It’s time to go beyond networking and start connecting.
Being a good connector reaps endless benefits for your business and life.
Knowing the right people gets you jobs faster, scores you more clients, boosts
your visibility, increases your acumen and skills, and shapes your ideas. It is
also great for your health and enjoyment in your career.
But how do you become
a good connector if you think you’re terrible at it? And if you already
feel pretty good about your connecting ability, how can you uplevel for even
more influence and impact?
Whether you are horrible at making connections, or you want to further build your skills and uplevel your connection-making status so you can get to success faster, enjoy this video, power-packed with useful tips.
* How to be a good connector even if you think you suck at it ([5:50]) * What level connector are you and how you can level up ([7:50]) * Difference between a connector and a thought leader ([10:50]) * Take Michelle’s Connector Challenge! ([12:59]) * Two mindsets necessary to be a good connector and keep your boundaries ([17:30]) * How to use underutilized time to nurture connections ([23:03]) * Action tip to become a better connector: Eat that frog! ([28:00]) * How to be a more inclusive connector and get out of your bubble ([29:34])
“Connecting is not nature over nurture. Anyone can become a good connector and find success.” – Michelle Tillis Lederman (TWEET THIS!)
We can have the best of intentions, but if we can’t make
healthy habits stick, the results will always be the same.
Apply this to any habit you might be trying to create: updating social media on a regular basis, finding time to focus on writing, sending invoices every week, working out 3x per week, drinking more water.
Flossing every night.
Yes, at 46 years old, I had still not been able to create a nightly habit of flossing. I make my preschooler do it every night, and so, feeling guilty at not being a proper role model, and being sick of every single 6 month dentist visit ending in a lecture, this stubborn girl finally made it happen.
Well, what do stubborn people often need? To prove
After my last dentist visit six months ago, I issued myself
a data-driven challenge:
I will floss every
night until my next dental visit and see if she can tell the difference.
This was purely a scientific experiment, a competition in which I would know if I was right or wrong.
In order to not “skew the results,” I had to do it every
night. Even when I didn’t feel like it. Even when I was tired. Even when I
thought I could cheat.
“You can’t prove the theory right or wrong with biased
data,” I told myself. See, stubbornness
has it benefits.
And what happened? I stayed mum at my recent dentist visit.
After cleaning, the hygienist remarked, “Wow, your gums are in great shape. No
bleeding! Things look really healthy in there.”
So… I had proved that flossing does make a difference.
But more than: After doing something for approximately 182
days, for whatever reason, solidified this habit. I literally cannot go to
sleep now without flossing!
When you look at a habit as a scientific experiment or a
challenge, this can awaken a more logical side of your brain (totally not a neuroscientist here, but this
is my theory). For me, I activated my curiosity and competitiveness. If I
could prove once and for all whether flossing every night really impacted my
dental health, then I could put this issue to bed forever.
Next time you want to create a habit in your life, think about it as a personal challenge. Approach it logically, gather the data and aim to prove someone WRONG. (Tweet this!)
While I might be a branding expert with years of experience in consulting and marketing, when I started out in 2008, I was not an expert at running a business. I cobbled together my operations and processes over the years.
Since then, I’ve learned a lot about running a business and working for myself. And that includes slowly finding many of the tools I use to run my business on a daily basis.
If you’re wondering what tools, software or apps might help your business run just a bit more smoothly, let me share my 5y favorite go-to’s with you.Full disclosure: A few of the links below are affiliate links, so if you decide to buy, we both win. You can trust me: I personally use everything on this list, almost on a daily basis!
LeadPages has changed my life. Yes, I used to build pages off my website and add a clunky little button and have to manage and maintain it, etc. I finally broke down a few years ago and quite simply, I can’t imagine being it. Landing pages are a breeze. Especially since the best performing landing pages are simple and uncluttered. You can add your branding and make them your own. A must if you want to build your email list and quickly and easily get new subscribers with different campaigns. I also use their Campaigns functionality, which operates as a shopping cart and integrates with Stripe (see Payment Processors below)
You’d better not be sending marketing emails from your personal email list and BCC’ing everyone – you’ll end up on a spam blacklist! Get thee to an email marketing platform immediately. While MailChimp is free for simple uses for under 2000 subs, I pay for Aweber now and have for several years. I need more list flexibility than MailChimp provides. Their service is the best. I can ask them anything and immediately get help. Truthfully, I’ve had some issues with more complex tasks and being able to route different funnels to the same list, but they are adding functionality all the time.
