Real Cost of Mediocrity

The Real Cost of Mediocrity (1548 words)

Try Harder, Overcome Mediocrity

Have you ever wondered what the real cost of mediocrity within your organization might be? Has there ever been a time when a mess-up by someone internally, proved to be quite costly in both money/resources and time/energy? Has there been a time when a mess-up by someone in your organization caused a huge toll on an outsider, i.e. supplier or customer? Training, ego and attitude can be the answer

In the world of selling, the real cost of mediocrity can be extreme

In selling, there are generally two categories: hunters and farmers. The hunters are the sales people, both inside and outside, that specialize in going after new business—their thrust is the hunt, bringing in new customers. Farmers on the other hand specialize in nurturing house accounts and business that the hunters have brought in. Too often, organizations will settle for farmers that are mediocre, or careless and don’t tend to their crops. The prices businesses or organizations pay for allowing this kind of behavior are truly unnecessary.

My first real job in outside sales, other than selling encyclopedias door-to-door, was in selling to retailers. The owner of the business, Ray Kahn, once told me, “If you lose an account because you were out sold, it’s okay. But, if you lose an account because you weren’t paying attention to that account—you’re out of here!” He understood the real cost of mediocrity. Several years later, I saw first-hand that he meant it. Ray fired a hunter/farmer salesman, Mike that had been with him for a decade. Unfortunate for all that were involved, Mike got complacent and lazy, losing a major account because he wasn’t paying attention to the needs of the customer.

When a farmer doesn’t pay attention, it is an absolute travesty

Mike was an okay hunter, but not a great farmer. This situation is not unusual. If you manage sales people and you tolerate a farmer not tending to their crops (accounts), I believe that you are just as guilty as your farmer sales person. It is you, after all, to whom they are accountable.

Not long ago, I traveled to the American East Coast to speak on selling at a chapter of the National Speakers Association (NSA), of which I am a member in Los Angeles. This NSA chapter had been meeting at the same suburban area hotel on the same Saturday of each month for the previous three years. This particular Saturday in January was to be different.

The “you know what” hit the fan late Friday night

Following dinner that evening, my contact with the group dropped me back at the hotel where I was staying and where the meeting would be the next day. In passing, she asked if I knew that I’d be presenting the next morning in the hotel’s restaurant…during regular service hours…to the public? Their usual meeting room had been booked out from under them. Well, that was a surprise that was to me.

Three days earlier, when the NSA Chapter’s program chair called the hotel to check if everything was in place for their coming Saturday meeting, the hotel sales contact, Lois, told the program chair that they had no reservation for the group for the coming Saturday. And, Lois told the program chair that the room they usually use, along with every other meeting room and space in the hotel was also sold out. Wow, what a predicament! Even worse, Lois offered no possible solutions to a long-time customer.

The meeting chair asked Lois how this could be? Especially since the group had been using that meeting room the same Saturday of the month for the past three years and had an on-going relationship. Lois answered by stating that she thought it was odd that the organization had not signed a contract for the coming year. Lois continued by stating that since the hotel’s customers “call them” she didn’t give it a second thought. Excuse me! If I was Lois’ boss, I’d do to her what Ray Kahn did to Mike—fire ‘em! There is no excuse for this kind of behavior.

That farmer, Lois, definitely was not tending her crops (accounts). Can you believe it? Worse, the sales person was ignorant enough to state, “Our customers call us.” She sold the room out from under this group. Perhaps because the group to whom she sold the room was generating higher revenue? Perhaps she was only mindful of her commission check? Perhaps it was her way of telling this NSA Chapter that they were no longer welcome at that property? This clearly demonstrates mediocrity.

The Real Cost of Mediocrity

What do you think might be the real cost to the hotel from Lois’ debacle?

To the credit of the hotel’s General Manager, late that Friday evening, I worked with him and food & beverage (F&B) manager for over an hour looking at possibilities to make the next day’s presentation work, even though it was to be in the hotel’s restaurant, during service hours to the general public. The hotel general manager explained to me that he, and his staff had been working on the problem for the past three days. They had even called other hotels to try and move the meeting—but without success. Further exhibiting the real cost of mediocrity.

Let’s take a rough look at the real cost of mediocrity to this hotel:

A hotel general manager making around $100,000 a year, working a six-day work week equates to about $333 per working day. If we take into account that the general manager, food & beverage manager, sales staff and others had been dealing with the issue for three days and just add up the general manager’s pay, that gives us about $1,000 cost to the hotel. I’m sure Lois’ commission on the sale of the room and F&B was nowhere near that much.

Now let’s add in the damage to both the national brand and that particular location. This group happened to be a gathering of local-area professional speakers. Since many are intimately familiar with hotels, their expectations tend to be a bit higher than most. What will they say to local meeting planners about this hotel? I doubt it would be complimentary. If the approximately 50 professional speakers mention the situation to only one meeting planner over the following year—that’s potentially 50 local meeting planners that have received a poor report about this property. What’s the cost of that?

If only one of those 50 meeting planners decided not to book a meeting at that property based on what they heard, how many thousands of dollars would that property not receive in future revenue because of Lois’ behavior? Let alone the tarnished perception of this particular brand nationally could cost the chain dollars. Surely it would be more that Lois’ commission on that particular room, on that particular Saturday.

The Rest of The Story

This had been the second time that this property, or should I say Lois, had pulled this kind of situation on that particular NSA Chapter. As such, the board of directors immediately decided to start looking for another property at which to hold their monthly meetings. By the next month’s meeting, the chapter had already found a new home for their monthly meetings. That adds even more to the real cost, as the revenue from the chapter was valuable to the hotel during slow times.

