Daniel Tardy: License To Sell

Communication in the drive-through

Posted in Business, Selling by elephanthunters on June 9, 2010

picture of drive through speaker

The power of the guy with the headset

There are few things more affirming to me than the voice on the other end of the Starbucks drive-through speaker system.  When I place my order for a tall black eye, and the voice in the speaker repeats my order back to me, “that’s a tall black eye, coffee with 2 shots, right?”, all of the sudden I feel a sense of peace come over me.  I breathe a little easier knowing that they heard what I wanted, and that they’re in control.  I think this happens because our minds have been trained by poor drive-through service experiences to approach that speaker with a sense of trepidation.

I used to think I was the only one who dealt with this, but I’ve started to realize that almost everyone suffers from DTSAS (drive-through speaker abuse syndrome).  You can observe the symptoms of this condition by simply rolling down your window, and listening to the person in the car ahead of you placing their order.  You’ll notice someone suffering from this condition usually yells at the speaker the entire time they’re ordering.  They also talk slowly and over annunciate, often interjecting ‘did you get that!?’ every few seconds.

Here’s the quintessential expression used by DTSAS sufferers: “Can you read the whole thing back to me? I just want to make sure you got it”

Why do we do this?

We just told them what we wanted, and they process orders like this hundreds of times a day, right?  Why all the stress?  I think it’s because we crave validation.  It just takes one experience of asking headset guy to hold the pickles, and then biting into that juicy burger moments later, only to be struck with that undeniable vinegar ridden flavor to develop cynicism toward all drive-through speaker people on the planet.  Spending money is emotional, no matter how little the amount.  We want to feel good about our purchase; we want to be confident we’re getting what we paid for.  I love it when the guy with the headset just volunteers to read my order back to me.

What’s your validation process?

If our emotions go through this cycle in the drive-through, then how much more important is it for us to affirm our customers when they give us their money for OUR product or service?  I make sure each of our customers receive immediate confirmation of their purchase with a follow up email detailing the transaction, and an explanation of the next step so they can begin to shift their emotions from slightly nervous to extremely excited.  This is especially important when we’re selling tickets to an event – we have their money, but they don’t receive the product for several months.

I think validation is underrated.  We enjoy buying good products, but we want proof that we bought so we can start getting excited about it.  If the guy at the drive-through doesn’t read my order back to me, I’m not completely sure they won’t hand me an order for the car behind me.  When I ordered my iPad, I received an email update every 2 days regarding the status of my order – I loved it – and I told my friends about it every time I received an update.

If you have a product or service that ships later than the payment is processed, how do you validate your customers to keep them emotionally engaged in the transaction?

Is your social media plan costing you sales?

Posted in Selling by elephanthunters on March 26, 2010

I’m Sold On The Brand

When I joined Prairie Life Fitness Center I became a big fan of their facility.  It’s new, clean and close to my office so I can easily get over there for a quick workout during lunch.  In the fall, I changed my workout routine to an off season maintenance plan for my triathlon training.  Most of this program didn’t require the use of a gym so I canceled my membership with Prairie Life.

Today I’m ready to join up again:

  • Triathlon season is in full swing
  • I’ll soon be living closer to this gym so I’m also interested in a family membership now
  • I enjoy working out with one of their current members, Bill Hampton, who recently made the comment, “Tardy, you should join back at Prairie Life so we can swim laps together at lunch!”
  • I heard about a special they ran last month with a fairly competitive rate
  • I’m motivated and ready to go…I just need an easy way to buy.

Can I PLEASE Just Give You My Money?

As luck would have it, I just received  an email newsletter from Prairie Life this week.

My first thought:  “Great!  I don’t have to find a phone number and call someone…I can just reply to this email real quick and get some more info…

Great content with no hook

This was a a good newsletter and someone clearly put a lot of time into it.  I certainly understand that it wasn’t designed to be a marketing piece since the recipient list is mostly made up of current members.  I also understand the concept of creating customer loyalty by sharing content versus just pitching your stuff.  That’s all fine.

BUT

  • No where in the newsletter did it have a section with contact info
  • Nothing about “Tell your friends about this month’s special and get a discount on your next massage”
  • I can’t even reply to the email: donotreply@prairielife.com
  • I just want someone to tell me how much it is and take my money

I’m qualified.  I know the product well.  I have the money.  I need the product.

It’s just not easy enough to buy.

The Social Media Risk:

We’re running businesses in a day when Social Media Marketing gurus are challenging us to produce content, and establish brand equity as a priority over simply turning up the volume on our marketing messages.   This is clearly an imperative action for any business hoping to survive in the twenty first century.  However, blindly adopting Social Media Marketing tactics introduces the risk for an organization to fall short between the words ‘Media’ and ‘Marketing’.

