Print This Post Print This Post

Why Your Best Price can be Your Worst Strategy

If you are like many small business operators you’ll be working hard to encourage prospective customers to call you / your business about your products and services.

Your past sales efforts, advertising, networking, branding, referrals, product research, product enhancements, training, and more are in play just to get them to call.

So given the considerable efforts behind getting those incoming enquiries, are you or your team making a fundamental error when they do roll in? See if you can spot it here.

(Telephone rings) – “Thank you for calling ABC Company. This is Sam”

Hi Sam. Do you have any blue 35 mm widgets in stock?”

“I’ll just check for you” (Typing, typing) “Yes, we have 4 in stock”

“Excellent. Can you give me a price please?”

“Certainly. They are $110 each”

“Great – Thanks for that.”

“You’re welcome. Is there anything else I can help you with?”

“No. That’s fine thanks. Bye”

Kid on a phone

“Bye”

So what was so wrong with that? Was the customer service person (Sam) friendly? Sure. Very much so

Was the callers enquiry dealt with promptly..? Yep!

Did the caller get answers to exactlywhat they asked for? You bet…

…And there-in lay the problem!

Consider the person making the call. What are they likely to have in front of them? A pen, notepad, phonebook or an online directory? And what are they doing? They’re calling you and your competitors to get prices, so they are of course making note of…. yep – PRICES!

And if price is all they discuss or focus on with each supplier, what will they inevitably make their decision based on…? Correct!

No matter how warm and friendly you or your team sound on the phone, if the crux of the discussion is ‘how much is it?‘, you will rarely win the caller’s attention or their business if another supplier has a lower price.

Disagree?! When you ring somewhere for prices, isn’t that what you are looking for? The place with the cheapest one? And if price is all you have to compare, don’t you just select the cheapest…?

The solution to overcome this costly mistake is simple…. Talk about more than price!

And the easiest way to achieve this is to ask great questions. And – great questions are not those that you have to ask.

Consider all those questions that would be essential for you to be able to provide a quote to a prospective customer. Example – If I were a fencing supplier, I would need to ask questions around Quantity – Quality – Colour – Size – Time Frames – Material preferences – Etc. All logical and necessary things I would need to ask to enable me to provide some sort of price.
My question to you is… What are you asking that your competitors most likely are notasking?
Now without being able to give examples for every type of business, here are some questions for that fencing scenario that competitors may well not be asking.
What if I were the only fencing supplier to ask – “Do you have any outdoor pets?” “Do you have younger children?” “Do you or your neighbours entertain close to the fence line?” “What types of large items do you regularly need to get from the front yard to the back or vice-versa?” And of course the answers to these would determine the need to ask deeper, further clarifying questions.
Now whether my examples are good examples or not (I’m clearly not a fencing supplier)… the point is – Ask questions that unearth how the potential customer will use / benefit from / be at risk from / may not have thought about etc. when it comes to their potential purchase.
In short – Ask questions that get into and focus on Their World – Not Yours

When you do this well enough and consistently enough, you will regularly find that the quote you end up providing is for a solution that your competitors didn’t even have the caller thinking about… And in those cases – how can these customers compare you to the competition on price? Your solution (and the price) would be unique!

You will know that you have asked an outstanding question when their response is… “Gee, I didn’t think of that… What do you recommend?”!
Surely being seen as a trusted adviser is a better (and more profitable) point of difference than being the cheapest supplier?!

Yours in good times and strong profits

Cheers!

Jeff Austin
jeff@actualtoideal.com.au

Jeff Austin - Business Coach Bunbury
Print This Post Print This Post

Staff Meetings: 5 Big Reasons They Can Be A Waste Of Time (and 5 Effective Fixes)

Growing tired of running meetings that no one gets involved in?

It’s no revelation to say that staff meetings are important. And we find that most business owners heed this message and run meetings of some sort.

However, when we dig a little deeper and inquire about the effectiveness, benefit and involvement of the team in these team meetings, in the main we find business owners / managers struggle to see real benefit and largely run meetings because they know they should – even if they’re not sure as to why…

If you are not getting real, tangible benefits and the active involvement from staff in your meetings, perhaps consider the 5 most common meeting gaps and our tried and proven solutions.

