Want Your Business to Grow? Here’s What You Need to Stop Doing

By Samuel Thimothy, VP at OneIMS.com.

As business owners, we’re all after one thing: unstoppable growth. When my clients come to me, they almost always want to know the secret to using content and SEO to take their business to the next level. For a digital marketing company, that isn’t a strange request. However, creating a marketing strategy that can boost your business and help you see more growth isn’t always about what you need to start doing. Sometimes, you need to consider what you need to stop doing.

Bad content marketing and SEO practices can smother your business growth before it really gets started. If you’re not aware of the poorly crafted strategies holding you back, it can be nearly impossible to see your business reach real growth levels. Here are a few ways you may be preventing your business growth — without even realizing it.

You’re Posting Whatever, Whenever

Uploading new content is important for growing your SEO strategy through content. However, without any schedule or plan, it can be difficult for your clients to stay connected. If you’re only posting whatever you want whenever you have the time, you’re creating an inconsistent user-experience — something both search engine crawlers and customers care very little for.

I always encourage my clients to maintain a content calendar at least 90 days out. Outline what you’re going to share and think strategically about how your content will bring your potential customers closer and closer to making a purchase. With more high-quality content, you’ll see more high-quality visitors interested in what you have to say. The more popular your page is, the stronger your SEO will be.

You’re Targeting Anyone Who Will Listen

I sometimes run into business owners who tell me they dream of becoming a household name. They want to be the go-to solution for everyone, regardless of location, income level, gender or age. They believe that the wider they cast their net, the easier it will be to get new clients. So, they reach wide, only to come back confused why their business isn’t doing better.

Unfortunately, marketing doesn’t work this way. If your blog posts, videos and webinars are generic or watered down in an effort to reach more customers, they’ll probably be ignored. To attract high-quality leads and customers, create specific content that speaks to the direct needs and problems your target audience is facing.

You’re Only Creating Blog Content

Blogging can be one of the most powerful tools for boosting your content marketing and SEO strategies. When used correctly, a great blog post can help you attract new leads and convert old leads into new customers. However, I often see many businesses equating a blog strategy with a content strategy.

To really see an improvement in leads in SEO, go beyond simply creating blog posts. Your content marketing strategy should reach different audience members through videos, webinars, infographics, podcasts and more. When you diversify your content mix, you can connect with target audience members at different areas of the buyer’s journey who like to hang out in different areas of the internet.

You’re Constantly Changing Your SEO Strategy

When I work with new clients to develop an SEO strategy, they’re often impatient. They want results quickly. I often need to remind them that an SEO strategy can take a few months to sink in. Not only does it involve proper planning and research, but you also need to be sure to give search engine crawlers some time to become familiar with your content.

Making changes to your SEO strategy can be tempting, but it can actually push you back to square one. If you’ve just implemented new keywords or re-optimized your site and you’re still not seeing results, it may not be an indication that your SEO strategy is wrong. Instead, remember that you’re not going to reach the top of a search engine results list overnight.

Don’t allow your impatience or lack of planning prevent you from taking your business to the next level. Listen to your target audience, provide them with the content they need and ensure the proper SEO systems are in place. As you begin to let your content strategy breathe, you’ll be surprised at how fast your growth can skyrocket.

Samuel Thimothy is the VP at OneIMS.com, an inbound marketing agency and co-founded Clickx.io, the digital marketing intelligence platform. 

Saying No Is Tough. This Simple Technique Makes It Easier

Do you have trouble saying no to offers, requests, or proposals? Most people do. In a short but fascinating piece on Tony Robbins‘ website, the author argues that we have trouble saying no not because we have an innate need to please others but because many of us have been taught from a young age to take others’ needs into consideration before our own.

That’s an interesting perspective, and very possibly true. But whatever the reason, if saying no is difficult for you (and it certainly is for me) it’s vitally important to get better at it. Because–although saying yes to things that truly inspire you can lead to an extraordinary life, saying yes when you should say no can drag you down, as well as everyone around you.

Next time someone asks you for something or to do something and you aren’t sure you want to say yes, ask yourself if any of the following statements is true. If even one of them is, then say no. Consider it practice: The more often you say no, the easier it will be. And the more time and resources you’ll have to say yes to the things that really matter.

