No Turning

Have you ever seen a house with a big NO TURNING sign at the foot of the driveway, as if hundreds of people impede upon the privacy of the lot daily by utilizing the driveway as a turn around? Better yet, have you ever witnessed a local business with a NO TURNING sign in their parking lot or driveway? I have!

A local real estate firm has, for years, posted a NO TURNING sign at the entrance of their parking lot. I notice it every time I drive by and I always reflect upon it, thinking, don’t they WANT people turning in their driveway? Anyone who would potentially stop and turn around in their driveway is a possible client. Shouldn’t they instead have a sign that says PLEASE USE OUR DRIVEWAY? Even better shouldn’t they have a sign inviting would be driveway trespassers in for a cup of coffee?

The reason I share this lesson is not to dig on my competition. Far from it. What I am about to share with you is the amazing secret to great success that I learned from the NO TURNING sign in the driveway of my competitor. This one lesson will open a whole new world of client attraction and retention that you never knew existed. Master this one lesson and your business will forever excel way beyond your wildest expectations. Are you ready? Here goes.

WE ALL HAVE NO TURNING SIGNS ON OUR BUSINESSES. Without realizing it, you have posted emblems all around your business, giving potential clients a subliminal message to stay away. You’ve been doing it for so long, you don’t even realize it. Step back, view your business through the lens of a possible client, remove the NO TURNING signs from your business and there’s no stopping you.

I cannot even tell you the number of times I have questioned the real estate agents at my competitor’s office about that NO TURNING sign in front of their building. It is just totally ironic to me that a firm that wants to embrace the community and attract people to their office would post a sign turning people away. What is even more outrageous is that most of the real estate agents don’t realize the sign is there. They have seen the sign so often that they stopped noticing it. The same holds true for the NO TURNING signs you have on your own business.

Here’s an example. Being in the real estate business, I have two types of clients; the end consumers who are buying or selling real estate, and the real estate agents who make a choice daily where they want to work. For the past thirteen years whenever I recruit a new agent to the firm, I have them sign our 26 page Independent Contractor Agreement. That contract, I now realize, was my NO TURNING sign. Who wants to sign, or even read a 26 page contract? I don’t! Wouldn’t I be better served to have a short and sweet contract that makes it really easy for real estate agents to test out my firm? I want them to turn in my driveway. I want to invite them in for coffee! Sure, some will come and go, but most will stay. By eliminating my 26 page TURN HERE sign, in favor of a short, sweet, no handcuffs attached agreement, I have made it easier for good real estate agents to come check out my firm.

There are many other ways that good businesses post NO TURNING signs on their driveway, signs so subtle that they can’t even see them and possible clients never mention them. To find the NO TURNING signs on your business it is necessary to ask yourself what is holding back some buyers from buying. What are the barriers to buying your product or service?

Why not make it so easy for people to try out your product or service, to the point there’s no conceivable reason not to try it? Make big, bold, audacious money-back guarantees to eliminate the buyer’s risk. Eliminate long and harsh contract terms. Spot the signs by recognizing when buyers hesitate. Then simply take down the signs. Next time you have a potential buyer who would like to try your service, stop giving them a reason not to. It’s ok to let people turn in your driveway. A little bit of damage to your pavement is a small price to pay for the opportunity to start new relationships with future buyers.

Stacey Alcorn is the author of REACH! and Tuned In. She is a business strategy and sales consultant for large corporations and Global Fortune 100 Firms. She is also a keynote speaker, blogger, trainer, and start-up consultant. Her sales training products have been licensed by hundreds of organizations around the world who use her one-of-a kind sales training materials as the genesis for their own brand growth. Make sure to sign up here for my REACH! Weekly News for awesome interviews with Leaders & Visionaries that I only share with my VIP members.

Don’t Be A Coffee Bean

Most of us in business fight unrelentingly to make sure our product or service is not commoditized. As entrepreneurs we understand that commoditization is a death nail in the coffin because price has become your most important value proposition. The inherent risk in a sales strategy positioned around price is that eventually someone will come along and offer what you offer for cheaper. Being the cheapest is almost always a losing proposition because then you have to sell on volume. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, until the next “cheap” guy starts cutting in on your client base. When that happens you must either further lower the price of your product or service or re-introduce a new value proposition to justify your price as compared to the new “cheaper” offering of your competition. This is kind of like McDonalds, once just competing on price, and now competing with their new “healthy” line of food.

