No trust, no sale

Slimy-salesman

Selling is often considered an art form. It takes no less than the most fine-tuned of inter-personal skills and a precise focus on value.

But value is in the eye of a beholder, and to truly sell (I’m told) requires the innate skill to first empathize with a customer’s needs… and then at the perfect moment deliver an optimal solution to their largest problem.

Sales mastery in action

I’ve been lucky enough to witness sales mastery on a few occasions. It was indeed like watching an artist, with a few commonalities:

  • First the groundwork is laid, maybe an initial joke leading quickly to a personal connection
  • Next a mutual commiseration of shared problems and struggles
  • Then the soft touch of a potential solution, delivered ever so delicately at the opportune time
  • And lastly, the close. With the swiftness of a cheetah that somehow leaves the antelope feeling like it won

The ruin of a sale

Someone tried to sell me something today – and it felt all wrong. It simply wasn’t an enjoyable experience.

This bugged me because I was the perfect customer. In fact, not only did I deeply identify with the problem, I had sought out my own solution – which the service I was being sold solved perfectly!. To top it of, the service was FREE and delivered to me on a silver plate.

What was my deal? I had a problem that I unsuccessfully tried to solve myself but couldn’t, and someone was offering me a perfect free solution.

So why did I walk away feeling like a snake charmer just tried to scam me?

Because there was no trust. No groundwork was laid – it was straight to the sell.

The art of trust

Many sales acronyms exist. There’s DIPADA, DMAIC, among others. They’re mostly similar: Identify the problem, present a tailored solution, and close the deal. Some include smaller interim steps such as identifying the key stakeholder and creating time sensitivity – but the main topics remain the same.

What typically isn’t included in a sales process? BUILDING TRUST. Yet developing trust through a true customer connection is the most important element of selling.

Unsurprisingly how to quickly develop a trusting relationship is the most difficult step to teach. Much like delivering a pick-up line… it’s largely an innate ability.

It may involve a simple friendly smile, sharing a story, or keeping a promise. While the tactics may differ, the results are the same.

One of my heros Rand puts it well:

“Best way to sell something:
Don’t sell anything.
Earn the awareness, respect, and trust of those who might buy.”

So the next time you’re selling (we’re all selling something), think for a moment about the personal connection you’ll need to make to build a sale. Without laying the groundwork of trust, you risk coming across as an insincere salesperson to even your most opportune customer.

The interaction of academia and business

London-Business-School

I recently met well known author and professor John Mullins – who not only accepted my blind lunch invitation, but was nice enough to invite me to the LBS faculty dining room (best lunch I’ve had this year).

After sharing our backgrounds, the conversation moved to John’s recent research surrounding startup funding and the value of relying on customers for initial cash as validation – opposed to raising angel/VC funds (that’s for a separate post).

I walked away not only with a full belly, but pondering the intake criteria of many startup accelerators and how the industry views initial funding as a ‘proof in the pudding’ milestone.

It really is amazing how one conversation can completely alter your thoughts from a daily task list to the highest strategic objectives of an industry.

It’s hard to believe I didn’t realize until just now how valuable a research-based academic conversation can be… and this is coming from someone with an academic as a best buddy!Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

Everyone needs a regular change of perspective, and I for one will be seeking them out much more often. Not only with academics, but people who are generally interesting and willing to disagree with me. But if they do happen to be academics, then hopefully more posh lunches are in my future!

Rise of the walking meeting

Rise of the walking meeting

Remember back in the day when standing meetings were so hip?

For a while now I’ve been think about how my life has turned into a non-stop series of static meetings in either conference rooms or coffee shops. Nothing is original, the air is stale, and the background music lulls me to sleep.

Standup meetings: Do they work?

Perhaps it’s a matter of bad company culture. Why don’t we all stand up… that’ll solve everything! Right?

For me, the daily standup is a ritual I’ve lived through and even implemented Unfortunately, after the first few weeks it somehow just dropped off.Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

Although standup meetings may allow for a little distraction-free leg stretch, you’re still in a typically stale office environment. Surrounded by the same people sipping the same coffee/tea and saying the same things as yesterday.

The WSJ even wrote about the “fast-moving tech culture” where some companies went as far as removing tables to prevent (Angry Birds) distractions.

