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Exceptions…

I have been leading in a major training initiative for my company’s re-sellers this year.  We are making significant changes and we’d like our partners to adopt these changes in their approach, too.  That way the customer has a consistent experience across all of our channels.

Seems logical, doesn’t it?  Yet, with but a few exceptions the majority of our partners offer resistance during the training sessions.  They cite all sorts of exceptions (real and imagined) that suggest our new methods aren’t as good as their existing methods.  Sometimes they even suggest that our new methods flat-out, won’t work.

It reminds me of my Father-In-Law.  He was a carpenter and a true “master mechanic with the tools” (as they say in the trades).  In the 1960s and 1970s he trimmed million dollar mansions in suburban Chicago when million dollar mansions were rare.

When my wife and I bought our starter house in 1978, we had a whole list of home improvement and remodeling ideas.  Champagne taste; beer money (as they also say in the trades).  It was natural to turn to Dad for a little help.

My wife would show him what she was thinking for remodeling the kitchen; building a deck with a clubhouse for the kids; changes to the living room; bathrooms, too; the list went on.  And his initial response invariably was, “That won’t work”.  We heard the phrase “that won’t work” so frequently that we carry his legacy in our life to this day.

You see, when he said, “That won’t work” he didn’t mean it couldn’t be done.  What he meant was it actually could be done, but he would have to do it differently than the way the idea was initially laid out.  He did remodel our kitchen, living room and bathrooms.  We did have a deck and a clubhouse.  The clubhouse was built so well that we relocated it to our next backyard when we moved up from our starter house.

Fast forward to my training classes this year.  Every time a partner says “That won’t work” and cites an exception that doesn’t fit with our new and improved engagement model, it triggers old behaviors.  My knee-jerk reaction is to engage; to argue; to discredit the cited exception as some fantasy.  Then, after I regain my composure I remember my Father-In-Law.  I smile and think that’s what they said but that’s not what they meant.  At least I hope so.

I understand exceptions, I think.  I agree with Malcolm Forbes:

There are no exceptions to the rule that everybody likes to be the exception to the rule. 

And I’m no exception – just ask my wife when she says we need to remodel thus and so.  I give it the old, “That won’t work” try.  Then we smile and realize my will power will wilt in the face of her vision.

The opinions expressed by the husband do not reflect the views of the management of this household. 

Unknown Sage 

We all deal with exceptions throughout our day; at work; at home; in the community.  I believe our views about exceptions are grounded on our individual perspectives:

Nothing makes me more tolerant of a neighbor’s noisy party than being there. 

Franklin P. Adams

So this year I’ve been trying.  I’ve been learning how to address exceptions.  I’d prefer such cited exceptions to fade in the face of our training, but I understand Malcolm Forbes is probably right.  Then I remember my Father-in-Law.  And then I’ve learned to smile.

GAP

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To our Customers…

Recently, I wondered whether modern technology was actually making Customer Service worse (see http://thequoteguys.com/2015/03/making-matters-worse/ ).  Well, it has been said:

Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain – and most fools do. 

Dale Carnegie

So, to avoid seeming foolish, permit me to share a few thoughts about how we can improve Customer Service vs. just complaining about it.

If we come in contact of any kind with our customers, we are customer service representatives of our companies.  In Ernie Humphrey’s recent post, “CFOs: True Customer Service is a Competitive Advantage” (see http://www.proformative.com/blogs/ernie-humphrey-ctp/2015/03/22/cfos-true-customer-service-competitive-advantage#comment-25042 ) he suggests that CFO’s should not only support the delivery of great customer service – they should own it!

Permit me to add to Ernie’s list of how to leverage customer service as a competitive advantage:

  1. Attitude – Everything starts with attitude. Let’s check our problems at the door; Customer Service is about addressing our client’s problems. And yes, when they call they will be calling with a complaint never a compliment.  And yes, they will likely be grumpy so be prepared.  And yes, our Unknown Sage reminds us:

The customer may not always be right, but the customer is not the enemy.

