Saturday, June 25, 2011

Undoing the Business Plan Brain Freeze

“We must remember that one determined person can make a significant difference,
and that a small group of determined people can change the course of history.”
                                                                                                            Sonia Johnson

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

                                                                                                      Winston Churchill


1. Three most important activities: listen, give constructive feedback, welcome feedback!

2. All ideas are valid and must be taken seriously by each participant.
3. At the end of the session, spend 10 minutes to conduct a Plus/Delta evaluation.

Section One: Bringing Value – Maximum Time: 90 min.
Incorporate Your GPS Into the Soul of Your Company
Your business is your passion. It speaks directly to the phoenix rising within you to fulfill your purpose in life. Your First Commitment is to assure that your business works in synergy to the Guide to Personal Success you wrote earlier. Ask yourself how your personal goals, your ethics, and your future are satisfied by the business vessel you are about to launch. It is a Soul Manifesto – the promise to yourself. We also call this your Personal Mission Statement – a 15-word mantra you can say to yourself daily.
Final Statement Maximum: 100 words          Soul Manifesto: 15 words
Your Company’s Value to the World - Visioneering
Taking your GPS concepts, you are placing them within the context of your business. This step moves your dreams into a concrete form factor. This is your Vision Statement. It explains five things: 1. how your business brings value to the world, 2. what values your business holds, 3. who makes up your ideal customers, 4. what you are promising to your customers and 5. how this business meets your goals and dreams.  With your strategy session participants, it’s important to release your fears and express your ideas; good, bad and ridiculous because powerful results come from the openness you create. Engage your trusted group to brainstorm to your ideas because great “ideas” know no bounds.
Final Statement Maximum: 125 words
(take a 10-minute break to reflect or continue to Section Two without a break if the group is moving well)

Section Two: Marketing – Maximum Time: 90 minutes
Why your Product/Service is needed in the marketplace
You can’t make money from your vision or your values until someone knows you exist. That’s the role of marketing. First provide the most fundamental description of what you’re selling such as “I’m selling an organic red apple that is sweetly tart.” Next, create a message of emotion that you believe will strike an impact with your niche customer: “Remember the aroma from that apple your mom sliced up one summer evening . . . .”  Since you cannot compete against the established, well-financed companies, how can you implement “disruptive innovation” in defining your product/service? Use the SUCCESs formula – Simplicity, Unexpectedness, Concreteness, Credibility, Emotional and Stories.  Tell your story and grab that emotional impact that your niche market will crave for. Ask your participants to tell you what they think of what you’re selling and in the manner you’re selling it.
Final Statement Maximum: 75 words

Understand your customers and their needs – the Platinum Rule
Remember: you will never be all things to all people. However, you can be the best kept secret to a small passionate client base. Start by profiling your ideal customer. What’s important to them: time, price, knowledge? What is it about them that’s different? With that differentiation, what unique way can you then satisfy their needs? What is it that your customers expect from you? How will you then outperform your client’s expectations? Who are your competitors and what can you learn from them? How will you distinguish yourself from your competitors? Who do you not want as your customer? Now, develop a customer profile: What are their needs, motivations, and characteristics? In the end, what is it that we’re bringing to improve our customers’ business or lives?
Final Statement Maximum: 100 words

Plan Your Opportunities and Know What Improvements to Make
Okay, it’s time to get real. What’s your SWOT—Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats to your business? Called a SWOT Analysis, it is an honest appraisal of your business and all the things around it. And it’s how you take stock of the business environment as you open your doors. The questions are in the four areas of the SWOT analysis. What do you do better than anyone else? What assets do you hold, and what capabilities do you have? What is it you do not do well? What is happening outside of the company that will affect you? Are there global events that will affect your business? What are the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors? What forces are driving the sales in your industry? What might be potentially important markets to explore? Answer other questions specific to your industry.
Time: 60 minutes            Statement Maximum: 150 words

Section Three: Sales – Maximum Time: 60 minutes
How you’ll convince enough people to buy what you sell
Starting a business is not the same as making money. Making money means 1. there are enough people who will buy your stuff and 2. they’ll spend enough money to cover all your costs and provide a satisfactory profit. Your Sales objective is getting perspective clients to become  happy  paying clients.  How will you go about finding perspective clients? Write your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) specific to Sales – how will you sell so that your clients felt good about the transaction. How will perspective clients learn to trust you? In order to close a deal, what steps will you take? Sales is based on trust which needs to be taken to the next level: a referral system: provide the steps for both your clients and your staff to participate.
Final Statement Maximum: 50 words

Section Four: Honoring Your Word
What Constitutes Success for Your Business?
Your goals and objectives are your benchmarks in meeting your company’s mission and vision. Just so we’re clear: objectives are the big picture intentions. They are long term and tied into your company mission statement. Goals lead to satisfying each objective and carry a shorter sensitivity to time. Write out no more than five objectives that give meaning to your mission and vision, accomplishable within one, two, and three years. Next write out three to five achievable goals that define how you’ll meet each objective. Your goals should be specific, indicating the exact outcome you’re looking for, who will perform it, and the drop-dead due date. Keep in mind all the discussion that’s taken place so far.
Time: 45 minutes           Statement Maximum: 150 words

Develop Your Company’s Mission Statement
This is your company’s statement of purpose written for your staff and the world as a company manifesto – simply and clearly. This statement alone tells what you do and triggers an emotional connection to your niche. It reveals: 1. what you offer, 2. how you’ll offer it, 3. where you’ll offer it and 4. to whom you’ll offer it. Ask your strategic participants to take the Vision Statement and your Soul Manifesto to form a short, easy-to-remember statement that attracts the right clients. Ask yourself: What exactly does our business do? What are the benefits our clients receive from us? How do we deliver our promises? Key point: Mission statements must be short, easy to remember, and have a long-term intent.
Time: 60 minutes        Writing out Ideas, Maximum: 100 words      Mission Statement: 15 words

Section Five: The Bottomline
Action Item #7: Analyze the Time, Money, and Resources Needed to Meet Your Objectives
Here’s where you’ll assess your resources because no matter how important each objective is, they won’t get done unless you weigh your budget, time, and manpower. How much money will you need to meet that goal and who will do it? Usually, what you want to accomplish and your budget are likely off-kilter. The best thing to do is assess the importance of each goal and ask if it makes financial sense. If it does, put it to the top; if it doesn’t, then lower its priority. This exercise will put in the reality of launching your business. But don’t let it discourage you! Remember: you can start any business with exactly what you have right now.
Time: 30 minutes           Statement Maximum: 100 words
Action Item #9: Establish the Action Plan To-Do List
Now you’re writing an action plan—the final part. In this process of breaking down and simplifying how we will attain our objective, follow this guide: go negative first by asking, “What will stop me from reaching my goal?” Review your SWOT Analysis. Then use your answers to design a to-do list to overcome any problems and to reach each goal. State when each action item is to be completed and by whom. Then require the responsible person to create an action plan with all the tasks for their area.
Time: 45 minutes           Statement Maximum: 100 words
Action Item #10: Track Your Progress
Achievements require you to keep a scorecard. It is through this method that you’ll know what measurements were attained and when. It is imperative that your scorecard is updated regularly so that your objectives are well within your constant vigilance, and you’re able to track your progress. They can be graphical like an empty vase or a written timeline.
Time: Ongoing             Statement Maximum: 100 words
Bonus Action Item: Get In the Habit and Control Your Destiny!
Sure you’re proud of yourself for completing this Strategy Session. Who wouldn’t be? But the work is only beginning, so make Strategy Sessions a regular part of your company’s agenda. Provide time each month to review and update the status of your objectives and goals. Be flexible, adaptable, and realize that during the course of your business life that these objectives and goals may need to change based on you, your company environment, and all the factors around you that will impact your business.

