Truly Priceless, The First Customer Service Experience

In relocating from NW Indiana to NW Arizona, we have had to outreach to several businesses.  Once again I realized how truly priceless the first customer service experience really is.

first-customer-service-experience

Credit www.pixabay.com

Must Have Internet

My business depends on the Internet.  Having a reputable Internet firm is essential. I did my research and discovered Data-Max Wireless. The frontline person who opened the account and scheduled the service call was incredibly friendly and competent.  Then the service technicians also demonstrated outstanding professionalism from being on time and making recommendations for a better wireless router.

Must Have Working Oven

When we purchased our new home, we knew the built in oven was not working.  Again, doing Internet research product and reviews, I called Attwoods Appliance and scheduled a service call.  The serviceman was on time and again very professional. He only reaffirmed my first customer service experience with the Repair Department at Attwoods.

Unfortunately, the part needed for the 35 year old Tappan built in oven was no longer made.  So based upon our first customer service experience, my husband and I visited the store and ordered not only a replacement oven but a freezer as well. So a $75 service call turned into an over $2,000 sale. This is why the experience is priceless.

Must Have Working Plumbing

One of the challenges in buying a 35 year old home is there will be unforeseen problems.  We had an outside sillcock that would not shut off on a Sunday afternoon.  My husband did a temporary fix and  I called our realtor, Elise Harron of Dirt Road Real Estate for a recommendation. She recommended Truelove Plumbing.

Again, the first customer experience of scheduling the appointment and the subsequent actual service was exceptional.  Having 22 plus years in the plumbing industry, I recognized someone who understood plumbing.  The plumber also reviewed our pump and pressure tank (water storage system) and made some significant recommendations.  We took those to heart and he is coming back to install a new pump and pressure tank along with the necessary cut off value and pressure gauge.

Each of these local small businesses made that first customer service experience delightful and then backed up that experience with competent service personnel.  Unless these firms demonstrate some significant negative behavior, they have earned my customer loyalty and hence my business as long as we live here.

So far we have infused thousands of dollars into the local small business economy.  And these expenditures have all been fostered by that priceless first customer service experience.

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A Sales Maxim To Be Held True

What sales maxim do you hold to be most true?  This past week I had the opportunity to personally witness how the violation of this code of sales behavior turned me away from one vendor to another. Let me explain.

sales-maximAs we have just relocated from 1/3 acre home with no fence to two acres totally fenced, we decided it was time to find a dog. Our new home is out in the country where there are plenty of coyotes.

Believing in adopting a rescued dog from the local animal shelter, I stopped by and looked at the available dogs.  The executive director told me there were a couple of 3 month old puppies at a national pet chain store. This national pet chain store works with local human societies and allows them space to showcase dogs and cats for adoption.

So I decided to stop by and saw a puppy that appeared to met our breed and size criteria. I went to the car to call my husband to see if he approved and was met by another human society just outside of the store.  Their puppies were an acceptable breed  and I was almost ready to pick one up when one volunteer said “We are the better human society.” I smiled and continued to my car where I called my husband.  He said “It’s up to you” and I went back in and adopted the 3 month old puppy.

Years ago my father shared this sales maxim with me “Never, never knock the competition, no matter what you know.” Dad went on to explain his reasoning with “By engaging in this sales behavior, you as a salesperson will begin to establish distrust and turn potential customers or clients away.”

Then I had the opportunity to visit a local veterinarian as one of the technicians had a dog kennel for sale.  I asked her what made this clinic different?  She responded very positively with “All our vets are men and we spend more time with each patient.”  We then talked a little more about a vaccine against rattlesnake bite and she presented me with a card for a free visit.  What this wise lady did was to be positive and not knock the competition.  She earned my first visit.

Knocking the competition is a dangerous behavior and one that should be avoided at all costs. Let others fail to heed this sales maxim as plenty do.  Be above the fray.  Remember the Socrates Three Filters if you are ever in a discussion about your competitors:

  1. Is what you say kind?
  2. Is what you say truthful?
  3. Is what you say necessary?

 

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Finally a Sales Expert Took Zig Ziglar To Heart

Years ago I read the following definition for sales by Zig Ziglar: “Sales is the transference of feelings.”  As someone who consistently writes about the impact of emotions in sales, I was so glad to read one sales expert who took the time to write a book about how to transfer those feelings through emotional intelligence.

sales-expertJeb Blount’s new book, Sales EQ, should be immediately ordered, read and committed to memory.  Blount has provided those in sales with a road map to understanding how to use what Ziglar recognized so many years ago.

