Shepherding Business to Your Door Winner Report
I was fortunate to win the drawing for our February meeting, OD Meets MBA. Here (at long last) are my notes regarding the prize from Harvy Simkovits, Business Wisdom’s 2006 Guide: Shepherding Business to Your Door. Having enjoyed two of Harvy’s ODLG presentations, I looked forward to digging into his guide on how to gain more business.
This 118-page guide is a hands-on workbook that aims to help business owners, sales executives, and professional service providers win at what Harvy calls the Outside Game of business. The Outside Game is the external part of developing a business, which includes being clear about your business vision and mission, focusing your business-development strategy, finding business opportunities, identifying prospects and developing a good pitch, and carrying yourself with confidence and certainty about your value. It is logically organized into five sections to help you answer a series of questions that will help you shepherd business to your door: WHY should customers buy from you? WHO is your customer & WHAT do you offer them? WHERE is your business coming from? HOW do you get your prospects to buy? WHEN: continually planning your work & working your plan. Each section includes pearls of wisdom, diagrams and worksheets.
Being a baseball fan, my favorite diagram and metaphor was from section IV, How do you get your prospects to buy? Harvy writes, “Gaining a contract with a prospect is like going around the bases in the game of baseball.” The batter’s box is where you try to make contact with a prospect. Following this contact, you circle the bases: first base is where you have an initial conversation with a buyer, second base is where you conduct a meeting with the buyer to understand their needs and build trust, and third base is where you submit a proposal or quote. You reach home plate when you've signed a contract/agreement. The guide has a page or two describing each base, including the issues involved at each stage and questions to think about. Now when I see Big Papi standing at first base, smiling and chatting up the opposing team’s first baseman, I’ll imagine that he’s “creating a desire to connect and engage” by building awareness, tension, and credibility.
While I found the supporting materials important and informative, I found the worksheets to be the heart of the guide. Most of the workshops are structured around a series of thought-provoking questions to answer. Reading a self-help book can certainly be useful. But actually working through exercises can really help clarify your thinking and increase the likelihood of actually changing your behavior. I found the exercises to be clear, practical and useful. For example, in the first section on why customers should buy from you, the guide has a series of worksheets that ask questions to help you elucidate your values and beliefs, define your professional/business mission statement, and derive your vision statement. Several of the worksheets have example answers that provide inspiration and clarity.
The guide is structured in way that allows you to focus on only one or two sections, or work your way through the entire workbook. Thus, it seems like it could be a useful tool for a wide range of people, from those who are thinking out launching a business to experienced business-owners and consultants who want to upgrade their business. I imagine that it could also be very helpful to individuals who are on the job market; with some adaptation, many of the exercises and lessons might help you prepare for informational or job interviews.
The guide also includes a CD that contains a copy of the entire workbook as well as several articles Harvy has written about ways to increase your business.
At this point I find myself wishing I could add a testimonial about how I worked through the guide and used the results to enhance my own business. Alas, I am not currently a business-owner and do not have significant sales and marketing responsibilities in my current position. That said, I did find the guide helped me to think about various possible directions I could take with my career in the future, and pushed me to think more creatively about how I could contribute to the “outside game” as an employee in my current position.
I have one minor quibble, which seems almost too petty to mention. The size of the notebook binder is too small to contain the quantity of the guide’s useful materials. A binder with rings that were a size or two larger would make it much easier to turn the pages and to remove sheets to do the exercises.
A copy of the guide is available to check out from the ODLG library. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning how to better market their business.