I have shared with you in a past post how vacations can be a great time to experience, enjoy and evaluate customer service and how we can use those experiences to grow our own business. The basic message was that if you offer an “experience” to a client, they are less likely to “shop you” for price or perceive you as a commodity. This week, I want to share with you what I see as the two parts of any customer service experience:
The first is the “WHAT” of customer service. The “what” is the actual service we provide, whether it be loans, real estate, rental cars or food service. If you are a restaurant, you serve food. To have anyone even come in the doors a first time, you better be able to make and serve food. If you are a mortgage company, you better be able to package and fund a loan. The “what” is basically the bare minimum of customer service. You must be able to do the task that people are coming to you to get.
The second part of customer service is the “HOW”. The “how” is exactly that: “how” do you go about doing your “what”? The “how” is the experience you provide and the added actions you take while you are doing your “what”. The “how” is where you distinguish yourself from the rest. Your “how” creates the story for your clients that they will share with others. Make sure that story is a positive one.
A basic example of this I experienced poolside while on vacation. I wanted a cocktail while I basked in the sun by the pool. The drink would be the “what.” I ordered my drink and it was delivered. It was a perfectly fine drink. My “what” was satisfied. However, as a paying customer at a nice resort, I was disappointed in the “how.” I had to wait to locate a server. I then had to ask for a menu. The server seemed annoyed I was “bothering” them. I then had to wait again for the server to come back to order. I then waited again while my drink was made and delivered back again. The server almost threw the drink at me, then off they went without a word. So all in all my story would be that I had a poor customer service experience.
Now change the scenario to the next day at a different resort. I ordered the same drink poolside. The drink tasted exactly how it did the previous day. So the “what” was the same. However this time, I was greeted by name as I entered the pool area. I was politely asked if I needed anything and handed a menu by a very friendly server who had a big smile and told me their name. I ordered my drink and it was almost immediately brought back with a side of peanuts. The server then said, “please let me know if you need anything else. I’ll be back to check on you shortly.” Which customer service experience do you think was better?
The bottom line is people will use your service if they indeed have a need. People have to eat. And if your “what” is that great, you may not need a “how.” However, in a world where we are often perceived as all the same, to truly be successful, you not only need to have a great “what,” but you need to know “how” to deliver it.
In an earlier post, I shared with you the 4 “A”s of service: Asking Questions, Anticipating your client’s needs and wants, having a great Attitude, and showing your Appreciation. Today I want to share with you the 5 “F”s of a having a successful and balanced life.
Faith: Faith is twofold. First you must have absolute faith in yourself and your abilities to achieve whatever you wish to achieve both in your business life as well as your personal life. Confidence is sexy. The second part is having faith in a higher being. No matter your religious beliefs, it helps to have a spiritual side that you can gain additional strength or wisdom when things get a little rough.
Friends: Friends can not only help you celebrate your victories and commiserate your defeats, they can also help you grow your business. Don’t be shy about asking your friends for their business or their referrals. That’s what friends are for!!
Family: Family, both immediate and extended, is crucial to your life balance. Having a “safe” place to return after a tough day at the office gives you comfort and perspective. The key to balance is in being present when you are with them, which is often easier said than done. Like friends, family members can be a key source of business as well as a huge part of your “sales force,” telling all their friends and associates about you.
Fitness: Physical Fitness is important in keeping both your body and mind sharp. Take time to exercise on a regular basis. If your body isn’t healthy there is a good chance your business won’t be either. It’s difficult to conduct business from a hospital bed, so take care of yourself.
Fans: Fans are those people in your life who think you are the absolute best. They may be friends, family or past clients but they are the people who will sing your praises to everyone they meet. Clients are great but advocates are better. Have a fan base that raves about you.
So have your 5 “F”s to have a 1A life.
I know you have all heard the expression “learn from your mistakes.” There is a longer expression that says “the smart person learns from their mistakes, but the wise person learns from the smart person’s mistakes.” Since I want you all to be as wise as possible, I hope you can learn from my mistake which involves a recent hike I took.
I live near the Las Trampas Regional Park. I often take hikes on the trails exploring the area. I happened to take a look at a map of central Contra Costa county and noticed that St. Mary’s College in Moraga (where my step-daughter will attend in the fall) is only 6 to 7 miles due west from my house. So I had the bright idea that I would hike with my fiancée from the St. Mary’s campus to our house. I had done numerous hikes around St. Mary’s and dozens on the Las Trampas Trails so I just needed to put all the legs together to be successful.
