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How to Give Customers What They Need, Not What They Want

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


How to Give Customers What They Need, Not What They WantWhether you refer to them as clients, customers or accounts, your experience working with any of these groups has likely presented you with the tough decision to either give a business what they want or to give them what they really need.

If you are lucky, these two areas overlap and you look like a hero as you deliver favorable results to your smiling clients. All is right in the world!

But sooner or later, after enough years in the business and after working with enough people, you will find yourself stuck between a rock and a hard place as you deal with clients who bring you ideas that you know are not going to help them achieve their goals.

Henry Ford alludes to this conflict in his quote, “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.” Often, customers are too close to their own business to see the bigger picture of what it really needs to get to the next level. They will ask for a bandage to fix a gaping wound, when really the underlying problem – and its solution – is much deeper.

So how do you gracefully persuade customers to accept your recommendations for what they need when this differs from what they want? Let’s take a look at five steps that will get you headed in the right direction.

Be kind, but honest when sharing your opinion and expertise

There is never a need to be rude or condescending when informing clients that you do not believe their ideas will achieve the results they desire. Remember, they have sought out your expertise because they want your input. Strive to build a relationship based upon kindness and honesty so that you are able to openly share your opinion and they are well received by your clients. The more your clients trust you and the more your track record of advice has panned out in their favor, the more likely they are to listen to your recommendations in the future.

Offer real examples backing up why something may not be in their best interest

Some clients will want to see proof as to why their idea is not good for their business. Do your research and offer real examples or statistics of other businesses that have used a similar idea or strategy only to have it yield less than desirable results. Another method is to back up your own ideas with research and examples. Don’t just tell your clients, show them why you and many others have found your idea to be of greater benefit.

Give them (only good) options from which they may choose

Give your clients a sense of control and involvement by presenting them with options from which they may choose. The key is to give them only options that will help achieve the same overarching goal. By controlling the options presented, you can help steer your clients toward only good decisions, whether they know it or not.

Get them excited about these options!

Your clients may come to you with a “bad” idea because another business did it (likely in a different industry, with different goals and a different budget) and it looked cool so now they want to do it too. They’re excited about it and for that reason alone it’s attractive. Use this “shiny object syndrome” to your benefit by turning your “better” options into other, shinier objects that catch their eye. Your excitement for these options will get them excited as well. Best of all, they should love that these ideas are new and different from what another business has already done. They will get to be among the first!

Offer praise and encouragement (even if it was your idea)

Finally, step off your soapbox, get down from your high horse and take a back seat to receiving the glory when your ideas deliver the results you’ve promised to your clients. All the credit you could want will make its way to you in the form of a nice paycheck. Until then, be a cheerleader for your client and offer praise and encouragement for their smart decisions that have helped them to achieve their goal.

How have you had to delicately steer your customers toward what they need, and not just what they want? Share your personal experience by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2017 in Business & Success

 

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5 Tips for Running a Productive Business Meeting

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


5 Tips for Running a Productive Business MeetingThe dreaded business meeting. So often it starts with chitchat about the weather and then spins off into random discussions where no resolutions or courses of action are identified. Inevitably the meeting runs over its allotted time and all attendees leave wondering what was accomplished. There’s no follow-up and trying to find a date for the next meeting that suits everyone’s schedule is an impossible feat – if you want it to happen this year.

Does this sound familiar? It’s a scenario that is all too common – and completely avoidable if only the right organizational methods were applied. The changes we need to make to revamp an unproductive business meeting are quite simple, too. Having led countless business meetings on behalf of clients, I have identified five very simple, yet very effective tools for running a productive meeting.

If you’re ready to stop wasting hours of your life that result in nothing more than the need for another meeting, I urge you to implement the following suggestions today!

  1. Come with an agenda

Set yourself up for success by developing an agenda in advance of your meeting and having enough copies for all attendees. This will help guide everyone through the meeting’s core discussion points and quite literally, keep everyone on the same page.

As you develop your agenda, you’ll also be able to capture all of your thoughts so that you’re not struggling to remember them during the meeting. You can help move things along quickly by researching statistics, options or prices that may come up as a point of discussion. Anticipate what some attendees might ask and have the answer already provided.

