Advertising
Advertising

If your business disappeared tomorrow…

If your business disappeared tomorrow…

20090308-disappeared-business

    If your business disappeared tomorrow, would anybody miss you?

    No one wants to close their doors. But let’s imagine the unthinkable: how would your customers respond if you did have to close up shop? Imagine two scenarios…

    Scenario one: you disappear and no one notices… That would be a disaster, but what would it tell you? Maybe it tells you that whatever needs your service or product fulfilled, a competitor was able to replace. What you had to offer was a commodity, and all commodities are replaceable.

    Scenario two: you close your doors and your customers wander around dazed and confused; they can’t imagine life without you. That would be remarkable, but again, what does this scenario tell you? It tells you that no one else could meet your customers’ needs the way you did. Whatever you had to offer was not a commodity.

    Advertising

    We all want to survive and we all want to thrive. But how cool would it be if your customers needed you to survive even more than you did? What would you be prepared to do to be that irreplaceable?

    Any commodity you sell can be replaced, often more cheaply, by someone else. People selling commodities are always looking over their shoulders. So what is not a commodity? What can you offer your customers that can’t be replaced? The answer is: a relationship.

    A relationship is the opposite of a commodity.

    Relationships are as unique as snowflakes. No two customers, no two businesses, and therefore no two relationships, are exactly the same. They cannot be reproduced – not more quickly, not more cheaply. Not at all. And what cannot be reproduced cannot be competed against. A relationship is the ultimate ‘unique competitive advantage’.

    How do we create a unique relationship with our customers? You can start by answering some key questions.

    Advertising

    1. Who are your customers? Do you really know them? What do they want, what do they hate, what will they splurge on and what do they buy in bulk, where do they live, what excites them, what are their values?
    2. Do you know what your customers value your business for? What brings them through your door? What do you have that they want? What do you offer that makes them choose you over your competitors?
    3. What are your customers’ triggers? What ‘language’ do they speak? What gesture can you make that would make your customers feel like you ‘get them’? What can you bring to the relationship that will make them feel like they are truly important when you do business with them? What words and images speak to your customers?

    Answer these questions with confidence and accuracy and you will already be huge strides ahead of others in your market.

    Remember, the answers shouldn’t be about a product or service! If the only thing that you know about your customers is what your in-store stats tell you, or that your customers value your business for great parking, or that their trigger is a loss leader sale on detergents, you need to ask better questions. Without better answers, your business will still be about commodities. 2-for-1 pricing is not the basis of a great relationship.

    When you can paint a picture of your customer, yourself, and your relationship, in sharp colours, then you have the most important part of creating the customer experience we are after. You are then ready to ensure that your customers have a relationship-based experience every time they do business with you.

    There are many ways you can create unique relationships with your customers. Here are a few suggestions:

    Treat your customers as individuals with names. Who doesn’t like to go into a shop to be greeted by name and to be asked if you’ll have ‘your usual’? Make it a practice to have a conversation with every customer who comes through the door. Exchange names if it is appropriate. Keep a few notes of key conversations, likes and dislikes. Share information about key customers at staff meetings.

    Advertising

    Make your customers feel like they are on the inside. Everyone loves to feel like they are part of an ‘inner circle’. Give your customer insider tips on your industry. Give away trade ‘secrets’ for free; not big ones, not all of them, but enough to let them know that you are on their side.

    Educate. Take the time to provide ‘rich’ information to your customers. Keep them informed about new developments in your industry, and about trends that are affecting the products and services they are buying. Everyone loves being ‘in the know’ and these days, particularly younger consumers, are educated and looking for the ‘back story’ on what they are getting.

    Show your customers they matter more than their money. How did Radiohead and Trent Reznor make a fortune giving away music for free? They understood that relationships with their fans matter more than their money. And their fans reward them royally. You don’t have to give your business away, but you can find ways to go that extra mile without charging for it.

    Get out there. Still on the ‘matter more than money’ theme, though on a larger scale, this is about community service initiatives. Become more than a business, become an active member of your community. Like any great relationship, you get back what you put in.

    Give your customers something to talk about. Do something remarkable for them. It doesn’t have to be anything huge, it doesn’t have to be every time, but it has to be remarkable enough that it makes people talk about you. A little gift, a special delivery, a few more minutes of your time… Whatever it is, be consistently remarkable, and people will talk.

    Advertising

    And most important of all…
    Talk with your customers. There is no substitute for conversation to build a relationship. No survey, no marketing report, can take the place of a conversation. Never miss an opportunity to give customers a chance to talk about themselves, and about the things that have brought them into your business. Ask questions. And when they talk, listen. Really listen. You are listening for two things in particular: anything that gives you more information about who your customers are, and anything that tells you why they are with you now. These two pieces of information are critical, because with them you can continue to feed the ‘great experience’ positive feedback loop. If you know intimately who your customer is, and why they come to you, you are more able to tailor their experience of your business to their needs and triggers.

