The Tools Don’t Matter

I used to blog a lot about tools and tricks.

I was so clever. I knew everything about various CRMS. I talked about sales techniques.  Till I bored myself.

Oh, I was smart.

Here’s the thing: the tools don’t matter.  As a salesperson you need about 3 things:

  • A place to find people to connect with them.  Could be the Rotary Club, Twitter, a forum, or conferences.  Could be your blog.  Could be some combination of these things.
  • A pitch to get in front of them.
  • A system for checking in and adding value.  This could be index cards, 43 Folders, a CRM.

That’s it. Everything else can more or less take care of itself.  You don’t need to spend time optimizing this stuff, you need to spend time executing.    People want to spend time optimizing nothing.

The art of the hustle is the important thing.  Focus on timing. Focus on adding value – in a real way.  It’s hard to do.  I want to talk to people daily but I have nothing to give.

Redbox Proof Your Business: What NOT to Do To Customers

Hollywood is PISSED.  They HATE Redbox146958_Redbox_LKH..  Why?  Because they have the BALLS to be customers.  They rent out movies to the customers at a buck a pop, and DARE to offer convenience to people.  Hollywood HATES that.  Warner Brothers hates Redbox so much that they even decided to sue Netflix for good measure.

If you’re in the Midwest like me, you’ve seen redboxes popping up everywhere: kiosks at seemingly every gas station, Kroger, where you can rent DVDs and Video games.  Put your credit card in, mess with a touch screen (that is badly designed), and you get a movie for a buck.  You don’t return it for a week?  No biggie, you bought it.  Simple, done.

Google does the opposite.  They built a search business so cool, and allowed people to build businesses alongside it.  Hell, they embraced it.  Embraced the innovation, embraced Internet marketers, and are thrilled to write big-ass-checks to people.

Redbox basically says: “how ’bout a movie rental, maybe a video game with that gas fill up.”  Cool.  They buy the damn movies to rent out to people, so it all works.   The studios have a big customer in Redbox.

The movie studios treat their customers badly.  Been to a movie lately?  Besides the overpriced concessions, you go in and are hypermonetized the entire time that you’re there.  From when you show up to when you leave, you’re talked at and sold to. When I was a kid, I  used to remember fondly going to the Piqua Twin Cinemas with my father, and talking before the start of movies like Ghostbusters or even The Untouchables. There was an event like silence in a partially darkened theater.

Now I gotta watch damn disrupting ads for dentists and “the coke side of life.”  It keeps me and my ADD addled self out of the theaters unless there is an event like movie.  Hollywood drives me out of being a customer because they make the experience positively horrible.  I’ll go see the Dark Knight. I’ll go to the dollar theater sometimes.  But a regular first run movie?  It’s gotta be great, or it’s gotta be Pixar.

They made the experience of being a customer so horrid, and are somehow aghast when someone does it better.  Think Blockbuster isn’t scared?  They’ve gotta be.  Go to rent a flick from Blockbuster.  Sure, sure we get good selection.  But you wait in a line a mile long that is deliberately slowed so you buy candy and magazines (at movie theater prices).  You pay $4 bucks, feel screwed over.  Redbox just gives you the damn movie.  And they are beating down Blockbuster.

So, with that said, how do you redbox proof your business?  How do you make it so that some nimble competitor can’t give you more:

  1. Be methodology neutral: if you’re in business providing widgets or knowledge, let the customer say how they want it.  Hourly, subscription fees, whatever, all on the table.  Don’t be obsessed with people doing things your way.
  2. Honor Your People:  Hollywood and Starbucks lost their way when they monetized their traffic and started selling crap to people that were there for coffee or movies.  Be nice, respect the intent of the customer.  Getting coffee isn’t permission to sell them itunes crap.
  3. Embrace Partners that Distribute For you: Hollywood should be thrilled to have someone buying their content, and should make it really easy for them to do so and make money.  So should you.  Anyone that’s a potential partner should be honored.  You should help them, high five them and invest in their success. (And even imitate them).
  4. Always get feedback, always make it easier: Blue ocean stuff here. Get customer feedback, collect data.  When are customers happy?
  5. Focus on EASY TRANSACTIONS: How easy is it for a customer to do business with you?  Focus on making it “dead simple.”   Keep the experience brief, and don’t add clutter or “tack on sales”  Be the best at say, selling coffee.  Forget CDs and stuffed animals.  Forget extended warranties.  Or at least subordinate that to selling coffee and having a quiet “third place”.