1. You’re letting someone else choose for you when you should be choosing for yourself.

It can be really, really hard to resist someone who really, really wants you to do something. This happened to me recently when I was invited to return to a conference I attended last year. It was a great conference and I got a lot out of it but this year, because of other obligations, conflicting events and too much recent travel, it really didn’t fit my schedule. And the thought of dragging myself onto yet another airplane was seriously unappealing. 

Still, I like everyone at the company putting on the conference, and I consider the representative who invited me a friend. She invited me several times and made very clear I’d be a special guest. And so I was trying to figure out some way that I could go.

Reading the piece on Robbins’ site snapped me out of it. I asked myself if it really made sense to rearrange my schedule and take a trip I don’t have time for just because someone I like a lot really, really wanted me to. Obviously, it didn’t. So I sent my regrets. Maybe next year.

2. You’re saying yes because you fear harming the relationship if you say no.

Relationships are important to all of us. If you care about a relationship and the other person truly needs your help (they’ve fallen out of a boat and have asked you to throw them a life preserver, for example) then you probably ought to say yes. 

But those situations are rare indeed. Most of the time, doing what you’re asked will help them, or make them more successful, or make things easier or more convenient for them. You are perfectly within your rights to consider how doing what they want will inconvenience or otherwise affect you.

If you decide you don’t want to do it, it’s your responsibility to say so, clearly and without waffling. It’s often helpful (though not obligatory) to explain your reasons for saying no. None of that should damage the relationship. If it does, there was something wrong to begin with.

3. It’s part of an unstated quid pro quo.

You may say yes because you believe that if you do, the other party will “owe you a favor.” And that means that the next time you ask them for something, they’ll have to say yes just like you did.

The problem is that not everyone is playing from the same unwritten rule book. You could say yes at great inconvenience to yourself, and the other person might assume that you didn’t mind or it wasn’t any trouble. Then, when you ask for a favor in return, they may say no if it would inconvenience them. That will​ harm the relationship–because you’ll be royally pissed.

So don’t go there. Don’t say yes to something you don’t want because you’re assuming an unstated promise that they’ll say yes to the next thing you ask. 

On the other hand, a stated quid pro quo is perfectly fine. Sure, you’ll cover for them this weekend if they will agree in advance to fill in for you when your sister gets married next month. That way everything is above board, and both you and they can make an informed decision as to whether this is a good trade or not.

4. Saying yes would be wrong for both you and them.

This happened to me a couple of years ago when I was approached to spend a month in Uganda as a writing coach for graduate students in English. I really, really wanted to go. I’ve always wanted to see Africa, and it was an opportunity that seemed to require my particular skills (as opposed to, say, helping people build houses). 

At first, it looked like a great fit. But this was a very religious college that didn’t fit with my own beliefs. I didn’t mind–good writing is good writing–but as the job requirements evolved and the person running the program talked it out with me, it became clear to her that this was a bad idea. When she told me no, I was deeply disappointed, but also very grateful that she’d taken the time to really think things through, and consider my needs as well as her program’s.

Saying no to something someone else really wants, but isn’t right for you or for them, can be extremely difficult. Do it anyway. You’ll be doing them a favor. And doing yourself one as well.

6 Brilliant Things the Best Companies Do to Make Employees Feel Like They Truly Matter

Twenty years ago, many of these ideas below were reserved for tech startups in the Silicon Valley. That was then, this is now.

Today, more progressive companies have evolved in their understanding of what it takes to make the employee experience a more human experience that is engaging, positive, and fulfilling.

If your company is just joining the revolution and transitioning to a more human workplace, here are six best-in-class strategies from leading executives, one former Navy Seal, and the latest scientific evidence.

1. Leaders care about their employees as people.

Leadership coach and former Inc. 500 CEO Alden Mills, a former Navy SEAL tells strategy+business: “To lead is to serve and to serve is to care.” He noted that executives who expect employees to be all in for the mission yet treat them as “disposable units of production” fail to understand the human part of the equation. He says, “Truly great companies treat their employees like they treat their customers.”

2. There’s a growth mindset throughout the organization.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, bestselling author of Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft’s Soul and Imagine a Better Future shifted his culture from a stagnant know-it-all company to a learn-it-all company. The inspiration for that comes from Carol Dweck’s work on growth mindset, which stimulates more motivation and productivity in people. Nadella tells Wharton professor Adam Grant, “[Say] you have two students — one of them has more innate capability, and the other has less. The person who has less, but is a learn-it-all, will ultimately [become] better. That applies to CEOs, and that applies to companies. I think it has been a helpful cultural metaphor for us to say that you can’t act like a know-it-all; you have to be a learn-it-all.”

