Getting New Customers


Salesmanship: You Have To Let Your Prospects Feel The Pain

Too many salespeople charge headlong into the benefits of their thing.

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A Client Phone Conversation About Selling, Manipulation & The Importance Of A Customer Base #4061


It was a 90 minute conversation where I asked to record my side of the conversation for possible publication. The reason? We were discussing sales philosophy and how that might impact strategy, execution and building a business to reach higher levels of success.

Some hi-lights of the conversation and other key points:

Don’t lean toward manipulation. Instead, serve!

Being transaction oriented  and go for short-term profit, or avoid that and look for the long-term play.

You can go all in on trying to manipulate or you can go all in on watching what customers want/need. Pay attention to behavior or try to change behavior — it’s smarter and more profitable to pay attention to it and then react accordingly.

Do right by the customer.

Be good. Improve. Make your offer as good as you can make it, but don’t confuse things thinking if you build a better mousetrap that your sales challenges will be fixed.

Visibility precedes understanding. And after understanding there has to be appreciation. Without appreciation there is no sale.

You have to get known (visibility) first. Then you have to teach or show people so they know what you’re offering (understanding). But that doesn’t mean they’ll see the value (appreciation).

Long-term thinking fosters long-term behavior. It impacts every facet of your business. By doing the right thing now you build experience (and higher determination) to continue to do the right thing.

The competitive edge is patience for the long-term outcome. Sometimes it’s a lack of optimism that causes people to take the short-term payoff.

Bula Network Owners’ Alliance – how I’m approaching selling this

Too many business owners focus solely on the first of my trifecta of business building: getting new customers!

Too few give any attention to the second one: serving existing customers better! And that explains why so many suffer defeat on the 3rd one: not going crazy in the process.

Once we get the customer’s money we then neglect them. I don’t get it.

Customer base is everything! Every business needs a rock solid customer base.

You can’t sell your way out of a problem by merely being transactional. Sometimes it’s a motivation problem — business owners are driven more by their own needs, than the needs of their customers.

The average person on Twitter has 208 followers. My guess was a “few hundred.”

The average person on Linkedin has 930 connections. My guess was 500.

Let me know what you think of today’s show.

Subscribe to the podcast

bula network podcast on itunesTo subscribe, please use the links below:

If you have a chance, please leave me an honest rating and review on iTunes by clicking Review on iTunes. It’ll help the show rank better in iTunes.

Thank you!

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Quadrant 1: The Trifecta Of Business Building #4040 - GROW GREAT Podcast with Randy Cantrell

Quadrant 1: The Trifecta Of Business Building #4040

Quadrant 1: The Trifecta Of Business Building #4040 - GROW GREAT Podcast with Randy Cantrell

Getting new clients or customers is listed first because until that happens, you don’t have a business. Or an organization. Maybe you don’t call them clients or customers. You might be a non-profit, a local government, or a some other service organization that isn’t directly involved in commerce. No matter…there are people you serve. People who have an expectation of you and your organization. If you don’t serve anybody, then I don’t know why you’d exist. So, first things first.

You Gotta Serve Somebody

Bob Dylan released a song by that title many years ago. It had a religious overtone. Spiritually, service is everything. Namely, serving God. In business, service is also everything. Namely, having a target audience we can serve.

There are 2 critical elements of this. One, we have to take aim at a specific group to serve. These are people who are most benefited by what we have to offer. Two, we have to take aim at a group that is willing to pay for our service (or product). That means they have to see value in what we do.

We can’t get it half right. There are many groups out there who may need what you have. In fact, they might desperately need it. But what if they don’t recognize the need? Or understand the need? No sale. Try as you might, they’ll never buy from you because they don’t know they need what you’ve got.

When you enter quadrant 1 you have to take care to aim at a group that has a need, knows and understands that need, and has the ability to see that you provide a valued solution. Identification is only the beginning. You really need to vet the group by knowing the people. The more, the better.

Marketers latch onto the practice of building an avatar. Of course, avatar is a modern term that started out being called a profile. They mean the same thing. The FBI has profilers who do for crime what marketers do for business. They create a specific profile for the ideal person likely perpetrating the crime. Marketers create a profile for the ideal person likely to buy.

With all the focus on the tactical work of creating a great profile some marketers get too focused on themselves. They approach this work – the work of getting a new customer – without heart. It’s all data and analytical without enough emotion. For good reason. We have more data on buyers than we’ve ever had before. Data is good. The more the better — except when it screams for 100% of the attention without considering the motivations of buyers. Data can have an adverse effect by making marketers focus too much on it and not enough on human emotions like desires, fears, pleasure and pain.

The most ancient marketing truth may be that people buy on emotion and justify it after the fact with logic. It’s a big generalization with varying degrees of accuracy. Some buyers are more emotional than others. Others are far more logical than emotional.

