Dennis with Renee Balfour from Putnam Investments, and Ed Salerno of Mass Mutual at the Mass Mutual National Conference in Orlando this past weekend.
Archive for June, 2011
Posted by Dennis on June 28th, 2011 | Permalink
Posted by Dennis on June 28th, 2011 | Permalink
Very rarely do I sleep late or through my alarm, but even more rarely do I win at poker, which I had done the night before and it took me most of the night to do it, waiting for the elusive Big Slick.
When I woke up, money stuck all over me from my outrageous poker winnings ($50 CDN, about $48 USD by the way) I was already dangerously late and I scrambled to get to my phone to call Air Canada.
Think about how out of luck most people would be if they woke up about an hour before the plane boarded and had to call a toll free line … the hold music, the prompts: “Push 1 to upgrade, Push 2 to check on the status of your flight, and Push 3 if you are totally screwed.”
What a horrible feeling. I am not accustomed to this. I am a professional traveler. My bags are packed the day before. I pack like I work on an assembly line. It’s a process. This was a crazy feeling – this was panic mixed with a little helplessness.
Could your clients live without you?
What we all value and appreciate when we frequent specific businesses is being recognized. We don’t want to have to plead. We don’t want to have to point out that we are important – we want to be important from the moment we walk in the door.
If not for my status with Air Canada my day would have been pretty awful – instead it’s just a great story about client service.
I have access to call an Air Canada Concierge who picked up the phone on the 2nd ring. Her name was Dana. “Call me when you get close and I’ll meet you at security with your boarding passes.” Dana told me to relax, that even if I miss my flight I could catch the very next one and still make my connection to Orlando Florida if I could get to the airport quickly.
Think about how often your clients call your office and speak to your staff, or walk into your office or your store – Would they consider your staff a concierge? Does your office respond quickly and promptly to calls? Are you proactive to solve your client’s problems? Do your clients understand what your process is for delivering your professional services? Do you do whatever you can, the little things, to improve the client experience?
I couldn’t live without Air Canada Super Elite Status – I consider them a partner in my business. On numerous occasions I have arrived at the airport to find a flight cancelled, and I never panic because I know that the Super Elite desk is already working on the problem, they typically have it solved before I am even aware there has been an issue. They wait with a sign that has my name on it and hand me my new itinerary and I am on my way.
And then the hand off …
Dana was waiting, my boarding passes in her hand, upgraded seats, and the kicker – a filled out custom form. She walked me to the front of security, and I made my flight. When I landed in Toronto, there was yet another concierge waiting for me at the end of the jet way, and she made it really easy by holding a sign with my name on it.
She was in contact with the gate via walkie talkie (do we still call them that?) so they knew I was enroute. I was escorted through customs, and once again to the front of security. I made my connection to Orlando without issue. I was saved.
Had I not been an Air Canada Super Elite member my day would have been completely different. I would have had to scramble to get to the airport, and I would have been full of uncertainty and worry. Then I would have spent a long time sitting in Toronto waiting for my next and only option to get to Orlando which is much later in the day, and I would have been praying for clear skies, no storms, tornados, or mechanical issues. I would have been counting on everything going right – I would have needed to get lucky.
Make sure your top clients feel like partners.
I have a lot of clients – speakers bureaus, investment firms, banks and I try my best for all of them. However I have one key client that I do anything for, and when they ask if I can do them a favor, the answer when possible is always yes. They have Super Elite Status with me, and I spend quite a lot of time trying to figure out, on their behalf, how they can get more value out of their relationship with me.
Essentially I spend time thinking about how I can work more, or do more, or bring more to the table without them having to pay more. I’m looking out for them. I am protecting them, and therefore myself. That’s my job.
When you start to think about yourself as a partner in your client’s success, you take a very important step towards becoming an invaluable asset. A franchise player. A key piece of the puzzle. An essential partner.
The Big Slick.
Posted by Dennis on June 23rd, 2011 | Permalink
This is kind of cosmic. A few minutes ago I made a coffee and sat down to do my final proof read of this post. My phone rang, it was my tailor George who I have written about. George just published his book.
I asked him “Why did you write a book?” His answer: “To help.”
