Archive for May, 2016

Getting Closer To Your Customers

Get closer to your customers than you ever have before.

If you are not looking out for your customers you are not doing your job.

Elevating the conversation

So we all think we are doing a pretty good getting to know our customers right? We think because we know what market they are in and what they build and have some sort of idea of what they need we are in pretty good shape right? Well I hate to break it to you but we haven’t got a chance. We are just not even at a point of scratching the service of working with our customers when it comes to the new world order of sales. If we are going to be successful in this world of complete customer engagement we are going to have to elevate our conversation with our customers.

According to a new book by Steve Andersen and Dave Stein called Beyond the Sales Process: 12 proven strategies for a customer-driven world. A book that everyone in sales, hell everyone in business should be reading right now we are going to have to go much deeper down the road of customer engagement to ably serve our customers both today and in the future.

Companies think our customers are going to be relying on us more than ever to help them to succeed. In fact they are going to start asking us to help them with their issues and challenges. They are going to start telling us things like, “based on our volume we believe we should be receiving more value from your organization that we’re getting right now.” Or “Our customers expect more from us than ever before, so we need to get more value from the suppliers we do business with.” Or “Our network of partners is vital to the health of our business, and we need to create value for the organizations that compose that network.”
So think about that for a minute. What are you going to say…what are you going to sow when your customer hits you up with these statements…and guess what she is going to.

Give up? Well it’s a good thing for you that I’m reading this book because straight from that book here is what you are going to do:
You are going to tell your customer these kinds of things applicable to specific situations and customer needs:

  • We’ll make it easier for you to do business with us. And then be prepared to tell him what you are going to do differently.
  • We’ll make it our business to learn more about your business.
  • We’re going to continue our focus on listening to you.
  • We’ll consult with you and help you solve your problems.
  • We’ll commit the resources and expertise required to help you meet your objective.
  • We will provide special pricing and terms to help you through a difficult situation.
  • We’re going to ensure that your people know who to connect with on our team, and how to best engage with them.
  • We’re strategically committed to our relationship with you, even when you are not buying. This is a big deal…never burn a bridge and never be a fair weather vendor. Assume they will be back buying from you.
  • We’re prepared to engage in planning activities so that we can chart a successful future together.
  • We’re interested in developing more peer-to-peer relationships between our senior leaders and yours.
  • We will invest the time to ensure that you understand the value that we propose to deliver.
  • We’re prepared to have our performance measured, and will help you develop the metrics to evaluate our success.
  • By pursuing the type of value target with other customers. We’ve gained knowledge, and we’d like to share some of our learnings and best practices with you.
  • We’re willing to establish a central focal point within our organization to make your strategy and decision making easier and faster.
  • We have identified a sponsor within our organization that will advocate in your behalf.

So are you ready to start making these kinds of commitments to your customers? It is different isn’t it? But it is the way of the world as we know it today. Customers are expecting this kind of commitment from their vendors and it is up to the vendors to provide it.

But there is an upside to all of this actually a huge upside and that is by helping your customers, by devoting your people, company and resources to your customers in some of the way listed above you are creating a bond that will be very difficult to break. In fact you are creating through this kind of committed partnership a customer for life and that’s the very best asset a business can have.

Its only common sense.

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Book Recommendation – Beating the Workplace Bully: A Tactical Guide to taking Charge

A book recommendation from Dan Beaulieu

Beating the Workplace Bully: A Tactical Guide to taking Charge

By Lynne Curry

Copyright 2016Amacom

Price $16.95

Pages: 250 with Index

Great book, terrible stories

Wow where did these people come from. I have to say these are some of the worse workplace stories I have ever read or even heard about.

There’s the woman whom cons her co-worker into buying her coffee on the first day and then made it a daily event. Or the boss who was always threatening to fire his staff and telling them that “There’s blood in the water.” Or the supervisor who sat her new employee down on the first day to let her know that it was not her choice to hire her because she had only worked in a small firm and “did not have the sophistication, this corporate position needs. You don’t even dress properly.” Or my personal favorite the very first story in the book about a nurse Molly who is ten months from retirement when she gets a new supervisor who does everything she can to undermine her. She told her that the system she had set up was “antiquated” and then told Molly that she would make it better without her help. At the first staff meeting the new supervisor told everyone that Molly’s system was “pitiful” and then next started a stream of negative emails to Molly denigrated all of the work she had been doing for the past twenty years. This woman just about ruined her self-esteem and self-confidence. I could go one with these true life stories about people who I consider nothing less than social monsters and yes mean beyond belief.

