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Useful tools, tips and strategies to help your business learn, develop and expand.

The Powerful Opening Gambit in Power Negotiation

During the first quarter of the year especially, as a business owner you may find yourself positioning and negotiating prices with suppliers and clients.

The ones who are going to be most successful are those who have learned the gambits of power negotiation. Not just negotiation, but power negotiation.

Let me explain what power negotiation means, and share with you the powerful opening gambit that savvy business owners are using on the negotiating table…

This strategy is just one of the many power negotiation techniques that I have been teaching to my clients. These strategies are usually extremely simple, but many business owners just haven’t been told yet that they exist.

A few simple changes and you could be picking up money that’s being left on the negotiating table.

Prefer to read rather than watch and listen? No problem – here’s everything I said in the video as text:

Hi, this is Shweta from London Coaching Group. What I’m going to talk about today is Power Negotiation. In fact, just this week, I had a very interesting workshop with my clients where we discussed how to go about negotiating with suppliers with clients, because as you can imagine being the start of the year, there are suppliers who are positioning price increases to clients or vice versa. So one needs to be comfortable with the whole negotiation, understand the strategies, the gambits, the moves.

Difference between Negotiation and Power Negotiation

So the workshop was pretty cool, I wish I could cover all the strategies that we talked about, but I do want to talk about one core, fundamental, in fact opening gambit that you need to be aware of. And again, it’s very simple, very common sense scope, but many people miss out on this. So first things first, the difference between negotiation and power negotiation is, basically, in both you have to win at the negotiating table, that is the objective. But in power negotiation, you make the other person feel that they have actually won. So it’s the feeling that you leave the other person with, right? So they should want to actually come back and negotiate more with you, though you’re the one who has actually met his or her objectives. So that’s the first thing.

Now in power negotiation, the first bidders that always ask for more than expected, that’s the first thing. That’s the first thing, and I’m sure you’ll be like “Yeah, that’s how it should be.” Now, the question really is, how much more? Right? Now for that to happen, you need to understand something called “Bracketing”.

What is Bracketing?

Now for Bracketing to come into function, again, another rule in power negotiation is that you have to ensure that it’s the other person who is stating his or her position to you first. That’s really important, because if that’s not happening, then pretty much you will lose out in the negotiation process. So for example, there is a buyer who is willing to pay, say, twenty thousand for your service. Ok? Just as an example. Wherein in your mind you knew that you should be looking at around twenty four thousand and now you have made the buyer state his or her position, and the person has told you that he or she is willing to pay twenty thousand pounds for your services, but you want to be at twenty four thousand. So that’s the first step.

Then you need to bracket your position. What that means is, that now what you state, your opening position should be equally distant, in the direction where you want to be, right? So in this case the difference between where you want to be and the price that’s been offered by the buyer is four thousand, so you go in the other direction, four more thousand, which is twenty eight thousand, right? So your opening position becomes twenty eight thousand and now the negotiation range is from twenty thousand to twenty eight thousand. If you are following the gambits, and the right moves, and the right strategies, then most probably you’ll land somewhere very close to twenty four thousand, hopefully on a higher side.

So I hope that makes sense. That why it’s important to make the other person state his or her position first, because if that doesn’t happen you cannot bracket. And how you need to bracket your own objective, and then let the game begin.

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Stop Being an Elf

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Everyone knows that Santa gets his job done with a bit of help. It has become common for many businesses to don a little elf hat and help old Saint Nick deliver some gifts to their customers – especially those who are on the “nice” list!

Even if you are not doing it to help the man in the big red suit, it is still a great time of year to celebrate positive relationships – and that includes your business ones.

However, there is a really big opportunity being missed when businesses send out gifts at Christmas time…

While the end of the year is a great time to express your gratitude to clients, why are you only doing this once a year?

We already know that your sales process benefits from having a certain number of step. Equally, when you make the right number of touch points throughout the year with your clients, you can create even closer relationships with them and maintain an even stronger raving-fan community around your business.

In this article, we will look at why you should be more than just an elf. That is, why it is a good idea to reach out more frequently during the year and how best to go about doing this.

The Double Benefit of Regular Client Appreciation

Reminding your customers that you care about them is a fuzzy and heart-warming tradition to uphold in your business. It makes you and your team feel good and it makes your clients feel good.

But what makes it an extra special and beneficial practice is that it also helps with your client retention. Happy clients are more likely to stick with you, buy from you, and refer new clients to you – so keeping them happy is also a great way to maintain a strong bottom line.

It’s a win-win: you get to feel good by expressing gratitude with actions that ultimately also help your business.

What Kind of Gifts Should I Send to Clients?

There are many ways to appreciate your clients. If you have a lot of clients, or limited resources to commit to gift giving, then you can give digital gifts such as gift vouchers for online stores or even something as simple as an email could do for limited budgets.