The blog I wrote and had sat down to polish and publish was about what successful people do, and George is one of those people who fits the mold. I love it when the universe gives me these cool little pushes in the right direction.
And now to my regularly scheduled blog …
I have been working on a new seminar on better entrepreneurship and over the last while I have been compiling a list of traits that successful people share. Over the years I have learned to pay far more attention to how people do things rather than what they do specifically.
A long time ago I measured success primarily by a person’s material wealth and ability to act freely to pursue their interests. I’m a little ashamed of that, but keep in mind I was a kid and I wasn’t experienced enough to know any different.
Fortunately I started to make a lot of money too and I realized pretty quickly that making money didn’t make you successful it just bought you a nicer car. Making money isn’t that big of a deal and the only people who really know that are people who have done it.
Truly successful or even inspiring people are measured in ways that are far more important and impressive than wealth. They keep their friends and when they die a lot of people show up and weep.
Successful people are genuinely good people, and they usually feel an internal motivation to be nice, and to do well for others. Successful people care about their friends and the larger community, and they give money to charity all the time. Most people who have a lot of money don’t give a lot of their money to charity – they don’t believe in it.
You can learn a lot about the behavioral traits of people who have a lot of money by reading this very interesting book but if you want to learn about how to be a successful person who happens to be an entrepreneur then you should read this one.
The Top Ten
- They work hard! Successful people get up early, and they rarely complain, they expect performance from others, but they expect extraordinary performance from themselves. Long term sustainable success and accumulation of time and capital (freedom and money) begins with a recognition that hard work pays off.
It’s truly amazing to me the things that not-so-successful people will find the time to do and make a priority.
- Time and Money. Very successful people don’t waste time or money and they are often completely perplexed by people who do. “Time wasters” was the #1 aggravation listed when I asked “What drives you crazy?”
- They get organized. Successful people are not always naturally organized, but they understand how important it is and they will pay someone to do it for them (see #8 below).
They meet deadlines and they ship on time. Successful people can give a very clear update on the status of any project or endeavor. They are realists, and they take responsibility when things do not go as planned.
Successful people are orderly. They have clean homes, cars and desks. Disorganized, untidy millionaires are rare.
- They are incredibly curious and eager to learn. Sit in the first class cabin of a jet and we are all reading. Go to the lounge, we are all reading. Go to the concierge lounge in the hotel and we are reading.
Successful people may not have post secondary education but they usually do, although they will usually say something about “never stop learning” or “my greatest education came after I left school.”
Curiously enough, successful people often know shockingly little about matters outside of their industry or family. I call this The Sherlock Holmes phenomena. The famous detective was brilliant but he didn’t know that the earth revolved around the sun, nor could he understand why that was interesting as that knowledge had no practical application to what he did for a living – solving crimes.
- They network. “Networking” is a nicer way to say “they talk to anyone, all the time.” Successful people are curious about other people, what they do and how it works. They know lots of people, and they know lots of different kinds of people. They listen to friends, neighbors, co-workers and bartenders. They value relationships and they see themselves as part of a community.
They often drive around their neighborhood to keep an eye on things, to see new businesses opening up or closing. They are keenly aware of their environment.
Successful people are well thought of and have a directory of friends and associates who will return their calls.
Sometimes they are quiet and even shy but not as often. When this is the case, what quiet successful people share with their more talkative cousins is a keen interest in conversation and dialogue.
- Personal Development. In addition to reading and remaining curious successful people also read personal development books, hire coaches, and seek out and implement a better way.
I never get hired by people who are struggling; I get hired by people who are already very successful. They want to know if they are missing anything. Last week I was in an office with 20 people in it. The only people who stuck around and asked me specific questions all made more than $1,000,000 per year and they were all really nice people too.
- They are extraordinarily creative. Everything is possible. They see opportunities and they appreciate how important details are and they are in a constant state of evolution. When they find something they like, they try to incorporate it into their own life or business.
- They do what they do best and delegate. Successful people know what they do best and they spend most of their time doing that. Not so successful people say things like “It’s easier for me to do it than it is to explain it to someone else.”
Successful entrepreneurs don’t do that – I make the most money when I speak to rooms full of people, or speak to key decision makers on the telephone or write. When I do anything that isn’t one of those 3 things it better be “vacation” because otherwise I am wasting time and money.
