Don’t reject learning or advice, simply because it seems simple. The secrets to building a successful business lie not in exotic new ideas, but in consistently implementing straight forward rules and ideas that have changed little over time.

I can almost hear you saying, “Why is he saying that, it is so obvious?” ….But are you guilty of doing this? Let me tell you a story…..

….The other day, as I was packing up my equipment after a workshop, a participant asked me a question about what was the most important thing to guarantee success in his 10 month old training business.  He is making some sales and I know he has a good product that people want when they find out about it, but typical of most small businesses not enough people know about him. He had made it clear in a earlier discussion he was looking for a silver bullet, some great idea that would have customers beating a path to his door.

I know he was disappointed with my answer. I told him that at his stage of development, sales are more important to his success than great marketing and that he should focus about 60% of his time in selling directly to prospects. I also told him that referrals are the cheapest and most effective form of marketing for a new business.  He looked annoyed and told me that my solution was too simple, of course he needed to sell and he knew how to get referrals, he’d even had one or two that turned into business.

I asked him how much time he now spent selling. It turns out that only about 30% of his time is spent on this, the most important activity for a new business. The rest of his time is taken up with everything from photocopying to new product development.  He agreed that he knew he didn’t spend as much time as he could or should on selling or asking for referrals, but he was looking for something a little more creative, a little more fancy. Something that was more of a mental challenge. Sitting on the phone with prospects was not his idea of fun. He didn’t ask for referrals because he felt awkward doing so.

It occurred to me that in one form or another this is true of so many people and situations. The answers to our problems, lie not so much in finding really creative answers to challenges, but in doing a few simple things, day in and day out. Instead we get trapped in a paradigm of our own making that makes us blind to the opportunities staring us in the face, while we look for answers that match our paradigm.

I am told that in karate there are only about 12 basic moves that you have to master, however you have to practice them 1000’s of times before they become instinctual. It takes years of practice and repetition to reach your black belt. The same is true in business.

There are only a few truths you have to master. I think that one of the secrets of success in business, is that there are no secrets. Once you understand this, you can stop looking for secrets and start focusing on getting the basics right.

If you ever ask someone, whose knowledge is likely to be useful, for advice on something, only to receive an answer that appears almost simplistic or even self evident, ask yourself….

Never be satisfied.

The truth remains; in business, success comes from doing a few basic things consistently well, even if they do seem simple. Never discount anything because it sounds simple.

Despite knowing that when they get referrals, their close-rate probably doubles and that when they are face to face with customers, most people never really master the art of asking for referrals or focusing their time on the few things that mean the difference between success and failure. Perhaps this is why 65% of small businesses never make it to a $1,000,000 in sales.

Mastery of simple things, can spell the difference between success and mediocrity. There are many reasons to discard advice, but never discard advice because it appears to be simple or even simplistic. Beware of complex solutions, mostly they are not what you need!

A Marketing Truth

“If an ad campaign is built around a weak idea — or as is so often the case, no idea at all — I don’t give a damn how good the execution is, it’s going to fail.”

– Morris Hite