Listen up!

Guest Blog by Mark Stiving

“Who will buy your product and why?”

Pricing expert Mark Stiving. See more of his writing at PragmaticPricing.com

That was the question I asked in last month’s blog.  Do you know the answer to this question? If not, how do you find out?

You listen.

Go listen to your market. Pick up the phone and call people. Listen to them. Learn from them. Who should you listen to? Several types of people.

Customers:  Call people who’ve already bought from you. Ask them why–but don’t accept the first answer. Probe deeper.

  • What else did they consider?
  • What would they have done if you didn’t exist?
  • What criteria did they use to make the decision?
  • What benefits did they hope to receive?
  • What benefits did they actually receive?
  • Can they quantify the value of those benefits?

You are trying to put yourself in the mind of someone who liked your product enough to buy it.

Prospects:  Find strangers who you think might or should be interested in a product or service like yours.  Emphasize that you are not selling anything and would just like their opinion.

  • Ask them if they’ve experienced the types of problems that you solve. Get them to tell you stories about these problems. Listen carefully to the vocabulary that they use. These may become some of the most powerful words in your sales and marketing communications.
  • Do they have any similar problems?
  • If they wanted to solve those problems, where would they look?
  • Why haven’t they solved the problem yet?
  • Would they consider a product like yours? Be fair and don’t sell. If anything, give them a gift of your product if you can.

Distribution channels: If you are selling through a channel, listen to them. They often have a good feel for your end buyers. They probably understand your competition. Don’t take their advice as gospel, but absolutely listen to their opinions and especially to their understanding of the market.

Partners:  Many companies rely on partners as part of the fulfillment or part of the product. Listen to these partners closely. Not only do you want their opinions about your market, but you absolutely must understand them.

  • What are they looking for out of the partnership?
  • If they didn’t partner with you, what would they do?
  • How much additional value would they receive after partnering with you?
  • Can you quantify that value?

Surely there are even more types of people you should listen and learn from, but this is a start. Here is the key message. You don’t know everything. You don’t have all the answers. You know about you. You know that you like what you are building, but you are not your market. You must listen to the market with as much objectivity as possible.

Listening has some amazing benefits, but the two biggest:

  1.  You build better products.  Wouldn’t it be great if you built products your market wants and would pay for?  How do you know what the next iteration of your product should be? If you’re not intentionally listening, you’re probably wasting your time, energy and money.
  2.  You learn what to say in your marketing in a way that resonates. You can talk about why other people buy your product, in the language of your customer. You can talk about problems that people solve, and the results they achieve.

You might be wondering what listening has to do with pricing. We’ll talk about that next month. For now…please, go listen.

Connect with Mark at www.LinkedIn.com/in/stiving.

This one step will help your sales team close more deals

By Alice Heiman

 

How many of us have had this conversation?

Manager: “How did that sales call go?”

Salesperson: “Great!”

Manager: “Did you close the deal?”

Salesperson: “No, but they love me, and they want the product.”

Manager: “When will it close?”

Salesperson: “Probably this quarter.”

 

Sound familiar? What does this sales manager know about the sales call his salesperson just finished? The answer: not much.

Coaching salespeople when they return from a sales call is important business. It needs to be done routinely and consistently. Salespeople will do a much better job if they know they may be asked for very specific information after a sales call. Having a post-call report format is a good idea, but a quick email or phone call with the right information can tell you exactly where the salesperson stands with that sales objective. Post-call assessments can be quick and painless. Here are some questions you could ask:

  • How did you prepare for the call?
  • What was your objective for the call?
  • How did you make good use of the customer’s time?
  • What questions did you get answered that tell you where the customer is in the sales process?
  • What are the next steps?
  • What action did the customer commit to taking?
  • What action did you commit to taking?
  • Did the customer give you a close date?
  • How will you follow up this sales call?

Managers will have fewer surprises if they make these questions a part of their daily coaching routine. Benefits include a shorter sales cycle, more effective selling and better close ratios. In the long run, this will lead to more accurate forecasting.

 

Learn about sales management, leadership, personal branding, social selling, connected communication, content marketing, professional style and financing for business owners at the 2017 Sierra Sales Summit, on Nov. 17 at the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa.

Attendees will receive breakfast and lunch, networking opportunities and a workbook of resources.

Buy your tickets today, or get a sponsorship and bring your whole team. Tickets and more information available at sierrasalessummit2017.eventbrite.com. Use promo code “ADAMSHUB” for 15% off.

