Exceeding Customer Expectations


We often focus on meeting customer expectations by closing the gap between customer perceptions and expectations. There’s a difficulty in meeting expectations because of all the factors that must be coordinated to deliver on the firm’s service promises. However, an increasingly popular service maxim urges companies to “exceed customer expectations.”—to delight, excite, surprise, and otherwise amaze. According to this formulated belief, merely meeting customer expectations is not enough; a company must exceed them to retain customers. This is an appealing slogan as well as one that sets a high performance standard for employees, but it holds the potential to overpromise to both customers and employees. In attempting to exceed customer expectations, a company must understand a) what type of expectations can and should be exceeded, b) what customer group or segment is to be targeted, and c) the impact exceeding  expectations has on future expectations of customers.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Business Financial Strategy


Financial strategy examines the financial implications of corporate and business-level strategic options and identifies the best financial course of action. It can also provide competitive advantage through a lower cost of funds and a flexible ability to raise capital to support a business strategy. Financial strategy usually attempts to maximize the financial value of the firm.

The trade-off between advancing the desired debt-to-equity ratio and relying on internal long-term financing via cash flow is a key issue in financial strategy. Many small and medium-sized companies try to avoid all external sources of funds in order to avoid outside entanglements and to keep control of the company within the family. Many believe that only by financing through long-term debt can a corporation use financial leverage to boost earnings per share, thus raising stock price and the overall value of the company. Higher debt levels not only deter takeover by other firms (by making the company less attractive), but also leads to improved productivity and improved cash flows by forcing management to focus on core businesses.

A very popular financial strategy is the leveraged buy out—a company is acquired in a transaction financed largely by debt—usually obtained from a third party, such as an insurance company or an investment banker. Ultimately the debt is paid with money generated from the acquired company’s operations or by sales of its assets. The acquired company, in effect, pays for its own acquisition. Management of the leveraged buy out is then under tremendous pressure to keep the highly leveraged company profitable. Unfortunately the huge amount of debt on the acquired company’s books may actually cause its eventual decline by focusing management’s attention on short-term matters.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Employee Rights


This issue actually spans a wide range of controversies. For example, issues have surfaced regarding the individual’s right to smoke in the workplace. As more and more organizations limit or ban smoking, this issue will continue to be somewhat controversial. Broader controversies involve issues associated with job ownership and individual rights while at work. A popular (albeit not entirely correct) assumption about Japanese organizations is that their employees have lifetime job security/ to the extent that US firms adopt this practice, the question becomes one of due process and the right to appeal in instances of dismissal or reassignment.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Competitive Intelligence


Developing useful plans offer requires knowing as much as possible about what competitors are doing or are planning to do. Competitive intelligence is a systematic way to obtain  and analyze public information about competitors. Although this sounds a lot like legalized spying, it’s become much more popular over the past few years.

There are a variety of techniques to find out what competitors are doing. They include keeping track of competitors by having specialists visit their facilities, and hiring their workers and questioning their suppliers and customers.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Group Cohesiveness


Group cohesiveness results from all forces acting on the members to remain in the group. The forces that create cohesiveness are attraction to the group, resistance to leaving the group, and the motivations to remain a member of the group. Group cohesiveness is related to many aspects of group dynamics—maturity, homogeneity, and manageable size.

Group cohesiveness can be increased by competition or by the presence of an external threat. Ether factor can serve as a clearly defined goal that focuses members’ attention on their task and increases their willingness to work together.

Successfully reaching goals often increases the cohesiveness of a group because people are proud to be identified with a winner and to be thought of as competent and successful. They may be one reason for the popular phrase, “Success breeds success.” A group that is successful may become more cohesive and possibly even more successful.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Peer Appraisals


With more firms using self-managing teams, peer or team appraisals—the appraisal of an employee by his or her peers—are becoming popular. For example, an employee chooses an appraisal chairperson each year. That person then selects one supervisor and three other peers to evaluate the employee’s work.

