Is Employee Ownership Right for Your Company?


Here are four top excuses for not offering skin in the game — and why you should ignore them.

I confess — before I became a father, I sometimes found other people’s kids to be annoying. Especially when they sat behind me on a plane kicking the back of my seat, or throwing a tantrum in a grocery store lineup. Thankfully, my patience and empathy miraculously increased when my wife and I had kids of our own. That’s why, when my clients express frustration about how difficult it is to get team members to really care about their customers, I … Read the rest

Selling Techniques: Tips for Getting in Front of Decision Makers


One of your biggest challenges in selling may be how to reach the actual decision-making customer.

Tip #1 — Start Higher up the Ladder

The higher you start up your customer’s chain of command, the more likely you are to reach someone with the authority to say yes. Unfortunately, sales reps often settle for easier-to-reach lower-level managers who aren’t authorized to make significant operational changes or large purchases. In other words, in order to say yes to your offering, they’d have to ask a higher-up for permission. They are however, empowered to say no. So, it makes sense to start … Read the rest

How Not to Plan Your Company’s Future: Common Mistakes When Identifying Customer Needs


When managers plan their business strategies, common sense dictates that these game plans should be in line with customer needs. The first step in planning is therefore to identify customer preferences.

Unfortunately, most conventional approaches to determining customer needs are flawed. Here are five of the most common methods used to gather customer opinions along with their drawbacks. Keep these often-made mistakes in mind when planning your business strategy.

Mistake #1 — Counting Cash

One way to find out what customers think — indirectly at least — is to look at revenues, the assumption being that if revenues are increasing … Read the rest

Personal Brand Quiz


Test how your personal reputation stacks up.

In marketing terms, your company’s net promoter score indicates your customers’ willingness to recommend your products and services. Bringing this concept closer to home, ever wondered how likely people are to recommend you personally? For example, would your supervisor go to bat for you to support you receiving a pay raise? Are your competitors hearing about you from your customers and considering offering you a job? The likelihood of these kinds of recommendations is based on what I call your “Trust Equity Score.” The higher your trust equity, the more inclined people will … Read the rest

Too Many Interruptions? Consider This


Supply chain shortages, backlogs, and price hikes have caused increasing numbers of customers to voice questions and concerns that may have you and your team feeling pressured. Employees trying to finish a task for one customer may become flustered when “interrupted” with another request. That’s a formula for a bad day for a lot of people.

That’s why, when managers bring me in for team training, we talk about several guiding principles when juggling multiple customers.

Customers Are Not Interruptions

As LL Bean put it, customers are not interruptions to our work, they are the purpose of our work. Rather … Read the rest

The Future of Customer Service: Buying Trends to Capitalize On


Have you ever seen this much marketplace disruption?

The year 2022 marks my 30th anniversary of client companies bringing me in to work with their sales and service teams to grow their business. Over my three decades of speaking, training and writing on the topic I’ve never seen a shift in customer buying behaviors as dramatic as those we’ve recently experienced during the pandemic. Consider how you and your organization can capitalize on the following big three trends.

Buying Trend #1 — Convenience Is King

The pandemic exploded online buying, particularly at Amazon. Interestingly, Amazon doesn’t sell products. It sells … Read the rest

The Rudest Thing You Can Do in a Virtual Meeting


I should qualify that title. As you can imagine, there are plenty of inappropriate behaviors that people could display on Zoom or Teams. Some are obvious: taking phone calls, talking to coworkers in the background, forgetting to wear pants (yikes)! In terms of virtual rudeness, I’m referring to the most common etiquette sin many people commit in the first five seconds, without being aware of it.

I’m referring to logging in “late,” and by late I mean arriving at exactly the appointed meeting time. I learned the lesson decades ago as a university student at a business class where they’d … Read the rest

How to Create Rapport With Anyone in Under 30 Seconds


We all know the power of first impressions. How people perceive us during the first few seconds of an encounter has a major influence on whether they will trust us, be attracted to us, or want to conduct business with us.

