Learn the Lost Art of Active Listening

November 24, 2020 by  

With all the modern technology that we have for communicating with each other even across the world, it seems that most people have forgotten how to with someone who is standing right next to them. In particular, listening has become a lost art.
That is too bad, too, because knowing how to listen effectively can bring you a lot of benefits. It can strengthen both personal and professional relationships. It can help your marriage and boost your career.

Consider using these listening techniques the next time someone wants to talk with you:
• Give them your undivided attention. Your other activities during a conversation show the other person how important they are to you. When you pay attention only to them, not only does it uplift them, but you are also more likely to fully understand whatever they are saying and prevent miscommunications.
 Stop whatever else you are doing.
 Put away your phone.
 Turn off other distractions, such as the TV.
 Stay in the present moment, which is listening to what they are saying. Avoid the temptation to let your mind wander to other things (like what you will eat for supper) or move forward to formulate what you will say next.

• Make eye contact. Failure to keep eye contact can make it seem as though you aren’t paying any attention to the conversation. One trick to help you maintain eye contact is to focus on just one of the person’s eyes at a time.
 You can look away momentarily from time to time, so it won’t appear as though you are staring at them. Once you look away, though, bring your focus back to them quickly so that you won’t get distracted by something else. Also, this cues them that you are still listening.

• When they stop talking, first summarize what you just heard them say. This will help you clarify their meaning. Let them agree with your summary or make changes if they need to. It will then be possible for you to add your own perspective, thoughts, or any questions you may have.

• Ask questions. Instead of trying to read someone’s mind, if you don’t understand what is being said, simply ask for clarification. This will ensure that no assumptions are made, and misunderstandings are avoided.
 Asking appropriate questions also lets them know that you were listening intently and trying to understand their perspective.

• Avoid interrupting. However, tempting it is to jump in with comments or solutions, keep quiet until they stop speaking and it is your turn.

 Sometimes people are just looking to vent and get their issues off their chest. Let them finish. They will appreciate you and it may help them relieve their stress about the issue. By saying nothing, you can help them feel better!

Remember, others won’t always be able to recall everything you say in a conversation, but they will likely remember how you made them feel.

You can uplift those around you, avoid misunderstandings, and strengthen your relationships by practicing these easy listening techniques each day.

Your partner, friends, boss, and clients will be impressed. So do reap the benefits of knowing the lost art of listening!

Be Accountable So You Can Be in Control of Your Actions

November 2, 2020 by  

The story of George Washing confessing to cutting down the cherry tree has also been useful for generations of parents as an example of taking accountability. As a child, you may have learned that it is more honourable to own up to your actions rather than blame others or make excuses about why it is the tree’s fault.
On the other hand, holding ourselves responsible can feel risky. Admitting our faults may threaten our self-image and open us up to criticism from others. It may seem safer to focus on external circumstances instead of looking at our own actions.
The truth is that you could be missing out on more happiness and success by trying to evade responsibility.

Learn more about the importance of developing personal accountability.

The Benefits of Accountability:
1. Build confidence. True self-esteem requires having the courage to take an honest look at yourself. Accept your weaknesses and missteps, as well as your strengths and accomplishments.
2. Make positive changes. Taking responsibility puts you in control of your life. You can learn and grow. You will show yourself that you are capable of adapting to change and handling the consequences of your actions. You can take action to resolve negative circumstances.
3. Strengthen your relationships. Earn trust by living up to your commitments. You will deepen your connection with family, friends, and coworkers.
4. Reduce stress. In the long run, facing the truth usually creates less anxiety than trying to cover it up. Being responsible allows you to enjoy greater peace of mind.

Tips for Being Accountable:
1. Evaluate your performance. Make it a habit to assess your role in any situation. While external events do matter, focusing on what you can control is more productive.
2. Monitor yourself. Pay attention to your behaviour even when there are no other witnesses around. Assume equal responsibility for successes and setbacks.
3. Set realistic goals. Do you sometimes excuse your conduct because you are trying to juggle too many activities? Respect your limits and shorten your to-do list. Creating priorities will help you to accomplish more.
4. Listen carefully. It is difficult to hear what others are saying when you are on the defensive. Listen with an open mind, so you can understand their position even if you disagree.
5. Apologize skillfully. Express regret promptly and sincerely when you let someone down. If possible, try to make amends and avoid repeating your mistakes.
6. Consider others. If you need another reason to work on accountability, think about your impact on others. Remember how you feel when a business or a loved one harms you and refuses to take responsibility.