Buyers don’t all come from the same place emotionally, logically, financially or in any other area you can imagine. A buyer without financial concerns, one who has more money than they need, can behave as though they’re on their last nickel. Another buyer with very limited resources can behave as though money is no object. And that is why marketing is hard…and why people and companies pay big money for marketing help.

Marketing is part science and part art. The art part is harder. Anybody can do the science part. It requires heightened intuition, empathy and vision to execute effective marketing. It’s an imperfect craft. Ask anybody who figured out a great marketing strategy that brought in lots of prospects. At some point that brilliant strategy stopped working. Or it stopped working as well. Even Dos Equis replaced “the most interesting man in the world.”

Effective marketing is more like skeet shooting than fixed target shooting.

It’s hard to focus – and keep that focus – on the people you’re trying to serve. You bring your own motivations. They include your desires, fears, pains and pleasures. But your prospects and buyers don’t care about yours. They’ve got their own. It requires a special kind of discipline to get out of your own head and into the head of prospects. Then, to stay there.

The psychology of marketing – attracting new clients – is dynamic. Look at your own life. I know it sometimes feels like you’re living a real-life version of Groundhog Day, but you aren’t. Your moods and feelings ebb and flow. Along with your optimism and fears. Life impacts all of us every single day. Your prospects live the same way. Some days you eat the bear, some days the bear eats you. That old phrase just speaks to the bi-polar nature of all our lives.

That also speaks to why our marketing can never stop. You never know the timing of your offer. Right now – at this very moment – let’s assume the tires on your car are perfect. You’re not thinking about tires. Any marketing by tire retailers or manufacturers is going right over your head. Later today, you’re on the freeway and have a blow out. It wrecks your day, hacks you off. But suddenly, you’re now in the market for a tire – maybe a whole set. It happened suddenly, unexpectedly. If there’s a tire retailer who has achieved some top of mind status with you through their persistent and consistent marketing, then they’re likely to be your first call. Maybe your only call.

Buyers buy on their timetable, not yours. Your need for a sale doesn’t matter. It’s all about what your prospect wants and needs. And like skeet shooting, you don’t know where they’re at…at the very moment they need you the most. When they’re ready to buy, they’re ready to buy. Or at least ready to consider buying.

Do you attract clients by focusing on their pain or pleasure? Do you pander to their fears or their hopes? Yes. And yes. That’s why marketing is hard. You have to create messages that appeal to your ideal prospects. Ideal is optimal. It doesn’t mean you won’t sell to some prospects who aren’t ideal. Think of it like fishing for large mouth bass. That’s ideal. It’s the aim. But if you snag a 10 pound catfish…you’re going to eat him for supper. You weren’t trying to land him, but he liked your offer and took it. You decided to keep him. At the other end of the deal, you could snag a carp. You don’t want him. He goes back into the water. That’s how marketing works. Sometimes you get a happy accident – a client you weren’t really aiming at, but you attracted them anyway. You keep them. Sometimes you get a not-so-happy accident – a client you weren’t aiming at, and one you’d rather not have. You walk away (hint: maybe it’s ideal for you to best serve them by finding them a more suitable solution).

So how do we get new customers?

It’s not difficult to dissect the process. Execution…that’s what’s really hard.

Identify your ideal customer. Dig deep and figure out the emotions, not just the data points. Part of identification is figuring how where they are and how to best reach them. Again, not always easy. And it’s not always where you may first think. Spend some time on this. It’s important.

Craft your offer with the client in mind. Sure, it may be best to craft an offer people want. You hear it constantly with online advice. “Give your customers what they ask for.” But what if you don’t yet have customers? Or what if you’re unhappy with the present flow of customers? What do you do when your customers don’t even know what they want? (Apple invested the iPod. Customers weren’t asking for it. Most consumers couldn’t imagine carrying around hours of music on a small digital device.)

Customers are created when you can find the sweet spot of what people want/need enough that they’ll pay for it. And pay enough to make it sustainable. Would more people buy Apple products if they were 30% cheaper? Sure, but it would wreck Apple’s profit margin and Apple would stop being the highly sophisticated design company they are. In short, Apple wouldn’t be Apple.

It’s a lot of hard work best summed up in the phrase, “figuring it out.” Whether you’re a stand up comedian or a manufacturer…you need paying customers. Financial support is the most critical component of successful business building. No customers, no business. No revenue, no business. This is no time for weepy romanticism. It’s time for facing the practical realities of the market, that collective power that will determine the winners and the losers.

Once you get them to buy the real work begins.

Now, you must deliver. Well, to be clear, if you’re operating with integrity you must deliver. Thanks to the power of the Internet we see people and companies who devote all their time to “top of the funnel” activities. They focus solely on getting new customers. These are transactional focused marketers who don’t care so much about the customer experience. Or about repeat business. Some pursue as much revenue generation as possible to exploit a moment, knowing it will go cold. It’s that old adage of “making hay while the sun shines.” The sun sometimes shines and may give us a “Pet Rock” moment. It doesn’t last, but it’s good while it does. I’m not talking about that kind of business model.

