Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Common Sense And The Rules Of Golf

Golf: A Game For Life
Gene Westmoreland writes about more than just the rules of golf in A Game For Life, his collection of essays about a subject he knows better than just about anybody.  The book, proceeds of which will be donated to the MGA Foundation, gives us not only insights in the sometimes bewildering rules of the game but also into what makes it one of the best ways to enhance your life.

That may sound like heady stuff, but Westmoreland is anything but a stuffy philosopher. His writing is easy, his approach to the subject is thorough without being pedantic, and his outlook on the game is not so much reverntial as appreciative. He makes a great case for playing by the rules but doesn't hesitate to loosen them up a bit to make the game more fun for duffers just out to enjoy a walk in the sunshine. I've played a round or two with the man, and can attest that his attitude toward the game made every one of them a pleasure.

That attitude carries over into Westmoreland's explanation of the rules of golf, most of which are not only spelled out in clear English but illustrated with incidents many of us have seen either in person or while watching the pros on TV. He does this particularly well in situations that can be rather confusing, like encountering loose obstacles in a hazard. Can you move them? No. Are you penalized if you move, say, a twig in a bunker during your swing? Again, the answer is no. Westmoreland points out, though, that your "swing" doesn't include your backswing! So, if you touch that twig during your takeaway, you've added two strokes to your score. He illustrates the concept by recalling the penalty Brian Davis called on himself during a playoff with Jim Furyk at Harbour Town:
"The TV announcers correctly quoted Rule 13-4, but misunderstood the definition of a stroke, for while it is okay to touch a loose impediment during the stroke, Brian touched it on his backswing."
Nearly every rule examined in A Game For Life has a real-life example that makes it easier to understand and Westmoreland's career in the game has given him thousands of such examples from which to choose. He has been an active member of USGA Championship Committees, serving as co-chairman of the 2004 U.S. Amateur and the 2006 U.S. Open. His service as the Metropolitan Golf Association's Tournament Director for many years (among other accomplishments) led the MGA to christen the trophy for its premiere event, the Met Open, the Westmoreland Cup. In A Game For Life, Gene Westmoreland speaks with both common sense and authority.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Monday, December 10, 2012

Congo Rally For Peace

Guest post from Congolese activist and champion of human rights, Joseph Mbangu

The Congolese community of Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia will hold a rally for Peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in front of the White House (Lafayette Park) on December 12, 2012 from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM. They will be joined in this effort by all American Friends of the Congo to oppose the plan of balkanization of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The rally will call for immediate sanctions against the governments of Rwanda and Uganda for backing a group of terrorists known as the March 23 Movement (M23). The Rwandan and Ugandan support has been documented by members of the US Congress; the November 11, 2012 UN group of experts report; and, the September 11th Human Rights Watch report.

The Congolese community believes that the governments of Rwanda and Uganda must be held accountable for their support of a terrorist group that is killing, raping, abducting, conscripting child soldiers and pillaging the DR Congo and its resources. We consider that the United States, as the primary torchbearer among nations which support justice and human rights, must unambiguously condemn the governments of Rwanda and Uganda and withdraw any military support that these governments might use to send troops, weapons, and equipment in support of the actions of the terrorist group M23. These activities are in complete violation of the existing UN arms embargo in the region as documented by the previously mentioned UN Group of Experts report.

Even before the most recent attacks by M23 in North Kivu province and the city of Goma, in a letter sent to President Kagame of Rwanda dated August 3rd, 2012, a bipartisan group of Congressmen expressed its deep concern about the Rwanda’s role in the latest surge of violence in the eastern DR Congo and Rwanda’s support for M23 in that area. In a clear statement, they called upon Rwanda to cease and desist its actions in these terms:
The pretense that Rwanda is not facilitating rebels in eastern Congo must end, all support for armed groups must stop immediately, and a productive path forward must be taken…. The sovereignty of the Democratic Republic of the Congo must be respected and supported…. Illegal economic activity—including smuggling—in the DRC that violates Congolese law and international agreements must end.
In addition, the same group of legislators pointedly suggested, “No constructive dialogue can take place between the Rwandan and Congolese governments as long as [Rwanda’s] support continues for proxy militias.”

In this regard, the Congolese Community strongly opposes and considers as null and void the November 24, 2012 Kampala agreements, which are nothing more than a farce aimed at accelerating the balkanization of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

For the past two decades, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has paid a huge price in terms of human sacrifice. Approximately eight million Congolese have died so far from the ongoing proxy wars of invasion and occupation. Given the evidence at hand, we urge President Obama and the US Congress to take a firm stance against the Rwandan and Ugandan policies of continued support of warlords and destabilization in the DRC. The M23, through its actions, fits the description of a terrorist movement and can only be treated as such. Henceforth, we urge the United States of America to cut its ties with both the Rwandan and Ugandan governments, to definitely promote peace and justice in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and to work towards building a mutually beneficial partnership between the Congolese people and the American people.

Rally Schedule
  • 11:00 am to 11:25 am Participants arrival at LaFayette Park, East Quadrant
  • 11: 30 am Welcome remarks/update situation in the DR. Congo
  • 11:45 am to 2:00 pm Peaceful demonstration with drums
  • 2:05 pm Speech
  • 2:30 pm to 3:30 pm Peaceful demonstration with drums
  • 3:35 pm to 3:50 pm Reading of Memorandum
  • 3:55 pm End of Rally
Matthias Cinyabuguma, PhD (M) 410-440-8846
Joseph Mbangu, LL. M (M) 347-558-2610 @Chedelum

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Friday, November 30, 2012

How NY State Library Aid Earns A Big ROI

New York State Library aid has declined below 2007 levels, so Westchester Library System Executive Director Terry Kirchner and I made the trip to Albany yesterday to deliver the following testimony before the Assembly Standing Committee On Libraries And Education Technology:

Thank you for this opportunity to report on how state funding has contributed to the growth of library service in all its many facets in Westchester County. As a library layman who has served as a trustee since 2003, I have seen firsthand how important state funding has been to accomplishing our mission of empowering libraries and empowering communities. On behalf of the trustees and other volunteers with whom I serve, I thank you for your support.

New York State funding represents about 38% of the Westchester Library System annual revenue. It is a powerful driver of a growing number of library-based activities that serve many populations in our diverse communities and supports our economic, educational, and quality of life initiatives. In Westchester County, the Westchester Library System (WLS) and the member public libraries have worked collaboratively with many local partners to bring a wide range of services to all county residents.  In this testimony we will highlight just a few of the ways that WLS has used State Library Aid to support our local communities.

Learning Ambassadors provides summer training and employment opportunities for youth aged 14-19, with most participants residing in economically disadvantaged communities. The participants are trained in communication, library science, and technical skills, then  fill a variety of roles that support children and teen summer reading activities as well as computer workshops for adults. The twenty seven (27) ambassadors this past summer reported an increase in self-confidence, a better competency in technology and early childhood literacy skills, and a stronger desire to excel in school. Numerous local agencies teamed with WLS to make this program possible, including the member libraries, the Mount Vernon Youth Bureau, the Great Potential Program at SUNY Purchase and Upward Bound at Mercy College.

GED Connect! is a technology-based, volunteer driven project that helps adult learners obtain their General Equivalency Degree. WLS created and supports an online portal for low-literacy users, www.firstfind.org, that allows for 24/7 access to this learning tool at no cost to users. Trained volunteers provide one-on-one learning support for students at eight (8) public libraries throughout Westchester County: Greenburgh, Mount Kisco, Mount Vernon, New Rochelle, Ossining, Peekskill, White Plains, and Yonkers. Since this program began in 2011, demand has grown steadily. Local partners working with WLS on this initiative include Westchester Community College in Peekskill, Westhab in Mount Vernon, and Neighbors Link in Mount Kisco.