    The more you can do to build relationships with your customers, the more they will come to feel that you understand them and their needs. You will have crossed that magical threshold where your customers come to you for a relationship and an experience, not for a commodity. They do business with you because they want that experience, and they value your relationship. And that cannot be reproduced.

    If you were to close your doors after developing relationships based on these suggestions, you would be missed indeed. But even better, you will have the customer loyalty that ensures you will never have to close your doors!

    More by this author

    The One Thing You Need to Close the Deal on Change If your business disappeared tomorrow… You Want Engagement? Then Start Being Clear! Are you Satisfied? Searching for a Shared Virtual Workspace?

    Trending in Work

    1 10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career 2 The Savvy Employees Guide to Asking for a Raise 3 Why You Feel Stuck in Your Career After Staying in a Job Longterm 4 10 Simple Yet Powerful Business Goals to Set This Year 5 How to Make Career Decisions That You Will Not Regret for Life

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on April 17, 2019

    10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

    10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

    What’s the secret of professional success? Some of it lies in the mastery of your discipline and all the technical skills you have to carry out your job; but a much bigger part lies in the soft skills list you possess.

    Soft skills are your people or relationship skills—how well you get along with others and your ability to communicate and collaborate—as well as the personal characteristics you bring to the job, such as optimism, a can-do attitude and the motivation to work hard. These skills are not always easy to point out, but their absence can cause serious problems and negatively affect the whole work atmosphere.

    They say that hard skills will help you get the job, but soft skills will help you get along—and get ahead. With that in mind, here’s the top-10 essential soft skills list to help you advance your career.

    1. Communication Skills

    Communication skills are hands-down the most sought-after soft skill that bosses want, and this one ability covers a lot of ground.

    To communicate well, you have to listen carefully, interpret the context of the conversation, express yourself clearly, persuade others of your point of view, check your body language and use an engaging presentation style that won’t intimidate or bore your audience. That’s a big ask!

    Your personality traits can influence the way you communicate with others. For instance, some people get straight to the point and center their arguments around facts and logic; others are cooperative and sensitive to how others feel. Both these approaches are equally valuable but there can be misunderstandings if you don’t understand where the other person is coming from.

    Taking a comprehensive personality test can help you understand why you communicate the way you do and where your blind spots are. It can also help you understand other communication styles is so you can tailor your communication to the person you’re dealing with.

    After all, connecting with your conversation partner is the hallmark of good communication.

    2. Flexibility

    Change is an essential part of any business. Companies need employees who are flexible enough to work with new initiatives, open to new ideas, and generally are able to tough it out when things don’t go as planned.

    Research has found a link between job performance and flexibility over the long term because there will be times when you have to step outside your routine and rise to fresh challenges that didn’t exist before.

    Being flexible doesn’t mean you have to hop into a new task or job role like an expert. Rather, it’s about showing you’re willing to accept new responsibility and learn different things.

    Advertising

    Bosses look for people who are prepared to step outside their comfort zones and are open to alternative solutions when their first idea doesn’t work.

    3. Being a Team Player

    Working on a team can be challenging but learning to do it well can definitely help you get ahead in your career. Employers look for people who can negotiate, cooperate and manage conflicts with other people to achieve a common goal. That includes the ability to build lasting relationships with customers and clients.

    What makes a good team player? Essentially, it’s someone who knows the goal and knows her role. Employers look for evidence that you know your strengths, your responsibilities and how you can best contribute to the team, then put those skills into action by sharing ideas and communicating in a respectful manner. That’s the definition of being a good team player.

    This is another area where taking a personality test can help you get ahead. When teams work together, each member brings a unique set of skills and qualities to the group. Research has shown that different combinations of personalities affect how teams collaborate and how productive they are.

    Knowing who you are, and how you work on a team, can drive new insights and open the door to better teamwork.

    4. Positive Mental Attitude

    There are plenty of things you can’t change at work, like the people you work with or the fact that the printer is broken again. The one thing you can change is how much you let these things bother you.

    Bosses like people who are calm, rational and upbeat—those who diffuse tensions in the workplace, not get all grouchy and go around slamming doors.

    Studies show that people who maintain a sunny disposition have better relationships at work, are happier in their jobs and make better decisions than those who whine and complain. Some suggest that a positive mental attitude can also make you live longer—which means it’s beneficial for every area of your life![1]

    It’s not always easy to keep a “glass half full” mentality when work is stressful and the deadlines are piling up. But there are some things you can do to help maintain a positive attitude. Laughing at your unfortunate circumstances keeps the work environment positive, and taking “sanity” breaks can help you keep your cool in high-pressure situations.

    Managers look for positive mental attitude in a team member that is ready for a promotion, so it really does pay to keep your cool in challenging situations.

    5. A Strong Work Ethic

    People with a strong work ethic are committed to the role, persevere when things get tough and are inspired by challenge. These people are ambassadors for the organization, and will always be seen as top talent and ideal candidates.

    Advertising

    If you can exhibit this skill, then expect to be seen as a great candidate, eligible for new opportunities and positions throughout your career.

