Life is Too Short to Listen to Bad Music – 8 Tactics & 1 Success

I miss Biggie Smalls and wonder what his music might sound like if he were still around. Chances are, with the aging of the population, he might have to make some adjustments to keep sales ideally paced. Similarly…

You can just about forget everything you’ve learned about the workplace, as it relates to getting a job, if not keeping a job. That might be a bit of an overstatement, but there is some truth to it. Especially about the getting a job part, particularly if you’ve been at the same job for 10+ years. Your cheese has been moved.

It’s possible that what you learned in Kindergarten is more useful than what you’ve learned in the workplace. Fundamentals like getting along with people, following the Golden Rule, working hard, trying your best – these fundamentals never lose value.

When you are at the same job for a long time, complacency can set in. And today’s world is far too competitive to be complacent. Some things I’ve learned about getting and keeping a job today:

Be Nimble – Things are changing at breakneck pace. Technology, competition, number of providers, business channels, communication media, consumer purchase habits, consumer media habits, choices and free resources all are changing constantly. The most viable employees and companies are those that read the signs around them and adjust to stay relevant to their audience(s).

Be Trustworthy – Business moves at the speed of trust. People do business with people, not titles, not companies, not even results. They won’t test you to learn your results if they don’t like you to begin a relationship. So be likable first, and a good step in that direction is to earn trust.

Be Humble – You are replaceable. Period. It’s not personal. Well, sometimes it is.

Work Hard – This never ceases to be necessary. For every “seasoned/experienced” employee, there’s a slew of younger, hungrier alternatives who will try harder and accept lower wages. Don’t kid yourself; this is fact. And reconsider your use of the words “seasoned” and “experienced” on your resume. To some, this means “old” and “set in their ways.”

Read – A lot and often. Work smart, don’t re-invent the wheel. Read and learn from the successes of those before you and clone what you can. The internet has been a great facilitator for this. Use it. People often ask me for help with their LinkedIn profiles or their resumes. I tell them to find someone who has their ideal job on LI, and clone that profile. Heck, I encourage them to clone mine if it fits. This is a compliment, not a threat. If you don’t understand this paradigm, you miss a large chunk of social networking for business, content sharing, and crowd sourcing.

Clone, But Don’t Lie – As I said above, plagiarizing is smart business. Lying is not. If you claim skills, be ready to demonstrate them. At some point, you’ll have to.

Give It Away – If you have expertise, share it. Seriously. Why do people blog and give away their hard earned experience for free? Because this is how marketing happens now. You want in the game? This is the game now.

Launch – If all else fails, if you do the right things and still don’t make it work and you have the resources, do your own thing. Below is the story of someone who did exactly this.

An example of turning an old system on its ear is 19th Amendment. 19th Amendment is an online fashion portfolio and platform where designers can create a profile on the site and sell their products directly to customers – the designers will then get feedback about their items, and most importantly, build up sales quota and experience. They’re able to figure out their target demographic, what items work best, and what seller is the right fit for them to approach, be it Nordstrom, Target, or a local boutique. The bottom line of 19th Amendment: to help designers find out if there’s a market for what they’re doing, before they start doing it (read: invest a ton of money into it)

Consumers can purchase at a wholesale rate. Buyers are able to gauge real time market demand and place orders with new designers. Emerging designers are given a free platform on which they can interact with customers on a personal level and sell their designs in a larger market. Genius. Hard work + smart thinking + original channel = Success.

Advertisements

Deadheading Is Not Just For Plants

I recently learned that deadheading, the process of removing spent flowers, serves more than just an aesthetic purpose.   It actually promotes reblooming as it diverts the plant’s energy away from seed production on the spent flower.  Failure to deadhead encourages good energy to be wasted.

It’s easy to see how this process can apply to lots more than plants.

Clean your tech shop – I’ve been spending too much time lately downloading software updates on apps I never use on my phone.  Like a monkey, I download the update just cause of that stinking little alert.  Lightbulb moment – I just deleted a bunch of unused apps.

Clean your Inbox – Every morning I start my day deleting a bunch of emails that clog my Inbox.  It’s part of my routine, deleting the same updates every day from the same LI groups that I no longer have an interest to follow.  Today I removed myself from those groups.

Clean your Rolodex – This one is a little trickier and requires a bit more finesse.  But toxic relationships are simply toxic; an energy suck.  Some can be fixed with a reset.  Some cannot and it’s simply time to nip and tuck.

Clean your Other Black Book – This will likely sound wildy unpopular, but sometimes  you need to fire a customer.  Sometimes, I said.  There’s a cost of doing business, whether it is time, energy or hard cost.  Some business relationships are best left to others.  You know which ones those might be for you.