Yes, as a consumer I want your brand to have a ‘social’ aspect that causes me to feel like you’re engaged.

  • I still need a call to action.
  • I still need you to sell me your message.
  • I still need a way to give you my money.

Until then, the relationship I have with my good friends at Prairie Life Fitness Center will be ‘strictly social’.

Mr. Tardy, I’m calling about our plastic, boring, vanilla waste of your time

Posted in Selling by elephanthunters on March 25, 2010

That’s what I hear when you cold call me.

  • Please don’t do this.
  • It’s painful for everyone involved.
  • You know someone who likes you.  Ask them who they know and then ask them who they know.
  • Get referrals. Use references.
  • Life is too short to cold call.

I might really want to buy your product, but it’s only happening if I think its my idea or someone I trust says it’s a good deal.

Do you disagree with this?  Am I crazy?  I’m willing to bet that no one responds to this saying they enjoy being called on cold.

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Sell the launch

Posted in Business, Selling by elephanthunters on March 22, 2010

Most amateur product life cycles look like this:

Apple, Hollywood and Ticket Master do it different:

  • The iPad doesn’t come out until April 3rd, 2010, but a Google search on ‘iPad’ currently returns over 35 million results.  I’m pre-ordering mine this week.
  • The Gulliver’s Travels film will come to theaters on December 22, 2010.  (You could have a baby between now and then).  Marketing campaigns are already rolling out for this film.
  • George Strait & Reba are coming to Nashville, TN on April 28th.  I’ve heard commercials for weeks promoting the event? Nope.  Promoting the ‘Tickets go on sale’ date: Sat, 03/20/10 at precisely 10:00 AM CDT.

Emotion Creates Motion

Many organizations like these are learning to create an event around the product launch.  Events allow marketers to rally their campaigns around two key motivators in human behaviour:

  1. A sense of urgency
  2. A fear of loss

Sales are the natural next step when marketing causes one of these emotions to be stirred up in the mind of the consumer.

BUT…

  • You can’t market the launch if you don’t have a date
  • You can’t set a date without a product (or at least a product development time line) in place
  • Good products don’t happen without market research

What if you don’t have events?

But Daniel…

I’m in retail.

We just service HVAC units.

My business is different because we’re just consultants.

I recommend brainstorming ways to incorporate events into your business model.  They are the only thing left that customers can miss out on.

Sales, Specials, VIP days, Open Houses, Company Picnics, Birthdays, Anniversaries, Holidays, April 15th :-(, Grand Opening, Try our new __________ day, Marathons…

These are all events.

How can you weave them into the marketing fabric of your brand?

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Follow up: Drive until the road dead ends

Posted in Selling by elephanthunters on March 2, 2010

In my experience, it’s 3 times as hard to get a new, warm prospect as it is to exhaust the potential of the one you already have.

Here’s my mantra: Follow up until the road dead ends.

Dead End = When we discover we are not dealing with a qualified prospect or they tell us to leave them alone.

Keep pushing…

  • If you send an email and get no reply, send another one.
  • If you leave a voice mail and they don’t call back, call again.
  • Send snail mail, post cards, smoke signals, whatever it takes to follow the road until it dead ends.

The Temptation

We often assume the road dead ends based on a trend of unanswered voicemails or emails.  We feel like we’re bugging them.  So what?  If we are, they can tell us to go away, and only at that point should we respectfully yield.  We have to get this notion out of our heads that we are bugging them.  We are SERVING them!

I want to attend Bill’s conference. He told me about it.  I liked what I heard.  I have the time and money. I asked him to email me something on it. He never did.  I lost his info.  He lost the sale.

Dead ends are OK

They are a reality.  BUT – many times what looks like a dead end is just a turn in the road with a sale waiting around the corner.  We don’t know the difference until we follow up.

Wow!  Check out these stats on follow up

48% of Sales People Never Follow Up With A Prospect
25% of Sales People Make A Second Contact and Stop
12% of Sales People Only Make Three Contacts and Stop
Only 10% of Sales People Make More Than Three Contacts
2% of Sales are made on First Contact
3% of Sales are made on Second Contact
5% of Sales are made on Third Contact
10% of Sales are made on Fourth Contact
80% of Sales are made on Fifth to Twelfth Contact

Can you relate?

How are you with follow up?  What holds you back when you know in your gut that you should try to connect just one more time?

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What keeps you going?