My clients – and hopefully yours – are people and companies we want to serve well. We want them to be happy, not merely satisfied with our work for them. We want them to say good things about us. We want their repeat business and we’d like them to give us referrals. In short, we want to build the strongest customer base possible. So we focus heavily on serving our clients better. This is mostly, but not entirely an operational thing. It’s the HOW we do things.

Too frequently I see companies get this wrong because they can’t (or won’t) maintain focus on the client. Systems and work flows are put into place because they best serve US, not because they enhance the client’s experience. Perhaps the most classic example of this is the airline industry. While there are government regulations in play, an awful lot of what happens with flyers has little or nothing to do with regulations, but everything to do with how the airline is benefited. Often times at the expense of their paying customers. It’s so rampantly bad, customers have been conditioned and trained to accept poor service as standard. We don’t want to follow their example.

Amazon has become the poster child for superior service – not by accident, but by design. Millions of dollars are spent each year by Amazon finding out how customers respond, how customers behave, what customers prefer and delivering an experience that has come to be so utterly painless (and pleasurable) they can consistently produce double digit increases in revenues (year over year). That’s no small feat when you’re a multi-billion dollar company. It’s easy to double your business if you’re generating $250,00 in gross revenue (maybe). Not so easy when your existing number is insanely large, like Amazon.

How do they do it? By being focused on YOU, the buyer. Your shopping and buying experience at Amazon is easy. Who started the “one click” purchase? Amazon. I rest my case.

How easy are you to do business with? Do you focus on how the customer feels and perceives the process? Or do you focus on making it easy on yourself?

I’m betting if you took a hard look at your systems and processes you’d find some (perhaps many) of them cumbersome to the customer. Stop it. Remove the hurdles from the path of your customers. Make your company easy to do business with. Make the experience not just pain-free, but pleasurable for the customer.


It’s not just a song by Patsy Cline and Gnarls Barkley (yeah, different songs…same title). It’s YOU when things aren’t going so well. It’s YOU when getting new clients isn’t happening, or when existing clients are complaining. It’s also YOU when things at home aren’t right (nothing to do with business). Welcome to the Human Race where problems and obstacles pop up like a whack-a-mole game!

Keeping your sanity is a big part of effective business building. Watch an NFL game, especially this time of year when playoff positions are at stake. It won’t matter if it’s a quarterback or some other position, from the most regarded position to the least regarded, you may see a player – keep in mind, all these guys are world-class or they wouldn’t be playing – lose his mind. Sideline fits get pitched. Helmets get thrown. Water trays get knocked over. All because world-class, professional athletes have, in a moment, lost their mind.

In that state, are they able to perform at their best? NO. Never. They have to rein in their emotions. They have to get a better gripe on themselves. Some do. Some don’t. Those who don’t, end up making things worse. Those who do, often aren’t able – at least in that game – to make meaningful contributions. The distraction of going crazy took a toll robbing them of the chance for success. It’ll happen to you, too.

For you it may not look like a temper tantrum. Or it may.

Maybe it’s just a funk. Caused by something at work. Or not. No matter, you’re in a mood. Preoccupied. Worried. Fretful. Anxious. Sad. Gloomy. Attach whatever word that best describes it at the time. And these aren’t binary things. Every color of the rainbow can happen. Today’s purple is tomorrow’s red. So it goes with our feelings and emotions. Crazy.

Crazy isn’t a clinical diagnosis. It’s purely man-on-the-street kind of talk. We all experience it at various times. It’s not a state from which growth can occur, but it is a state from which our response can spur growth. How we respond to our own crazy matters.

First, we have to recognize it and understand the source. No proper response can be executed if we don’t understand why we’re going crazy.

Second, we have to craft the best response to the source. Address the cause – the source – and you’ll likely remedy the manifestation of your crazy. Now if you’re hot headed, stop it. You need to exercise better self-control. Your bad temper is completely preventable and I don’t care what you think the cause it, it’s a problem. Blowing up isn’t a valid or valuable response, even if you do think it’s justified. You’re wrong. Pitching a wall-eyed fit every time something goes wrong isn’t leadership. It’s childish and will cost you. Well placed anger on the other hand, used in proper context (even for theatrical purposes) can be most effective. One is mindless. The other is mindful. There’s a big difference!

Get in full touch with the source of your craziness. Figure out what you can do to alter your response to it. Maybe it’s something you have no power over – the source, that is. Fine, figure out the best methodology of dealing with it. Harold Geneen said, “Managers must manage.” Figure it out. Find a way.

Third, learn from it. Stop being reactionary with knee-jerk emotional responses. Sure, it happens. But don’t let that define your leadership. Make those exceptions to the rule of being level-headed and thoughtful.

My desire for you – just like all my clients – is to help you keep all three legs on the floor at all times. It’s almost impossible to do, but you should try. When all three legs are solidly on the floor, you’ve got major traction and success. When one legs comes up off the floor, recognize it quickly. One inch off the floor is very different than six inches. Catch it early and try to course correct by getting it back on the ground as soon as possible.

