Sunday, September 29, 2013

What are the ABC's of your business?

Do you have any rules of engagement with your clients – guidelines of how you will work together?  Well maybe you need one.

At our Kitchener breakfast during introductions, Jennifer Roggemann, a local lawyer who had switched to focus on immigration law, shared what she tells clients at the outset.  It was so good, that several of us asked her to repeat it, so we could write it down. 

So here are the ABCs that she’s developed:

A         Admit you need help.  Reach out and ask for it
B         Be engaged.  This is your life, not mine
C         Come clean.  I need to know all the pertinent facts if I am going to represent you. 

And you can see how relevant these particular conditions are – not just for a legal practice, but a counseling one or any other business where you are helping someone. 

So it started me thinking about what the ABCs would be for Company of Women – and of course, I came up with many.  Here’s my first attempt at it.

A         Attend.  Be an active member, get involved.  Ask how you can help someone else.
B         Be authentic.  Forget the aggressive sales pitch, it just doesn’t work in this group. Build relationships instead.
C         Connect with one another – personally and professionally. People do business with people they know and trust.  We are a community of women who care about each other.

What would your ABCs stand for?  It’s actually quite a useful exercise to go through as it
makes you focus and narrow in on what is important.

My thanks to Jennifer for sharing her story and creating an opportunity for us to think
beyond our usual definition of our business.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Telling your story to win business

When someone asks you how are things, how do you answer?  So often we say busy, busy, busy.  But what does that tell them about you or your business?

Instead, at our recent breakfast meeting we explored ways to tell our story, and how to use a story that would showcase what we do and how well we do it.

We started by finding five adjectives that describe our special skill sets, and then the women had to come up with a story that accurately illustrated those skills or areas of expertise.  Sounds simple, but perhaps not.  Part of it is that as women we’ve been programmed not to toot our own horn.  Bragging is inappropriate.  Yet, it don’t share our talents, how will anyone know?

In her book, Brag! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It, author Peggy Klaus shares how to artfully communicate your talents and accomplishments without feeling or sounding like a walking billboard.   “But before you sell anything, she says, you’ve got to first sell yourself in a personal and memorable way.”

She encourages people to be their best, authentic self and to use meaningful and entertaining stories.  Klaus recommends keeping it short and simple and to talk to the person, not at them.

Much is written about describing the features and benefits of what you do and there is some confusion about which is which.  Most business owners tend to talk in features, while potential customers are listening for benefits. Features describe the actual services your product or program provides, whereas benefits are all about the benefits to the customer and how you will relieve their pain or stress.

But recently I heard of another way to approach the sales pitch, and it is one that makes sense to me.  Instead of listing benefits, take time think about the value you bring to your potential client.  For example, people are looking for ways to:

  • ·      Make money
  • ·      Save money
  • ·      Save time
  • ·      Ease and simplicity
  • ·      Live the dream

If you can package your pitch (story) to cover some of these values, then you are one step nearer to closing the deal.

Back to the story telling, one way we discussed to introduce stories at a networking meeting, was to bring a friend.  Brief her ahead of time, and let her share your success story. Somehow when it comes from someone else, it seems less salesy.

However, ask the other person about themselves first.  When you show interest in what they do, in turn, they will be more willing to learn more about you.

As management guru John Maxwell says “The key is to self promote by sharing your passion and vision with grace and dignity.”

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Finding your tribe

We have eleven black Angus cows on the farm this year, and when we first got them, they would advance towards you in a row – sort of like the cowboys in Magnificent Seven, except there’s eleven of them – all sizes and including some calves.

At first they all stuck together, the leader moved and they all went with her, but as they became more comfortable with the space and each other, they've sometimes branched off and explored on their own.

The other night, they were making a dreadful racket and apparently a snapping turtle (who knew they existed) had bitten one of the cows, and as a result she was crying out in pain.  The others joined in, rallying round with sympathy and support.

It always strikes me as ironical that as a city slicker, with a business named Company of Women (acronym  COW), that I should end up living in the country with cows. Who knew?

As an aside, yes, I was aware of the acronym when I started the organization, in fact, my first newsletter was called News from the Field.  I figured that those who got it would get a laugh, and those that didn’t… well, too bad.

But I digress, what has struck me lately is that our cows and Company of Women actually have even more in common.   Instead of a herd, we are a tribe and just like the cows, we come together, go off and do our own thing and come together again, especially when one of the group needs support.

Being part of community that cares makes life so much more meaningful.  You have someone who will watch your back, will “cry out” just likes the cows when you are hurt and boost your morale when you need cheerleaders or just cheering up.

We all want to belong and when you are a solopreneur or even when you are at the top of your organization, it can be lonely out there.  That’s why it is so good to meet up with like-minded women who are on the same path, face the same challenges as you and who have the same passion for what they do and want to achieve.

As we often say at Company of Women, you don’t have to be alone when you own.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

It is all about you

I used to joke when I led parenting classes, that when they pushed the baby and placenta out, they pushed the guilt in.

Motherhood and guilt, they just go hand in hand.  Even when our children are grown and gone, we can find ourselves feeling selfish because we want to do something just for ourselves.

We almost have to justify it to ourselves first before we can market and sell it to the rest of the family.  But why?  We are grown adult women, hopefully with some confidence and vested interest in being successful in life.  Now the definition of success will vary, but the point is to achieve what you want and gain success on your terms.

But it is very hard to get women to invest in themselves.  However, if you don’t believe you are worth it, how can you convince others of your value.  The children or young members of your family have gone back to school or university, now it is your turn to learn more… and the topic is of real interest, I promise you… it’s all about you.

When we first came up with the idea of a retreat it was because we kept hearing from women who attended our Journey 2 Success conference that hearing the speakers was life-changing.  But we all know that making change doesn’t happen overnight and sometimes we need someone outside of our inner circle to help guide us and make sure we are actually headed in the right direction.

So we pulled together some of the speakers from the conference who’ve been there and want to help others find themselves and what they are next to be.  I heard a great quote the other day from management guru John Maxwell in which he said “people will grow into the conversations around them.”

How true.  When you are surrounded by like-minded women who are invested in themselves and in you, how can you not grow?  There is something stimulating and contagious about being in feisty, fierce and thought-provoking conversations with women who care.

As women we tend to be pleasers, but maybe it is time to please yourself first.  Give yourself permission to escape from the day-to-day routine and to indulge in some me-time.  We have a couple of spaces left, I am confident one of them has your name on it.  Check it out.  You are worth it.