Whatever Happened to Good Ole Fashioned Customer Service?

A recent travel fiasco has me asking asking yet again…where’s great customer service these days? After what I went through on Monday to get to a client engagement, I’m prompted to remind companies that it is less expensive to build business with your exisiting client base then it is to acquire new customers. Plus, it’s the RIGHT thing to do if you want to keep your clients coming back for more.

So here’s my little travel story that I’m betting a lot of biz travelers will relate too (a little long, but heck…I’ve got to get this out)..

I arrive at the airport on Monday morning early. A full 2 hours before my flight…made good time to the airport, which is not always the case in Atlanta. I get to the check-in area and the nice guy checking my bag informs me that my flight no longer exists. Not a good sign. Instead, he told me I was booked on a flight to my destinatination on the following day. OK – first problem & we haven’t even started. The guy at the curb wasn’t set up to handle my issue, so inside the terminal I went. Oh my god…what a scene. It became really obvious that something was way out of the ordinary.

Turns out that nasty storms the night before shut the airport down. Hundreds of flights were canceled, including mine. So what I encountered when I walked in was competition with hundreds of people bumped from flights the night before.

QUESTION #1: Where was the phone call from either Expedia or my airline?

Non-existent. What’s the point of the personal profile and that contact information they are supposed to use to CALL YOU when something like the weather wreaks havoc on schedules. I’m betting that I am not the only business person who showed up and encountered problems that morning.

QUESTION #2: Who had the bright idea to book me on a flight the day AFTER my original reservation?

I needed to arrive at my destination on the 14th…that’s why I booked my flight that morning. Now maybe the people working at the airlines don’t understand that even in the summer some of us are traveling for business. We aren’t all trying to grab the next flight to our favorite vacation spot. I’m listed as a business traveler, and if you are canceling my flight, a phone call is warranted. Don’t assume that I can fly the next day, because 98% of the time, I can’t!

QUESTION #3: Why is it that only a “handful” of people can work up at the ticketing and assistance counters while far too many representatives are on the floor directing people to some line…often to the wrong one.

Good grief…well meaning people these airline representatives, but the conflicting and inaccurate information was sort of ridiculous. You should put all your available people on those counters to reschedule, reroute and assist people as needed with their travel. Too many ticket terminals sat empty while well meaning representatives were sending us to the wrong lines. Fortunately, I’ve traveled a lot and figured out quickly where I needed to be.

QUESTION #4: Should a business traveler be given priority?

This might be a controversial topic but…. I am certainly not without empathy for the weary travelers I saw Monday morning. Parents and kids alike were wiped out, and I don’t want to suggest that business travelers are more important. They aren’t. The reason I bring this up though is that sometimes my earning a living depends on flying somewhere. If my flight is canceled & you can’t even guarantee me a spot on a subsequent flight that same day when I have to get somewhere and can prove it!…not only is there something wrong with the system but I’m losing business. I’d like to know the process used to determine who could fly and who couldn’t.

QUESTION #5: Why do the rental car companies have this stupid rule that you can’t rent a car and drive it one way?

Please…what is the deal here? OK, security thing maybe. I just say what an inconvenience, especially given the situation at the airport Monday morning. People were looking for alternative means of transportation. But did you know that if you rent a car in Atlanta, you have to bring it back to Atlanta? That’s stupid. Sorry.

Ultimately, I made the quick decision to drive to Mississippi. I couldn’t trust the airline to get me where I needed to be, and I HAD to get to my customer. There was no option – they were counting on me.

There were many customer services issues that day. The only person who really seemed to care about my situation was the guy at the curb. I wish I remembered his name, because he was pretty cool. As I left the airport to head back to my car, he asked if I’d gotten my travel worked out. I told him no. He apologized and was extremely sincere. That’s customer service. Instead of at the curb…this guy needs to be running the place! He gets it.

Customer service – as a general rule – just doesn’t exist anymore. That must change!

Writing Winning Proposals that Lead to Profits

If you think of the proposal writing process as intimidating, daunting and time consuming, I want you to know that you are not alone. Daunting though it might be, you’ve got to learn to do it well, because writing proposals for almost every profession a key to securing business.

There are lots of reasons that we might be called upon to write a proposal. Perhaps you are a business owner or a sales person who needs to sell a product or service. You might work inside a corporation and need to create a proposal for a new business idea. Or you might need to request grant funding to support your non-profit organization. Regardless of the why, how you craft your proposal will make the difference between winning and losing your chance to get what you want.

For our purposes, I’m going to focus my suggestions based on the idea that your proposal is being written to “sell” something versus creating a proposal request for grant funding or a business loan. While many of the same tips apply, what I’m sharing with you here are the top ways to craft proposals that capture attention and close the sale.

1. Focus on the customer.

2. Use a consultative approach.

3. Define the solution.

4. Describe the implementation.

5. Tell your company story.

It’s Not the Economy. It’s Your Attitude!

Some would say that we are in a “down economy” and while that may certainly be true for some industries, I believe the real truth is that it is NOT the economy. It’s our attitude!
 
