Greatness.. Leaves a Legacy

Greatness.. Leaves a Legacy

Today one of the greatest and most inspiring men of our history passed. Zig Ziglar at the 86 went home.  His Legacy of inspiring books nd quotes will live forever thanks to technology such as the internet. The lives he changed by reminding us all that the choice of greatness is ours and that God has already given us all the tools to reach our greatness, we just have to start, will be part of his legacy forever.

As he leaves us today it is now time that we all stand up and take Zig’s lead and inspire those around us, by showing an example of using positive attitude, Stubborn Persistence and unyielding compassion daily in our lives.

Zig Ziglar… A gift to our generation from God… His Legacy is now our responsibility.

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Gain Market Share is 2012 — Focus on Service

Customer services

Image by gordon2208 via Flickr

I was reminded again tonight of the importance of customer service as my wife and I experienced absolutely unacceptable service at a local Chili’s restaurant. It has me thinking…. Why in today’s world of social media, blogs and 24 hour news have companies continued to accept poor performance in the field of customer service?

I know that there are places that I choose to experience poor customer service in sacrifice for lower price… (WalMart) however even there I believe the company has failed in recognizing how much share of income they are missing from me because I refuse to go them for items that have any value beyond feeding my face and which toothpaste I choose to use.

So not to completely destroy a chain such as Chilli’s, which until this last year I was a very Frequent visitor, lets be honest employees as a whole have really lost the meaning of service in a large quantity around our country. I remember  8 years ago my family moved to the Midwest for a stint and people would say oh your going to love the Friendliness and service of people in the Midwest , sorry but just seldom saw the service that was worth raving about to my friends.

My wife and I had a good laugh tonight as we discussed years of Mystery Shopping we have done across the US and how we just can’t believe that our standards of service have gotten tougher.  What level customer service is acceptable in todays world?

I would argue that it is the most important factor in your success as a business. As a matter of fact I would argue that if you want to gain market share in  2012 make it your #1 focus. Bring back the Mystery Shopper, Bring Back consequence to poor performance and demand nothing but your employees best when it comes to courteous, friendly over the top service.

Evaluate current staff and don’t hesitate to take the upgrade now approach by ranking your team 1-10 if you must and either putting the bottom half in extensive pass or fail type training so that they understand that in order to keep their job that this one rule is unbending, or find a replacement immediately.

Consultant your top customers and listen to them on last years service notes.  Evaluate if the methods of online survey are the right message to send to your clients? Take some time and call your top ten customers and ask personally what they would like to see improved in 2012. Stand out from the rest of your competitors by making them a priority. Want to know what to ask, how about this… Out of all the companies your do business with which has the best service? Who has the worst?  Where do I stand on that list? From their answers you should have a clear direction of where to go.

Be reasonable and logical when dealing with complaints… Ok here is where i generally piss off corporations. At dinner tonight when I complained about three day old bacon that tasted like jerky on my burger the waitess took my plate and I fully expected to have the manager show up at my table and say sorry and to give me a small discount, that seemed like common sense. However The next thing I know the waitress shows up with my bill and says they took the burger off my order. Now that is really nice right, but really… I ate the entire burger, just took the bacon off it.. just give me a $2.00 discount and come say sorry, maybe give me a coupon to come back next time and assure me you will do better because you want my business back.  If you work in retail I know that in the past 10-15 years you have heard from executives that you just don’t say no and do what ever makes the customer happy, well I fundamentally disagree. Use commonsense, if a customer try’s to return an item that is broken and they bought it 10 months ago and it looks like they ran over it with the car, you have the right to tell them no. Politely and with proper tact. If they try to return something that was not bought at your company, but swear it came from there, it is OK to lose that customer. Say No.  And when that customer goes online and rips you for being a bad company respond publicly on what ever forum they use in a polite and professional manner so the world can see who is the more responsible of parties.

Maybe I am getting off point here but the fact remains, using common sense and friendly communication will win even in today’s social media world. Become an active participant and refuse to allow your company to slither down the path of poor service and you have potential to gain market share this year.  In my market this year someone just gained 10 -12 family dinners from me because Chili’s probably lost out because of one really bad night of service.

Good Luck… Keep Smiling

 

A Common Misconception about expansion and sales expectations

The first car of Benz (1886), Mercedes Doppel-...

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This week I observed a sales company react to what for them is a very poor couple of weeks, and it got me thinking about expansion efforts of sales companies and common errors in judgement or expectations that seem to always raise their ugly head.

So without using company names or details let me set the stage and hope I can articulate what I feel are some common errors in expectations and judgement by Sales Managers and Company leaders.