Gosh, because that farmer, Lois, was too unorganized, oblivious, lazy, apathetic, ignorant or greedy, the real cost to the hotel’s productivity and revenue was, and will continue to be, substantial. What does this mean to you? In selecting and/or maintaining the wrong people to represent your organization’s interests, you will pay dearly for their impoverishment of skills.


The TEA Master Key should prove helpful. The three key areas necessary to explore in serving your customers well are: Training, Ego and Attitude.

Training your employees well is a given, the subtleties are in their understanding the DNA of your organization’s culture and an advanced understanding of how to most effectively use the “tools” that you have made available to them. Understandably, this takes time, but few companies devote the necessary hours to this endeavor. And, if your employees are not continually learning, you must re-examine the limited value they deliver to your organization.

Ego is good, when kept in check, allowing one to be confident, yet not arrogant. Unfortunately, too many employees let their ego get in the way of their performance, i.e. too much ego that they never admit a mistake. Mistakes are good, if one learns from their mistake. Years ago, Ray Kahn would say, “If you are not making mistakes, you are not learning, and I don’t need you. But, if you do not learn from your mistakes, I don’t need you either.” Other ego issues revolve around one’s need to be right! In serving customers, it is more important to get things done, than to focus on being right.

Attitude can make, or break, an employee and a customer’s perception of your organization’s value proposition. Employees with an attitude of apathy are like termites eating away at the fiber of your organization and one day that fiber that holds your organization together will give fail. On the other hand, employees with the attitude of service, not servitude, flourish and with them so does your organization. Give your employees plenty of reasons to have superior attitudes—it will serve you well. Embrace TEA to avoid the cost of mediocrity.

Positioning Your Business

Positioning Your Business-9 Key Questions (936 Words)

Positioning Your Business for Success

Vendors are a dime a dozen but partners are hard to find; positioning your business for success is crucial. This statement is continually in the minds of your customers. If you would like to develop a business strategy based on quality relationships, take a look at how your customers currently perceive your business. Ask your customers what they think of you through surveys or simply by word-of-mouth. The conversation they have with themselves about you is their reality.

Positioning for Influence

You can greatly influence your chances of success in an uncertain economy if you position yourself as a partner to your customers. Learn to get on their side of the table. Learn what they perceive as valuable to them and what is not. When you are clear about how you want the market to perceive you, you can then drive this positioning strategy throughout the many silos of your business. As all the areas of your business drive the same consistent message in both word and deed, you will own that position in your marketplace.
Before I consult with an organization, I generally ask the management team to answer the following positioning questions. Answer them for yourself. Do this and your chances for success will dramatically increase.

1. Who are my customers?

This positioning question sounds quite simple but this is a critical first step. To better understand the question, explore these sub-questions:
a. Who do I want them to be?
b. What must I do to get them?
c. Who has chosen me?
d. What are their demographics?

2. Where are my customers? 

a. Geographically?
b. Industry segments?
c. Social/economically?
d. What publications do my target customers read?
e. What media format are they likely to frequent?
3. How do my customers find me? 

a. Word-of-mouth, drive by or walk by traffic, snail mailings, e-mailings, phone solicitations, yellow pages advertising, local cable station/national networks, radio, newspapers, specialty magazines and cross promotions are possibilities.
b. Maybe they’ve heard of you through a media interview or article?
c. How about the Internet? By now, your organization should be somewhat web-centric.

4. How do my customers perceive value (benefits) when selecting a supplier/vendor with which to partner? 

Technological capability, knowledge, overall service/unbundling of services, integrity, selection, price, geography and a cadre of other factors will affect their selection process based on your positioning. Additionally, there are the positioning supply/procurement considerations:

a. Traditional brick and mortar.
b. Mail order/catalog.
c. Click and brick.
d. Click only.

5. How do my customers prefer to do business? 

a.Do they walk the partnering talk or just talk it?
b. Can I live with their reputation?
c. Can my company survive the potential pitfalls?
d. Ethics is a big consideration. Additionally, ethnic and cultural concerns are critical factors in today’s diverse society. Are you willing to “walk the extra mile” to understand and fulfill your diverse customers’ desires and needs?

6. Who is my competition? What’s their positioning? 

Generally, any business that can pluck dollars from the pockets of your potential customers is absolutely your competition! Specific to your situation, who has similar products and/or service capabilities? Who is willing to make a stronger commitment to offering the greatest total value package?

a. Explore your direct competition.
b. Explore your indirect competition.

7. What are the benefits that my competitors’ customers believe they are receiving from my competition? 

Spending time thinking about solutions to customers’ problems and challenges from your competitors’ point of view will serve you well in developing your positioning strategy. Know how your competition thinks and acts. You can learn from them! To win customers, you must know your competition better than they know themselves. That is how Pepsi gained shelf space from Coke in grocery stores in the 1960s. Pepsi changed the rules by offering 8-packs and one-liter bottles. Be careful not to select copycat positioning—rarely is it successful. Adapt rather than adopt.

8. What is it about my company that really gets me excited? 

Find your company’s uniqueness and passionately sell through that window with all your positioning energy. Can’t find it? Either you’re not looking hard enough or you’re in the wrong place! Those with purchasing power will seek out specialists who can solve their customers’ problems by truly fulfill their customers’ needs, wants and desires—physically and mentally. Decide to position your company in this select group and then make the necessary commitment to get there.

9 What is my personal uniqueness?

a. What is it that you bring to the table?
b. Is it your personality traits, the area in which you excel or the one thing about the way you do business for which customers are always complimenting you? Find this and you’ve struck gold!
c. People prefer an original whenever possible—can it be you?

The answers to the above nine questions will assist you in defining a positioning strategy upon which you can successfully increase sales and build your business. This may well be a new strategic direction or simply an adjustment to your current sales and marketing strategy.