Emotional intelligence is the missing key within most sales training programs.  The inability to apply EQ might help to explain why 50% of salespeople miss quota.

Just this past week I wrote about how certain words such as “need” should be eliminated from the vocabulary of salespeople.  The use of need in a sales conversation reflects emotional intelligence or the lack there of.

As a noted sales expert, Blount provides many more tips and strategies in a well written and well crafted book.  Even though the book is to help with complex sales, this book will help the SMB salespeople  to earn more sales because people buy first on emotion justified by logic. (Sales Buying Rule #1)

The application of emotional intelligence works with any sales process and must begin within the first phase of attracting attention otherwise known as marketing.  For those in sales who resist the word marketing, then call it prospecting.

Still, an elite group of top 1 percent of sales professionals are crushing it. These Ultra-High Performers are acutely aware that the emotional experience of buying from them is far more important than products, prices, features, and solutions.  As Jeb Blount wrote in another book, People Buy You.

As someone who is considered by some to be a sales expert, I look forward to your thoughts about Sales EQ. Please share your thoughts here or post them on your social media site.

 

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Need, a Word to Be Banished from Your Content Marketing and Sales Conversations

Just this morning in my news feed, I read a content marketing and sales headline “These are the skills you need to have.” The following thoughts quickly surfaced in my mind:

marketing and sales

  • Really, I need to have these skills of (leadership, sales, management, etc.)?
  • What if I don’t have these skills?
  • Will I be less successful without these skills?

The word “need” is filled with judgment and is probably one of the least emotionally intelligent words people in sales and marketing use on a daily basis. One can’t blame salespeople after all they are trained to “uncover wants and needs” in most sales training programs.

Return to a moment n your childhood and think about your parents or an adult telling you any of the following:

  • You need to go to bed
  • You need to make straight As
  • You need to go to college
  • You need to find a good job
  • You need to visit your relatives
  • You need… (the you need list is endless)

Every time I read about “you need” to do this or have this when it comes to SMB, sales, marketing to leadership, I inwardly cringe.  For the last 10 years, I have attempted to remove this word, “need,” from my own executive coaching engagements, content marketing and sales conversations.  I also encourage my clients to replace this highly emotional word with other phrases such as “Have you considered?”

Emotional intelligence is critical to successful marketing and sales.  Jeb Blount founder of Sales Gravy is releasing on March 20, 2017 a book, Sales EQ: How Ultra High Performers Leverage Sales Specific Emotional Intelligence to Close the Complex Deal, dedicated to emotional intelligence specific to sales and one I recommend purchasing.

Of course changing an existing behavior is not easy. And for time strapped marketing and sales people having to speak a few extra words may prove frustrating. My advice is just remember how you emotionally felt years ago when you were told “you need” to do whatever.  That memory should be enough to prompt you to change your behavior.

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Lies Do Not Inspire Customer Loyalty

When will customer service people from wait staff to store clerks to everyone else in between realize lies do not inspire customer service loyalty. No lies do exactly the opposite. Lies build distrust and turn existing loyal customers into finding other solution providers.

customer-loyaltyRecently we had breakfast at a national chain that features home cooking.  When the waitress took my order, I asked for extra syrup. The waitress replied “Absolutely.”  Another waitress brought our breakfast and again I had to ask for extra syrups. This waitress replied “No problem.”

Our waitress stopped by when I was halfway through my meal and I mentioned the extra syrup. She replied “Of course.” Finally when I was finished with my breakfast, she brought the extra syrup.

Then told my husband and myself the reason for the delay was she was attending a mandatory staff meeting.  She apologized when I told her to forget the syrup as I was finished with my meal.  Again, she apologized and mentioned the mandatory meeting a second time. As a sales and management consultant, my first thought was “Talk about stupid management having a meeting during a prime time” and my second thought was “Hmm I wonder if the waitress lied to cover her own bad customer service?”

At checkout I was asked “How was the food?”  I replied the food was great, but the customer service not so much so.  The clerk asked me what happened and I responded.

She then asked me to tell the manager directly which I did.  The manager was nice enough not to charge us for the pancakes and said the meeting was not a mandatory staff meeting.  In other words, the waitress lied.  Requesting an item 3 times is not the fault of management, but the fault of the wait staff. And yes there was plenty of wait staff as this was the usual busy Saturday morning

Customer loyalty especially for service industries such as restaurants, grocery stores, etc. where there is low profit margin is essential in today’s highly competitive B2C marketplace. Losing one customer can equate to hundreds if not thousands of dollars over the lifetime of the customer.