Senior Benefits Information Centers (SBICs) help residents aged 60 and older to understand and apply for Medicare and other benefits and services that help them lead healthier and happier lives. The Medicare Rights Center (MRC) and the Westchester County Department of Senior Programs and Services (WDSPS) partner with WLS to make this program available at eight (8) public libraries in the county: Greenburgh, Mount Kisco, New Rochelle, Peekskill (Field) , Port Chester-Rye Brook, Shrub Oak (John C. Hart Memorial), Tarrytown (Warner) and Yonkers (Grinton I. Will). In 2011 the SBIC program received a National Association of Counties Achievement Award for its contribution to enhancing effective county government.

Economic Development has long been supported by WLS and our member libraries. Among the initiatives made possible in some part by state funding are:

Career counseling. WLS has partnered with the public libraries to offer career and educational counseling seminars, workshops and one-on-one session to the public for 31 years. These programs are available to the public at no cost, and as one could imagine the demand for them is very high. In 2011 over 2,400 individuals participated in these programs. Historically, more than 90% of them rate the experience as “good to excellent” and 42% of those surveyed reported a positive change in employment status such as finding more challenging work, receiving higher pay and/or an increase in promotional opportunities since attending a program.
The Westchester Putnam One-Stop. WLS and the public libraries in Greenburgh, Katonah, North Castle, and Tarrytown (Warner) have shared resources to create satellite locations that provide easier access to resources and services to job seekers and the under-employed.
Technology infrastructure. WLS supports the technology infrastructure for the public computer workstations and wireless access at 44 public library sites in Westchester. This technology infrastructure allows library staff to lead computer training and social media workshops for the public, allows individuals to create and update resumes and cover letters, and enables job seekers to fill out online application forms or search job related databases such as JobNow and Career and Job Accelerator.

Training and Professional Development through WLS is also made possible by State Library Aid. Library staff and trustees at the member libraries benefit from a range of training and professional development activities. Recent workshops covered a multitude of topics including autism, compliance and governance issues, customer service, fundraising, grant writing, immigrant services, supporting special needs students and their families, social media, volunteer recruitment, and working with at-risk youth. The goal of these workshops is to help libraries operate more effectively and engage with all members of their communities.

State Library Construction Grants have been put to good use in Westchester County. This year WLS supported fourteen (14) library construction projects through the State’s Public Library Construction Grant Program. These projects will allow libraries to create facilities that better meet the growing need for community and meeting room spaces, update and replace aging infrastructure, create ADA compliant facilities, and help address the growing role of libraries as relief centers during times of catastrophe. From an economic perspective, library construction projects provide additional local jobs and enhance retail sales at nearby businesses. One of those fourteen projects is particularly close to my heart since the state construction grant was leveraged by the Harrison Public Library to attract additional private funding to construct the library’s first Teen Center, which will include a feature-rich high-tech environment dedicated to a population currently under-served by that library.

Public libraries and public library systems have been, and continue to be, a good investment for the State of New York. By encouraging collaboration and using leverage, state funding improves library service and helps our public libraries operate more efficiently. The Westchester Library System saves $36 million annually for our 38 member libraries by providing cooperative programs, technology, and other services made possible in large part by New York State funding. We thank you for your past support and strongly encourage the Assembly Standing Committee on Libraries and Education Technology to support an increase in library aid for the 2013-2014 State budget.

Dave Donelson distills the experiences of hundreds of entrepreneurs into practical advice for small business owners and managers in the Dynamic Manager's Guides, a series of how-to books about marketing and advertising, sales techniques, motivating personnel, financial management, and business strategy.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Grand Slam Free Today Only

Today is the last day to read Grand Slam for free! Don't miss this Halloween opportunity to download the Kindle edition of this tongue-in-cheek tale of a werewolf with moonstruck swing thoughts who pursues the biggest prize in golf, the Grand Slam.

Bobby Jones did it, Tiger Woods almost did it, but if the moon were full during the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open, and PGA Championship, could a werewolf win the elusive Grand Slam of golf? Find out in this tale from Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf.

Kindle owners can download Grand Slam with a single click. You can also read it on your iPad or other device using the Kindle app from Amazon. But if want to read it for free, you have to act today!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

B 2 B Direct Mail Marketing Followup

Once you’ve done a few mailings, go visit the prospects on your list. Before you go, though, think through what you want to say to them. A short (three-minute) description of what you do and how you can help the prospect’s company make money will get you started. Once you’ve delivered it, ask them what you need to do to get their business, then shut up and listen. Nine times out of ten, they’ll tell you what you need to know as long as you use a professional approach and demonstrate a willingness to pay attention. Don’t be offended if you get a brush-off or two and don’t give up if they say they already have a preferred source for what you’re trying to sell. If that happens, thank them for their time and move on. Keep them on your mailing list, though, and visit them again next month—things change!

You should also have a leave-behind of some sort for every sales call. This can be a version of your latest direct mail piece, a fancier brochure, or even a coffee mug with your logo. And don’t forget to give them your business card. In fact, one of the best tactics you can adopt is to always hand out two cards at a time and ask the recipient to pass one along to anyone else they know who might be interested in your services.

Once you’ve established a relationship, build on it. There are all kinds of creative things you can do to keep your company at the top of the prospect’s list of preferred subs and vendors. Offer to sponsor a sales contest for the prospect for example, awarding a prize to the dealer’s salesperson who sells the most pieces in your line during a given period of time. Watch for the prospect’s own sales event, then have a pile of pizzas or a few boxes of donuts delivered with your compliments on their busiest day.  If the prospect belongs to a civic group or supports a local charity, become involved with it yourself. The goal is to keep your name in front of the prospect all the time.

Your own vendors may help you with business-to-business marketing, too. Many manufacturers and distributors have co-operative advertising programs that pay part of the cost of your printing and mailing if you feature their products. Even if they don’t have a formal program, it doesn’t hurt to ask the next time you place an order. Others may have regional sales reps who would be available to go with you to make face-to-face calls. You should also ask if your suppliers do any lead generating of their own—trade shows, magazine advertising, etc.—that they can share with you.

Even with help from your vendors, marketing isn’t free, of course. A hundred first-class letters will cost you at least $100 for postage, envelopes, and computer printer ink. Imprinted coffee mugs aren’t cheap and even a supply of business cards will set you back a few bucks.

The biggest expense, though, is your time. Someone has to compile the prospect list, write the sales letters, and make the sales calls. In most small businesses, that someone is you. To control that particular expense (and to make sure the marketing gets done), dedicate a set number of hours every week to it, budgeting your time the same way you do your money.

Marketing is an investment from which you should expect a return. Fortunately, results from business-to-business marketing are usually easy to track. There is a finite prospect list, you know exactly how you’re marketing to each one, and you can easily identify the orders that you get from them. Make the investment in business-to-business marketing for a few months, then review the response. You might be surprised how much your company’s business has grown.

Dave Donelson distills the experiences of hundreds of entrepreneurs into practical advice for small business owners and managers in the Dynamic Manager's Guides, a series of how-to books about marketing and advertising, sales techniques, motivating personnel, financial management, and business strategy.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Free Golf For Werewolves

You think golf is scary? Wait until you read Grand Slam, a tongue-in-cheek golf tale that will put a shiver in your swing. And for a few days--just in time for Halloween--Grand Slam is FREE for Kindle owners at Amazon.com!

