Simplicity Versus Complexity

Would you say that Amazon is a simple or complex business? How about Starbucks? I would say that they’re both simple businesses that have used complex systems to scale. And scale they have, but all the while sticking with simple core business models. According to its founder, Jeff Bezos, Amazon began and continues as a business obsessed with providing customers with variety, low prices, and speedy delivery. Starbucks Chairman emeritus, Howard Schultz, says that the their business is serving people coffee and not coffee to people. Both of these models are super simple and keep the customer at the center of everything they do.

If you’re just starting out or have yet to reach $2M+ per year then I would ask you if you really need any complexity. Yes, Amazon and Starbucks need complexity at their level, but they also need the simplicity of their business models to continue to dominate their respective markets. You should consider keeping things simple at this point. You need a great product/solution. You need to get attention to make sales. You need to deliver your product/solution. That’s it. And the fewer applications or processes you add to those things the better.

Product/Solution: The simpler the product/solution the better. Does it solve your customer’s problem? If so, then that’s all you need at this point. Less is more as we say in our office. Down the road you can add things to it maybe or enhance things about it. Does it solve your customer’s problem? Yes? Great! Anything else is a distraction at this point. Trust me. Move on.

Sales: How do you get attention and ultimately make sales? Do you use organic or paid methods? Be careful here. There are so many applications/platforms out there that promise you the world and tell you that they make it simple. They say that they’re all you need to manage this or that. Be careful. We’ve been down this rabbit hole so many times. What they often fail to tell you is that getting attention and making sales does not require an application or platform. And it’s quite simple. Don’t over complicate it by adding people, processes, apps, or platforms that aren’t required yet.

Delivery: Are your customers receiving what you promised them. If so, then your delivery is working. You can add a red bow later. Jeff Bezos initially loaded his car with packages to make sure orders made it to the post office. Does he do this today? Of course not, but it was necessary then and it just worked. Just deliver your product in the most basic way. If it works, then nothing else is required right now.

Again, if you’re still under $2M per year then don’t add anything to your business unless it’s absolutely necessary. If you do then you’re potentially adding distractions and cutting into your bottom line. Cashflow is the reason for keeping things simple in the end. Remember what we were all taught growing up, “A straight line is the shortest distance between two points.” There’s a lot of wisdom in this applicable to business. Cashflow is the point of destination for you.

If you find yourself having trouble saying no to new apps, platforms, or processes, then just say, “Later.” You can always try something later. Now, you need simplicity…not complexity to arrive at cashflow.

Rule #1

Rule #1: You MUST have a daily schedule that you follow religiously. This is what separates real entrepreneurs who actually succeed beyond what anyone can imagine and those who go in and out of trying to become an entrepreneur. There are other rules for success of course, but Rule #1 is sacred and first because everything else is propelled by it. And writing down a schedule, but not following it is of course the same as not having one.

A lot of people when asked what’s the most important rule of success in business, they’ll say, “Customer obsession.” Hey, customer obsession is prime, but part of being obsessed with your customers is actually spending the time making sure they’re happy. You can’t really do the customer obsession thing if you’re just putting attention on it when you think of it or feel like it. A schedule keeps you focused and busy with what you set out to do. It keeps you in the reality you choose rather than what your every whim chooses as you go through your day. It’s that simple.

Warren Buffet is quoted as saying that Rule #1 is, “Don’t lose money.” That’s a terrific rule and indispensable for success, but if you don’t keep a schedule then you’re not going to make the money you aren’t supposed to lose. It’s a matter of what comes first being preeminent. 1. Keep a schedule that aligns you with making money. 2. Don’t lose the money. 3. Keep a schedule that makes you more money.

Put simply, your schedule is your intention to organize your time. And time is really just a measurement of change. With a good schedule, you can direct that change to be positive rather than negative. For example, making sure you get enough sleep is crucial and without following a schedule then that’s not necessarily going to happen. A good schedule is unique to you and your dreams, but it’s realistic as well as challenging.

I heard that Arnold Schwarzenegger said that you should get no more than 6 hours of sleep if you want to be successful. I think Saint Francis said this too, but for a different end. Either way, a person once responded to this claim by asking Arnold, “Arnold, I really need at least 7 hours to function right the next day. What should I do?” Arnold replied, “Sleep faster.”

