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Are You Driving Customers Away?

Three Strategies To Keep Your Customers From The Competition  I am an instant gratification person! The moment I decide I want or need something, I want to get it, buy it, or find it! So shopping online, for me, has never been a great option. That whole waiting 24-hours seems like a lifetime. That is […]

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Are You Driving Customers Away?

Are You Driving Customers Away Meridith Elliot PowellThree Strategies To Keep Your Customers From The Competition

 I am an instant gratification person! The moment I decide I want or need something, I want to get it, buy it, or find it! So shopping online, for me, has never been a great option. That whole waiting 24-hours seems like a lifetime.

That is especially true when it comes to shopping at the holidays. Now, to be honest, I do not fall into that category of people who love or even remotely like to shop. It is not my idea of a good time or a great way to spend a day.

However, the exception to that is the holiday season. Beginning December 1st, I start to get into it. I love shopping for the gifts to take to parties, the Secret Santa Stuffers required at professional functions and even the complicated process of buying for family and friends.

I love the idea browsing through retail stores and finding the perfect gift for people. That just feels more like the holidays than sitting behind a computer and staring at the screen.

That is until this year. As I entered stores to figure out what to even put on my Christmas list, I was struck by how many bad customer service experiences I had in just trying to buy things the old-fashioned way.

These experiences made me realize, our biggest challenge in making our organizations grow is not the competition or the Internet. It is how we treat our customers, how easy we are to do business with, and the level to which we create an experience for our customers. We need to ask ourselves, are we driving our customers away?

My first purchase this holiday season was JBL portable speaker for my nephew. The first store I chose was pretty busy but not too crowded, and I innocently thought this is going to be easy. I found the speakers behind a locked case and had to locate a store associate to help me access them.

The first challenge was finding the associate. Every associate I found seemed to have little interest and kept telling me that was not their department. Finally, I saw a young man standing next to the checkout counter (doing nothing but standing there), and I asked if he could assist me. He said no that he was not allowed to have the keys to the locked cabinet; I would have to stand in line and talk with the “other” clerk.

Strike One

So I did, stood in line behind ten people while they checked out merely to ask to look at a piece of merchandise. Strike One!

Strike Two

When I finally got to the clerk, I told her what I needed, and she sighed and said: “well okay, but I will have to find my keys, Melissa took my keys, and I do not know where she is.”  Strike Two!

She leaves to find Melissa thus leaving the checkout counter empty (yes, with people behind me wanting to check out – pay money for things). They now must move lines and get behind the sole person left to check out. What is not an overly crowded store is ridiculously inefficient. The first young man I spoke with is still there doing nothing. That should have been Strike Three!

Strike Three

My clerk finally comes back, we get the speaker, and I decide to purchase it. I give the speaker to her and say I will take it, and she looks at me, hands it back and says it is time for her break, I will have to get in the “other guys” line to buy the item. Aaannnd Strike Three!

I left the store, went home and bought the product online in two seconds. Sure, I had to wait for 48-hours to get it in my hot little hands, but that was far less frustrating than having to try to buy it in the store.

This holiday season, I had plenty of examples like that. Where the “experience” of buying was just not fun, so I left and chose to spend my money elsewhere. Sometimes online, sometimes in another store.

The most significant challenge we have today in attracting new customers, retaining existing ones and selling more products, is not our competition, not the option of going online, it is not even price. It is the level to which we understand and embrace what our customers are buying.

Your products and services are a commodity; something customers can buy anywhere, anytime and from anybody. So that is not why they are coming to your business, your store or engaging with you. It is the experience you provide.

Three Strategies To Keep Customers From The Competition

  1. Easy To Do Business With

    Ask yourself: Are you easy to do business with? Better yet, experience how easy you are or are not to do business with. While I do not believe the store owner was trying to make the customer experience an obstacle course, unfortunately, that is what had been created. Do a walkthrough, role-play, and consistently improve the ease of doing business within your organization. Take it from your customer’s point of view – study their journey with you as Joseph A. Michelli states. The easier you are to do business with, the more business you will do.

