You Didn’t Really Try

June 15, 2015

I am amused/frustrated by the number of people who will tell me that something didn’t work. They’ve tried that. When I ask how long they tried or how many attempts they gave it, the answer is almost always once or twice. Well, then you didn’t really try.

Seriously, if you are attempting something new, whether for your business, with your parenting, in your marriage, you need to give it an honest try. Commit to the new thing for a length of time. Give it 100% for a while.

In parenting, things usually get worse before they get better. Why? Because the temper tantrum (or whatever behavior you’re trying to stop) used to work. The thought process of your child will be “I just need to do it harder/longer/louder.” Don’t give up.

In business, it often takes weeks or months for results to show up. And, if it’s a new marketing strategy, remember that it takes 3-7 touches for most people to respond.

If you want real change in your life, you need to give new behaviors a chance to work. Give it an honest try. It might just change your life.


Referrals

July 25, 2014

I love referrals. They are a boon to my business. The problem with referrals is that many people don’t understand them.

Is It Really a Referral?

When someone hands me a business card or a note with a name and number, that’s a lead. It’s not a referral. A referral is, essentially, an introduction.

When someone tells their friend via call, text, social media, or conversation that they should contact me, and then let me know they’ve done that (along with that friend’s contact info), that’s a referral. When someone sends their friend a link to my website or FB Page, that’s a referral. If someone suggests that I meet up with them and their friend, that’s a fantastic referral!

What Now?
Once I have a true referral, it’s up to me to follow up. And, it’s my job to continue to follow up until the other person clearly breaks off the contact or moves from contact to customer. (The follow-up doesn’t stop there, it just changes in tone.)

It’s also my job to keep the person who gave me that referral in the loop. Whether that’s “I’m trying to connect with [referred name]” or “Thanks so much for the great referral; [referred name] is meeting with me on Tuesday.” Keeping the person who referred someone to you informed has two purposes. First, if you’re having trouble connecting with the person they referred, they might give you an alternate, better way of contacting that person. Second, it makes them more likely to refer others to you. And, don’t we all want more referrals?

Finally, consider rewarding those whose referrals lead to business for you. It doesn’t take much to make someone feel appreciated.

A Final Note
I think the biggest reason business people don’t get referrals is that they don’t ask for them. Ask your satisfied customers to introduce you to people who might also enjoy your services or products. After all, you rarely get what you don’t ask for.


Suggestions for Event Vendors

March 7, 2014

I love events. I love doing them as a vendor. I love helping to organize events. I especially love attending events. However, I don’t love every vendor at the events I attend. I thought I’d share some suggestions that came out of the last event I attended.

Greet people who enter your booth. Seriously, every person who enters your space deserves a “hello” and, at minimum, assurance that you’re there if they have any questions. We visited several booths where the vendor reps were so busy talking with one another (or reading, staring into space, or messing with their tech gadgets), that they didn’t even say hello. If you’re busy with another customer, that’s fine. If you’ve simply decided that the person who just walked up isn’t a good potential customer (or you’ve checked out mentally because you’re tired or bored), you lose. As a matter of fact, several vendors at the last event my husband and I attended missed out on a very good prospect when they ignored my husband. He waits for the vendor to initiate contact. If they don’t, he considers them uninterested in doing business. You’re the professional; it’s your job to make that contact.

Don’t be overly aggressive. The opposite of ignoring guests to your booth is ignoring the clues they’re giving that they want to leave. These include saying “no, thank you” and backing away while you’re talking to them. If they’re not interested, they’re not interested. Allow them to move on so you can move on to a better prospect.

Keep your wording positive. Talk up your products (“our product is made of stainless steel”) instead of talking down your competitors (“[competitor] is poor quality”). Generally you should choose positive language over negative–“I agree” instead of “I don’t disagree.” It seems small, but positive language draws people; negative language repels them.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it covers the most irritating things I encountered at my last event. And, even worse, they’re the things that cost those vendors potential customers.


Distractions

February 13, 2014

I had an interesting experience recently. I was at an event where the speaker was talking about avoiding distractions. While she was speaking she was completely distracted by the two women who were having a private conversation instead of paying attention to her. How ironic.

I have two observations. The first is that it is incredibly rude to talk while the speaker is talking. Anything beyond “I never thought of that” or “What did she say?” should wait until after the speaker is done.

Second, when you’re speaking you need to be able to shut out those kinds of distractions. Granted, this particular speaker was talking about reducing the number of distractions in your workspace, but, since she’s a speaker, this was her workspace for that evening. I do a lot of speaking. I know how frustrating it is to feel like people are missing something key you’re saying. But, stopping to single them out (whether by saying something or simply waiting until they sense the silence and tune back in) is disruptive to the entire group. Respect the ones who are listening enough to keep going. I know that’s easier said than done, but it’s the professional way to handle things.


When an Event Disappoints

December 1, 2013

I did an event yesterday. In addition to the booth fee, which I thought was very reasonable at $30, each vendor was asked to donate an item for a silent auction. The funds raised from the silent auction will go to the church at which the event was held. The event was a bit of a dud. There were few people who came through. I know it was well advertised in the area. Still, sometimes those things just happen.

One of the vendors was much less understanding than I. After the first half hour she began complaining. She complained to the coordinator. She complained to the vendors around her. And, because she wasn’t exactly quiet with her complaints, we all knew how displeased she was.

