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Business is fun


Its a not uncommon thing now to walk into Starbucks or - if you're wiser, into biblocafe in Glasgow's Woodlands road - to find most of the seats occupied by what I call visonistas.

There they sit focussed, on their own creativity, oblivious to the world as it hovers in their presence looking for a share of a table. Few of us, sitting down in a cafe or public space immediately strike up a conversation with the stranger sitting next to or opposite us, and unless the lift breaks down, will easily pass a minute or so in a perhaps embarrassing silence as the hollow cube rises or falls in the lift shaft till we reach our destination.

We have become islands in our own world. And yet, "No man is an island, entire of itself" (John Donne). We should be - are - social animals but still it is the done-thing (no pun intended) to ignore our neighbours.

Pets Cartoon #6011 by Andertoons

Networking teaches an important skill if you are prepared to learn it - the elevator pitch. The elevator pitch is nothing more than a 40-60 second chance to say who you are what you do and why you are special. I suspect that on the one hand to immediately launch into a "Hi, my name is John from NGM Accountants and what we do is..." every time you walked into a lift might be a bit adventurous for many of us and a bit intimidating for our intended audience. I guess though it depends on you and how adventurous you feel of course!

Regardless of how aggressive it might seem to you, think of the opportunities that we miss by saying nothing at all, let alone a pitch.

“Business is not just doing deals; business is having great products, doing great engineering, and providing tremendous service to customers. Finally, business is a cobweb of human relationships." H Ross Perot.


So do you dare to start spinning a web next time you are in a lift.....?





Get out of jail free

"Money back guarantee!"

"Your money back if not completely satisfied"

"100% Customer Satisfaction"

These promises are often scattered across various adverts in the press and now on teleshopping channels (I watch them for market research purposes only you understand) the same unbeatable guarantees can be found (although usually you don't get your Post and Packing back).

The question is really why do businesses in those marketplaces make these big and dramatic statements? Yes, it's because they do have such a guarantee in place and maybe they do have 100% of their customers satisfied. Regardless of the truth behind the statement, the statement is there only for one reason - to make you buy. The guarantee removes the risk that if you buy it, you won't like it/ it won't fit/ it won't work. Because you can have your money back, no questions asked, guaranteed. So if you have even a passing interest in the product, why would you NOT just buy it - after all there's nothing to lose. So it's a deal clincher. If everything else is equal and there are two companies offering the "same" thing and one offers a money back guarantee, I know which one I'd choose and why.

Sales is difficult (or easy if you've had some training). Marketing is difficult. Everything gets easier with guarantees - you remove the customers' own perceived risk of dealing with you. But they have to trust the guarantee and so the company making it.

Sure, it's simple to write the words and publish them but you need to be so sure that your product WON'T fail or WILL satisfy that the number of returns you get won't tie your despatch in knots for weeks so obviously you also need good systems.

How do you get the confidence to offer a guarantee?

Pretend you have one and then measure how many times you fail it.

Once your systems and processes are great and your failure rate is virtually nil, develop your guarantee and start working with it. We've been working on a delivery guarantee for a wee while now and it's nearly there. So more about that another time.

Lawyer Cartoon #4913 by Andertoons


Now the challenge of course is to make your guarantee UNCONDITIONAL - no escape clauses, no "get out of jail free" cards. If there are escape options for the seller that isn't an unconditional guarantee and one that removes risk from the buyer. Like, we'll give you your money back provided the item is returned unused/ unopened in its original packaging. How do you know it's not for you if you can't open it/ try it on/ use it? Maybe not for clothing - M & S I hear have a remarkable system for checking to see if a garment has been worn other than for trying for size purposes.

You know what the next questions are going to be...

What do you do that could become a guaranteed service or product so that your potential customers had so much confidence they would buy instantly.

Next, ask yourself this question:

"If I am as good as I think I am (or my product is) and I know I can deliver a great result for my customers, if I created a risk free guarantee around it, what would the guarantee be?"

A thought to leave you with.

If you did try to escape from jail using sheets and always supposing you could deal with the bars on the windows, how many sheets would you need to make a long enough rope? Then, how many bedsheets does a prisoner receive?

Simple maths really, but I guarantee you don't know the answer!