Partnering with Customers


  1. Pick high-visibility, vocal customers as your research partners and test sites. When you succeed together, they’ll spread the word quickly to their peers and pave your way into the market.
  2. As your customer list grows, organize their names and phone numbers by product and geographic area so you can easily provide references keyed to a prospect’s interests.
  3. Gather passive (i.e., written testimonials and quotes from customers to use in your sales materials, ads, and proposals. Remember to use videos.
  4. Use active testimonials with important prospects: Ask two or three present customers to call a prospective one, rather than waiting for the prospect to call them.
  5. Use on-site testimonials. Arrange a tour of customer premises where prospects can see your products performing.
  6. Find customers willing to meet prospects on your turf to endorse you and your products.
  7. Conduct joint presentations with your customers at industry meetings. Coauthor articles to automatically share the limelight with your customers.
  8. Bring your customers together at least once a year to share ideas with each other, give you feedback, critique new product concepts, and have a good time. Invite a few key prospects—they’re likely to come away sold.
  9. Take customers to trade shows and go to theirs. The better you know each other, the more value you both receive.
  10. Treat your customer-partners as heroes. Thank them—and more. For example, feature them in your newsletter, mail them a poster-sized letter signed by all your employees, or send a dozen balloons to their offices.

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, Line of Sight

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Get them Pregnant!


When a company expresses genuine interest in your idea, product, or concept, start to get them a little bit pregnant. Collect—aggressively solicit—their opinions on the deal and allow these to shape your idea. “We were wondering such-and-such:” “Would it be better to emphasize this or that?”; We’d like to know your feelings on the following.”

It is better to solicit this kind of information in a letter, which requires more thought to answer. For the same reason it is also better to avoid questions that can be answered yes or no.

There is nothing easier than selling someone his or her “own” idea, which is what this becomes.

If you can get enough answers on the details, people will commit themselves to the larger deal long before they are actually aware of it.

Similarly, you should determine mutually agreeable objectives beforehand which can be precisely defined and clearly stated. Any proposal, concept, or idea which directly responds to those objectives is halfway to being sold.

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, Line of Sight

Managing Cash and Liquidity


In a turbulent environment, cash returns are important, if not more important, than reported profit returns. Cash returns lead to liquidity, and liquidity is a top priority consideration whenever risks and uncertainties surround a business situation, as they do in so many cases today. Cash and liquidity put any company in a better position to withstand a surprise blow, adapt to sudden changes, and capitalize on the narrower windows of opportunity that are commonplace in a turbulent environment.

This doesn’t mean that profits and profit growth are not important. The whole purpose of any business enterprise is to maximize profits and profit growth, but this objective will  not be achieved if business unit managers do not focus more time and attention on managing their cash and liquidity. Any entrepreneur that has lived through a start-up knows the importance of cash and liquidity. The entrepreneur knows from experience that a business can go bankrupt even while it is reporting profits. But it will never go bankrupt as long as its cash and liquidity positions are strong. Most corporate executives understand this point also, but many do not follow through to make sure it is sufficiently stressed or understood at the operating level. This is where the problem lies. Most business unit managers who operate under a corporate umbrella tend to overlook the importance of managing their own cash and liquidity and look instead to the corporation as a never ending source of funds.

The results are apparent in most corporations. Capital expenditure proposals tend to be a “wish list” often justified on project volume gains or cost savings that never occur. Working capital is allowed to build without adequate regard for carrying costs on the cash commitment. In short, overinvestment in plant and equipment, and working capital often serves as a buffer to cover sloppy business practices and control. These are practices that inevitably lead to an investment base that is too big for the business and to marginal profit returns.

Many operating managers in a corporation are not even aware of the costs incurred while excess capital is tied up in the business. This is not an exaggeration. Just ask any four or five business unit managers how much it costs to carry their inventory. Most of them will acknowledge an interest cost of, say 7—8 percent, but few will recognize that total carrying costs, which include storage, taxes, obsolescence, and shrink, actually run closer to 30 percent in today’s environment. We would also bet that none of them have such charges against their earnings, even though it is a very legitimate cost of doing business.

Not every company operates this way. Most corporate executives are not tough minded or rigorous enough in challenging cash commitments, and most business unit managers have more cash tied up in their business than required.

Ideally, every manager should think like a small business entrepreneur with his or her own money at risk. If this were the case, we would not see so many companies with bloated balance sheets and marginal returns. Left on their own, most business unit managers do not think this way, however. Life is not easier when you can draw almost at will on coroprate resources to meet the payroll, build inventories, and buy supplies, tooling and a lot of equipment. Under such conditions you don’t have to worry very much about how to make ends meet.

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, Line of Sight

Financial Analysis: Real Problems


The term financial analysis  when applied to new products conjures up visions of sales forecasts and profit calculations. By using traditional financial analysis, we can get a good read on the current proposal.

