Friday, May 20, 2011

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Randomanics 104: To question the norm

To be happy with what you have and where you are right now
and to not aspire for much more than that
even if you are capable of doing so...

...would that be called under-achievement?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Hanging on to Dear Life

Warning: Contains grossly sappy sentiments and platitudes galore - uncharacteristic of a post related to business matters.

I was going through some study material on business management, when I came across a section that discussed management mindsets. In a nutshell, the author talked about how many businesses seem content on operating with mindset geared towards maintaining a working system. In the often quoted words of old, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

I find my company in this situation. We implement what systems we have and it seems to be working. We've managed to last almost 5 years without a shred of business training whatsoever, thanks to our MBA training at the School of LAYG*.

But truth be told, oftentimes we're on survival mode. I mind day-to-day tasks - finding prospects, fielding quotations, worrying about cashflows, managing projects - so much so that I forget the primary task of an entrepreneur, which is to explore, discover and create.

To my mind, my business for the past few months has been driven by fear; fear of failing to meet obligations, fear of losing clients, fear of (dare I say it) losing face with my peers.

A business ought to do more than just perpetuating a working system. It should be managed with a mindset beyond hanging on to dear life.

A business that operates in this mode is essentially doomed. The fastest way to deplete a company's resources and cause its failure is to have survival as its ultimate goal. If an enterprise truly wants to survive, it should have a goal beyond making ends meet. It should want to thrive and grow and expand.

Having said all of that, I hope to do better now. I know things will not change dramatically anytime soon. The situation tomorrow may be much like it has been for some time: bills may not be paid on time, clients can still be unhappy with our service, and potential deals may fail to close. But I'll be trying to see things differently this time.

Getting to the goal has to start somewhere. Here is as good a place as any.

* LAYG - Learn As You Go

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Question: Got Moolah? Will Deal.

I wasn't going to write about this, but after reading Cedric's post, I figured, why the hell not...

After nearly 5 years of negotiating deals and closing sales, one would think I'd get the hang of the whole sales thing much sooner than later.

Apparently not.
Just like today.

Long story short, the deal was 95% done when the plug got pulled. Personally, I think the deal failed because the prospect was either too cheap to invest on quality work, or they've not been educated enough to know a good deal when it bites him in the behind.

Disappointed? Yes.
Frustrated? Somewhat.
Exasperated? You bet.

Looking back though, it teaches me one particular lesson. That is, regardless of how tactless it may seem, asking this one question will cut through a lot of BS that goes around in negotiations and deal-making, especially among cheapskate clients. (And you know there are a lot of them out there.)

That question is: "How much are you willing to spend for this project?"
Or, if you want to put it a bit more tactfully,
"What's the budget like?" or "What kind of budget has been allotted to the project?"

Aside from getting an idea of how much money they're willing to spend, how the question is answered tells you three things:

(1) If the answer comes readily, chances are the client is serious in getting a deal done - and soon.You work within that range, things should fare better than worse.

(2) If the prospect answers with a fairly precise amount, e.g. 250,000, he is also most likely to be more worth your time and effort as opposed to the guy who vaguely answers with "somewhere around 200 or so". You ultimately earn more serving a burget from the guy who asks for one than from the fellow who has no effing idea why he's in the diner in the first place.

(3) Also, getting a ready answer may mean the client has done their homework; they've either canvassed with other suppliers or nailed the budget specifically to that amount. And again, it's so much easier to work with someone who knows what they want (and that includes how much they want it for).

Some people may say that to ask this question is to be rude and that you're only in this for the money. But of course we're in it for the money!
What do they think we bust our nuts for? Charity?!
(Some of you may be asking "What if they refuse to answer that question?" My entry on that will come around soon. I hope.)

Naturally, you don't point blank tell them that. Tact has to come into play and I suppose the best way is to point out to them that by knowing their budget range, you'll be able to make a better deal in faster time.

I know there will be clients who may intentionally answer with a low amount, hoping you quote low so they can save a lot off their budget. To this, I say, it depends on how low they say the budget is. If it's moderately below (say, 20 to 30% lower) the going rate, you can allow for a bit of an upwards tug to your quote. But if it's RIDICULOUSLY low (50-90% lower), they either have no clue as to how much what they want really costs, to which it is your job to educate them; or they're the type of client that will suck your bones dry and then find some way to stiff you. I don't need to tell you that your only option for the latter is to get away from them at the soonest possible opportunity.

Truth be told, I write this more to myself than to anyone else. But I suppose, if you pick up something from this, then I'm glad you did. Hopefully, with less second guessing, and with more confidence in your costs and margins, perhaps the next deals get closed better.

We can always hope.