Entire industries are giving way to new technologies resulting in a new or dramatically changed paradigm for their industry. Where fragmented industries once existed in comfort, consolidators and roll-ups are devastating the playing field. As an example, you will not find the number of local independent stationary stores, bookstores and drug stores that once spotted your city streets—just big boxes that look, smell and feel all the same. Regardless of your specific industry, it’s changing whether you like it or not. It is happening before your own eyes. Can you see it? Communicating a clear positioning message to your market will put you far ahead of your competition.

Get to Know Me

Get to Know Me is What Your Customers are Saying (710 Words)

Your Suppliers Are Saying, "Get to Know Me"

Your Customers Are Saying, “Get to Know Me!”

Get to Know Me

It was at their first-ever vendor summit that, get to know me, emerged. Hosted by a large holding corporation of about 75 very successful companies, Mr. Big, the CEO, is speaking from the lectern to the audience of several hundred, mostly suppliers and he says, “Please, get to know us!”

His entire talk was around this idea. He said to the vendors, in many different ways, “Please, get to know us!” Why would such a large, successful, and privately held organization put so much energy into simply saying, “Please, get to know us!” to their vendors? Because they wanted to even grow bigger and be even more profitable. That is what world-class organizations do—get better.

Get to Know Me Champions

What about your organization? An interesting question for any business leader to ask of their own organization is, “How well do our venders know our culture, our mission, and our vision?” If your vendors do understand and embrace your culture, mission and vision, they can be an unstoppable force in helping you to get where you desire to go. This truly does serve the vendors too, as the better you do, the more you’ll most likely buy from them.

If your vendors do not have a crystal-clear understanding of the above, the next logical question to ask is, “What’s blocking them?”The answer could be as simple as, “They do not want to be my partner in success.” Or, the answer could be as complex as, “Unfortunately, my organization is vendor-hostile.”

More than likely, the issue is not that your vendors don’t want to partner, but rather how you perceive and treat your vendors. This is where the get to know me idea is so crucial. If you want to move away from a vendor-hostile culture, you’ll have to first ask, “How does my organization reward the procurement people?”If they are rewarded based on getting yet another five-cent/five-percent discount, you are rewarding the wrong thing. To move away from vendor-hostile toward vendor partnering, you must reward the total success of the buyer-seller partnering relationship.

Partner, Get to Know Me

What can you do to help your vendor’s see/enjoy the value of developing high-level partnering relationships with your company? Explore the following:

  • Express trust in your vendors through both word and deed.
  • Communicate frequently both your current and anticipated longer-term needs.
  • Include your vendors in strategic planning and brainstorming sessions.
  • Regularly drive the vendor-friendly paradigm, like a laser beam, into the hearts of your employees, managers and executives.
  • Consider entering into long-term contractual relationships with your stellar vendors.
  • Rather than squeeze your vendors for discounts or concessions, help them to take costs out of their product and the supply chain.

I know of no businesses that prosper without the help, assistance, and support of their vendors. Back to the Mr. Big mentioned earlier. I was invited to present the opening keynote at the vendor summit. Interviewing Mr. Big weeks before the summit, he mentioned to me that he wanted me to challenge both the vendors and his people alike. He also wanted me to instruct them in new and innovative reasons for building alliance relationships.

Get to Know Me for Alliance Success

As I took the stage at this summit, I could sense the tension and apprehension in the room. The vendors were braced for a keynoter to tell them why it was in their best interest to give bigger discounts and partner with the holding corporation and their 75 plus units. Instead, they received a presentation where the mirror was placed up close to both the sellers and buyers behaviors. Following the presentation, there were a number of comments from the vendors about the “balanced” presentation.

What has always been clear to me and make so even more, following my keynote presentation was this: Treat them fair and with integrity—and your vendors will bend over backwards to try to help you. So why was this article titled, Your Customers are Saying, Get to Know Me rather than titled, Treat Your Vendors Well? I titled it with the latter; you most likely would not have read the article. Your vendors can only get to know you better if you let them. By the way, are your customers saying to you, “Get to know me better?

Keep Customers Returning

The Boomerang Effect In Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty (1658 Words)

The Boomerang Effect In Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty

The boomerang effect is getting customers to return, takes skill and practice. Today, your customers want more than just service. They want to be satisfied that they received a great total value package from you. This idea applies to all levels of the distribution channel from procuring raw materials to purchases by consumers and end-users. Do this, and you’ll earn their sustained loyalty. By employing my P.A.R.T.N.E.R.S. model, you too can create customer satisfaction at such distinguished levels that loyalty will be the natural outcropping of your efforts. Essentially, you want to become your customer’s partner to enjoy the boomerang effect. This is because vendors are merely a dime-a-dozen, while partners are precious.

P is for Performance Standards

This is the underpinning of the model for achieving the boomerang effect. You must identify, describe and express to your staff exactly what you expect of them. You must not just communicate by word that which you want from your employees, but also in deed. You must first model the high level of customer service by living the performance standards you demand of your team. Along with the need to establish performance standards, there is the need to measure the level of service rendered to your customers is equally important. If you measure it, you most likely will manage it.

A is for Anticipating Customer Needs

This is crucial to the boomerang effect in delivering the kind of service and value that keeps customers returning regularly. To create customer satisfaction, you must know what your customers want before they themselves know they want it. You can do this through customer focus groups, attending trade shows, and reading those trade journals that are piling up in your office. This is also the area where your superior product knowledge will serve you well. Additionally, spend the time to train your staff well in the features and benefits of that which you sell. Great salespeople are those that do an unsurpassed job of assisting their customers to obtain all the goods and services that their customers need, want, and desire. These salespeople are also the ones that are so appreciated by their customers that they are rewarded with repeat business.

