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Every contact you make with a client or prospective client is a ‘Moment of Truth’.

You either make or break it . . . depending on how well you respond to the situation.

Much like our friend here on the right . . .

A Tail of Getting It Right
Recently, we had to take one of our cats to the Veterinarian for a dental cleaning.  While we love and trust our Veterinarian, we were a little apprehensive about this procedure because our pet would need to be anesthetized.

As a safety measure, our Vet did need to draw blood to analyze it as a way to make sure our cat could safely undergo the anesthesia and the dental procedure.  We expected that.

Surprise! . . . It  Isn’t Always a Good Thing
When we picked up our beloved Jake at the end of the day we got a surprise.  Actually a couple of them!  The bill for the dental cleaning was significantly higher than we expected.  Only a few months earlier, his sister Jasmine had her teeth cleaned and the bill was about half of what we were being charged for Jake.

The fee, while a surprise, didn’t concern us as much as the basis for the fee.  It seems there was more than one blood test performed.  That made us question if something had been ‘discovered’ from the first blood test that suggested a problem with Jake’s health.  In addition to that, there was a charge for “ICU services” and ‘hydration with lactated Ringers Solution’ that seemed odd and created a lot of consternation in my wife and I.

After sharing our concerns with our Vet and her practice manager, our fears about Jake’s health were allayed and the billing was adjusted.  Why?  Because it was the ‘right thing’ to do.  As a result, we’re even more pleased with our Veterinarian and her practice manager.

Look, things do happen.  That’s life.  But remember — it’s what you do AFTER things occur that is most telling about Y-O-U.

When The Bloom Goes BUST!
Also this week, a new garden shop opened in my town.  

They managed to get a nice piece written up and published in a local paper. The former owner had passed away.  A subsequent buyer tried to rekindle the magic but shut the doors within a year.  So now this newest owner seemed to suggest a ‘turnaround’ was about to happen.

Hello?  Is Anyone There?
The Garden Center’s ‘Grand Opening’ was last Sunday.   On Tuesday, my wife called to find out their operating hours.  No one answered the phone.  No machine.  Nothing.  So she went there to buy some products for the garden. Incredibly, there was no one at this ‘brand new’ Garden Center.  It was locked.  No staff.  Nothing.

Joyce then proceeded to go to a nearby competitor and bought what she needed.  When she told me what happened, she concluded with, “. . . and if they think they’ll ever see my money, they have another thing coming!”.  They lost a customer before they were open a week!

KEY POINT:
Good management is the basis for great marketing.  Promoting a firm that makes a customer or client mad, sad or scared is a guaranteed road to ruin!

There’s such a DIFFERENCE!

Skilled Expert:  Going DEEP
Like most of us, you probably began your working career in some field — e.g. law, accounting, financial planning, etc. and developed a professional reputation and regard for ‘knowing your stuff’.  Expertise in your primary field is a foundation . . . on which to build your professional reputation and regard.  But it’s not enough if you aspire to build a long-term, trusted advisor relationship with your clients.

Valued Advisor:  Going WIDE
Building on the foundation of being really, really good at what you do — i.e. ‘solving problems for your clients’ —  you’ll next want to gain knowledge that is not directly applicable to the field of your primary expertise.

The primary value — to you — of gaining an education about topics outside of your primary expertise is so that you can see things from an entirely different perspective — unlike a skilled expert who ‘knows it all’ . . . and not much else.

An Example:  “Learning To Fly”
Some years ago I had the privilege of learning how to fly.  Fortunately, I also had the aptitude to do so effectively.  While not critical to my later work as an advisor to salespeople and managers in the financial services industry, my pilot training proved to be an ‘edge’ that other ‘equally skilled’ experts did not enjoy.

At one point, an agency manager I was working with asked me, “How will I know that my training of a producer on some skill was adequate?”  What he really wanted to know was, “When can I ‘stop worrying’ about my producer and ‘assume’ she’s developed the competency I’ve been training her to have?”.

It was a good question.  Fairly common, too.  Because of my earlier flight training, I recalled — and shared — what I learned on the day I ‘soloed’ my training aircraft.

Aviation Navigation and E-6 Flight Computer

It was a cold January day in New England.  Snow squalls were coming in from the west.  Grey, overcast day.  The kind you like to think about while you’re on a Caribbean cruise!

