How to Keep Your Business Focused Through the Subtle Danger of Mission Drift

Life is full of good opportunities.

Good books to read, good events to attend, good projects to pioneer. But good things can knock us off track in pursuing the very best.

What does “the best” look like in your leadership?

It means doing what you are uniquely called to do in the style that is distinct to your personality, position, and organizational DNA. Living “the best” in leadership means that your most important job isn’t to manage the budget, to develop new products, or even to lead your team.

Your most important task is to continually cast vision.

The subtle tension every leader will face is the reality of mission drift. Mission drift happens when we are pulled off of our message or our mission, whether intentionally or accidentally. This can be an irresistible force that results in loss of momentum or a crisis of identity, so strategic leaders build in measures to continually recalibrate. If you don’t prioritize vision casting, you may end up navigating a ship that’s going in an entirely different direction than you intended.

How can you build strategic safeguards to keep your organization focused? Here are a few steps.

One Key Leader

Begin by enlisting one board member or key staff person who is committed to alignment.

Be sure they buy into your team’s mission and charge them with safeguarding its integrity. When opportunities arise that may detract from the mission, it’s great to have someone speaking up (perhaps against the majority!) or analyzing decisions from a broader perspective.

A Focused Core Team

Do everything you can to focus your core team around the mission.

Set times to swap stories about where you recently saw the “mission win” and publicly acknowledge those who are keeping the main thing the main thing. Exit or discipline people who don’t, even if they perform well in other areas. If your core team is sold out to the mission, it will pay bigger dividends in the long run.

A Culture of Mission

Your mission should be more than a vague concept on your website, but a regular part of the professional experience.

Use stories and symbols to embed purpose in your culture so people encounter it daily:

  • Mount core values on the walls. Use them as a guide for decisions and a platform for sharing new initiatives.
  • Design strategic symbols (racetracks, funnels, etc.) to communicate process. 65 percent of people are visual learners, and concepts become memorable when they’re connected with an image.
  • Put a face on success by sharing testimonials (in person or through letters) from people who have been positively affected by the vision. Illustrations exemplify goals and make heroes of people who are living the mission.
  • Use slogans to cement conviction. Ritz-Carlton hotels use the motto, “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen” to exemplify the anticipatory service provided by all staff members. Simple slogans, shared repeatedly with conviction, can motivate people to do things they would normally never do.

When coaching your team, provide concrete actions that explain how you’ll achieve your vision.

Use results-oriented descriptions (like, “you’ll know you’ve done a good job when _____.”) Outline action steps to take and celebrate mile markers achieved. Enlist creative people who can help you celebrate daily victories.

Wandering is natural. If you don’t strategically refocus people around a singular vision, your organization will fail to thrive. Lean on these strategies and safeguard your team from the dangerous drift that every leader will face.

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3 Simple Resets to Squash Stress at Work

32-year-old Amy Alabaster had recently been named VP in her company as a successful New York sales executive.

She had friends, a wonderful marriage, and many professional accomplishments. But one day, the weight of her responsibilities came roaring in as she awoke on a bench outside a West Village restaurant.

Alabaster later learned that she had fainted on a flight of stairs and her blood pressure was so low EMTs could hardly move her. Though she considered herself happy and healthy, doctors uncovered her problem with one simple question: “Would you say that you deal with a lot of stress?” Amy said this unraveled the real issue:

“I had never been asked this question before. Like so many other companies, mine had downsized after the economic pitfalls of 2008 and I had absorbed many responsibilities after the layoffs. I thought incessantly about work. I talked about it all the time. I couldn’t turn off, ever. I checked emails and my blackberry constantly. I even dreamed about work, sometimes confusing what was real and what had manifested in my slumber. The last vacation I had taken was stressful because I was so uncomfortable with what could be happening without my oversight and control . . . My doctor said that almost every health-related issue could inevitably be drawn back to stress.”

What about you?

Does your job cause low-grade stress that never quits? While many people enjoy their jobs, all of us can benefit from a daily internal inventory. When you are running on empty, medical experts offer several tips to self-regulate.

Reset Yourself Internally

Intermittently, close your eyes, lean back, and take three full, deep breaths.

