When it comes to the business world, many people believe that there’s a specific path you must follow, such as earning a fancy degree, gaining experience through apprenticeships, or striking it rich with a windfall of cash.
However, it’s time to challenge these traditional notions!
The truth is, you don’t necessarily need to hold an MBA or rely on winning the lottery to start a successful business or enhance an existing one. All it really takes is some common sense and a few fundamental principles. For instance, consider negotiation, a vital skill in the business realm. You don’t have to invest in lengthy, complex courses to become proficient at it.
Is business school worth the cost?
Is business school worth the high cost? Many people see it as a golden ticket to success, but is it really? Business school is expensive, with top programs charging over $50,000 per year, not including other expenses like fees and living costs. When you add those up, some schools can cost over $300,000.
Even if you don’t consider the financial burden, does getting an MBA actually boost your career? Research from Stanford University and the University of Washington looked at 40 years of data and found no connection between having an MBA and long-term career success, whether you excelled or just passed.
So, what’s the alternative? Well, you can gain valuable knowledge and skills through experience and self-education. You don’t need a pricey degree to succeed in business. You can learn from real-world challenges, or online resources. Business school may seem tempting, but it’s not the only path to success, and it often doesn’t justify the hefty price tag.
Choosing the right business
The key to a successful business is finding a balance between making money and pursuing your passions. Knowing that getting an MBA might not be the best investment, let’s focus on your business venture. What type of business should you start? You might think starting an IT business is a good idea because it’s profitable right now. However, what if you really don’t like anything related to IT?
Here’s an important truth: a business won’t thrive if your sole motivation is money. Even if it eventually becomes self-sustaining, it will still require a lot of time and money to get off the ground. For instance, to afford hiring people for tasks like payroll and HR, you’ll need to work hard for several years. If your only goal is money, can you see yourself sticking with it until your company reaches that point? Probably not!
But if you start a business in a field you enjoy, not only are you more likely to stay committed, but you’ll also have an advantage in decision-making. If you know a lot about the market you’re entering, you can make informed choices, create appealing products, and compete effectively.
On the flip side, being too passionate about an idea can cloud your judgment. Imagine living in a small town where there’s little interest in expressionist art exhibitions. If you’re an expressionist art lover, you might not realize this and try to open an Expressionism museum there. While this could be fulfilling, it’s not a promising business idea – a difficult truth for an enthusiastic art lover to accept.
But let’s say you’re neither oblivious nor begrudging in your business approach. You’ve found the right mindset to start your own venture.
Cracking the code of consumer behavior
We all have needs, and a product that meets those needs will be successful. Some people believe that a good product alone is enough for it to sell, but that’s not true. People only want something if it fulfills their needs. Think of it this way: a vampire wouldn’t pay to use your fancy tanning bed (unless you let him use it to attract unsuspecting victims!).
Our decisions, including what we buy, are influenced by our basic needs. Imagine selling a bottle of old, warm water to a hiker lost in a desert. They would pay a lot for that terrible bottle because it fulfills their most important need – quenching their thirst. The lesson here is to find your own desperate customer.
Successful businesses meet one or more of their customers’ needs, and Harvard professors Nitin Nohria and Paul Lawrence identified four common human needs or drives.
- We all want to acquire and collect things, whether it’s stamps, stocks, or social status. Businesses like retail stores and investment firms cater to this need.
- We have a drive to connect with others to feel valued and loved. Dating services and businesses that promise to enhance our attractiveness, like perfume shops and beauty salons, fulfill this drive.
- We want to learn and satisfy our curiosity.
- We strive to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our property. This is where security companies and alarm system sellers come in.
Think about your business idea in relation to these four human drives. Which of these drives could your business serve?
The power of effective marketing
A fantastic product deserves effective marketing. Imagine your product fulfills not just one, but three important customer needs. It’s ready to roll! But where are those eager customers who should be excited about it?
Well, first, you need to grab their attention. But in today’s world of social media and tons of information, that’s not a simple task. If you want customers to notice you, you must offer something extraordinary and unforgettable.
To do this, consider how you deliver your message to customers – the way you do it matters. For example, if your message feels personalized, like it’s meant just for them, it’s more likely to catch their eye.
Show your customers that you’ve gone the extra mile, even if it means sending a special, hand-addressed FedEx package. It might cost more, but it’s better than bombarding everyone with annoying emails.
When marketing your product effectively, think about the end result your customers desire. People don’t buy a product just for the product itself. They buy it because of the outcome they expect. For instance, a person doesn’t spend $20 on lipstick just because of the color; they want it to make them more attractive.
One powerful way to showcase your product’s results is through testimonials. These are statements from regular folks who overcame challenges thanks to your product. Let’s say you’re selling acne cream – a testimonial from a teenager who thought they’d always have pimples until your product cleared their skin can be a compelling story that draws customers in.
How sales experts persuade even the most hesitant customers
Even when clients are hesitant, there are ways to make a sale. Imagine this: you’re in a pet store and spot an adorable puppy you like, but you’re unsure about buying it. The owner suggests taking the puppy home for a week, and surprisingly, you grow attached and can’t bear to return it.
This demonstrates how skilled salespeople can persuade hesitant customers. But how?
One approach is addressing customer concerns. We all fear making a bad purchase, so we tend to be cautious. Instead of buying something wrong, we’d rather not buy at all, a major hurdle in sales.
To encourage customers, salespeople assume the risk of a bad deal. They offer trial periods where customers can return items if dissatisfied. This strategy isn’t limited to puppies; you can often try out a bed for a year and return it for a full refund.
Understanding why customers might say no is crucial. These objections, such as concerns about cost or product performance, can be overcome. For instance, if a customer thinks their old laptop is sufficient, you can explain why it won’t work with essential new software, making a case for an upgrade.
Strategies for successful negotiations
To strike a great deal, it’s crucial to be well-prepared. Think of a negotiation as a conversation to make a deal, but don’t skip ahead to the fancy table talks – that’s the endgame. Negotiating effectively involves a few steps.
First, set the stage. This means preparing well before discussing offers. Ensure you’re talking to the right person with decision-making power, not just an information gatherer. Consider where to have the conversation – in person, over the phone, or online. Research what’s typical in your industry.
Next, plan your proposal. Make it appealing to the other party, and try to make it even better. Gather information about what the other side is offering to make yours look superior. Prepare for objections and have strategies to address them. Decide on concessions you’re willing to make.
The final stage is the actual discussion. Thanks to your earlier work, you’ll be well-prepared. By this point, most of the hard work is done!
In short, successful negotiation involves preparation, setting the right stage, planning a compelling proposal, and addressing objections. When you reach the actual discussion, you’ll be well-equipped to strike a deal.
In summary, if you want your business to do well, make sure your product meets your customers’ basic needs. And by communicating confidently and cleverly, you can convince your clients to buy, get your employees to work together, and seal the deal with your business partners.
Inspired by a book “The Personal MBA”; Josh Kaufman”