Halfway through the four-hour event she demanded a refund. When she was told that her booth fee was non-refundable she began accusing the coordinator of fraud and theft. She threatened to go to the media and “let them know” that the event was a fraud.

Eventually one of the people involved in the running of the event gave the disgruntled vendor her money back. The vendor also took back her silent auction item. Even though she had been packed up for at least half an hour, it took her another half an hour to leave. By the time she left she had spread vile accusations through about a third of the vendors–several of whom left early.

This particular vendor left a bad impression of herself and of her company. The company is almost completely unknown in that particular area. Now most of the vendors there will associate her behavior with the company. That’s bad business.

There are several things to consider when you decide to participate in an event. Is the booth rental fee reasonable? Is it too far away? Is it an established event? Are the demographics in the area a good fit for my products? And, even if the event passes all of these questions with flying colors, it can still wind up with few attendees. That’s the risk you take when you decide to do an event.

The disgruntled vendor had traveled a long way. But, she made that choice. This was only the second year for the event. Since it was called “The Second Annual . . .” she had to know that. The event was in a somewhat small town. Since her business involved security devices, a town where many people don’t bother to lock their doors might not be the most target-rich environment. So, in my opinion, the disgruntled vendor was at least partially at fault if she didn’t like the way things turned out.

Here’s the thing, though. Even if she had good reason to be upset, the way she handled things was completely inappropriate. She upset several people. She made a public spectacle of herself. It would have been fine to go to the event coordinator and express her displeasure. It would even be fine to request a refund, though I consider it unreasonable for her to demand it. And, once she had her refund, it was even more inappropriate for her to stay around and stir up more trouble.

When you do an event you need to remember that no one can guarantee an outcome. As a matter of fact, even if there are hundreds of attendees, that’s no guarantee that you’ll have great sales or add lots of parties to your calendar. And, lack of sales and/or bookings doesn’t mean your time is completely wasted. I’ve done events where the only thing I gained was a new friend. But, what could be better than that?

Also, make sure you’ve taken responsibility for your part in the event’s success. Talk about it on social media. Invite your friends, family, and customers. If every vendor brings in 5 people, the event will usually go well. If each one brings in 10, it will probably be a smash.

Finally, no matter how upset you might be, don’t make things worse by throwing a fit. That disgruntled vendor’s behavior said much more about her than it did about the event.


When You’ve Done Wrong

November 11, 2013

We all make mistakes. We all do the wrong thing occasionally (or more than occasionally). The way you handle things when you’ve done wrong says a lot about you. Do you blame others? Do you make excuses? Do you try to cover things up? Or, do you take responsibility. Face the consequences. Do your best to help minimize the repercussions of that mistake?

If you want to really shake up the person you report to, go to him or her the moment you realize you have made a mistake or misstep. Tell them what happened. Share anything you’ve done to rectify the situation. Apologize sincerely. If appropriate, share any ideas you have for making sure something similar doesn’t happen in the future. Accept whatever reprimand and/or penalty coming to you. Do your best to do better in the future.

In the interest of openness, let me confess that this blog idea came from a recent personal experience. I have a lot of responsibilities with my church. Recently, some of those responsibilities have changed—especially those concerning money. Up until recently it was my responsibility to deposit funds. We were expecting a donation to come by mail. When it arrived I attempted to contact the man now in charge of making deposits. When I couldn’t get hold of him I decided to go ahead and deposit the check, since I knew we were counting on those funds. I then let both him and our pastor know that I’d done that. As I thought about it, I realized I had completely overstepped my bounds. Though I was simply doing what seemed logical at the time, that was not my call to make. I texted both men that I realized I had surpassed my authority and assured them it would not happen again. The next morning I sent a text of apology to my pastor (he wasn’t in a situation where I could call), telling him I realized that what I had done was a breach of both procedure and his trust. I asked for forgiveness, which was immediately given. I then called the man whose authority I had usurped. Again, I apologized and assured him it would never happen again. He told me that he was floored by my text the day before, since I hadn’t waited to be admonished. He accepted my apology and told me he knew and appreciated my heart.

This incident came, of course, after years of handling these things the wrong way—mostly hoping that my errors wouldn’t be noticed or called to anyone’s attention. I have to say, though, that taking care of this right away helped to lift a burden from my heart.


The Purpose of Facebook

November 2, 2013

I really like Facebook. It has helped me in my personal life to keep in touch with far-flung family members. It has helped me re-connect with people I knew years ago.

From a business standpoint, it has helped friends to lead their friends to me. It has helped me stay in touch with customers even when they aren’t in a purchasing mood.

Here’s the thing. The purpose of Facebook is social, not business. That doesn’t mean Facebook can’t be an important part of your business. What it means is that your purpose on Facebook (FB) should not be to sell things. I know that our purpose is to sell things. But, you need to get that out of your head when you’re posting on your FB Page. What you need to be thinking is: What can I say that will be of value to everyone reading this?

Yes, knowing about your sale is of value. And, about 20% of the time you should post things like that. But, if you’re a jewelry business, share style ideas. If you’re a business that sells wording that people can put on walls, share inspirational quotes. Mine is a cooking tools business, so I share food/cooking/entertaining tips.

If everything you post is a commercial for your products, you’re a giant infomercial. And, you’re probably not engaging people. It’s better to post less often with great content than to post several times a day with things that just annoy people.