Monthly Archives: September 2010

Customer Recognition Makes You CompetitionProof

You’ve seen them when you visit companies, the plaques on the walls declaring them the “Customer of the Month” or even “Customer of the Year.” Maybe it’s an “In Appreciation…” plaque recognizing meritorious service or excellence in some activity.

Often they are displayed proudly in the lobby or along heavily-traveled corridors or even in an executive’s office. Each of these plaques is a silent testament to the commitment that one organization has made to another. They are ever-present advertising and marketing on the customer’s walls.

The accompanying award ceremony involving executives from both companies, often over a shared meal or during an important meeting serves to reinforce the relationship and can create a new level of personal commitment.

So put this on your list of things to do: inaugurate a customer recognition program. Don’t skimp on the reward nor the ceremony. When you make customers feel important, you’ll be CompetitionProof.

UPDATE

Here is the biggest customer award I’ve ever seen! It sits in the lobby of the Ingram Micro office in Buffalo, NY. It was awarded to Ingram Micro for being the first distributor to sell (use your Dr. Evil accent…) one billion dollars (resume normal voice) of HP hardware. Thanks to Tom Jones (no, not the singer) for snapping the pics.

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Make the Invisible Visible

(Continued from the prior post, this story happened in the mid ’90’s so the quoted prices are lower than today’s prices. The story is still valid.)

One of his customers complained, “Gary, I can get 2×4 studs at 84 Lumber for 84 cents. You’re charging me $1.09. That’s too much.”

Gary smiled and said, “Jump in the truck. We’re going to 84 Lumber.” When they got there, Gary walked over to the pile of studs and began to pick through them looking for lumber that was straight and true.

“Nope, not that one.”

After examining half a dozen studs, he approved one. “How long did that take?”

“About 30 seconds.”

“And what does it cost for your guys to do this?”

“I figure they could pick about a hundred an hour. At $18.00 an hour, it cost 18 cents to pick them.

So that brings the cost up to $1.02. Then there’s the time that it takes from them to drive down here, load up the lumber and drive back to the job site. I see your point. It costs me more to buy the cheaper lumber.”

Gary smiled, “I deliver the quality lumber you need right to your job site which means instead of picking through cheap lumber, your crew can be building a house.”

He was able to hold his price in the face of a competitor with a 23 percent lower offering by making the invisible costs plain to see. He made the invisible visible. And he became CompetitionProof against pricing pressure from his low-cost competitor.

{UPDATE}

Mark,

I love this one as in my profession of dentistry folks are not always able to tell the “difference” in what we do. It isn’t necessarily seeing the difference between a motel 6 and the Hilton. Yet, to make the invisible visible is to show patients things like digital x rays which can be transmitted via email, digital xrays having much less radiation, the trend of no metal in dental restorations, particularly crowns, the use by some dentists of cut-rate crowns using allergy-prone materials, patients submitting paperwork by website and checking thier accounts, email and text patient communication. Another area is advanced training into cosmetic and implant reconstruction. There are still a good number of patients out there who don’t know what their dentists don’t know. The result is that sometimes both the dentist and the patient don’t know what they don’t know and possible treatments are invisible to both but are visible to others…ok, I’ll stop, you know what I mean…

Thanks for the info.’

Jerry

Thanks Dr. Jerry for the great feedback. You’ve got it!

While it’s second nature to you, it’s invisible to your patients. A great way to do this is to educate as you go. “I’m taking digital x-rays of you because they use 1/10 of the radiation of film x-rays. This means you have substantially less radiation exposure. It also means that I can e-mail them to you. Or if I need to consult with another expert about your situation, I can get a much faster answer from them. All in all, it’s just better dentistry.”

You get the picture!

The next step is to make sure that your patients can tell the story to others. “I go to Dr. Maize because…”

Mark S.A. Smith

 

CompetitionProof Secrets from the Ultimate Salesman

I met Gary in 1996. He was the number one salesman out of the 77-store Moore’s Lumber chain. He outsold the number two salesman by a factor of three and the number three salesman by a factor of four. I wanted to find out what made Gary so good, so I rode around with him for a day to prepare for a series of events for their annual sales meeting.