Let me pause and applaud John Hanson, Owner of Infinity Logo Solutions.  John’s provides my wife’s company the most stellar customer service I have ever seen!  Every time she calls – he returns her call, promptly.  Every technical issue she runs into – he either helps resolve, or if he can’t he guides her to the person who can.  Every time she needs him to come on-site for a repair – he responds cheerfully, whether the service issue was her fault; a warranty fault; or no body’s fault.  Every time – even on weekends.  His customer service attitude is stellar!

  1. Anticipation – Just like our children, if they don’t get the answer they’re looking for from Mom; they’re going to ask Dad.

CS_Dept_Cartoon (1)Yes, we sales types do exaggerate on occasion.  So let’s everybody get over it.  We should anticipate that the customer sometimes exaggerates the sales rep’s exaggerations.  It’s our job to return the dialog back to reality – just like Mom.

  1. Technology – Yes, I said it; we should use technology to help us deliver excellent customer service. With email, cell phone, IM and social media, our goal should be “Near-Real-Time-Response”; even if it’s bad news:

Bad news does not improve with age. 

D. Michael Abrashoff

And let’s use voice mail to improve customer communication, OK?

Standard Greeting – “I’m on the phone or away from my desk”… 

OK Captain Obvious, can we be any more vague?  How about adding “for Monday” or whatever the day is so they know we were at least in the vicinity of our voice mail today?  And if we’re actually out of the office how about adding the next date/time we plan to listen to messages?

BTW with my voice mail greeting, I’m never “in a meeting”; customers hate it when we’re “in a meeting”.  I’m only “with another customer” or “out of the office”.  The customer is still unhappy, but at least I didn’t add fuel to their fire by being “in a meeting”.

If we’re good at customer service – they will call us more frequently, so be ready.  When they call us less frequently – they’ve given up hope; they’re abandoning us (which of course is how customers ultimately fire us).

So here’s to our customers who call us for service:

The customer may not always be right, but the customer is always the customer. 

GAP

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Department transfer…

I’ve been spending so much time in the Department of Unintended Consequences lately, I’m wondering if I’ve been transferred awaiting the paperwork?

One of the (many) things I really like about my job is at my company personal initiative is encouraged.  In fact, our CEO has coined the sound bites, “take the hill”, and “we must” and offers examples of employee initiative during his quarterly “All Hands” meetings.  Of course, a minor downside to “taking the hill” is occasionally things don’t turn out quite the way we originally envisioned.

Recently, I was “taking the hill”.  Has this happened to you?  You know, you’re trying to “go the extra mile”; do something “new and improved”; because “we must”; and Boom!  Word is received from the Department of Unintended Consequences (aka DUC!)  I tried to duck, but too late:

Harrison’s Postulate:

For every action, there is an equal and opposite criticism. 

Unknown Sage

It started off benign enough; I had formulated a plan for a local client gathering.  My VP and our Regional Managers had been speculating about a “Client Day” for months.  Well, after “talking about it”, I decided I would “take the hill” and make it happen.  Someone yell, “DUC”!

As it turns out, my colleagues apparently expected me to form a committee first.  I think everyone wanted to offer their input on how to do an event.  My bad – I actually know how to do events.  And I don’t do well in committees:

Another mystery commonly observed by committee pathologists is that the time consumed in debate is dominated by those with the least to offer. 

Norman R. Augustine

The first word from the Department of Unintended Consequences came from one of my colleagues.  She was now thinking that doing a client gathering was a bad idea.  She wanted to know who authorized me to “take the hill”.  Huh?  And the committee was assembled.

Turns out, the committee is not insulated from the Department of Unintended Consequences, either.  What started as an idea for a local, casual, inexpensive event now morphed into something where clients and Regional Managers were flying in from all corners of North America.  The increase in size and expense now meant we needed to revisit the agenda.  Yep, word from DUC:  Lots of people wanted speaking parts.

Thankfully, my VP knows me well enough to shield me from the committee.  He served as my delegate.  You see, I try to execute with excellence in order to avoid criticism.  He knows that I don’t react well to criticism.  However, when I do get criticized (Because none of us are immune, true?); I seek counsel from the wise:

The incident of an undersized lawyer in an acrimonious stump debate with the massive Robert Toombs.  Toombs called out, “Why, I could button your ears back and swallow you whole.”  The little fellow retorted, “And if you did, you would have more brains in your stomach than you ever had in your head.”

