Don’t Leave Business Success To Willpower — Rely On Automation

Don’t Leave Business Success To Willpower — Rely On Automation

Your phone lights up with an alert. It’s a big new lead from your website! This is always an exciting moment, and gives you a nice little afternoon buzz, not unlike that third cup of coffee.

You immediately call the lead and kick off the next steps to turn that lead into another happy customer. But somewhere along the way — usually right after you provide that customer with an estimate and they tell you they need time to think it over — your enthusiasm runs out.

It was so easy and exciting when the lead was brand new. Why is so hard now to follow up and chase after that opportunity? You tell yourself for the 15th time that you should get on the phone  and call them, but hey…another new lead just came in from your website.

Sound familiar? Are you gung-ho when it comes to chasing new leads, but reluctant when it comes to following up with customers? Even when time allows, do you feel resistance towards following up? Well, you’re certainly not the only one.

Many business owners only follow up once, follow up inconsistently, or never follow up at all. But chasing down leads and ignoring customers after the estimate is provided is a big mistake. It’s a waste of marketing dollars and it’s a waste of your time and energy.

After all, you’ve already paid to bring in the leads and spent time and energy providing the estimates. Why leave it at that when as many as eight out of 10 sales are closed after the fourth contact, and your customers may need as many as seven touches before they’re ready to say “Yes?”

You’ve already paid marketing dollars and spent time providing estimates, and you know customers need nurturing (especially when it comes to high dollar decisions). Why don’t you follow up?

Maybe you feel like you’re bothering your customers. Maybe you’re too busy. Maybe you just assume if they’re interested, they’ll reach out to you. Maybe you don’t like hearing the word “No,” or feeling a twinge of rejection. Whatever the reason, it’s time to set yourself up for success and claim the fortune you’re leaving on the table.

Making The Right Action The Easy Action

Following up is kind of like eating healthy: we know it’s good for us, but we tend to avoid or resist it. We start out the new year with the very best intentions, but by February, we’re already back to our old ways and eating whatever’s easiest, not whatever’s healthiest.

We may think, “Well, I’m just not a health nut, so it’s harder for me.” But do people who succeed in maintaining a healthy lifestyle just have greater willpower than the rest of the world? No. They don’t leave success up to willpower.

Willpower is a muscle, and like any muscle it can have moments of weakness. It can get tired and fail us. You can’t rely on willpower alone when you’re making a big lifestyle shift or making a decision to choose the hard, but good thing. If you do, you’ll never permanently make the shift; you’ll revert to whatever’s easiest. Instead, you have to set yourself up for success by making the good action the easier, less painful thing to do.

With health and diet, that means only buying foods that align with your health plan so there aren’t any processed foods or junk foods in your house when your willpower is weak.

It means planning and cooking healthy meals ahead of time, so that meal prep and cleanup is done for the week. When healthy alternatives are easy to grab and ready to go, you’re less likely to let the day’s events and time crunches send you to McDonald’s for a quick bite.

It means taking healthy alternatives with you when you go to an event where you know only hot dogs, chips, nacho cheese, and pizza will be served.

And it means finding new, healthier ways to satisfy cravings. If you crave salt, keep some nuts in your truck. If you have a sweet tooth, keep single serving dark chocolate squares around or stock up on your favorite fruit.

It’s the same with follow-ups and other business tasks that you tend to resist. The trick is to make doing the right thing easy and mindless, so you don’t even have to think about it. And the best way to do that in business is to automate the process.

With a little effort up front, you can create a semi-automatic system to make sure follow-ups are happening consistently in your business. Setting up a system should accomplish the following things:

  • Eliminate the resistance you feel
  • Set the positive action in motion
  • Ensure the tough stuff’s getting done
  • Save you time
  • Increase your marketing ROI
  • Provide the nurturing your customers need to make a decision

If you’d rather not mess with designing the process, tools like Closing Commander™ can do the work for you. Either way, automating follow-ups means you’ll know they are happening, but you won’t have to make yourself do them. They’ll be happening in the background, and the only action you’ll have to take is to add the customer to the system if they don’t say “Yes” or “No” on the spot.

Effective automation of repetitive tasks wipes out the need for willpower and sets you up for success.

Have You Set Yourself Up For Success?

No matter what your goals are for your business or personal life this year, you need to make sure you’ve set yourself up for success. If you’ve stumbled all through the first few months of 2019 and you feel like you’re just not up to the challenge, give yourself a break. Your willpower hasn’t failed you, your systems have.

Following up is just one business task you can automate. Think about the tools and tactics out there that can make it easier for you to succeed, and put them into practice — after all, no one’s willpower is unending. The goal is to work smarter, not harder, and to make the right action, the easy action. Here’s to your success!

