It Actually Is Your Fault – 6 Tips

imagesThere’s a thinking trap that goes like this…you offend someone, then, when they let you know it, you apologize by saying, “Sorry, but I didn’t mean to offend.” This is a common reaction and it is 100% wrong and doesn’t qualify as an apology.

You can only apologize for your own wrong doing. You cannot apologize for someone else’s reaction to your behavior. Again, you can only apologize for your behavior. Anything else is not an apology.

Perception is reality. If someone you care about is offended, they are offended. If you caused it, you won’t help the matter by stating you didn’t mean to offend them, because that’s exactly what you did do. ¬†Note: if you doubt this statement, fact check it with experience and let me know how that works out.

Yesterday was a very challenging day, in a challenging week, in what’s been a challenging year. Blah, blah, life’s not fair, grow up now.

My father came over for his usual Friday night dinner at our home, what should be a friendly, peaceful tradition and it went sour due to a couple of unfortunate minor events that occurred shortly after he arrived. ¬†These events were minor, but they capped off a crappy day/week/month for me and I overreacted. My Dad is 87 1/2 years old and I truly cherish every ounce of his time that I still get to share and don’t want to spoil it. But I did spoil it last night and that’s a shame. However, it wasn’t a waste, because I’ve learned from it and now you are.

So here’s the takeaway in bullets, for the attention challenged, like myself –

  • Apologies admit the speaker’s fault – i.e. I’m sorry I was rude, not I’m sorry you misunderstood.
  • Apologies work best when timely – IMHO, it’s never too soon to apologize, so long as it is sincere.
  • Apologies never have a “but” – i.e. “I’m sorry, but I had a shitty day.” Nope, not an apology.
  • Method always overrides message – Successful relationships don’t come from avoiding communication of unpleasant topics. When said lovingly, perhaps quietly, with kindness and an eye on a mutual goal, you can say things that otherwise would crack a sidewalk without physical effort.
  • Timeouts can be effectively self induced – Timeouts work great for parents raising toddlers. They can also work for grownups, who sometimes need to choose this option over any alternative.
  • Assemble your troops – Seek a broad network so that you have someone who makes you laugh, one who lets you cry, a DD, a professional mentor, a hairdresser (man they know everything and are way under paid, most likely), and one who loves you enough and is courageous enough to tell you what you can’t see for yourself when you most need to see it.

Thank you to my network who keeps me sane and upright.

 

Let’s Get Uncomfortable

DJ Hughley said, “I love the idea of pushing people past the point where they’re comfortable.”

This is something that I’ve always done naturally and it is a major weakness of mine. Clearly, DJ Hughley can get away with it. I cannot.

First, I’m not paid to be a comedian. Second, I don’t have his talent. Third, and most importantly, I’m not self employed. But I do believe that making a dent in the universe is critical to success and happiness. This doesn’t apply to everyone, but it does to me.

Like Mathew Dixon describes in, The Challenger Sale, you need to get people thinking about something in a way they didn’t before you joined the conversation. If you can do this, it buys you time to proceed. Then, if you have a viable solution to the challenge you instigated, then you have more than just a foot in the door.

Comfort is perhaps the biggest obstacle I face in making a sale. People are comfortable with status quo. Change is scarey and risky. No one wants to be the guy that tried something new that didn’t deliver ROI. And I don’t want to be the vendor that sold it.

I often get asked to quantify the results my services will deliver. I can demonstrate the utility of my offer. But, I will tell my customers, just like you can lead a horse to water, you can’t make him drink. My services are as valueable as water is for nourishment, but I cannot force you to maximize the utility. However, I do promise to facilitate in all ways that I control. This is how I pushback to a customer who asks me to accept full responsibility for his success, when in reality, that can only be shared by both parties.

Effective selling, just like all relationships, requires open communication, respect and trust. This should never be a one way street, but rather a give and take. To reach this point with a customer requires demonstration of value, knowledge and integrity. It should feel mutual.

THE LESSON: If you can push people beyond the point at which they are comfortable, and retain them as friends or clients, they are telling you they know you’ve got their back. And once you reach this point, you will be successful in the relationship.

7 Questions to the Goal Post

If 50% of sales success is just showing up, as some have suggested to me, the critical path to close is asking the right questions and then listening. Here are 7 questions that will help you along the critical path. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list, only a helpful jumpstart.

