Be Clear About Who Your Customer Is

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In case it doesn’t sink in, remember, you are one of 330M people in the United States. Go to the airport, a concert or any large gathering to get a small glimpse of how minute you are in a sea of people.

The strategy to try and work with everyone is a sure fire way of failure in the marketplace. There’s simply too much competition and it’s hard to understand your offering if you are generalized. It’s the quote,

‘I can’t give you a sure-fire formula for success, but I can give you a formula for failure: try to please everybody all the time.‘  ~ Herbert Bayard Swope

You have to be ok with not making everyone happy or trying to chase every deal. You have to be ok with people that don’t get you.

In sales speak, there is the wisdom of picking a niche or targeting your customer. Both point to being focused, clear and exclusionary.

Ironically, such specificity is a form of abundance. You are thinking how to be the best for the people you want to serve by solving their specific problem you or your company are designed for.

You are not diluting yourself and trying to be all things to all people.

I am about strategy. Many people do not value strategy. But, people that need clarity, business growth or getting rid of pain in their business know what I offer. I try to stay in my lane and not overreach to areas I don’t have passion, expertise or bandwidth for. I have a network of friends I try to share generously with instead in those cases.

So, maybe it would be a powerful time if you could think about, “Things I don’t do.” It could give you conviction around the things you do well and want to specialize in.

Then be clear with your marketing, networking and outreach to make sure that is understood by those that can do business with you or know people that want to do business with you.

Who do you only want to work with and what do you only want to offer?

The Strategy of Going with the Winner

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There is an irony about free markets that the collective participates in. On the one hand, we have massive choice in many categories. On the other hand, over time, we have a winner-take-all outcome. Over time, people consolidate and choose the best.

We don’t have all these phones. We have iPhones.

We have Starbucks, Netflix and Salesforce.com.

Early on, there can be many software options and platforms to choose from. Later on, there is an actual, or perceived, best in class.

If you are building services, you may want to opt for the efficient path and go with the winner. Winners enjoy the support of customers and their funding. They have larger ecosystems with partners, plugins, apps, marketing agreements and all the pieces for standardization.

Furthermore, it’s easier to move information, find talent and get things done around the winner’s platform.

On the one hand, “best” is not always necessarily functional or technical. It’s often a business case of inertia. You can push for merit on features of a runner-up technology or offering. However, there’s a lot of waste trying to metaphorically boil the ocean and convince others what product line should be the standard bearer.

There’s also a simplicity to choosing the winner. You don’t have to spend energy on choice. You can simply execute and give people what they want.

If you take a quick audit, there’s likely opportunity and efficiency you can gain by picking the winners so you can use those products, services and platforms to simply get your business done making money and interfacing with customers.

Dealmaking Is Slow then Fast

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I love dealmaking. I agree with Robert Ringer’s observation about dealmaking:

“There are no statistics to prove it, but after years of experience, I’m absolutely convinced that dealmaking is the highest-paid profession in the world.”

I think the creative pieces and bringing ambiguous, and often disparate parties and value together, is exhilarating. Great deals help everyone to win and get what they want.

Designing those deals requires insight and many cycles to drive a win and agreement. It’s why I often tell business partners that dealmaking is about going slow. Then fast.

The slow part of deal making is the art of the deal. Building rapport and relationships. Establishing trust. Putting the ideas forth that might take root. These are the building blocks that go faster with established relationships and much activity, but in the beginning of new ventures and relationships, they are slow to put forth and germinate. Often times, you have to push hard.

Fortunately, deals are everywhere. They need leadership, vision and management to develop. If you sell a known product, then your dealmaking has a lot of the components already set up.

If you have a custom, creative dealmaking offering, then there is a lot of time collaborating, designing and creating something from nothing.

I think that one of the best strategies is to be ready. Mise en Place. Anticipate that new conversations, opportunities, relationships and timing will come in the next weeks and months. Being ready by doing your homework, studying, gathering insights, having fast, efficient systems, and getting smarter are required to support the slow part.

If you have done the work then the fast part tends to take care of itself. The convergence of the details, negotiating, having solid agreements and delivering value transitions the dealmaking over to keeping your commitments.

You can always get better at the fast part. The slow part is where the payoff is if you pay attention to your approach, preparation and cadence. Where can you improve?

Find the Few and Disregard the Many

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A few projects matter. So do a few relationships and a few tools. It’s so easy to simply accumulate stuff and throw horsepower into everything. While thinking that should cover over any deficiencies, what is often hidden is the cost in the form of waste, unclarity and management overhead.

