Wednesday, January 23, 2019

New Year, New You? How To Get Your Business In Shape For 2019

What are your New Year resolutions for 2019? If you’ve set yourself personal goals, good luck with them, but don’t forget your business – January is a great time to reassess where is stands and where you’d like to get it to.

Every entrepreneur should give their business an annual health check. It’s an opportunity to take a step back, to reflect on successes and failures, and to focus anew on the challenges to come. Treat this exercise seriously and it will provide an invaluable spring board for the year ahead. Here’s our 10-step action plan:

  1. Revisit your mission plan – set a clear vision of where you hope your business is heading over the months and years ahead; is that vision evolving over time as your marketplace and environment change?
  2. Set targets for the journey – think about the goals you must achieve in order to realise that vision, and how you will do that. Be realistic with your targets, but be ambitious too, and set definitive dates on which you will measure progress.
  3. Review your customer base – identify your most valuable customers and think about how you can focus on them over the year ahead. Data and analytics tools can help you do this more effectively than ever before.
  4. Re-evaluate business partnerships – are the relationships your business has put in place still working well for the company? Are there new relationships to target for development?
  5. Rethink marketing - your marketing plans may need revisiting in the changing economic environment. Can you encourage existing customers to spend more and how will you attract new customers? How could advances in digital marketing benefit your business?
  6. Set new targets for sales – what is achievable in 2019, compared to years gone by, and how will you get there? Do your and your staff have realistic objectives?
  7. Write an action plan – this will lay out the specific actions your business will take over the year ahead, including when you’ll take them, in order to work towards its goals and vision.
  8. Make sure staff are on board – communicate the action plan to all employees and make sure they understand their responsibilities for implementing it. Support staff with training and career development in order to keep them engaged and inspired.
  9. Seek third-party advice – it may be worth finding an external reviewer to talk through your plans in order to provide fresh perspective and critical appraisal. Do you need a mentor or more formal support such as non-executive directors?
  10. Consider personal development – think about how your own practices and attitudes may need to change in order for your business to succeed. What skills and experiences are you lacking and how will you remedy that?

Don’t think of these 10 points as New Year’s resolutions – they represent a useful way to take stock at any time of year. But if you can work through these priorities, your business will be better placed to take advantage of new opportunities over the next 12 months. And in a rapidly changing economic environment, all businesses should be thinking in this way.

Image Credit: Getty

Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business organization focused on providing our members and guests with an extraordinary networking experience, bringing business professionals together for the sole purpose of generating new relationships and developing new business opportunities. Not a member, learn how you can become a member and join this awesome group of professionals to connect and grow your business.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Modern Sales and the Lost Art of Relationship Building

The sales industry seems to experience major shifts every five or ten years. Many of these shifts are the result of the way technology changes. Others have to do with cultural ebbs and flows. But one of the more confounding changes over the last decade has been the lack of personal attention clients and prospects get in sales.

Why Relationships Matter

Over the years we’ve seen an influx of sales and marketing automation tools in the business world. The result? If there’s an aspect of your sales strategy that you want to streamline, there’s an app, software, or innovative tool to help you remove yourself from the equation and automate your interactions. But is this a positive development?

Sometimes automation is good. It can save time, improve accuracy, and promote greater consistency. But too much automation can hurt the overall health and vitality of your business. That’s because automation undercuts and compromises your ability to connect with prospects on a personal level and build relationships with them.

Customers are people. And what do people care about? If we’re being honest, we’re all looking out for numero uno: ourselves. We spend almost every second of every day thinking about how we can make ourselves comfortable, happy, healthy, or secure. Nearly every decision we make is a decision to put ourselves first.

This “me-centric” mentality may seem overly selfish, but it’s a part of natural selection and survival of the fittest. For millions of years, the animals that have survived the longest have been the ones that are capable of looking out for themselves. (The moment a small rodent loses focus in the vast expanse of the rainforest is the moment he’s eaten by larger, stronger prey. As soon as a soldier stops protecting himself in the line of battle, he gets a spear thrown through his chest, etc.)

We all care about ourselves – and that includes your sales prospects and clients. And if you want to appease this fundamental element of humanity, you have to make the person on the other end of the conversation feel special and important. You have to stroke their ego.

Relationships appeal to our sense of importance and belongingness. When we perceive that others care about us, it validates and reaffirms the notion that we matter. In the business world, as in our personal lives, this plays a distinct role in how we make decisions.