Social Media Posting:
I use Buffer to schedule my social media posts in advance. I’d like to say I was uber efficient and plan way ahead with a fully stocked queue at all time, but alas. I’m working on it. But when I do think ahead, I can easily schedule posts for Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest. They also offer Instagram. I don’t recommend using them for Facebook, as the Facebook algorithm dings you when you schedule with 3rd party apps (use Facebook’s native schedule for that). But Buffer is great if you plan in advance, want to set up promoting a colleague’s campaign, or even for when you are on vacation. I like to spend about 10-15 minutes stocking up my queue each week. But remember to still get on social media live every now and then to interact. It’s SOCIAL, people. Don’t just phone it in all the time!
Social Media Drip Campaigns:
I think I discovered Missing Lettr from another person’s blog post about productivity tools! Missing Lettr hooks up to your blog and when you publish a new post, it automatically sets up a year-long drip campaign. You can approve and edit all of the campaign posts, but once you do, BAM! You re-promote your content for an entire year without thinking about it. And it let’s you do some cool things, like create speech bubble images, which I kind of love. A huge promotional time-saver.
I use a few tools for this. PayPal is my standard for both taking and sending payments. It’s what I started out with. And you can set up subscription payments with them as well. But…I’ve started using Stripe for digital products because there is better integration for some marketing funnels I put together. Since I’m less familiar with it, I haven’t quite figured it out as easily as PayPal…but my VA knows, so that’s all that matters! And when I sell books onsite at an event, I use Square on my iPad or phone.
Email marketing? Landing pages? Social Media sharing? Check out @redslice’s 5 go-to tech tools that run her consulting and online business! (TWEET THIS!)
Previously in Part 2 of the Red Slice origin story…
My entrepreneurial journey – and my life- came screeching to a halt when I almost died from a ruptured brain aneurysm.There are just some crises you can’t build into your business plan! But, guess what? The sky didn’t fall. In fact, it opened up to a whole new way of living and doing business that would change me forever – and can hopefully change you for the better, too.
OK, so I’d survived a ruptured brain aneurysm. It was amazing to me how quickly people can rally around you after a crisis and pick up the slack. Armed with moxie, and a healthy dose of ignorance about the severity of it all, I thought I’d be back to work in seven weeks, when in reality, it took many months to focus on healing, recovery and therapy.
I had to overcome quite a few cognitive deficits: information overwhelm, prioritization, short-term memory, even vocabulary recall. All perfectly normal after-effects–and all skills I needed to do my work.
In addition, I lacked confidence to jump back into my life again. My hair had been shaved off, my eyesight was temporarily impaired and I was still regaining my strength. My husband, God love him, was my rock through it all. But he was not going to be able to jump-start me back to work.
Finally, after about six months (which is a miraculous timeframe for this type of injury), I was ready to dip my toe back into work and rebuild my business. But how to do it?
Networking again played a key role. The connections I’d worked so hard to build, both professionally and personally, saved me. I had to get comfortable asking for help–and see it as a sign of strength and resourcefulness, not weakness. People wanted to help. So I asked people to drive me places, accompany me to events, and get me back out there. I decided that if I started acting brave, maybe I’d start feeling brave–and I needed cheerleading and support or I’d lose my nerve all together. Had I not spent the time to build and nurture that community, before I needed it, I’d have been in a world of pain.
And soon, my network spread the word that I was back in the game and ready for action again.
LESSON ONE: Build your community and tribe before you need it. Tend to it. Nurture it. If you start only when you need it, it’s already too late. (Tweet!)
