February 18, 2008

Be Clear About What You Don’t Do

Filed under: Selling, Customer Service Strategy, Speaking and Communication — Mark Sanborn @ 9:12 am

Lately I’ve had some email correspondence with Impact Innovation, a small firm in the U.K. As I was surfing around their website to learn more about them and their services, I ran across a list of things they don’t do.

Comparison and contrast are effective communication tools. A list of what you don’t do can be very successful in focusing your audience more clearly on your service or product offering. It can save time and spotlight your differences and distinctives.

Not all the clients I work with are necessarily clear about their core strengths, what they do best. A starting point exercise would be to eliminate those things you either don’t do, don’t do well or don’t want to do. From there, search for the sweet spot of what you do best (and, ideally, enjoy doing).
Too often we succumb to the temptation to take money from clients we shouldn’t. We know we won’t be able to make them happy, or that it will be painful trying.

Be clear about what you do and do well, but be even clearer about what you don’t do.

December 6, 2007

If I Sold Cars…

Filed under: Selling, Success — Mark Sanborn @ 12:07 pm

Twice in the past two weeks I’ve had my car in for service. I like to get my car in early so I can get it back early, and that means I arrive at the dealer at 7:30.

By 8:00 a.m. there are up to a dozen people like me milling around the dealership waiting to get their cars back. Some work on their computers and make phone calls, but there are always a few looking at the new models on the showroom floor.

There are no salespeople around.

I don’t know when they arrive. 9:00 maybe?

If I sold cars, I’d show up at 8:00 a.m. and sell cars to qualified prospects getting their cars serviced. How do I know they’re qualified? First, they already own the brand of car I’m selling. Secondly, this may be the only time they’re not distracted and thus able to reasonably consider the advantages of trading up.

The same dealer I bought from sent me a mailer recently saying my model of car was in great demand and may be worth far more than I imagined (anything is possible). They invited me to either make an appointment or stop by to get a valuation. I was busy and didn’t have time.

This morning I had time, but there was nobody there to help me.

Brand Extension

Filed under: Selling, Success — Mark Sanborn @ 11:44 am

Did you ever own a chia pet?

Is there anybody who hasn’t owned a chia pet?

Consider: there is now a chia pet for cats. It grows cat grass. And there’s a chia pet alarm clock. And although I haven’t researched it, I’m guessing there are other permutations of the well-known product.

If you’ve got a good product, think about how you can extend it to reach new buyers. If chia pet keeps coming up with ideas, then you and I have no excuse.

October 22, 2007

Sanborn’s Axiom

Filed under: Observations, Selling — Mark Sanborn @ 10:26 pm

“Those who pay you the least demand the most.”

The corollary: “Those who pay you the most treat you the best.”

I can’t explain it. I’m not sure why this is, but in the rare instances when I’ve granted a client special dispensation on a fee it has come back to haunt me. In most of those situations the client showed the least amount of appreciation althought they demanded more than normal clients. Yes, there are times when it makes sense to charge less than normal: to extend a personal favor, introduce your product or service to a new market or simply because you want to help the individual or organization asking for a reduced price.

Strangely, you open yourself to an odd entitlement mentality. If we get what we pay for, maybe we also value most what we pay the most for. Does getting a reduced price make the customer think themselves clever in the arrangement they’ve struck, and therefore superior? Does it tilt the balance of power in the transaction in their favor?

I can only speculate because I honestly don’t know.

This is also most interesting: the clients who have stretched to pay a price or fee have been wonderful. They have invested in the results and have been most grateful for what they received for their investment.

Be leery of accepting less than you deserve or not charging what you’re worth.

September 24, 2007

Ace Your Next Interview with Preparation

Filed under: Professional Development, Selling, Success — Mark Sanborn @ 3:07 pm

As I’ve been working on my next book, The Encore Effect, I’ve been increasingly convinced of the power of preparation in improving performance in literally every area of life. I’m writing now for Jobing.com and did an article for employers about using preparation to increase job interview effectiveness. I also wrote a corresponding article about how to ace your next job interview when you are the applicant. The same principles apply to professional selling as well, so whether you’re looking for a great job or trying to close your next sale, download the PDF for a heads up and a head start on preparation!

September 14, 2007

What Kind of Customers Do You Have?

Filed under: Selling, Customer Service Strategy — Mark Sanborn @ 8:49 am

A client recently related a story about being in the drive-through line at Starbucks. After he and his kids had ordered their drinks they pulled ahead to the cashier’s window where they were told there was no charge.


A woman five cars ahead had given the cashier a $100 bill and told her to pay for as many drinks for the people behind her as the money would cover.

The person telling the story–an HR director for a Fortune 500 company–made this point: it is a cool story about a generous person, but it also says something about the kind of customers Starbucks attracts.

What kind of customers do you have?

August 25, 2007

Love and Preparation

Filed under: Professional Development, Selling, Success, Relationships — Mark Sanborn @ 4:54 pm

Consider this quote from my friend and world-class speaker Joel Weldon: “You prepare for what you love.”

The single biggest booster of performance is preparation. Pros prepare; amateurs wing it.

I prepare as much for a pro bono presentation as I do for a paid speech. Why? Because I take the opportunity to share ideas very seriously. Whether I’m donating my time and expertise or being reimbursed, I love to communicate important ideas. That’s why I prepare. I love my work.

Have a big meeting this week? How much have you prepared?

Have you prepared more for your next sales call than your competitors?

