|Strategic Planning Information
Three Easy Ways To Know Thy Competitor
"Did you hear what your competitor is doing?" This question has caused many business people to freeze in their tracks. How about you? Does your sales team know what your competitors are doing? And if a prospect was to ask them, "give me 10 unique reasons why I should buy from you and your company," could they answer this question without a pause? "Knowing thy competitor" is critical, and this article will outline three easy ways to know more about them, than they know about you! Let's get started!
Their people: Begin by "shopping" on the telephone, by mail and in-person, the competitors who offer similar pricing and products as your company. When "shopping" in-person, notice their sales staff and look for the way they dress, the tone in their voice, the organization of their office, the ease they display when presenting their product or service, and what questions they ask at the end of your conversation. By observing closely, you will see and hear the quality of person hired by your competitors and the time they invest in their training program. Then ask yourself, "how do these standards, compare to ours?"
Tip From The Coach: Whenever possible, interview EVERYONE who has worked for your competitor. You can learn volumes about how each company hires and trains their people and you will be able to identify their unique management style. Also, ask questions about this person's previous work experience, as it may give you new ideas for recruiting key people. And isn't finding a great team player always a hot topic?
Their product: "Shop" your competitors at least quarterly, listening closely for any new services or products they offer. Pay close attention to the quality of their brochures, the appearance of their products and any special ways they add "unique" value to buying from their company. Use a consistent "shopping" report so you can easily summarize the unique features and benefits of each competitor. Now, how does your company compare to the rest? And more importantly, how does your company compare to the best?
Tip From The Coach: Every Monday morning, have your sales team spend 15 minutes reviewing the "shopping" reports done over the previous week. When your team has this type of timely and detailed information, they should be able to easily respond to a prospect who says, "why should I buy from you and not your competitor?" Have your sales team practice handling this type of standard question, as practice does make PERFECT!
Their pricing: Once you know the specific details about your competitor's people and their product or service, your sales team will have much more confidence when they explain why your product is "special" compared to the rest. And when you focus on the strengths of your product, so will your prospects. Lastly, people buy from people! A small price difference can easily be overlooked, when your sales team is courteous and professional! Remember, each prospect is looking to find the right product/service, from the right company?and feel good about their purchase!
Tip From The Coach: If price is the only issue, work with your sales team to prepare in advance, a checklist of the specific features and benefits unique to your product or service, as compared to your competitors. Have each sales person practice presenting this checklist with confidence and accuracy as this part of their presentation will usually be enough for the prospect to say, "OK, how can we get started!"
So, follow these three easy steps and see how much easier it is to serve your customers when you know more about your competitors, than they know about you! If you would like to receive a free report to use when you are shopping your competitors please fax a request on your letterhead to 435-615-8670 and The Coach will fax you a sample report in ten minutes! Want to hear more about this important topic or ask some additional questions? Fax a note on your letterhead to 435-615-8670 or send an E-mail to [email protected] and The Coach will fax/E-mail back to you a free invitation to be a participant on a TeleForum conference call.
Author's note: Ernest F. Oriente, The Coach, is the founder of PowerHour� a professional business coaching/recruiting service and the author of SmartMatch Alliances?. He has spent 17,500 hours [since 1995] delivering customized training, by telephone, in leadership, traditional/Internet marketing and sales for fast growing sales companies and entrepreneurial businesses worldwide. PowerHour� specializes in global distance learning by telephone, using their state-of-the-art conference call system for interactive and dynamic TeleForums. Twice-monthly TeleForums link 10-100 executives/professionals/individuals who are geographically dispersed, in a time efficient and profitable format.
PowerHour� is based in Olympic-town?Park City, Utah, at 435-615-8486, by E-mail [email protected] or visit their TeleForum website: http://www.powerhour.com. To receive a FREE success newsletter, with subscribers in 74 countries, send an E-mail to: [email protected]. Recent PowerHour� articles have appeared in 4000+ business/trade publications and websites.
5 Strategies That Will Boost Your Business Productivity Today! - Part 1
Building a dynamic small business is a constantly evolving, increasingly demanding role.
Many movies have been made about the tragic story of the Titanic. Arrogance and ignorance was definitely present during its maiden voyage, which was Titanic's last voyage.
Why 9 in 10 Businesses are Overspending on Day-to-day Expenses
Experts estimate that 90 percent of Australian businesses are overspending on day-to-day expenses, by as much as 75 percent in some cost categories!