 Actually, sales forecasts and financial analysis systems are no problem as such. We have an immense warhead of forecasting methodologies, most based on many years of experience. We know, for example, what makes for sales. This model does an excellent job and serves as the basis for some very advanced mathematical systems used by some of the most sophisticated new product marketers in the world. And every firm has people who can make an income-statement-based net present value calculation (using discounted cash flow methods). We have had years of experience with it.

 The financial model requires product cost, prices, the current value of money, probable taxes on the future income, the amount of further capital investments that will be required between now and when we close the books on the product and much more.

 They will never be certain, even after living out the product’s life cycle. Sales will be known, but we might have had a better marketing strategy. Costs are always just estimates. We will never know the true extent to which a new item cannibalized sales from another product. If we had not marketed the new item a competitor probably would have. And on and on.

 The fact is, we rely on estimated. Management’s task is ot to make the estimates as we can and then manage around the areas of uncertainty in a way that we do’t get hurt too badly.

 On minor product improvements we do this pretty well. On near line extensions, we also do well, but with more misses. Totally new products, using technologies never so applied before, are pure guessing games.

 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, Line of Sight

Political Aspects of Organizational Change


There is a large number of individuals who are undecided about change—they need to be influenced or persuaded to support the change. How can a manager motivate employees to change? Most of the change management literature overlooks the fact that people are largely motivated by self interest. In the 90s, popular writing in Change Management exhorted managers to develop ‘vision’ statements to appeal to people’s hearts. While there is some merit in this proposal, change managers who ignore people’s minds (and by that I mean self-interests) will find it quite difficult to garner support for their change efforts. Individuals are not solely drive by self-interests but these interests are important. In some instances, change may involve relinquishing one’s self-interest. The first thing people are likely to ask when informed about change is: what is in it for me?

There had to be a number of decisions to be made at every stage of the project involving large financial outlays—quickly and without political or bureaucratic interference. The decision-making process ensure this. Public support is critical for land acquisition and later for smooth execution. A number of contractors would be involved, and their effectiveness had to be ensured for the corporation to be effective. The community would be concerned about possible environmental degradation. Though the project would ultimately benefit the community, no cost could be unilaterally imposed on any stakeholder. The project owes its success to effectively managing such political aspects too.

If the organization’s change agenda matches self-interests of employees and other stakeholders, it has little problem in gathering support. On the other hand, if the change agenda requires employees to give up at least some of their interests, then mobilizing support is a more difficult task. More importantly, even if the change agenda is aligned with employees’ self-interests, they have to be convinced that participating in change will advance their self interests. Therefore, mobilising support is largely about influencing people to change despite—or because of—their self-interests. This aspect of influencing people’s self-interest is what makes change management ‘political’; it requires close attention to the science and art of persuasion. In other words, we need to understand the psychology of persuasion before we can devise effective ways of influencing people.

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, Line of Sight

Communication, Business and You


Organizations bend over backward to see that communication both inside and outside the company are open, honest, and clear. Your ability to communicate increases productivity both yours and your organization’s. it shapes the impressions you make on your colleagues, employees, supervisors, investors, and customers. It allows you to perceive the needs of these stakeholders (the various groups you interact with), and it helps you respond to those needs. Whether you run your own business, work for an employer, invest in a company, buy or sell products, design computer chips, run for public office, or raise money for charities, your communication skills determine your success.

Good communication skills are vital because every member of an organization is a link in the information chain. The flow of information along that chain is a steady stream of messages, whether from inside the organization (staff meetings, progress reports, project proposals, research results, employee surveys, and persuasive interviews) or from outside the organization (loan applications, purchasing agreements, help-wanted ads, distribution contracts, product advertisements, and sales calls). Your ability to receive, evaluate, use, and pass on information affects your and your company’s effectiveness. 

Within the company, you and your co-workers use the information you obtain from one another and from outsiders to guide your activities. The work of the organization is divided into tasks and assigned to various organizational units, each reporting to a manager who directs and coordinates the effort. This division of labor and delegation of responsibility depends on the constant flow of information up, down, and across the organization. So by feeding information to your boss and peers, you help them do their jobs, and vice versa.

 If you are a manager, your day consists of a never-ending series of meetings, casual conversations, speaking engagements, and phone calls, interspersed with occasional periods set aside for reading or writing. From these sources, you cull important points and then pass them on to the right people. In turn, you rely on your employees to provide you with useful data and to interpret, transmit, and act on the messages you send them.

 If you are relatively a junior employee, you are likely to find yourself on the perimeter of the communication network. Oddly enough, this situation puts you in an important position in the information chain. Although span of influence may be limited, you are in a position to observe firsthand things that your supervisors and co-workers cannot see: a customer’s immediate reaction to a product display, a supplier’s momentary hesitation before agreeing to a delivery date, an odd whirring noise in a piece of equipment, or a slowdown in the flow of customers. These are the little gems of information that managers and co-workers need to do their jobs. If you don’t pass that information along, nobody will know about it—because nobody else knows. Such an exchange of information within an organization is called internal communication.

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, Line of Sight

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