Do you know what makes you great?

It’s an easy question to ask but it’s very hard to answer. Do you know what makes you great? Do you know what you do differently when you win versus when you foul up? Other than the outcome, can you identify what you do or did different.

My golf game is full of that question. I have enjoyed rounds in the 70’s…but I have also had rounds well over 100. As far as I know, I do everything exactly the same. Should I blame the ball, course…or marketplace?

Each of us has special gifts. It’s been my experience that those most in touch with their gifts make the most of their careers and lives. They invest energy in learning, as all of us should, but they double down where they’re strong. Doing so makes them efficient, successful…unstoppable.

I’ve spent my career in sales. I’ve worked with sales managers and I’ve been one. Likewise, I’ve studied with sales trainers and been one of them too. It’s space full of people that don’t know what makes them great. It’s space full of recipes, spreadsheets, formulas…and lots of misinformation.

Sales management isn’t score keeping. It isn’t reports at the end of the month. It isn’t shifting accounts around and adjusting commissions. Those things are outcomes. They’re the golf score.

Sales management = sales coaching. It’s situational guidance. It’s helping reps with the issue in front of them while leveraging their special gifts. It’s helping reps get in touch with what makes them great and showing them how to leverage their strengths on behalf of their clients, employer and personal goals.

When you help a candidate get in touch with what makes them great, you set them up for an exciting career that requires little of your time. You’ll get asked to make calls with them, but that’s the fun part. You’ll see them grow right in front of you and go home confident that the client and your company are in good hands. You won’t be sitting with them cutting compensation or pulling accounts. They’ll gravitate toward markets that suit them and the finances will be on autopilot.

Now I’m not saying sales management or sales managers are bad. I’m simply saying that much of it is really sales meddling. We get hung up in the weeds and lose sight of the value each individual perspective can bring to our organization. We focus on machines, specs, prices and margins. Doing so can prevent us from seeing solutions that make all of those things take care of themselves.

Focusing on gifts and why they matter changes your company culture. The environment goes from one of pressure to one of possibilities. Excitement replaces anxiety. Success takes over and growth is inevitable. Clients really will beat a path to your door and they’ll pay your price to do business with YOU!

Recently, a client in our resource center said, “this is a special place.” I responded that we had worked hard to keep up with technology. She responded, “it isn’t that. Lots of people have Indigos. Even more have presses. I’ve seen all of those before. It’s your spirit. It’s your manner. That’s what makes this a special place.”

She was 100% right. Focusing on what makes us great on a company and individual level shows. It’s infectious. Our client, one with lots of contacts in our industry, saw the difference. It shows in our work and in our explosive growth.

What makes you great? You owe it to yourself to find out. You owe it to yourself and to your future to leverage those gifts. You owe it to yourself to surround yourself with people that help you be the best you can be. It isn’t score keeping. It’s coaching. The score will take care of itself.

recognition awards

A Big Idea!

It probably goes without saying that we’d all love to be one of those people with a big idea.  The kind that rivals Steve Jobs’ IPhone, Jeff Bezos’ Amazon or Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook.

Some of us would even settle for a mid-sized idea that would impact both the company’s bottom line and our personal bank account.  But it seems like there is a widespread belief that big ideas are relegated to a few and mostly the by-product of luck.

The fact is, though, big ideas aren’t hatched by a rare breed of luck entrepreneurs.  Instead, they come from regular people who are willing to ask the right questions and stay open to new ways of looking at the world.  To believe that serious creativity doesn’t live within all of us is a cop out.

Leaders are driven by asking the questions that others have not.  They don’t buy into the concept of the status quo and they’re inspired to question age old assumptions.  Finding the next big idea is about fostering a culture of questioning.  The truth is that each of us can open our minds to the possibilities of innovation.

The biggest difference between Steve Jobs and the rest of us is that he was willing to question generally accepted truths and test his beliefs.  There are plenty of people who think the ROI on social marketing is remarkable and that print is tired.  But there are some pretty forward thinking people who would argue that print is the most intimate way to engage outside of human contact.

