2 Simple Steps to Grow Your Business!

I want to share an experience I had yesterday with a dry cleaners. To set the stage, I was using this company exclusively for a few years while working at my previous employer but I hadn't been there for almost 3 years now. So I stop by yesterday morning because I needed some new shirts pressed and returned pretty quickly. As was customary, I pulled up to the drive-through and was promptly greeted by the proprietor. I handed him my shirts and he went to the computer to plug in my phone number. Once he did, there was a short pause of puzzlement followed by him asking me "From Infiniti?". I replied "Yes" and he asked "Do you still work there?". When I told him that I hadn't worked there in a couple of years, he replied "Ok" with a sigh of relief as he now seemed to accept why I hadn't been there in so long. He told me what the charge would be, confirmed a pick-up time that was convenient for me, handed my the receipt and then something totally unexpected happened: he attempted to upsell me! After concluding the transaction, he said "We have some new services that we now offer since the last time you were here" and he began pitching the 4-5 additional revenue streams that had been added. I smiled in acceptance of his sales pitch before heading on with my day.

My goal with sharing this interaction is that you will see the same two lessons from our encounter that I did:

  1. KNOW YOUR CUSTOMERS. Even if you don't, or can't, take the time to personally get to know your clients, make the best use of your CRM tool. If you don't know what a CRM is, I would recommend starting there. I'm sure he didn't remember that I worked at Infiniti but at some point in the past that information was input into their CRM.
  2. PROVIDE YOUR CUSTOMERS WITH ADDITIONAL PRODUCTS/SERVICES. I was really surprised by the fact that he took the time to actually pitch me on his new services, with a brief example of how I might use each one. Be careful not to add additional products or services just for the sake of adding them. Make sure they are beneficial to your clients as well as compliment your existing business model. It is more profitable to have repeat and referral customers than it is to acquire new ones.

There are two key opportunities that were missed in this interaction as well:

  1. KEEP YOUR CRM UPDATED! Someone did a great job of inputting my employment information previously but he didn't ask me where I worked now so that he could update his records. He could've used that as an opportunity to find out which of his new services I would most likely use in the future.
  2. STAY IN CONTACT WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS! If you recall from early on in the narrative, I hadn't been to his cleaners in a few years. The business made no attempt to find out why! No they didn't have my physical or email address but I still use the same telephone number that is in his CRM. Keep in mind that I was getting my clothes cleaned at least bi-monthly yet I never received a call when I stopped coming in. If nothing else, he could've used his new offerings as a reason to reach out and invite me back to his shop.

Take this opportUNITY to learn from what you've just read. If you implement these two simple steps while capitalizing on his two missed opportunities, your business will immediately experience substantial growth. Work smart and SELL, SELL, SELL!



Tighten Up!

For those of you who know me well, you know that this is one of my favorite phrases. These two words are usually all that is necessary to let someone know that they are not living up to their potential or they are goofing off when it is time to be serious. Based on several recent interactions with local small business, it is necessary for me to tell them to Tighten Up

Let's review a few basics that too many small businesses still don't seem to "get":

Do What You Say You're Going To Do.

If you tell a customer that you are going to call them back or meet them at a pre-arranged time, then do it. Simple, right? Not so much. I have attempted to patronize at least three businesses over the past few weeks who have failed miserably at this task. One business said that they would call me back and never did - even after I gave them a second chance and called them back. Another business scheduled an appointment to provide a service only to reach out to me the morning of to 1)Ask if we were still meeting and 2)Then attempt to reschedule for 2 hours later. And a third business owner reached out to me 45 minutes after our scheduled appointment to inform me that he was on the way. (He had previously told me that he expected to show up early.)

Even more alarming was that all three business came personally recommended from three different sources. Needless to say that I did not give either of those companies my hard earned money.


It's sad to say that in our age of communicating to each other with a  maximum of 140-characters-at-a-time that too many people are unable to write grammatically correct. Before you start to defend the position of "English is not my strongest subject", understand that as a business owner you may need people around you to compliment your weaknesses. If you are not strong at financials, hire someone who is. If you are struggling to reach new customers, get someone to help you with marketing. If you are writing ANYTHING that a potential customer will see, use spellcheck AND have someone else proofread it! This goes for your website as well. Your website is a validator of your business so if you just throw something together just to show you have a url address, (potential) customers will feel that you will take the same lackluster approach with them.

It is true that you only have one chance to make a first impression. And what do you think that first impression is if you have misspelled words and grammatical errors?

Look Through The Eyes Of Your Customer, Not Your Own

Too many business owners I've encountered think that just because they are "the boss" means they get to do everything their way. For example, just because your favorite color is green doesn't mean that your company color should be green. (Green can invoke a sense of growth with your customers - like the Starbucks brand - when in fact your business may be strongly based on trust and dependability, hence the blue in American Express.) And yes I did deliberately choose the colors Green and Blue as my company colors! 

Other examples of when business owners neglect to research the market before making a decision include: business name, logo creation, use of a favorite song or genre of music in store or on their website and communication methods with customers. The choices you make may invoke a positive feeling for you personally but that doesn't mean they will do the same for your customers. Ample time needs to be spent on market research before introducing your business to the public.

Unfortunately - or fortunately, depending how you look at it - if you can just follow these simple steps you will be WAY ahead of your competition and well on your way to success! 



