Generate Optimal Results When Networking

Tom Ruwitch asks the panel, “When attending a networking event, what is one strategy, tactic or rule that you always keep in mind to generate optimal results for you and your business?”

As a business owner, you understand more than most, your time is money. You also realize networking is key to growing your business, even though sometimes networking events seem to be less successful than you’d like. For many who attend networking events, outcomes can be frustrating if you are not prepared to meet new people, do not set and achieve your business goals for attending, or fail to have purposeful and fruitful conversations with qualified prospects.

Building trusting relationships that lead to satisfying business transactions takes time, genuine care and a balance between people skills and a focus on your business goals and aspirations. Respect for self and others and a consistent relaxed and abundant mindset allow for business to flow due to a genuine helpful intent.

Read what nine independent e4e business owners and recognized experts report on the strategies, tactics or rules they keep in mind to generate optimal results when at networking events. In this way, you draw on the real-time experience of our experts to quickly decide strategies to benefit you and your business.

Four of our Nine Panel Experts:

Bill Prenatt

Actually, there are three strategies I execute on consistently: 1) I set a goal for how many valid prospects I expect to meet and I plan to enter into my data base; 2) I communicate clearly what business I’m in and what kind of prospect I’m interested in meeting. This usually cuts the conversation short with people I’m not aligned with; 3) I make it a habit to connect at least three prospects with existing connections.

Judy Ryan

e4e partner Fred Miller offered a great strategy in one of our recent workshops. He said we should not allow our time to be monopolized during a networking event. He gave an example of a person handling this in a thoughtful manner by saying, “Please excuse me. I committed to myself I’d meet 10 new people before the main event starts and I have a few more to go. Great meeting you!” What a wonderful, respectful and direct way to be upfront about wanting to meet more than one or two people at an event.

Keith Vollmar

Here is what I do when attending a larger networking event. For each meeting:

1. Walk away with no less than 2 business cards of individuals I have not met before.
2. Make sure I say hello to 2 or 3 established business friends who are key potential referral sources for me.
3. Ensure one new person gets the most out of networking event.

This is my routine at MO Venture Forum or similar larger group. For smaller groups, it depends on the number of people attending.

Cathy Sexton

For starters I have made the decision to cut way back on networking events. I think the time spent on networking events can get way out of hand if we are not careful. So my current strategy is to only attend with two purposes. To continue to build already valuable relationships and to make sure the events have my ideal clients also in attendance.

These are just a few of the partner responses. 

Check out this article in the Academy to get all of them.

For further information, support and advice from thirty experts on this topic and many others, become a member of the e4e community by visiting our website at www.e4ecommunity.com

Who does a good job pricing?

Pricing expert Dale Furtwengler offers insights and strategies based on real-world case studies, demonstrating pricing models that have bombed or show consistent benefit.

Some days, despite your best intentions, you fumble the ball. Such was the case at the Retail Customer Experience Executive Summit when I was asked, “Who [among retailers] does a good job of pricing?” My response was “most companies.” What I should have said was ‘most companies initially.’

Most companies have a pretty good sense where they fit on the spectrum versus competitors. Using the image spectrum:

  1. Walmart is the low-price provider.
  2. Target is viewed as more hip and can command higher prices to reflect that image.
  3. JCPenney used to be (who knows where they’re headed today) known for dependable, but not readily recognizable brands and their pricing was 3 to 5 times the Walmart alternative.
  4. Macy’s carried very recognizable brands, with strong image appeal and able to command prices 6 to 8 times the Walmart alternative.
  5. Nordstrom is the most upscale of these five companies and commands premiums of 12 to 14 times the Walmart alternative.

Using image as the focal point for each of these companies, their initial price positioning makes a lot of sense. Unfortunately it’s all down hill from there.

The first mistake they make is to price ‘competitively’. That typically means at, or below, industry pricing for their segment of the spectrum. They choose to price this way despite the fact they claim to offer ‘more’ or ‘better’ of whatever they deem their value to be.

The second mistake most retailers, indeed companies in every industry, make stems from the extremely poor job they do communicating value. You don’t have to trust me on this. All you have to do is look at the ads the companies cited above offer, then answer this question “Does the ad emphasize their position on the image scale?”

Of course not. With the possible exception of Nordstrom, most ads are about their latest sale. If their marketing messages did a better job of helping their customers experience their stores without being there, they’d be able to command higher prices than is typical for the area of the spectrum they occupy.