R is for your Rules to Distinguished Customer Service

For the boomerang effect, always give value-added service. The idea of giving more than is expected or always giving a little extra at no charge has proven successful to many over the ages. In fact, the baker’s dozen, 13 rather than 12—giving one free, when a customer purchases a dozen is the result of this idea and is an excellent customer retention method. Second, everyone in your business must understand and subscribe to the belief that a customer has earned the right to your respect simply by virtue of walking in your front door, calling on the telephone or e-mailing an order. Third, everything you do has a stone-in-the-water effect. All your actions as an owner, manager, or executive will have an effect on your customers. This applies to actions toward customers and employees alike—if you treat employees poorly, they will similarly treat your customers poorly. Additionally, remember that happy customers tell a friend or two, conversely, unhappy customers tell anybody that will listen just how poorly you deliver value, or the lack there of. Fourth, Never promise that which you know you or your company cannot deliver. Over-promising is the surest way to anger and lose a loyal customer.

T is for Transitioning Your Angry Customers into Happy Campers

You can generally accomplish this element of the boomerang effect through a simple four-step model: First, you must intently listen to the customer’s complaint or gripe without getting defensive. Listen completely; take care not to be like the one-minute doctor who offers a prescription before doing some sort of diagnoses. You do not want to be guilty of customer service malpractice. Second, you defuse their anger through the process of asking open-ended questions. These are the questions where your customer must talk rather than grunt an angry yes or no. Get them explaining the situation rather than just complaining. Third, clarify the problem through responses. Feed back to the customer what you understand is the problem. If you did not understand or they did not explain it well, this is an opportunity to better understand. Fourth, offer a solution only after you are completely clear on what the real problem happens to be. If you do not clearly understand your customer’s problem you will most likely offer an incorrect solution and further anger your valued customer.

N is for the Need to learn about Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)

This is today’s forefront science in serving and selling to others. Whether you like it or not, selling is part of customer service. NLP is the science of how your brain learns. Everybody has a basic preferred learning strategy: Visual (seeing), Auditory (hearing), or Kinesthetic (feeling). Each learning strategy is used in various situations yet; most people do in fact favor one strategy. Detect your customers preferred strategy by listening to the kind of words they use. Do they use seeing, hearing or feeling type words? Communicate with them in their favored strategy. As an example, the customer who says things like, “I wonder how this will look on me?” Might this person be a visual? The key word is look. Talk to that person in visual or seeing terms. Say something like, “Just picture yourself . . . ” This method of communication is called direct or matched communication. You are mirroring the other person’s learning style. Had you said, “Feel this fabric . . . ” You would have had a mismatch.

Like the construction company digging a tunnel from both sides of the mountain—If their communication between the two crews were poor, instead of digging one tunnel, they would most likely dig two! Rather than building two different tunnels, or levels of communication, you want to build a communication bridge with your customers. If you do this, your customer’s brain will simply say, “This person is like me—I like me—I like this person.” Now you are on the way to building the kind of high-level rapport that keeps your customers coming back. Two great books on NLP for business are: NPL At Work by Sue Knight and The Power of Business Rapport by Dr. Michael Brooks.

E – Empower Your Staff to deliver on the expectations of your customers

Important to a successful boomerang effect…cutting a special deal, resolving conflict, and smoothing ruffled customer feathers should be among the powers your employees should have. Customer expectations must be understood, and delivered upon for your business to survive. The behavior in your employees that you chose to reward is the behavior that they will likely repeat. If you tell your team, “You are now empowered!” but then rip their head off for making a decision you didn’t like, they will surely not take that risk again. My grandfather was an electrician in the 1950s and 1960s, working at a shipyard in San Pedro, CA. He would repeatedly say this about life at the shipyard, “There’s the right way to do things, there’s the wrong way to do things, and there’s the Navy’s way. We do things the Navy’s way!” Take caution not to play “Navy” with your employees. If you would like more information about rewarding your team for taking risks, please visit:

R is for Reward Customer Loyalty

Loyalty is a double-edged sword. If you want your customers, in the boomerang effect to be loyal to you, then you must be loyal to them first. Giving deals to new customers only, and not to established ones, can easily offend. Actually, this mocks your valuable customers who have been loyal to you. I’m sure you would agree that it costs much less to keep a customer than to bring a new one in the door. If you are experiencing the “Turnstile” effect in customer loyalty, take a close look at your customer retention policies and practices. Don’t be lured by the erroneous belief of unlimited customers. In reality, competition today is more brutal than ever before in our history and getting more so daily. Your customers have more choice than ever before. Today, the secret to success is to retain every customer and serve them so well that they truly become your best advertisements. Frequent consumer programs are a much better strategy for sustained success than are new customer introduction offers.

S – is for the Satisfied and Blissful state

This is the place in which you want your customers when they think or talk about you, your staff, and your company. Your customers must believe that value and satisfaction is always Job One at your company. Customer service is the means, not the goal. You must stay focused, like a laser, on your necessary goal of customer satisfaction through perceived value. Just because a customer is served, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are satisfied. Have you found yourself in a similar situation lately where you were served, but not to the level of your expectations? You may very well have left the situation dissatisfied. Keep in mind that more customers will just simply walk away with their expectations, realistic or otherwise, not met and will never say a word to you. What they will do is become the squeaky wheel and voice their complaints only to their friends and colleagues—the kiss of death to any business.

Now you have all the pieces of the P.A.R.T.N.E.R.S. model—quite easy to understand it at an intellectually level, but at the crucial emotionally level—that’s another story. Like learning the necessary skills to make the boomerang return, you too must use the pieces of the above model to help your customers become loyal and always return. The challenge here is for you and your team to emotionally own the ideas and live them daily. Your actions are speaking so loudly that your customers cannot hear a word that you are saying. Let your actions show that you truly desire to become a precious partner to your customer.

