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

Posts tagged ‘Pinnacle Performance Training’

Are You The Smartest Sales Person In The Room?

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

How To Fail In Your Business

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

Le Petit Chef and the Positively Memorable Customer Experience

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.

The Five W’s of Customer Service

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

Creating a Winning Workplace to Attract and Retain Top Talent

Attract and Employ Top Talent

Having difficulty finding talented employees? Have a look at the engagement of your existing employees first.

Spending the last 21+ years in business consulting, the past 10+ in my own practice, I have heard the plea “we can’t find good people” countless times from business owners and/or management personnel. In fact, if you’re a business owner or manager, there’s a very good chance you have said this yourself at one point or another.

Of course, every business wants to attract, hire and retain “good people” but only the best businesses seem to do that consistently well. Why is that?

Read the entire article here > Creating a Winning Workplace to Attract and Retain Top Talent

Shine to Rise!

As a long-standing resident of Earth, no doubt you’re familiar with the expression “Rise & Shine”. 

Well I’m here to set the record straight once and for all…

The expression  has been bantered about likely as long as folks have been sleeping, a very long time indeed.

In the literal sense, “Rise and Shine” means ‘get  your butt out of bed and be lively and energetic’!

So, are most folks doing that? More personally, are YOU doing that? If you’ve been going somewhere you’re not particularly enthused about after you rise then probably not.

Sadly, countless companies across the globe are populated by the walking dead… zombie employees dragging themselves through the day. All rise, no shine.

Often, the problem stems from a losing corporate culture that could certainly benefit from my recent article > Eight Great Practices for Creating a Winning Team Corporate Culture

And, with regards to high “Pinnacle Performance” achievement, the expression itself is backwards…

One does not merely rise and shine.

A testament to this, I was rising for years and wasn’t shining very much if at all.

To truly shine,  you must first be excellent at what you do. Once you master your craft you will ‘shine’  and, once you do, you will most certainly rise to higher levels of success.

So don’t rise and shine… Shine and Rise!

You Need To Shine To Rise

Make a Great Day!

Steve 🙂

Is your business looking to Shine so they can Rise above the competition? Then, by all means, visit Sale Away today!

How Fit Is Your Customer Service?

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As is the annual tradition, countless individuals (perhaps you) have made a new year resolution to get in shape. That’s great and as I posted in 6 Resolutions for a More Successful New Year! regular exercise should definitely be part of your overall success plan. But what about your business? Have you ever considered the fitness level of your customer service effort? No, I’m not talking about some sort of employee exercise program. Rather, I’m asking if the employees that provide sales and service support to your customers are functioning at peak performance. If you haven’t given this proper consideration, you’re probably not seeing the big picture issues that could be hurting your business performance.

Just like physical fitness, there are many aspects to managing the well-being of a customer service effort. In order to reach an optimal level of customer service fitness your business must condition and strive to achieve peak performance in all of these areas.

With that in mind, ask yourself the questions below to determine your current level of customer service fitness in seven key areas.  The answers will give you a clear overview of where you are succeeding and where improvements need to be made moving forward.

Are You Keeping Them In Shape?

strong

Sales and customer service training and skills enhancements should be ongoing processes to ensure that your team is well-resourced and properly prepared to succeed. A sales organization that is not well trained often loses those precious sales opportunities, costing the businesses they represent substantial dollars in lost revenues and profits. The same is true of customer service. Without a well-trained staff, you’re not maximizing customer interactions and any deficiency in this area leaves the door open for capable competitors to take the business away from YOU! Sales and customer service are the life blood of every business. No Train, No Gain!

Perfect timing plug > Executing Results 

What Is Their Attitude?

Positive attitudes are the fuel that powers a world-class customer service engine, so be honest here. Does your management and work environment contribute or detract from proper attitudes? Do your employees feel appreciated and recognized by the company? Employee dissatisfaction can dramatically affect a company’s customer service culture and, ultimately, its bottom line.  If employees are feeling negative and under-appreciated, you can be assured that they will either directly or indirectly communicate this to your customers.

How Do They Sound?

This is often overlooked but, for effective customer communication, how we sound is actually more important than what we say. Along with appearance, the voices of your employees are a significant part of the first impression that a customer receives from your company. Winning teams (and the professionals in them) sound a certain way; positive, professional, upbeat. Do your employees sound that way or do they sound bored, tired and disinterested? Make some calls to your business and find out for yourself. If you’re hearing less than pleasant, cheerful voices on the line, guess what? Your customers are too!

What Do They Say?

Does your team understand how to have a true customer-focused conversation? Too often employees are me-focused and will recite the company anthem and provide product and service information like they’re reading from a catalog. Not good. After all, it’s about the customer – not you or your business.  A healthy customer service effort consists of 100% customer-focus and personalized attention 100% of the time.

As Stephen R. Covey simply put it, “seek first to understand, then to be understood.” To maximize results, employees need know how effectively listen to customers and evaluate needs/wants before making recommendations.

How’s Their Emotional Engagement?

Whether face-to-face or on phone every customer/employee interaction has two elements; a functional element and an emotional element. The functional elements represent the business/transactional side of your customer interactions. The emotional elements are the people/relationship-building side.  For peak customer service fitness employee/customer interactions should have proper balance between these two elements.

Although functional components are a necessary part of customer interactions, it is the emotional elements that build relationships with customers and create lasting loyalty to your business.  Do your employees understand the importance of this and know how to effectively emotionally engage your customers?

Do They Have PRIDE?