When you feel stressed, force yourself to speak more slowly. This will clear your thoughts and allow you to act more reasonably in challenging situations. When you find something upsetting you, make a tangible choice to let it go. Refuse to show emotion and quickly unclench your teeth (or fists!) and move on. Effective anger management is a tried and true stress reducer!

Reset Yourself Physically

When we get busy, we forget ourselves.

Make it a priority to drink plenty of water, to move around, or to eat small snacks during the day. Take short walks outside or do a few jumping jacks or stairs. Continually adjust your posture to avoid muscle tension or a slumped emotional state. Try these exercises:

  • Shoulder Rolls. With arms hanging freely, breathe deeply and exaggerate rolling both shoulders forward then backward 10 times.
  • Chin Tucks: Place one hand on your chin and the other behind your head, gently pushing your chin toward your Adam’s apple for 10 seconds to relieve tension at the base of your skull.
  • Pectoralis Stretches: Clasp hands behind your back and lift up as you squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold ten seconds and repeat three times. This is especially effective for those hunched over a keyboard.

Reward Yourself Regularly

Plan something enjoyable for the end of the day and build key relationships or hobbies into your routine.

Leave a few chores undone and care for yourself! This will refresh your body and sharpen your mind for creative solutions tomorrow. Alabaster says she now prioritizes eight hours of sleep each night, locks her phone in the safe during vacation, and she finds small ways to increase joy each week:

“Professional achievements still mean a lot to me. Success, however, is in the process of being re-defined. Prioritizing my well-being is the lesson I’ll be learning for the rest of my life. After all, what is success worth if we’re not fully present to enjoy it?”

We promise you only good emotions and no stress!

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Gain the Mouth-Watering, Competitive Advantage

In 2011, Matt Salzberg was a restless associate at a Silicon Valley investment firm. He and his friend Ilia Papas wanted to create a business and were intrigued by food.

“We both loved food,” Salzberg said. “We liked trying new ingredients, new recipes, new techniques, but we found it really inaccessible to cook at home. It was expensive, time-consuming and difficult to find recipes that we trusted.”

The duo tried a few ideas before landing on the one that became Blue Apron: give people an easy way to make dinner using chef-recommended recipes and the fresh, precisely measured ingredients they’d need. With 20 friends beta-testing the product, Salzberg immediately realized they had a winner. Beyond rave reviews and contagious social media sharing, they had undeniable momentum:

“Pretty much from day one we’ve had steady exponential customer growth. I think the moment we did our first week of deliveries we sort of knew that we had a business that we thought would be really successful.”

By August 2012 the team was shipping recipes to early testers, and three years later Blue Apron was delivering millions of meals to monthly subscribers, the company valued at a whopping $2 billion!

Find Your Competitive Advantage

Initially, some scoffed at the thought of paying restaurant prices for something you labored to cook at home.

But they overlooked Blue Apron’s unique advantage: appealing to “foodies” who loved high-end meals but relished the opportunity to cook them. Blue Apron found a niche in the market that catapulted them to exponential growth and national exposure.

Competitive advantage is that “special something” that draws customers and keeps them coming back.

Why do you buy a Ford versus Chevy? Why do you spend $80 on a certain brand of jeans? The answer lies in the competitive advantage, the unique set of features a product has that makes it superior in the eyes of a target audience.

Competitive advantages include niche strategies (like Blue Apron), cost advantages, and product or service differentiation. Consider these examples:

Cost Competitive Advantage

Companies can grab an edge when they control costs and efficiency in ways that create maximum value for consumers.

Walmart uses this advantage by providing a large selection combined with low prices through its retail size and strength. Some companies draw from years of experience, overseas production, or streamlined workflows to minimize expense.

As you brainstorm cost advantages for your customers, consider how you can improve productivity from your team, if your technology or equipment is cost-efficient or needs upgrading, or where you can give customers a cost break via delivery options, locked-in service rates, or freebies that come as a bonus for specific orders.

Product Differentiation

Another way to gain a competitive advantage is through product differentiation.

As you distinguish yourself in the marketplace, focus on the value you offer through your unique products. What makes your toothbrush one of a kind? How is your technology superior to other market options? How does your farmer’s market produce outclass the bounty of your competitors?