Peer appraisals can predict future management success. Peer ratings have other benefits. Peer appraisals have an immediate positive impact on improving perception of open communication, task motivation, social loafing, group viability, cohesion, and satisfaction.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Leader as Teacher


Leader as teacher does not mean leader as authoritarian expert whose job it is to teach people the ‘correct’ view of reality. Rather, it is about helping everyone in the organization, oneself included, to gain more insightful views of current reality. This is in line with a popular emerging view of leaders as coaches, guides, or facilitators. In learning organizations, this teaching role is developed further by virtue of explicit attention to people’s mental models and by the influence of the systems perspective.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Scientific Method and Marketing Research


Scientific method is a decision-making approach that focuses on being objective and orderly in testing ideas before accepting them. With the scientific method, managers don’t just assume that their intuition is correct. Instead, they use their intuition and observations to develop hypotheses—educated guesses about the relationships between things or about what will happen in the future. Then they test their hypotheses before making final decisions.

A manager who relies only on intuition might introduce a new product without testing consumer response. But a manager who uses the scientific method might say, “I think (hypotheses) that consumers currently using the most popular brand will prefer our new product. Let’s run some consumer tests. If at least 60 percent of the consumers prefer our product, we can introduce it in a regional test market. If it doesn’t pass the consumer test there, we can make some changes and try again.”

The scientific method focuses an orderly research process. Some managers don’t carefully specify what information they need. They blindly move ahead—hoping that research will provide “the answer.” Other managers may have a clearly defined problem or question but lose their way after that. These hit-or-miss approaches waste both time and money.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

The Creative Selling Process


Although it may look easy, creative selling is not a simple task. Of course, some sales are made in a matter of minutes. But others, particularly for large organizational purchase, can take years to complete. Salespeople should follow a carefully planned process from start to finish.

Step 1: Prospecting: Prospecting is the process of finding and qualifying potential customers. This involves three activities:

  • Generating sales leads. Sales leads are names of individuals and organizations that might be likely prospects for the company’s products.
  • Identifying prospects. A prospect is a potential customer who indicates a need or a desire for the seller’s product.
  • Qualifying prospects. Not all prospects are worth investing sales time in. some may not have the authority to buy, and others won’t have enough money. The ones who do have both the authority and the available money are called qualified prospects.

Step 2: Preparing: With a list of hot prospects in hand, the salesperson’s next step is to prepare for the sales call. Without this preparation, the chances of success are greatly reduced. Preparation starts with creating a prospect profile, which includes the names of key people, their role in the decision-making process, and other relevant information such as the prospect’s buying needs, motive for buying, current suppliers, income/revenue level, and so on.

Next, the salesperson decides how to approach the prospect. Possible options for a first contact include sending a letter or cold calling in person or by telephone. For an existing customer, the salesperson can either drop by unannounced or call ahead for an appointment, which is generally preferred.

Before meeting with the prospect, the salesperson establishes specific objectives to achieve during the sales call. Depending on the situation, objectives can range anywhere from “getting the order today” to simply “convincing prospects top accept the company as a potential supplier.” Following that, the salesperson prepares the actual presentation, which can be as basic as a list of points to discuss or as elaborate as a product demonstration or multimedia presentation.

Step 3: Approaching the Prospect: Positive first impressions result from three elements. The first is an appropriate appearance—you wouldn’t wear blue jeans to call on a banker, and you probably wouldn’t wear a business suit to call on a farmer. Appearance also covers the things that represent you, including business cards, letters, and automobiles. Second, a salesperson’s attitude and behavior can make or break a sale. A salesperson should come across as professional, courteous, and considerate. Third, a salesperson’s opening lines should include a brief greeting and introduction, followed by a few carefully chosen words that get the prospect’s attention and generate interest. The best way to accomplish this is to focus on a benefit to the customer rather than on the product itself.