  2. Employee Full Engagement

    Ask yourself: Do my employees understand how precious a customer is? How much it costs to get a customer to engage with us, and how important it is to recoup that cost by getting them to purchase? Have I given them the training, support, and investment to fully empower them to go above and beyond to provide a fantastic customer experience? In my case, my clerk was far more interested in her break than making a sale.

  3. Exceptional Customer Experience 

    Ask yourself: Do we as an organization understand what we are selling? Because it is not the products or services that are differentiating you from your competition, it is the experience you are offering. Lee Salz of Sales Architects mentions, in selling an experience, it is how you sell, not just what you sell, that differentiates you. To keep customers coming back and away from your competition, you have to create an exceptional customer experience. One that gets customers talking and one they believe is so different from your competition.

Let’s make 2018 your BEST year on record!  Join us for a FREE webinar on January 22nd at 3 EST.  We will dive deep into each of these strategies, including the voice of the customer and put together your business growth plan for 2018.  Sign up today!

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Posted by Meridith Elliott Powell in Business Strategy & Customer Service, Sales Tips and tagged , , , , ,

Top 8 New Year’s ReSOLUTIONS

Happy New Year! Are You Ready for Success in 2018? Every New Year, we share the trends and the strategies that will drive growth in the coming year. We discuss what precisely you need to be doing to position your business and your team to surpass your goals and reach new levels of performance.  These […]

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Top 8 New Year’s ReSOLUTIONS


Happy New Year! Are You Ready for Success in 2018?

Every New Year, we share the trends and the strategies that will drive growth in the coming year. We discuss what precisely you need to be doing to position your business and your team to surpass your goals and reach new levels of performance.  These are the SOLUTIONS that create serious growth in 2018! 

8 New Year’s ReSOLUTIONS! 

  1. Voice Of The Customer 

    The most powerful voice in your business strategy needs to be the voice of your customer. In 2018 you need to listen to what your customers are saying, implying and telling you about their needs, market trends and how they want to be served. Focus groups, surveys, social and good ole’ fashioned conversations are the tools you need to stay connected to the voice of your customer.

  2. Outward Focus 

    The majority of things that will impact your success in 2018 are outside of your business and your control. Think about it: technology, competition, regulation, the economy etcetera.  In 2018, you need to have an outward focus.  Invest in the time to focus on what is happening outside of your business so you can be agile within.

  3. Innovation At Every Level

    In 2018 business will continue to move fast. New ideas, more efficient processes, and a well-organized business model are keys to success. You need every team member, at every level, focused, looking for new ideas, better ways of doing things, and strategies to improve the customer experience. As the leader, put innovation top of your list. Ask for it, recognize it, reward it and encourage it at every level of your organization.

  4. Question Everything 

    Just because it worked in 2017 does not mean it will work in 2018. The most significant obstacle you have in the race to succeed is the failure to notice when change is needed. Take the time to reflect quarterly, and schedule it now. Question everything!  What moved you forward and what held you back. Review, question, and adjust.

  5. Increase Activity 

    In 2018 you are going to have to do more to get more. It is time to increase activity, those behaviors you do to get the results you want.  If you are going to be more successful in 2018, then look at what you did in 2017 and increase it. The more of the right activity, the more of the right results.

  6. Engage In One Vital Sales Strategy 

    Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up. The first place you need to think about growth is coming from existing customers. Expanding those relationships will increase sales, improve retention and enhance referrals. You need to engage in one essential sales strategy – follow-up. Your sales strategy this year needs to have a robust follow-up system that your team implements flawlessly.

  7. Content Opens Doors 

    In 2018 customers are looking for problem solvers, solution creators, and innovators. If you want to open more doors and close more sales, you need to become subject matter experts. Understand that content opens doors. Buying anything now begins with a search for answers on websites, blogs, and social media. When customers go looking for answers your articles, interviews, and comments are what needs to pop up. You need to be the subject matter expert that delivers a reliable solution with a fantastic product.

