How I turned my business around

I knew I wanted things to change. I just didn’t know what to do next.

I wanted more money coming in, because I had a small team of software developers working with me, and, to be honest, I wanted to pay them and myself.

To do this, I needed bigger jobs. To get bigger jobs, I needed to get more clients. To get more clients, I needed to get out there.

So I went out and started meeting people. And I tried to persuade them that they wanted my services. Because I am good at what I do.

It was awful. I really struggled with it, didn’t enjoy myself and, to make it worse, I was losing money.

But then I had a revelation.

All my clients so far were long-term. It was very rare for me to work with someone who didn’t stay for five years or more.

Why was that?

Because we had a great relationship. We trusted each other. We knew that every decision was made for the right reasons.

So I changed what I said to people.

Instead of trying to get them to say “yes”, I started looking for reasons for me to say “no”.

I asked them questions. Got them to consider the alternatives.

“You can get this cheaper if you choose X”.

“That’s all very well, but it will take me months to get that built for you, you might as well go with company Y, who will get you a system in weeks”.

Because I didn’t want them as a client. Not unless we were a really good fit.

It was astounding. Suddenly I started winning contracts that were ten times the size of my previous work. A lot of people went away and looked at the alternatives that I pointed out. But the ones that stayed had convinced themselves that I was the right person to work with. That we were a good fit together.

Without realising what I had done, I had built myself a sales process. A system, a series of questions and steps to follow, that worked to qualify my enquiries, figure out which ones to follow up with and make sure that we both got the outcome we wanted from it all.

Take action: If you’d like to learn how to do the same, check out our sales seminar, which is being held in north Leeds in a few weeks.

How to win more business

Not all sales people have shiny suits, fancy cars and big egos.

Being good at sales isn’t about closing as many deals as possible, it’s about making sure that when you do close a deal, the client is happy with their decision.

It starts with attracting the right leads and then building trust.

You need to show your potential clients how you add value to their life or business.

Closing the deal should feel natural, not awkward or forced.

Make sure your sales process is effective at every stage, and you’ll find that you win more of the clients you want with less effort.

Take action: Our sales process workshop will help you find inefficiencies in your process and show you how to address them.

That guy in a shiny suit

Don’t you hate him?

Foot in the door.

Never stops talking.

Won’t leave you alone till you’ve bought some crap that you don’t really want.

Is that what “sales” means to you?

Frankly, without sales, you haven’t got a business.

But it doesn’t mean you need to be an arsehole about it. You just need to think about it differently.

How can I get to an outcome that helps both me and my potential customer?

Take action: We’re running a very affordable seminar on how to approach sales – from your marketing through to winning repeat business. Marshall, Lisa and myself have very different backgrounds, so we cover things from a variety of angles. And our aim, throughout, is to make sure that you have a happy customer at the end of it all. If you’re interested, take a look here.

How to decide what’s worth your time

At some point, you need to start thinking about why you’re doing all this stuff. Because there will be dark times, when everything’s all a bit too much, when you will think about packing it in and keeping llamas on a mountain.

But, if you do figure out your purpose, it also guides you when you’ve got far too much to do.

If you know why you’re doing this stuff, you can design some simple questions.

In five years time, I want to be doing X and living like Y

So when someone offers you an exciting new opportunity, ask yourself:

Does this help me achieve X?

Does this move me towards Y?

Take action:: If the answer to either of those questions is no, then don’t do it.

How to avoid wasting your time

So you’ve decided that you know what you want to focus on. The stuff that will make a massive difference for your business, that will push you forwards.

But then the phone rings and someone asks you for something.

Or you look at your to-do list and it’s thirty items long and you feel overwhelmed.

Or someone offers you an amazing new project that won’t pay for a few months but it’s going to change the world!

It’s these things that derail you.

Take action: say NO

No plan survives contact with the enemy

By planning for tomorrow, I can deal with the stuff that changes, the things that get in the way of my overall goal.

I can roll with the punches.

But that’s not enough.

Every week, I look at my month’s goal and update the next week’s target.

Every month, I look at my quarter’s goal and update the next month’s target.

Every quarter, I look at my year’s goal and update the next quarter’s target.

You get the picture.

The reason plans fail is because they don’t reflect what’s actually happening in your life. So take action and revise them regularly, starting from tomorrow, moving to five years, because that way you can make sure the plan stays relevant. And you keep heading in the right direction.

Plan for tomorrow

Every day, before I finish work, I plan for tomorrow.

As I said yesterday, I already know what I need to achieve this week, this month, the next three months and so on, in a great big chain up to my five year plan.

So, knowing what I need to do this week, it should be pretty obvious what I need to do tomorrow.

As I said the other day, I have blocks of time in my diary marked as “priority”. Each day, I rename tomorrow’s block into “Project X” or “Project Y” or whatever it is that will most move me towards this week’s goal.

This means, each day, my plan adapts, but I keep heading in the same direction. It’s like going from London to Leeds, discovering that the M1 is shut, so cutting cross country and taking the A1 instead. The route might change, but the destination’s the same.

And I still have half a day spare each day to deal with all the other stuff, the things that don’t move me towards that end goal.

Take action: What’s your plan for tomorrow?

Plan for the future

I’ve spoken about this before.

If you make a five year plan, you will fail. So much changes in five years, the plan is meaningless, almost immediately.

But if you only make a plan for tomorrow, you’re directionless. Whatever feels most urgent at the time will get done, if you have something you really want to achieve, it will get lost in the day to day.

So instead, you should plan for all.

  • Where do you want to be in five years time? What do you need to do to get there?
  • So where should you be in three years time if you want to achieve that five year goal?
  • So where should you be in one years time if you want to achieve that three year goal?
  • So where should you be in six months time if you want to achieve that one year goal?
  • So where should you be in three months time if you want to achieve that six month goal?
  • So where should you be in one months time if you want to achieve that three month goal?
  • So where should you be in one weeks time if you want to achieve that one month goal?
  • So where should you be tomorrow if you want to achieve that one week goal?
  • So what should you do next if you want to achieve tomorrow’s goal?

Take action: What should you do next? To achieve tomorrow’s, this week’s, this month’s (and so on) goal.

Priority

APOLOGIES: Looks like we had a double posting last night.  I had put the wrong publish time in originally, and obviously must have reposted at the correct time instead of amending the original.  Sorry to bug you twice in a day.  

 

I’ve been reading this book called “The One Thing” by Gary Keller, and although on the surface, it’s really really simple, the ideas behind it are quite profound.

One of the things he says is that the word “priority” comes from the latin for first. And, until the mid-twentieth century, it did not have a plural. In other words, you had one, and only one, priority.

He then talks about “timeblocking” – something which I’ve used before, but never in this manner. Previously I would fill my diary with time, scheduled for “planning this” and “doing that”. Some of them would be recurring.

But, inevitably, life would get in the way, I would delete the appointment from my diary and replace it with something else.

Blocking out the time made no difference.

Now I’ve changed how I do it.

Every morning has four hours, just labelled “priority”.

We’ll see why this makes a difference tomorrow.

Take action: Find four hours a day and mark them out for your priority.

A thousand no’s for every yes

It’s no secret that I love Steve Jobs. He kind of changed my life, back when I was a kid.

Apparently, he used to say that he was more proud of the products Apple said no to than the ones that they took to market.

His successor, Tim Cook, often says Apple has a thousand no’s for every yes.

This is a lesson I’m learning at the moment.

If you want to be amazing, you need to focus. And that means turning things away. Saying no.

It’s not easy, but it has to be done.

Take action: Make a list of three things you recently agreed to that you should have said no to. Why should you have said no? Why did you say yes?