So, whether we’re inventing the next disruptive business model or utilizing the haptics of print, we’re allowed to challenge assumptions.  We can examine the importance of asking what’s next and decide to broaden our perspectives.

As we begin to turn the page on 2017, we hope to help you ask more questions.  At Bennett, we say that “the best ideas begin with questions.”  We think that “What IF” moment might be the start of something very special.

Some words from our friends at MLT Creative

How can you make digital B2B Marketing Touchpoints truly sensational?

See (and feel) SenseAtional for yourself.

We recently were awarded the opportunity to conceive and design a printed “kit” to demonstrate, explore and showcase an amazing new printing technique for one of our long-time partners, Bennett Graphics in Atlanta.

The technique is called “SenseAtional, ” and it is that and more. It consists of tactile enhancements and foils that are applied to digitally printed designs. They’re polymers that are applied in various thicknesses from super glossy to differently textured enhancements in ways you have never seen, or felt, before. Both the gold and silver foils are elegant, versatile and can achieve effects that would have been too cost restrictive in the past even to consider.

SenseAtional logo

We designed a wish book “kit” that would push this technology to the limits of its capabilities and get the creative wheels turning for Bennett’s audience of designers, marketers and communication departments. The kit has a combination of various style images and graphics along with some of my personal photography work to help illustrate the wide range of endless possibilities this technology offers. Bennett’s team are thrilled with the final piece and the many new opportunities and interest it has already delivered.

Describing it is tough, so we included a few photographs and detail images to try and give a better sense of the experience. The only true way to “get it” is to see and feel it first hand, but more about that later.

Add a SenseAtional Splash to Drip Campaigns, Sales Collateral, Digital Direct Mail, and Event Marketing materials

The big news is what this means for using print to reach your audience in new ways that will gain attention immediately. The ability to digitally enhance and personalize your design with foil accents and tactile expressions, quickly and in small quantities, is a game-changer. It tangibly demonstrates how print is not dead and can still be an integral part of any digital marketing campaign. Using print that grabs attention in this way, paired with sound marketing outreach in other areas, offers a creative method to reach and captivate an audience with your message.

SenseAtional Savannah flyer header

If you have a new service or product that needs a creative focus or custom B2B photography to tell its story, contact us for a no-obligation discussion.

If you’re interested in learning more about SenseAtional and how it could “elevate” your marketing program’s printed outreach, contact Bill Gillespie at Bennett Graphics for all of the details and samples.


Potentially Yours!

Our instincts tell us that when we’re selling ourselves, we should focus our pitch on achievement. In other words, we seem to emphasize the programs we launched, the deals we completed and the awards we’ve won. But what we accomplished is not necessarily the most attractive thing about us.

In 2012, a couple of Stanford men, Zakary Tormala and Jason Jia, combined their efforts with Michael Norton of Harvard to write a paper about where our real focus should be. They found that what really matters when selling yourself is potential – not accomplishment.

People often find potential more interesting than accomplishment because it’s more uncertain. That uncertainty can lead people to think more deeply about the person they’re evaluating and the more intensive the processing, the better the choice.

So, the next time you’re selling yourself, don’t only fixate on what you achieved yesterday. Emphasize the promise of what you could accomplish tomorrow.

Would you rather be told you “could” be the next big thing or that you “are” the next big thing? “Could” provides you with remarkable opportunities and eliminates pressure. In contrast, being told you “are” the next big thing brings enormous pressure and provides limits.

Marketing our business is no different than selling ourselves. We don’t need to focus on what we’ve accomplished, nor do we need to tell our clients the absolutes of our products and services. Our focus should be on the potential within them and how our offerings “could” catapult them to greater heights. Potential provides us hope internally and ambition to our clients.

Our next edition of Connect includes a cover article titled “Shaping Markets.” It discusses the inner lives of markets. Economists no longer study markets. They shape them. See what happens when you shape your market.