Gap 1: The Manager runs the meeting, does most of the talking during it and staff sit and give mock input by looking interested!

The Answer – Facilitate meetings – don’t ‘run’ them. Remember – It’s a staff meeting – not your meeting, so would you (or a manager) do most of the talking? Ask more and better questions and facilitate answers. And if your response to that  is ‘Staff don’t get involved even when I invite them to’ then see Gap # 2

Gap 2: There is a culture (or a belief) that no response is the correct response. When existing staff do not respond, that sets the standard for new staff that they ought not to respond either (note to self: tell the ‘monkey see monkey do’ experiment story in next month’s article).

The Answer – Don’t give up so easily! When you ask a good question, don’t allow silence to be the answer. For example – You: “What went particularly well last week?” They: …(ensuing silence)… You: “Mike! You told me on Tuesday that the ‘Smith’ job went really well. Why?” Get Mike’s answer then keep digging with further ‘whys’ ‘hows’ etc. Do this  at every meeting until you instil a culture that this is a ‘safe’ and worthy environment to get involved.

Gap 3: Meetings are used as the place to present and try to solve the week’s / month’s problems. And this causes the majority of meeting to be a ‘Bleat-fest’ where nothing really get’s resolved.

The Answer – A 30 or 60 minute meeting is not the place to try and fix a week or two’s problems! Recognising and closing gaps ought to happen during the operational week. Meetings ought to then be the place to discuss what has been fixed, by who and how.

Gap 4: The manager is too quick to provide answers & solutions thereby encumbering them as the primary owner of the answer & solution, and in turn they end up with a long to-do list.

The Answer – Lead with Questions – Not with Answers. Don’t be so quick to solve problems and own fixes. Ask questions of the relevant people (do you see a pattern?), get their solutions, agree with and/or challenge & tweak their solutions, whilst ensuring they play a part in the execution of the fix. Now that’s good leadership!

Gap 5: Meetings are a waste of time because no body has done what they said they would do by the time we next meet.

The Answer – If you have the 4 gaps listed above, that would be why you are getting gap number 5. You will have been largely trying to hold people accountable to what is essentially your plan. However, consider if you put the first four fixes into play; whose action plan would it largely be? Theirs! Their fixes – their ownership – their responsibility – with your approval and support. It’s far more effective to make someone accountable to their own plan!

And a final note & reminder: Accountability ought not be a dirty (negative) word. If someone does what they said they would do and the result is great – who is 100% accountable for that great result…?

Hint:  It’s not you!

As always we are limited for time/space here, so contact us for more in depth information (or if you just want to tell us you think we’re full of $h!t!)

Yours in Prosperity and Good Times

Jeff Austin

Business Coach – Public Speaker – Trainer

Bunbury & Perth

Jeff Austin - Business Coach Bunbury
Print This Post Print This Post

Bloody customers getting in the way of business?

Have you considered the damage you do if you complain about customers to your staff?

At the risk of putting further pressure on the top of my soap box, and potentially ruffling some feathers, I’m going to have a rant anyway.

In the past few months I have experienced an alarming number of staff and even more alarmingly, a fair few business owners who seem to have forgotten who all those people are. You know – the ones standing at the counter or on the other end of the phone. Yeah that’s right… customers or potential customers.

That word; ‘customers’ just doesn’t seem to have the impact on these businesses that it should. I have experienced ‘service’ levels from some business houses ranging from ‘indifferent’ to nothing short of ‘belligerent’!

And I have seen first-hand, business owners / managers standing around with their staff referring to customers after they are out of ear-shot saying things like  ‘God he asks such dumb questions’ and ‘She hasn’t got a bloody clue’ and other general comments about how these people are such an annoying interruption…

“An interruption to what?!”

If you want your team to deliver anything even remotely close to Exceptional Customer Service,  it has to start with a discussion about how we think about our customers. If the word ‘customer’ doesn’t conjure up the appropriate feelings; try something more emotive like – ‘that lady helps pay your mortgage’ or ‘that guy is feeding your kids!’ or whatever else helps those that have (seemingly) forgotten  that without these people – we have no need to go to work, or even get out of bed!

I completely accept that some people are just downright frustrating. So consider this very loose (and perhaps inappropriate) adaptation of a line from the movie Forrest Gump  – “Customers are like a bowl of mixed nuts. In amongst the many cashews, pecans, walnuts and pistachios, you are going to have to accept that every so often you will come across a real peanut!”