When two legs come off the floor you’re in trouble. Don’t panic, but get one of them on the ground fast. Business building is about maintaining stability. Don’t over-complicate things. Address things. Face them. Deal with them in positive ways. Work harder to fix what ails you so you can move on beyond old, recurring problems.

The most you can keep these 3 legs on the floor, the greater your traction – and the greater your odds are building something great. And that’s our goal. To grow great!

Happy Holidays!

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4 Quadrants Of Growing Great Businesses & Careers #4039 - GROW GREAT Podcast with Randy Cantrell

4 Quadrants Of Growing Great Businesses & Careers #4039

4 Quadrants Of Growing Great Businesses & Careers #4039 - GROW GREAT Podcast with Randy Cantrell

Today’s show is about the four quadrants of how I approach serving people to grow their businesses and careers. They’re quadrants, not in the mathematical sense, but only in the sense that there are four of them and I don’t prioritize them. Well, that’s not actually true because I do intensely focus on quadrant 1 and all the work I do stems from that one. But my approach is quite holistic. I work on all of these simultaneously with clients.

Quadrant 1 is the trifecta of business building: getting new customers, serving existing clients better and not going crazy in the process. The business world has labels for each of these. Getting new clients is sales and marketing. Serving existing customers is work flow, systems and processes. Not going crazy in the process is about leadership and management. We lead people. We manage the work.

Quadrant 2 is about relationships and results. Sometimes I find that we have to first address the issue of capacity. If a team member lacks the skills to get the job done well, then results aren’t going to happen no matter how much work we put into the relationship. However, if people have the capacity to do the job (and presumably to do it well), then we should expect good results. Our relationship has a direct impact on that. If you don’t think so, then you don’t pay attention to college or professional football (the North American kind) and the hiring or firing of coaches. Sometimes talented teams don’t perform up to expectations because the coach is doing a poor job relating to or training the team.

Quadrant 3 is activity and variety. The adage is, “Give it to a busy man if you want it done.” That’s because we know that the person who appears to have enough margin in life to devote to something…well, they often don’t get around to it because they’re mostly in the habit of not doing anything. Instead, we give it to the person who is already busy and it gets done because that person has formed the good habit of doing thing. As for variety, well, I think that counts for quite a lot. Putting ourselves in positions of expanded opportunity and relationships is the way to greater growth. That’s important since the podcast is called GROW GREAT.

Quadrant 3 is repentance. Yes, that’s a spiritual term and don’t everybody likes it. That’s fine. Call it correction is you please. Same thing. We need to face up to our transgressions, own then, then fix them while turning the page.

In some upcoming shows we’ll dive more deeply into each of these, but for today we’re taking a drone’s view of all four. I hope you find it profitable for growing your business and your career.


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Dialogue, Not Monologue #4038 - GROW GREAT Podcast

Dialogue, Not Monologue #4038

Dialogue, Not Monologue #4038 - GROW GREAT Podcast

Educating prospective clients is a necessary process for most of us. We need to explain what we do and how we do it. And sometimes we have to show our clients why it matters.

Teaching has long been a component of effective selling, but what’s often forgotten is that it’s teaching with a purpose. This was brought home to me when I encountered a gentleman whose business was unfamiliar to me. It was eye-opening. No, not so much because I was gaining clarity about what he did and how he did it, but because I found myself totally not caring.

It’s happened to you. I know it’s happened to me. Good intentions aside, it leaves us feeling badly about the encounter. Somebody asks you what you do…five minutes later you realize you’re droning on and they’re just north of comatose. You feel like you blew what might have been a good opportunity.

The culprit? You “Johnny Carson’d” them. You delivered a monologue and put them to sleep.

It Sounded Better In My Head

You live daily with your stuff. Your work. Your desires. Your goals. Your fears. Your life. It’s YOU, YOU, YOU 24/7/365. It can’t be helped really. Those two portholes serve to provide your constant view of the world. But it can be helped if you make the effort. You can begin approaching life from a different viewpoint. In fact, I’m encouraging you today to force yourself to look at the world through a different lens. Stop thinking about yourself and think about the person in front of you, the person on the phone, the person opening your email or the person viewing your website. It could even be the person listening to your podcast or watching your video.

It’s not about you. This is a ridiculously hard thing, requiring consistent training and discipline.

After you realize you’ve blown an opportunity by talking too much (I know I’ve done it plenty of times myself), you’re tempted to think, “It sounded pretty good when I rehearsed it in my head.” That’s why I don’t judge intentions. I know that my intentions have been honorable, usually focusing on the time constraint I fear may be in play with the prospect. I want to respect their time. And I want to respect their integrity so I don’t want to hold back giving them some bait and switch feeling. But the results are never good. Even with those good intentions.

Let’s talk through this and figure out how we can stop sabotaging ourselves.