A coffee bean is a commodity. Coffee beans sell on price. That coffee bean has a full spectrum of opportunity. It may remain a coffee bean, forever condemned to justifying its value based on its price, or it may be transformed into something so much bigger than itself, something like an experience. That coffee bean may become a mocha, choca, latte, talle, where, combined with dim lights, soft music, and excellent service, that little bean demands so much more than its peers. Yes, that bean moves away from being an expense, a price driven commodity, into an investment into something bigger, like the start of someone’s day.

Here’s the bottom line; don’t become a commodity. If anything, build a brand and a business that is so robust that you end up turning your competition into the commodity. When someone is shopping for the cheap, low cost, alternative, you don’t want them shopping from you. Anyone looking hard enough will always find a cheaper option (or at least an option that they perceive as cheaper), so don’t even throw your hat into that ring. Here’s how to not become a commodity, and better yet, how to turn your competition into one.

1. Never Engage in a Price War: If you end up in one, you are a commodity. This simply means you have not defined your product offering well enough or that you haven’t presented it well enough. For example, for many years when recruiting professionals to my sales team, I had no proper presentation. I would meet with candidates for my sales team offer coffee where I would share a dialogue about my offerings, but did not offer a formal presentation to fully share my value proposition. Back then, it was not unusual for me to end up in a price war. Today I have a formal presentation that explains the value proposition of my firm over others. The bottom line is, I don’t get in a price war. I am not the cheapest firm, and I acknowledge that openly and proudly. My presentation makes it clear that I am more expensive than my competition and explains why. You can’t be cheap and offer extreme value.

2. Branding and Marketing Must Steer Clear of Price: It’s not unusual for consulting clients of mine to adamantly deny that price is part of their value proposition. These are the same clients that include pricing information right in their marketing and brand campaigns! There’s a lot to be said for that high end steak house that does not list prices on its menu. Are you listing price on your menu? If you are, you are asking for a price war? Don’t go there. Pricing is a conversation you want to have with a buyer, not a shopper. Your brand and marketing campaign should create buyers. Until you have a buyer in your clutches there is no need to have a conversation about price. How many people get up and leave that high end steak house because there are no prices on the menu? It happens I am sure, but not often. Their branding makes a statement; “If price is important, don’t eat here!”

3. Be an Asset, Not a Liability: There’s a cost involved in buying your good or service, right? Wrong! If there’s a cost, you’ve got a tough road to greatness. You need to effectively explain the return your buyer will reap by buying from you. Will the buyer save time or money by choosing you? Maybe your offering increases the buyer’s time on earth if you are offering greater health? If you save the buyer time or money or create more time or money for them, you are selling an asset, not a liability. Your selling lingo must include words like investment and ROI. The word “cost” suggests that your product or service creates a liability or expense and nobody wants more bills. The only time you should speak in terms of costs or expenses is when you are talking about the offerings of your competitor. Who are you to say whether their offering is an asset or liability? When it comes to the competition I always err on the side of caution and assume that their offering is nothing more than an additional expense to the end buyer.

Through a tough economic recession these past five years, Apple continues to sell iPods, iPhones, iPads, and more. They fly off the shelf. Buyers of these products are not comparing prices with similar products on the market, because Apple does not define price as part of their value proposition, thereby taking themselves out of a potential price war. Yes, there are similar products that are less expensive. Apple is ok with it if you go buy the cheaper version of their creation, because whatever you are buying, it’s not Apple…if you are ok with that, they are too. The best businesses in the world work relentlessly to build and demonstrate a value proposition that is not price dependent. As a business owner, CEO, entrepreneur or leader, to build a great business, one that is sustainable into the future, take a good look at what you are selling. If a coffee bean has so much potential, what is possible for you?

Stacey Alcorn is the author of REACH! and Tuned In. She is a business strategy and sales consultant for large corporations and Global Fortune 100 Firms. She is also a keynote speaker, blogger, trainer, and start-up consultant. Her sales training products have been licensed by hundreds of organizations around the world who use her one-of-a kind sales training materials as the genesis for their own brand growth. Make sure to sign up here for my REACH! Weekly News for awesome interviews with Leaders & Visionaries that I only share with my VIP members.

