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DON'T Take The Summer Off, Perfect Your Business Planning

A lot of my clients, entrepreneurs, people thinking of launching their own business and business planning, job seekers, and owners of established businesses have been telling me that they begun to or are planning on cutting back their efforts as we head into the July 4th weekend and will cut back their efforts over the summer in a “wait until Fall” mindset.

Their thinking is, since we are still trapped in a global recession, our kids are out of school and heading away to camp, they are going to take the summer to regroup by slowing down their business planning and wait until Fall to re-engage.  THAT is the worst possible approach and a recipe for disaster. Now more than ever we should be aggressively looking at our planning and strategies to make sure we’re on the right path.
Here are just a few critical business issues we should be diving into right now to ensure the long-term health of our businesses:
* Do I have the right people in the right positions?
* What am I doing to find, recruit, hire, retain, motivate and reward TOP talent? HINT: If you answered “pay them more” you missed the boat completely.
* Is my strategy still appropriate for the current economic climate?

* Do I REALLY understand my market? Am I adequately positioned to serve the right customers? * Do I have a deep enough understanding of my ideal prospect? * How well have I analyzed my customer base? * Am I focused on serving the right customers? Do I have that Pareto principle down where I’m focusing on the clients that are most valuable to me…today and tomorrow?

* Is my sales in perfect alignment with my marketing…and product development? Speaking of marketing…while my competitors have been cutting back for several years now, now may be the ideal time to ramp up my marketing spend.
* Is my marketing well aligned with my ideal customer profile, most profitable prospects and situated to convert highly qualified leads into customers.
* Do I have a client appreciation/loyalty/retention AND referral program?
* What new services/products can I offer? Which products need to be discontinued?
* Am I embracing social media the right way?
How do I track my social media performance from an ROI perspective (HINT – the tools now exist to measure ALL your online branding/relationship-building activities.)
The list goes on and on, but the point remains the same for EVERYONE. For entrepreneurs, start-ups, small to mid-sized businesses and global corporations alike…now is the IDEAL time to make significant changes so you are positioned to eat your competitor’s lunch. After all, we’re not the Post Office, right? For us entrepreneurs and small biz owners, one of our greatest strengths is in our smaller size, so we should be able to adapt quickly to change in order to seize on opportunities. NOW is NOT the time to bury our heads in the (BEACH) sand.

We need to be aggressively figuring out what has worked for us, what hasn’t worked, what is and isn’t working, and what we need to change in order to be successful in the future. In today’s globally connected, wired, Internet-based world, we are truly competing 24x7x365. So get going! I for one am scheduled to have foot surgery in a month.  Right now I’m in the process of completely re-designing my website to reflect the fact that I now will coach/consult entrepreneurs and small business owners, I’m cutting back my teaching engagements, aggressively promoting my speaker services and training/professional development programs. I’d LOVE to slow down and take time off, but time favors the bold. Opportunities don’t come knocking. Seize the opportunity your competitors are giving you by them slowing down. Fix what’s broken and find what’s working. Hire a coach…take a course…revamp your networking strategy.  Test an entirely new marketing tool.  Launch a client appreciation luncheon…conduct an employee town hall.

Now is the PERFECT time to race ahead, while your competitors are standing still.

Cold-Calling Made Easy

Business Growth

Cold Calling Made Easy

How come cold calling scares so many people? Whether you’re facing thee prospect of calling on on someone to inquire about a job opening or you’re looking to sell them your products/services to, the prospect of calling a complete stranger could be very daunting.
Fear of rejection? Nervous what you’re going to say? Easily irritated by the people who try to prevent you from getting through from your intended target? It doesn’t have to be a terrifying experience! Start by researching the person you are going to call. Learn as much about them as you can. Know where they graduated from school, what jobs they held in the past, what professional trade associations they belong to, etc. Then, understand how their role fits into the overall strategic plan of the organization.

What products and services do they manage. What brands, products, services does her/his team oversee? Ask the really big question: “What challenges keep them up at night?” Then find people that worked for them, worked in their organization, worked for them in the past, or know them through professional networking circles. The ideal goal would be to ask for a personal introduction if someone that you know knows them.

The next step in the process entails figuring out how you can provide solutions to the key business challenges that they face. Once you have completed your research, you are ready to write a call script which you will rehearse before you call, so you feel comfortable calling them. Your script will follow this structure: INTRO: Hello Ms. [Last Name] My name is [xxx]. I see that your organization is facing the following challenges: CHALLENGE ONE CHALLENGE TWO CHALLENGE THREE I’m in a unique position to help you because of my background in: SKILL ONE SKILL TWO SKILL THREE I would like to schedule some time to meet with you in the next week or two, to discuss your current challenges and how I can provide you with a set of solutions. This may sound overly simplistic, but it works! The single most important aspect of this approach is to create a compelling message based on providing a set of unique solutions to their biggest challenges.