Our second feature, “In Perfect Harmony,” shows why data and sales are the emerging roles over the next five years and why you should make changes now to take advantage of this relationship.

If you don’t receive Connect and would like to, please let your rep know or subscribe on our site. It’s free and full of good content for marketers.

Focus on the Customer!

Customers purchasing from you should not signal the end of the relationship.  Too often  it seems that consumers fall into the “out of sight, out of mind” category after they buy something.  In reality, that’s when companies should work the hardest at strengthening relationships with their communities.  According to a new survey conducted by Dimensional Research, an overwhelming 90 percent of respondents who read positive online reviews said they influenced the buying decision, while 86 percent said buying decisions were influenced by negative online reviews.

Your customers don’t stop being important once they’ve bought from you.  Once they move through your sales funnel – if you’ve been able to keep them happy during the process – they will reenter the mix and join those other voices.  If they feel like you have slighted them in any way, the long-term negative impact to your brand could be significant.

The experience must be good or else.  It’s a buyer’s world, and you must assume that your community of clients and prospects have robust networks of their own.  So, a new level of sincerity and excellence must permeate every facet of your organization.  You may revel in gathering a few dollars in the short term, but long-term sustainability is not built on taking the pulse of a market, but by being part of that pulse.

In today’s world, you need to drop your tunnel vision on short-term profit and relentlessly focus on being excellent for everyone, regardless of where they are in the sales funnel.  Buy or “goodbye” is no longer effective in a world where purchase decisions are made before human contact takes place.

We address our efforts to continually support the market in the next issue of Connect Magazine.  The cover story “Never Grow Up” is a fun piece that reveals why companies can never get too set in their ways.  Change and the shortness of lifecycle curves demand that we never let our organization, products or services get tired and stale.  If you don’t already subscribe, call us and we’ll get an issue to you.

Focus on customers!  Look at every stage of their interaction with your company from their perspective.  As yourself what it’s like to be them at any specific moment.   Then, design your answers and programs to turn them into raving fans.

Keep everything in sight.  Good luck and good selling.

Thanks For Everything!

I love this time of year!  Somehow, the holidays help me regain my focus.  I always begin the New Year charged up and committed to a better me.  At times like these I reflect on how lucky I am and how the world is full of blessings and heroes.  I met one recently.  Allow me to explain.

It was a Saturday and I had made a trip to the post office.  When I got there, the place was in a total stir.  They had closed early leaving the customers to weigh their own packages and to buy stamps from the vending machines.  Because this was new to most of us, things were moving slowly.  Lines were long and tempers were short.  No one was in a good mood.

As I stamped my letters, an old man walked through the door.  He looked to be in his mid 80’s.  He was bent at the waist and could barely walk.  It took him forever to cross the floor and arrive at the postage scales.  It was painful to watch him move.

I must confess that I tried to finish before his presence could inconvenience me.  I don’t know why I was in such a hurry.  I just didn’t want to wait.  I didn’t want this guy to interfere with my ability to get to my next trivial task.

Out of the corner of my eye, I watched him struggle with the scales.  He had a large magnifying glass and he was trying to read the display.  People waiting behind him were losing their patience.  Like me, they were all resenting him holding them up.  None of us seemed willing to share the post office with this guy…this veteran.

For some reason I spoke to him.  I asked if I could help him with what he was doing.  He said that I could.  A thirty something woman behind him exhaled in disgust and left the post office in a huff.  Obviously, she had very important matters waiting elsewhere.  This guy was really causing a problem.

“What are we trying to do?” I asked.  “I’m trying to mail this book to a friend in Texas,” he explained.  “I have arthritis and Parkinson’s disease, so I can’t do much,” he added.  “I can’t read the scales either.”

I asked if I could help him address the package.  He said yes and explained that it was a book on B-24 bombers.  He was mailing it to a friend in Texas.  The two of them flew together in World War II.  They had not seen each other in 44 years.

