Are We In a Golden Age of Information?

Are We In a Golden Age of Information?

Are we in a Golden Age of information? I have to admit that I am being spoiled almost every single day. Every day, 99% of everything I can think of for which I do not know the answer I can find the answer. It is remarkable. I can Google darn near everything and find it. I can search through a “magnifying glass” on most of the website I use. I don’t have to go to the library or “call a friend.”

So that is a wonderful thing. I can get answers to almost all of my questions. But there are several questions I still struggle with on a daily basis. The most important one is “WHY?”

And no, the answer is NOT why not. That is much too easy. It is being lazy. Although I still think I have lazy tendencies most people don’t equate the word “lazy” with me. I do too many things, poorly perhaps, but a lot of things get done. Every day. And be fair to yourself too. You get a lot done every day as well.

But the WHY questions haunt me. Constantly. I have been cursed I suppose because I never got over the “why” phase of my life when I was growing up. Do you remember those days yourself? Why is the sky blue? Why is clear water in a lake black? Or as George Carlin made famous “why do we park in a driveway and drive in a parkway?”    

Alex Schuessler coined a phrase I can’t get out of my head. We have gone from “Paper to Glass.” We have taken most “computer improvements” and moved from a six-part paper form (PAPER) we filled in with a pen and put the document on a computer screen (GLASS).

 I have been involved with computerization all my work life. I took “computer science” as a minor at university. We used punch cards, FORTRAN and COBOL programming languages. I wanted to get a job as a computer programmer but IBM wasn’t hiring when I finished school. When I started in the business in 1969. I was hired to find and fix a problem with a computer software installation. The Parts Inventory, which was managed with a “Double Exponentially smoothly Poisson mathematical statistics model (Phew). I didn’t know it at the time but that turned out to be an unbelievably wonderful opportunity for me both professionally and personally.

Of course, we found the problem and fixed it. From that point on I was put into areas where there were some problems or difficulties or situations that needed to be solved. Looking back, I couldn’t have designed a better training program for my work life as a consultant. I was involved in “CQI” – Continuous Quality Improvement or “TQM” – Total Quality Management right from the beginning. Typically, however, is I had a question that I needed to have answered I either had to ask someone and they gave me their opinion or I had to start my own research. I did both and I had many men who were mentors or helped me along the way.

So today I don’t need to ask anyone other than my phone or my computer. But the WHY question still lurks out there.

I talk to a lot of people in the industry. I talk to leaders, managers, workers everybody. They are normally asking me questions. As in my classes and our employee development business, Learning Without Scars, I use the Socratic method of teaching. I rarely answer questions. I typically flip the question and ask what the person asking the question thinks is the answer. And normally they have a very good answer. BUT they lack confidence. That is a learned response. When we challenge the status quo, and want to make a change. There are a lot of people that are vested in the current methods and approaches. They dismiss your ideas out of hand. Many times, they make it personal and disparage you. In a normal manner we start complying and fitting into the current mode of doing things. That is really disappointing to me.

As a consultant I am being paid for my opinions. As an employee you are being paid to do a job. There is a real difference there. Happily, those days are coming to an end. We are on the cusp of a generational change in almost all aspects of our society and workplace. The Alpha Generation, Gen Z and Gen X and even the younger millennials will not accept the status quo. That is part of the reason for what Sonya Law calls “The Great Reshuffle.” That is what we call in America the “Great Resignation.” That somehow changes the onus of responsibility, doesn’t it? It isn’t because we wanted to have a more challenging job. It is that we quit.