Tips for Fostering Accountability:
1. Communicate clearly. Encouraging a more accountable culture makes it easier to assume responsibility. Start by clarifying your expectations and the consequences for not meeting them. Ensure that you understand what others expect of you as well.
2. Be forgiving. Help others to be truthful. Respond with mercy rather than anger. You are bound to need a second chance sometime too.
3. Exchange constructive feedback. Talk with others about how to make progress moving forward. Share specific observations, praise, and criticism. Be grateful for any insights they give you.
4. Provide a role model. By assuming more accountability, you can automatically have a positive impact on others. You will be teaching your children an important life lesson and contributing to a healthier workplace and society.

Accountability is a skill that grows stronger with practice. Take charge of your life by assuming responsibility for your actions. You will empower yourself to build the future you really want if you are accountable for your actions and generally take responsibility for everything you do.

The “FRESH” Method: 5 Things All Employees Want From Performance Reviews

October 6, 2020 by  

Managers and leaders need to be effective when conducting performance reviews so that employees gain from them not fear them. They should also allow for input and comments from the employees as well during the meeting.  Yes, issues that are a problem need to be raised however, good outcomes and can also be praised at the same time.

Fairness – When I was coming up the ranks this was the most important thing for me. I just wanted to be treated fairly.
For the manager, that means balance. Deliver tough, candid feedback when it is warranted and individualized praise when it is earned. Don’t sugarcoat things, and definitely, do not set impossible expectations as this is harder than we all think.

Rapport – Study after study tells us the connection between a manager and employee is second only to your relationship with family and close friends. We crave strong, professional and rewarding interactions with our boss. It is the deciding factor on whether we stay loyal to a company and meet performance targets.
The annual performance review is a major event in this dynamic. Handled poorly even once can lead to a tenuous situation that results in an undesired break-up.

Expectedness – No Surprises!
Rarely, if ever should the annual appraisal raise issues that have not been discussed during the year. The employee should know what they have done well and what they need to improve on in most cases by the time of their review.
This may be the single biggest cause of blow-ups and disagreements in face-to-face reviews. There is a proven way to avoid this that we outline in this Blueprint.

Specifics – You know those archaic rating scales companies force managers to use? Employees hate them! No human being wants their efforts trivialized down to a random number on a subjective scale.
Rather, they want specific work praised. Specific problems detailed when getting constructive feedback. Specific performance targets to aim for. THIS is a major element to performance-enhancing reviews employees appreciate.

Helpfulness – Do you know the #1 mistake of performance reviews?
Focusing entirely on the past. You can’t change that. You need to assess and address it, of course. But don’t dwell on it.
Instead, you use it to guide where you and the employee will go. What specific training will be delivered to improve skills in the next 30 days? How can the employee have the most impact in the next quarter? What activities should they take to get there?

That is being helpful. All good employees will respond positively when it is delivered effectively.
This all sounds simple and in many ways the concepts are.
But success is measured by executing concepts well, consistently. As well as having hard-won guidance and tips to help you along the way. That is where things get tough.

How COVID-19 Is Affecting Mental Health in the Workplace

September 24, 2020 by  

Since the pandemic outbreak earlier this year, life looks very different. Every aspect has been subject to change, from daily routines and habits to socializing and work. Understandably, stress and anxiety have been present throughout, from people worrying about their friends, their families, and their own health, through to financial or workplace stresses.