The Power Of A Question

You meet a new person. Let’s assume it’s somebody you’re really pleased to meet. What do you say?

Most of us, after introducing ourselves and telling the person it’s nice to meet them have a desire to find out more about this person. Curiosity drives us to naturally do what works in sales. It works because it’s part of what we naturally do to build trust. And to find out more about the person.

We ask them a question. 

We don’t run off at the mouth. And those of us who do rarely are able to develop a relationship. We’ve met that guy…the guy who can’t wait to tell us everything and more about himself. As we swivel our head like an owl looking for a quick exit we may only remember his name so we can permanently avoid him in the future.

We’re captivated by this new person we’ve met. We want to know more about them and the only way to find out is to ask them a question. It’s a strong expression of our interest in THEM, not ourselves.

Start with a question. 

Sometimes it’s awkward, but it’s still the way to go. I’ve asked prospects a question and sometimes the reception to the question has been chilly. Conversation isn’t hard for me so I’ll wiggle my way through and try a slightly different approach. If the difficulty persists, I don’t press. I bail out. But that’s a strategic decision because in my work I’m able to make a judgment on who I want to work with. I figure if we can’t establish quick rapport after a bit of effort, then we’re likely not a good fit for one another. That’s okay. In fact, it’s better to figure that out sooner than later. Your circumstances might be different.

Almost every time I exercise the discipline to remain true to my natural curiosity about the other person they start talking and it leads to very productive conversations. My personal challenge is to keep the conversation directed so we’re talking with a purpose of me serving them – helping them. It’s not just conversation for the sake of conversation. I have to continue to focus on PURPOSE while we’re having a dialogue.

Forgetting the goal is a common problem in sales conversations. Every time it happens to me I hate myself for it. The old marketing adage is wrong.

You can’t say the wrong thing to the right person and you can’t say the right thing to the wrong person.

Sure you can. And we all have done it. I think that adage just makes us feel better when we know we’ve blown it. The first time we meet somebody – either in person, on the phone or online – they don’t know us. We don’t know them. Both of us are making instant judgments based on what’s said, what’s not said and how the interaction goes.

I’ve been involved in business interactions since I was teenager. Through the years I’ve learned that my curiosity about others and my genuine desire to learn more about people, and their business, doesn’t always translate into a great conversation. Sometimes we catch people at the wrong time. Sometimes we catch people who just don’t enjoy sharing. Sometimes we catch people who don’t enjoy talking about themselves. There are many reasons why asking a question – even a great question – might fail. Resist the temptation to think the strategy has failed. Not true. You just sometimes encounter a rare person who isn’t open to dialogue. It’s at those times that I find myself rambling on about why I called, what I do and how I do it. When I’m on top of my game I resist and politely ask them if there might be a better time to talk (or some other strategy to end this conversation with the goal of setting up another time to talk). I don’t know if this is how they are all the time or not. I don’t know what life is like for them at this very moment. Bull rushing into a conversation they’re not ready to have is a waste of time, and it never makes me feel good — so I try to resist doing it.

Uncover The Problems

It seems trite, but it works. I think it works because it’s crazy rare for people to ask us about our problems. Nobody wants to hear about what’s wrong. Few people want to help us with our problems. It just doesn’t happen. Hardly ever! And that includes salespeople who have vast experience.

You have to do what you have to do. This is where scripts fail every time. Follow a script that works for somebody else and you may find it falls flat when you use it. Because most of us aren’t great actors. Great actors can take a script and own it. They become that character. If were that good you’d be in Hollywood, but you’re like me. We’re not that good. Besides, I’m not a fan of acting in business. Let’s leave the acting for entertainment.

Pretending to be something or somebody other than who you really are isn’t a good idea when you’re working to serve somebody. You owe it to let them see and hear the genuine you. Don’t expect people to make a decision on  doing business with you when you refuse to let them see the real you. It’s bait and switch at the lowest (or highest) level. It’s dishonest.

Find a way to uncover the problems your prospect is suffering. I can tell you what works for me, but I don’t want you to copy it. I want you to use it and then think about what you can do. Try things. Modify things until you find something that works for you.

I’m a candid communicator. People pick up on that within the first few seconds. It’s genuine and true to my character and personality. So I roll with it. I own it. That enables me to ask pointed questions quickly.

If I were a superhero, capable of solving your biggest problem, what would that be? What problem would I solve for you today? Right now?

More often than not, the other person will say, “Just one?” It breaks the ice, we chuckle and I insist, “Yep, just one. What would it be?” They’ll always tell me. Sometimes with a quick answer. Sometimes not. If it’s quick, I’ll ask them to tell me more. I may even boldly blurt out, “Elaborate.” Again, this works because it fits my personality and style. It’s natural, not contrived. And it comes across that way.

That doesn’t mean it’s right for you. What’s right for you is to put in the time and effort to think about how you can best uncover the problems and pain of the people you’re trying to serve.

