Steve Ferrante's High Performance Blog for Sales/Customer Service/Leadership Champs and Progressive Professionals!

Hello & Happy Halloween Pinnacle Performance Champions,

Here’s some real Halloween inspiration from Josh Sundquist..

 

Make a Great Day!

Steve

There’s this popular quote, “If you’re the smartest person in the room you’re in the wrong room”. This quote has always struck a nerve with me. More on that shortly. First, a brief (remarkably relevant) story..

About a year or so ago, I was speaking with a business owner who had just decided to hire me to train his sales and service team. His primary reason for hiring me had nothing really to do with anything I had done or said personally, we had never met in person and had only spoken on the phone once. Instead, his reason for hiring me was something another client had said about me to him. “He said you’re crazy smart and had a really positive impact on his whole team”. “Crazy smart”, those were his exact words. Sounds like an oxymoron to me and, besides, being a New Englander with Bostonian DNA, I prefer Wicked Smaaht.

At that time, I didn’t say much of anything other than “great” or similar as we proceeded to formalize our training plans. But that label.. it stuck with me. I knew where it came from but why? In my 12+ years as a trainer, I certainly don’t recall ever referring to myself as “Crazy Smart”. 

So please allow me to set the record straight..

I am far from smart, crazy or otherwise, on most things. So are you and all the people you know. Take carpentry for instance. I have a good friend who’s a fantastic carpenter. The kind of guy that didn’t have an addition built on his house so he could do it. And now it looks at least as good as the house!  By comparison, my smarts on carpentry are right around dummy level.  If I built an addition on your house it would, at best, be an abomination. 

Same goes for chemistry and agricultural. I’m not the best choice to mix your meds or tend to your crops. In fact, there’s a very long list of things that I really have no business in. And that’s the whole point.

Everybody is a Genius. But If You Judge a Fish by Its Ability to Climb a Tree, It Will Live Its Whole Life Believing that It is Stupid. – Albert Einstein

Being an expert at carpentry, chemistry or agricultural would do absolutely nothing to further my chosen profession as a sales/customer service/leadership trainer. Accordingly, I spend exactly no time on furthering my rather limited education on these subjects.

On the other hand, if you want to know about sales, customer service and/or leadership well now we’re talking! Business, customer engagement, human relations, creating a winning corporate culture? I’ll ace that test! After all, I’m a trainer/speaker/consultant on those subjects.

Be The Smartest Person In The Room?

Back to the quote; “If you’re the smartest person in the room you’re in the wrong room”.

What’s wrong with being the smartest person in any room? If you’re the dumbest person in the room, are you now in the right room? Actually, that thought is more aligned with the true meaning of the quote. If you’re the smartest person in the room, then you’re prohibiting your growth as you can’t learn anything (that you don’t already know) to further your development.  That makes sense.

As an example, if you’re the President of the United States, it would not be most advantageous, and potentially dangerous, to be the smartest person in the room. Accordingly, the President has a Cabinet with the Vice President and the heads of 15 executive departments including  Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security, to name a few. The Cabinet’s role is to advise the President on any subject he may require relating to the duties of each member’s respective office. With that vital appointment, Cabinet members should certainly be the ‘smartest person in the room’ as they are relied upon as the President’s go-to source for expertise in their department. With the health of the country at stake, it makes perfect sense that the ‘smartest’ people are appointed to the President’s cabinet.

The same goes for corporations. Successful CEO’s recognize they can’t do it all and need to hire and surround themselves with the best and brightest people in each department to effectively grow the business. Conversely, many small businesses fail when the CEO takes on too much themselves and/or fails to hire the best people.

However, imagine being sick and not having the smartest doctor in the room treating you? Or a lawyer who’s not sure  what to do about your legal matter until he speaks with a smarter attorney than himself. In both cases, you would want to deal with that smartest person directly. Be that smartest person.

Napoleon’s “Specialized Knowledge”

Successful people, in all callings, never stop acquiring specialized knowledge related to their major purpose, business, or profession. — Napoleon Hill

I wholeheartedly agree with the Napoleon Hill’s principle of “Specialized Knowledge”.  Napoleon asserted that knowledge is not power, it is only potential power. It only becomes power when, and if, it is organized into a definite plan of action, and directed towards a purpose.