The full moon is the key when an underachieving European Tour pro suddenly stalks the fairways at Augusta National, Shinnecock, Carnoustie, and Winged Foot with a chance to set the ultimate record in golf, winning the Grand Slam, while leaving behind a trail of bloody victims and sparking the ire of a golf-obsessed newspaper reporter who vows to stop him. It's a golf story weird enough to leave you howling at the moon.

Grand Slam is free through Halloween, so don't miss out on this chance to read one of the 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible and morally reprehensible golf in Weird Golf.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

How To Succeed At B 2 B Direct Mail Marketing

DAdvertising to other companies doesn’t mean running TV spots in the Super Bowl. It’s much more targeted than that, which means it’s much more economical. Direct mail is probably the single most effective medium to use; it’s intrusive and there’s very little waste circulation. There are three keys to successful direct mail: a good prospect list, a compelling message, and repetition. You can make up a short prospect list yourself if you spend a little time with the Yellow Pages. Just look up the dealers and other prospects in your market area, call them to get the names of the general managers, service writers, sales managers and buyers, and you’ll have a solid prospect list to work with. Keep it handy, by the way, because you’ll use it later when you start making sales calls.

The direct mail piece itself doesn’t have to be a four-color glossy catalogue. In fact, a one-page personal letter introducing you and describing how you can make money for the other company (in one form or another, that should always be your pitch) will be a good place to start. Every three or four weeks, send another one saying the same thing in different ways. You can announce new equipment or product lines you’ve added, quote a recently satisfied customer, or brag about any awards you’ve received. Address it to each individual on your list, keep it to one page, include a picture or two, and make sure you send something at least once a month.

A web site is a useful business-to-business marketing tool, too. If it has plenty of pictures of your work or products, testimonials from satisfied customers, and some information about your background and your company’s capabilities, it will give the prospect even more reasons to send business your way. Also make sure there is a working email link, phone and fax numbers, and keep it all up to date. You don’t need to hire a high-priced web designer, by the way; most hosting services offer perfectly good bare-bones templates. The site itself can cost less than $10 a month.

Dave Donelson distills the experiences of hundreds of entrepreneurs into practical advice for small business owners and managers in the Dynamic Manager's Guides, a series of how-to books about marketing and advertising, sales techniques, motivating personnel, financial management, and business strategy.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Dave Pelz Putting Games

Dave Pelz Putting Games
The day before I read Dave Pelz's Putting Games, I played in a scramble where all four members of my team--none with a handicap over ten--missed the same basically straight five-foot birdie putt. As you might imagine, I opened Pelz's book with more than average interest. I wasn't disappointed.

Putting Games is all about developing the skills to make more putts. The first section is diagnostic, the second covers stroke mechanics like aim and face angle, while the third is about developing touch and feel. Pelz painstakingly describes seven games you should play to measure your performance so you can map a route to improvement. They are all played with twelve balls and address nearly every putting circumstance from the dreaded three-footer to sixty-foot lags.

As you would expect given Pelz's background as a NASA scientist and perhaps the most data-driven golf instructor in the business, the "games" rely heavily on measurement and data analysis. they also make extensive us of some of the many training aids Pelz sells. This approach will clearly appeal to analytic golfers, but the games will also help more "feel" players improve their putting performance as well.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Social Media Marketing Tips From The Pros

“You have to create a plan. I see many professionals and smaller businesses who haven’t looked at their objectives. Who is their target audience? What key messages are they trying to get out?”
--Stacy Cohen, Co-communications

“A great way to gain followers on Twitter is to Retweet what someone else has to say or to jump into their conversation and add your own perspective. Also ask people to retweet your links by adding the words ‘Pls RT’”
--Stacy Solomon, Internet Marketing Consultant

“If you are spending five hundred to a thousand dollars each month on marketing and take even one or two months of this and invest in setting up your social media, you can see a significant long-term gain for your business.”
--Gerald Stern, WOW Production Services

“One hundred high-quality followers easily equals one thousand so-so followers, because in the social media world you want people to constantly pass on the things you write, as well as send you material to post. Business people must avoid an overt ‘sales’ method—you’ll just turn people off and you’ll lose your following.”
--Chris Cornell, Westchester Social Media

“You should never expect social media to be completely cost-free. Someone must spend time staying on top of all those tweets, messages, Facebook updates and blog posts. Likewise, quick (if not instant) replies are necessary to maintain a reputation for responsiveness.”
--Kristen Ruby, Ruby Media Group

Whether they pay-it-forward or pay-as-they-go, more and more business owners and managers are turning to social media networks for very good reasons. “In the current economic downturn business owners must go above and beyond to promote themselves,” says Rye NY Chamber of Commerce Secretary Sally Wright. The organization received dozens of requests for a repeat of its recent social media seminar. She adds, “Social media is one great way to accomplish that.”

Dave Donelson distills the experiences of hundreds of entrepreneurs into practical advice for small business owners and managers in the Dynamic Manager's Guides, a series of how-to books about marketing and advertising, sales techniques, motivating personnel, financial management, and business strategy.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Pricing For Profit - Step Two

Once you know how much the merchandise or job costs, you mark it up to provide a profit. One way is to use what’s known as “keystone” pricing, which simply means doubling the cost to arrive at the selling price. This provides a 50% gross profit margin. That’s why retailers can put goods on sale for 40% off and still make a profit. It works fine, but it isn’t always the best choice.

You can also use manufacturers’ suggested retail pricing, which even further simplifies the calculations. Nationally uniform prices, of course don’t reflect local market conditions, much less the individual business owner’s costs of doing business. Remember, too, that they’re designed to help the manufacturer move more merchandise, not necessarily help you make more money.

Using a standard markup sounds simple, but that’s really only the beginning of sound pricing strategy. You also have to be sure that the gross profit is large enough to cover your overhead, or the indirect costs of operating your business, and still leave a net profit. Whether you’re marking up merchandise or deciding on a labor rate, you’ve got to build in something to cover the rent—and all those other bills you pay every month.
Every business has indirect expenses (not related to the cost of a piece of merchandise or a particular employee’s labor on a job) that have to be paid. The obvious ones include your building and what it costs to operate it (utilities, maintenance, taxes, insurance), your fixtures, tools, office equipment, vehicles and other fixed assets (their cost on an annual basis is your depreciation expense), your salary and benefits (especially health insurance), not to mention the office manager and other general employees. Don’t forget to add in your property and casualty and liability insurance premiums, accountant’s fees, advertising and marketing expenses, office supplies, telephone, and so on and so on. While you’re at it, make sure you include an annual contribution to your own retirement plan, be it a 401-K, SEP-IRA, or whatever.

Finally, add something for net profit. That’s the whole point of running the business, right? The net profit, by the way, is not the same as your salary as the manager or owner. Your salary is payment for your labor managing the business. If you’re the owner, the net profit is the return on your investment and the compensation your receive for the risks you take. There’s a big difference.

The total dollar amount of your shop’s gross profit, the figure that has to be larger than your overhead expense, is also dependant on how much merchandise you sell or how many jobs you complete. These are determined, at least in part, by the prices you charge. If your prices are too high, customers will run away, so it can be a vicious circle. Cost-based pricing is all well and good, but ultimately, the prices you charge are determined by what your customers are willing to pay. That’s where a whole raft of other factors comes into play.

