Strategy Before Tactics By Arthur Radtke

It’s Monday morning: the start of a new week and we need to make some sales now!

We quickly begin to run through all the tactics that we know looking for the silver bullet that will solve our problem the easiest and fastest way possible. The problem is, this is the same situation we have found ourselves every Monday as far back as we can remember. And the fact is, we are relying on tactics to carry the day when we haven’t developed our strategy enough to even choose the right tactics.

Strategy is the overall plan one is going to execute and tactics are the individual actions used to accomplish the strategy. In football, as an example, a team’s strategy might be to control the clock.  The tactic used to accomplish this might be a series of running plays or short passes. In business developments there are two parts of strategy: first, who are your most likely and best customers and, second, what is your unique value proposition to these customers.

Your best customers are usually not as obvious as we first think. One might think that the best customer is the biggest but this might not be the case. Our best customers are ones that are profitable and excited about our goods and services. These customers are both profitable and reasonably low maintenance. Many businesses don’t know what their profit is on individual customers and retain clients that are actually losing them money. There is a huge difference between revenue and profit. Resist the temptation to broaden your target market. The broader the target market is,the harder it is developing a compelling value proposition.

Once you are clear what the nature of your target market is, you then need to develop the value proposition which is critical to them. The value proposition needs to be one that answers a need of that target market. Example: if your client is a mid-size business that doesn’t have training resources, you might supply the training that they need.  Or if they are challenged to distribute their product, you could do this for them. You need to use the fact that you are an “expert” to your clients’ and prospects’ advantage. You aren’t looking to make a sale but to develop a true partnership with your clients.

With our strategy now in place, we are ready to develop the tactics needed to reach our prospects.  The tactics should take care of two initiatives: first, prospecting and second, converting the prospects we have.

Your Unfair Advantage – by Art Radtke

You have one. You may not know it, but every business owner and sales professional has one. You have a claim to something that makes you truly unique in your industry.  You have something to offer your customers that they cannot get from anyone else.  That something is your unfair advantage.  Do you know yours?

“We have the lowest prices.” Really?  Lower than Walmart’s?

“We offer better, more personal customer service.”  Would you accept a tire being returned to your store if you did not sell tires?  Whether real or urban legend, this very story is a cornerstone to Nordstrom’s reputation.

“No one can beat our selection.”   Can you prove that?

Your unfair advantage does not lie in any general claim to price, selection, or service. Your unfair advantage lives in that which makes you more than just another realtor, broker, deck builder, web developer, or shopkeeper.  It lives in the realization of what it really means to be a local business owner in your community. Once you can articulate that, you will be able to bring a whole new life to your business.  Your mission – should you choose to accept it – is to find out what it is and own it. “It” is where your power lies.

Nancy is a realtor in Marblehead, Massachusetts, who does not sell “houses.”  She offers a lifestyle.  Marblehead is well known among hard-core sailors as one of the premiere sailing communities in the country.  Top-notch sailors and Fortune 500 executives who love sailing flock there because of the incredible sailing environment.  Nancy knows this.  That is why before taking her clients to any listings, Nancy shows them the area.  She takes them to visit the yacht clubs.  She shows them various mooring options available.  She takes them sailing.  If you love the sailing lifestyle, there is only one realtor who can plug you into that community.   Nancy turned her passion for sailing and the lifestyle that surrounds it into the focus of her real estate business.  It is her unfair advantage over anyone else trying to move homes in that area.  Are there homes sold in Marblehead by agents other than Nancy?  Yes.  There are just not many with clients who came there to sail.

In a great comparison, here is another realtor I know with a different unfair advantage.  Momo specializes in finding housing for the elderly. When elderly people are ready to downsize or make a move into assisted living, she helps them sell their current home.  She knows this is very often a difficult transition for families, so she makes a point to keep the transaction as simple and painless as possible.  She also will personally connect families with other businesses she know that offer services they need to get through the move easily.  Her heart for the elderly is the core of her business.