The Stage: Your business has reached the point where your sales team has a full plate and growth of new business seems to be slowing dramatically. You decide to expand sales staff and help your company reach the next level.

How do you do it?

Action steps commonly seen:

Hire great people you believe are going to add or improve on your current teams sales ability. Pay them a competitive salary and then shake up the current territories or account lists so that new sales people has a base to start with and will feel they have hope to build a territory which pays them great commission and gives your current team room to breathe and grow again.

Sounds good right?

Well here is the problem I have seen with this very logical model:

We tend to use current production measurements to determine core success of all the team even during transition.  Meaning if the old team was producing XXY then the New Team should automatically produce XXYZ  and never should we see XX as a result.  You figure if I am going to ever go back to XX why would I ever expand my expenses and get less in sales.

As I watched this company respond this week to exactly that scenario It got me thinking about why we have seen sales fall when the sales team has expanded by 30% and the Industry is stable.

Then it hit me  the expansion process is much like driving a car. Have you ever wondered why a car can get 32mpg highway and only 26mpg City?  It is because the car is working at higher efficiency for longer periods of time on the highway.

The Sales team of Old was a well oiled machine cruising along at Highway speed, seldom needing a break and all the parts were working at inefficiency. Meaning every sales call made was getting top performance and resulting in better outcome from the sales person.

The New Sales team is just as talented but now they are held to the same expectations as the well oiled team and frustration arises. Why?

The old staff now has more time to prospect which will grow account base of the company. (Goal accomplished). The New Sales team has an established base and feels more secure with its job and future. (Goal accomplish).  So what is not working for you?  The timing of your expectations? Lack of employee buy in? Lack of talent? Laziness?

I believe this process breaks down because of expectations. I know when I ran my sales organizations that this was often something I struggled with, setting expectations that are based on a metric that did not fit any longer.

See in our current scenario; the expectation is that the sales talent, with 30% more people and increased prospecting time,  will be running at top efficiency right out of the gate and that sales metrics from the  past sales organization would do nothing but grow and improve.   But like our car which was driving at top speeds and efficiency on the highway  the old sales team is no longer traveling at a smooth pace and is now in a different environmental (city) the pace and inefficiencies have changed.

Old sales team members now are doing more prospecting, which means more thinking, learning,  processing and building of relationships, their days are not filled with eight hours of prime selling, instead they are broken up by traffic stops, like finding prospects to call, learning who to speak with , understanding connections, and teaching new people about themselves and the company. They are now driving in the city and are less efficient.   The new sales members have now taken a group of accounts which were used to being handled by a very efficient sales person to a person which is still learning how to drive making the sales process less confident and less productive.

Both these symptoms are short-term, but could take some time to work back to efficient times. Our expectations need to be adjusted and the metrics we measure success with in this time need to be set based on new standard of production. Simple controllable measurements based on a less efficient model, not a top performing model. You have to believe that with the proper tools and training that your new team will eventually pass your old production marks. In reality they will reach them about the same time you start thinking you need to expand again, When the hit make efficiency. We tend to forget the growing process that we went through to get to this point and the reality is that your sales even though they may be slower now are probably still well ahead of where you were the last time your sales team was in this new environment.

My advise, review your metric that you use for measuring success. Bring them back to basic such as number of calls made and presentations made to new customers versus sales relationship and close ratios on an intern basis. Make sure your company has  level of performance which is based on a level of activity that is moving the process forward even at a slower pace than before. Reinforce the efforts and teach the team again how to establish relationships, get referrals and work at an efficient pace in their new cars.

Leadership is a Verb…

John C. Maxwell, Author, Speaks to 4600 TN Con...

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I love the magazine Success. One of my favorite features is a monthly motivational/educational CD they include in each issue. This very unique feature is something I look forward to listening to each month. Today I had the pleasure of listening to an interview with John Maxwell, one of my favorite motivational speakers. He provided me with today’s topic… Leadership is a Verb not a noun.

How often in your life have heard some one say I am the Leader of XXXX. Like it is a position of possession, they own it, you want it, but I am not giving it to you attitude.  John shared today that leadership is an action that people choose to follow it is not a noun or position to be looked at, and admired. Leaders often struggle with this I would imagine in todays corporate structure. See in the late 90’s Leadership in our country began to change from the traditional do as I say because I am the leader corporate structure to a structure where people decided internally which leader they wanted to follow based on actions and convictions of that individual.

Leaders over the last decade had to adapt and change, from ones that simply dictated direction to leaders which actually shared knowledge, know how and motivation to get it done from the front of the line. Think about it, how did we get out first Black President, Obama is a natural leader whose vision and actions inspired a mass of people to not only come along side his movement but also develop their own leadership style and direction and helped build his movement in to the largest nationwide campaign trail most of us had ever seen.

