Confidence in the recovery is palpable among small businesses. THE WALL STREET JOURNAL puts that into numbers. In a recent article, it reported, "Of 937 small-business owners surveyed in December by THE WALL STREET JOURNAL and Vistage International, 52% said the economy had improved in 2013, up from 36% a year ago." Here is that article (sub. req.)
The challenge is to be able to make the shift from selling in a recessionary economy to one in which we are seen as being in the position of strength.
Some are doing this easily. One refurbishing company in the New Haven, Connecticut Metro Area had to lay off three-fourth of its crew during hard times. Now, although it's staffing up slowly, it's not focused on being the low-cost bidder. The owner explains the need to do the job right and here's his track record for doing just that.
On the other hand, there are others still stumbling in the darkness. Used to an economy of scarcity, they are fearful of losing the sale or, once closed, retaining the business. So they make these mistakes:
Trying Too Hard. However, since they have the expertise they should be transmitting that they are the ones in charge. They are the ones to establish the initial terms and conditions.
Executive coach Henry Cloud frames that as the need for boundaries. That is, putting it out there what you will allow. If the prospect wants a pitch that afternoon and that's impossible, provide an alternate such as two days from now. Do it in a friendly manner. Indicate that you intend to be as helpful as possible. In itself that signals dealing from a position of strength. Cloud's new book is "Boundaries for Leaders."
Not Defining Clear Niches. The solo lawyers who grabbed whatever don't begin establishing and promoting their track records in certain areas of law such as child custody disputes or discrimination. In short, they aren't risking branding themselves as the firm you want to go to if X happens.
From the get-go, law firm Carter Mario in central Connecticut positioned and packaged itself as the place to go for all personal-injury liability issues. Soon enough it expanded throughout New England, despite the lawyer glut.
It is better to miss out on some selling opportunities than to continue being generic.
Failing to Walk Away. The most powerful branding statement is made with our feet. Not doing this invites the prospect or client/customer to try to nickel and dime us, along with lots of side dishes of abuse.
Pioneer in the Walk-Away had been public affairs leader Bob Dilenschneider. After making his pitch, he framed the situation as binary: buy or not. If it appeared to be the latter, he demonstrated he was able to walk. His current communications boutique The Dilenschneider Group is housed on Park Avenue in Manhattan.
I ended 2013 with a Walk-Away. A politico and his middle man seemed to be jacking me around. Although I have sunk costs (did a book proposal), I nicely thanked them for allowing me to explore that opportunity. Prosperity and anger don't mix. We want the right kind of attention. And that's that we are perceived as operating from a position of strength. A show of anger means we give our power away.
Good Pitching in 2014.