Your schedule is your own and how you layout your day should fit with who you are and not someone else. You can get ideas from other people, but be ready to make changes that fit it to how you like your day to unfold. The bottom line should be that the schedule should reflect your goals. If you want to grow your business then make sure the time spent on it outweighs everything else. But, if you have family be sure to give them time or this will eventually not only harm your relationship with them, but it will also have a negative effect on your business. You need the support of friends and family. Make them part of your day and week.

Be sure to write down your schedule each night before bed. Everyone has their preference in a planner. I currently use the At-A-Glance: Weekly/Monthly Appointment Book. I like a physical book with a pencil or pen rather than an app. But use what suits you best. Whatever you use, start filling it. I schedule 30-minute segments. This keeps me attentive to every minute of the day. I don’t like wasting time. Remember, time is a measurement of change and we can only make that change positive if we’re on top of how we use all of the time we’re given.

You Can Show Me A Feature, But I’ll Need To See The Outcome

We used to be super focused on putting features in our marketing. Our family started in the school-based SAT and ACT prep markets, so we sold to high schools initially. I remember we would put together sell sheets that focused primarily on our software’s features. Here’s one of those sell sheets. I now cringe when I see it, but at the time I thought it was one of our best sales pieces.

We analyzed 56 skill areas tested by each test. We offered exhaustive reporting features and allowed schools to set up classes within our program. All of these features were requested by our customers. We’d built a product designed by our customers. It was impressive to say the least.

The problem was that we were simply conveying this as our primary sales message. And it was landing flat. Then everything changed after we started getting real results for our existing customers. We were then able to tell prospects that we could guarantee them the same outcomes if they followed our program. We started showing prospects that if they used our product they could raise their school’s SAT or ACT scores too. This was huge. These outcomes changed the lives of their students and their careers at these schools.

Notice that we even use the word “Solve” in our sell sheet title above. We knew the solution to their pain point was why we were in business and that providing them with a related outcome they desired was key to our success, but we missed that message here, because of our obsession with features. Features are important of course and should lead to outcomes. And desired outcomes lead to happy customers. Happy customers in turn bring more happy customers by virtue of the fact that you can share their experience with prospects and you can start stating with confidence that your product or service will deliver their desired outcome. So start leading with outcomes when you explain your offer and you’ll end with the outcome you want…more customers.

Stick To It And See Success

Have you been bouncing around from niche to niche and from solution to solution? Have you been constantly justifying pivots as what you need to do to get clients? Have you thought though, that maybe you’re just not being patient enough? I’m here to tell you that that’s probably what it is that’s holding you back from success in your business.

Did you see a YouTube video recently that explained why your niche is saturated? Did it change your mind about your niche and shed light on exactly what’s going on? Did you then know that you had to make some changes before you wasted anymore time? If this sounds familiar then I’m going to bet that it’s happened to you many times over.

Please…just stop doing this to yourself. You can stop immediately. Don’t you see that you’re using someone’s YouTube video to justify your desire to change your niche, which is masking your real problem. You’re acting impatient. Impatience is what you might not want to admit. Impatience quite simply kills success in business. It attacks the very things that make great entrepreneurs. It attacks the entrepreneur in you. It attacks perseverance and discipline. Both of those are what cause people to be productive consistently and gain traction in their respective markets.

Here’s a tip for getting rid of impatience. This sounds so simple, but it works. Imagine how your business will be doing six months from now if you start taking consistent action today. Ignore any ideas from YouTube or elsewhere that tell you that you’re in the wrong niche or market. Ignore anything that tells you something is trending or producing serious results for entrepreneurs. If the information is not positive about your niche, then keep away from it. Stick to your plan and along the way each day allow yourself to imagine the outcome.

This is a daily activity. Stick to your niche. Stay on task. You can do it!

How We Do Our Sales Calls

Through the years we’ve done sales calls in a number of ways and at times it varied by rep. Today we’ve truly mastered these calls. We sometimes have multiple calls. In each of our businesses, our price points are relatively high and so we never push on a one-call-close. This is out of respect for our prospect and it can foster a much stronger relationship. Besides, we’re never in a hurry and we’re always ready to say that we don’t believe it’s a good fit if we know it’s the case. If at any point during a call we don’t believe we can bring them value then we put this on the table immediately as we don’t want to waste their time or ours.

You can enter calls with organic leads as well as prospects you’ve done cold outreach to achieve. Absolutely, cold outreach initially puts you at a disadvantage, but that can be quickly moved to an advantage if the call is conducted properly.

