Today wasn’t any different from any other- just another day. One salesperson is on the verge of divorce, another is separated from his wife and two kids; another was late today due to dialysis going bad; the other one didn’t cover his draw last month and doesn’t know how he can make ends meet; another had to be picked up while walking down the road after his car broke down; and another is shocked having made a follow up call to a customer -no answer; the customer is on the run after snapping and killing his estranged wife this past weekend. The receptionist is crying due to a rude customer; the porter is upset because he has to wash a car twice; a technician doesn’t want to stop putting a transmission in a vehicle because of a state inspection; parts quoted the wrong price; a service writer tells you a customer wants to bring a car back because of a check engine light; run and appraise a trade; work a deal; make a deal; take a T.O., keep your inventory in budget-while you’re at it have a good day!
At home when asked how our day was, all we can muster up is; “It was ok-nothing new,” while changing our caps from work to home and begin working the night shift. As managers, we don so many hats-calamity all around us; we are entrusted with keeping things running smoothly. There are many things a manager can delegate; caring is not one of them. Daily, we sit in our employees’ shadows and listen to their pains, fears, joys, and cries. We are counselors, correctors, facilitators, stem-winders, financiers, customer service reps, mediators, and any other job title that ends in “ors.” We see our employees more often than our own family members; we bask in the highs and shovel out of the lows and we do it together. Our employees are an extension of our family- we are all the family some of them have.
This post is to say thank you to those managers who care. Thank you for what you do; not only are you there for your staff and keep the business running- you do all of that and still, somehow, keep yourself together. The only time you have to vent, expose your weaknesses, and question your strength is while driving home-the only passenger is the eyes looking back at you in the rearview mirror. Your job may seem thankless, but it is not; what you do matters.
Can’t teach caring.
Finding common ground is the next step after professionally introducing yourself to a customer. (You do that don’t you?) Some people, like my mom, have a natural knack for being able to talk to anyone; if you are like me, I struggle in this department. I am an introvert by nature and an extrovert by profession. When I worked in surveillance for the casino industry, isolated in a dark 15×5 room with only one other person, being an introvert was ok-not so good in sales. In our industry, we have to be able to become a human to our customers. The only way to do that is by finding some similar interests with them. When a customer can relate to you, they are more apt to buy from you. I use the acronym L.O.V.E. (fittingly enough) in an effort to find common ground with my customers.
· L–Likes: What do your customers like to do in their spare time? Because I live in South Louisiana, a lot of my customers love the outdoors. Men and women love to hunt, fish, and alligator hunt- well maybe not the last one, but everybody thinks we do. (I run from them just as fast as you do.) Everyone has an interest in something besides punching a clock. Find out what they like-you and your customer may share a common interest. Caution: If you don’t share their interest, don’t act like you do; you will lose credibility. Be a good listener instead; your customers will love to share what they know.
· O–Occupation: What do they do for a living? I’ve encountered salespeople who think they are prying when asking a customer what they do for a living? My question is, “Do you get offended when someone asks you about buying a car?” I rest my case. Use open-ended questions like, “That sounds interesting, tell me more.” Or “What attracted you to that line of work; “You’ve been there a long time and have worked your way through the ranks, how did you do it?” These are just a few questions you can use in an effort to get your customers to open up. In order to become interesting, you must first become interested.
· V–Values: What are your customers’ values? I don’t mean lay ‘em on the couch and get them to share the most intimate details of their lives; finding out if they belong to civic organizations, non-profit orgs, or any sort of involvement in the community is a sure-fire way of getting customers to talk about themselves. You may belong to the same organization; in turn, you will receive instant credibility.
· E–Endorsements: Developing a great reputation with your sold clients is an invaluable way to receive third-party endorsements. As Jim Ziegler advises, develop an evidence book chocked with photos, testimonials and thank you cards will make your credibility stock soar. We are more likely to buy clothing, books, or other products when the one endorsing the product is someone we relate to.
So the next time you are trying to find some common ground with a customer or even in a social setting, learn to L.O.V.E. them and see your relationships deepen. See you on the Blacktop!
To be convicted is to be found guilty and given a sentence of a specified time, with the chance of rehabilitation. When convicted, there is still hope; it means all is not forgotten; there is still another chance. This is not the case when something is condemned; being condemned means to be found incurable, lost, with no chance of being restored. When a home is condemned, it is found to have no value in the structure itself. The structure is considered to be unlivable and is marked for destruction. What little content value is left in the condemned structure is stripped, leaving it lifeless, decayed, and beyond repair. Once cleared, the only thing that exists is memories with a deceased future. Back to the question; are you convicted or condemned? We are all convicts; we serve sentences for multiple offenses; but are always eligible for parole. Serve your sentences and learn from your mistakes- you may get convicted for another offense, but don’t let it be the same one twice. Never be considered condemned, incurable, lost, or of little value. You are not who you were, nor who you wish to become; consider yourself a work in progress, not regress. Your sentence is limited; your future is not.