A NEW APPROACH, BUSINESS MODEL + SUCCESS
Fast forwarding through recovery, I started the difficult task of embracing the New Me. My brain now worked overtime on tasks that had once come easy to me so I had to adapt and find new strategies. What would this mean to my work, which was all about my IP and executive brain functions? My therapists suggested choosing a simple, structured project to start.
Which I did not heed. My first project back was unstructured and complicated. I cried daily.
But I got through it and gained confidence back in the process. Networking continued to help me get my name back out there. I ran a few workshops with a colleague. I started blogging and guest writing articles again. And slowly but surely, folks realized Red Slice was back.
During this “gentle” time of figuring things out and taking on limited clients, I finally got serious about writing a book, a dream I’d had since I was a little girl. Having this time to chase long-procrastinated dreams was a gift. I’m not sure I would have otherwise taken the time.
Soon, I published my first book and started booking more business. Client work was still a struggle, but I surrounded myself with understanding partners who helped me with some of my deficits on the back end.
In the next two years, I took on some big projects. At one point, I had a dream project with a software company…and simultaneously, a hellacious project with another big company. I finally realized that my passion was for the early strategic phase, where I could ferret out big insights and package them into an amazing brand strategy and story.
The rest of the project, however, was less fun. I basically functioned as a project manager, overseeing implementation. This phase made me want to poke my eyes out.
A wise coach gave me permission. She said, “If you don’t like doing that work, Maria, stop doing it!” And that was it. I was free! I revamped my messaging, repackaged my offerings to just focus on brand strategy and upped my rates. I was happy to give client’s a firm foundation and then refer out the tactical work so I could move on.
It was scary to narrow my focus to attract the right clients and do the work I love. But, hey, it was advice I’d been giving my clients all this time–I just hadn’t followed it myself!
And guess what happened?More of the right clients came to my door, I was happier, more relaxed and working from my heart.
Life’s too short to do work you hate. And it’s downright insane if you as an entrepreneur are the one deciding which work you do!
LESSON TWO: Don’t be afraid to focus, reinvent and make your business work for YOU (Tweet!)
BETTER PRIORITIZATION…ON AND OFF THE FIELD
This life-changing event not only transformed my work but my life. I was no longer the same person I was before the aneurysm. I couldn’t possibly be.
It wasn’t just having a “near-death experience” or even the psychological and cognitive changes that occurred due to the injury. Powerful lessons punched me dead in the face so there was no way I couldn’t pay attention.
I had always wanted my work to be more meaningful and now I had the chance to change lives. After much cajoling from others, I was finally ready to share my experience and lessons learned through a book. It was my heart’s mission and responsibility to take my amazing recovery and help others who were not so lucky. I wrote Rebooting My Brain in late 2011 and suddenly found myself playing the role of brain injury awareness advocate, speaking and volunteering to represent the patient point of view.
My cognitive challenges forced me to make significant work (and life) changes. I had no choice but to learn how to better focus on one thing at a time, stay present, and go easy on myself. My fatigue and overwhelm would not allow for manic multitasking and overscheduling anymore.
Wow. “Be present.” “Focus.” “Leave breathing room in your schedule.”
Not a bad way to live, let alone work, eh?
All of these changes led to a flourishing business once again. I built a solid reputation, enjoyed national media appearances, and published more books. And I even found a way, despite the high-risk due to my health issues, to have my first child at 41 years old, a beautiful baby boy.
So where are things right now?
Life is full. Somehow, someway, I managed to accomplish many of the goals I had set for myself way back when. I just got to them through a slightly delayed and circuitous route than expected!
Every day, I’m still learning and growing. I’ve added MOMENTUM, an exclusive coaching program to my offerings (Check it out! It starts October 6!), and am working on my next book. And I’m enjoying every precious moment with my husband, son, family and friends.
If only I could go back and tell that eager beaver to just relax. Everything you want can fall into place eventually, no matter what curveballs life throws at you.
I’ve learned that if you focus on your strengths, rather than defining yourself by your weaknesses, you can find creative ways to get to your goals in the end.