Under Construction During the Storm ? A Hurricane Guide for Businesses that are Under Construction
As a business owner, you've likely created a hurricane plan for your business and your family, but did you overlook your construction project? Don't worry, you're not alone. Most people don't even think about preparing their construction site because it's not written into their "construction timeline." But when a hurricane threatens, general contractors usually get panicked phone calls asking about potential damage, delays and cost.
Cost-cutting Essential to Maintaining Profits
Why cut costs now? Efforts are multiplying to cut costs wherever possible in order to achieve or preserve high profits. The resulting benefits for all of a company's employees should be obvious.
Do You Have A Customer Identity Crisis?
The trick is to determine what uniquely identifies your best customers. Fortunately, deriving this information is not difficult, and in many cases can be obtained from innocuous questions. Consider a manufacturer of baby goods and the fact that families with new babies often purchase multi-passenger vehicles. This manufacturer could build an effective mailing list by surveying recent car purchasers and noting which respondents had traded in sports cars for SUVs. Your information gathering technique of course will vary, but the identifying information always comprises the same three pieces -- demographic information, geographic location, and purchasing history. Demographic Information
Invalid Excuses for Poor Business Results - Rising costs
Note to Northwest Airlines ? It's not about fuel costs
How To Get More Business During The Winter Months
Business seems to drop, slow or even stop during the winter months. As tourist traffic slows or stops during the winter months so does the incomes of many local business owners. The first step in overcoming this problem begins in your brain (don't they all?)
Benefiting from Strategic Thinking
I recently took an organizational behavior class where my professor conducted a strategic thinking exercise in which groups of students were to be a part of a scholarship committee. The purpose of our committee was to use strategic thinking on allocating a scholarship budget to reward several incoming freshmen to our university. I, along with some classmates represented freshmen candidates who would receive the scholarship.
Vendor Relations Strategies Sample Outline
One of the quintessential parts to any business is your supply chain. To insure that the supplies are there when you need them; in this new day and age of "just in time" distribution where very little sits on warehouse shelves until you order it you will need excellent vendor relations. Without the help of your vendors a small customer need turns into a astronomical problem and if you cannot solve it or serve your customer, you will indeed lose that customer to someone else who will. Someone who has constantly maintained a close relationship with their vendors in fact and can get what they need quickly with a simple phone. You say; "you wish it was that easy!" Yes, I hear you, yet I have seen over the years that with the proper vendor team, you can do anything, build anything, create anything and move forward faster than any competitor ever dreamed of. How do I know? Well, I built a multi-state franchise company with no outside investors from the smallest of small businesses, that's how.
Consolidation in the Software Industry is Hardly New: Obsess About It or Risk Losing it All
Some analysts credit [Larry] Ellison with anticipating the consolidation in the enterprise software industry and leading the charge. Ellison 'called a major shift in an entire market, which was impressive.'(1)
Strategic Planning Consulting
Strategic planning and consulting is the strategy roadmap to manage business very effectively. To improve the performance in each business level, business strategic planning & consulting is essential. We should draw a clear strategic planning model to dilute the business complexity. If the strategic planning models are clearly set it is easy to find the business solution.
Business Planning and the ?Bozo? Factor
"Bozo" ? A clown with a forlorn look, always finding negative implications in every activity or event. A person who tries to find a way to prevent you from moving ahead, giving excuses such as "we've always done it this way, or this is not our culture" when presented a new opportunity or challenge. Normally associated with people who are uncomfortable with learning new techniques, processes, or relationships.
Business Plans Keep You On The Success Course
Where would your business be without a proper plan? A business plan sets the direction for the future of the business. It gives the business owner or manager a sense of guidance, listing the goals and objectives of the business from the start.
Creating a Vision That Achieves Results
How important is a vision statement to your company or division? Well, have you ever thought about embarking on a journey without knowing where you are going? The same can be said about running a company, without a vision statement you are going places but who knows if it is in the right direction or even if you want to go there.
Business Problem Solving
Is there really anything as a problem? Does chaos or challenge mean you have a problem? I am under the belief that such things as other call problems are indeed the life-blood of opportunity and the louder it knocks the greater the gain. Embrace chaos. In my many years in business I loved a good challenge; let me recommend a good audio book incase you find yourself embattled with what you believe to be insurmountable problems:
Designing an Efficient Distribution System
Let us look at a few of the big distribution networks in the US that we use today. The US Post Office for instance is a huge complex chain of symbiotic relations ships with vendors to deliver by truck, work with FED EX for air, previously that airmail idea started commercial aviation. The reason it grew big and evolved so well is because of the special teams and companies and individuals from the first air mail carriers to the Wells Fargo Coaches. A much better system than Paul Revere; although he was very simple with only two possible signals 1 or 2 "if's" scenarios. Let's face it 1's and Zero's or 1 or 2 ifs are different than today.