But the whole point of the book as the title indicates it to learn how to handle these kinds of people., How to counteract them and as a last resource know when it is time to give up and get the heck out of Dodge.

My favorite chapter was Five which talked about the basic steps to handling some of these situations. From the book:

Step 1. Control your initial reactions:  Take time to truly evaluate the situation.

Step 2. Control your response: Ask yourself:

  • What is going on?
  • Is this the way I want to be treated?
  • Is this situation or bully worth taking on?
  • If so how?

Step 3. Assess the situation

Step 4. Determine why you are the target?

Step 5. Analyze the pros and cons of taking on the bully.

Step 6. Take back the power: (this is the key step in my estimation) How you handle your self is in your hands. And if you feel that this is a job you want to keep then go up against the bully. This is your job and it is within your power to keep it.

Step 7. Decide on your game plan.

The rest of the book will show you how to do this. How to implement and execute your plan and handle the bully and the situation.

I was not sure I was going to take the time to read this book and I approached it tentatively. But once I got into it I understand and came to appreciate its’ value. This is one of the few books that talks about business from the human aspect. Yes there are bullies out there and yes they can really mess up your chances of having a successful job experience. Bullying in the workplace is a real problem and this book offers real solutions to solving those problems. A must read for the real work we live in. And one last thought, this is a great book for all workplaces and organizations from businesses, to non-profits and yes even including religious institutions everywhere and so this book is valuable whenever you are in a spot where you  have to deal with shall we say less than gracious co-workers.

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A Tale Of Two Arthurs

Some of you may have heard the story about the New England super market chain called Market Basket. It was started at the beginning of the last century as a 600 square foot grocery store in Lowell Massachusetts by a Greek Immigrant by the name of Demoulas. Later as he started to age and the chain started to grow he turned it over to his two sons Telemachus and George who continued to grow and expand the business. The two brothers worked very well together creating a very successful business. They offered the best values around for their customers. During hard times like during the depression they extended credit to their customers. They always treated their associates as if they were family, making a point to know all of them and stepping in to help when they needed something. They always did their best to buy from local farmers and vendors and they always treated them fairly making sure there were enough profits for all of them. The customers always came first and the money followed and soon they had over 70 stores throughout New England. The sons grew older and became more successful. The married nice women and each had four children. But tragedy struck when George died of a heart attack at the age of 51.
Telemachus kept the company growing always making sure that George’s family was taken care off. He made sure that they had a good strong income and that George’s kids had everything they needed. The interesting thing is that Telemachus’ son Arthur T. DeMoulas was all about the business. He wanted to learn everything about the business from the ground up. But his cousins on the other hand wanted nothing to do with the business. They were always happy to take their share of the earnings and buy cars and houses and start little boutique businesses, travel and for the most part live the good life of the idle rich. Arthur S. DeMoulas the oldest of George’s children was on the board of the company and soon took the other side of the family to court on the basis that they should be giving the share- holders more of the profits rather than turning them pack into the business. And from there a true battle resulted. It was cousin against cousin, Arthur T. vs, Arthur S.
Arthur S. wanted less money paid out to the employees, fewer benefits and higher profits; in short he wanted more money for the shareholders of which there was only his family and Arthur T.’s. In the end want he really wanted to do was sell the business to a global chain for Billions, that’s right it was now worth Billions of dollars. Arthur T. who was the actual working family member and the CEO did not want to sell the business. He wanted to keep it going, and growing into other states as well. He was always looking out for his customers.
At that time Market Basket provided the very best value in groceries with prices well below its’ two main competitors Shaw’s and Hannaford both of whom were owned by global conglomerates.
Well, Arthur S. whose family through a long and extended court battle now owned 50.5% of the company eventually won out and Arthur T. was fired as the CEO of the Market Basket chain.
And now the interesting part. The part that I want all of you to read and then think about. First Arthur T.’s former associates rebelled and walked off the job. They went on strike demanding that they get their CEO back. Remember that these were grocery store workers, people who lived pretty much paycheck to paycheck, but that did not matter they found ways to help each other out during the hard times; then another thing interesting happened, most of the vendors went on strike as well. They refused to sell any more of their products to Market Basket and soon the stores were almost empty…and then a third thing happened. The customers got into the act and they started boycotting Market Basket. They went to other competing stores, in fact many of them joined in to help the workers during the strike, as by the way did the vendors. And not only did the customers boycott Arthur S.’s Market Basket they took the sales slips from the other stores they were buying from and taped them to the doors of their local Market Basket stores to let them know exactly how much money they were losing.
Do you get that? Man, is that a story or what? In the end Arthur S. caved and sold his share of the company to Arthur T. who was welcomed back by cheering workers.
It makes you realize just how well loved Arthur T. actually was. In the end all those people were willing to risk their livelihood to keep his vision alive. They could have just shrugged their shoulders and kept working. They were grocery workers after all what did it matter to them whether they worked for a locally owned chain or an internationally owned chain? But it did matter. It mattered so much that they put everything on the line for their CEO.
Kind of makes you think doesn’t it. Would your associates do this for you? Would your vendors do this for you? Would your customers do this for you? Think about that for a minute…nay for more than a minute. What kind of vision do you have for your company? How do your associates, vendors and customers view you? Would they follow through hell to save your company and your job? If you can’t honestly say they would then it’s time for a rethink your whole approach to business don’t you think? It’s only common sense.