What triggered your interest now? – Something has changed if they sought you out. What is it? Current provider raise the rate? New personnel wants to bring in their own selection? New competitor in their hair and now they need to amp up their game?
If you initiated the contact, rather than the customer, you need to be even more diligent to qualify the lead, or risk wasting your time. Some people simply want to price shop. Don’t enable.

What keeps you from a YES today? Often, a no is merely, not now. It’s not budget season (when is?); or we are already on a contract(when does it expire?); I’m about to be out on medical leave and don’t want any change right now (when can I contact you again?); my staff isn’t able to learn anything new right now, etc. etc. etc.

Who else uses this solution? – Find other people that influence the decision and would benefit from your offering and get to them.

Who else is involved in this decision? – Involve all decision makers in the process.

What could your current provider do to increase your happiness with them? – People hate change. They love to say they’re happy with their current provider. That might translate to “I’m not in enough pain to make a change.” But every supplier can do better/be better or provide greater value. You just need to find the definition of “value” to each customer.

How can I mitigate any risk caused by a change? – The world is ever more risk-adverse. Risk and soft economy are bad bedfellows.

What is your average cost per sale and profit margin? – This formula enables you to calculate the ROI quotient of your offering, so from here, you either price or divest. If you can ask this question and get an honest answer, you have become a trusted advisor to this customer. And then, you are only limited by what you pursue.

Follow this road map and please let me know your results.

Be Google-able

Pervasive acceptance of social media has revolutionized reputation management. This is important for everyone in the workforce to understand, regardless of profession or role.

Human nature causes us to share complaints more freely than compliments. Sad but true.

User reviews(by peers and experts) influence consumer selection. Trip Advisor, Urbanspoon, Consumer Reports, IMDB and Amazon are just a few examples of easily accessible reviews of products and services by our friends and category experts. How can shoddy workmanship survive in this game?

It can’t.

While I use Tripadvisor to plan vacations, Urbanspoon to select restaurants to try, and Consumer Reports before buying major appliances, I was quite surprised to learn of a website named ratemyprofessors.com. Consider that your professional reputation were in the hands of a teenager that has your face in their cross hairs. “Cant teach if his life depended on it” is a choice quote I just copied and pasted from this website.

This is a new age of accountability and it’s here to stay. In fact, the only way to navigate it, beyond being excellent to the best of your ability, is to have a proactive digital strategy as an insurance plan. Here’s how this works.

If someone maligns you online, that will appear in search results when your name is searched. The only way to counter that is to proactively create positive content attached to your name, so that when you are searched, more recent positive content will populate. Well now that’s a hassle, eh? And how are you supposed to pull positive content about yourself out of thin air on a moment’s notice?

I suggest having a proactive digital strategy as a form of insurance because, the more effort you invest in creating a solid digital footprint for yourself, the more likely your reputation will not be harmed by 1 unfavorable review, no matter how many page views it achieves.

The Lesson: Create Your Own Digital Insurance

Grab Them in 15 Seconds or Leave – 6 Steps

People are lazy, vain and selfish, according to Scott Belsky, co-founder of Behance.

How do you engage your audience in the first 15 seconds of a customer meeting?

I read an article about the critcal 15 second window within which you either retain or lose a customer (click the link at the bottom of this post for the full article). It reminded me of a customer meeting I had just yesterday. Within the first 15 seconds of our meeting, the client looked at his watch. I had 2 choices: either start talking at 120 mph and make zero sense OR responsd to his concern that the meeting would not deliver a good return on his investment of time spent with me. I chose Option B.

Assess the time allotment. I asked how much time he had to give me, so I could adjust accordingly. “One hour.” Excellent.

State the agenda. I tend to speak in top line concepts. Because no 2 customer meetings are the same in my work, this allows me to gauge interest in a particular topic, and only then do I dive deeper into that area.

Make them speak. Because I’m still making initial meetings with some customers, I like to start by asking them what they liked about my predecessor’s work and what they would like to see done differently. The message is, I’m yours, mold me however you like. Most frequent response is, “Tell me what you can do for me.” Ah, an invitation to speak, wonderful!

