Archive for the ‘Customer Service’ Category

When a Smile Is Your Umbrella, You Get a Lot More Than a Mouthful of Rain

December 27, 2010

I was reading a post on LinkedIn that discussed the value of a smile to closing more deals. I found it interesting.

It is surprising how a smile can change someone’s day for the positive– and certainly help in closing a deal. Of course, we are talking about a genuine smile, one that shows compassion, caring, and a genuine love for what you are doing. Sad to say it, but I’m sure we have all encountered those people who smile and look like the “The Joker” because they really are not showing enjoyment for what they do.

Heck, you only live once so enjoy it. In reality, what do we do during the day that is so awful anyway? OK, so I’m not going to be grinning ear to ear when I am paying my taxes, but so many people get so grumpy when it is time for them to talk to people about what they do or try to sell their product or service. Smile when talking to clients and prospects…and not just in person but on the phone too. Enjoy it!

Yes, I run a sales management company so I may like sales more than the average person, but what can be more fun than getting to talk to people about a problem they have and how you can help to solve it? I get so excited when I see how something I was able to do made my client’s business better or at least alleviate some stress they were having. Who wouldn’t feel great about that?

A Question of Business Ethics

December 19, 2010

I was reading a LinkedIn question about business ethics recently and wanted to share with all of you my thoughts on the subject. While the question of ethics in business is not new, I feel that it is an issue that not only will not go away anytime soon, but will play an even larger role in how businesses are run in the next decade as we continue through economic recovery, and as our society seems to come more and more from a position of “entitlement” vs. “work hard, do the right thing, and you will be rewarded by a job well done.”

I believe the measure of a man is what he does when nobody is watching.

I used to work for a company whose definition of business ethics was “If what you did today was the cover story of your hometown newspaper, would you be proud or embarrassed by it?”

Interesting thought, and one that I took very seriously. Sure we all will do dumb things from time to time, but I would think about what my grandmother (who turned 91 recently) would think if she read what I did. Would she know that I, at the very least, tried my best, or would she be thinking that no daughter of hers raised a kid like that? Another friend of mine, Will Webb from Dupree & Webbin Raleigh, stated it this way “When I come home at night, my wife and my little girl will ask me how my day was. I always want to be proud to tell them about my day…every day.”

Unfortunately, posing a question like that is open to a certain amount of interpretation as I learned quickly that different people read different newspapers in the morning. Some read the Chicago Tribune, others the Wall Street Journal. Sadly, still others read the Enquirer.

What are your thoughts on business ethics, and to what level? I was talking to a client yesterday about an issue they were having with a client of theirs who said that they don’t meet with him enough. What he was really saying was that they didn’t take him out to dinner enough. I learned early on that in sales if someone does business with you because you took them to a $50 lunch, someone else will come along and take them to a $100 dinner and take the business from you. However, for some, the business dinner—or at this time of year the holiday gift—is how they develop relationships with their vendors. Where do you draw the line?

I never seemed to do well with the guy who wanted the fancy dinner or to go out to a bar on a Thursday night. Most of my clients are people who, at the end of the day, wanted to go home to their families, so it was pretty easy to find a line to draw. If you interviewed all of the people I have ever done business with, I don’t think you would find one that did business with me because of a fancy dinner I took them out to, although several would probably tell you that it was getting to know each other over lunch that gave them the comfort level to know that I had their best interest at heart.

 

Integrating Your Sales and Marketing Efforts for the Best Results

October 30, 2010

In a recent post wrote I spoke of how it’s getting to be that time of year when smart salespeople are trying to meet their annual quota, as well as building and strengthening relationships during the holiday season, and clients are working on their budgets. As I wrote that article, I was reminded of a conversation we at Randolph Sterling once had with a client. We mentioned to them that, based on the trial program we were running, if they were to invest $150,000 in our solution, we could pretty much guarantee an additional $2-3 million in sales. It is a great return on investment, however they had to determine if they had the $150,000 to invest, and, if so, would they be willing to invest it on this solution or someplace else.