Understanding the concept of your unfair advantage is not difficult.  Where business owners typically fall down is in not “activating” that advantage in their business.  My hunch is greed is the biggest factor. Ugly as it may sound, small business owners typically feel that to be successful we need to “have it all.”  We live under the misguided notion that in order to thrive we must serve as many people as possible, so we need to stay as general as possible.  We believe that moving our business towards our unfair advantage could effectively turn some people away.  My experience shows most small business owners shy away from anything that even smells of leaving money on the table.

Yet, if you are truly trying to yield more money from your business in less time, the quickest, most efficient way to do so is to take advantage of your unfair advantage at ALL TIMES.  For this to work, you must be willing to stake your reputation on “it.”  You need to narrow your focus.  The reality is to grow bigger you need to go smaller.

This can be done in a couple of ways.  One is to have a passion like Momo does for the elderly.   Another is to focus your business geographically (like Nancy in Marblehead) by being “ultra-local.”  Being local is an unfair advantage every small business owner has over big business. Do you love where you live and work?  Do you have strong ties to your community? Then use this to your advantage.  If you are a business-to-business company ask yourself, “How many businesses are within a one-mile radius of me at this very moment?”  If your market is more residential or consumer-driven, find out how many neighborhoods are within a one-mile radius of you right now.

Going after larger markets is an exhausting and expensive process. It requires more physical travel, is harder to wrap your arms around, and keeps you “busy” but not necessarily productive.  If you were to focus your efforts on people or businesses within one-mile radius of where you are, think of how much easier it would be to get things done.  “Going ultra-local” also strengthens your visibility in your immediate surroundings.  The farther out you reach, the less focused your efforts are and the weaker your exposure becomes.   Concentrate on that for a moment…

Going ultra-local also provides you the perfect environment for making your business ultra-personal.  By making your world smaller, you create the time you need to really KNOW your customers.  You find more time to visit clients, to hold more appreciation events, and to deepen relationships in ways previously not possible.  The beauty of this is at the same time you are getting to know your clients better they are getting to know you too.  Your unfair advantage lives and breathes in the strength of these relationships. Larger, more complicated companies and major corporations cannot do this.  Be local.  Make it personal.

In addition to the fear of leaving money on the table, small business owners trip themselves up by not seeing the forest for the trees.  Pizza Hut hands out coupons for free pizza to elementary school students with an A on their report card. Tony’s Pizzeria, right around the corner does not.  Why?  Tony either sees “giving away” pizza as too expensive, or more likely, he never gets around to making it happen.

Tony is missing a main accountability ingredient: a boss.  Pizza Hut has a local manager that has a divisional manager that has a regional supervisor that has a corporate VP pushing the process down.  Tony is focused on keeping the doors open and his employees employed every day. He does not see how free pizza could position him as a champion of education in his community with advertising that is paid for only when it works.  Nine parents out of ten would choose Tony over Pizza Hut, if he would not let the big guys out-localize the local guy.

Make it local.  Make it personal.  Make it happen. One of the great things about being a small business owner is you can choose whose rules you want to play by.  If you want to do business solely with customers within 1 mile of your office, you can.  If you want to sell homes only to people looking for waterfront property, do it.  If you want to build a business that provides work for stay-at-home-moms, that is your business.  Not only can you choose what you want your business to be, you have the unique ability to turn on a dime.  You do not have layers of bureaucracy and corporate decision-makers to muddle though.  It is your business. Just make it happen.

My daughter and I daydream sometimes about opening up a coffee shop together. Our whole purpose in being would be to promote the other local businesses around us.  Instead of pretty pictures on the wall we’d have the local fishing report and the day’s weather forecast.  We’d be known for being a “non-virtual” communication hub of our small town.  It is our own ultra-local opportunity.  It feeds our desire to help small business, to be a part of our community, and to do something meaningful together.

What is your unfair advantage?  It is a fair question.   Work it out.

The Math of Sales: (SxA) x U=R By Art Radtke

It is often said that sales is a “numbers game.” Although this is true on one level, it does not clarify how to improve one’s sales performance. We must dig deeper.