More Customers

Customer Perception Equals Market Domination—Seven Steps (1113 words)

Listen to your customers for market domination

Market Domination Implementation

Want market domination? Have you ever implemented an improvement project at your organization that turned out to be ill-imagined, too costly or simply off the mark? Unfortunately, and to their embarrassment, many companies have. As the economy becomes more uncertain, many organizations (including your competitors) will be looking for ways to shore up lost sales, market share, and profits.

Do you want to stop wasting time and valuable resources, fixing the wrong business issues? Do you want to dedicate the bulk of your resources to areas for improvement that will give you market domination…drive increased sales and profitability while decreasing cost and eliminating time wasting? Do you want to stop recreating a wheel that you never needed in the first place? Simply put, do you want to start fixing the right stuff?

Below, I have detailed for you a simple formula for market domination through a deeper understanding of your customers and marketplace. The formula starts with a simple survey and takes you to having the informed knowledge of what needs to be changed, adjusted, eliminated, built, and challenged in your organization. You must have an extreme understanding of your customer wants, desires, and needs in order to dominate your market in lean times as well as in good times. Let’s get started.

  1. Ask your people for market domination

    Conduct an informal survey among your organization. If you are a small to mid-sized organization, this might be done in-person or over the telephone. For a larger organization an intranet email or hard copy survey generally works best. In this informal survey, two questions, basic and open-ended, are asked. First, you ask for three things the employee believes your organization’s customers would offer as your organizations strength or what the customers like best about the company. Next is three things, your employee believes that your customers dislike about your company or wish your organization would improve.

  2. Build a formal survey for market domination

    Based on the information you received from your staff and management, build a survey of about 15 questions that will cover the key items mentioned. Start your survey with the first two questions somewhat benign. This will allow the respondent to have the necessary comfort zone as they begin. Sprinkle your most important questions throughout the survey and sandwich them between lesser important questions. The best way to organize your answer request is on a one to five scale, agreeing or disagreeing with the statement. For example, XYX Company delivers on time. The respondents will, within a range, agree or disagree with the statement.

  3. Survey your people for market domination

    You will want to have your organization complete the survey first. This is because you want their perception of what your customers have to say before they hear what the customers actually said.

  4. Survey your customers for market domination

    Use the same survey, the same method for grading, and this step will be golden. My recommendation for the most effective method of conducting this step is to hire an outside organization to make the telephone calls for you. Take the high road and telephone query your customers rather than employ the cold and impersonal method of an email or a snail mail survey. A competent telephone researcher will be able to get your customers to relax, as they ask the questions on the survey. Your customers in return will give their true beliefs and feelings. This is the information you truly need. If you try to have one of your staff persons do this, the respondents will not open up as freely and your results will naturally be flawed. For most small to mid-sized organizations, actual survey results from about 50 of your customers should be adequate; larger organizations will want a larger sampling.

  5. Study your survey for market domination

    The survey now becomes an important tool for helping your organization to improve its performance. The key here is to study the similarities and dis-similarities of responses. You will want to know where the people in your organization were correct in knowing what your customers have to say about your organization. And even more important; knowing where your employees beliefs were erroneous. You cannot fix what you do not know. Be open to learning here. Just because you really believed your customers would say one thing, but said something else; do not fall into the trap of stating, the survey is wrong! The survey is not wrong, but rather your perception of reality.

  6. Develop a priority list for market domination

    Now that you have a much more accurate idea as to your customers’ perception (good and bad) of you, you can now make informed decisions. No organization can effect too much change, too fast. Encourage your executive team to have an emotional ownership (which I believe is far better than buy-in) in developing the priority list for improvement and policy change. You do this by allowing them to participate in the process of developing the list. The benefit to your organization is that they will move mountains to make a difference in this total effort toward improvement. It is this effort you need for market domination.

  7. Implement the changes for market domination

    In order to achieve market domination, you must own the hearts and minds of that market. You must position your organization in your customers’ hearts and minds as being THE supplier of choice, regardless of your location in your industry’s supply chain. As the people in your organization move away from their complacency toward excellence, the perception of your excellence in of the marketplace grows. Implement your changes and improvements in a manner that allows small successes early. From these earlier, sometimes considered insignificant successes, come the stepping stones and later the foundation for your movement toward excellence and market domination. Simply put, fix the right stuff—before it’s too late. You’ll own your customers, for as long as you continue fixing the right stuff—as soon as you can.

As you decide on using the above formula to assist your organization in moving toward market domination, there are variations that can be employed. The above method is structured to help you develop a market domination strategic plan for your organization based on knowledge rather than disinformation. Variations of the above survey methodology include comparing the knowledge of customer perception among the several silos within your organization for better interdepartmental cooperation. Additionally, market perception variations can be explored based on geography, customer size, customer buying capability (percentage you get of their procurement dollars), and potential customers or prospects.

From the above survey, the most obvious purposes might be for market domination in sales increases and improved customer service; however, you might also consider using the survey to determine new products or services for development, possible strategic alliances to develop, and organizational productivity.

Customer Opinion

Ask Your Customers (550 words)

The Ask Your Customers Strategy

Ask Your Customers for Their Loyalty

What about the, ask your customers? Bound for Savannah, sitting on a transfer boat from a resort island in South Carolina, I cannot help thinking about the resort; beautiful and staffed by nice people. But is that enough? I think not as they needed to embrace the ask your customers.

Ask Your Customers, How Was Your Stay?

When I checked out of the resort, the woman at the front desk never asked me about my stay; wonderful, good, bad, or indifferent. This is the best time to query guests—asking for their honest feedback about their stay. However, nobody cared to ask your customer.

Had she, I would have mentioned the cob webs hanging from the ceiling, the fact that the bathroom was in desperate need of repair, that I had to call to request maid service, and that none of the resort’s materials were in the room, not even a pen and paper—good thing I did not need to order room service.

