Brain Freeze

Brain freezeHave you ever drank a milkshake through a straw too fast?  You know the feeling, right?  Now look at the marketplace and the internet.  There are literally hundreds of variations of multiple products available for researching, comparing, pricing and purchasing.  Most of those steps along the buyer journey no longer involve interacting with a sales representative, face-to-face or otherwise.  The question then becomes: “How can representatives POSSIBLY make an impact?”  The same way you can prevent brain freeze when drinking the milkshake: SLOW THE FLOW.


Customers are as overwhelmed at their options as anyone else. There is simply too much to consume randomly, and the volume is only going to continue expanding exponentially within the next decade.  So what needs to happen?  How are people going to  “slow the flow”? It’s going to start by being far more selective with their attention. There are 24 hours in a day, 60 minutes in an hour, and 60 seconds in a minute.  Never will there be any more or any less.  At some point, people will get overwhelmed with consumption and will withdraw toward more preservation of their quality time with those who matter most. The timeline for this shift is variable:  Some are just more tolerant of interruptions than others who have already begun the process (like myself).


If we were to look back about 15 years, how many people still had land lines?  How many households had DVR’s?  How many magazines were listed in the local elementary school’s fundraising packet?  How many social media platforms were there?  You’re getting the picture, right?  Fast forward to today and ask the same questions again.  Besides the obvious, what’s another big difference between then and now?  Back then, much of the sorting between Stephen Covey’s time management categories of important, urgent, not important, not urgent was done by HAND…we could physically touch, sort, and retain or discard whatever items we wanted.  Today, the majority of physical items we receive come to us in the form of direct mail. Many people now consume newspapers, magazines, and business correspondence online. Do we expect the level of such consumption to increase or diminish in the years ahead? Exactly.


This is a problem because, unlike physical newspapers and magazines, the information being consumed can only be seen, not touched.  Therefore, the amount of time spent sorting is dramatically diminished.  Similar to the mouse-click theory of first impressions, representatives who DO NOT have a current “in” with a community are going to be faced with an overwhelming challenge in the near future.  People they are trying to reach have already begun taking steps to prevent brain freeze by forming and engaging with their own communities of shared world views.  If these representatives try to gain permission to solicit products and services to these communities through traditional interruptive means, the members of the target community will simply cut off their straw.  



Silent But Deadly

Vapor trailVapor trail:  The result of consistently choosing to ignore the wishes of today’s customers, instead forcing them to continue interacting with you within the traditional sales model.

Scenario 1:

You’re a quota-based sales rep who needs numbers.  A couple we’ll call John and Mary are two of your best customers who agree to meet after three weeks of late call nights. Your diligent follow-up efforts have paid off! Contacting them twice a day refusing at take “No” for an answer finally broke them.

John and Mary are the parents of two children, so their schedule is insane no matter what day it is.   You prepare for the meeting with great anticipation as this is your big chance to meet your sales quota for the year.  You go through every feature and benefit perfectly, just like you were taught, and John and Mary are nodding through the entire presentation.  Finally, the moment of truth comes:  The close.  “So, does this sound like a solution that would serve your family well?”

“Well, yes, we think this sounds like something we need.”


Then John says:  “Do you mind if I ask you something?  You were very persistent in getting us in today, and we do know it’s for the best.  However, I’m curious as to whether we’re getting the whole picture.  We understand and agree that you are compensated by commission, but is there anything more to it than that?”

How you respond will set the tone for the relationship for the rest of your time together, will it not?  Do you tell them the truth and inform them of the incentive plan, or do you answer, “No, John, there’s nothing else”…and then let them find out from your team members that you’re on rewards vacation?

Either way, you may very well get a vapor trail out the front door.   Today’s customers are extremely knowledgeable.  Very few things (besides trade secret information) are NOT found somewhere on the internet, especially when matters of trust are at risk.  This particular scenario puts you between a rock a hard place:  Tell the truth, and you’re potentially seen as putting their own needs before theirs.  Lie, and, well, why should anyone trust you in the future?  In either case, John and Mary are at risk for not only never coming back, they may quite possibly never speak to you again. Not exactly the kind of word-of-mouth that is necessary to BUILD a business.

Scenario 2:

John and Mary have passively asked about your brand’s helpful time-saving technology as it has been introduced, and you have educated them by sending links to information you believe they would find interesting.   Their friends have also been talking about the solutions your brand provides and how much their own families have benefited from them.

One day, Mary sends you an e-mail asking for your input and professional insights.  The request and related documentation is also forwarded to your CRM platform.  This enables you to see exactly what they are thinking and review their concerns in advance.  After a thoughtful analysis of their ideas, you send them your feedback and extend an invitation to meet on their schedule.  They are impressed with your promptness and professionalism, and ask to get together on Saturday morning in two weeks to finalize their purchase.  Mary’s parents are coming to see the kids, so it’s not a problem to get away for a while.

The couple arrives early for the appointment.  They’ve already decided this is the perfect solution.  As you are preparing to get their signatures, John asks, “Do you mind if I ask you something?  There’s a lot of information on the internet about incentives in many different businesses.  Does any of that information apply to this one?”

You look away from your computer screen and focus your attention directly on John.

“Yes, John, I’m glad you asked.  My company offers incentives based on how many people I serve.  This year, I’ve been fortunate enough to help a lot of people just like you. So many, in fact, that your request for my help will qualify my wife and I for a vacation next spring.  It’s not something I usually tell people, but I don’t hide it when asked, either.  Now that you know, do I still have your permission to continue?”

“Of course!  If you’ve helped THAT many people, you deserve to be rewarded.  Working with you has been the greatest experience we could have asked for.  We never felt like we were being ‘sold’ anything.  You supported and educated us through the process and never seemed ‘pushy’.”

“Thank you, John.  I truly appreciate the opportunity to serve you.”

In this scenario, “silent” represents the approach you took to serve your customers.  “Deadly” is what this process is to your competitors.  I also call it “flying under the radar.” You’re in and out before anyone realizes what happened…and THEIR customers have left with YOU.

The Titanic Effect

The Titanic was believed to be the most indestructible ship of its time.  It was the epitome of elite engineering.   Three scenes from the award-winning movie serve as analogies for this message.  The first featured one young sailor positioned high up on the observation deck with a pair of binoculars.  His job was to report to the Captain any obstacles or threats he saw in the distance.  The second showed the men in the bowels of the ship, literally 50 feet below water level, who were responsible for fueling the engines that propelled the gigantic vessel. The last featured the Captain when he received the call from the kid on the observation deck about the iceberg.  His commands to initiate evasive action came far too late, but included a seemingly confident tone as if he truly believed no little iceberg could ever take down the Titanic.

Scientific research now shows that icebergs have a far greater impact than putting holes in indestructible cruise ships:  They’re argued to be a major source of climate change for the ENTIRE PLANET!!!  If the Captain would have known that, perhaps he would have given the iceberg greater respect.

Where is this headed?

For years, thought leaders have been shining their lighthouse beacons for anyone on any ship within a hundred miles to see. These mentors have charted the course for the creation and implementation of strategies necessary to navigate the tumultuous seas known as today’s marketing world.  Yet a significant number of companies still choose to maintain full speed ahead.  While some Captains sense that danger is lurking in the distance, the biased statistical data they are being provided suggests staying the course is the safest strategy.  The waters they are currently sailing through are getting rougher, but in their minds the ship has always endured.  There’s also an undercurrent of fear:  There aren’t enough life boats if anything is reported besides what the Captain wants to hear. 

In case you forgot how it ends:  The Titanic sank.