Dave Donelson distills the experiences of hundreds of entrepreneurs into practical advice for small business owners and managers in the Dynamic Manager's Guides, a series of how-to books about marketing and advertising, sales techniques, motivating personnel, financial management, and business strategy.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Master The Short Game With Dave Stockton

Dave Stockton Unconscious Scoring

I got quite a lot from reading Dave Stockton's book, Unconscious Putting, probably because the master's approach very much mirrors mine: see the hole, role the ball into it. Sweet and simple. I consider myself a pretty good putter but not a great one, though, because I still don't have as many one-putts as I need to really get the putt count down. That's where Stockton's latest book, Unconscious Scoring, is helpful.

Why? Because one-putts come mostly from hitting your approach shot closer to the hole in the first place. That's what Unconscious Scoring is all about. Again, I really, really identify with Stockton's KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) philosophy.

Stockton says you only need two basic shots around the green to produce a fabulous short game--a low shot and a high shot. After explaining why this approach will work for players at all handicaps, he shows how to hit each one in two clearly-illustrated chapters.

Next, he carries these principles into various situations where he demonstrates how you don't need to create a whole new swing to get up and down every time you face a tough lie. Stockton covers numerous trouble shots--from a bunker, hardpan, a divot, off a side-hill, etc.--with some elementary modifications of his basic two-shot repertoire. The book is rounded out with chapters on the Mental Game, Practice, Equipment, and Putting.

The material in Unconscious Scoring came from Stockton's excellent five-major-championship career as well as his work with world-class players like Phil Mickelson, Annika Sorenstam, Yani Tseng, and Rory McIlroy, who also wrote the foreword for the book.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Pricing For Profit - Step One

When it comes to prices in your business, how much is enough and how much is too much? How do you set your prices? Buy low and sell high is the obvious answer, but for many companies, especially those with a mixture of retail merchandise and services, bricks-and-mortar and online competition, and customers driven one day by a penny-pinching budget and the next by the lust called gotta-have-whatever-at-any-price, there aren’t any easy answers.

Setting prices requires that even the most experienced manager or owner take a few moments every once in a while to dust off the calculator, get the accountant on the phone, and do some serious figuring. It’s tempting to just mark all merchandise up by a fixed percentage and figure labor at a flat rate comparable to what your competitors charge, but that’s not managing for profit, it’s hoping for one. There are several factors that you should consider.

Start with the cost of goods sold. That’s the amount you pay the manufacturer, wholesaler, or whomever for the merchandise you sell, whether at retail or as part of a service job. But it also includes the cost of acquiring those goods (shipping and handling), carrying them in inventory (interest expense), and allowances for returns and defective merchandise. If you pay any salespeople a commission or spiff, that needs to be taken into account, too.

For service work, you have to cover your direct labor costs on each job. These include not only an appropriate portion of your technicians’ annual salaries, but also their benefits, payroll taxes, unemployment insurance, worker’s compensation insurance, etc

What about the cost of your time? Whether you are a one-person business or simply provide indirect supervision of your staff, your time is a cost that has to be covered. One way to approach this is to divide what you expect to personally earn on an annual basis (including those items above but not your profit from the business—I’ll talk about that later) by 2,000, which is roughly the number of working hours during the year. Let’s say your “salary” plus benefits is $100,000. Your hourly labor cost is $50. Multiply that number by the hours you estimate you’ll personally spend on the job, add in the other worker’s costs, and you have your direct labor costs.

These aren't the only factors, so check next week for more guidelines on pricing for profit.

Dave Donelson distills the experiences of hundreds of entrepreneurs into practical advice for small business owners and managers in the Dynamic Manager's Guides, a series of how-to books about marketing and advertising, sales techniques, motivating personnel, financial management, and business strategy.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Smart Golf Lowers Scores

The Five Inch Course by John Lloyd Retzer
John Lloyd Retzer tells it like is on both GolfBlogger.com and in his new pull-no-punches golf instruction book, The Five Inch Course: Thinking Your Way To Better Golf. The book resonated with me because I've played, studied, and written about the game for more than four decades so I don't have any more delusions about my game. The majority of golfers, though, will probably read The Five Inch Course and decide its lessons really don't apply to them. All they need is another $400 driver, a few more hours of the Golf Channel, and another great swing tip from the attendant at the gas station, and they'll shoot par every time. Who knows? Maybe the Champions Tour is within reach!

It's not, of course, mainly because the majority of golfers won't play the intelligent take-fewer-chances brand of golf Retzer espouses. And that's a shame, really, because we could all play much better golf if we just dialed back our testosterone and followed his advice to adopt realistic expectations, play within ourselves, and stop pretending we can make a 160 wedge shot bend backwards out of the trees just like Bubba Watson. I rant about many of the same topics in Weird Golf.

Retzer hooked me in his introduction when he said:
"...this doesn't mean that lower scores are out of your reach. It just means that you have to play better golf with the swing you already have." 
He goes on to remind us that
"Four ugly strokes equal four pretty ones [on the scorecard]." 
His goal throughout the book is to teach us to work our way around the course in the least number of strokes, not with the longest drive. That often means leaving the driver in the bag, laying up on that long par four so you take double bogey out of the equation, and maybe even bunting a low runner 120 yards down a narrow fairway instead of taking a full swing that brings OB into play.

Retzer says some of his buddies call this "old man golf." I call it "smart golf."

The Five Inch Course is a collection of short mental game tips organized into chapters on practical topics like what to do before you play, how to think about what you're doing on the tee, what should be going through your mind in the fairways, and common-sense ways to save strokes on and around the green. The style is straightforward and highly readable with a bit of humor thrown in here and there.

Retzer's approach doesn't preclude taking risks or attempting that one-in-a-hundred shot over the water to a tight front pin. He just reminds us that we're going to be really, really sorry if we play that way on every shot in every round. Have some fun, he says, but remember that conservative play is the way to lower your score.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

How To Turn A Newbie Into A Customer For Life

New customers are the lifeblood of any business, but only if they stick around long enough to become old customers. A one-time buyer is welcome, but the ones who put money in the bank are those who come back again and again.

One breed of new customer that’s tricky to develop is the neophyte, the guy or gal who is new to the world your business inhabits. Maybe they are a first-time home buyer or a young couple setting up a college fund for their newborn. The way you and your staff respond to that newbie can make or break your relationship with them. Treat them like an idiot the first time and you’ll never see them again. Treat them right, and you’ll create a customer for life.

It’s tough, though. A newbie doesn’t know what questions to ask. He doesn’t know what’s do-able and what violates the laws of physics and/or the local building code. She may have seen a TV show where some lucky stiff’s family room went from wreck to magazine-spread-worthy in thirty minutes and expect you to do the same. What’s worse, she’s going to take up way more of your valuable time than this measly little job is worth.

The next time a newbie walks through your door, put yourself in their shoes for a minute. Remember what it was like when you went onto the field for your very first Little League tryout? If you were like most of us, the experience was a little intimidating. Everyone else seemed to know exactly what they were doing, but you weren’t sure. You wanted to make the team, but the single most important goal was to avoid making a fool of yourself.

That’s what the newbie is feeling when he comes into your business for the first time. He or she may not admit it—and may try to bluff their way through—but they are nervous about sounding dumb when they talk to the experts in the field.

Your first job, then, is to make the customer comfortable. Don’t draw attention to his ignorance by telling him it’s all right to be stupid. Instead, listen to his ideas in a non-judgmental way and ask him questions about what he needs at a level he can understand. Try to avoid using terms the customer may not have heard before, or, if you have to, explain them without being condescending.

