Friday, February 27, 2009

Sales Lessons From A Panhandler

The other day I was talking with my friend about a recent trip he took to New York City. He started telling me this story about walking down the street and getting stopped by a gentleman that asked him a simple question, "Do you know where Carnegie Hall is?"

"No," said my friend, "I'm not from around here."

The man grinned, then asked, "I'm not from here either. I need to go to Carnegie Hall and meet a friend. By the way, can you spare a dollar. I'm down on my luck and really need a good meal."

Ah, engagement. I'm not sure how honest this panhandler was, but he engaged engaged my friend with questions in order to help his cause, getting a dollar. You see, if he just comes up and asked for a dollar, he seems too forward and pushy. If he asks a question, he starts to build some rapport. Asking questions builds a bond. He wanted to make my friend feel he was helping.

It's a great lesson for sales pros. Asking questions helps build rapport. Start asking questions of prospects and keep asking questions. When you feel you've asked too many questions, ask more.

By the way, my friend gave the man a few dollars.

--Ron Ameln, SBM

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Missing Fries And Customer Service

Sometimes the best business lessons are right in front of you, or maybe what is not in front of you. In my case the lesson came in the form of french fries, or lack thereof.
I ordered french fries a few months back at a restaurant that opened up across the street from our office. "We're all out," said the waitress. Ok, maybe the truck was late, the purchaser messed up, etc.
Then it happened again a few weeks later. Then, I took a client into the restaurant and waited 30 minutes before anyone came to take my order. Then the real funny story: a client of mine went in and ordered french fries at lunch. "We're all out," he was told. "Well," he said, "I'll take a baked potato." "Here's the deal," the waiter said. "We only have so many of them, so we're holding them until dinner."
Well, needless to say, this restaurant closed its doors last week. It's hard to believe because when they opened the service was great and the restaurant was packed.
Years ago I wrote a story on restaurateur Ray Gallardo (founder of Casa Gallardo) and he said, "A burger is a burger, but your customer service will separate you from competitors."
This restaurant learned this lesson the hard way.
Business owners need to fight really hard, especially in these budget conscious times, to maintain their level of customer service. If you don't, running out of french fries will be the least of your worries.
--Ron Ameln, SBM