To create a positive first impression, we need to know how to connect immediately with others regardless of their age, gender, ethnic background, mood, or the situation.

Let’s begin by testing your “first impression awareness.” What would you think of the waiter in the following situation? You’re having a business lunch with a potential client. She’s telling you about … Read the rest

How to Stand Out Without Lowering Your Price


Selling yourself short?

Is what you do for a living perceived by potential customers as being a mere commodity; more or less the same as others in your profession? When that happens, customers revert to the easiest differentiator — price.

The outlook gets worse as you realize that somewhere in the global economy there is likely someone offering similar products or services for a cheaper price. And with the internet, it’s easier for your customers to find them. What’s most frustrating is when you know your products and services are indeed different, but customers don’t seem to get that and … Read the rest

Are You Too Busy to Be Productive?


Let’s be frank — if you work for a company, then your primary goal is to make money. Period. You may have secondary goals to serve customer and employee interests and to be a good corporate citizen, but your number one priority is strictly return on investment. Profit.

When I speak at conventions and meetings on how to boost profits through customer retention, I often find that business owners and managers don’t have their priorities straight. The result is they lose customer loyalty, face increasing operating costs, scramble to replace staff turnover, and struggle just to keep up with the … Read the rest

Getting Your Team to Care About Customers


Strategies for Creating a Customer Service Culture

One of the most common challenges I hear from managers and business owners is how to get staff to want to provide better service. After having trained literally hundreds of customer service teams for more than 25 years, I’ve observed that the organizations who nurture the best service behaviors use the following five strategies.

1. Educate Towards Empathy

It’s easier to get employees to care about customers by putting them in the place of customers. That’s why when clients bring me in to conduct customer service training seminars for their teams, I ask … Read the rest

Let’s Keep This Between Us: Unwritten Rules of Customer Confidentiality


Did you ever have a potential customer who should have been excited about doing business with you but seemed reserved? It happened in a weird way for me. The senior managers seated around the boardroom table were excited about their new technology that would disrupt their market and separate them from every competitor.

They had brought me in to help craft their sales message and to eventually train their reps on how to introduce it to their customers. Along with their excitement though, I sensed some tension. So as the vice president of marketing introduces me, my first remark to … Read the rest

Six Secrets of Powerful Proposals


One of the biggest frustrations I hear from my clients is the amount of time and effort it takes for them to put together proposals; particularly those that don’t end up winning the business.

Unfortunately, the standard approach to making client proposals usually involves describing your products or services, including some corporate background, adding a few references, and finishing with pricing information. This is the last approach you want to take. It practically guarantees you’ll miss the mark. And worse, preparing and delivering these kinds of proposals soaks up significant time and resources that could be better spent elsewhere. Here … Read the rest

From Doormat to Diplomat: How to Enhance Your Status in Your Customer’s Eyes


It was a lesson in humility I’ll never forget.

Decades ago my first real job after graduating university was selling accounting systems door to door to businesses. After several days of making little progress, I finally had a manager agree to walk me to his office to hear my pitch. Following him, I said, “Thanks, I really appreciate your time.” He turns, scowls at me and asks, “Why, is it not worth my time?” He’s dead serious. It occurred to me that I was being too grateful and too deferential to a potential customer.

How about you and your team … Read the rest

Secrets to Not Share With Customers


Oversharing blunders that annoy customers and limit careers.

“I wish some of my team members would think more before they speak.” This was the comment made by a senior HR manager of a construction company where I was brought in to conduct training. She continued, “They inadvertently share more than our customers need to hear.” In today’s world of social media where people post their opinions and details of their lives for the entire world to scrutinize, we’re finding oversharing is a growing problem. Not only does it jeopardize customer loyalty; it also limits career advancement. See if you or … Read the rest

The Humility Advantage: How Less Ego Creates More Sales


See if this applies to you or the team members in your organization: You’ve been working in your industry for several years. Your responses to requests from customers, prospects and co‑workers are fast and accurate. You know your stuff and your product knowledge is one of your greatest strengths.