Standup meetings haven’t been the only trend attempting to disrupt the traditional office environment. There was a time when sitting on exercise balls was “in”, and even now a few articles mention the treadmill + desk combination (walking desk) as the next big thing.

The Walking Meeting

Why not change your whole frame of mind and leave the office completely? I’m not talking about going to a distraction-filled coffee shop or grabbing a quick lunch…

I’m suggesting holding your typical bulleted agenda with discussion meeting while walking.

How great would it be to begin a meeting at Westminster Abbey and end at London Bridge? Or easier yet, why not meet a colleague in the lobby to take a few loops around the neighborhood?

The core idea provides a more accessible, focused, and cheaper alternative to golf’s walk-and-talk dynamic. Though unlike golf, my core hypothesis is that walking meetings will produce original thinking and allow the participants to return refreshed and ready to move on with their day.

In general, not only would a walking meeting help achieve that crazy Fitbit 10k step goal, it removes participants from the status quo to provide much needed headspace.

So who’s with me? Any takers on setting up a walking meeting? I’ll even be your first partner! Conversation topic is completely up to you, I’d just be happy to get some fresh air and remove myself from the monotonous daily routine we call work.

Things I’d like to do in 2013

Over the past 10 days I’ve spent 20+ hours in airplanes… the result of living on a different continent from family during the holidays. The vast majority of this time was spent watching movies and reading magazines, but as my mind wandered for the first time ever I found myself compiling a variety of New Year’s Resolutions.

This resulted in a list of 6 resolutions, which I intended to whittle down to one key objective for 2013.

As I contemplated the relative importance of each item, it dawned on me that I could achieve the full list in 2013 if I put my mind to it. In fact, the items ended up being things I wanted to do more – opposed to the typical metric-driven resolutions. So, the following is my “Things I’d like to do in 2013″ list:

Music

I want to bring back music to my life. Although I love not having a car in London, I do miss the hour of radio inherent in a typical US commute I’ve played piano for more than 20 years and just last month I received a keyboard for my 30th birthday – so not only do I want to listen to more music, I also want to play more music.

Mornings

I want to wake up earlier. I am naturally a night owl and often most productive after midnight. However, I feel like allowing extra time in the morning will result in a more calm and focused day ahead.

Breakfast

I want to eat more protein for breakfast. My energy level is always higher when I substitute eggs for cereal or a protein smoothie for a granola bar. It’s just a matter of time. Waking up early will allow me to make a healthy, balanced breakfast for my wife and I.

Travel

I want to travel more. I’ve been living in London for 2 years and failed to make a serious effort to prioritize travel. This will change in 2013 as I intend to plan trips further in advance and utilizing more of the glorious vacation time allotted in the UK. Columbia, Turkey, and Greece are just the beginning…

Think

I want to think more often. Not just the typical daily task-based thinking… but really stepping back to ponder things I find important. This could include anything from weighing the pros and cons of an interesting startup during a leisurely museum stroll, to thinking through all aspects of an www.opinsy.com topic while wandering through a park.

Breaks

I want to take more short breaks during the day. In my opinion too many people correlate time sitting at a desk with the amount of work being done. I’m a true believer in quality over quantity, and my preferred way to achieve this is through short bursts of high-quality activity followed by down time. Sitting for more than 90 minutes isn’t productive, and I intend to do less of this in 2013.

Razor usage tracker

Razor usage tracker

Like most people, at times I come up with what I believe are “bright ideas.” I typically place these ideas safely in an Evernote folder to sit for eternity. This folder now consists of 20+ ideas that to date have not seen the light of day.

Well, my bright idea for today was to post these ideas on my new AndyinLondon blog. This way there’s an off chance some entrepreneur will be in the position to pursue said idea. So here goes nothing…

The Razor Usage Tracker

I hate shaving. The hairs on my neck grow in crazy directions, and inevitably I walk away bleeding from most shaving encounters.

Electric razors work well on my face, but I’ve found a standard 2-blade razor is best for my neck. It’s not full-proof, but the first 3-4 razor uses I walk away relatively nick-free.

The problem – if I use a razor more than 5 times, I start bleeding profusely (believe me, it’s bad).

I try my best to remember how many times I’ve used a razor, but seeing as I shave every 2-3 days this requires me to track my shaving for over two weeks. What typically happens is I only throw a razor away when I bleed excessively – I’m guessing this averages the 7th or 8th shave.