However, you will find that the impact of the gesture is larger and more recognised when you give something physical. I would therefore highly recommend figuring out a small, physical gift you can deliver to your clients.

This could be things such as elegant stationery, themed food like cakes or cookies, posters or paintings that can be put up, or other regular gift items.

If you can weave in a message or branding in an unobtrusive manner, then by all means do so. However, remember that your purpose here is not your brand marketing. The purpose is to make your clients feel appreciated. So give them something good first and foremost.

If a physical gift is too complicated or difficult, you can also consider organising events that you give your clients exclusive access to. This can do as much if not more to foster a sense of community and can have the added benefit of encouraging referrals if you allow them to invite friends.

How Often Should I Send Gifts to Clients?

When you only send your gifts to clients at Christmas you are Santa’s elf and, while that’s great, elves lose their impact come February. However, if you send gifts out all the time, they start to lose their impact and they start to feel less special.

As a rule of thumb, we recommend having some sort of appreciation touch point once a quarter in order to maximise the effect.

You can switch things up and have different sorts of gifts and/or events each quarter. The variance not only keeps it interesting and engaging, but also ensures that the gifts remain special, and unexpected. You want to avoid becoming predictable so that whenever you do produce a present, it comes as a small and pleasant surprise.

A good idea is to draw up a calendar and look at the holidays, events and other important dates to do with your business or which are important to your prospects. These can help structure the timing of your gifts and help with the selection (or theme) of what to offer.

Genuine Gifts Only

Some people may feel that creating a strategy around gift-giving takes away from the positivity of the gift, as it starts to have “motive”. Let me clarify something: you should not be giving gifts simply because I told you so or because you want to “get more” from your clients. You should be choosing carefully, and giving genuinely.

You should not just be choosing what you give, but also who you give gifts to. This works best if you are honestly giving gifts to people you truly believe deserve them – so don’t just give to everyone. Make sure the gift is really good, and your primary motivation is to appreciate that person, not improve your bottom line.

When do you that, you continue to feel good, they continue to feel good, and you do still get all the extra benefits of improving your business relationship on top of that. It’s a win all around – and you get to be more than an elf: you get to play Santa all year round!

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3 Tests to Measure the Strength of Your USP

One of the first things successful business owners do is clarify their unique selling proposition (USP). That is, what is it about the service or product that you offer which makes it more compelling than anything else out there?

Fundamentally, it answers the question, “Why should I buy from you?”

I have noticed, however, that many business owners struggle to pin this down. Or more precisely, they struggle to pin down a USP that is actually unique and compelling. And doing this is essential.

The result is that their marketing produces only a trickle of leads, their product development and expansion is haphazard and directionless. The company is constantly yo-yoing as the business owner feels like they are spinning plates while simultaneously putting out fires.

This begs the question, how do you check whether your business’ USP is clear and useful?

I encountered a diagram like this sometime ago and I adapted it to create some simple tests you can use to do a quick check on the strength of your USP.

london-business-coaching-usp-test 

The Grey “Doesn’t Matter” Zone

The first test is the easy one: the grey zone just doesn’t even matter. I mean, who cares what you and your competitors are both doing well if no one even wants it?

First Test: Does your consumer want it?

If no, then why on earth are you doing this? Drop it. Forget about it. It’s taking up valuable headspace.

If yes, continue on.

The Red “Fail” Zone

The next test is the red zone and if you are sitting here, then there should be big alarm bells ringing! If your competitor is serving your customers’ needs better than you are, then something definitely needs to change!

Second Test: Does your competitor do it better?

If yes, then this is certainly not your USP – if anything, it’s theirs! You either need to choose a different USP to focus your business on, or up your game and do what you do better so that you can outstrip the competition.

If no, then you can proceed to the next test.

The Yellow “Unsafe” Zone

The yellow zone is where you are almost there, but this is an unreliable proposition that could slip into the red zone at any moment. You see, if both you and your competitor are satisfying your consumers’ needs, then how are they making the decision to go with you or with them?

Third Test: Are your competitors doing it just as well as you are?

If yes, then you may use this as your USP, but stay cautious. You are deep in the battleground here. Any step backwards is a step forwards for your competitor. Be innovative. Be attentive. Know your customer inside out and sway them to you for emotional reasons, because logically there is quite possibly no difference between you and your competitor.

If no, then…

The Green “Safe” Zone

Congratulations – you are in the green zone! You do what you do better than any of your competitors, and your consumer is hungry for your solution. Your USP is sound.

You should now be focusing your niche and avatar around this USP, choosing your lead magnets, and refining your brand strategy around it. You should be structuring your products & pricing and even your company culture around it. Using it as the foundation for all your decision making will help you steer the boat of your business in a direction of growth and profit.