Posted in Business, Selling by elephanthunters on February 12, 2010

The January-February issue of Outside Magazine has a great article on ‘Fun Raising’ (raising money for charity by virtue of training for a marathon, triathlon or other group event).  The cause-fitness movement has really taken off over the past decade as more and more pavement pounders have been recruited in the name of supporting a good cause.

What motivates people to do this?

Excerpt from the article:

In 2008, a study published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine [demonstrates that] motivation increases the more an individual meets three criteria: autonomy (you call the shots); competence (you measurably improve at what you’re doing); and, perhaps most important, “relatedness” (you have a purpose and connect with something larger than yourself).

Motivation principles are universal

As I read the article and learned more about the principles that motivate average people to go out and accomplish something extraordinary, I couldn’t help but analyze the same data through the lens of a business owner or sales professional.

I submit that the same principles which bring anyone to a point of ‘voluntary physical torture’ are at work among business leaders and salespeople all over the planet.  Here’s how I translate them:

  1. Autonomy: Calling the shots.  If I work harder than the the guy running the company across town or the sales person in the next cubicle, I expect to be compensated more.  I want to control my own destiny.  I want the books I read, events I attend and late hours worked to impact my future; I want them to matter.
  2. Competence: If I didn’t do better this month over last month, I’m frustrated.  I am my biggest critic.  I set goals that push me to a higher standard than I had for myself last year, and if I don’t hit them I feel like I didn’t grow personally as much as I should have.
  3. Relatedness: Everyone wants to be connected to something bigger than themselves.  We want to sell products that offer more value than we charge for them.  I sleep better at night knowing my customers are better off because I took the time to sell them my product.  The bottom line is we need people.  Our customers, our team, our vendors…none of it can happen without them.  The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Do you have what it takes?

Can you identify these motivational elements in your life?  If you employee people are you fostering an environment where their vote counts and they feel a sense of progress and connectivity?

Take out just one of these pillars and the opportunity will be short lived by champion players.  The vacuum left in their place will soon be filled by a buzzard.

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I’m STILL waiting…

Posted in Business, Selling by elephanthunters on February 5, 2010

Happy. Regular. Customer.

I ran into the store yesterday after my swim workout to grab one of my favorite quick-bite-standbys, the turkey avocado wrap.  The lady behind the counter knows me by name (even though I always seem to forget hers)…she asks if I want the usual, and all I have to do is give her the affirming nod and she’s on it.  She’s proud of her wraps, and she loves her customers.  She makes the wraps herself every morning, and takes great pride in the fact that by about 1:30 each afternoon they’re all gone.

They messed with my routine

When I went in to grab my wrap yesterday, I knew from across the store that I had a problem.  I didn’t see ‘my wrap-lady’.  Instead, standing in wrap-laddie’s usual spot was ‘hippie-dude’. Now, I’m not mad at guys  with long hair who wear earrings or other types of body hardware per se , but this guy looked like he just climbed out of a tackle-box!  His body language wasn’t very reassuring, and given his general hygienic disposition and overall vibe, I was really hoping that wrap-lady was just on break and not gone for good.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure the Hipster is a really nice guy…he just wasn’t giving me a lot of reasons to accuse him of knowing anything about turkey avocado wraps.

I blew it off and took my place in line behind the customer in front of me and waited.  While I was standing there, another patron approached  the counter and stood in her own newly self-acclaimed-line to wait.  Guess what?  Hippie-dude waited on her before me.  “No big deal”, I thought.  Maybe he didn’t realize I was there before her, besides I’m a gentleman so, ‘Ladies first’.  No problem.

I didn’t really start getting frustrated until hippie-dude proceeded to wait on patron number five without ever acknowledging me!  This was ridiculous.  I almost walked out, but I had a need that not even more cowbell could satisfy…I had to get my wrap.  So, I raised my hand.  I stood there like a fool in the middle of the store with my arm held high until finally, hippie-dude took note and grunted something that sounded like ‘What do you want’?

I got my wrap and I got out, all the while praying that wrap-lady would be back next time.

They shouldn’t have to wait

As I was driving back to the office, it hit me that the frustrating feelings I experienced during this little scenario must be similar to the feelings our clients, prospects and co-workers feel when we make them wait.  A phone call returned 3 days later, a slow email response, or an unanswered web inquiry are all legitimate reasons for a customer to be disappointed, and for a prospect to abandon us.