Abraham Lincoln

But I digress 🙂

The client day event turned out well; the Regional Managers participated and enjoyed themselves; the agenda was modified to accommodate speaker requests; and the hill was taken!

However, we did receive word from the Department of Unintended Consequences after the event – I had misspelled the company on a client’s name tent.  He emailed the entire committee a cell phone picture of my error; probably posted it to social media, too.  Someone yell, “DUC”!

GAP

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Creepy?

I attended a social media marketing for business MeetUp (see http://www.meetup.com/SocialMarketing/events/192578412/ ) and listened to an excellent discussion about one, main point made at the 2014 Internet Marketing Association conference, “Has the Internet has become creepy?”

Catchy headline (those clever marketers), but the discussion led by Mike Hanbery (http://www.linkedin.com/in/mikehanbery ) provoked me to think about my own position regarding the tactics we in the sales/marketing profession leverage in today’s marketplace.

Permit me to share three examples:

1. “Listening” on social media sites for customer service complaints.

Sound familiar?  We buy something; are disappointed; and call the vendor’s Customer Service Department.  After navigating a seemingly endless automated call directory of options, playing the vendor’s version of, “Where in the World is Mario, my Customer Service Rep?” – hitting “0” in desperation.  Finally we get some poor schmuck who is clueless and/or powerless to help – sometimes even treating us rudely:

How to Manage an Irate Client Call:

“I’m sorry you’re so upset.  I really feel your pain.  No, I don’t think we can fix the problem.  No, you can’t get your money back.  Well, I am the supervisor.  Let me transfer you to Mr. Dial Tone…”

Unknown Sage

Seeking revenge, we vent on Facebook, Pinterest, and the plethora of social media sites to telling the world never to buy from that vendor again!  Then (and only then) we receive a polite, social media response offering to help.  Creepy?

I give – why don’t companies simply staff social media sites with their customer service reps and relieve us from the frustration of calling them to begin with?

My customer service contact info?  (303) 324-1225.

2. Re-posting someone else’s stuff.

Google is purported to have a push today around the principle of “authenticity”.  Further evidence that the Internet has become creepy?

I mean, how much stuff do we see posted on the social media sites these days by Person A who is simply re-posting stuff originated from Person B, who got it from Person C?  Such re-posting of stuff can even be automated with a social media app.  It harkens me back to a simpler (and more authentic) time:

Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving us wordy evidence of the fact.

Elliot

My “stuff”?  You may or may not enjoy it, but I wrote it, and posted it, personally.

3. Cold-Calling is dead.

Every week I am pinged by someone near my age; who has written a book; proclaiming “Cold-Calling is dead!”; and offering me insight to leveraging social media tools to gain access to my target prospects.  Even those online Customer Service Representatives are being trained to cross-sell/up-sell after addressing the customer service issues we post on the Internet.  Creepy?

These sales reps posing as book-authors suggest that all we have to do is post interesting content on the Internet; become “thought leaders”; and our prospects will flock to transact with us.  Well, my grandmother who was born in Europe and immigrated to this country in the early 1900’s would say, “I’m no believe.”

Back to Mike’s MeetUp comments:

Setting up a Facebook or LinkedIn account is free.  Posting content on these sites is free.  Getting someone to actually see your content – that costs money.

Call me Kooky, but when I want to gain access to a new prospect – I pick up the phone and call her.  Old fashioned I admit; tough to get through to be sure; but creepy?  Not!

GAP

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No Excuse…

“Sorry I’m late.  My meeting ran over.”  “No, I didn’t get a chance to review your CRM notes.”  “I can’t join you on the WebEx, I’ve dialed in from my cell phone.”  “Yes, that’s me typing in the background – give me a moment, I’m just sending a quick email.”  “Please excuse me – I need to leave early for another meeting.”

Late; unprepared; multi-tasking; mobile; double-booked.  Welcome to the 21st Century.