So we set out at 11:30 from St. Mary’s. We quickly learned that we had forgotten our map. I decided this was not an issue since we just needed to head due east. I knew the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, so we just needed to follow the sun. What I didn’t realize was that it was the middle of the summer, therefore the sun has a southern exposure. About two hours into the hike, when I thought we should have reached a recognizable landmark, I began to worry, especially when I saw a large body of water that I knew was not supposed to be on our path. It was only then that I discovered my phone had a compass on it. Long story short, after a little over 3 hours and 12 miles, we found ourselves in the heart of Castro Valley – perfectly south of Moraga. The good news is that even though we ended up in the wrong place, we made great time getting there.
The business moral to this story is this: to be truly successful, you need to have more than a vision. It is not enough to say “I want to make x amount of money” or “I want to close x amount of transactions.” A clear VISION is certainly important but you must also have a detailed PLAN or map to help you get there – your Business Plan. Look at your “map” monthly, weekly, daily, even hourly to help you going along the right “trail.” Tweak it if you have to, to keep you heading in the right direction. The third part is making use of your TOOLS and RESOURCES – your compass – to help you execute your plan – coaches, CRM’s, your sphere of influence, trainings, and technology. So use your Tools to help you execute your Plan that will help you achieve your Vision. Use all three and learn from my mistake to make you more successful.
Are you in touch with your clients? I submit that there is no such thing as being “too touchy” when it comes to client follow-up, retention and/or prospecting. National sales studies vary on the number of touches to capture or keep a client, but the consensus is around 7 to 8. Here are 7 ways to get the ball rolling or to keep you in top of mind of your client:
- Email/Text – technology is great if you use it right. When emailing or texting a client make sure your content is: a) relevant, b) sent in a timely manner, c) sent to a segmented audience, and d) has a clear call to action and/or future conversation goal. Spam is no way to build a relationship.
- Phone calls – email are a good start but phone calls are a better way to build or keep a relationship. Personal contact – if only by voice – allows you to gain insight to your client’s frame of mind by hearing voice inflection and spontaneous responses to your inquiries. Make sure you ask a lot of open ended questions and have a plan in mind to a next step to future the relationship.
- Surveys – Asking for feedback is not only crucial in evaluating and improving your own performance but also shows the client you care about them and what they think. It involves them in your business and makes them feel important and valuable (which they are to your success). The surveys can be simple, easy and rather short – just asking a few crucial questions that will help you to improve your service. There are companies that can assist you or even do them for you. Survey also allow you a reason to follow up with a call, email or text.
- Social Media – Social media opens up a two-way communication channel and offers you a broad based and inexpensive way to reach mass markets. It also allows you to reach the “millennial.” Surveys suggest that 78% of recent real estate purchases used the internet to do research before they ever contacted a real estate professional. By using social media correctly, you can be the real estate professional they contact first or be the “viral” professional seen by a large number of potential clients.
- Gifts – Everyone loves gifts. Expressing your appreciation and gratitude is not only a great way to stay in touch but shows your clients that you value them. Even though sending gift baskets of food or flowers are nice, they may not achieve the long term result that is best for your business. The best use of a gift is one that keep you “top of mind” that they see or use every day.
- Face to Face – make a face to face appointment with a client for lunch or coffee. Nothing beats getting in front of client or prospective customer where you can gain keen insight on them as well as express your value proposition. Don’t be afraid to ask for their help in growing your business.
7. Handwritten Thank You Cards – Have an attitude of gratitude and do it in writing. Thank you cards are an appreciated and non- threatening way to connect with your clients. Once again, they show you care by taking the time and effort to show your appreciation.
As in all aspects of your business and marketing – be purposeful with these ideas and do them on a systematic basis to maximize their effective. If you touch enough people, your business should see the results. Wishing you all the very best and much continued success in growing your businesses.
June is graduation season. Report Cards are being sent. Looking back over the last few months, how would you grade yourself? If you want to improve your grade, here are four easy “A”s to help improve your sales GPA:
Ask questions – When you first get together with your clients, either on the phone or in person, be ready with a set of questions to ask your clients to really get to know there needs, wants, goals, desires and emotions. These questions and answers will help you to formulate a specific strategy for that particular client and help build a lasting relationship into the future. The more you know about your clients, the more you can truly serve them.
Anticipation – Anticipate your client’s needs even before they know them themselves. Asking questions will certainly help you with this. You are the professional – the expert – you know and understand the process. Make sure you keep yourself as the point person of the transaction by communicating expectations and educating the customer on what is happening – upfront – before they have questions. Real estate transactions are a very stressful and emotional time for most people – including us – calm those fears and reduce stress by anticipating problems and communicating solutions. This will not only make your clients more assured of your professionalism, but it will build lasting trust that will deepen your relationship with them.