LESSON THREE: Despite setbacks, focus on your strengths + find new ways to your goals (Tweet!)
Did you enjoy my origin story? What was the most valuable lesson you can apply to your own life and work? Tweet me @redslice or comment on my Facebook page and use #BIZORIGIN to let me know!
Previously in Part 1 of the Red Slice origin story…
After leaving the security of corporate comfort, I embarked on my consulting business in my new home city of Seattle. Savvy, authentic networking and a rock-solid brand strategy accelerated my early growth, resulting in wonderfully interesting small business clients and a lucrative corporate gig.
If you missed Part 1, including my three powerful lessons learned, read it here.
Get ready for Part 2!
SURROUNDING MYSELF WITH EXPERTS
Having alwaysbeen surrounded by structure and process, the free-fall of entrepreneurship felt like fumbling around in the dark–every day. Quickly, I tried to get my legal and financial ducks in a row. Do I need to register as an S-Corp or LLC? What kinds of taxes do I need to pay? How do I manage my invoices and expenses? Ugh.
A new lawyer friend hooked me up with her firm for invaluable legal advice that should have cost thousands but didn’t and so I got the right counsel on risks and requirements I didn’t even know about. They developed my contracts at a bargain price and I filed for an LLC by downloading a free PDF online called, “How to File for a Washington LLC.” The paperwork. The tax requirements. The fees. It was all so damn confusing.
I promptly hired an accountant to help me with everything financial. Nothing fancy, she helped me set up my first QuickBooks and educated me almost weekly on what I needed to know. It felt like every day, I came up with more questions on how this whole “business ownership” thing worked. And I majored in business!
LESSON ONE: No one is an island, nor an expert in everything. Stop trying to be a hero and ask for help from experts who know better. (Tweet!)
Nothing paralyzes new business owners like pricing. I knew what similar consultants charged for my corporate client base, and I was comfortable with that rate because those clients have budget. But for my second client segment, small businesses and entrepreneurs, it was a different story. I had to figure out how to serve them with offerings that would still give me a healthy profit for my expertise and time.
I admit I didn’t do a very good job of this at first. At the time, my business model was that of a virtual agency. I would hire subcontractors to help me complete all aspects of a brand project. But I was horrible at project cost estimation and factoring in their rates, as well as the right markup. So once again, I turned to others: Experienced consultants who generously shared their spreadsheets with me; Partners who educated me on this new (to me) market; Ideal clients, who openly shared their budget realities with me.
It took me awhile to land on the right rates and project proposals. I seemed to underestimate how long everything would take me and then never billed those extra hours to the client. Many of my subcontractors made more money than I did from my projects! My nagging self-doubt made me undervalue my expertise and give too much away. I mean, I loved this stuff. It came easy for me, as I’d been doing it for close to 15 years at the time.
I had to learn that value is not about physical time and effort, but the results the client ultimately reaps. What is the impact on their business? My work often results in clients’ increasing their sales and/or saving thousands of dollars in wasted time and effort, not to mention softer benefits such as strategic alignment, message clarity, market awareness, and re-igniting their passion–surely this meaningful work should be valued accordingly. It was a tough lesson to learn, but I’m so glad I did.
LESSON TWO: Your expertise is valuable. Even if it comes easy to you. If someone else needs it to move forward, you have the right to be compensated well for it (Tweet!)
THE BRAND BUILDS… AND THEN CRISIS HITS
There I was, cranking away on my big corporate client and talking to others. It was big impact work that paid well, but I really fell in love with small business entrepreneurs. I had always enjoyed the San Francisco start-up vibe and many of these folks had that same drive–but for work that also fed their souls. The boutique owner. The cupcake shop. The jewelry designer. The life coach. The leadership consultant. The photographer. They all inspired me! I longed to find a way to make this client segment more profitable in some way. In the meantime, I was making a name for myself, attending networking events, writing online articles and doing a few (unpaid) speaking engagements. I started an email newsletter, and began blogging regularly. People began to recognize my brand! Sure, I had to write many proposals for work that never went anywhere, but the point was that Red Slice was gaining traction.