He told me how his granddaughter found this guy’s address on the Internet.  “She’s real smart,” he said.  “She knows how to find the address of anybody in the whole country just by typing their name,” he added.  “Then she went on the Internet and ordered this book.  We got it in the mail the very next day.  Have you ever heard of such a thing?” he asked.

As I purchased the necessary postage and stamped his package he told me what a thrill it was to find his old friend.  They had been talking on the phone and he had decided to send him this book.  His face lit up like the sun as he talked about their phone conversations and the missions they flew during the war.  He really loves and misses his friend.

By the time we finished, the post office was empty.  He turned to say thanks and offered to give me his left over stamps.  I refused and told him that I should be thanking him.  There was no way to repay the debt that we all owe him and his fellow veterans.

As he left, he turned, snapped to attention and saluted.  It was all I could do to choke back the lump in my throat.  This man was proud of his service to us.  He took it seriously.  We should too.

So…it’s the season of Thanksgiving and Christmas.  What are you thankful for?  I’m thankful for many things.  One is my mother who cried every time the flag passed in a parade.  Her blood ran red, white and blue.  She taught all of her children pride in family and country.  I appreciate that.

I’m also thankful for our servicemen.  I include those serving today and all that have put it on the line for us in the past.  I’m also thankful for the old soldier that “couldn’t do much.”  Thanks for the gift you gave us all before I was even born.  Thanks also for the gift of your need when I was nearby.  I’m glad I was the one to receive it.

What does all of this have to do with printing and publishing?  Absolutely nothing, unless you consider our right to do it.  Nothing unless you include the fact that we’re free to write what we think even if it is against policy.  You’ll have to answer that question for yourself.


It’s about the customer…not you!

Well…I’m hopping mad! I’ve tried to do something nice for my son and it has caused turmoil in my house.  Every time I try to be “unselfish” it backfires.  Things go much better when I’m dominating, self serving and inflexible.  I should learn that lesson and stick to being the jerk people love to gossip about.

Here’s what happened. I bought my son a puppy.  He pleaded and begged for weeks.  He worked his mother over and managed to introduce his case into every conversation.  Mealtime never passed without an “I’ll take care of it” or “My friends all have one” speech.  Finally, his mother agreed with him.  I was toast from that moment on.

So…I bought a puppy from a coworker. I’ll write a different story about that another time.  I want to focus this article on the fence.  Trying to buy one has been an education each of us can benefit from.

Our subdivision has restrictions. There are specific types of fences and specific companies you’re allowed to select.  This is designed to maintain the order of our property and the look we all supposedly like.  It’s fine with me.  It prevented me from interviewing dozens of fence people.  I called the first three companies on the list.

Now the quoting process is disruptive of your schedule. You have to meet the sales person at the property and show them what you want.  During the process you’re going to be up-sold, persuaded, manipulated and led.  It is amazing how complicated these fences can be.  When the other firms arrive they are going to tell you something totally different.  The whole process is less about the price and more about making you trust one company more than the other.

After three interrupted days of fence talk I selected the company I wanted. The proposals were similar in price so I was able to make a choice based on confidence.  I wrote a check and agreed on a schedule.  My fence would be installed in 7 days and my house could return to order.  Everyone was happy.  My wife loved me again and my son pledged a new commitment to raising the dog.  Even the puppy seemed to know what was going on.

Then…the fun started. I received a “let me tell you what’s going on” call.  You’ve had these.  They start with the tone that lets you know the salesperson considers you best friends.  It moves quickly into some sort of problem they know you’ll understand because of your intimate relationship of 36 hours.

The sales person was having problems with our order. It seemed that the steel pickets I wanted were not in stock.  A warehouse employee had miscounted and the internal documents the installers and sales people see were incorrect.  He could fill the order with an aluminum product at no extra cost.  It would change the design slightly but the basic integrity of our project would be maintained.