Perhaps it should be of no surprise that according to one research report, 79% of sales reps in the Software-as-a-Service marketplace did not attain their assigned quota in 2013; 79%!  (See xactly)

Today, there is no lack of professionalism displayed by Sales Professionals.  Arriving late; leaving early; being unprepared; not returning calls or emails.  (By the way, these behaviors are not unique to sales people, true?)  And when called out on such unprofessionalism – excuses flow – see paragraph one.  What’s that?  Life is tough so everybody else does it too?

Life is difficult.  This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths.  It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it.  Once we know that life is difficult – then life is no longer difficult.  Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters. 

M. Scott Peck

Make sense to you?  Ahh, trick question: if it makes sense, then you have no excuse.

I believe as a Sales Professional, it is our role to maintain professionalism in spite of any unprofessionalism by those around us.  Easy to say – hard to do.  Yet the problem with bad behavior on the part of one Sales Professional is it casts aspersions on all Sales Professionals in our profession, don’t you agree?  Yep, trick question: if you agree, then you have no excuse.

Ever notice when someone you’re interacting with makes a mistake; they often serve up an immediate excuse?  “Gary, it wasn’t my fault because (insert story de jour…).”  Rather than simply admitting the mistake; apologizing for any inconvenience; and offering to do better going forward, we hear about their medical condition, their children’s problems at school, their financial stress, their boss is a jerk, etc.

Difficulty may stimulate excuses from others; but as Sales Professionals we must follow Edward R. Murrow’s guidance:

Difficulty is the excuse history never accepts.

And I know the folks I work with are telling the truth.  I know this because when I’m going through the exact same circumstances I’d like to succumb to the difficulties of the day too; become equally unprofessional; make excuses.  But what can one do about it?

Well, to stop such temptation, I find retreating to loud; head-banging; heavy metal music seems to help.   Thank God for Pandora!  Here’s one example from my favorite Friday band – Five Finger Death Punch:

Everybody hurts

     Everybody bleeds…

          Everybody pains

              Everybody grieves…

Can you relate to head bangers?  You got it, trick question: if you can, then you have no excuse.

Yes, it is the 21st Century.  And in this modern world everybody multi-tasks; works extended hours; has stress at the office; pressures at home; and clients that can be jerks (sometimes our managers too).  But we overcome these difficulties, because in the words of Abraham Lincoln:

The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion.

Does Abe’s reasoning resonate with you?  Beware – trick question: if it does, then you have no excuse.

GAP

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Who’s at fault?

My wife just endured one of those “clients-from-hell” experiences.  After investing hours and hours coordinating a cruise for a new client; the client cancelled at the last minute.  Nine months of effort cancelled – no cruise; no commission; no long-term client relationship.  Who was at fault?

It started out innocent enough; a pastor wanting to coordinate a church retreat.  Timing was fine; the sail date was a year out.  A man of God and his flock – how bad could it get?  My wife even secured approval from the cruise line to qualify his trip for fund raising; the cruise line would contribute $50 per cabin; my wife pledged another $10.  Seemed like a win all the way around.

Then reality set in – missed deposit deadlines; delayed paperwork; lost credit card; last minute changes; demands for upgrades; the works.  And no matter what was provided, “more” was demanded.  And when “more” was no longer available; “cancel” was called on.  But who was at fault?

Well obviously it was Murphy’s fault:

Murphy’s Law: 

If anything can go wrong, it will. 

Unknown Sage

In fact, our favorite Unknown Sage offers us a lot about this person Murphy and what he does to our client service experiences:

Murphy’s Law gives rise to Murphy’s Philosophy:    

Smile… tomorrow will be worse.

Murphy’s Eighth Corollary:

It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious.

Addendum to Murphy’s Law:

In precise mathematical terms, 1+1 = 2, where “=” is a symbol meaning seldom if ever.

Gattuso’s Extension of Murphy’s Law:

Nothing is ever so bad that it can’t get worse.

Yep – it got worse.  My wife earned a masters degree about Murphy with this client!

If we’ve been in business long enough, we’ve all faced the, “Who’s at fault” moment, true?  Who gets the blame?  Does it matter?  Sometimes, we just get “run over” by one of those disingenuous, impossible-to-satisfy clients, determined to totally waster our time; and then say it was our fault.