3. Management removes obstacles from employees’ path.

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner is a firm believer and advocate for “compassionate management.” This is the understanding that the role of every manager is to remove “the boulder on the chest” of employees and alleviate their suffering. In other words, it’s empathy with massive action attached. It’s experiencing another employee’s struggles and challenges that interfere with his or her work, and doing everything within your power (as a manager, or even as a colleague) to alleviate that suffering — to “take the boulder off their chest.” Weiner says, “[T]his all goes into this concept of managing compassionately and I think if organizations can learn to do this at scale, it’s a complete game-changer.”

4. Company benefits focus on allowing people to integrate work and life outside of work. 

Rebecca Cantieri, chief people officer for SurveyMonkey, takes care of employees with innovative and industry-leading benefits that will make most employees salivate. It includes extended parental leave programs to ease an employee’s transition back to work, holidays, sabbaticals and bereavement pay. In addition, SurveyMonkey offers unlimited personal time off, 16 weeks of paid parental leave for both mothers and fathers, extended bereavement leave and more. She tells Employee Benefit News, “These policies have been tremendously well-received and will help employees focus on family when it’s a priority.”

5. Humor and fun are part of the everyday culture.

Stanford Graduate School of Business professor Jennifer Aaker and lecturer Naomi Bagdonas, who co-teach a class at Stanford’s business school called Humor: Serious Businesshave found that humor works as a powerful strategy for increasing employee retention, reducing workplace stress, and improving problem solving with innovative solutions. The reason it works so effective is because the very act of laughing sparks the release of oxytocin, that feel-good brain chemical that enables social bonding, improves relationships, and increases trust. Bagdonas calls humor “an underleveraged superpower in business.”

6. People trust one another.

Speaking of oxytocin, Dr. Paul Zak, author of Trust Factor: The Science of Creating High Performance Companies, discovered that trust is truly what makes work exciting, productive, and innovative. While measuring the brain activity of people while they worked, he found that the oxytocin “facilitated trust, generosity, connection to others.”  What leaders and managers need to do is figure out the job tasks and behaviors that will release the feel-good neurochemicals in the brain, like oxytocin. In Zak’s research, eight specific “trustworthy” management behaviors will do just that, thus boosting performance across an enterprise:

9 Questions Interesting People Ask to Cut Through the Small Talk

I remember early in my young career, one of my biggest fears walking into a networking event to “schmooze” or meeting someone for a business lunch was boring the other person to tears in conversation.

I didn’t want to be the wind-bag that dragged on forever, so I learned to be brief, to the point, and actually listen to the other person with all my being. I eventually avoided the mistake of talking about polarizing topics like politics or race, and learned to stay neutral, positive and upbeat.

I began to tune in to my body language and voice tone to avoid sounding monotone, or looking like a bump on a log. I trained my brain to show emotions, laugh at people’s jokes, smile when they smile, and make light of awkward situations.

The biggest lesson I learned in conversations with others

But the biggest lesson to ensure that I was being an interesting person that drew others in came down to asking the right questions. I found that this is what triggered authentic responses in the other person.

By showing interest and curiosity about someone’s story, accomplishments, passions or interests, the law of reciprocity usually kicked in, and I had my turn to shine. There was a bonus attached to this strategy: Persuasion increased which helped me to steer the conversation in the direction I wanted it to go. 

But here’s the key: If you’re at a work-related function or meeting someone to talk business for the first time, your best move is not to ask work or business-related questions; it’s to discover common ties with that person that will steer the conversation back to the “work stuff,” but with a deeper connection.

In other words, get to know that person! To really exercise persuasiveness and make a quick connection that may turn into mutual benefit (and possibly a new friend), I’ll leave you with these eleven. Granted, some may not be your ideal, ice-breaking conversational starters, so use your best judgment when and where to use them to deepen the conversation.

9 questions for having great conversations

David Burkus, best-selling author of three books and an award-winning podcaster, has contributed the first four questions on this list from an interesting article he wrote for Harvard Business Review. The others come from my own personal favorites and what other entrepreneurs and great conversationalists recommend.

What excites you right now? 