The third mistake is sales these retailers regularly offer. Fluctuating prices confuse consumers about the real image value of their offerings. These sales take many forms including discounts, rewards programs, coupons and loyalty programs, to name a few.

These sales muddy the water for customers. The concept of value, whether that value is image, innovation or time-savings get lost in the myriad of sales offered. In the process we train customers to wait until we offer a discount to buy.

That means the customer is postponing the satisfaction of owning your products/services. For you it means lower profit margins and additional marketing costs to acquire enough new customers to not only replace those lost profits, but to grow them.

Now back to the original question, “Who [among retailers] does a good job of pricing?” Companies I think do a good job are:

Panera
They repeatedly raised their prices throughout the recession and experienced sales growth in excess of the price increase.

The only criticism I have of Panera’s pricing is their rewards program. Reward programs are effectively discounts. Rewards programs do not increase my desire for their offerings. I’m not going to visit any more frequently or buy larger quantities because of the reward. That means that they’re offering me a discount to buy what I’d have bought at a higher price. Rewards programs increase retailers costs in two ways – establishing and maintaining the reward program and providing a discount to customers who are willing to pay higher prices. Ouch!

Apple
The key word with Apple is consistency. They consistently charge premium prices on all new offerings and tend to hold those premiums throughout the product life cycle.

The one faux pas I recall was reducing the price of the original iPhone by $100 within 60 days of its release. The hue and cry of the early adopters resulted in a refund of roughly $100 million to those early customers. That’s what happens when you move away from your value proposition in an attempt to garner market share which is what I believe the motivation was for the price reduction.

Apple may be on the verge of making another pricing mistake. Rumor has it that they’re coming out with a new tablet to compete with Google’s Nexus 7. If they do, it’ll be interesting to see how they launch that offering. If they offer a better product and price it accordingly, the market will continue to view them as an industry leader who is entitled to premium prices.

If, however, they price the new tablet to compete with the Nexus 7, they’ll appear to have relinquished their industry lead and be reduced to ‘commonplace’ in the eyes of the consumer.

Kraft Foods
I don’t recall Kraft having raised prices during the recession, but as soon as it appeared the recovery was under way they immediately began raising prices and continue to do so with some frequency. Like Panera, they’ve experienced sales growth in excess of their price increases. Indeed, their sales growth was 50% higher than their price increase in the 3rd quarter of 2011. The keys to these companies’ success in pricing are:

  1. Consistency in their customers’ experience.
  2. Charging prices that reflect that consistency and support their value claims.
  3. Raising prices in good times and bad, further reinforcing the perception of value in their customers’ minds.
  4. Continuously finding new ways to serve their customers in ways those customers want to be served.
  5. Initiating change in their markets instead of mimicking others changes.

The pricing mistakes that companies like these are most likely to make are:

  1. Focusing on market share growth instead of customers’ needs/interests.
  2. Discounting in any form (sales, rewards programs, loyalty programs) confuses the customer. It’s hard to tell what something is really worth when the price fluctuates for no apparent reason. Can anyone tell me what a gallon of gasoline is worth?
  3. Failing to raise prices in good times and bad.
  4. Losing sight of who its ideal customer is. Think JCPenney.

Basically, any company that:

  1. Charges a premium to the market.
  2. Continues to raise prices regardless of what the economy is doing.
  3. Stays focused on its ideal customer.
  4. Avoids the temptation to discount, reward their customers or create loyalty in ways other than providing superior experiences.

…is doing a good job of pricing.

For those at the summit, my apologies for the fumble. Hopefully I’ve recovered the ball with this post.

Do you have a clear brand promise? Find out by using my confidential Brand Promise Self-Assessment.

Are you getting compensated well for the value you provide? Use my confidential Pricing Self-Assessment to evaluate your company’s pricing.

Are your marketing messages attracting the right customers? If you’re getting primarily price buyers you may want to use my confidential Marketing Self-Assessment to discover why.

Is your sales force putting pressure on you to lower prices? Our confidential Sales Self-Assessment can show you why. Check out Dale’s latest ebook, Brand Promise: What Do YOUR Customers Expect? You have a brand. The question is “Is it the one you want?”

If you’d like to increase your prices, profits and customer base, call Dale at 314-707-3771.

When Is a Reward NOT a Reward?

Sellers are giving discounts to customers who would have bought anyway - at full price. Unfortunately, this does not hit home until it’s too late.

