The Advantage Letter by Dave Martin
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Sunday, September 15, 2013
Volume 19 | # 440
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Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. » Stephen R. Covey

Gotta Be the Shoes?

I’ve shared one of my favorite quotes in presentations and columns many times in the past: “The busiest man in the world will stop whatever he is doing to tell you about himself.”

I like to offer up that quote when bankers protest that customers are just not interested in talking with them.

It’s a lament voiced by both in-store and traditional branch bankers countless times through the years. The folks in grocery stores are shopping and don’t want to be bothered. The customers in lobbies simply want to get transactions done and aren’t interested in hearing sales pitches.

When hearing this (again) recently, I made a comment that the group wasn’t initially expecting to hear from a guy talking about increasing sales.

I told them that their observations were absolutely correct.

Shoppers definitely don’t want to be bothered by a roving salesperson. And lobby customers don’t want to have to constantly fend off sales pitches when they are simply trying to conduct a transaction.

If customers perceive that all we want to talk about is bank products and why, by golly, they need more of them, can anyone blame them for quickly walking past us in a store or focusing intently on their smartphones while standing in a teller line?

One of my favorite illustrations to offer is the cellular phone “kiosk guys” in malls. Their aggressive sales approaches are so predictable that shoppers treat them like Medusa. Folks fear even making eye contact with them.

Yet these same shoppers tend to gladly slow down and give you their undivided attention when we make the conversation about them and/or the things that are important to them (kids, pets, jobs, hobbies).

I laughed when one banker shared her favorite practice. She said, “I just compliment someone’s shoes or outfit or haircut, and I have a new best friend in 10 seconds. Next thing you know, we’re talking about everything under the sun.”

I smiled and asked if any of the sales scripts they practiced in the past began with, “Hey, I like your shoes.” (They hadn’t.) Maybe future ones will.

I jested that we should always remember that it’s not that customers don’t want to talk to us. They just don’t want to talk about us. They want to talk about themselves.

Strive to continuously find ways to give them those opportunities, and your sales opportunities will multiply as well.

Keep on Trucking

I somehow stumbled upon a column this week by a gentleman named Tom Vanderbilt entitled, “Unhappy Truckers and Other Algorithmic Problems.”

(I think that may be my next fantasy football team’s name.)

In the column, Vanderbilt quotes a senior project manager of a shipping company who states, “One of the hardest things to teach a math analytics group is the difference between a feasible solution and an implementable solution. Feasible just means it meets all the math constraints. But implementable is something the human can carry out.”

That statement struck a nerve. In an industry as predictable as shipping, the human element is still the great variable. They can crunch data and produce the most efficient routes and procedures feasible. But at the end of the day, the most important moving parts are their truck drivers.

They are the “unknown value” in their detailed formulas.

As number crunchers are wont to do, one company has even built systems that monitor personal data (such as pay fluctuations) and behavioral data (driving speed, “hard” braking, etc.) to gauge a driver’s “mood.”

They recognize that his mood has real impact on whether their schedules will be not only feasible but implementable.

Managers are then made aware when attitudinal “red flags” seem to be present in order that they may step in, coach, and/or counsel their drivers.

I smiled broadly reading that, thinking of how long I’ve preached that I would much rather employ a slightly incompetent, good-attitude employee than a completely competent malcontent.

Slight incompetence can be fixed, and doesn’t spread to others. Bad attitudes are like viruses that jump to all coming in contact with them.

To stretch the trucking analogy, when people display poor attitudes with their coworkers and/or indifference to their responsibilities for extended periods of time, it’s sand in the gears of a machine. Friction inevitably builds and things break down.

You may not have folks preparing reports to alert you of “attitudinal red flags”. But you can gauge for yourself by observing the presence or absence of smiles and how coworkers interact with each other.

Whatever your team’s formula for success may be, never underestimate the impact that the “variables” will have on it.

Are yours smiling today?

What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity. These are but trifles, to be sure; but scattered along life's pathway, the good they do is inconceivable. » Joseph Addison

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these columns are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of any affiliated entities or sponsors.
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