This is the agenda and rules to all of our sales calls. Use it and you’ll love the results.

  1. Take control of the call and never relinquish it. This means that after the greeting you explain to them how you will conduct the call and what you’re going to discuss. If at any point they attempt to take control of the call. Stop, listen, then firmly, but politely review the agenda for the call and bring them back to the point you left off. If they persist, then this is a strong indicator that any relationship with them will more than likely be problematic. It would not be unprofessional to bring that up and or cut the call short with a quick explanation as to why.
  2. Stick to a rigid soft-scripted call structure. This means that the steps in the call need to be adhered to at all costs, but scripting leaves room to keep it a natural conversation. Before the call you should have a clear understanding of their product and market. Use 3 questions (These are for consultants, but can be changed to fit your market and client goals. For instance in the education markets we serve, we ask questions related to their achievement and goals in those academic areas). What are your current sales? What are your sales goals? What is keeping you from reaching those sales goals? The answers to these questions will help you frame a very structured conversation about how they need to generate leads and acquire customers. With our consulting clients we go over exactly how to channel a conversation to reach an outcome that is most beneficial to them revealing what the true problem is for them achieving their goals.
  3. Begin with an assessment of their situation that asks them what they think their greatest problem is and why they haven’t solved it themselves. Again, the 3 questions assist you both in getting to the bottom of why they’re not growing as they desire. They most likely know why they are not reaching their goals and you need to help them bring that to the surface. This assessment is crucial and it’s often not something a business owner can accurately do by themselves as easily as they can when someone is prompting them and helping to search for the hidden issues.
  4. Review their assessment and solution with them. At this stage we make sure that we’re on the same page and they agree with the assessment and solution. This is a very important step and should never be skipped.
  5. Explain how we would help them achieve the outcome they desire…then wait and let them speak next. This is simply you emphatically stating that you can help them with the solution discussed and left open ended it should sound like the balls in their court and they only need to speak up and say that they want to proceed with you.

Any follow-up call needed should be with a similar agenda and just review of your last call. Anything more means that they do not agree with the conclusions you came to, don’t believe you can get them the outcome they desire, or they don’t have the funds to make it happen.

What We’re Reading This Week

Each Monday we’ll let you know our book of the week…the book we are going to read this week. We’ll try to get this to you early on Monday.

This week we’re reading Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin.

Your Offer

If you sign up for a foreign language class you give them your money so that by the end of the course you’ll be able to communicate in that language. You don’t pay them because you really like their classroom or because of the books they use.  You don’t even pay them because of the degree in teaching that their instructors may have.  You pay them to give you the outcome you desire.  In the end, the language school earns its reputation by getting their students results.  Those results give you confidence to entrust them with your time and to pay them for their classes.  You must sell an outcome.  Your clients don’t want or need anything else.

Your offer is simply your solution clearly articulated and summed up with a price point. Your offer should show that you will take them from point A to point B. It should focus on the outcome they desire or need.  It should not focus on your feature-set or what you operate, but rather how they or their situation will change.  Time is a measurement of change and they’re giving you their time because they believe you can change them or their situation in some way.

Your price point should be directly related to the value of the outcome you help your client achieve. Do they actually reach their intended outcome while they are your client? How much do you help them in achieving this? How quickly do they reach their outcome?  These are all good questions to ask yourself.  If you don’t have the answers to these, then you need to determine what the answers are even if they change with each client. They have a right to know the answers to these questions if they ask them. They’re about to enter a partnership with you and your answers to these questions will greatly qualify the strength of that partnership and the likelihood of it being successful for each of you.  

If you don’t have these answers then you will either lose the client or they will probably only work with you at an hourly rate and under a limited contract that allows them an easy out. So, be confident in the outcomes you promise to them and be confident in the value of those outcomes to them.  Don’t settle for an hourly valuation of your time and effort.  Your value is directly related to the value you bring to their table…the outcome they desire.  If the outcome you will get them to means an additional $1M per year to their company, then consider carefully your pricepoint. If they believe in you then they’ll pay you exactly what you demand.

