Friday, September 30, 2011

KeFactors Friday (Rewind): Right, Wrong, or Customer Service

One of the first mistakes most people make when responding to customer complaints is to get overly mired in determining right or wrong.

“Of course,” you say, “that’s a no-brainer. The customer’s always right. Everybody knows that.”

Unfortunately, not everyone does, because a great many customer grievances are not so cut and dry. How do you address a customer’s ire over your late delivery of a project when he himself was late getting essential information to you? How do you explain to her that her abrasive behaviors have been upsetting your staff?

Here’s the key: Don’t think in terms of right or wrong. First, get inside the customer’s head to comprehend how they’re perceiving the problem. Usually you’ll find it has less to do with right or wrong, more to do with other issues that have cropped up to ruin their day—the customer may be feeling new stressors at work or need help doing some incidental face-saving.

But don’t get into the trap of determining right or wrong: you’ll only earn your customer’s resentment. After all, who died and made you judge and jury?

Take the time to fully understand how your customer’s experiencing the stated problem, and you’ll be more than halfway there to solving it. Along the way, you may also gain crucial insights on your customer’s work environment.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Online To-Do: September 2011

Last month, my free monthly newsletter - Self-Taught Sales - focused on how the internet can help you increase productivity. Here are a few sites that I've found can help you do just that. - Instapaper is a simple tool that enables you to save web pages for reading later. - Evernote enables you to type a text note, clip a web page, snap a photo or grab a screenshot and gives you the option to organize everything and anything from your computer, phone or the web. - Dropbox enables you to store and save files including document and pictures for access on any computer or mobile device.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Advice from Mark Potter's "Grammie"

CANVAS Magazine Publisher Mark Potter recently shared the following in his newsletter. It strikes a real emotional chord and hope you all enjoy it.

I have always been very blessed to have some wonderful people in my life. I have been surrounded with a smart, supportive, and ambitious group. One of the people, who not only supported me, but continues to provide inspiration is my late grandmother.

Like most grandmothers, my Grammie tried to instill the best values in me. Often times, she would write me little notes or letters encouraging me and educating me about the world. She had some great perspective from her travels across the globe and her unwavering faith.

I kept her letters and recently happened to read one from when I was thirteen years old. The bulk of the letter was devoted to her pride in me, but one particular excerpt really hit home. She was encouraging me to work hard and said that "It is easy to be less than good,” She continued, "It is hard to your best."

The insight from my little Grandmother should strike chord with us all. Whether you are selling print, managing a business, or trying to make changes, there is no substitute for hard work. It is much easier to be less than good! It takes guts to be great.

Our economy and, more specifically, our industry demand the best of us. There will be no room for mediocrity and coasting. Things won't just return to a level of comfort that we became accustomed to. That isn't what life is about. We need to work feverishly to be our best and realize our potential. If you don't believe me, just take it from my Grammie.

Friday, September 23, 2011

KeFactors Friday: The Customer Is Always Right?!

Top 3 Mistakes of Complaint Handling That Will Guarantee Your Customer’s Wrath

Yes, yes, yes, you’ve worked too hard and come too far in your career to deal with some whiny customer with nothing better to do than blister your ear with complaints about your products and/or services! You’re a busy [insert your job title], and that customer is probably some ill-tempered old coot filling a bleak and empty life by picking on busy people with real jobs.
Nonetheless, here are three mistakes you ought to avoid:

You apologize—in fact, you cut off the customer’s words in your haste to do so—and you never get around to thanking the customer for making the complaint.

What the customer hears: “If I say sorry ASAP, this customer will go away.”

Since the customer’s the injured party, you don’t get to set the terms of the discussion. Your job is to listen fully, suspend reactions, and thank the customer for even bothering to complain directly to you at all. Why? Because thanking them for the complaint means you take it seriously. You regard the customer as a partner in your organization’s hopes for improvement and customer satisfaction. Customers who are frequently cut off and interrupted become increasingly “glued to the problem.”

One of your first reactions to the complaint is along the lines of, “That’s funny, no one’s ever complained about that before.” (If you really want to drive this customer away, smile or chuckle when you say that).

What the customer hears: “Your complaint is unprecedented and therefore ridiculous.”

Again, a grateful attitude helps here, because so what if this customer’s the first? How many other customers have walked away mad, without saying anything to you about it?

Explaining/justifying your company’s internal protocols doesn’t work if the result still means a problem for the customer.

What the customer hears: “This is the way we operate and we’re not going to change it just because you’ve complained.”

If someone’s voicing dissatisfaction over a negative experience, characterizing the customer as a freakish crank means you’re willfully blinding yourself to process flaws that may need to change anyway—sooner rather than later. Again, how many other customers have reacted the same way but simply chosen not to share their grievance with you? because if a customer’s unhappy with you, they’ll talk—maybe not to you, but they’ll talk.