The numbers game is described simply: you just need to see more people. In most cases, this is accurate; very few sales professionals see enough prospects. The challenge with this view is that it can be very discouraging. If one’s closing percentage is too low, it could take an impossible number of contacts to reach an acceptable level of production. To tell a salesperson, “Just go see more people!” tends to discourage more sales people than encourage. This is demonstrated by the number of sales people who fail to see enough prospects. The better solution is to promote the mathematical formula of success expecting that, if we understand the formula, we will gain the perspective that allows us to move forward.

The Formula:
(Skill x Action) x Urgency = Results

This formula gives us more perspective on how to improve our results. When our skills of closing or ability to connect with the right prospects are lacking, no amount of effort will make us successful. Equally true is the fact that no amount of skill will make up for lack of action. The two work together to create the results we want and the way to maximize them is to create urgency. Now let’s take a closer look at each of these items.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines skill as, “the ability to use one’s knowledge effectively and readily in execution or performance.” Sales skills are like any other skill; they can be developed by purposeful effort. As the musician can improve his/her ability to play difficult arrangements or the golfer can improve his/her ability to putt, the sales professional can improve ability in each of the sales skills. Interestingly, the musician or golfer, when he doesn’t get the results he wants, knows instinctively that he needs to improve his skill level and will, therefore, practice intensely to develop the needed skill.

The sales person, however, will often come to a different conclusion if his strategy didn’t work. Once he has come to this conclusion, he moves on to the next strategy, rather than developing the skill he needs to make the first strategy work. This leads to a continuous search for the right strategy rather than the development of the correct skill set. Though that a good strategy is important, I believe it is impossible to measure the effectiveness of a strategy until it is executed with an acceptable level of skill. We tend to move from one strategy to the next so quickly we never develop the needed skill.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines act as, “the doing of a thing.” The acts of selling are the steps we take to reach our desired result. The better these steps are planned and the more often they are done, will increase our results within the limitations of our skill. The most common actions that a salesman needs to take are: 1. Prospecting, 2. Relationship Building, and 3. Presenting and Closing.

The result of the two variables Skill and Action, are multiplied by the state that we are in at the time we are executing them. According to John Kotter, the author of A Sense of Urgency, we all operate in one of three mental states: 1. Complacency, 2. False Urgency, or 3. Urgency.  Mr. Kotter maintains that complacency exists when we feel that we have it figured out and, thus, don’t have a lot to learn or change. This feeling traditionally comes when companies or people have experienced success and can lead to the possibility of losing their competitive advantage.

False Urgency is the state of fear that bad things are going to happen and we act out of panic or depression when in this state. While complacency comes from experiencing success, false urgency comes from a person or company experiencing loses. True urgency comes when a company or individual sees opportunities that excite them, it is in this positive and optimistic state that we multiply our skills and actions, creating results that seem to be greater than the effort put in.

The greatest change in results comes when we maximize our skill development and actions by the positive energy of true urgency. Thus, the greatest change we can effect is through the elimination of complacency and false urgency and the creation of true urgency. When we do this the results we create are both larger and quicker than we expect.

Know Your Numbers aka “Dave Thomas’ Buns” – by Art Radtke

Most people who know me know I’m not a big sports fan. I do not have a favorite team. I do not watch sports on TV. I do not necessarily know or care much about who plays for whom. What I do know, and greatly respect, is the object of the game. Why? Sports analogies offer great insight, as they are significant metaphors for the small business owner and independent sales professional.

Imagine, any one of the football players on a field not knowing what the score is or how much time is left in the game. Consider a soccer player who has no idea of the skills of the players he is playing against, or a basketball player who takes his time walking down the court, his team down by two points with one minute left to play in the game. My point is: Regardless of the sport, athletes know the score. Do you think Tiger Woods ever steps up to the tee without knowing where he stands or how best to play the hole? Athletes of every discipline are well versed in the level of skill needed and the amount of time left to play in the game. As spectators it is the very least we expect of them. It is their job to know where they stand so we can enjoy watching the best play at the top of their game.

So, why do we not carry such high standards for our own business?