Books We’d Read Again & Again

Books We’d Read Again & Again

It’s no secret, Spark Marketer is made up of a bunch of nerds — so, naturally, we love reading. But life-changing, enjoyable books aren’t limited to the business section.

Here are some of our all-time favorite books and top book recommendations (fiction and non-fiction). Check ‘em out! (Get it? Because at the library, you can check out books…)thumbs-up-book-shelf-filled-with-books

Is Everyone On Your Team Equipped To Sell?

Is Everyone On Your Team Equipped To Sell?

Want to know a secret? Sales is not a position within your company — it’s every position within your company. The person answering the phones and serving as the initial contact point for your customers and the techs out in the field doing the work are just as responsible for selling the company as your designated sales person is. The question is: have you empowered and equipped your entire team to effectively sell?Sales-Tags-Hanging-From-A-Rope

Many business owners send their designated sales person to training and invest in their selling skills, but they leave the rest of the team high and dry. Here’s why that’s a big mistake:

The sell coming from your techs and office staff feels more organic and authentic. I’m sure your designated sales person can talk all day long about how great your company is and why your customers would be stupid to choose anyone else for the job, but they have a disadvantage that your office staff and techs in the field don’t: it feels like a sale. The interaction your office saff and field staff have with customers feels more organic and authentic, and gives your customers a better idea of what your company is really all about and how they can expect to be treated when they work with you.

Your sales person is not the one who will leave a lasting impression. Most of the interactions and experiences your customers will have will be with the women and men doing the work, scheduling appointments, and answering any questions the customer has. These are the touch points your customers will remember and the touch points that will determine what kind of lasting impression they have of your business. Two bad experiences here and they’ve already forgotten about how friendly and convincing your sales person was.

Your office staff and techs have more opportunities to sell. Being in front of the customer more also means more opportunities to sell. After all, the employees most frequently interacting with your customers have a direct pipeline to your customers; they likely hear the customers’ wants, needs, and complaints first and have the opportunity to swoop in and meet those wants and needs and solve problems for your customers. But if your team is unsure of how to do that or feels insecure in their selling abilities, they won’t have the confidence to take advantage of each opportunity. Instead, opportunities to upsell, identify needs, and solve customer problems will likely be wasted.

Seeing the direct correlation between one’s efforts and company revenue can be a boost to morale. Here’s the thing, everyone in every company wants to feel important and see the fruit of labor. But when you completely disconnect your office staff and techs from the selling process, you minimize their importance, limit their power, and obscure the direct impact they have on company success and customer satisfaction. By making it clear that everyone on your team has an equal responsibility and role in the selling process, you’re emphasizing the importance of each individual to the success of the whole.

So how can you make sure everyone on your team is equipped and empowered to sell?

  • Start by letting them know that it’s everyone’s responsibility and privilege to sell the company and to be that point person who conveys the mission, values, purpose, and culture of the company to the customer being served. If you don’t verbalize this, your employees may not think it’s their place to sell, because they’ll likely falsely think of sales as a position within the company.
  • Next, provide your employees with scripts and practice scenarios, and ask them to identify a couple of missed opportunities in the last month or so. Give them examples and practice this often so they begin to see sales opportunities easily when on the job.
  • Emphasize that selling is not just beneficial to the company, but to the customer. Many people are uncomfortable with selling because they associate it with being pushy or deceptive. Clear the discomfort your team has by assuring them you only want them to sell when they feel it provides value to the customer or meets a customer need, and by showing them how selling can directly benefit the customer. For example, if a team member goes to provide an estimate for a carpet install and, while the estimate is being performed, the employee notices that the customer’s dog is aging and there are a great deal of pet urine stains on the existing carpet, he or she could use this opportunity to educate the customer on a pet stain resistant carpet. Sure, it’s an upsell, but it’s something that will very clearly benefit the customer and her enjoyment of her home. There’s nothing greasy or deceptive about that!

Sales training and webinars are also worth thinking about. But no matter how you choose to empower your employees to sell, encourage them through any discomfort and insecurity as they learn new skills. Selling is not something that comes naturally to everyone, so be patient and supportive. It will be well worth it for you, your customers, and your employees!

Rekindling The Service Flame When You’re Burnt Out

Rekindling The Service Flame When You’re Burnt Out

Being in the service industry is hard. You’re not allowed to have bad days; you have to be on all the time and hold a smile when asked not-so-smart questions; and many days pass without so much as a thank you. When you’ve been in the industry for a long time, it’s even easier to forget why you started doing it in the first place, what you love about your job, and just how big of an impact your daily work really has. It’s easy to get burnt out and to lose perspective. Strip-of-matches-one-burnt-out

If you’re starting each day with a pessimistic, “why bother?” attitude, here are some tips to help you recharge and refresh.