People love getting the best product for their penny, so work hard to highlight your advantage and shout it loud through print and digital pieces that spotlight your strengths.

Service Differentiation

While cost or product advantages can quickly disappear (or be duplicated), every company can offer one-of-a-kind service advantages.

Whether its bundled subscriptions, outstanding customer care, or unrivaled warranties, build a benefit that is exclusively yours. Consider bonus delivery features, apps that are user-friendly and easy to learn, terms that are simple and risk-free, or energizing ambiance (like funky décor or stellar store atmospheres). Make customers so spoiled they’d never consider your competitors!

 

 


 

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4 Ways to Stop Your Team from Falling Apart

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Working through some concepts.

There are times in every supervisor’s work life that you can feel everything going off the rails — projects don’t sync up as they should, laughter feels forced within your team, and the energy levels are low.
While it may feel like everything is falling apart at the seams, and you’re not sure what you can do, don’t give up! There are ways to bring teamwork back to your team, but it will take some work to rebuild trust between team members and realign your focus to the future.

Even the most high-performing teams have moments of doubt that can be introduced by stress or fear. These negative emotions could overtake a team or its leader, but the first step is re-imagining the future and then casting that vision to your team.

Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

While it may be too late if your team has already entered a downward spiral, preventing negativity from happening is always the best alternative to a team that’s coming apart at the seams. Getting to know your team, understanding their motivations and stressors, and working hard when you need to will help you become a trusted member of your team — and not just the leader.

Spending time together bonding in good times will help sustain your relationship during times of difficulty, both with each individual team member and the team as a whole. This trust doesn’t come overnight but is worth the time spent building it in the long run.

Slowing the Negativity

Perhaps your team has just begun showing signs of stress, such as team members being unwilling to contribute in meetings, leaving early, or losing energy early in the day. If you look up in the afternoon and everyone is wandering around looking aimless instead of focused on work or building relationships, it’s past time to get more involved in your team’s dynamics.

Start by talking to someone on your team, either the person who is seemingly the most stressed or one with whom you have the most trust built up. See if you can determine what the root cause of the uncertainty is, and look for potential options for resolution together.

Returning from the Brink

If your team is truly on the brink of collapse, with your best and brightest team members disengaged and actively looking for other opportunities, it’s time to take more drastic measures. Consider asking your human resources department if they’re hearing any rumors about what’s happening, or pull the team together as a whole in an offsite meeting to add to their comfort level.

Request that they be open and honest with you about challenges that they’re encountering — either within the team, outside the team or even outside the organization.

Take Charge of Results

You also must face the possibility that you as the leader are the problem, which can be painful and difficult to accept. However, you must first look to make changes in your own leadership style in order to help salvage your team’s success.

Take responsibility for finding a solution, and don’t be afraid to claim accountability when things aren’t going as you had planned. Too often, leaders find themselves in a situation that feels hopeless and attempt to look externally to find the problem.

If there is truly someone on your team who is causing the excessive negativity, know when it’s time to make the difficult decision and make a change in personnel. Sometimes, all it takes is removing a negative influence or underperformer to bring your team back to center.

Today’s organizations are moving quickly and chasing many different initiatives at once. Managing people is always a balancing act: creating a culture of learning and accountability while allowing people the space they need to take appropriate chances. Fortunately, nearly every team can be brought back from a downward spiral with time, effort, and loads of positive energy from its leader.

 


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The Conduit Theory in Practice – Speaker Willie Brown

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Willie Brown, the former speaker of the California Assembly, never intended to have a political career when he was born. Brown was raised in a backwater town named Mineola, Texas, in 1934, a time when Texas and the South were not particularly conducive to the career dreams of African Americans. To find a better path, his family packed Brown on a train from Texas all the way to California. There, with the help of a professor, Brown found his calling at a state University and earned a law degree from the prestigious U.C. Hastings. However, he was yet to prove his greatest accomplishment.