A man in a hot air balloon realized he was lost. He reduced altitude and spotted a woman below. He descended a bit more and shouted, “Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don’t know where I am.”

The woman below replied, “You’re in a hot air balloon hovering approximately 30 feet above the ground. You’re between 40 and 41 degrees north latitude and between 59 and 60 degrees west longitude.”

“You must be an engineer”, said the balloonist.  “I am”, replied the woman, “How did you know”?

“Well”, answered the balloonist, “everything you told me is, technically correct, but I’ve no idea what to make of your information, and the fact is I’m still lost. Frankly, you’ve not been much help at all. If anything, you’ve delayed my trip.”

The woman below responded, “You must be in Management.”  “I am”, replied the balloonist, “but how did you know”?

“Well”, said the woman, you don’t know where you are or where you’re going.   You have risen to where you are due to a large quantity of hot air.  You made a promise, which you’ve no idea how to keep, and you expect people beneath you to solve your problems. The fact is you are in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but now, somehow, it’s my fault.”

Unknown Sage

I wonder if his name was Murphy.

GAP

Did you like this little ditty?  You might enjoy my website and book, too:  The Peace & Power of a Positive Perspective© Please check it out.

Selling the one that works…

Setting appropriate expectations – easy to say, hard to do.  

While recently reading Let’s Get Real or Let’s Not Play © by Mahan Khalsa, he wrote of a negotiation concept called” “Preemptive Negotiations”.  It goes like this: 

Out of curiosity, have you ever experienced an installation of this scale that went absolutely perfectly?”  When the say, “no”, we can continue, “and neither have we.” 

Now there’s an approach that takes some brass!  Negotiating how you will address your client’s disappointments with their purchase of your products/services, before you close the deal for their purchase of your products/services! 

Yes, much has been said and much has been written about sales people mis-setting expectations.  Over promising and under delivering it is often called.  But it’s extremely difficult to sell the customer a “solution” (aka the one that works).  Unfortunately, it really is all about expectations: 

            Law Number XXXVII: 

Ninety percent of the time things will turn out worse than you expect.  The other 10 percent of the time you had no right to expect so much.

Norman R. Augustine 

Are there sales professionals that have made huge money “selling ice to Eskimos”?  I suppose.  We see some of those types appear in the headlines from time to time with captions that include, “Ponzi Scheme”; “CEO receives millions in pay while company slumps into oblivion”; or sometimes, simply “Facebook IPO”.  But these self-serving, over-the-top, unscrupulous, sales types really are few and far between. 

Most of us have the appropriate intentions.  Yet “selling the one that works” to the customer takes much more than appropriate intentions.   Take product training, for instance.  How many times have we taken a new sales position and discovered our company only offers a Do-It-Yourself approach to training us on how the product really works? 

Some companies leverage a mentoring approach with their new hires; on surface, an excellent idea.  But – who trains the mentor on how to mentor?  The Sales Manager, you say?  OK – who has trained your Sales Managers to “manage”?  “Mr. OJT”, you say?  Ah yes, we know him well.

If Mr. OJT has developed bad habits, leveraged short cuts, or in some other way figured out how to succeed in spite of cluelessness, he now infects our new sales reps with these bad habits.  Is that what our future customers were expecting? 

Of course, the customer is hard enough to sell to, true?  Too busy to walk us through their current situation, letting us guess instead; leaders delegating to subordinates; or worse, bringing in an outside consultant who leverages that world famous, expectation, mis-setting tool known as the “RFP”.  Yep, too many projects are doomed from the beginning: 

            The stages of Systems Development: 

1. Wild enthusiasm

2. Disillusionment

3. Total confusion

4. Search for the guilty

5. Punishment of the innocent

6. Promotion of the non-participants

Arthur Black 

But in the end I believe it still remains the sales professional’s responsibility to sell the one that works to our customers.  And when we come across that customer that we intuitively know we can’t possibly meet their expectations – we have to be the ones to walk away.  Yes, setting appropriate expectations; easy to say, very hard to do.  

