Monday, April 25, 2011

The Most Important Person in the World

As Daniel pushed open the door at the Smalltown Five-and-Dime, the familiar bell jingled and Mr. Thompson, the proprietor, turned to welcome his guest. “Mornin’, Daniel!” came his greeting. “Good morning, Mr. Thompson,” Daniel replied.

As Mr. Thompson excitedly scurried past the counter and disappeared into the stock room, he cheered, “That bike you ordered for Jake’s birthday showed up yesterday. He’s gonna love it!” Mr. Thompson reappeared moments later with a shiny, new bicycle, complete with a brightly chiming bell. He grinned ear to ear like a kid at Christmastime as he pressed the thumb lever on the bell, filling the store with the music of childhood memories. Daniel smiled contently as he imagined how thrilled Jake would be with this unexpected gift.

The next few minutes were spent by Mr. Thompson asking questions about Daniel’s family and his work, and telling him a little bit about the bike he had researched and ordered on Daniel’s behalf. While they were talking, a delivery driver appeared in the store, as did two other customers. Mr. Thompson appropriately acknowledged each of these people without taking his focus away from Daniel.

When the transaction was complete, Mr. Thompson stepped ahead of Daniel to the door as Daniel wheeled the bike to the threshold, picking it up before leaving the store so the perfectly black tires would still be in their unused state when Jake saw the bike in their living room. Mr. Thompson opened the door for Daniel. “Thank you again for allowing me to help you with this surprise,” beamed Mr. Thompson. “Thank you for all your effort,” Daniel replied, his sincere appreciation showing in his warm smile.

Mr. Thompson stood at the open door and watched as Daniel carefully placed the pristine bicycle on a blanket in the bed of his pickup, tugging on it gently to see that it was properly settled before climbing into the cab and firing up his old truck. Mr. Thompson waved as Daniel pulled away from the front of the store and headed down main street toward his small farm. Daniel responded with a salute of appreciation.

Mr. Thompson turned to the delivery driver who had walked in shortly after Daniel. “Good morning, Frank,” his genuine happiness apparent as he read the driver’s name from the tag sewn on his shirt. “What do you have for me today?”…

How did you feel as this brief scene played out in your mind? No doubt, the feelings and images were warm, inviting, and positive. Maybe childhood memories were conjured. Perhaps, like me, you saw a scene from a television program like “The Andy Griffith Show.” But we all know these days are past. Or are they?

Far too many of us are caught up in the speed at which we do business today. Granted, technology has provided for some enjoyable changes in lifestyle and work style, but in too many cases it has taken the focus off the most important person in the world: the person in front of us.

Think about it…

:: When was the last time a retail cashier didn’t make eye contact with you or even acknowledge your existence past blurting out the amount due after ringing up your purchase?

:: When did you last find yourself in a social situation where someone was wearing a wireless headset while talking with a group at a lunch table or even a formal networking event? Really? Are the people in front of us that UNimportant? Perhaps rather than bother with having to insert the headset each day, it would be simpler to just have, “You’re Not Important to Me!” tattooed across one’s forehead.

:: How long has it been since you were serious about making a purchase at a store, only to have a salesperson shuffle you aside for another task or customer perceived as more important than you?

I’ll venture guess all three of these things have happened to every one of us within the past few weeks.

What is important? Better yet, WHO is important?

Let’s slow down. Maybe we need to organize ourselves better. Perhaps simple awareness of this dilemma is all we need. Whatever the case, we CAN return to making the person in front of us--whether that’s live, on the phone, or otherwise--the most important person in the world.

And this doesn’t just go for clients, either. Our family members, friends, neighbors, vendors, co-workers, employees…they all deserve this same treatment.

And here’s a little secret: When you genuinely see the person in front of you as the most important person in the world, you’ll be more successful in everything you do. That’s a promise I can make without reservation.

Go ahead…take it to the next level.

Here’s to your interpersonal success!

Bryan Waldon Pope

Monday, April 18, 2011

Making the Most of Groupon, Living Social, and Other Group Discount Programs

Many business owners wonder how they should manage discount offers. If we only discount deeply for new customers and clients, we risk losing existing patrons. If our best discounts go to our loyal advocates, we may pass opportunities to bring in new business. And, in the end, is it good to create a client base of discount-minded buyers? As with most topics I address, the answer is, “Maybe.”

It all depends on two factors: our business model, and our retention systems.

Take a discount pizza chain as an example. Most of these establishments have business models based on ongoing discount campaigns. It’s the way the business was meant to operate and can run profitably with a large percentage of patrons using discounts. Other business models only allow for a small percentage of transactions to be made at a discount without digging into planned profits.

A fast-growing approach to discounting is the use of programs like those offered by Groupon, Living Social, and other such group discount sites. Are they worthwhile? Again, maybe.

Before getting overly excited about having hundreds of people taking advantage of our offer, we need to make a few considerations:

:: Can we handle the volume, or will we just upset a large group of would-be clients while inconveniencing those we already serve?

:: If the offer needs to be significantly restricted to be doable (e.g. blackout days, limited number of redemptions per day/week/month, limits on products or services that can be purchased, etc.), do we risk misunderstandings that stress prospects and our own staff?

:: Do we have a plan in place to transform these bargain hunters into ongoing clients if our business model is not overtly discount-based?

