Tag Archive for 'column'

You are a CEO, but are you doing the job

The hardest job in the marketplace is the Chief Executive Officer of a small business.

So how could it be harder to be the CEO of Excel Supply, LLC, than the CEO of Exxon? Let’s look at the definition.

Investopedia says a CEO is, “The highest ranking executive in a company whose main responsibilities include developing and implementing high-level strategies, making major decisions and managing overall operations and resources.”

For every element of that definition, Exxon’s CEO has a cadre of presidents reporting to him about how they’re managing battalions of VPs, brigades of managers and armies of employees. Exxon’s CEO manages that handful of presidents who bring him performance updates.

The CEO of Excel may have managers reporting to her, but she’s never more than one degree of separation from the work, and likely the alpha member of any given task, especially things like capitalization, cash flow, business development, etc.

There is one thing that sets all CEOs apart from every other position and it’s the first item in the definition: high-level strategy. A CEO’s primary job, which can be supported but never delegated, is to determine the long-term direction of the company. Every business, large or small, must have someone doing this CEO job, whether they use the title or not.

Big business CEOs spend very little time managing and most of their time working on strategy and future direction. Conversely, and unfortunately, most small business CEOs spend too much time managing and too little on executive thinking.

Recently in our online poll, we defined a CEO and asked small business owners: “How difficult is it to budget CEO time away from managing?” Here’s what we learned.

Only 3% said they had “…found a way to balance management and CEO duties,” and 8% allowed they were “…inconsistent but getting better at it.” Over half of our sample said they “…can’t focus on CEO tasks for putting out fires,” while one third rejected our premise with, “I’m a small business owner, not a CEO.”

Here’s a practical way for small business owners to increase their CEO activity: As often as possible – at least once a year – fire yourself from jobs someone else can do and promote yourself to jobs only you can do. This will push you toward more executive thinking and behavior and put you on a natural path toward performing all the tasks of a CEO, including charting the long-term course for your small business.

Every business needs someone doing the work of a CEO – that’s you!

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Recently on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, I talked about becoming a better CEO for your company. Click on the link below to hear what I had to say. I’m also interested in what you think, so please leave a comment.

Commit to the resolution of becoming a better CEO

Check out more of Jim’s great content HERE!

Take this week’s poll HERE!

Watch Jim’s videos HERE!

Are you practicing Age of the Customer prospecting rules?

As described here previously, control of the three primary elements of the business relationship has shifted as the Age of the Seller is being replaced by the Age of the Customer. The buying decision and access to information about how to make that decision are now controlled by the customer, leaving sellers with control of just the product.

This shift has created many disruptions, especially with entrenched Age of the Seller sales practices, but perhaps none more than business-to-business prospecting. Here are four facets to this prospecting shift:

  1. The expectation of buyers meeting with vendors as a daily course of business is over.
  2. After 10,000 years of needing a salesperson to provide information to make a decision, buyers are acquiring much of that information on their own online.
  3. Prospects are now self-qualifying themselves, and then pre-qualify prospective vendors they choose to meet with, perhaps as few as two, or even just one.
  4. Prospects are essentially ruling competitors in or out before first contact, often before the business knows the prospect even exists.

Prospects like this new empowerment because it saves time, contributes to their decision-making journey, and reduces contact with uncompetitive and irrelevant vendors. Consequently, getting in front of a prospect for a first meeting, which once was almost automatic, now requires addressing the following new Age of the Customer rules of prospecting.

  1. Prospects require a higher level of introduction before granting a sales call.
  2. Prospect research must be conducted.
  3. Networking – in person and online – is essential.
  4. Prospect development and nurturing must be practiced with patience and a dialed down sense of urgency.
  5. With competitiveness now assumed, being relevant is the new differentiator.
  6. Contribute first, contract second.
  7. Relevance and values must be demonstrated.

Even the best salesperson, who will still need every classic selling skill to close the sale, is useless if he or she can’t get in front of the prospect before the buying decision has been made.

Companies that expect to meet sales goals now have to put as much, if not more, emphasis and resources on training, equipping, budgeting, measuring, and perhaps even compensating salespeople for the prospecting disciplines of the Age of the Customer.