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself. Any direction you choose.” Dr. Seuss

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Lesson #20: Physical Fitness for Entrepreneurs, Part 1

Lesson #20: Physical Fitness for Entrepreneurs

Given a choice between having a morning latte and exercising, we'll promise to exercise tomorrow. Americans aren’t the most out-of-shape people in the world (that honor goes to Micronesia) but we’re pretty close to the top.  With the recent research on our brains, we now know that there is no separation of fitness when it comes to your brains from brawn. It’s safe to say that your success as an entrepreneur has as much to do with your ingenious marketing strategy as your physical fitness strategy. Just consider these findings:
1.     physical conditioning has proven to be the principle link to improving your mental capacity
2.     physical fitness promotes self confidence that attracts business relationships to you
3.     it’s a whole lot more fun when you’re healthy to enjoy the fruits of your labor
4.     you’ll live a lot longer with a higher quality because you’ll be preventing dementia

Simply put, physical fitness is a lot like entrepreneurship: it’s a lifestyle practiced over many years. You wouldn’t consider operating your business every three months and closing down operations for three months sitting in front of a TV. It just wouldn’t work well. So launching into your fitness regimen on January 1 only to give up on April 1 doesn’t do much good either.

The Real Key
In the February 2011 edition of AARP magazine, entitled “Super Athletes,” the author, Gretchen Reynolds, cites a research study conducted at the Cardiovascular Aging Research Laboratory at the University of Texas at Austin. The study showed that contrary to conventional wisdom, active individuals in their 60s and 70s maintained almost the same amount of muscles as their 20-year old counterparts. These athletes were not elite humans with strong genetics; these were individuals who decided to maintain exercising as a regular part of their lifestyles. The study also showed that those who did not partake in exercising were riddled with the illnesses that we’ve come to expect from aging.
What would it take you to make physical fitness a regular part of your daily activities? That’s the question you have to ask yourself because we all know that exercising is good for us but very few of us take it seriously to manifest long term benefits.  What if you knew that physical fitness increased your odds of making more money? That your ability to think and act clearly without the grumpiness and depression resulting from low self esteem would give you a distinct advantage over your competition? That brimming with self confidence and a respectful attitude would attract customers to you?

Join a Gym and Create One of Your Best Networks
This is one of the best advice I can give you to generate a client base and a great referral system: join a local gym. Not only will you get in shape but something very relevant to your business happens: you start making friends and business contacts. The environment is conducive for meaningful relationships because of a simple fact: you’re all there for the same reason. A bond develops and people are more at ease because, for one thing, you’re all wearing the same uniform.
Think about it: if you were to make an appointment to see the CEO of a local small business, you’re probably going to see him for the first time in his office where he controls the environment. He’ll most likely play that role wearing his power tie. He’ll act cautious and even aloof and that’ll make you feel a bit intimidated. For these reasons, your presentation may not go as well as you’d rehearsed it.
Now consider the same thing if you were both in the gym. The usual scenario goes something like this when you initiate a friendly chit-chat:
 “I see you’ve set that angle on your treadmill for 8 degrees. Are you training for a hilly race?”
“Naw,” the old guy laughs, “it’s better on my knees and it gives me a great workout,” as sweat drips off his face and soaks his t-shirt.
You both laugh and carry on about the versatility of the treadmill. You’ll tell him your name and he says, “I’m Fred.” Now, as we always seem to do, you ask Fred what he does for a living. He tells you he runs a small solar panel installation company. And in turn you tell him that you’ve just started a marketing firm tailored for small businesses especially catering to green businesses.
“Good for you,” Fred says and he means it because you’re in a neutral environment where status or power doesn’t come into play. While nothing more may come of it at that point, you’ll continue to run into Fred each time you come to the gym. But there’s going to be lots of Freds all in one place!
Some real practical considerations to keep in mind:
·       You’re at the gym to get a good workout first and foremost
·       Meeting people and making friends is easier because you all dress the same
·       People in important business positions, work out in the morning; it’s a discipline
·       People who want to socialize exercise after work
·       In such a neutral environment, people tend to be friendlier and less status conscious
·       But (a key point), people do observe you and take note of your diligence and consistency

Watch What You’re Doing
This last point is important because for many observers, how focused you are about your workouts represents your diligence as an individual.  Having been a gym rat for over 30 years, I’ve noticed that those who are friendly and work out with meaning develop more relationships than those who merely go through the motions. I think most people want to be around those who are healthy and happy. It is natural for people to admire hard work in whatever we do including the gym. But at the gym, friendships are easier to make than at just about any other business-social gathering.
Some of my best referrals and business connections came from the relationships I gained at the gym. It wasn’t instantaneous but a gradual experience that grew. In our gym clothes, there is no hierarchy and that makes for the best and most honest relationships because there are no territories to protect, no proprietary information to hide. There is a genuine bond that develops because you see each other on a regular basis, like being in a family. So when you do speak about business in this kind of environment, the level of trust will never be higher.
I’ve met superior court judges, heads of large companies, venture capitalists, high level bureaucrats and directors of foundations during my early morning workouts – all out of context to what we represent during the rest of the day. As a result, when I did visit their offices, there were no formal protocols as our relationship from the gym carried over. Needless to say, it was a lot easier closing deals, boosting my referrals and expanding my businesses and nonprofits simply because I worked out at the gym! Believe me, it’s one of the best investments you can make for yourself and your business.

Defining Physical Fitness
 Let’s get this straight: physical fitness is not about dieting. Dieting is harmful to your entrepreneurial career because of the way your body reacts. What happens is that the reduction in food slows down your metabolism because the body goes into its primitive survival mode and thinks it’s starving. So in order to conserve itself, it naturally responds by shutting down some of its mechanisms. This causes a detrimental mental reaction by reducing the nutrition your brain requires in order to think properly. You get edgy, irritated and whiny. Who wants to do business with you?
This less-than-adequate nutritional intake will also dumb you down – a real problem for entrepreneurs, especially for those running a micro enterprise where every decision carries a great deal more weight (no pun intended).
A healthy body comes only with a combination of nutritious foods, adequate exercise, restorative rest, a clean environment and mental fitness.
According to the National Institute for Health, more than a third of American women and nearly a quarter of men are on some kind of weight-loss diet at any given time. The most popular means of pursuing weight loss are branded diet programs such as the South Beach diet and Weight Watchers. The various popular diets seem quite different on the surface, each claiming its own special reason for being more effective than the others, but beneath the surface they are all essentially the same thing: low-calories diets. And worst of all, we are led to believe that dieting is the same as physical fitness.

Supersizing Addiction
We in America can stand to eat less and cut out the “supersizing” addiction. According to the Journal of American Dietetic Association, when MacDonald’s served you a soft drink in the 1950s, it was seven ounces. It’s tripled since then. If you get the Big Gulp at 7-Eleven, it’s a whopping 44 ounces.
While I was in college, I worked part time at Coca-Cola in their syrup plant in the Hunters Point district in San Francisco. There was one giant 40-foot silo next door filled with sugar which was filled weekly from a tanker. I remember that in the recipe for the Coke syrup, we use to throw hundreds of pounds of sugar into the mixing vat, enough, it turned out that each 12-ounce can of Coke had 10 teaspoons of sugar or 40.5 grams. That’s 20 sugar cubes in 12 ounces. If you were to drink one Coke each day for one year, you’d be consuming 32 pounds of sugar and on average, gaining 18 pounds.
One important note: don’t think that drinking diet sodas is any better. Your body is fooled into thinking that the artificial sweetener is sugar calories. But since it gets no food value, it reacts by going hungry. Two things then happen: you as the eater reward yourself for drinking fewer calories and tricked by the chemical sweeteners, you end up eating more. Studies indicate that those who drink diet sodas actually gain weight. Also, some chemical sweeteners have caused cancer in laboratory mice.  