We don’t have unlimited attention, resources or energy. It’s hard enough to make something work well or achieve success. However, more noise will only add drag to your best intentions and efforts.

Think about how you want to do business and consider inverting your model. What if you chose to focus on the few that matter rather than the many that have diminishing returns? Your process can look something like this:

  1. 10 clients – The absolute number I want to work with at one time.
  2. 20 deals – Because I close half and only 20 matter.
  3. 40 prospects – People I would be happy to work with and that are an ideal fit.
  4. 2 channels – Places that my prospects I like hang out. Strategies I am committed to fully and will refine.

This kind of strategy can work, but you have to be thinking about what you want and focusing your conversations and approach to the few that matter. In a way, it is a form of abundance thinking. You are realizing there are specific, valuable people you want to work with in a vast world and you simply need to connect and get clear with them.

As a side effect, you are avoiding creating a lot of waste, irritation and noise out there for people that are not a fit.

You also ask better questions of yourself:

Who are the 10 people I want to have as friends and spend my time with doing business?

What do the few people I work with have in common?

What don’t I like?

I bet you find yourself more relaxed and easier to work with. I bet you find abundance by focusing on the few. Clarity and focus have a way of bringing that kind of increase and efficiency.

Can This Person Say Yes?

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There’s a world of opportunity out there for what you are pursuing. But one piece of clarity that gets overlooked too often is qualification. Most people you meet cannot say, “Yes,” to what you are offering. However, a few people can.

I’m not sure why we have this block, but the clearer you can get on who you know can say, “Yes,” the more fun you can have doing business.

Thinking everyone is a prospect is discouraging, costly and wasteful. You can leave relational carnage in your wake. Maybe, it’s hard to feel that fact. Pitching everyone is like spamming, but you don’t feel the cost necessarily.

When you are clear about who can say, “Yes,” you can enjoy the relationships in front of you for what they are – people to enjoy or avoid. You can relax. You can create goodwill and focus on others more than simply what you are trying to sell.

And for the people that can say, “Yes,” you are simply helping them become aware of something they need. They are the ones your firm has been built to serve. You have to put yourself in front of them in order to help them.

Ask the question clearly if you seem to push too hard, “Can this person say, ‘Yes?'” If they cannot, then keep finding people that can.

Secondly, get clear on who does say, “Yes,” that you can bring immense value to.

This is abundance thinking. The world is your oyster and you can go out building amazing relationships with the right people as well as avoid perturbing people that don’t even have a shot at saying, “Yes.”

Who says, “Yes,” to what you offer?

Design the Customer Journey

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Yes, I understand you want money. You want people to buy now. The temptation to simply expect and demand cash is so high and blinding that it’s hard for a seller to see why money becomes elusive.

In some cases when the pain is high – root canals, broken transmissions, fallen bridges – the customer goes straight to the answer. They want the full offering because the pain and the cure are clear and needed.

What about cosmetic dental work, upgrading to a Tesla or improving infrastructure for growing populations?

The sale is a bit harder. The pain is low. Your customer’s status quo is fine. And your offering feels like a big commitment. It can be delayed.

Is there a lesser first step you can start with to stir the customer’s thinking? A test drive or a new mirror can get a person thinking about something they haven’t entertained.

There’s the beginning seed.

You have to gain interest, attention and trust at the start. This is hard in a crowded, overwhelming marketplace. This feels daunting when everyone can get what they want with their thumbs and iPhone.

That starting point, not your final sale, is where you have to dig, design and consistently offer yourself. I bet your customer journey could have a bit more courtship involved. I bet you could start and build trust with a few touches that lead your customer through smaller, more comfortable steps.

Yes, you can sell more. But you have to care more first. And that means stepping back and walking that emotional journey your customer feels. You can design the journey and help them towards a bigger yes, the one you want. Caring about where they are at and how they proceed to trust you means going slower so you can go faster.

What’s easy for your customer to say yes to first? How about second?

How could you design the steps with care that lead them to what they eventually need from you?

Be Personal in Networking But Don’t Take Things Personally

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How much value do you add? That’s the key question I ask each day when I am out in the world of business. It may not be a perfect question, but the free market is open. People are free to make decisions on their own on what they value.

You are valuable when you can connect, articulate and deliver value to another person.

You can’t insist.

You can’t force people to do what you want.