  1. Bring your laptop or tablet

Be sure to bring your laptop or tablet with you! For the longest time, I wanted to travel light so I would carry only paper and a pen into a meeting. This changed when I realized how much more efficient I could be (whether leading the meeting or simply attending) when I had full access to documents, emails, etc.

If people need to see a document or reference an email, everything is right at your fingertips. I also take notes directly on the agenda on my laptop and am ready to send out the summary as soon as the meeting wraps up. This saves me the time of coming back to my office and having to transcribe and organize my notes.

Additionally, encourage other attendees to also bring their devices. Select a meeting space that at least has WiFi – even better would be a meeting space with a TV or projector that allows attendees to share their screen for everyone to see, as needed.

  1. Have a point person in charge

We have all likely attended a meeting where there appears to be no single person leading the discussion. Or, there is the meeting where everyone appears to be the leader and even more confusion ensues. The person who leads the meeting doesn’t have to be (and likely shouldn’t be) the highest position within the organization. Foremost, you want someone who is reliable and who has good organizational skills.

I have led many business meetings and it really requires only a small amount of time before and after the meeting to take on this responsibility. My favorite part is that I often get to delegate tasks to other attendees as we move through the agenda. It’s amazing how people will begin to chip in more when they know someone else has already taken the lead of organizing the meetings.

  1. Set the next meeting(s) during this meeting

When you are trying to get any more than 2 people together to meet, you need to schedule all future meetings out well in advance. Accommodating 3+ schedules can seem harder than rocket science (and maybe it is). You can avoid the slew of “Reply All” emails by scheduling the next meeting before you adjourn.

People can immediately pull out their calendars and in real-time tell you what will work and what won’t. If you know you’ll need many more meetings in the future, go ahead and schedule them all! The best method is to set a recurring day and time (i.e. the first Monday of the month at Noon). And if you’re still struggling to coordinate schedules, check out www.doodle.com – it’s a free tool and a lifesaver for scheduling meetings, especially with other busy people.

  1. Send out a summary of notes, highlighting action items

Finally, even the most organized business meeting can still fail to be productive if there is not some sort of follow-up with the attendees to remind them who is responsible for what. The person leading the meeting (or another designated note taker) should summarize the notes and send them out to all attendees within 1-2 days of the meeting.

These notes should outline important discussion points, decisions that were made and outstanding action items that need resolved before the next meeting. I like to develop a system that makes this visually easy to digest. For example, I color code people’s names and highlight that task in the appropriate color to show who is responsible. I also bold and underline any questions that need input from the group so they are easy to pick out. The more organized you are, the more responsive people will be. Most importantly, remind people of the next meeting!

Business meetings are a necessary evil. For as many times as we have all sat through a boring or unproductive meeting, there are just as many opportunities to take the lead and make your time together worth so much more. Try practicing these five tips at your next meeting – I am confident they will make a big difference!

What other tips have helped you run a productive business meeting? Share your expertise by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2017 in Business & Success

 

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The Power of Collecting Client Testimonials

the-power-of-collecting-client-testimonialsMost recently, I’ve been working with a client to interview their customers and collect information to create testimonial articles. Given my love for communications, I was intrigued by the project, but I had no idea just how much it would teach me about client relations.

In the process of collecting 30 testimonials from clients who have invested, on average, $50,000 with this business, I was inspired by each and every story of how this product was drastically changing the way they do business. Depending upon their business model and the region they served, each story was different. Each client saw the value of the product differently and each had a unique angle that has now given my client a pretty cool archive of stories they can share with prospective clients who can relate to any one of these businesses.

What I want to share with you now is four key benefits of collecting testimonials from your clients on a regular basis. A quote is good, but if you can dedicate little more time to dig deeper and develop a full article (or hire a communications professional to do this for you), you’ll reap far more benefits from these testimonials. Here’s why:

Create a valuable database of promotional content

By creating short articles from your testimonials, you not only paint a brighter picture of the full benefits you have provided clients, you also give yourself a far more useable database of promotional content. These articles can be used as blog posts on your website and shared on social media. They can be shared with prospective clients as a “case study” and can be used in e-newsletters that then drive content back to your website. As your business progressed and list of clients grow, you’ll be grateful to have this archive that captures the satisfaction of your clients over time.

