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.

Design the Customer Journey

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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?

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.

Creativity Not Productivity

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We had this age of efficiency and continuous improvement for a long time. When the Japanese were destroying us in the auto industry with better quality cars we buckled down and hyper focused on quality. It worked. ISO standards, Deming Cycles and Six Sigma drove quality to new standards, and we produced a generation of managers that ensured statistical quality for the masses.

There’s money to be made in efficiency for sure. I enjoyed conversations recently with an executive friend at UPS who shared the relentless focus UPS has on logistics and using unmanned vehicles and drones in their R&D. They are in the efficiency business, and both workforce productivity and the market demand for immediacy are driving their initiatives. We, as consumers, get to partake in what will be a surreal future of fulfillment based on our whimsical desires. The speed, precision and customization are being worked on while we consume from our mobile on-demand lives anytime, anywhere.

I think the business of productivity and efficiency fit well for enterprises that can move the needle in our lives from a mass perspective. They are productivity behemoths and get rewarded for consolidating around this value proposition.

However, there are many more slots to fill for customers that go beyond productivity. As humans, we still want to consume creativity. That boutique hotel experience or the out of the box retreat attracts us in a way that relieves our tired minds from consumerism, efficiency and boring.

If you are in the productivity business, keep pushing the bounds of faster, cheaper and efficient. That’s the value the market expects.

For all other endeavors, your creativity, not necessarily your productivity, will have a larger impact on selling and being relevant. The ideas you are able to generate and implement will be the differentiator in such a ridiculously competitive world.

I had a friend recently say, “Stay in the mess.” He was talking about the complexities of IT problems he is involved with that AI has not touched yet. We were talking about how that will likely change with deep learning technology that is continuously pushing the envelope.

Today’s mess is not necessarily going to remain hard or obscure.

And the challenge becomes looking for new messes using the efficiencies, tools and platforms that productivity has solved for our creative benefit.

I am not sure what the future beholds in business. But I do see, from the front lines, how those who are creative stand out. Getting in the mess where strategy, forward thinking and the ability to connect the dots tends to gain trust, respect and relationship gets rewarded.

Simply trying to make efficient things more efficient has marginal value.

If you are not productive at this point, you may be fighting an uphill battle. Give it up and do what you can. There’s already consolidated and large leverage players that accomplish productivity far better than you. Partner with them.

It’s a far better strategy to invest in creativity. Find a new angle. Straddle multiple industries and blend those ideas into a new approach. Take some time to get above the fray and see the forest from the trees. You’ll add a lot more value in today’s world being a creative resource that can make ideas happen quickly. Oh, and you don’t have to be frenetic. You just have to commit to being insightful, strategic and creative.

Here’s How You Build Trust With Clients

It’s hard living in an imperfect world, especially with people that might expect perfectionism. Perfectionism is not realistic. There are too many variables, players on the field and unrealistic expectations to muddy the waters of doing good business.

But, being in the connected human economy affords us the opportunity to work with imperfection and even build trust through it all by simply communicating well.

If you want to build trust with clients, as a given, execute well. However, when you can’t deliver, communicate. It’s how I have built trust with clients for many years and it astounds me how poor most people are at communicating timely, honestly and with leadership. In the end, it does take leadership and guts.

Don’t hide. Don’t rationalize. Don’t wait for your client to dictate. Don’t be a coward.

I overcommunicate all the time.

I educate clients and ensure they are comfortable.

I listen carefully and dial into how clients like to be communicated with.

And it keeps things from building up into unnecessary crises. You can stay ahead of most things by addressing issues, being clear and being humble.

I can’t say it enough, when you can’t deliver, communicate. You will easily stand apart from other service providers and the many other options of people out there trying to deliver value. You will build trust by being transparent and leading.

Trust is hard to build and easy to lose. So, unless you want to churn through relationships, you can work on this specific skill and ensure your communications, whether in writing or verbally, always focuses on problem-solving, empathy and goals.

Trying to be perfect is not realistic. But trying to be more human and leading proactively with care can even turn problems into amazing opportunities for connection as you get on the same side of the table with those you serve. You get to go down the journey together with your clients this way.

A Little Strategy Please

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Any fool can muster up motivation and go for it. You may finally want to act on an idea or make your business work more efficiently in a moment of inspiration.

However, acting simply on emotion and motivation without thinking through options, strategies and ideas can get costly and wasteful. It’s a loser’s mindset.

Doing a bit of upfront thinking about the problems you want to solve – make more money, building stronger relationships, growing a team, being more efficient – can save you heartaches and headaches. Thinking, not hard work, has a lot of cost avoidance.