Here are few habits I try to keep up in order to avoid making people wait:

  • Serve external customers first.  If a coworker is standing at your desk and your phone is ringing…answer the phone.  Help your coworker later.
  • Which Email? Allow complexity to prioritize speed of response.  If it’s small and fast then do it now. I typically return emails in the order I receive them, but I’m always scanning my inbox for things that I can reply to quickly with a few words and delete, regardless of chronological order.  Keep the small things moving and don’t let them bottleneck.
  • I read ALL my emails EVERY day. But I don’t always have time to give an adequate response, or I might need to get input or research something before I reply.  In this case I’ll simply reply with “I’ll get back with you on this”.  Then I drop the email into an Outlook appointment in the next day or two when I’ll have time to work on it.   I delete it from my inbox so it’s out of site.

Most people don’t expect an answer right away…just a response.

  • Return all phone calls ASAP.  If someone calls they’re hoping to get a live person…not a voice mail.  24 hours is too long for a voice mail to go unanswered.   If an assistant or secretary is returning calls on your behalf, make sure they are on top of this.  Discuss with them regularly the importance of returning calls fast.
  • Set expectations. If you’re out of town and won’t be looking at email, then use the out of office feature letting people know when they should expect to hear from you.  If they’re filling out a web form tell them your goal is to get to them in ‘X’ amount of time.  Maybe it’s as much as a week…that’s fine as long as you communicate it.  Otherwise the expectation is that you will reply immediately.  Chris Brogan had a great post on this yesterday regarding web forms titled Make it Easy to Connect

There are certainly times when we are simply unable to have perfect response times.  The key to maintaining happy customers is not perfect response time as much as it is helping them understand that you’re doing the best you can to get with them soon,  AND letting them know what to expect.

How do you do it?

I’d love to hear systems or strategies that you use to stay on top of response time.  Please take a minute to post a reply so we can all benefit from your experience!

The top 3 reasons why follow up doesn’t work

Posted in Selling by elephanthunters on January 13, 2010

We’ve all met this guy:

Todd is a little confused about selling

I met him at one of our leadership events last fall, right before he blind sided me with an impromptu, overly passionate sales pitch about the software package his company produces.  Todd insisted that his software would be the perfect supplement to our event series, and that we should ‘meet up’ sometime to visit about it more.

I remember being cordially uninterested.  I asked Todd to email me something about his product, and I told him that if I saw a need to explore this endeavor some day, then I would certainly give him the chance to bid on the service.

I never got that email.

The call we all dread

What I did get, however, was a completely out of the blue call from Todd which, for all practical purposes, was a cold call.  I rarely take cold calls, but since I knew who this guy was (and in a certain sense he was also a client of mine) I told my assistant to put him through.

The call was a train wreck. At least it was from Todd’s vantage point, for me it was just a waste of time.  If this guy ever had a chance of getting our business he lost it all in a single impulsive call.  What should have been the next step in the sales process for him, ended up putting the nail in the coffin on any hopes he had of working with our company.

Follow up or pushy?

I knew the deal was over when Todd said these not-so-magic words:

“I’m calling to follow up on…”

I didn’t listen to anything he said for the next 3 minutes.  When he told me he was following up, my first thought was that he doesn’t even have my permission to follow up.  Secondly, what’s he following up about?  And didn’t I ask this guy to email me something?

“You’re not following up”, I thought.  “You’re calling to try to resell me your little thing that I already said I wasn’t interested in.  How fast can I get off this call without being a total jerk?”

This behavior is obnoxious, and will result in your call getting screened next time.

Could he have made the sell?

Maybe, but there were several critical components to this sell that Todd completely missed including the fact that he pitched a guy who he only met just moments before.

You must earn the right to be heard.  Just because you have an audience doesn’t mean you have credibility.

Todd probably has a great product…it may even be a fit for us, but we’ll never know.  The biggest problem area for most sales people has very little to do with the quality of their product or service.  It has everything to do with how they handle the follow up process.  Proper follow up will invariably determine whether or not we achieve success in selling.

Here are the top 3 reasons follow up fails:

  1. It isn’t follow up. Follow up by definition occurs after the prospect has had a chance to learn something about you, your product or your service.  If you haven’t had a previous discovery meeting, phone call or email exchange in which the prospect willingly received information, then you are still in the prospecting/pitching phase.  You don’t have anything to follow up on.
  2. Choosing the wrong communication medium. I asked Todd to send me an email about his product.  He chose to call instead.  Bad idea.  Your prospect gets to set the tone on their preferred medium.  If they ask you to call then don’t email them…pick up the phone!  If they text you, text them back.  If they tweet you, don’t write a response on their facebook wall.  Stick to their desired medium of communication until you ask if it’s OK to do something different.
  3. You don’t have permission. This is the big one.  I NEVER get off a discovery call without getting permission to follow up.  This is as simple as asking, “Would you mind if I follow up with you in a few days?”.  I even try to get specific on their preferred date, time and communication medium.  So when I send them an email today and then call Tuesday afternoon between 2 and 4 O’clock I don’t have call reluctance, and they don’t feel like I’m bothering them.  If I get permission to follow up, then anything less would be a disservice to them.