Our Bulging Population
I’m sure you’ve either heard about or taken the time to read the caloric and fat content of any hamburger from fast food chains. And while many fast food businesses have introduced salads along with fresh fruits and vegetables, once you squish the dressing on, it’s almost as bad as that burger you were trying to avoid.
Needless to say, the fattening of America can be directly attributed to the increase in fast food restaurants and our hectic lifestyles. While fast food restaurants were convenient, they’ve made us into a land of very chunky people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) states that in 1990, America had less than 19 percent of its population considered to be obese (or dangerously unhealthy). In 2008, Connecticut was the thinnest state with 21 percent obesity while Mississippi as the highest at 33 percent.
More alarmingly, the greatest gain in fat has been our youth, ages 12 through 19. Their obesity rate has tripled since 1980 meaning a third of our youth is too fat.  (In some southern states, the obesity rate is as high as 44 percent.) Obese kids are defined by a body-mass index at or above the 95th percentile for children of the same age and sex.  This means that these youths are now suffering some of the same diseases that use to only afflict adults such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and Type 2 diabetes. Moreover, many of these youths are also suffer from low self-esteem which then leads to depression which in some cases leads to drug addiction.
If this trend continues, says the American Diabetes Association, one in three kids – and one in two minorities – will develop Type 2 diabetes in their lifetime. Diabetes has been linked directly to heart attacks, stroke, blindness, amputation and kidney disease; and to die prematurely as adults.
One of the prime reasons for the increase in obesity among youths has been our neglect as parents to curb the amount of time our kids spend in front of the computer screen and the television. According to the ADA, youths spend an average of just over 50 hours per week in front of video rather than playing sports or other physical activities.
Obesity and its complications come at an expense of $147 billion annually to the United States. 

Lesson #20: Physical Fitness for Entrepreneurs, Part 2

That’s the question Dr. Claire McCarthy, a pediatrician at the Harvard Medical School has asked for years of her young patients and their parents. What she’s concluded about overweight people is summed up in her four “D”s:
Denial: “This is probably the main reason. People think that they or their kids, aren’t overweight (so many people are overweight that unless you are really obese, you don’t stick out). They let themselves think that their diets aren’t that bad or that walking to the car from the store is enough exercise.”
Delaying: “Next week they’ll start the diet, or stop buying chips for the kids. Things are too nuts at work (or at home, or at school) right now. In the spring they’ll join a gym or sign Junior up for soccer. It can wait (there’s the denial again).”
Discouragement: “The hard truth is that losing weight takes work and time. It’s easy and understandable, to get discouraged and start thinking, why should I make myself miserable eating carrots and going to the gym if it’s not doing anything anyway? Why should I make my kid miserable if he’s not losing weight?”
Difficulty: “For many people there are real obstacles. Healthy foods are more expensive and not always easily available. Gym memberships can be expensive too – as can fees for sports teams for children. Many families live in neighborhoods where playing outside isn’t safe.”

It’s the Habit, Not the Exception
It is now scientifically proven that leaner meals with fewer calories are actually better for us both physically and mentally. However, commercial dieting or severe calorie restriction is not the best way to pursue the proper substitute for weight loss or physical fitness. To achieve weight loss should never be a standalone goal. It’s also important to note two other key factors in your overall health: 1) regular exercise and 2) an understanding of your body composition
Our health is affected not so much by how much we weigh but rather by how lean we are -- that is, by the ratio of fat-free mass (consisting of muscle, bone and water) to the amount of fat in our bodies (commonly measured as body fat percentage). Dieting by itself does nothing in building lean muscles and in promoting a long term effect of keeping the weight off. The only way to maintain a lifelong course of optimum health is to get in the habit of exercising regularly to build lean muscles, keep the fat off and stay mentally alert. It also means eating properly and being more aware of your body.
Men and women who have a high body fat percentage tend to be unhealthy, regardless of whether they're heavy or light. By contrast, individuals who have a low body fat percentage tend to be healthy, again regardless of whether they are heavy or light.
The healthiest men and women have good muscle tone and just enough body fat to perform the functions that body fat is responsible for (e.g. supplying energy and cushioning our vital organs). A lean body composition is also ideal for athletic performance, because muscle is capable of performing work, whereas excess body fat just increases the load the muscles must carry.
In the book “Younger Next Year” pertaining mainly to people 50 and over, by Dr. Henry Lodge and Chris Crowley, they argue that the only way to achieve a lifetime of health includes exercising six times a week including four aerobic sessions (running, fast walking, cycling) and two anaerobic sessions (weight training to tone your muscles). Each session should last between 45 minutes to an hour including some stretching. While many people will consider that too much time out of the day, developing the habit of exercising can eventually benefit you personally and financially. And one undeniable fact: we are mammals; animals. We are physical creatures that require physical activity as a necessary component of our ability to stay alive. There are huge libraries of evidence showing that those who do physical work outlive those who sit on their butts.
A study at Harvard of 14,000 people also concluded with the same results: we need to exercise for one hour in six out of seven days each week. And we cannot just walk but gradually move up to moderate exercising where you’re breathing harder and forcing your muscles to work harder.
In his best-selling book, “Brain Rules” author John Medina lists physical exercise as the number one method of keeping the brain alert and maintaining the ability to learn new things. Even at the age of 80, science has shown that it’s possible to strengthen your muscles and limber up those cranky joints.
For when you are planning out your physical fitness program, include the following parts:
1.     Aerobics – running, cycling, fast walking – movement that forces you to breathe harder
2.     Anaerobic – weight lifting – increasing your muscular strength in your arms, core, legs
3.     Stretching – yoga, limbering up your extremities,  (start slowly and warm up to avoid injury)
4.     Dexterity – hand-eye coordination, balancing, quick reflex exercises

There has been a conceptual separation of brawn and brain when in fact, we now know they are one and the same. The quality of our physical condition from the pumping of our hearts, the strength of our muscles to the quality of the foods has a direct correlation to the health of our vital organs – especially the brain. In fact, much of what’s truly nutritious for you both physically and mentally is probably already in your frig or easily purchased at the local supermarket.
According to Dr. Daniel G. Amen, MD, a well respected expert on nutrition and the brain, there are six nutritional neural/physical principles:
1.                      Drink at least 84 ounces of water daily. Since the brain is 80 percent water, it is imperative that we provide enough water to keep it hydrated. And yes, the brain can suffer dehydration raising stress hormones causing damage to your brain over time.
2.                      Restrict your caloric intake. This controls your weight and decreases the risk of heart disease, cancer and stroke. On the other side, however, is the importance of taking in the right kinds of foods. It even has a name – CRON for Caloric Restriction with Optimal Nutrition.” The Secret: eat five small meals daily rather than three big ones.
3.                      Fish, fish oil, and good fats. DHA, a form of omega-3 fatty acid found in fish makes up a large part of the brain’s gray matter. It is also a main component of the brain’s synapses. Research has also shown that DHA promotes a healthy emotional balance.
4.                      Lots of dietary antioxidants – Numerous studies on antioxidants from fruits and vegetables have shown they can reduce the risk of developing cognitive impairment. As cells convert oxygen into energy, tiny molecules called free radicals are formed. When produced in massive quantities, free radicals damage the body’s cellular machinery resulting in cell death and damaged organs including the brain.
Best Antioxidant Fruits and Vegetables: blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, strawberries, raspberries, spinach, Brussels sprouts, plums, broccoli, beets, avocadoes oranges, red grapes, red bell peppers, cherries and kiwis.
5.                      Balance protein, good fats and carbohydrates. At each meal, one needs to combine foods from each of the three food components into a balanced serving. This includes: Lean proteins: fish especially wild salmon, skinless chicken and turkey, lean beef and pork, enriched DHA eggs, organic tofu, low fat cheeses and cottage cheese, garbanzo beans and lentil; and walnuts to name a few.
Complex carbohydrates: berries (see above), oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, peaches, plums, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, oats, whole wheat, wheat germ, red and yellow peppers, squash, spinach, tomatoes, yams and beans.
Fats: avocados, extra virgin, cold-pressed olive oil, olives, salmon, macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts, pecans, walnuts and almonds.
Liquids: water, green and black teas
6.                      Plan for snacks. Again, it is best to combine proteins, carbs and fats. So, it’s possible to have dried fruits and vegetables (but don’t buy the kind in supermarkets that’s loaded with preservatives) and combine with nuts (protein and fat) or low fat cheese (protein). 