Added to this new business, I was still trying to do it all: yoga, acting, making new friends, seeing the sights of my new home city, writing freelance wine articles. We were brand-new, first-time homeowners and just adopted a dog. I clearly remember confiding to my bestie, a coach for women entrepreneurs: “It’s all great stuff, but I just feel more overwhelmed and stressed than ever!” And she said, “Maria, you thrive on change but I think even you have hit your limit. Then she shared this gem…
LESSON THREE: “You can do it all but you don’t have to do it all RIGHT NOW!” (Tweet!)
But by then, it was too late. It all came crashing down.
After a theatre audition, I was struck by a blinding, sudden headache that was like a drill boring into my skull. My neck and back muscles seized up, nausea flooded me and I had no idea what was happening. After collecting myself, I promptly made a doctor’s appointment. He chalked it up to all the stress and advised me to monitor my blood pressure daily, do physical therapy, yoga and acupuncture and report back to him in about a month.
Did I pull back? No. Silly, right? The yoga, acupuncture and PT just became more to-do’s on my list. I suffered from a few debilitating migraines over the next month and planned to go see the doctor again – when I had time. And then, I collapsed, unconscious on the bathroom floor. Luckily, my husband saved my life by calling 911. Or I’d be dead.
A ruptured brain aneurysm had brought all my business–and life–plans to halt.
I won’t bore you with the details, as a) I wrote a book about this and b) spoiler alert: I survived. What I will say is that some sort of crisis WILL hit your life or your business; something random for which you can never, ever prepare.
It happened to me. Even though clients needed deliverables and my task list was not complete. Even though I thought it was ALL SO IMPORTANT.
And guess what? The sky didn’t fall.
The sky actually opened up. It opened up a whole new way of living, relating and doing my work in the world – and you can learn to do the same.
Tune in for Part Three to learn how I revved up my business again and then reinvented itto better suit my life…right here!
Like this origin story so far? What major setbacks has your business faced? Tweet me @redslice or comment on my Facebook page and use #BIZORIGIN to let me know!
Starting a business is not easy. Maintaining it for over nine years (gasp!) can be downright unbelievable. People always ask me, “How did you start?”
Recently, I cleared out some old folders and came across every yearly plan from 2008 on. As one does when decluttering, I got lost in nostalgia, chuckling to myself about all the things I thought I knew – and how far I’d come.
Inspired, I decided to share with you a three-part look at THE RED SLICE ORIGIN STORY and the valuable lessons that can also help your business grow. Full credit for this idea goes to my friend, Melissa Cassera, who recently published a spine-tingling blog mini-series about her business start.
Please sit back, grab some popcorn (or a lovely Cabernet) and learn from my entrepreneurial adventure!
THE SEEDS OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP ARE SOWN
2006. Newly married, I was living in San Francisco and directing global marketing campaigns for a billion-dollar software company. Corporate life was all I’d ever known, working at a big consulting firm, a small ad agency, and a multinational entertainment powerhouse. In 1999, I’d come to SF to chase the dot.com dream and did my first stint at a (failed) startup, which was the riskiest thing I’d ever done. But I was still working for someone else for a steady paycheck and full benefits and had never known life without such security.
My creative urges had led me back into acting and writing, alongside my day job. I landed (unpaid) gigs writing food and wine articles (yum) for local magazines and websites, and soon began my own blog. I wanted to write about many things: theatre, business, culture, marketing, wine, food, film…there were so many facets to my personality. I named this personal blog Red Slice, to represent this redhead’s many “slices” of interest. It was liberating to express my creativity again. Like I had come home to myself.
Right before I got married, I left my big global firm to be a marketing director for a smaller software company. My amazing team and I remain great friends to this day. But the company itself left a bit to be desired. I was restless.
In 2007, we moved to Seattle for my husband’s job. By then, you must understand, I had lived through three layoffs during the tech bust. I no longer viewed “working for someone else” as the secure proposition I once did. Rocked by my experiences, I expanded my career thinking. I was also getting older and really fed up with corporate political B.S. Most of my time and energy was spent on bureaucratic B.S, rather than doing actual good work.