Internal Conversation

As I leave, the conversation that I’m having with myself about the resort is, at best, mixed. While most of the time that I’m visiting hotels and resorts is as a speaker, I also organize a number of small meetings each year. Would I bring my group to this island resort? I really do not think I would. My conversation with myself about the place is, “Pretty property and nice people, however without ask your customer, I truly question the competency of the resort’s staff.

Every time one of your customers does business with you, it is your opportunity to develop or strengthen the relationship—or to damage it.

Ask Your Customers, What’s Their Conversation?

How in the world can you query all your customers? Simple, ask them. You can have customer service representatives ask your telephone customers and you can have other employees ask in-person customers. How do you get your employees to ask? Motivate them through incentive. This information is golden as you periodically review your business strategy. Ask your customers is not a difficult strategy to implement.

Earlier this week, when I was in my office, I received a call from one of my suppliers. The customer service person was calling to ask how we could do more business together. I suggested a strategy change for sample ordering from their web site—to make ordering easier on the customer. They asked! And, if they make the change, I will do more business with them.

Ask Your Customers Implementation Strategies

Consider developing both a formal and informal “ask your customers strategy” for your organization. The informal will consist of your employees asking at every possible opportunity, “How are we doing?” And, truly caring to listen, and record, the answers offered by customers. Offer various low cost incentives to employees that turn in their “ask sheets” each week. Hold contests only allowing the people that turned in their “ask sheets” that week, or month, to participate. Offer positive motivation.

For your formal ask strategy; mail out “ask surveys” with every order. Incentivize your customers to participate. Have your sales staff conduct an “ask session” with every customer quarterly—and incentivize the sales staff for their participation.

The Ask Your Customers Path toward Improvement

You can improve your products and services much more effectively when you have a deeper understanding of what your customers consider to be valuable and important. Your “ask your customers strategy” will quickly fill in your knowledge gaps in this area. You do want to serve your customers the way they want to be served, don’t you? Be careful of customer service mediocrity:


Customer and Supplier Loyalty

Loyalty, Want it, Give it First (446 words)

Receive customer loyalty by giving supplier loyalty, it will grow in your DNA

Want Loyalty. Give it First.

If you are a supplier, B2B and B2C, you are desperately looking for customer loyalty. What about those suppliers that want the last ounce of “advantage” both coming, and going? You know who I talking about, don’t you?

The Loyalty Experience

I’ll never forget an experience I had while visiting an ice manufacturing plant in Southern California . I was visiting the plant in preparation for delivering a multi-day marketing workshop at the industry’s annual convention. I wanted to get a “feel” for the industry first hand.

The owner was out so his second in command gave me a factory tour. Over the course of the tour, my guide was basically whining about their lousy customers, lacking loyalty, that would buy from another company if they were late with deliveries. I listened intently and with empathetic to his concerns.

Toward the end of the tour, checking out the ice bagging machinery, I asked my guide about the bag supplier. Holy cow! This guy’s face turned sheepish when he told me that they play one supplier against another for the best possible price. OMG! I thought, where’s your loyalty?

Loyalty In Your DNA?

Apparently supplier loyalty was not in the DNA of this ice manufacturer. However, they expected loyalty from THEIR customers. Is it just me? Or, can you see the cosmic humor in this situation? This organization wanted to squeeze the last drop of “advantage” from the economy—they wanted it both ways. It’s kind of like the folks that regularly shop at Wal-Mart and then complain that all the American jobs are being sent overseas. Duh!

Only Ebenezer Scrooge was able to squeeze at both ends, until of course he was visited by the ghosts of Christmas—an important metaphor for business. Might the ghosts of Christmas really be the economy? Might the cosmic pay-back arrive in the form of new competitors? Who knows—yet it is worth pondering.

What’s a Business Leader to Do?

  1. If you want loyalty from your customers, practice the concept of loyalty in your dealings with suppliers.
  2. If you discover that adversary relationships are in your organizational DNA, put new policies into place to mitigate the situation.
  3. If you want collaborative DNA at the core of your organization, review how your key people are being compensated.
  4. Reward the behavior you want repeated—meaning, do not reward the procurement department only for squeezing an additional dime out of your suppliers. Rather, build strategic sourcing relationships.

Now, Perhaps You Can Receive Loyalty?

After you do a major overhaul in the area of supplier treatment, you can use your newly found strategic sourcing understanding to develop better relationships with those customers you feel are capable of partnering. In difficult economic times, everyone is looking for a deal. However, the customers that somehow see you as their partner are the place to start in building a new era of loyal relationships. Let loyalty grow in your organization’s DNA…give it first…receive it second.

Lost Opportunity

When Opportunity Knocks, Do You Create Raging Fans or… (1296 words)

When Opportunity Knocks, Create Raging Fans

When Opportunity Knocks, Do You Create Raging Fans or…

Not long ago, I found myself at the Four Seasons in Scottsdale, AZ. I was meeting a friend for a cigar, he had called ahead to confirm their “cigar bar” advertisement about having an indoor location for smoking. When I arrived, I found my friend sitting outside and just a bit agitated. It turned out that the hotel employee he talked to had given him the wrong information, as was their advertisement incorrect.

A Raging Fan Opportunity Arose, What to Do?

During our first five minutes together, two hotel managers (separately) visited us to apologize for the oversight. The second offered to cover our first round for the inconvenience both of us experienced in driving 20 minutes out of our way to visit the Four Seasons indoor cigar bar, which did not exist.

The conversation we had while enjoying our complementary drinks was that at least they, the management at the Four Seasons, made an effort to do something to make us fans rather than enemies. Perhaps not raging fans, but we were at the least, satisfied with the outcome. However, we did not select to stay at the hotel for dinner but rather selected a local chop house. The situation was neutralized, but for the Four Seasons, they lost our dinner business.