We pay for professionals, we delegate, and we remain focused on what we need to do.
- They are relaxed and keep their perspective. Even in times of stress or turmoil, highly successful people keep their balance; they know the value of timing, humor, and patience. Only rarely do we panic or make decisions on impulse.
Successful people turn away money to spend time with family. They work hard, but they understand that playing hard is also important. You only live once.
- Extremely successful people live in the present moment. They know that “Now” is the only time they can control. They take full advantage of each day. Successful people don’t waste time, and when they do they correct quickly and often make an immediate and permanent change.
Posted by Dennis on June 20th, 2011 | Permalink
Some things you buy because they are cheap, and you are not emotionally invested. Deodorant. Toothpaste. Tires. RAM for your computer. If you sell these sorts of things – then you are going to compete on either price or service. “Buy 3 tubes of toothpaste, get the 4th for free”, or service – “We can get you in, get your tires changed, and back on the road in less than an hour!”
However, if what you sell has an emotional element to it – that is to say you don’t compete on price but rather value, then you will want to consider some kind of post investment process to anchor the relationship.
The client becomes an advocate.
In previous blogs I have mentioned that I love Starwood Hotels. Well you would too if they did for you what they do for me. Every single time I check in to a Starwood the following events happen – guaranteed.
1. I skip the line and get my own special counter …
2. My folio is already out and waiting at the desk – like they are expecting me, and …
3. They give me a gift (bonus points, movies, or room service) and …
4. I get early check in to my …
5. Complimentary room upgrade which are often out of this world, where I drop off my bags before going to …
6. The club lounge to think about what I will do with …
7. The bonus points I earn on each stay because I am a Platinum member – this year it was Whistler for a week, compliments of Starwood.
When I stay at a hotel that isn’t a Starwood I’m always a little disappointed because while its nice, its not my place. Last week I stayed at The Four Seasons in Boston but would have preferred The Liberty Hotel (A Starwood Property), and then The Ritz Carlton in Tyson’s Corner VA but I would have preferred The Westin next door. When staying at a Starwood means I have to walk a little, or get up a little earlier these routine bonuses are enough to ensure that I don’t regret it.
After Boston and D.C. I was in Pittsburgh, I stayed at The Westin although my meeting was at The Omni, which is a very lovely place but it doesn’t mean anything to me. I don’t feel especially connected to them – there is no community, no sense of membership.
Before heading out last week for this mini tour (Boston, D.C., Pittsburgh) I received a cool gift in the mail from my eyewear provider. The gift was a box of fine teas, various selections etc. and a nice card thanking me for the confidence and trusting them with looking after my new glasses.
A few months ago I picked up new specs and of course I have had a lot of people compliment me – they are new, my face looks different. But pretty soon nobody is going to ask comment about them – they won’t be new anymore. The novelty will fade.
The frames I bought were really expensive but I am certain now that when I buy my second pair of frames (I like to have a few pair at the same time for variety) I will get them from IRIS in my neighborhood. The gift they sent was a really nice touch and it will ensure that they remain top of my mind when I go looking.
What is your process?
When someone buys into you or your business what do you do? Do you let them leave? Just walk out and take your chances that they will come back or do you make the experience memorable?
A card? A book? A follow up call when its appropriate? A client event? A special sale where you invite your preferred clients to come in after hours, or on a Sunday and shop at a special price?
Its pretty hard to stand out. Its pretty hard to compete on price when eBay has changed the way we shop, so I will just remind you of this old saying compliments of my friend Sam in New York City.
Similarities don’t sell. Differences do.
Posted by Nick on June 14th, 2011 | Permalink
Posted by Nick on June 14th, 2011 | Permalink
Posted by Nick on June 14th, 2011 | Permalink
Posted by Dennis on June 11th, 2011 | Permalink
You may like to read this blog if you missed my last post about amazing customer service at W Hotels.
I was standing in The Marriott Marina Hotel in downtown San Diego.
This hotel is right beside the San Diego Convention center, I had flown out to speak about increasing sales by improving the client experience at a conference hosted by HD Vest.
