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  • Aspire » Book review

    09 Dec


    picture from Peasap via Flickr

    picture from Peasap via Flickr

    We’re all hard-wired to respond to fear in specific ways (the whole Fight or Flight response thing) which works great when you’re trying to get away from bears or zombies (or the elephant in the room)…but doesn’t always work out so well with less tangible but equally real fears like losing a client.  One of the interesting things that happens to us all when fear kicks in is that we don’t think as well…in fact our higher level thinking gets shut down in order to deal with the threat – bottom line you will stop thinking straight when you’re operating out of fear.

    Have you ever tightened up with a client (or a prospective client) because you thought you might lose the business? Maybe you were tempted to gloss over a problem with your product or service in hopes that the client wouldn’t notice. Maybe you stopped listening and just threw everything you had into your sales ‘pitch’. Fear can drive a lot of bad behaviors.

    The Fear of Losing the Business is a huge driver at some point for all business owners…but the ones that have long term success figure out how to manage that fear and do the right things.

    Getting Naked with Patrick Lencioni

    Patrick Lencioni knows more than a little bit about business success, he’s the author of a slew of great, best-selling business books like The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and The Advantage and he consistently brings out great ideas on how to create organizational health and competitive advantage for businesses of all sizes.

    One of my favorite Lencioni books is Getting Naked which focuses on a counter-intuitive approach to creating amazing levels of customer engagement and loyalty. His key point is that clients are looking for you to step up and be a real person with them…to be vulnerable (or as Lencioni puts it ‘naked’). Based on his own real world success with his consulting company and their clients, Lencioni makes a strong case for engaging in very real ways that go against the conventional wisdom of ‘Fake it ’til you make it’ and ‘Don’t let them see you sweat’.

    His formula for success in Getting Naked starts with overcoming what he calls the Three Fears – the first (and biggest) is the Fear of Losing the Business (the other two are the Fear of Being Embarrassed and the Fear of Feeling Inferior).

    When you fear losing the business, both before and after the sale, you are going to have some problems:

    • You’ll try very hard to sell – going into all out sales mode…and nobody likes to be sold.
    • You’ll push to be perceived as perfect and as a result you’ll end up not being real or approachable
    • You’ll tend to focus on short term wins – which could cause you to lose the long term relationship
    • You’ll whitewash any potential problems you see with the client…hoping the issues will go away rather than jumping in to help solve them.

    Everyone worries about losing clients (or not landing that great new prospective client) but if you let that turn into fear that drives your behavior, then you’re going to have problems.

    How to Overcome the Fear of Losing the Business

    The good news is you can minimize these impacts…and it mostly requires a mindset change rather than some kind of big operational change. It’s easier said than done, but if you can develop the confidence that you know what you’re doing,  that you consistently add value to clients, then it’s not a huge leap to stop worrying about losing the business.

    With that in mind, Lencioni suggests the following specific ideas to help you get there.

    1. Always consult instead of sell.
    Your clients (or prospective clients) don’t want your sales pitch, they want help and they’re willing to pay you for it once they know you can help them and they believe that you’re not just trying to get their money. By forgoing the traditional ‘sales’ pitch and just starting to help them solve their problems, it will soon be pretty obvious if you’re a good fit for them.

    2. Give Away the Business
    You’re trying to create a long term, trusted partner relationship. That means you need to be generous and willing to give on the little things in order to make the big picture work. If a client disagrees with something they were billed…and it’s client you like and want to keep for a long time, give ’em what they want. That doesn’t mean you roll over, it means you take the high road when needed and error in favor of the client.

    3. Tell the Kind Truth, Enter the Danger
    As an independent 3rd party for your client, you’re going to see problems that they may not be able to see. You’re going to see the elephant in the room and one of the great ways you can add value is to find a kind way to tell them about that elephant. ‘Enter the Danger’ is a phrase used in Improvisational Comedy. It’s a reminder that the best results in Improv come from addressing the things that are difficult, the stuff that no one else wants to touch. If it’s mundane and boring, then it’s not going to be funny – so no payoff. For your client – you can add the most value by helping them see and deal with the things that don’t typically get talked about. The stuff that no one on their staff wants to bring up.

    Do you ever find yourself operating out of fear of losing the business? Have you been aware of it? How have you managed it? We’d love to hear your thoughts – leave us a comment if you have a minute.

    Shawn Kinkade Kansas City Business Coach

    19 Aug
    photo by Jesse CourteManche via Flickr

    photo by Jesse CourteManche via Flickr

    Try this – go online to search for your business…I’ll wait….

    What do  you find? Are you finding anything that makes your prospective customer’s lives better?

