The Advantage Letter by Dave Martin
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Friday, August 01, 2014
Volume 20 | # 461
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The best antidote for worry is work. The best cure for weariness is the challenge of helping someone who is even more tired. One of the great ironies of life is this: He or she who serves almost always benefits more than he or she who is served. » Gordon B. Hinckley

What's Your Trade?

Over the past few months, I’ve helped man our company’s booth at a few industry shows. During last week’s show, I began joking about the benefits of getting your ego dinged up a bit.

Working trade shows offers ample opportunities.

I’ve been reminded of just how many of my normal day-to-day conversations and activities involve people who know me (at least a little) and seem (at least a little) interested in what I have to say.

Tradeshows provide no such ecosystem. You sometimes feel about one-half-step removed from cell phone kiosk guys in the mall.

Standing in our exhibit area with a smile on my face, I’ve been reminded of my very first days running an in-store branch. Some folks look above you and around you, trying to glean what you do.

I chuckle, figuring they’re worried that eye contact can only lead to a sales pitch… right?

Other attendees keep their heads down and barely glance over at all as they head to wherever food and/or drinks are served.

I’ve heard vendors at these shows suggest that they don’t mind the folks who don’t acknowledge them. One recently told me, “At least we’re not wasting each other’s time.”

As I heard those words, I wondered how wise it was to assume that folks choosing to totally ignore them have enough knowledge to properly make that judgment call. Some folks have no need for what you offer.

But how much do most folks actually know about what you offer? Hint: not much.

That same dynamic is as true in our day-to-day operations as it is on the display floor of a tradeshow. Folks don’t know what they don’t know.

Conversations with people we don’t already know are seldom a total waste of time. Sure, you may be able to decipher quickly that a person is not an immediate “prospect.”

But engaging folks in conversations that allow you to learn something about them is seldom wasted. And if they learn a little about you in the process, that’s all the better.

Making a positive impression, regardless of the immediate business ramifications, is always a wise investment of our time. But most of those impressions will never happen if we are waiting for folks to figure out on their own that we may be worth getting to know.

Today’s new friends are tomorrow’s new customers. Will you set out to make any today?

Who Pays the Bills?

I found myself a “fly on the wall” at a job interview this week. It wasn’t by choice.

As I sat pecking at my laptop in an airport club, two well-dressed folks sat down at the adjacent table. They were only five feet or so away and were not exactly speaking in hushed tones.

My initial thought was to reach into my bag for the noise-canceling earbuds. But then I figured, hey, I was here first.

I fought off the urge to interrupt and ask who was organized enough to line up an interview in an airport club while both were waiting on connecting flights. (Some admin out there deserves a raise.)

I also fought off the urge to lean over about 10 minutes in and tell the older guy interviewing the young lady, “Dude. Hire her.”

I wasn’t basing that gut feel on her resume in medical equipment sales (that he reviewed out loud), which was solid. I wasn’t basing it on how she spoke or carried herself, which was also very solid.

It was when she was asked about how she became the top salesperson at her present company that her answer struck a nerve with me. It gave me a flashback to a comment one of my oldest friends in the banking industry shared years ago.

The young lady told her interviewer that she learned early on that building strong relationships with her customers was the one thing that could guard against always having to compete on price. She said that she set out to learn as much about her customers’ businesses and individual needs and preferences as possible.

She then said, “I want them to know that I work for them.”

I flashed back to one of the best salespeople and generally nice guys I’ve had to the opportunity to work with through the years. My banker friend, George, was an ex-garment industry salesman.

He shared with me a comment one of his mentors made to him many moons ago. He said, “The company you work for may process your paycheck, but your real employers are the customers who do business with you. Never forget that you work for them.”

That’s a mindset that will serve any of us in sales and service positions well. Customers can always find alternative “providers”.

Whether or not they can find as dedicated and engaged providers is entirely up to us.

Are you making it clear to your best customers that you work for them?

If you're going to be able to look back on something and laugh about it, you might as well laugh about it now. » Marie Osmond

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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