A couple of years ago, I wrote an article called “We Are What We Think About”. I believed it then and I believe it now. And, I would add that our success is directly proportional to the positive OR negative thoughts swirling around in our heads. Even when times seem tough, it is our attitude, our point of view that makes all the difference between succeeding and failing. I refuse to buy into the myth that “no one is buying”. That seems an easy excuse for some not willing to dig in and do the hard work, or those succumbing to their inner fears of scarcity.
 
Here’s Barb’s #1 Tip: Shift your thinking when times are tough, believe in yourself and what you have to offer, and close your ears to the noise of the pessimistic attitudes that could threaten what you want to achieve. A shift in thinking also means that you must be willing to be creative, look for new approaches to selling your products or services, perhaps work harder and stay focused like never before.

 

In the June edition of Selling Power Magazine, Scott Lindsey of Besam Entrance Solutions had this to say: “We have a sales force that, for 10 years, has not had to work hard, just go after the low hanging fruit.” Now, with economic changes affecting their business, Lindsey tells his people that “they’ve got to roll up their sleeves; now it’s going to be hard work.” He adds: ” Lots of younger salespeople do not understand that. Anybody can sell when things are really good.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. The true measure of your abilities shines through when you rise above the tough times to accomplish what you decide you want!
 
Look, don’t get me wrong. I know gas prices are ridiculous, I know that we’ve had serious problems in the mortgage industry, which in turn is affecting other businesses AND at the same time I’ve heard from a number of people in those industries that they are still succeeding. Throughout history there have been down times and there have always been people who’ve succeed in spite of “the down economy”. I choose to be one of those people! What about you?
 
The author of the best selling book Harmonic Wealth, James Arthur Ray, says, “Live from the outcome!” So what outcome will you live from? Will you be wildly successful by refusing to believe in the fears propagated by others, or be too scared to even give it a try?
 
Here’s to your sales success!

Pick Yourself Up and Move On

We’ve all been there. We thought the sale was closed and then bam! out of the blue our clients tells us that the deal is off. Blah!

Just such a thing happened to me yesterday. A project that was given the green light was pulled just as the work was beginning. It wasn’t anything that I did wrong, it’s just that the business climate changed and an executive changed their mind as a result. Of course losing a sale is a bummer for anyone, and it is especially painful if you are a business owner like me. This sort of unexpected lost sales puts a real ouch in the revenue projection and cash flow.

What I’ve learned through the years is that you have to pick yourself up and move on to the next opportunity. It serves no purpose to become “angry” about the client’s decision. It is so important to deal with these kinds of surprises with grace and dignity. There will be other opportunities that come your way, but not if you handle the change in direction badly. Bottom line – you’ve got to maintain a positive attitude and quickly move on. Otherwise, you risk getting stuck in victim land and that won’t serve you at all.

Situations like these also illustrate the importance of keeping your sales pipeline full at all times. You just never know when revenue you counted on might suddenly dry up. Remember to be continually selling and marketing what you have to offer even when the sales are flowing in steadily. That way you’ll always be prepared for the unexpected.

Power of Persistence

No matter what business you are in, you’ve got to sell. That’s tough to swallow for many business owners, and if you don’t accept this one simple truth, you aren’t destined to be in business for long. Developing a sales mindset means you need to understand the sales “process” and follow it consistently. It takes passion for what you have to offer and above all, it takes persistence!

As a long time sales veteran, I can tell you that the sale rarely happens as a result of a first meeting. On average, it can take 7 touches before closing deal. One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is that they fail to do the necessary follow up to stay in front of their prospect until they become a client. Herbert True, a marketing specialist at Notre Dame University studied sales behavior and discovered some interesting things.

  • 44% of all salespeople quit trying after the 1st call.
  • 24% quit after the 2nd call.
  • 14% quit after the 3rd call.
  • 12% quit trying to sell their prospect after the 4th call.

Unfortunately, people give up pretty easily. Even those that call themselves Sales Professionals. 94% of the people quit after the 4th phone call; yet, True’s research found that 60% of all sales were made after the 4th call. Recognizing the importance of consistent and persistent follow up is the key to growing your business. Just think what would happen if you became one of the 6% who kept going and tapped the 60% of business that comes after 4 or more calls. So get going. Look over your prospect list right now…find out who you need to reconnect with to make the sale and do it!

You’ve Got to Sell to Succeed

Selling, as a general rule, gets a bad rap. People have lots of opinions about sales. Most of them aren’t good. Often what springs to mind is the picture of that sleezy, used car type. The type of sales person who could care less about what you really want and need, because they are to busy trying to suit their own agenda…making quota.

Here’s the deal. You need to sell if you want to succeed. That is a reality. If you are a business owner, you have to sell and if you think you can avoid it, think again. Want to move ahead in your career? Guess what. You must sell yourself. Need the kids to get certain chores down around the house? Yup. You’ve got to sell them. Frankly, i can’t think of much in this world that doesn’t require selling. Time to develop that sales mindset right now.

OK, so I’m what many people would probably say is a natural born sales person. I’m a promoter for myself and others. I love to make connections and connect other people to great products and services. If you can get it in your head that sales is about making connections, building relationships and delivering something of value to someone else, you will have just made a giant leap toward being a great sales person.