We have this immense advantage of living in a world where all the pieces are either already invented or able to be put together to solve our problems. We have too much, not too little.

And what you want out of life and business is all there for the taking. Nobody is going to hand you a solution, however. You have to think a little and get clear on:

  1. What you want
  2. Wanting it
  3. Designing the solution
  4. Working the design

A little strategy and thinking can keep you from working on the wrong solution or limiting yourself to an inferior option. There are so many options available.

So, are you hating your job like the 70% of other Americans out there? Yet there are millions of jobs and you merely have one. What about doing a bit of thinking and getting clear on what you want, overcome what is holding you back and find the options that fit you? Then act.

What about being stuck in your current business? Little to no growth year over year can be frustrating. What will happen this year? Same input and same output? How about thinking about what drives your sales engine and either magnify what works or pivot to something more creative. There’s always something more creative.

You need a plan that is well thought through to change the mundane and predictable way of business and life you have today.

Assume everything’s possible and all the resources are there to get what you want. It starts with a little strategy and clarity on your thinking to make anything meaningful happen.

Keep Score Everyday

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I don’t find games very engaging without keeping score. My kids are the same way. Once we inject some kind of scoring, it becomes much more fun, and the focus and intensity go up right away.

It’s natural.

We’ve had decades of socializing trying to tell us otherwise, but I don’t see that working much for desperate and scared adults who bought the lie. And those people who told them scores don’t matter, aren’t around anymore.

When you have to survive, meet goals, provide for others or make your vision happen, you have to keep score. How in the world would you know how you are doing if you left it to an ambiguous feeling of doing well?

If you are serious about success and getting results, you have to know your score every day.

Your brain is a problem solving machine. When it sees a void, it wants to fill it. When you compare your goal and your score today, there will be a gap. That’s ok. We are always walking around with the gap between our present reality and our future desire.

The important thing is that your mind is aware of where you are at today and simultaneously sees what you want down the road, so it can begin working on that gap.

Numbers are easy to see these days. You have a ridiculous amount of technology that feeds you information daily. Your:

  • Bank account balance
  • Current monthly sales
  • Pipeline of opportunities
  • Expenses and cash flow
  • Deals you are working

Every morning, look at these numbers. Automate your Google Chrome or browser to open separate tabs upon opening so you have to look at the score on each of these numbers. See where you are, and compare it to the number you are shooting for.

You can also build a Google Sheet to keep track over time by updating your numbers. When you keep score, you are focused on winning.

Yes, some days can be discouraging when you have a big gap. But it’s far better to know where you are at and where you want to be than not know.

Think about getting concrete and building your own scorecard. You can simply:

  1. Figure out where you want to be in three months or six months. Quantify every goal.
  2. Put those numbers in a Google Sheet.
  3. Every day, update your current numbers. Let the Sheet calculate your gap by percentage or amount.

This daily habit can take a few minutes every day. It gets your heart and mind focused on the game. And you are in a game. It’s called life.

I like getting my goals. I’ve seen plenty of unhappy people who insist they can be random and laissez faire. No thanks.

Reality has a way of keeping score whether we acknowledge it or not. If you care about yourself and getting results, keep score daily. You will be giving yourself a gift.

Productivity Hack: Get Scheduling Commitments

It’s Friday and most of the world is checking out. These days, with the connected economy, it’s not much of a work day.

But it’s a great ritual every week to line up your next week. So, here’s a little strategy you can use at the end of the week so you don’t simply launch unintentionally into a Monday of chaos:

  1. Make a list of people you want to connect with next week. See my advice on Starring Contacts.
  2. Schedule calls using your calendar. Here’s the best practices on being a leader with your calendar. Your invitees will react with a yes or a no.
  3. Move the invitation to another time if need be.
  4. Meet.

Weeks simply keep going by relentlessly. This is a little hack so you can get a little control and make your time align with your goals. It’s about getting results.

How about checking in with your network before checking out for the weekend?

Get Real and Ignore Vanity Metrics

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Are you wasteful with your time?

My clients and friends know that I beat that mantra, “Most things don’t matter.”

One area that this particularly applies to is vanity metrics. These are the stats, conversions or data that simply do not matter or are too cluttered to manage towards the one thing that does matter – results.

Your carefully defined goals are what matters. How much money do you want to make? Are you clear on this?

Who do you want to have a strong relationship with?

Where do you want to live? What work do you want to do on a daily basis?

What activities will make you happy?

Put a number down or a specific person or place for your goals.

The activities you choose to engage in will produce results that either get you closer to these carefully defined goals or simply make you feel better emotionally.