Does your USP pass these tests? Or are you in need of a USP upgrade? Let us know in the comments below, or let us know any techniques you have for identifying your business’ USP.

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You Already Know Your Target Market

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Who is your ideal customer? What is the likelihood that someone like me, who works with hundreds of businesses every year, would be able to get you an introduction to a potential ideal customer? Pretty likely, but only as long as I know who it is you are looking for. 

It all starts with the concept of the “Marketing Avatar” – the first and most critical step in creating a marketing machine that brings in the right kind of leads into your business.

However, a lot of people feel like when they try and create this Marketing Avatar it feels a lot like the shadows on the wall of Plato’s Cave: it is an imperfect representation and they’re struggling to pin down this Avatar as a real target person that could actually exist.

Let me explain an exercise that has helped hundreds of businesses to concretise their Avatar from an ideal into a reality.

I have, in previous blog posts, explained why target markets don’t work and why you need a marketing avatar instead. I have also listed the 6 essential qualities that you should look out for in a marketing avatar, so I won’t explain those again.

Instead, I want to outline an exercise you can do that will help you apply the concept of the Marketing Avatar to reality.

And it’s a lot easier than you may think. It’s the Marketing Avatar Interview.

Marketing Avatar Interview Step 1

Extract a list of all your existing customers from whatever database or CRM (customer relationship management) solution you use. This may be past and present customers, but they must be people you would be able to contact.

Marketing Avatar Interview Step 2

Go through this list and choose the customers that you liked the most. As far as possible at this stage, avoid thinking about them in terms of the sales or money – just focus on whether they were someone you enjoyed spending time with or not.

Marketing Avatar Interview Step 3

Now with your list of favourite customers, get a bit more clinical. Rank them in terms of real value to your business. Look at the 6 essential qualities again and consider how much they match your ideal Avatar.

Marketing Avatar Interview Step 4

Now that you have one or two of your existing customers who quite closely match your ideal Marketing Avatar, you can get in touch to conduct an interview with them. You should ask them an extensive list of questions about who they are, what they like, and where they spend their time to build a solid profile about them.

And just like that, you have a detailed document about who your marketing Avatar is that is built on real knowledge of an actual ideal customer.

An example of how you can use this is to ensure that you when you set up a system to ask for referrals from your business partners and alliances with abundant contacts (such as, say, your business coach!) you are asking for the right kind of customer.

Generally, armed with your Marketing Avatar, you are now in a position to reassess your entire marketing strategy and sharpen your messages so everything you do is directed to the people who perfectly match your business.

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How Many Steps Should Your Sales Process Have?

How often are you making contact with the prospects that have expressed interest in your business? At what point do you give up and decide you have wasted enough time on them?

Remember, “You lose more business from prospects who fail to decide than from those who say ‘No.’”

The evidence is clear: businesses with an optimal number of sales process steps have stronger sales pipelines and generate more revenue. The metaphor of a ‘pipe’ is apt: if you do not have enough brackets holding it up, then the pipe cracks and the water leaks out. So no matter how many leads you pour in from your excellent marketing strategies, they do not make it to the final destination if the conversion funnel is weak. Equally, too many brackets are not only an unnecessary waste of your resources, but could also work against you and end up limiting your pipeline.

The question is then: how do you build a sales pipeline that has the optimal number of sales process steps for your business?

In this video I share the results of an analysis of 50,000 sales leads and the conclusion on what the optimal number of sales process stages are, depending on the size of your targets:

Action Point: Go back to the sales funnel in your business and analyse how many sales attempt steps are built into it. How many are you actually doing? Could you be making this conversion process even better?

Leave a comment on this article and let us know the number of steps in your sales process if you would like us to give you a free review of your sales pipeline and how you could improve it.

Prefer to read rather than watch and listen? No problem – here’s everything I said in the video as text:

Hi this is Shweta from The London Coaching Group, I recently got asked a question – how many sales attempts need to be made to work a lead effectively?

A very interesting question, because what has been commonly found is that when there is a lack of sales process – with not the optimum number of contacts built in, it actually results in a weaker pipeline and a huge amount of wastage of both money and time.

Now to have a sustainable pipeline with proper growth happening, this is what you need to think through. That based on my market, what is my sales process? And how many sales attempts or contact points I need to make with my prospects to improve the conversion and finally maximise the profitability on your marketing, money and efforts.

So let me share with you the result of the analysis of 50,000 sales leads. And actually what is the optimum number based on the small-size market, the mid-size market or the corporates that you might be targeting. Now this is a very interesting analysis, and it should give you a very clear indicator to assess your current sales process, and the number of attempts that your sales team is making or maybe you are making to reach out to your target place.