We have many opinion surveys, from watching television with the Nielson ratings to the famous Gallup Polls. We seem to want to have reasons for everything. We want to understand why things happened. Gallup says that employees are leaving their jobs because they don’t feel that they are engaged at work in what they do. I liken that to a tool box. An employee has a “task” that needs to be done. They define the kind of tool that is required to perform the task. Think of a job description and performance standards and job prerequisites. They interview people for the job. They hire the person that they think is best for the job. In my way of thinking they “bought a tool” to perform the task. Then someone teaches them (they call it on the job training) how to do the job. Then they have the employee practice it and get faster and faster at it. They want efficiency in performance. That means speed. Then business establishes performance criteria – they call them metrics, for what productivity should be for any specific aspect of their businesses. One common metric is sales per employee. This is measured in terms of currency. Money. And the common thinking is that the higher the number the better it is. That might be applicable in some areas but how do you think it works in a customer service environment? The higher the sales per employee, that means there will be fewer people to do the job. That means customers will wait. It first became evident to me when we introduced “Call Waiting.” The phone would ring and ring because we didn’t have enough people to answer the phone. Do you remember “Can I put you on a brief hold?” Then we got to “Voice Mail.” We were told there would be a wait but would you like to leave a message and someone will call you right back. Remember that? Then I found some dealers had a radio type of message running while the customer was on hold. Some dealer actually had every call listen to the commercial before the call was answered. I was only 30 seconds that won’t hurt anything. Who are we trying to satisfy here? The company or the customer.

I am asked often – “why aren’t customers loyal anymore?” Or I hear “Customer Loyalty is a thing of the past” To both comments I ask – “What have we done to make our customers loyal to us?” 

My conclusion is that we haven’t done very much to make our customers loyal.

Yes, we are in the Golden Ago of information. We can get answers to almost all of our questions. We still don’t have the answers to the most important questions. What does our customer want and need and desire? Until we start focusing on those questions pertaining to our share of the after-market business, parts and labor, will continue to decline. And please don’t forget. That is where you make all of your money.

I would hope that there is a tingling somewhere in your body. YOU are at RISK. Unless we start to concentrate on making our customers happy more than we concentrate on making money WE all will be at RISK. I think we need to get to work.

The Time is Now.

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Likes and Dislikes

Likes and Dislikes

Founder and Managing Member Ron Slee talks about the significance of like and dislikes when highlighting the ways we listen to our customers.

We Listen to our Customers.

We are all in the customer service business. Everyone that I know and have worked with is in a constant state of asking for help. We all ask our customers – what do you need and want from us.

In the Employee Development world, we have to listen many different influencers. The education world as to what the latest and greatest advancements in learning and retention of skills and knowledge. The Learning Management Software world to a stay current with everything going on in internet-based teaching tools. The Dealer Business Systems to be aware of the latest developments in what operational tools are available to dealers, wholesalers, manufacturers and OEM’s so that our subject specific classes are always exposing our students to what systems and processes they will be working with. The specialized software suppliers from Sales Force and CRM, Telematics and Sensors in equipment that can monitor the health of a specific piece of equipment, Maintenance tools to determine when each service interval is expected and schedule parts, labor and equipment to be available when necessary. Artificial Intelligence and all of the Data Management tools to allow information to be obtained that is useful and timely. And many more.

Most importantly we want to listen to our CUSTOMERS.

I learned that early in my life when I was being coached as a swimmer. My coach was constantly asking me to do different things with my head, my arms, my hands, my legs, my hips and my feet. He was looking for the right place for my body in the water for all of these “things.” I would be giving him my feedback and the clock would be giving us another piece of information.

It seemed so natural to me to ask questions. Then when I started teaching, I was constantly asking questions. I didn’t think anything of it until one of my bosses told me that I was using the “Socratic Method” in teaching. I had to research that and found he was right. I never really gave my class the answers to the questions I was asking. I would keep asking questions and in the dialogue that we had, teacher and students, we would come up with the answer together. I thought then, and continue to think the same today, this is the way that I would teach and that this method was a better learning tool for my students.

In my years at dealerships, I was probably a real pain as I was constantly asking why. Why do we do it this way? Why not this way? I used to ask my team members what they liked about how I worked with them. What they liked, what they didn’t like, and what didn’t matter.

When I started in our Consulting business nothing changed, although it was now expected with the job that there would be questions.

It seems that I like to know what other people are thinking about almost everything that they deal with in their lives.

When we set up our first employee development business, Quest, Learning Centers, in 1994 I started with the creation of our textbooks and our class structures. Then I ASKED.  I asked a group of executives and owners and managers to come to a class that I had created, at their expense, and get their feedback. Our first classes were three days long, it was twenty-four hours of learning. We called it “What it Looks Like When it is Right.” After all the discussions and suggestions and comments we ended up with two-day classes providing fifteen ours of learning. I will be forever grateful to those individuals for their help.