If this is the case, then the bad news is that your extensive knowledge may also be one of your greatest weaknesses. The reason — you may be inadvertently coming across as being arrogant and insensitive.

I’m not suggesting that you have a holier-than-thou attitude or that you are unfriendly. It’s … Read the rest

The Top Selling Bloopers — and How to Avoid Them


Sports bloopers are often about preventable errors that favor the other team. The classic is when players score against their own side.

In the world of business, there are similar blunders — particularly during buying conversations with potential customers — that end up favoring the competition. As I explain in my seminars for sales teams, it’s not always a shortfall in your company’s product, price or service that ruins a potential sale. Often it’s inadvertent comments that put customers off just enough for them to choose your competitor. Unfortunately, sales reps are usually unaware they commit these offences so they … Read the rest

Follow-Up Tips to Grow Your Business


The sales manager didn’t hesitate when I asked her, “What’s one thing you think your reps could do more of to enhance their sales success?” Her immediate response: “Follow-up.”

Working with sales and service teams for more than 25 years and observing the practices of the most successful reps, I’ve found this to be true. We often get so caught up in responding to customers and prospects, or hunting for new business, we neglect to pro-actively follow up as thoroughly or consistently as we should. Ironically, following up is one of the easiest and highest payoff activities we can do … Read the rest

Mini Quiz Reveals What Your Texts, Posts and E-mails Really Say About You


In today’s workplace employees spend less time talking and more time e-mailing, texting, and engaging on social media. Ever consider how those messages are perceived by your customers, coworkers, and even by your employer? To ensure your electronic image reflects your best self, take this mini quiz.

1. There’s a big difference in what you officially write at work, vs. comments you post online on your own time.

a) True.
b) False.

Answer: b). While theoretically there may be some anonymity in what you post “privately,” in reality your online presence makes no distinction between your personal and professional image. … Read the rest

Chili and Your Intuition: Ingredients for Making Better Strategic Decisions


As a business owner or manager, what you ultimately rely on most when deciding your company’s future is your intuition. The challenge with so many stakeholders relying on you to make the “right” decision, is ensuring that your instincts are reliable.

Effective leaders hone their intuition the way a chef cooks a pot of chili. Like chili, intuition needs to include the right ingredients and then be allowed to simmer a while. Here are several ingredients for you to stew on:

  • Get Customer Coaching

Even as a senior executive, you’ll end up making better decisions after spending some time at … Read the rest

Bizarre Reasons Customers May Not Like You


Whether fair or not, we are often judged on first impressions. This harsh reality is nowhere better seen than in today’s ultra-fast business world where customers size you up in a nano-second based on your personal image. Since their impression of you will determine whether or not they want to do business with you, the impact on your career and on your organization’s bottom line can be staggering.

Since it’s often awkward to confront employees on these sensitive issues, you need some ammunition to make the task easier. Here are some image-related reasons that customers may not like you or … Read the rest

The Myth of Treating People Fairly and Equally


I’ll just come right out and say it. I believe that treating customers fairly and equally is a mistake. It’s unprofitable. It belittles customers and employees, and it’s unethical. There, I’ve said it.

Certainly, we should treat people fairly — but not equally. I’m not advocating some Orwellian decree that “some animals are more equal than others.” This has nothing to do with a customer’s value as a person. It has to do with bending so-called “rules” to give exceptional customers the kind of unique service they deserve.

In my many years working as a consultant and trainer with dozens … Read the rest

When Talking to Strangers


Reasons potential customers may distrust you.