So let’s have a look at this, the vertical axis is about the Profitability – which is what we are trying to maximise of that lead. And the horizontal axis is about the Sales Attempts that are being made right now, or should be made to maximise the profitability.

So if you are dealing with small business markets, what has been found is that the optimum number of sales attempts that you need to be making or your sales process needs to have built in is 5. That’s where the maximisation happens, if it’s done properly. If you are targeting the mid-market, then the number that you really need to focus on is 8. You need to have 8 sales attempts, before you can think of maximising the profit.

And if it’s corporates and enterprises, as you can imagine – there the lead time or more contacts are required because of the gatekeepers and difficulty of reaching out to the decision maker. And therefore, logically the number will be higher and what has been found it’s number 12.

Now if you are giving up, just after making 9 contacts and wondering why am I not getting my conversion or getting frustrated saying “It’s such a hard task.” Then you are just giving up, when actually the optimum number is 12.

So it’s a very interesting analysis and I really want you to go back to the drawing board for your sales process. Have a look at it, and see what attempts are being built in, what touch points are being built in before you decide on giving up on a lead, or actually making your conversion even better – so that you can have more profitability.

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4 Strategies for How to Strengthen Your Brand Equity

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How much is your brand worth? The concept of “brand equity” is an important one for business owners to consider carefully. Unfortunately, most business owners do not yet fully understand it – let alone know how to strengthen brand equity effectively for their business.

Here I’ll explain a few strategies on how to strengthen your brand equity, developing a strong brand to ensure that you occupy a positive space in your consumers’ minds and maintain positive growth in your business.

The term brand equity is one which speaks of the inherent valuation of the brand in the consumers’ minds. Your business’ brand equity is made up of all the associations, emotions, and experiences which people think of when exposed to your brand. The stronger a bond which consumers have with your brand, the higher your brand equity is. Only with strong brand equity will you be able to be the business which makes people camp outside of your stores for days waiting for the release of a new product.

Your brand equity can be strengthened or degraded through any aspect of your business, from your communications, to product performance, customer service, or even your brand name. Furthermore, developing strong brand equity is a significant task for all businesses, as it is what allows your brand to be considered by consumers in the first place during a purchasing decision. So here are 4 ways in which you can ensure your business is focused on the right sort of brand equity development.

1. Quality Products and Services

Your market offering is the backbone of your whole brand, so ensure that you are able to deliver a quality product to your consumers, otherwise it is highly unlikely that you will get a repeat purchase from them.

This may seem like an obvious tip; however businesses in all industries fall for the trap whereby they release products for the sake of appearing as if they are innovating. If you release a product in the market which isn’t fully tested and not of high quality, this can be the easiest way to erode your brand equity.

Ensure that any product or service you bring out into the market brings something new to your business’ portfolio, rather than just bulking it up.

2. Competitive Analysis

A strong brand which occupies a positive space in the minds of consumers is one which is adaptable to market shifts as well as one which offers something new into the market.

In order to be such a brand, ensure that you are always on the lookout for industry trends and your competitors’ activities, as you need to ensure your brand operates in a unique space of the industry, and is not one which merely follows in the footsteps of others.

Targeting a niche is an effective way for brands to build their brand equity as you are meeting a specific need which no one else currently is. This exudes innovative thinking and understanding of your consumers, which are key to a strong brand.

3. Consistent Brand Image

One of the most important aspects of your brand is the image which you are communicating to your consumers. Once you have been able to understand the market and know your place within it, you need to communicate that in a consistent and engaging manner.

Your brand strategy is developed by a number of aspects from your brand name, to your social media posts, pricing, and your products, to name a few. If you are operating within the premium segment of your industry, ensure that your products and retail channels reflect that, with highly refined and targeted brand messaging and communications.

Set your brand image from the get-go and shape your business accordingly. One of the greatest examples of maintaining a strong and consistent brand image is Apple. Every touch point consumers have with the brand expresses their brand – imagination, simplicity, and understanding consumer needs. From their easy-to-use products, to highly navigable stores, and their communications strategies, everyone knows what the Apple brand stands for.

It is all about consistency. Once consumers see that you know where you stand in the market and are confident with your own image, they will begin to believe it as well.

4. Listen to Customers

As your brand equity inherently resides in the minds of your consumers and audiences, it would be extremely wise to actively listen to their needs and wants.

Ensure that you give your consumers as many channels to give their feedback as possible. These types of messages will help you understand your brand’s strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for growth; which is the most valuable information you could ever receive as a business.

 

Understanding your brand equity and how to develop it is important any stage of business growth. You must be able to capture a positive appearance in your consumer’s minds if they are to become repeat customers, or become a part of your referral strategy at any level on the ladder of customer loyalty. Then you can strengthen your brand and actually, seriously, grow.

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