Strategy? This isn’t Strategy

The word itself is shifty, implying that the intent of the planner is to deceive, and deception implies that some form of opposition is present.  An argument could be made that negotiation used to seem like a battle, but another argument could be made that the game is changing.   Here are a few highlights will stand the test of time:  

Be consistent across all aspects of your life.  Work, home, school, at public events, volunteer activities, etc.

Post content about your volunteer activities.  Junior achievement, coaching, music auxiliary, etc.

Share casual AND professional photos of yourself.  If people see all sides, they will connect better with you.

Change your idea of what a great customer is as well as what you think a great service provider means to them.  It may be different than what you have previously thought.  For example:  in the past, people looked at service providers as experts.  “What would I do if you weren’t there to tell me?”  Today, I argue that a relationship is more important than knowledge, mainly because information is so readily available.  Now people say:  “I trust you to confirm my decisions about the options/solutions I’ve chosen because you know as much about ME as you know about features and benefits.”

Make a list of everyone you’d miss if they were gone, and those who would miss you if they left.  In other words, anyone you connect with.  Historically, if someone moved from your local community, contact was perceived to be lost forever.  Not true today, so keep sending them birthday cards, their kids birthday cards, connect with them on social media,  Google them and send congratulations for successes… It’s easy today.  Chances are good that someone they know will move to Iowa.  Who will they recommend to help them?

These ideas probably don’t sound new or innovative on the surface, but try following through on every one of them.  It may be more difficult than you think.

“I Want It All…”

NOW!  When quotes on key rings were cool, I had that one.  It’s the motto of most teenagers even today.  Self-serving motivations that drive immediate results rarely create lasting relationships.  The person seeking the result often lacks the patience to truly take an interest in anything outside of themselves, at least for more time than required to get what they want.  

Traditional strategies perpetuate this reality.   The more distractions there are, the more precise a message has to be. And the more distractions there are, the less time there is to build relationships. Eventually, the massive clutter will cause people to stop and think:  “Is immediate gratification more important than lifelong relationships?”  The choice is yours.

What are you measuring?

Is it better to measure production or permission?  Traditional wisdom says production, but one should realize by now that this site isn’t based on traditional thinking.  The argument will likely be:  “How do you measure PERMISSION?”

My first real job was serving tables in a nice restaurant when I was 18.    The middle-aged lady who trained me shared one piece of advice that I’ll never forget:  “Don’t count your tips until the end of the shift.”  As a brand new waiter with no industry experience, I accepted her wisdom as part of the training process.  Now, 30 years later, a deeper meaning has surfaced.

The second a customer is seated at a table, they have given permission to be served.  Interactions will occur throughout their visit that either enhance or diminish the value of their dining experience.  For the server, the value perceived by the customer is reflected in their tip.  Even more interesting is the fact that some customers have favorite servers:  Ones that they’ll sit in the bar for two hours just to ensure they get the next table in their section.  To those customers, the face of the business (brand) is their favorite server, and that server has as much control over that brand’s image as any article, ad or review the brand makes available.

This unspoken partnership in brand perception should not be taken for granted or violated by either party.  EVER.

Why me?

It’s always been social media fashionable to have a lot of followers/contacts/friends.  When the whole wave started growing, everyone wanted to connect with everyone else.   LinkedIn was almost a race.  It was a status symbol for “500+ Connections” to be displayed on someone’s profile page.  “Now THAT person is important!”  A few years later the secret was out:  Many of those people didn’t really KNOW all of their connections.  In fact, some even BOUGHT their connections just so they could say they hit the magic number. Suddenly the credibility of the followers, contacts and friends came into question.

Requests to connect come to my inbox every day, some from people I know and some whom I’ve never met. In either case, I always pause and ask:  “Why me?”  Why does this person want to connect and is it consistent with the explanation I’d love to hear:  “I need your help. Not with your product or service, but with insight about how to improve my own situation.  If your assistance is beneficial beyond my expectations, you will have earned my trust.”

That trust is worth far more down the road than a sales transaction today.

(New) Reality Check

The sales world is changing FAST.  The customer is in control.  The internet is becoming the expert, the presenter of the features and benefits of a brand’s products.  Ten times the amount of research can be done in one-fourth the time on Google versus the public library, and it’s far less confrontational than sitting across an office desk.  Many consumers even identify and overcome their own objections thanks to the i-Pad they’re using in their living room.  How significant are those closing seminars now?


The argument isn’t that professionals should neglect continuing education or abandon product knowledge.  The point is that they should take a step back and evaluate the situation. Salespeople have long been programmed to diligently prospect new business, set interview appointments, demonstrate products, validate interest, overcome objections, close the deal, and follow-up/ask for referrals. There is no doubt that the traditional system will always be an important component to business success.

The quandary is this:  If a brand representative will not be present for some or all of the process, how will their role need to evolve to fit into the new reality?

How It Began

In 2007, the director of the local Community Leadership Program recommended that attendees connect on LinkedIn, so we all dove head-first into the internet ocean.  After all, everybody was doing it.  MySpace, YouTube,  Facebook,  Twitter, RSS feeds from bloggers and any news sources that piqued our interest.   It didn’t take long for subscribers (and their in-boxes) to become overwhelmed with all of the opt-ins.  What started out as one-on-one discussions soon became committee meetings.  Today it’s a full-blown national convention. There are now thousands of people talking at once and no one wants to surrender the podium.  More importantly, there is no monitor present to call “time”.  It’s our responsibility as members of the buying public to decide who we want to listen to.  Sound difficult?