Author Archives: Big GrassHopper

Case Study; Envisage

Case Study; Envisage

“We planned out what we need to do to achieve the figure, got everyone in the business focussed on it, and went for it.

That consistent and clear focus made all the difference, and we achieved the numbers we wanted.”

 

Customers: Nichola Clydesdale and Lee Murphy

Company: Envisage Promotions

Started working with Matt: December 2015

Services used: 121 Coaching 

 

Envisage Promotions has been running for six and a half years, and is owned by partners Nichola Clydesdale and Lee Murphy.  A business where Nichola had previously worked had employed an ActionCOACH, so she was aware of the huge benefits of coaching, and the ActionCOACH process in particular.

 

Key benefits of working with Matt have included:

  • Growth in customer base

  • Increase in quotes

  • Improved conversion rates

  • Increased business from all customers

  • 50% team growth

  • Better work/life balance

 

When Nichola met Matt, the business was doing well and had good people in place.  She and Lee felt that they’d got to a point where they were ready to take it to the next step. From her previous experience she knew that ActionCOACH would help her clarify and keep focus on the right elements in the business to take it to the next level, so signed up to work with him straight away.

 

“We have a great business, and working with Matt has improved how we run things, and how effective we are within the business.  Putting systems in place for everything has made us more efficient, and we’ve got a dashboard that allows us to see all aspects of the business at a glance.  We couldn’t run the business without that now.  Knowing our financial position at any point means we can make quicker decisions, which has been particularly significant when it’s come to hiring new staff.  It was clear that without taking on new people the business couldn’t grow, but knowing the numbers so well we were confident about what we could afford, so could hire the right people at the right time.  

 

Matt’s also helped us to dream even bigger.  We set ourselves what we thought was an ambitious financial goal last year.  Matt suggested that we add an extra 25%, so we did.  We planned out what we need to do to achieve the figure, got everyone in the business focussed on it, and went for it.  That consistent and clear focus made all the difference, and we achieved the numbers we wanted.  All this at the same time as improving our work / life balance.

 

Knowing that we can spend more time with our kids now, will be able to help them as they get older, and can look forward to a more comfortable retirement than we’d ever imagined is fabulous.  Our business and personal lives are so intertwined, and the work that we’ve done with Matt has had a massively positive impact on both.”

 

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How I Was Nearly Sunk by a Newport Ship

How I Was Nearly Sunk by a Newport Ship

You never know in advance what to prepare for in life, but I have to admit my planning never included what transpired…

 

I had kicked off the architectural studio three years previously and we were now five strong and growing. The chance to bid for a major theatre project was too good to resist. We were up against established major practices with big resources and great track records in theatre design. But we were local, we linked with good teams and we interviewed well. We won the competition.

 

I had to juggle staff to resource the project, recruit a few more and decided not to bid for a few more mundane projects which we would probably have won had we submitted. The theatre project started well, we got the permissions, had all the site investigations done (ground conditions. archaeology, boundary and geological surveys) and we commenced on site with confidence.
A few weeks further on a concrete piling rig hit big timbers – we halted work, checked and found the ribs of a medieval ship in superb condition lying across the site. Work stopped, we were accused of desecrating a major archaeological find (the ship was bigger and older than the Mary Rose) and politicians got involved. The archaeology report had stated that we would find nothing of any value on the site and we had assumed they were experts – but that was of no help to us. The weeks of delay turned into months of no progress and no fees.

In hindsight I should have pitched at the other, more mundane projects to have some work to fall back on and allow me to re-assign staff resources. I should also have had a much greater reserve of cash ready for such an event. I could have also insured myself against such an outcome.

 

The end result – I had to make two staff redundant, we made four straight months of losses and when it all kicked off again I had trouble getting appropriate resources available. It caused me and my team enormous stress and put the development of the studios back a number of years.

 

The lesson I learnt is that you should always plan for the worst, expect the unexpected, but hope for the best and strive to make the most of it.

 

Planning is the key.

 

Thorough planning, in advance, to enable unplanned events to be accommodated relatively easily.

 

At ActionCOACH we ensure our clients understand why planning is so important, and help it to become a natural and instinctive part of their personal and business life.

3 Easy Ways to Improve Your Business Cash Flow

3 Easy Ways to Improve Your Business Cash Flow

Need to improve your cash flow?

