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    28 May

    fail

    Photo by skippyjon

    If you think networking is a waste of time and it doesn’t work…then you’re not doing it right! (how’s that for a slap in the face?).

    As a small business owner, one area where you have a clear advantage over a larger company is networking (people engage with other people, not corporations).  One of the things that I recommend to every business owner is that they should be networking effectively.  Networking is inexpensive, it’s targeted and done correctly it can be extremely effective way to drive opportunities.

    Think about this…when long term business owners talk about how they get most of their new leads, they will tell you word of mouth.  A chunk of that success comes from doing a great job with their customers, but a lot of it is having an effective networking presence.

    The case is clear, you should be networking…but if you ask around, many business owners struggle with it!  Here are 5 things that I see people do all the time that’s killing their networking mojo.

    It’s all about you

    True story – met with a guy as a networking introduction the other day and started out by asking him about his business, how he got started, etc.  That was enough to set him off, his company, his products, his services, details, features…all of it.  One very long hour later when I let him know I had to leave, he asked me as I was getting up “Now what is it that you do again?”!!! 

    It’s unfortunate for him because I know several people who would be good business contacts for this guy, but I’m not willing to introduce him to any of them because he doesn’t get it and I don’t want anyone else to have to endure the painful time suck I went through.

    Hanging out with friends

    You make the time to go to a networking event and then when you get there you spend all of your time talking to people you already know.  There’s a time and a place for that, but unless you already know everyone you ever need to know, the point is to challenge yourself to meet new people.

    Not following up

    Try this the next time you go out to a networking event.  Count the number of people who ended up talking to you and getting your business card and compare that to the number who actually follow up with you in some way.  My experience is around 10% of people will actually follow up.  Those who actually do, really stand out in a positive way.

    Networking is about building a relationship…it’s not a 1 time quickie at a chamber event.  You can’t hurry networking…and you have to follow up if you are going to build a 1 on 1 discussion.

    Only going to big events

    Chamber events or other networking events are a great place to start…but if that’s all you do for networking, you aren’t likely to make much headway.  The real benefit from networking is when you build relationships with the right people…which you can’t do until  you start meeting with people 1 on 1.  Bigger events are there to help you find people to follow up with…the starting point.

    Not Helping First

    If you want to build up trust and start a genuine relationship, then find a way to help the people you’re meeting with.  Make that the first thing you do (before asking for a favor, or an introduction or telling them about your product).  The motto of BNI (Business Networking International) is ‘Givers Gain’ – which may sound a little hokey, but it’s powered them to being the largest business networking  organization around.

    I’m a firm believer that giving can help you build your business – so the next time you’re talking to someone 1 on 1 or at a networking event, ask them, genuinely, how you can help them…and then follow through!  You’ll be surprised at how it works.

    Are your networking efforts paying off?  Are you building quality relationships with business contacts who could make a real difference to your business?  Are you doing any of the 5 things listed above?  Let me know your thoughts on networking – did I miss the boat?  Did I miss some other big issues?  Leave me a comment and let me know what you think.

    Shawn Kinkade    Kansas City Business Coach

    22 May

    noise

    I recently ran across a website Simply Noise ; it’s a noise generator. I find it helps with concentration when I am working. It is especially helpful for those who live with tinnitus (ringing in your ears). So far, Brown/Oscillating is my favorite. But it got me thinking about how some businesses find ways to be noticed, increase market share, and grow!, while many of their competitors, offering very similar products or services remain grouped together as well…simply noise.   You could also say they’ve fallen into ‘The Pit of Mediocrity

    If a business is Simply Noise, there is nothing that separates it from other competing businesses. It’s two identical Hot Dog stands on opposite sides of the street and there is no reason to go to one over the other. They both may be spending money on flyers, coupons, websites, maybe even radio and TV, but their messages are similar, their products are similar and at the end of the day they have two identical Hot Dog stands.

    But you don’t have to be Simply Noise…!  I read a great article this past week about how a local construction company has thrived over the last few years.  They choose to take a different approach than their competitors with a number of specific action steps including:

    • Proactively reducing debt
    • Performing SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis
    • Researching revenue growth options
    • Becoming strategic with their goals and expectations
    • Participating in an advisory board
    • Getting everyone on the same page (which includes sharing the Mission, Vision, and Strategic Plan within the company).

    It was good stuff. When your passion is building successful businesses, it is music to one’s ears.

    In this case, a leadership decision had clearly been made. For the construction business to survive in a down market something had to change. Being simply another construction company wasn’t a path for success.

    Sometimes it is the little things that separate businesses from the pack. One of the items listed was very simple, yet profound. It was something every business should be able to do with just a little effort. It was this;

    “When asked, every associate should, without hesitation, have a clear and concise “20 second elevator speech” about their firm.”

    Every associate, not just the management team or the sales people, but every employee from the lowest entry level position on up can deliver this message on cue.

