Perfect Done Perfectly

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In just 60 seconds, Teri G. taught me something new about giving great technical support to a small business owner by using just one simple word.   Days earlier and 600 miles from where Teri G works, Brent D. taught me something new and powerful by using the same word but in a different way.

I love to sit side by side with contact center agents any chance I get be it in sales or service.   I enjoy hearing customers live on the floor and seeing agents artfully assist them.   I enjoy the complex dance of the interests of client and agent.   There’s so much communication psychology and emotions in play often enlightening because they are compressed into interactions that last mere minutes.  Hence I enjoy most, stealing shamelessly from what works and what doesn’t.

The word Teri and Brent used is Perfect and let me tell you, Perfect works.

Teri’s Perfection; a harried small business owner calls Tech Support.  He has a product problem impacting internal communications.   This guy isn’t super comfortable with what he needs to do and has probably just a few minutes to try and fix this thing because all I can hear are door chimes and phones ringing like crazy in his shop.  Teri knows this and she knows what to do.

Teri starts with a simple instruction.  And then another.  And then another.  And then another. And then it occurs to me why the guy is so calm and almost chuckling along admitting his ignorance but hanging on her every word; She keeps saying “perfect” after each instruction is successfully done by the owner!    From the start he wasn’t sure if he was going to do this right – but he sure does now because Teri tells him he’s doing great every step of the way.  And in fact she used “You’re doing great!” and “Nice job” mixed in a bit with all those perfects.

Too often tech support agents articulate the steps to solve the problem in rote fashion because of course they do it all day.  Too often tech support agents forget a reassurance to that customer that they are doing well along the way will ease that customer tension perfectly when they need it most.

Brent’s Perfection; a harried small business owner calls.  He just needs to place a reorder for a product he’s been using for years.   But Brent needs to do verify and validate information to ensure high quality as well as do some short discovery as any helpful sales agent would.   But sometimes busy owners have little patience for all that.   Brent knows this and says, “I want to make this order is perfect for you today so I’m going to ask a couple of questions and verify a few things.”

Who doesn’t want what they are calling for to not be perfect? Who wouldn’t answer a couple of questions and verify a few things to make sure what they get is perfect?  Too often agents don’t justify their questions to customers.  Too often agent questions aren’t positioned in such a way that they have the client’s interests in mind.   Brent’s use of “to make sure this order is perfect” was simple and cleared the way for mutually beneficial discovery to happen.  It was perfect.

 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

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How Long Will This Take!!??

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WHI is an acronym and it’s the toughest we’ll ever face from prospects or customers in sales or marketing.  Ever.

WHI is always there.    WHI is everywhere.

WHI is

  • Who the heck are you?
  • How long will this take?
  • I don’t want to change.

WHI reminds us that we never really start on even ground.    We are deep in the hole from the outset.

Heck, WHI was in you 20 seconds ago at the beginning of reading this post.   Some of you thought “Who the heck are you?” and then “How long will it take me to read this thing?” And finally “Please don’t tell me what to do.”

That’s fine.  I know I’m up against WHI every time I write, every time I train and every time I sell.

It’s not insurmountable.   You can overcome WHI.   In fact you need to if you want to be successful.   The first step is remembering it’s there.

 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

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The Most Important Question Never Asked

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Do you help small businesses in any way, shape or form?

If you do, my guess is you aren’t as helpful as you think you are – especially when that small business reaches out to you for help.

Let’s back up.   I’ve witnessed in the field (trade shows especially) and on the phones, thousands of interactions between small business owners and providers of everything from office vending services to website creation to customized printing over the years.  Nary do I hear the right kind of question asked when that glorious opportunity arises.

Usually I see or hear a face palming like fail (though few realize it till it is pointed out to them).

When that small business person inquires about a product: the sales/ service/ company rep will often say something like:

“That’s great, it’s a very popular widget as you know, is there a specific model you’ve been thinking about already?”  or  “Sure, let me fill you in – most clients choose from 1 of 3 types,  each with its set of services….”  Or  “OK – it’s time for a new vendor you’ve said – you are looking around and you are probably wondering what sets us apart…”

Ugh.  Even worse is that the above examples are trained still today as good things to say in some organizations.

Here’s how to stop doing that.  And actually help your small businesses better 🙂

When a small business owner calls you, emails you or stops by looking for some help, information or assistance, you must first ask:

“What’s happening in your business that is driving your interest in ________?”

There are variations of the above but here is the point:. Whether you represent payroll services, website development, custom printing, insurance products, widgets or trinkets;

Knowing the businesses’ motivations helps you match your product or service exactly to those motivations (improving immediate sales success) and can help you articulate any expanded portfolio ( now or in the future) of your products/services that truly help that small business. 