We have to be careful of simple feel goods. You can’t say you want a fit body and feel comfortable running 5 miles, but you spend your time eating donuts and socializing when you should be putting in the work. The results are not related to the goal.

You can’t talk about growing a business with a team and ignore or misjudge each member’s competency because you favor personal likability more.

We have this amazing ability to rationalize our choices and activities and insist on goals we want, regardless of whether those actions are related or not. This is where getting real with yourself, either from someone advising you, or your personal choice to wake up, becomes critical.

You may be feeling good because you see things like:

  • Lots of Facebook likes
  • Many different social media logins
  • Lots of emails in your inbox
  • PR in an industry publication
  • Hundreds of handshakes at a conference
  • Flying all over to meet prospects

Perhaps you have a dashboard and you measure these activities. It feels good to talk about the social connections. How long have you been connecting with this many people, and how many customers have you gained?

What about all that traveling or activity? What did it turn up in business or friendship?

We have a lot of sexy technology that arises in our lives. But does that translate to meaningful results? We can be seduced into thinking that the activity we experience matters, when it does not.

If you are looking at vanity metrics which have no relationship to your goals, then its simply delusional. What you claim you are wanting will not happen. The activities don’t relate to the outcomes.

The better strategy, if you are serious about winning, is to ignore all the hype and do the following:

  1. Decide that most things don’t matter and are a waste.
  2. Define clearly what you want. Quantify it.
  3. Review how you have achieved your desired result in the past. Evaluate whether you can replicate the process.
  4. Set up a scorecard that measures the activity that contributes to the result.
  5. Look at the scorecard daily. Keep yourself accountable or have someone that will do the job honestly hold you to your goals.

This takes thought. You have to think it through and get off the high of vanity metrics and get real with yourself. It’s how winning is done.

Make Good Deals So We Don’t Hate Each Other

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I have always said,

“Good agreements make for great relationships. Bad agreements make for bad relationships.”

And having done many deals over many years, I can see where I have had a profitable and fun relationship when there are explicit expectations. And when there has been innuendo or ambiguity, relationships suffer because there is not a good agreement.

There are a lot of reasons bad deals happen. Sometimes it’s out of laziness on one or both parties. Other times, goodwill. I have made many of the mistakes and I am not one to keep repeating a script that doesn’t work. I want great relationships and have a lot of fun at it. Sure, there’s opportunities for making money, but I also enjoy people and life. Life’s too short to miss the fun.

So, if you’re like me and want to avoid the mess of unmet expectations or resentments that follow bad deals, then here are 4 keys I have learned over the years:

  1. Make sure the other party wins. We have too many options today and so does your counterpart in a deal. If you burn them or try to tilt advantages to your side, you may collect on a deal, but it will be short-lived. Playing for the long-term relationship and building trust and credibility have a much higher return. It’s why it is so important that when you take money, you deliver. Plain and simple. You have to think deeply about helping the other person win. This may include achieving a fitness goal, getting $100K in revenue or having harmony in their relationships. That win is the focal point of the deal.
  2. You have to put it in writing. Verbal agreements are extremely risky. How can you read between the lines or pick up intentions? Writing clarifies and clarity is your friend when building agreements. At a minimum level, exchange emails to clarify what is expected and what will be delivered. Outline what you have discussed, what items will be delivered and what the pricing will be for the venture or engagement. It’s good to have a back and forth and even a review of the details. This way nothing gets missed.
  3. Account for uncertainty. You can’t control or predict the future. What if something goes wrong? I don’t want someone hating me and I don’t want to hate someone either. Things do go wrong. Talk about those What If’s and get clear on what should happen. If the relationship is important, then make sure the other person knows, “Hey, who knows what will happen. But I want to maintain a long-term relationship. How can we make sure that happens if things don’t turn out the way we hope?”
  4. Celebrate. It was Socrates that said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” I don’t get people that move on from one thing to another without reflecting and celebrating. How unfulfilling. When you celebrate, you are able to have a reward in the celebration itself. But it also sets you up for better agreements. The celebration allows you to have a case study of sorts. You can see how your partner sees the process and outcomes and tune in further. You also close the loop on your agreements by making sure there is no expectation left unmet. Winning is fun and celebration puts your wins in an explicit light.

I like finding good deals and getting to mutual wins. It has a compounding effect for business and life. I make more money and more friends in the process.

It takes leadership from you. Instead of playing things loose, you show respect for the other party by putting concerns, hopes, and goals on the table.

Imagine laying out the deals, agreeing to them, knocking them out and celebrating at the end. If you have a dozen of these experiences under your belt, deal making becomes habitual and your convictions on what you can deliver will solidify over time.

So how do you like making deals?