Sunday, July 25, 2010

Thinking Differently About Change – “Letting Go”

image This article was written by Steve Day, SCORE Orange County Management Counselor

In a prior newsletter article, I reviewed a different way to think about change. This different way, based on the book “Managing Transitions”, by William Bridges, begins with endings and ends with beginnings.

Endings, the “letting go” phase of the change process, is usually the most difficult part of change, so let’s focus on how we can help small business owners and employees let go of some baggage that may hold them back from successful change.

First of all, what do we mean by “baggage” in this context? Change baggage usually includes habits, relationships, environments, comfort zones, warm-and-fuzzies. Successful change doesn’t require letting go of everything, just those things that will block progress to a new beginning, a successful change. When you are assisting a person going through change, the best things you can do are to detect the baggage items, surface them, suggest ways to let go, and help people understand how letting go helps the change process.

Here are some things to keep in mind in these situations:

  • Be prepared for overreaction when helping people to let go. There will be emotions involved, and some people will find it very challenging to put aside ideas or habits that are in their comfort zone.
  • Expect some grieving, and let it happen. Grieving takes many different forms, and you may not see it first-hand. But if you’ve just told a person that a cherished idea of theirs probably won’t work, they may take it hard. Give them time and space. Also give them some alternatives to think about. Providing options is one of the most crucial things we do when trying to manage people’s reaction to change.
  • At all times, be respectful of the person’s ideas, especially if you must advise them to go in a different direction.
  • Help the client define what is really over, and what is not. Perhaps some aspects of their idea are unrealistic (money required, time required for implementation), and should either be put aside entirely or dramatically altered. But there may be pieces and parts that can be salvaged and form the nucleus for a different idea. Letting go is made easier when the person can take a piece of the old idea with them. It’s not always possible, but it can be meaningful to achieving successful endings.
  • Encourage future meetings and communicate often and informally to see how the person is doing with the endings phase of change, especially if they need to let go of some big baggage items and if you’ve given them some alternatives to think about/work on. Inviting a person going through change to come back for more discussion is a signal that we care about helping them work through the process.

All business owners and managers have significant experience with managing change, even when we didn’t know anything about Endings, Neutral Zones, or Beginnings. Many of our staffers and friends have no such experience. We can help them deal with the rough spots, one of which can be letting go.

New SCORE Satellite Office opens in Laguna Beach

image This article was written by Jack Curtis, SCORE Orange County Management Counselor

A new satellite office was opened in Laguna Beach on June 15, 2010. It was established to offer free counseling and the other services provided by SCORE to business owners and entrepreneurs located in the coastal south portion of Orange County. It is expected to serve people from as far south as San Clemente and as far north as Corona Del Mar and inland to Aliso Viejo and neighboring communities.

The office is managed by SCORE chapter member Jack Curtis who is a 39 year resident of the city. Counseling appointments are accepted on the first and third Tuesdays of each month. There are four one hour appointments available each counseling day, beginning at 9:00 am. Appointments can be scheduled by calling the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce at 949-494-1018 or by going to the SCORE website at

A joint effort by SCORE and the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce, the office is located in the Chamber facility at 357 Glenneyre Street in Laguna Beach. Parking at the library is free. In addition there is a parking facility on Glenneyre Street that is less than half a block from the Chamber office.

In the future, it is expected that counseling will be offered every Tuesday rather than the first and third Tuesdays. Furthermore, the possibility of holding workshops at the Susie Q Senior Center in Laguna Beach is likely.

Importance of Follow-Up

image This article was written by Dennis Wright, SCORE Orange County Management Counselor

Not long ago my wife and I decided that we should do something on the slope at the edge of our property… something like removing all of the plants who were living (and thriving) there and putting in new plants that might also enjoy living (and thrive) there.

Given our new vision of grandeur I felt that it would be wise for us to hire a landscape designer / contractor and attempted to do so. After bidding the project though (I should add the $$$$ were considerable) the sales person and company management both failed to follow-up. Hard to believe, right?