Many of us right now are struggling with similar questions. For example, this October, we at Randolph Sterling, where we have strong sales culture, were left seriously contemplating how much of our 2011 budget we should allocate towards our marketing efforts and how we should divide our marketing budget amongst the different tools we implement, whether they be our email marketing campaign, our blog (which you’re reading now), our various social media efforts, including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, or any number of other more traditional efforts. (Thank you Gini for your excellent video blogs on these topics).

However, we often see that many clients, whether due to their culture, or for some other reasons, believe they have to choose between sales (going out to look for customers) or marketing (drawing customers to them). Both are incredibly valuable, but unfortunately, it seems that too many companies focus on one over the other rather than developing a strong integrated plan. Here’s an example.

The marketing-focused company sends out a very nice post card to targeted prospects and hopes that they decide to call to use their services. The sales-focused company cold calls those same targeted prospects. Both get decent results, but the company who integrates the two by sending out the well thought out postcard and then has their sales team follow up on it by calling those targeted contacts most likely gets a better result than the other two because (in theory anyway) the guy who responds to the marketing effort follows the call to action on the postcard and calls the company that sent it, while the guy who responds to the sales effort doesn’t remember the postcard but returns the voicemail the salesperson left. However, a third group of people emerges who got the postcard and had a level of interest, but not enough to actually call themselves. They receive the follow up call and feel a little more familiar with the company because they remember seeing the logo from the postcard as the salesperson talks to them. Those that implement both sales and marketing efforts (again, in theory anyway) therefore are likely to get responses from all three groups.

With this said, it is important to point out that many people who went into marketing did not go into marketing to be salespeople, many people who went into sales did not go into sales to do marketing, and many people when starting their business had no real desire to do either, even though, oftentimes, both are required for the best results. So, where do you go from here?

The first answer that comes to mind is you can do it on your own. You can do it yourself. Someone else at your company can do it. Or you can bring in an additional person or two to fill these roles in-house. To once more use ourselves as an example, we are a sales solutions company, but we have an in-house Social Media Director, Daniel Nuccio, who handles our email marketing campaigns and manages our blog and social media accounts, while we maintain close relationships with marketing companies with many different specialties to help us and our clients with other tasks (more on this later).

However, you may not feel comfortable filling these roles yourself. Or you may believe that the time of you and your employees would be better spent elsewhere. And you may find that bringing on one or two new people may be too costly.

So, then what? You bring in an outside team or two. At Randolph Sterling, we offer a number of outsourced sales services for both short term and long term sales solutions. And, for your marketing needs, we at Randolph Sterling have partnered with a number of marketing firms with different areas of expertise so that we can better offer a full solution to our clients.

Using Your Time to Your Advantage

September 20, 2010

This past March I ran into my friend Jim down in Virginia Beach where he and his fiancé Sue were running a half marathon. This was the second time that I met up with Jim at a race (the first being the day he actually met Sue), however, I have always been content with grabbing a beer with him after a run. Sure, I play softball, basketball, and bike ride, but I never considered myself much of a runner.

Jim inspired me to start running, so since about the end of March, I have been running every other day, usually 3-4 miles or so. When the weather got hot, I figured it best to do this run at 6:00 AM when it was still cool, rather than 6:00 PM when it was still very hot. This became somewhat of my morning commute (I also walk for about a half hour on the “non-running” days.) It has become a great time for me to collect my thoughts, plan my day, and think about clients and how we can help them before getting into the regular daily grind of the workday.

Let’s face it, once the day starts, it is run, run, run, and not many of us have the time to really look at the bigger picture. As much as we want to take the time to find the inspiration to do that next great thing, the phone starts ringing, or you check your email to find 100 messages waiting for you. Next thing you know you are in your first meeting of the day and the day becomes more of a list of transactional activities rather than a study of ideas to make the world better. At some point you grab some lunch and say “Darn, it is only Monday,” “TGIF!” or something in between as you flash for a second to a time when you thought you’d be doing something more inspirational at work.