    Since a strong work ethic can mean different things to different people, it helps to show specific examples of your exceptional work ethic during a performance appraisal or interview. For instance, you might talk about:

    • A time when you persisted in the face of challenges and did not shy away from hard work.
    • How you volunteered to help with projects even though these tasks did not form part of your job description.
    • The networking, workplace learning and skills betterment you’ve undertaken, which shows ambition and drive (people with a strong work ethic have those qualities in spades).
    • How you own your mistakes and never, ever point the finger of blame at others.

    For help with building a strong work ethic, check out these tips: How to Build a Reliable Work Ethic

    6. Public Speaking

    Who’s terrified of public speaking? Pretty much everyone, since public speaking is America’s number one fear, ahead of death at number five and loneliness at number seven.

    Yet, according to Warren Buffett, mastering this one skill you could increase your personal value by 50 percent.[2] That’s huge!

    If you’re not natural at public speaking, you’re in good company. Buffett had to work hard to overcome his stage fright and once dropped out of a public-speaking course before it started—because he was afraid of public speaking! He eventually realized that he needed to build up his confidence by just doing it; over and over in front of small groups.

    For a more structured approach, Toastmasters International teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a variety of pathways. Membership of this non-profit looks good on your resume but the real payoff will come when you can put your newfound skills to use on the job or in the interview room.

    Or, you can check out this advice: The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

    7. Integrity

    From a manager’s point of view, the two integrity skills that will set you apart are:

    • Always doing what you say you will do
    • Owning an error instead of minimizing or hiding it

    …even when no one is around to check up on you.

    There are lots of people who have climbed the ladder without scruples, but they are not the people who others trust, respect and support when promotion time comes around.

    Advertising

    Behaving with integrity is a safe and consistent way to enhance your reputation and achieve your professional goals.

    8. Managing Your Time

    Phone calls, texts, Slack pings, meetings, huddles, side projects, multitasking—we are busier today than any generation before us. There’s no denying the workplace is an incredibly distracting place to be.

    A lot of us have traded effectiveness for busyness which we wear as a badge of honor, both as a proxy for productivity and to show our value to the company. But what bosses want, what they really, really want, is someone who actually gets stuff done on time.

    Time management is not merely the art of being on time, but of managing your time so you focus on the projects that really matter and add value to the business. This means prioritizing well, sticking to schedules, delegating, and not getting distracted by tasks that are easier to perform or less important. It means planning ahead and learning when it’s appropriate to say no.

    Time management can be a tough skill to maintain, but not a difficult one to pick up. Monitor your actions for a few days—how long do your tasks take to finish? What’s interrupting you? What causes you to lose focus? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can set a schedule for yourself to make sure you’re spending your time wisely and this valuable asset is never wasted.

    These 20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity are also great to try.

    9. Assertiveness

    In any workplace, you typically will find people with the following conflict styles:

    • Passive: Those who go out of their way to avoid conflict.
    • Passive-aggressive: Those who express their negative feelings through actions rather than words.
    • Aggressive: Those who respond to conflict in a hostile and rude manner. These people get their opinion heard but they won’t make any friends in the process.
    • Assertive: People who stick up for their rights while still respecting the rights of others.

    Managers look for assertiveness above all other styles because it allows decisions to be made without conflict or alienating people.

    How do you use this information for yourself?

    It starts with understanding your personality so you can anticipate how you will react when conflict arises and address your own shortcomings. Then, you can start influencing the team for top results, and securing your own career advancement in the process.

    Learn how to be assertive and gain respect:

    Advertising

    How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way

    10. Creative Thinking

    LinkedIn recently analyzed over 50,000 skills that employers search for when looking for candidates to find out what skills are currently in demand.[3] Taking the number-one slot on the 2019 soft skills list was creativity: the ability to solve problems and think outside the box.

    Creativity is about bringing fresh, and sometimes unorthodox, ideas to the table. This helps companies to innovate, and companies that do not innovate will not survive very long.

    How do you showcase your creative thinking skills? The golden rule is to participate.

    Be brave and share your ideas during group brainstorming sessions. Volunteer to run a society, networking event or recruitment drive. Ask “what if” questions: “What if we add this information to the client welcome pack?” “What if we eliminate step 3 from the process?”

    These activities demonstrate that you’re prepared to go beyond “business as usual” towards creative problem solving—an ability that will serve you every day, all throughout your career.

    You can learn to unleash your creativity power:

    What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

    Final Thoughts

    The good news? Every item on this soft skills list can be learned. Although you may feel lacking in certain areas, taking an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to focus in on the areas that you’ll benefit from developing.

    So take an inventory of your personality, skills, and talents. This will give you a baseline for your communication style, attitude to change, conscientiousness and more. You can then identify your weak areas and develop strategies for improving your team-building, assertiveness and conflict skills.

    The better news? The effort is worth it. Developing your soft skills opens the door to a new job or a promotion, and helps you succeed once you get there.

    More Articles to Help Advance Your Career

    Featured photo credit: Rachael Gorjestani via unsplash.com

    Reference

    Read Next