Archive for October, 2010

Everything Is Pre-Sales

October 29, 2010

Companies often make the distinction between pre-sales and post-sales activities.  The bigger the company, the more formal that distinction becomes.  A high-level breakdown between the two functional groups might look like this:

This isolation-by-function is a risky proposition.  It can foster a mentality that the two groups are mutually exclusive, which in turn can breed indifference and apathy on the part of the post-sales team.  In truth, every customer interaction is a pre-sales event, and post-sales resources need to modify their behavior to reflect that reality.

I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be a division of labor.  Having someone exclusively focused on installations or accounts receivable is probably a good idea. Specialization is the key to getting really good at a specific task.  But if you want to keep the customers you worked so hard to win, you need to approach every touchpoint along the continuum as a pre-sales activity.

Change the expectations, measure the results, and reward the right behavior – these are the keys to making it work.

Plan B

October 26, 2010

I learned a valuable lesson today.

At the beginning of a critical presentation, my laptop hung, leading to 15 minutes of small talk and stalling while I attempted to overcome the technical difficulties.  By the way, 15 minutes feels like an eternity when a roomful of people are staring you down.  Thank God my engineer was with me; he “tap danced” as I got things back on track.  But this unexpected situation caused me some serious angst and totally disrupted the flow of the pitch.

So what did I learn from this experience?

  • Have A Plan – Discuss ahead of time what you’ll do if something goes wrong that you can’t recover from.
  • Assign Responsibilities – For example:  “You’ll attempt to fix my computer while I head for the whiteboard” (or the exit if things are really bad).
  • Make Copies – Have an up-to-date copy of your presentation on a memory stick that you can easily transport to another machine.
  • Practice the Pitch Without Slides – If all else fails, figure out a way to deliver your message, or at least a meaningful subset of it, from memory.
  • Don’t Forget Your Sense of Humor – Hey, we’ve all been there before.  Things don’t always work like they’re supposed to, so relax, keep it light, and don’t loose you’re cool.

It took a while, but I eventually restarted the presentation, found my groove, and finished strong.  But the next time this happens (which it undoubtedly will), I’ve got a Plan B and will be better prepared to roll with it.

the little people

October 22, 2010

I read an interesting passage in Pamela Slim’s Escape From Cubicle Nation this week.  Something struck me in this passage, where she provides some tips on what she calls Networking Tips form a Nine-Year-Old Expert.

One of her suggestions is simply to “be nice to everyone”.  I know that sounds ridiculously simple, but it really is meaningful advice.  Dale Carnegie shared a similar philosophy more than 70! years ago in his watershed book (and possibly the best sales/relationship  primer of all time), How To Win Friends and Influence People.  In fact, “being nice” was the major tenant of the book.

Here’s the point:  Everybody you come into contact with deserves to be treated with respect, regardless of their station in life or occupation.  Remember, you were once a waiter, a babysitter, the guy who makes copies or runs for coffee.

So while you’re busy catering to the “important people”, focusing on those who stand in the way of your paycheck or promotion, the folks that you condescend are growing up, and moving up the corporate ladder, and they won’t soon forget the assholes they encounter along the way.

Table Stakes

October 19, 2010

Before you run off to change the world, it might make sense to take stock of what the baseline is in the world you’re changing.  Only when you know what the “table stakes” are (in other words, what’s the minimum effort or service level that’s required to even get into the game) in your chosen field of play, can you make a conscious decision to “up the ante”.

In the hotel industry, it might look something like this:

  • Internet Access
  • Hair Dryer
  • Cable/Satellite Television
  • Concierge Desk
  • Fitness Center
  • Pool
  • Daily Newspaper

Search yourself….can you check the boxes on all of the baseline requirements in your industry?  Do you meet these metrics consistently, or is there room for improvement?  Nobody cares if you put chocolates on the pillow if the wireless Internet access doesn’t work.  Deliver on the table stakes before moving up the stack.

What would happen…

October 15, 2010

if, on your next coach class flight, you were:

  1. Greeted by a friendly flight attendant
  2. Provided a clean, sanitized seat
  3. Offered a hot towel
  4. Served a delicious sandwich
  5. Given a pair of headphones, and
  6. Shown a box-office movie

…all at no additional charge?

What would happen if you did the same thing to your customers?  And how much more would it cost?  Probably not much, when compared to the wide gap you would create between you and your competitors.

When everybody else zigs, maybe that’s when you should zag.

I Am Reminded

October 12, 2010

I’m on vacation today.  Actually, I’m on a 10 year anniversary trip in Napa, but that’s just like vacation, except without the little people (and by that I mean my children, not an unfortunate subset of the modern-day caste system).

Anyway, trips like this remind me of why I do what I do:  why I get up every day and try to achieve, to improve, and attempt to provide a unique customer experience by radically over delivering.


Bad News and Good News

October 8, 2010

The bad news: If you’re looking for a sales rep who is conscientious, hard working, witty, reliable, intelligent, focused, independent, empathetic, aggressive, honest, gregarious, humble, and positive, you’re going to have a very, very hard time finding him or her.

The good news: If you possess these attributes (or even half of them), you’re worth a lot of money (probably more than you’re making right now).

Kind Of Like Cheating

October 5, 2010

By now, most of you are familiar with the 1-to-5 rating system for auto repair service at dealerships.  The intent of this rating system is to provide objective feedback on various touch points along the service continuum, and reward those people who provide exemplary customer experiences.

Unfortunately, it’s not working.  Oh, its not like they don’t try hard, most folks do…because unless you give them a “5”, they’re out some bonus money, and so is the boss.  The problem with this rating system is that the service providers actively promote it to their customer base.  Some will come right out and tell you that anything below a 5 is unacceptable and will change the way they get paid.

What this creates, of course, is a sense of moral obligation on behalf of the customer, which in turn skews the objectivity of the rating system.  So instead of “pretty good”, the customer is more inclined to select “great”.  After all, who would want to take money away from someone they know and (generally) like who just misses the mark?  And who wants to take the call from the manager if the less-than-satisfactory box has been checked?

If you’re genuinely interested in your customer’s opinion of you, your team, or your company, make sure that the feedback is anonymous, unsolicited, and sporadic.  Anything rating system that lacks this kind of objectivity is, well, kind of like cheating.

Lessons from Barry

October 1, 2010

As most of you know, Barry Sanders was a prolific running back for the Oklahoma State Cowboys, where he won the Heisman Trophy, and set several collegiate single-season records.  He then went on to be a 10 time Pro-Bowl back for the Detroit Lions and amassed more than 15,000 rushing yards before suddenly retiring, just a single season short of becoming the all time NFL rushing leader.  Check out this video for some of his unbelievable moves:

This week, a friend of mine drew the analogy between Barry Sanders and the ideal sales rep.   Sanders was a performer, no doubt.  He was consistent too, making the Pro-Bowl every professional year he played the game (even with a perennially mediocre offensive line).  But more than anything, he was humble.  When Barry crossed the goal line, there were no celebrations or dances, no hidden Sharpies in the socks (a la Terrell Owens).  He just handed the ball to the referee, ran to the sidelines, and rested up for his next time on the field.

Get the job done, act like you’ve been there before, and move on when you don’t love it anymore.  I don’t know a whole lot about his personal life, but that’s a professional role model if I’ve ever seen one.  Thanks, Barry, for the lessons.

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