But an error of omission can lead to the same dead-end destinations as errors of commission.  Either way, if we are not careful we will wind up in a cartoon like this one that has lasted the ages:

  

           GAP 

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Save time; save money…

In 1979, during my very first, B2B sales training class (led by Frank Justo at ADP), we worked on feature-benefit drills.  Ever do that?  And anytime we came across a feature we couldn’t immediately connect a benefit to, we were taught to use that famous, catch-all-justification phrase:  “Save Time; save Money!” 

Over three decades later, I’m amazed at how often I hear this catch-all-justification phrase used.  Maybe you say it yourself.  Oh and there’s also the popular derivation that goes like this:  “With our automated, online, interruption, foot peddle, your people currently assigned to this task can do more important things for the company…”  More important things?  Like what – being laid off?  But I digress. 

Much has been said and much has been written on how sales professionals can “cost justify” the sale of our products and services.  “Value Proposition”; “ROI”; “TCO”, “Time to Value”; “Payback”; “Doing more important things”; what is your favorite term and justification technique?  (“Save Time & Money” you say?  Just shoot me!) 

Of course, our companies can’t help from helping us by providing the infamous TCO/ROI calculator.  Amazing little tools these calculators.  It seems that no matter what numbers you plug in the end result is always the same – “Buy My Product!” 

Was the automation of the spreadsheet a bane to civilization?  I mean, have anthropologists uncovered evidence of abacus-based ROI calculators used to support trade in the ancient times?  Sorry – digressing again. 

After the sale, how often do you think clients go back to check the computation of the ROI they used to justify their purchase in the first place?  Here’s what George Eckes, a subject matter expert in Six Sigma (which according to Wikipedia, “A six sigma process is one in which 99.99966% of the products manufactured are statistically expected to be free of defects”) shared: 

About 30 percent of my clients have had a true Six Sigma cultural transformation; about 50 percent of my clients have obtained tactical results that justified their investment in paying my outrageous fees.  And about 20 percent of clients have totally wasted their money.           

Well, at least they went back to measure the results of his “outrageous fees”.  We would expect no less from six sigma black belts. 

Does every purchase have to be “justified”?  Here’s an excerpt from an interview published in the March 2012 issue of CFO Magazine

“CFOs need to understand that you have to keep the core running,” says NetSuite CFO Ron Gill.  “Sometimes the CIO will say the phone system needs upgrading.  The CFO will ask, ‘What will we get from the upgrade?’ The CIO says, ‘Phones.” 

Instead of “justification” what if we sold to “value”?  I believe value is client-defined, and it tends to be a bigger number than anything my little TCO calculator might come up with.  I also believe value connects to my client’s “discretionary funds”, which includes the original “budget” plus whatever it costs to get what they want.  

When the client values it and wants it; far be it for me to suggest we do a cost-justification first.  But don’t take my word for it: 

What’s my return on investment in e-commerce?  Are you crazy? This is Columbus in the New World.  What was his ROI?

Andrew Grove 

Truly – Queen Isabella received more value than Columbus’ three returning ships full of goods.  We might all consider selling to our client’s value – after all, this approach could save us time & money! 

GAP 

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I hate that word!

“Assume”.  How many times do we hear that word in our business world?  And in the sales profession (many others, too I suppose), we all know what they say about that word and what it makes out of the parties “u” and “me”.    But when we hear that word from a brand, new client, it is particularly disappointing, true?  

I was on the phone with a new client of ours recently.  Although I wasn’t the lead sales person on the account, I had met them during their evaluation process.  My job over the next few months is to help enable them to be a reseller for my company.  During this recent phone conversation, I must have heard the phrase, “we had assumed” containing that word at least ten times.  And they expressed it within a connotation of disappointment.  I hate that word

Oh, we had tried during their evaluation process to set proper expectations. My sales team thought we were pretty good at expectation-setting, too.  Until Murphy and his network of unknown sages, seers and soothsayers reminded us of: 

Naeser’s Law: 

You can make it foolproof, but you can’t make it damn-fool-proof. 

So, here we are playing the unpopular game of sales-catch-up, called, “resetting the customer’s expectations”.  Ever play that game?  Not fun.  No matter how hard we try, our new customer will still have a feeling of disappointment instead of delight, yes? 

