What It Means to Be a Leader in the 21st Century

business leaders

In February 2017, The Alternative Board surveyed hundreds of business owners to find out what it means to be a leader in the 21st century. According to the results, the large majority is very positive about the state of small business ownership. In fact, 95% of those surveyed have a positive outlook moving into 2017, with 62% expecting to increase their staff in the upcoming year.

So what exactly do these highly positive entrepreneurs have in common? According to the stats, more than you’d think! We’ve broken down some of the statistics to find out how leaders are operating in today’s fast-paced, web-driven environment, and what every entrepreneur (and wantrepreneur) can learn from them.

  1. Today’s leaders are driven by positivity. It seems the old adage about faking it until you make it is a real driver for business owners. The number one trait the surveyed business owners reported having was positivity (47%) closely followed by confidence (30%) – both of which outranked passion (27%), personability (26%), decisiveness (23%) and focus (16%).“The most positive entrepreneurs are often the most successful,” says Serial entrepreneur Jen Groover. “There often are just too many obstacles facing business owners to let negativity get in the way.” To harness the power of positivity, Groover recommends business owners recognize failures as learning lessons and surround themselves with positive people.
  2. Business owners in the 21st Century could be delegating more. The majority of the business owners surveyed (67%) agree the area they most need to improve in as a leader is “holding others accountable.” This is likely why 86% of them are working over 40+ hours a week, with the average business owner working nearly 50.According to Bob Dodge, Senior Vice President of TAB Denver West, a reluctance to delegate often comes down to entrepreneurs’ “own personal wiring.” David Levesque, President of TAB Rochester suggests it’s a lack of process. “The key to profitably growing a business is delegation. The key to effective delegation is good” TAB Hawaii Business Coach & Facilitator Valerie Koenig agrees. “Having a process in place allows companies to scale from one to five to twenty employees, but it is a boring and thought consuming task, so many owners never take the time.”
  3. Business owners still value face-to-face communications over telecommunications. Yes, the 21st century is best known for its technological growth and instant communication channels, but entrepreneurs still rely on face-to-face meetings. According to the survey results, the majority of their communications (39.9%) are handled face-to-face, more than online (33.8%) or over the phone (26.3%).“[The] prioritization of speed over face-time grossly underestimates the power of human interaction and the importance of face-to-face communication,” writes Mina Chang in Forbes. “If the point of business was simply to accomplish as many tasks as possible, then yes, an email would probably do. But that’s not what real leadership is about.”When taking over the CEO position of Linking The World, instead of sending out forms and questionnaires to the company’s branches across the world, Chang spent an entire year traveling from office to office. “I met with our teams on the ground, asked questions, and listened to their concerns. These face-to-face interactions built trust, understanding, and a real sense of a shared mission, and this has made all the difference in the world.”
  4. Experience trumps education on the path to success. Only 2% of the business owners surveyed believe an MBA is the most important business training to become an effective leader. Instead, the majority selected “management experience” (40%), closely followed by business coaching (36%).“Generally speaking, an MBA is not necessary for success,” says Blair Koch, CEO of TAB Denver West. “What you learn from your real-time experiences in business typically cannot be replicated in an academic environment. You learn more from your failures than your successes.”
  5. Entrepreneurs could do a better job of planning. Entrepreneurs with detailed plans are in the minority. Only 43% of entrepreneurs believe they have an effective strategic plan, and only 44% are satisfied with their succession plan. Considering the majority of business owners believe their top responsibility as a leader is to “fulfill their vision, mission and goals,” it’s surprising they don’t have a plan in place to reach those milestones.TAB UK’s Operations Director Jo Clarkson recommends entrepreneurs kick off their planning by defining its purpose. “Create a working document that you monitor, measure and hold people (yourself included) accountable to.”

Based on these survey results, today’s leaders can best be described as experienced professionals with a lot of confidence and a knack for communication. What they might lack in delegation and planning skills, they make up for with positivity.

While it may seem that today’s leader must be tech-driven above all else, it seems a dose of optimism is exactly what they need to keep jumping hurdles. If you’d like to improve your leadership skills, The Alternative Board offers a unique peer advisory model that can help you overcome your toughest business challenges. If you’d like to learn more, get in touch with a local board.

 

Tips on Improving the Quality of Your Written Sales Pitch

help with written sales pitch

When did you last look at the email pitch written by your sales team? If the level of new sales isn’t what you’re expecting, it may be related to the quality of these emails being sent to prospective clients.

Here are tips for enhancing the message that compels prospects to take action:

First, recognize the difference between a verbal and written sales pitch. Your sales team may be outstanding in the realm of a verbal pitch, utilizing all the “soft” talents of tone of voice, appearance, body language, etc. None of that applies to the written sales pitch, so it’s important to be clear on the differences and focus solely on the choice of words and appropriate style (formal, informal).

Do the homework. Prospects are a lot smarter now than “back in the day.” They can tell by the opening line of the sales pitch whether your salesperson knows something about their company or is just winging it. With all the available resources at hand these days, there’s no excuse for not researching the prospect’s current executive team, annual sales figures, social media profiles, company website, corporate initiatives, and so on.

Whether or not any of this information makes its way into the written pitch (and, in most cases, it probably shouldn’t), this knowledge will affect the quality of the email pitch.

Get to the point. One common mistake with writing a sales pitch is thinking some sort of preface or introduction is necessary. Not at all! Busy prospects need to feel you’re getting to the point or they’ll simply click out of the message. Be concise. Let the recipient know only what’s absolutely necessary to know before moving forward.

“The only purpose of a prospecting email is to elicit a response,” notes sales strategist Marc Wayshak. Any “excess information in your email that does not support this intention is actually hurting you.”

Engage the prospect. Pay attention to the flow of the sales pitch. Avoid hopping around from one topic to another, or one tone to another. The trick to engaging a prospect is by moving them from one sentence to the next. And the best way to achieve this is by emphasizing—always emphasizing—what’s in it for them.

Stress value and benefits, not features. Your product or service likely comes with an impressive range of features, but unless you clearly demonstrate how those features offer value to the customer, you’re wasting your time (and theirs). Examples of value to communicate in an email include:

  • Brief description of how your product can boost sales
  • Offering to send an informative white paper or case study
  • Invitation to a value-added webinar

Another approach involves specifically identifying a problem or challenge your prospect faces. By naming this problem (which implicitly recognizes how well you understand their business and industry), you can then “tease” them with a concise description of your proposed solution and then invite them to learn more.

Make your call-to-action specific and compelling. By “learning more,” we mean ending your pitch with a single call-to-action that’s clear and to the point. What would you like the prospect to do after reading your email—opt-in to your newsletter, watch a product-focused video, set up an appointment? Specify your desired goal, while reminding them of the value they’ll receive by taking this action.

Spend time on the email subject line. Sometimes, the best email subject line comes after you’ve crafted a concise, informative and compelling email message. Here’s the place to get creative (while remaining concise), something along the lines of “Game-changing Idea for Your B2B Business” or “The Hidden Value You Could Be Adding to Your Business Right Now.” Any generic approach will likely end up in the prospect’s spam folder.

There’s a definite art and style to winning email sales pitches. Now might be a great time for a thorough reexamination of how your sales pitch is being crafted and take these steps to dramatically improve its quality.