Making Babies (Creating Experience vs. Selling)

Selling is a part of nearly every occupation and business. My personal experience specifically is in retail and services. I have had tremendous success over the years learning skills and techniques in closing sales and building value. I would like to demonstrate the benefits of creating a customer experience over just having selling skills.

“Welcome to (insert generic business name here). What can I do for you today? Is there anything else? Would you like a bag? Would you like your receipt in the bag?”

This may be an adequate and possibly even a good customer experience. How does it compare to the following?

“Hey Ms. Johnson. It’s nice to see you today. How’s that cute puppy? She must be so big by now. I would love to get you checked in for your visit today. I see from our last visit that you purchased (insert generic product here). How has that been working for you? Great. Do you have any questions about its features. What can I do for you today? Absolutely. May I also suggest (insert generic up-sale item)? It will compliment (item already determined to purchase). How about (insert generic impulse buy)? Thanks for always choosing to come down to support our business. It was a pleasure to see you today. Please tell your mom I said hello. I look forward to seeing her when she comes back up this winter.”

There is an obvious difference. The second interaction exemplifies a connection between the salesperson and the customer. It is a simple and elegant experience being created versus the generic sale transaction created in the first example.

Absolutely nothing memorable happened in the first interaction. The customer is likely to forget the experience within days. Did they even learn the employee’s name? They likely forgot it before they left the parking lot.

The second interaction is an example of an unforgettable experience that will result in a lifetime customer and many, many return visits. It is full of energy that will long outlast the dollars made off that one sale. The second customer feels like clientele instead of an order number. They will rave to their network, friends, and family about the experience every opportunity they get. This will result in exponential sales growth if the business or salesperson is committed to creating a consistent experience in the future as well.

The customers will repay the expert salesperson with compliments and possibly gifts and additional opportunities in the future. I have had customers try to leave tips, bring sizeable gift cards, drop off cases of beer and bottles of wine, amongst other gifts. The most memorable are the hand-made gifts. This past holiday season a customer brought me a Santa sleigh made out of chocolates and candy canes in a cute holiday tin. My family and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I will never forget it.

Create the experience and the sales will inevitably follow. Your clientele will be excited to come see you and bring you their dollars.

Technical skill is helpful, but not as necessary as the ability to connect with your customers. Creating a customer experience will make it easier for the value of what you are selling to exceed the cost. Nobody cares if you know how an engine works or how effective a nutrition supplement is if you are an asshole or just cold in your interactions. I have a team and resources at my disposal if I need technical knowledge I do not personally possess. There is also the internet if needed.

There is a near infinite amount of resources, information, and techniques available for increasing conversion rate{1}, units per sale, and dollars per sale. These are measurable metrics. Any boss can print a report with these numbers on it and tell an employee to sell more often, sell more dollars, sell better quality sales, etc. What is not measurable through conventional business reporting models is the soft skills. Soft skills include creating customer referrals, relationship building, and networking.

One specific example of a soft skill I use is remembering names and details about my clientele. My customers are surprised and delighted when I am successful in remembering their name. I put myself ahead of the majority of my competition for the same dollars just by reestablishing our connection from a previous visit. When I misremember or guess a name incorrectly the embarrassment passes quickly. It allows us to break the ice with banter.

Believe me when I say remembering names is a learnable skill. It just takes practice and a willingness to fail before you succeed. Attempting to remember someone’s name incorrectly twice will force you commit it to memory before the third time. After two or three tries it becomes impossible to not remember their name. I remember somewhere between sixty and eighty percent of repeat customers’ names on any given day. There are other tricks to remembering the names, but you have to look within your own work system to figure those out. Be creative and see the dividends this simple trick will pay out.

Another way I tailor an experience is in pacing. I remember the tempo and pace specific customers prefer in an interaction with me. I am a Jewish Italian from New Jersey and every now and again I catch myself making someone feeling uncomfortable by the fact I move and speak fast. When they call me on making them uncomfortable or when I anticipate it I share that I am an Italian Jew from Jersey and we have a chuckle. We make a connection based on my willingness to admit fault and then make them laugh. This will bring us closer and will result in immediate and future sales opportunities.

I read body language. Is the customer becoming uneasy because of the cost of my goods or services? Do they not understand what I am communicating? Do they just not like me? I can build value in my goods and services. I can educate them on how the products work and how they will benefit them. Sometimes I just need to find one of my fellow salespeople that may connect with them on a different level. Willingness to give a sale up to a coworker pays dividends with both the company in gaining a sale I may have otherwise lost or minimized. It also goes a long way in team-building and interpersonal connection with a coworker who may learn this soft skill as well and repay the favor.

Some of my clients like me to sell on a needs basis. Others prefer and trust my recommendation. I react quickly and customize the experience to each customer.

Reading and acting on the difference between these two types of customers is another example of a soft skill that is not measurable other than in general sales reporting. General sales reporting will show sales numbers, but that only tells a short-sighted version of the true story.

When I really make a connection with an old friend (return client) or new friend (new customer for life) they leave happy. I usually make a significant sale. This gives me a feeling of elation. I call this “making babies.” My coworkers and bosses get a kick out of this teminology.