  8. Seamless Connection 

    2018 is the year of personal connection! Yes, believe it or not, we still like to talk with one another. Your communication with your customers needs to include in-person, online and live video. Any and all opportunities you can create to increase interaction, connection and community will drive sales. The need for customers to feel like they know you, that you know them, and that their experience is personal will grow in 2018. You need to engage every form of medium and in-person opportunities to create a seamless connection.

Let’s make 2018 your BEST year on record!  Join us for a FREE webinar on January 22nd at 3 EST.  We will dive deep into each of these strategies, and put together your business growth plan for 2018.

Sign Up Now!

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Posted by Meridith Elliott Powell in Business Growth, Business Strategy & Customer Service, Sales Tips and tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Happy Holidays!

3 Things To Remember This Holiday Season ~ Family, Friends and Giving Back. Hard to believe it is almost here, that holiday season we wait for all year. The time to take a break from work, spend a little more time with family and friends, and just relax and enjoy the most important things in […]

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Happy Holidays!

Meridith_Powell_Three_Things_To_Remember_This_Holiday_Season

3 Things To Remember This Holiday Season ~ Family, Friends and Giving Back.

Hard to believe it is almost here, that holiday season we wait for all year. The time to take a break from work, spend a little more time with family and friends, and just relax and enjoy the most important things in life, the reasons we work so hard.

So as you get ready to wind your business down, and take a few days off, I want to share a few thoughts about what makes the holiday season so enjoyable.

When I was a child, I used to love the holiday season, that time of year that I defined as running from Thanksgiving through Christmas straight on to the New Year.   I loved it because, for me, it was the only time of the year when things slowed down, and the busy world around me seemed to stop.

My father would close his office the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and would not work a full week again until after the official start of the New Year. My mother would stop hosting garden club, organizing charity functions, and doing almost all household chores that were not directly related to the holidays.

As for my brothers, sister and I, all of our extracurricular activities would ground to a halt. Football practice, boy scouts and key club, all took a break. No dance class, no cheerleading and no time for flute and piano lessons.

Christmas is a day of meaning and traditions, a special day spent in the warm circle of family and friends.”
~ Margaret Thatcher

The only things we focused on that time of year were family, friends and giving back. Our days filled with taking presents to friends, visits to Santa, and the official family hike to find and cut down our Christmas tree. Then there were Holiday parties, decorating our home in Christmas decor, and the “giving back” activities on which my mother always insisted.

It seems life is so much busier these days, and it makes me laugh to even compare our schedules back then to now. However, I think the blessing of the holiday season is the same. It is that one time of year we have permission to put our cell phones down, not answer every email, and focus on what is most important in our lives.

3 Things To Remember This Holiday Season~ Family, Friends and Giving Back.

  1. Family – however, you define it. Those people in your life for which you are most grateful. Find more time this holiday season to spend time with them, and create the memories that will carry you through the rest of the year. The laughter of the holiday season always makes me smile.
  2. Friends – lifelong and new. Create the time to connect or reconnect with those relationships in your life that you value. Do something special for those friends who love and support you.
  3. Giving Back – and most importantly giving back. Create the opportunities to participate in philanthropic activities and make a difference in your communities. Giving is the true spirit and meaning of the holiday season.

Yes, I love the holiday season for both the memories I possess and those I will create with my family and friends. Wishing you all a beautiful and very happy holiday season!

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Posted by Meridith Elliott Powell in Business Strategy & Customer Service, leadership development and tagged , , , , ,

4 Sales Strategies To Get Out Of The Price War

Winning the price war comes when during the sales process your clients know the value and outcomes they will be getting and price isn’t even mentioned. We own a second home in Charleston, South Carolina that we rent out during the summer months. For the past year we have been very unhappy with our current […]

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4 Sales Strategies To Get Out Of The Price War

How to Overcome Price War

Winning the price war comes when during the sales process your clients know the value and outcomes they will be getting and price isn’t even mentioned.

We own a second home in Charleston, South Carolina that we rent out during the summer months. For the past year we have been very unhappy with our current property manager. Our home is just not cared for or rented out at the level we would like it to be.