“Today’s your lucky day, Bill!”
My flight instructor had me doing the usual take-offs and landings (known as ‘touch-and-go’) in the airport’s landing pattern.  Nothing too eventful.  I felt I was doing OK.  “Make the next landing a ‘Full Stop’ . . .”  I wasn’t sure why.  I soon found out, though!

We taxied back to the hangar area.  My instructor opened the door and said, “Bill . . . you’re ready . . . do three take-offs and make a ‘full stop’ after each.  Taxi back to the active (runway) and do it again.  I’ll be watching you from the hangar . . . don’t worry, you’ll be fine.  Now GO!”  With that, he got out of the aircraft and walked off toward the hangar area.  I was not expecting that!  But I felt excited at the thought that today I would fly the aircraft all by myself.  Woo hoo!

The three take-offs and landings were (with one exception) ‘uneventful’ and (obviously) successful.  After my third landing I taxied back to the hangar area.  I got out of the aircraft and asked my instructor, “How did you know TODAY . . . was THE day to let me ‘go solo’?”

He told me, “Well, I sit in the right seat and I observe you.  I want to see if you’re able to hold a steady heading and altitude.  If you do, that’s evidence of your SKILL.  If you stop holding either one, I want to see if you notice.  If you do, that’s evidence of your AWARENESS.  Finally, I watch to see if you correct the situation by using the controls and power to restore your heading and altitude.  If you do, that’s evidence of your MASTERY.  Once I know that you can:

1.  make the aircraft do what it’s supposed to be doing,
2.  spot it when it’s not, and
3.  correct in a timely manner . . .

you really don’t need me to sit in the ‘right seat’ and today . . . you demonstrated all three factors so . . . I got out of your way of becoming the pilot I know you’re going to be”.

Wow!  That was brilliant.  I shared both that story as well as the lesson it taught me . . . with my agency client.  Technically speaking, learning to fly had ‘nothing’ to do with getting his producer to generate more revenues for the practice.

But it had a lot to do with helping my client become more effective as an agency manager whose success reflected the quality of skills his producers were learning from him –– just as my own piloting skills reflected my talented and caring flight instructor from many years before.

KEY POINT:
Go deep AND wide.  Deep = expertise in your primary field.  Wide = broadening experiences in other (often unrelated!) fields. You’ll be more of a Valued Advisor and . . . more difficult to replace!

doctor patient meetingTheoretically, you could walk into a Best Buy store and buy a Sony flat-screen TV.  The location of the store really doesn’t matter.  The salesperson who helps you shouldn’t matter, either.  And THAT . . . is a big reason why Best Buy refers to the people it serves as ‘customers’ and not ‘clients’.

It’s a Matter of Balance
When the solution being sold is more or less understood and tangible in nature — like a flat-screen TV is a ‘solution’ to not experiencing the Super Bowl in an exciting manner — it’s easy to see that buyers of that solution are more likely to be viewed as ‘customers’ than ‘clients’.

But when the solution being sold is more reflective of the applied expertise and insight of the provider of a problem-solving service — like the physician counseling her patient in the above image  . . . then the relationship is less ‘customer’ and more ‘client’.

Advisors . . . Have Clients, Not Customers
When a solution requires an accurate assessment and expert insight into the buyer’s needs and situation . . . as well as the technical aspects of the solution being rendered . . . the relationship is decidely more ‘client’ than ‘customer’.

Consider the fact that if you were about to undergo a surgical procedure, you might be unhappy if you discovered — as you’re being wheeled into surgery — that your regular doctor had to leave on a personal emergency and ‘some other’ doctor would be performing your surgery.  Granted, the ‘other doc’ is licensed by the state to practice medicine and has staff privileges at the hospital but the fact that you don’t know WHO this replacement doctor is . . . might be unsettling to you.

KEY POINT:
It’s your personal relationship with someone — as well as the technical expertise of whatever solution you offer — that makes you an advisor. And the people who seek you out for the solutions they want and you offer . . . are clients rather than customers.

There’s an old joke that goes like this: Two affluent ladies are meeting for lunch.  One of them, who’s about to have her home remodeled with a professional decorator, asks the other, “What’s the difference between a bathroom with a motif and a bathroom with a theme?  Her friend, who’s been there / done that before replies, “About $20,000”.