Of course, there is the “u” in that word, not just “me”.  When we hear our customer say, “We had assumed”, we sometimes would like to say, “Hold on a minute…”  For the first miss-set expectation; and the second; sometimes even the third; I’m willing to accept responsibility.  As a sales professional, I do this for a living.  So I take responsibility for addressing things the customer doesn’t even know should be addressed.  After all: 

Answering the unasked question, what someone really wants to know – that’s a really special skill. 

                             Unknown Sage 

However, when our customer persists in being a bit “clueless” about reality; when our customer continues to state disappointment based on that word; we would like to reach the point of calling out the “u” in that word; but we don’t, do we.  No; funny thing about having that “really special skill”; if we claim to have it – then we have to stand by it; even when we start to wonder if our client has moved beyond a few miss-set expectations and is now actually re-negotiating. 

Yes, in the business world leveraging advantages in negotiations can appear even after the deal is done, don’t you think? Obtaining additional vendor-concessions can appear when a new client expresses disappointment about their assumptions and the sales rep tries to make up for their disappointment.  When we do that, the feeling of this concession moves back to the “me” in that word, and we start to hear the Aretha Franklin song, “Who’s Zoomin’ Who?” 

Yet in our profession, managing our customers’ expectations (and assumptions) comes with the territory.  As has been said many times by our unknown sages, seers and soothsayers: 

The customer may not always be right; but the customer is always the customer. 

And, I would add the words of a former colleague of mine, Gary Givan: 

There is no profit in putting a customer in their place. 

So I guess that means to us sales professions that the “me” takes precedence over the “u” in that word; that dreaded word! 

GAP 

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Written in Ink…

Who is it that said, “The Internet is written in ink.”? 

When you want to speak to the “Internet Customer Service Department”, who do you call?  For all of the amazing enjoyment of our technology; and all of our social media interaction; once in a while do you wish you could just call the Customer Service Department? 

The other day I had a glitch with Linked In.  After spending an hour searching through online help; texting a few friends; adding in some trial and error; and resorting to the obligatory device reboot; I finally gave up and tried contacting their Customer Service.  Yea – right.  It was an email template, and it really didn’t want to accept my service request.  It kept sending me back to the same help documentation I was in for the past hour. Hmmm, when you need to speak to someone in Customer Service, who do you call?  (The good news – I finally did receive a fix via email – two days later!) 

Permit me to digress… 

I lost a deal once; hoped the loss wasn’t written in ink; so I visited the client after his decision.  During a brief but pleasant “post mortem” the client shared with me the reason.  It was because he would not have to attend training class with their product; whereas we required our new clients to attend a 2-day, in-person training class.  A well-trained client; what a concept!  (And, my company’s training requirement was written in ink.) 

As I researched this competitor’s tactic further I discovered “the rest of the story” as Paul Harvey said.  My competitor didn’t offer training!  The sales rep put a clever “spin” on his weakness, “Our application is so easy to use; you don’t even have to attend training class.”  (Which would be a good thing if true; but they didn’t offer a training class!) 

A short time later, that client quit my competitor.  He didn’t buy from me though.  His bad experience with one company in our industry ruined the chances for all of us – he went in a different direction altogether.  Unfortunately, his poor customer service experience was written in ink. 

Back to today’s technology; is the social media perspective of, “Our application is so dependable and easy-to-use, you won’t need to call our Customer Service Department.”  written in ink?  (It would be a good thing if true; but there often isn’t a Customer Service Department to call!) 

And before we get too carried away with today’s world, it might be wise to keep things in perspective, yes?  Jim Collins offers: 

The truth is, there’s nothing new about being in a new economy.  Those who faced the invention of electricity, the telephone, the automobile, the radio, or the transistor – did they feel it was any less of a new economy than we feel today?                                 

The “those” he refers to are our parents and grand parents.  Think about it – they adopted electricity!  The technology advancements they lived through during the 1900’s, should impress us.  The patience, perseverance, and the ability to maintain a sense of humor that they displayed seems amazing. 

Of course, while technology in their world was speeding along back then, at least when they needed a little help they could always call the Customer Service Department.  (Which was a good thing because before the advent of our modern technology, there used to be a Customer Service Department!) 

I guess it just wasn’t written in ink. 

                                                                  GAP 

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