Here’s an example done right;

  • Prospect: – “I’m curious. I know you build widgets and I’m looking for some pricing and info..“
  • You: “Sure – let me ask you first, what’s happening in your business right now that is driving your interest in the widget?”
  • Prospect: “. Well we’ve added a whole new group of products nobody knows about yet and I’m breaking into 2 more states is the plan – so I’ve got to look a little more professional I think too…”
  • You: “Perfect.  Let’s take a look at some widgets that get your name out faster and wider and there’s a couple of widgets that give a customized look too..”

It sounds obvious.  It’s not.

It’s not about what product or service the prospect is interested in; it’s about what is driving that interest that matters.  The motivation, the challenges, the dreams and the drivers are what you must discover, remember and leverage in the selling process.

Challenge yourself, your business or your team to do better with these opportunities.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

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It Comes With What? “Well La-Dee Frickin’ Dah!”

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Gotta step it up a bit folks.

Your company (or maybe it’s you) likely spends a lot of time and effort adding values to products and services that you sell.  Try not to underwhelm your clients or prospects with your lack of focus and skill in articulating them.

If you don’t give enough attention here it’s a missed opportunity to impress or differentiate.  And worse, you can blather so boringly about some of this pretty cool stuff that the client does a mental Matt Foley (the iconic Chris Farley SNL character) and is so underwhelmed they say   “Well La-Dee Frickin’ Dah!  .  Your customers may not yell it like Matt Foley in the  5 second video but they sure as heck are saying it in their heads and all that work and investment in these added values goes wasted.

Fortunately there is a better way. 

Let’s pretend whatever it is you are selling comes with and added value of say  “One hour of free maintenance per month”. You could be like most people and just say it comes with “one hour of free maintenance per month” and then and have the client conjure up the image of Mr. Foley and “La-Dee Frickin’ Dah!”  or – wouldn’t it be better to put the client in the picture here?

  • “All we ask is that once a month, you force your busy self to sit down with one of our experts for an hour and make sure the (insert product here) is running perfectly for you.”

Now let’s pretend your product purchased comes with an added value of a “money back guarantee”.  A real snoozer because while awesome, we tend to think of it as an afterthought.   You could just say there is a “money back guarantee” (like almost everyone else does) and watch the client sleepily drool a little or – wouldn’t it be better to put the client in the picture here?

  • You expect this widget to bring in new business in and it will, but if in 3 months as you turn around and head back in from another long day on the water and you don’t feel it really has –just call me and I’ll put every dollar you spend today right back into your wallet; that’s how confident we are it’ll work.”

And finally, let’s pretend your product comes with “free fluid checks, tire rotation and oil changes for 1 year”.     In this case your product is likely a car (or a van one might park down by the river :)) .  You could just say it comes with “free fluid checks, tire rotations and oil changes for 1 year” and watch their eyes glaze over like mine do when any Friends rerun comes on or – wouldn’t it be better to put the client in the picture here?

  • Let me worry about the car maintenance – you have more important things to do.  Before you head off this summer up to Maine or NH for vacation, bring it in and we’ll check everything from rotating tires to fluids and even change the oil – all at no charge.  We’ll do that same thing before that first snow fall or just before we do the yearly inspection.  No worries and no cost to you from now till your first anniversary with this car. “

Think about added values that surround your primary products and services.  They mean something.  In fact, sometimes they are the differentiators from your competitors.  Work hard to help your clients see themselves leveraging these added values!  Use words and phrases that elicit images and mini – movies for them; it’ll elevate the value of all your stuff across the board.   And do it in a way that if you notice, compliments them as people, consumers or as business owners.  And of course,  avoid at all costs the lack of attention that results in “Well La-Dee Frickin’ Dah!”

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

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How to Better Respect Small Business

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How to Better Respect Small Business

I had two recent experiences that made me think differently about respecting small businesses.  And if you are in the business of marketing, selling, servicing or supporting small business that’s an important thing.

The first was while reading some research. The research said that Small business owners overwhelmingly see themselves as unique and define themselves additionally by their unique contributions to society. 

And I thought why do we so rarely acknowledge and respect small business owners for how they respect themselves?

Sure we respect them by acknowledging their value as a customer, their membership in an industry, their work ethic, their entrepreneurship, their common pain points, their challenges, their contributions to job creation as a whole and blah blah blah…..but don’t you see it?

There is little unique about that to the Small Business owner, instead it’s a wide swath acknowledgement of them as a group which exactly not how they see themselves individually.  And there is nothing respecting their unique contributions to society.

Last week I tagged along with my wife to a local business association gathering at a new restaurant that recently opened in town.   There had to be near 40 local businesses represented sipping on wine and appetizers.