Well who doesn’t?!

Here’s three small things you can do to have a significant improvement on your cash flow that my clients have applied successfully.

Pricing

How long is it since you last increased your prices? A few months, a year, two years even? I find that many business owners haven’t increased their prices for well over a year, even though their suppliers have! So, why is that?

Often it’s simply that they fear losing their customer.

So let’s consider why they think that way, but from their customer’s perspective.

I am assuming here that the customer is perfectly satisfied with the service/product they are buying from us. If not, then we have a bigger problem than thinking about raising our prices!

Thus, if our customer is satisfied with our service/product, what are their options when we raise the prices?

Yes – they could look to buy from the competition, but how do they know that the service they provide will be as good as that which they currently receive from us? It might be, it might not. So now an element of uncertainty has arisen in their minds. Mostly, we prefer the known to the unknown.

Secondly, they now have to spend their time looking for someone else, and even if they do find them, they then need to spend time effecting the changes to a new supplier. This whole change is now beginning to look like a time consuming exercise and mostly we value convenience! In short, often we can’t be bothered, unless we are certain of a significant improvement in value for money.

Accordingly, our customer finds themselves balancing a price increase against the uncertainty of the quality of service/product from another supplier and the inconvenience of spending their time making the change.

If our price increase is perceived as reasonable, given the long time since the last increase, then most customers will simply accept it and get on with their business life!

All we have to do is give them a rational reason for the increase and that usually satisfies most people.

So what is a ‘rational reason’? Typically it runs along the lines of ’in order to continue to provide the service you currently enjoy, I need to be able to pay good rates to attract the best staff and afford the best materials. These have increased over the last year or so and I now need to reflect those changes in my own prices. Does that make sense?’

They may not like it (!), but they will more than likely accept it.

As always, there’s no guarantee that all customers will accept it, but the increased profit from the majority who do, will more than offset the loss from the few who may not.

Give it a try, and see the benefit!

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Billing

So how promptly do you raise your invoices? On completion of the job/delivery? A few days later? A few weeks later? Hmmm!

Do you even raise interim invoices for jobs lasting more than a month?

Do you require a deposit on acceptance of order to secure the timing of the delivery of your service/delivery?

All of the above can often be tightened up with a significant improvement in the timing of receiving payment.

If you’re not delivering your invoice within 48 hours of completion of service/product delivery – why not? What’s getting in the way of this? Haven’t got time? Don’t like doing the paperwork? Then consider firstly how important to you is it to achieve this improvement. What impact would it have on your business if you got this sorted out properly?

Could you take on someone else to do it for you? Consider the benefit to you of this improvement and balance that against the cost of someone else doing it. It may well make sense when you take the time you save in to account as well, especially if you can do more revenue generating activity yourself now that would pay for their cost.

Interim billing. If the job takes more than a month to complete, consider positioning all customers before you start, that interim bills will be raised as you need to fund staff salaries and supplier payments as the job progresses. Most customers will understand this. Make sure you agree this before you start the job, when you have the most leverage!

Deposits.  Often customers will value the peace of mind of knowing that they have secured a supplier and a date for completion of the service/product. If this is particularly important to them, then they will be open to paying a deposit to secure that. Don’t be shy in raising this at the time of them agreeing to place the order with you. Again, this is when you have the most leverage.

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Debt Collection

Probably the area most business owners dislike, is having to chase for money! None of us do, as it feels incompatible with our normal client relationship.

So what could we do to alleviate it?

In short, the key lies in how we position our payment terms with the client when we first take them on.

Many don’t say anything at that time. They simply hope the new client will read the small print on our invoice and pay accordingly. Wish that everyone was so conscientious!

The reality is that people pay when it happens to suit them, unless they have explicitly agreed to your terms.

Thus, we need to explicitly agree our payment terms when we take on the new customer. It needs to be a standard part of our conversation. Not something to be avoided or omitted altogether.

The best time to advise them of your payment terms is immediately after they have agreed to buy from you. That is when they are least likely to demur.

Without obtaining their oral agreement to your terms at that moment, debt collection will be much much harder.

Once we have obtained their agreement to your terms, debt collection becomes a relatively simple process of invoicing promptly as you have agreed and following up no more than 2 days after each payment is due.