 

 

 

 

 

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How do Your Customers Feel about You?

Do you dare to find out how your customers feel about you? As always, it’s all about the customers and more importantly, it really gets down to what your customers think about you. I want you to really think about this for a minute or two. What do your customers think about your company? What do they think about how you do business? Would they recommend you to someone else who might need your services? After all, a great recommendation from one of your customers is without a doubt the strongest evidence of how and what they think of you.

We all should be focused on what our customers think of us at all times. This is particularly true for those of us selling business-to-business products because most of the time if we are not performing as the customer feels we should be he will simply walk quietly away, not even bothering to let us know why he is unhappy, which is why it is so important that we always have our finger on the proverbial pulse and staying aware of where you stand with that customer.

A few weeks ago I read an excellent book, Beyond the Sales Process: 12 Proven Strategies for a Customer-Driven World, by Steve Anderson and Dave Stein. First, let me say this book is a must have must read for anyone in sales and anyone in business, for that matter, as it is filled with page after page of excellent ideas, suggestions and guidelines on how to be a completely customer-focused company.

There was one particular section that really struck me as a great tool for companies who want to make sure they understand where they stand with their customers. In fact, it’s so valuable that I want to include it here for all to see and reflect upon. Here it is:

How would your customer respond to these statements? Would they say “Yes” or “No” to these statements?

This is your customer being asked to agree or disagree with these:

 

  • You make it easy for us to do business with you.
  • You resolve our problems and conflicts as they arise.
  • You understand our business and our industry.
  • You listen to our needs before talking about your offerings.
  • You consult with us with an intent to solve our business problems.
  • You dedicate the resources that will enable us to work effectively together.
  • You provide us with preferred pricing and contract terms.
  • You align your team members with ours.
  • You approach our business strategically and not just transactionally when we’re buying.
  • You plan the future together with us even when we are not buying.
  • You develop relationships with our executives and yours.
  • You help us understand the specific value of your offerings.
  • You help us assess your performance with mutually acceptable metrics.
  • You share best practices and industry knowledge that will add value to our business.
  • You provide a single point of contact to us for strategy and decision making.
  • You provide an internal advocate for us that will be focused on our specific needs.

 

And of course you know me—I can’t help but add a few of my own here:

  1. You are there in times of trouble, making sure that we have the ability to talk, or even vent to someone.
  2. You maintain a certain amount of decorum and respect for all your customers since we never have heard you say anything disrespectful about any of your customers.
  3. You are always striving to make our relationship better.
  4. You are honest with us when it comes to new innovations and technologies that will help our business even if they might not be in your best interest because you have ours at heart.
  5. You give us the feeling that you are always looking out for us.
  6. We consider you our expert when it comes to your products.
  7. We consider you a vital part of our company’s future growth plans.
  8. You have proven yourself to be a valuable partner to our company.
  9. It would be difficult to replace you.

Pretty good lists, right? How would you do? Do you feel that you would get positive answers to all of these statements? Are you doing everything listed here and would your customers would agree?

I hope so. But if not, then it is in your best interest to remedy that and do it right away. I would urge you to keep this list around, use it with your team as a tool to make sure you are always on the right track of not only knowing your customers better, but knowing what they want and then providing it to them. It’s only common sense.