I agreed to the aluminum. I felt it should be less money but I didn’t argue.  He hung up the phone and called his office to schedule the installation.

The next day I received another call. This one addressed the “special skills” required to install an aluminum fence.  The crew we needed would not be available for 3-4 weeks.  He apologized for this delay but claimed it was beyond his control.

I didn’t cave in so easily on this one. The puppy was driving my wife crazy, which was causing things to go bad for me.  You don’t win arguments with angry wives.  You do whatever you can to make things better.  I called the fence guy and begged.  He took pity on me, claimed he called the district manager to plead my case and agreed to a 2 week delivery.

Two days later I received what turned out to be the final call. They didn’t have 4ft aluminum.  Would I accept 5ft?  They would be able to make my delivery and it wouldn’t cost extra.  The only problem is that it would be taller than the neighbor’s fence I’m tying into.

I snapped. He had changed my order from steel to aluminum, asked for 2 additional weeks to do the work and changed the size.   I fired the fence man.  I had to laugh when he seemed surprised.  I called a second company and placed the order and was promised a 1week delivery of my 4ft, steel fence…exactly what I wanted.

Later his general manager called. “I understand Dan has done a poor job for you” he said.  “I wanted to see if there was anything I could do to remedy the situation.”  “Good customers like you are hard to find and we don’t want a weak salesperson causing you trouble and costing us business,” he finished.

Now this guy was slick. I could see his tan, silk shirt and Rolex watch over the phone.  He was surprised at my response, however.  I explained that the salesperson had handled the situation fine.  It seemed to me that the company was not supporting him.  They didn’t seem prepared to get the necessary materials delivered and had trouble with their internal systems.  “No salesperson can perform if the facts change by the hour,” I told him.  I explained that my company would fold if it behaved like they had.

Now we would never do this would we? I certainly told the fence guy that we wouldn’t.  But…is that true?  We can all understand how ridiculous their service was.  Now, let’s insert our own answers or names into the following situations.

  1. I know I told you your proof would be ready this morning but…
  2. My plant manager wanted me to call you and see if I could get more time.
  3. We came up short on this job. May we deliver it short?
  4. I can’t get the stock you want would you accept brand X?
  5. Can you give me more time so I can schedule the press check during the day? That is when our best pressman works.
  6. Can I get another day on the estimate? The boss is out and I don’t do this type of job.

Now don’t misunderstand me. I realize that stuff happens.  Any salesperson worth a toot needs to be able to navigate through an occasional bump in the road.  Printing isn’t an exact science.  We have to be able to work with and manage the variables.

However, when excuses and special requests of the customer become the norm, we aren’t managing our processes. When we find it easier to impose on our clients than ourselves, we’ve lost our focus.  We exist to do their work.  They have hundreds of choices that don’t have to include us.

Now this IS about selling. It just suggests that it is the responsibility of every employee.  Everyone that draws a check should keep his eye on where it comes from.  The customer is this divine source

We all, easily, see how a salesperson benefits. They receive commissions.  But so does every employee.  Everyone’s check is a small part of the invoice paid on every job we were asked to produce.  The estimate calculated or the ticket we wrote or the proof we corrected and reran resulted in a customer getting out their checkbook.  They pay because they get what they want when they want it. It’s about the customer…not you!

I’ll let you know how the fence goes. It is due to be installed next week.  I’m counting on happier times and a wife that finds her smile again

Excuses are just Excuses; Go Sell Something.

Fifteen years ago I attended a special service at church. There was to be a guest speaker on Sunday night. The sanctuary was packed and I ended up sitting on the front row. It was a blessing.

A man named David Black walked to the podium and introduced himself. He was born without arms. He shrugged off his jacket and somehow draped it across the back of his chair. He did it so fast I can’t tell you how he managed.

Next, he sat down, slipped off his shoe, picked up a pitcher of water with his foot, poured a glass, sat the pitcher down and took a drink. He slipped his shoe back on and stood up. He walked to the microphone and said, “Tonight I want to talk to you about focusing on what you have instead of what you don’t have.”