Your Market

At the 2007 D5 Conference, Steve Jobs was asked what he thought is the reason entrepreneurs succeed in business. He answered, 

“People say that you have to have a lot of passion for what you do and it’s true. And the reason is because it’s so hard that if you don’t any rational person would give up.  It’s really hard. And you have to do it over a sustained period of time. So if you don’t love it…if you’re not having fun doing it…you don’t really love it. You’re going to give up. And that’s what happens to most people actually. If you really look at the ones that ended up being successful end quote in the eyes of society and the ones that didn’t. Oftentimes it’s the ones that are successful, loved what they did. So, they could persevere when it got really tough. And the ones that didn’t love it, quit. Because they’re sane. Who would want to put up with this stuff if you don’t love it?  So, it’s a lot of hard work. And it’s a lot of worrying. Constantly. And uh, if you don’t love it, you’re gonna fail. So you gotta love it. You gotta have passion.”

The most important thing about what you do is actually who you do it for.  Who do you serve?  Who is your customer?  Who you’re selling to is truly the very first question any entrepreneur should ask.  When my friends and I decided to have a big yard sale one Saturday there were several things we got wrong.  To begin with, the sign we made for the yard sale said, “Supper Sale.”  That’s so embarrassing, considering we were all in the 4th grade already.  But, the biggest mistake we made was on our market.  We were on a street with very low traffic and most of that was adults driving by our yard.  We were selling old toys.  If we had been selling our parents’ stuff then we might have found a market-fit with our products, but that probably wouldn’t have gone over too well with our parents. 

You need to know your market.  Who are your customers? They’re probably a lot like you.  This would make it much easier to define them. You should know everything about them. Don’t go too broad.  You need a smaller group that you can better define.  Consider you’re in a large room with a group at a party and you know maybe a third of them. This would be much easier to define than a stadium of people.  It would take you a lot longer to get to know them.

We don’t have a product yet.  First, we need to know who it is we’re selling to and then we can begin to determine what they need.  Part of knowing your market is knowing how you’ll get to them.  Is there a group of people to who you relate to that you also have easy access or could figure out how to get access to?  Mark Zuckerberg first targeted fellow students at Harvard and then opened Facebook up to other colleges.  If he had gone immediately to the whole world or even just his country, then it’s arguable that he might not have achieved the same success he did. How many social media companies have failed by going after everyone right out of the gate and just focussing on their product…not their customer. Look for the leverage you have already with groups of people.

Next, let’s consider what you have in common with these people. It’s important that you think of something you enjoy about life and that you have in common with them.  To build a successful company, you need to consider all the hours you’ll spend on it.  Don’t pick something unless you’re passionate about it.  So many consultants, coaches, and authors will lead people the other way on this and suggest that you don’t need to have passion for your market.  I disagree.  Are there exceptions to this? Of course. But, I would say that even if they’ve found success, they haven’t found as much joy as you will if you’re working completely in your element.  You need to want to eat, sleep, and breathe this.  You’ve got to be in love with it or darn close to it.  And it definitely can’t be like kissing your cousin. You have to be very comfortable with it.  You have to want to get out in front of this.  Your customers and the solution you provide to them needs to be something you’re passionate about.

My family’s market choice was driven by my father who acquired an existing 10-year old company.  It was a fit for him because he was very interested in education and technology.  Our company was and is an ed-tech company.  He was sold and committed the final 17 years of his life to build a great company.  He thoroughly enjoyed it. This is important to note because building a company has many struggles and real disappointments.  You need to love your market.  It will truly propel you through the most difficult moments.  

If you’re having trouble identifying the group you want to be your customers, think of how you spend your time.  What do you enjoy doing or learning about the most?  How do you spend your time? What aspirations do you have?  Who is it that does what you want to do or currently do in your free time?  Maybe it’s related to your current work.  Just because you want to leave your 9-5 doesn’t mean you don’t like what you do.  

Ask yourself what you most search for on the internet.  What videos do you watch?  What do you read?  What do you have the most experience with? What skills do you have?  What are you good at that you also enjoy?  Are there a lot of people you know who also are interested in this?  Another idea is to talk to your closest friend about what you’re thinking. If they know you, they may steer you clear of making a mistake here. Hopefully,, they’ll ask you questions about what you’re considering that are just the questions you need to ask yourself.  Maybe you were avoiding these questions and they brought them out in the light.  

Yes, speak to your best friend, but I would warn you not to talk to too many people about this.  You may not be ready for the negativity that you’ll probably face. In the end, only you know what is the best market for you to enter. And if you’re having trouble making a decision, consider that you can always pivot to another market or enter a new market with a second business.  Nothing is set in stone except whether you are entering a market or not.  Don’t sit on the sidelines too long.

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