You can easily add to this list.  These were a few ideas that came to me.  The sooner you deadhead the time drainers on your agenda, the more energy you will have to channel in more positive ways – like to get out and do some networking.

Be Delightful – 5 Ways

Today I learned about Steve Curtin’s book, Delight Your Customers. This book addresses the inconsistencies in delivering on Job Function vs. Job Essence. He proposes that, generally speaking, people tend to consistently deliver on Job Function, but you cannot delight your customer without focus on Job Essence. Job Essence is the extra you bring to the job with your enthusiasm, your creativity and your genuine interest in the customer.

Here are some ways to go the extra mile for your customers today –

Send handwritten notes of gratitude. Make them for unexpected reasons. I’m nearing the eighth month of a new job. The past 8 months have been a steep learning curve for me and I’ve had to rely on the support of dozens, both internally and externally, to teach me how to perform. One of my top priority so far, has been to travel to each of my 19 markets to meet with each customer face to face. While I did follow up via email, I did not send handwritten thank you’s after each visit. I’m going to select a few customers that have made a difference to me, in my onboarding experience, to tell them exactly how they helped me and thank them for it.

Give public recognition internally. – Has a co-worker done something that made a difference for you, some action that made your day a little easier somewhere along the way? Taught you something you didn’t know? Is there someone you rely on as your go to person for questions you might not want to ask your boss? Did someone help you look awesome to your customer? Sending a kudo via internal email is nice, but why not post it as a LI recommendation and then they have it forever and don’t have to hunt for it?

Create a new customer training manual. This will help me also. I get asked the same questions repeatedly by new customers, many of whom have zero base line knowledge of our service. Training is not in my job description. However, it behooves me to make myself indispensible to my customers. I want to be the first person they think of when they have a need. I can always choose to delegate to someone else on a particularly busy day.

Send a customer testimonial with a meeting request. I’m continually surprised at how difficult it can be to secure a meeting with a customer. Perhaps it’s that pesky inflated sense of self getting in the way. I’m planning a trip next month and having difficulty getting any current customers to commit to a specific meeting date/time. My next step will be to send a brief excerpt (maybe 1-2 sentences) from a kudo email I received from another customer after a recent visit. Testimonials can be powerful. What better way to demonstrate the value for this customer to meet with me than to send it in another happy customer’s words?

Feed them. This is too easy not to do. I recently had a customer tell me that in his years of doing business with my employer, I was the first person to spend money on him. This was after lunch at a cafeteria! I had no idea what an impact a cheap meal would have.

That’s my 2 cents. But now I’m going to read Curtin’s book to see what he has to add.

NOW HIRING: Customer Service/Lie Detector

I recently purchased 2 necklaces from a well known provider whose primary model is home based sales reps. Because home based trunk shows don’t typically work for my schedule, I bought the pieces online, directly from their website, rather than through a rep. Their merchandise is premium priced costume jewelry, good quality and current style. 

One necklace is lovely and I wear it often. The other is a poor design, as it is forever tangled, whether I’m wearing it or it’s sitting on a hook in my closet. It was beautiful online and I’ve tried repeatedly to enjoy wearing it, but find myself constantly fussing to unravel it. The distraction is unwelcome and, frankly, I need my hands for other purposes. 

Yesterday, I contacted customer service about returning it and was told, since 30 days had passed, I’d only be entitled to a store credit, rather than the refund I wanted. I asked to be escalated to a supervisor to plead my case. 

When the supervisor called me back, he asked if there was any reason I felt that their policy should not apply to me. I told him that I wanted to be completely honest, had spent no time in the hospital nor any other condition which prevented me from pursuing this earlier.  But I did still want the refund because I felt the item was flawed and believe they’ve likely received other customer complaints on this item. This strategy failed and he just repeated the same, “why shouldn’t our policy apply to you” response back to me. 

I amped up my story just a bit, adding that I did like their merchandise and would likely return for future purchases, but I wanted to have a good first purchase experience and was giving him the opportunity to provide that to me.  Again, failure. Again, he déjà vu’d me. 

Then, in a thoroughly exasperated tone, I told him I’m a working mom, with teenagers at home, have a new job, travelling 50% and couldn’t find the time to track down the original box, receipt and customer service number to make this call any sooner. “Hold a moment please” followed by, “please check your email for refund notification and shipping label to return item for full refund.”  

I’m happy with the result, but it was a bad customer service experience that I will remember and will probably share with friends. I gave him the chance to make it easier and more pleasant and 3x he failed. I could’ve just lied upfront and  it would’ve been faster for me. 

Customer service is one of the single fastest growing job descriptions today. With the explosive rate of online commerce, that can only continue. How your front line is handling your customer complaints has everything to do with repeat business. 

Recreating the wheel is hard. Far easier to keep the ones you’ve got. So give em love when they seek it. Or at least, top notch customer service. 

