Thursday, July 31, 2008

Do You Use Meaningless Words?

Tele-sales consultant Art Sobczak of www.BusinessByPhone.com reminds us that when we are selling, we have just 10 seconds or less to capture a listener's attention, break their preoccupation with what they’re doing, and place them in a positive, receptive frame of mind.

That's why you must never “muddy up your call with wasted words, or meaningless words.”

Here are some of the words and phrases that Sobczak considers overused and essentially meaningless:
* "cost-effective"
* "leading," or "premier," as in, "We're the leading company in this field." According to whom?
* "solution provider" (Who isn't?)
* "I'd like to discuss how we can meet your needs."

Sobczak offers this advice for your next sales call: Use clear terminology to quickly create interest. “Do this by alluding to what you might be able to do for them, and then asking a question.”

Example: “Art, depending on how you're using your existing list of customers, we might have a way to help you get two or three times the amount of repeat business you're doing now. I'd like to ask a few questions to see if it would make sense for us to speak further."

He finishes his article by quoting French essayist Joseph Joubert: "Words, like eyeglasses, blur everything that they do not make more clear."

Monday, July 28, 2008

Best-Ever Entrepreneurship Quotes, Week 95

A special motivational message.

“I'm not a dreamer, and I'm not saying this will initiate any kind of definitive answer or cure to cancer, but I believe in miracles. I have to.”

Terry Fox, 1958-1981
Canadian dreamer. Canadian hero.

Terry Fox was born on July 28, 1958. He lost a leg to cancer in 1977. In October 1979 he asked the Canadian Cancer Society to support his run across Canada to raise money for cancer research. His letter included the above quote.

Terry's Marathon of Hope saw him run halfway across Canada on an artificial leg before his illness forced him off the road. He died in June 1981. Since then, the annual Terry Fox Run and related charities have raised $400 million for cancer research.

Today is Terry’s birthday. He would have been 50 years old.

What's your dream?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Working ON your business, not in it

In his classic book The E-Myth, Michael Gerber identified the No. 1 challenge of entrepreneurship: working on your business, not in it.

But how do you make that leap from day-to-day “technician” to visionary executive?

In the E-Myth blog this week, Susan offers a simple process for busy entrepreneurs.
Her first point: Take one step at a time.

“Baby steps are better than nothing,” she says.

Next: “Make the most of your time,” she says. Free up time by taking control of your to-do list: Organize, Prioritize, Book the Time, and Delegate.

“Effective Time Management” is all about keeping a Time Log. A time log enables you to learn how your time is actually spent, and helps you put a value that time. The process shows you just how expensive you are to employ. You’re probably doing a lot of technical work that you could pay somebody else to do—just as well—for less money.

For more information and lots of great ideas, see Weber’s full article here.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Best-Ever Entrepreneurship Quotes, Week 94

Here’s your weekly motivational message, intended to get your week off to an inspiring start.

"How you think when you lose determines how long it will be until you win."

G.K. Chesterton, British author and essayist, 1874-1936

Friday, July 18, 2008

What’s going on with e-commerce in Quebec?

Is Quebec falling behind in online retailing?

Internet strategy specialist Jean-Francois Renaud of Montreal-based consultants Adviso wonders in a recent article why Quebec companies offer so few transactional websites.

More than 40% of Quebecers bank online, but only 19% of consumers shop online. Renaud blames that dismal performance on the fact that Quebec companies don't take e-commerce seriously: 93% of them do not sell online.

“It is mostly the large websites with well developed English versions that have a real e-commerce presence online,” writes Renaud in a recent newsletter. Yet he is convinced that Quebecers, like consumers everywhere, want to use their computers to shop, to read up on future purchases and explore store locations.

He also warns that e-commerce is the future. “Who will be the consumers of tomorrow and of the next 10 years? Generation Y, the greediest and most exacting when it comes to the information found on websites they visit. This generation places importance on a web presence and values sites that offer just that.”

To demonstrate how businesses are missing out, Renaud compares two Quebec retailers, each of which has between 50 and 100 stores. “One offers a transactional website that is extremely developed offering all their products and more, has an aggressive email marketing strategy, and web promotions with the goal of driving store traffic. The other has a prehistoric transactional website that is not even Web 1.0.”

The result? The first store boasts more than 50 times the online revenues of the second store. “In short, it is more than a profitable project.”

To be fair, Renaud notes that it’s hard to find good e-commerce solution providers in Quebec. Many offer entry-level solutions and some offer costly state-of-the-art systems, but “few providers offer a medium solution, for projects between $25,000 and $75,000.”

Sounds like a market offering a few opportunities...

You can read Renaud’s complete article here.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Why Blockbuster busted

Long before he became leader of the Green Party, Jim Harris was a business writer and strategist. His best-selling book Blindsided was one of the first great expressions of the new disruptive economy, in which established businesses can be skunked almost overnight by aggressive new competitors with innovative approaches.

Now that he’s a former politician, Harris is back to writing/speaking/disrupting. In the latest issue of Backbone magazine (which covers business and technology), he looks at how the once-mighty Blockbuster chain has been squeezed by video-rental upstart Netflix.