The conversation can be along the lines of ’just wanted to make sure that everything was ok with the service/product we provided the other day. Is that ok?’

If they say yes, then just gently remind them of the payment terms they agreed and ask if there is any difficulty in applying those. Whatever they say, deal with it as appropriate, but do not finish the conversation until they have given you a specific date when they will pay.

If they still don’t pay, then repeat the above process . The general rule here is that if they don’t do what they explicitly say they will on three occasions, then maybe this isn’t a client for you and it moves to legal proceedings.

Conclusion

  • Raise your prices –  Update in line with inflation, wage costs, and all other overheads, and do it confidently because let’s face it, we ALL need to recalucalute regularly.
  • Billing – Either consider interim billing or taking a deposit for your services and have a system to invoice promptly (within 48 hours of service).
  • Debt collection – get a clear answer when they will pay if they are late for some reason. Three Strike Rule: if someone will not pay their dues on time, consider letting the client go. All the time and worry you spend chasing them up is also a lost resource!

If you apply all of the above, then cash flow will improve significantly.

How to Entice New Clients in A Busy Market

How to Entice New Clients in A Busy Market

How many ads have you seen today? I can’t give you a reliable answer because ads barely register my attention anymore. I see a traditionally presented ad-format and I develop Selective Seeing Syndrome. The whole landscape of a webpage is divided into Stuff I Want to Look At (content), and Stuff I Automatically Skirt Over (ads). Chances are you do too.

 

“How do I find new clients?”

Is the question I am constantly being asked (at parties, weddings, work…)

 

Traditional advertising is a dying medium. People’s attention is evolving, most likely from sheer exhaustion at the amount of text and messages they are bombarded with daily.

 

So what has replaced traditional advertising? Content. Stories. Information. Call it what you want, it all boils down to the same thing: “How am I presenting a deeper message than my visual branding and the service we provide?”

 

“Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make but about the stories you tell.” Seth Godin.

 

For example, I work at a marketing firm and one of our clients happens to be a small day nursery in the UK. The nursery itself is fabulous; dedicated staff working tirelessly to make enjoyable memories for their children, brightly decorated rooms, good location. However, before we started working with them, they were registering only the sporadic sign up (despite leaflet drives). The owner was concerned on keeping all his staff if the trend continued.

 

We got to work co-creating content with the staff… each week I have a conversation in which I record the KPIs (show rounds of the nursery, conversions) and we discuss new topics for the company blog. With their help, I have been able to market who they are, and what they stand for each week on social media for the small cost of around 30 pounds a week.

 

The result: around one hundred people read the blog each week (targeted to local area) and there has been one sign up a week for four weeks running (from 2 – 3 show rounds). Of course I must credit the beautiful staff for making a good impression on show rounds, and keeping an attractive nursery. However, the difference is that now, people are connecting with the business and its stories, not just “advertising” to a jaded market.

 

The blog stories show the soul behind the business. A business is collection of people, working together everyday, consistently bringing value to their customers – and every business is different. To communicate who you are and get value from your writing efforts, here are my 6 tips;

 

  1. Work out your business’s personality

What makes your business special? Hint: don’t pick something like “excellent customer service” – everyone says that! The nursery we market really has a great grasp on children’s development and creating activities which nurture their growth, so the blogs try to capture that knowledge base.

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  1. Don’t be boring

Don’t make the mistake of wanting to sound so professional, that your blog or social media content sounds like a dry textbook analysis. Write conversationally, and add some interest or colour where you can. Always test the title with “would I click on this if I were my prospective client?”

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  1. Keep it real

Get photos of your staff or examples of your projects, anything that shows your daily life doing your “business thing.” My local Vietnamese restaurant posts consistently what daily specials they are making everyday, and knowing that a freshly made, Vietnamese sandwich is on the menu makes me reconsider my lunch plans!

 

  1. Let them know what to do

 Always have a “call to action” to take another step. They’ve read your voice, know a little what you represent – use this as an opportunity to offer the reader something. It could be more information, a quote, a sample, a discount… but allow them to get to know your business better. To make a difference and entice clients in a busy world – it’s what you give that sets you apart. For example: at the bottom of this page I invite you to try our free cash tracking resource, which has helped our coaching clients to get to grips with their current financial position.