As Burkus explains it, this question can go many different directions (work life, personal life, etc.) with a wide range of possible answers that may overlap into your own life or work, which will open up the conversation further. And asking it allows for the other person to share something that they’re passionate about.

What are you looking forward to? 

Similar to the last one, but this is more forward-looking which, says Burkus, allows for the other person “to choose from a bigger set of possible answers.” 

What’s the best thing that happened to you this year? 

Same technique as the previous two, but this one goes back in time for the other person to reflect on something pivotal that may have changed the course of their lives. It also opens up a wealth of answers to choose from, which may overlap into some of your own areas of interest or expertise for further discussion. 

What’s the most important thing I should know about you? 

Because it can come across a little direct, this is certainly not your first question and it may not even be your third or fourth, but it “gives the broadest possible range from which they can choose,” says Burkus. Use it in context, listen for clues, and wait for the right timing.

What’s your story?

One of my personal favorites, this is open-ended enough to trigger an intriguing story–a journey to a foreign country, meeting a famous person, getting funded for the startup of your dreams, a special talent used for making the world a better place, etc. It’s a question that immediately draws in the other person and lets him or her speak from the heart.

What is one of your most defining moments?

This is another great question that invites the speaker to share on a deeper level, which builds momentum and rapport quicker. Obviously, a few casual questions before it helps set the mood for hearing about a profound moment or transition in that person’s life.

Why did you choose your profession?

This assumes that, at some point, you dropped the mandatory “What do you do?” question. As a follow up, it’s a question that will reveal multiple layers of that person’s journey. It’ll speak to their values, what motivates them, and whether their work is their calling. It may also trigger a different, more thought-provoking response: Some people aren’t happy in their jobs. By asking, you may be in the position to assist or mentor a person through a career or job transition.

What are you currently reading?

You may have the same authors and subjects in common, which will deepen your conversation. Also use this question to ask for book recommendations. You may find the conversation going down the path of exploring mutual book ideas to solve a workplace issue or implement a new business strategy.

How can I be most helpful to you right now? 

To really add the most value to a conversation, once a level of comfort has been established, ask the other person how you can be most helpful to them, whether personally or professionally. You’ll be amazed how pleasantly surprised people get by that thoughtful gesture, and how responsive they are in their answer. Your genuine willingness, no strings attached, to making yourself useful to others leads to more interesting, engaging, and real conversations that may lead to future opportunities.

Remember, when you approach another person in conversation, the skill you want to utilize right off the bat is to immediately show sincere interest in them. This will pave the way for a smooth conversation that can go places.

Whatever question you decide to use, the important thing is to always ask open-ended questions and to avoid work-related questions or business questions until much, much later in the conversation. You’ll be surprised by how seamless the transition is to discussing business, conducting a sales pitch, or exploring partnerships now that both parties are into each other. Try it, and let me know what you think.

Warren Buffett’s Advice for Hiring Based on These 3 Traits Is Brilliant (but Only 1 Trait Really Matters)

Billionaire Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, has lived by a set of awe-inspiring values and principles that has led to unbelievable success.

So whenever he imparts his wisdom, you want to tune in. As it relates to hiring the right people for your company, he said:

Somebody once said that in looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if you don’t have the first, the other two will kill you. You think about it; it’s true. If you hire somebody without [integrity], you really want them to be dumb and lazy.

Why integrity is so important in your hiring decisions.

First of all, we’re not negating the other two traits as deemed of lesser importance. You absolutely need intelligence in a knowledge economy. And energy is the fuel that propels passion and motivation.

But a lack of integrity? Like Buffett asserts, it’s a clear non-negotiable. When you hire someone with integrity, it’s the central pillar that holds all three together or the structure collapses.

Integrity is what makes it hard to question a person’s decisions. His or her actions are open for everyone to see and you can rest assured that he or she will use good judgment. 

In tight, collaborative spaces, colleagues of such hires will quickly see them as dependable and accountable for their actions, which is a laser path to developing team trust.

Hiring people with integrity also addresses the leadership void. A person who walks-the-walk of integrity eventually becomes a role model who commands respect and exercises great influence. These are the type of leaders people desire and whom you want to promote to management roles. 

12 questions to ask when interviewing and hiring for integrity.