In 1964, after a second try, Brown gained a seat in the California Assembly. There, he learned simply being unique didn’t get him much. He had to learn how to be a useful broker. In that respect, Brown quietly learned from his legislative tutors like Jesse Unruh and Philip Burton how to become a pivot point, a conduit between the many who want something and those with power. Positioning through legislative committees, Brown went from being a name in the Assembly to eventually to becoming its Speaker, one of the top five positions in state government. Brown held that chair for fifteen years, only to then retire and become the mayor of San Francisco in his later years.

Becoming A Conduit Point

For a business, Willie Brown’s story is an illustrative one; you don’t have to be biggest, most powerful player on the market to become instrumental. Brown, as an African American politician in the 1960s, was clearly not in the position to leapfrog right away to leadership or the Governor’s office. However, he did find a position that everyone needed and had to go through to get something. By identifying how and becoming a conduit point, Brown secured his future, which is what successful businesses do in their market.

A conduit point isn’t just limited to being between end retail customers and suppliers. Conduit businesses can easily do the same in the business-to-business market as well, often producing far greater revenues than they would on the retail side of things. However, positioning can be a challenge. One needs to see the entire market, not just a segment of it. Getting to the forest level instead of the weeds allows a business player to identify all the connection points and where being a conduit has the greatest potential for producing revenue. It also shows what is needed to be successful in that particular position. Sometimes some potential conduits are too challenging, and others may offer too little in reward for the effort. Picking the right market position takes some experience, which means a business needs to research well and study peers, suppliers, buyers, competitors, and middlemen. No one in a given market should be left out.

Willie Brown was an intensive study of his legislative peers, which is why he was able to position himself so well. He also took lessons from those more powerful than him rather than fighting them, using that knowledge to become one of the powerful ones himself. A growing business can learn a thing or two from his life example.


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What You Need to Know About Facebook’s New Mix Modeling Portal

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We’ve written extensively in the past about how when it comes to digital and print marketing, you’re not looking at an either/or proposition. Often, businesses of all sizes are finding great success embracing the best of both worlds – reaching out to the customers who are most receptive to print channels via traditional methods and using digital resources when they’re most appropriate. We’ve even written about how you can take the lessons learned online and use them to make your print strategies even stronger.

We’re not the only people who share this opinion; it would seem. Facebook has recently launched a mixed marketing portal designed to make it easier than ever for businesses to compare Facebook-based advertisements to television, print, and other types of collateral. While this does mean big things for people using Facebook as an advertising platform, what it means for print marketers is even more interesting.

What Facebook is Doing

The social networking giant’s mix modeling portal for marketers is a significant extension of an existing partnership. Over the course of the past few years, Facebook has teamed with Nielsen (the people who tell you how many people watch the Super Bowl each year, among other things), comScore (the people who focus on digital, TV and movie analytics), DoubleVerify (a company that aims to “authenticate the quality of each digital media impression”), and others. This has all been done to provide clear metrics on how far a Facebook ad reaches, how many impressions it gets, its ultimate performance, and more.

For advertisers that rely heavily on Facebook, this means that they now have access to twenty-four different third party measurement partners to track the performance of their ads around the world, see how their ads are comparing against similar ads running in the world of print and more.

For print-based marketers, this also thankfully means that the reverse is true, too.

What This Means For You

Even if you don’t heavily advertise on Facebook, this new model is still something to pay close attention to because of the metrics at play. It’s another example of the ever-important concept of “pay attention to what is working online and use it to strengthen the foundation of your print campaigns.” Thanks to Facebook, this just got a whole lot easier.

By giving advertisers the ability to compare a successful Facebook ad to other elements of their campaign like print, people who DO happen to be heavy print advertisers can essentially come in from the opposite angle and learn just as much. It’s all a matter of perspective – the marketing mix modeling portal can be used to look at one of your successful print ads, compare it to ads that are running on Facebook and use that actionable information to feed back into the print campaign to help achieve your desired outcomes.

Print and digital advertising have historically been measured in very different ways, but thanks to Facebook we just took a big leap closer to a uniform standard that can be used in both situations. You can use the Facebook MMM Portal to see how impressions reach and other metrics translate into the real world and back again.


