Why is it that when two companies are faced with the same dilemma, one of them comes through with flying colors while the other just drops the ball completely? To me, it has everything to do with the culture and attitude that permeates the entire organization, from the top on down.
A few weeks ago while delivering a keynote speech at a corporate sales meeting in Tampa; I spoke about the merits of Southwest Airlines. Afterwards, one of the audience members relayed to me an experience he had with Southwest that proved my point completely.
This guy lives in Chicago. At the time of the story he had a girlfriend in Baltimore, who he would visit every weekend. The story takes place during the summer, when thunderstorms always make flying out of Chicago an adventure.
One weekend he was headed to Baltimore on U.S. Air. While seated in the gate area waiting to board, an announcement came over the PA system which said, “We are expecting thunderstorms in the area. So instead of boarding now and taking the chance you’ll be stuck sitting on the plane waiting for the weather to clear, we’ll just keep you in the gate area.” The upshot: the flight arrived in Baltimore three hours late.
The very next weekend he was again heading to Baltimore, this time on Southwest Airlines. While sitting in the gate area, the same announcement came over the loudspeaker, which told the passenger about thunderstorms in the area. But this time they followed by saying, “So we’re going to speed up the process; start boarding immediately and try to beat the thunderstorms out of here. In fact, we’re going to be extremely annoying in order to get you to move quickly. Let’s see if we can get those thunderstorms chasing US all the way to Baltimore.”
Needless to say they left on time and landed on time; why is that? Culture, that’s why.
The US Air people were most concerned about “Not screwing up and making people angry.” In the back of their minds they were probably saying, “What happens if we board them and the thunderstorms hit before they take off? All those people will get stuck sitting on the plane and we’ll look like idiots.” As if sitting in the gate area for three hours was a FAR better alternative.
The people from Southwest were only concerned with succeeding, and as you know, if you’re long time reader of this blog; listen to my Monday Motivational Minute; or read my book, The Best Damn Sales Book Ever, “Not failing,” is a lot different than succeeding.
The troubling part of this story is the lack of effort put forth by the people from US Air. There was nothing stopping them from doing the same thing Southwest did; except the different attitudes and cultures of the two airlines.
At Southwest, the attitude is, “Let’s do whatever it takes to get this plane out of here on time.” At US Air (and many other companies), the attitude is, “We did what we were supposed to do. Everything would have been OK if it weren’t for the thunderstorms, which is something totally beyond our control.”
First off, you will never be successful doing just what you are supposed to do. Like the people at Southwest Airlines, success only comes to those who do MORE than they’re supposed to do.
Second, while thunderstorms are not something you can control and could be unexpected, the most successful people and companies constantly prepare for the unexpected. While we never know what’s going to happen, you can rest assured that something always will happen!
The kind of culture and attitude found at Southwest Airlines (and any other successful company), always starts at the top. While innovation is a bottom up process that starts with the people closest to the action, an outstanding culture, attitude and commitment are top down qualities that start with upper management and permeate every corner of an organization.
By the way, BAD culture, attitude and commitment do the same thing no matter how large or small your company. If you want to learn more about forming solid client relationships and delivering amazing customer service, I’m offering Make My Life Easier: What the 21st Century Customer Really Wants, plus my other video and CD packages, at a 40% discount until February 11th, 2009. Click here!
The age of doing business by accident is over. Clients and customers have so many choices today that you can’t expect to just show up, throw your briefcase on the table, and grab an order.
Now, is this a doom-and-gloom scenario, stating that there’s no more opportunity out there? Of course not. In fact, there’s more opportunity out there today than ever before. I really believe that no matter how successful you are right now, you have an opportunity to be more successful than you’ve ever been before.
There’s just one catch: In today’s competitive world there is no more margin for error.The companies and the people that will succeed today, tomorrow, and on into the future are the ones who will be willing to do everything RIGHT.
I know that as a client, customer, or consumer I can buy almost anything I want from the Internet and I never have to talk to you! So the question now becomes, what is it that you are willing to do for all your clients, customers, and prospects that creates so much extra value that it is more beneficial for them to buy directly from you than to just click on their computers?
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In other words, how are you differentiating yourself from the competition?
I think the single biggest question I have for you is this: What are you really selling?
Are you just selling whatever will get you the fastest commission, or are you selling extraordinary quality, service, convenience, and value? Are you just selling the first thing out of your bag, just to get your boss off your back, or are you selling “Save me time and make my life easier”? Are you just selling whatever the customer thinks they want and need, or are you selling knowledge, expertise, information, and education?
Are you just selling stuff? Are you just selling what everyone else is selling? Because if you are, I can click on my computer and I can buy stuff from the cheapest guy in town.