What if Hollywood had said, “Kiosks? Cool.  Let’s make some. Oh, and let’s make ‘em REALLY good.  let’s charge $2 bucks, but let’s give MORE value for $2 bucks.”

[Unrelated [Note: This is the last post for a couple of weeks here GenuineChris.Com. I'm going to do a new home page that helps people figure me out and where I fit in. I'm focusing all of my stuff on two channels, and will be building up http://FlatRateWebJobs.Com as my new business identity.  I'll have more in a bit. If anyone wants to guest post, please let me know so my 250 readers aren't left in the lurch]]

What’s in a Name? Not Much, Only Anti-Marketing

Right Right Now.

Guerrilla.ME.

New Market Survival Guide.

Confusing names. None of them tells people what I do for a living.  None of ‘em answers a question.  And, nobody could spell Guerrilla.  Those were the things that I was trying to call my business for a long time.  Those were the names of my company.  And none of ‘em say a damn thing about what I do for a living, none of ‘em say anything or even resemble what I was making my living doing.

I paid for design and logos.  For what?

I was dead wrong naming my company this stuff.  Guerrilla.ME was clever, seemed an ‘aha moment.’  But the thing is, nobody can spell ‘guerrilla’  “Gue–two ‘r’s and”  the .ME domain confuses the buhjeezus out of people.   And I don’t have the pull or desire to brand something.  Personal branding is worthless, anyway.

Nobody knew what I did, I’d have to explain it, and that causes a tiny bit of anxiety.  Anxiety = resistance.  People–in this economy especially-have their guard up.  Trolls are everywhere, and people who have been burned before…would be confused.  A few people resonated with the Guerrilla stuff, but the fact is this: that was a stolen idea, a copyright of someone else.  Not the way I want to play.

So I figured out how I want to do business:  No bullshit.  No hassle.  No haggle.  Products & services on a “take it or leave it,” basis that have insane value.  Real tools that real businesses can use, understand and profit from.

More on this in the near future.

But I will be some variant of “flat rate web jobs.”

If the Offer Still Stands: A Great Attitude for Business

About a year ago, maybe a little more, I started using a designer named Kasey Kelly. He’s done a about 40% of the total output from stuff you see on the web.  I like his ethos, efficency and work.  He and his brother Issac created a site called Servee, and for those folks not wanting to use/learn WordPress it might be a fit.

The phrase that he contributed to my thinking was this: “If the offer still stands.”  He did a logo for Right Right Now, an idea I had on creating a small project specialty company.  The idea was OK, maybe, the logo looked great.  He got back to me a day or so later and said, “If the offer still stands…I’d like to work on this project.”

He’s done a about 40% of the total output from stuff you see on the web.  I like his ethos, efficency and work.  He and his brother Issac created a site called Servee, and for those folks not wanting to use/learn WordPress it might be a fit.

The phrase that he contributed to my thinking was this: “If the offer still stands.”  He did a logo for Right Right Now, an idea I had on creating a small project specialty company.  The idea was OK, maybe, the logo looked great.  He got back to me a day or so later and said, “If the offer still stands…I’d like to work on this project.”   The humility of that phrase, and the earnestness was top shelf, and it struck me at the time as a good ethos.

I’ve employed, off and on, probably 15 people in the last year, all freelancers.  Maybe as many as 20.  I’ve sought quotes from probably another 10 or 12.

One common theme is this: the outrage when a bid is passed on.  I sought a quote recently for a project that I wound up outsourcing for $500.  I sent the bid out on Monday to 3 people, in separate emails.  I said that I’d go with the first person with a reasonable offer/delivery time.  One guy did the work, no harm, no foul, Tuesday.    One guy passed due to schedule reasons.   The third guy gets back to me late on Wednesday saying that the work could be done by Friday or Saturday.

I told him hey, I got this handled.

I got a 912 word email telling me that I was treating him  badly.  That I didn’t know what I was doing, and that I should lose his email.  I’ve sent the man 7 offers, he did and was paid for 4 of the 7.   He declined one, and didn’t get back on another.  Then there was this gig.   The one that I undervalued him.   I probably ask too many people for quotes, but I don’t think I’m too far off base.