Check out these great Cold Calling resources: Cold-calling tips Your first cold-call article Cold-calling “How-to’s”Cold call cheat sheet of great practices.

Business Networking to Grow Your Business.

This week’s blog comes from a suggestion made by Harold Wilkerson, a student of mine in my Entrepreneurship class at Fordham University. For some reason that I don’t understand, small business owners don’t take a strategic approach to business networking as a source for new client acquisition.

Networking is THE single best source for the most immediate access to qualified leads, assuming of course you take a strategic approach to your networking.  Following are excellent strategies that you can implement IMMEDIATELY to maximize your networking results. In the first few seconds that you meet someone, you have to tell them what you do in such a passionate and compelling manner that they say: “Wow! Tell me more!
For example, my opening is: “I help entrepreneurs and business owners achieve their life ambition of planning, launching and growing a successful business.”  After the introductions, you only have a few minutes to explain what you and your business does in such a convincing way that they want to schedule a time to meet with you afterwards. You’ve got to make every minute count!  The best advice I can give is to develop a strategic networking plan!   Describe your ideal target segment in detail, and identify where they network.
Find the top industry associations/groups of professionals that represent your target segment. Create a 90-day calendar of events that they attend. Make sure that you register to attend as many of their events as you possibly can. Meanwhile, you can and should join as many of their peer groups on LinkedIn. LinkedIn allows you to join up to 50 groups. When you sign up to attend networking events (especially using MeetUp) you will receive invites from those groups. Their invitations include notifications of other members that register to attend. Research the group members that respond they are attending on LinkedIn to see if they are a potential customer for you.
Next, send the folks that seem like a match for you a note through LinkedIn saying you look forward to meeting with them at the event. You should also invite them to join you on LinkedIn. This will help you facilitate a more personal introduction when you meet them at the event, while also building your professional network online (as well as your online brand.) If they are receptive to you (meaning they accept your invitation and/or send you a note saying they look forward to meeting with you) then follow them on Twitter. Always tweet about the events you’re going to attend, and be sure to post status updates both before and after you attend events in LinkedIn and on your FaceBook pages. Be sure to thank the meeting facilitators/hosts.

Have a scripted sales pitch all ready to go for each event. Send people that you speak with at events an immediate follow up with reminders of your conversation. Spend NO MORE THAN 10 minutes with every person you meet. Anything longer than that is wasted time. You should be scheduling a time to meet with them afterwards so you can make a maximum number of contacts while you’re at the event. When you are speaking to people you should be spending most of the time LISTENING. Ask them probing and thoughtful questions like: “Why are you here this evening?” or “What are you looking to get out of this event?
It’s always a good idea to ask questions like: “What are your top challenges that your firm is facing right now?” that will help you to identify their top business challenges and reveal ways that you can provide a solutions to the challenges they face. This is the single fastest way to make an emotional connection with a potential client. And we all know that people ALWAYS make purchase decisions on emotional levels and use data/facts to rationalize/support their (emotional) decisions. People buy from people they like being around. Check out what Ivan Misner, Founder of BNI has to say about networking in this video: “Ten Commandments for successful Networking.”
Get their contact details into your contact management system immediately. Call the highest priority pre-qualified leads back within 24 hours. Add them to your Google Circles.

If they shared with you any special needs or challenges they face, it will make a very positive impression with them if you share relevant information, resources that provides answers to any questions they had. It’s also a nice touch to introduce them to people in your professional network who might be able to assist them based on anything they revealed to you when you spoke with them at the networking event. The bottom line is, networking works best consistently getting exposure for yourself, your firm and your products and services to the right target audience is a VERY powerful strategic way to fill your sales pipeline. Need more help with prospecting? Get my e-book on “Prospecting for Customer Gold” at Happy Memorial Day!

What Is A Career Coach?

A career coach is MANY things. In order to achieve exceptional results for the people you help, you HAVE to be different things to different people. I am at times a therapist, trainer, confidant, problem-solver, Ghost writer, drill sergeant, motivator, enabler, sounding board…successful career coaches wear many hats. You match “customize” what you do and what you can offer to each client, to serve their specific needs. To do this, I take into consideration each client’s personality, in order to help them achieve IMMEDIATE specific, measurable goals. A career coach provides the guidance, strategies, resources, and actionable tasks a client needs, in order to help them find a job, change careers, or re-enter the workforce. We’re ALL about exploring paths and finding the right direction for our clients to go in…or, we SHOULD be.
You have to REALLY know what’s going on in today’s GLOBAL CONTRACT workplace. Having started my career in recruiting, then being down-sized EIGHT times over 23 years in a career spent as a MARKETER, and now balancing time between coaching and consulting organizations how to unleash their people’s full potential…well, I’m fortunate to be able to help people. But what I offer has to be MUCH more in these demanding times. I help people to develop a strategic networking plan, their (40-year) career plan, and research the industries they want to enter.