Dave Donelson distills the experiences of hundreds of entrepreneurs into practical advice for small business owners and managers in the Dynamic Manager's Guides, a series of how-to books about marketing and advertising, sales techniques, motivating personnel, financial management, and business strategy.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Negotiation Highs And Lows

I used to be a strong advocate of aiming high—making an outrageous offer so that I’d have plenty of room to come down when the buyer made a counter offer. Besides, I believed, low offers signal weakness.

I eventually learned that if the first offer was too high—outside the realm of what’s reasonable to the buyer—then the buyer just might not make any counter offer at all. Then where was I? If I lowered my offer to try to re-start the negotiation, I was really signaling my desperation and letting the buyer know that concessions could be won.

The first step in the Creative Selling System is gathering information about your prospect. And one of the key pieces of information is an estimate of the prospect’s spending potential. This not only gives you a goal to shoot for and an idea of how to structure your proposal, it gives you a good guideline for where to start your negotiations. As long as you begin with a proposal in the ballpark your prospect is used to playing in, you’re not likely to scare them off.

Take the time to do your homework and use one or more of the estimating methods I covered in The Dynamic Manager’s Guide To Sales Techniques. Even if you didn’t use those figures to structure your proposal in the first place, they will give you a sense of what’s possible for your negotiation.

Judge the reasonableness of your opening offer carefully. My rule now is that my opening offer is one at the high end of what the prospect could accept with no further changes if they were so inclined—and one I could defend without stretching my credibility.

It’s also good to practice a little mental discipline. Right at the beginning of the negotiation, establish in your own mind the lowest acceptable offer you’ll take. That way, you have a sense of how far you can go before you start cutting into profit margins, production capacity or whatever benchmark your company uses. As the negotiations proceed, you know where you are at all times. That sense of security gives you greater confidence during the process.

Establishing the lowest acceptable alternative in advance does something else. It keeps you in a win/win frame of mind because you don’t have to worry about losing! As long as you know the point at which you will walk away (and stick to it) you can’t lose anything.

As you may have noticed, we’ve now set an upper and a lower limit to pricing. This range makes it much easier to build a few small concessions into your proposal, or plan some value items you can add as the negotiations proceed. This helps you avoid making that big concession all at once, leaving you with no place to go if the buyer rejects it.

Dave Donelson distills the experiences of hundreds of entrepreneurs into practical advice for small business owners and managers in the Dynamic Manager's Guides, a series of how-to books about marketing and advertising, sales techniques, motivating personnel, financial management, and business strategy.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Put Time On Your Side When Negotiating

One of the factors never to be overlooked in any negotiation is time. Time pressure works for and against both parties, often in interesting ways. Anyone who has been involved in union negotiations, for example, knows that the largest concessions always come just before the strike deadline. In fact, sometimes that’s the first time any concessions occur! Knowledge of the deadlines faced by the other party can be a powerful tool.

The pressure to come to an agreement is generally greatest on the party with the nearest deadline. Magazines are much more inclined to negotiate liberal terms for ad space the day before the issue closes than they are the week before. The prospect whose insurance policy is about to lapse is more eager to renew the policy than one with a 90 day grace period remaining. Know your prospect and know their deadlines.

One way to use time to your advantage is by making small concessions one at a time, drawing out the negotiating process if that is to your advantage. On the other hand, you may need to bring the deal to a close, in which case you may want to make a BFO, or best and final offer.

As a seller, though, don’t be surprised if the buyer calls your bluff. They have nothing to lose and plenty to gain by telling you your BFO isn’t good enough. If you back down and make a further concession, all you’ve done is prove to the buyer that you’re a bluffer—and that your word isn’t any good.

The time to make a BFO is when you discover you’re negotiating with yourself. You can tell that’s the situation because the other party isn’t offering any concessions—you’re the only one making any movement. It’s one of the most frustrating situations you can face. You make all the moves, getting nothing more than a “that’s not good enough” response from the prospect. The time to take a chance and make your BFO is when you have nothing to lose.

Dave Donelson distills the experiences of hundreds of entrepreneurs into practical advice for small business owners and managers in the Dynamic Manager's Guides, a series of how-to books about marketing and advertising, sales techniques, motivating personnel, financial management, and business strategy.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Overcoming A Distaste For Negotiation

Some people are leery of negotiating a sale. They feel that the process is somehow dishonest or demeans them, their product, or even their prospect in some way. In fact, I often encounter sales managers who proudly point out that their prices are firm. They insist that every customer pays the same price and that’s the one set by the sales manager. They would rather forego a sale than violate their holy pricing policies. These sales managers need a strong dose of reality—and they often get it in the form of declining market share.

There is nothing holy about a given price, nor is there any moral law that says that every customer is entitled to the same terms. In fact, certain religions make a pretty strong moral case for customizing prices and other terms according to each customer’s individual needs. Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with having a firm pricing policy. But let’s not hide the reasons for it in some kind of moral cloud. Firm pricing is a matter of what management feels is best for the selling company. Ideally (from their standpoint), it controls demand to produce the maximum profit from the available supply. And having firm prices makes the administration of the revenue stream easier, which makes the sales manager’s job easier. There’s nothing wrong with that.

But there is nothing wrong with negotiating every sale, either. Humans have been doing it for thousands of years in one way or another. In fact, the most successful economic system yet invented, the free market economy, is predicated on the freedom of sellers to offer different value for various prices and for buyers to accept or reject them.

Isn’t that what happens when your favorite department store puts an item on sale? Apparently, the store’s customers made the choice to not buy that item at the previous price, and the store made the choice to offer it at a lower price as a result. Isn’t that a form of negotiation?

Western retail negotiation just doesn’t happen face-to-face (usually) like the haggling that occurs in a Middle Eastern souk. It’s the same process, but the department store is haggling through the medium of its displays and signs rather than having hawkers standing in the aisles soliciting offers for the merchandise on the tables.

In business-to-business sales, nearly every sale is openly negotiated. There may be published price lists and standard terms, but very few buyers would keep their jobs if they didn’t at least try to do better. And few sellers would keep the revenue flowing if they didn’t make pricing adjustments to stay competitive.

Dave Donelson distills the experiences of hundreds of entrepreneurs into practical advice for small business owners and managers in the Dynamic Manager's Guides, a series of how-to books about marketing and advertising, sales techniques, motivating personnel, financial management, and business strategy.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Golf Purists Love Pasatiempo

Pasatiempo 11th Hole
11th Hole, Pasatiempo. Photo courtesy of Rob Babcock/Pasatiempo Golf Club
California has so many great golf destinations it's easy to overlook one of the best courses in the state--if not the nation--simply because there's no resort attached to it and the professional tours don't stop there. I'm talking about Pasatiempo, the classic Alister Mackenzie gem roughly midway between San Francisco and the Monterey Peninsula, home to one of his other famous designs, Cypress Point (not to mention Pebble Beach, Spyglass, et al). No matter where you're playing otherwise in Northern California, Pasatiempo is well worth the short side trip. It's a must-play for serious golfers not to mention students of golf architecture. How good is Pasatiempo? When Bobby Jones played it on opening day in 1929, he immediately hired Mackenzie to design Augusta National.

Pasatiempo is only 6,521 yards from the tips, but it plays to a stalwart 72.4 rating/143 slope. Its dramatic elevation changes and seemingly endless natural hazards make for a rugged course whose difficulty is cranked up several notches by Mackenzie's strongly contoured greens and sprawling, glorious bunkers. Every hole seems to offer a risk and reward tactical choice and every green runs fast, true, and convoluted.