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Book Recommendation – Talking to Crazy: How to deal with the irrational and impossible people in your life

Book Recommendation From Dan Beaulieu

Talking to Crazy: How to deal with the irrational and impossible people in your life

By Mark Goulston

Copyright 2016 Amacom

Price: $24.95

Pages: 259 with index

A Surprisingly informative and pertinent book

Yes, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by Mark Goulston/s new book Talking to Crazy: How to deal with the irrational and impossible people in your life. I picked it up because I thought it would be a smile. I also thought I might just get something out of it because yes like the all of us I know some pretty crazy people. But I was stunned by how effective the advice in this book was and how much it pertained to my business life as a consultant.

Okay we call know crazy, we all know people who are somewhat irrational or even more completely bonkers! But we don’t know how to deal with them right? Well put that in the past tense, we did not know how to deal with them until this new book came along.

Author Goulston is a psychiatrist as well as business coach so he can write about both sides of an issue. He explains why people act the way they do and how to deal with them.

I especially liked his case studies where he used real-life examples to show us how to act with certain people with specific disorders. There is an example of the “older” software developer who has to deal with a bunch of young Turks who start working with him and want to change everything he has worked on for 15 years. He finds himself getting madder and madder until he starts using a technique he learned from his wide who learned it from Dr. Goulston. Levels with them explains the way he feels apologizes and asks for their help in attaining middle ground where they all benefit from one another’s cooperation thus in the end producing a better product.

This is just one many examples of how to deal with tough people in tough situations.

I strongly recommend that you buy this book, read it and keep it handy because you will find it infinitely useful no matter what profession or life situation you are in; this is good book to have around

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Let’s Rock this world!

What do the I-Pod, The Tesla, Amazon and SpaceX all have in common? That’s easy they rocked their world. All of them were game changers. All of them changed the way we do things from the way we buy and listen to music to the way we build rockets and privately launch satellites into space. They all have something else in common. They people behind these innovations were all mocked, ridiculed and laughed at by people who stood watching on the sidelines saying that what these innovators were trying to do could not be done.

Tesla took the electric car from a humble nerd mobile that nobody wanted to a high performance luxury car that everyone with a hundred grand or mare wants enough try every trick in the book to get Elon Musk to sell them one.

Amazon has made buying things so quick and easy and yes economical that we are buying just about everything from them not just books, but vitamins and cosmetics and clothes and just about anything you can and with Prime for no shipping charges.

And SpaceX? Well let me tell you about SpaceX, this company changes everything. This is a private company that can build rockets a hundred times faster than NASA veer could and at a fraction of the price. Keep your eye on this company as they are about to change everything from the way we do business from commercial satellites to the way we defend this country. We all know about wind power which comes from those giant wind turbines right? Well wait until you see those wind Turbines that will be launched into space wirelessly sending power back to earth. Stay tuned for than my friends?

So now let’s get back to earth and talk about our little printed circuit board business. Our little almost sixty Billion dollar industry. Where is our Jobs, or Musk or Bezos? Where are our innovators? Where are those innovators who are going rock our world?

Where are those forward thinkers who are going to change the way we do things? Where are our geniuses who are going to come up with the next best thing? The best new way to handle our industry?

Of we are getting close. With printed electronics and wearable electronics we are getting closer. But still we are not quite there yet. We still haven’t seen anything come up the road that has any indication of what our next big step is. Now here is a challenge for you. If I’m wrong, if you feel that I am incorrect and that I am overlooking something please let me know. I honestly would love to hear about it.

But in the meantime I can’t help but thinking that it isn’t going to come from one of us old guys. We feel we have seen everything and done everything. Been there done that is not exactly a great pedigree for new innovation.

No I think our game changes are going to come to some kid somewhere who is going to come to our industry one day. Check out the way we have been doing things for the past sixty or seventy years and ask the right questions and when he doesn’t hear the right answers come up with them himself, or better yet herself. Now won’t that be something.

As I have said before in this column it’s time for the kids. It’s time for some new fresh blood to enter our ranks. It’s time for fresh minds filled with new ideas to come into our staid old industry and change everything.

I warn you, be prepared, you’re probably not going to like it when it happens. This person is going to look at our world in a whole new and different way and yes it’s going to shake everything we’ve ever believed in up to now.

But I would urge you to open up your minds when it happens. Don’t be one of those persons jeering from the sidelines but rather someone who will look towards the future with an open mind and welcome this new generation of PCN innovators with open arms.

I can tell you this. The time is very near and the need is very great. It is our responsibility to be looking for those smart young people, to find them, teach them about our industry so far and them to make it a better industry and thus a better world, invite them to rock our world! It’s only common sense.