Discover unique ways your product/service has benefitted clients

In the process of collecting testimonials from your clients, you will get to ask critical questions that will help you really understand how they are using your product or service. And you will be surprised how drastically this can change from business to business! When you discover a new or innovative way your product/service is being used, you can use this to market your business in a whole new way and potentially reach an untapped market.

Help clients see the full value of your service/product

The last time you likely spoke with your client was when they were just beginning to use your product/service. It’s so important to follow-up to be sure they are staying committed to getting the full value out of what you sold them. Asking for a testimonial is a great reason to check in with them to see how they are doing. Do they have questions or concerns? Are they unsure how to implement a certain feature? Are they struggling to train their employees? This gives you the opportunity to talk through any issues and right the course before they are left feeling like they made a poor investment.

Touch base and strengthen your relationship with clients

Finally and most importantly, collecting client testimonial’s gives you yet one more valuable touch point to strengthen client relationships. You will keep your business top of mind and possibly even sell additional products or services to them in the near future. By doing the leg work to interview clients and create a client testimonial article on their behalf, you are essentially highlighting their success and building good will that gives you a foot in the door for future sales.

Do you have any ideas related to the topic of collecting client testimonials? Join the conversation by leaving a comment!

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2017 in Business & Success

 

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5 Things You Can Immediately Do To Gain More Business

5-things-you-can-immediately-do-to-gain-more-businessI recently wrote about the benefits of business turnover in the New Year. True to annual trends, I also experienced some turnover in my client list. Despite my best efforts to “practice what I preach” and look at this as a positive, I felt unsettled, and frankly exposed, by the fact that a few (really great) clients had chosen to part ways.

My business had made significant growth in 2016, almost so much so that it wasn’t sustainable to think I would continue to grow at such a rapid rate. After all, as a consultant I essentially sell my time and even I only have so much time in a day. So there I was, a shrunken client list and an increased bandwidth to take on more work.

What did I do? I invested some of this newfound time into beating the bushes and testing the waters for new business opportunities, but I was strategic with how I did it. Cold-calling is not effective for my business, nor does it result in quality clients (at least in my experience). I wanted to build my book of business with client work I enjoyed and could complete efficiently. Here are the five strategies with which I began.

Talk with current clients about expanding your services

For me, this was a natural and obvious first step. I was upfront with my current clients, many of whom have been loyally working with me for several years. I told them I had availability for more work and offered to create a proposal for what additional services I could provide them that would amplify my current efforts. Not one turned down the offer to at least consider my proposal and right off the bat several increased my monthly retainer. I was so pleasantly surprised to learn that many of my clients had wanted to increase my services for a while but were mindful of my workload from other clients. It pays to ask!

Follow-up with leads that have fallen off

Next, I went through my notes of leads and proposals that didn’t result in business. For the most part, I never received a response after several follow-ups and was so busy at the time, I didn’t have to chase after them for work. I opened up the conversation again with a “Happy New Year, I hope you are doing well…” I received some responses within the hour – from contacts who had failed to give me a response over several months! A New Year brings a new business mindset and also gives businesses the opportunity to evaluate where they stand financially. Following-up during this time is an easy way to breathe fresh air back into a proposal and drum up new business.

Go through your stack of business cards

I also sifted through business cards I had collected from meetings and networking events throughout the past year. There were some that I felt could generate leads, so I reached out to these individuals to set up a time to talk over coffee. During this casual discussion, I was able to learn more about their business and also tell them that I am looking to take on new clients. This small investment of time most often resulted in the contact’s enthusiastic offer to keep their eyes and ears open for someone who could benefit from my services. Of course in exchange, I offered to do the same for them.

