Adrian Miller: *How* Are You in Business?

March 17, 2008


FreshBooks welcomes Adrian Miller as our newest guest contributor to Fresh Thinking. Adrian will share the wisdom garnered from her many years of experience in sales training.

In her first post, originally written for CustomerThink, Adrian gets us thinking about our sales methods. Next month will bring the first of her many original contributions to Fresh Thinking.


No, that title’s not an error.

My question isn’t about your goals, your aims, your vision, your mission, your business plan, your targets, or any of that other stuff that comes together and answers the question of why you are in business.

I’m here to ask you, specifically and simply: how are you in business?

What Are You Like?

Are you pleasant? Are you responsive? Are you fair? In how you are in business, do you demonstrate that you care about helping people with whatever solution you provide? Do you give your customers a reason to be glad that they do business with you? Would you buy from yourself?

Here’s the thing: business culture today is so focused on the target/goal/objective, that the means of achieving those ends — the ‘how’ of business — is often an afterthought. In fact, sometimes the ‘how’ is not thought of at all, and so it becomes utterly subjugated, sacrificed and snuffed out in a relentless — arguably obsessive — pursuit of the bottom line, of exclusively measurable outcomes. The ‘how’ becomes nothing but a necessary evil between you and the ‘why.’ And like all necessary evils, you treat it with resistance, contempt and disdain.

Related: More Leadership Advice

Focus on the ‘How’

I’m not saying every single customer you meet should receive flowers or a ticker-tape parade (“Hooray! You’re our 9th customer today!”). I’m saying that the ‘how’ of your business is as essential as the ‘why.’ The ‘how’ matters. It’s important. Your customers deserve more ‘how’ from you. And if they get a taste of it from your competitors, they’ll come to expect it from you, too. If you don’t have the ‘how’ of your business in shape, you’ll lose them. And who can you blame for this other than yourself, and your anti-‘how’-ism?

So. What can you do to inject some high-quality ‘how’ in your business?

It’s easier than you think. Simply start here:

  • Don’t act like you’re doing your customer a favor by selling to them; guard against this especially if, right now, you’re very busy and your stuff is in high demand. Business is a cycle; you’ll come down to earth sooner or later, and the trail of pissed-off prospects in your wake won’t care to help you get back up.
  • Don’t ever confuse soft-selling with that ugly creature called “anti-marketing”; the former is an authentic and empowering way to develop a relationship with a prospect, while the latter is an invention of miserable, self-absorbed people who should be in deep, multi-discipline therapy.
  • Focus on two fundamental aspects of customer happiness: their happiness with the sales process, and their happiness with the solution they buy from you. When people engage in word of mouth marketing, they often emphasize the ‘how’ of the sale more than the ‘why’ or the ‘what.’
  • Remember your customer’s name! Don’t be afraid to ask for it if you happen to forget, because nothing is worse than getting a name wrong; it’s sloppy. If you can remember your own name, you can remember someone else’s.
  • Make sure the colleagues around you support your efforts to develop a quality sales experience; don’t have Sarah from shipping or Joe from accounting running around, madly waving a waybill the air, while you’re trying to talk to a prospect about your “total commitment to customer service.”

See? Simple things.

Start with these, and build a ‘how’ consciousness into your business. Don’t take my word for it, just see for yourself. You’ll soon see that a better ‘how’ leads to a better everything else — including a better bottom line.


about the author

FreshBooks is the #1 accounting software in the cloud designed to make billing painless for small businesses and their teams. Today, over 10 million small businesses use FreshBooks to effortlessly send professional looking invoices, organize expenses and track their billable time.