I flirted with consulting and daydreamed aboutworking with clients Iliked, doing work I loved. While I’d done freelance consulting between layoffs, permanent entrepreneurship was not in my blood. My two grandfathers, both Italian immigrants, had owned businesses at one stage or another, but my dad had sailed steady, loving his decades-long engineering career with the same firm. Stability was everything to me.
Luckily, my small software company kindly allowed me to work from Seattle. As this extrovert adjusted to working on my own, setting (mostly) my own hours, an addiction formed. A freedom addiction.
LESSON #1: Leading a life where you call the shots and every ounce of work you do benefits YOU is positively addictive. There is no freedom quite like entrepreneurial freedom, even though you’re working harder than you ever have in your life. (TWEET!)
For fun in my off-hours, I built a crappy little consulting website in GoDaddy and, naturally, called it Red Slice. I liked the name: It stood out from the crowd, intrigued people and also had a double meaning of helping my clients’ brands stand out, like anything “red” often does. I would offer clients “slices” of services to fit their needs.
Then, fate gave me a big push. In early 2008, my company laid off the entire marketing department in prep for a sale. The day we got the final notice, I flipped the switch on the crappy website and sent an email to everyone I knew: Red Slice, the marketing and brand consultancy was born!
NAILING MY BRAND, FINDING MY VOICE
While the visuals were horrendous, I focused more on the brand strategy and the messaging, naturally! I wanted a fresh, focused, innovative brand and to offer my full breadth of skills earned from many years in communications, branding and marketing. I got to say what I wanted to say, in my own sassy voice, without corporate jargon. #Freedom.
A treasured agency contact from my corporate days offered to design me a better website for free, and his team came up with the fruit imagery you see today. While my website has evolved since then, they nailed it on their very first design because I had done a great job of articulating my brand strategy, value and vibe before they even got started. Some old corporate colleagues scoffed that clients “wouldn’t take me seriously” if I mentioned my writing and acting on my business website. I doubted myself, but bravely stood my ground: I wanted my brand to showcase my unique blend of practical business savvy and playful creativity.
LESSON #2: Nail down your brand strategy before you even think about a logo, website or marketing tactics – unless you like wasting hours of time, burning piles of money (TWEET!)
NETWORKING PAYS OFF
Lacking any sort of professional Seattle network, I joined a Ladies Who Launch incubator. There, I met a ton of cool, smart women, including Melody, the woman who’d become a dear friend, brainstorming partner and personal escort into the world of independent business owners – a client base I’d never even considered. She got me my very first small client!
I asked friends to introduce me to folks they knew in Seattle and met them on coffee blind dates. I networked like crazy with the few other contacts I DID have, and it got me into meetings to eventually become a subcontractor for a consulting firm doing work at Microsoft. So two months into my new venture, I had a super fun small business client and a large, well-paying corporate client.
LESSON #3: Networking is your biggest business booster and it doesn’t have to be icky. It should be part of any marketing plan. Network with people you genuinely like and who knows what doors will open (TWEET!)
I quickly realized that the large project put me right back into corporate bureaucracy again so I began exploring the small business community. It was like discovering this wonderful subculture I never knew existed when I was in my corporate bubble.
But that exploration came to a screeching halt when, just eight months into my new business, crisis struck.
Nothing would ever be the same…
Tune in for Part Two to learn what nearly crushed me and my business for good..right here!
Like this origin story? How did your business start out? Tweet me @redslice or comment on my Facebook page and use #BIZORIGIN to let me know!
Every night, I do crossword puzzles for a little while before bed. Thank goodness for Kindle and it’s practically unlimited apps! Crosswords help me transition from daily stress into nighttime serenity. My husband totally gets why I have to keep the light on at least twenty more minutes after he turns in.
Every day, I switch mental gears and recharge by watching game shows. I eat lunch while watching my recording of the previous night’s Jeopardy! No matter what craziness is going on with my work, game shows help me use different parts of my brain, embrace my inner competitor and have a little fun.
