Today has been a day of sales activity at Optix. I thought I’d share my thoughts and experience of CRM and how to setup your pipeline. I hope its useful.
Today has been a day of sales activity at Optix. I thought I’d share my thoughts and experience of CRM and how to setup your pipeline. I hope its useful.
This is in danger of turning into a rant I’m afraid. Sorry about that.
Recently I was in the market for a new car. I’d had my current wheels for about 6 years and although I loved them, they were getting a little old and my priorities had changed. Now it’s about showing my commitment to our growing family (currently a dog and a little one on the way).
Anyway, onto my rant. I don’t know if my expectations are too high but does it sometimes feel like people don’t want your business or purposely make it difficult to do business with them. I work pretty hard in my life. I’m in the office til gone 7pm most nights and occasionally I work the odd Saturday while I get some quiet time. At the rest of the time I’m still digitally connected by email and social media to my clients and our services. I’m not suggesting you should do the same but I’m guessing there will be a few of you out there wired like me so hopefully you’ll empathise.
This way of life makes it difficult to shop conventionally.
I thought I’d do some car shopping at the weekend on a Sunday because Sunday is pretty much like any other day right? Wrong. My wife and I got in the car and took off for the area well known for lots of car dealers in Exeter, excited by the proposition of what we might find. Our spirits were immediately dampened when the first dealer we came across was shut for the day. Unperturbed we drove on thinking there must be a reason for their closure but as we passed one after another main dealer it was clear this was the norm.
Among the closed barriers and dark showrooms, both the main dealers for my local BMW and Land Rover were closed. Interestingly smaller outfits and most local companies in the area were open for business. I was both shocked and disappointed as either one of them could have picked up a sale that day and have now left me with a bitter taste in my mouth regarding their customer service.
We live in a 24 hour world now. The internet has done that for us. Good or bad? I don’t know, but what I do know is that it’s worth working out when your customers need you and making sure they have some way to engage with you at those times, if not, I’m sure there is someone else willing to do so.
In a world that shouts about success, it’s a natural human trait to regard failure as a negative thing. People often cover up their mistakes and find them hard to admit to. In my business I’m a huge believer in and encourage my team to shout from the roof tops about their failures (ok sometimes its best to do that behind closed doors of course) so they can learn from them. I try and encourage an environment where they aren’t afraid to come forward and admit mistakes, after all if they don’t take responsibility for things, then no one benefits.
I believe that my mistakes spur me on just as much as my successes do. As the great Albert Einstein said, ‘A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.’ In business there’s no right and wrong, and no clear path ahead. You simply have to try your best with the tools and resources available to you.
No successful business got to where they are today without taking measured risks. Some of these risks will have paid off, and others won’t have. But to take bold steps forward in business (and in life in general!) you have to take a risk once in a while. As long as these are calculated, measured and reviewed, then whether they succeed or fail doesn’t matter that much. Along with your successes, your failures go towards creating a richer tapestry of life, just remember that next time something doesn’t go your way.
Learning from your mistakes is a vital business skill to acquire. Rather than brushing your losses under the carpet, it’s crucial that you review them and understand what went wrong. Giving a bad decision a post mortem may be an uncomfortable task, but the lessons that you’ll learn will strengthen you and ultimately push you one step closer to success. Consider a top sportsperson/team – they’ll be using video methods to analyse not only their opponents before a game but how they played after it, always looking for the edge.
Take any successful person, look a little closer, and you’ll see that before their big wins there’ll be plenty of ventures behind them that just didn’t work. But successful people like this guy have resilience and an ability to self-reflect in common. They are able to acknowledge their mistakes, learn from them and move on. They value their mistakes just as much as they do their successes. These people inspire me.
So it’s time to stop seeing your failures as disasters. They are simply indicators of what you need to do next. Let them be the encouragement that you need to stride forwards.
Who do you surround yourself with? Have a think about it for a while – in business and your personal life…never underestimate the power of the connections you have both in and out of work and how these have a huge impact on your own life.
The people you interact with on a daily basis will change your perspective on the world, if they are negative people they could bring you down with them, if they are positive they will no doubt bring you up. Think of someone you know who is really positive and the feeling you get when around them – pretty good hey?
How are your relationships with others – what impact do you have on the people around you? Do you leave them with a happy feeling?
I’ll give you a secret, if you want to succeed or at the very least have a good life then surround yourself with successful and fun people and don’t spend your time with negative people who constantly try and bring you down. Now obviously this is not the easiest thing to do when so many of our relationships are carved out for us through work and life. For example, you probably can’t just get rid of that tricky client who always seems to be moaning, whatever you do or move away from the person you’re sat next to in the office because you don’t get on with them. However, there are some things you can do to help these situations, because ultimately, if you let them get you down then it will affect your work and life outlook and that’s not a good a thing.