Lesson #20: Physical Fitness for Entrepreneurs, Part 3

Now, we’re coming to the technical part where you can figure out how to tone your body and feel comfortable in your skin. Knowing your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the key to knowing how many calories you should, or should not be consuming in a day. Your BMR is simply the minimum amount of calories your body requires daily to complete its basic functions, like keeping your heart beating or regulating your internal temperature. Once you know your BMR, you can also factor in the body’s caloric use during digestion, and your daily caloric expenditure based on your activity level. This can give you an accurate representation of what your total daily caloric expenditure is.

Once you have estimated your total daily caloric expenditure, you can accurately calculate how many calories you need to eat and how much exercise you need to do every day to maintain, gain or lose weight to meet your healthy weight goals. Here, I’m going to give you the non-technical – best guess estimate - method of calculating your daily caloric expenditure.

The Best Guess Method
For every pound of body weight you carry, your body burns about 10 calories each day. Therefore, a person weighing 130 lbs would need to take in at least 1,300 calories (130 x 10 = 1,300) every day, just to meet their body’s basic needs. After you figure out your most basic caloric need, you can factor in your activity level, and digestion needs, which will get you even closer to the real number of calories that your body uses every day to support your regular activities.

  1. To find out your basic BMR, take your body weight in pounds and multiply this by 10. Let’s use an example of a person weighing 130 pounds:
    Example: 130 lbs x 10 calories/lb = 1,300 calories

  1. To factor in the amount of activity you do in a regular day, take the above number and multiply it by your Activity Level (see below):

Sedentary: 20% (Sitting most of the day)
Lightly Active: 30% (Walking here and there; daily chores)
Moderately Active: 40% (Constantly moving around; daily exercise)
Very Active: 50% (Heavy exercise for prolonged periods of time or heavy manual labor) 

Example: 1,300 calories x 0.30 = 390 calories
Then, add together your BMR and calories burned by your activity level: Example: 1,300 calories + 390 calories = 1,690 calories
  1. To factor in calories used during Digestion, which is estimated at 10% for the general population, take the last number you calculated (your BMR + activity level) and add 10% of that number to your total:
Example: 1,690 calories x 0.10 = 169 calories + 1,690 calories = 1,859 calories
Therefore, this 130 pound person burns an average of 1,859 calories every day to support their body’s most basic needs, activity level and digestion of food.
While there are great variations in people’s sizes and shapes, most people can be placed into a well defined category of body types. These include Mesomorph, Ectomorph and Endomorph. Each has a unique characteristic, and understanding these characteristics may very well establish your expectations as it relates to your physical conditioning and appearance. Of course, the first thing to consider is your genetics. What did your parents look like in their twenties? And is one parent an ectomorph while the other is a mesomorph making you a meso-ectomorph or something like that. In other words you may have the traits of two body types although one will always dominate.
            The second concept to understand is Body Composition. A weight scale will not tell you how much fat to muscle, bone mass and water weight you hold. A thin person can have excessive fat especially around the middle and butt with the misconception that being thin is healthy. The key factor is the amount of fat to muscle mass. The greater the muscle mass in relation to the reduction in fat is ideal no matter what your weight may be.
            Today, there are amazing body composition scales for home uses that work like weight scales. No longer do you need to get dunked into a tank of water and have a team of scientists figure out your composition. Tanita probably leads the field with several highly accurate scales costing from $40 to $130. If you really want to know what your internal makeup looks like, then I’d recommend getting one of these scales. Go online to Google and type in “Tanita Body Composition Scales.” 
            Two quick important notes:
  1. Don’t believe the hype you see on TV about the “fit” individual being touted on an advertisement using some gimmicky new exercise equipment guaranteed to make you look like a movie star in only 10 minutes a day. You may not have the same genetic composition or the time or the professional trainer to make you look like that “model” on TV.
  2. Body composition in itself will not complete your fitness picture. Jim Fixx, who wrote the bestselling book, The Complete Book of Running, and an avid runner, died of heart attack in 1984. He scumble while running due to a pre-existing genetic condition he wasn’t aware of. Fixx believed that exercising alone would keep him healthy. Get regular checkups!

A mesomorph (or meso, for short) is a muscular person with broad shoulders and a well-defined chest that’s larger than the waist. Meso types can increase their muscle size quickly and easily. The well-developed, rectangular shapes of mesomorphs are representative of their thick bones and muscles. The abdomen is taut and hips are generally the same width as the shoulders. The buttocks, thighs, and calves are all toned and defined. One major drawback to meso types is their inflexibility.
Mesomorphs are full of energy, are physically capable of a lot of activity, and tend to be aggressive athletically. (Usually no couch potatoes in this group.) Although mesomorphs generally store fat evenly all over their bodies, they can become overweight if they are sedentary and consume a high-fat and/or high-calorie diet.
Cardiovascular disease can be a primary threat to an overweight meso, so if you fit into that category, your best method of prevention is to maintain a healthy diet and a balanced exercise regime. Remember that your heart is a muscle, too, and the best way to keep it fit is to perform cardiovascular activities.
Mesomorphs make great athletes. They excel in sports that require great strength, short bursts of energy, and lots of power. Mesos are always popular in gym class and at the playground, because people want mesos on their teams. At the gyms, you will most likely find mesos lifting weights and avoiding the cardio equipment like step machines, Spinning bikes and treadmills, not to mention their lack of attendance in cardio and stretching classes.
Because of their leanness and a body that consists of small bones and joints, ectos have a tendency to be injured during sporting activities. So ectos are usually too fragile for contact sports like football. But this body type is naturally suited for endurance activities such as running, swimming and cycling.
Just remember: balancing your activities is the key. Like mesomorphs, ectos have a tendency to stick with what they do best, and ectos excel at cardiovascular training. Ectos, however, need to balance their workouts with cardio and muscle building to achieve peak fitness and strengthen their bodies against injuries.