Touch base with your “power partners”

I have worked to develop several “power partnerships” with businesses who offer my services to their clients. I sent each a note letting them know I am available to take on more work and to “load me up” as they see fit. Much like reaching out to my current client list, I was able to gain some quick projects that they had on their plates, but didn’t want to risk overloading me with. Now that they knew I was open to more work, they were happy to offload.

Reach out to competitors

Finally, and most surprisingly, I reached out to contacts that I knew offered the same services I did. Yes, competitors. This may sound like an odd thing to do, but I have found a lot of value in developing a good working relationship with competing consultants and businesses. Why? Because when you get to know who their ideal client is, you will realize you really aren’t hunting for the same lead. In fact, their wheel house may be completely different than yours. In reaching out to my competitors, I wanted to put out my feelers for any leads they may have recently turned away either because they weren’t a good fit for their business or they were too busy to take on more work. Often, competitors will refer work out to me if they think I would better accommodate the client. Win-win!

When you look to build business, what strategies do you use? Share your thoughts by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2017 in Business & Success

 

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Would You Ask a Man That Question?

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A real life snapshot from my life as a work-from-home mom

A few weeks ago I was asked a question that I initially didn’t hesitate to answer. It’s actually a question I’ve been asked on more than one occasion, so I felt prepared to defend myself with an explanation. The question was, “How do you plan to balance work with a family?”

It’s not an unreasonable question, right? It was asked in a light-hearted way by a new client who, I truly believe, felt like they were going through any normal paces of qualifying someone to be their new PR consultant. The board voted unanimously in my favor and I ultimately got the job. Sometime later, a female colleague of mine, who was also at that meeting, brought up her frustration that I had to answer such a “ridiculous” question. She picked up on the (not so subtle) sexism of that question that I’ve come to view as normal as a female business owner and working mom. Her point was clear. Would you ask a man that question? No, no you wouldn’t.

Picture a man being asked “How do you plan to balance work with a family?” during a job interview. I envision a bewildered look come across his face as he responds “What do you mean?” He would likely ask for clarification before he felt compelled to offer an explanation…an excuse, really. Meanwhile, I had my “excuse” locked and loaded because it’s one I’ve had to provide time and time again. Sometimes I even voluntarily offer it up as I can see the look of concern come across a client’s face when they learn I have two young children, one of whom stays at home with me 5 out of the 7 days of the week.

“When do you have time to do work?”

That’s another common question. I used to be proud to answer this with a description of my highly disciplined and efficient schedule that is required for raising a family, keeping up with the house and growing a business. But now I see that I was defending myself from society’s disbelief that I can be a mother and a business owner – and do both well.

I’m not angry or outraged at these questions. I hold no grudge against the people who asked them. Rather, I’m shocked by my own numbness toward sexist remarks made to women entrepreneurs daily. I’m sad that I allowed myself to feel guilty, even for just one second, for “balancing work and a family.”

It is without question that a woman most often gets the lion’s share of work and responsibility when it comes to raising a family. Rather than questioning her ability to work and parent, congratulate her, offer encouragement and be flexible with your demands.

How refreshing would it be to instead hear “I know you have a young family. It’s wonderful you’re pursuing your passion. We will flexible, as we know family comes first.”

I’m fortunate to work with understanding and encouraging clients who not only know I am a hybrid mom, but see it as a badge of honor. They know when they call me there’s always a chance you’ll hear a babbling baby in the background or that I may need to reschedule a meeting because I’ve got a sick toddler. But as a mother, I also know how to power through a challenge and multi-task like it’s an Olympic sport. If you want something done, give it to a busy person. And if you want something done quickly, correctly and with every distraction going on around her, give it to a mom.

Have you ever been asked a sexist or unfair question? Share how you responded, or wish you had responded by leaving a comment!

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2017 in Business & Success, Life

 

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Top 10 Blog Posts on Life and Entrepreneurship in 2016

Best of... onlineHappy New Year! Hopefully you have recovered from your holiday celebrations and have started to think about how you plan to make 2017 your best year yet.