But should we let that one nut spoil the way we treat all the other ‘quality nuts’?

And if that doesn’t resonate, then here is our customer quote that our Actual to Ideal clients love to re-convey to their staff…

Our Customers are not always right…

But they are always the customer….

And they are the only reason we exist

It may be pretty hard for anyone to argue with that…

 

Yours in prosperity

Jeff Austin

Business Coaching Bunbury

Actual to Ideal

Jeff Austin - Business Coach Bunbury
Print This Post Print This Post

Management Vs Leadership

Are your managers cleaning fan blades?!

One of the most frequent requests I get is from Company C.E.Os. / M.D.s who want assistance in making better managers out of their managers. And on almost every occasion I find that these managers have the wrong job description.

Not that they are in the wrong job, rather they are spending their time on the wrong things in that job. It is a widely believed urban myth that a managers’ primary job is to deal with staff issues, handle complaints, resolve conflict, chase up supply problems, fix broken things and yes, generally react when the $#!t hits the fan!

But aren’t people normally elevated into management roles because of their expertise, their specific skills & knowledge, and their ability to lead people and projects? So whilst I admit that even on my best day I do some ‘fan cleaning’ activities, here are 5 ‘jobs’ that not only ought to take precedence, but by focusing on them, you’ll find the fans will need far less Mr Sheening.

  1. Commit regular, ongoing and quality time to developing individuals’ skills, knowledge and beliefs
  2. Sit down, ask questions, shut up, listen. Learn from your team. Ask what’s working and why? What’s not and what do they feel ought to be done better or different next time.
  3. Provide responsibility. It is a measure of Trust. But with Responsibility comes Accountability. One cannot exist without the other
  4. Focus on getting the very best person for any vacancy onto the bus. There is no (viable) excuse for cutting corners when recruiting
  5. Allow team members to be part of the solution to the problems. And if you do the other 4 ‘jobs’ regularly and well, then this last job will happen almost automatically…

And if you every catch yourself saying (or thinking) ‘But I haven’t got time to do that stuff’… consider what you are really saying is ‘I haven’t got time to sharpen my axe! I’m far too busy chopping trees!’ Hmmmm…

Yours in Fun & Prosperity

Jeff Austin
Actual to Ideal Bunbury
Business Improvement

Jeff Austin - Business Coach Bunbury
Print This Post Print This Post

Better Thoughts Through Better Choices

Change your thoughts – Change your world

In the simplest form, our brain works something like this…

Stimulus (Something happens) – Thought (Which drives our thoughts) Emotion (Which compels our emotions)  Action (Which fuels our actions)

So let’s create some Stimulus. You’re driving down the freeway at 100km per hour when a guy just in front of you on the inside lane suddenly slams on his brakes and swerves across you to take an off ramp.

What thought would you have? Perhaps Stupid %$&%# Crazy %^%$#! And if that was your thought, what kind of emotion would that fuel? Anger, Stress, Rage?! And with those emotions fuelling through you, what kind of action is possible? Abuse, Retribution, Violence?!

Now: Imagine that you were driving down the freeway and you received a call from your child’s school principal, who dropped this bombshell on you. “I am so sorry to tell you that your child has just been hit by a school bus and has been rushed to PMH in a critical condition. The paramedics insist that you get to the hospital immediately”… Would you do whatever it took to get off that freeway – even if it meant nearly causing a pile-up? I know I would!

Now lets replay the stimulus but with that memory in mind. Stimulus – Guy cuts you off – but your thought is –  S#!t, that guy must have some major emergency! What are likely emotions with that thought in mind? Concern, Empathy? And with those emotions, what would your actions be? Check your speed, change lanes…?

The point is, how far away is that action from Abuse, Retribution, Violence? And that dramatic change in action came from changing the one thing we all have control over…our thoughts. Because even if we have the wrong thought initially, isn’t it our choice to rethink?

Geez – I wish I had learned that earlier in life! Better late than never?

Yours in prosperity and fun

Jeff Austin

Actual to Ideal

Jeff Austin - Business Coach Bunbury
Print This Post Print This Post

Stop the Complaining and Start the Improving

Part of the solution or part of the problem?