Which age is your sales organization prospecting in?

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On my website I have a section dedicated to The Age of The Customer™. Go there for interviews, articles and videos related to The Age of The Customer™.

Check out more of Jim’s great content HERE!

Take this week’s poll HERE!

Watch Jim’s videos HERE!

Your values and customer communities


Last time we talked about focusing on developing customer communities as a way to find relevance through your online strategy, including website and social media. Now let’s strengthen this relevance by focusing on values.


Increasingly, prospects will turn into customers, and customers will become loyal, because they’re attracted to what your company stands for. They are looking for evidence of your values in your online elements. For example:

  1. Are your brand elements – brand promise and image – all about you and your stuff, or do they sound like something that would benefit your customer community?
  2. When delivering information to the community, is it all about you, or does it contribute to helping customers?
  3. What is the tone of your marketing message? “Tone” is how brand messages are incorporated as you serve the community, from crassly commercial to almost subliminal. You should strike a tone balance between making a sale and serving the community.


In a world where everything you sell is a commodity, value – product, price, service – is the threshold of a customer community, but values are the foundation. Anyone can find value, but when customers like your values, they tell their friends. Indeed, the most dynamic and potentially viral element of any online community is the feeling members have about your values. But remember, that “feeling” can go either way – positive or negative.


Here are a few guidelines for establishing compelling values online that match your values offline:

  1. Acquire and use the technology that makes online community building possible.
  2. Create an environment where an online community can flourish around the value you deliver and the values you demonstrate.
  3. Serve and protect your customer community, while accepting that you cannot control it. As customer members come and go, and say what’s on their minds, maximize the positive and repair the negative.


Once community members find your value and like your values, prospects will turn into customers and customers will turn into your best salespeople.


Write this on a rock…


Build and serve customer communities by delivering value and demonstrating values.

For more great Small Business Advocate content, click HERE

Build strategic alliances for sales growth

There are three management disciplines which, while not new, have a heightened level of importance for success in the 21st century: Leveraging technology, networking and building strategic alliances.

No doubt you’ve become more proficient with the tech stuff. And who isn’t a better networker today than 10 years ago? But can you say you’ve nailed the partnering thing?

When small businesses come to the end of their resources of people, assets, technology, cash and credit, they have to do something as primordial as when Og asked Gog to hold the chisel while he carved out his new stone invention that looked a lot like a donut. They have to seek alliances.

Answer these questions: Is your business growth hampered by a lack of people, capital or other assets? Would you like to bid on a request-for-proposal (RFP) that has specifications beyond your company’s ability to perform? Are you reluctant to ask a large customer about their future plans for fear that your organization may not be able to step up to the answer? ___(Your lament here)___.

If any of these – or variations thereof – are way too familiar, consider one or more of these three alliance examples, in descending order of formality.

Partner

A partner relationship is more formal and typically longer term. Regardless of how it’s structured, in general, all partners have a vested interest in the success of the entire enterprise. Think of two business owners buying a commercial duplex and sharing the space because neither has the cash or credit to swing the deal alone. Most partnerships are best organized with the help of an attorney.

Sub-contractor
By definition, a sub-contractor becomes a contractual participant you bring in to help fulfill a larger project for which you are the lead vendor. Unlike a partner, a sub expects to get paid for delivery of work or products regardless of how the project turns out.

Strategic alliance

Here’s an informal strategic alliance example. Let’s say a jeweler, florist and photographer join forces to produce a marketing/advertising campaign for brides that represents all three brands. After the campaign is executed and paid for, the participants may have no further connection.

Before giving up on a project because you don’t have the in-house resources, look around for ways to create alliances that could allow you to take advantage of that opportunity.

If Og the caveman can create an alliance, you can too.

I talked more about the 21st century business practice of creating alliances this morning on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show. Take a few minutes to listen and leave your best practices on creating strategic alliances.

How good are you at building strategic alliances? with Jim Blasingame

For more information on building alliances to grow your business, click here: Strategic Alliances.




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