Yesterday, I went to a store with my wife to get 1 (one, ONE) thing. As luck would have it, I found myself standing behind my wife looking at an aisle full of little girl’s shoes. The choices were overwhelming; they should put an, “Enter at your own risk” sign up for men entering this aisle. There were all styles of shoes; styles called strapies, flats, sandals, flops, and jellies, all dyed in pastel colors of pink, green, and purple- of course mixed in with the staple colors of the blacks, browns, whites, gold, silvers, and nude-yes nude. My wife immediately began mentally pairing up my daughter’s dresses with potential shoe candidates. She moved as if she were in the lightening round of a game show; she began spouting out 5 outfits and shoe combinations and then turned to me and asked my opinion. While still stuck on the first dress/shoe combo, I reminded her that guys are “first come first serve;” we walk into the closet, look for a color, and whichever shoe is most accessible, providing we can find both of them, is the one we go with. My wife hustled for 20 minutes then, without warning, stopped shopping, stood up, and said, “I don’t know which ones to get anymore; it’s too many choices.” With no shoes in hand, we were herded into the checkout line and I thought, “Isn’t our business much like a little girls’ shoe aisle?”
Too many choices become confusing to a customer; when a customer is confused, they become paralyzed from making a purchasing decision. Car companies have become guilty of this. In an effort to “move the needle,” manufacturers have dreamt up elaborate package names, combos, and configurations. As sales consultants, we get to break the news, “Sorry, you have to get the Mai-Tai package in order to get the Bahaman Banana Yellow.” I challenge anybody in charge of product development to be able to tell me every single one of the packages and combinations they expect us to sell. I remember watching a product presentation video for a minivan where the man on the video proudly proclaimed there were over 180 ways to configure the interior of this minivan. Really; a customer needs 180 choices? I pose a thought for car companies; if your reps are confused-you know the ones pounding the blacktop every day, think of how perplexed your customers are. We are members of the local union “10-6-25;” we perform 10 hours per day, 6 days per week, and 25 days per month and we ain’t getting it. If we do this every day and can’t seem to figure it all out, how can we expect a customer, who does this once every 3 years to figure it out? I’ve talked to customers who were so flustered and confused to the point they had no idea what they wanted anymore and decided to “hold off,” only to find out later they bought my competitor’s product- fewer choices perhaps?
Why don’t the car companies keep the KISS principle; Keep It Simple (to) Sell. The best of something doesn’t have to mean the most. While jockeying for sales, car companies have offered so many choices trying to become everything to everybody; as a result they lose sales and wind up being nothing to nobody. Can you imagine going to your doctor’s office and the doctor pulls out a menu of different combinations of medications for you; or a travel agent asks you which comforter, curtains, and carpet combinations you wish to have in your hotel room for your next vacation? Customers want a choice, not a Rubik’s Cube.
Maybe manufacturers should steal an idea from family restaurants. Restaurants package their menus, in the form of choices or combos, and give a customer a choice of meat, specific number of side items, and a dessert; it becomes more profitable for a restaurant and less confusing for a customer. By the way, when was he last time you ordered a-la-cart at McDonalds? When you give a customer too few of choices (2), it becomes a “buy, not buy” proposition; when a customer has only 3 or 4 well thought out choices, it serves two purposes: A sales consultant can effectively prepare and present their product- focusing on building value. In turn, when a customer has fewer choices, it becomes less confusing and easier to make a purchase decision. Dummy down the choices and double up the profits.
I’ll bet you when you got into sales, you didn’t think of yourself as a prostitute nor a jaywalker. I don’t remember putting the word “prostitute” as the position I was applying for. Morally, we are neither one; but professionally, we have characteristics of both. See if your recognize yourself:
· Prostitutes: Prostitutes are waiters; they wait for something happen. Normally prostitutes hang out with other prostitutes on the corner and are unwilling to look for a customer; they will simply just wait. The good news is prostitutes are rational people. They rationalize their poor performance; they will find something wrong with the day. Beautiful days are too hot, rainy days lack traffic, busy days lack credit worthy customers, and slow days-well slow days are wasted working with just plain unreasonable, stupid people. Prostitutes are masters at psyching themselves out of a sale instead of psyching themselves up for an opportunity. Prostitutes lack self-esteem; they view themselves as unworthy and allow their customers to have their way with them. When a sale is complete, the commission was not worth the effort. Poor performance begets a poor commission.