When we follow up well it is a service to our prospect and they will thank us for it.  When we make any one of these 3 mistakes, we  most often will loose the sell.

The fortune is in the follow up!

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What Matters Now: Get the free e-book here!

Posted in Business, Personal Development, Selling by elephanthunters on December 14, 2009

Seth Godin just released a stellar resource that compiles ideas from today’s top thinkers and leaders including one from my CEO and mentor, Dave Ramsey.  You can read this e-book for free in the viewer below or by downloading the .pdf here.

View this document on Scribd

You don’t deserve the touchdown dance

Posted in Business, Personal Development, Selling by elephanthunters on November 23, 2009

A Rare Breed

There are many casualties in the high stakes games of selling and small business leadership.  It takes a tremendous amount of tenacity to thrive in an environment where personal responsibility is your only bail out plan.  As small business owners and sales people we work tirelessly, betting on the hope that one day our dream will come to pass if we commit our lives to the principles of success mapped out by those who have gone before us.  Sales people and business owners are far too familiar with the feelings of defeat, fear and stress that ensue early in our journey toward success.

Our survival tactics are fueled by information.  Knowledge is the currency of entrepreneurs and sales tycoons.  Acquiring the tools for effective communication and the perspective to stay motivated in the face of adversity are the two greatest reoccurring hurdles between us and our dreams.  So we rally together.  We read books, attend conferences and continuously scan the horizon looking for the next piece of advice or encouragement.

Our Struggle Toward Success

Keeping our goals in front of us, we stumble forward and try to learn from our mistakes.  Fighting.  Dreaming.  We welcome the opportunity to be refined by our experiences.  As my friend Tom Ziglar says, “We embrace the struggle”.  We learn how to serve our customers and sell to them in a way that is not manipulative.  Then we earn enough money to find ourselves in a place where we are no longer desperate for new business and so our customers gravitate towards us even more.  Our customers then become our fans and start bringing us their friends and family and our momentum grows.  The snowball starts turning over faster and faster until we look up one day and realize that we have become successful…we are finally winning!

This is the day that we have been running towards for countless years and now we have arrived.    This is the day that the spotlight is on us as we revel in all of the work and energy we have put forth to get to this point.  This is the day that the gratification finally surpasses the painful sacrifices we have made.  This is the day we dreamed about, and this is the most dangerous day of our lives. If we are not careful, this is the day that we forget how we got here because we are too distracted with the trappings of our success.

How DID we get here?

We like to take credit for our success and point to all of the books we read and events we attended and the extra hours we put in, and to some small level, these things have a bearing on our destiny.  The bulk of our achievements, however, are rooted in the efforts of other people in our lives that helped us along in our journey.  None of us really get to win on our own.  Any level of true success is always a team effort.

  • Who are the players on your team?
  • Who built the product that you sell?
  • Who was it that gave you that book or audio recording that ended up being a hinge-pin resource for you to take the next step toward your goals?
  • Who invited you to that conference or networking event or gave you some encouragement when you were down?
  • Who are the people working diligently behind the scenes to produce something of value for you to offer to your customers?

I would contend that there are no self-made-men.  We all pull energy and ideas from our friends, family, team members and customers.

The Temptation

The problem with being a successful small business owner or sales professional is that we are usually the one holding the ball when it crosses the goal line and we start to think this means something about how great we are.  After all we get the credit for scoring the touchdown.  We get to do the victory dance and the crowd chants our name when we score the game winning goal.

What about the team?  What about the guy who just blocked for us and is laying on his back on the 20-yard-line holding his busted knee in sheer agony?  Is he not the real reason we are here?  We have to do our part and become more so that we are ready to receive the pass for a completion, but it’s the unsung heroes on our team that allow us to win.  Without them I am just a guy with a little bit of passion and a dream.

Take Away

When we start to achieve success in business it will be our name that the masses will adore, but we must never forget that it is our team that has brought us here.  It’s the players in our lives that have gone before us and taken hits on our behalf that we owe the credit to.

I’ve been guilty far too many times of doing the touchdown dance…it’s easy to do when you just scored a game winning goal.  I regret every time I yielded to that temptation.  I’m learning to recognize the value of the players around me who take the hits and do the heavy lifting.  In reality I didn’t score a goal at all…my team scored a goal and I just happened to be touching the ball when it crossed the line.