Practically speaking, assessing integrity is really about asking the right questions that will get to the core of a person’s character (in addition to standard tests/assessments, “job auditions,” and role-play exercises). But first, whomever is on the interviewer’s seat must be skilled in the science of behavioral interviewing. Here are twelve questions I have used in the past:

1. Tell me about a time when you experienced a loss for doing what is right. How did you
react? 

2. Tell about a specific time when you had to handle a tough problem which challenged fairness or ethnical issues. 

3. Tell about a specific time when you had to handle a tough problem which challenged fairness or ethnical issues. 

4. When was the last time you “broke the rules”? What was the situation and what did you do?

5. What would you do if you suspected that an employee was stealing?

6. Describe a situation where you saw an employee or co‐worker do something you thought was inappropriate. What did you do?

7. Think of a situation where you distrusted a co-worker/supervisor, resulting in tension between you. What steps did you take to improve the relationship. 

8. When working with people, in general, describe your preferred relationship with them. (this question is used to assess honesty and the capacity for open communication.)

9. What values do you appreciate the most in a team environment? [you’re looking for things like honesty, fairness, openness, transparency, and inclusiveness in your answers.)

10. If we ever got into a bind with a client, would you be willing to tell a little white lie to help us out?

11. What would your current/past manager say makes you most valuable to them? (Besides intelligence, energy or technical and hard skills, listen for clues that point to integrity.)

12. What are the characteristics exhibited by the best boss you have ever had, or wished that you have had? (A person of integrity will mirror those they follow or look up to, so listen for clues.]

Remember: No integrity = no trust. Your hiring team must ensure that, no matter how talented, experienced, and smart job candidates are, they will protect your company, your employees, and your customers by hiring people every person can trust.

Integrity, intelligence, and energy = a great hire.

Putting all the pieces together, you have a great package deal. And while integrity may weigh heavier, the bar must be set equally high for each of the three traits. Writing for CBS Money Watch, author Tom Searcy explains it like this:

  • Hire someone with high energy, high intelligence, but low integrity and you’ll get a smart, fast-moving thief.
  • Hire someone with high intelligence, high integrity, but low energy and you’ll get a shopkeeper, not an engine of growth.
  • Hire someone with high energy, high integrity, but low intelligence and you’ll get a strong functionary, but not a great problem solver or visionary.

4 of the Most Important Ways to Double Sales in the First 90 Days of the Year

Let’s talk a bit about sales pipelines. According to the classic definition, sales prospects (people or companies that haven’t bought from you) go into one end of the pipe and customers (people or companies that are now buying from you) come out the other end of the pipe.

The problem with the pipeline analogy is that it encourages linear thinking… if you pour more prospects into the top end, more customers come out the bottom. But that’s not true, because if your salespeople are following up too many lead or the wrong leads, “opening the spigot” can actually reduce the number of sales that they eventually make.

A better way to think about sales pipelines is that they operate a little like compound interest. Small increases in efficiency, when applied simultaneously at multiple points in the sales cycle, result in geometric increases of your final sales results. There are four specific metrics where incremental improvement ripples outward to generate huge sales increases:

  1. The quality of sales leads
  2. The elapsed time to develop a leads
  3. The number of leads that you close
  4. The average value of each sale

Before explaining how to improve these metrics, I’d like to give you some incentive. Imagine that you improve each of these metrics by 20%. That means you’ll get 20% more sales, right? Wrong. Improving all four metrics by 20% doubles your sales, like so:

Before:

  • 100 prospects enter the pipeline
  • 50 are qualified (sales lead quality = 50%)
  • 100 days (development speed is 2 days per customer)
  • 10 customers (close rate = 20%)
  • Average sale=$10,000
  • Total Sales = $100,000

After:

  • 100 prospects enter the pipeline.
  • 70 are qualified (sales lead quality = 70%)
  • 80 days (development speed is 20% faster)
  • 32 customers (close rate is 40%)
  • Average sale=$12,000 (20% more)
  • Total Sales = $201,600

If you want to check my math, a key point is that the 20 days you save by increasing your lead development speed can now be spent developing additional leads, which adds 20% to the total generated by the 32 customers at $12,000 per customer.

Now that I’ve explained the basic concept, let’s look at how to increase those four metrics. I could probably write a book about each of those metrics, but instead I’ll draw on the expertise of one of the smartest sales gurus I’ve ever met, Donal Daly, CEO of the sales tech company Altify. (I posted a summary of these ideas a while back.)

I haven’t spoken with Donal for a few years, so I’m basing the below on conversations we had as I prepared to write my definitely-not-a-bestseller-but-still-pretty-useful 2011 book How to Say It: Business to Business Selling.