Stop & Reflect.

First things first, when you’re burnt out and you’ve lost perspective, it’s easy to forget the good times — the moments when you felt truly satisfied in your work. STOP. Take a few moments, or maybe even an afternoon, to reflect on your time of service and remember the moments when you were thanked, when you felt fulfilled, and when you saw just how much your work mattered to your community. Reflecting on these moments can help recharge your service battery and keep you focused on the positive aspects of your job. In fact, to prevent future burn out, we highly recommend making reflection a regular thing. Make it a priority and put it on your calendar, just as you would an important meeting.

Ask Others.

Many people in the service industry don’t think much of the little things they do or little ways they go above and beyond, which is why it can be beneficial to ask others. Your friends, family, employees, coworkers, and customers may be able to shed some light on the ways your heart for service really made a difference and you went above and beyond what you were called to do. Plus, hearing others say positive things about you is always good for the spirit.

Connect.

Perhaps the most fulfilling part of life is the relationships we form. Are you taking the time to connect with your customers and form a bond? On each and every service call, make it a point to find some way to relate to your customer. Empathize with them. Care about them. It will make all the difference in the way your customer perceives you and in the way you perceive the customer and the service you bring. This may be easier to do with some customers than others, but even if it’s a stretch, find a way to do it with each and every one.

Recognize Your Value.

You have a heart for service, and not everyone does. But if you want to take care of others, you have to also take care of yourself. When you’re burnt out, take the time to refuel and reflect, even if you only have a few minutes in the truck on the way to the next job. Remind yourself of your worth and the value you bring to those you serve. Although it’s nice, what matters is not that each and every customer acknowledges the worth and value you bring — what matters is that you do.

Taylor & Carter’s Recommended Reads

Taylor & Carter’s Recommended Reads

One of the things you will hear from most leaders is, if you want to lead and win, you must read, or listen to, books. When you see their reading lists, they’re chock full of book titles, but we wanted to focus on just a few of the books we’d highly recommend. With this in mind, here is our list, with a short explanation of why we recommend each book.stack-of-books

Taylor’s Three

The one book that we’ve both read multiple times is Michael Gerber’s book, The E-Myth. It’s best to read this when you first start out, because most of us are moving from a technician type of job (actually doing all the work) and into a leadership role (where we lead others to do the work). While both of these positions are important, they are very different, and there are many steps that need to be mastered in the transition. Reading The E-Myth every few years gives you different perspectives along the spectrum as you go and grow from technician to leader, so be sure to revisit it.

Another book I recommend you read every two to four years is Dale Carnegie’s, How to Win Friends & Influence People. This is just a very practical and telling guide on winning people over and influencing their lives and decisions for the better. It’s a must-read for anyone in a sales or customer-facing position.

My third recommendation is a combo: Failing Forward and The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell are both good reads to return to over time. Failing Forward is a good reminder that failure is a part of the process that moves you forward to success. It’s a book that reminds you to make sure you’re learning from your failures and not just failing. I don’t think any of us will ever reach perfection when it comes to The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, however, we can continuously get better and better. This book is a great one to revisit to gauge your progress and see how you are doing, where you currently are, and how far you’ve come as a leader. It’s also a great tool for identifying the laws and determining which ones you already do well with and which ones you need to work on. Since becoming a better leader is an ongoing process, the book is an ongoing read you should return to again and again.

Carter’s Three

Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman provides a brilliant and revealing look at the two systems at work in our brains that take in information and process it to make judgements and decisions. It’s not a traditional business book, but it highlights the number one job of any entrepreneur or leader, and sheds light on why we think what we think and do what we do. Part psychology and neurology, part university course on logic and statistics, what emerges is a holistic look at the way the grey matter in our brains has evolved to ensure our survival, but at the same time severely handicaps us in an ever-increasingly fast-paced world — a world where life and death decisions get made based on larger and larger sets of complex, interrelated data. Does the lowly human brain, the same basic technology we’ve used for millennia, stand a chance at navigating this new world successfully?

You Are Not So Smart, by David McRaney is a humbling read, and has turned into a sort of “gut check” reference book for me. Like most people, I like to think of myself as intelligent, able to think rationally and believe things based on a diligent survey of all the facts. Turns out, none of us are nearly as good at that kind of thinking as we’d like to think, and the fact that we think we are anyway, well, that’s kind of the whole point of this book. It’s a well-organized encyclopedia of logical fallacies and neuro-benders that will probably make you want to call up someone you know and apologize to them for acting so sure of yourself so often. As with Kahneman’s book, it’s not straight-ahead business, but I guarantee it will help you get where you’re going by giving you a useful toolkit for challenging what you think and believe in any given circumstance.