Another reason this strategy works for me is because I operate from a fundamental belief that most people don’t care about the problems of others…and I genuinely do. I know how magical it is because I rarely if ever experience in my own life. Here’s a quick test — when is the last time somebody asked you about your problems, your struggles or your pain? Did you have to think about it. Or are you like me, no need to think about it because I can’t remember the last time it happened.

Even our friends don’t do it. Proof that when you engage people in conversation with a genuine interest in them you’re WAY ahead of the game. But don’t do it if you don’t mean it. Don’t do it if you really don’t care. Don’t do it as a tactic. It’ll blow up in your face.

And not everybody will know how to react to it. Once in a blue moon I encounter somebody like I mentioned earlier. They just don’t know what to do with the question. Or they’re uncomfortable with it. That’s fine. I don’t push. I never push. Instead, I pull back. I start retreating trying to see if they’re interested in continuing the conversation at another time. Sales pros might tell me that’s an awful mistake, but experience has taught me that my timetable isn’t relevant here. Their timetable is the only one that matters. This is really hard if you’re under a sales quota and desperate. Stop thinking your prospect cares about those things. They don’t. You’ll just start developing bad habits if you continue to operate from a place of desperation and urgency.

Your clients or prospective clients don’t care about your timetable. Nor should they. Stop trying to make them care.

Through the years I’ve had plenty of salespeople approach me with their sales contest, or some other reason why they “really need” need me to take action today. Like I’m going to do what’s best for them at the expense of doing what’s best for my company! It’s selfish, wrongheaded and stupid. Don’t do it. If you’ve got some musher of a boss, then get out. Find a better gig as soon as you can. Accountability is great, but pressure to make a sale because YOU need it is foolish. It may work once in awhile, but it’s a poor career strategy.

Follow Up The Question With More Questions

Okay, think about yourself for a moment. I give you permission.

Have you ever been asked something and you revealed something personal, or something important…only to have the person move right on past what you just told them? It’s like they didn’t hear what you just told them.


Pay attention. Gain understanding of what they’re telling you. Sometimes we’re afraid to continue with other questions. I grew up in an era when sales training experts called it “probing.” Some people take offense at that term, but I’ve never put a negative connotation on it because that’s exactly what it is. We’re probing with purpose – trying to gain deeper understanding of what’s bothering our clients and prospects. We really want to know what they’re struggling with so we can figure out how we can best serve them.

When they share their concerns with us we often think that’s our cue to dive into our pitch. WRONG. Don’t do it. Lean into the problem with questions to gain an even better understanding.

What I Learned From Complaining Customers

I was about 16 selling hi-fi gear at a local stereo shop. Customers would walk in with some piece of gear, signaling to everybody in the store that “here’s a customer with a problem.” Other salespeople – we were all working on straight commission – would run like roaches when the lights are turned on. My natural inclination was to step up and help them. For starters, we had a service shop with a technician who would repair gear. Also, I learned that sometimes these people needed to replace the item they were bringing in. I wanted to gain their business. And I also knew that they might not remember who sold them this gear, but I wanted to make sure they’d remember me as the guy who helped them.

Mostly, I had the personality and demeanor for it. Nobody taught it to me, but I did teach others through the years. Sometimes they’d come in pretty angry at their problem. They wanted to vent and gripe. For some reason, it never flustered me. I just listened carefully and would quickly say, “I understand. Let’s see what we can do to solve this.”

The owner of the store saw this happen a few times and gave me the job of handling customer service problems and complaints. I was the least experienced guy in the shop, but he saw the benefit of how I handled these people. I knew people with problems needed time to breath and vent. I had watched my mom and grandmother cook enough to know that when the pot with a lid is boiling…you have to do something to let the steam escape so it won’t boil over. You have to let people run with the line for a bit to see where it goes…and to let them vent.

I love the process because I know it’s one of my few super powers. Not everybody can do it. I can. So I lean into it and fully embrace it.

And I have another super power that I employ, empathy! Put those two together and I can’t avoid probing for more details and insights. I want to know more.

A business owner tells me she’s worried about cash flow. Cash management is an ongoing problem for her even though the company is performing at a high level. She can’t understand it. It keeps her up at night. You can hear the exhaustion in her voice. We’ve never met. She’s four states away from me. It’s our first phone call.

I ask her to tell me more. I resist the urge to ask a closed end question because I don’t know her or her situation well enough. She talks about some accounting challenges and it opens up the conversation for a deeper dive. It’s obvious to me that I’ve uncovered pain…the kind of pain that keeps a person awake at night.

If you don’t show interest and concern…you’ll never be able to go where you need to go. Or able to take the client or prospect to where they need to go for help. And that’s the deal. To get to a place of superior service so we can help people. What else matters? Nothing.