You can’t whine and hope others will pacify you.

We have choices and we tend to choose in our self-interest.

The great thing is that every day your customers spend money and look for value.

That’s why in your networking, you have to keep tilting the odds in your favor by being helpful and clear in what you are offering. It’s about being personal but not taking responses personally if they don’t go your way.

Consider Mark Ford’s tips on networking:

Gain interest first, earn trust later.

Always be specific and sincere in your praise.

Don’t expect to receive an answer to every note you write.

Ask questions.

Be grateful for answers.

Suggest business only when your target person is ready.

Business is people. And the business of people relies on you being valuable out there and networking in a way that is consistent, clear and respectful.

Every day I am looking for those that would truly add value to my life. Hopefully, we connect in a way that makes life better because we met.

Instead of Complaining Become Better

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One of the sobering and honest parts about the marketplace is that you might try any philosophy or approach you like, but it may not work. Your great intention does not necessarily mean that others have to go along.

That can be quite a shocking realization for a generation that may have been given and expected anything and everything. Perhaps a silver spoon makes some believe everything is done for them without cost or consequence.

Others might even have a world-class invention they believe everyone in the world must have.

Entitlement, passion and conviction are powerful tools of persuasion. But, in the end, noone has to do anything with you or for you. You can’t make someone buy, cooperate or work with you.

The marketplace, because of the availability of options and choice, places the burden on you as a seller to be convincing and attractive.

Forget complaining, insisting or appealing. Put all that energy into being better. If your calls are not being returned, how about thinking of what can make someone want to call you back? What’s going on in their world and how can you be worth their time and attention? Again, be better.

We are all needing better ideas, strategies and ways to improve our businesses. There is no shortage of this need.

How about spending a bit of time seeing how you can meet all those unspoken, continuous needs? You’ll be a player of value this way.

Be Productive With Others To Get What You Want

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It can feel harsh to accept the common maxims you hear:

There is no free lunch.

Noone owes you anything.

Value for value.

However, if you observe these statements happening in reality with human nature, it can be extremely empowering for you personally. You are not spending all your time trying to change the world or insisting on something that is elusive at best.

Instead, you can be productive towards your goals and participating in an exchange. Appealing to someone’s self-interest is the first place to start. And that takes insight, empathy and caring. You have to figure out what another person truly values and deliver it in exchange for what you want.

It’s a much more fruitful use of your time and energy than insisting that people do what you want.

You might start the process with, “What do I want?”

Then you have to ask, “What do my customers or friends want?”

Lastly, get clear on, “How do we make a trade so they get what they want and I get what I want?”

Trade, don’t insist.

Focus on the Deal First, Then the Details

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I have done many types of deals over the years. I have sold services, created venture opportunities for myself and clients, partnered, started businesses, launched new products and have helped people along the way who needed a little more vision or strategy. I can see deals that others can’t see and can see the myriad of steps and obstacles along the way to make the deal happen. It’s been fun, and I look at the world as a giant playground of opportunities.

It does take great intentionality and vision to make deals happen. Putting deals together is unnatural. Human nature enjoys the status quo too much and rarely chooses to rise above the noise to create more for themselves. Why change anything, even if it is better, when what you are accustomed to has an illusion of safety from its perceived comfort and familiarity? Everything in life and reality is working against you.

That’s why deal making has to center around the ideas first. Focusing on the possibilities and opportunities. Help someone to see what you see. Do they align? Do they trust you and your conviction?

The details are second. Yes, there’s likely a ton of work, cost and failure once you get a deal done. And it’s good to sketch out some of those back-of-napkin style to enhance the communication and experience around the deal. But obsessing about details that may or may not happen can kill a deal. Quickly. To a lesser degree, bringing in the details can overwhelm customers or partners. You are setting up the other party to extend the buying cycle or to simply say no.

I like to focus on the deal first. The ideas, upside opportunity, and possibilities are what catalyze deals. It’s why I insist on “Deals first, then details.” Otherwise, you end up killing deals that don’t get to see the light of day.

Much of this is because the ramp up and overhead are so low today to be able to test an idea. You don’t often have to go and buy brick and mortar real estate or hire a bunch of people first. You can see if your idea has viability with experimentation. You can test the demand or even the business relationship to see if it will even work. That’s the creative part of deal making. Take out the risk and find the essence of whether the idea has legs by prototyping.

Most people are sitting around waiting for something to happen. A few people are out there making things happen. Focus on deal making. Details come second.