[Business Pointers] Separate from the Pack

Features - Business Strategy

Business coach Dan Zimanski provides a roadmap PCOs can use to help them distinguish their companies from others.

June 29, 2012
Hallie Moreland

With so many small businesses offering many of the same goods and services, it is more important than ever that your company distinguish itself. At PestWorld 2011 Dan Zimanski, business coach with ActionCOACH, provided tips PCOs can use to separate themselves from the pack.

What is your niche? The first step in distinguishing your business, Zimanski said, is figuring out what makes your company unique. Think about what you do better or differently than anyone else and focus on it. Then, share that information with your potential customers. Come up with a unique selling proposition and show your clients what your point of difference is in comparison to your competitors.

After you’ve crystallized what makes your business unique, work on providing your customers with some sort of guarantee. Think about a company like Domino’s, with the guarantee that a pizza will be delivered in 30 minutes or less, or it’s free. If you give your customers a unique guarantee like that you will build perceived value and give your customers full confidence that you can carry out whatever it is you promise.

A, B, C, D Rule. The next step, said Zimanski, is to target your ideal customer using the A, B, C, D rule. A stands for awesome, B stands for basic, C stands for can’t deal with and D stands for dead. Those in the A and B categories will be customers you want to focus on, while those in the C and D categories will be the ones you want to leave for your competitors. Make this type of list for the customers you want to attract, as well as your existing customers.

Update your marketing collateral. When it comes to brochures or print advertising, make sure you are sending these to the right people. Give customers special offers that build value and create eye-catching, well-written copy that attracts individuals to your ad. Keep in mind that the offer should be something that helps you add value to your company. For example, if a customer is under contract for an annual termite inspection, offer them a special incentive on a seasonal pest. These types of offers will help you create a deeper relationship with your clients so that they trust you and refer you to others.

Always remember to stay in touch with your database of customers. Make sure you have constant communication, such as e-newsletter blasts and customer appreciation events. It’s much easier to keep existing customers than it is to find new customers. But be careful not to overdo it — check with your customers to see how they feel about your strategies. Also, don’t just solicit business from your customers in these e-newsletters, but provide them with valuable tips and content.

Seek out alliances.
Focus on creating strategic alliances, Zimanski recommended. Although this might not generate new business immediately, it is a great way to help your business grow over time. Find other companies that have common customers. Once you do this, develop a plan for sharing business back and forth. Be sure to reward these partners for working with you by giving them incentives. For example, pay them a referral fee after you close a sale. Strategic alliances also will help you expand your outside sales team.

Pretend you are one of your customers and make a benefits list for yourself. Ask the question, “What’s in it for me?” Then, ask your customers what they most want from you and what would make them want to continue working with you. Make a list of your customers’ wants and needs and work towards fulfilling those needs.

It’s also important to have target goals. To make achieving your goals more manageable, break down your budget into quarterly goals. Focus in on a short period of time, have three to five goals and work out ways to achieve them. Make sure your entire team is involved and work together to carry out these goals.

Put systems in place.
Creating a sales flowchart will help you define your sales process from the time you receive an initial phone call until the time you actually close the sale. Make sure that everyone on your sales team follows the same process to maintain consistency for how you are promoting and marketing your brand.

In addition, create systems, such as writing sales scripts or writing procedures for restocking service vehicles with the appropriate products. The goal is to have every one of your employees prepared and on the same page.

Another important tip is to be prepared for handling objections. Anticipate where your customers might object before they “go there.” Revisit past customer conflicts and work with your team to understand those objections. Find a way to proactively address them as part of your sales pitch. Ask yourself what are your most common objections and learn how to deal with them in a constructive way.

It is essential to know how to close out sales. Remember that “no” means not now — it does not mean not ever. Some customers may just need to be re-quoted.

Follow up with these customers within 24 hours. Sixty-eight percent of lost business is due to lack of follow through, according to Zimanski. Make sure that even customers who may not initially hire your company still receive attention via follow-up communication. As circumstances change, they may have a need to use your company in the future.

Track your key performance indicators so that you know how to fix potential problems. According to Zimanski, a business typically has five to seven key performance indicators. Figure out what the indicators are that will deliver the financial results you are seeking. It is incredibly important to consistently deliver what your customers expect. Jot down three delivery inconsistencies that people have when they do business with you or your company and work to remedy those inconsistencies.

Underpromise and Overdeliver. Remember the business rule of thumb to “underpromise and overdeliver.” Zimanski said that 63% of customers leave because of perceived indifference. Be clear about what you have to offer and what you really can deliver.

Be in control of your schedule and focus on doing one thing at a time, for a specific amount of time. As Zimanski says, if you as a company don’t respect your time, then how will anyone else?

It also is incredibly important to be continually learning. In order to achieve new results you must be open to new ways of thinking and new ways of handling problems. This ability to constantly be learning will benefit your company over the long haul.

Another tool to distinguish your business is a customer survey. Surveys help you better understand your customers’ thoughts, needs and spending trends. This information will allow you to provide your customers with better, more specialized services.

Online Break Even Calculator

The ActionCOACH website has a free break even calculator at http://bit.ly/gQfSBV. As the site noted, it's essential that business owners work out their costs up front. Otherwise, they’ll have no idea what they’ll need to achieve in order for the process to be worthwhile. They may find out after doing the analysis that the process costs them so much that it's not worth the trouble.

Never underestimate the importance of testimonials. There is no better way to improve your business than by securing positive reviews from current customers. Using such reviews in your marketing materials will help your business gain credibility. As Zimanski noted, “If you say it, it’s hearsay. If they say it, it’s fact.”

Make it a point to stop price competition. When it comes to making purchases, it’s all about consistency and how the customer benefits from your services — not just the price. As you become more successful, you can actually increase your prices because customers will know that your business, and the services you provide, can be trusted.

Seek accountability.
Finally, and most importantly, seek accountability. Find someone who will hold you accountable to what it is you want to achieve with your business. If you truly want to attain new results, put it in writing, and ask someone to keep you on track.

Zimanski suggests writing down one goal for your business at the beginning of each year. As the year progresses, re-evaluate and, if necessary, revise that goal for what is truly possible and attainable. Think about what you want to change about yourself and what you want to change about how you operate your business. Then, communicate this information to your team in order to get them onboard. If you set forth this plan, Zimanski said, while also using the aforementioned tips for differentiating your business, you are guaranteed to achieve your business goals.

The author is a Cleveland, Ohio-based writer and can be contacted at hmoreland@giemedia.com.