Given the choice people buy from those they Like, Trust and feel Valued by.
Why do we buy branded bottled water when tap water tastes just the same and is cheaper?
Why do we choose the branded breakfast cereal when we know that the supermarket own-brand is made in the same factory?
Why do we buy VW rather than Seat when they use the same technology and are built to the same standards?
Why do we buy designer brands that are often inferior quality when less popular alternatives are much better value for money?
Because the companies that sell them have collectively spent billions of pounds creating brands that we like, trust and feel valued by. So if you want to be a consistently great sales person all you have to do is make people feel liked, trusted and valued and wait for the orders to roll in.
Is it that simple? Yes, it is and here’s what you need to do: -
- even if you are trading with other businesses it will be a person who decides to use you and they will opt for people they LTV.
- never fake it – folks will spot this at a 100 paces and they WON’T like it.
- being likeable is about being yourself and recognising that not everybody will like you – get over it and move on.
- being trusted is easy-peasy: never make a promise you can’t keep and if you are going to let them down tell them ASAP and make up for it in some way.
- being valued means being appreciated, recognised, rewarded and cared for. I’d start with how you like to be treated and go from there – not rocket science really.
- building relationships takes time but is totally worth it.
- keep in regular touch with your peeps. Relationships only exist through interaction. Without some kind of interaction they are just people you know.
So there you have it dear reader. Build strong LTV relationships with people who you can help by exchanging your products or services for their money and you’ll never have to sell another thing in your life.
My first sales mentor used to rub his hands together in glee when we had a problem with one of our clients. “Any fool can do it when it’s going well but only a real star can do it when it’s not” he would say. He was right.
I’m not saying you should go out with the intention of pissing your clients off - far from it but when a problem occurs why not use it to your advantage. Try this 7 stage approach to dealing with client problems: -
- If it’s a major problem get on site if it isn’t get on the phone.
- Apologise first then dive straight in and understand what the problem actually is.
- Even if it’s not your fault don’t get into the blame game.
- Come up with a plan to put it right and get the client’s buy-in for it.
- Fix the problem.
- When problems occur client satisfaction always outranks profit!
- When it’s all sorted head back to the client and see how this can be avoided in the future.
Problems can cost you time and money but they needn’t dent your reputation. In fact they can significantly enhance it building your personal brand and helping you stand out from your competitors as you go. As my friend Graham Davenport always says “Usually after I’ve sorted a problem out I end up coming away with another order”. I bet you do Big G.
So next time the phone rings with an irate punter on the other end rub your hands together in glee and get stuck in!
This morning I attended the funeral of John Ashcroft originally my driver but later he became a good friend. Please don’t stop reading I’m not going to get all sentimental on you but he did leave a strong legacy we can all share.
As I was sitting in a packed out chapel listening to the excellent eulogy by one of his old clients something became obvious to me: John had an incredibly strong brand without all the usual cost, time and hoo-har involved in building one.
He was a freelance professional driver; a one-man band who did everything from arrange his work, drive his clients around and attend to his finances all the way up to looking interested as we droned on about our own little lives. So how could somebody who did all those things still have time to build a strong, really really strong, brand?
Well truth be told John didn’t care for brands (“and all that jazz”) but what he did care for was: -
- Making sure his clients were always delighted with what he did for them
- Living his favourite quote “the answer’s ‘yes’ now what’s the question”.
- Never letting them down – EVER!
- Always being able to react to the last minute changes his clients subjected him to.
- Always making his clients feel special.
- Always being cheerful, happy to listen and open to anything new (he was a regular Facebooker).
- Never being late and so never needing an excuse.
You see John had no need of a fancy logo or a mission statement or an elevator speech or a strap-line. He just consistently did what it said on the tin: delighted his clients and as he did so his brand took care of itself.
So next time anybody mentions branding to you think of John and think of what he stood for and you’ll know exactly what to do next.
Some years ago a tractor manufacturer decided to stop making tractors in England and move their production to South America because it was cheaper. What followed was a little weird. Those third world countries who bought the tractors because they were made in England realised they could build tractors every bit as well as people in South America. So they turned up in the UK, bought all the redundant tractor-making machinery, went back to where they had come from and built their own tractors. But why?
Some years ago Mercedes got mixed up with Chrysler – 9 crazy years during which Mercedes quality took a dive. But they still sold cars and the good times continued to roll. But why?
People can either buy water out of the tap for a fraction of a penny or they can buy it in a fancy bottle for obscene amounts – and they do. But why?
You can buy your legal advice from a magic or silver circle firm for a kings ransom or you can hire lawyers who used to work there but now work for a mid-tier firm for a fraction of the price but we don’t. But why?
The answer to all of the above is BRAND. Brand causes people to pay over the odds, buy from one supplier over another or help you through a rough patch.
A brand is like a house: protects you from the elements, keeps you warm and safe and all you need to do is look after it and repair it if it breaks. Outside its dark and cold and raining and there are wolves. And they have sharp teeth.