Fast forward two weeks to my American Airlines flight from New Orleans back to Los Angeles (LAX). An opportunity arose for American Airlines, what did they do? Here is the email response from the American Airlines customer relations representative”

Dear Mr. Rigsbee:

I’m sorry you didn’t receive your baggage as expected when you traveled with us April 30. We know how frustrating it is for our customers to be without their belongings and we continually look for ways to improve and refine our baggage handling procedures to minimize such experiences.

I know, too, it was disappointing to discover that your belongings were damaged. While we work very hard to avoid these mishaps, unfortunately, they do sometimes occur. When this kind of difficulty happens, every effort is made to make amends in a reasonable manner. However, as previously explained, our conditions of liability exclude any damage claim not initially reported in person within 24 hours after the receipt of your checked items.

Mr. Rigsbee, I know my response will disappoint you. Nevertheless, we do have very specific policies and procedures concerning baggage liability, and we are unwilling to make an exception in your case. We hope in time you will understand our position and again choose American for your travel.

Tania L. Duggan
Customer Relations
American Airlines

This is an “outgoing only” email address. If you ‘reply’ to this message by simply selecting the reply button, we will not receive your additional comments. Please assist us in providing you with a timely response to any feedback you have for us by always sending us your email messages via”

Wow! American Airlines had a Chance and They Squandered it!

Let’s explore the situation. Could raging fans be developed? They fail to get my bag to LAX when it is supposed to be there. They then deliver it to my home in damaged condition. I’m out of town and my wife calls American’s baggage information telephone number and they refuse to handle the situation, tell her to call American Airlines at LAX. She does so and gets only a recording stating that the damaged bag will have to be brought back to the airport within 24 hours (one-plus hours drive each direction). She gives up, believing that my brand spanking new, $150 bag, is just not worth that kind of hassle. What would you do?

I return home a couple days later, call the same baggage information number and talk to a nice lady by the name of Jane Middleton. I asked for a supervisor and Jane told me that she was one. However, Jane had no power to make a decision, or raging fans, and repeatedly told me about their “guidelines.” Funny thing is that she never asked me this simple but powerful question, “What would you like us to do for you?” I told Jane that her boss’ boss could handle the situation. She told me that “she” probably could but “she” doesn’t take phone calls.

I then sent several emails to American Airlines and you saw above the only response—basically a nice “take a hike” letter. And did you notice that American Airlines does not even allow me to reply to their note? Is that how you develop raging fans? If I want to communicate with them I have to go to their web site and go through the entire process again. They are truly hiding behind the internet.

What Could Have American Airlines Done to Win a Raging Fan?

The simplest solution would have been for American Airlines to offer me some of their “funny money,” their travel vouchers to make me a raging fan. The reality is that many people never use the flight voucher credits or if they do, it is to buy a more expensive ticket. The real cost to American Airlines for that kind of solution would be approximately zero dollars. But, Jane never asked what I wanted; she just kept on telling me about the guidelines. Guidelines and not policy? Hmmmm!

Will I ever fly with American Airlines again? Sure I will. Some day, a time will that they are the only game in getting me to a particular location I need to visit. However from this point on, they will be my LAST choice.

The Rest of the, No Raging Fans, Story

I was flying on American Airlines instead of my favorite airlines, United, because I meet an American Airlines meetings department salesperson at an event a couple months earlier and she was working hard to develop raging fans for her airlines. She was pushing me to sign up with American to make them the preferred airline for a meeting that I’m organizing for the end of the year. So, I gave American a chance. I’ll tell you this much, since I am the one that makes the decision, American Airlines will NOT be the airline partner for my coming meeting.

American Airlines choice to snub me is a legal one. However along with being immoral and unethical; it was also financially stupid! Because they hosed me on taking care of a $150 bag that they neglectfully handled and damaged (shattered the back support)—I, the consumer vote with my dollars and they will not get the meeting deal, or any other future meeting deals, or much of my personal business in the future. What’s that going to cost American Airlines for making a different choice in the area od developing raging fans?

How Does this Apply to You Developing Raging Fans?

You are most likely either fuming because you had a similar experience with American Airlines or another carrier. No raging fans there. Or, perhaps you are thinking that your company would never be so penny wise and dollar foolish? Here is the rub; are ALL of your employees trained and empowered to make intelligent customer service decisions? I would bet against that being the case in most situations.

At the Four Seasons in Scottsdale, the “supervisor” had the authority and decided to use that authority to keep patrons happy, create raging fans, or at least satisfied. Let’s face it, how much is their real cost for a couple of drinks? In contrast at American Airlines, the “supervisor” either had no authority or just simply hid behind company guidelines. And what would have been the real cost for American Airlines to do the right thing? Their “funny money” costs them nothing.

I encourage you to have sporadic private meetings with your employees and lay out an easily anticipated scenario. Ask them how they think you would want them to handle the situation. If their answer is the correct one, acknowledge them for knowledge in your organization. If it is the wrong answer, take it as a training opportunity rather than to rebuff them. Help your employees to understand the value of seeing the big picture in business. Empower your employees to create raging fans for your business.

Sell More with Persuasive Presentations (512 Words)

If you, and your sales team, desire increased sales… If you, and your sales team, want to do this without increasing call frequency… You only have one choice—excel at persuasive presentations!

Recently I conducted a presentations training for a technology company. Their business is strong, and they have an experienced sales team. But, few truly understood the basic mechanics of persuasive presentations. As such, they were leaving dollars on the table at every call.

Selling is simply determining another’s problem and persuading them that you have the solution to their problem. Then asking them to accept your solution—the close—it’s quite simple. Unfortunately, not enough salespeople understand the basics.