Michelangelo the Entrepreneur

Detraction – to take away.  I think about my many businesses constantly.  How do I make them better?  How do I create my own Zappos?  I’ve come to the conclusion that it comes down to detraction.  In other words, instead of solely creating a manifesto of the type of employees and sales people I want on my team, it’s equally, maybe even more important to create a list of the qualities I DON’T want inside working within my empires. There are millions of good companies in the world that are prevented from becoming amazingly awesome because they choose not to release members of the organization who offer nothing to support its magnificence.

An entrepreneur is a sculptor with a big brick of clay.  Her masterpiece will come down to exclusion.  Which parts of the clay shall be discarded so that the remainder is something special?  In fact, isn’t every ounce of clay that is left made even more special by the elimination of the rest?  Disney has sculpted out only the best actors to work in their theme parks.  Apple has chiseled away by eliminating all except the very best developers.  Zappos offers potential employees who have completed their orientation period a $2000 bonus to quit…to just leave.  The money flecks away the people who could not possibly offer anything of value to their culture.

Not every sculptor is Michelangelo. Not every entrepreneur is Tony Hsieh, Steve Jobs, Walt Disney.

If you want to build an empire that is really something, you better start detracting.

 

Stacey Alcorn is the author of REACH! and Tuned In. She is a business strategy and sales consultant for large corporations and Global Fortune 100 Firms. She is also a keynote speaker, blogger, trainer, and start-up consultant. Her sales training products have been licensed by hundreds of organizations around the world who use her one-of-a kind sales training materials as the genesis for their own brand growth. Make sure to sign up here for my REACH! Weekly News for awesome interviews with Leaders & Visionaries that I only share with my VIP members.

Ubiquity

Definition: the state or capacity of being everywhere, especially at the same time; omnipresence.

Narrowing down the keys to Titanic sized success is my obsession. I’ve chiseled down the success recipe, and this ingredient, ubiquity, to me seems more important than any other.  Great business leaders need to be everywhere at once.  By doing so you build relationships with masses.  The best of the best have the ability to do this while making each member of the mass feel special, unique, and individual.  The same goes for businesses. When your company is everywhere, it’s hard to ignore. Ubiquity is required for greatness.  Think Apple. Think Nike. Think McDonald’s. Figure out omnipresence and you win.

Stacey Alcorn is the author of REACH! and Tuned In. She is a business strategy and sales consultant for large corporations and Global Fortune 100 Firms. She is also a keynote speaker, blogger, trainer, and start-up consultant. Her sales training products have been licensed by hundreds of organizations around the world who use her one-of-a kind sales training materials as the genesis for their own brand growth. Make sure to sign up here for my REACH! Weekly News for awesome interviews with Leaders & Visionaries that I only share with my VIP members.

Forget Customer Service

 

Think instead, Customer Sacrifice.

I struggle with the concept on how to optimize customer service.  How can I offer the best possible value package to my customers so that they become raving fans.  Raving fans are always good for business because it is those “raving fan” clients that end up becoming your unpaid sales force, thereby recruiting new customers to your business.

After spending decades focusing on Customer Service, with mediocre results, it occurred to me that I was, in fact, focusing on the wrong problem.  Customer service is important, no doubt about it.  However you will not create massive increases in your customer base by focusing on incremental shifts in your service. Why?  First, the customers that you don’t currently have don’t know about nor care about your service.  They don’t know you.  That’s one of the reasons why they are not your customer.  Second, the customers you currently have are already your customers which is to say they have settled for your service (whatever that may be) and continue to buy from you.  Unless something better comes along or you tick them off, they will probably keep being your customer.

The customers that I cater to are my sales force.  Being in the real estate industry means that I cater to my customer, the real estate agent, so that they can cater to their customer, the buyer or seller of a home.  For the purposes of today’s post, it doesn’t matter who your customer is, if you are focusing on customer service, you are not moving your business forward.

Instead, focus on customer sacrifice.  If you can determine what each customer sacrifices by choosing to buy through you, you are now in the drivers seat to do something spectacular.  Most big businesses are built on the premise that the customer must sacrifice something.  For example, if I buy from McDonald’s I sacrifice healthiness in favor of fast.  However, if I go to Subway I can have fast and healthy, but of course I am still sacrificing ambiance and selection.  What does your customer sacrifice by choosing to buy from you?  If you know that answer and do something about it, you are well on your way to creating that raving fan.