I may prep them for an important interview, or teach them how to conduct an “informational” interview. In short, there’s so much more to coaching than just re-writing resumes and cover letters! I help others to brand, market, and sell the PRODUCT of you. I work with my clients to promote themselves to their current employer for career advancement. If someone is struggling to understand what they have to offer, we have to start by gaining an understanding of what they represent, in terms of their interests, values, passions, hobbies, personality, etc. So, a career coach helps people in their journey to self-exploration. We match their work preferences with the ideal organizations they would thrive in, whose informal culture matches their own belief system.
What a career coach Is NOT.
Career coaches are NOT recruiters, staffing agencies, or placement firms. This is critical in being able to work effectively with a coach. Those other organizations match job seeking candidates with the clients they are paid by, to find employees. Coaches don’t have contractual relationships with the hiring organizations. If they did, they could NOT have YOUR best interests at heart when they are working to get paid by the hiring organization.

In fact, they really don’t care about the job seeker. They certainly do NOT work hard to ensure that there is a GREAT “fit” between the candidate’s values, personality and needs and the culture of the organization. Some of you that have followed me for a long time know how LITTLE regard I have for those folks. How to find a career coach? The best way is to get a personal referral from someone that knows you very well and the career coach. Absent of that, you can go to a career coach credentialing organization or one of the many coaching associations in your area. I hope this helps. As always…dedicated to your career success!


HELP! I've Embraced Small Business Technology & Can't Get Up

This is a story about how I came to love the cloud and small business technology…and you can, too!

Recently I had an epiphany. Technology is the 21st Century’s equivalent of root canal. You need it. It’s good for you in the long run, but it sure does hurt! Case in point. I recently decided to embrace the cloud. My motivation was, I got tired of constantly updating my files and re-saving changes to EVERY document on my PC, storage devices, laptop, then carry them around with me everywhere I went on flash drives so I could work on them when I needed to. It was a logistical nightmare to keep track of the latest versions. Know the feeling? I needed a more simple way of operating.
Enter the cloud. In the cloud, you just log on and access your files. you update them when you need to, and email them to anyone no matter where you are. Sounds pretty good, right? I uploaded all of my critical documents to Google Docs and activated a Gmail email account. Why Google? They HAVE to be great. You name it, Google does it. Don’t believe me? Check out: “Google is all about the cloud. Going Google.” That is, unless you’re an Apple iCloud or Microsoft SkyDrivefan. Wouldn’t it be great if you could manage all your information in a SINGLE place, to get it from anywhere at any time? Sounds good to me! I just signed up for a paid client relationship management software service through the cloud called Highrise.

Now I can supposedly manage all of my prospects and clients from ONE place. I say supposedly because I just signed up for the service. so theoretically I don’t need to store all those contact email addresses on Excel spreadsheets, in Outlook, in my email, on my cellphone, and those scraps of paper lying all around the computer. I also exported all my emails from Yahoo into an Excel file. Did that! but I still wasn’t done. I have @ 1,500 email addresses in my Constant Contact email account, so I had to also export those so I could upload them to my CRM. I had an ulterior motive for making all these vendor changes.
I want to leave Yahoo, my current email and web hosting service provider. I signed up with Yahoo eight years ago, to host my website ( It’s a basic template design, and it doesn’t afford me with the ability to interact with the people who visit my website. I also can’t customize the information they receive, based on their preferences. Another strike against Yahoo is that in order for you to run Google Analytics (Google again!) to see how your website performs, you need to place Javascript coding on your website. The Yahoo service that I have been paying for (it’s called Site Solution) won’t let me do that. As you know (since you’re reading this blog)
I have a blog that is created in Google Blogger. Since WordPress is the new sexy blog platform AND the hottest new web site development platform, I took a Word Press class to figure out how to blog with it. I wanted to use WordPress instead of Blogger and connect my blog to my website. No can do! At the time, WordPress couldn’t run on Yahoo’s platform. How’s this for irony…I log into my Blogger account with a Yahoo email. When I tried to change my account settings in (GOOGLE) Blogger recently to use my (Google) Gmail account, Blogger wouldn’t let me. HUH???