Work is a huge part of our lives, so it is no surprise that working lives have also been put under strain throughout the last six months. A recent survey about burnout in the workplace found that almost half (47%) of American employees are concerned about how the current health crisis will affect their long term health. At least half also said that frustration (50%), stress (51%), and anxiety (53%) at work had got worse throughout the pandemic.
Worse still, are the statistics around how businesses have dealt with the crisis. 37% of the workforce feel their organization isn’t doing enough to support them through the pandemic. Despite reports of employees experiencing depression, fatigue, and exhaustion being at an all-time high, 30% say they feel pressure from management to avoid taking time off.
These symptoms all contribute to employee burnout, which can drastically affect the productivity, satisfaction, and career motivation of employees. Ultimately, this can lead to a business losing staff, resulting in money spent on recruitment and training of new employees. At a time when finances are tighter than ever, employee retention is crucial.

While matters relating to COVID-19 are largely out of employers’ control, businesses need to pay attention to issues within the workplace and offer the right measures to help retain staff throughout the crisis and in the months following.

4 Ways Your Workplace Can Avoid Employee Burnout
As well as looking into the effects of the pandemic on employee burnout, the survey also looked at solutions, asking employees what support they would like to see from their organizations. These are the top 4 ways employers can support their staff through this difficult time:

1. Create a culture that supports work/life balance
We all know how important a work/life balance is when it comes to employee happiness and satisfaction. If you have a workplace largely working from home, maintaining this balance is even more vital.
Flexibility is key when it comes to work/life balance, particularly throughout unprecedented times. You may have some employees who are isolating, some who are looking out for elderly relatives, or some who are facing issues with childcare. Allowing a degree of flexibility means employees can find what works best for them. If possible for your business, this could mean bringing in flexible working hours. If not, it could simply be encouraging employees to use vacation days when they need to.

2. Increase communication and mental health support
Communication is key, especially if you are now dealing with a remote workforce. Managers should schedule in regular catch-ups and one-on-one’s with their team, so any issues can be brought to their attention and tackled before they become a bigger problem.
Mental health support is also a must. Having staff trained in mental health support is a huge bonus, but if this isn’t feasible for your business you should ensure you have resources and information in place and available to staff, so any who are struggling can get the support they need.

3. Provide consistent feedback
Along the same vein as communication, feedback is also a must for making sure colleagues feel valued and that they have a clear direction at work. In a stressful situation such as a pandemic, and particularly if your business is working remotely, it can be easy for employees to feel like they are no longer receiving recognition for their work.
Regular, consistent feedback helps staff understand which areas they are succeeding in and where any improvements need to be made. This helps keep staff feeling valued, engaged with your business, and working towards goals ultimately ensuring they are more committed to their jobs.

4. Help employees with mindfulness techniques
Mindfulness in the workplace can help improve concentration, happiness, focus, and energy levels. If this is something your business is missing, now is the ideal time to begin promoting mindfulness.
Guided meditations and online classes are a great resource to offer employees who are interested in practicing mindfulness techniques. Even simpler still, you should encourage staff to take regular breaks away from their desk and detach completely from work. Even taking a fifteen-minute break to practice breathing exercises or go for a quick walk can leave employees feeling refreshed, relaxed, and refocused.

The current pandemic is undoubtedly affecting workplaces and changing the way we approach work. Ensuring staff retention by working to keep your staff engaged, focused, and happy at work gives your business the best chance to thrive over the coming months.

How to Make Your Message Clear and Powerful

September 1, 2020 by  

Got what you want to say down pat?

Think again!

Here is a surprisingly easy yet effective way to make your message clear and powerful.

One of the hallmarks of studying anything for a long period of time is understanding that you still know a lot less about it than you think. This should always be a happy conclusion. It means that you can basically spend a lifetime pursuing something you love.
Public speaking is like that. So, for that matter, is coaching and training people how to do it well.
For instance, at some point during the last 19 years as a speech coach, I came to a conclusion I couldn’t have anticipated. It has to do with strengthening and solidifying one’s message. Best of all, it is usually my client who discovers exactly how to do so.

