I like businesses where the need is obvious. People line up because they need a solution. Dentists, divorce attorneys, grocery stores and gas stations will always have demand. We have a problem and they are a known solution. The challenge for them is to meet the known demand with delightful service and care. That’s a known way to stand out.
But if your offering is less than obvious for having built-in demand, a strategy to apply is to take give generously. Share insights and content that is valuable. Give real answers to real problems. This may feel like you are giving a lot away or taking uncomfortable risk.
But, the world is filled with a lot of generic, safe information online. If you have real answers that stand out and work, you get through the noise. Teasers, generalizations and saying a bunch of platitudes will not create engagement.
Truly helping people with strategies and insights that work will do far more than creating some kind of funnel manipulation.
Can you solve my problem? Can you articulate my problem?
Take the risk of being overt and generous to see what opportunities might open up that would otherwise never arise. It’s your chance to be helpful, contribute and a person of great value.
Here’s the simple strategy for keeping you from getting washed away in the tides of innovation all around you:
- Observe what’s happening around you in your world and see what people are buying.
- Come up with 3 ideas that get people to buy.
- Build a solution and sell it to one customer.
- Observe their reactions carefully.
- Iterate and tweak the customer experience with your offering.
- Keep experimenting with new ideas and repeat.
If you are a person that needs the sure thing, go into working for the government or accounting. The marketplace is not the place for you.
With the ease of creating what we want, connecting with the world and trying out our ideas, your ideas will obsolesce at a rapid rate.
But, it’s an exciting and low risk time for entrepreneurs. The tools are there. We just need to see your ideas play out and you have to be committed to the process of idea generation and experimentation.
Some of those ideas will materialize into enterprise plays and exit strategies. Very few will, however.
Most of the ideas you experiment with may materialize into microbusinesses that cash flow and build an audience. From there, you can segue your offering by experimenting further and watching your tribe carefully to meet more desires.
The strategy is not hard to implement. Having the vision and focus to see your ideas through is the hard part. That’s the catch with innovation and uncertainty. While everyone else is waiting for something to happen, you can get the lion’s share reward by making something happen. Then invite those along that are waiting to be part of it.
What idea can you experiment with today? How can you put forth a low risk approach and see what people do with your idea?
If you are in continual chaos, why? Do you simply accept reality as one giant mess? Week after week is simply reactive and full of open loops?
Yes, business can be overwhelming in our connected economy. We can all create work for each other rather quickly.
However, when you think of your workflow, then you can anticipate how demands, information and projects will come into your life. If you are the bottleneck it is because you have not set up an approach to doing business efficiently.
This can be solved.
But you have to care about solving it first. Some reasons people don’t solve this obvious and continuous problem:
- They aren’t paying attention
- They have an out as an excuse
- They are used to losing
- They are comfortable reacting rather than leading
- They don’t know there is a way
- They don’t value productivity and collaboration
Your personal productivity is the foundation for money-making. You have to ensure that you are not simply showing up being a secretary in life by reacting to the chaos other people create.
Chaos keeps you and your team from becoming an Ultimate Selling Machine. People that are ready have space to think creatively, bring more value to their customers and take advantage of opportunities when they inevitably come around.
The goal of your business is to get and keep customers. And if you are in continual chaos, how can you really make money optimally around this goal? You are missing out on all those wonderful opportunities because chaos is ruining your days and obscuring your view of what is possible.
Chaos is not normal. And your opportunities await if you believe this and commit to eradicating chaos.
Who knows what the next week will bring. If you care enough to be ready and align your life and business to respond to chaos, then you will have opened up the world for yourself.
Do you care to solve the problem?
Manners matter. We know that interrupting people face-to-face is rude and can be quite embarrassing. Our social norms make it too risky to attempt to force our agendas and wills upon people we encounter in person.
However, with distance and virtualization, there are still the unimaginative souls who persist in trying to violate basic manners. Playing a numbers game, trying old school approaches such as cold calling or other forms of spam gets knee-jerk blocking from recipients. As buyers, we have the power to block out those who invade our attention space pretty easily.
Selling without imagination is a waste of everyone’s time. Instead of trying to force your will on others, how about working on your personal sales process first? Think about how to earn someone’s attention.
Earning someone’s respect, attention and business is hard work. You have to think long and hard about how you are perceived. Then think about the touches that make sense and who will pay attention. Each step has its own intrinsic ratchet down ratio.
Testing what you have in your head and how people actually react to your overtures and gestures takes quite a bit of vigilance.
Ultimately, you can shape a sales funnel that makes sense for those you who can say, “Yes.” You can attract the right people, start conversations, and keep attention towards a path to doing business together.