This was not how I remember these meetings way back when I used to attend in another life.   This meeting was about toasting to the “Alan’s business that is driving the benefit tomorrow night for the family who lost their home in the fire last week.” It was about the “needed sponsors for the summer band series”.  It was about how proud the association was for being the “sole group responsible for installing a landmark historic clock in the center of town”.   So little of the time was promoting their business and when they did – 80% of them shared how “different” they were than any another accountant, or restaurant, or mortgage broker, or Mary Kay representative they knew.

So why do I (and I suspect, we) forget so often what our eyes see, our ears hear and our research tells us about acknowledging and respecting a small business?

What if we were to ask more often “What are you most proud of”,  “What defines you” or “What contribution as an Small Business owner inspires you?” when we talked with small business owners? What could we do with that? What would we learn?   What if we identified their perceived or real unique differentiators and societal contributions and embedded those into our variable data printing or emails or CRM data or Facebook pages we build for them?  The leverages are infinite.

Respect anew the small business owner in the ways they respect themselves. It just makes sense.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

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Role Players

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image from inthenetsportsacademy.com

Role Players

The New England Patriots are going about it differently this year.  The players have only received Playbooks; they are not practicing.  Sure, they’ve had lots of meetings at camp discussing and talking about the plays, why they are constructed as they are and why the plays will work.  But not a single player has practiced the routes, the blocking schemes, the throws or the running plays.

Why would they bother?  It’s not real.  Heck most of the time in camp they are playing against each other on the same team!  How silly is that? Nothing counts and someone could get hurt and what’s the point of that?  Besides, they’ve studied the plays; they get it.

Not.

Of course the Patriots are practicing this year.  Of course the Patriots are learning their roles by practicing these routes, those blocking schemes, the throws and the running plays.

But we either hate doing that stuff or just don’t care about doing it.

The day I walk through a sales site and see a coach and a sales rep leaning up against some old file cabinets on a sidewall spontaneously practicing a customer scenario about objection handling; I’ll just about have my coronary and end it right there.  I have never ever seen that in real life.

The day I can go to 3 training sessions in a row (live or virtual) where the role play portion wasn’t cut off, or skipped due to time or just wasn’t part of the session – I’ll have that second coronary (well hopefully not with the medication I’m on now and the life changing behaviors I’d have adopted) but—you get the idea.

The day that sales manager from half way across the country Skypes his sales executive and forces her to go through the competitive differentiation portion of the conversation that’s going to soon happen in the C-Suite with a real customer, I’ll have that 3rd myocardial infarction (metaphorically of course).

Maybe I need to get out more often and this stuff happens all the time now.  But maybe it doesn’t.

The sad part is I have a lot of memories when people do some intense role play and apply that Playbook in sessions with their coaches or in war rooms or in “bull in the ring” sessions.   I have lots of memories where those people said, out loud, that that was the best part of working their boss or in the team meetings or in the training classes.

The Patriots aren’t fools.  They know they have roles to play.  And they know they need to play these roles and practice even when stuff ain’t real.   They know because when the time comes; they need to be ready.

And so do we.  Hut! Hut!.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

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That Hero Formula

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hero

That Hero Formula

In a recent post,   Haven’t You Changed Yet? 3 Things Sales People Must Do Now I got a few questions about the 3rd piece of advice around storytelling, particularly about the Hero Formula.

  1. The customer who feared/resisted change or was down on their luck.
  2. Took the leap of faith.
  3. Ran into some unexpected challenges.
  4. Recommitted to the effort.
  5. Achieved mastery and had awesome results.

The hero formula has different iterations and is hugely popular in movies of course (think Rocky, Good Will Hunting, The King’s Speech and a dozen more).  But it is great in sales (no matter what you sell,  be it products or ideas).  And it is great in marketing and business (think Apple/ Steve Jobs, the band Aerosmith etc.).   Good stories stick and help you sell whatever it is that you do.

I got some questions about how it really sounds with a product or service.  Here is an example and it is true – I’ve heard it first hand from people in the trenches.   That is the key- don’t make stuff up.   Instead, craft (as I did here) the truth leveraging the formula- you’d be surprised how often success follows the formula.

  • “An electrician I know lost most of his commercial business in a bid. CVS stores were his life and now they were gone.  He needed to get into residential work in a big way and started smartly to build an online presence like a website, a Facebook page and trying to blog etc. as he knew the way word of mouth works is changing.  But he did it on his own and it was a huge amount of work for him and his family- much more than he thought.  He called us for a reorder of business cards one day and I started sharing how we could do a lot of that work managing his online presence making it so much easier for him and 4 months later he’s got close to 1000 followers on his Facebook page and gets about 30 solid leads a week off his website for residential work.”

The nice thing about hero stories is they don’t have to be yours.  You can share regardless.  “One of my colleagues has a client that…” will work just fine.   Hero stories are sticky sticky sticky.  They are centered on the Hero and how your product/ idea or service helped the Hero in their journey to success.   That’s nice.  And better, that’s effective.

 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

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