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“Go for No,” Boundaries and Putting Your Work Out There

I recently realized how lucky I am. Although my baby is 100% dependent on me for all things, she can’t do crazy things like move or talk back to me. But there will come a day when I have to tell her “No.” It’s not because she’s bad or prone to getting into trouble- she just doesn’t understand that the world has boundaries.

As an adult, that’s a blessing and a curse.

There’s an obvious argument for boundaries, like personal space and not taking things that don’t belong to you. But when it comes to being innovative and entrepreneurial, there are some boundaries that inhibit rather than protect.

Last winter as an interesting personal/professional development exercise, I read “Go for No” by Richard Fenton. I don’t wantd to “spoil” it, but the basic premise is that successful sales-people are the ones who keep going beyond where they’re comfortable or successful. Say for instance your goal was to sell 5 books in a month. Once you hit that goal, do you stop or keep going? Well, according to Fenton, you keep going (until you hit “no”).



The idea is that most people set goals that are squarely within their comfort zones. I’m no exception- for two years my “goal time” for a marathon was to finish- even though I’d done them before. Instead, as the book explains, we should be pushing for “failure,” or what we’ve been taught to perceive as failure, and that’s what will help us grow. Staying stagnant doesn’t cut it. (Sidenote: I saw something on Instagram the other day that said “FAIL = First Attempt In Learning”).

But I don’t think my mind was the only one that was boggled by the whole “No is good” concept, because 10 years after the book was written, people are still using it as a reference for sales, and they have a new book called “Go for No Network Marketing” which is a little longer than its prequel. The “Go for No” website and social media channels are also continuously updated still, promoting the work (and you can book the authors to come speak at your next professional development/teambuilding event).

With catchphrases like “eat NO for breakfast” and “stop striving, start arriving,” I am starting to understand the buy-in a little more. Most of all, the book really got me to question something- have I been adverse to sales/self-promotion because it’s actually part of my personality (shyness/introversion) OR because I’ve been taught to stay within a comfort zone?

I guess that’s an answer only I can provide, but if you’re interested in exploring/expanding your potential, whether in a “sales” sense or other professional development sense, “Go for No” is an interesting read that will make you ask some questions only you can answer.

Get a copy of “Go For No” on Amazon (Note: this is an affiliate link)



Why I Worked At Your Wedding Before Planning My Own

I got a bunch of concerned emails when I posted on Facebook that I helped cater a wedding this summer. People thought I was hard up for money.

Not that. At all.

There are a few reasons I’ve done a few stints with Bar Harbor Catering Company:

1) I met Mandy the owner a few years ago and was impressed by her, so I thought it would be fun to work for her.
2) As someone who has been self employed for five years, I can appreciate a job where I just show up, do what I’m told, and collect a paycheck. (Trust me, unless you are the most renegade person, I think every self employed person misses that sometimes.)
3) It’s nice to make some money and do something a little physical that has nothing to do with my real life.
4) I’ve always felt like since I’ve never done food service, I am missing out on some important and seemingly universal life experience.
5) I had to see behind the wedding curtain before planning my big day.



behind-the-curtain-wizard-of-ozOK so the first four reasons make some degree of sense… but what do I mean about the wedding curtain? I am making a Wizard of Oz reference here of pulling back the curtain and seeing all the great and powerful acts are caused by some dude with amazing equipment.

As a wedding guest, you only see the perfection of a well orchestrated day. Catering a wedding is seeing the whole situation from another angle. An important angle for me.

A bit of background: I once read an article about there being two kinds of people in the world: moderators and abstainers. Moderators can keep ice cream in their house, eating a small bowl once in awhile. Abstainers can not keep ice cream in their house since it is gone within 24 hours of buying the gallon.

I am an abstainer. Temptation can get the better of me if I am not careful.

You can imagine what can happen when an abstainer like myself who has never even opened a wedding magazine gets engaged and starts innocently looking at Pinterest…  Let’s just say I had no idea what  was out there. No. Idea. And seeing these beautiful events that cost much more than my annual salary, I needed to make myself abstain.

So to snap myself back into my reality, I took the first catering job at a wedding that cost more than mine ever can. I carried water pitchers and trays and went home covered in bits of other peoples’ dinners… and I had a great time.



The hard working part of who I am was proud. It was a 12 hour day on my feet and I kept my patience, energy, and smile through most of it. When I told Mandy later that was the first time I had ever served food or done anything like that, she couldn’t believe it.

The researcher part of me was interested in learning more about weddings from the vendors. Think about it: in the hours before a wedding you have photographers, caterers, rental companies, and other vendors showing up to this one location and, as long as you aren’t ridiculous about it, they’ll answer some questions for you. One of the guys from the rental company for example talked to another waitress (who is also engaged) about how she could have the same kind of tent setup for half the price by making a few slightly different decisions.

The practical part of me needed to see the reality. Behind the beautiful, perfectly decorated tent in the scenic Maine location was an area where waitresses are scraping plates of uneaten food. If you are having a fancy event, it’s perfectly fine to ignore this. But if you are even a little jealous of someone else’s fancy event, this can be a helpful realization for you.

The intellectual part of me liked helping solve problems as they cropped up. Like there were no easels to prop up the menus on the buffet tables… so I went in a closet and found two crazy tall candles and leaned the menus against them. No one noticed. Seeing that no one noticed also made me realize the things that might go wrong at our wedding people probably won’t notice either.

The realistic part of me realized there is always someone who isn’t going to like it. As I carried in the salads with the fresh avocado slices generously piled on, I thought these people were in for a treat. 20 minutes later scraping avocados into the trash, I realized one person’s amazing avocado salad is another person’s weird green crap. You can’t please everyone so you’ve got to please yourself.