 

Alice Heiman is a sales expert and networking guru with more than 20 years of experience coaching and training sales teams and entrepreneurs to get connected and build relationships that close the deal. Connect with her or read her blog at aliceheiman.com.

 

 

 

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Winning More B2B Sales: October’s Lunchbox Learning with Alice Heiman

You built it but they are not coming. Why aren’t companies flocking to buy from you?
Join Alice Heiman for this fast-paced hour-long workshop. B2B, complex sales can be daunting. Alice will help you create a winning sales process to drive the business you need. Learn how to identify your ideal customer and identify the best approach to build awareness, determine interest, educate, close the deal and get more business and referrals.

Alice is a nationally-recognized sales trainer and consultant. Over the course of her two decades of teaching others the art of selling, she’s earned a host of awards, including Saleswoman of the Year, Marketer of the Year, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Blue Ribbon Award. Alice has made numerous guest appearances on television and radio broadcasts, and has been featured in print publications, including Entrepreneur’s Startups and Selling Power magazines.

Alice developed her sales expertise while at Miller Heiman, Inc. before striking out on her own and establishing Alice Heiman, LLC, in 1997. In her years at Miller Heiman she sold to and trained some of the company’s largest and most complex accounts, including Coca Cola, Dow Chemical, Merck and Hewlett Packard.

Lunchbox Learning Workshop
October 24, 2017
12:00-1:00p.m.
Adams Hub for innovation: 111 W Proctor Street, Carson City, NV

Lunchbox Learning Workshops are free by advance reservation and open to the Northern Nevada business community. Just RSVP to grow@adamshub.com. Space is limited, and be sure to bring your lunchbox!

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Mastermind Groups Demystified: Guest Blog by Diane Dye Hansen

The first time I sat in the hot seat in my mastermind group, I was terrified. What was I doing? I had 20 minutes to talk about my business and ask a ‘how do I’ question. This was vulnerability at its most frightening. Sit me down in any support group and I’d be happy to talk about my childhood or my relationship with my father. But, cracking the nut on my business challenges, fears, and outright stalemates? That’s the type of raw honesty that made my skin crawl Yet, I counted myself in. I learned a while ago if it terrifies me, it’s worth the leap to try. After all, wasn’t that why I was a dyed in the wool, 4th generation entrepreneur? So, there I sat on the phone surrounded by the CEOs, VPs, owners, movers and shakers I had been so confidently providing advice to for months. It was my turn.

The experience of sharing my business was unlike anything I had experienced. It was nothing like the horror movie my mind conjured up. I was surrounded by a team of intelligent allies who were curious about my business and wanted to help. Soon, I found myself talking about my business and where I had created operational stress for myself. My ‘how do I’ turned into a slew of solutions from those who cared about me. I had given freely during previous sessions. Now, they were giving to me. Top consultants had their eyes on my business. Best, it didn’t cost me a dime.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of misunderstandings floating around about mastermind groups and what they do. When I stepped into my first one, I was still figuring it out. Now, I don’t see running my business without being part of one. Hopefully, my experience will help you decide what group is right for you.

Masterminds are not:

About Finding Sales Prospects: Networking and business connections can be a by-product of being part of a mastermind group. However, you don’t go there to sell. The best masterminds are those where everyone is there to give freely of their knowledge and make connections without strings attached. This no-sales environment makes a mastermind a safe place to explore business challenges without feeling you are about to be pitched.

Always “Pay to Play”: The experts industry has high end mastermind groups which can cost thousands to join. These groups may be right for some people. However, they are not the standard for mastermind groups. A good number of mastermind groups, Entrepreneurs Assembly included, are completely free to participate in.

For Those Who Know Everything:
If you think you know everything and are not open to ideas about what you are doing, a mastermind group may not be right for you. Where you gain from a mastermind is getting different perspectives on your business challenge. If you are closed off to this or are seeking validation for what you are doing, a mastermind may not be the best fit for you. You are intelligent. However, even the most intelligent person is open to insight.

A Place Where You Stay Quiet: Come to your mastermind group ready to participate. Entrepreneurs Assembly at Adams Hub for Innovation breaks out its entrepreneurs into pre-revenue, revenue, and growth categories. Each person has 20 minutes to briefly state their challenge and get input from the group. Seasoned entrepreneurs guide the group as facilitators to move the discussion along.

Masterminds are:

An Environment Filled with People Like You: Mastermind groups provide an opportunity for you to meet people who are facing similar challenges. You will get support, get connected with people who have been where you are, and discover resources that are available to you. You’ll realize quickly even if you are a solo-preneur, you are never alone.