In simple terms, if you want to succeed at anything than you don’t need to know everything. Only what is necessary to succeed at your “major purpose” truly matters. 

As I wrote in The Truth about “Born Salesman”, top performers don’t rely on fate/destiny, they decide and commit to being a student of their profession, learning all they can and working to master their craft over time.

So I absolutely agree and totally disagree with the quote, depending on the position it’s based on. If you’re a sales and service professional seeking peak performance (and all the rewards that comes with), you should certainly strive to be ‘the smartest person in the room’, not only an expert in your business/industry/products but also a master at your craft (selling and customer service).

Steve

pinnacleperformancetraining.biz

If you’re familiar with my Pinnacle Performance Training or have been reading my columns in Tire Review over the past few years than you know my focus is on success and creating the winning sales, customer service and workplace culture that differentiates and elevates businesses above and beyond its competitors.

In this article, I’m literally flipping that on its head and taking an opposing view of many of these proven success principles. Since 80% of all businesses are not performing at the level of the top 20%, its logical to assume that most businesses are closer to these positions than the minority that are succeeding at the highest level.

With that, here are six proven ways to lose customers and damage your business:

Don’t Prepare

When Ben Franklin said “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” he was clearly misinformed.  You’ve been getting by all these years without proper preparation so why start now? Sure, your sales and service people “wing it” in their customer interactions and you’re no doubt losing sales to well-prepared competitors but that’s okay. It’s the way we roll around here; we’re born to be wild!

Besides, all that ‘preparation’ stuff takes time and time is in short supply around here. We may not have the time to properly prepare and do it right at the moment, yet we always seem to find the time to fix it later.

Focus on sales, not service

Business is really all about the numbers. All this mumbo jumbo about customers and enhancing their experience to create sales and loyalty to the brand is just a fad. What your business needs is sales today, not customers tomorrow!

You’re  also going to want to spend that marketing budget on advertising to drive more traffic in. Why invest in your existing customers’ experiences (to build loyalty, generate referrals and reap long-term gains) when you can spend much more money on advertising to attract new customers and make a few sales today? 

It’s probably a good idea to have a sales meeting and yell at the team for poor production. “Close more deals!” That should help. Better yet, you should hire a consulting firm to train your sales team to be more aggressive and pushy to sell more prospects. After all, making sales today is more important than building customer relationships for tomorrow, plus all that pesky repeat business and new business referrals it can create.

Focus on price, not value

Focusing on value means delivering more for customers money than your competition does. Consumer research confirms that, when a customer perceives additional value, they are willing to pay more for a business’s products and/or services.

The primary driver of a customers’ perception of value is the quality of the service provided them. To lose customers and damage your business you should absolutely avoid improving the quality of service to increase perceived value altogether. Instead, focus on coupons and aggressive discounting. People love coupons and discounts! As long as sales are coming in, who needs profits?

Since most shoppers consider products and services a commodity, and often want the cheapest available, you’ll also want to make sure your sales staff doesn’t communicate the value of your offerings. And, by all means, do away with any value-added services you may be offering. That will only enhance the customers perception of value and drive more profitable sales. Yuck. To fail effectively,  your sales staff should avoid value selling. Instead, discount early and often.

Fail To Deliver

There are a number of ways to fail to deliver and each one is proven to lose customers and damage your business!

Let’s start with quality work. Service businesses build their reputations on quality work, so you’ll want to stop doing any of that straight away. Of course, you should never ever do anything less than honest, but there are other ways to dramatically reduce quality. As an example, skip those post-sale quality assurance initiatives and you’ll be well positioned to have disgruntled customers come back to you with problems you missed and how they’ll gladly take their business to a competitor next time.

Customers value service providers that are responsive and proactive to their needs so, presto. Just flip that around and be unresponsive and reactive. If your business has the customer waiting while you’re performing their service, don’t provide any progress updates. Let the customer get up and come to the counter. If they’re not in-house, let them call you – ideally several times – to check on their service status.

No doubt you’re familiar with the popular phrase “under-promise and over-deliver”. This is another easy role reversal to now “over-promise and under-deliver”.