A big thank you to Lucy Ke for providing us with wonderful content as part of KeFactor Fridays. Lucy will be taking a hiatus to work on her business, but we wish her all the best and hope she will return as our guest blogger in the future. Over the coming weeks, we will be posting "The Best of KeFactor Friday." For more information on Lucy, visit her website or follow her on Twitter @KeFactors.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Sale's Pros Guide to Using Linked In Giveaway

Would you like a free copy of my new book, "The Sale's Pros Guide to Using LinkedIn"? What about 3 additional copies for your co-workers and/or friends?

All I want to know from you is:

"How do you used LinkedIn to effectively market yourself?"

Email Melissa at with your answer!

Friday, September 16, 2011

KeFactors Friday: Getting Out of the Trap of Overthinking

Numerous studies over the past two decades have shown that to the contrary, overthinking ushers in a host of adverse consequences: It sustains or worsens [anxiety], fosters negatively biased thinking, impairs a person’s ability to solve problems, saps motivation, and interferes with concentration and initiative. — Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky (Stanford University)

There’s a huge difference between giving a matter due diligence, versus overthinking it.

The problem for chronic overthinkers is that they believe the process of overthinking and second-guessing protects projects and outcomes — thus, a smart checklist to follow. Not true.

So here are a few suggestions for letting yourself and others out of this trap:

If you find yourself feeling troubled, recognize there’s a difference between exercising self-knowledge and brooding. Turning inward cannot yield more creativity but endless, circular ruminations about wouldas, couldas, shouldas. Literally: get out. Get out of your own head. Refocus elsewhere. You may yet carry it in the back of your mind, but what you find in the outside world may ultimately inform what’s troubling you, and help you to overcome it.

Call it out if you see it happening within your workgroup. Group overthink kicks up anxious variables like a careening car kicks up gravel. Without appearing dismissive of anyone’s concerns, hold up your hands and say, “Whoa, we may be overthinking this.” Instead, remind the group of intended goals and priorities. If group overthink persists, ask how those objectives will be served by answering all qualms.

Steer clear of people and situations that chronically lead to overthink. Overthinking bosses and clients lead internal lives of frantic anxiety and repeatedly lose focus and clarity about intentional goals. Many are convinced, all evidence to the contrary, that they’ve been “set up to fail.” They’re unwilling to confront that which makes them anxious, and may even believe their cautionary role adds to their value and importance. Their thinking falls into biased grooves, which means creative problem-solving is shut out in favor of formulaic solutions that have worked in the past. The most egregious overthinkers become passionate about blame assignments (because their motivations are fraught with anxiety, they seek to deflect blame). It’s your call how long you can work within this no-win situation. Personally, what frustrates me about rabid overthinkers is that they never address themselves to the problems—usually only to solutions once provided by others.

Marketing research cannot guarantee 100% of the answers 100% of the time. In business, taking calculated risks is better than doing nothing at all. Sometimes, folks, life is just a toss of the dice.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Why You Should Never Doubt Mark Potter

CANVAS Magazine Publisher Mark Potter recently shared the following in his newsletter. It's a great story that I hope you take the time read.

Last week, our company had the opportunity to support a local football team, Stephenson High School, and help raise money for their program. Specifically, we created a game day program for the lower income school that was playing Parkview, a perennial powerhouse from a much more affluent area. As we walked into the game, which was played in a small college stadium, it was explicitly clear which side was which.

We watched the game, with every intention of leaving at halftime so I could get my daughter to bed at a decent hour. However, I noticed that the Stephenson group was not selling the programs to the best of their ability. I even heard three cheerleaders, who were charged with selling, say something like “OMG, nobody’s going to buy a program”.

I took my salesperson over to the booster lead. I said, “Has anyone tried to sell programs on the Parkview side? Their roster is inside and I am sure they might give us a couple of bucks for that.” She looked at me quizzically and started to chuckle. She called her friends over and said something like “This fella here thinks he can sell our programs on the Parkview side?” They seemed to have difficulty catching their breath from laughing so hard. One woman said to me “Nobody will buy a program from you over there.” She was still laughing when she added, “And I’m not letting you in here when you come back with your tail between your legs!”

Game on! I took my daughter by the hand, grabbed a stack of programs and we made our way to the other side. When I got there, I received more resistance and sarcasm. However, they let me in for 10 minutes to try and sell Stephenson programs to the Parkview faithfuls. Ten minutes later, I was out of programs and my daughter was holding a wad of cash.

I had carved my way through the stands, holding the programs high in the air and enthusiastically letting everyone know that this was what they needed at this time. Their roster was in the program and they could now identify the kids by jersey number. Interestingly enough, when one fan bought a program, another one jumped on the bandwagon. The dominos fell and suddenly I was the one laughing.

When I returned to the Stephenson side, I couldn’t help but strut my way back to the booster table. With their jaws on the ground, I threw down the wad of cash and repeatedly said “Never doubt me”. They gave me and my daughter big hugs and wanted to know how I did it. I simply stated that “Enthusiasm and confidence come from a belief in your product and yourself.”