The truth is most business owners are clueless about their own numbers or statistics. They could be losing business for months and not even know it. I know an employer in New Jersey whose business was being embezzled for more than 6 months before they ever realized something was happening. That should never be. As a small business owner, it is your job to know immediately when something is not right. You should know immediately if your numbers are not making sense against your averages. It is your business to know your business. If you were playing football, when would you want to know you were losing the game?

Most business owners sit down with their accountant or bookkeeper at the end of the month to review their “financials.” This is a very important process, but not what I am talking about. What I am asking you to do in addition to reviewing your financials at the end of the month, the quarter, or the year, is to determine the “one” number that is the key indicator of how your business is doing every single day.

Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy’s restaurants, discovered his number was “buns.” Thomas figured out that tracking the number of buns used every day was an indicator of what was happening in his stores at any given time. He found that the number of buns sold each day would not only show him how many sandwiches were sold, but also how many were chicken, how many were burgers, and even how many crossed the counter “bunless.” He could determine how many fries, Frosty, salads, and drinks were sold. He could determine how much condiments were used. Basically, Dave Thomas had a solid grasp of the health of his business simply by counting the number of buns used each day.

How does this work? Averages. Thomas knew that knowing the number of buns sold would allow his set of averages help him determine the rest. Let’s say 300 buns were used. Then knowing that 1 out of 10 sandwiches are sold without buns, 30% are typically chicken and 70% are burgers, he could do the math. Thomas could get to almost any number in his restaurants by simply placing his averages against the number of buns used that day. Though the number may not be exact, it got him close enough to use for planning and strategy purposes.

For instance, pretend Thomas noticed that instead of 300 buns, he sold only 260 in the month of September. What happened? By looking closer, he noticed the number of buns lost was mostly around the noon hour. They started to rise again after 3:00PM. Could it be that school was back in session? One year later, he sees the same 12% drop in the number of buns. He now knows nothing is wrong. It is a seasonal fluctuation that he can use to make more educated projections or even spark a series of after-school promotions.

It is shocking how close you can get if you know your averages. What keeps most business owners from delving into this kind of math is fear. There are so many moving parts to anyone’s business it can be mind-boggling to know where to start. Your number will directly relate to your type of business as well as to your type of personality, however, most of you can begin by finding yourself in either one of two categories.

The first category or type of personality is the truly commissioned, sales driven professional that is not operationally driven. Most sales professionals will track actual sales. What they too often neglect is delving into what actually got them there. Since the sale itself is at the end of the sales cycle, it is hard to make changes based on that number. By that point “what is done is done.” To be able to affect the outcome of your sales numbers, “your number” should be as early in the sales process as possible. Can you answer these questions for your business?

a.How many calls do you make each week?
b.How many appointments do you get from those calls?
c.How many proposals or presentations do you typically get from those appointments?
d.Do you know your closing ratio?
e.What is your revenue per product / sale of service?
f.How many clients do you lose due to businesses going out of business or personnel transfers, etc.?
g.Do you have recurring revenue streams?

Even if yours is a 20-step sales process, you want to choose the number that is as close to beginning of the process as possible. For example, if you know you need an average of 5 scheduled appointments in one week to make one sale, do you know how many calls you need to get those 5 appointments? That is where you begin.

Once you know – or at least have a good idea – of where you are starting, you can begin to determine where you are at any given point along the process. Using the same 5 appointments, if all were kept, but no sales were made, could you determine what went wrong? This is the point where you need to do a little research …

• Were there competitive specials?
• Were your presentations lousy (bad week)?
• Has the marketplace shifted?
• Was the quality of your appointments off (not the right people)?

The point is to look as deep as you can to determine what your numbers mean. Chalking it up to a “bad week” over and over again will not serve you. It can actually pull you into a downward spiral from which it is difficult to pull out.

Whatever your goal, you must continue to operate within it. Work to get the job done. In my experience, “most business people are willing to put in the hours; it is the work they are not willing to do.”