So there you have it. The 10 most important assets you or your organisation can ever own are: -
- Your brand
- Your brand
- Your brand
- Your brand
- Your brand
- Your brand
- Your brand
- Your brand
- Your brand
- Your brand
Build it. Promote it. Protect it.
Actually these days being great at what you do isn’t an option in the same way that a steering wheel isn’t an option on a car; its sort of essential to make the car work properly. The problem is that whilst we all know this it’s an “I’m Spartacus” moment where the real message is lost in all the other noise (if you’re not sure what I’m talking about check this out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8h_v_our_Q).
So let’s just reflect for a moment on what being great really means. Great politicians such as Winston Churchill; great sports people such as Serena Williams or great innovators such as the late, and very, great Steve Jobs all have a few key elements of their personality that are the same.
Of course these are exceptional people so can these same traits be applied in our more ordinary lives?
I think so especially these three key characteristics: -
- Perfectionist - never stop until it’s what your client asked for or even better.
- Innovator – today’s new is tomorrow’s old but what are you working on for the day after?
- Benefactor - the ABCD factor; above and beyond the call of duty.
Strive for Perfection
When you’re rushed “good enough” sometimes has to do. I know this and so does everybody else but your client doesn’t care; they only see the final outcome of your efforts and if it’s not what they asked for they will not be best pleased. Perception is everything here so the key is to understand what your client actually wants – asking lots of questions is a good start followed by reflecting back your understanding for confirmation.
When you know what they want and before you start to deliver it take a moment to think what “better than that” looks like because this is your actual target. Your goal is simple then: deliver the “better than that” option and make it perfect.
Innovate to Propagate
Isn’t it amazing how fast the world moves these days. Until the Internet revolution free stuff before you’d even bought anything was usually pretty lame. Then somebody cottoned on to the fact that if you give away really valuable stuff it draws people into you and begins to form a business relationship. Now if you don’t offer freebies people think there’s something wrong with you and hastily press onto the next site.
Now, has it happens I’m not entirely in favour of free stuff: “no cost” often equates to “no value” in many people’s minds but the point is yesterday’s innovative idea rapidly becomes the norm.
So greatness encompasses a deep-seated desire to come up with something new, exciting and useful in your particular discipline. Size, as I tell everybody who will listen, isn’t everything. What matters is that it is new and raises an inquisitive eye-brow in your clients.
Let the people you serve know you love them
Above and beyond the call of duty; going the extra mile; climbing the last peak – the list of clichés goes on but the truth is whilst perfection is making your offering great doing unexpected and perhaps quite lateral things will make you even more noticeable.
Sending a written thank you card or remembering a piece of specific information like a birthday or special interest and then acting upon it shows you care. In other words you actually demonstrate to (not just tell) the people you serve that they matter to you and you see them as more than just a meal ticket.
And so to conclude….
The whole point here is that whilst you could get away with being OK or even good at what you do in the past in the new world exploding around us this just isn’t going to be good enough. Steering wheels aren’t optional extras and neither is being truly great at what you do any more.
It’s that special time of year again. All the stress of getting things closed down before the Christmas break whilst also attending all those parties, after-work drinkies and catch-up festive lunches. Added to that we have to do some present shopping – it all adds up to one big Yuletide headache but thank goodness we no longer have to worry about Christmas cards eh?
That’s the great news; all we have to do is make sure that everybody we know, sat next to at that boring seminar we went to or anybody who might know us from the dawn of our career is on the mailing list and hey presto! They get a lovely e-mail Christmas greeting with the added bonus (excuse?) that we are giving a donation to charity instead of buying nasty paper cards. Oh, won’t those pine forests sleep easier tonight.
Well actually that isn’t such great news really and here’s why: -
- The people who receive a Christmas message from you will value it in proportion to the amount of time, effort and expense you invested to get it to them.
- E-cards rarely get printed off and displayed anywhere so provided the recipients spam-checker hasn’t intercepted it you will be in their minds for about 90 seconds tops.
- Nobody really believes you are doing this to save the environment or to be charitable – face up to it.
- Getting an e-card is not a personal act. Relationships are built on 1-2-1 contact not 1-2-many (which do have their place by the way).
So what is a body to do? Well if the firm has decided to embark upon an e-card campaign there is little you can do to stop them but there is something you can do to mitigate the effect: -
- List out your top 30 very special clients and contacts (50 would be better).
- Go out this lunchtime and buy each one a decent Christmas card – this could run you a whole £15!
- Write a personal message in each one.
- Put stamps on them rather than swish them through the franking machine.
- Deposit in the post box.
I reckon that should take no more than an hour of your time and in exchange for that you will stand out from all the other lazy beggars who can’t be arsed; will have provided one of the required 27 personal connections for this year and you will also feel just that little bit more Christmassy. Go on now, you know it makes sense!