A lesson from Panera Bread Co.

In my February 28, 2011 post, Buying Customer Loyalty, I railed against reward programs. One restaurant chain, Panera Bread, has proven my point via the type of rewards it offers. Yes, I have a Panera card. I’m not above taking discounts offered even though I don’t advocate discounting to my clients.

In the earlier post I stated the customers’ need/desire for offerings don’t increase just because they’re receiving a reward. What does that mean for sellers? They’re giving discounts to customers who would have bought anyway - at full price. Unfortunately this reality does not hit home until the reward program is already in place.

What I have noticed recently with the Panera program is the rewards offered are not what I typically purchase. Based on the rewards offered, Panera is encouraging me to try new things or to visit at times I don’t normally visit. That’s not a reward, that’s a marketing strategy.

While I don’t have a problem with marketing strategies that encourage buyers to try new things or to return more frequently, I resent a ‘reward’ program that tries to accomplish the same goal. Maybe I’m too stringent in my definition of reward, but to me it’s something that has value to the recipient. When that ‘reward’ places the welfare of the presenter over the recipient, it loses the right to be called a reward.

The question is “How do you offset the revenue losses your reward program created while maintaining credibility with your customers?” Keep your marketing efforts and reward programs separate. It’s all right to announce new offerings, encourage customers to visit at times they typically don’t, to explore alternative uses of your offerings in your marketing materials, in any media you choose, just not in the rewards program.

Converting a reward program to a marketing program is a violation of your customers’ trust. Losing their trust is one of the quickest ways to drive your customers to your competitors. If you have fallen victim to the temptation of reward programs, don’t compound the problem by converting it to a marketing program.

Dale Furtwengler is the author of the internationally acclaimed Pricing for Profit. His company, Furtwengler & Associates, Inc., helps companies get higher prices regardless of what their competitors or the economy are doing. For more pricing/branding/marketing/sales tips visit his website, PricingForProfitBook.com

Video: Cold Email Marketing

One of the biggest mistakes business owners make is getting emails, and immediately presenting a sales pitch, only to find that nothing comes of it.

Many business owners want to target a specific ideal customer and don’t have a warm introduction to do so. Cold emailing is identifying a prospect you want to do business with, finding their email and getting information in front of them that is appealing and effective. Cold emailing is different than a permission-based email campaign. Expert Josh Turner cautions viewers to be mindful and lawful using email by following a proven approach for sending appropriate messages to prospects, including:

  • Approach prospects in a meaningful and responsible manner
  • Observe rules of conduct that keep you within legal email guidelines.
  • Hold the intention to initiate a conversation with your prospects rather than throwing them a sales pitch

For valuable support and guidance creating LinkedIn approaches that have been proven to work, contact LinkedIn expert Josh Turner atjoshturner@gatewaycfo.com or visit his website www.gatewayCFO.com

Discounting During Peak Season

When it’s peak selling season, hold your price. You’ll not only enjoy greater profits, you’ll do so with fewer headaches.

Great strategy?

Or sheer folly?

It’s early spring.  I’m listening to the radio when I hear an ad for the premier carpet cleaning company in our city.  The woman in the ad is telling her friend how dirty her carpets after having dirt, sand, salt and grime tracked in all winter long.  Her friend recommends the carpet cleaning company touting all of its benefits.

The ad is clever and well-constructed until the friend says the company is offering a discount.  What?  Offering a discount during peak selling season?  Why would they do that?  Ostensibly, to increase market share, right?

Is that a good strategy?  Let’s play this out to its conclusion.  First, the company is giving up profit margin with its ideal customers to garner a larger share of the market.  It’s peak selling season. They’re already swamped with orders yet they’re pursuing more orders with their discounts.  How is the work going to get done?  Overtime and temporary help.

Employees that work incredible amounts of overtime are fatigued.   They’re going to make more mistakes.  That’s going to hurt the company’s reputation.  Indeed, given the claims made in their ads, the company has set expectations they aren’t going to be able to fulfill.

Temporary help is an alternative, but these workers aren’t as knowledgeable about the process.  They, too, are going to make mistakes and damage the company’s reputation.  Plus it’s going to take them longer to complete the work. Not only does the company incur additional costs, it angers a lot of customers because the temps are consistently behind the schedule they were given.

Then there’s the strain on equipment.  When the company is operating its equipment at full tilt 12 to 14 hours a day, six or seven days a week, there’s no time for maintenance.  When the equipment breaks down, which it inevitably does in this environment, it throws the entire schedule off; once again, damaging the company’s reputation.