As I detailed in Got PRIDE?, this Personal Responsibility In Delivering Excellence is the commitment of employees to consistently deliver excellence in your organization.

One of the leading indicators of a company’s customer service health is the application of this principle and the consistent effort of employees to perform at a high level and exceed customer expectations. Unfortunately, quite often personnel are not exceeding expectations; they are, at best, just meeting expectations.

Consumer research has shown that companies typically lose 50% of their satisfied customers and that those customers who are merely satisfied will happily leave as soon as they find a business that provides a superior experience.

Ask yourself, do your employees practice PRIDE on a day-to-day basis? Is the service you provide ordinary (like an average competitor) or do you truly exceed expectations and deliver extraordinary service that brings customers back and influences them to promote your business to others?

How Do They Manage Problems?

The true test of a business’s customer service fitness is not when things are going right – but rather what is done when things go wrong. The fact is the customer is not always right and, in many cases, employees can prove that the customer was wrong in a given situation. All too often when confronted with a customer problem, service personnel take on a defensive posture and argue against the customers’ position. This lack of empathy and understanding rarely works to create a happy, loyal customer.

The best companies recognize that, even if the customer is wrong, it is far better to agree with their feelings and concede a little now then it is to risk losing a customer for life and perhaps have that person spread the bad word of their dissatisfaction with their friends, family, co-workers, professional network, bystanders and everyone else. 

Make a Great Day!

Steve 🙂

* Also on LinkedIn @ https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-fit-your-customer-service-steve-ferrante

Steve Ferrante is the Grand PooBah & Trainer of Champions of Sale Away LLC., providing Pinnacle Performance Sales, Customer Service and Winning Team Culture training, speaking and professional development services to success-driven businesses throughout North America. For detailed information visit Sale Away. Steve can be reached directly at 866-721-6086 ext. 701 or via email at steve@saleawayllc.com

Are Your Salespeople ‘Winging It’ on the Phone?

Winging It

Each and every interaction your salespeople have with potential customers on the phone is an opportunity to enhance customer relations, the image of your business and increase sales.

So, be honest, are your salespeople properly equipped to optimize each and every phone interaction they have with potential customers? If you’re like most businesses, then the answer is a resounding “no”.

‘Winging it’ on sales calls negatively impacts every business but here I’ll reference my area of business specialization, the tire/auto service industry.

For tire/auto service businesses that have the same employees selling both face-to-face (in the store) and on the phone, by far the more important area to improve is phone performance. For the reason why that is, see my previously published piece here > Top 3 Reasons Why Phone Skills Training Is Most Important In Sales.

In case any of this sounds like speculation, it’s well worth noting that it’s highly unlikely anyone has evaluated more sales calls between tire dealer employees and actual potential customers (not mystery shoppers) then my team and I at Sale Away have. The best way to measure training effectiveness, we have evaluated over 50,000 sales interactions since 2011 and that number is increasing daily!

Evaluating all those tire and service sales calls, most for market-leading tire/auto service businesses, has enabled us to teach clients specifically what works best to create customer engagement and sales on the phone. It has also confirmed that, before training, the vast majority of salespeople are indeed ‘winging it’. They have no real process and simply let the caller guide the conversation, responding with facts and figures and hoping for the order.

If You’re Not In Control, You’re Out Of Control!

If You're Not In Control You're Out Of Control

Salespeople that ‘wing it’ are not managing a call – the caller is – routinely breaking one of my top “Rules of Engagement”; If you’re not in control, you’re out of control!

Typically before training, as an example, a salesperson will respond to a phone tire inquiry with “what’s the size?” or “what’s the vehicle?” or both. This creates an indifferent first impression with the caller that often worsens when, not knowing what to say after those initial functional questions, the salesperson then asks “is there something particular you’re looking for?” or similar.

Imagine going to see your doctor for an ailment and he says, “do you have a particular medicine in mind?” Odds of that happening are about 0% yet odds are remarkably high that the equivalent of this is happening on your employee/customer calls right now. 

Without an effective sales process, sales reps default to mere order takers with recommendations based on size/inventory and most sales are made by being in the right place at the right time.

Professionals follow a sales process, amateurs ‘wing it’.

To improve customers’ buying experience and, ultimately, results for the business, all world-class companies train their employees a proven sales process.

To optimize performance on the phone, a clear sales methodology needs to be established and adhered to by your sales team. When we evaluate and literally score calls against our exclusive “Pinnacle Performance” sales process, each sales rep knows exactly how they performed on a given call and we can then pinpoint precisely what weak and/or missing areas of the process they need to improve upon moving forward.

Of course, mastering a sales process takes time and change, especially for those veterans that have been ‘winging it’ for years, is not easy. But, once institutionalized, the performance gains are well worth it.

If you are a tire business owner or manager, then you are leader of your team. It’s your job to make sure your team wins. Being properly prepared to most effectively manage every phone interaction and outperform the competition is a vital part of winning. ‘Winging it’ just won’t cut it.

Steve Ferrante is the Grand PooBah & Trainer of Champions of Sale Away LLC. As producer and host of Pinnacle Performance, “The Best Reviewed Sales/Customer Service Training Program in the Tire/Auto Service Industry”, Steve has received national acclaim for teaching independent tire and auto service businesses how to improve customer relations, produce greater sales results and build a ‘winning team’ corporate culture. Steve is also contributing “Selling Smart” editor for Tire Review Magazine

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To learn more about the program, visit Pinnacle Performance Training. Steve can be reached directly at 866-721-6086 ext. 701 or via email at steve@saleawayllc.com

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Make a Great Day!

Steve 🙂

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