My wife is a former English teacher, yes she is very critical of my writing style as well, and I know that she would have just loved the thought of leadership being taught as a verb.  Here short tenure as a teacher was under the direction of a “leader” which was more about the Noun than the Verb if you know what I mean.

I recently left a career of 17 years in Newspapers for very similar reasons, here is an industry filled with Leadership that has little action. When I left I decide to start my own business and follow the only leader I knew I wanted to trust at the time, me. ( www.1to1valet.com ) For newspapers survival they will hopefully find Leadership with action in the near future.

I was thinking today at what drove me out of the sales field and into management in that industry, it was the people who I worked with. They were the reason I thought being a manager was going to  make me a great leader, but I wonder if at times I forgot why they made me feel that way in the first place. I was just a hot-shot sales person for the first five years of my career, but I started to realize that my knowledge base and willingness to help others in the paper was making me very popular. I started to believe that I could be a better leader than my boss and started to really step out of line to develop my own voice in leadership.

The Key that I think most leaders miss there even if they are a leader of action is knowledge base. The willingness to share knowledge and develop future leaders.

John Maxwell is right, Leadership is a verb, it is a symptom of action, but action without knowledge is not leadership, it is foolishness.

If you are a leader and you are wondering where all the followers are going, look around for the person which is displaying confidence in actions and knowledge in the work force and you will identify the leader of the group.

How do you develop more leaders:

1) Become a person of action and start to lead your company from the front lines.

2) Share your knowledge, and empower others to lead the way.

3) Encourage group dynamics in the organization and let leaders develop in the  group.

4) Help team discover leadership qualities and styles they already posses

5) Step back and become a follower of strong leaders in your own organization, when it is called for. Let others knowledge base that is superior to yours not stop you from growing and learning.

Freedom of Fear

Training….

Today I finished a two week training session with two new college students joining our staff. Boy do I recall my first weeks in the Newspaper business, such a naive belief in myself.  As I sat at lunch today with one of the new sales people I recalled a story that probably represents my career and this blog fairly well.

I was in my sixth or seventh year in the newspaper, and at this point in my career I was probably considered by some extremely cocky. This was truly a symptom of the success I had been able to accomplish to this point. This Cockiness I carried at that point allowed me to push the boundaries without fear. Fear of failure, retribution or even being fired. As I look back that might be the most confident I have ever been in life, the freedom I felt and the since of being bullet proof to what the world could possibly do to my path made me very aggressive and free of boundaries. My manager at the time was new to our team and had ideas about change that needed to take place, I tried hard to learn his ways and found that I did find great levels of success. However I pushed the boundaries on an idea I had and did not ask permission, why would I since I had always been a leader in sales on the team. Needless to say he was not happy and began to try and put me in my place, unfortunately for him I had reached that place of freedom that allowed me to challenge his tactics. That could have been the end of my career in this industry if this employer had been fast to anger and quick to fire.  Lucky for me and hopefully my future employers, he was not, and instead we found a balance in that argument, where we could both be confident in the relationship moving forward. The point is I was very confident and the thought or fear of losing my employment allowed me to speak freely and honestly in the face of conflict.

The challenge I ponder today is how I help develop young people, sales staff and even my own boys, to that level of confidence. Not Cocky, but free from boundaries of fear. So much in life for me has changed over time. The world has landed several strong punches which seem to have shaken my path to life from time to time, but I still know that feeling.

Was that something that was taught to me? I had employers and supervisors that helped me find freedom in creation, I had teachers that believed in me and dared me to succeed, and my own family obviously gave me a foundation which made me feel confident in my place in the world. But what gave me the strength to stand up to fear? God? Wife? Family? Success?

This question might just be too hard to determine the right answer. I do hold strong to my faith that God will never give me more than I can handle, however I learned early in my faith to make sure your prayers don’t ask for an opportunity to be tested.  And how do I train faith?

I guess if I had to leave my sons with a few words of wisdom it would be these:

  1. Hold Strong to your faith and your values in life. – These foundations will feed you confidence when you need them most.
  2. Never allow the fear of Money to be your ruler. –  The fear of loss when it pertains to items in your possession and the fear of loss in employment have made the majority of the unhappy people in this world.
  3. Live your dream daily – It is one thing to set your goals and shoot for the stars but I would argue that the rocket scientist which built the rocket was having a blast just thinking of all the ways to get it done. Your employment can enrich your life if you allow it to be the tools and fuel which moves your dreams to reality.
  4. When in doubt go for it! –  remember our maker will never give you more than you can handle. You were made for greatness and only your choice to turn away might be stopping you from achieving it!
  5. Remember your favorite things and do them often.