1. Improve the Quality of Your Sales Leads by 20%

If you’re calling on the wrong people, you’re spending time on “opportunities” that never had a chance. If your leads are higher quality, you’re less likely to be calling on the wrong people. Therefore, your sales activities will generate more sales in the same period of time.

A high quality lead, by definition, is one that’s highly likely to become a customer. Your challenge is therefore to come up with a specific definition of what constitutes a high quality lead for your offering, and then get the marketing organizations focused on finding more of them.

A marketing group cannot possibly create a useful profile of a high quality lead without the active participation of the sales group. The sales team must therefore provide them with regular, direct inputs who’s interested and who’s buying, along with all the specific details (like job title, industry, typical organizational structure, etc.),

Once the initial profile is agreed-upon, the Marketing group must commit to generating, and nurturing, leads that correspond to that profile. To do so, they should be given online tools that allow them to mine social networks and business databases to find individuals that are likely to be interested, inside companies that have the money to buy the offering.

The sales team should commit to keeping the CRM database current and accurate. Because the CRM system tracks sales efforts, it can provide the marketing group with a treasure-trove of statistical data defining the current customer base and how effective the sales organization has been when selling to those demographics.

2. Decrease the time required to develop a sales lead.

Even if you’re calling on high qualities leads, a certain percentage of them won’t be potential prospects, usually because they don’t really have a need for your offering, or they do have a need, but no money to buy. Eliminating these “opportunities” from your sales cycle, means that you’ll spend more time with real ones.

Realign your thinking so that your initial conversations with a sales leads are not for the purpose of selling, but rather to identify which leads are most likely to become customers — and which are least likely. Then you make sure that only the most likely prospects are put into your pipeline, so that you seldom, if ever, waste time on false prospects.

The key issue is always value. First, the “prospect” must have the budget to buy, or at least some budget dollars that could be spent, if the need is great enough. Second, the prospect must have that need, and the need must have a financial impact that’s overwhelming larger than the cost of your offering. Anything less, and you’ll never be a priority.

The initial conversation with a sales lead must be peppered with questions can disqualify the prospect as a potential customer. For example: a question like “how would you handle this problem if you didn’t have a solution like ours?” might elicit a response like “we’d probably struggle along for a few more years” in which case the prospect may not be serious about buying.

Sales management must treat the elimination of a lead from your list as much a victory as the conversion of the lead into a real prospect. If you don’t compensate and celebrate the winnowing process and only celebrate when you find a real prospect, you’ll start sneaking questionable prospects into the pipeline.

3. Increase your average close rate.

Even if you’re calling on the right people, if you do or say the wrong things, you’ll spend time and money on opportunities that don’t pay off. Once a lead is completely qualified as a prospect, then the prospect is going to buy, either from you or your competitor. Therefore, increasing your “conversion rate” for a fully qualified lead is always matter of outselling the competition.

The most frequent reason sales reps are outsold is that they didn’t talk to the right people – and the competitor did. In many cases, the failing sales rep failed to research and completely understand the actually process by which the decision would be made, and who would play what role in that decision-making process.

It’s common practice for sales reps to communicate with a senior decision-maker at the beginning of the sales cycle, and then revisit that connection at the end of the sales cycle, in order get final approval. However, if your contacts are limited during the middle of the sales cycle, you’re probably not going to know what your competitor is doing, and who your competitor is calling upon.

Insist upon being in regular communication with decision-makers, so that there won’t belong periods of time where you don’t know what’s going on, or what’s changing inside the customer account. And don’t be afraid to ask your contacts who else is calling on them. It’s probably not a big secret and (guess what?) your competitor is probably asking them about you.

Selling against competitors means constantly differentiating your offering so that it fits the prospect’s need better than whatever the competitor is offering. To do this, you must deeply research the prospect’s business and the competitor’s strengths and weaknesses, versus your own. Remember to be subtle, though. Rubbishing the other guy makes you look bad.

4. Increase the average dollar value of each sale.

There is a fixed amount of time and resources connected to every sales effort. While it may take more effort to cut a $1 million deal, it’s usually not nearly ten times as much as effort as cutting a $100,000 deal. Therefore, the more money that you can make on each sales opportunity, the more you’ll make overall.