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Make Yourself Invaluable to Customers

Selling value is always valuable

Looking at the title of this column, you might be saying to yourself, “Thank you, Captain Obvious,” but stop and think for a minute. What can you offer that goes way beyond the product itself? What can you offer that will get your customer thinking beyond price issues? What do you have to offer that will make your customer tremble with terror when his CPA suggests dumping you because your prices are 20% higher than anyone else’s? And what drives your customer to tell his CPA to forget it, because he considers your products, services, and—most importantly—your overall value to him to be so strong that he does not want to live without your company at any cost? That is true value, and that is why selling value is so important—not only to your customer, but to you as well.

Check out Tom Hopkins’ great book on customer service, The Art of Selling. Hopkins has coined the phrase “The 7 Cs of Customer service,” which he described in a recent blog post:

The first C stands for Concern. I think people want to know that you are more concerned with serving them, helping them, and that they are happy, and want a long term relationship with you than you are with making the sale and getting the check. They want to feel that concern and many people in sales don’t get the dollar signs out of their eyes. If a person feels you need the sale and they feel pressure to purchase a product they’re not ready to commit to, they will fight you because they want your concern.

The second C is Competence. People demand competence and they deserve it. Clients expect you to be an expert. They want you to know your trade and your profession. They want to be able to rely on your professionalism.

The third C is Courtesy.  Great people in sales are very polite. They are concerned about their manners, and they are very concerned about their vocabularies.  They don’t in any way insult a person’s values by saying anything that might offend them. Our society is constantly changing its expectations for business behavior. Sadly, those expectations are often lowered, but I believe the highest paid people in business are very polite, very courteous and watch their vocabularies so they don’t insult the values of the people they are speaking with.

The fourth C is Commitment. This is one I find lacking in the business today. People are not willing to commit and dedicate themselves to becoming the very best in their industries. As you read this, I hope you realize that the top professionals make a commitment—it’s called being willing to get out of balance for a period of time so that someday they can have complete balance. I believe in balance in our lives today, but I also believe that in building a business you have to be willing to spend some time out of balance. That means if you have a family, you need to sit down with the family and say, “We are going to commit 24 months of putting in more time and effort. And, if I do everything that I have to do as a professional, I can work less time with much more income for the family. This will come about only because we are willing to make this commitment.”

The fifth C is Composure. It’s important that we don’t allow ourselves to get upset and frustrated with this business. Realize that you are in the people business and have chosen the vehicle of your particular industry to serve the needs of others. In the people business you can get messed up if you don’t keep your composure.

The sixth C is Consistency.  Every professional I have ever trained who has gone on to be one of the best is consistent. Those pros know exactly how many contacts they need to make each day. They know exactly the number of calls, exactly the number of people they are going to visit, which will result in so many products sold and they make that commitment to consistency.

The seventh C is Creativity. The people I meet who do the best are very creative. In other words, if they have a challenge, they overcome it by being creative. If something is wrong in their lives, they handle it by being creative. If you have a sale that is about to fall out or cancel, get creative. If it doesn’t go through, don’t get depressed—become more creative. Approach it with the attitude that you will take what you learn from this opportunity and develop your creativity.

By concentrating on your buyers’ needs and giving them the proper service they deserve, you’ll develop a career that will support you and your loved ones for a lifetime! (Copyright Tom Hopkins International Inc.)

This is fantastic stuff, man. And here is what we need to do. We need to follow Tom’s rules to a T and come up with some ideas of our own.

Here are a couple that I have personally used over the years:

  • If your company messes something up like a field reject, a quality issue, or a late delivery, and the customer is really upset, then get over there. Drop what you are doing and go visit that customer and talk to him face to face. It may provide him with nothing more than a live butt to kick or a live person to yell at, but it will be worth it in the long run. He will remember your courage and caring enough to come and see him live and in person. Yes, he will respect you in the morning.
  • Here is another one. Living in New England where it snows once in a while, I always made a point to get in my Jeep and visit customers during those storms. Man, did that impress them! They talked about that for years and established my reputation as a guy who would go to any lengths to service his customers.

And there are numerous stories of people going to great lengths, chartering a plane, driving all night, doing whatever they could to dramatically deliver product on time.

These stories not only exemplify great customer service, they also become a part of your reputation as an outstanding customer service company. And that is really what customer service is all about. It’s only common sense.

 

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