Nothing beats experience when it comes to learning, but reading what key lessons helped others achieve business success comes in a competent second.
The risk in learning only from personal experiences is that we often draw conclusions from little data. That is, we learn too much from too little and keep missing the lessons that helped propel others to the top echelons of their profession.
1. You can achieve your dreams, but there are no shortcuts. Put in the hard work.
You’ve made a promise that at some future date, you’ll do something. This means that what you’re actually selling is your honesty.
Tricks and gimmicks (e.g. black-hat search engine optimization, payment plans that are hard to opt-out of, swimsuit models for unrelated products or services) are a form of bait-and-switch and say the same thing. They tell prospects that you’re willing to trick them. Don’t.
If you said you’d do something actually do it the right way, which is usually also the harder way. Others will love you for it. And you’ll have one more person on your side to help you achieve your dreams.
2. No excuses. Period.
The client doesn’t care about the challenges you’re facing to deliver your product or service on time. Deliver. On time.
Oh, and more more thing: sweat the small stuff. Really. They can make a huge difference in how clients perceive you and, incidentally, to your bottom line.
3. Passionately care about solving others’ problems.
Forget about your offer. What really matters in a business conversation is the buyer. Find out what they want, what they need, who they are.
Truly care about their business and be ready to do deliver on exactly what they need, which may mean that you’ll need to partner with others to make your ideas happen.
Don’t pretend. Show your true self. Truly care.
4. Premium service comes at premium pricing. Don’t offer discounts or compete on pricing.
Companies often set their rates by studying the usual, high, and low rates, and then deciding where they fall on the quality spectrum. This pricing approach tells customers exactly how good the company really thinks it is.
If you price in the middle, what you are communicating is “we’re not the best, and neither is our price, but both our service and our price are fairly good” and that’s not a very compelling message.
5. Build a distinctive brand
Don’t underestimate the value of a brand – it makes selling easier, faster, and cheaper.
Prospects feel more comfortable, and less fearful, with a brand they’re familiar with. For the same amount of selling effort, a well branded service makes more sales than a poorly branded service.
“No one ever got fired for choosing IBM” is an old saying that also applies to how people choose brand-name products and services.
In a world of quick decision-making people need shortcuts to make the right decisions and almost nothing beats a brand.
BONUS: Integrity. Keep it at the heart of your brand.
The most desirable products and services are those who keep their promises. At the heart of any brand is the integrity of the company and its employees.
The value of a brand rises and falls with every interaction we have with it. We’ve all worked with a brand that failed us by lying and from that one experience it lost all its value to us. When others asked us about the company, we might have said little, but our opinion of it was clear, and it spread.
At the core of your brand’s long term success is the integrity of the people behind it.
I’d love to learn what your thoughts are about these business lessons. By the way, what lessons have you learned along the way?
This article was inspired by the book “Selling the invisible: a field guide to modern marketing” by Harry Beckwith. Thanks a lot to Wil Reynolds, CEO of the internet marketing agency SEER Interactive for giving me a copy of this brilliant book.