Floating downstream now. I’ve already proven my willingness to listen. I’ve already solicited customer input. Chances are, they’ve given our meeting little forethought and just sit back and wait to be impressed. If I impress, I’ll get another meeting. If I don’t, I probably won’t.

Demonstrate value. Fortunately, my employer’s deliverables impress. It’s up to me to continue to master the tools I sell, but I couldn’t ask for better tools. I’m still at the learning stage best described by saying that my customers know lots of things I’ve yet to learn. Luckily, they like sharing their expertise and I make a good sponge. This is the meat of the meeting. So long as I deliver well here, I will be invited back.

The meeting went well. After 2 hours, the customer did his next time check. Same guy that told me 2 hours earlier, he had only 1 hour for me. Success.

Two hours is a long meeting. Some people need a potty break. Others are surely having email detox shakes. I was satisfied and began to break down and pack up.

Recap follow up action steps. In 60 seconds or less, ideally.

Adjourn.

If you’d like to understand more about the fascinating nature of human behavior, and how to harness it toward Sales and Networking Success, click below:

http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20131112171340-4074853-the-first-15-seconds-how-great-products-thrive?trk=NUS_UNIU_PEOPLE_FOLLOW-megaphone-fllw

Sure, I Will Gladly Pay More

Last week I went to my neighborhood car wash, the one that offers the $4 exterior wash. As usual, I pulled up and told the attendant to give me the usual and he asked me for $5. I wasn’t unhappy to pay $5, because I always felt the $4 was an exceptionally good deal, but I mentioned that his remodel of the waiting room probably necessitated his rate increase.

First, I will mention that I never use his waiting room because I don’t spring for the full service wash. Since I drive through the system, I never leave my vehicle and don’t care they now have 4 flat screen tv’s in the waiting room I’ll probably never see.

To my comment about the rate increase covering the remodel cost, he quickly responded that much had changed in their products and services since my prior visit. They are using all new cleaning products that are better on a car finish, along with multiple staff changes to improve customer service, having dismissed the prior staff that was under delivering. Keep in mind, this was an attendant, at a car wash, pitching me on value and I hadn’t even threatened not to purchase! He was clearly a cut above any previous exposure I’d experienced at this car wash.

The result is, I now felt that the increase was well worth the additional value I received.

THE LESSON: If you win the business on price, someone will always undercut you eventually. You must deliver on value to get and keep satisfied customers.

What’s in Your Wallet? 5 Tips

If you follow this blog, you know I’ve started a new job and am embedded in an intense learning curve. Adding travel to my work routine has been a big change for me and organization tips are evolving and ever important.

How do you stay organized when you are very busy, keeping up with wall to wall meetings across area codes and time zones? What little things make this easier? Here are some things that work for me, without sacrificing key components of Sales and Networking Wisdom.

Ditch non-essentials. I no longer carry a wallet. That had to go when I stopped carrying a purse. I do still need a small walking bag or flat clutch, but loose cash and only vital plastic cards fit in it. Reward club numbers are stored in my phone, along with anything else that can be – boarding pass, calendar, blog posts in progress, Kindle, etc.

A formative mentor early in my sales career told me that she never attends a business meeting carrying a briefcase AND a purse. Her limit is 1 carryon; small, yet not insignificant tip. She ALWAYS has her right hand available for a warm greeting, to open a door for someone, you get the idea.

Remove fumbling risks. Another advantage of the Less is More strategy. Simplify and you will be streamlined. Your composure will be streamlined. Just like you wouldn’t go into a vital meeting with your briefcase contents in total disarray, don’t bring along extra baggage – physical or mental.

Clear your head. We all have noise in our heads. Apparently, women have more, unfortuantely. Clear it out before you interact with customers. Work out, listen to favorite music, text something sweet to your loved ones – whatever works for you.

Use fewer words. Steamlining your communication is a delicate balance. As a seller, you always have to be prepared to match the communication needs of your customer. Sometimes that means talking more upfront while they settle into the space and get ready to join the conversation. Sometimes it means saying hello and then shutting up for the next 60 minutes. Just read the room.

Do carry extras that make sense. An advocate for less cargo should not be confused with less customer service. I’ve ditched my wallet, but when meeting a customer by car, I always have an extra umbrella on a rainy day. A little gesture that makes a lasting impression.