It quickly became apparent that Gary had become a critical part of his customers’ success. He became their project manager with his goal to keep the construction crew on site building, not running to the lumber yard or hardware store for supplies and tools.

He would meet with his contractors at the beginning of the project when he bid on the construction materials. After costing out the lumber package, he would hold on to the blueprints and use his construction experience to thoughtfully assemble a daily truck load to go out to the job site. He would consider the weekly weather forecast; if it was going to be clear, he would send out materials for outside construction. If it was predicted to be foul, he would send materials for inside construction.

He would always include everything that he could think of that the crew would need. If light fixtures were on the load, he would include light bulbs. If beams were on the load, he would include the lag screws to fasten them.

He arranged for a mobile tool repair truck to visit each job site once a week, performing preventative maintenance, sharpening saws, and tuning up pneumatic equipment so that the crew could keep working.

The results of his project management and focus on keeping the crew making daily progress meant that his contractors completed their home building projects and average of six weeks sooner, resulting in increased profits and more projects and fewer penalties for missing contract deadlines.

What did Gary charge for his services above and beyond just filling lumber orders? What I learned made my jaw drop. He didn’t charge a cent.

But he did required one liberty. His customers gave him signature authority on their checking accounts. He told me, “All that I ask is to be paid every day.” When he pulled open his lower right drawer, it was filled with customer check books.

When you can write yourself a check from your customer’s checking account, you are not just a trusted advisor, you’re a TRUSTED trusted advisor. And you’re certainly CompetitionProof.

How can you get to this level of trust and service with your customers? You might not believe this to be possible, yet Gary did it. But none of his fellow salesmen did.

One thing you can do is get deposits. The deposit shows customer commitment. You may wish to offer a discount to be paid in advance for the project. As Alan Weiss, colleague and author of Million Dollar Consulting points out, if you get paid in advance, they aren’t going to cancel the project. And many companies have policies to take any available discount, meaning you can get advance payment more often than you may think. You become CompetitionProof.

Coming Next: More of Gary’s secrets….

 

CompetitionProof Happens After the Sale

Most sales pros don’t ever consider the competition after a customer buys. “We got the deal!” sales people celebrate. And then they’re off to the next “deal.”

The real deal is this: the first sale is a down payment on a lifetime of sales from a satisfied customer. And that customer can stop payment at anytime they choose. (Thank you, David Garfinkel for that insight. http://www.davidgarfinkel.com).

It’s not just about beating your competitors with price, availability, features, brand, and customer experience. It’s not just about delivering what your customers want, the way they want it, at the price they want, when they want. Most successful organizations do that now.

It’s about continuing to bring them what they want even before they know that they want it. That means regular meetings with your customers to keep them your customers, even if they don’t have money to spend. If you wait until they have budget to reconnect, you’ll be back in the fight with your competition. You want to capture the budget before it’s available and before anyone else finds out about it.

And with that insider information, you’re CompetitionProof.

Customer Success is Your Success

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Bill Gates is reputed to have said, “When your customer buys from the competition, you lose twice: you don’t get the money and they do.” That’s so true! It diminishes your ability to be successful and increases their ability to dominate the market.

The market votes with money. Customer favorites grow their market share, those that don’t deliver the goods fail. Any organization that leads their market is the temporary winner. The business race is run every day and the finish line moves every day. The rules of the game change at the whim of consumers, at the behest of the news, and on the activity of competitors. Customer priorities can shift in a second leaving once vaunted products gasping for breath.

For example, Conde Nast recently chose to close down a foodie institution, Gourmet Magazine, after nearly 70 years of publication. In the face of growing popularity of celebrity chefs and Food Network, the grand dame of the gourmand couldn’t keep up, with advertising revenues at half of where they were a year before.

Just because you’ve been successful is no longer any shred of guarantee that you’ll remain successful because customers keep changing the definition of success. The point is that your customers each have a definition of success. For some it’s just making it to retirement without any hassles or mess. To others, it’s growing their career (what ever that means in today’s world). To others, it’s just making a paycheck until they win the lottery. To some, it’s doing what they’re passionate about, whether at home, at work, or at play.

When you help your customer be successful, no matter how they define it, you have become successful as an organization, for now. When you track how they measure success, and keep making them successful, you have become CompetitionProof.