The solution – a simple way to track my razor usage. I could envision this “tool” would be able to attach to any razor and include a simple counting mechanism up to say 10 uses (some people use razors longer than I do).

I’m actually surprised manufacturers don’t just design an integrated razor tracking system. Brita does for their water filters – in essence two stickers. I for sure change my water filter more often because of the sticker. Wouldn’t the razor manufacturer sell more razors if users were reminded to change often.

So, there’s my first bright idea – a simple way to track razor usage. It might not change the world, but it’s surely a problem that I would be willing to pay for a solution (and am guessing others do as well).

My neck awaits your brilliant solution to this problem…

Where’s the McUpsell?

I love McDonald’s sausage, egg, and cheese McMuffins. Not only are they tasty, but with 23g of protein and 430 calories they’re a relatively healthy breakfast and keep me full until lunch (1).

My week consists of 2-3 McMuffin stops. I order exactly the same thing in exactly the same way: “I’ll take a sausage, egg, and cheese McMuffin, please.” To my seemingly specific order, the McDonalds employee responds the same way every time:

“Do you want just the muffin, or the meal?”

The question is typically asked in a slightly hesitant tone, almost inferring that my order is the first in history to exclude the obviously desirable meal deal. The thing is… after eating at least 500 McMuffins in my life, I have no clue what a McMuffin meal deal includes. And I only have a vague idea what a McMuffin meal upgrade costs (I’m guessing $1.50). To this I say:

Where’s the McUpsell?

I am a proud owner of McDonalds stock. Yes because of the company’s unbelievable brand value. But I’ll admit – mostly because I love my McMuffins. After owning MCD for a while, I’ve started to recognize a phrase called “same store sales” is a big deal. Most of the time same store sales vary because of the economy or different menu options. Well, here’s my suggestion to McDonalds:

Train your employees to convey what an upgrade cost and the additional value it includes.

By informing customers about a meal deal’s value proposition, I’m guessing there’s a high probability many (including myself) would upgrade. I understand memorizing all possible upgrades isn’t easy. Upselling takes strong product knowledge and the incentive to go above and beyond. But think of the rewards.

  • The average McDonalds restaurant serves 1584 customers/day who pay approximately $4.75 per order – resulting in annual restaurant sales of $2.7m. (2)
  • Let’s estimate a strong McUpsell would convert 2% of customers (3) to purchase a meal deal (4). This doesn’t seem like much, but if these 32 customers pay 60% extra for a meal – each restaurant would make an additional $33,300/year in revenues (5). That’s like adding 4 days!
  • I estimate a McUpsell would increase global revenues by $225m/year (6). This equates to 12% of McDonalds total revenue increase between 2011-12. In addition, because meal deals include higher margin items (fries, drink, etc.) they’re great for profit margin.

I’m guessing there are a variety of industries that would benefit from instilling more of an upsell mentality. Gas stations? Movie theaters? Restaurant servers and car salespeople have been employing the upsell – but then again they’re compensated as a % of revenues.

It’s a difficult task to supply the training and motivation required to instill a McUpsell mentality, but I’m guessing over time the benefits often far outweigh the initial hurdles.

Thanks to @FranciscoGtrz for diligently checking my math skills (I was awarded a C+)

(1) I am now actually told that a .78 protein to fat ratio may be “nutritionally poor”
(2) http://www.burgerbusiness.com/?p=9385&fb_source=message
(3) I could see 1/50 customers go for a really solid McUpsell
(4) Assumed minimal dropoff from longer waiting lines
(5) $.65 increase x 32 customers x 365 days
(6) McDonalds operates about 6775 of it’s own stores X $33,300

30 today, time to go big time!

Yep, today is my 30th birthday.

And I’m thinking there’s no better way to celebrate than start something I’ve always wanted to do – in this case my own blog.

At the moment I don’t have really a goal in mind for blogging, so much as a desire to aggregate my thoughts in one central place. I figure, why not share those thoughts with the world?

Worst case scenario – nobody cares.

Best case – a few people other than immediate family care (hi mom).

So, we shall see what the future holds. From here on out I’m going to shoot for 2-3 posts a week. More is very much acceptable. Less would be unfortunate, and likely means I’m not trying hard enough.

Hopefully something valuable comes from these thoughts…