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Different By Design: 6 Tips for Adopting The Principles Of Disruption and Improving Your Marketing Strategy

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Less than a decade ago, one of the world’s largest transport networks was simply an imaginative flicker in the minds of two men trying to hail a taxi on a cold Paris night. After failing to snag a car, the two men came up with an idea of an on-demand taxi service at the touch of a button. What began on a snowy evening in France quickly turned into an app to request luxury sedans in a tiny handful of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities. Soon it spread to include different types of rides, package and even food delivery in nearly any city on earth. That app was Uber.

Uber is now one of the world’s richest start-ups. Along with other innovative digital companies such as Airbnb, Snapchat, Netflix, and even Buzzfeed, Uber has grasped a powerful disruptive strategy that has brought it financial and scalable success in a short amount of time. Disruptive businesses such as these can pick out and then act on trends before they become a trend, building a niche in a market that many people haven’t even discovered yet. Follow these six tips to learn some disruptive strategies that will help to differentiate your business and set it up for future growth.

1) Be technologically savvy

Get to know what is happening in the world of all things digital and tech, even outside of your own industry. Something that can revolutionize your business might come from a spark of something you’ve noticed in a different market or business type.

2) Be a first adopter

Often successful companies are the first ones to take on changes and innovations and to use them to their advantage. Don’t be afraid to step out on your own when trying something new.

3) Rely on sharing

Businesses can no longer rely solely on traditional forms of advertising. Combining your marketing channels to include print, as well as digital sharing and promotion can be the easiest and quickest ways to reach potential customers.

4) Keep up with the competition

Stay aware of what your competitors are doing and be prepared to match their innovations with yours.

5) Interact with customers

Uber and the like are successful for their ability to connect with customers instantly. Listening to your customers helps to gauge demand and enhance the consumer relationship. With the rise of social media, customers are developing increasing expectations for transparency from businesses. Forming a connection with your clients will add to their loyalty and trust of your company. With constant lines of communication open to your customers, you can also respond quicker to real-time changes in the market, safeguarding you from future pitfalls.

6) Track your success

Digital data provides you with the tools and metrics to see how and where your customers are coming to awareness and consideration of your services or products. Understanding and using data effectively can make the difference in building and maintaining new business and answering needs within the market.


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Three Brothers and Success

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In a town with lots of industries and choices of careers, three brothers grew up and began to pursue their paths in work. Based on their father’s wisdom and teachings, they all decided they wanted to work in a field that would eventually let them start their own businesses. The oldest became a lawyer. The middle brother became an accountant. The youngest brother, however, didn’t want to be an office professional but, instead, enjoyed food, so he became a cook. All three left home, set off to pursue their goals, and wished each other the best.

The Lawyer and the Accountant

The years passed and the lawyer made a lot of money, but he was always miserable and in debt. Everything about his job was about fighting or arguing, and eventually, he lost his own marriage. The lawyer was regularly complaining about his work whenever asked. The middle brother found himself living a life of stress. He chose to be an accountant because he thought it was a safe career path for income, but he found himself always under extreme pressure to complete his work and make sure it was accurate. The stress became so intense the younger brother was regularly sick and became a prime candidate for serious health problems before he was middle-aged.

The Cook

The younger brother focused on what he wanted, learning how to be a cook. Every day in the kitchen was where he wanted to be, so it never felt like work. His enjoyment quickly increased his skills in cooking, and soon he became a head chef. He was doing so well he chose to open up his own restaurant. It wasn’t the biggest place, and it wasn’t the most expensive. However, the youngest brother loved his job, and that made a difference in his food, his staff, and the experience of his customers.

Which Brother Had the Right Idea?

Essentially, the best place to be as a business or business leader is to love what you do every day. If you’re not happy in your work, your market position or your role, you will never be able to manifest your full potential. Happiness and satisfaction are key elements of success, especially for business leadership who look for someone to follow and emulate in their own tasks. Sure, your business can have some immediate success, as in the case of the lawyer brother, but ultimately, the angst and frustration catches up with everything and becomes a psychological burden in the workplace. Don’t be that older brother. Find your love and make it come to your career and your path. You will be happier, your productivity will be higher, and staff will follow your lead.


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What’s in a Leaf?