When I had my brain injury in 2008, puzzles and games were big parts of my rehab. They helped me get my cognitive edge back and sped up my brain gears to react faster. I am convinced that if I had not discovered Lumosity or returned to my word games and crossword puzzles, my recovery would have taken longer and been less effective.
These games helped me unstick my brain from neutral into drive. Conversely, at night, they helped me downshift my busy-bee mind into park.
It’s common knowledge that sleep is the key to mental acuity and brain health. When the stresses of the day bear down on you too much, and that hamster just won’t get off its wheel, find out what you need to untangle your anxious thoughts so you can be healthy, happy and more creative.
We all need to untangle our brains. At night, we need to do so for sound sleep. By day, we need to unstick our brains to tackle tough challenges andfind new, creative ideas.
Studies show that our brains work best and generate new ideas when we use different parts of them. A 2015 University of Haifa study showed: The researchers hypothesized that for a creative idea to be produced, the brain must activate a number of different – and perhaps even contradictory – networks.
Find ways to untangle your brain and make them a part of your daily habits and nighttime rituals. If you can master this, you will be happier, healthier, AND more present, productive and creative.
It’s that time of year again, when the trees bud, the air warms (at least if you’re not in Seattle) and we start to shed our winter cloaks in lieu of open-toed shoes and lighter fabrics. Freeing ourselves from the unwanted weight of heavy parkas and wool mittens feels pretty darn good.
And with that, we also crave shedding some of the crap in our lives with a healthy dose of spring cleaning.
Removing the clutter and streamlining our lives applies equally to our businesses and brands. When we’re lighter and unencumbered, we can better focus and stop clogging our time, brains and business with the things that don’t matter. So here’s a handy guide to how to perform such much needed spring cleaning on your business – but these can equally apply to your life:
Conduct an Audit
What really needs to stay or go? Has your menu of offerings turned into an endless buffet that only serves to confuse customers and distract your focus? Review your current business offerings and keep the ones making you money, while removing the deadwood of those that don’t. Why waste your time and your prospects’ attention on products or offerings that just take up space?
This audit can also apply to your brand. Which messages no longer serve your or your customer’s purpose? Does your website look stale and dated? Has your brand evolved beyond what your materials are currently saying about it? Set aside time and review everything your customers see with a keen eye, and get objective advice on how to clarify, update or tighten up your brand look, feel, message and differentiation.
Review your Partnerships
Sometimes we form business partnerships when it makes perfect sense but things change. Review your best referral sources, from where website traffic comes and perhaps even your affiliate partners. Run the numbers and the time spent and see if you’re getting the most out of these relationships. If there are relationships worth keeping, spend more attention making them really work for you. If they are not fruitful, release the deadwood and clear your mind, budget and schedule. You want to focus on fewer, more meaningful and higher quality partnerships that build you up, instead of sap your strength. PS: This exercise applies to networking groups and social media networks as well.
Clear the Clutter
Is your file system a disaster? Does your inbox overflow? Do you still have digital files from years ago that serve no purpose but to eat up storage space? Take a day to streamline and organize your systems to help make you more efficient in running your business. Consult with a personal organizer if you have trouble letting go. And speaking of systems, take a look at your business procedures and see where you can increase efficiency. Does billing clients take way too long? Do you spend too much time creating that monthly newsletter or managing your calendar? Document the tasks that are not a good use of your time and hire a virtual assistant or consult with an operations expert on how to manage your business better so you can spend more time being brilliant.
What “deadwood” is your business carrying around? What one thing will you do this spring to make your brand clearer, your load lighter and your business more efficient? Please share in the Comments.
Do you think Sales is a four-letter word? Well, Matt Heinz can help you break it down into something manageable, repeatable and effective. I sat down recently to grill him on his new book, Successful Selling: How to Attract, Manage, Close & Keep More Business in a Buyer-Centric World, The book answers questions like: What are the secrets to unlocking more sales at a lower cost? How do you match your sales strategy with the way your customers want to buy? Where do you spend your time to build the biggest-possible sales pipeline? How do you close more business when your buyer is in control?