Coincidentally I had sat beside a National Sales Manager for a golf supply store from Toronto to Phoenix.
Sometimes you get lucky with your seat mate, and this was a really good ride. He and I shared our stories and our opinions about better business development, client loyalty, increasing sales, ideal clients and of course through all of these efforts – distancing yourself from your competition.
We both agreed that a successful sales career is pretty simple – it helps when you have a good product, but at the end of the day the products are usually secondary to the distribution model, and the client experience that the client receives at the point of sale – either the salesperson, the front desk agent, or the sales rep in the field.
Can you press my suit?
It was 1230 PM, and the front desk person told me that it would be impossible to have my suit pressed, and returned to me the same day, and it might not get back before I needed it in the morning.
There wasn’t a lot of interest coming from the other side of the desk as far as helping me out, so I finished checking in and went to the concierge – I thought that for sure this person would point me in the right direction, help me, save me, at the very least have a suggestion.
No such luck, the concierge confirmed that there is no onsite dry cleaning service, and after some discussion she pointed out on a map where a dry cleaning store is. Getting my suit taken care of was my problem. So you know, if I were at a little satellite hotel by an airport, or if it were 10PM I wouldn’t expect to get my suit pressed but this wasn’t the case. It was the middle of the day.
I couldn’t believe it. First of all not having on site dry cleaning at this particular hotel is just dumb. That I was left to solve my own problem was disappointing, and a real missed opportunity in my opinion to win me over and anchor this relationship.
Similarities don’t sell – Differences do.
I needed help. I needed this situation solved. At this point all I had was a map to a dry cleaning store and it was still in doubt as to whether or not they would be able to help me in time.
In the elevator I figured out what to do, and I relaxed. I knew it was all going to work out.
I went up to my room, put my bag down, and looked up the number for The W Hotel in San Diego. I spoke with Alejandra and explained my situation, and I asked her if she had on site dry cleaning.
“Of course” she said “bring your suit over and ask for me, I’ll have it taken care of right away.”
Now it gets funny … well funny in a tragic sort of way, like watching someone walk into a parking meter (I’ve done it).
I walk back down to the concierge, suit over my arm, and ask for directions to The W Hotel, which is about a 10 minute walk away. Nobody batted an eye. It must happen all the time – people asking them where other hotels are?
When I went to the W, they were waiting, took my suit and I went upstairs to The Beach Bar and had lunch, and had a great conversation with Chris, who was the bartender.
The story ends really nice – I loved my lunch, enjoyed talking hockey with Chris who told me fun stories about some of the hockey players who have been guests, and of course The W pressed my suit and didn’t charge me.
Anticipate your client’s needs. Little things mean a lot.
As I have said probably a million times – we all get paid to do one thing, but we earn the money doing something else that is typically not in our job description.
I think I paid $280 to sleep at The Marriott that night … the one beside the 2.6 million square feet of convention centre next door (where people probably wear suits).
All the Marriott had to say was “leave your suit with me, I’ll take care of it.” There are probably all kinds of dry cleaning shops in down town San Diego that would handle my suit and bring it back within a couple of hours. I would have happily paid a premium for it – no problem. In fact, there is probably a dry cleaner that would love to set up shot inside the hotel itself, pay rent and take care of all the suit wearing Marriott guests who would otherwise have to trek through the pretty people of San Diego to The W Hotel to get their suit done.
Think about your own business.
What do you get paid to do?
Now what do you do that nobody expects you to do?
How easy is it?
How affordable is it?
How do you make sure it happens all the time?
How can you make this kind of thinking part of your corporate culture?
We are ramping up to a nice long summer, a perfect time to sit down, kick your own tires, and look for some easy opportunities to improve your client experience.
The parking meter … I was in Montreal, I had just spoken at a big conference and was walking back to my hotel, The W in Montreal. Someone from the audience had seen me and chased me down. They were telling me how much they enjoyed my session and wanted to know about hiring me for a meeting in Australia. Just as he said “I mean this, I have been in the business for 36 years and I have never heard a speaker like you – you are amazing.” On cue – I walk right into a parking meter, and fall over gasping for breath.
The look on his face, in retrospect, was hysterical.
Never did hear about that meeting in Australia …