Empathic Listening

Stephen Covey shares some excellent advice on listening with us in his book The 8th Habit - From Effectiveness to Greatness. Listening is a very important method of communication, yet the majority of us have had little to no training in listening skills. Our schooling is heavily weighed toward the other forms of communication - reading, writing and speaking. Listening, however, is probably more important than the other three forms of communication combined. When we become effective at listening, we are able to gain important insight that could go as far as eliminating our need to communicate in return. You have probably heard the saying "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." A major way that people know that you care is if you actually listen to them.  Not listen long enough to respond but to actually listen to what the other person is trying to communicate to you. Stephen Covey says it best:

To truly listen means to transcend you own autobiography, to get out of your frame of reference, out of your own value system, out of your own history and judging tendencies, and to get deeply into the frame of reference or viewpoint of another person. This is called empathic listening.

Think about the times that you are listening to someone talk while you are having a 1-on-1 conversation. Do you find yourself waiting for your "turn" so that you can respond? Or are you able to put your own agenda aside in order to actually listen to what is being communicated to you? Many of us think that we are listening because we are attentively listening. Until you can listen and only think about what the other person is saying, there is still room for improvement. Just like any other skill, empathic listening has to be practiced over and over again until it becomes second nature. To illustrate this point, Ralph Roughton, M.D. says it best:

When I ask you to listen and you start giving advice, you have not done what I have asked. When I ask you to listen to me and you begin to tell me why I shouldn't feel that way, you are trampling on my feelings. When I ask you to listen and you feel you have to do something to solve my problems, you have failed me, strange as that may sound.

Empathic listening is an instrumental component of both personal and professional success. We must learn how to truly listen to our significant other, children, friends, supervisor, team members, existing customers and potential clients. You know you have started to master the skill of empathic listening when you get compliments such as "you understand me" or "I can always talk to you" from people who are close to you. So the next time someone asks "Can we talk?", take the time to listen empathically and see how much better you both feel after your interaction together!

Undivided Attention


In this day and age of instant connectivity, there are many potential distractions that can interfere with the client interaction. Clients deserve your undivided attention, so give it to them! While you are assisting a potential customer with your product or service, do not allow yourself to get distracted by phone calls, coworkers, or "notifications" on your personal phone. Not only is this disrespectful of the client's time, but it also reduces the possibility of them purchasing your product or service. So do yourself and your client a favor and give them your undivided attention whenever you are engaged with them both during and after the transaction has taken place!

Managing Your Variable Income in Sales

Throughout my 17-year sales career, I have both worked with and managed countless salespeople. The one thing we all have in common is that our income is not fixed. One month will be different than the next; one year can be great while another may be dismal. In an effort to prevent others from lacking money management strategies in this arena as I did early on in my career, I have outlined a few basic suggestions for setting yourself up for financial success. 

  1. Make sure to keep track of the money that you earn.

    1. The first step in managing your money is to know how much you are actually earning. I have worked with countless salespeople who don't track how much they've earned on a particular sale after the transaction is finalized. The information is easily accessible by your manager and if they are hesitant about giving you that information, I suggest you find another place to work that will! 

  2. You are only going to take home about 50% of what you earn so learn to live on that.

    1. This is the biggest mistake I see rookie, and even some veteran, salespeople make. They forget to factor in taxes, bonuses, draw, insurance, etc. If you think you have made $3800 for the month but only get a $1,900 check, it will definitely throw off your budget!

  3. Every month may not be as good as this one.

    1. Just because you had a good month doesn't mean that the next one will be. Too many salespeople get themselves in trouble by spending as if every month will be the same, which leads me to my next point...

  4. Most businesses are cyclical so learn your business cycle.

    1. If you are not prepared for the "slower season", you may be in for a rude awakening if your income plummets by as much as 50%. For example if you sell boats, you are pretty much assured to have a better summer selling season than in the winter.

  5. Contrary to what your manager may tell you, do not incur any unnecessary debt.

    1. Some managers prefer that their salespeople have debts to cover because they feel it will make them work hard. I understand this philosophy to a degree; I have seen on many occasions where a salesperson with a mortgage and children will work harder because they "have to". On the contrary, when a salesperson is riddled in debt, they may have trouble projecting the positive energy needed to service the client. 

  6. Set up a budget.

    1. Just like a salaried person, you need to set up a budget. Start by tracking at least 12 months of income to determine your average monthly income. From there, make sure to subtract about 50% (refer to item #2) and then proceed with the following based on net income:

      1. Set aside at least 10% for savings.

      2. Allocate 70% for living expenses - housing, food, transportation, clothing, etc.

      3. The remaining 20% is for discretionary expenses i.e. entertainment and the unexpected.

  7. Prepare for a slower month.

    1. Instead of getting that new electronic device when you have an exceptionally good month, take some of that extra money and set it aside for when the slower time(s) come. When you've budgeted for an average income of $3,800/month and you have 1 month where you earn $5,400, take at least 25% of that extra income and set it aside for a "rainy day".

These suggestions also apply to the entrepreneur and small business owner since their income fluctuates as well. If you are already following the above mentioned guidelines, then I want to congratulate you! You are ahead of many of your colleagues. For those of you who would like to do better at managing your income, reference this list regularly. You may also contact me directly for a free consultation if you want a more 1-on-1 approach.