Matt is a sales pro, bringing more than 12 years of marketing, business development and sales experience from a variety of organizations, vertical industries and company sizes. His focus has been on delivering measurable results for clients in the way of greater sales, revenue growth, product success and customer loyalty.
We talked about sales, productivity and the challenges of moving beyond just the founder’s networks when doing business. And I realized how much of what I teach clients about branding applies to selling effectively – which is ultimately what good branding is all about: making more sales.
RS: Do you think company size matters when it comes to who faces sales challenges?
MH: Actually, companies of different sizes, industries and stages often have the same three fundamental problems when executing their sales & marketing efforts.
One, most often, there’s not enough customer focus. The sales process is created and driven by how the company wants to manage sales, not based on how the customer buys.
Two, many companies also don’t have a consistent sales process they’re following across the organization. Without consistency, it’s impossible to predict future revenue and scale those efforts to new markets.
Third, few companies evolve their sales & marketing enough as their customers, markets and competition change the playing field. The best sales & marketing organizations in the world (at companies big and small) are constantly testing, evolving and measuring what they’re doing.
RS: Adaptation seems to be everyone’s weakest link, doesn’t it?! Let’s move on to productivity: You talk about quite time-saving tools in your book. Do you feel time management is the biggest barrier to effective selling?
MH: No, but it’s an important part of reaching your optimum velocity. Whether you make 40 calls or 80 calls a day isn’t necessarily going to help you sell more if your message doesn’t hit the mark with your target customer. The biggest outcome of productivity focus is eliminating the constant distractions that surround us every day. Know what you need to do, focus on it, and eliminate the majority of things that would otherwise take your time. If you effectively measure the impact and outcome of your activities, you can then predict the impact of doing more of that activity on sales and revenue. And that expected outcome can become a motivator to stay focused (yourself and your team) moving forward.
RS: Having worked both in both B2B and B2C, I hear conflicting opinions about who “has it easier.” Do you feel B2B vs. B2C companies need to nurture leads differently?
MH: The tactics may be different – B2B companies can often afford to spend more based on the average sales price per customer, for example – but the fundamentals are the same. Whether you’re selling to a business or an individual (and in both cases, you’re really selling to people anyway), the vast majority of qualified prospects will not be ready to buy. Right person, right company, not ready. If you assume they’re going to be in the market eventually, your primary job is to be in front of them at the right time. A good nurture program builds value with the prospective buyer so that they want to continue hearing from you. This increases your overall awareness, allows you to continue a frequent line of communication, and will significantly increase your ability to win the business when the prospect is finally ready to make a move.
RS: If someone reading this is starting from a standstill and has absolutely no sales process or standard tools whatsoever, what do you recommend their actual first step be?
MH: Two things, both related.
First, identify your target customer. Get specific, and narrow. Get to know them inside and out – who they are, where they are, what background or motivations or needs bring them to the market, who and what influences them, etc.
Second, use that knowledge to map your sales & marketing strategy specifically to how your customers want to buy. The best marketers today are simply walking alongside their customers as they navigate their own path to purchase – providing advice and value, building reputation and trust and credibility along the way.
You can use this customer understanding and practical purchase-path knowledge to build the tactics, tools and processes necessary to effectively serve the customer, and scale your ability to do it with more and more customers moving forward.
RS: What advice do you have for companies that rely on the founder’s reputation and networks for new business and want to move to a more scalable, repeatable sales model?
MH: Figure out what it is that makes the founder’s system so effective, and systematize it. Build it into the DNA of the organization. Document it, measure it, and moving forward iterate on it to improve it. Michael Gerber talks about treating every small business as the prototype of a franchise. Even if you’re not planning on opening dozens of branch offices, assume that you will. How do you replicate and scale what worked in the beginning so that 1) you can scale, and 2) you can (as a founder) separate yourself directly from the ongoing success of the business?
**Full Disclosure: The link to Matt’s book is through my Amazon Affiliate Program. But wouldn’t recommend the book if I didn’t love it and believe you will get incredible value from it.