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Dialogue, Not Monologue #4038 Read More »

Customer Base- The Foundation Of Any Business #4024 - GROW GREAT

Customer Base: The Foundation Of Any Business #4024

Customer Base- The Foundation Of Any Business #4024 - GROW GREAT

I’m too old to remember my first repeat customer, but I’m not so old that I can’t remember how powerful it was to have customers who’d come back and buy from me again, and again. Like most people with a sales background I was basically lazy. Repeat business fueled my inner passion to not work any harder than necessary. The effort exerted to persuade somebody to buy from me once, was at least twice (maybe three times) harder than it was to repeat that process. Enter the power of building a solid customer base!

How can more business owners fail to understand the power of it?

That’s easy. We need sales today. That whole “what have you done for me today” mindset has set up harder than the concrete foundation that serves to illustrate today’s episode. Too often we concentrate on making the cash register ring today (okay, I know we don’t all have cash registers, but it’s still the metaphor for getting customers…or actually, for making a sale). I was still a teenager when I learned that businesses can chase all sorts of things, but chasing cash is the worst one of all. Customers, inventory, employees — we have to chase many things and succeed in catching them. But nothing is worse than chasing cash. It fuels a desperation that every business person has experienced at some point in their life.

Short-term thinking sparks us to concentrate on getting customers today. Sometimes it compels us to be too transaction oriented, losing sight of the value we need to provide to our prospective buyers. As we focus on making the register ring today we can neglect to pay close enough attention to the clients who are running from us out the back door. Intently focused on the front door, we just care about getting new bodies in so we can make our cash flow dreams come true.

Problem: it’s a never-ending story!

Like the worse drug addiction, business owners grow addicted to new customers. Ask ten business owners about their existing customer list, “When you did last reach out to them?” — and quite often the response is, “Oh, I don’t know. It’s been a little while.” Probe a bit more and ask them to provide you a print out of their best customers and you’ll quickly see how little they focus on people who have purchased from them in the past. I know because I do it with some regularity and the responses are almost always the same. “I’m sure I could get that for you,” is the most common refrain I get when I ask an owner if they have a list of their best clients. Those same owners can much more easily tell you what yesterday’s sales were, or even what today’s sales are so far. All eyes are on the front door!

Pour a slab, a foundation. What’s next? Frame it up. Finish it out. At some point we’ve got windows and doors. Doors give us entry to the building. And exit.

Yet we can more easily focus on getting new customers – the entry – and not focus much at all on serving existing customers BETTER – so we can prevent customers from leaving us! Have you ever watched an episode of Gold Rush, that Discovery Channel show about gold miners up in Alaska? One of the worst things that can happen to a gold mining operation is for the sluice box (the contraption that is designed to catch the gold) to malfunction and let gold pass through. It’s money going down the drain (or out in the wash).

That’s what happens when we don’t pay attention to existing customers! Focus on loading more payload into the front end of the process — like gold miners who make sure they’ve got enough dirt to wash — and you may soon discover there’s no gold coming out the other end. No customers. No customer base.

A critical component of building a great business is developing systems that will effectively bring in new customers while simultaneously continue to dazzle the existing customers. Great businesses know how to do both at the same time. So why don’t more businesses focus on both of these? Why do some take their eyes off of customers as soon as payment is received, or services/goods are rendered?

Because they fail to see the true benefit of customers who have already said, “Yes.”

Because they don’t know the true lifetime value of a customer.

Because they’ve developed a system for attracting/getting new customers, but they’ve not developed one for hanging onto existing customers.

Because they think new customers are more valuable than existing ones.

There are likely many other reasons. None of them make any sense though because they all erode the customer base. It’s a common plight of businesses that are too focused on transactions, not customers.

It’s the siren call of the cash register. We get lured by the quest for new money. Meanwhile, the old money is walking or running out the back door taking their business to a competitor.

What’s The Value Of Existing Customers?

A: They already said YES to us.

You forgot that. All that hard work you put into attracting potential customers, and all the effort spent showing prospects why you are the ideal solution…that’s already been done with existing clients. They already experienced it and found you were worth the investment. You don’t have to go back to square one and try to attract them. It’s ground you already plowed, planted, fertilized and watered. You’ve likely neglected it so it’s going to require some effort to get the soil in good shape again, but that’s doable. Tend your garden.

B: They have feedback that will help us improve and grow.

Because existing customers have been through the process with us, they have a unique perspective. We can tap them for insights into ways we can do better. Refusing to have meaningful conversations with them is a lost and wasted resource that might make all the difference in the world in us experiencing growth or failing to grow. All because we simply didn’t ask the questions that could have helped us.

Find out from your existing customers what the experience felt like. Ask them why they bought from you. Ask them what went well…and what didn’t. Too often we’re nervous to have conversations with existing clients because we’re fearful they’ll aim a double-barrel shotgun at us and blast away with complaints and issues. Don’t fear that. Embrace it. Be hopeful you’ll get a few of those blasts because it’ll mean you can fix the problem.

C: The dissatisfied and unhappy existing clients can often become our most loyal advocates.