Here’s a great little gem of an actual account from a tire business that did a masterful job at this:

A customer walks up to the counter and asks how long it’s going to be to have their new tires installed. The employee responds, “We’ll have you in and out in about a half hour.” Customer replies, “Great, I’ll wait then,” and goes and sits in waiting area.

A half hour later, her vehicle is still parked in the lot with absolutely no explanation from any store employee. Another customer walks in and the first customer overhears the same empty “we’ll have you in and out in about a half hour” pledge. As soon as the second customer sits down in the waiting area, the first customer says, “They’re lying; I’ve been here over a half hour already and they haven’t even taken my car in yet.”

Later, that same customer posts a negative review on the Internet making a case that the entire business is dishonest. Not only will she never come back, but now she also told all of her friends and co-workers not to do business there. One incident of failing to deliver as promised has now produced dozens of potential customers lost. 

Be Inconsistent

When customers can count on consistently great service each time they do business with you, their confidence increases and they are far less likely to shop around for their service needs. However, when the customer’s experience is inconsistent – exceptional one visit and so-so or poor the next – his or her confidence is compromised and (as influenced by the perceived risk) they are far more likely to consider competing alternatives.

A consistent customer experience builds consumer confidence and strengthens a company’s brand, but where’s the fun in that? Be spontaneous and mix it up a bit instead. All those successful service businesses, hotels, restaurant chains and franchises with their fancy systems and processes, boring! Be hit or miss and send a clear message to customers that they likely will not receive the same level of service in the future. That should do wonders when it comes to losing customers and damaging your business!

Be Unremarkable

Consumer research has shown that approximately seven out of 10 customers leave a business because of indifference. They feel like “just another transaction” and have no emotional engagement with the business.

As your potential customers shop around with very little to distinguish one business from the next, they naturally default to the cheapest price for the product or service they’re seeking. Losing on price or discounting is perhaps the single biggest consequence businesses suffer for being unremarkable.

Of course, in sticking with our “losing customers and damaging your business” theme, you’ll want to follow the crowd, play it safe, stick to the norm and deliver ordinary, unremarkable customer experiences. Any remarkable efforts will only foster customer engagement and rave referrals, creating loyal customers and even more business.

And who needs that?

Steve 🙂

Also on LinkedIn @ How To Fail In Your Business

After nearly 150 years (146 to be exact) Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus “The Greatest Show on Earth” is coming to an end this week! Sad but true. The thoughtful article below was written by Brad Deutser, president of Deutser LLC, a consulting firm that advises leaders and organizations about achieving clarity, especially in times of transition, growth or crisis. He previously worked for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

Ringling Bros Circus: The End of an Era

From ring to ring, you have entertained. From generation to generation, you have brought families together. You have invited us in to witness and be a part of the Greatest Show on Earth.

But, you have also become one of America’s great tragedies. After nearly a century and a half in business, doing what you do best, you will vacate your place in the entertainment space. There will be other circuses. But, there will never be another Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus. You have never wavered from your roots – your history, your way of working and promoting, and your way of entertaining. Until, recently. Pressures to change practices. Pressures to change acts. Pressures to conform to current ways.

Most people are unaware of the extent you cared for animals. Most are unaware of the brilliant business model to get people in the door to experience the circus and buy memorabilia and merchandise. Most are unaware that Ringling Bros. was the entry point for so many to begin their careers in show business. It was a gateway for many around the world to explore, to share culture, and to provide smiles. It was so much to so many.

In many ways, it was part of the American way. I remember the excitement when the train stopped in a city. I remember the authentic joy the clowns brought as the elephants paraded down the streets to the arena. I remember the genuine love of the circus by its performers behind the scenes and in the rings. I remember the sweat on the brow before each show and the smiles that filled the stands.

So it begs the question: Why did Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey fail? Or did we fail it?

I have struggled to explain how we allow our American icons to disappear. For what? Better, more wholesome family entertainment? Why did the business environment change so rapidly? Or did it?  Was it lack of strategic foresight? Was it changing societal norms? Were there simply better options? Or did we take it for granted that what was once here will always be here?

This was an icon that navigated the generations. It circumvented challenges over nearly 15 decades. Somehow it remained relevant year after year, until now. But why? To some, Ringling gave up its core values and become something different when it removed elephants from its show. To others, no matter the advances or new innovations, it was still the circus that you only needed to see once. To others, it was a lumbering icon that couldn’t change quickly enough to keep up with the pace of technology and today’s entertainment. And, to others, it was simply taken for granted that it would always be there for us, like it had been for the previous 146 years.