    Consider this great statistic from Jay Baer’s new book Youtility:

    “In 2011 the Corporate Executive Board surveyed 1,900 B2B customers to uncover insights about purchasing behavior and found that customers will contact a sales rep only after independently completing 60 percent of the purchasing decision process. Sixty percent of the decision is made before the prospect identifies himself.”

    That’s a powerful idea!  Granted this was a survey done on Business To Business transactions, so Business To Consumer may not fit in quite the same way, but my experience tells me that this idea is valid for most kinds of purchases these days.

    Think about your own shopping behavior – how many times have you chosen not to download something or fill out a contact form because you didn’t want to talk to the sales person. For that matter, how many times do you go into a store and if a clerk asks you if you’d like help you tell them – “No thanks…I’m just looking”. It’s the exact same behavior. Buyers – meaning all of us at some point in time don’t want to engage with a company or a salesperson until we’re actually convinced this is something we want or need.

    Now think about the implication of this idea and how it impacts your business…and the search you just did.

    Why being found isn’t enough…

    Pretend you’re a potential customer for your own company and try that search again. If you searched by name, then it’s a good bet you found your website. How well do you do if you search by industry and geography (i.e. searching for ‘Kansas City Business Coach‘)?

    Hopefully your website still shows up, but what happens after that? Remember your potential buyers aren’t going to contact you until they’ve already done a lot of homework and determined you might be ‘The One’ who can help solve their problem.

    What do they see on your website that helps them make that decision?  (And I’m not talking just marketing fluff).

    Can they get to know you (on a personal basis)? Can they get a feel for how you think or what you do for people?

    Because if they can’t do at least that, then they’re going to move on…and you’ll never even know they were there.

    One of the prime tenets of Youtility is the idea that the best way to engage a potential customer is to help them, to add value, to be useful. Obviously how you do that is going to vary a lot depending on your industry, your style and what your potential customers are looking for.

    However you are in the business of solving problems – so what problems do your customers have that you could help them solve?  What could you create that would be so useful that people would pay you for it – and then give it away?  That’s what Youtility is all about.

    2 Great Examples of Youtility

    Smoking Meats:

    You can’t spend more than a few days in Kansas City without running into someone who’s really into smoked meats – either eating them or cooking them. As the home to the World Series of Barbecue, people here are pretty serious about the whole topic. So imagine you are a manufacturer of Smokers…and you know your potential customers love to talk about smoking meat…and learning the best ways to do that. How would you help them?

    Well if you’re Big Poppa Smokers  you create and moderate PelletSmoking.com – an online forum dedicated to the art and science of Pellet Smoking meats. The key to really making this site work is that, although it’s clearly sponsored by Big Poppa Smokers, it’s not a fluff marketing site. The founder (and presumably many of the employees) of Big Poppa loves barbecue (and in fact won the American Royal last year) and loves to talk and share with others. There’s a huge amount of education and value in the site…and of course when that potential buyer is ready, they are going to look very favorably on the company that’s been helping them learn…!

    Fiberglass Pools:

    When the economy collapsed in 2008, construction shut down and along with it, the demand for in-ground pools shut down as well. At that time, Marcus Sheridan was the owner and founder of River Pools and Spas and he realized he was going to have to do something different if he wanted to keep the doors open.

    His approach? Figure out what his customers historically had wanted to know before they made a pool decision and to start answering those questions publicly on his new blog. He systematically came up with a huge list of questions that he frequently was asked and diligently started creating articles that answered those questions. The articles weren’t hype or traditional marketing – they were in-depth, helpful and not really specific to his brand. In short, they were massively useful and once he pulled together some volume of articles they were essentially a great buying guide for anyone who might be interested in a pool.

    The results? Traffic to the site increased…and people stayed to read articles.  A couple of years down the road, Marcus was able to do some analytics on his website that told him that when potential customers read at least 30 pages and then contacted them about a pool, they were 80% likely to buy!!!  Compare that to an industry average close rate of 10% or less.

    What do your potential customers find when they get to your site? Are you helping them? What could you do to create your own Youtility marketing? We’d love to hear your thoughts or get some additional examples – leave us a comment below.

    Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coach

    21 Feb


    Business (and the world in general) is getting more and more complicated all the time.  It often feels like it’s too much and we all want to hide someplace clean and quiet.  From a practical standpoint, if you want to get more done you need to start thinking about doing less.  It’s not as counter-intuitive as it sounds.  Because of the external (and often internal) complexity business owners face, it’s easy to fall into a situation where you feel like you have to be doing a hundred different things every single day just to keep up.

    At that point, feeling overwhelmed and become less productive is right around the corner.