Here are a few quick suggestions for how you can move towards a more fulfilling and successful career/life by surrounding yourself with positive people.
1). At Networking events don’t get stuck with people who simply spend their time selling ‘at you’. Politely move on and find people who are interested in your business and who have interesting businesses themselves. Spend your time cultivating these relationships.
2). I mentioned tricky clients and co-workers earlier in this post. Now some people just can’t be changed but quite often it’s simply a clash of personalities that drives a divide between people. Just for once, put pride aside and carry out a random act of kindness for the ‘tricky’ person in your life – buy them something – a good book or something else they’ve perhaps shown an interest in before. They won’t be expecting this and if this doesn’t change the relationship to a more positive one, maybe its time to consider leaving them be.
3). Pin point successful people as connections you want to make and work out how you can do so. Spending time with people that have already made it in business is one of the very best ways of learning – act like a sponge when you get these opportunities, soak in everything they tell you and try and use the time with them to learn as much as possible. I may well have built a couple of businesses from nothing in the last 10 years and be writing this blog from my experiences but when I recognise someone I could learn from, I’m quite literally, all ears.
4). Start a Master Mind group – I’m part of a couple of business groups which are essentially mastermind groups. The idea of these groups is different to networking – they work on the premise that more heads are better than one – if you sit down with other successful people and talk about your businesses you will learn more from what other people think about your business than you realise – It’s amazing what fresh set of eyes will see. I strongly recommend getting involved in a group like this and if you don’t know where to find one, start one (I did!).
5). Start a lunch/diner club with your best friends. The feeling you have when you’re out with your best friends is one of the best you can get so why not do it more often. As I’ve got older, my friends have all grown up, moved in with spouses/had kids and moved away. We have a group which meets up every quarter (generally in London) for a lunch/dinner at one of the best restaurants in town. It might not sound like anything special but its all in the setup – everyone has to pay in a set amount of money each month on DD and if they miss the event, the money stays in the fund. This eradicates most excuses believe me. We have one that flies back from Malta and one will soon be coming back from New York for this amazing day out. I hope that at least one person reading this blog sets a similar thing up – I promise you its worth it.
That’s just a few suggestions for living a more positive life through better connections and relationships. If you have some suggestions yourself that I’ve not listed then please do let me have them as I’m always keen to learn
What are you doing to make yourself stand out? Nothing? Really? You’re making it very tough on yourself in what is probably the most important time to try and differentiate – a slow economy.
In my main web design business we’ve spent a lot of time this year working out how we can differentiate ourselves both personally and in the business. As businesses take longer to change the way they do things and you may not personally be able to change your business personality if you’re not the owner, I wanted to share three things that are worth changing yourself…today – I hope they help.
1) Your answer phone message – How many people do you know who have the same old boring, ‘Sorry I’m either out or away from my desk, blah blah blah’ (I had it before) – Ditch it now. If someone phones you, they want to talk to you – if they can’t get hold of you, they don’t want to wait and listen to your boring message. Think creatively and get an answer phone message that rocks…. Your AIM – to get someone telling another person to call your answer phone just to listen to it, after all, you never know that person could be your next client.
2) Change your ‘Out of Office’ – Again, you probably have the same out of office setup and use it every time you’re away from the office/in meetings all day – ‘I’m away on annual leave…etc etc’ – BORING! Try something creative with the aim that the person who receives it will forward it on to someone else. If successful it could lead to a buzz and potentially work!
3) Change your business cards – Ok, so I’m currently working on this one as well but sometime in the new year I will have new cards that people love. The aim here is that when you give someone your card, they make some sort of complimentary comment about it – even better to get a ‘WOW, cool card’ – that’s what I’ll be looking for. The card is such an important part of business – we all give them out at networking meetings/lunches/dinners (even events outside work), why would you want to have a card that ends up in a pile with everyone else’s?
Hopefully that’s given you some food for thought – it’s pretty easy to make changes personally. If you’re content with being the same as everyone else then fine, but if you want to make a difference then you probably need to re-think a few things.
There is a famous quote that says “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” (Anthony Robbins)
Think about it for a while…then act on it.
This post was done last year for our ninth birthday at Optix. As we turn ten next Monday I thought I’d revisit the interview for those that missed it.
Interview with James Dawkins and Alastair Banks of Optix Solutions:
It’s hard to believe that Alastair and James were merely 20 years old when they joined forces to start Optix Solutions in 1999. Since then, their strong business acumen and un-reserved commitment to exceeding customer expectations has helped develop Optix Solutions into a professional Web Design and Internet Services Company with a dedicated team of Business Development Managers, Web Designers, Web Developers and Search Engine Optimisation Consultants – working with some of the UK’s leading organisations!
In this interview we look back at how together, Alastair and James, have achieved their success.
Q. What inspired you to start Optix Solutions?
James: Quite simply – not wanting to work for someone else!