An endomorph body typically has the capacity for high fat storage, and unfortunately puts fat on pretty easily. Although all body types are susceptible to excessive weight gain, endos are more inclined to become obese. The majority of the body weight is either centered in the middle of the body or in the hip and buttocks regions. Endos have been called “pear-shaped.” Structurally, endos have small to medium bones, limbs that are shorter in relation to the trunk, and a muscularity that is not well defined.
A male endo (known as an android) tends to have a different fat distribution pattern from a female endo (known as a gynoid). Female endos usually collect fat in their butts, legs, and hips, while most males collect fat in their abdomen (the "spare tire" or "love handle" look). Many research studies have shown that abdominal fat deposition is much more dangerous than fat in the leg and butt area. This is primarily due to the danger of heart disease and an increased risk of diabetes, stroke, some cancers, and high blood pressure.
The main health concern for endos is maintaining a healthy body weight. Excessive amounts of body fat puts endos in jeopardy of cardiovascular disease. Remember that the risk of such disease is increased if the majority of the fat is carried in the center of your body surrounding your heart. For endos, especially those out-of-shape and carrying extra body weight, the joints of your lower body may be weak and highly susceptible to injury if involved in high impact sports.

Diets don’t work on two levels: 1) it slows down your metabolism because without a regular level of food, your body naturally slows everything down to conserve energy. This defeats your ability to burn fat calories, and 2) you are less-than-optimally fit to exercise and increase your metabolic rate.
I’ve dealt with several people who’ve told me that they tried “everything” and haven’t been able to lose any weight. For many people, a weight loss program as I’ve defined it is a total paradigm shift in their lifestyle: if you want to lose weight, you must commit to getting physically stronger – and eating smaller portions at increased intervals every day. Getting stronger will speed up your metabolic rate and burn calories from fat. Eating smaller meals more often will also increase your metabolism. A simple way to do this is understand the amount of calories your body needs to sustain itself by using the formula above or more accurately with a body composition scale. Then divide the amount of calories by six and eat six smaller meals without reducing the number of calories. Warning: you’ll be hungry more often. Just as important, however, is to reward yourself on the weekends by eating whatever you want! By allowing yourself to eat hardily on one weekend day, you’ll maintain this eating plan longer.
But don’t forget: you must couple these six meals with a strength and aerobics program that will improve your cardiovascular fitness and increase your muscularity. (A side benefit of weight training is better bone mass which for women and older adults is critical.) Studies have shown that people in their 70s and 80s have been able to gain strength through bodybuilding.
Remember: it’s not how much you weigh; it’s the ratio of fat to muscle that counts. You may find yourself weighing more, looking slimmer and holding less fat because muscles outweigh fat.
The best results will come by understanding what methods work best for you: the types of exercise and your personal motivations. Living happily and longer with full functionality should be at the top of your list!
One important word about aerobic exercise: from what I’ve seen in the gym, most people do not do enough cardio to lose weight. I was once asked by a group of middle-aged walkers who walked three times a week for one hour why they didn’t see any weight loss? The first question was what they normally ate each day and how much. By analyzing their situation, it was clear that on average, the walking only burned 350 calories while their consumption was nearly 2500 calories – 500 more than necessary and still 150 calories in excess after walking an hour!
Walking may be a great exercise but if you’re trying to lose weight, you’ve got to walk faster or a great deal farther. If you add some jogging, that increases the exertion (or metabolic rate).
If you take a look at countries where people are slim – France, Japan, China many Third World nations – their diets are less fatty, less caloric and they walk a great deal more than us (or in other words, their aerobic time is far greater). In fact, on average, people in other countries walk an average of 13,000 to 15,000 steps per day. In this country, we walk less than 5,000 steps and we eat a whole lot of crap.
Next time you’re on the treadmill or step climber count the number of steps you’re taking in one minute, then multiple that by 60 and you’ll figure out your hourly quantity.

Remember: The quality of your life is in direct proportion to the quality of your physical health. And your life as an entrepreneur will be greatly enhanced by the physical fitness as it makes you smarter, attracts people and increases your optimism about life!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Lesson #12: Sales Is Good for Business

When I was a freshman in college my educational inspiration came from the late Harvard professor, Dr. Timothy Leary - who following his own advice, “turn on, tune in, drop out” did exactly that in the name of finding the true meaning of life. I had my own version of this philosophy. It consisted of driving up to Mount Tamalpais in my little red sports car to get above the thick fog, hanging with a group of old Italians at the CafĂ© Trieste in North Beach where English was a foreign language or throwing a crab net over Muni Pier to see if I was smart enough to enjoy Crab Louie that night. At least the beer and chips felt good on a sunny afternoon. It was more educational than falling asleep in a classroom.

It was on one of these excursion days that I tagged along with my friend, Lincoln, who was in the market for a newer version of his car. He was interested in selling his ’61 Chevrolet Corvair and buying a ‘64 Corvair. We use to joke with Lincoln about his choice in a car that Ralph Nader once called the most dangerous car ever build in his investigative book, “Unsafe At Any Speed” (1965).

We ended up at a Chevy dealer on Geary Boulevard in San Francisco where he found the vehicle in the used car lot. The sales person told Lincoln to leave his car on the premise so that he wouldn’t get a parking ticket in the event his test drive went longer than the minutes on the parking meter. That made sense so we cruised around, doing the test drive, but after about 10 minutes, Lincoln decided there was a problem with the car and chose against buying it. As we re-entered the dealer’s lot, Lincoln didn’t see his car nor could he find the sales person. He asked several employees where his car was and they all acted as if Lincoln hadn’t taken a bath in two weeks.

The Old Trick
After several minutes of hunting around the lot, there in the back row of the service garage, Lincoln found his Corvair behind three other vehicles. He asked one of the mechanics to please get his car out of there. The mechanic mumbled something and walked away. Now what?

Finally, the sales person reappeared, a big smile on his face. Lincoln told him he wanted to continue looking at other dealers and could he get his car back.
“Look,” said the salesman, “Your car’s on its last legs, and that Corvair you just drove is one of those rare ones with a supercharger. You’re lucky you found it. I’ve got people dying for this car but I’ll make you a great deal right now, and we’ll take your old one in trade.”
Lincoln wasn’t impressed. But the sales person wasn’t going to budge. He waved his manager over to join us. Oh no! – the dreaded manager “say-hi-to-my-customer” tactic! Here we were held hostage by a used car commando unit and no way out! The sales manager was so focused on Lincoln that he didn’t even notice me. This guy was a regular Captain Crunch. You know, the imposing pressure-laden, fast talking salesman who won’t take no for an answer. He was practically spitting into Lincoln’s face with every loud punctuation. So here was my poor friend being pressured into buying a car, having his car shoved literally into the corner and seemingly without an option other than to buy the car in order to get out alive!

Was this how successful sales people needed to behave in order to get things done?  It was kind of funny but it was time to blow this taco stand. So, I stepped forward, “Hi Fernando,” I said to the sales manager. Yep, I knew him. In fact, he was my next door neighbor! I can’t tell you the expression on his face but it went dead silent like a deep freeze just swooshed in from the North Pole. He acted as if he’d just been caught by his mother selling narcotics to homeless orphans. In about five minutes, we got back in that ’61 clunker and drove off. I didn’t see much of Fernando after that.

My memories of that episode left a deep scarred image of sales people for a long time. From that point on, I thought of sales as a slimy, corrupt evil that no decent person would ever stoop so low for. To be an outhouse cleaner would be more respectable.

Then, I became an entrepreneur
It comes to you pretty quickly when you realize that you’ve got to sell something in order to keep your business alive. The question was, how do you do it without feeling as if it’s utterly gooey to go home every day and rinse off that stinky slim with a hot shower. But if you’ve followed everything so far in our Urban FIRE process, you should be saving on your hot water bill. Sales should always be enjoyable and profitable! It must be about helping your clients find their solution. As the great sales trainer, Tom Hopkins, once said, “Sales makes the world go round.”