The Dip, by Seth Godin is something I pull out now and then, when I’m needing to walk to the edge of the cliff and peer over the side. It’s all about knowing when to quit and when to keep going in business. I think Seth wrote it to help people feel okay with a decision to walk away from something in order to do something else. Sometimes we have a false sense of loyalty to our big ideas, when we should really be willing to move away from unprofitable ones much more quickly than we do. But just as important is to recognize “the dip,” or period of uncertainty that often comes right before the breakthrough moment arrives.

Well, that’s it for this list. What are some of your book recommendations? Let us know in the comments section below!

Are Personal & Professional Growth Separate?

Are Personal & Professional Growth Separate?

You probably know we’re big on both personal and professional growth — but is there a connection? Can you develop and grow personally while remaining stagnant professionally, and vice versa? Or will growing in one area inevitably lead to growth in the other? Our two cents:

Wherever you focus your time, effort, and energy is where you’ll experience growth. But in our experience, when you care enough to put in the time and work to develop yourself— whether personally or professionally — it’s likely to bleed over into other areas of your life. Why do we say that?Hand drawn watercolor trees

When we start reflecting on ourselves, we’re inclined to take a comprehensive approach to growth to some degree, even if our initial intention to grow was personal OR professional. Inevitably, the two affect and influence each other, for better or for worse. Think about it: if you’re missing sleep or having troubles at home, your productivity and focus at work is likely to suffer. When you hate your job and you spend your day answering stupid questions or dealing with incompetency, you’re more likely go home unhappy and extend less patience and grace to your family than you would otherwise.

The truth is, we don’t have a “work self” and a “home self.” Most of us can’t completely separate our personal and professional lives, as much as we’d like to. So when we work on improving one, we’ll likely see some of that good and some of that effort showing up in the other.

In a way, this should be comforting. Many of the character traits and skills that are beneficial in the professional workplace are also beneficial in the personal realm, and vice versa. Working on developing one area and reaping the benefits in both worlds is a bonus.

Let’s look at some traits and skills you might work on and how they might be beneficial, both personally and professionally:

Leadership

We all want to be better leaders. Working on leadership skills can make you more effective when leading your team at work, but it can also benefit you personally. At the very least, when you’re in a group of Indecisives and no one can decide where to go for dinner, you’ll be ready to take the lead, without looking like a bossy control-freak.

Listening

If you asked a room full of people whose listening skills could be improved upon, everyone (if they’re listening) would raise their hand. Being a better listener helps improve communication and reduces miscommunication, misunderstanding, friction, and time waste. Sounds like a useful tool at work, at home, and just about everywhere else, doesn’t it?

Communication

Would you consider yourself an effective communicator? Better question, would others consider you an effective communicator? Communication is something that, if we’re honest with ourselves, we could all be better at. By working on achieving clarity and purpose with every written and verbal engagement, listening to others and anticipating their needs and questions, and reiterating to ensure understanding, we can avoid a whole host of problems, both professionally and personally.

Patience

Life doesn’t always go the way we planned. Obstacles arise and problems pop up, but if we want to maintain our sanity, we have to learn to be patient through those times and maintain some sense of calm. Why do you think “Keep Calm & Carry On” went viral? Because we could all use a daily reminder and we all stand to improve in this area. Whether we’re waiting on a coworker to get us the information we need, standing in line at the DMV, or answering the 65th question in a row from our toddler, patience is something we could all use more of.

Problem-Solving

Good leaders, good parents, and good friends are able to creatively solve problems and find ways around or through obstacles. Developing your creative problem solving skills will help you achieve your own personal and professional goals and will make you a great asset to others on their journeys as well.

Empathy

Are you good at relating to and empathizing with others? Empathy is one of the greatest traits you can have, across the board, and working on your empathy will benefit you in a million little ways. When you have the ability to see where others are coming from and feel for their circumstances, you’ll be better at communicating with them, no matter what the situation may be. Whether you’re trying to connect with and understand the woman at the checkout, console a crying child, or resolve an inter-office conflict, empathy goes a long way.

Time-Management

Time is not a renewable resource and each of us only has so much of it. Whether we’re at work or play, in order to get everything done and maintain our sanity, we need to work on our time-management skills. As a culture, we’ve meddled heavily with multi-tasking, but the reality is, multi-tasking is not a good time-management tool. You need to plan according to your own peak periods and focus on the task (and only the task) at hand. We could all use more time, but since that’s out of the question, why not learn to maximize what you’ve got?

Are there any traits or skills that you developed personally that ended up being surprisingly beneficial to you professionally (or the other way around)? Share with us in the comments below — we’d love to hear from you!