Just when you think you have this technology thing figured out, they move your cheese. The rate of technological change is happening at such a fast pace it seems virtually impossible to keep up with things. Social media is a perfect example. You create a Twitter account, and start banging out those 140-character brain farts. Follow people, get them to follow you, use hash tags (###) to build connections between you, your organization and specific terms…voila! Instant online branding nirvana, right? But that’s not good enough. You need your LinkedIn page, your personal business Facebook Fan pages to be in harmony with each other. Then you have to get invited to relevant MeetUp groups.
But now there’s Tumblr, Flickr, Pinterest. Then, experts used to say you should be active in online user forums. Now we’re told online forums aren’t relevant anymore. It’s getting virtually impossible to keep on top of all the changing technologies, tools and best practices. One person I can always rely on for the best updates and keen insights is Ramon Ray, Chief Technology Evangelist at SmallBizTechnology.

Whenever there’s online content that you want to subscribe to, you can get a feed of that blog, news, author, etc. sent directly to you. It’s called really simple syndication (RSS.) But once you start signing up to receive feeds from a few sources, it seems like the data starts flowing in constantly. While you’re doing all this online marketing activity, it’s also crucial that you measure your brand online. It helps to see how your efforts are leading to increased clout (brand equity) you’ve built. To measure your relevance in the online world, there are a ton of resources you can select from such as HubSpot, Klout, Google+, etc. But wait, there’s MUCH more. Now Quick Response (QR) codes are hot. QR codes let you zap contact information, and capture special promotions almost anywhere.

Don’t forget cell phones. 3G is out. Long live 4G (for now) Which model? iPhone? Android? Droid? Galaxy? Razr? Lumia? Phones have cameras…and Playstation. Sprint, AT&T, Verizon? Tablets now show 3-D video. Is that TV or Internet you’re watching? Don’t get me started on that! And there’s an APP for almost anything. It never, EVER ends! Even technerds are scrambling to keep pace. So much to learn, so much technology changing at warp speed. I have a headache. I think I’m going to lie down and take a nap, or play with my dog. Wait! Maybe I can download an app for that…from the cloud.

Follow Your Nose, Your Gut, and Your Heart for Career Success

Another way of saying you trust your sniffer is “follow your gut/instinct.” That queasy, tingly feeling you get in the pit of your stomach exists to warn you when something isn’t right (danger, danger!) It’s known as the “fight or flight syndrome.” Trust your instincts, the saying goes. Well, it makes for great career success advice, too!
Others tell you to follow your heart. When you pursue your passions, you will never work a day in your life. How do you know when the decisions you choose are the RIGHT decisions? What do all 3 body-sensing warning systems (sniff-gut-heart) have in common? In these times of significant change and chaos, following your instincts will lead you to make all of the RIGHT decisions, when you are confronted with the dizzying array of choices you’re confronted with, to ensure your career success.
Instinctive decision-making is NOT impulsive decision-making. Instinctive decision-making is based on extrapolating a set of most likely options based on similar past experiences and a comparable decision-making approach. You may not have had an identical past experience to draw from, but you most likely WERE confronted with similar characteristics. Making decisions based on your instincts is like drawing on a deep reservoir of unique perspectives. It’s called having a hunch, or a vibe. According to Andrew Campbell and Jo Whitehead, “Our gut intuition accesses our accumulated experiences in a synthesized way, so that we can form judgments and take action without any logical, conscious consideration.” This can be helpful because it speeds up our ability to act. The challenge is to actually listen to that nagging voice in your head that says: “I smell a rat because…” “I feel like this is the right decision to make in my gut because…” “My heart tells meto do this because…”

Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink proves that making quick decisions often lead to better results than if you conducted significant research and analytical approaches. This begs the question: “Can we be taught how to make decisions in our life more effectively?”
Jim Suhr, the President of the Institute for Decision Innovationsemphasizes that all decisions be based on the importance of advantages” or as he puts it:”choosing by making advantages.” When you make decisions impulsively, you do so based on your mood in the moment on a whim without any past experiences to guide you. We often have certain mental blind spots called “scotomoas” that prevent us from seeing the entire “BIG” picture. What do these look like? They are the biases and the prejudices that we carry with us through life that came from our past experience and upbringing but are actually irrelevant to the decision we a faced with.

Think about some of the major decisions you made in your life:
* How did you choose your spouse?
* How did you decide where to go to school?
* How did you decide where to live?
* How did you select the school for your child/children?
* Think about the major investments you made.
Overcoming impulsive decision-making Ask your family and friends how they might approach a decision you have to make or get their reaction on a proposed decision you are thinking of making. It’s called crowd sourcing, or seeking the intelligence of the crowd.
Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman and psychologist Gary Klein debated the power and perils of using one’s intuition to make decisions for senior executives in a September 2009 American Psychology article titled “Conditions for intuitive expertise: A failure to disagree.” Understanding HOW you reached conclusions to make decisions will help you apply stronger reasoning and logic. And that will help you to withstand the smell-gut-hearttest.