Archive for July, 2010

Obvious, but Brilliant

July 30, 2010

This week I stayed at a Hampton Inn in Greenville, SC.  My room was clean, comfortable, and well appointed. Recently, Hampton Inn began advertising their “clean and fresh bed” campaign: 

This idea falls squarely in the “ridiculously obvious, yet brilliant” category. Obvious because everybody knows how filthy hotel comforters are, but brilliant because nobody else bothers to clean them.

Everywhere you look, there are opportunities to improve the customer experience, opportunities to do something unique. And great payoffs await those that seize them.

The Opinion of a Perfect Stranger

July 27, 2010

I find it surprising (and funny), in this day and age, (when we never leave our houses unlocked, and wouldn’t dare speak to someone at the gas station), how willing we are to trust the opinions of a perfect stranger.  These days it’s commonplace to seek out the feedback of the anonymous masses before making purchasing decisions (I did so before booking a hotel this week).

Sure, we like selecting quality products or services, but even more than that, we hate making the wrong choice.  So we read reviews, pay attention to the number of stars, and are thankful that someone was motivated enough to speak up (under an alias, of course).

Websites like Amazon, Trip Advisor, and Angie’s List put so much emphasis on the input of strangers that their rating systems can literally make or break a product.  The power of a 5 star or 1 star review, articulately crafted by someone you’ll never meet, is mind boggling.

This leads me to two questions:  How would you rate if your customers began ranking you personally online?  How far away are we from this scenario becoming reality?  By the way, the domain name rankeveryone.com is available…help yourself.

The Lost Art of Dependability

July 23, 2010

Dependability has lost the cache it once enjoyed in American business, particularly in sales.  Ask most salespeople what traits are valued in our line of work, and they’ll tell you that being aggressive, a polished communicator, great at building relationships and proficient in  establishing rapport are the hallmarks of success.    Sure, these traits can be important, but if you consider your customer’s point of view, simply being dependable ranks pretty high on their list of what matters.

Sounds pretty boring, I know, but sometimes boring is exactly what’s required, particularly when you’re trying to convert a prospect to a customer.  Let me give you an example:

Imagine that you have your first meeting with a prospect, and things go well.  As a follow up, you agree to provide a list of references by the end of the week.  But your schedule is slammed, and instead of delivering it on Friday, you provide the list on Monday.  Missed it by a business day…no big deal, right?

Maybe not to you, but here’s what you’re customer is thinking:  “I’m not even a customer yet, and already, this guy is missing his commitments.  If I can’t count on him now, when he’s trying to win my business, how dependable will he be when I’m an existing customer?”  Certainly a fair question.

It’s not flashy, but let me tell you, being dependable is underrated.  Master the art of dependability and you’ve added a trait that hardly anybody you compete with gives a second thought to.

Lead Them

July 20, 2010

Imagine that you have a minor health issue – a lingering cough that doesn’t seem to go away.  After a few days without improvement, you schedule a visit with your doctor.  You describe the problem to him, anxious for a quick remedy.  Instead, you’re given four potential solutions:

  1. Take this cough syrup, OR
  2. Gargle with salt water, OR
  3. Drink lots of fluids, OR
  4. Take a teaspoon of honey

“Which one should I choose?”, you ask, uncertain of the path to take.  “You pick” replies your doctor, and you leave his office more frustrated than you came.

This happens all the time in the business world.  A customer has a problem, and asks us to help.  Instead of listening carefully, weighing the options, and presenting the best solution, we give them choices, afraid that if we present a single solution, we’ll run the risk of losing the deal.

You may think your customers appreciate having lots of choices, but they (like patients) actually hate this smorgasbord approach.  They likely already know what their “options” are, or if not, can easily find someone who can tell them.  That’s the easy part.

The hard part (but what they really want) is the solution to the problem.  They want the answer.  In short, they want to be led, and with conviction.  So lead them.

The Best Sales Movie Scene of All Time

July 16, 2010

Below, dear friends, is the best sales movie scene of all time.  Nothing else comes close.  A friend of mine pulled this up yesterday and we just sat there, lip-syncing Alec Baldwin’s famous soliloquy (thanks, Brad).

No introduction from me is required, no companion commentary necessary.  Just enjoy.  Happy Friday.

3 Types of People

July 13, 2010

It has been said that there are 3 types of people in this world:

  • Those that make things happen.
  • Those that watch things happen.
  • Those that wonder what the hell happened.

Which category do you belong to? Do you find yourself complaining about your quota, your territory, your set of accounts or your products?  Are your peers, your boss, and your customers making your life miserable? Are you secretly jealous of other’s success?

If so, it’s time for a self-assessment, because if you’re not in category #1, life isn’t a whole lot of fun.  Start making things happen, and you’ll see just how good it could be.

Post Mortem

July 9, 2010

How often do you lose a sale?  When you do, do you know why?

A frequently overlooked way to improve your closing ratio is the Post Mortem interview, a phrase which literally means “after death”.  Simply put, a post mortem is a brief review (with your customer or prospect) of the reasons you lost the transaction.  Many times it’s the last thing you want to do, once you’ve received the bad news, but it can be very use for future sales campaigns.

Start with a simple question like:  “If I could have done one thing differently to improve my chances of winning, what would it have been?”  Most customers will be happy to give you some honest, constructive criticism once the transaction is closed and the pressure of that opportunity is off.

When you collect data from enough transactions, you’ll begin to see patterns emerging.  We’d like to think the answer is simple,  like it all boils down to price.  But that’s not usually the case.  Issues of trust, relationships, comfort, and communication will come to the surface.  You can then begin to neutralize these objections up-front in future campaigns, when the opportunity is still a jump ball.

Yes, it’s more work, but we all want to get better, right?  If you’re not conducting post mortem interviews today, you’re missing a big opportunity to improve and win more deals.

Vampire Fans

July 6, 2010

I can’t be the only one that is amazed by the wild success of the Twilight book/movie series. Not only have these works grossed hundreds of millions of dollars, they have also created a cottage industry that dominates retailers and distributors around the world.  You can’t walk into a Target or turn on the television without seeing some reference to the walking un-dead.

Of course, this happens in varying degrees all the time.  Think of the iPhone and iPad, Harry Potter, and Silly Bands.  Before that:  Crocs, the George Foreman Grill, and Razor Scooters.  Strong connections are made with consumers, who then become fans, and the fire spreads quickly.

You may be thinking to yourself that fanaticism like that doesn’t happen in your industry.  But perhaps what you really mean is that the creation of fans in your industry has never been done before.  And maybe that’s precisely why you should pursue it.

Free Agency

July 2, 2010

The NBA Free Agency period is in full swing. All eyes are on Lebron James, who is being courted by Miami, New York, and Chicago (among others). There is still a possibility that Lebron could stay in Cleveland, a smaller market, but for all intents and purposes, his hometown.

The debate on where he will go, and the decision he is faced with have left me to wonder:

  • Why does he want to leave?
  • What would make him stay?
  • Is his departure inevitable?
  • What could Cleveland have done to keep him from getting to this point in the first place?

    Is it all about money and rings? Maybe, but if so, Cleveland knows this as well as anyone and could have gotten creative to figure out how to keep this generation’s greatest player on the roster.

    Your customers are all free agents. Are you doing everything you can to keep them on your team?  Here’s a hint:  If you’re already at the free agency stage, it’s probably too late.


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