How Target taught me about Self-Authenticity

I used to think I went  through fazes throughout the year: from crazy Halloween decorating,  and “spooky baking to an overbearing Christmas spirit to the  New Years organization fad.  Even the Spring “gardening” and the summer desire to make Ice Tea in bright-colored jars.  For so many years, I was astonished by the foresight and customer knowledge Target Stores possessed.  obviously they were capitalizing on the seasonal needs of their customers.  Recently, however, I read an article by Jeff Goins about the DAY AFTER CHRISTMAS.  I resonated with the anticlimactic, even empty feeling  after Christmas.  I am searching for more.  I search for more because I am accepting the wrong things as ends in themselves.  Target isn’t listening to the customer, the customer is listening to Target.  Target, is in fact the puppet master.  This isn’t Target’s fault.  This is my fault.


Self-awareness (Photo credit: Shasha ma)

What does the “Target Puppet Master” have to do with seeking our awesome self?  I have written extensively on authenticity.  Lately, I am thinking  a lot more about self-awareness, what I call “self-authenticiyty”.  I must first discover who I am are before I can be authentic.  Marketers at stores like Target create a lot of noise.  That noise becomes clutter for those working to organize their self-awareness.  It’s time to turn the volume down on what other’s tell us we should be or should want.  It’s time I listen to what I want.  If you relate to the is, get intentional in your self-awareness. Take time for yourself and be brutally honest.  This isn’t about quitting your 6-figure salary to open a shore-front pizza store.  It’s about being honest about what you want, defining it, admitting it, and planning how to achieve it.  When you know what you want, you’ll know if that desire to buy 18 different sizes of Rubbermaid storage bins serve your purpose or the Marketing department at Target.

How is 2014 different on your search for self authenticity?

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Coffee Is Still for Closers: Rules of Engagement for Closing the Sale

A few years ago, I answered a knock on the  door to find a young woman ready to solve a problem of mine.  We had off- white carpet that was getting dingy and I needed to bring it back to life.  It was like the voices of the carpet cleaning Gods had spoken and sent me Cindy.  Cindy was eager to help me and even offered to clean one room for free.  This was great.  I figured she would do one room and I would pay her to do the other two.  A couple of hundred bucks and I would be good, Cindy would have a  sale, and voila…  Later in the evening, Cindy showed up, ALONE.  No crew, just her and a fancy vacuum cleaner.  She was knee deep in vacuuming my couch before I figured out that I had invited the dreaded Kirby sales rep into my house. This wasn’t going to solve my carpet cleaning issues.  However, I wanted to see what this machine could do.  Although I was duped into the sales pitch, I figured it would be fun. Two hours and a lot of buckets of dirty water later, I was ready to buy the thing.  She kept the suspense by not revealing the price.  I figured it would be six or seven hundred dollars.  Maybe a bit much, but was still interested.  After a four-thousand dollar quote and a half hour of pushy sales tactics, I was ready to call the police. No need to worry, Cindy finally left, and my seventy-five dollar Walmart vacuum still works fine.

Cup of Coffee with Spices

Cup of Coffee with Spices (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Kirby sales tactic is as old and dusty as that green couch Cindy cleaned for me. I recently wrote a post about risky marketing strategies and the consequences of making customers angry. Being unclear and inauthentic about intentions is not a great way to build a relationship of trust that is needed to drive a sustainable sales effort.  Today’s consumer is busy, savvy, and perhaps a bit jaded. This is great news for professional sales person who know their customer, their product, and most importantly, the rules of engagement:
Rule#1:  Be authentic
Buying customers have a need the sales rep can provide for.  Many times, this need is below the surface and not very clear.  So many times I see that the customer doesn’t know he has the need.  Through an open and honest approach, I share my purpose with the customer and contract for their valuable time. Customer’s don’t care if the pest control guy happened to have an appointment down the street that cancelled.  Customers are much more likely to listen if pest control guy uncovers a need such as a spike in the Black Widow population, or growing ant colonies in the neighborhood.  The customer will give of his time if the need is compelling, not because the Jones’ down the street no-showed for his last appointment.
Rule#2: You are not friends with 99% of your customers.
Mathew Dixon and Brent Adamson have turned the relationship selling model on its head with their book The Challenger Sale.  They challenge the notion that the best sales reps are “relationship builders”.  They categorize sales reps into one of five categories (Hard worker, challenger, relationship builder, lone wolf, and reactive problem solver).  They found that the top performing reps are nearly 7 times more likely to be challengers  than relationship builders.  Successful reps teach customers how be successful while using the products they sell.  This may be as simple as Cindy teaching me how to be successful at keeping a safe and healthy home by cleaning it better using a Kirby.  Today’s sales rep doesn’t teach their message alone.  According to Dixon, the rep must tailor his message to his customer and the customer’s specific needs.  This takes effort and a good sense of the market by the sales rep.  This takes an intentional approach to preparing for the sale. Showing up with a “cookie-cutter” presentation is old and tired. The successful rep takes control of the sales process because his efforts have unlocked a solution that he has tailored to the specific customer.
Rule#3:  Coffee is still for closers!
Alec Baldwin’s ruthless character in the 1992 Glengary GlenRoss reminds the sales rep what his ultimate job is.  With a tailored message to the appropriate customer, taking control and closing the sale without Glengary Glen Ross pushy tactics is possible and much better. Ultimately it’s not about asking for the sale, but actually getting the sale that sets the awesome sales rep apart from the “ex-sales rep”.
A few simple rules of engagement to become an awesome sales rep in the new era of selling. This is not only effective, but exciting and engaging.  Rolling up your sleeves to improve your customer’s business while increasing yours is awesome and rewarding.
What is the worst sales tactic you have seen this year?  What changes would be needed to make it the BEST?
Rocco De Leo

