Got business problems or challenges at work? With his Two Cents page, Loaay Ahmed shares his expertise in strategic management consulting to help managers, employees, and entrepreneurs thrive.
The manufacturing division of the company I joined recently has been, for years, producing products for the wholesale ‘trade’ division, but has never engaged with direct clients. Now, my task is to attract projects to the manufacturing division, however, without a big client list prospects are hesitant. How can we convince them to give us a try?
LA: Giving proposals and discounts is not the best way in general. Proposals should be given out only to summarize and document what has been promised by you and agreed to in principle by the prospect. Contracts are nothing but a legal form of such proposals. So, if you’re spending a lot of your effort having first meetings, followed by rushed proposals and chasing responses, there are better ways to waste your time. Companies benefit from having a proven track record to support their claims. While you can’t offer one at the moment, you may want to have your prospects experience what you’re capable of. Think of organizing a Factory Tour Day with multiple prospects being picked up with comfortable rides to your location and back. Get them to understand your capabilities in action. After all, ‘seeing is believing’.
If they decline your invitation on the grounds that they don’t have the time, bring the factory to them. For example, ask your most senior technical manager or engineer to join you in some of those meetings to show off your operational setup. Some prospects have a hard time trusting salespeople but they’re open to someone from the factory force. You can always shoot a video demonstrating the equipment setup, but also highlighting the technical expertise of the team you have. Many videos promote machinery, but without experienced staff these expensive tools won’t produce deliver by themselves. Put yourself in your prospects’ shoes and provide real and clear evidence to answer their doubts…and that’s just my two cents.
One of our employees has been calling sick quite frequently lately. Although it’s nothing serious from what we’ve been told and it’s mainly one-day offs, the increased frequency is raising doubts. We don’t demand medical papers for every incident, as it’s not part of our internal culture. But what if we’re being taken advantage of?
LA: The law gives employers the right to demand medical papers to explain medical leave. If your company decided to trust employees, you can’t doubt them when they exercise their right. You either hired the right people who fit within the honor system and won’t take advantage of it or you have simply hired some bad apples. Instead of changing the rules for everyone and make it needlessly difficult, focus on setting tougher guidelines for employing new staff.
Now, back to your sick employee. First, give your employee benefit of the doubt and make sure s/he is fine and functioning. What if it is something serious and they’re trying to keep it away from everyone at work not to disturb the mood? If you really have doubts, ask only that employee to provide some medical papers due to the high frequency to put this issue to rest. However, an alternative treatment is to focus on results and deliverables. If you agree with any frequently sick employees on what, how and when work needs to be done, then it won’t matter if they got ill as long as these results are on your desk…and that’s just my two cents.
We run a large retail operation with many branches. While we spend large amounts on advertising to attract customers to visit and offer many discounts, our showrooms traffic is in decline. Our management is not interested in marketing gimmicks that result in giving away things for free just for publicity as they see it as waste of money. Any tips?
LA: It’s getting more and more difficult for many consumers to manage their daily tasks and find time to put their feet up. With busy schedules and shorter attention span that’s almost disappearing, it’s hard for many consumers to stop and pay attention to your advertising campaign. And if they did, they might find it challenging to make the time to visit. They think about road traffic and how it takes them forever to find a parking spot. Suddenly, they’re discouraged to leave their comfortable homes. Brands need to spend more money towards making a difference in customers’ lives rather than just communicating what they sell. If the obstacles above are the main reasons for why consumers are not visiting, take some of the money spent on media and use it to solve these issues.
Brands need to put themselves behind their customers and not in front of them. It requires a serious mind shift by the entire team. When brands see themselves as enablers and service providers even when they sell products, then they’ll always find ways to make things better, easier, more comfortable, convenient, and interesting for their customers. If your management team thinks operating in such ways is a waste of money, remind them of the cost of their discounted sales as they’re giving away profit margins and spending more money announcing it. If the owners or stakeholders don’t demand and enforce such changes, old school managers will do only what they’re used to until they resign or get fired, but eventually, it is the brand itself that will financially suffer…and that’s just my two cents.
For Loaay Ahmed’s advice on business or work matters, send a short email to [email protected]. Please note that only the questions chosen for publishing will be answered.
Loaay Ahmed is a management consultant and strategic expert. To learn more about Loaay and his consulting service, strategic business therapy, visit www.knightscapital.com.