Let’s Break It, Then Fix It

Being successful at sales is not about blending in. Blending in is good for maintaining status quo. Status quo is counter-productive to meeting new business goals.

Leaders are made, not born. Leaders just keep putting one foot in front of other. They move toward challenge. They ask hard questions. They do this methodically, maintain long term focus and know that success can be the result of many small steps, repeated consistently over time.

Thank you to Scot Harris for sharing The Five Cognitive Distortions of People Who Get Stuff Done. Read more here: http://tinyurl.com/ku7x7k4 That’s where I learned about Schumpeterianism.

Schumpeterianism is described as “creative destruction” and might otherwise be known as disruptive innovation. Schumpeterians see creative destruction as natural, necessary and as a vocation. This person is described as fearless with a high tolerance for destruction and pain. The downside risk of this quality is potential heartless ambition or even alienation.

Sometimes things need to be broken. Sometimes things have been done the same way for so long, habit crystallizes and obscures the ability to see dysfunction.

Consider Weight Watchers point system. You eat, then you deduct points from an allotment. I actually favor a system which earns points for every delicious and fattening food that I DECLINE. I am motivated by accumulating points, not by subtracting them.

It’s always important to remember, however, when systems are comprised of people, change is scary. New ideas can be threatening to an established system. So if you want change, and the ability to execute lies in the hands of a team, the change must come with heavy doses of patience, care and an abundance of communication.

I Can’t

What is it about human nature that causes people to say what they cannot do, rather than focus on what they can do? Why do we do this?

Because the responsibility implied when others rely on you can come with woeful pressure. My boss relies on me to hit my number. My husband relies on me to keep my job. My kids rely on me to buy them stuff or bail them out, depending on the day. My customers rely on me to provide clarity and wisdom when, sometimes, there is none.

Today I checked into a hotel and asked if there was a fitness facility on premises. I was told no, but the hotel has reciprocity with an offsite gym, so I then asked how far away is the gym. I was told, “Well you can’t walk there from here.” So now I’m feeling a bit sucky about my hotel choice, right?

Then, “But it’s only about a 5 minute drive.” So, after further clarification, I’m told this gym is only about a mile away. How much better would I have felt if I’d been told initially, “It’s only a mile away” instead of “You can’t walk there from here.”

People do this all the time. I venture to say more often I hear what someone cannot do rather than what they can do. I simply don’t function this way. Why wouldn’t you want people to feel good about your value?

If there’s one certainty about the business climate these days, it is this–It is very competitive. If you don’t know the value you bring, and don’t lead with your value, you’re doing yourself a disservice. And, if you don’t bring unique value, you risk extinction.

I’m not saying there aren’t times when it is appropriate to correct a misperception. When I interviewed for my current gig, my boss asked me if I spoke Spanish. When I answered in Spanish, his eyes danced just a bit too much. I felt the immediate need to clarify that my 50% fluency should not be confused with 100%.

People will ALWAYS hear what they WANT to hear. Wouldn’t you want them to think the very best? I’m not suggesting dishonesty, but you must always lead with your strength.

Consider this. Telling people what you CAN do is basic sales. Whether you are selling a product, a service, a tangible, an intangible, or perhaps even selling yourself into a job. In a down economic cycle, I’d rather be a revenue driver than a cost item.

Yes that’s pressure, but I see it as job security.

SAY LESS

What’s your Top 10 List of values that you deliver to your customers? If you cannot state it in a bulleted list of 10 items or less, work on this task until you can.

Fact is that no one has any attention span at all anymore. I’ve had a customer, with whom I had a scheduled meeting, greet me by saying, “What do you have for me?” This was before he even offered me a seat.

Thank you to Paul Castain’s Sales Playbook, you should search him on LinkedIn, for illustrating the value of this concept. Today he shares his “10 Ways I Rock With My Clients.” It prompted me to make my own:

1. Programming Analysis
2. Promotional Opportunities
3. Prospecting Direction
4. Geo targeting
5. Demographic targeting
6. Marketing strategy
7. Qualitative Analysis
8. Psychographic Analysis
9. Demographic Analysis
10. Competitive Strategy

I have a meeting with a prospect in an hour and frankly am not sure what I’m even going to tell him. He’s already told me no, but that’s when my job begins, right?

When last we spoke he told me that he couldn’t justify my price. Well, that just means that I haven’t fully demonstrated the value of my offering. Everything is worth a price. You simply have to be able to demonstrate the worth in the customer’s terms. What’s does it do for THEM? And that had better translate to more $$$.

My list above includes items that are all means to drive revenue. They are ways in which to improve product, identify leads, isolate competitive advantages or reach their customers.

That’s the language of my customers. I have to speak it clearly and succinctly. My sales success depends on it.