Sure, sure: best practice for sure would have been to send a follow up and close the loop.   Just like best practice is to ALWAYS acknowledge both delivery of a job and payment for the job.  But, I don’t want to create a race to the bottom.  I don’t want to make it so that I play people off each other, make a weirdo competitive thing.  I want people to do the work, I had that gig pegged at between $350-600, and $500 was in the range.

Anyway, if more than a day passes, confirming that “the offer still stands,” is a great best practice for accepting a bid and taking in work.  It’s a great way to start and keep a relationship, and it’s a great idea long term.

A Preview: 8-15-09 I’ll have a course up.

I’ve gotta do it.  Seriously.

I’ve been a real estate agent, and I know about a sales cycle that ends in the winter.  I know that business gets hardeer in the winter than it is during these delirious and delicious summer days.

Hell, I’ve gotta do it because Brian lit the path so well.

That course is excellent for copywriters, that book was excellent for people starting a business.   Buy the freelance X factor.  I did.  I also didn’t include an affiliate link there, because I don’t want anyone to be confused: buy it for your benefit, not mine.

So It’s Time To Create a Membership Course

I’m not a coder.  I’m not particularly good at writing.  I know a limited amount of PHP, and I use consumer level programs on my Mac.  Yet, I have security financially.  I have money coming in every day.  I don’t use PPC, and I don’t use anything that’s past twitter.  I know a small amount about SEO, but I’m no Wolf.

I’m making money despite this stuff.  I’m making money that has allowed me to take a $140k debt down to $35k in 19 months.  [Honesty box: we live in a hovel in the Midwest].

“It” is translating my hardscrabble sales skills into helping freelancers get clients.  I don’t consider myself a freelancer trainer, but what I did provides peace of mind.  I still have cash crunches, but I don’t have to take short cuts, I don’t have to lie cheat or steal.

“It” is ensuring that every freelancer knows what I know: that our security is only in our ability to provide service to others.

“It” is to create a membership site–a brief training class, say 12 weeks.  This will give people the playbook for how I got business last December.  How I’ll get more this December.    Time is moving fast, friends.   Time is the enemy of freelancers.

Getting into the “broke cycle” sucks.  You get confused.  You get screwed up.  I know.  I’ve been there.  I’ve been levied by the IRS, I’ve been knocked around hard.   Your mind doesn’t work, not at all, when you’ve gotta sweat your living.  Freelancers, those that are striking out a path deserve to have some light on it.

This Christmas can be a glut of consumerist anxiety spending, or this Christmas can be a celebration of peace and prosperity.  Your choice.

Stay tuned, put your name in the box to the right, and in about a week I’ll have the details.

Details Friday.

Blogging Goals | Company Vision | More

list of goals, yellow legal pad, mission statement, 100 days.  Not too much time, not so much that if I fritter it away anything will be OK.  Not too little time that if I get a little behind I’ll never do it.  But the deal is this:  I’ve got to go after sales at Guerrilla.ME.

I was given verbal info on my dispensation with the IRS.  Good times.  The figure is in the $35k range.  Managable, but it could get out of hand.  They are putting me on an installment agreement instead of a ‘submit financials all the time’ agreement.  Criminal Investigations won’t be a part of my life.  All good things.

So the uncertainty that has paralyzed me is gone.  The excuses for not taking action is gone.  And I don’t have to lay awake at night wondering what the dispensation is gonna be.  I just have to get after it.

And to get it out of my life, forever, is gonna take a big burst of work.  Something I’ve never done.  I need to knock this out.  My systems and videos are finally built.  If I learn to trust Infusionsoft, they will get better.

What I’ve done in the distant past is to use this blog for a forum to hold myself accountable.  I’m going to do it again–here.  That’s the current (and only) point of this blog.  To be accountable to what I wanna do in my business.  To expose my life to the point where you can watch me win.

000_0005So.  The pic to the right? A little macbook, and a foam core board with 100 spaces on it.  That will be who I sell.  I’ll put the URL in mind every time I sell & deliver a blog.  Blog sales are 45% of my revenue now.  I want that to be more.

The first post wes me at my sit down desk, thinking about what I want the vision of my company to be.  I want it to be different, I want it to be what I want it to be.  I want it to honor my customers.  I want to help and sell.  I have big dreams, starting with customers first, & meaning it.  Having a high level of service.

More on this in a moment.

For now, I’m committed to 100 new bloging customers in 100 days.  I’m doing it, period.

Want to be the first in the process?  Http://guerrilla.me/thesisblogs

As is always the case, more to come.