Perhaps, this is less Ringling Bros. giving up or giving in and more a statement of the America we live in today. We gravitate to sexy headlines. We are intrigued more by the glitz and less by the substance. We place stereotypes on things that we are reluctant to ever modify. We expose our youth more to what is ahead and much less to what is now. Reality works best when there is controversy or big names. But, that has never been the circus’ way.  Theirs was a way of basic, good old-fashioned American values.

This ending of an era sends a message to all of us.  It reminds us that relevance is fleeting.  It reminds us, as parents and grandparents, that we must find new forms of entertainment to bring our families together. It reminds us to hold on to what is important to each of us – whether it is the circus or something else. At its core, this is about family values – and working fiercely to protect them – in whatever way is most appropriate to today’s family.

The circus that convened families, generations and communities is soon to be no longer here. For many it has been replaced by the bright lights of the computer screen and video games as well as the solitude it brings. We may not be able to recreate the greatest show on earth, but we can recreate the environment and the magic that it was to families who came together to celebrate the goodness and wholesomeness it represented.

There will be many questions. What really happened to end this era? What will become of the animals for whom Ringling provided such genuine and remarkable care? What will happen to the children who no longer have the greatest show on earth?

There will be answers. But, unfortunately, not the same answers our parents had for us.

Ringling Bros., RIP.

“Kites rise highest against the wind, not with it.” – Winston S. Churchill

Overcoming adversity is one of the true measures of a persons character and of success itself. If you have not endured adversity and have somehow taken the perfect path to success than good for you. And potentially bad for you too. When challenges and obstacles block your path will you have the resiliency, grit and determination to overcome them and succeed? 

Overcoming adversity is an essential trait of a ‘Pinnacle Performer’ and key differentiator from the average person who’s progress and success potential is hindered (and often halted) by adversity.

And with that I bring you one of the most powerful examples of overcoming adversity I have ever seen.  14-year old, Lorelei Mosnegutu, was born with no arms and abandoned as a baby. As you’ll see (and hear) in the video below from Romania’s Got Talent that certainly did not stop her from succeeding.

I hope Lorelei’s performance (and the judges comments) helps you put your own challenges in perspective and inspires you to overcome the adversity you face (or are facing) on your path to success!

Make a Great Day!

Steve

Never Forget > Lauren Hill

In the article,Customer Satisfaction Doesn’t Count,” the Gallup Organization stated that “if you do not make an emotional connection with customers, then satisfaction is worthless.” Their research proved that customers do not buy strictly for rational reasons and that, from a results standpoint, it is much more important to engage customers on an emotional level. 

The fact is no one remembers an ordinary transaction and they certainly don’t share them with their family and friends. They do remember extraordinary interactions and experiences. In this sense, creating a positive memory is the ultimate emotional connection!

We’ve all been there..

You’re at a restaurant with your family and/or friends. You just finished dinner and order dessert and perhaps a coffee. Then you wait and, sure enough, 10 or so minutes later your dessert arrives. Nothing special or particularly memorable about that. Enter the fine folks at Skullmapping..

From their website: 

At Skullmapping we create projection mapping projects, VR experiences and holograms. Our passion is to develop stories and present them in a new way, in order to surprise our audience. We love to experiment with the latest technology, and push beyond what has been done before.

And so now you’re in a delightfully different restaurant waiting for dessert and this happens..

I bet you and your family and/or friends would remember that!

While you may not have the capability to utilize virtual reality in your business as spectacularly demonstrated here, the concept is the same. To stand out and above your competition, you must strive to create positively memorable experiences for your customers!

the-best-customer-experiences-are-positively-memorable 

Make a Great Day!

Steve 

Want to create true emotional engagement and positively memorable experiences for your customers? I can absolutely help you! For details and contact info click-on > Sale Away LLC.

tom-brady-independence-day

In case you missed it, yesterday New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady became the NFL’s all-time winningest quarterback following the team’s 26-10 victory over the Los Angeles Rams at Gillette Stadium.