Of course you could add more equipment to handle the increased demand, but then what do you do with this excess capacity in the off-season?  Offer more discounts?

It’s counter-intuitive, but offering discounts in peak selling season to garner a larger share of the market is one of the costliest strategies this company, or yours, could possibly employ.  Don’t fall into this trap.  When it’s peak selling season, hold your price.  You’ll not only enjoy greater profits, you’ll do so with fewer headaches.

For more pricing tips visit http://www.pricingforprofitbook.com.  To discover how you can get higher prices for your products and services, call Dale at 314-707-3771.

Why is Cold Calling so Hard?

Many people I talk to don’t care to make cold calls to get new business. For many it is a fear factor or they just don’t like to be told “NO” when asking for a meeting.

When you do phone calling for meetings or phone conferences, you need to have one thing in mind; does that prospect want to meet with you to know more about the product or services you provide? If not, then just make the next call and move on.

Not everyone wants to meet with you. That’s OK. You are telemarketing to find ones that say “Yes”. Why not have the mindset you’re going to make 100 calls to find the 5-10 prospects that set the meeting? Make it simple; don’t make it hard. Keep up the perseverance.

I remember a story about Jack Nicklaus, one of the greatest golfers of all time. In the 1960s at the peak of his game Nicklaus earned $400,000 on the PGA tour. There was another golfer Bob Charles on the same PGA tour that earned $40,000. As a professional he wasn’t as successful as Jack, with the difference of about 10 fold in income.

The surprising factor was the difference in their respective per round stroke average was less than half a stroke. Yes, the greatest golfer of his time and a very good golfer were less than half a stroke apart.

In sales and cold calling, everything you do affects your quota numbers for closing deals. Forget the fear factor and frustration level and just make the calls. Even making an extra 20 calls per day can yield that one more sale in your weekly numbers!

Set a goal to WIN more sales. Come in first, not second, or third or fifth. How much commission do you earn when you come in second or fourth? Bob Charles still got paid his $40,000, even if he came in second, fifth or tenth. Telemarketing starts the process. It leads to face-to-face meetings, then proposals, which then conclude in sales that make you money. Pick up the phone, start dialing for dollars and smile while you do that!

John Eyres works with business owners/entrepreneurs/sales people who want to stay ahead of their competition. His workbook The Art and Science of COLD CALLING teaches 3 key principles for a solid calling program; 1. Creating quality lead lists. 2. Creating your script. 3. Cold calling tips/strategies/techniques.

He can be reached at johneyres@busconcon.com or 314-495-2089.

Does Your Sales Pitch Pass the “Why” Test?

Why should your prospect care about the product or service you are pitching? If you start with that question you distill the core benefits that drive sales.

Earlier this summer, my wife and I shopped for a new mattress. The first salesman we encountered pitched one with a new-fangled spring system. He described the coil count, the wire thickness, the spring material, and other data meant to convince us we could not live without this mattress.

When he ended his speech, I asked, “Why should I care about all of that stuff?”

He looked at me as if I was a Martian.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I suspect everything you told me is important. But I don’t understand why any of this matters.”

He sighed. “Because our springs are more durable,” he said.

I didn’t say anything, but the expression on my face said it again, “Why should I care?”

“The springs hold their shape,” he added.

Standing nearby, the store manager joined the conversation. “Do you suffer any back pain?” he asked?

“I do,” my wife said.

The manager explained that as mattresses age, the springs begin to compress. That creates soft spots and valleys, which contribute to back pain. This mattress protects your back because the springs are stronger and longer lasting.

A mattress that protects my wife’s back! Now that’s a reason to care.

Do your sales pitches pass the “why should I care?’” test? Too often, we pitch our products and services by discussing the what and the how, rather than the why.

Thick, multi-coil, steel springs are the what and how. Protecting your back is the why.

Marketers often refer to features vs. benefits. But I prefer what/how vs. why. The words “what,” “how,” and “why” frame the questions:

Why should I care? If you answer that question first, you articulate the core benefit. Then you prove your case with the what and how.

The mattress store manager understood that. Rather than start with spring count and other data, he reminded us we care to protect your backs; we care to have a mattress that lasts, on average, five years longer so you can save money and protect the environment; and we care to sleep better.

When he claimed we would sleep better, I asked him, “How…?”