Being a Trusted Advisor  vs. merely being an expert in your field — is kind of like that, too.

“Trusted Advisor”
This term is so overused, it’s become a cliche.  But there is serious financial benefit and value in being seen as one regardless of the professional field you happen to be in — law, accounting, financial services, consulting, etc. 

Relationship vs. Transactions
Advisors who earn the professional regard and respect of their clients are truly different from other vendors offering the same problem-solving expertise but without a deeper relationship in place.  Being in the right place at the right time with the right answer will probably suffice to generate a transaction with you.

Being a preferred provider — being someone whom a client would, all things being equal, prefer over others is probably the only sure way to operate profitably and productively over the long haul.  Why?  Because almost any thing a competitor in your field can offer a client  creates a level playing field.  That removes the competitive distinction between you and your alternatives.  So what’s left?  The unique relationship YOU offer a prospect or client.

In future posts, we’ll be exploring more about this opportunity to differentiate yourself in the eyes of your prospects and clients by becoming (or, more effectively communicating!) that you are a Trusted Advisor and . . . a Preferred Advisor, as well.

KEY POINT:
Experts who solve problems are going to get sales.  Experts who solve problems and build relationships are going to get clients.  

Listen Up!  Marketers talk incessantly about ‘The Funnel’ . . . the iconic image that suggests the ‘Prospect Pathway’ that begins with a ‘lead’ and ends with ::::::drumroll:::::: a customer or client.

The problem is, this is so myopic!  The notion of a ‘funnel’ implies that, once you reach the bottom and generate a customer, the process is over.  FAR FROM IT!!

The FUNNEL . . . Isn’t Really A Funnel Afterall
In your business the ‘event’ of making a sale to a new customer or client marks the end of the initial ‘chase’.  But it also marks (or, should!) the beginning of the ‘real’ relationship between your firm and your new client.

The Story of The Daily Rose
I have a cousin — Bill Murphy of Washington, DC.  He’s quite the fellow.  His wife, Sharon is quite the lady, too.  They have a big, wonderful family and operate a foundation (Mary House) in ‘the city’ that provides homes to families who have been battered by bad spouses or cruel governments (think Bosnian refugees). President Bush even recognized Bill as one his ‘1,000 points of light’.  So yeah, he’s a cool guy.

But here’s why Sharon and Bill have such a great relationship.  Every day, and I mean EVERY day since they were married (and they’re grandparents now, too!) . . . Bill gives Sharon ::::drumroll:::: a single rose.

There’s Light at The End of The Tunnel
What Bill recognizes is that there’s a BIG difference between a ‘wedding’ (one-day, one-time event) and a ‘marriage’ (the ongoing, day-in, day-out stuff!).

Getting married isn’t that difficult.  The challenge is to honor the relationship you’ve started . . . so you stay married!  Like Bill and Sharon Murphy of Mary House in DC.

The Lesson to Take-Away 
Like a marriage, the relationship you formalize with a new client  (marked by an ‘event’  — i.e. the first sale) holds the FUTURE POTENTIAL to give you many, many more sales.  IF . . . you’ll honor and cultivate the relationship you’ve started with your new client.

That may not  require a daily rose (but what a great idea, no?). But it does mean nurturing your relationships with clients, prospects and COI’s, too.

Keeping those who have demonstrated that they value what you offer . . . keeping them thinking of you first, foremost and most favorably the NEXT time they need what you offer . . . is what relationship building is all about.

KEY POINT:
The Duct Tape Marketing ‘hourglass . . . is our image that recognizes there’s far more than a single sale involved . . . there’s a lifetime of repeat sales . . . waiting for you if you just honor the relationships you start.

In a recent article in the prestigious Harvard Business Review, David Edelman of McKinsey & Company argues that publishing a regular flow of quality, market-centric content has a funny way of generating a regular flow of revenues.  Of course, he warns, not to do so . . . is a choice made with potentially perilous consequences!

Four Ways To Publish Content

EDUCATION / ENTERTAINMENTSears posts cooking videos on Youtube, Macy’s and Target also have topical treatments (i.e. content, content and more content!) on topics they believe appeal to their market and will cause sales of their products.  Seems to be working!