Very few people will fess up and acknowledge when they are at fault. This is human nature. Yet to lie to customer is not the answer for ongoing customer loyalty that is built upon expectations based upon past customer experiences.

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Your Social Marketing Reflects Your Leadership

Have you ever considered how your social marketing may be a reflection of your leadership?  For example,  do you add people to your email list without asking permission? By taking this action what does it truly say about your leadership as well as your  business ethics?

Each day I must unsubscribe or mark as spam dozens of emails.  Many of these come from so called “experts” on sales, marketing, leadership and even business ethics. I guess they believe it is okay to add my name to their email lists.

Permission based marketing still exists and should be the best practice for professionals engaged in social selling or social marketing.  However given the increase in social selling, it appears permission based marketing has taken a bad seat to sales pitches.

When professionals regardless of their role ignore common courtesy and respect, this is a reflection of their leadership skills. Their actions only reaffirm my belief not to purchase from them or make any recommendations.

Additionally when SMB owners and sales professionals fail to identify identify their target audience, they may unintentionally send emails to recipients who would never, ever buy from them. I belong to several communities where we share similar solutions. Members on one community never ever add me to their email lists without permission and yet members in another community do so all the time.

When I email those members who add me without permission, I usually receive a contrite reply of “sorry for the inconvenience.”  No, they really aren’t all that sorry.

Leadership is the ability to secure the desired results using clearly articulated positive core values. This means no social marketing or social selling spamming and no sales pitches.

Yes any SMB owner or sales professional wants to increase sales and therefore hopefully profits. However, it is imperative that all behaviors reflect consistent and outstanding leadership otherwise the goal to increase sales will be much harder to achieve.

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When Catch-Up Time Becomes Ketch-Up Time

Weekends for many have become catch-up time for all those weekly things you didn’t have time to finish stuff.  Sound familiar?

catch-upYet how many times does this catch-up time becomes truly red much like ketchup.  The emotions overtake logic.  Hands go up in frustration and sometimes in despair. At the end of Sunday night you are exhausted and wondering where did the time go?

Imagine for a moment what would happen if twice each day, you would look at your calendar, your schedule for less than 30 minutes. Review in the morning in 5-10 minutes what needs to be accomplished that day.  Make sure you have entered all of your commitments including travel times.

Then before you leave your office, you take another 10-20 minutes to not only look to the next day, but to reflect upon what happened in the last 8-10 hours.

What went well today?’

What could have gone better?

Did you accomplish those “Must Do” tasks where you gave your word?

Did you achieve any short or long terms goals based upon your goals in progress summary?

How many people did you support or help?

How many people did you fail to support or help?

Were your behaviors respectful and reflected a high degree of emotionally intelligent leadership?

What can you do better tomorrow?

Who must you reach out tomorrow that you may have slighted today?

Possibly you may be thinking, I don’t have time for all of these questions?  Yet upon further reflection you probably sometime in the past had the answers to these questions, momentarily because your day went well or went poorly. Possibly these thoughts were repetitive because of internal emotional angst for not getting something done?

By consistently demonstrating this behavior of investing time to avoid “catch up time,” you may avoid ketchup time.

P.S. A word to the wise, time management is an oxymoron. No one can manage a constant. What you can do, is better manage yourself.  This self-management is what is call self-leadership.

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Great Salespeople Make Selling Look Easy

Ever wonder why so many people are venturing into being solo entrepreneurs or SMB owners?  Beyond the obvious advantage of being your own boss, my sense is these folks have witnessed great salespeople who make selling look easy.

great-salespeopleJust hop over to LinkedIn and scan a few profile summaries.  Immediately you will see a difference between those who understand sales and those who think they understand sales.

Sales is simple.  Someone called a buyer has a want or need and someone else called a seller has a product or service to fit that want or need. Pretty easy, well not so much so.

Social selling has only reinforced this notion that selling is easy.  Sure you can buy Twitter followers or make a zillion posts on Facebook and when you measure the results, what do you discover?

People buy from people they know and trust. To create that knowing and trusting persona takes time, energy, money and emotions. Great salespeople are willing to make those investments.