Today we offer Blogs, Podcasts, Newsletters, Audio Learning and Suggested Reading Lists as Resources to our students, our CUSTOMERS. We now have at the bottom of each screen a question for the reader

It’s a LIKE button, for feedback – thumbs up or down.

I most humbly ask each of you to let us know what you think. It would be really very helpful. You will see this on most every page that you could look at on the website.

The Time is Now.

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Using Time Purposefully

Using Time Purposefully

Using Time Purposefully

In “Using Time Purposefully,” guest blogger Ed Wallace continues his relationship with Max, in talking on the rides to and from the airport, about how his time gets taken up very quickly if he doesn’t take great care. Max asks him to think about the number 168. Ed then takes us on a journey of sorts.

We all have the same amount of time. We also have a great amount of freedom in how we use that time. And the trouble is we rarely review how valuable the use of that time was for us, personally or professionally. In our relationship ladder we started with “establishing common ground with our clients, employees, friends and families. That took us to the next level in displaying integrity and trust with those people with whom we have relationships. Now comes the critical element of time. Time is one of the few things in life over which we have no control. I don’t mean how we control it; I mean what is available to us. In his book, Ed gives us many examples to consider. They are all worth the time to think about and act on. He also continues in his use of acronyms. Remember G(goals) – P(passions) – S(struggles)? This time it is POP.

POP is the acronym he uses for Purpose – Outcomes – Process. It is wonderful to have these acronyms to remind us of what needs to be done or happen. Everything starts with a PURPOSE, doesn’t it? A goal, an objective, a destination, a deal, a date, whatever. Without a purpose it would not be very interesting. Think about going to a grocery store without any idea of what you were going to buy. Can you picture yourself wandering about aimlessly? Not going to happen is it? So, we start with a PURPOSE. That is good, I am going to try and do something which makes sense, but what is it I’m going to try and accomplish. Of course, you are aiming at an OUTCOME. A result. Alright then the next question is how are you going to do that? What is the PROCESS?

Nice and simple isn’t it? A Purpose leading to an Outcome following a Process.

Relationships are critical in our lives. We are social animals we need each other. In our family lives and our work lives we need people to become successful. More importantly we need people in our lives to make us happy. Imagine if you will if our lives were to continue to be in the state of the past fourteen months with the Pandemic. Compare that to your lives prior to the Pandemic. Society as a whole, is in a lot of stress for whatever reason, financial, schooling, mortgages or rents, loss of jobs, unable to get proper healthcare and all the rest. No one knows the answers or the solutions. Depression has never been at a higher level on the country. It is very significant that at times like these we become more focused on the use of our time. The professor from San Diego State University, James A. Belasco, the coauthor of the important book Flight of the Buffalo, says “people don’t lack motivation – they lack focus.” Ed brings us this smart yet simple approach – POP. Purpose – Outcome – Process.

As with any interaction with people; a phone call, a meeting, a sales call or a talk with your children there are some simple questions to ask yourself:

  • What am I trying to accomplish?
  • How will the other person benefit from it?
  • Is this the right time?
  • Do we have enough time to do this properly?
  • Is it meaningful and appropriate?

Peter Drucker, a famous business teacher and author says – “The clearer the idea you have of what it is you are trying to accomplish, the greater the chance of accomplishing it.” CLARITY is critical and Ed is giving us a very real and clear plan to better succeed at accomplishing our goal of the “purposeful use of our time.”

If managing time is something that you would like to pursue further our Learning On Demand Class on Time Management would be a “purposeful use of your time.”

For more information and thoughts on pursuing your individual potential, please visit our blog for further posts.

You can purchase Ed’s book “Business Relationships That Last” at Amazon and other prominent book stores.

 

The Future Is Now

The future is now

The Future is Now

In his guest blog this week, Ryszard Chciuk reflects upon his years with his service management team and considers that the future is now.

Once upon a time, I and my new service management team decided to create the best after sales organization in our country. I am not going to tell you how to build something from scratch. It is about the most important thing: how to explain to all members of a team what we are going to achieve together within the next several years. Some authors of books for managers call it vision. I have a problem with this word because in my native language we sometimes have visions, usually after too many drinks. Also, I don’t recommend using that word while speaking to the front-line people. Instead of vision, I talked to them about our common long-term goals. Why?  Terms like vision, mission, values and strategy are irritating to many managers and plenty of employees. They become anxious about the future of their companies – and mostly they are right – when the highest management starts to talk about new market strategy based on new values, new vision and new mission. One can ask oneself: in the end, what’s it really all about? Is it about closing our decent business? Contrary to myself, in the story for English speaking readers I will use the word vision. Maybe you were luckier in your encounters with the prophets without true vision.

