Thursday, February 25, 2010

Wanted Buyers vs. Actual Buyers

Many of you are often asked: "So, who is your ideal customer?"  In other words, who do you want to buy your product?

I have a staple answer for that as well for PeerFX - small businesses that have less than 10 employees, less than $10 million in revenues, and are growing international revenues with recurring monthly foreign currency transactions for receivables and payables.

Great, this is the ideal customer - I would be really happy if each and every customer knocking on our door fit this profile.

In reality, we get another type of customer at the beginning; I say at the beginning because the ideal customer comes when you build enough credibility, features and volume in your business.

Right now our customers are split 50/50 between individuals and small businesses that aren't at the $10M revenue mark. 

So for those of you that are writing a business plan, and defining your target segment, you need to think about how long it will take you to create something that will attract and keep your ideal customers.  Be realistic and accept the fact that you will need a slightly not as ideal batch of customers to help you prove your case in the beginning.  This doesn't only apply to running or wanting to start a large business.  For example, a marketing consultant starting out has an ideal customer in mind that needs different marketing campaigns each quarter and pays at least $10,000 for each of them; does this usually happen right away?  Probably not, the consultant is building his/her portfolio of customers with the smaller accounts first before they gain enough history and experience under their belt to approach the bigger accounts.

Think about this for your own business - I'm thinking about it right now as today's my down time for some strategy implementation (not just planning!!!) :)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Promoting From Within

There are a few companies that advocate promoting people from within to higher ranks as they gain tenure and experience within the company.  I'm not sure if this is the most efficient way to ensure you have the right people in the right place in your company.

I'm sure if you have been a manager, run your own company or ran your own company before, you will know that some people are "soldiers" and some are "generals" - some soldiers will NEVER be generals.  It's often not the hard skill set that the individuals have, it's more often the soft skill set that separates these two groups. 

Generals are able to connect the dots to see how details matter in the bigger picture.  Soldiers usually have ideas for their own area of expertise and are able to work very diligently, ensuring that things are implemented.  Imagine promoting a Soldier into the position of a General - the Soldier would know their own area really well, but they don't know how the other fields affect them and how their own field affects other Generals.  There is also nobody to tell the Soldier what needs to be implemented (at least there will be less instructions than when they were working under a General); and the scary thing that can happen is the newly-promoted General will work without seeing how him and his team contributes to the larger picture (or the greater vision of the company).

There are certain skills you can train for but there are some other factors that impact a person's ability to contribute to a company - think again when you want to promote someone who has tenure and an average skill set that you know has hit the wall (ie. it doesn't matter how much $$ you pour into training this person, the output will always be around the same level), you run the risk of jeopardizing the entire department's productivity.

Monday, February 22, 2010

3 Sales Mistakes You Can Avoid

The following mistakes happen so frequently when people want me to sign up for their services...just thought I would share it here and how I think they (and maybe you too) can improve their success rates.

1) Not Listening: You have done your research and you walk into the client’s office prepared to sell them on a solution that you prepared already. Great – it shows that you have done your homework, but you should still ask the client how they are currently solving the pain that your product solves and tailor your pitch and solution to their specific needs. The key to getting a sale is being a good listener – listen to what your customers need before you recommend something.

2) Pushing for a Sale: Some people say it takes 7 times of contact before someone would consider doing business with you. Of course this varies with industry, with the level of sales expertise and the product being sold; but you get the idea – sales might not happen on the first time you meet with a potential client. So what is the right way to do it? Keep in touch with new contacts that you make and you will be surprised by the amount of referrals and sales that come from these contacts.

3) Talking to the Wrong Person: So you think you are connected to the decision maker at the company you are pitching, think again. Usually the person using the product is not the person buying or is not the person signing off on the purchase (some times this may be 3 different people). So when you get a meeting set up, ask the person if they are the only person involved in the decision-making. Most likely the answer is no. Get the right people at the table and it will save you a ton of hassle and shorten your sales process.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Time Goes By...Fast

City of VancouverImage via Wikipedia

It's almost the end of the month again.

Some people think that it's OK to take a day off and relax. In the case of February, that's 3.5% of your monthly time. Maybe some of us do need to recharge and I'm not against it but the point is...a lot of people aren't aware or just choose to forget the importance of one day.

Just a random thought that hit me sitting here on Saturday morning in beautiful Vancouver. The month has passed me by and I'm reflecting on what progress I've achieved in the past 20 days of February. It's a scary exercise, because what if you think about it and realize that you really haven't done much?