And here’s a reality check: we’re selling all the time – maybe, just calling it something else. It’s been that way for most of our lives. Think about it. When you wanted something or you wanted a situation to go your way, didn’t you have to persuade someone or a group to agree with you – even if all you had to do was persuade yourself?  How about when you were in high school and you were infatuated with someone? If you wanted that person to notice you, didn’t you have to make a memorable impression? Or when you were trying to get your baby to eat, weren’t you doing a sales job on those carrots? How about when you needed to get that promotion at work or convince your mother that the new boyfriend wasn’t a drugged-out gangsta just because he sported a skull and bones tattoo on his forehead?

Selling is natural if it’s a business you love because it’s an integrated part of your life. Loving something means you’re passionate about it and you want to tell the whole world about your love! But when we refer to our expression for love in the context of “sales,”  it gets disassociated from our Top Ten List. Instead, we correlate sales to facing constant rejection. And ouch! Rejection is something we try to avoid because its other name is “failure.”
In the case for your new company, sales needs to be a planned activity based on your Marketing Strategy. It needs to be constant and prioritized meaning that in most cases, the bulk of your initial work will be in marketing and sales. If you do it right, you’ll spend less time hunting for sales and more time filling orders. That’s because you’ll have a cadre of happy customers who will be helping to spread the word about the goodness of your company. At this point, you’re improving your product, your marketing and your delivery to your customers because now, you’ve got a fantastic reputation to uphold!
Sales needs to be measured (like how much money did I bring in this week in comparison to my costs?) so that you’re giving yourself constant feedback on what works and what doesn’t – one of the five principles of deliberate practice. It must be proactive not reactive, and represent your principles and high qualities whether you stand face-to-face with your client or the way it resonates on your website.

Simple and Personal Goes A Long Way
Back in about 1990, I was in Las Vegas for a technology convention when I first heard Tom Hopkins speak about his passion for the sales profession. In fact, he was so passionate that he had a 20-volume video course available at the incredibly low price of $1999 or something like that. But wait! There was more! Since I bought the set that day, I was entitled to an autographed copy of his newest book and nine additional books at no extra charge! I was so loaded down with sales materials that I decided to ship it all back home rather than lug 20 pounds of extra luggage. But having gone through the materials, I realized that what Hopkins had to say could have taken one sentence: “Sales needs to be a simple, personal relationship with you focusing your attention on meeting your customer’s needs.”  Of course, there’s a bit more than that but that pretty much covers the essence. If you’ll recall the research conducted by Forester Research in the Marketing section on successful business websites, the conclusion was the same.

This situation reminded me of the opening paragraph of the famous psychology book entitled “The Road Less Traveled,” by M. Scott Peck. It begins with three words: “Life is difficult.”  He goes on to write, “This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it, then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”
Wow! Isn’t that an enlightening revelation! For entrepreneurs, it should be up there with the Platinum Rule. This is one of those memorable quotes that should be plastered on your refrigerator door maybe paraphrase like: “Life is difficult . . . and what else is new?” The rest of Peck’s book draws evidence to this opening statement. But as one of my friends said, “Once you’ve read that opening paragraph, that’s pretty much it.” In the same way, it might be a good thing to get sales training to learn some fundamentals like me going through the Hopkins videos but, if you’re your own boss, your best time spent is just getting out there and focusing on your potential customer’s needs and desires. The more you do this, the easier it gets to do two things: 1. coming up with solutions that are compatible with your customer’s requirements and 2. narrowing your customer profile to fit into your niche. 
If you’ve gained the courage through our Urban FIRE I progressive process of 1.  being true to who you are, 2. resolve to build your library of knowledge, 3. absorbed greater wisdom from those around you and 4. set up your marketing plan, this Sales section should flow like water over smooth granite.

The Formal Method
I’ll be honest with you: my way of selling wasn’t based on any sales theories or research. It was based on watching and listening to great sales professionals. Contrary to what one might conjure up, such as a shifty-eyed shark, what I discovered was that great sales people were compassionate listeners who were neither boastful or obnoxious. They didn’t necessarily have the “gift of gab” as we tend to stereotype sales people. They spoke extremely well – not because they were born with verbal brilliance but because they loved what they were selling, practiced their sales delivery and believed in what they were saying.
You might recall some of those individuals we spoke of in the Leadership section. Wouldn’t being in the presence of any of those individuals have made a rewarding experience where you felt there was honesty, value and sincerity? Well, some of the best sales people were also great leaders because they understood that fulfilling a need required an understanding of the problem, then working with their clients to come up with the solution. They always worked to “understand before being understood” and created a “win-win” partnership where everyone finished with a smile. It was the 7 Habits in real life.
So that I’m not remised in providing the formal sales process, here’s my take on how you would organize your thoughts and actions in an organized manner to fortify your sales effort. In sales, there are two things you have to focus on: strategy and tactics (assuming your marketing and company strategies are in place).

Your Sales Strategy is the planning of your sales activities. Picture yourself as the manager of a baseball team. Will your strategy be to score runs with sluggers who can wallop those homeruns or scrappy, speedy hitters who can outrun a groundball for a base hit. Will you try to score more runs than the other team or will you rely on a dominant pitching staff that gives up few runs. Will your final score be 10-6 or 2-1? It’s the difference in strategizing with the glitzy Broadway budget of the New York Yankees or the frugal Broadway (yes, our Broadway) of the Oakland Athletics. Your Sales Strategy takes into account your budget, your resources and plans out how to maximize what you have! How will you reach out to your clients; how will you distinguish your company from the competition; what resources are available to you to win business? How will you implement your guerrilla marketing strategies into your sales campaigns? Most importantly, your Sales Strategy complements the culture you’ve established both internally and externally of your company’s way of doing business.

Your Sales Tactics refers to the day-to-day methods you use to carry out your Sales Strategy. As in baseball, your sales tactics refers to carrying out your game plan. You’ve changed the culture of your players by motivating them to play as a cohesive team rather than relying on one or two superstars. Your team can’t afford the homerun hitters so you’ve opted for the less glamorous, scrappy hitters who’ll bunt, hit for the sacrifice fly, steal bases and produce runs based on forcing the opposing team to handle the ball more, thus, increasing the odds of making mistakes. Your pitching staff has been trained to keep the ball down low so that the power hitters won’t be able to hit homers. This makes you competitive because your creativity and out-of-the-box thinking to utilize what you have makes up for the lack of high priced superstars. Thus, your sales tactics is the scrappy methods by which you’ll carry out your sales strategy. This would include your particular sales process, how you prospect for new clients, and how you stay in contact with existing clients. There’s plenty where the main ingredients are your brains, imagination and your hustle.

Far Above the Maddening Crowd
By establishing a Sales Strategy, you will be way ahead of what most new small businesses do to organize their income potential. You begin to rise into the atmosphere of established small businesses with their own marketing and sales departments. Their advantage, of course, is they have the budgets to retain fulltime employees to focus on and carry out their sales strategy. Your advantage is that it’s your company and you can do just about whatever you want. The sky’s the limit and your imagination is endless. As Albert Einstein once quipped, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” The critical factor is to organize your efforts and establish a Plan of Action that you implement into your company’s short list of daily Must-Do Activities.

It’s worth repeating: your Sales Strategy should focus on two objectives: your customers’ needs and the solutions you’ve come up with for your customers. To start with, follow this three step process:
  1. Meet with your clients and potential clients regularly (phone, email, person-to-person) and ask them about their needs and concerns. Tell them your company engages the clients in building solutions (because the more your client gets empowered, the more they will feel connected to you as a partner, not as a vendor.) Lastly, ask them what their final expectations would look like. Then, with that expectation in mind, exceed it.
  2. Work with your vendors and other external experts to help you devise solutions built for your clients. Just make sure you’re representing your client’s concerns and ideas so that externals experts are not running away with their own profitable solutions.  
  3. Get better educated about your clients’ industries through their associations and contact their managers to increase your knowledge. It may end up including solutions that already exist.