Just as in leadership, great sales people are made not born. They develop over time.  These forward thinking sales leaders are self directed toward continuous improvement themselves by honing their knowledge, talents and sales skills.

Through the years I have had the opportunity to meet truly great salespeople who understood “sales is the transference of feelings.” (Zig Ziglar). From them I learned what to do and what not to do.

My sense of selling is authentic, laid back and I have crystal clarity as to who my ideal target market is.  Yes some of my clients do not fit my ideal customer profile, however over time more often than not they do grow into that role.

If you want to have sales success, then look to follow, listen and learn from those who have sales success. Be willing to accept their is no quick fix for sales success and you will be nearly half way to your own success.

 

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To Engage or Not to Engage, the LinkedIn Quandary

LinkedIn for B2B professionals does matter.  For the last few years I have been conducting my own private research and learned, at least for me, the top 5 reasons why people ask to be connected.

LinkedIn

 

#1 Engagement

The super majority of people (nearly 60%) send me invitations because I have engaged with them or with one of their connections.  Since LinkedIn changed its groups policies, these engagements are overwhelmingly from update posts.  Prior to this change, the invitation outreach was through groups.

Additionally within this reason for connection, I have included those profiles I have visited.  When a second or third degree connection has visited my profile, I usually return the visit.  In quite a few instances, I will then receive an invitation to connect.

#2 LinkedIn Pulse Articles

Even with all the people publishing on Pulse, my articles still continue to drive a significant amount of invitations to my In Box. Right now approximately 25% of all LinkedIn invitations are because of these articles. What I have also observed is quite a few people within this community will follow me first and then extend an invitation to connect.  Content marketing for B2B is a proven marketing method for attracting attention and beginning to build relationships.

#3 Direct Outreach

Sometimes either through a personal one on one meeting, I will receive an invitation to connect or I will send an invitation.  These invitations represent around 7%. Also within this group are those who are connected to one of my first degree connections and believe it may make sense to connect with me as well.

#4 Referrals

As my network has grown, I have begun to see an increase in referrals from other colleagues.  Those within my existing contacts also have made suggestions for others to connect with me. Where in the past this percentage was nominal, today it also hovers around 5%.

#5 Suggestions

Finally, around another 3% of my connections now originate from LinkedIn’s suggestions to connect. This is the smallest percentage. And for me has always been the smallest percentage.

For those engage in social selling or better yet social marketing, then it makes sense to be engaging on LinkedIn.  Share the update posts of others.  Comment on those posts.  My other suggestion is to keep track of those who visit your profile, research their profile to determine if an invitation to connect is warranted.

P.S. Please make sure your LinkedIn Profile is complete and engaging.  Many profiles turnoff more sales leads or prospects than they turn on. And no you do not have to accept all invitations.

 

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Always Remember Customer Service Is SALES!

How many times do those in B2B or even B2C industries fail to understand customer service is sales.  A new report just released by Astound Commerce through secret shoppers recognized seven retailers who excel in customer service through:

customer service

  • Must have website
  • Visibility
  • Overall customer service
  • Speed of delivery
  • Efficiency of checkout

One of the top seven performers was The Home Depot. I know from personal experience this firm understands how serving the customers within the store will increase sales.  Here in Valparaiso IN, the store has hired certified and licensed electricians, plumbers and carpenters to assist customers with their questions. Even though my husband is an engineer, he has been advised by these professional tradesmen of better ways to do home improvement as well as some of the new products.

For example, toilets for years had a wax ring that attached to the bottom of the toilet and closet flange.  Over time the wax dries out and cracks.  Several years ago through the plumber at Home Depot, my husband learned of a neoprene boot that is attached to the bottom of the toilet and then fits past the closet flange.  The end result is a far better seal and one that does not not replacement.  The cost of a wax ring under $5.00 versus the cost of the neoprene boot around $15.00.  Husband spent $30 instead of $10 has he replaced not just one wax ring, but two.

Today I read Home Depot’s quarterly earning were ahead of expectations. Much of this was due to improved housing market and I also believe much was due to increase sales by loyal customers.

All SMBs have a 7-step-sales-process-advsys Within these 7 steps are third phases:

  • Marketing
  • Selling
  • Keeping

The third and final phase of keeping is one where both salespeople and customer service people work to keep those loyal customers.

Yes customer service is sales and if as a SMB owner or sales professional you forget this simple fact, you may be exposing yourself decreasing sales, declining profits and increasing stress.

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