Here are the top things that come to mind that have been achieve in the past 20 days of February:

1) Development of Version 2.0 is about 35% complete - I'm pushing and pushing for us to pick up progress to hit our deadline come end of March
2) Investigated into 2 different potential partner programs that could propel PeerFX forward - investigated means we contacted the parties, set up meetings, exchanged emails on key points, wrote a proposal and figured out the economics (does it make dollars for us to partner?)
3) More promos for Manitoba Chambers of Commerce - slower than we'd like but we're still getting a lot of great feedback
4) New website design for customer interface completed - love it
5) Went to Toronto and met John - who I consider to be a winner for the team :)
6) Interviewed and decided on a new sales rep for PeerFX
7) Read one book per week - just like I said I would. Go New Year Resos!

I still think I could've done more in 20 days, so it's time to pick up the pace!

Back to work!
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Thursday, February 18, 2010

EQ does not come with age

I've been pretty under the weather the past couple days (down with the flu), and having to deal with people that are supposed to be older, wiser, more experienced than me but with a low EQ is driving me insane.

It's OK to vent, if it's to the right party, if you know you have pull with the other party, and you won't appear insane to the other party. Those are just the basics. It boils down to interpersonal skills, which is absolutely the most important thing in business. Successful people aren't only smart, they know how to use their interpersonal skills/pull/connections to make things happen. Stop wondering why people who don't seem as capable get to the high positions in a company, because they had the other side of the equation: people smarts.

I've always approaches situations like this analyzing each parties interests; make sure everyone's interests are laid out on the table and don't play telephone - ie. don't call me, tell me one thing, and then call the other party telling them another - if you end up doing this you are just making it tough for yourself.

Just let me know what you want; surprisingly most of the time people just like to whine and complain but are not sure of what they want as a result. So why are you complaining?! Is the result that you propose the best for the company or the best for yourself? Are you trying to convince your boss to side with you? if that's the case then you better not propose the case where it's best for you, because your boss would see right through that and end up re-evaluating your EQ - which is exactly what I've done. Ta-da.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Hated Business Term: Reasonable Progress

Announcement of changes in company password po...Image via Wikipedia

I know. The word hate commands a strong emotional response and we tend to navigate away from that in business. Still, there are many "hated" business terms, just go around your office asking for a couple of them from your may get terms like "touch base, high-level, shelving the idea for now..." what you would probably read in Dilbert comic.

So here's why "reasonable progress" is such an annoying term. How do you define reasonable progress? To an employer or someone on the management end of things, it translates into: "I'll make sure things are happening, but nothing is actually getting DONE."

You see why it's tough for us to negotiate anything based on reasonable progress? I think over the past 2 weeks this term has come up more than 10 times with 10 different individuals which is why I've snapped and had to write about it. I think the term really means nothing because it's so vague. In order for parties to agree to something you need to have it defined. Take for example, if we want to sign up a new partner association, what is defined as reasonable progress?

1) I sent the association an email to their general inbox and I'm crossing my fingers that someone would get back to me.
2) I spoke to the membership manager who said they will connect me to the partnership coordinator who will then connect me to the partnership manager.
3) I waited outside their office and caught the partnership manager and did a 5-minute pitch of our idea.
4) I did the 5-minute pitch and secured a 20 minute meeting with the decision makers Monday of next week with the partnership agreement drafted and ready to be signed.
5) I signed the partnership agreement and have the implementation plan ready to go.

ALL OF THE ABOVE can be made to sound like reasonable progress. The boss always has the end goal in mind, that's what we want to see - the signed partnership agreement. We like seeing progress but at the end of the day if that new account/partner/client isn't signed on and doing business with us, we've only made "reasonable progress", we have not hit our goal. I guess accountability is high on the charts with a tightly-knit business such as PeerFX, where there are few employees, and its transparent who is responsible for what; to throw around the term reasonable progress makes it look like the person is setting themselves up to avoid accountability and to cover their rears.

I'm sure there's another side to this if you're in the employee's seat and see the employee's perspective on this. If that is you, I'd like to hear your comments.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Thursday, February 11, 2010

westjet screwed up my flight booking

Gotta appreciate technology that allows me to do immediate rants straight from the airport.

I'm at the toronto airport now waiting in line to clear customs after waiting at the counter for half an hour. Customs is probably going to take another 20 mins and that's when the plane is supposed to take off. Not without me. They told me at the counter that they're not Air Canada - well right now I'm getting the same angry feelings from when Air Canada screwed up my luggage and left it sitting on the tarmac.

So...they're not so different in my opinion.