Now at 201 career wins, Brady is alone at the top breaking a tie with Peyton Manning for win No. 201.

Of course, this would be a monumental accomplishment for any quarterback but for the 199th pick of the 2000 NFL draft.. absolutely astounding.

Do Not Say Anything Cannot Be Done When There Is Tom Brady

As I wrote about in 4 Success Lessons from the Champion New England Patriots, Tom Brady prepares to win every game with a total commitment and an obsessive attention to detail.

“I’m grateful for all of my teammates and my coaches and for my family and friends,” Brady said. “There’s been a lot of great football over the years, so it’s always been about winning and I’ve been very fortunate to be on a lot of great teams. I just feel very grateful.”

At the end of the day, for Tom Brady it’s all about winning and doing what it takes to succeed at a high level.  

His results speak for themselves..

Congratulations to Tom Brady, a true Pinnacle Performer.

Steve 🙂

5-ws-of-service

Any sports coach worth his whistle will tell you that you must first learn, practice, and master the fundamentals if you’re going to be truly great in your sport.

That same philosophy is true of your business: your sales and service team needs to learn, practice, and master the fundamentals of customer service if you’re going to have a truly great service business.

Continuing the sports analogy, many businesses are playing without a good grasp of these fundamentals. They hope to win the game, but are not familiar with the playing field.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the fundamentals of customer service by answering the essential “Five W” questions.

Read the entire article here > The Five W’s of Customer Service

Defying The Odds To Succeed

A big part of achieving success is overcoming the challenges and obstacles encountered along the way.

With average or poor performers these challenges and obstacles usually hinder progress and limit success. For high-achievers, challenges and obstacles are anticipated and met head on.

High achievers understand that either the obstacle wins or you do and prepare both mentally (commitment, discipline, accountability) and physically (practice, behaviors, execution) to breakthrough and succeed. 

Either The Obstacle Wins or You Do

With that in mind, have a look and listen at the great little music video below from the band X Ambassador for their hit song “Renegades”. The video showcases an amazing group of disabled athletes and daredevils defying the odds and doing things average people do not–including the band’s keyboard player Casey Harris, who happens to be blind as well.

 

Make a Great Day!

Steve 🙂

Need More Inspiration? Check-Out Nothing Is Impossible

no fly zone

Not a very good morning here in New Orleans as I awoke to find that American Airlines cancelled my flight @ 10:50am and booked me on another flight @ 4:05pm.

Being a frequent flier, I understand these things happen and surely the airline had no malicious intent rescheduling me to another flight that would have me getting in some 6 hours later than originally planned.

Having been on the road all week and not wanting to miss another full day from the family, I took it upon myself to search flights and see if there was something that would have me home a little earlier.

The best I could find was a flight departing at 1pm, connecting in Charlotte, and arriving in Boston at 8pm. Although my flight out was from Manchester NH, some 50 miles away from Boston, and my vehicle is there, I thought this would be a better option than getting in at 10:30pm as they had re-booked me. So I called American Airlines customer service..

Enter AJ, customer service support extraordinaire. Or so I hoped. Initially, AJ was quite pleasant assuring me he understood my situation and would “do whatever it takes” to take care of this for me.

All it was going to take is a $200 change fee to re-route me to Boston from Manchester. I explained again that the original cancellation was not something I did, but rather they did to me, and that re-routing to Boston was actually adding to my inconvenience as I would need to be picked up and then have to retrieve my vehicle 50 miles away.

Suddenly, AJ transformed from “do whatever it takes” to “that’s the best I can do”, saying that “policy” restricted him from making the flight change without collecting the $200 change fee.

It’s worth noting that I am an American Airlines Rewards Member. Although AJ had my flight record with rewards member identification, this never came up in our communication and nothing resembling ‘rewards member’ consideration was given.

This is great example of how a business can let a policy get in the way and prevent taking care of the customer – in this case, me.

AJ’s transformation from customer advocate to customer assassin was a clear case of lack of empowerment. Ultimately, he was handcuffed by a corporate policy that prohibited him from doing the single most important aspect of his customer support job.. ensuring the customer receives proper service recovery for his or her  situation.

Sadly, this is not my first incident of customer disservice with American Airlines > Customer Disservice Lesson From American Airlines Seat 36F

Steve

 

 

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