Turning On The Lights
Fun From The Start
A Backup To The Internet Is Vital & Now Cost Effective
It doesn't take a Terrorist Act, Tsunami or Earthquake to put a business heavily dependent on the internet in the dark and effectively out of business??for hours or even days into weeks.
How to Develop a Successful Board of Advisors (...and Why You Should!)
In today's rapidly changing and highly competitive markets, many privately held companies are creating outside advisory boards to give owners and CEOs fresh, knowledgeable advice. Even for small businesses, setting up an advisory board can give you a significant advantage over competitors that are relying solely on internal talent. An experienced and well-connected board of advisors can help your business grow and prosper in ways you've never imagined. What is a Board of Advisors? An advisory board is an outside group that is informally organized to provide business owners and corporate leaders with support, advice and assistance. While formal boards of directors have legally defined responsibilities and fiduciary duties, advisory boards have no formal power or binding legal authority. They serve at the pleasure of the business owner or CEO. Benefits of an Advisory Board There are several advantages that companies with advisory boards have over their competition. A board offers your business: An unbiased outside perspective. Increased corporate accountability and discipline. Enhanced CEO and management effectiveness. Greater credibility with investors, vendors and customers. Help in avoiding costly mistakes. Rounding out skills and expertise lacking in current management team. A sounding board for evaluating new business ideas and opportunities. Enhanced community and public relations. Improved marketing results and effectiveness. Strategic planning assistance and input. Centers of influence for networking introductions. Crisis and transition leadership in the event of the death or resignation of the CEO. Help anticipating market changes and trends. Steps to Creating an Effective Board of Advisors: Analyze the strength and weaknesses of your current management team. Look for critical areas of expertise and knowledge that your company could use help with such as marketing, legal, finance, eCommerce, and research and development or information technology. If your company is planning on going public within the next few years, seek out advisors who have successfully taken companies down that path. Set clear, written goals and objectives for your board of advisors. Getting maximum value from a board of advisors begins with clear objectives and goals. Board members must know why they have been asked to serve and what is expected of them. Before establishing the board, the CEO and senior managers should sit down and ask some of the following questions: 1. What are the main areas we need advice and guidance in? 2. What specifically do we need the board members to do for us? 3. Who are a few potential candidates for board membership? 4. How do we avoid giving away too much control to outsiders? 5. What will be the powers and limitations of the board? 6. What will setting up the board cost initially? Annually? Will it be worth the cost? Determine the size and structure of your board. Advisory boards range in size from two members to over thirty. The right size depends on many factors, such as your company's size, complexity, stage of development and individual skills needed. My experience and research has found that for most small to mid-sized, growing companies or start-ups, a 5 to 7 member advisory board is an ideal size. Smaller firms can start with just one or two members and add new members as they grow. Recruiting Candidates Determining whom you invite to join your board is one of the most critical decisions in setting up a board of advisors. Often a business owner's first instinct is to ask friends, family members or professional advisors to sit on their board. This is usually a mistake. Unless your friend or family member is a recognized authority in an area of expertise lacking by your management team or a highly successful entrepreneur, they are probably not the wisest choice. Another reason to avoid asking family or friends to join your board is lack of objectivity. Often advice from a friend, family member or management insider is sugar coated to protect relationships. An outside advisor can give you a much more objective and honest assessment of the situation. Using professional advisors such as your lawyer, banker or accountant as board members has it's own pitfalls. These advisors are already working for you and may not be as objective as you need, due to having an interest in generating future business from your company. Some critical action steps for recruiting a dynamite board of advisors are: Develop a candidate profile. After you have determined the areas of expertise your company is in need of, create a profile of candidates that successfully fit these needs. Take care to address knowledge and skills that your company will need to meet projected growth and future challenges. Seek out experts. Search online and offline for experts and proven leaders that meet your candidate profiles. Contact them and begin discussions about possible board membership. Ask for recommendations. Solicit recommendations from the experts you speak with that cannot serve on your board, of collogues of theirs that they feel would be a good fit for your needs. Begin networking with your attorney, accountant and other professional advisors. Once you have successfully recruited an advisor, he or she can often lead you to another good candidate. Find your candidates motivation. Most of your candidates are not going to be motivated by money alone. In fact, if money is their primary reason for joining your board, they may not be what you are looking for. The most effective board members are motivated by the challenge and intellectual stimulation of building