Interesting to hear the response from managers when asked about what factors impact sales. Many will reference the economy, customer demographics, competition, and recent innovations. While those factors certainly play a role, I often find, when brought in to train sales and service teams, that employees inadvertently chase away new potential customers. It usually happens within the first 10 seconds of customer communication, and most employees have no idea that they are committing these offenses. See if this is true in your organization. Consider these three reasons potential customers may distrust you or your … Read the rest

Phrases That Pay


Simple statements that increase your perceived value

Quick — name two words which, when frequently used by waiters and waitresses, increases tips by 12 percent. (Hint: it’s not please or thank you).

Give up? The answer is, “…for you.” So, rather than saying to a customer, “Would you like some more coffee?” the savvy waiter would say, “I brought more coffee over for you.” The patron thinks, “Gosh, you did that for me, how thoughtful!” and tips accordingly — on average 12 percent more.

That’s what I call easy money. If you answered correctly — ignore the rest of this … Read the rest

Getting Your Staff to Get Along


Common Teambuilding Approaches — and Why They Don’t Work

“I can accept it when one of my employees makes a mistake. What I don’t have patience for is when my employees don’t play well with one another.” This was a client, a business owner with 45 employees, who explained, “When there’s a problem with a customer, employees focus more on blaming other departments and covering their own backsides than stepping up to help each other to resolve the problem. We need a stronger commitment to teamwork.”

Over the many years that I’ve helped teams to strengthen trust with their customers … Read the rest

Telephone Turnoffs


How to improve telephone communication.

Like you, there are times in my work when e-mails and texts aren’t efficient and I actually need to phone someone and have a real conversation. In my case, it’s when I’m preparing for a training session or to speak at a conference that requires interviewing senior managers and key employees. I’ve made literally thousands of calls over the years and — since I pay particular attention to customer communication — I’ve created a list of Top 10 Telephone Turnoffs. See if you can relate to them, which I’ve rated from least annoying to worst. … Read the rest

When Customers Ignore You


Business building tips that cost nothing.

Remember the days when people noticed good customer service, talked about it, and most important — rewarded you for it? Happy customers would return and spread the word. In today’s fast-paced world, however, people are so rushed moving to the next thing, or so distracted by their mobile devices, that good customer service is overlooked. Fortunately, as I share in my seminars, there are several easy things you can do that will enhance your service and boost your business which your customers will actually notice. Best of all, they cost you nothing. Here are … Read the rest

In Praise of Quieter Communications


Four touch points when it pays to dial‑down your approach

In a world of TV ads that blare, e-mails that SHOUT IN ALL CAPS, and employees who talk when they shou1d listen, consider the advantages of making your customer communications quieter. Here are four touch points I share in my seminars when a strong/silent approach will differentiate you positively in your customers’ hearts and wallets.

  • When Establishing Rapport

You’ve likely heard about the importance of elevator pitches. The idea is that within the first few minutes, you should give your potential customer a synopsis of what you do and what … Read the rest

Common Mistakes When Identifying Customer Needs


When managers plan their business strategies, common sense dictates that these game-plans should be in line with customer needs. The first step in planning is therefore to identify customer preferences. Unfortunately, most conventional approaches to determining customer needs are flawed.

Here are five of the most common methods used to gather customer opinions along with their drawbacks. Keep these often-made mistakes in mind when planning your business strategy.

Mistake #1 — Counting Cash

One way to find out what customers think — indirectly at least — is to look at revenues, the assumption being that if revenues are increasing then … Read the rest

How to Work Less and Get More Done


In the days before e-mail entered our lives (up till the mid-1990s) the most pervasive interruption for the average manager was a ringing phone.

Even then, most managers had secretaries who screened their calls. Then along comes e-mail. Managers now receive dozens of messages from anyone — including spammers. The problem gets worse as employees who are sending e-mail messages within a company can easily send copies, no matter how trivial, to everyone else — including to other managers. The end result is that with the advent of e-mail it’s easy for a manager to spend an entire day reacting … Read the rest