Many sales teams we see are exactly like this. The “what have you done for me lately” attitude leaves them going from transaction to transaction instead of building long term relationships. When was the last time you sat back and thought about something you could do for a client…maybe refer them to someone, research an article you think they would find interesting, or come up with an idea that will make their life easier even if it doesn’t put a dime in your pocket. We all want to do these things. We all see the value of doing them and growing a stronger relationship, but many times we just don’t have the time to think about them.

I urge you all this month to take that “in between’ time, the time in between your front door and your office door, the time in between your desk to the restaurant for lunch, or the time in between the end of the day and coming home to your family to allow yourself to think of the bigger picture both for your clients and for yourself…to find your inspiration.

Where Have You Gone, Customer Service? Our Nation Turns Its Lonely Eyes to You.

September 30, 2009

Paraphrasing a famous Simon and Garfunkel tune aside, I really would like to know where good customer service has gone?

We spend so much time trying to find new and innovative ways to find new customers, from coupons to rewards programs to tweeting on Twitter (which still makes me feel like a fell into a cartoon and somehow am going to have a puddy tat chasing me!) to updating websites to yes, even blogs like this one here, but it seems that we are losing the basic fundamentals that show us it is easier to keep a loyal customer than to find a new one. I had a few occurrences of this a recent week’s trip to our Raleigh, NC office.

I am a frequent flier on American Airlines. Not because they have the best customer service in the world (they are OK; personally what I think is wrong with the airline industry is a story among itself) but because they fly to most of the places I do so I can at least rack up enough frequent flier miles to be able to insure my bag makes it on the same plane I do and I have a shot at an exit row seat. On this particular occasion, my travel agent waited too long to book my trip, so they put me on a United flight instead because they could no longer get me the agreed upon price on American. That was strike one.

Strike two came when I started to deal with the wonderful customer service at United. First, it was the cattle call they call boarding the plane. I was in group 3 so I am somewhat patiently waiting as they start to board the flight. They call for first class passengers first followed by group 1. Half of the people at the gate get up and start storming the doorway to get in. Person after person walking past me with big 4’s and 5’s stamped on their tickets, however the gate agent is just checking in one after the other. What happened to following the rules? Wouldn’t a gate agent following the rules have made this a more efficient boarding process?

Next, I actually get on the flight. Because of the tardiness in which my travel agent booked the flight, I have the very enviable middle seat. No really, if you want a really good workout, sit in the middle seat between two people who think it is their right to own the arm rests. It is especially fun when you use this time to write blog articles, I can assure you. I did notice, however, that while we are all packed like sardines back here, there are several seats open in the exit rows and forward. I’m thinking—great, if they are open, I will just move up there and give these rejects from the old Stallone movie “Over The Top” all the room they need. A gentleman sitting behind me who was in the same situation thought the same thing, so he asked the flight attendant if it was OK to move. Her response? “No sir, you may not move there. Those are economy plus seats and are reserved for our customers who are willing to pay more for comfort.”

Are you kidding me? First of all, way to insult us by implying that we are too cheap to fork over an additional $35 to not have the guy in front of us sitting in our lap, but why wouldn’t you want to move someone into that seat? The door was closed so he wouldn’t have been taking anyone else’s seat and maybe he would have enjoyed the additional legroom and would have asked for economy plus in the future. What would it have hurt?

Sadly, however, that was not the most ridiculous part of my trip. That came as I attempted to rent a car. I am a corporate customer and a Blue Chip member with Thrifty Car Rental, however the last three times I have tried to rent from Thrifty they did not have any cars. A rental car company that has no cars? At the airport no less? That is like going to a beach, walking into a seafood restaurant and them telling you that they don’t have any seafood left. Each time this happened I tried to talk to someone in customer service and each time I was simply told there was nothing they could do to help me. Too bad buddy, you are out of luck, we just don’t have cars. I guess you had better walk.

My Raleigh office is not too far from the airport, nor is the Chicago office too far from O’Hare, but not exactly walking distance. Maybe I should take up running. If I get really good, I can run from Chicago to Raleigh and won’t have to deal with the airlines or the car rental guys again.

Please feel free to share your own travel  nightmares below or take our poll on the worst parts of traveling.