At that time, our parent company vision was To be the Model of Excellence and Care. Sounds nice, but how to present it to newly employed field technicians, mechanics, service supervisors, as well as parts and administration personnel? Unfortunately, the vision of our corporation was not translated into more specific version, understandable for all employees of the dealership.

My service team decided to work out the vision just for ourselves. Why?

I knew my department would grow very fast. It would be no time for an individual coaching. Written procedures did not exist. Creating a company culture was in progress. Our plan to build the best after sales organization could not be executed if we employed people having bad habits. As the result of that assumption, most of my new colleagues were very well educated, but totally inexperienced. And even worse, they were to work in the field, mostly out of a supervisor’s eye. They were allowed to make mistakes, if they did it with good intentions. How were they to discern what was right and what was wrong? They needed to know the main, long term goals of the after sales department, our vision of our future.

N.B. Few years after we implemented the idea of vision, I found a confirmation that it was a proper approach. In his Strategy Navigation-A Systems Approach to Business Strategy, H. William Dettmer mentioned: … the military has learned an important lesson that most businesses haven’t: how to shorten response time to unexpected developments and build flexibility into the system. They do this by avoiding detailed policy and guidance from the highest levels – micromanagement – concentrating instead on establishing the overall objectives and rules of engagement alone.

How did we achieve it?

To propose and discuss long terms goals for a team, its members would have to find the answers to the following questions:

  • Which long term goals of our dealership and corporation am I able to support as a member of the after sales department?
  • What is my greatest professional dream?
  • What would make me proud in 3-5 years from now?
  • What are the main competencies of our team?
  • What differences do we have and what will make our team different from the competitors in the future?

First draft of our vision was agreed by the core members of the service management team. Then it was discussed in details, during Q&A sessions with all of our people. We did it because people are more eager to follow the agreed rules if they had a chance to define them.

Finally, our after-sales department vision was as follows:

  • most of our customers recognize us as the best construction equipment service in the country
  • we generate profit which covers cost of employees’ personal development and provides financial liquidity of our dealership, when the demand for new machines is reduced significantly
  • the best employees and the best suppliers want to work for us or collaborate with our team
  • we are always prepared for unexpected changes and we implement them in the proper time.

Please notice: those four sentences are written in the present tense, because the future is just now. Every day, each worker can assess approximately how far we are from our goals. Every month or every quarter, employees get more accurate data about the performance of their small teams in that matter. It happens if you have worked out balanced scorecards for teams and single employees.

Next time, I will tell you, what it was for.

Strategic Planning for Key Accounts

Strategic Planning for Key Accounts

Strategic Planning for Key Accounts

Virtual Selling Tips related to Vital Selling Regimens by Don Buttrey, President of Sales Professional Training, Inc. In this week’s guest blog, Don shares with us some strategic planning for taking care of key accounts.

Dealing with market potential becomes a challenge in the virtual world as well. Using data and information is critical. Your business systems can help you here. Take advantage of these condition and circumstances to become much smarter on how you manage you time and business.

Strategic Planning for Key Accounts 

  1. Focus primarily on accounts that are less impacted by the pandemic to assure quicker results in these accounts that already have a long selling cycle.
  1. However, it may be wise to pick at least one or two strategic accounts where business may be stalled short-term –but that have significant long-term potential. Now is an ideal time to do the legwork and create a path for future business. Now is a chance to build trust and solidify relationships. (whereas before, they had little or no time to spend with you.) Giving them time and offering creative ways to prepare for future growth now, proves that you are not just a partner in the good times. Show them that you are focused on their business in good and bad times – instead of just taking orders selfishly and forgetting about them! In difficult economies, focus on expanding influence and growing your market share. When it picks up again – you are well positioned!
For more information on our classes and assessments, please visit us at Learning Without Scars.