I was totally dumbfounded. For the next ninety minutes he talked about working, driving a car, using telephones and computers. He explained that he is married and has children. He’s a successful businessman and public speaker. The time passed at light speed. When his time was up it seemed too soon. The entire audience was mesmerized.

Another inspiring character was my very good friend Jim Pipkin. Jim is gone now. He died several years ago in the west. He was traveling in his RV seeing America. He had already seen the seven seas.

Jim was the victim of a boating accident. He broke his back and did irreparable damage to his sensory nerves. His motor nerves worked fine. He just couldn’t feel things he needed to feel.

Let me describe how this influenced his daily behavior. Jim could barely feel his feet and hands. He described it as the way we all feel when our foot or hand falls asleep. The tingling and numbness were with him 100% of the time. There was no relief…ever.

I watched Jim burn his feet while walking barefoot on hot pavement. I watched him tear up things he was trying to handle because he couldn’t tell how hard he was squeezing or pressing. It caused him to limit his driving to short trips and reduced his work day to less than three hours. Everything that depended on delicate touch and agility was impacted.

Now…Jim was a printing salesman. He was also a boat captain. He taught me how to repair my boat and drive it. That was no small task. It was big (60 feet) and very heavy (54,000 pounds). That’s a lot of weight with no brakes. It takes a sense of touch…a sense Jim no longer had.

I mentioned that Jim sold printing. He sold a lot of printing. He sold enough to earn six figures. He did it in three hours a day. He managed to grow when he couldn’t go.

His accident was just that. He didn’t let it own any more of him than it deserved to own. He just couldn’t and wouldn’t make that excuse or waste that time. He insisted on being happy, funny, productive and…on the water.

I remember having to repair my marine toilet. They’re complicated devices and not everything you encounter is…glamorous. I made every excuse in the world for putting it off.

Jim cornered me and said, “Billy…how long have you been this way?” He made me stop and address the repair. He sat with me and watched every step. He told me what to expect and what each turn of a blade should feel like. I was the hands and he was the brains. He taught me to do something he couldn’t do himself. In the process he inspired me. I miss him every day.

These two guys had it right and had something in common. Neither allowed their circumstances to win. They refused to let their disabilities define who they were. They refused to make excuses for being mediocre. Because they refused…a new standard was set and obtained. They dictate the rules. They control the results.

Now what does this have to do with us? What is my point this time? Why am I parading two people you don’t know in front of you now?

Because I want our industry to make a difference. I want each of us to see limits as exactly what they are…excuses…lies we tell ourselves to allow the comfort of being mediocre to continue. I want us to resolve to change that…today.

I wonder what David Black would say about a “price problem.” I’ll bet he would kick off his shoe, dial the phone and talk to the client about what it would really take to win the business. I’m guessing he would share the answers with management and insist that we step up and earn the work.

I wonder what Jim would say about any employee’s comment that “I don’t have time to manage my work.” I’m fairly certain he would address them the way he addressed me about the toilet. I think he would find it interesting that the tools and technology available today don’t empower us to do more than ever before. I don’t believe he would be sympathetic to excuse makers.  I’m confident he would borrow a phrase from Nike and say “Just do it!”

That’s what we should do. Just do it. Make a difference. Commit yourself to asking more of yourself. Throw out the rule book and write your own. When needs change…throw that one out too.

I’m getting out of the excuse business. I’ll mange my weight by pushing back from the table and my sales by dialing the phone. My work will be as promised because I’ll make it be. These things are under my control…as they are for you. Excuses are just excuses. They’re nonsense.

Jim would let me have it. He would say, “Billy…how long have you been this way.” My answer would be lame so I’ll keep it to myself. I pledge to simply get busy and do it! Join me please! You’ll like what happens.

You Have to Know What You Know!