You have to do this while competing with the entire world. The great thing is that if you are creative and persistent, you have the opportunity to have your own personal flowing pipeline of opportunities and deals. You can differentiate and have an asset by designing and staying consistent with your custom approach to selling and making connections with those that you can bring value to in this noisy world.
Yes, it’s strategy. It takes time. But it’s much less wasteful and more efficient to do business by figuring out what scales.
How can you design and test a better, more human approach to connecting?
Want to know what you should do and do with everything you got?
Find your clues. Pay your dues.
That’s a message my wife recently heard from Jen Hatmaker in a speech to a large audience looking for direction.
It’s great advice to get on with the business of knowing what you should do. Finding your clues means knowing what you are good at and what your strengths are. Most people are simply guessing, but I will be the evidence is continually before you. Your clues keep showing up. There are things that are easy and valuable. Then there are things that are hard and not valuable.
The ones that are in-between: hard and valuable and easy and not valuable can confuse us.
When you see performers, athletes, politicians and everyone we see on media, they figured out what was valuable and easy to them. They had a special quality in that area. Then they got to work. They saw the clues and then paid the dues.
My first piece of business coaching advice is to stop guessing. Get a strengths test, know what is easy and stay away from what is hard.
Then figure out where your strengths are valued.
Then get to work and grind it out with happiness and consistency day in and day out.
We live in a world where being well-rounded is pretty overrated. Your school teachers, media elites and many well-meaning mentors lied to you. Well-rounded is not going to do much for you in a hypercompetitive world.
The world values and pays for sharp, not well-rounded. And your best bet is to figure out what comes easy and is valuable. You can waste a lot of energy and time playing outside of this framework.
Want to know where you should pay your dues and get a clue?
Hearing that phrase, “You have to add value,” can sound wonderful as part of your business habits. But what does it really mean? It can be a lofty idea without materializing into something real that connects with another person.
The better question when you are working with a customer is to look at them with full attention and think, “What is valuable to them?” It takes concentration and intentionality.
We are in our own heads too much and think about what is valuable to ourselves without realizing it most of the time. Then we project what we value onto others. It’s easy to do. But it’s starting from the wrong place.
Asking what your customer truly values means you can see their worldview and the story they tell themselves. Often what they value is unspoken:
“I want to feel important. Make me feel important.”
“I want my network to respect me and see my accomplishments.”
“I want comfort and ease these days.”
“I want to not worry and feel secure about my position.”
“I want to win and be perceived as the top dog.”
The easy way to find out what is valuable to someone is to simply observe. Turn off the sound. Look at what they do and ignore what they say. We say things to position and appear put together.
And if you are thinking that you are providing great service and feeling good about your own efforts, you may miss what is really going on in the customer experience and relationship. The question is still about whether your customer values what you are doing, not whether you value it.
This kind of insight and approach to how you do business requires strategic thinking. Step back and think about what is valuable to people you deal with. Think about the things they are not saying but are true.
Then meet those deeply held motives and beliefs to retain, nurture and grow your relationships.
What do you observe as valuable to your clients that they are not saying?
Abraham Lincoln is often quoted as saying,
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
Is that what most people do? Most people start sawing away at their problems. I think it feels safe because you don’t feel as accountable. If something didn’t work out, you can fool yourself and simply say you tried really hard. It’s a loser’s mentality.
Winning requires analyzing what is wrong with a situation or yourself. That’s hard work to think things through and come up with a strategy that makes sense. You have to be vested in the idea and direction when you stop and think harder.
When you don’t know what to do you have that crossroads to buckle down and work harder or step back and think harder. What if you worked at the strategic level on the problems you are solving. Here are some ways to do that:
- Call a trusted advisor for coffee. Get in dialogue and open the problems up to see if you can gain additional insights and perspective.
- Create a decision tree. Whether by yourself or in dialogue with a business coach or advisor, think about outcomes and probabilities. Map out your options and what the probabilities look like with all the outcomes. Use your experience in reality to come up with an educated outlook.
- Get away for a walk. Your subconscious is an amazing resource to bring clarity of thought. Walk for an hour and let go of your problems. When you get back, you could likely have new approaches.
- Read for an hour. Let your mind get dialed into a business book or even fiction. There are lots of nuggets of wisdom and insights that come from story and case studies that can feed your creativity to sharpen your saw.
Thinking harder has to be a reaction that becomes a habit. You won’t live and work so wastefully because you are taking on that leadership quality of deliberation and strategic thinking that is required to come up with elegant and holistic solutions.
Do you tend to work harder or think harder?