successful companies. They serve because they are already high achievers and enjoy the challenge. Have variety in your board. Try to include experts and successful entrepreneurs from several different disciplines. Often board members who are successful marketers, CEOs and business owners from different industries can bring a fresh perspective to your business. These individuals can often help you incorporate best practices from other industries, into your own industry, creating revolutionary changes and opportunities. Look for a proven track record. Find the leaders in their field. The best board candidates are successful CEOs, business owners, professionals, university professors and consultants who have achieved success in their own businesses and careers. Clearly communicate your goals and objectives. Invest time in talking to and meeting with potential members. Communicate to them what your goals and objectives are. Let them know that you are not looking for "yes men" and that you want advisors who will challenge you and hold you accountable for your businesses growth. Board Compensation Board members expect and deserve to be compensated for their time, efforts and advice. Typical advisory board compensation includes a stipend from $5,000 to $25,000 per member, per year. Some companies pay their board members per meeting, with payment ranging from $500 to $3,000 per meeting, with a monthly retainer of $500 to $2,500. Companies should also cover transportation, meals and lodging for members when attending meetings. Most successful boards also give or require members to buy stock or some form of equity in the company. This gives the board members equity participation and a vested interest in the growth of the company. Pitfalls to Avoid Some potential problem areas to avoid when setting up or working with your advisory board are: Members missing meetings. Because board members are usually running successful businesses of their own, they may not always be available for every meeting. However, board members should be made aware that attendance of board meetings is important and expected. If a member is chronically absent, the value of their membership on the board should be reviewed. Insecurity of senior managers. Some company insiders may feel intimidated or threatened by the involvement of outsiders. The CEO or owner must make every effort to communicate to his staff the benefits and importance of having a board of advisors. Incompatible personalities. This is a challenging situation, because most members of your board will be strong willed, achiever types, who have gotten where they are by taking charge. Many will have strong convictions about their opinions and may find it hard to defer the leadership of the meetings to the CEO. You must determine when a member's personality is "too strong" and becoming disruptive. Excessive number of board members. Because of their strong personalities, if you have too many members on your board, the more assertive members often dominate the debates, depriving you of the contributions the quieter members may have made. Lack of CEO communication. Withholding company information or not regularly communicating with the members of your board of advisors destroys trust and effectiveness. Regular communication between meetings is essential to maintaining an effective board. Inadequate compensation. As I mentioned, you do not want compensation to be the determining factor in a candidates membership on your advisory board, however successful individuals of the caliber you seek expect to be fairly compensated for their time and knowledge. Keys to Board Effectiveness If you build it, use it. Owners and CEOs who invest the time and money in creating a board should be committed to soliciting and using its advice on important issues and decisions. Value their input, even when they disagree with what you want to do. Sometimes a board is at it's most valuable when it recommends against a course of action the CEO wants to take. If you recruit a good board, often they have already been down the path you are on, and their experience (and past failures) can help you to avoid costly mistakes. Communicate with your advisors. Keep the members of your board informed about what is happening in your company and industry. Counsel with individual members on the phone at least monthly and send them information well in advance of your meetings, to help them prepare and keep the meetings productive. Hold regular meetings. Most boards meet once per quarter. However, boards should meet more often during times of rapid growth or if company needs merit additional oversight and guidance. Have an objective for each meeting. Your board members are busy people and their time is valuable. Make the most out of your meetings with them, by having a clear agenda and objectives for each meeting. Make sure to cover the most important items of business first, in case the discussions take longer than planned or some members have to leave early. Annual assessment of board performance. Periodically assessing the board's effectiveness is a critical factor in ensuring a good return on investment. Each year the board should set performance goals and define their criteria for success. At the end of the year the CEO and the board should assess it's performance, compared to its goals and criteria for success. Over 80 percent of all private companies are operating without a board of advisors or board of directors. Odds are your competitors do not have one. Because of this, developing a board of advisors can give your company a distinct advantage over your competition. This is particularly true for start-ups and family run businesses. There is tremendous value in receiving objective, knowledgeable advice from a board of advisors who share in the financial and equity growth of your business. I encourage you to begin recruiting your advisory board today!
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