Attitude – Have a great one!!! No matter how bad your day may be or how terrible the transaction may be going – “never let them see you sweat.” Be energetic, enthusiastic, and positive. If nothing else, be friendly and have a smile on your face. Like dogs, customers sense fear. If they sense your fear or negativity, they will mirror that and bad things will happen. Negativity and fear don’t build trust or relationships – love and positivity do!!
Appreciation – Have an attitude of gratitude at every step of the process. Always thank your clients – even if they are shopping you or just asking questions. They could have gone somewhere else to ask. Thank folks verbally at the end of every conversation – or even better – the second you have them on the phone – “thank you so much for your call.” Then follow up with an email or text and then go one step further with a hand written note. I have been in sales for almost 35 years and never once did anyone say “will you please stop thanking me!!” I have seen the opposite though – “I do business with so and so all the time and they have never said thank you.” Appreciation goes a long way in building a lasting relationship – one that will spawn referrals and a lifetime client.
Use these “A”s and you’ll be on the “Dean’s List” for sure.
If you are like me, you had a father who was always full of wisdom and always willing to share it – especially right after I did something wrong. Here are a handful of things my dad said to me over the years that I still find applicable to life and business today:
- “Don’t answer the phone just because it rings” – In our world of technology, our attention span is getting shorter and shorter. The message here is stay in the present and focus your full attention on whomever you are with or whatever you are doing. Use good time management skills to set aside time to take or make calls. With caller id and voicemail, you probably won’t miss anything and you will accomplish much more.
- “Don’t take any wooden nickels.” – As a kid growing up in the 60’s, I didn’t even know what a wooden nickel was. The meaning for us today is don’t settle for less than you are worth. With price and cost becoming such a focal point, it is more important than ever to know and express your value proposition.
- “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.” – This was always one of my all-time favorites especially since I got to hear it in my most fragile states. The key here is perspective. Our days are full of worry, concern and complaints. Step back and evaluate if the emotional energy we are expending is truly worth our efforts or is there a bigger picture for which we should be more concerned. Put another way, in another famous quote – “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”
- “You are getting too big for your britches.” – Another one that I heard quite often. Having confidence in what we are doing is great. Having a giant ego and thinking we are so very important is not. Try being humble and hungry to be more successful.
- “A bad attitude is like a flat tire – unless you change it, you aren’t going anywhere.” – Attitude is everything. So have a positive one. There are two things we can truly control in our lives: Effort and Attitude. If we give maximum effort and have a great attitude while we are doing it, success will surely follow.
I hope you will take the time to reflect on your own dad and think fondly back on things he might of said and see if you can apply them to your own lives today. I’m sure if you do, you’ll see that Father Knows Best!!!
Graduation season is upon us. It got me thinking about all the lessons from school that can still be helpful in our lives today. Here are just a few:
- Have a favorite teacher. In school there always seemed to be that one teacher from whom you learned the most. It could have been what they taught or how they taught it, but they kept you engaged and wanting to learn more. I encourage you to seek out a mentor or a coach to help you along your path. Someone who can teach you new things and hold you accountable to your goals.
- Go to class and do your homework. Class was where you obtained knowledge and learned new information. Homework was used and needed to truly hone those skills and imbed that knowledge – usually with practical application worksheets. Never lose the passion to learn more. Yearn to know as much as you can about your industry, community and clients. Knowledge remains power.
- Hang in your clique. Whether you were a nerd, a jock, a stoner or a popular kid, you had a circle of friends that supported you and your efforts. The same support groups can help you now in your professional life. Hopefully your sphere is more mature than your high school groups but it is very important to have a sphere of influence that supports you and your efforts.
- Take PE. In high school you probably had to wear the matching uniform, but PE was a vital part of the educational process. The same goes today. To be truly successful you not only need to be mentally fit, but physically fit as well. Having a healthy diet and regular exercise will help keep your stress in check. The gym can also help grow your sphere.
- Express your school spirit. Whether you loved your school or not, I’m sure you cheered at all the pep rallies or had some other semblance of school pride. Don’t be afraid to do the same today when it comes to your own companies or personal brand. Grab your megaphone and let everyone know that you are the best.
We may have graduated from school but we don’t ever really graduate from striving to be the best we can be.
This weekend we lost “The Greatest of All Time,” Muhammad Ali. So I would be remiss if I didn’t comment on his passing. Ali was the ultimate fighter whether it was in the ring, for civil rights or while battling Parkinson’s for the last 30 years.
I grew up in the prime of Muhammad Ali’s career and got to witness both his athletic and cultural greatness. As an 8 year old boy, I actually had the good fortune of meeting him once in the Los Angeles Airport. Even though he was known for his loud and brash persona, on that day to an admiring 8 year old boy, he was nothing but kind and gentle – shaking my trembling hand and telling me how nice it was to meet me. What a thrilling and lasting memory!!!