In the most ideal situation, the sales strategy takes on a synergistic relationship of all three areas and you’re able to provide the best solutions for your clients. This is important so let me repeat that: your best sales solution comes from your understanding of: the client, the solutions available to you and the factors of your client’s industry.

This is one of the best el cheapo Sales Strategies you’re going to find but it’s also one that you should follow even as your business gets well established. Make it into a system where you’ve written out a planned procedure for each time you meet with a new potential client. If you conclude that the client meets your target market and it’s worth your effort to pursue a relationship, then be proactive and use your system! And by documenting your procedure, you’re also laying the groundwork for expanding your business so that others can work within your system.

But remember that you must key in on your target market and the profile of your ideal customer. None of this will matter if you go after every Tom, Dick and Harry without first qualifying them to what your niche market is. And of course, the best way to do this is by focusing all your attention on each individual client who comes along and asking them questions about their business and what they’re looking for in a business relationship. Is it speedy deliveries, cheap prices, expertise in a particular area or consulting services? You can then gauge whether your business is set up to accommodate their needs.

Later, as you mature, you’ll want to cut ties with your bad clients and focus on clients who have been loyal, easy to work with and fit your niche profile. A bad client might mean a business that doesn’t fit your niche, one that requires more time than the monetary gains, and/or one that is always trying to get their prices reduced. By trimming your unprofitable clients, you’ll have the opportunity to improve your relationships with your good clients and increase your revenues. This will also narrow your client demographics through the knowledge you’ve gained in fine-tuning your niche market. You’ve now established a better profile for future clients and further focused your marketing; thus, putting your money where it will do the most good.

The Best Surefire Strategy for Getting New Clients
"I built my original real estate sales business from nothing to being a 98% referral business within three years by keeping in touch with my clients.” – Tom Hopkins

Without a doubt, referrals are your number one source of business or at least, it should be because it requires the least amount of guess work and has the highest rate of success. In surveys I’ve seen, referrals work out to a 60 percent success rate (that’s business from six out of ten referrals!) while cold calling is less than 10 percent plus you have to deal with your share of nasty rejections. When you think about it, referrals are the least expensive sales tactic because it requires less advertising, time spent looking for prospects and shortens the sales cycle (the time it takes when you first start working with a client to when the sales transaction is made).

Here again, you must establish a system that becomes automatic and second nature to you and your staff. Of course, referrals depend on your ability to satisfy your customer’s needs and even going beyond their expectations. And however successful your solutions are, the vast majority of people do business with you because you and the client connected on a personal level, and trust was established. So that your best referrals will come from those who have a real affection for you as an individual who happens to deliver the best solutions for their business. Always keep that in mind: constant improvements of your solutions and a constant nurturing of your relationship. If you get too comfy with the relationship and neglect it thinking they’ll automatically come back to you each time, you might find yourself as the odd person out because someone else will fill the void. Gee, sounds like a marriage, doesn’t it?

Let’s face it: your first clients will most likely be people you already know; maybe family members, close friends, former business associates and clients you’ve worked with in the past. So your first set of referrals will be from those who know you personally and can vouch for your honesty, your concern for the work, your passion and the ease of doing business with you. (Also, think in terms of building your network with your classmates, the participants from your Strategy Session and businesses you meet at the Ignite Expo.)
Once you’ve established your reputation with a few clients, then go back and ask for referrals, not after one transaction but perhaps after three or four and a couple of months. Then get in the habit of asking for referrals from all your clients. The worst they can do is say, “no.” But I doubt that because if you perform and they keep coming back, that says a lot about what they think about you. Now, it’s a matter of getting your client to verbalize that on your behalf. I can’t remember once when someone refused to write me a referral or introduce me to another client when I asked for it. And always remember to thank them for the referral. Perhaps a thank-you card, a phone call or a small gift to show your appreciation. (We all want to be acknowledged and it encourages more referrals in the future!) And why not expose yourself to an even greater extent by participating in LinkedIn, Facebook and other social networking sites as we discussed in Marketing.
It’s Got to Be a System So that It’ll Grow Organically
So establish that Referral System and use it regularly! Establish a tickler file that sets up benchmarks for when you’ll be asking for a referral: how you’ll compensate for referrals and at what intervals you’ll be asking for more referrals. As you can imagine, after a while, the Referral System becomes self perpetuating as your clients become a part of the system. Invariably, they automatically begin referring clients to you as if its’ bragging rights. When it becomes a part of your no-brainer sales system, you will control one of the greatest income generators for your company!

Here are some methods of formulating a winning Referral System, all of which deal with working closely with your existing clients:
  • Provide clear demographics of the type of clients you’re looking for. Remember: in their well meaning, your clients may refer your worst nightmares because you didn’t provide a good profile.
  • Provide that unexpected great service to your clients and they will always return the favor.
  • Provide a rewards program such as a discount on their service, a gift, a lunch out.
  • Always follow up any referrals with a thank you letter, card or a phone call to let them you appreciate the effort they’ve made on your behalf.
  • Select clients as referral agents only if they’ll rave about you starting with your Top Ten.
  • Asking for referrals too early in your relationship could actually harm your relationship because your client may feel that you’re trying to take advantage of them. That’s a turn-off.
  • Always established a goal for your Referral System: how many in a month; quarterly, annually.

If you’ve completed a cost analysis on your Referral System, you’ll note that it’s cost you very little money. How cool is that! Remember, it’s not how much money you throw at it, it’s how you plan and execute your Sales Strategy and implement your Sales Tactics.

You Might Not Remember The Alamo But Never Forget The Platinum Rule
I can’t stress that in business, it’s all about people and gaining their trust. Whether it’s part of your Referral System, your Sales Strategy or your Sales Tactics, you must go into your relationships with clients using the Platinum Rule. “And what is the Platinum Rule?” you ask. Well, we’ve all heard of the Golden Rule: “Treat others as you would like to be treated.” It is one of the oldest rules from which our Constitution is based as well as the concepts behind international human rights.

In sales and business relations, the Platinum Rule goes one step further: “Treat others as they want to be treated.” This doesn’t mean kiss their butts and act like a wimpy “yes” man. It means respect your clients and provide them with what they need. It says “let me first understand what my client wants and then I’ll do the best I can in order to give it to them.” The results will be rewarding.

In the book, “Groundswell,” the authors speak about the trends business people need to be aware of when dealing with the new technology of marketing. Yet, much of what they speak of sounds a great deal like the Platinum Rule although they call it a three-stage process for gaining your customer’s trust. The stages include: listening, talking with your clients and energizing them. Energizing is getting your clients enthused enough to refer business your way. So, the more things change, the more they . . .

The guy who came up with the Platinum Rule is Tony Allesandra, PhD in Marketing and a well known sales and marketing consultant. You might say the Platinum Rule has the elements of the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” in it. But in this case, it has everything to do with establishing a strong, loyal, interactive client base. As we experienced the Medicine Wheel in dealing with people we work with, Dr. Allesandra studied clients in a similar manner and gave them different names. You’ll note; however, that the characteristics sound a bit identical!

Dr. Allesandra’s concepts of the Platinum Rule came about over a 30-year period of research and analysis, but the main idea of the Platinum Rule is understanding others and helping you to understand the best ways to work with them. He categorizes four different personality types: Director, Socializer, Relator, and Thinker. The following is an excerpt from his work.