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  1. Pay for readers (avoid screaming into the void)

Many, many people write blogs, and without some paid advertisement no-one is going to stumble into your corner of the internet and see what you are saying (unless you have a wide FB page following already, in that case you can succeed publishing organically). You need to invest in a long term strategy of helpful blogs, promoted on social media to new clients.

 

  1. Analyze This

Make sure you have installed Google Analytics so you can stalk your viewers’ activity – which blogs have a high bounce rate (clicking away) and which seem to interest the reader enough to look at other website pages? Look at your Facebook ads results to see what topics have high CTR (click through rate). The numbers tell a story, are you listening?

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These 6 tips above will help you get your content marketing away and some fresh, new clients to serve.

How Erica Fiedner Sold 41 Million Dollars in Pianos

How Erica Fiedner Sold 41 Million Dollars in Pianos

Truly amazing Salespeople seem a breed of their own, but just like all talents only some of it is innate and most is developed through training and experience.

 

Erica Feidner is one of the world’s leading salespeople.

She was the top sales representative for Steinway & Sons worldwide for eight consecutive years, selling over $41 million dollars in pianos, costing anywhere between $2,000 to $152,000.

Bearing in mind selling pianos is a difficult job (high investment, requires skills to play,not many repeat purchases), how did she become famous for her sales skills? More importantly, what can we learn from her?

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1. Share Your Knowledge Freely

When she is selling, Erica will often use her skills as an ex-piano teacher to sit down and teach a novice to play something very simple.

This opens the potential customer’s mind to the possibility of playing the piano, even if they have little or no starting ability.

What starts as a browse in the piano showroom (maybe due to a long buried interest in playing) becomes playing a song, which turns into the grand step of purchasing a piano!

A reporter interviewing her thought a fine piano out of his price range, but Erica showed him two second-hand pianos and encouraged him to come in again with his favourite sheet music. The second hand pianos were still priced far out of his expectations for an instrument. However, he did come into the showroom again, with his favourite sheet music. When he experienced how much better his playing sounded on a fine piano, he quickly put down a deposit for the remaining secondhand piano (as the other one had already sold).

The lesson – they wouldn’t have come to your store (or wandered onto your website) unless some aspect of them is inherently interested in your product.

A little more understanding about your product or industry may sway them to buy from you.

 

 

2. Share Your Passion

“It is not unusual for Feidner’s customers to describe her as a force of nature. This is not because they feel pressured by her but because after they meet her many soon find themselves in the grip of musical ambitions they never knew they harboured. These ambitions often include buying a specific piano that they feel they can no longer live without, even if it strains both their living rooms and their bank accounts.”” – The New Yorker.

 

Erica has gone on record saying that each piano is so different as to have a type of soul, which needs to match with the personality of its player.

She once described one piano as having an “inner fire” which matched the personality of its buyer. The way Erica views pianos through the lens of a sensitive artist or poet.

This comes across to people, who are buying into her passion  as much as her product.

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3. Know Your Product and Your Customer

 

The combination of in depth product knowledge and understanding her customer needs has placed Erica into being recognised by Inc. as one of the world’s top ten salespeople.

Once she learns more about a person, she educates them on the different sounds and feels of different models of piano. Like a wine tasting tour in sound, the customer is shown how each type of piano differs from each other, and using the feedback she gains more information about what the customer really desires in an instrument.

She now works independently and has a website called Piano Matchmaker, where people can try pianos all over the world until they achieve their perfect match.

 

4. Be Patient, Not Pushy

Erica is famous for spending an hour or more with a potential customer. She is also known to never push a sale, but advise a customer to wait until they found the right piano for them. This seems counter-intuitive to many people in sales (“strike when the iron is hot” type of mindset) but it shows that soft selling can be more effective in the long term.

Erica knew she could make record sales (over 5 million dollars in each year) without hurrying or hard-selling anyone, just by sharing her expertise and passion in a personable way.

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Conclusion:

Erica is recognised as being one of the most talented salespeople in existence, but as for herself, she doesn’t see herself as a “salesperson”.

By not focusing on the bottom line, and focusing only on the customer experience of buying, sharing her knowledge (in pianos or playing) and communicating her incredible passion – she built a following of customers through referrals.

 

If she can sell PIANOS like hotcakes, just imagine what you can do – with the right technique and mindset, following your passion for your product or service.

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