4 Tips for Building Stronger Relationships in Sales

Jim Davidson is the founder of Coral Gables Trust Company. For years he’s worked closely with business owners and successful professionals and he’s noticed the most successful people are the ones who have the deepest relationships with their clients.

Davidson recalls a story some years ago when he went on a hunting trip to South Carolina with a handful of friends. One night, in the wee hours of the morning, one of his friend’s phone rang. It was a VIP client of his whose son had just been arrested on narcotics charges. The client was desperate, emotional, and in need of comfort. Davidson’s friend stayed on the phone with him for two hours.

This may seem like an extreme example, but it speaks volumes. This individual had built such a solid relationship with his client that he called him in his greatest time of need.

You don’t need relationships that are this deep, but you should strive to go deeper than surface level. Here are some ways you can strengthen your sales relationships:

1. Don’t Screw Up the First Meeting

“When you use traditional sales language, potential clients can’t help but label you with the negative stereotype of ‘salesperson.’ This makes it almost impossible for them to relate to you from a position of trust,” entrepreneur Ari Galper writes.

Your first meeting with a prospect is often the most important. It sets the tone and establishes the first impression. But if you spend too much of this time focusing on a sales pitch, you’ll set the wrong tone. Instead, you need to foster a genuine connection.

2. Listen More Than You Speak

There will be times for you to talk, but these moments are much fewer and farther between than you probably realize. The majority – or at least half – of your time spent with prospects should be listening.

When you listen, you get the chance to see where people are coming from. They’ll tell you what they want and why they want it. This eliminates much of the back and forth guessing game that often exists in the traditional sales process.

3. Find Common Experiences

If you want your relationship with prospects to go beyond the product or solution you’re selling, then you need to find some common ground. Whether it’s sports, mutual friends, hobbies, or interests, common experiences will pull you together and strengthen your sales pitch. Over time, these elements give you something to rekindle the relationship with. They’re invaluable in the big picture.

4. Be Transparent

You can’t hold back in your relationships. There eventually comes a point where you may have to create some commotion or insert a little friction.

As a sales consultant, Warren Wick writes, “The deeper the conversations become, the more transparency you need to provide. Sometimes you will actually have to tell customers something they don’t want to hear. That’s OK. Like any relationship — sales or otherwise — honesty helps both sides grow.”

Giving Weight to Relationships

You have to stop selling and start building meaningful relationships with prospects and clients. The person on the other end of the phone, email, or dinner table is an individual with specific needs, wants, desires, and frustrations. As you get to know that person, you’ll become aware of what matters to the individual, which gives you an opportunity to build a strong relationship that’s predicated on real connections and ideas.

Now’s your chance to revamp your sales strategy and include action steps that prioritize relationship building. If you don’t, one of your competitors will.

Image Credit: Depositphotos

Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business organization focused on providing our members and guests with an extraordinary networking experience, bringing business professionals together for the sole purpose of generating new relationships and developing new business opportunities. Not a member, learn how you can become a member and join this awesome group of professionals to connect and grow your business.

Stay Connected with WNFP!
Join WNFP Communities!

Monday, January 21, 2019

Professional Networking That Will Power Your Startup

According to the last research from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the secret ingredient that nurtures the entrepreneurial success of a startup ecosystem like Silicon Valley is informal professional networking.

When you are a startup founder, you’re on your own working 24/7 tackling the challenges of how to find investors, how to find a business partner, how to promote your project and how to team up with other talented hardworking fellows like yourself.  78% of business owners confirm that building a face-to-face network that will support you with guidance and advice is more important for growing a startup than accelerators, incubators, co-working spaces and other formal settings designed for progress facilitation.

So if you feel bad hanging out at costly events, rest assured, creating a professional network that you can tap into for assistance is the most valuable investment of your precious time to provide a smooth launch of your business.

What’s the best networking strategy?

To save your time so you can focus on core business functions, we have conducted a survey on professional networking and here is what successful founders say on how to build a network of power relationships.

The best professional networking strategy is as simple as the soul of genius, and it is not what you think. The key insight is before growing your network, make sure you’ve grown your business and trust of your customers. Business first! You can pump up your communication skills and have your pitch on point for a networking session, but if there’s no personal gain for your potential investor, it’s done in vain.

All founders of successful startups to mention iconic Facebook, What’s up, Apple and Dropbox focused on product development and raising clients’ credibility, spending just a fraction of that time seeking funding. Once they produced something of value, investors came to them flocking at every event they appeared. Sure you can’t do epic shit with basic people, so you build your surroundings to create the right state of mind, but that does not mean that if you befriend with accomplished people they would magically sprinkle success into your existence. Having a working product is a prerequisite for the investors to take an interest in your startup.