Over this Thanksgiving break, while we were spending a week down there, we decided to shop around for a new property manager. I reached out to this one firm that had been calling and sending direct mail pieces to us for about a month. Their marketing was great, really talked about the high-level of personal attention they provided, their unique style of caring for your property, and the increased level of rental income they could produce even given the short summer season.

Of all the property managers we talked with, this was the one we were most intrigued by. Care of our property and personalized attention were the two big things we felt we were lacking from our current property manager.

We met with this new agency, were impressed with what we heard, and were ready to sign the contract. When they presented their paper work, they were so pleased to share that, even without asking us, they had cut their management fee from twenty-five percent to twenty. A significant savings for us.

And while we were pleased, I remember thinking, why? At no point in any of our conversations had we shared that price was an issue or a concern. In fact, if they had really listened, they would have found that we would not have been opposed to paying more for a property manager that met our expectations.

“One of the most common mistakes I see with sales professionals is that most assume price is going to be an automatic part of the sales conversation.”

So that begs the question, are you negotiating price, giving it away, before you even have to? One of the most common mistakes I see with sales professionals is that most assume price is going to be an automatic part of the sales conversation. Far too often offering to cut or negotiate the price without even understanding if you have to.

If you are losing the war on price, it may because you are surrendering before the battle begins.

Four Strategies To Get Out Of The Price War – 

Create A Sales Strategy and Selling Process that is Optimized To Provide Value to Your Customers

  1. Select The Right Target

    – if you want to stop giving away price you have to make sure you are focused on customers who are more value-driven. Every industry and price point has a target and you need to understand yours. Knowing who values what you offer in terms of service, quality, and those other extras that you have to offer, is who you need to be focused on. That is your “right target.” For a property management company wanting to charge more we are the “right target.” What we value most is personalized service and care of our property, two things for which we were willing to pay more.

  2. Ask and Listen

    – understand the sales interview is so important and key to understanding what your customers most value. You need to ask great open-ended questions and then really slow down and listen. Making sure that the sales interview is about letting customers talk 80 percent of the time and you talking 20 percent. During the interview with our new property management company they asked great questions, which gave us the opportunity to share all of our concerns, our goals, and what we wanted in a new company. Again, none of which were about price. They asked great questions, but forgot the important step of listening.

  3. Shift Your Paradigm 

    – probably most important strategy is to shift your own paradigm. Take price of out the conversation unless your customer brings it up, or you hear that price is important to them. This is the only place where our “new property management company” missed the boat. We never mentioned price as an issue or a concern, yet they gave it away anyhow. Understand that price is not what you are selling, and with the right target market, it (price) is not what matters most. Take it off the table; build your sales process around the value(s) and the outcomes your customers will receive.

  4. Position Value 

    – customers have to understand what they are paying for and feel good about what they are spending. When you have asked great questions and really listened you understand what matters to your customers most. So, you can position what you are selling as a direct solution to their challenges. Our “new property management company” did a great job of this. As they presented the contract they made sure that every challenge or concern we had was going to be met, and we saw the value right away. We felt heard, understood and validated – incidentally three things that would have easily convinced us to pay more for the service.

Negotiating price should always be the last thing you are discussing when talking with customers. (12 things every sales superstar knows article) If you have chosen the right target market, asked great questions and really listened, then positioning your sale as value add and solution focused, customers are more than willing to meet at your price level.

Getting the price you want is about your ability to ensure your customers understand the value they are getting, and your ability to quit using price as an automatic sales strategy.

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The Perfect Storm

How To Build A Solid Succession Plan Do you know what keeps top leaders up at night? Talent! How to find them, where to find them, how to keep them, how to develop them, and how to build a solid succession plan. (We’re in the Worst Talent Shortage Since 2007 article)   “Succession planning has […]

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The Perfect Storm

Successful Succession Planning Meridith Powell

How To Build A Solid Succession Plan

Do you know what keeps top leaders up at night? Talent! How to find them, where to find them, how to keep them, how to develop them, and how to build a solid succession plan. (We’re in the Worst Talent Shortage Since 2007 article)

 

“Succession planning has always been a challenge for every businesses and organizations, but in today’s market conditions, it seems to have hit a crisis stage.”