    The alternative?  Start doing less.  This isn’t a new idea – in fact I wrote about Doing Less almost 3 years ago.  Things are even more complex today but there are some new resources that can help you navigate becoming more productive by doing less.

    Specifically you should check out The Power of Less a book by Leo Babauta.  Leo is also the author of Zen Habits, a blog on simplicity, focus and creating a different kind of life.  Leo’s an interesting story (you can learn a lot more on the blog) – I don’t think most of us can completely embrace the life that he’s built for himself, but I definitely think everyone can benefit from his ideas.

    Here are 3 key ideas that business owners should embrace from The Power of Less:

    Set Limitations –> Choose the Essential

    I guess that’s actually 2 ideas, but they are really 2 sides of the same coin.  The idea is simple in theory, but it can be very challenging in practice.  If you want to be more effective and you have limited resources, then you need to set limitations on where you spend your time and efforts and focus only on what’s essential for success.

    There are a lot of implications here – first of all, do you know what success looks like?  If not, it’s pretty hard to narrow down what’s most likely to get you there.  Secondly even if you have a clear vision / destination it’s not always obvious what’s going to have the most impact on your success (what’s essential).  And finally – in order for this to be useful, these limitations have to be solid…it’s not about setting soft priorities, it’s about dropping things that aren’t non-essential – brutally saying no to the less important.

    If you can address all of those implications and narrow your focus down to a handful of things that will really make a difference in your progress, you will be amazed at how much you can get done (either as an individual or as a team)!

    Develop new habits 1 at a time

    Another strong insight out of The Power of Less is a process to help you adopt new habits…and habits are critical if you want to sustain effectiveness.

    “Watch your thoughts, for they become words.- Watch your words, for they become actions.- Watch your actions, for they become habits.- Watch your habits, for they become character.- Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”      – Charles Reade

    The key (according to Babauta’s experience) is to only make 1 change, adopt 1 new habit at a time.  Pick the change that you’re most excited about and only focus on that 1 thing for the next month.  If your new personal focus is the idea to start exercising, find an exercise that you can do easily every day, make it easy and commit to it for a month to establish a habit.  As an example he suggests starting with 5 to 10 minutes of walking a day and slowly ramping up from there.


    The last key idea that I think business owners need to adopt is embracing simplicity.  Is there an easier way to do routine tasks?  What can you automate or outsource effectively?  Often businesses do things a certain way because that’s the way it’s always been done.  With the advent of apps and technology there is likely a better alternative for a lot of the time consuming things you’re doing today.

    Finally the easiest way to simplify is to get better at saying ‘No’.  How many things are you spending time and energy on that you should be saying no to?

    The Power of Less is a quick and easy read (as you might expect) and although it’s unlikely that many will completely embrace all of the ideas, business owners will pick up at least a few things that could make a big difference and help them get more of the right things done.

    Have you purposely tried doing less?  Have you read the book?  I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments – share them below.

    Shawn Kinkade   Kansas City Business Coach

    Photo courtesy of Monk – USA Network

    17 Jan


    Is your DSI super?  Wait…let’s step back first.  A DSI is a Dominant Selling Idea – think of it as the modern day version of the Unique Selling Proposition (USP).  Basically it’s THE big idea inside a marketing brand – it’s the selling idea that establishes you as the #1 choice within your category and specialty.  You can learn all about the DSI concept from the book “Why Johnny Can’t Brand” by Bill Schley and Carl Nichols.

    When they talk about a DSI, they’re not talking about marketing fluff and being super funny or creative (although that’s not excluded from a DSI).  A DSI is about having a simple (sentence or two) way to communicate the value you bring to your customers that makes you the top of your specialty and category. 

    An example of DSIs? 

    There are lots of car brands…cars are the category.  A specialty within the car category is safety.  What do you think of when you’re looking for a safe car?  Volvo established their Dominant Selling Idea a long time ago as the safest car brand – they pretty much own that specialty.  Here are some others:

    M&Ms – the candy that melts in your mouth, not in your hand.

    Enterprise Car Rental – “We’ll pick you up”!  (They created their own specialty of rental cars not at airports).

    Halls – with ‘Vapor Action’ (lots of throat lozenges, but only one with ‘vapor action’)

    The beauty of an effective Dominant Selling Idea is that it automatically makes you the top choice within your selected specialty (assuming you can live up to your claim).

    The Test for a Super DSI

    In Why Johnny Can’t Brand, the authors go through a lot of ideas and a process to help you figure out what your DSI should be.  It’s not easy…and not every business is going to be able to legitimately have a DSI, but here’s a test to help you figure out if you’re onto something.

    Is your product or business idea:

    1. Superlative

    Are you as good or better than everyone else within your specialty?  Can you claim #1 in something?  Best in class within your boundaries? (i.e. best pizza in Kansas City).