Uniqueness Is Overrated: Authenticity vs Unique Overload

I remember the excitement of Krispey Kreme coming to my town a few years ago.  As a sales guy, I love to bring treats to my customers, and nothing sounded more “treaty” than a dozen of the finest warm donuts my corporate American Express card could by.  I was going to make a splash with my customers.  Pulling up to the drive through, waiting nearly 20 minutes for donuts, I could hardly contain myself.  As I finally picked up 8 dozen (one for each planned stop of the day), I was ready to deliver some tasty smiles to go along with my unique treat.  As the story goes, I wasn’t the only sales rep being unique that morning.  Several of my offices had piles of Krispey Kreme boxes stacked in a corner.

Unique (Photo credit: Goldmund100)

My “get unique quick” scheme didn’t work so well.
 Today. nothing has really changed.  A few years ago, someone began using the hashtag on twitter as a means to organize and monitor trends.  Facebook is following suit with hashtaging.  Everywhere you look online is hashtags. The problem is once hashtaging reaches a critical mass, it will cease to be useful.  Several hundred, maybe even several thousand references to Iphone 6 (#iphone6) can draw attention and add value to the reader, several million is just plain stupid.  If everyone is hashtaging, then no one is hashtaging.
Uniqueness has a tipping point where it becomes boring and no longer unique.

Where do we go from here?  Here’s a quick guide to help you stay authentic in an attempt to be unique (I argue that many times the attempt at uniqueness is enough if you are authentic).

1.  There are no shortcuts to being Unique.  Delivering Starbucks to the office is not unique.  There are 10 Starbucks within a few minute’s drive of my house.  Feel free to bring the coffee though.  It’s still nice.
2.  Unique is rare, don’t fuss over being unique 100% of the time.  A free Starbucks, while not unique, is still welcome.  As a nice gesture to a good customer,  a tool  to warm up a tough gatekeeper, or a pick-me-up on a rough day for your girlfriend. An authentic gesture is just as valuable as a unique one.
3.  Be infrequent in your uniqueness.  regular uniqueness is inauthentic and exhausting.
4.  Do your homework. You won’t hit a home run with every interaction you make.  Understand your audience, however, will vastly increase the impact of what your attempting.  Finding time to uncover a passion of a client, or sentiment for a girlfriend, will dramatically increase your odds for the “breathtaking” moment.
5.  Know WHY you are doing what you are doing.  Being authentic and having the appropriate motives is much more important than being “different” or unique.

Go be yourself.  You are unique in being yourself.  You are not the lightning thief, don’t worry about catching lightning in a bottle.

What is your unique “thing” you bring?

Making Customers Angry Does Not Create Fans

Have you found yourself feeling swindled by the cashier while shopping?  You clearly misread the price tag and the 2000 word explanation for the sale price. The idea of reloading a cart full of groceries and dragging cranky kids back to the wine isle makes you want to drink the entire thing.  Is this you?  “You got me this time!” you tell the cashier as you pay full price, which you never would have intentionally. Recently I took a trip to the store to purchase a bottle of wine.  As I was paying, the cashier asked me if I understood the pricing.  The sale price of $7.99 was listed twice the size and brighter than the disclaimer.  The bottle is $11.99 unless you purchase 4 or more bottles. I was caught off guard and aggravated.  I had, in the past been angry by misreading this exact sale.  This time, I knew what to expect.  I learned the hard way. Did she remember me?  Had I made a scene? She told me a lot of people have been angry at this particular selling tactic. She was trying to prevent trouble by presenting clarity.  Is this an intentional strategy?  Why risk angering customers?

Whether you own a store, write a blog, or work for a big company,  make  your customers your biggest fans.  Giving them a positive experience and making them feel important, builds trust. The grocery store lost on a fleeting moment of customer engagement.  If we are talking about effectiveness, a pricing strategy that “steals”  an opportunity to make a fan out of customers is the wrong strategy and costs more than money.   Pricing strategies work and are appreciated by customers when they are simple and reward the right behavior.  I have an unhealthy and deep rooted affinity toward Frozen Yogurt. I love getting my 10th frozen Pinkberry on the house. Be mindful of the consequences of your intentions.  Are you making fans or frustrating your customers?  2590571627_3a1d979c15

What 1 thing will you do today to turn your customers into raving fans?