Blackout Blues

In 2003 there was a huge electrical blackout.  Over 50 million people in the United States and Canada were without electricity.  Industry experts said that the systems in place are over taxed, outdated, and not sufficient to handle the current demand.

For years, experts have called for updating the current systems.  They knew that problems existed, but no one ever took the time or made the investment to correct the situation.

Old systems will work for only so long before problems occur.  It is the same for your business.  Outdated methods will catch up to you and leave your business in the dark and less competitive.  Old information will lead to bad choices and costly mistakes.

Evaluate the following four areas.  Make sure that you are current in what you do.


1. Computer Hardware and Software

Is your hardware up to date?  Are you taking advantage of faster processors and modern technology?  Have you moved from a dial-up to a high-speed connection?

Your most precious commodity is time.  Information systems are a part of your life whether or not you like it.  As long as you are going to need computers and the internet, make sure you have fast equipment, and that you are taking advantage of new technological peripherals.

Look at your software.  Do you have an effective accounting package?  Do you use the management features it contains?  Are you taking advantage of your accounting system to monitor critical numbers and best manage your company?

Whether you use Quicken, QuickBooks, MYOB, or another package, there are many features from online bill paying, to budgeting capabilities that many business professionals overlook or choose not to take the time to learn.  These features offer the real power of accounting software packages.  You have made the monetary investment in this software, now make the time investment to get it set up and working effectively for you and your business.

Do you use a contact management system?  Are you still working off of little pieces of paper scattered all over your desk and post-it notes stuck on the walls?

A contact management system will allow you to greatly increase productivity.  This modern marvel allows you to keep all of your contact information in a single easy-to-get-at place.  With the push of a few buttons you can look up any client or prospect and see when your last conversation with them was and what was discussed.  When you come to work in the morning you will have scheduled calls and you will always be able to follow up on time and as promised.

I have been using a contact management system for over fifteen years, and I could not run my business without it!


2. Your Product Information

I have bought a lot of cars over the years, and every time I go into an automotive showroom I discover that I know more about the car I am looking for then the salesperson that works with me.

It is very frustrating for the buyer to know more about the product then the seller.  If you are to be a true professional, you need to be very well versed on the product or service that you offer.  Your expertise needs to be very detailed, although you will not need to use all details with each client.

A professional has a technical understanding of their offering and tailors the information provided based on the needs and desires of the client.  Someone purchasing a home may want to know about the specific energy savings characteristics of the water heater.  Another person may just want to know that the water heater is 75 gallons and will easily handle a family of five.  Someone buying a car may be happy just knowing they are getting leather seats.  Another buyer may want to know the tanning process used to make the premium leather used in her car.


3. Industry and Competition Information

Not only must you know more about your product than your client, you should also know more about your competition’s product as well.  It is not uncommon to see someone who is knowledgeable about their products and services, yet not be up to date on what is going on in their industry.

Remember, your client, in their mind, is positioning you against your competitors.  They are comparing the benefits they receive, the price they will have to pay, and the service that they perceive they will get.

If you are to put yourself in a strong position, you will need to be very knowledgeable about your competition.  You never want to talk bad about your competition, but if you know their strengths and weaknesses you can promote the strengths that your product possesses that will exploit the competitors weaknesses.

Ideally, you should be so knowledgeable about your competition that you could go to work for them!


4. Current Events and General Knowledge

Are you up to date on national and international events?  If someone strikes up a conversation about the situation in Darfur, can you hold up your end?  What about the current election, or the buyout attempt that InBev made on Anheuser Busch?

Business is built on relationships.  Relationships are based on communication.  If you want to communicate effectively, you need to know what your customers like to talk about, and you need to be knowledgeable about those subjects.

One of my favorite sales professionals is constantly reading magazines.  He may read about SCUBA diving one day and gardening the next.  Yes, he has a thirst for information and knowledge, but he really enjoys being able to speak with any of his clients about a variety of subjects.

If you work in a narrow niche, find out what your clients are reading, and at the very least read those publications or books.  To be a real resource for your customers, dig deeper and read or learn about issues that would be of importance or assistance to them.

I keep my valued resources close.  If you are a true resource for your clients, they will want to keep you close as well.


Don’t let your lights go out.  Keep up to date.  Make sure your systems and information are current, and you will stay on the road to Building a Better Biz!


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