Local Biz Needs a Lift

A new report just out indicates that as a single state, Arizona has lost over 250K jobs since June 2006…but the Housing Market finally looks as though it is going to improve. (We are all holding our breath on this one…)

The news is pretty similar to everyone around the country, local biz, large and small, is suffering.

As I go out and interview small biz owners in the community here, many of them are really working to keep their people employed, but admit that it is hard to provide all the hours that their employees want or need.

Remember to shop locally.  Even when you can spend a little bit less because you don’t have to pay sales tax, those dollars spent locally can mean the difference between someone keeping or losing their job.

I’ve even managed to change the thinking of immediate family members, by talking up the “shop local” idea.  Most folks don’t understand just how difficult it is to keep our economy going, especially when we’re all trying to stretch our hard earned dollars by shopping for bargains. Some of the bargains are found in the big box stores, and sometimes it just doesn’t make sense to pay a large percentage more.

Next time, try this, go to a local store owner and tell them your dilemma.  You want to shop locally, but their price for a specific item is just too high.  See if the good old “let’s make a deal” method can give you a better price than you would have gotten, and your local shop owner made a sale.

Remember, it’s our local economy we need to worry about, so keeping our money local is critical!

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Persuasian – Your Customer Buys the WHOLE Package!

Sometimes we have to get back to basics.

What does your client or customer expect when they meet you to do business?  They expect someone who is an expert in their field, someone who can answer questions, has a skill set that they don’t have, and has the confidence to carry out any directives.

Recently I heard about an extreme example about first impressions, and while it might have a place in the opening pages of a novel, it has no place in a business setting.  Let’s say your first introduction to a person is meeting them while they are covered with mud, wearing boots, jeans, Stetson, etc.  All the clothing is top quality, but it is rumpled, messed, and dirty.  You’ve just met your new doctor.

What’s your impression?

Do you have confidence in this person?  Do you believe that they have the necessary skills to help you? They could be the most skilled surgeon in a five state area, but your initial impression leaves you doubting their abilities.

A very extreme example, to be sure, but don’t you see how hard it would be to take this individual seriously as a neurosurgeon?  It doesn’t matter that he may also be a rancher.  His/her first impression leaves a lot to be desired, and no matter how skilled he is, it will be an uphill battle to get you to believe it.

Wouldn’t it?

If you have ever read the book Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, you will understand why people can sum you up in less than a second.  If you are anything less than genuine in your business dealings, they will know it.  They won’t know why they don’t trust you, but we all go with our gut feeling.

The question remains, are you doing everything you possibly can to make a good impression? I know it almost seems impertinent to point out that you need to be well dressed and well groomed, but we all tend to forget to really look at ourselves in the mirror when we get ready in the morning.  We put on the same clothes we’ve always put on (hint: this is an indicator your wardrobe needs updating).

We might style or comb our hair the way we have for years, (and it’s always worked for us, right?)

Shoes…briefcase…even your car gives an impression about you.

Is it the one you want to portray?

If not, then it’s time to make a change. If you’re not sure, pretend that you’re going to meet the President of the United States, or the Queen of England.  Would you spruce anything up?  If so, why are your customers any less important? You’re probably not going to be doing business with the President, or with the Queen, but to treat your customers with any lesser courtesy is to do both you and them a disservice.

Let’s start with you. When was the last time you had a hairstyle change? Bought a few new articles of clothing? Look at  your hands…are your nails well groomed?

Even though most people don’t look directly at everything, they will “thin-slice” you, and make a determination about you based on what they see. Make sure it is the professional look you intend for them to see. I recently talked with a woman who was worried about her husband…he had been removed from his position as a leader of a team and moved into the position as leader of another team that was perceived as less important and not really in production yet.  In order to help his self-esteem, she insisted that he get new clothes, focusing on dominant and powerful impressions.  He decided to grow a beard, and when she saw a lot of gray hair in it, she helped him to dye it strategically to present a youthful appearance, yet with the “grey-back” signature of experience on it.

Guess what happened!

The move that was to put him on the sidelines instead catapulted him to the top of his game.  The new people he was dealing with saw a confident, well-dressed, well-groomed man who had the presence, skills, and knowledge they were hoping for.  They were afraid their program was a step-child, and instead when this man appeared, they believed that they had been given a true leader.

What would have happened if this man had gone into this new position as a lackluster shadow of himself? If he’d worn his tired old clothes, once very nice, but certainly worn, grey hair, and a lack of confidence? Certainly not what is happening to him today!  The program, once thought of as the step-child by the entire corporation has taken on a life of its own. The team is coming alive with renewed vigor and inspiration.  What everyone had written off as a lost cause is now the “new and improved version of the company”.

Don’t EVER neglect to notice what your first impression is with your business. It can make or break you.  If you have to save one or two sets of good clothes for when you meet clients, then do so!  Get your hair styled and/or colored.  If you wear facial hair, is it well groomed and in the most becoming fashion?

When you are in the business of persuasion (i.e. selling), your clients and customers are buying the entire package…

…and that includes you!

Telling vs. Selling

Many retailers make the mistake of thinking that they’re selling when all they’re doing is showing the customer an item.

Selling involves asking discovery questions of your client or customer.  What are they looking for? Why? How will it help them? Will it improve an aspect of their life?

Then you also try to discover what they are not looking for, what they do not want. If you don’t ask, you might be assuming, and we all know where that takes us!

When you take the time to discover what your customer or client wants, you can then sell them on the product by showing how it will solve their problem, make them look good, and feel that you’re doing them a favor rather than trying to sell them something they either don’t want or don’t need.

What Makes for a Good Entrepreneur?

There are a lot of “beliefs” about what makes for a good entrepreneur. Here’s a great article talking about the 5 Myths About Entrepreneurs that should either support or dispel most of them.

Are you an entrepreneur?  Or are you a victim of circumstance? Did you choose the biz you’re in or did it somehow choose you?

Some might say that doesn’t matter, but I think deep down, everyone knows that it does matter.  Some of us find ourselves running a business that we somehow inherited, and we’re not really even sure we like it.

The problem is, if you don’t like it, your lack of passion and interest can impact how your clients and customers see you and your business.  So you’re going to have to ask yourself a really hard question: “Do I stay in this business or not?”

If you decide to stay in the business, then you somehow have to figure out how to fall in love with it and your clients and customers. Is there a micro-niche that you could serve that would be more interesting to you than those you currently serve?

Could you put a slightly different spin on the business, making it uniquely your own? Can you educate yourself about your business, products, and clientele so that you become the expert they’re looking for?  Once people begin to come to you as the expert, helping them to solve their problems, you might change how you view yourself and your business.

If, however, you answered, “No!” to the above question…the why are you still in business?  You really should either sell the business, or get someone else to run or manage it for you, because your lack of interest and desire to run it will eventually drive it into a slow death spiral.  Without that spark of entrepreneurial enthusiasm, innovative thinking, and deep interest, the business is lifeless.  Your clients and customers know that, too.

This isn’t something you need to decide in the time it takes to read this article. But you do need to do some heavy thinking. Seek guidance from someone who is not financially or emotionally involved in the business.  A business coach is a good place to start to see if you are in the right place, or if you need to make some big changes in your life.

Scary thought, but in the long run, life’s too short to do something you hate for the rest of your life.