We all know the difference between just getting some and making babies. Anyone can get some once. Making a baby is forever. It requires a time and emotional and sometimes a monetary investment. The return on investment of “making a baby” is a life time friend. They are a person you can ask for a favor like a last minute perfect satisfaction survey that may equal thousands of dollar in personal pay. They are someone that will stop you to say hello at the town fair to introduce you to their family and rave about you.

You become their “guy.” Everyone has heard the saying “I have a guy.” If you create an experience you will become the guy they are spreading the word about. That’s some good juju.

Continue to look for those ways to create an experience as opposed to just looking to close a sale. The sales will come, but the experience is the gold behind the money.

Feel free to contact me if you have questions or comments. I will read them all. I look forward to the discourse on this subject I feel so passionately about.

{1}Conversion Rate is the percent of closed sales in relation to customer contact.
Acknowledgements to Kurt Kennedy, the book Raving Fans, and my former team at Sunglass Hut for all starting me on the journey to understanding the value of an exceptional customer experience. It has become a skill that has been paramount to my business and financial success.

Be Undeniable

It’s time to give ourselves a pat on the back and a pep talk to get us ready for our future.

So far here on Failing Upwards we have eliminated some of our worse habits and introduced new more positive ones (see: The Dichotomy of Habits). We have learned to use defeat to find strength. We have reduced wasted time in our personal lives to improve the quality of our free non-work time (see: The Time Space Continuum). We have given ourselves a raise by learning to ask for the discount as well as introduced ourselves to our networks. We have even explored hacking our lives to find short and smart cuts to make ourselves more successful and fulfilled{1}.

These are all ways to create awesome momentum towards achieving whatever it is that we want in our lives. Some of us want more financial success, some want more free time, some want to be better family members or friends. Whatever our individual goals may be we understand by now that our work is far from over. Going from good to great is an ongoing process.

Congratulations on taking those first steps. If you’re still with me reading these “self-help” posts, or if you are actively seeking improvement in yourself to better your life, you are already way ahead of the status quo. Most of our society is content with working a nine-to-five for someone else until they reach retirement age. People give themselves carrots along the way such as vacations and toys, but generally speaking work comes before the things that should really matter.

Ourselves, our health, both mental and physical, our families, our friends, our time and our experiences are what really matters. Life is just a blink. Why wait until the end to flip the script? Bruce Lee lived thirty two years. John F. Kennedy passed when he was forty-six. Jimmy Hendrix was twenty seven. What if all three waited until they were sixty seven to start doing the things they wanted to? It’s sad to think so many people die before they realize their own potential and greatness because they are keeping up with the Jones’s or because they developed an addiction to work.

Addictions do not always have to be bad. Workaholism isn’t awful if you love what you do. I write compulsively because I love to develop my craft and I love to share my knowledge, experiences, and stories. Addiction to fitness is another example of an addiction that can benefit us.

What kind of world would we live in if we became addicted to spending time with our family or getting involved in our communities? What if we became addicted to activism or helping others in need?

Right now let’s continue on this journey and get addicted to self-improvement. We will never be as good as we can be, but we can certainly work on it and strive to get there. I’m proud of you for taking the time to think differently about yourself and the direction you will take in your life. Success, happiness, fulfillment are all accessible to all of us. It is so close you can see it if you know where to look. You can feel it if you reach out and grasp it.

So what’s next?

We will flip that proverbial script. We have been working too hard for too long for too little money that we will walk into our boss’s office and ask for a raise or a promotion or a work hours reduction depending on which suits us. We will leave our coworkers pay-rates or capabilities out of the conversation because it’s not relevant. It’s about us and what we excel at. It’s about how much more we can do if given the trust and empowerment. Most people don’t ask for a raise because they are scared; of what I am not sure. Perhaps they are afraid of losing the job they are already not satisfactorily compensated for.

Most people don’t communicate what they want. Additionally they don’t set boundaries or say no when they really should. This goes beyond work into interpersonal relationships as well as dealing with ourselves.

We will be fearless because the worst thing that could happen is usually not that bad. The upside is infinite. It’s more money in less time. It’s better looking and higher quality lovers. It is self-satisfaction.

We will be undeniable. We will change the humdrum approach to our daily tasks to reflect our goal of being better, stronger, and faster. We will continue to look for the hacks and we will add value and bring our people along with us into a successful future.

We won’t walk into Google and ask for a job if we want to work there. We will create a project or application that Google will need. They will say to themselves “We cannot afford to not hire this person.”

You will walk up to that hottie at the venue. You will show yourself as the self-confident, fun, communicative person you are. It will be so obvious that you will add value to their life that they will have no choice, but to want to be in your life.

It starts with confidence and an open-mind. Repetitions and action correction should follow. Reproduce successes often and filter out the ineffective and the noise. Work on your strengths more than improving your shortcomings. We will only get small gains from improving on our imperfections, while mastering what we are good at may allow us to corner the market. There is no gold medal for someone who is a little good at a lot of things. There probably isn’t a lot of financial success in it either.

Again, be undeniable in a world where we are socially conditioned to deny ourselves. Create your success. Shape your future. You are what you make of yourself.

{1} In Hack Your Life to Peaces I committed to a sub-fifty minute 10k time at today’s Bolder Boulder. I am happy to report I ran a 48 minute race. I do not want this blog to be a bunch of hypothetical. Much of what I present I am either currently doing in my own life or have done. Please feel free to share similar successes, especially if they were inspired by something touched on here in Failing upwards. Thanks for reading.