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

The occasion of Thanksgiving gives us the opportunity to be thankful for what we have but being grateful should not be limited to the fourth Thursday in November.

From a business perspective, practicing an attitude of gratitude means letting customers know how much you value and appreciate their business.

Since starting Sale Away 13 years ago this month, I have asked literally thousands of sales and customer service associates in many dozens of businesses all over North America if they appreciate their customers and, predictably, I always receive the same response; “Of course we do!” Then I ask them the real question… How do your customers know?

The sad reality is quite often customers really don’t know or, more importantly, feel appreciated. Often, employees assume customers know they’re appreciated because they regularly thank them at the end of a given interaction. That’s great but true displays of customer appreciation are about much more than a token “Thanks” at the end of interactions, they are heartfelt and consistent throughout the relationship.

Your customers (and potential customers) should always feel that you truly care for their personal well-being. This begins with treating them like human-beings and being grateful, not just because they’re interested in your product or service, but rather for the relationship or opportunity to help them.

Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude. ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Although Thanksgiving is the time of year this sentiment is most talked about and expressed in others, true gratitude is not a seasonal affair. Your attitude of gratitude should be practiced year round for there is much to be thankful for.

Always keep in mind (and heart) that when a customer purchases a product or service from your business, even if the transaction did not involve you, the customer is indirectly paying you. For, without them, there is no paycheck – no job – no business to be had.

As the title of my Pinnacle Performance Training poster below reads.. Always Be Grateful.

Maintain and Attitude of Gratitude

It is human nature that as we settle in over time we “get used to” everything. When the company, your fellow team members, and customers become part of your daily routine it’s easy to lose the appreciation we had when these ‘good things’ were new to us. 

Of course, we don’t want to lose these things (our job, customers, etc.) to come to our senses and appreciate just how important they are! 

In order to not lose our sense of appreciation as new things become familiar to us, we must live in the moment and maintain an attitude of gratitude. This is easier said (or written about) than done. It takes a conscious effort where we mentally count our blessings and don’t allow ourselves to take the most important ‘good things’ for granted.

On the job, this takes true customer-focus.  You must not become complacent and go through the motions but rather execute with purpose and sincerity.

Of course, it’s not only what you say but what you do that makes the difference. Spontaneous “Thank You For Your Business” cards, follow-up calls to thank customers for their business and ensure they’re happy after the sale, random acts of kindness and consistent acts of exceptional service go a long way towards demonstrating genuine appreciation and gratitude.

Speaking of gratitude, I would be remiss if I didn’t Thank You for making it all the way to the end of this article. I appreciate your effort and wish you all the best for success!

Steve

Your Time Is Now

It’s true.. time does indeed fly by.

As a Generation X’r, I find it mind-boggling every time I hear a 1990’s song that has somehow become “Classic Rock”!

Everyone starts the week with the same amount of time:  7 days, 168 hours, 10,080 minutes, 604,800 seconds.

High-achievers, what I refer to as ‘Pinnacle Performers’ in my training business, maximize their performance and ultimate success by effectively managing their time.

 

High-achievers don’t waste time.. they take advantage of it and set out each day with a clear purpose and goal. Sounds easy, but all too often fine folks start the week with good intentions and then time goes by, life gets in the way, and those goals get postponed or fade away. 

Most folks are reactive, waiting for success to somehow come their way. High-achievers are pro-active, diligently working to create their success. As I wrote in Why Champions Don’t Have Time To Procrastinate high-achievers demonstrate a sense of urgency and face challenges head-on and typically excel at overcoming challenges to reach their goals.

We cannot go back in time. Except perhaps these folks…

Time traveling aside, those 24 hours a day are in your control. You can spend them wisely and advance or poorly and stay where you’re at or decline.

One thing is certain, there is only so much time to be had and all of it will go by.. quickly. What you do NOW will determine if it was time well spent or not at the end of the day.

Your Time Is Now Action Plan:  Make a Great Day!

I have a problem with the expression “Have a great day” and so should you. While it’s safe to say the intent of the expression is not meant to be malicious in any way, adhering to this advice can indeed harm your productivity.

Specifically it’s the “have” part I take issue with. The definition of have is to possess, own, or hold. “Have a great day” is passive and implies that this “great day” is already there… you just need to have it. 

If someone said to you “Have a great sandwich”, you would likely respond “Thanks… where is it?”  

One does not simply have a great sandwich… it must be made first. The same is true of a great day. It does not somehow appear… it is created.

Have a great day is well received by those reactive folks who are waiting for success to happen. Some days they end up in the right place at the right time and Presto! they have a great day.

As honored educator Marva Collins said, “Success Doesn’t Come To You, You Go To It”. Make a Great Day is for proactive performers that truly understand this, take charge of their actions and control their destiny. They create success… they create great days

If you’re in sales, customer service or a progressive professional in general, Make a Great Day is some of the best advice I can give you.

If you’re a manager, I encourage you to instill this winning attitude in your team members.

So, by all means, don’t have a great day…

Steve

AMERICAN PRIDE!

Celebrating the birth of our nation with some American Pride!

Have a Fantastic Fourth!

Steve

Often confused with National Barbecue Day, Memorial Day is the day we honor the military heroes who paid the ultimate price for our country.

While leaders in business do not typically risk their lives for the mission of their organizations, there is much we can all learn about leadership from those in the military that did.

Here are the top leadership traits possessed by military leaders accompanied by a relevant image quote:

  • Work Ethic / Preparing To Win

no-secrets-to-success

  • Commitment / Discipline

I cannot trust a man to control others who cannot control himself.

  • Honor / Integrity

Duty, Honor, Country. Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be.

  • Self-less Service

Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.

  • Perseverance / Overcoming Adversity

George-Patton-Success

  • Responsibility / Accountability / Lead by Example

true-courage-norman-schwarzkopf

  • Execution with Precision / Attention to Detail

When you are in any contest you should work as if there were – to the very last minute – a chance to lose it.

Whether you’re a manager in your organization or not, adhering to the traits of our military heroes can help you achieve greater levels of success!

Saluting those who gave all for our country. 

Steve

To varying degrees, we all face challenges. High-achievers view challenges not as roadblocks but rather as obstacles they must overcome to succeed. In essence, they turn obstacles into opportunities. 

With that in mind, the short video below is a trailer for a book I recommend,“The Obstacle Is The Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph”. It features how Ulysses S. General Grant overcame major obstacles to gain victory at The Battle At Vicksburg.

 

The morale of the story..

Make a Great Day!

Steve 

Welcome to Monday. A clean slate. Everyone starts this week (and every other week) with the same amount of time:  7 days, 168 hours, 10,080 minutes, 604,800 seconds.

High-achievers don’t waste time.. they take advantage of it and set out each day with a clear purpose and goal.

 

Most folks are reactive, counting the days and waiting for success to somehow come their way. High-achievers are pro-active, making the days count and diligently working to create their success.

One thing is certain, time will pass.

What you do with it this week will determine if it was time well spent or not come Sunday.

Make a Great Day!

Steve

On this holiday marking the birthday of Mr. King, timeless advice for aspiring Pinnacle Performers..

If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward. ― Martin Luther King Jr.

Make a Great Day!

Steve

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

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