Daniel Tardy: License To Sell

No one cares about your snow.

Posted in Business by elephanthunters on February 17, 2010

Most of the country has been experiencing more winter weather than usual.

Weather changes things

  • It’s a hassle
  • Things get wet
  • ER rooms & body shops get busy
  • People run late
  • Flights get canceled

Guess what?

It snows in the winter.  This should not come as a surprise.  Dave Ramsey led our staff in a great thinking exercise this week about staying focused midst of a storm.  He reminded us that while it’s snowing here in Nashville, our 8:30 am conference call with Tampa Bay doesn’t care.

We tend to let off the gas on our commitments when we feel like we have a ‘legitimate excuse’ (legitimate defined as something out of our control).

Sure, people will understand.  They just don’t care.

It snows every week

This week it’s snow.  Next week the kids are sick.  Then it’s tax season and, and, and…

Our customers want us to bat 1,000.  Our lack of service doesn’t become resolved in their mind when we inform them that we’ve had a crazy day.  Excellence may seem like an ambitious mantra in the midst of distractions beyond our control.

Well, your competition certainly hopes you feel this way.

We’ve all used this one:

“My dog ate my homework.”

When I tried using this line, my algebra teacher told me I shouldn’t keep a pet that caused me to fail an assignment, then pulled out her grade book and wrote F.

Customers don’t write F, they just leave.

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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!

My Broken Toolbox: The top 3 reasons why salespeople fail

Posted in Selling by elephanthunters on October 16, 2009

I’m a native Texan, so a little bit of ‘cowboy’ in the DNA comes with the package.  Cowboys, as you know, drive trucks and mine is a King Ranch F-150 4×4.  The cab in my truck doubles as a private lounge where George Strait and I have regular business meetings and occasional conversations about life issues like politics, religion and women.

When I bought this truck it was missing one critical piece of equipment: A toolbox.

Naturally, my first trip in the new cowboy cruiser was down the road a piece to the local Tractor Supply Co. to purchase a masterfully crafted, metal insurance policy for my precious power tools.

Truck Toolbox 101:

After the toolbox is installed, the strike pins need to be calibrated so that when you slam the lid shut it will latch securely in place.  Somehow I managed to have the time to calibrate the latch on the driver’s side but not the one on the passenger’s side.  Fortunately, the driver’s side is the one with the lock on it so my tools are always safe, but I’ve never gotten around to calibrating the latch on the passenger side.  As a result the lid on my toolbox, while still a gorgeous piece of metallic masculinity, sits slightly off kilter like a silk tie haphazardly pinned around the neck of a crooked politician.

Calibrating the other latch pin is a small task and it would only take a few minutes…

Here are the 3 reasons this project has been left undone:

  1. Not having the tools for the job. It seems like every time I have an extra minute or two to calibrate the latch I don’t have a wrench handy to adjust the nut on the strike pin…so mentally I just put it off for another day.
  2. Embracing mediocrity. Every time I close the lid I think to myself, “Well at least the side with the lock on it latches so it’s not THAT big of a deal that the other side is broken.  I can always fix it when I have some extra time”.
  3. Excuses that justify procrastination. i.e. The reason I’m not out there fixing the tool box right now is because I need to finish this blog post.  The toolbox will be fine for just one more day, right?  We all know that another day only brings another good excuse to put off what needs to be done.

These are the same 3 things that cause salespeople to be less than excellent:

TOOLS

  • If you are in sales, do you have the tools for the job?
  • How much are you reading?
  • What trainings have you been to?
  • If you employ a salesperson have you given them the tools they need to win? (Hint: Don’t answer this without asking them first)

MEDIOCRITY

  • Are you allowing ‘good enough’ to comfort you?
  • Do you put out just enough to hit your quota or required call volume so you can pacify a minimum standard of performance?
  • Is the good money you’re making squelching the fire in your belly that pushes you to make great money?

EXCUSES

  • You can always call them later, but later never comes.
  • Quit telling yourself that you’re just not mentally on your game today and that you’ll be better off waiting until tomorrow when you’ve had some time to get back in ‘the zone’. News Flash: You will be tired and unmotivated tomorrow too.
  • When in doubt: Call someone.  Knock a door.  Make a pitch.  Quit screwing with your email settings, your website data, your marketing people, your spreadsheets, your charts, your booth set up, your fax machine/copier Blackberry/iPhone, the coffee maker or anything else that keeps you from doing the one thing that makes you money: Selling!

Go get ’em cowboy.

Resources:
  • For great ideas on selling in a social media world be sure to follow Tom Ziglar on Twitter.
  • If you’re a small business owner and you want to turn your team into an army of sales champions then check out Dave Ramsey’s EntreLeadership Master Series.