Sales Graph 2

Since 1998 I have been writing about focusing on the customer. I have attempted to be funny at times. I have told some embarrassing stories and I have allowed myself to be the butt of the joke. I have written some excerpts that are more serious in tone and I have jabbed at local establishments and utilities. I have taken a wide path in my attempt to point out stellar client service.

I believe I would be accurate to say that each of the installments preach the same sermon. They all talk about exceeding client expectations and going the extra mile to make them happy. They are a call to action of sorts rooted in the belief that you can call on some inner conscience and expect more of yourself.

I have just finished rereading “First Break All the Rules.” It is an older business book that has recently been re-released. I picked up several copies and plan to share them with friends and colleagues.

The author of this book disagrees with me. He states that our brains are wired with specific passions and interests from a very early age. Heredity is a factor but the overwhelming influence is our environment. I will attempt to explain this in the next few paragraphs.

The human brain is equipped with billions of neurons. Each one of these neurons is capable of tens of thousands of connections with every other neuron. The ability to process data or to connect impulses (synapses) is incalculable. There isn’t a computer bank in the world that can come close to the most simple minded human brain.

When we are born everything is new. Our senses hear, see, feel, smell and taste more than our brains can process. It is sensory overload. Our minds cannot deal with everything we experience so we quickly determine what matters and what doesn’t. We screen out “background noise.” We censor the stimuli that enter our brain. We decide what matters.

These decisions cause us to concentrate our connections between specific neurons. We don’t waste (or invest) synapses by connecting to neurons that we don’t value. Instead we make millions of connections between areas that we have decided are important. We build “super highways” in our brain creating areas of passion and talent.

By the time we are a few months old our inclinations are already being formed. These areas of focus become who we are. Other areas (neurons) are less connected if connected at all. They don’t develop in our specific case.

The reason I mention all of this is because it suggests that we can’t change our focus. If we are inclined to be laid back, we are going to be laid back. Pressure from a spouse to “get interested” isn’t going to change a thing. It can’t. You don’t have that connection.

I have seen this in my own house. I have two kids. They were raised in the same environment but thanks to their gender, they were exposed to different things. They manage life differently.

My daughter had to win. Motivating her was easy. You explained what behavior would deliver the results she wanted. If it was important to her, she would make it happen. All you had to do was provide transportation and access to the tools.

Motivating my son was more difficult. The same things didn’t work.  had to call on his conscience or make him feel guilty to get results. He is smart as a tack and extremely generous. He just reacts different and values different things.

Now what in the world does all of this have to do with our industry and satisfying customers? It has everything to do with it. We can’t win as professionals if we don’t understand. Let me explain.

People that don’t care about customers can’t be taught to care. Let me say that again. People that don’t care about customers can’t be taught to care. They can be taught to repeat phrases. They can be taught the right answers. They just can’t be taught to be passionate about them or to make them central to how they behave. They can’t learn a sense of urgency.

Managers…ask yourself this…how many employees have you really been able to change during your career? I’m not talking about teaching. I’m talking about changing. How many lazy people have you converted to energetic? How many intense people have you converted to laid back? How many reckless people have you converted to cautious? Scary…huh?

Salesreps, if you’re working with a CSR that is indifferent…guess what…they always will be. If you’re working with someone that is sloppy, they always will be. If you’re working with someone that is grumpy, they aren’t going to become a bubbling bundle of joy. It goes on and on for department after department.

Now this doesn’t mean these people are bad. Dedicated employees come in all shapes and sizes. Companies need people that know how to count and love doing it. We need people that are wild about computers. We need people that love solving problems of all different shapes and sizes.

What we don’t need is the wrong person in the wrong job. I can’t put my steering wheel where my front-right tire is supposed to be and drive my car. I need both parts. I just need them in the right place.

Managers, think about this as you look at your staff. Think about this as you make hiring decisions. It will be better if we pick the right person in the beginning and don’t try to convert them after the fact. You can’t teach passion and quality.