Directors are driven by two governing needs: to control and achieve. Directors are goal-oriented go-getters who are most comfortable when they are in charge of people and situations. They want to accomplish many things now so they focus on no-nonsense approaches to bottom-line results. Directors seek expedience and are not afraid to bend the rules. They figure it is easier to beg forgiveness than to ask permission. Directors accept challenges, take authority and plunge head first into solving problems. They are fast-paced, task-oriented and work quickly and impressively by themselves which means they become annoyed with delays. Directors are driven and dominating which can make them stubborn, impatient and insensitive to others. Directors are so focused that they forget to take the time to smell the roses.

Socializers are friendly, enthusiastic, “party animals” who like to be where the action is. They thrive on the admiration, acknowledgement and complements that come with being in the lime light. The Socializer’s primary strengths are enthusiasm, charm, persuasiveness and warmth. They are idea people and dreamers who excel at getting others excited about their vision. They are eternal optimists with an abundance of charisma. These qualities help them influence people and build alliances to accomplish their goals. Socializers do have their weaknesses: impatience, an aversion to being alone and a short attention span. Socializers are risk takers who base many of their decisions on intuition which is not inherently bad. Socializers are not inclined to verify information. They are more likely to assume someone else will do it.

Thinkers are analytical, persistent, systematic people who enjoy problem-solving. Thinkers are detail-oriented, which makes them more concerned with content than style. Thinkers are task-oriented people who enjoy perfecting processes and working toward tangible results. They’re always in control of their emotions and may become uncomfortable around people who are very outgoing such as Socializers. Thinkers have high expectations of themselves and others which can make them over-critical. Their tendency towards perfectionism-taken to an extreme can cause “paralysis by over-analysis.” Thinkers are slow and deliberate decision-makers. They do research, make comparisons, determine risks, calculate margins of error and then take action. Thinkers become irritated by surprises and glitches, hence their cautious decision-making. Thinkers are also skeptical, so they like to see promises in writing.

Relaters are warm and nurturing individuals. They are the most people-oriented of the four styles. Relaters are excellent listeners, devoted friends and loyal employees. Their relaxed disposition makes them approachable and warm. They develop strong networks of people who are willing to be mutually supportive and reliable.  Relaters are excellent team players. Relaters are risk-aversive. In fact, Relaters may tolerate unpleasant environments rather than risk change. They like the status quo and become distressed when disruptions are severe. When faced with change, they think it through, plan, and accept it into their world. Relaters more than the other types strive to maintain personal composure, stability and balance. In the office, Relaters are courteous, friendly, and willing to share responsibilities. They are good planners, persistent workers and good with follow through. Relaters go along with others even when they do not agree because they do not want to rock the boat.
Relating to the Four Types in Business
Directors are very time sensitive so never waste their time. Be organized and get to the point. Give them bottom line information and options with probabilities of success if relevant. Give them written details to read at their leisure. Directors are goal-oriented so appeal to their sense of accomplishment. Stroke their egos by supporting their ideas and acknowledge their power and prestige. Let Directors call the shots. If you disagree, argue with facts and feelings. In groups allow them to have their say because they are not the type who will take a back seat to others. With Directors in general, be efficient and competent.

Socializers thrive on personal recognition so pour it on sincerely. Support their ideas, goals, opinions and dreams. Try not to argue with their pie-in-the-sky visions; show a little enthusiasm and encourage their creativity. Socializers are social butterflies so be ready to flutter around with them. A strong presence, stimulating and entertaining conversation, jokes and liveliness will win them over. They are people-oriented, so give them time to socialize. Avoid rushing into tasks. With Socializers be interested in them.

Relaters are slow decision-makers for several reasons: 1. their need for security; 2. their need to avoid risk and 3. their desire to include others in the decision-making process. Relaters are relationship-oriented, want warm and fuzzy relationships, so take things slow, earn their trust, support their feelings and show sincere interest. Talk in terms of feelings not facts which is the opposite of the strategy for Thinkers. Relaters don’t want to ruffle feathers. They want to be assured that everyone will approve of them and their decisions. Give them time to solicit co-workers opinions. Never back a Relater into a corner. It is far more effective to apply warmth to get their chicken out of its egg than to crack the shell with a hammer. With Relaters, be non-threatening and sincere.

Thinkers are time-disciplined, so be sensitive to their time. They need details, so give them data. Support Thinkers in their organized, thoughtful approach to problem-solving. Be systematic, logical, well-prepared and exact with them. Give them time to make decisions and work independently. Allow them to talk in detail. In work groups, do not expect Thinkers to be leaders or outspoken contributors, but do rely on them to conduct research, crunch numbers and perform detailed foot work for the group. If appropriate, set guidelines and exact deadlines. Thinkers like to be complimented on their brain power, so recognize their contributions accordingly. With Thinkers, be thorough, well prepared, detail oriented and business like.

The Bottom Line in Understanding Personalities In Relation to the Platinum Rule
Understanding people is a vital – if not the most vital – component of your business success. Given that we are all different, our clients will react in different ways to how we approach the relationship. By understanding these four personality types, it gives us a better way to serve our clients and build a long term relationship. There is no value and even a negative turn of events when you try to build a relationship solely on your set of standards, values and comfort level. As Dr. Allessandra concludes: “The Platinum rule provides powerful life skills that will serve you well in all your relationships: business, friends, family, spouse and children. Improved relationships create infinite possibilities. Sometimes I think of John Lennon’s song, “Imagine.” One of the verses could be: “Imagine there’s no conflict, it’s easy if you try.”

What About You? Are You Ready to Sell?
There’s nothing that says you have to be an extrovert to excel at sales. The key ingredients are your passion for what you’re selling, and your ability to hear your client’s needs. Having been around hundreds of sales people I can clue you in to what I’ve observed as the best characteristics for an effective, compassionate sales person.
  1. Integrity is a critical factor, perhaps the most important one for sales, because your business must build itself on clients who are committed to you in the long term. When a client is happy about a sale, you’ve established a trust factor that only comes from the integrity you’ve shown during the sales cycle. And this trust will continue to bring that client back to you.

  1. Commitment to your company’s sales strategy and tactics. This requires patience and the ability to multi-task several clients at the same time. It is your commitment to take action and initiate new prospects and build your referral system. Sometimes a sale may take months to complete and it is your commitment to see that process to its conclusion is critical which will gain integrity to your company’s overall image.

  1. Passion you have for what you do and the product/service you’re selling. You can’t fake passion and your customers will get it right away. You’ll make it easier on your clients to select your business when your passion comes out. This doesn’t mean ranting and raving but it does mean showing your expertise, thoroughness and commitment to your business. That’s what clients what from their vendors – standing 100 percent behind their product/service!

  1. Creativity means bringing solutions to your clients that shows insight and a unique vision to your work. Anyone can leave behind business cards and a few trinkets! Think differently and make your company standout. It does take more work in the beginning but what you’re actually doing is creating a sales system that can be repeated and constantly improved upon. The more you practice your creativity, the better you’ll get.

  1. Tenacity to stay the course, having the courage to go on even after a series of failed sales attempts because you believe in what you’re doing even if not exactly right yet. Failed attempts means you either have a confusing message or your clients don’t need what you have. These insights should help you right the wrong and move forward. Tenacity in sales is essential because in the majority of sales cycle, the customer needs to be convinced that you are the right solution.

  1. System-oriented so that there is a logical and planned method to how you conduct your sales strategy and tactics. This requires you to set up a system that provides a guide for you to follow:
    • Establishing a method of searching for clients
    • The process of understanding your client’s needs
    • Research methods for both the client and the solutions
    • Establishing presentations that are relevant and on point
    • Assuring your company is in control of the sales process
    • A process that goes through the process and asks for the sale
    • Follow-up process to assure the client’s satisfaction