The independent spring system means one person can toss and turn on one side of the bed without rocking the other side of the bed.

The manager started with why (“so you can sleep better) and followed with what and how (“the spring system”).

Review your sales pitches -- what you say on the telephone, the copy you place in advertisements, the words you write in emails and letters. As you discuss your products and services, imagine you are a prospect and ask, “Why should I care?” Craft an answer for the prospect and repeat the “Why...” question.

Remember, the mattress salesman did not get to the real “why” -- even though I asked him more than once. We often default to the what and the how. So keep asking, “Why...?” until you distill your story to its core benefits. If you practice this technique regularly, you will naturally begin your sales conversations where they ought to be -- with the why.

For specific help increasing your marketing voltage, visit me at www.marketvolt.com.

Separate Prospects from Suspects to Sell More and Suffer Less

Bill succeeds because he separates prospects from suspects... He speaks to people who view him as a welcome guest, not an unwanted pest.

I once worked with a sadistic guy named Ken who loved to punish the door-to-door salespeople who visited our office. If he was in a good mood (not often), Ken would gently point to the "No Solicitations" sign on our door, and say, "I'm sorry. We don't allow door-to-door sales. Go peddle your stuff somewhere else." Even when sounding calm, Ken was mean. If Ken was in a bad mood (usually) or if the "peddler" did not leave immediately, watch out! I heard Ken verbally abuse a water cooler salesman in ways that would make the saltiest sailor blush. I once saw a copier salesman dash from our office after Ken threatened to "shove that toner cartridge..." You get the idea.

We eventually fired Ken because of how he treated vendors, coworkers and clients. While we did not condone his behavior, we also did not sympathize with those sales people who invited the wrath of Ken. Every time they fled from our office, I thought, "Why do they put themselves through this?" Cold calling every name on a list or knocking on every door on every floor is an uncomfortable, unproductive way to make a living.

Compare that to Bill, a copier salesperson who called me last month. I met Bill a few months earlier at a networking event where we exchanged cards. He asked whether he could add me to his mailing list (he did not assume my permission just because I handed him my card). I received one email a month after that.

When Bill called, he said, “We met a few months ago and you’re on my email list.” I remembered him, of course. I had received his most recent email just two days earlier. The conversation proceeded with ease and ended with a meeting scheduled.

When we met, I asked Bill why he chose to call me on the day he did. “Because you’ve been reading and clicking on my emails,” he said. Bill explained he no longer goes door to door or makes call telephone calls. Instead, he establishes relationships with people through networking, referrals, web site inquiries, and other methods – in all cases inviting his new contacts to join his email list. He sends regular emails that offer office automation tips and other useful content – not just product pitches. And he uses email software that tracks who opens and who clicks. Those engaged readers are the prospects he telephones or visits.

In a fraction of the time, he schedules more appointments and ultimately makes more sales. And he does not have to face sadists like Ken who love to abuse cold-callers.

Bill succeeds because he separates prospects from suspects. He schedules more meetings with fewer calls because he speaks to people who view him as a welcome guest, not an unwanted pest.

Had Bill been a stranger who appeared at my office uninvited, I probably would not have spoken to him. Had he simply collected my card at the networking event and then called me (without engaging me through his emails), I probably would have pushed him away. Had he called on me even if I never opened his emails, I might not have remembered him and I certainly would not have known how much value he could offer.

Instead, Bill called on me only after he knew I was engaged. I had opened his email. I had clicked the link. I knew him. I showed interest.

Your time is precious. When you call on people who don’t know you and view you as a pest, you usually waste that precious time. Rather than wasting time calling on the suspects, spend some time to identify and cultivate true prospects.

There are many ways to do this. As Bill demonstrated, delivering valuable, engaging content via an email newsletter is a very effective way to do it. But how do you start? How do you plan and deliver an email newsletter that people will open and click? I answer those questions in this article in the e4e Academy.

How to Use LinkedIn Signal to Find Prospects Who Want What You Sell

LinkedIn Signal (http://www.linkedin.com/signal/) is one of the most powerful tools available on the internet.

If you know how to use it properly, you can literally find any conversation on LinkedIn. Conversations happening between people not even connected to you, including groups you don’t belong to.

It is literally one of the best customer intelligence tools out there, and it’s free.

Imagine you had a tool for discovering any time somebody talked about your products or services on LinkedIn. If you think this might be a great strategy to find new leads and build relationships with highly targeted prospects, you’re correct.

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