Unfortunately this scenario is not uncommon. The old adage “a bird in hand is worth two in a bush” is applicable here… there I was, ready to buy, and all that was needed was a little push in the right direction; to be shown how wonderful the finished project would look, all without any physical pain or frustration on my part. Instead they were off chasing other new opportunities.

During the many years I worked in business to business sales I learned valuable lessons (sometimes the hard way) related to the importance of follow-up, lessons that can best be summed up by simply saying there is no substitute for regular contact before, during and after a sale. NONE.

Consider this:

Not every sale is made during the first attempt so there is significant value in being at the “head of the line” when a prospective customer begins to think about changing vendors. Regular follow-up helps to accomplish that.

You are building a relationship with a customer by staying involved throughout the process; from start to finish. Regular follow-up demonstrates that you care and minimizes the risk of something going astray.

There is always someone else trying to be at the “head of the line” when your customer or former customer begins to think about their next purchase. Regular follow-up after a sale goes a long way in terms of you remaining vendor of choice.

Nothing is more important than building a lasting relationship with customers, and it starts and ends with the amount of time and effort you devote to follow-up.

By the way, my wife also believes in regular follow-up, so in case you’re wondering, I have the slope that borders our property about half planted now and my work continues.

Your Price Is Too High!

image This article was written by Barry McKinley, SCORE Orange County Management Counselor

When you hear that statement from a potential client the next thing that you say may develop a new customer or chase them away forever. The best trained salespeople expect this question every time they make a presentation and are armed with intelligent responses. Clients who make a purchase have 58% more objections then non-buyers.

To prepare yourself for the Price Shopper, make a list of 10 reasons to buy your product or service. Give specific reasons, regarding your quality, specific performance, customer service, warranties, client testimonials and pricing policies. Be prepared to discuss these with your client explaining how your product or service’s features will benefit them.

  • Each time you present your product or service listen closely to your clients’ objections, learn from what they are saying and be sure to address and overcome those concerns in future presentations. The most common price objections are
          • Your price is too high
          • I can buy it for less at ……
          • Is this your best price?

What does the price objection tell you?

  • The client is a buyer
  • You have not presented your features properly
  • The client doesn’t understand the products/service benefits
  • You have a great chance to make a sale

Consider some of the following strategies you can use to overcome the price shopper. Refocus the client on the value rather than price alone. Put it in terms they can understand, “For only pennies a day more you can be enjoying the top of the line!” Get the client involved in determining the benefits they most desire and then emphasize those benefits.

Remind your client that price is only one way to measure value. In my last business, clients would complain that my hourly rate was 40% higher than my closest competitor. I would point out that my competitor was not “factory trained,” did not receive product updates or training, did not carry proper product insurance to protect the client, and most importantly because of their lack of training it took them twice as long to do the same job and the outcome was not as safe. I emphasized to the clients they would pay more in the long run and get less protection and warranty support. I would remind the clients for them to make an accurate price comparison the other company’s pricing had to be 75% less than mine (which I knew was not possible for them to attain and still support overhead). I also pointed out that the competitor still didn’t protect them on warranty claims or recalls. The final question I would ask them is “Why would you want to risk your safety and resell value and still pay more money?”

The most effective sales tool you have in your bag is probing! Without asking questions regarding pricing and the customer’s needs you are ‘shooting in the dark’. Many salespeople immediately drop their price when asked by the consumer. Not only does this hurt your profit margin but you also lose credibility with the customer. You have sent them the message that you were willing to overcharge or worst of all take advantage of them. If you are forced to give a price reduction get something in return! For example, tell your client “I will be glad to give you a price reduction on this second item when you purchase the first item”. Or offer a credit towards future business.

If you must cut your price, be sure to do the following

  • Verity the competitor’s price
  • Know what services, that are included in the price
  • Know your cost on the product or service
  • Know what your profit margin is and needs to be
  • Know what alternatives to suggest.

In thirty plus years of selling I have found the most effective response to “Price Is Too High! Is “COMPARED TO WHAT?”