If you’re a teacher, will your students benefit from a little extra preparation for your next class?

You’re a manager giving a performance review. How much time have you invested in thougtful consideration and preparation?

Got an upcoming date night with the husband or wife? Have you made plans that will make the evening special, or will it be a last minute decision about where to eat and what movie to see?

You prepare for what you love. Where your preparation takes place, there lies your heart.

What have you prepared for lately?

July 19, 2007

Why Do You Want to Speak to Us?

Filed under: Observations, Selling, Customer Service Strategy — Mark Sanborn @ 3:05 pm

I’ve been speaking professionally for over twenty years, and I just got asked the above question. A potential client asked, “So why do you want to speak for us?”

It was a great question. It gave me pause. The flip answer would be “for the money.” Many consultants and speakers, and service providers in general, would have to admit that is a primary reason for taking on a new client. You have a service they need and they have money you want. It might sound crass, but the exchange of goods and services for money is the basis of capitalism.

We need to think beyond the money. Have you ever taken a client’s money and lived to regret it? They paid you, but the work and/or relationship were neither fun nor rewarding.

Revenue considerations don’t need to be minimized or eliminated from business considerations, but life gets more interesting when you go to second and third order reasons.

I often use a model in my own business to test whether or not to do something: interesting profits, interesting people, interesting projects, and interesting places. As a speaker, I ideally want an engagement to qualify under three of the four considerations.

Does everything I do pass the test every time? Nope. But I have made fewer stupid decisions and a few more better decisions by consulting those criteria.

What criteria to you contemplate when taking on a new business?

In other words, why do you want to do business with me?

July 2, 2007

Less Than Zero

Filed under: Selling, Customer Service Strategy — Mark Sanborn @ 8:48 pm

If you read an earlier post, “Heros or Zeros”, then you’ll know what I mean when I say that Dell customer service is less than zero.

I signed up for “in-home service” as part of my warranty package when I purchased a Dell computer for my home office.

I’ve learned what an oxymoron that phrase is at Dell.

My wife and I have spent 8-10 hours helping Dell’s phone reps “diagnose” the problem. That included going to the internet to download a system disk that wasn’t shipped with the computer as it should have been. Even with help from a computer consultant, the download was nightmarish.

We were repeatedly informed that no in-home service could be done until we had worked through the Dell procedures by phone.

Now the hard drive is, despite closely following instructions, fried. Recently a start-up screen Dell-supplied diagnostic reported an “Error 7″ which means, according to my computer consultant, there is more corrupt space than uncorrupt space on the drive. Now the computer won’t boot at all. We get a black screen that says “Can’t boot because of an NDLRT (or somesuch) problem.”

Still, the tech wants to run more “diagnostics.” I’m doubtful we can do ANYTHING on a computer that won’t boot.

So today I spent 40 minutes on the phone today, displacing a scheduled call, talking with a Dell employee and supervisor to arrange for them to call my friend Nick, a computer consultant, at his cell phone at a particular time to attempt to run the “mandatory diagnostic” on my demon-possessed computer that has never run correctly from day one.

At the appointed time, Dell called…my wife. Not Nick. Clueless. Unaware. Nick called THEM five times, to the number supplied, with the correct case number, and ended up leaving a message.

An aside: Let me be clear about language challenges. I don’t care what country a customer service rep or tech lives in, nor what primary language he or she speaks. If he or she knows their stuff and can communicate clearly, I’m copacetic. But Dell, and any company, owes it to customers to make sure that those representatives speak English well enough to be comprehensible. And that hasn’t been the case in our experience for the past three weeks.

The superivsor apologized for my “many problems and frustrations” and said that once the final diagnostics had been run, a technician would visit my home with “whatever parts were required to fix the problems.”

The dilemma is that we can’t jump through enough hoops nor spend enough time to satisfy Dell’s ridiculous requirements. 

I feel cheated. The extra money for in-home service represents no convenience as positioned by the salesperson at Dell. Simple math tells me that I would have saved money, based on the value of my time, to throw the computer away and buy a new one.

Which reminds me: I’ve purchased five Dell computers in the past three years. Not likely ever again.

I just can’t justify doing business with a company that has customer service less than zero.

June 5, 2007


Filed under: Selling, Success, Customer Service Strategy — Mark Sanborn @ 4:02 pm

Every year Bandimere dragstrip, just outside of Denver, has an event of “fire and thunder on the mountain.” In addition to the regular drag racing classes, they bring in jet cars.

Jet cars are configured like dragsters, or top fuelers if you are familiar with the sport. But instead of an internal combustion engine, the means of propulsion is a jet engine, just like the ones that airplanes use.

Jet cars are both show and go. They go fast and easily reach speeds of 200+ mph in a quarter mile, but they also are LOUD, spew huge clouds of billowing smoke and can shoot flames forty or fifty feet long when fuel is dumped into the afterburners.

In short, they are outrageous. They draw big clouds and are crazy fun.

They “race” each other in exhibition, but there is no NHRA sanctioned jet car class. The point isn’t so much competition as outrageousness.

Watching the show while covering my ears that already had ear plugs in them, I was reminded of the power of outrageousness in attracting and engaging customers.

Not everything a business does–even a dragstrip–should be outrageous. If everything were outrageous then paradoxically nothing would be outrageous. But the careful selection and use of outrageousness in your marketing, sales, service and product development can sure draw a crowd. And it can make people smile and tell others about what you’re doing.

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