Sales reps…answer these questions about yourselves. Selling isn’t picking up orders. Selling is convincing the client to buy. It isn’t lowering prices and it isn’t saying yes unless both parties benefit. Do you believe this? If not, you’re in the wrong job.

Client service…ask yourselves if you’re happy. If you aren’t, you might be in the wrong area. The title of the department says it all. If you aren’t interested in doing that then you are going to become increasingly unhappy.

Once I worked with an employee who publicly exclaimed that if she was required to talk to customers she would quit. She worked in the customer service department. We required it and she did indeed quit.

Was this her fault? Partly. It was our fault too, however. We decided that people that don’t like clients were ok for the customer service department.

Our industry delivers a valuable service. We have to make it easy for our customers, however. We can’t lower our costs while improving our processes and value with the wrong people in the wrong jobs. It’s on us to hire better and make the right internal assignments. Our clients will reward us with work and our employees will reward us with successful products.




Don’t Shoot Your Food! – A Sales and Marketing Lesson Learned from John Wayne

Don’t Shoot Your Food! – A Marketing Lesson Learned from John Wayne

Don’t Shoot Your Food! – A Sales and Marketing Lesson Learned from John Wayne

Even the most experienced Salespeople can forget where their bread is buttered.

I watched an old movie this weekend, Rooster Cogburn and The Lady. Maybe you have seen this one. It stars John Wayne and Kathryn Hepburn. It is safe, won’t offend and is full of funny banter between the two stars.

About halfway through the movie, John Wayne’s character (Rooster) gets drunk. He begins taking target practice at something known as corn-dodgers. They are food of some kind he keeps stored in a sack. As a friend throws them in the air, he shoots at each piece.

Kathryn Hepburn (The Lady) plays the daughter of a murdered preacher. She finds his behavior disgusting and tries to stop the shooting and drinking. John Wayne responds with an answer that seems logical only to him. Finally Ms. Hepburn says, “Marshall… alcohol has made you stupid. You are shooting at your food.” Even the drunken Marshall can see this is absurd behavior.

Now…we do this don’t we? I’m guilty too. Every time we show our disgust to a client, we are shooting at our food. Every time we fail to cooperate, we are shooting at our food. Do we allow our service providers to shoot at us? I bet we don’t allow it for long. Neither will our customers.

As an older salesperson, it is very hard for me. I remember customers that were experts. I remember big differences in quality and service from printers. I remember plenty of business to go around and clients that were grateful and loyal. It is difficult for me to adjust to the new marketplace. It is full of people that don’t know I’m a genius. I have to sell all over again. I had rather take shots at my food.

From what I hear in the marketplace, I’m not alone. I am frequently disturbed when I hear about lectures given to customers. I wonder how they feel when they hang up the phone. Do they feel enlightened or abused? Does our condescending tone cause them to share our name with others? If so, what context is it shared in? I wonder.

The same thing goes for production employees. How do they see each order or estimate? Do they appreciate the opportunity or do they go into “guarding the end zone” mode? Are they loading their guns so they can shoot at their food too?

Now I’m sure this seems silly, but it really isn’t. Our work is identical to most competitors in the eye of the marketplace. They can only evaluate price and how we make them feel. They want to hear something that makes them comfortable.

Now take this from an old dog that has run off more customers than most of you have. If you resent your customer you are about to fail. If you look for problems instead of solutions, you need to be an accountant. If you sell or accept instructions like a hockey goalie, you will sell 10% as much as the guy that is fun and easy to work with.

Don’t shoot your food. Not one of us is on the payroll because of our charm, brains or looks. We are here to write orders. We can’t do that if our customers avoid dialing our number because we might make them feel foolish.

Every question from your customers and prospects is an opportunity to show you can be helpful. And it starts with showing that you are listening. Their questions can lead to further conversation and those careful conversations can lead to sales.

Kathryn Hepburn was right. Shooting your food is stupid!

So that’s my sales tip for the day. What’s a lesson you’ve learned from listening to your customers lately?