While listening to the hundreds of tributes praised upon him, I gleaned 4 major themes from the life of Muhammad Ali that can help us all, not only in our business but in our lives:
- Believe in yourself. Ali had enormous confidence in his ability as well as his beliefs. We all have our own talents and gifts that we need to confidently and proudly share with those around us. Ali never shrunk in the spotlight and neither should we.
- Brand Yourself. Ali was the ultimate self-promoter. He made up slogans, sayings and poems to promote each fight or opponent – most as familiar today as they were 40 years ago. Don’t be afraid to create and promote your brand that is uniquely and authentically you. This will differentiate you from the pack, make you more memorable and allow you to stand out from your competition.
- Inspire Others. Whether you agreed with Ali and his principles or not, there is no debate his words and actions inspired hundreds of thousands of people. We should all aspire to inspire. Do things that make a difference in your family, industry and community.
- Have a Sense of Humor. Ali always seemed to be having fun. Even in his later years, when he couldn’t speak, you saw the joy and playfulness in his eyes. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Enjoy what you do and all you have. Have fun!!
There are hundreds of other attributes I could mention. The bottom line is that Muhammad Ali was truly “The Greatest” and will be missed. If we each strive to be the best we can be in our own lives, then we too can be “The Greatest” in our own unique way. What a great tribute that would be to The Champ.
Most of you have heard the old riddle “How do you eat an elephant?” Answer: “One bite at a time.” This principle can be very helpful when we are stressed about our day or week. Most of the tasks, obligations, meetings and chores we face during the day are fairly simple or easy taken individually. However, for whatever the reason, the tendency is to look at them in the aggregate. Have you ever used the expression “I have so much to do today!!”. The simple individual tasks, when all grouped together, then become very ominous and cause us great stress. Often we are so overcome by the enormity of the totality that we simply give up and accomplish nothing.
As a basketball coach, I often practice with my players the stressful situation of “making two free throws to win the game.” The approach I instill in my players is NOT to think about making both free throws. You can’t make both until you make the first. So the mindset is to focus simply on “just making one – the next one.” Once you make the first, you then have additional confidence to make the second. My experience is the players usually end up with streaks of 25 or more – not worrying about making 25 – just focusing on making one – the next one. Accomplishment, energy and success breeds more accomplishment, energy and success. The same mindset can work in your daily life.
I recently watched U.S. Navy Admiral and Seal Commander William McCraven deliver a commencement speech to University of Texas graduates. His advice on how to be successful: take the time each morning to make your bed. The theory is if you take the time to make your bed each morning you have achieved an accomplishment. One thing off your list. Once you achieve one accomplishment it propels you to achieve the next. Additionally, even if you have had a terrible day and feel you did nothing, when you get home, you will at least have the satisfaction of having made your bed.
Use this plan of attack to be more successful in your life. Write down your list of things you need to do in a day or for the week. Focus on just one to do. Complete the task and then make sure to cross it off your list (this is very important). Once you accomplish one task, the sense of achievement then propels you to complete the next task. Before you know it, you have checked off all the items on your list and you have given yourself a sense of accomplishment that will then energize you to do it all over again the next day. Before you know it, you have “eaten the entire elephant” and done so with minimal stress. So start “eating” your list one item at a time to maximize your success.
In most cases, to have a truly strong and long lasting relationship with your friends, family or clients, you need to connect with them on an emotional level. One of the easiest emotions to tap into is one’s fears. We all have them. Things that we are afraid of or scare us. I’m sure you thought of one right away just reading this.
Advertisers and politicians are constantly playing on our fears. Advertisers use our fear of humiliation about poor hygiene, not having the cleanest clothes or not driving the right car to sell us all types of products. Politicians use the fear of losing our job or getting attacked by terrorist to get elected and stay in office. In our own businesses, we can use our clients’ fears in a positive way to connect and build a successful long lasting relationship with them.
It makes sense. Think about when you were afraid as a child. Whom did you go to seek comfort? You didn’t go to your local vendor, bank teller or store clerk – the people with whom you had transactions. NO – you turned to those you trusted: your parents, siblings, other family members or your good friends.
In business, there is always going to be a certain amount of fear (or at least worry or concern) involved in every deal. I suggest you take the time to discuss these fears or worries with your clients, and really get them to open up about what scares them or causes them stress. If you listen, and are then able to calm or resolve their fears, you have gone from having a transactional relationship to an emotional relationship with them. You are no longer their agent in a transaction but their trusted adviser who is helping them through a stressful or scary situation. This will foster a stronger and longer lasting relationship with them for the future.
So next time you are having discussions with your clients, don’t be afraid to ask them about their fears or what scares them about the process. Both you and your clients will be happier you did. And remember: “The only thing you have to fear is fear itself.”