    2. Important

    Does your differentiator – your DSI – address something that’s important for decision makers? You may sell cars that have top and bottom windshield wipers…but that’s not likely to sway many decisions.

    3. Believable

    Is it clear why we should believe your claims?  Do you have credible and important testimonials?  Does it logically follow that you would be good at this product or service? (Think about your favorite steak restaurant offering up an enchilada…probably not believable).

    4. Memorable

    Does your idea stand out from the crowd?  Does it link to an emotional feeling?  What would cause me to remember your idea if I looked at a dozen similar ideas within your category or specialty?

    5. Tangible

    This is where the rubber meets the road.  You might have created a great idea that establishes you as a believable #1 within your specialty in a memorable way, but if you don’t actually deliver on that promise you won’t last.  To have a Super DSI, it has to actually perform (and be more than just an idea on paper).

    What I really like about the concept of having a DSI is that it’s not just clever marketing and it’s not just for big national players.  Any business or idea will benefit by positioning as a Dominant Selling Idea…and any business or idea will suffer without that positioning.

    Think about the last time you told some friends about a great restaurant in your area.  Maybe you said something like; “They have the best fries…you’ve got try them!”  or “I was amazed at their service, I’ve never had an experience like that before!”.  That’s potentially their DSI…something they should build around.

    Now think about how your customers describe your business…would they consistently isolate on your important strength?  Are you consistently positioning yourself as #1 in a specialty?

    These are tough questions and they take a lot of time and soul searching to answer honestly, but if you can figure this out you will be successful.  A valid DSI can take you to new heights in your business.

    What do you think about Dominant Selling Ideas?  Are you comfortable that you know what yours is?  We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

    Shawn Kinkade   Kansas City Business Coach

    Photo by aka Kath

    09 Jan


    One of the things we work on with our clients and business owners is developing systems for their business.  It’s critical to build a systematic approach, figuring out the best way to do something and making sure it’s done that same way consistently…regardless of who’s doing the work.  Often the easiest way to rollout that kind of systematic thinking is to develop a checklist.

    I just finished reading The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande. It’s a great read and a lot more entertaining that I thought it would be.  Gawande is a medical doctor who decided to investigate the effectiveness of Checklists and how if they could be applied to the medical profession.

    My experience with doctors is that they traditionally aren’t great writers or story tellers (although to be fair, I would much rather they be great doctors first…).  Having said that, Dr. Gawande writes in a way that makes it very easy to read, telling several stories to help illustrate his points.

    He begins by clarifying the difference between errors of ignorance (when we don’t know enough) and errors of ineptitude (when we don’t use what we know properly) Then he leads you through the findings of his research he accumulated while writing the book.

    He started with the aviation industry and Boeing…where they have championed the idea of effective checklists for over 75 years.  It’s not by accident the chance of dying in a plane crash is 1 in 25 Million. If there is the potential for something to happen in the air, chances are pretty good there is a checklist nearby the pilots will be able to refer to.

    What his book points out is that it isn’t that people don’t know what to do. It is that it’s almost impossible to be prepared on your own…to know what to do under any circumstance without a framework to refer to. He isn’t discounting anyone’s knowledge; it is having a guideline that keeps you from missing the obvious.

    If you are a fan of Van Halen, you will learn the real reason that David Lee Roth requested all the brown M & M’s be removed from their candy dishes back stage. It had nothing to do with his ego. Another great story is Walmart’s ability to respond after Katrina flooded New Orleans.  Both stories driven by the power of using checklists in creative ways.

    Building a checklist doesn’t have to be overly complex – here are the 3 high level steps:

    Development => Drafting => Validation

    A couple of the take-a-ways on building a checklist is to keep it simple and talk in the language of the people who will be reading it. He even provides a Checklist for Checklists to help guide you through the process.  Obviously he’s a pretty methodical thinker…but he’s also an interesting guy – check out this interview he did with Stephen Colbert to get a better feel for why he’s so interested in this topic (and why it makes sense for you as well).


    Could you implement some checklists?

    The challenge with implementing Checklist with professionals in any industry is that you risk insulting their intelligence because they feel they already know all “the stuff”. Why do they need a list? I guess, that may be a question to ask the 155 people of Flight 1549 who landed safely on the Hudson River on Jan. 14th, 2009.

    As you start the New Year are there areas in your business where using a simple Checklist could reduce the chance for errors?  If you need some help, don’t be afraid to ask. If you already use Checklists in your business, I would love to hear some success stories – share them below.

    Happy New Year!

    Chris Steinlage, Kansas City Business Coach.

    Photo by The U.S. Army