First, Prepare for Your Presentation the Right Way
Chances are, though, you won’t travel that road yourself unless you set yourself up for the journey. What I mean by that is, by preparing for your presentation in the right way.
How do most of us prepare? Well, I think the process goes like this: we have some thoughts about a topic, and immediately begin jotting down our ideas. Then we edit and polish our content and perhaps spend a lot of time on our slide deck until we think the material is where it needs to be. Then, maybe, we practice out loud (if we have the time).
The result often is that we are flying blind where the audience is concerned. We invested all our energy in making out content perfect. In the process, we left out two hugely important factors: our audience’s needs and preferences, and our specific purpose in giving the speech.
Best, then, to rearrange the order of things. Your initial effort should always involve an audience analysis. You need to understand your listeners as closely as possible! That may be easy if you will be speaking to your team at a weekly meeting, or much more involved if the listeners will consist of a group you don’t know. From knowing your audience, emerges the purpose for which you’ll be speaking to these people. And here is the payoff: knowing exactly what you are trying to achieve helps you bring in precisely the content that will allow you to achieve that purpose. You have now prepared the right way.

Now Go One Step Beyond That . . . for Greatness!
At this point, it is critically important that you practice your material out loud. You need to hear whether your spoken performance is right for this audience: in terms of language, tone, comprehensibility, and most important: listeners’ level of understanding.
Here is where you may surprise yourself. When I am working with a client and we have videotaped (or these days, screen recorded) a talk, I often ask this question: “What are you really trying to say here?” It is usually easy for the client to respond. But here is the interesting thing: very often, that response will be much clearer, and more in-depth, than what he or she said in the actual presentation. My follow-up question is even easier: “Why don’t you say that?”
It is often in this debriefing exercise, you see, that the speaker reveals the true heart of the message. I suspect that maybe because they are trying to fashion a commendable presentation, rather than tapping into the raw power of what they are trying to say.

So if you are not debriefing with a speech coach, perform some self-discovery. Practice your talk, record it, and then ask yourself: “What am I really trying to say?” I would bet that your response is different in some large or small way than the actual content of your talk. The next step is obvious: Go back into your content, and make your message clearer and more powerful.

What To Do To Stop Bullying In The Workplace

August 21, 2020 by  

In workplaces of every size, there can be differences of opinion and personality. In some organizations, banter can quickly turn to insulting behaviour. Robust management styles can be seen as an abuse of power. A strong personality might be construed as intimidation.
So, what exactly is workplace bullying? Traditionally it is described as “offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient.”

Such actions can include:
• Being constantly criticized
• Shouting, aggressive behaviour
• Ignored, victimized, left out
• Picking on, regularly undermining someone
• Misuse of power such as threats about job safety, or denying training or promotion opportunities
• Mocking, being made to be the butt of all the jokes
• Unwelcome sexual advances

There is a notable lack of a legal standard for bullying – however, any harassment linked to a ‘protected characteristic’ under the Equality Act 2010 is illegal and can form part of a legal case against an employer that does not act against such behaviour.
If bullying becomes an issue in your work environment, it can lead to problems for everyone involved. These can include low morale and poor employee relations, poor performance and lost productivity, absences and resignations, loss of respect for management and damage to company reputation. In extreme circumstances, tribunals and court cases can follow however it is simple to take action to ensure that your workplace remains a safe, friendly place to work.

So, what can employers do to prevent this from becoming an issue in your workplace?
Firstly, you need a robust workplace policy in place, which has a clear statement regarding how bullying and harassment will be dealt with. This might include examples of unacceptable behaviour, with investigation procedures and timelines. It should always include what steps need to be taken to address this, from approaching managers and HR, right through to formal grievance procedures.
To make this policy most effective, it is always good practice to consult with employees about what they want to be included. With open and honest discussion, managers and employers are setting a good example for colleagues working together to make all employees safe from harassment.
As part of this policy, you may want to set standards of behaviour. This might involve guidance booklets, training sessions and seminars, extra training for management and HR, and even contracting external counsellors, trainers and mediators.

The most important thing that any manager or employer can do is take any complaint of workplace bullying or harassment seriously. All complaints need to be dealt with fairly, confidentially and sensitively. Any person that feels that they are being bullied needs to be listened to and the issue needs to be investigated.
There is an obvious advantage to dealing with any bullying informally, to begin with, if this is appropriate. It could be that people don’t realize that their behaviour is a problem, and a quick one-on-one discussion is all it takes to nip it in the bud. If this isn’t the answer, then you might consider counselling and this can be someone from within your organization that has received special training, or you might have an Employee Assistance Program in place where they offer counselling and mediating services that, as a third party, ensure that all issues are dealt with objectively.
If the bullying or harassment merits a formal grievance, disciplinary procedures may need to be started. This might include formal meetings, suspension or transfer but it must be objective, fair, confidential and dealt with promptly. Any disciplinary actions must be based on a formal procedure that is transparent with designated timelines for each outcome.