You must fully develop the customer account during the sales process. This means giving each account your full attention, and spending enough time on it to be able to uncover the full opportunity. Fortunately, this will be easier to do if you’re implementing the first three steps, because then you’ll be selling to fewer prospects, but with a better chance of making the sale.

Research the prospect thoroughly, prior to your first sales call, and then continue to research and probe during the sales cycle in order to continue to uncover additional ways that your firm can help that customer. Make this a constant element of your sales process.

Remember that you’re not trying to pump up the sales price, but to truly be of service to the customer. Your entire attitude, from start to finish, MUST be can result in a proactive collaboration, between you and your customer contacts, to make sure that the (mutually advantageous) deal is as large as possible. That way you’re helping them even more.

Always use discounts as sparingly as possible. In the case of standard discounts, that drop in margin is already reflected in the business model. However, extraordinary discounts offered merely to secure the sale, can not only make the current deal smaller, but (if publicized) can result in discounts (and smaller deals) from future customers.

That’s it. Go ye forth and make vast sums of money this year!

Steve Jobs’s Advice on the Only 4 Times You Should Say ‘No’ Is Brilliant

In the frantic pace of life to do more and be more, we hardly think about the importance of focus.

That’s why, for those free-spirited, creative-thinkers and entrepreneurs chasing after their dreams, this prophetic quote by Steve Jobs 21 years ago hits the nail on the head even more so today. Here’s what he said at an Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in 1997: 

People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.

Coincidentally, another notable thought leader has the same idea in mind. Brené Brown recently tweeted:

Without focus, your very ability to think, reason, communicate, problem solve and make decisions will naturally suffer. You just can’t maximize your efficiency or go into a state of flow if your mind is wandering off into multi-task land. Speaking of…

Key to better focus: Give up multi-tasking.

The common characteristic of people who had the most time and the highest income is the ability to singletask. – Tim Ferriss, New New Internet Speaking

Imagine what we could hear, learn and share if we were 100 percent present in a conversation. The reality is, we multi-task everything. You’re probably multi-tasking right now as you read this. Is music playing in the background or in your ears? Another webpage or e-mail open? Someone else talking to you? Something is always begging for our attention.

As Tim Ferriss said, what if we were totally focused on being one-taskers? What if we truly focused on one thing, one business problem, one task, one conversation?

We’d be more focused, adaptive, and therefore better decision makers. And the better we can solve problems, the more productive we become. 

The most successful people, in fact, are very patient, avoid juggling many things, and live by the motto “one step at a time.”

Additionally, research says multi-tasking it’s a myth and can be damaging to our brains. You end up splitting your focus over many tasks, losing focus, lowering the quality of your work and taking longer to hit your goals.

Jobs alluded to saying no to a thousand things. You can start by saying no to these four focus-robbers:

1. Say no to cluttering your mind.

Your first order of priority is to de-clutter your mind from “stuff” — unimportant things, tasks, calendar items, appointments, meetings, social events, and other frivolous activities that you can re-prioritize for later, delegate to others, or simply drop from your to-do list altogether. The less your mind is cluttered, the better your focus will be.

2. Say no to interruptions.

Technology is one of the greatest obstacles to gaining good focus. The constant distractions from notifications can take you off track. First, when you get in the office, avoid jumping into email; you may get sucked into a whirlpool of others’ needs, so do this last. Next, minimize interruptions by going airplane mode, or turning off notifications and placing your smartphone in another room nearby (better yet, how about using an app blocker like Freedom on all your devices?). So, what do you lose by not doing any of this? One study with a group of employees found that if all interruptions were eliminated, those employees would recapture 3-5 hours a day every day, which equals 40-60 percent of the standard work day.

3. Say no to time robbers and yes to time locking.

Time locking is the perfect way to recover stolen time from the people you work with — the time robbers — that interrupt you constantly. Avert them by simply scheduling a specified block of time on your calendar to devote strictly to an important task or activity that requires your most focus, energy and undivided attention. That means your co-workers need to know about your intent to time lock, so that they’ll cooperate in allowing for no interruptions, other than real emergencies. 

4. Say no to your own unbelief.

Sometimes the whole business of having one true focus that will leave a legacy really comes down to a “mindset” of believing in yourself. For those BHAGs, you will need to stay positive about the journey ahead and look at the progress you’ve already made in hindsight. Set good boundaries and treasure your time and focus by staying positive and by sharing your BHAG with a few close colleagues so they can cheer you on and help keep you on target.