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First, Best, or Different

Niche Marketing Matters
By John Bradley Jackson

Losing the Sale Graciously

January 29th, 2009

Yes, it is hard to lose an order. I hate it also. Yet, losing a sale graciously is the ticket to be considered for the next opportunity.

Sales gurus and trainers have long argued for sales people to always be “closing” and, in effect, to never give up on the order. Positive thinking is a large part of selling and so is assertiveness, but I have found that “No” can be an acceptable answer.

The word “No”, or any objection as far that goes, can be a request for information—thus, it is always appropriate to dig deeper with open ended questions to find out the real concerns behind the sales objection. Yet, there times when your product does not fit, when the customer is not ready, or when the funds are not available for a purchase. Essentially, “No” can mean stop selling now.

“No” means to the seller that you need to focus your energies on other prospects and customers; to the buyer, it means much the same. It is at this point that the skilled salesperson reacts with calm acceptance about the outcome. Rather than pressing harder which might only anger the buyer, the salesperson acknowledges that the conversation is tabled. The words to be said by the seller communicate that you understand. You could say, “I understand” or “I see” or “I can see how you came to that conclusion”.

I recommend taking one more step. I suggest you express “gratitude”. Tell the buyer how thankful you are for being considered. This would also be a good time to acknowledge your appreciation for the relationship with the buyer and the firm—do this only if it is true. If you don’t feel that way, it won’t sound authentic.

This sophisticated salesperson knows that having the chance to do business again is critical to the future. Strong eye contact, a firm handshake and smile will go a long way to making that happen. Consider sending a handwritten note card as a follow up. A polite email of thanks can work, too. Propose a meeting in a few weeks or months to reconnect. Keep the door open.

It just might be your turn next time.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2009 All rights reserved.

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Mantras

January 27th, 2009

Need a quick way to communicate the company mission or your personal mission? Then consider a mantra.

Traditionally, a mantra is a sacred syllable, phrase, or verse associated with deep meditation or prayer. Applied to people and organizations, mantras help people focus on what is important.

Nowadays, a mantra is three to five words about why your firm exits or even why you exist. No Shakespeare is needed. In fact, plain English is required (please, no business speak about “core competencies” or “strategic collaboration”). I suggest choosing words or a phrase that express how you are unique or special.

Your company mantra should be immediately understood by the guys down in shipping as well as the board members. Your personal mantra should be understood by e-mail readers and by your grandparents.

What is your mantra?

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2009 All rights reserved.

P.S. Thanks to author Guy Kawasaki for reinventing the word mantra.

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Why Do You Exist?

January 26th, 2009

Now that is a heavy question, is it not? Yet, there must be some reason that you are here on this planet at this time.

This type of question can motivate some to study philosophy and others to enter the seminary. Or, you could consider good old fashioned denial and avoidance to dodge the question—why bother answering a question that cannot be answered anyway?

To save you that trouble, here is the simple answer. You exist to fulfill your own unique purpose—whatever that may be. That is why you exist.

You have a unique responsibility to live out your own personal script. Maybe that purpose is to invent things like software or music. Your purpose could be to lead or teach others. You might have one purpose, a few, or many. Whatever it is, it is exclusively yours. It does not matter what your purpose is as long as you do it.

Alas, here is the rub—you must uncover your purpose before you can do it. One way to discover your purpose is with the creation of a personal mission statement. A personal mission statement addresses three questions:

1) What is your life about?

2) What do you stand for?

3) What are you doing to fulfill that purpose?

Using no more than 30 words, a personal mission statement says what you wish to accomplish or contribute and who you want to be. Your mission statement speaks about what you are doing today to fulfill that purpose. Don’t confuse your mission with vision. Vision statements describe what could be in the future while a mission statement lives in the here and now.

Yes, answering these questions may not be easy. Here is an exercise that might help get you going. Imagine that it is your 80th birthday and you are having a grand party. All your family, friends, co-workers in your profession, and neighbors have gathered to hear you speak. What would you say to them was most important in your life? What did you do for the last 80 years? Why? How?

As the Greek philosopher Epictetus wrote, “First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.”

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2009 All rights reserved.

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The Vatican on YouTube

January 26th, 2009

YouTube has gone mainstream. Need some evidence? Pope Benedict XVI launched his own channel on YouTube.