This trying to please everyone idea in particular was keeping me from even setting a wedding date.

Working at the wedding though has given me an important perspective. That for a few people, my wedding day is just going to be a day they get a paycheck. That most people probably won’t notice I didn’t pony up for chair covers. And that regardless of whether we spend $5 or $50,000, at the end we’re married and hopefully had a great time doing it.

So for those of you who might catch yourselves throwing a tantrum because the shade of white for the tablecloths doesn’t match your dress perfectly, I highly recommend catering one wedding. It’ll give you much needed prospective… and you’ll go away with a couple extra bucks in your pocket from the experience.



Buying Online: Getting Your Customers To Do It More

So you’ve gone ahead an invested in the creation of an ecommerce website, a place where your customers can buy your products online. Good for you!

What happens sometimes, with a lot of smaller stores especially, is you’ve built it but yet the people are not coming. Why is that?

buymystuff

Do people offline like your stuff?

Here’s a reality you might not want to face but…. is your stuff cool? Useful? Do people buy it at trade shows, craft shows, in your store, etc. but just not online? If so, it’s probably just your actual setup and not your product.

But if no one has ever bought from you and they aren’t buying from your online store, you might have a reality check to cash.

The very smart Ramit Sethi said this example once in a seminar (I’m totally paraphrasing.) Show a room full of people your product, tell them the specs and the price and you’ll have a room full of people who say they want it. Now tell them you have a  supply with you and you’ll sell it to them right now. The people with their hands still raised after the second question are your customers and the people you actually care about pleasing.

Do people know you have an online store?

You can have the prettiest little website but if no one knows it’s there, you will get no sales. What are some simple ways to raise awareness you might not have gotten around to yet?

  • Put up the web address in multiple places at your physical store location (maybe even on your shopping bags or flyers you put into bags).
  • Tell each person who leaves your store to visit your online store.
  • Put ‘Check out our online store’ with the QR code linking to your website in your window.
  • Do the same in your print advertising. (Note: If you don’t like QR codes, you can create a custom shorty link by using a website like bit.ly)
  • Once a week or so link to a product in your online store from your Facebook page, Twitter account, Pinterest account, etc.

Tell people until you think you sound like a broken record. Because you might hear yourself talking about it all day but your customers don’t.

I bet the day you start this stuff, you will have one regular customer who says to you ‘Oh, I didn’t know you had an online store!’

Look at a website like LL Beans:

llbeanshop

 

As you see, you can say ‘buy stuff; without flashing red letters. Make this idea of you having an online cart super obvious on your website and at your store location.

Is your store easy to find online?

If you Google some of your well known products, do you come up? Here’s a screenshot when I do a search for Dansko shoes in Maine (a kind of popular clog like shoe in these parts):

danskoshoesmaine As you see, below the ads comes an online clog store then Lamey-Wellehan, a Maine shoe store that sells Danskos in their stores and online. (JL Coombs shows you want they have in the outlet store and you can stop by and buy at their location.)

Can you compete with Zappos if your Lamey-Wellehan? If you’re local and have what I want you can!

Search engine optimization (getting your site ranked high in search engines like Google) is a whole field, and something you can pay lots for. But let’s go for some easy wins here:

  • Getting more links into your site: Try to get more links. Are your vendors listing your website as a place to purchase their products on their website? Many retailers have something like a store locator and will list you for free. You can also use social media, blogs, online directories, and more to get more links into your website.
  • Make your website search engine friendly: Do you have unique page titles? Detailed product descriptions with keywords people are searching? Search engine friendly links? A blog you update regularly?

I can’t explain it all here but there are steps you can take to make your site more findable by search engines. If you want to learn a bit more about SEO, I’ve written an intro blog post about it here: http://breakingeveninc.com/web-tech/better-seo-in-less-than-one-hour/

Is your store easy to navigate and use?

Find three people who would be your target customers (fitting age and other demographics) and offer them a gift certificate or some other small offering in exchange for watching them navigate your online store. Is there one point which they get hung up on, like the product search or how to get back to the shopping cart after they’ve been browsing? It may be (and probably will be) painful to watch but you will learn a lot about your website.

If you can’t bring yourself to do this, look at your website analytics (statistics). Is there some page on your site a majority of people are exiting on? Do you have a lot of abandoned carts (people who have put things in the online shopping cart and never finished the checkout process)?

Take steps to make your website easier to navigate based on the feedback you get from real people and/or your stats. Adding a search box, linking sizing charts to every product, streamlining your checkout process are just a few ideas. You will generate ones that are useful for you in watching your three people and looking at your web analytics.

Why should someone buy from you?

This might be the most difficult idea for any small business. In a world of Amazon.com, how are you supposed to compete?

Free shipping over a certain order amount and offering excellent customer service is pretty standard in terms of what people can expect online. What are some other ways you can stand out?

Do a bit of detective work (what the industry is doing) and soul searching (what you want to do) and see what you can offer in addition to your unique products without killing your bottom line.

Please note your offering doesn’t have to be expensive, just unique and unexpected. I once got a handwritten thank you note from our payroll company which probably took them all of two minutes to write but it was so memorable and nice). So pick your unique thing then publicize the heck out of it.

I (and many consumers like me) don’t mind paying a bit extra to get something unique or even just to support a smaller business… I just don’t want to have to pay $25 in shipping on a $25 purchase to do it.

So use your online store to its full advantage and you too can make your money in your online store!