A Place to Give Freely: Don’t be stingy with the questions. Mastermind groups are a place to give! When giving recommendations, it’s best to frame it as something you have done or would do with your business. Listen and respond thoughtfully and people will do the same when you are on the hot seat.

Incredibly Fun: When I left Entrepreneur’s Assembly, I felt energized. Even though I was mentoring, it gave me new fire and energy which I applied to my business. I also felt more prepared with ideas for my two other mastermind groups.

I hope to see you at the next Entrepreneur’s Assembly in Carson City. I look forward to saying hello!

Executive Pajamas – Cute Idea. But Not Cute for Executive Mindset.

Guest Blog by Diane Dye Hansen, Chief Inspiration Officer, What Works Coaching

Last Friday, I hit work-from-home bottom. Ironically, it was because I wasn’t working from home. I had set such poor boundaries with my working hours Monday through Wednesday that, by Thursday, I was waking up late. By Friday, I was entirely unable to focus. I went for a run. I talked on the phone. I did everything I could to get my head right. Because, darn it, I’m a business productivity coach! This is not me! But, it had become me.

It becomes thousands of well-intentioned business owners who want to save some money and work how they want. Unfortunately, how I wanted to work was to work when the inspiration is flowing. Can you guess how long that lasts for someone whose title is Chief Inspiration Officer?

I was working a lot. It was sustainable, I thought. It was productive, I justified. But last Friday, I hit my work-from-home bottom.

I realized that, although I could go to work in my pajamas, I also had “pajama boundaries” with myself. I put “pajama limitations” on myself on my ability to network. By that Friday, I looked at my social calendar and it looked like “pajamas” too. Too much Netflix and chill was needed to recover from the way I had been pushing myself. I needed boundaries. I needed socialization. I had reached “diminishing pajama return.” I needed to be a part of the human race again. I already volunteer at Adams Hub for Innovation on Mondays from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.. So, I decided to drop my pajamas (!) and check into what co-working could do for my business.

For one, I am clear and unwavering about my needs. I don’t want to be tied to a space. I want the flexibility to be absent, to travel, go see clients, and (gasp) work from home if I wanted to. Also, I didn’t want to be in the middle of something and have to get up and leave because its “closing time.” That sounded less productive than more. The 24/7 co-working membership allowed me flexibility to come and go and not experience the “last call’ feeling when it came to my work. If I am inspired at 4:50 pm, I am probably going to lean into my inspiration versus say, meh, tomorrow.

What’s your Co-working Why?

Co-working might be right for you if you:

• Enjoy being around people and don’t need absolute silence while you are working.
• Hate being in pain after sitting in the wrong chair at coffee shops or other public spaces.
• Are open to the opportunity that meeting new people may bring you.
• Tend to overwork or underwork yourself when you work from home.
• Realize your home doesn’t feel like home anymore.
• Need a more professional environment for meetings
• Need things like fast Internet, copiers, good ‘ol fashion fax machines, and coffee you don’t have to worry about making.
• Understand that a $5 cup of coffee and a $5 snack from your favorite place times 5 times a week is the same amount as a 24/7 co-working membership at Adams Hub – and there is no closing time.
• Would like to work in downtown Carson City, have sushi for lunch, maybe some mid-morning yoga, and walk to your office from your free parking spot.

Your why is in there. You are feeling it. I know I had to be huddled under the covers, exhausted, unsocialized, and battling the pajama-CEO blues before I realized it. Use me as your cautionary tale. Just come and check it out. There are day passes, 9 am to 5 pm memberships, offices, and even incubator services. Plus, you get access to a bevy of experts to help you with your business.

If nothing else, come say hi to me. I’m still getting used to face-to-face human interaction again.

Diane Dye Hansen Chief Inspiration Officer
What Works Coaching
775-400-6174 | diane@whatworkscoaching.com
| www.whatworkscoaching.com | Skype: whatworkscoaching

Schedule a session now.

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Mentor Moment: Dr. Bob Whitcomb

Dr. Bob Whitcomb teaches courses at Western Nevada College and serves as an Adams Hub Mentor. WNC’s 101 course is taught in the Studio at Adams Hub, bringing students into the business incubator environment and exposing them to entrepreneurial culture. Bob brings passion, joy and a sense of humor to his work as a as well as a mentor. He has a unique gift for putting others at ease and challenging them to grow at the same time. Dr. Whitcomb divides his time between Northern Nevada and Alaska, where he spends four months of each year.