Supposedly this was done so the Catholic Church could connect with a younger audience. The church recognizes that the future rests on the shoulders of the younger generation. Church elders have been painfully aware of a disconnect with their younger members of the flock. Candidly, this move seems brilliant.

“With the YouTube platform, we now have the capacity to give young people direct access to the thinking, to the thoughts, to the words and deeds of the pope,” said Monsignor Paul Tighe, secretary of the Pontifical Council. “That allows them to share with their friends.”

I love the use of the term friends since it sounds so MySpace like. Very smart. The Vatican plans to use it mainly as a Catholic news channel featuring the pope’s daily activities and speeches, and it will provide links to other Catholic TV sites around the world, he said.

Thus, the Pope understands the value proposition of YouTube. How about you?

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2009 All rights reserved.

P.S. Be sure to check out http://www.youtube.com/vatican

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Blogger Hits Head

January 21st, 2009

I normally avoid including myself or my personal travails in my blog, since my blog is not about me. Rather, my blog content is about what matters to you. But, I had a concussion a few weeks ago and it really shook things up—literally.

OK. Here is the story. I was in the local mountains for the holidays and slipped on the ice and bounced my head on the sidewalk. In a split second things changed for me: whiplash, bloody head, dizziness, blurred vision, ringing in my ears, and a major league headache. Ouch!

A “Good Samaritan” rushed to my side and asked, “Are you all right?” I responded, “Nope”. Later, my doctor determined that I had no significant brain damage, which was little comfort—I did like the painkillers, but I digress. Three and half weeks later I am on the mend although my ears still ring.

The point is that my little world changed dramatically in an instant and the same might happen to you or your business. Will you be prepared to manage the crisis?

Does your firm carry adequate liability insurance, key executive coverage, long term disability insurance?

What about contingency plans for earthquakes or other natural disasters? Do your IT systems have built in redundancy? Do you have a disaster recovery plan?

How about your personal computer—do you routinely back up your files? This is always on my “to do” list, but never seems to get done.

What will happen if your partner dies or wants out? Do you have a succession plan? How about an exit strategy and a buy/sell agreement? Are you prepared for a hostile acquisition?

What if your biggest customer declares bankruptcy? Or, what if a new competitor enters your market? What if the Feds change the law and injure the market? What if the price of oil races to $5.00 a gallon?

My recommendation is to plan for an occasional disaster. Disaster planning and a periodic review sound in order to me. Things may be fine now, but you may bump your head now and then.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2009 All rights reserved.

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Price Strategically

January 5th, 2009

Undoubtedly, pricing an offering is one of the more important decisions that an entrepreneur makes, yet it is my observation that it seldom gets much thought. Pricing decisions are often emotionally based and made quickly, while prices are long lived (like it or not).

The market can dictate a price point or price range for a commodity product when it is offered by many competitors. If that is the case, you are kind of stuck with market prices unless your offering has unique characteristics or benefits.

Otherwise, there are some basic questions that you need to ask yourself about your product, the customer, and the selling environment before you establish the price:

1. What does the customer look like for the offering? What is the region or geography served? How many potential customers can be served? These simple questions will determine your channel of distribution costs.

2. How will you market the offering? Over the web? By mail? What are the costs of promotion and advertising? Similarly, your promotion mix will make a huge impact on your cost of sales.

3. Is price elasticity a factor? Does product demand change if you move prices up or down? OK, this sounds simple, but it can actually be vexing to many entrepreneurs. Lowering price does not always increase sales volume; it can be a hard lesson learned once you lower a price and get stuck with it.

4. What does your product really cost? This can be a really hard one for small firms since true cost accounting does not normally exist. Most small firms “estimate” cost and then apply a multiple of 3 or 4 to get a sales price. The problem exists in the word “estimate”, since it generally means “underestimate”. Most firms don’t capture or know all the true costs. This is a red flag waving.

5. Look outside the box. Are there any environmental factors that may impact pricing that are out of your control such as weather, legal or regulatory changes, or competitor misbehavior? They may be hard to forecast, but you need to be cognizant of the impact of these external factors.

6. Pricing goals. What do you hope to achieve with this offering and its price? Maybe you want to open a new market or drive out a competitor? Or, is the offering supposed to drive big profits; if so your product margins will need to be high and pricing defended.

With these issues researched or decided, the pricing begins. It still is a choice, but hopefully it is a more informed one.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2009 All rights reserved.

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