Get out there and sell some value.
I guarantee there is not a single client, customer, or prospect who wants to be an expert on what it is that you do. That’s what we have you for: to be our expert, adviser, and resource.
Your clients do not have the time nor the inclination to be an expert on what it is that you do. Heck, most clients don’t have the time to keep up with all the information they need to be experts in their own field, let alone yours. That’s why your ability to supply your clients with knowledge, expertise, information, and education is critical to not only your success, but theirs, too.
Successful salespeople act as experts, advisers, and resources to their clients, always ready to provide them with knowledge, expertise, information, and education.
As an expert, adviser, and resource, your job goes way beyond supplying your clients with great products and great service.Your job is also to provide the client with the knowledge, expertise, information, and education they need to be more successful in their career or business.
If you can do that on a consistent basis, you will have differentiated yourself from the competition, created so much extra value that your price almost becomes immaterial, and reached the zenith of success in sales:You will have made yourself indispensable to the client.
Successful salespeople are indispensable to their clients.
For example, I’ve done a lot of work with salespeople in the cable TV advertising business. Many of their clients are local small businesses.
These are the kind of businesses that don’t have an ad agency representing them and are not big enough to have their own advertising or marketing department. The most successful cable TV advertising salespeople I’ve met don’t just sell ads to these businesses; they lend their knowledge and expertise to these clients while acting as the client’s advertising and marketing consultant.
These successful salespeople first find out everything they can about their client’s business. Then, rather than just selling them an ad or series of ads, they help the client formulate an advertising and marketing plan designed to help them get the biggest bang for their ad dollar and, consequently, increase the client’s business.
By the way, if you haven’t figured it out yet, when you increase a client’s business it not only makes you indispensable, but it gives the client the wherewithal to buy even more from you. Talk about a win-win.
This is a free excerpt from Chapter 12 of The Best Damn Sales Book Ever.
As a professional speaker, I have a huge edge on many of my clients: I don’t speak in only one industry. I speak in a wide variety of industries to a wide variety of companies. One of the many things I enjoy about what I do is that I get to learn about all these different industries and companies. I also get to see what goes on in these industries and their marketplaces. Let me tell you what I see going on in almost every single industry and marketplace that I have walked into in the last 5 to 10 years.
The middle is dead! The middle is gone!
If you want to be successful in today’s business world and economy, you have to be one of two things: the cheapest or the best.
The days are long gone when you could sell a pretty good product or pretty good service at a pretty good price, because I can get “pretty good” at a dirt cheap price. Or I can get “fantastic” at just a little more expensive price, because pretty good just isn’t good enough anymore.
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Look around you, go to any shopping mall. Look at the stores that do business and look at the stores that do not. On the one hand, you have your deep discounters, such as Wal-Mart,Target, and Kohl’s. But even down at this end, where price is supposedly the deciding factor, how do you explain what happened to Kmart? Similar merchandise, similar prices, but not nearly the same results as Wal-Mart, Target, or Kohl’s.
Walk into a Wal-Mart,Target, or Kohl’s and you’ll find them well lit (you could use a pair of sunglasses in Wal-Mart) and well stocked. I don’t know about you, but I’ve walked into quite a few Kmarts that were poorly lit, and let me tell you something about poor lighting. When a store is poorly lit it looks dingy.When it looks dingy, it can look dirty, even if it’s clean.
Another thing I noticed in Kmart are what’s known as “holes in the shelves.” This is a retailing term signifying they’re out of that item, causing a big empty space on the shelf (hence the term).Now I don’t know about you, but for me the biggest reason to go to a large discounter like Wal-Mart is that I don’t have to worry they won’t have what I’m looking for, since they seem to have everything. With time becoming such a precious commodity in people’s lives, do you really think people want to shop somewhere that won’t have what they’re looking for and they’ll have to go somewhere else? So even down at the price end there’s a value component.
Let’s look at the other side of the coin from the cheapest—let’s go to the best.These are retail stores like Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Lord & Taylor, along with specialty operations like Banana Republic and Abercrombie and Fitch.
Then right in the middle you have those mid-range, midprice department stores. You remember those places.Your mother used to drag you there as a kid. Thirty years ago every major city in America had at least three or four of them, and now maybe one or two are left. They either went out of business, merged, or were taken over.
What made the department stores great in their heyday was personal service. Once the discounters started to flex their muscles by cutting price, the department stores started to do the same.The problem was, in order to cut their price, they had to cut somewhere else, and where do you think that was? That’s right, they got rid of the people who provided personal service.