Alastair: I’d agree with James here – we felt there was a gap in the market and didn’t want to work for anyone else after finishing University.
Q. What’s the most rewarding part of running Optix?
Alastair: There are so many! I still get a massive buzz from developing relationships and helping clients – but seeing a team develop around James and me is also very rewarding.
James: Seeing all of the hard work we devote to our clients pay off! Like winning the award for Best Franchise Website Design with Urban Planters last year was fantastic, and being nominated for the Business Enterprise Award by the Federation of Small Business this year demonstrates recognition for our continuous progression as a company.
Q. What has been the most significant change on the web since Optix was founded in 1999?
Alastair: Firstly we went through the ‘Dot Com Bubble’ in 1999/2000; we saw e-Commerce start to take off through the early noughties and now Social Media is off the scale… It’s quite amazing! Have I mentioned TravellersConnected.com? (TravellersConnected.com is a Social Networking site dedicated to helping Travellers find a Travel Companion and all other Travel related advice and information. Both Alastair and James are founding members of the site which was established in 2004 and is today recognised as one of the 100 Best Travel Sites by the Times Online!)
Q. How have you been able to succeed in such a competitive market?
James: Selecting a hard-working team, trying to stay ahead of the game and looking after our clients as best as possible!
Alastair: As James said, developing a great team, looking after our clients and regularly consulting with an experienced Business Adviser have definitely helped us succeed.
Q. How do you hope Optix will develop over the next 9 years?
Alastair: We’d both like to see another office and perhaps more spin-offs like TravellersConnected.com to get our teeth into. I think when you’re entrepreneurial you’re always looking for the next opportunity.
James: An Optix sponsored race car!
Q. What do you look forward to most at the start of a work day?
James: The truth is no day is ever the same, but it’s always great hearing from our clients – so I guess we look forward to embracing the unknown and pushing the boundaries.
Alastair: Definitely, couldn’t have said it better myself James. I knew there was a reason I went into business with you.
Q. Any last words?
Both: Watch this space!
Well once again I find myself apologising for the time taken to write this post – At least I’m now settled in my new pad and have a computer at home so no excuses anymore
If you’re starting a business then I’m sure that like me, you’ll probably be selling something – either a product or a service. The majority of start-up owners have to be sales people (whether they like it or not) purely because they are often the only people in the business.
Now let’s put aside this theory that you are selling a product or a service – you’re not, you’re selling yourself!!! *Queue dramatic music*
‘People buy People’ – It maybe an over-used saying but it’s very true. So my advice is this, think about who you are and how you present yourself both physically and through your personality. You may need to do some soul searching for this. Consider how people perceive you, maybe even ask for feedback from clients and be ready to take the constructive criticism. If you’re willing to invest in this process selling will become easier.
There are many types of sales people – from those who are in more direct hard sales, to the other end of the scale who are slightly more fluffy – Some organisations may class these as ‘Hunters and Farmers’. A hunter typically drives for sale after sale, moving on after each one while a farmer, ‘farms’ their relationship with people for long term gain. My own personality is quite fluffy and I’m definitely a farmer (I even have a flat cap now but that’s another story!) but I do try where possible to match my personality to whomever I’m speaking to.
So, if people buy people then what does this mean to you? What can you do to give yourself a better chance of making a sale and more importantly getting repeat business? Here are Banksy’s top 5 tips:
1). Emanate positivity- Lets be honest things are not always great in business. There will be days when you feel like you should of just stayed in bed. When starting up, its even harder because you have all the pressures of money as well; ‘where will the next lot of money come from to pay that bill’ etc… Unless you get really lucky, this is something we all go through. My point here, is that HOWEVER you feel, you need to emanate positivity when out and about, talking to someone on the phone, networking and at meetings etc…basically anywhere you’re interacting with people not directly involved in your business. If you turn up to a networking meeting and I come to speak to you and the you start telling me that business is slow and you’re not very happy and blah blah blah, two things are going to happen – 1). You’re going to depress me and probably everyone else you talk to that day and 2). This is highly unlikely to make me want to give you my business. If you take one thing from this post please let it be this: BE POSITIVE in public. There is one guy, who I see around Exeter regularly and every time I ask him how he is, his standard response (and its been the same for about 8 years now) is “Fantastic” – said with a huge smile. I’m certain that in those 8 years there must have been a few times when it wasn’t fantastic but he certainly knows the benefits of acting positively in public. On the same note there are people who moan about everything each time I see them out. These people don’t tend to stay in business very long or certainly don’t do very well from it.
2). Dress like the person you’re meeting/doing business with. This sounds strange and possibly a bit obvious but you’d be surprised how much of a difference it makes. If you’re meeting with an Accountant/Solicitor then make sure you’re wearing a suit and look smart and clean. If you’re meeting a plumber then a suit is probably a little OTT, maybe smart jeans and shirt are more sensible. Clearly if your business means you must wear certain threads (like a uniform) then this may not be applicable.