An existing customer with a problem is one of the biggest opportunities we’ve got. See it for what it is. Don’t shy away from it. Lean into it. This may be the first you’re hearing of it (likely if you’re not in the habit of checking in on existing customers regularly). Then, gather the facts, ask permission to look into this to see what you can do to fix it, then agree on a time when you’ll get back with them. Keep your word at every step. You’re trying to fix a problem and create the most loyal advocates you’ll ever have for your business. That’s because this client will have seen how you respond to problems. Most customers don’t see or experience that. It’s powerful so don’t neglect to use it fully.

A customer who is unhappy and willing to tell you about it can be turned into an advocate if you’ll handle it well. For starters, don’t get defensive. Acknowledge their pain and disappointment.

Next, apologize. Be genuinely apologetic about their experience. Don’t humor them. Don’t scold them. Don’t blame them. Accept full responsibility.

Then, assure them you’re going to fix it (but ONLY if you really intend to). Too often this is where I see businesses fail. They do pretty well up to this point, then implode by making a bad situation worse. They promise to fix it, then fail. Better to not promise, than to promise and not deliver! Be careful.

Ask the client what you need to do to make them happy. Failure to do this is equal to being offended by somebody only to have that person tell you exactly what they’re going to do to remedy the offense. No, YOU were offended. The terms of reconciliation are squarely on your shoulders, not theirs. But when it comes to customers we want to decide what we’re going to do to make them happy. All without ever asking them, “Mr. Customer, what would it take for me to make you thrilled?” Ask.

If you can remedy it on the spot, do it. Don’t delay. Business owners and other top leaders have the power to hit the Happiness Button for the customer immediately. Do it. Think as they’re telling you what they’d like — about how you’ll executive it, about how much it may cost (and I don’t mean in full profit costs, but in real hard raw costs to you) and make a decision. I’m not a fan of negotiating this, except in extreme circumstances where sometimes (rarely in my experience) I encounter an existing customer who is completely unreasonable. In over 40 years of running businesses I can count on one hand the number times that’s happened though. It’s rare. Most people are very reasonable and more often than not I encounter a proposal that is less than what I would have done otherwise.

Go above and beyond if you can. After the client tells you what you can do to recover, think seriously (and quickly) about dazzling them. It’s analogous to what Bible students often call “second mile religion” taken from Matthew 5:41, “And whosoever shall compel thee to go one mile, go with him two.” That’s where get that phrase, “going the extra mile.” Do that with your existing customer who is disappointed.

If you’re able to exceed their request, do it. Don’t overthink it. Don’t over calculate it. Remember, this person is going to tell everybody they know. And in the day of social media, that might mean many more people than you think. You can’t view this in isolation. This isn’t just a single client we’re talking about. It’s your company and what your company represents. It’s reputation. Handle it with great care.

D: Existing customers want to buy more.

Most people put this up front. I put it last because it’s important, but it fosters too much self-serving behavior. I’d encourage you to focus on how you’re robbing existing customers of more services, products or whatever it is you DO. By neglecting them you’re not serving them well. Worse yet, you may be forcing them to search elsewhere to remedy a problem you could more easily fix for them. You’re an existing and known supplier. That gives you a cost advantage even if your prices are slightly higher — a time cost advantage. Your customer doesn’t have to get to know you, or trust you. They don’t have to go through the vetting process, or the trust building process. That’s worth money to them. You owe it to them to be there when they need you without forcing them to chase you down. It’s your job to be on the forefront of knowing their needs as they happen in real-time. That means you have to drive the bus in this relationship. Take charge. Be of service.

Solid Business Growth Hinges On A Solid Foundation

The bigger the building, the stronger the foundation required. The same is true with our businesses. You can pitch a tent anywhere. It’s not a sustainable structure. We’ve got too many businesses being run by tentmakers. Anybody can make one sale, or 100. Can you keep making sales? Can you make people happy. Consistently, over time. Sustainable is the minimum bar you must jump. You’ve been doing that. That means you continue to find new customers willing to let you serve them. That’s excellent, but that’s not providing a solid customer base, or foundation.

Strengthen your foundation for quantum leap growth by making sure you’re dazzling customers over and over again. Start judging yourself more strictly on how many people agree to do business with you a second, third or fourth time. Close that back door and stop letting customers leave you to find a solution elsewhere. That’s how you’ll grow your business!

I know it’s not complex, sophisticated or filled with buzzwords that prove how smart we can be. That’s because business building isn’t effective with all that stuff. The guys who pour the slab have to get a few fundamental things just right. It’s not complex, sophisticated or filled with buzzwords. It’s doing the right thing the right way. Period. Go to work!


Subscribe to the podcast

bula network podcast on itunesTo subscribe, please use the links below:

If you have a chance, please leave me an honest rating and review on iTunes by clicking Review on iTunes. It’ll help the show rank better in iTunes.

Thank you!

Customer Base: The Foundation Of Any Business #4024 Read More »

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