In addition to these basic considerations, remember that when using these services, we’re discounting costs already, then splitting the reduced revenue with a third party. Being able to figure out whether this makes sense for our business shouldn’t be a guessing game. What is our current Client Acquisition Cost (CAC)? Run a few numbers and see if such a discount approach is in line with other paid advertising activities. We may find group discounting represents a good investment, and we may find we can do better with other approaches. Knowing these numbers in advance will help keep us from misstepping.

Even when the initial process of bringing a first-time buyer through our doors is cost effective using these services, we mustn’t forget the importance of keeping that newfound client active. An effective, functioning loyalty system is a must prior to engaging in any such prospecting activities. Whether new business comes to us through paid advertising, low-cost publicity or social media, or contingency programs in which we only pay for results, we want to capture and keep those customers.

So here’s my answer as to whether group discount programs are worthwhile:

:: Do you capture, manage and use data on your customers or clients to keep them active?

:: Does your business model allow for discounts of up to 75% as your investment for gaining a first-time buyer?

:: Do you have opportunities to increase first ticket sales with products or services above and beyond the discount without making your new client feel like a second-class citizen for having used a coupon?

:: Will the use of the coupon offer put restrictions on the prospect that make his or her first experience different from future experiences as a “regular” client?

:: Will you be able to bring back these first-time patrons and build a rapport with them that is in keeping with your existing model?

If the answer to all five questions is yes, group discounting may be a viable for your business. It may warrant a carefully crafted test. If there are ‘no’ answers in your responses, consider all angles of this approach carefully before taking the leap.

Whatever we do to grow our businesses, we want to create consistently positive experiences for our employees, prospects, and clients. Here’s a 3-minute news story video that brings up some of the potholes you may encounter. It’s worth watching if you’ve considered using group discounting as a means of building your business: Groupon Pros and Cons News Story

I’m not saying group discounting is inherently good or bad. It makes great sense for many businesses, and can be the destruction of others. If we follow the steps leading to making informed decisions about how we will share our message with our audience, we’ll more consistently engage those vehicles that bring expected returns while avoiding those that will damage our efforts.

Gather your team and discuss your specific situation. That’s why they are there.

Here’s to your marketing success!

Bryan Waldon Pope

Monday, April 11, 2011

3 Must-Have Elements for Successful Sales

Nothing brings me more discomfort than watching a salesperson struggle through a sale. Perhaps it’s worst of all when I’m the subject of the attempted sale.

As you’ve probably heard me say before, no one likes salespeople. It’s true. None of us want to be “sold.” We do, however, welcome informed consultants and advocates who can help us make intelligent decisions that create the outcomes we’re seeking.

To be seen as an expert and not a salesperson, here are three must-have elements your visits need to employ:

1. Only talk with decision-makers. If you’re happy to spend your time talking to gatekeepers, you’ll never be the salesperson you could have been. Yes, gatekeepers are decision-makers, too. But the only decision they need to make is to pass you on to the final decision-maker. Don’t be snooty. Treat all people with the respect they deserve. But know the decision-making level of each person in your journey and help them make the decisions they need to in order for you to advance in your sales effort.

2. Identify the prospect’s motivation early. Sales presentations are useless. I dislike the term “sales presentation” altogether. I can’t think of a better way to set one’s self up to be a monkey on a leash than to prance around in front of a prospect with a dog-and-pony show hoping something said will magically trigger the prospect into a buying frenzy. Ask why the prospect is willing to meet with you. Uncover the motivation, the pain, behind the person’s search for a solution. Then fix the pain. Don’t make a presentation.

3. Talk about money up front. Have you ever been in a sales presentation (there’s that nasty term), either as the salesperson or the prospect, where things are zipping along nicely only to have it all come to a screeching halt when the subject of money comes up? Nobody wants to be there. If you have real value to offer, price isn’t a problem. If the prospect sees it as such, he or she wasn’t a bona fide candidate for your product or service in the first place. If the money works, proceed with the discussion. If it doesn’t, move on.

As you confidently talk with prospects as a resource, an expert, and fixer of problems, you’ll find anxiety goes away (for both of you), more deals get done, and you enjoy your sales efforts a whole lot more.

Here’s to your sales success!

Bryan Waldon Pope

Monday, April 4, 2011

Migrate Your Facebook Profile to a Business (Fan) Page

Facebook has done something that should have probably been done a long time ago. You can now migrate your personal profile to a business or fan page.

Many businesses, and individuals whose business brand is themselves, have used personal profile accounts for their businesses. This has been problematic for them for a number of reasons, one of the most significant being the limitation of 5,000 “friends.” Now that can all go away.

I might mention that from my reading (I haven’t personally migrated a page, so I’m relying on the information of those who have), it appears there’s a loss of much of the data in one’s profile during this process. “Friends” are converted into “Likes,” but past there it seems pictures, posts, and profile data are wiped clean. And there is no reversal of the process once it’s been executed.

For all the details, read this informative blog from and check out Facebook’s Help Center, which offers information on all the facets of the migration. If you choose to migrate your page, you can find the migration tool here.

I’ll watch these migrations with great interest. As with any such change, there will be those who benefit from it greatly, and those who will migrate, only to find myriad reasons they should have stayed with their original profile. I already see hiccups in such a move for the majority of people who have used their profiles for a mix of personal and business use.

Here’s to your social networking success!

Bryan Waldon Pope