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There is Only One Best Choice

number one
Being number two doesn’t cut it. In sales only the best choice makes a sale. Image courtesy of satit_srihin/

Al Franken’s character, Stuart Smalley, from Saturday Night Live is famous for the line “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and doggone it, people like me.” This is excellent advice if you are working on self esteem, but for your business, Stuart has it wrong. Good enough doesn’t cut it! It’s a simple but profound truth, in sales, out of all of the options a prospect has, there is only one “best choice.” Best choice gets the sale, and for everyone else, as Jeff Probst would say “Got nothin’ for you, head back to camp.”

If you are not closing sales, either you are the best and have failed to convince the right prospects that you are, or in fact your competitors are better. I repeat, being good enough doesn’t cut it. You have to be the best. It’s worth noting here that perception is reality; “best choice” is judged entirely by the prospect.

Being the best doesn’t necessarily mean the most expensive. Best means that the solution you offer most closely matches the client’s needs and budget. If a small 5 person plumbing company is looking for a printer for business cards, a couple of brochures and a small direct mail campaign, then a print shop that specializes in high quality, large format, long press run work isn’t the best choice.

With respect to capability, if you are one of the suppliers swimming in the “good enough” pool, then the only way to be a best choice is to be the cheapest, and this only works for prospects that believe the best choice is the cheapest. Your margins are skinnier and you have to focus on volume. This is a difficult position to maintain because someone can always undercut you. You don’t develop loyal, repeat customers; loyalty is to the price not to you.

Make the commitment to be the best, and get to work on it starting now! If in fact you already are, (and don’t assume, constantly check) you need to work hard to stay there. Competitors are constantly upping the game. Chrysler was the first auto maker to offer power steering in a passenger vehicle in their top line Imperial and had a differentiating advantage. Now it is available on virtually every new car. Cadillac introduced lane-departure warning and blind-spot detection in 2008 and this is being widely adopted by the industry. In industries like software and cell phones, when one developer offers a new feature, if it matters to consumers the next version of a competitor’s product incorporates the feature. Make sure you know what is important to your prospects. You don’t need to be best to the whole world; often you can have a very successful business by serving a segment of a market.

If you are best in ways that matter to a significant segment of the market and you aren’t making sales you need to make changes (read more)

3 Ways to a Total Business Makeover

Change can have a huge impact on your business.
Change can have a huge impact on your business.
Illustration courtesy of isosphere/

I’ve been thinking a great deal about organizational change.  I would like to share my thoughts on the three ways to realize huge change in a business.  Change is going to happen.  Is the change going to be thrust upon your organization or is it going to be something you bring about?  All three of the ways we look at here, are change initiated within the organization.  Perhaps we will talk about dealing with change from external sources another day.

Transformational Change – This is the most obvious of the three.  It requires an organization to plot a new course.  This type of change is challenging and certainly not for the faint of heart.  If you have a successful business, it takes a strong will and perhaps even more, a strong vision.

Sometimes, transformation happens when a new player comes into an industry with a game changing approach or technology.  Let’s look at Google to illustrate.  In its infancy, the way Google ranked search results was completely different from methods used by the existing search providers.  It was based on using backlinks as a sort of voting mechanism.  The reasoning was that the more members of an online community that felt a particular page was worthy of reference and therefore linked to it, the higher it would rank in their search results.  Google’s methodology has evolved, but this simple approach resulted in their climb to number one in search.  When Apple introduced the iPhone, it was unlike anything that the industry incumbents were offering.  They changed the industry.

A local example is the Calgary Parking Authority’s ParkPlus System.  Prior to the system introduction in the fall of 2007, on-street parking in Calgary relied on parking meters.  Enforcement was handled by a team of officers that patrolled the streets on foot, (read more) . . .

Reinventing Yourself

Reinventing copyI have been trying to write a minimum of one post a month.  I know it should be more frequent but it’s a reasonable goal which I plan to improve upon.  I find myself on the last day of the month without an entry but I have the beginnings of this post as a draft.  Interestingly the topic, reinvention, is topical given that New Year is typically a time that people address these types of issues.  So here goes.