To maximize the benefits of a networking event here are some top tips that prove useful

For picking a networking event

Attending every event would do you more harm than good, so be savvy, not sorry. Align your professional networking strategy with your target result so that you have a well-defined clear goal when picking an event. The rule of thumb is to choose highly specialized activity-based events where you can engage in problem-solving work or discussion and reach your ultimate clients preferably as a speaker.

For developing communication skills

Frankly, you don’t need to attend 99% of the events, if you can have a blast at the rest of them. There is another open secret that 90% of people feel nervous when speaking in public, while the other 10% are just faking it out. Practice makes perfect, developing communication skills becomes imperative when you are faced with the challenge of being paralyzed by fear of public speaking.

An idea that the better half of the visitors are introverted newcomers will relieve your anxiety besides no one has ever answered “No” to a phrase “Can I introduce myself?”. Follow your introduction with open questions like “What brings you here?” “What challenges do you see for your company?” Listen more, talk less, be genuine, think what benefits you and your product can offer and you are a networking champion!

For building network

There is a huge scope of events such as conferences, meetups, networkings, pitches and hackathons which are mostly designed for making connections. TechCrunch Disrupt, AMBAR’s SVOD, WebSummit and Collision are among the most featured, crowded and intimidating. That’s why you should go there if you see a clear benefit and have enough time to get ready.

Focusing on your specific goal, make a list of attendees you would like to meet, including guests, speakers, exhibitors and local companies’ representatives. A month before the event write a message to make sure your potential acquaintances have time in their busy agenda to schedule a meeting with you. Talking about your business, make a real personal connection.

Don’t forget to take business cards it may seem old-fashioned, but this is the first thing that will remind of you when the event is over.

For pitching

Number one challenge for young entrepreneurs is funding, though it might be useful at early stage of your start-up to test your idea against the expectations of angel investors and market opportunities.

There is a number of events, where you can pitch such as PechaKucha, Participant driven Open space, PitchNight, though you should not expect it to work right the first time at these seemingly directly relevant events. Pitching works better through warm calling. A clever move would be instead of approaching investors to connect with their investment portfolio companies and ask them for an introduction. –°hasing your business angels, jumping around to every event, does not make any sense unless you have something worth investing.

The worth of your business when you seek outside funding is determined mainly by customer lifetime value. CLV is the borderline between success and failure. At the end of the day, it’s not the business idea but facts and figures mere metrics you can captivate and inspire investors with. So, when you make your pitch don’t forget to back it up with KPI’s.

For aspiration and mentoring support

The other key challenge for a young entrepreneur is a fear of failure and lack of mentoring support. Navigating through an array of obstacles such as regulatory compliance, lack of financing, promotion and talent acquisition issues, it’s easy to get discouraged. Networking groups like MXify and various meetups are places where you can get connected with fellow entrepreneurs in a casual environment and power up with encouragement and advice.

There are more than 10000 meetup groups with 4 million high-end professional members starting from web-developers and engineers and ending with security analysts and neuro-hackers. The strongest group in the east is NY Tech Meetup with about 50 thousand members and Silicon Valley Entrepreneurs & Startups with about 25 thousand members respectively. Provided you come up with the right questions, it will be the perfect place to engage in beneficial and insightful discussions with top experts.

For hiring

To some degree tech meetups and hackathons could also be used as a talent acquisition source, since there you can observe visitors working on a specific problem and assess their competencies based on what they have accomplished. Don’t forget to check career history for relevant expertise in similar projects and add your potential candidates to your LinkedIn or other social networks. If it’s an immediate opening for top-notch specialists, turn to a hiring service which already built a strong professional network of leading specialists and can help you choose an employee with the right expertise.


Whatever your goal is, the basic idea behind building a strong professional network is quality supersedes quantity. Be savvy, not sorry, and remember, everybody knows somebody. Nurture relationships with your peers and they will be happy to introduce you to their partners and investors.

Image Credit: DepositPhotos

Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business organization focused on providing our members and guests with an extraordinary networking experience, bringing business professionals together for the sole purpose of generating new relationships and developing new business opportunities. Not a member, learn how you can become a member and join this awesome group of professionals to connect and grow your business.

Stay Connected with WNFP!
Join WNFP Communities!