Amazon is great at limiting customer sacrifice.  I order regularly on Amazon and the experience is so tailored to me that shopping has become effortless.  Amazon knows what kind of products I like, and recommends similar ones.  It has memorized my shipping addresses for me and anyone else I’ve ever sent a gift to.  My credit cards are memorized, I am notified when my items ship, when they deliver, and they even make it easy to return.  Amazon has eliminated all possible hassle from shopping.  No typing in addresses (or looking them up for friends and family); no going out to my car to get my purse so I can type in credit card numbers; no wondering what books I might like.  Amazon does the work.  What’s the return?  No price shopping.  I never go to another online book store to see if there’s a better price on a book, ever.  In fact, I almost never price shop for anything that I can get at Amazon.  Amazon takes care of me.  I guess too, since I’m blogging about my experience to the world, you might consider me a raving fan.  So, by focusing on customer sacrifice you no longer become a commodity which means customers are less interested in the price you charge, while at the same time, you are creating raving fans which means new customers are knocking down your doors.

The raving fan is already buying from you, he’s just not raving yet.  Perhaps if he doesn’t have to sacrifice so much of what he really wants he will become your cheerleader, your advocate, and your unpaid sales force. That’s where the colossal business results lay.

Stacey Alcorn is the author of REACH! and Tuned In. She is a business strategy and sales consultant for large corporations and Global Fortune 100 Firms. She is also a keynote speaker, blogger, trainer, and start-up consultant. Her sales training products have been licensed by hundreds of organizations around the world who use her one-of-a kind sales training materials as the genesis for their own brand growth. Make sure to sign up here for my REACH! Weekly News for awesome interviews with Leaders & Visionaries that I only share with my VIP members.

Turning Rocks

Left to Right: Dave Seymour, Me, Jay McHugh, Peter Souhleris

 

This week I had the opportunity to spend some time with Peter Souhleris and Dave Seymour of A&E’s Hit TV Show, Flipping Boston, when they hosted our Habitat for Humanity charity auction in Lowell, Massachusetts.  These two young entrepreneurs have made a name for themselves in the Boston area as experts in buying and flipping real estate.  In addition to running a successful house flipping business and appearing regularly on their TV show, they also own a well known real estate firm, and they have a soon to be released book, The Flipping Formula, on investing in and rehabbing real estate.  Whenever I have the opportunity to meet successful business people I use my time wisely to pick their brains about their accomplishments.  So, how is it these guys are killing it in business while millions of others still struggle in a slowly recovering market?

“We turn a lot of rocks,” says Dave.  Both Peter and Dave agree that they have built an amazing business empire by constantly sniffing out any whiff of opportunity that comes their way.  Most people get tired of the hunt but Peter and Dave believe their number one job every single day is to turn rocks.  If there’s a hint of opportunity, they act, investigate, and decide whether they should move forward.

The second place horse at Kentucky Derby wins a mere pittance as compared to the first place horse, which usually wins by less than a second.  The reason I mention this is that if you are reading this, it’s probably because you are or wish to be an entrepreneur.  Well, the difference between colossal, mind-blowing, amazing success and mere-pittance is in the miniscule tweaks you make to your business.  So, tomorrow, instead of passing up a possible business or sales opportunity because you are busy, tired, stressed, or whatever possible string of excuses you could possibly offer to yourself, why not try something small…why not make a deliberate choice to turn that rock.  In fact, keep turning rocks and you may very well find there is more opportunity than you ever thought possible.  WANT TO TURN A ROCK RIGHT NOW? Head over to www.DaveSeymour.com and leave your name and email so that you can be one of the first to learn The Flipping Formula.  I did!

 

Stacey Alcorn is the author of REACH! and Tuned In. She is a business strategy and sales consultant for large corporations and Global Fortune 100 Firms. She is also a keynote speaker, blogger, trainer, and start-up consultant. Her sales training products have been licensed by hundreds of organizations around the world who use her one-of-a kind sales training materials as the genesis for their own brand growth. Make sure to sign up here for my REACH! Weekly News for awesome interviews with Leaders & Visionaries that I only share with my VIP members.