How to Reduce Anxiety When You Begin Your Presentation

August 11, 2020 by  

Do you need to calm your nerves during the first moments of public speaking? Here is how to reduce anxiety when you begin your presentation.

If there is one problem we all share as public speakers, it is being just a little nervous at the start of a presentation. For some people, of course, fear of public speaking is more serious than that. But even for the confident among us, the opening moments of a speech are a challenge.
We may experience the Imposter Syndrome—which tells us, “It is only a matter of time before everyone realizes you don’t know what you are talking about.” Or it may be the scary thought that you are going to forget what you are here to discuss. Or it might just be the (false) conviction that that is a serious collection of unfriendly faces out there.
Interestingly, these opening jitters are usually a much less serious condition than deep-seated speech anxiety. The “awful first two minutes” does in fact disappear, and before we know it we are discussing our slides or first important point. True fear of speaking, on the other hand, may already have been making you miserable over this speech for months, if you didn’t give way to speech phobia outright and found a way to avoid the speaking situation altogether.

So what can you tell yourself to gain the boost in confidence to slay this particular dragon?

You Already Know How to Be a Dynamic Speaker!
Recently, I discussed this beginning-a-speech-dread with a client. She is highly accomplished in her field and works at one of the leading organizations in her industry. I can almost hear the follow-up thought that she probably has as she looks out at an audience: “So what?” 
Actually, the “so what” can and should be the basis of her confidence and that of others just like her. Does that include you? It all has to do with having faith in yourself. And I don’t mean the religious kind.  When you know your material, not by heart but because you are passionate about it and are very familiar with the elements and concepts you are about to offer, you will actually forget to be nervous.  Once you get into your delivery you will be in your element and you will carry your audience with you.

The reason we get wrapped in anxiety when we are about to start our speech has to do with an over-focus on our performance. And that is usually closely intertwined with the information we will be delivering. We see our challenge as being some kind of superhero at a professional presentation. Precisely because of our accomplishments, we believe everyone will think less of us if we don’t perform at the level that’s appropriate for our position.
But audiences really aren’t scoping out your performance, in fact, they usually couldn’t care less. They are there to get something they don’t yet have, whether that’s information or insight or inspiration. And only you can give that to them. A collection of slides can’t do that, however solid the data on them is. Nor can a slick speaker who is light on actual knowledge. Those aren’t the ways to captivate an audience.
As I tell clients, you could leave your laptop in the cab on the way in from the airport, and still speak incisively for an hour on your topic. Who you are is the reason you have been tasked with giving this speech. So in the end, it doesn’t matter if you don’t follow the script perfectly in the first couple of minutes. You will absolutely still be delivering the value expected of you. Of course, you will! That is what I mean by having faith in yourself.
Why put up with the jitters or freezing on stage? Wouldn’t you rather learn how to love public speaking? Just try to enjoy yourself and if you do your audience will also enjoy your presentation.

When Memorization Can Help You in Public Speaking
Here is another, more practical way of ensuring that you hit the ground running: memorize the first minute of your talk. And actually, do the same with your conclusion.
Despite the negative press memorizing for public speaking has received, there are some solid reasons why committing your introduction to memory can help you. Obviously, doing so has the advantage of keeping you from stumbling through your opening remarks. Since you will only be committing a minute or so to memory, there is not much risk that you will leave out anything.

Just as important: the first 60 seconds is critical to launching your speech successfully. Judgments about you, and decisions about whether to accept what you are saying, are formed during this period. That is why it is necessary to grab or hook listeners’ attention and engage them right from the start.
There is nothing wrong and in terms of effectiveness, a lot right with strutting your best stuff when everyone is paying maximum attention. Why leave it to chance? Convince the audience they are in good hands. If the thought of doing that reduces your anxiety well, it should!