    If 1,000 employees (let’s say 50 people across 20 different industries) were polled across the metro area, I wonder how many would be prepared to answer that question with an answer that would make them standout from any other business providing a similar product or service? How many responses would be simply noise: “We mow grass”, “We sell insurance”, “We’re plumbers”, “We’re a dentist office” verses something that would be notable, memorable, and make a consistent, impactful statement about the company?

    What would your employees & co-workers say? Maybe it is time to take your own poll? Is your message simply noise? Are you being heard? Please share your thoughts in the space below.

    Chris Steinlage   Kansas City Business Coach

    15 May

     sell

    Here’s the answer to your problem…!

    It’s an easy trap to fall into…you’re good at what you do, you know your product / service inside and out and you genuinely want to help your prospective customer (and make a sale).  So once you get a quick overview of their situation, you start your sales pitch.

    The problem is when you jump right into selling mode, you aren’t listening anymore…and you’re not even helping.  Even if you think you really understand the problem, you haven’t made the connection with the other person that you’ll have to have if you want to close the sale…and without that connection…and without really understanding the real issue, you’re not going to close a sale.

    Start with listening

    Listening gets a lot of lip service…you won’t find very many people arguing that it’s important to listen, but the reality is that very few people actually do it consistently.  Next time you’re in a larger group setting, pay attention to those not talking.  Are they focused and attentively listening…or does it look more like they’re waiting for their chance to jump into the conversation?

    Here are a few things you’ll get if you spend more time listening up front:

    • A connection with the other person who will appreciate you took the time to listen
    • Context around not just what the problem is, but what the impact is
    • The urgency of the problem (and how quickly they need a solution)
    • The prospective customer’s financial situation…can they afford a solution
    • An idea of how they’ve tried to solve the problem prior to this

    Listening not only makes you smarter…but it creates and builds the relationship.

    Now start helping

    By listening first you’re now in a real position to help someone…in fact if you want to close a sale, the next step is to genuinely help the person you were listening to.

    The good news is that you’re in a powerful position – you understand your industry, your solution and now you understand their problem and situation.  You are in a great place to help them…and it has nothing to do with spouting the benefits of your product.  Now is the time to really dig in and talk to them as if they were a friend or family member.  How can you really help them?

    I’m not suggesting that you have to give away the farm, but making sales in today’s environment is all about solving problems first.  There’s a great article in Forbes recently: To Increase Revenue Stop Selling that really gets to the heart of this – here’s a quote that struck me:

    If you want to create revenue, increase customer satisfaction, and drive brand equity, stop selling and start adding value.

    In a nutshell, your job as a salesperson (or business owner) is to solve problems.  If you can do that and establish a positive rapport…people will buy from you.  As simple as that.

    Try This:

    Next time you’re meeting with a prospective client, put your sales pitch away and listen, really listen to what they’re struggling with and then do your best to help them…without pushing them for a sale.  It may take a bit of getting used to, but you will make serious progress and close more deals than you’ve been doing before!

    What are your thoughts on consultative selling?  Have you had a great (or awful) experience with someone selling to you?  I’d love to hear your thoughts – share them in the comments below.

    Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coach

    07 May

    quality

    Hire Quality People

    It was on a piece of paper, given to me by a dealer mentor when I bought my dealership in 1997. A handwritten recipe with 5 areas I should master to have a successful business. In fact, the entire hand written document only contained about 200 words. There was no fluff, just to the point directives, that if followed, would yield a healthy prosperous business. At the top of the list he had written: People, “Hire quality people”.

    From a recent poll in the Kansas City Business Journal:

    69% of metro area businesses hired someone in the first quarter of this year!

     

    I was reminded of that 15 year old note this past week as we were visiting with the owner of a young growing business. He was telling us how he simply hires the best of the best in what they do. He sees the value in paying for quality and knows the output is going to be relative to the quality of the employee. The other interesting component we heard is how he is defining a culture and when he hires employees that match the company culture the chances of a successful hire increase exponentially.

    I thought back to some of the early hires I made and how those decisions positioned us for growth when the opportunities presented themselves in the following years. If you have employees you need to make every effort to get the right people on your team; quality people. Competition is tough and there is no reason to think it will not keep getting tougher.  But if you Hire Quality People you have a great chance to win!

    Below are the words typed verbatim from the handwritten note in 1997:

    1. Hire Quality People

    A) Positions Company Better for Growth

    B) Positions Company Better in case of employee loss

    C) Customers – See Visually & Experience quality people, thus the dealer can keep customers

    D) Gets things done correctly.

    What is a Quality person? A quality person does not necessary know everything when you hire them, but they are trainable. They work well in their environment. They understand the whole is better than the individual. They are assertive. They are trustworthy and committed.  They share the company core values.  They ‘get it’.  They want to be there and they are capable of doing the work in the right way.

    What is amazing to me is that considering how much has changed in the way we do business in the last 15 years, just how accurate the advice still is. The clear message still resonates even today…Hire Quality People!

    We love to hear your thoughts, what are you doing to Hire Quality People?  (Or do you need to get rid of some less than quality people to make room first?)

    Chris Steinlage   Kansas City Business Coach

    Photo by Phillie Casablanca