Can you think of someone who seemingly has made it their life’s work to complain (or as I call it – ‘bleat’) every chance they get? These people are easy to spot, particularly in the workplace. When ideas are tabled or solutions to problems suggested, they are the ones who spend their time telling you why things won’t work. Their input revolves entirely around the problem – and never the solution. (Yes, it drives me mad too!)

However if you have someone in your organisation that is a perpetual bleater, firstly consider reasons why they might be doing it – it may provide some opportunity to reduce or even stop the bleating.

  • They may have inherited it from their last workplace
  • They may have got it from their parents
  • It could be that they choose to hang around people who are also bleaters
  • Perhaps they have not been asked one simple question persistently enough… ‘What will work?’

If you have a bleater in your midst, try changing your language to help them change theirs. When they focus on the problem, which means they are focusing on past events, move them to focus on the solution and the future. And be persistent. Ask them, ‘Ok, what will work?’ And if they reply with, ‘Well we’ve tried such and such and it didn’t work..’ or similar, push harder… ‘OK, but I asked what will work?’

If you still don’t have any joy, then perhaps do what some of our clever clients have done. They have a installed a ‘No bleating’ policy’. True! Essentially it says that you cannot complain or raise issues unless you are prepared to help with the solution. And if they don’t wish to help, or indeed there is no solution (i.e. it’s out of everyone’s control) then they cannot continue to bleat.

What they find more often than not is most people do have a positive side accompanied with real good ideas. They just need to be asked better questions.

Oh, and if you’re a bleater…please stop!!

Yours in prosperity and fun

Jeff Austin

Actual to Ideal Bunbury

Business Coaching and Training

Jeff Austin - Business Coach Bunbury
Print This Post Print This Post

Hard on Problems – Not on People

Why don’t we deal with problems (gaps) in business?

If you see a member of your team doing something that is not to standard (or something that gives you the S#!t$) – and you choose to not address it; what are you inadvertently giving them? Permission to continue doing it…Right?

It often appears easier (less painful) to not address something and put up with the gap than it does to confront it – AKA ‘Avoid-Avoid Conflict’ where we are in conflict about which pain to avoid most!

But why do we avoid closing these gaps? It will likely be due to the reason we believe the gap exists.

Think of a reoccurring gap then tick the reason/s you felt it happened

  1. They didn’t care enough
  2. They didn’t listen
  3. They were lazy
  4. They weren’t too bright

If you ticked any of those, then that would be the reason you left the gap unaddressed. All those reasons state (or imply) that the person is the reason for the gap – and because the vast majority of us don’t like upsetting people, we choose to let it slide and then instead, bleat about it to others.

Here’s a solution. Change your focus from the person being problem, to the problem being the problem. The surest way to change the focus is to consider other (more likely) reasons the gaps exists. Use these as alternatives to the above 4

  1. We didn’t make it important enough
  2. We lead with answers, not with questions (we did all the talking)
  3. We gave them permission to be lazy (we didn’t question it the first time)
  4. We didn’t give them sufficient training or, we cut corners when recruiting

The obvious benefit of this focus is that you tackle the gap from both ends – yours and theirs. But perhaps less obvious is that this focus not only helps you close the gap for this person, it will inevitably help you find solutions that will benefit other / future team members from falling into the same gap.

Work to fix gaps – Not people

Yours in prosperity and fun

Jeff Austin

Actual to Ideal

Business Coach Bunbury
Jeff Austin - Business Coach Bunbury
Print This Post Print This Post

The potential pitfalls of partnership

For the past 15 months I have been working with a new business partner. Kevin McDonald (otherwise known as Mack) and I had spoken about partnering on a project for sometime prior to that. However we both understandably, were very cautious about leaping into a formal partnership.

We have both seen business partnerships go horribly pear-shaped. After-all, a business partnership is not unlike a marriage. And before any of us (well most of us) rush into a marriage, there is considerable testing of the waters. There’s often the first dates, the meeting of each other’s friends, the allocation of space in an undie draw (Mack & I skipped that bit), the meeting of the parents, the moving in together, the engagement and finally the wedding. And OK yes; on some occasions that’s followed by the un-wedding…

The point is, a whole heap of compatibility checking takes place before locking into a formal agreement. Mack and I are only now formally partnering into Actual to Ideal™. We operated for the first year under a verbal statement of understanding, and part of that understanding was that we would openly and frequently discuss all the potentially prickly stuff. You know – the money, responsibility, expectations, intellectual property, assets, workload etc.… stuff. And following each discussion, we would make notes and confirm that we agreed with each other’s truth.