Before we completely move on from 2016, I wanted to take one final look back at some of the insight and inspiration we’ve shared on the Bennis Inc blog, specifically on topics related to life and entrepreneurship. As I read through the year’s worth of writing, I found myself particularly drawn to these 10 articles. I hope that they give you a renewed passion for pursuing your dreams in 2017!

Life Lesson: Are You Satisfied or Merely Distracted?

It’s easy to find things to distract us, but it’s not quite as easy to find true satisfaction in life. So often these two feelings are confused which causes us to life a “busy” life, but not a fulfilled life. This blog helps you to identify the difference and make changes in your life to achieve satisfaction.

Read the original blog here.

Best Practices for Internal Communication During a Crisis

We never want to imagine something bad happening to our business or personal reputation, which is why so often we don’t have a plan to deal with a crisis. This blog offers best practices for internal communication – that means your staff, family, etc – when life throws you a curve ball.

Read the original blog here.

Thanking Up: Sharing gratitude with your superiors

When you want to show your boss appreciation, it can be an awkward situation. How do you properly thank a superior without it appearing condescending? This blog offers tips for how to “thank up” and show gratitude for people above you in rank.

Read the original blog here.

Parenthood: Adjusting to the Ever-Changing “New Normal”

This is a personal post that focuses on the journey of parenthood combined with entrepreneurship. Spoiler alert…it most certainly has its challenges! How have I adjusted to the “new normal” of running a business while raising a growing family? Take a look!

Read the original blog here.

What My Toddler Has Taught Me About Motivating People to Say Yes

Just about every parent can agree that a toddler’s favorite word is “No.” Each day is a new challenge to motivate my children to comply with my requests. Here’s what the experience has also taught me about motivating clients to say “Yes.”

Read the original blog here.

Declutter Your Life by Asking These 5 Questions

Whether you’re a neat freak or someone who wishes they could keep their life a bit more organized, this blog post can help you declutter by asking yourself five simple questions.

Read the original blog here.

The Power of Picking Your Focus

Some of the most successful people are those who can intensely focus on one goal and see it through completion. With the start of the New Year, this is a great article to re-read to help you prioritize your resolutions.

Read the original blog here.

How Some of the Worst Jobs Have Made My Career Better

We’re all had less than favorable career experiences, but rather than chalking it up as a failure, we can choose to learn something valuable. In this blog I recap some of my worst job experiences but how they ultimately led me to a fulfilling career.

Read the original blog here.

Can an Introvert Thrive in a Career in Public Relations?

Knowing now how much of an introvert that I am, I may have never chosen to pursue a career in PR. But that would have been a mistake! Introverts can most certainly thrive in a career in Public Relations and this blog explains how.

Read the original blog here.

5 Ways You Are Spreading Negativity Without Knowing It

No one enjoys being around a negative person. However, sometimes we spread negativity without realizing we’re doing so. Start the New Year off on a positive note by reading about the five ways we spread negatively unintentionally.

Read the original blog here.

Want to explore most blog posts from Stephanie Shirley and Bennis Inc? Be our guest! Click here to browse business and success, here to browse life and here to explore all the rest.

 
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Posted by on January 2, 2017 in Business & Success, Life, Wisdom

 

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Twas The Day After Christmas…

Twas The Day After Christmas

(As retold by an entrepreneur)

Twas the day after Christmas, when all through the house
not a computer was turned on, not even a mouse.
Their cords were wrapped up in the corner with care,
in hopes that I had strength to leave them there.

Miss Pinot was nestled all snug in her bed,
while visions of toy mice danced in her head.
For once taking a cue from my sleepy, gray cat,
I settled my brain for a short winter’s nap.

Is it possible to tune out all of the clatter,
to focus on Christmas and what truly mattered?
No doubt it would feel different to completely unwind,
what’s the worst that could happen, we’d have a good time?

So from now until New Years, the blog posts can wait
there are loved ones to hug and cookies to bake.
This short disconnect will help creativity to soar
and inspire me to write better than ever before!

Until then, don’t worry what to do with your time,
make your own holidays relaxing as I’ve made mine.
Here’s my final wish before the exit I make,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a short break!”

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Posted by on December 26, 2016 in Life

 

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