The customers responded predictably. They figured as long as they were going to get abused, they might as well go to a discounter and pay less for the privilege.
You don’t compete on what your competition does best and you don’t. You compete on what you do best and they don’t.
So here it is: You have to be the cheapest or the best. The question is, where do you want to be? Well, if you want my advice, I’ll tell you where you never want to be. You never want to be the cheapest. You never want to be known as the “price company” or the “price salesperson.”
THE TWELFTH ROCK-SOLID RULE FOR ACHIEVING SALES SUCCESS
Successful salespeople consistently create and sell value, rather than get stuck selling price.
Delivering extraordinary customer service is not hard. It doesn’t take any amazing skill or talent. It’s very similar to playing great defense in basketball. Both take a high level of commitment, desire, communication and buy-in from everyone on the team as well as every level of the organization.
The only reason a company or organization would deliver lousy customer service is the same reason the New York Knicks play lousy defense. Not enough people on the team care; from the top on down.
Just recently, I came across extraordinary customer service in academia! Yes, you heard that right; the ivy-covered, sheltered-from-reality world of academia. You and your company now have no excuse.
My daughter Emily will soon be completing her junior year of high school and has started her college search. I suggested to Emily that she check out High Point University: a small liberal arts college in High Point, North Carolina. She agreed and we signed up for a campus tour.
I suggested it because I happen to know the new President, Dr. Nido Qubein. Dr. Qubein is not an academic. He is a highly successful businessman, entrepreneur, speaker, and author with a high-energy, can-do, no excuses attitude. I figured if anyone could create a unique, cutting-edge atmosphere on a college campus, this was the guy.
Dr. Qubein became president of High Point University three years ago. What he inherited was not pretty: a failing institution that was bleeding money and losing students. What he has done in the last three years is nothing short of remarkable.
- He raised over $100 million in the last 2 years.
- He made the decision that everyone at High Point would understand that students are customers.
- He told his professors that their biggest responsibility was to be in the classroom, be accessible and educate students.
Everyone who works for the university is friendly, accessible and gives you the impression there’s no task too tough to handle. Dr. Qubein wants every student to have an extraordinary experience in a fun atmosphere. Let me take you through our tour in order for you to really appreciate it.
First Emily, Linda (my wife) and I pulled into the visitor parking lot. Now each parking space has an electronic sign. We found our space and the sign read “Welcome Emily Greshes.” Remember, it’s those small unique touches that people remember.
Next we walked into the admissions building where up on the wall was another electronic sign welcoming all the students who were there for the 2PM tour. Each student was greeted by a separate admissions counselor. Pretty amazing since there were about 10 to 15 students there for tours. She briefed us on the university, told us what would happen on the tour, answered our questions and then turned us over to our tour guide. Our tour guide took us around campus in a golf cart, with two other students and their parents.
What we saw was amazing…
The grounds were perfectly groomed with beautiful flowers everywhere. While the university is 80 years old, there isn’t a single building (dorms included) that isn’t either brand new or completely renovated.
Class sizes are no more than 20 students per class. The entire campus is wireless. The new School of Business building was designed to be exactly like the Harvard School of Business. The dorms look like hotels. A freshman girls dorm had two, three and four bedroom apartments with a kitchen, dining area, common area and bathroom. The bedrooms were singles and each apartment accommodated 2 people per bathroom. The dorms had lounges on each floor with flat-screen televisions, leather recliners and games like foosball.
Now for more of those unique small touches…
In today’s crazy world, I’m sure many of you (like me) worry about security on campus, especially those of you with daughters. At High Point U, the campus police are right in the middle of campus next to the Student Union. If you get back to campus late one night and can’t find a parking spot near your dorm all you need to do is drive over to the campus police; they will take your keys; valet park your car for free and shuttle you to your dorm.
There is an ice cream truck that drives around campus dispensing free ice cream. We met the driver: he’s the Student Body President! They’re lucky my son Michael doesn’t go to school there or that truck would be out of business. There are also outdoor kiosks on campus that will dispense hot coffee, hot chocolate, and breakfast snacks for FREE to any student who is rushing to class and didn’t have time for breakfast.
The new Student Union has an outdoor pool with a hot tub (Emily was sold). Since High Point is the furniture capital there are leather recliners all over campus. Linda was so impressed she asked Dr. Qubein if she could apply for admission.
Needless to say, enrollment is soaring and better yet, so is retention. And just in case you’re wondering, and I’m sure you are, the price represents one of the best values in America for a private school.
It’s amazing what an organization can do when everyone is on the same page and is committed to the same thing! If it can be done in the stodgy, resistant-to-change halls of academia, it can be done anywhere.