Anyone who doesn’t want to hold up their product high in the air and claim that it is the best--- will fail. The greatest salespeople and the greatest brands in the world, take the time to tell everyone about how much they believe in their offering. They are constantly selling or advertising their wares because they know you cannot be bashful about something you believe in. If you don’t scream it at the mountaintops, then you simply don’t believe in what you have to offer. That is the truth and never doubt me!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Facebook + Loyalty Programs

I recently read a great article in Ad Age about how Facebook for established brands serves as a loyalty program rather than a customer-acquisition tool.

Check it out:

Good reading and good selling!

Friday, September 9, 2011

KeFactors Friday: Overthinking

Mr. Winkle

As a creative, I’ve witnessed this in spades, both in myself and in others. So what is it?

Overthinking is taking something simple and straightforward, and beating it to death with an over-analysis of questions and “what ifs” that seek to illuminate the issue at hand, but instead leads it into more confusion. It usually occurs when the overthinker’s stressed and trying to do some “on the other hand” forecasting, to anticipate pitfalls and objections.

Overthinking occurs when:
  • There’s an anxious need to control outcomes. A direct-mail piece is going out, and someone on yours or the client’s team is worried about “how everyone will react” to a visual element or a phrase in the copy. What’s more, they ask questions like, “How do you think everyone will respond to this?” (re: a mailing list of 375,000 names)….
  • The individual doesn’t know what they’re doing. Micromanagement occurs when the individual doesn’t understand — or hasn’t been properly trained to do — their jobs, so there’s an escalating need to control, to predict, and to analyze every detail for every possible contingency. It’s a tortured way to live and work —of chasing the unknowables, of seeking pat answers to open-ended questions, of spreading anxiety around to others.
  • The overthinker was once praised for detailed analysis, but it’s become a chronic habit of diminishing returns. Not every situation requires the same level of analysis, and most professionals know that. The danger of overthinking is that you lose sight of what’s really important — eg, as staff is sent out to research answers or to confirm endless variables, deadlines are missed, opportunities forfeited, budget dollars expended. In my career, I’ve seen more money and man-hours wasted on the “due diligence” required by a single overthinker, than any dollars spent on actual production.
Next week — how to let yourself and others out of this trap called overthinking.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Smokin’ Hot Leads—How to Make the Most of Them

Hot leads are seriously interested in making a purchase.

You identify them by:
• Prospecting
• Inbound requests for information via phone or web
• Networking
• Events and tradeshows
• Referrals

To keep hot leads sizzling, react quickly. Give the lead immediate quality attention. Make them feel like they matter to you. Call or email quickly—within hours, not days. Demonstrate genuine appreciation for
their interest.

Determine where the hot lead is at in their buying cycle. It it’s early on, the hot lead is investigating options. They are on a quest to learn, and their search for information tends to be wide and shallow. As the prospect closes in on a purchase, the list of possibilities narrows and details become more important.

When talking to a hot lead, find out where they’re at. Ask them, "What stage are you at in your buying process? Are you investigating your options or ready to purchase?"

Don't be discouraged if they admit they're not ready to buy today. Remember, a hot lead is seriously interested in making a purchase. Have a plan in place to stay top of mind and be their number one choice. Continue to engage to increase the odds of closing.

Friday, September 2, 2011

KeFactors Friday: Workplace Incivility - So what? What can I do about it?

Stop the behavior. If you know you’re doing something that offends others—even in a small way—correct it. ASAP. If you suspect you might be doing something wrong but aren’t sure, ask! At the very least, you’ll learn what’s negotiable and what the tolerances may be.

Revitalize the basics.
Say “please.” If you take the last cup of coffee from the pot, make some more. Help someone if they appear overloaded. And I urge you to praise rather than punish, and to be very explicit in your thank-you’s, because humans have a tendency to repeat the behaviors that win praise. Don’t just toss off a “thanks” but maybe say, “You’re always so punctual and organized with your reports, I really appreciate that about you.”

Beware the rude non-verbals.
One can hear and sense non-verbals even over the phone. I’ve witnessed angry individuals flounce indignantly out of a meeting, then try to backpedal by claiming, “But I wasn’t mad” — except everyone could tell they were….

Commit to being a better listener.
Our narcissistic society has forgotten the transformative power of being heard. Listen fully. Acquire the skills and awareness to work on building trust.

Put a premium on courtesy as a mark of professionalism.
As viral as incivility can be, civility is also contagious if your group insists upon it as a community value worth upholding and protecting. It should start with leaders who can model courteous behaviors—but you know what? You don’t need a degree in rocket science to be a courteous person. Start without your leaders, especially if they’re part of the incivility problem at your workplace.

Honor your “toxin handlers.”
Toxin handlers are people who recognize the emotional pain in other people and in a situation. They know that if such pain strips others of their hope or self- confidence, those affected will lose their focus and enthusiasm and become disconnected from their workplace. As a result, these handlers step into the situation and deflect the pain or prevent or release its effects so that their people can get back to work. These people are both the
heroes and casualties of your workplace, and can exist anywhere in your organization. The often invisible work of toxin handlers is vital to the health and success of the organization.

Recognize the physical toll of incivility
and take steps to mitigate it. Get enough sleep, exercise, or even professional help if necessary. But don’t learn to live with this festering virus.