Each successive tee box presents you with a unique challenge. The opener is a 457-yard par four that requires a long, accurate approach as well as a powerful drive. The third hole, a magnificent 235-yard uphill par three, is protected not just by its length but by four menacing greenside bunkers along with a mind-messing cross bunker. The first par five you play, the sixth hole, is 567 yards, but believe it or not, accuracy counts more than length on every shot due to the tight fairway, cross bunkers, and long, narrow green. Next up is the shortest par four on the course, the 348-yard seventh hole, where trees from both sides nearly meet overhead to practically form a tunnel over the fairway. Needless to say, a controlled tee shot is essential.

Natural hazards abound on the back side. A bottomless ravine threatens both your drive and your approach on the 392-yard eleventh hole, then comes back into play guarding the green on the 373-yard twelfth. Fifteen is a 141-yard one-shotter perched behind another deep fissure in the earth's crust, as is the 169-yard finishing hole, which also slopes--and putts--more like an icy ski slope than a golf green.

Pasatiempo 16th Hole
16th Hole, Pasatiempo. Photo courtesy of Rob Babcock/Pasatiempo Golf Club
The number one handicap hole on Pasatiempo is the 387-yard sixteenth, a hole Mackenzie himself considered the best two-shotter in the game. The drive is uphill, blind, and rewards a high draw if you can pull one off. The approach is what separates the men from the boys, however. It's back over the ravine you've encounted on several holes and into a brutal three-tiered green that is a full 49 yards deep and has a frightening false front. Coming up short is not an option, nor is leaving your ball above the hole. In other words, par on this hole is almost always a function of a perfect second shot. It's easy to see how Pasatiempo was built to enhance match play, the predominant form of competition in its day.

The club has hosted numerous USGA championships and is the permanent home of the Western Intercollegiate Golf Tournament where everyone from Ken Venturi and Gene Littler To Johnny Miller, Dave Stockton, and Tiger Woods competed during their college years. LPGA star Juli Inkster literally grew up on the course and Alister Mackenzie chose to live there--his home is along the fairway on the sixth hole. And here's an aside for New York area golfers: Mackenzie is believed to have worked on Century Country Club in Purchase while he was a partner with Colt & Allison, the official designers of the course.

One of the best features of Pasatiempo is its status as a semi-private club. Certain tee times are reserved for members, but you can book a time online as much as 365 days in advance. If you treasure the classical traditions of golf architecture or otherwise want a spectacular golf experience, book yours today!

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Visual Aids For Sales Presentations

Larger group presentations often call for visual aids, which can both embellish and complicate your presentation. Whether you’re using foam-board flip cards or a laptop with presentation software projected onto a big screen, be sure that you know how to use the presentation medium and have rehearsed with it.

Find out, if you can, just how large the room will be and how many participants you’ll be facing. This will help you determine what kind of visual aids, if any, that you want to use. You may not want 24 X 30-inch flip cards for a group of four—unless they’re going to be seated at the opposite end of a 20-ft. table.

Never count on the prospect to provide any equipment. There’s nothing worse than arriving to connect your laptop to the prospect’s projector only to discover that you need an adapter neither one of you has. Whether you’re going high-tech or low-tech, bring every single item you could possibly need with you. This includes everything from extension cords and grounded-outlet adapters to monitors and projectors. If you need an easel for your flip cards, bring one yourself. I can almost guarantee that if you don’t, the prospect’s won’t work or someone in another department will have borrowed it just before you arrived.

It’s mandatory that you set up your visual aids before the group gathers in the room. I would rather skip the visual aids completely than stumble through a pitch while I’m fumbling with a “General Protection Page Fault” on my laptop. In fact, if it’s not possible to get access to the meeting room and set up before the group gathers, play it safe and don’t bother with the visual aids. It’s better to make a neutral low-tech impression than a bad high-tech one.

If you’re using a laptop, set up your software so that you don’t have to click through several screens to get to your presentation. Create a shortcut to the presentation right on your opening screen. That way, all you have to do is click on it to start the show. Finally, check the view from the back of the room to be sure everyone can read your material.

No matter which format you use for your visual aids, design them as much like your written presentation as you can. Make each slide (or card) simple, clear, and to the point. Any bodies of text will need to be converted to bullet points, of course. This isn’t the place to go into great detail on constructing slide presentations, but get yourself a good tutorial if you plan on preparing your own.

Group presentations are actually great fun to give. You get to practice your craft in a slightly different way from the normal routine. And you have the opportunity to use all of your persuasive skills and stagecraft to their fullest effect. Most group presentations involve prospects with large potential, so there’s usually a lot riding on the effectiveness of your pitch. You’ll make good use of your stage fright management skills.

Dave Donelson distills the experiences of hundreds of entrepreneurs into practical advice for small business owners and managers in the Dynamic Manager's Guides, a series of how-to books about marketing and advertising, sales techniques, motivating personnel, financial management, and business strategy.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Half Moon Bay Sized Right For Golf Weekends

The Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay epitomizes the perfect golf weekend destination. Just 30 minutes from San Francisco International Airport, the resort offers accommodations at a fabulous Ritz hotel, two very entertaining golf courses, and guest pampering that won't stop.

Golf is the heart of the resort and two excellent and completely different golf experiences are available to both resort guests and daily fee players. The Old Course, a traditional parkland-style track that opened in 1973, was designed by Arnold Palmer and Francis Duane. Its18th hole along the ocean has been ranked among the 100 best in America. The Ocean Course was designed by Arthur Hills to pay homage to Scottish links-style courses. It debuted in 1997 and was remodeled in 2009 to make it play even more true to the style.

Half Moon Bay Old Course 18th Hole
18th Hole on the Old Course. Photo courtesy of the resort.
The Old Course stretches 7,001 yards from the tips. The generous fairways and gentle greens are perfect for the resort player who chooses the right tees (the whites are fine at 6,323 yards). The better player will be rewarded by well-placed tee shots and aggressive pin-seeking approaches while the less-than-perfect golfer won't be decimated by a miss or two. The Old Course ends with two thrilling holes on the Pacific, a 167-yard one-shotter that plays dead into the prevailing wind followed by a risk-and-reward 405-yard par four with the ocean on the right and a ravine crossing the fairway smack in the middle of the range of just about everybody's tee shot. A driver should probably be your last choice off the tee on the final hole. The shot into the tiny 18th green is a simple short iron or wedge made a bit more demanding by the audience typically watching from the hotel patio and fire pit adjacent to it.

The Pacific is in view from every hole on the Ocean Course, but is in play (kind of) only on the 184-yard par-three seventeenth hole, where an errant tee shot can easily find the beach at the bottom of the cliffs next to the green. The ocean breezes (or gales), though, shape every shot you make on the 6,854-yard track--especially on the back nine. The course plays much like pure links, with rolling, contoured fairways where odd bounces prevail and approach shots into generous greens demand careful consideration of the humps and bumps of the greenside terrain. Shot values matter more than sheer length and power. The fairways are generous but the rough is mowed short around bunkers to bring the hazards into play on tee shots. Greenside surrounds are cut to “just above green” mowing height to foster ball movement on the ground and native fescue between holes provides you with visual cues about how to direct your shots.

Half Moon Bay Ocean Course 18th hole
18th Hole on the Ocean Course. Photo courtesy of the resort.
With a little planning, it's easy to play both courses in a day. Just be sure to leave time for a generous lunch break in Mullins Bar & Grill in the clubhouse or in the Conservatory Lounge in the hotel. The sliders of pulled pork cooked for 48 sweet hours deserve your full attention, so allow enough time between rounds to enjoy them.