PROBLEM-SOLVINGWilliams-Sonoma offers content on how to best choose food and wine, Home Depot offers DIY videos on all kinds of topics.

SOCIAL PROOFLL Bean hosts ‘stories’ from actual customers and many bloggers are being encouraged to create content about topics that lead readers to (DUH!) learn about and purchase products these firms offer for sale.

RELATIONSHIP BUILDING / MAINTAINING– perhaps the most challenging because it requires robust monitoring, ongoing analysis and immediate response.  This is also the most potent and measurable means of marketing.  Best example?  Amazon.com

KEY POINT:
We advocate the publishing model as a key to modern marketing for many reasons.  Here’s why — it works!  Try it.  You’ll like it, too! 

There’s a new business that sells some very cool, very fashionable items.  Online. It’s called “fab.com”.

It’s the brainchild of Jason Goldberg, Fab’s CEO.  Jason’s smart — with an MBA from Stanford University.  And well connected — he worked for President Bill Clinton for 6 years as one of Clinton’s White House staff.

Great Fashionable Items at Great Prices
So Jason gets this crazy idea to start-up the business called fab.com and in 115 days since launch, fab has over 650,000 members (it’s free but you must still apply and be accepted) and over 100,000 orders.  The press on this new venture is nothing short of phenomenal with coverage by anyone and any media that is worthy of note — Forbes, WSJ, CBS News, Fast Company, etc. — you get the idea.

The Power of Personal Touches
But look at what Jason Goldberg the founder and CEO of fab.com is doing.  The picture above is an actual, handwritten note sent along with one (of a number, I presume) of those 100,000 or so orders.  Yep. Jason Goldberg, CEO of this exponentially growing business (fab.com’s on track to do $10,000,000 in sales before the first year is over)  is sending random ‘love’ notes of appreciation to his new customers.  Way to go, Jason!

KEY POINT:
When company leaders engage in high-touch activities with customers, everyone benefits!

We took a break yesterday from this theme of ways to use LinkedIn.  Now, it’s back to work!  ‘-)

An Example Worth Noting
The other day I mentioned that sharing your expertise on LinkedIn, by answering questions posed by other members, helps your VCR (visibility, credibility and reputation).  While looking at some questions on ‘marketing’ (my area — you look in yours!) I found a truly ‘killer’ response to a question on whether management consulting and internet marketing were mutually exclusive or, not.

In fact, I liked his answer so much that I ‘tracked down’ the person who posted it — a Carl Diamond who owns Diamond Website Conversion — a firm from the Seattle, WA area:

I then sent him a short note of appreciation acknowledging the superb quality of his answer.  Well, before the day was over, Carl had replied to me and we had become part of each other’s LinkedIn network.  More importantly, the foundation was laid for a possible future collaboration between us.

Will that ever happen?  Who knows.  But I do know this — if we never connected, the chance for something coming from this day would have been 0% — GUARANTEED!

KEY POINT:
Social networking is about planting seeds of opportunity . . . then nurturing those opportunities until they blossom! 

Ever wondered what your prospect wants?

Ever get someone something ‘less than’ what they wanted for a holiday gift?

Was it because you simply did not take the time to learn what mattered to them? Regardless, once you blew it, you blew it.

Gift Giving for Your Prospects? (no, it’s not what you think!)
I’m not pitching anything.  But I will suggest that you give a very powerful and deeply appreciated ‘gift’ — your commitment to care enough to learn what matters to your prospective client.

We all have hopes and fears and dreams and . . . well, you get the idea.  Your prospects are people who have been frustrated at getting their dreams to become reality, their fears to go away and their hopes to have a chance in you-know-what of actually happening.

“Givers Get” — Ivan Meisner, Founder of BNI
Ivan’s advice to networkers is very true for you, too.  IF . . . you give a prospect your considered attention and sincere interest in learning what will make them happy, you’re likely to make a sale to make that happen.

Bonus Question:  “Why do you think I chose the image for this post?”  Do you really know . . . me?

KEY POINT:
Hopes, fears and dreams . . . all make the world go round and . . . the deals go down! 

It’s an endless quest, isn’t it? Here are some ideas on how to do it effectively:

Enchantment - Increase Likability