Three Ways to Help Your Sales Professionals Return to Work

July 14, 2020 by  

If you have ever been out of work for an extended period of time, then you might remember the challenges with getting the momentum and motivation back up to where it was.
Maybe it wasn’t due to a job loss. Maybe it was when your summer break ending and that first week back at school. Exciting, interesting, anxious, and not productive.  Right now it is likely due to the pandemic.
There will, of course, be challenges when your employees return to work, and especially salespeople. Either the transition from working at home or getting back to work being off will require a shift back into the normal work routine. Yes, there will be some excitement of going back into the office similar to those first days back at school. But there might also be a level of grogginess and resistance to the previous routine.
As leaders, it is important to ensure that you are aware of this possibility. It could take your sales team some time to warm back up. When you combine that with their fears/concerns about being in close proximity to customers or coworkers, they will be distracted and less effective than in the past.

Here Are Three Ways That Could Help You Handle This Reentry Phase with Your Salespeople:

1. Refresh Understanding
Ensure that everyone on your team knows what your company’s mission is and the core values that make up your culture. Constantly reminding your sales team about why you are there and what part they play in the mission of the company and the value to the customers will help everyone focus on what is most important. Also do what you can to bring your company’s mission and values into the conversations with customers, especially when making sales calls. This will allow you to sell from a place of opportunity to help your prospects and not feeling or being seen as opportunistic.

2. Listen to Concerns
In addition to following the guidelines for what needs to be in place for the safety of your employees and customers, have regular meetings with your team and listen closely to their concerns. Some of your team will be eager and willing to jump back in and others will be more anxious. The careful balance is that you want to listen but you also don’t want to encourage the anxious energy. Mitigate where you can, support them at all times, even if that means some of your team cannot come and work during this initial return phase.

3. Be Realistic
Set realistic goals and timelines for their sales production. If you have been closed down or operating with a skeleton crew and your product/service has an extended sales cycle then it will take them time to build that pipeline back up. It will also take the reps time to shake off the internal cobwebs. For most companies, sales volume won’t be like it was before – not any time soon. I have seen owners reset their figures in their mind, but the real key is to be honest and transparent and set proper expectations for your sales team. Even if it feels grim with little chance to earn a bonus or commission it is better than getting everyone excited and failing to hit the numbers.

The truth is that not every business will survive this time in our history. Many have already closed for good and others won’t be able to sustain even after reopening their doors. Those that do make it will most likely not just survive but will thrive and flourish. The success of your sales team will be the key to your recovery from this.

10 Simple Ways to Express Gratitude

June 30, 2020 by  

Being thankful to someone and showing them how grateful you are may seem like a small thing, but it can have a massive impact on someone’s life.
Can you imagine a world where everyone was grateful for the things that were done for them? Even a simple act of kindness, like a smile, for example, could brighten someone’s day and make them want to help again in the future.
You can make your life – and the world – better by expressing your gratitude!

Try these methods to show your gratitude:
1. Send a note saying thank you. Sometimes it is nice to read about how thankful a person is. Taking the time to write something down rather than just sending a text message makes it more personal too.
2. Give them a hug. You can only do this where appropriate, but if you are feeling grateful about something, it is okay to give your family or close friends a hug. Of course, not everyone will be receptive of a hug, so ensure that you know how they are going to react beforehand.
3. Offer a free favour. Even if it is something small, do something nice for someone without expecting anything in return. Think of what the person wants or needs and do your best to help, even if it is just making a cup of coffee or doing a small chore
a. Actions speak louder than words, and this simple act will show how grateful you are.
4. Give a little gift. A bouquet of flowers or a box of chocolates won’t cost much, but the act of giving them shows that you have thought about the person and that you are grateful for what they do for you.
5. Be happy for their achievements. Show someone how pleased you are with their achievement. A nice handwritten card or some flowers would be a nice thought.
6. Write a list. This will only take 5-10 minutes but will show just how much you care. Sit down with a pen and paper and make a list of 10 or more things that you love about someone. Mention the things that they do for you that you are grateful for. Send that list to them.
7. Give them public acknowledgement. Not everyone will love being made a fuss of in public, but for some, public praise would be appreciated. This works especially well if you are the boss and those you wish to offer gratitude to are your employees.
8. Just be there. Always be available for those you care about, even when things are not going well for you. When you are supportive of others, you are showing how much you care and that youâre grateful for the times they were there to support you.
9. Surprise them with kindness. This works especially well with your partner. Surprise them with a lovely dinner or clean the house when they go out shopping. These simple tasks will mean a lot to someone, especially if they are busy or stressed with very little spare time.
10. Look for the good in every situation. You may not always feel grateful for the things that are going on in your life. Especially if you feel as though things are going wrong. However, now is the time to be most grateful.
a. Look for those little things that are going right for you. Focus on these positives and be grateful for them. They can help take your mind off any negatives.
b. Notice the little things that others do for you, even in unpleasant situations. Let them know that they made a positive difference.