Why do you Mentor? I’ve been a teacher for a long time, and I love seeing the ideas and successes of my students. Being at the Hub enables me to see people come in with great ideas, then help them craft these into something that’s viable, workable. Creative people generate great ideas, great concepts, and many have great strength in their field, but they don’t have that business acumen you need to be successful. That’s why I’m so delighted to partner with the Hub. We get to use our skills and passions and share them with others.

Why did you focus on marketing? I’m a marketer by training and by nature. The root of marketing is meeting needs. How are we meeting customer needs? Marketing is fun. If I’m not having fun I’m not going to do it. Marketing isn’t rocket science. It’s gratifying to see students take advantage of the resources here at the Hub. For example, the Carson City librarians are bringing these amazing databases here, and when students sit down with them to explore markets, they can discover unmet needs. Putting the tools and inspiration together is what we’re all about.

Did that naturally lead to mentoring? Mentoring is a blast. You bring your perspective, you’re not trying to impress anyone. You’re just offering your ideas, sharing your experience. It’s exciting to see the light bulb go on, or give someone an idea that will help them solve a problem.

How else do you give back?
You know, non-profits have a serious struggle to attract talent. One of the things that we do is have students work with non-profits, build a non-profit experience base. It’s important as a manager and people benefit from that. That’s the caring, compassionate side of me that wants to help people. I’ve never cared about the money.

What’s your Alaska life like? I’m in Alaska for three months each summer, and one month during the holidays. I have dogs, a house, friends. I kayak, hike and run away from bears. If the barge doesn’t make it up for 2 weeks there’s no food in town, so everyone has a larder. Ben & Jerry’s is eight bucks a pint! I have to go to the yarn shop to get internet. Everyone knows your business. It’s a different way of life.
I mentor in Alaska, too, I can’t help it. Marketing is very unsophisticated there. But the local culture there is very interdependent, everyone just naturally helps each other. Houses burn down every winter and the community comes right out to help.

What was your career path? I graduated high school with a 1.8 GPA because I wasn’t interested. I told my parents I was going to be an auto mechanic. One day I got in an accident I realized I couldn’t bend over engines for the rest of my career. I went back to college, and had a very dynamic marketing instructor; he was great, and so was the next one. I decided that marketing was what I wanted to do. I truly believe that marketing is the soul of the business. Because it’s about customer needs. It’s how I look at the world.

When I decided to teach for a living, it changed my world view. Then I had to work out what students needed to be successful. I don’t want my classes to just be a bunch of theory. Kids do their own marketing plans in the marketing class, they write training plans, HR manuals. It’s very practical, real-world, and hands-on.

I knew I wanted to teach when I was in college, and when I graduated, I decided to go to grad school and got an assistantship in 1985, found I enjoyed that and I’m good at it. One-on-one, few-on-one, is best for my teaching approach.

How did you find your way to Carson? I had a pivotal moment when I worked for Home Depot. I was HR manager at the store in Juno, Alaska, and for a store with a staff of 100, I had to hire 125 new employees each year. We had incredible turnover. I decided to go back to teaching in colleges, but I really wanted to work at a college where I could teach these first-job people. I was drawn to the opportunity to help regular students who wanted to get their first job. I love to work with that population.

When I got the offer from WNC, I loaded up my pickup truck with six boxes, rented an apartment in Carson City sight unseen, and slept on the floor for the first six weeks. It was an adventure. WNC has been open to letting me create a my own curriculum. I remember how hard it was to learn when I wasn’t engaged, so I work hard to make my classes very engaging. The college is truly committed to the community. Education is the economic driver. Bringing my class to Adams Hub has helped my students to start thinking outside the classroom box. I encourage them to take advantage of everything that’s going on here.

What do you enjoy most about teaching? One of the neatest things happened to me last year. A former asked, “Are you the Bob Whitcomb who used to teach in Maine?” Turns out he had friends who both had been students of mine, many years ago. These kids had ended up getting married. I reconnected with this couple. They told me, “You just need to know you changed our lives. Your style of management and instruction changed our lives. You are one of the significant people in our lives.” I had no idea. All I did was what I do. That’s the reward of teaching.

Over the years, I was fortunate to meet people who were willing to develop me, to cultivate me. It’s great to take the time to stop and thank the people who taught us. I’m blessed to have people in my life that took me for what I was, and helped me achieve my potential.