perfect pitch

It’s the big moment where you’ve finally got yourself in front of the decision makers at your dream clients. You have time to give a short presentation and you know that the next few minutes are crucial for whether you leave the would-be client with a sense of ‘Wow!’ or a sense of ‘Oh.’ So how do you pitch to win?

For many women entrepreneurs the idea of asking for money for what we do seems terrifying. Then combine that with the terror of giving a presentation and you’ve got one of the most challenging tasks that business owners have to face on a regular basis – winning business. So how do you make pitching an experience that’s not only tolerable, but enjoyable? And not only passable, but powerful?

1. Throw one ball at a time

The word ‘pitch’ is an interesting one. To me ‘pitching’ evokes images of high school baseball players on a hot field in movie-ville America, one guy in the middle of the field getting ready to throw a ball. For the game to work there needs to be only one ball in play at a time. The Pitcher throws that one ball and the batsman tries to hit it.
Simple.

And yet when we compare this to pitching in business, it doesn’t seem so simple. Have you ever tried to sell your business, or your services, but found yourself talking about too many things all at once? It could be too many options, too many products or too many reasons for purchasing. It’s like throwing 50 balls at once in the hope that one of them will be hit. Chances are your batter will get confused and miss them all.

Treat every ‘ball’ you pitch as a precious opportunity to influence; to get a space in the head of your client.

A good place to start is by asking: If you only had one ball, what is the ball you’d pitch? In other words, what’s the key message that you’d like to get across about your idea, business or product?

Spend some time getting really clear on what your key message is by:

  • Brainstorming all the possible messages you could have.
  • List all the benefits of your product / service;
  • all the reasons why this dream client might engage with you;
  • all of the unique features you offer and all of the wonderful changes that would happen if you worked together.

Consider your dream client: –

  • What are the most pressing needs that they face?
  • What is the main problem they want for you to solve?

Next, ask yourself : –

  • which of these benefits are most important?
  • Which are most unique?

Trim down the weak ones.

Now comes the tough decision:

Of all of the important items left, which are the most powerful?
Peg this down and you have your key message…

Develop your key message into a powerful statement about who you are, what you offer and why it will benefit that dream client of yours.

Once you have your key message, you have focus.

Your message will now start to be really clear for you (which is so important when you’re at a nerve-wracking pitch) and, crucially, it will be clear for your dream client.

2. Make sure the ball is made of the right stuff.

A ball made from sponge cake may leave your hands ok, but it will break up on the way to the batter because of its lack of structure. Make sure your key message has 3-4 key elements to back it up, support it and deepen its message.

Here, think about using content to make your message memorable to your dream client. For a message to be remembered it needs to resonate. For a message to resonate it needs to be both relevant to the listener and unique in their minds. So think of something that’s both really relevant to the needs of the dream client and that they won’t have seen before.

PowerPoint, for example, is not unique and may well remind your dream client of 100 other boring pitches they’ve sat through. So get playful. Think how you can add texture, interest, intrigue, laughter, colour and movement to your presentation. Involve your audience. Be cheeky!

The more real you are as a presenter, the more they will like you. And whilst we think we’re rational beings, most business decisions are based more on emotion that they are on logic.

3. Make sure the ball reaches the other side

Careful messaging and compelling things to say and show are all well and good, but if you don’t throw the ball hard enough, it won’t even reach the batter (cue memories of playing rounders at school). If you don’t fully back your own message, why on earth would that dream client be convinced.

So check your message out. Why is it so important that this person works for you? Think not only about why it’s important for you to work with them, but why it’s important for them that they take you on. Get convinced, without needing to be cocky. And believe it, because you’re in business for a reason – you’re damn good at what you do.

Claim your client. Shine your enthusiasm over them. Tell them “I want to work with you.” And then let go of whether they do or not. There’s nothing strange or selfish about putting your full belief behind what you do, yet it’s something so many women struggle with. Remember that whatever they are paying you, they are getting benefit for.

4. Enjoy the game

Pitching doesn’t need to be a scary experience, provided that you stay true to yourself and you realise it’s only a game. Make an effort, yes, but don’t completely change yourself just to impress a client, just as you wouldn’t change yourself to impress a new man (would you?). Even your dream client can be replaced with another client that turns out to be even better to work with, so there’s no need to build up any pitch in your mind as a ‘must win.’ When you’re relaxed and authentic, you’ll do a better job, you’ll enjoy it more and you’ll impress more.

5. Throw the ball. And then leave it. Job done

Finally, when a pitcher has thrown the ball, they don’t chase after it, trying to adjust its position, or make it look better, or bring it back to them. When you’ve done your pitch, you’ve stated your case. Done. Stop talking. It’s so easy to undermine the power that you’ve created by talking yourself out of the deal. By avoiding leaving your dream client in a position where they have to say yes or no. So stop talking and allow them to answer.

Take a moment to sit in your power and enjoy it, rather than wriggling away from it.

Pitching may not come easily to begin with, but it’s one of the most powerful ways to win work. Don’t expect to be perfect first time and enjoy the journey.

About the Author: Sarah Lloyd-Hughes is a public speaking coach and author of the Amazon Bestseller, “How to be Brilliant at Public Speaking” (Pearson). See www.gingerpublicspeaking.com for more information and some juicy freebies around how to become an Inspiring Public Speaker.

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