You do not have to make grand gestures to express gratitude. Even the smallest act can show someone how thankful you are.

5 Ways Help Your Business Stand out from the Competition

June 13, 2020 by  

Meet customers’ needs in these critical areas to stand out from the crowd.
Everywhere you turn, there is more competition. No matter what type of store or business you operate, there are bound to be others clamouring for your customers and your piece of the market. Plus, with consumers counting every penny and business purchasers scrutinizing expenditures like never before, winning over new customers and up-selling old ones has become more challenging.  In addition, great, consistent customer service will always bring customers back and they will also likely tell their friends how well you handled the problem.

What will cause customers to buy from you rather than your competitors? The answer is to meet their needs in these five critical areas:
1. Price
Getting this right is the first order of business. Nearly three-quarters of Americans say they are living a simpler life, spending less and being more frugal as a result of the recession, according to the latest American Pulse survey from BIG research. More than one-third of the survey respondents said that being able to pay their bills on time was a “luxury.” In the face of this overwhelming need to fulfill shoppers’ demand for affordability, it is essential to meet or beat the competition’s pricing on selected front-line products and services. Then you can provide bundled services or additional products at more profitable price points.

2. Added Value
Online comparison shopping is the norm these days, and whether you sell online, offline or both, shoppers are looking for that little extra nudge when choosing where to make their final purchase. Free shipping, coupons and buy-one-get-one sales are currently among the most popular incentives. You can also offer unique incentives, such as a special money-back guarantee or a free initial consultation, depending on your type of business, product or service. Evaluate what your unique customers need in this recession-era economy and create a special incentive that will motivate them to take action.

3. Convenience
Gone are the days of cheap gas and moms with unlimited time to shop. Now customers want and expect convenience, which accounts in part for the tremendous surge in online shopping. If you have an e-commerce website, streamline the checkout process, particularly for returning customers. Make it easy to find in-depth information about products and to make returns, and offer great customer service via e-mail and by phone for shoppers who want
immediate answers. Traditional brick-and-mortar store owners should re-evaluate hours of operation, as well as checkout wait times and staffing to ensure a speedy and convenient shopping experience, especially if working mothers are your bread and butter.

4. Trust
Customers are careful to spend their limited dollars wisely and are scrutinizing each purchase to make sure they are making a “safe” decision. They want to buy from companies they trust and believe in. Increasingly, shoppers are looking at business owners’ backgrounds, the company history and even staff bios, and they want to learn what other customers have experienced. Recommendations from friends and peers, including consumer opinions posted online, are among the most trusted and can have the greatest influence on a purchase decision. So include testimonials, reviews or a message board on your website that helps customers understand why they should believe in your company and trust what you sell.

5. Conscience
Increasingly, consumers want to know you’re a good corporate citizen. Businesses with a conscience care for their communities, others who are less fortunate and the world around them. Does your business engage in green practices? What are your charitable affiliations? Detail your activism on your website, in your company newsletter or through in-store promotions. Get involved at the local level and encourage your customers to participate, such as through food or clothing drives, or by cleaning up the local park. You’ll establish a positive relationship with customers that sets you apart from your competition and motivates like-minded customers to buy from you.

Consumers are more knowledgeable and savvy than they have ever been, so it is crucial to differentiate your company. Use the tips above, and you will be well on your way to making your company stand out from the crowd.

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