Other dining options include the nautically-inspired Navio, which serves fine coastal cuisine from a 1,000 sq. ft. display kitchen and ENO, a wine bar that contains over 5,000 bottles of international wines and includes sommelier-selected wine flights. Other resort amenities include a 16,000 sq. ft. Spa and Fitness Center with a unique co-ed Roman mineral bath, an immense patio perched on the cliffs above the beach, and soul-searing views of the Pacific from nearly every room. There also a scenic trail that winds along the cliffs and activities nearby include horseback riding, deep-sea fishing, whale watching, sea kayaking, hiking, biking and antiquing.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Friday, August 24, 2012

Golf Course Lightning? Gimme Shelter!

Photo courtesy of Adam Donlin, Ballyowen Director of Golf
If you have any doubt about what happens when lightning strikes a golf course, look closely at the green in this picture from Ballyowen in Hamburg, NJ. The flag has been replaced since the one that drew the lighting was obliterated, but check out the cracks in the green radiating from the cup. Now imagine the force that created them coursing through your body. Not pleasant, but that's exactly what could happen if you ignore the simplest rule in golf: if there is the remotest possibility that lightning is in the area while you are on a golf course--take immediate shelter!

A few things to keep in mind:

Lightning can strike several miles from the center of a storm and far from the clouds you see. Ever heard of a "bolt from the blue?" They're real! Lightning can strike fifteen miles from a thunderstorm.

You will not always have warning from thunder. Atmospheric conditions can send the thunder sound wave away from you.  On the other hand, if you hear thunder, don't try to second-guess it. There's lighting somewhere in your vicinity so take cover.

Don't trust the "30-second rule." It's widely believed that you can count the seconds between a lightning flash and the sound of the thunder and, if it's greater than thirty seconds, the danger is too far away to be cause for concern. That's dangerous wishful thinking--the next lightning flash you see can easily be the one that strikes your head.

Most lightning casualties occur in the beginning of a storm because golfers tend to try to ignore the warning signs and try to squeeze in just one more hole. Many injuries also come after the storm--lightning can strike up to thirty minutes after the thunderstorm has supposedly passed.

Many golf courses have lightning warning systems, but don't wait for the horn to sound if you see the storm coming. The systems are great, but not always maintained in perfect working order.

The safest place to be is in the clubhouse, so head for it at the first indication of trouble. If you can't make it, avoid the places you want to be like in a course rain shelter, under a tree, or even in your golf cart. All of these actually increase the probability of being struck. Instead, find the lowest point away from things like standing water, fences, or machinery, crouch down, and put your hands over your ears to minimize hearing damage. Don't lay flat on the ground and stay at least fifteen feet from other people--lightning can jump from them to you.

What should you do if someone in your group is struck? Here's what the National Severe Storms Laboratory says:

  1. Call 911 and provide directions to the victim
  2. Don't endanger yourself or others if the victim is in a high-risk area and the storm is continuing. Lightning DOES strike the same place twice!
  3. Victims don't carry a charge after being struck, so it's safe to touch them to render treatment. They also seldom suffer from major fractures or bleeding complications, so it's safe to move them away from a high risk area if you can do so safely.
  4. If the victim is not breathing, start mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. If you can't find a pulse, start cardiac compression as well. If the ground is cold and wet, put a protective layer beneath the victim to decrease hypothermia.

Literally hundreds of people are killed and injured every year by lightning. While about 10% of strike victims die, the other 90% usually suffer lifelong effects. Don't be one of them.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Sales Skills For Group Presentations

Selling is just like playing chess—the rules are the same every time but no two games are just exactly alike. And it’s a good thing, too, since we’d all get bored pretty quickly if the games ever started repeating themselves. One of the variations many salespeople encounter is the need to make a presentation to a group rather than to a single prospect.

It may be Mr. Big and his assistant, a committee of decision-makers and decision-influencers, or even the board of directors. When you make a group presentation, you’re generally working in a different physical setting that can range from chairs pulled around the prospect’s desk to a conference room with a table the size of an aircraft carrier. You might even have to make your pitch in an auditorium complete with podium and sound system.

Regardless of the setting, the basic differences between a group presentation and a one-on-one call deal with the distribution and control of your written materials and handling the very different dynamics of large group meetings. It’s important to remember, though, that all the other good sales techniques remain the same. Your goal is still to gather information about the prospect, for example, and you should still follow the five-page presentation format I introduced in The Dynamic Manager’s Guide To Sales Techniques, including asking questions at the end of each page. Your stage presence and enthusiasm level are even more important when pitching a group, though, as is your ability to gain their attention and hold their interest.

Handling your written materials is actually easier in many ways when you are working with a group. The best tactic to control the pace of the presentation is to hand out one page of the presentation at a time. You never want to distribute the entire proposal at the beginning for the same reason you shouldn’t just hand it to a single prospect: they’ll turn immediately to the price and fixate on it. Instead, hand out each page in its turn. In a small room with a limited number of participants, you can handle this easily yourself—provided you can walk and talk at the same time. With a larger group you may need some assistance, which can be provided by the group members themselves. If you don’t have a helper with you, just ask the people nearest to you to “take one and pass them on” to the people behind them. Your goal is to see that everyone in the group gets a copy—but that none have any page in their hand until you’re ready to talk about it.

Dave Donelson distills the experiences of hundreds of entrepreneurs into practical advice for small business owners and managers in the Dynamic Manager's Guides, a series of how-to books about marketing and advertising, sales techniques, motivating personnel, financial management, and business strategy.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Kiawah Island - The Complete Golf Destination

Shrimp ‘n Grits. Even if you don’t want to play one of the most exciting golf courses in the country, bask on a top-ten beach, or luxuriate in a five-star spa, it’s worth the trip to Kiawah Island just to chow down on Shrimp ‘n Grits, a dish you’ll fortunately find on many menus at the resort. I liked it so much I had it for breakfast one day.

The dish is a lot like the entire experience at Kiawah, the oceanfront resort just 21 miles from Charleston, South Carolina. Each mouthful seems to combine the briny breeze off the Atlantic with the nutty grist of the dunes, all smothered with the creamy gravy of Southern hospitality. The resort melds into a 10,000-acre barrier island, home to egrets, loggerhead turtles, and alligators, not to mention ten miles of perfect Atlantic Ocean beach. You can stay at the ultra-luxury 255-room Sanctuary Hotel or rent one of the 600 charming villas and private homes on the island. There are world-class tennis facilities, a nature center with on-staff naturalists, bike rentals, three swimming pool complexes, a 21-acre park, and year-round family activities.

But the prime attraction at Kiawah Island—or at least the reason we went—are the five championship golf courses headlined by Pete Dye’s Ocean Course, once named America’s Toughest Course by Golf Digest, home of the 1991 Ryder Cup, and home of the 2012 PGA Championship. Not to be overlooked are the other four courses at the resort, all creations of the world’s top golf course architects. They are Osprey Point by Tom Fazio, Turtle Point by Jack Nicklaus, Cougar Point by Gary Player, and Oak Point by Clyde Johnston.

Golfers with a sense of history remember very well the “War By The Shore,” the 1991 Ryder Cup that poured gasoline on the spark of rivalry ignited by the European win in 1987 and the jaw-clenching tie of 1989. When the matches came to Kiawah, they took on a death-before-dishonor tone that they’d never really seen before. Corey Pavin and Steve Pate wore combat-style camo hats in their second day match, the fans were beered-up and raucous, the course was windswept and fast, giving the golfers on both sides fits as they tried to navigate the tough layout and hit the tiny target greens. As the final day dawned, the teams were tied. The singles matches went back and forth, with one memorable moment after another including Mark Calcavecchia’s choking finish that culminated in a missed two-foot putt. The Americans won the event on a missed putt, too, this one the last putt of the last hole when Bernhard Langer’s four-footer slid past the cup.