There are three key elements in persuasive presentations:

  1. An arresting opening benefit statement.
  2. Explaining benefits with features.
  3. Asking for the business.

Right about now you might be thinking, “Thanks Ed, but tell me something new!” Force your sales team to practice their sales presentations in front of each other at your next gathering and you’ll most likely say, “Wow! They really do not know these basics!”


The opening benefit statement is really a hook, one that catches the prospect’s interest. In reality, a salesperson is saying, “Please give me a few minutes of your life.” If the prospect sees no potential value, why in the world would they want to needlessly give up minutes of their life? The first thing a salesperson says either catches the prospect’s interest or it doesn’t. Grab their interest instantly with a promising opening benefit statement.


How sales people love to share features—about them, their company and about their product or service. Most prospects are thinking, “So what!” The prospect only cares about how the salesperson’s offer can make their life better—that’s it! For every feature, the logic, there also had better be a benefit, the emotion. Otherwise your salespeople are just visiting for a cup of coffee rather than solving problems and selling.

Ask for it:

These are the three great words that will change the lives of any salesperson that is confident enough to use them. I continually wonder why so many salespeople are afraid to ask for the business. Could it be because they have not yet sold themselves? Could it be they are afraid of being pushy? Could it be that they don’t want to deal with the rejection of a prospect saying no?

The answer to the above three questions is a resounding, yes. Challenge your salespeople to a day of presenting in front of each other. Have them do at least two presentations in a day.  And, if you want it to be really powerful—have all your salespeople complete feedback forms on each other.

The PARTNERS Selling Model (1035 words)

Partner Selling is simply helping others to buy. Partner Selling is caring enough about your prospect to see the world from their view.Partner Selling is expending the additional effort to understand the pain your prospects are experiencing and helping them to see, understand, or experience how your product or service will easily alleviate their current pain.

Your prospects, like everyone else, are in some kind of pain. Your job is to uncover their pain. Understand how your product or service will solve their pain. Then translate the product or service features into benefits in such a way that your prospect will absolutely understand how accepting your offer will relieve their pain and make their life better.

The PARTNERS model for selling success:


You must uncover, understand, and translate the pain your customer is experiencing. This is the first and most important aspect of selling. Without this knowledge, you might as well try to play basketball in a light-less gymnasium. To move your customer to a buying decision, you must have a strong understanding of their core issues—this is generally from where their pain emanates. Better than pushing a product or service on others; have a vision of how your product or service will solve the pain of your prospects and make their life better.


Access your customer’s attention. This is done with a powerful opening statement. “May I help you?” is not a powerful opening statement. You want to break their preoccupation barrier, hook their attention and make it clear to your prospect that you have something of value to offer. To access the real, or hidden, need of your prospect, you must get them talking. And, you must focus on active listening. If you are trying to convert someone away from their current supplier, try asking the following two questions. Ask, “What is it you find helpful about Company X?” Get them talking. When they are relaxed and chatting about how wonderful their current supplier is, make the transition. Ask, “Is there any area where Company X could improve?” If they answer your second question, listen carefully—you just struck gold!


You, your offer, your product or service must be relevant to the needs of your customer. Too often, I have observed sales people acting like a “Features Jockey” where they spend so much time trying to impress their prospect with their product knowledge that the prospect doesn’t have the time or energy to buy. Too much information can be like trying to catch a little breeze in a blasting wind tunnel. Do not make the mistake of blowing your prospect over with a blast of information when they only need and want a little buying push. If you did well in accessing the real situation, making it relevant should be a breeze.


Translate features into benefits. You cannot leave it to chance that your prospects will figure out for themselves how your offer will make their lives better. Tell them! They must clearly understand how your product or service can end their pain. Do the work—take the time to be clear yourself on how your product or service helps your customers. Ask satisfied customers themselves and then use their stories. Force your sales manager, VP of sales or anyone else at your company to tell you more about how you help people or organizations. The more you learn about how your offer helps people, the more you can share.


Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is the cutting edge science of sales psychology. It is the connection between neurological processes (‘neuro’), language (‘linguistic’) and behavioral patterns that have been learned through experience (‘programming’) and that can be organized to achieve specific goals. This skill is important to your success. Use it to communicate with your prospect in a style that will foster instant rapport. NLP is the study of how the brain learns and through which strategies: auditory, visual and/or kinesthetic. The key is to have the ability to recognize the preferred learning strategy of your prospect and mirror that strategy in your communication. If you do this, your prospect’s brain basically says, “This person is like me. I like me. I like this person.” The result will be a stunning subliminal connection.


The emotional connection you create with your prospects is essential to success. Many of the ideas listed above will help you to develop an emotional connection. People buy from who they like and trust. Understand buyer acquisition motives and you’ll achieve this emotional connection. Never forget that people buy based on emotion and then use logic to justify their buying decision. Think back to one of your own impulse purchases. For some reason, you were drawn to make the purchase—that’s emotion. Then you came up with some kind of justification for the purchase—that’s logic. Use this to help your prospects remove their pain.


Remove their objections. You can do this by using your NLP skills to anchor your prospects positive feelings towards how your offering will make their lives better. This is most effective when they finally reveal their smoke screen objectives. Usually, an objection is simply an indication that you attempted to close the sale before you demonstrated the overwhelming value they will receive in doing business with you. You just need to better demonstrate how your product or service will remove the pain they are currently enduring. If you’ve already done all the other necessary elements, this should be a very small part of the selling process. If you get stuck here, go back to the two questions I suggested you ask in the Access paragraph.


Always focus on solving pain—be the solution rather than the problem. This focus will keep you on task. Throughout the PARTNERSmodel, you are simply moving closer to pain extraction. Do this by skillfully helping them to understand just how easily they can have a better life by using your product or service. Generally, if you have done your selling job correctly, you do not need tricky closes. The close is the natural progression of the relationship building that you have achieved in helping your prospect. Pain extraction equals plentiful sales.