 

Succession planning has always been a challenge for every businesses and organizations, but in today’s market conditions, it seems to have hit a crisis stage. Every boardroom you walk into, every leader you engage with, leaders are talking about the sense of urgency they feel about succession planning and leadership development

Why has it reached this crisis stage? The last ten years seemed to have created the perfect storm, the ideal case for why everyone is in desperate need of a succession plan. Think about it, ten years ago (2008) we were just feeling the beginning stages of the downturn in our economy. As 2009 and 2010 hit we were in full-blown recession, and panic had spread around the business community.

Those Baby Boomer CEOs and leaders that were beginning to think about retirement and creating their succession planning goals, had now turned their attention to just holding on and keeping their businesses going. This was not the time to think about the next generation or training them to take over. Let alone, in a time when every decision matters and every dollar was needed, this was no time to turn the reins over to the inexperienced.

Add to that this next generation, these future leaders, who were now watching their companies go through some serious struggles. They watched as costs got cut, budgets got tighter and peers and co-workers got laid off. It was not the time to ask for a promotion or extra training, It was about putting your head down and just doing what you were told.

Fast forward ten years, and the economy is doing better or we are used to the volatility. Now these leaders are ready to retire. These CEOs who were 55 or 60 when the crisis hit, are now pushing 70 and they are ready to hand over the leadership. The problem is there is little to no one ready to carry on the torch. Today many organizations struggle to take their succession planning programs beyond a static list of names.

“Today many organizations struggle to take their succession planning programs beyond a static list of names.”

Ten years of micro-management, combined with a workforce just trying not to get fired has created a void in next level leadership. To ensure successful transition during succession planning process, future leaders need time to move into the role. Taking on leadership in smaller doses, and having the room to learn on the job and fail a little as they go. Leadership is too important to go from 0 to 60, from leading a department to leading a company, or to go from having someone else make the decisions to being the one in charge. (succession planning roadmap article)

This perfect storm has created the perfect crisis. Leaders who are ready to retire combined with future leaders who are not quite ready to take over. So how do you implement a company succession plan in an environment that is anything but ideal? (How to do it right article)

4 Strategies To Build A Solid Succession Plan

  1. Get Realistic – you need to get real on what it is going to take to implement your succession plan. First, what skills, talents and most importantly values do your next level leaders need to have? Second, whom do you have among your ranks that have potential to achieve those? Third, what is it going to take to get them there? What training do they need, what coaching, what support, and what are the steps to get them prepared, educated and in shape to lead? (8 steps for effective succession planning article)
  2. Create The Culture – once you understand where you are going and you have created your succession planning roadmap; and you have identified your high potential future workers to develop, the next agenda is to create the culture to support it. If you want to achieve your succession planning goals, then, you, the CEO, need to make it your job and your number one priority. As the leader, you create the culture, and your actions determine the level of value people place on it. As the leader you need to develop the vision, the communication strategy and the systems and processes you want to support succession planning. Then most importantly commit to the actions it takes to value it and reward it.
  3. Get Out Of The Way – if you want others to lead your organization, then you need to get out of the way and let them lead. In other words, you have to learn to lead through the power of the questions. While leaders want to lead, making decisions can be scary business. What if you make the wrong one, or what if someone else has a better idea? These are all things future leaders struggle with, and rather than solve those problems for them, you need to get out of the way. One of the most important parts of succession planning is helping leaders develop critical thinking and decision-making skills they need to eventually lead your company. The more you let them figure things out on their own, the sooner you will be able to retire.
  4. Ensure Ownership At Every Level – with your next level leaders well on their way, then it is time to ensure your business or organization is never without a succession plan. To do that, you need to instill ownership at every executive level. You need to ensure the steps created above are happening throughout the ranks of your company so that every leader from frontline to executive level has their succession planning process in place. (7 tenets of a good ceo succession process article)

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