For the second category of business people – those with operational staff – the idea of following a process still holds true. However, this type of business is better suited by not following the sales process. An automotive dealership is a great example. At first glance you might think you need to count the cars on the lot. However, that number is 100% dependent on the number of sales people on the floor that day, the number of walk-ins, the number of test drives, your level of inventory, even the weather. There are too many variables involved for you to be able to gather the information you need. However, choosing a non-sales number – such as the number of service appointments – in any given month can provide you a wealth of information. It shows the number of people satisfied, or dissatisfied with your dealership in general. If your service appointments are slipping, chances are you will not be getting these “buyers” back for another car. Non sales numbers are steadier, less volatile and more apt to give you a truer reading of your situation.

There is not a single number that will tell you what is wrong, but there is a number that will tell you something is wrong.

The bottom line is this: Know the significance of your “buns.” Find a number that can become your leading indicator of the health of your business. Keeping track of that one number will indicate the movement of the rest. Although one single number may not tell you what is wrong, if you know you are losing the game in the second half of the last quarter – at least you know something has to change. Most business owners do not get that far, until it is too late in the game.

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Fearless, Urgent and Shameless by Art Radtke

Several years ago, while leading a Double Your Income Challenge in Raleigh, North Carolina, business owner Tracy Huff was getting frustrated. Most of the participants had doubled their income already or was well on their way but not Tracy. Week after week Tracy came in and heard all the reports from the other participants and wondered what she was doing wrong. The other participants rallied around her and tried to help to no prevail. No one could figure out what was wrong; Tracy was working long hours and was good at her business but was making little progress.

Then it happened! In one week Tracy brought in enough business to double her income. This was stunning because she had worked so hard to build her business–both before the challenge and during it with little success. Then it happened so suddenly. In 7 days she added five accounts, two of which were her biggest accounts ever.

What happened? The simple answer: several opportunities that she was working on all came together at the same time but Tracy resisted that explanation. She felt that it wasn’t just great fortune but, rather, she had changed personally in some very specific ways that was the difference. When asked what the changes were, she said that she had become “fearless, urgent and shameless”. She explained that one of the accounts she had not closed earlier was due to the customer’s concern that she couldn’t handle an account so large. This week she called and assured them she had the capability in no uncertain terms and her confidence convinced them. Another account came from a referral that had offered her help months ago but at the time Tracy couldn’t admit she needed help. Now she had no problem asking and excepting help. Tracy told story after story of opportunities that had been available to her but she hadn’t taken advantage of until now. The reason she did now was because she had become “fearless, urgent and shameless”.

Team Nimbus had been running Double Your Income Challenges for a while with great success. However, we had not been able to put our finger on the reason for the success. Now Tracy had identified it. Mixed in with the information and ideas that were shared during the Challenge was an environment that supported people in the execution of their own ideas. That support came in the form of helping people become “fearless, urgent and shameless”.

What does it mean to be “fearless, urgent and shameless”? Lets look at each word separately in order to build an understanding of the three together?

Fearless, according to Dictionary.com, means ‘without fear; bold or brave; intrepid.’ Wordnet says ‘oblivious of dangers or perils or calmly resolute in facing them.’ A fearless business person word move forward without worry and doubt that would hold them back if they allowed fear to enter in to their decision. There would be no second guessing about ‘what if it didn’t work’ or ‘what do we do if it works too well.’

Urgent, according to Dictionary.com, means ‘compelling or requiring immediate action or attention; imperative, pressing.’ An urgent business person would focus on the #1 task at hand and would not become distracted by less important tasks. Urgent is not the same as frantic. Frantic can go in many directions at once and tends to cause wasted energy and time. Urgent is purposeful and direct with a focus on winning rather then avoiding a loss.

Shameless according to Dictionary.com means ‘’lacking any sense of shame: immodest; audacious.’ A business person without shame would do what they needed to do without worry of what others might think. They are not embarrassed to ask for help and don’t care if people see them “sweat”.

You can tell the businesses that are fearless, urgent and shameless. They act bold and decisive. They act without distraction and they don’t put on false pretenses. They are honest with themselves their clients and the community as a whole while not getting discouraged. If they do become discouraged they do what they need to do any way. When a business puts the F.U.S. facture to work they cause things to happen!

Remember when you want your business to be doing more, MAKE A F.U.S.!!!!!!