Whilst it can be difficult to talk about the difficult things, it’s far easier talking about them before they actually occur rather than dealing with them in the heat of conflict. The notes we took over this time are now forming the basis for our formal partnership agreements. And whilst we are not expecting our partnership to be without bumps along the journey, we have tried and tested each other sufficiently enough to be confident that we are on the same page, in the same chapter of the same book.

If you are currently in a partnership and you have not had some of those crucial discussions, go get your partner, sit them down and have a ‘how do we improve/save this relationship – before it’s too late’ type discussion.

Yours in prosperity and fun

Jeff Austin

Actual To Ideal

Business Coach Bunbury
Jeff Austin - Business Coach Bunbury
Print This Post Print This Post

Customer Service Consistency

Good Customer Service? – It depends how you sing it

An experiment – Please sing the Eagles ‘Hotel California’ from the first verse (you may get some ‘what the…?’ looks if people are nearby). I’ll get you started… “On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair…” How far did you get before the words became a tad ‘ad-lib’? Please continue the experiment and get some of your team to sing it. How was their version? Were the words, harmony, tempo the same as yours?

So how do you think it would sound if you all got together and tried singing it at the same time with different words / harmony / tempo? Not pleasant I’m guessing. The problem is, all you had to work with was a song title – albeit a very popular song title (for anyone over 35 that is).

Here are some other very popular ‘song titles’. Customer Service – Safe work practices –Good work environment. They are all very popular (i.e. we hear them frequently) however I bet you are dealing with the gap of these songs being ‘sung’ in often very different ways by different people. And what happens when customers experience varying levels of service, or not all the team contribute to a good work environment?

A more fitting word for these ‘song titles’ is Standards. And the key to getting greater consistency in the delivery of these Standards is to provide your team with more than just the title. Instead of just telling team members (new and existing) that they need to provide ‘great customer service’, give them sufficient detail / examples / coaching etc. so they begin to understand how this song is played here. Otherwise the only reference point they will have is how they were allowed to play it at their last workplace.

Our clients are very clever – they document all their Standards and then have their teams regularly review, challenge and improve them. And when these companies sing, it truly is music to their customer’s ears…

Yours in prosperity and fun

Jeff Austin

Actual to Ideal

Close the Gap
Jeff Austin - Business Coach Bunbury
Print This Post Print This Post

Finding and keeping the right people

“There are no good people to hire!”…. Bull$#!t!!

This month I was invited to speak at a state conference in the Kimberley. The topic was one of the most contentious facing virtually every employer, in particular those in regional and remote WA… ‘How to attract and retain the right people onto your bus’.

Those attending were delightful people, but they did not hold back with their beliefs of ‘There aren’t any good people out there!’ They were however quite open to my reply ‘Of course there’s good people out there! They are just on someone else’s bus…’ Their next concern was equally as common as their first – ‘But how do we attract them when the resource sector offers so much money?’

I had them complete a short survey where they each prioritised a list of 10 employee motivators. The list included money, security, work environment etc. and was taken from research that has been conducted repeatedly over the past 50 years.

The room was made up predominantly of management. And predominately they listed these as their top 4

  1. Money
  2. Job Security
  3. Career advancement
  4. Good conditions

However what the research shows and what my experiences reinforce, is that this is what employees want most

  1. Appreciation
  2. A feeling of ‘being in on things’
  3. Sympathetic help with personal issues
  4. Job security

(Money ranked 5th) The question I posed to them was this – ‘Can you provide the 4 things employees want most and support that with a good income and opportunities for them to be paid what they are worth?’ (e.g. KPIs tied to bonuses) Overwhelmingly, they agreed.

If ‘colossal incomes’ is a battle you can’t win, why fight it? Particularly when you may not need to fight that battle to wind up with a win – for all concerned.

Yours in prosperity and fun

Jeff Austin

Actual to Ideal

Close the Gap
Jeff Austin - Business Coach Bunbury