I remember seeing a sign that says Westjet never oversell their flights. Talk about not living up to their promise.

Fail. Total fail.

So disappointed since I've been flying westjet for years for all my domestic flights. Time to break that loyalty chain.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Enterprize Conference

I've been meaning to post about this over the weekend but of course friends and Superbowl festivities pushed that back as soon as I landed in Toronto.

I hosted a workshop session at the Enterprize Business Plan Competition this year and it really was a great experience to go back to my business school to speak to aspiring young entrepreneurs.  When I first sent in my slides, which was 10 slides for an hour, I got an email back asking whether I would have any material on my own business, because students would be interested in seeing that.

I did, but that slide didn't have any text on it.  Powerpoint 101 for me is that there shouldn't be more than 3 lines of text on a slide...if the audience can read through the entire presentation I might be an audiobook.

I started off with a short blurb on the company and on the one slide I had, which was titled the PeerFX Heartbeat, went over the ups and downs I went through in the past 2 years, from flying solo in the initial stages of the business to securing government funding to finding committed advisors and employees that impress me with their passion for the business on a daily basis.

However, it would've been pretty boring if I talked for the entire hour, so I focused 80% of my presentation on scenarios.  I bluntly told the students that participation is mandatory and I would just pick on people if no one raised their hand.  Great.

I will highlight the scenario that the students had the most fun with:

Customer Service:  You run an online dating site and for the past month you have been getting complaints from customers saying that their online match has cheated on them, what do you do?
What would you do in this scenario?  Apologize?  Tell the customer that it's not of your business?  Give them free match ups the next time?  How do you save your business' reputation?  We all know that one bad experience is repeated to 100 you want to lose 100 potential customers?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Google Buzz and the New Facebook Layout

You know, I like how companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter continuously try to find more efficient ways for me to stay connected with my friends.  Google updated my Gmail today with the new Google Buzz and last night Facebook surprised me by changing its layout as well. 

First of all, it's too much.

Facebook: have tons of people been complaining about how the old layout really sucked?  If they didn't...then why are you just rearranging things on the same page every so often?  Why don't you just build the entire page widget-based so that we build our own page layouts?  Thank you very much.

Google Buzz: You know, I had to add my friends to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc....all these other social platforms that want to jump on the social network bandwagon.  Thanks Google for getting on board - now I need to do that all over again; plus, I have enough emails to read during the day and enough news feeds on my Google Reader that I'm already going insane trying to keep up with all these things. 

One day, these companies are going to go through some awesome merger so that everything can be consolidated in one place :) If only someone had billions of dollars to buy all these companies.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Monday, February 8, 2010

Everyone has a Function

I spent a total of one hour taking the GO train for a meeting today and spent the trip on the way out watching something that was quite fascinating. 

On the GO train, there was a fellow in charge of Customer Service and his job was to make sure that customers got on and off the train in precisely 40 seconds that would allow him to lower the ramp, step outside while holding the speakerphone, warn passengers to stay clear of the doors, announce that the doors are closing, fold up the ramp, board the train himself and hang up the speakerphone. 

I'm not sure if I got all the steps right or if 40 seconds is an impressive record, I just think that its impressive that a customer service guy working on the GO train takes their job so seriously.  Today the guy in charge of customer service had to train a new guy - and the new guy makes the story even better; he was asking questions about whether it's faster to lower the ramp with his right hand or left, and other super detailed things that would speed up his job.  Keener in every category.

Taught me a lesson, anyone and everyone has a function in this world and they can all do some things, or at least one thing really well.  Very awesome.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Facebook Ads

We're testing out one week of facebook ads.  Short time I know but at least we will get an initial response on whether people are clicking on the ads at all.

I wonder how it'll turn out. When we used Google Adwords the average cost per click was $0.35, which isn't bad.  Now we are testing with cost per thousands impressions on Facebook, since we are aiming more at raising awareness and brand recognition.

Stay tuned for the results :)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

lining up at the bank

Live blogging straight from the RBC branch on granville and 70th. This is priceless. I wish I could take a picture of the lineup with all these angry/impatient people. I've been waiting here for 10 mins now and only ONE person has moved. One person just left the lineup (smart decision).

I wonder how long it's going to take with 6 people in front of me. All I'm trying to do is deposit a check to someone's account and here I am wasting 30 minutes of my life waiting in line that I will never get back. Thanks RBC. Great customer service. Really makes me want to bank with you.

Oh, the service desk lady just gave a stuffed toy zebra to the little girl waiting with her dad, how nice. I think she should give the others cash back for waiting in line :)