3). Mimic Body Language – One of the most interesting things I’ve learnt in my time in business is the importance of body language in sales. If you mimic the person you’re talking too (and I don’t mean repeat what they say or anything silly) then you’ll be surprised how much easier a meeting will run. I’m not a body language expert but I can tell you this puts people at ease and will help the sales process. I quite often find myself mirroring the person I’m talking to at business meetings instinctively, especially if I’m getting on well with them.
4). Consider your audience – This goes for all types of sales but when selling yourself, you need to consider the person you’re selling to and adapt your persona to theirs. This might mean trying to pick up on elements of their personality, language or dress as mentioned above. To give you a really obvious example, would you act the same around a workman on a building site as you would with a solicitor or accountant? I consider it a real skill to morph yourself so that whomever approaches you, you can very quickly determine what type of person you’re dealing with and then change various aspects of yourself to suit them.
5). Build a relationship (will deal with more in future posts). A relationship will yield far better results in the long run. People will warm to you more if you spend time getting to know them and their business before telling them what you can do for them. I mentioned this in my networking post as well as I truly believe it to differentiate good sales people from poor ones. Concentrate on building relationships with everyone you know and mark my words (oh dear I sound like an old teacher), it will help you sell yourself.
I really hope this has been helpful – much of it is common sense but if you’re new to business then next time you’re due to go out to a networking event or meeting, just skim over this post first and try and implement some of it and see what results you get – I’d be keen to hear your feedback
Apologies for the time its taken me to write this post. Moving house has been my priority this last couple of weeks and left me very little time to sit down and think about this important subject.
This post deals with the role business mentoring plays in successful businesses. It can be lonely at the top! OK so maybe that’s a bit dramatic but in all honesty when you are at the top of your business there is often no one to turn to, no one to ask whether you’re doing the right thing and if like me, you’ve not worked for anyone else (I started my business at University and am still running it 10 years later), no precedent has been set for most of the situations you come across. The learning curve is unbelievably steep, especially at the beginning and a big factor for why something like four out of five start-ups fail. This, in my opinion is why its so important to find yourself a business coach/mentor.
In Optix (my web design business), I’m lucky that I have my business partner James to bounce off. I’m sure that many of you reading this will not have anyone else because you’re running things yourself. If you’re in that position then I’d suggest a mentor is probably even more important for you.
James and I are extremely lucky that my father Jamie doubles up as our business mentor. Having run businesses with more that 150+ staff and now running his own consultancy in Essex, he is perfectly placed to offer advice to James and I as and when we need it. I’m big enough (well actually if you know me you’ll know I’m quite small!) to say that without Jamie’s help I don’t think James and I would be here today.
So what do you need to look to a mentor to help you with and why? When you find someone you get on with, trust and respect (this is critical), the sort of things you might want to talk to them about include:
We have a regular monthly board meeting with Jamie and stick to a structured agenda with many of the points shown above discussed as a matter of course, even if there is nothing to note that month. It’s great practice to get into this routine so you always have a grasp on where the business is at that moment in time and where its going. It’s also a good time to report back to the board on issues that only you have been dealing with.
One thing I see a lot of is people who act as business coaches. Business coaching is a different kettle fish. Many coaches have developed their own models which can help you focus on your business goals and not get sidetracked by the day to day runnings of your business.
So if you’re reading this and saying to yourself, ‘yes but I don’t need a mentor/coach because I know my business and am successful in it’ then let me make a quick parallel for you:
Just think about sport at the top level – If you’re a premiership football club at the top of your game you have coaches, similarly if you’re a top ATP tennis player you will have a coach. Sportsmen and women all over the world have coaches and I believe in the business world its sensible to do the same.
Quite often as a director you’ll find yourself too ‘inside your business’. By this I mean you’re blinkered by the day to day goings on. Someone with experience of business outside can often break things down for you and help you make the best decisions for your business. A good mentor/coach in my opinion doesn’t make decisions for you, they merely pose the right questions that help you get to the right conclusions. You may find that these ‘answers’ often seem obvious but it’s this kind of mentoring which is fantastic for any business which wants to grow and go places.
I’ve met a lot of directors that have said they don’t need mentors/coaches and in my opinion some of these have let thier egos get in the way of good solid business sense.
If you’re wondering now how you can find a mentor, I’d suggest networking your local area and asking around – make sure you get recommendations for the person you’re thinking of getting in and of course, it goes without saying that if you’d like to talk to my father Jamie about what he can offer your business (anywhere in the UK), please contact me and I will happily put you in touch. I can put my hand on my heart and say that he is one of the biggest reasons that Optix is still around now, ten years after our incorporation and doing so well. Thanks Jamie!