Prospecting and Account Penetration

Prospecting and Account Penetration

Prospecting and Account Penetration

Prospecting and Account Penetration: Virtual Selling Tips related to Vital Selling Regimens. By Don Buttrey, President of Sales Professional Training, Inc. For today’s guest blog, Don shares with us the unique challenges of prospecting and account penetration in the virtual world. In the world of “before,” it was a given that we could meet with our customers. This new normal challenges us to innovate our processes.

Not being able to drive around and see what is going on in the field is a problem today. We have to be creative with how we do our prospecting. Using the phone is much more effective in numbers it is the quality not the quantity that gives us some trouble.

Prospecting and Account Penetration

  •  Now is the opportune time to find and develop new accounts and new relationships within existing accounts!
  • Slower markets put pressure on ‘price’. But you can overcome that with good fundamental selling. One of your best negotiation strategies is to increase your prospecting. Having more deals in process (better participation/market awareness) gives you more power. The more deals you have in the pipeline – the better!
  • Have thick skin. Do not take rejection personally. Be carefully persistent. If they are a potential customer, they will appreciate your proactive effort!
For more information on our classes and assessments, please visit us at Learning Without Scars.

Max and the Little Extras

Max and the Little Extras

Max and the Little Extras

In this latest abstract from Ed Wallace’s book, Business Relationships That Last, Ed and Max, the remarkable taxi driver, remind us that it’s all about the experience that we create for our customers and colleagues and many times that experiences is manifested in doing all of the ‘little things.’ “Max and the Little Extras” is a great reminder of that.

Three weeks later, on the morning Max had agreed to pick me up, I was running a few minutes behind schedule. I kept checking out the front window, hoping to catch him before he rang the doorbell. At exactly 5:00 a.m., I heard a gentle tap on the screen door. As I walked to the taxi with Max, I imagined how many people had probably ridden in his taxi over the previous three weeks, yet despite that large number, he had remembered I had an infant son who was most likely sleeping at such an early hour. Max’s thoughtfulness and ability to remember details about my life impressed me.

During my next several rides to the airport in Max’s marvelous taxi, we talked almost entirely about my life. (Notice that I was no longer driving myself to the airport!) He asked about my work, where I was traveling to, my ambitions, my family. I could hardly believe how at ease I felt opening up to him. I was more comfortable telling Max things about myself than I was telling people I had known much longer. The more time I spent with Max, the more interested I became in learning how he was able to make me—and most likely all of his customers—feel so comfortable.

When asked, he told me a few things about himself, his business, and his day-to-day schedule as a taxi driver and small business owner. His clients could not be easily categorized. They were local CEOs and their colleagues. They were sales professionals going to the airport and elderly people going shopping. They were groups of ladies going to the city for a day at the art museum, lunch, and a nice tour of the historic district. I finally asked how he had developed such a long list of loyal customers, hoping he would provide me with a “secret to success” that most client-facing professionals dream about. “Simple, Ed,” he answered, holding his thumb and index finger about an inch apart. “It’s the little extras that turn fares into friends.” I thought about what Max meant by the “little extras.” Sure, it was great fun riding around in his taxi; it was the only one of its kind in the area and attracted a lot of attention. But that was only a “It’s the little extras that turn fares into friends.” That’s a small part of what made Max a success—and he was a remarkable business success.

After a few minutes, I realized that his entire business philosophy was based on friendship, and the little extras that friends would do for each other. So, I asked, “What are these little extras? Are they the on-time arrivals? The courtesy and warmth? Treating everyone equally? The impeccable upkeep of the taxi and the quiet environment it provides? The bottled water? Listening, remembering, and having a genuine interest in the riders’ lives? The gentle tap on the screen door at five o’clock in the morning?” Max answered, “Yes.” “Which one?” I asked. Just as the words were coming out of my mouth, I got it. Of course, how could I not get it? Max was skilled at identifying and aligning with each rider’s specific needs and situation. But how did he do this? I believe that Max woke up every morning thinking not that he was going to work but that he was going to spend the day with his close friends. This is obviously a very different approach from viewing business as a series of transactions in which both parties want something from each other. If we define friends as “parties who help one another,” and if you consider everyone you interact with your friend, then adding the little extras in your business relationships would be as easy as including them in your personal life, which you do naturally. On the simplest level, Max’s job was to provide a ride from one place to another. Any driver could do that, and do it on time, safely, and courteously. But when you rode with Max, the quality of the relationship, the conversation—the whole experience—was so enjoyable, supportive, enlightening, and pleasant that you didn’t want the trip to be over. He had mastered the art of taking his so-called simple business from a merely transactional level to the It’s the Little Extras!