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If you enjoy watching the leaves float down during the fall season, you probably already know that just like snowflakes, each tree’s leaves are individual and unique. Unlike snowflakes, though, leaves can tell you from which tree they came, and fortunately, there are many resources available to you for identifying trees by their leaves.

Knowing more about your surroundings is important, and it can apply well in a work situation.

Discovery

An excellent resource for identifying trees will take you on a journey of discovery: from the color and shape of the leaf to how many points it has, all to learn more about the tree it came from. It might go on to identify the type of bark, the size of the tree, and more to help you determine which tree you are looking at.

There are many ways you can apply this strategy of discovery with your customers, especially if they are repeat customers. If you think about each customer as if they were an onion with many layers to uncover, you can view each contact with them as an opportunity to peel away one more layer.

Learning

Your customers are individuals with unique personalities, family issues, work challenges, and styles of doing business. You can work on strategies to uncover more information about your customers to help cement a relationship with them. Customers who like you and enjoy your relationship are more willing to continue to do business with you and become loyal repeat customers.

Depth

Depending on how you maintain your customer records, there are different methods of collecting and retaining information about your clients. In an article, “7 Ways to (Really) Know Your Customers,” it offers several suggestions for small businesses to get to know their customers better including gleaning social data from sites such as Facebook.
By getting to know your customers better, you can anticipate when they will be spending, what triggers a purchase, and how you can be proactive in contacting them for their triggers. As you learn more about your customer, you can apply your knowledge to help them better manage their relationship with you, potentially saving them money in the long run. For instance, if they are buying their products when needed, but you see a pattern, you can sell them a larger bulk amount on a periodic basis saving them money and securing the purchase for your account.

Knowledge

Knowing your customers will allow you to separate the A and B level of customers from the one-time business customers. As you develop your relationships with your clients, you can grow your business in depth. Then, using similar methods, seek out new business and begin the process again.


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Tips for Nurturing Existing Sales Leads

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While bringing new leads into your business is always important, sometimes it’s not the “be all, end all” solution to your bottom line. Remember that according to most statistics, an incredible 90% of new prospects are merely in the “browsing” stage of their relationship with your company – meaning that they’re not quite ready to buy. Out of every new lead you bring into your business, only 5% are ready to pull the trigger – if that. While you may think this means you have to work harder to bring in a higher volume of leads (this is a numbers game, after all), try a different approach. Don’t forget about the leads you already have.

If you want to get better at nurturing your existing sales leads to get them ready for that ever-important purchase, you’ll want to keep a few key things in mind.

You Are an Authority. Don’t Forget This

When people think about nurturing leads, one of the qualities required for a solid relationship is one of trust. Never forget that you’re not just selling a product or service – you’re also selling yourself. People are a lot more willing to spend money with your company if they trust that you know what you’re talking about.

Don’t JUST hit your prospects with sales materials over and over again; this isn’t lead nurturing, this is badgering. Instead, try sending helpful, well-researched content in their direction as well. You need to be focused on establishing that you know what you’re talking about. People aren’t just going to take your word for it. When you spend time positioning yourself as an authority and focusing on the other qualities of lead nurturing as well, people will begin to see you as the solution to their problem when they do feel comfortable enough to buy.

Don’t Just Make Contact When You Have Something to Sell

One of the biggest mistakes that a businessperson can make involves only remembering that a lead exists when you need to increase your sales numbers for a particular quarter. Nurturing leads requires you to keep in mind that you’re talking about more than just line items on a balance sheet – prospects are living, breathing people who don’t like to feel used.

As a result, make an effort to reach out to a few of your potentially higher quality leads even if you’re not pushing a new product or service. Thanks to the power of social media, this is easier than ever. Even a quick Facebook message on a birthday or at Christmas will go a long way towards strengthening (and increasing the ultimate value of) your relationship.
These are just a few of the many reasons why it is so important to nurture your existing sales leads. None of this is to say that you should stop focusing on bringing in new leads and turn 100% of your attention on existing ones. As always, success requires you to strike a delicate balance between the two. But if you let the majority of your existing leads lay dormant for too long, you’re burning a lot more than just potentially important relationships. You’re leaving a lot of money on the table at the same time.


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