I still remember my first day in a real job. It was July 13th 1982 and I had just graduated with a degree in computer science. Even now I can remember feelings of discomfort and fear mingled with excitement and anticipation: a heady mix indeed. But there was another very powerful driver: a deep-seated fear of upsetting people.
Perhaps it stemmed from my childhood (must get that analysts appointment booked in the diary) or maybe everybody feels that way I don’t know but it was certainly a huge influence on my early career; making me behave and react in certain ways but always with a need to be liked and not offend.
Now these are quite natural feelings; who wants to be disliked or who wants to offend people but what I didn’t realise is this: occasionally, when you champion a cause, take a stance or support one of your values some people will be offended or may dislike you for it. This is an unfortunate fact of life.
Later in my career I worked for a remarkable man called Mike Sparkes. He was my first agent and represented me during my entire freelance career as an IT professional. Then, when I switched over to sales, he was my boss and a very short time after that he became my business partner. I had the privilege of working with him for 18 glorious months before a man who should have had an extra couple of hours in bed turned the key in his lorry instead. But during that brief time I think I learned more about business than any other time in my career and it was Mike who made me think differently about making enemies. Quite frankly he was pretty relaxed about it all.
His view was simple: if you’re not pushing the boundaries you’ll never be great and pushing the boundaries can create conflict. Believe in something, have a set of values and defend them to the hilt. Compromise is a wonderful thing so long as you can retain your personal integrity and all concerned are winners otherwise dig in and slug it out.
So what does this mean in practice? Here are a few thoughts: -
- When you know something is wrong speak up.
- Don’t be bullied into anything that clashes with your personal values
- Don’t let anybody just take what’s rightfully yours
- If you don’t have the skills, experience or time to do something then say so.
- Don’t suffer fools gladly or in any other way for that matter
- If you have an idea that you believe in stand up and be noticed even if it’s against the prevailing beliefs
- Never, ever get dragged into a conversation or situation on the basis that somebody will be offended if you don’t.
Doing what’s right isn’t always doing what’s easy and this often means conflict. If you want to reach your full potential then you must do what you see is right and live with the consequences. These days I may have a few more enemies but I have also achieved much more than I could ever have dreamed possible on that scary summers day in 1982.
I have this habit. When I’m presenting I almost always make use of a flip-chart but from experience I always remember to check the pens before the start of play (draw a line across the top of the paper; firm line – good pen). Any that are no good I throw away; a great habit to have, I feel.
You would be amazed at how many people don’t do this, they just put it down and leave it for the next person to pick up. Is it suddenly going to regenerate like a pen version of Dr Who? I think not.
Some problems we encounter take time and trouble to put right but many do not. Throwing out useless pens, picking up litter, putting a cup into the dishwasher or reporting a broken lightbulb takes no time at all but if enough people make the effort the effect is noticeable.
I believe that if you see something that isn’t right either fix it yourself or tell somebody and get them to fix it. If it’s my job or it’s easy (think pens) it’s the former otherwise it’s the latter.
On a different tack my favourite Dr Who is still Tom Baker – who’s yours?
We once stayed at the Forte Hotel in Florence. A great hotel in every way: service, position and overall quality were all excellent and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. As usual I had taken a book to read, as I recall it was on the Medici family who ruled Florence for many generations – now they really knew how to run a business!
Anyhow, I started to read it on the first night but was very tired and only managed a few pages before folding over the corner of the page (hope my mother never reads this – shame on me) to mark my position.
We spent the next day trudging round the sights of that most beautiful and majestic city before returning to the hotel thoroughly exhausted. When we entered the room the maid had clearly been in and the place was perfect but something struck me as odd about my book. Upon closer inspection I noticed that she had folded the page back and instead marked my position with a beautiful leather Forte Hotels book mark.
A small thing really but what message does it convey about Forte Hotels?: thoughtful, observant, proactive, attentive, well trained and customer focused. Powerful stuff when you come to think about it.
Sometimes the small things can communicate much more about you and your organisation than the big things and in many cases, just like the book mark, at a negligible cost.
Just imagine that your firm employed an entrepreneur. Picture it now somebody who did their day job like anybody else but they had something more; a bit like having a tiger on a lead – under control but still very powerful.
Could you be this person? Yes you can is the simple answer. All it takes is a certain determination and a willingness to “put yourself out there”. You don’t need to pass exams to become an entrepreneur and neither do you need permission: it’s all there for the taking if you want it.
Why would you bother? Mainly because you get to play by a different set of rules. You are valuable because you are more focused on making things happen rather than getting things done; you are very well connected and seen as “part of the solution” but most of all you are self-sufficient in bringing in sustainable revenue streams. In short you are a player protected by the continual value that you provide. Different rules, dear readers, very different rules.
How do you become one? Actually it’s not really that hard; you start to adopt the qualities that you know entrepreneurs have but within your corporate structure. This will change your mentality which will influence your attitude and finally your personal brand then the whole cycle starts again but stronger.
Welcome to the world of an Intrapreneur. For more on this follow the link: http://tinyurl.com/66ze4nh