The Time is Now

For more information on our classes and assessments, please visit us at Learning Without Scars.

Virtual Selling and Time Management

Virtual Selling and Time Management

Virtual Selling and Time Management

Don Buttrey, President of Sales Professional Training, Inc. is back with a new installment of his CRM Hell series: Virtual Selling and Time Management.

 

Virtual Selling Tips related to Vital Selling Regimens.

The virtual world is all on you. You are in control of every aspect of your world. Your life, your world, everything. It is a big change. We had become comfortable with our “old” routines. How we proceeded through the day. How we organized our calls. Now we have to “relearn” how to do everything.

Time and Appointment Management (calendar)
  • Check/improve internet speed. Upgrade if needed. This is your new main venue and you must avoid as many potential distractions as possible.
  • Set aside time each week to SCHEDULE calls/video conferences with current and prospective customers. Call and/or email to ask for best day/time then send invites. Be proactive. Take control.
  • Load up your calendar with appointments and live by that calendar.
  • Confirm next meeting and venue (call or video) at the end of every sales call.

With time management applied to our virtual world, we can stay on top of our customer service.

For more information on our classes and assessments, please visit us at Learning Without Scars.

Call Reporting

Call Reporting

Call Reporting

Virtual Selling Tips related to Vital Selling Regimens, by Don Buttrey, President of Sales Professional Training, Inc. Today, Don shares with us the importance of Call Reporting in Customer Relationship Management.

Let me discuss some items requiring more discipline and attention in this “Virtual” world we are living in today.

Call Reporting

  • If working remotely, it is even more critical to include to define your commitment to some specific start/stop times and aggressive guidelines on how many calls you will make each day. Own it. Be accountable. Do the grunge work. It will pay off in the long run! If you coast or get distracted it will bite you. Get fired with enthusiasm! . . .or . . . be ‘fired up’ with enthusiasm!
  • Set target ‘guidelines’ to make more calls/touches in this current market! And that is now feasible due to elimination of travel time. Use that to your advantage and be tenacious with the discipline of proactive calls! The slower the market, the harder we must work as salespeople! No excuses.
  • Mix up your touch points such as phone, email, video etc. Try multiple approaches until you connect. Do not give up.
  • Monitor and document communication preferences in your CRM for each contact (such as email, text, call, video –Zoom, Meet, TEAMS, FaceTime, etc.)
For more information on our classes and assessments, please visit us at Learning Without Scars.

From My Perspective

From My Perspective

From My Perspective

From My Perspective is the latest guest blog by Don Buttrey, President of Sales Professional Training.

We have covered the headlines and some thinking on Customer Relationship Management. Let me wrap it up with these final thoughts.

HELP! I’m in CRM hell!

My position is that the “software” is not a solution per se.  The solution is getting the entire organization to embrace the power and value of knowledge with effective team selling.  Call documentation, account strategic planning, pre-call planning, post call documentation, customer profile completion, account tiering and prioritization, calendar management, and whole team communication must be taught and expected first and foremost. Then, CRM can and will be embraced by all as a powerful technological tool that makes doing all these things easier—and actually possible! As an analogy, this is similar to learning the concepts and discipline of mathematics first – then seeing the time savings and exponential power that a calculator or computer can provide.

Every dealer I have trained in the last 20+ years has seen the need – and is at some stage of CRM initiation or operation. Like cell phones or any other technology it has become a part of being a sales organization. I do not sell or promote any particular CRM.  However, due to the inevitability of dealers needing and using it, my training addresses it throughout my curriculum. As a sales trainer, my service to dealers is to support and promote buy-in and implementation of all the selling and service activities that CRM documents, tracks, and manages. I teach the “why” of CRM and make sure that leaders do not dictate it – but that all levels of the dealership accept the duties of data entry, maximize it’s use, and are involved in continuous improvement and ongoing customization of the tool.

For more information on our programs and assessments, please visit us at Learning Without Scars.