One of my dominant personal themes is “reinventing myself.”  This has been something I have done for many years.  I’m addressing this because I’ve taken what some might think is a pretty dramatic change in my work.  I spend many years in traditional media, first on the creative side followed by many years selling.  I am now working on business development with an online marketing company plus doing marketing for a local garden centre.

Each year, going into a new fiscal year with new budgets (do they ever give you a smaller budget) I would go through my reinvention process.  My philosophical approach (read more) . . .

The Demand-Support Matrix

Demand Support MatrixRRRI am sharing something that I found very useful when assessing a demanding situation I found myself in.  I continue to use this and hope you find value. Let’s start by looking at degrees of demand.  Of course this is not the classical economics use of the word demand as it relates to supply; here we are talking about the amount of demand that is placed on us in a give situation.  This is then overlaid with the amount of support we are given to manage that demand.   In my Demand-Support Matrix the vertical axis is “demand” with a low demand situation below and high demand above.  Keep in mind that this is a continuum, it is not either/or but a matter of degree.

If we look at jobs like delivering newspapers or flyers, I characterize this as low demand.  There obviously is some level of expectation that the piece will be delivered and in a reasonably timely fashion but this is not extremely demanding.  Often a daily newspaper has a performance standard for delivery, such as delivered by 6:00am.  That is the promise in my community but the fellow that delivers the paper on my street hasn’t met that standard in many years.  I no longer have the paper delivered but I see him while I am out walking my dog.  It’s the same time every day and he’s delivering to my neighbours well past the delivery standard.  My point is (read more)…

Customer Buying Style

X's & O's of Retail
The X’s & O’s of Retail illustrates the contrast between Transactional and Relational shoppers.

Many years ago as a radio sales rep I had a client say to me “Everyone is a price shopper.”  The gentleman had a small retail carpet shop.  I needed a way to show him that this wasn’t the case.  I developed my “X’s and O’s of Retail.”  Over the years I’ve developed the model which contrasts what I call Transactional Shoppers and Relational Shoppers.  When I shared this with Roy H. Williams, the Wizard of Ads, in early 2002 he wrote about it in his Monday Morning Memo.

Let’s run through this to see if it resonates for your organization.  In my illustration above, the X’s are customers are the O’s are retailers.  Each line from a customer to a retailer represents a shopping trip.  The red lines indicate a purchase.

In the carpet business let’s imagine there are 5 customers that are going to buy carpet today and there are 5 carpet stores.  Customer 1 visits all 5 stores looking for the lowest price.  Store 1 has the lowest price and makes a sale.  Customer 2 also visits all 5 stores looking for the lowest price.  Store 1 makes another sale.  Customer 3 renovated an older home 4 years ago.  They recently moved into a larger home that needs new flooring and they return to the store they purchased carpeting from 4 years ago.  Customer 4 has a sister that works at Store 4 so she is dealing with family.  Customer 5 was recently transferred from Atlanta and knew where to buy carpet in Atlanta but doesn’t know the local stores.  She asks a co-worker who recommends Store 5.

The owner of Store 5 saw three shoppers, two of them (read more)

Customer Life Time Value

Woman Doing CalculationsI just fired up an old laptop to retrieve a document.  This was a list of topics I planned to write about, and I thought it would be instructive to review the list.  I had searched through all my current folders several times when it occurred to me that it was created a while ago and it might me on the old Sony.  It took a little work to get the computer working.  When I located the file I checked the date:  May 18, 2005.  The very first item on the list was “Lifetime value of a customer.”

I was first exposed to the concept when I read Customers for Life by Carl Sewel.  I wrote a post about Sewel a couple of years ago.  His book was published in 1990 and at the time Sewel calculated the life time value of his customers at (read more) . . .

Park Resorts Innovates

Some times a totally different approach to a problem delivers a winning solution.

Guests enjoy clean accommodation in Caravans at Park Resorts Lower Hyde on Isle of Wight

In the hospitality industry one of the major challenges is maintaining reasonable standards with lower skilled jobs.  In food service, bussers, and dishwashers and in lodging, housekeeping staff are in this category.  Poor service delivery can have a negative effect on customer experience.  We’ve all checked into hotel rooms that we not up to our standards.  Good housekeeping is subjective but the guest’s reaction is all important.

When a guest gives a review that says “Go and sleep on the subway, it’s cleaner” or “A jail cell would have been better than the room we stayed in. (read more)