Step 4: Making the Presentation: the most critical step in the selling process is the presentation. It can take many forms, but its purpose never varies: to personally communicate a product message that will convince a prospect to buy. Most sellers use of two methods: The canned approach is a memorized presentation (easier for inexperienced sellers, but inefficient for complex products or for sellers who don’t know customer’s needs). The need satisfaction approach (now used by most professionals) identifies the customer’s needs and creates a presentation to specifically address them.

Step 5: Handling Objections: No matter how well a presentation is delivered, it doesn’t always conclude with an immediate offer that might move the prospect to buy. Often, the prospect will express various types of objections and concerns throughout the presentation. In fact, the absence of objections is often an indication that the prospect is not very interested in what the salesperson is selling. Many successful salespeople look at objections as a sign of the prospect’s interest and as an opportunity to develop new ideas that will strengthen future presentations.

Three basic approaches to overcoming objections include asking the prospect a question, giving a response to the objection, or telling the prospect that you will need to look into the matter and address it later.

Step 6: Closing: So far, you haven’t made a dime. You may have spent weeks or months—years in some cases—to bring the customer to this point, but you don’t make any money until the prospect decides to buy. This stage of the selling process, when you persuade the customer to place an order, is referred to as closing.

How should you ask for the order? Closing techniques are numerous; here are some of the more popular. The alternative proposal close asks the prospect to assumptive close, you simply proceed with processing the order, assuming that the prospect has already decided to buy. Another alternative is the silent close, in which you finish your presentation and sit quietly, waiting for the customer to respond with his or her buying decision. Finally, many salespeople prefer the direct close, where you just come right out and ask for the order.

These closing techniques might strike you as tricks, and in the hands of unethical salespeople, some closing approaches certainly can be. But the professional salesperson uses these techniques to make the selling process effective and efficient—not to trick people into buying when they aren’t ready.

Step 7: Following Up: Most salespeople depend on repeat sales, so it is important that they follow up on all sales and not ignore the customer once the first sale is made. During this follow-up stage of the selling process, you need to make sure that the product has been delivered properly and that the customer is satisfied. Inexperienced salespeople may avoid the follow-up stage because they fear facing an unhappy customer. However, an important part of a salesperson’s job is to ensure customer satisfaction and to build goodwill.

In order to improve the odds of keeping a satisfied customer after the sale, salespeople should remember to:

  • Handle complaints promptly and pleasantly
  • Maintain contact with customers
  • Keep serving the customers
  • Show appreciation.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

The Role of Diversification


Corporate diversification is everywhere. Virtually all of the Fortune 1,000 (the largest 1,000 corporations in the US) are diversified, many of them to a great extent. Some corporations consist of dozen—even hundreds—of different businesses. Besides such corporate giants, many smaller firms, some with only a handful of employees, also diversify.

What is the strategic role of diversification? Popular answers to this question have changed dramatically over the last several decades. During the 1960s, diversification fueled tremendous corporate growth as corporations bought up dozens of businesses, regardless of the good or service sold. Managers based this diversification on unrelated businesses on the assumption that good managers could manage any business, allowing the formation of huge conglomerates of completely unrelated businesses. In the 1970s, managers began to emphasize diversification based on balancing cash flow between businesses. Corporate managers attempted to diversify so that the resulting portfolio would offer a balance between businesses that produced excess cash flows and those that needed additional cash flows beyond what they could produce themselves. The 1980s brought a broad-based effort to restructure corporations, as managers stripped out unrelated businesses and focused on a narrower range of operations. Restructuring usually also involved downsizing, and the largest corporations shrank in relation to the rest of the economy. In the 1990s, corporations have once again taken an interest in using diversification to grow. But unlike the unrelated diversification that took place in the 1960s, the trend in the 1990s is to diversify into related businesses, or at least into businesses in which the strengths of a popular managerial team fit the needs of the new business being added to the corporation.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

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