“One day in 2000, a tiny start-up company met with the Blockbuster execs. It offered to sell a majority of the company for a US$50-million investment. And the Blockbuster execs looked at the little company’s business model and decided it was deeply flawed. Instead, the wise Blockbuster execs signed an exclusive 20-year video on demand (VOD) deal with Enron.

"The little rejected company was Netflix, and it soon grew up: as of May 2008, it was worth US$1.9 billion. Blockbuster is valued at US$345 million.”

(I love the little dig about Enron. Enron! Who knew?)

Netflix is an online movie rental service with 8.2 million subscribers who can access more than 100,000 movie and TV titles. Its most popular subscription plan lets customers rent three titles at a time, with no due dates, late fees or shipping charges (on an unlimited number of rentals), for just $16.99 a month.

With Blockbuster now closing many of its stores and Netflix gaining market share in the video download market, Harris declares, “Blockbuster can’t survive in its current form.”

For the full story, click here.

(In Canada, Zip.ca does much the same thing as Netflix. This year it wil ship its 10 millionth DVD.)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Your 10-Point Guide to Speaking and Selling

My column in the Post this week offers 10 tips for more effective public speaking.

(Guaranteed applicable to story-telling, sales presentations, copywriting, and other common marketing situations.)

Check them out here.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Best-Ever Entrepreneurship Quotes, Week 93

Here’s the latest entry in our 100-part series of inspirational quotes, personally selected to get your week off to an inspiring start.

This week, the secret of selling - and of not being sold.

"Life is pain. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something.”

William Goldman, novelist and screenwriter

The Princess Bride

Thursday, July 10, 2008

How to stay up to date and out of the sun

Montreal marketing guru Mitch Joel has just started writing a column for in the Montreal Gazette. His inaugural column reveals how to get started in digital media.

“Without a doubt, my answer is always the same,” he says. “Get yourself a news reader (also known as a RSS reader). I prefer Google Reader, but you can use iGoogle, My Yahoo!, Netvibes or any other Web-based tool that enables you to subscribe to websites.”

Here's the benefit of a news reader: When you find content information you like on the Web, the Internet will notify you when the website or blog has been updated. No more searching for the news: it comes to you!
Joel also recommends you start reading up: some of the world’s best marketers share their expertise freely on their blogs, so why not take advantage of these gifts? His seven favourites:
- Chris Brogan blogs about how business can better build communities.
- Seth Godin “The best-selling marketing author… Godin's posts are short, pithy and brilliant.” (Seth is also a favorite here at Canadian Entrepreneur.)
- GrokDotCom is the corporate blog from Future Now Inc. It focuses on “the human reactions to marketing, sales, PR and media.”
- How to Change the World - the personal blog of Guy Kawasaki, for entrepreneurs and start-ups. (I love this one too.)
- ReadWriteWeb – “If something cool is happening on the Web and it affects business, it's on ReadWriteWeb.”
- TechCrunch – “It's about all things geeky, but in an understandable context.”
- Web Strategy - By Jeremiah Owyang, a senior analyst at Forrester Research. “The latest and greatest on what companies are (and should be) doing in business today.”
More summer reading to keep you out of the sun!

You can read Joel’s column here, or visit his blog here.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Best-Ever Entrepreneurship Quotes, Week 92

Here’s the latest entry in our series of motivational quotes, personally selected to get your week off to an inspiring start.

This week, a seasonal cue to understanding customer behaviour.

"People don't notice whether it's winter or summer when they're happy."
Anton Chekhov
Russian physician, playwright and short-story writer, 1860-1904.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Flying High in an Industry Downturn

Did you know 2.5 million people will fly with Montreal-based Air Transat this year?

The plucky charter airline, barely 20 years old, continues to thrive while big scheduled airlines cut back. And it’s improving its customer service, not cutting back.

How do they do it? Travel writer Sam Ion chatted with the company’s brass and produced this report.

Based on her findings, I would say the secret is:
1) Know your niche.
2) Service the heck out of it.
3) Invest in training so your people know the right way to treat your customers – especially if you're asking for problematic things such as fuel surcharges.
4) Integrate vertically to expand your services while controlling costs.

As Air Transat president and CEO Allen B. Graham, told Ion, "In the end, giving customers what they want is all that matters.”

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Jim Estill: Solid Gold

Globetrotting CEO blogger Jim Estill of Guelph-based Synnex Canada is blogging up a storm, even during his current trip to China. As always, his observations on business, productivity and life are pure gold.

In this post, he writes about 10 shortcuts for mastering speed-reading. They're all quite doable, starting with No. 1, "Know your purpose. What are you trying to learn?"

In "Managing Gowth Businesses," Jim finds time during his trip to China to blog about the six keys to successful mission statements.

And in a June 5 post called "Junior Achievement Banquet," Jim muses on the difference between small businesses and big ones - and why there will always be opportunities for entrepreneurs and startups.

Here's how he sums up the advantages that small business has.

"I always love the enthusiasm of youth. I love that many of them want to start businesses. Their fears in starting a business are that other companies are bigger, more established and have more resources.

"My fear as a larger business is exactly the opposite. We have resources and are well established but this means we are not as nimble as we need to be. It means things can cost more than they should. Overheads can be higher. The battle for larger business is to try to act small."

There's lots more good stuff from Jim. Just click on www.jimestill.com and read down till you stop learning.