· Jaywalkers: Jaywalkers are movers, risk takers, and almost seem to others less passionate, as crazy. Jaywalkers know where they are going and they will get there as quickly as possible. Jaywalkers are trailblazers; although others may have the same destination, Jaywalkers will find a way to get there quicker. They know their time is money and have already chartered the course in their minds on how they will get there. Jaywalkers expend no wasted effort; it is a perfect mix of positive planning and energy, laced with a bit of risk taking. Jaywalkers know that opportunity waits for those seeking it; opportunity will not seek those who wait for it.
Those who wait for something to happen receive a paycheck; those who go out and find opportunities earn a commission. Which one are you?
Rules regulate everything from what we do, to how we act, to following procedures. When rules are broken, consequences have to ensue in order to restore things back to a sense of normalcy; without it we would have absolute anarchy. We have to have rules; rules give us a sense of security. The downside to rules is they can sometimes be so rigid and lack flexibility that they shatter the sense of security they were made for.
Due to public housing rules, my 8-year-old niece had to get rid of her wiener-dog named Bella. I’ve heard shadows louder than this dog; almost mute. She has had Bella for 3 years; many would say, “Hey the rules are the rules; do it for one, have to do it for all.” While that may be true, I forgot to mention how she got this dog. She got her wiener dog shortly after her mom and dad got in a fight. The fight quickly escalated and got out of hand to the point where her dad shot and killed her mom. Her father-distraught, bewildered, and enraged turned the gun and killed himself. That cold, February night, she lost her security in seconds. Oh, I forgot to mention, she saw the whole thing; sitting helplessly in the car, she witnessed the two people she loved most breathe their last breath.
My niece and Bella comforted each other; Bella came was rescued from an abusive owner and my niece needed someone or something to help put the pieces of her life back together. Tonight, living with her grandmother, she will try to sleep without the thing that makes her feel secure. The rules are the rules though; do it for one, have to do it for all.
Ladders are needed to develop our lives; they are needed spiritually, personally and professionally. There are some interesting characteristics of ladders. Ladders can be transported anywhere and are amazingly strong. Their ageless design enables the ability to weather any storm and can also be loaned to serve any friend in need. Within the frame of a ladder are its rungs, which are spaced about a foot apart. Due to the rungs’ spacing, it is almost impossible to skip a rung when climbing; each rung seems to selfishly demand being used by its user.
Today, speed and technology have converted users from ladders to lifts. Lifts have the ability to seamlessly elevate a user quicker; the downside to a lift is a user can go down just as fast as he moved up. Some users of lifts have even fallen from great heights, crippling their future. The ladder’s rungs forgive and appreciate a user’s movement; it is always willing to help a user move up or down the ladder.
A ladder’s frame is the frame of our life; we get to choose where to place the ladder. The rungs are the most important. There is no ladder without rungs. The rungs are those who support you along your journey. Don’t ever forget the rungs- without them; there would be no ladders.
It is impossible to change your physical DNA, known as Deoxyribonucleic acid (say that as fast as you can 3 times). It is possible to change your mental DNA, known as Do Nothing Average. We live in the “good enough” age, where it is acceptable to be typical. Why is that? Is it because we have it too easy? There doesn’t seem to be enough “pulled myself up by the bootstraps” stories or “walked 3 miles to school one way” memories being told anymore. What will our children tell our future grandkids, “When I was your age I got picked up from school,” or “When I was your age I used to play outside for 10 minutes,” or “When I was your age I used to have to come home when my mom called me on my cell phone.” Is it possible to embrace the changes, yet keep a razor’s edge pushing yourself beyond being average? I say yes. Enjoy the ride, but don’t get off at the next stop. Somehow the more thankful we should be, the more thankless we have become. Is it ever good enough for our children? Do they ever say enough? Things have changed to the dollar- for- a- million mindset; spend $1 on a lottery ticket and win a million; then “you are done.” Many rise everyday, pluck out the eyes of defeat and continue to push forward. There are many out there who look the right way instead of the other way. Others say, “My best wasn’t good enough, how can I get better.” Many who refuse to accept the status quo, who push aside the mindset of “don’t rock the boat, that’s just the way things are done ‘round here.” Are you a We or Me? Will you push all of your chips in for one last hand even though the deck seems to be stacked against you? Will you be known as the one who Did Nothing Average or the one known as Did Not Attempt. Put some more gas in your tank, it’s going to be a long ride.