There may not be chants of “USA! USA!” when you play the Ocean Course, but that won’t make it any less thrilling. The 7,296-yard, par 72 layout runs back and forth along the dune line, giving you views of the ocean on practically every hole while forcing you to play the wind differently on each one as well. The course doesn’t play flat like some other tracks in the region, but has many not-so-subtle elevation changes Dye carved into the fairways to add to the fun. Among the stand-out holes is the 543-yard par-five second, a double dog leg that features a cross hazard in the landing area for the second shot, forcing either a heroic effort to carry it or a precise layup to avoid it. It’s followed by the shortest par four on the course, the 390-yard third hole where the green is perched on a natural sand dune that requires a perfect, high, soft approach to hold the green.

The Ocean Course plays progressively harder as you proceed through the round. At the fourteenth hole, the wind is either your best friend or your worst enemy. Your only choice on this 194-yard par three is to hit the green, which is surrounded by a waste area on the left and a steep collection area on the right from which it’s almost impossible to get up and down. The seventeenth hole strikes fear into the heart of every golfer who stands on the tee and tries to muster the strength and courage to carry the water to the green as much as 221 yards away. The average player at the resort loses two balls on this hole—and most play from the forward tee boxes!

Turtle Point, the Jack Nicklaus design that opened in 1981, is almost the opposite style of golf course, although not much less challenging. It’s a low-profile track where fairways and greens blend into the existing landscape without the artificial mounding and radical features that have become so popular elsewhere. At 6,914 yards from the tips and five par fours measuring 420 yards or longer, the course offers a fine test. The 412-yard fifteenth hole, with its tiny green tucked into the dunes, is part of a three-hole oceanfront duo and possibly the hardest hole on the course.

Tom Fazio’s Osprey Point features four large natural lakes, fingers of saltwater marsh, and dense forests of ancient live oaks, palmetto palms, and magnolias. The 6,871-yard, par 72 course has a great mix of golf holes including the 453-yard par-four ninth and two 200-yard-plus par threes, as well as some short par fours that tempt the big hitter to take a trip on the wild side.

Cougar Point, designed by Gary Player, is known for its three-hole stretch through the front nine bordering the tidal marsh and offering panoramic views of the Kiawah River. The countless wading birds, wave-skipping pelicans, and soaring osprey can easily break your concentration on par—in a good way. The 6,861-yard, par 72 course has an excellent finishing stretch that begins with the 542-yard par five fifteenth hole and ends with the dramatic 415-yard eighteenth.

Oak Point lies just outside the Kiawah gate. It’s a more typical parkland course and makes a good break from the on-island courses. It’s not to be taken lightly, either. At 6,701 yards, it’s long enough to keep your attention and tricky enough to put a big number (or two) on your scorecard.

Kiawah Island is one of the country’s prime non-golf vacation destinations, too. Tennis Magazine ranks it among the top tennis resorts in the nation, based on the quality of instruction as well as on the two separate tennis facilities, one with 14 Har-Tru clay courts, two lighted hard courts and a backboard, the other with nine Har-Tru clay courts (one lighted) and three hard courts (one lighted) as well as a zoned practice court with a ball machine and automatic retrieval system. Family activities include swimming, canoeing, kayaking, bicycling, cookouts, oyster roasts, sing-alongs, and nature walks. Staff naturalists conduct marsh creek canoe trips, sea kayaking, birding walks, night beach walks, and bike tours. Guests at Kiawah enjoy a uniquely pristine beach that stretches ten miles along the Atlantic—and 100 yards wide at low tide! Island homes are set back behind the dunes and the Sanctuary Hotel is the only one on the beach, so it’s much like enjoying  your own private beach.

After all the fun and games, you’ll need a place to lay your head, of course. You have two options. First is the Sanctuary, an ultra-luxurious oceanfront resort and spa that opened just seven years ago. Ninety percent of the guest rooms—which are among the largest you’ll find anywhere—have ocean views and all of them have five-fixture bathrooms with walk-in showers and deep soaking tubs. The hotel’s spa has a Five-Star Mobil rating and features 12 treatment rooms, sauna, steam room, and whirlpool as well as a beauty salon and fitness center. Indulge yourself—or a treat a special someone—to a Mint Julep facial, Lowcountry Verbena Body Polish, or a Body Wrapture—a treatment with warm grain- and herb-filled wraps used to induce deep relaxation.  For an additional housing option, you can rent a private home or condo through the Villas at Kiawah Island.

Now, back to the Shrimp ‘n Grits. Kiawah offers an array of dining options—all of which offer more than just my favorite dish. The Ocean Room at the Sanctuary is the resort’s premier restaurant. It specializes in serving local, grass-fed beef, helping to earn it both the Forbes Five-Star and the AAA Five-Diamond awards. Jasmine Porch, the more casual restaurant at the hotel, serves up Lowcountry cuisine in a setting of authentic Charleston brick, oak-planked floors, and a breath-taking view of the Atlantic ocean. Yes, this is the prime destination for Shrimp ‘n Grits, but you can also enjoy She Crab Bisque, house-made charcuterie, and other local specialties. There are also several casual eating spots on and around the property and each of the golf courses offers dining options as well, although some don’t offer dinner. The Atlantic Room at the Ocean Course concentrates on fine local seafood while Tomasso at Turtle Point is an Italian eatery

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Friday, June 29, 2012

Identifying The Sales Decision Maker

When someone walks into your store or calls to place an order, you’re sometimes dealing with the decision maker. Often, though, that person is simply carrying out the instructions of the real buyer. The sales manager’s secretary who orders “Top Producer” awards from a trophy store, for example, may decide what kind of plaque to buy, but the decision to make the purchase in the first place was made by the manager.  If you want to sell more, you have to persuade that person—the original decision maker—to buy them.

To sell completely new accounts, of course, you absolutely have to find the person who can say “yes.” When you approach a new potential customer on your own initiative, it’s very easy to get stuck dealing with an underling who may or may not be able to give you an order. You need to at least try to see the prime decision maker when you make your first contact. So how do you know who they are?

One way to find out, of course, is to ask. Before you knock on the door with a presentation, call the company and ask for the name of the president, the marketing director, the human resources manager, or whomever you think is most likely to be the person who controls the budget you want to tap. You can also find names on company websites or from services like Dun & Bradstreet. Their reports not only provide data like address and phone numbers, but also whether you are dealing with a headquarters location. Facts you can use include the number of employees nationwide and locally as well as annual sales, both of which can help you estimate how much potential the account has. You’ll also find the names of various executives, a.k.a. decision makers. One nifty feature allows you to store this company’s name online in a tracking folder and be notified of changes.

To carry your sleuthing a step further, type the executive’s name into Google. Do the same with the company name itself. If they’ve been in the news, you might learn that they’re just announced a new product that your product or service could help their sales force introduce. Or you might find that they’re active with a church, youth activities, or a local non-profit, which gives you a way to open the door by offering to support their favorite cause. Other places to check include your local newspaper’s website, which often contains a search feature that will pull up past stories about your prospect from their archives.

Dave Donelson distills the experiences of hundreds of entrepreneurs into practical advice for small business owners and managers in the Dynamic Manager's Guides, a series of how-to books about marketing and advertising, sales techniques, motivating personnel, financial management, and business strategy.