Any company, yours included, can most certainly turn its workforce into its salesforce. All workforces, whether they are a two person team or a multi-national company with over a hundred thousand employees, are ultimately responsible for selling. Every employee action, interaction and communication with a customer influences their decision whether or not to buy from you. Customers are just as much influenced by the attitude of the cleaners and delivery staff as they are by senior management. The way your employees (in any department) answer the phone, write a letter, deliver a service, or pack a product for delivery, leaves a lasting impression in the mind of the prospective customer, and either persuades or dissuades them in a buying decision.
Selling is not just the responsibility of your sales staff, but is the responsibility of all employees, and starts with their attitude to your customer. Let’s begin our look at turning your workforce into your salesforce by exploring two simple examples of a good and bad attitude towards customers, and the consequences of these wholesale pipes. Both examples happened to me recently and encapsulate many of the principles you will learn about in this book.
Example 1: The Barman – A bad customer attitude!
I am a big fan of traditional British Sunday roast lunches and over the years have visited many pubs on a Sunday for roast beef or lamb and a pint of beer. There’s no finer way, I think, of spending an hour or so on a Sunday than having a succulent roast dinner, with Yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes, piping hot fresh vegetables and rich gravy, all washed down with a pint of warm beer. I love it! On this one particular Sunday, my wife Jane and I decided to take our two children to the pub just around the corner from where we live in Bath. This pub is a regular haunt of the Bath rugby club and has been in existence since the late 1700s. It’s a wonderful pub with great beer. As we always do on these occasions, we ordered our food and drinks from the bar, got the children strapped into their high chairs and looked forward to yet another enjoyable feast. We had the restaurant to ourselves and were delighted when the food quickly arrived and was as tasty as we had hoped. But there was one problem with our lunch – simply that the portions were too small. I thought the meals looked a bit small when they arrived, with just one slice of beef, a couple of potatoes and a scattering of vegetables.
Being a self-proclaimed connoisseur of Sunday lunches, I have a good benchmark to measure them against. But it was not just me being gluttonous who thought the portions were small; my wife Jane (who is a light eater) also felt they were tiny, and we both agreed that paying the equivalent of a decent pair of shoes, and still leaving hungry was poor value. When I had just about finished my meal and realised that I was still hungry, I went into the kitchen to ask the chef for a few more potatoes. The chef had just stepped out, but the barman (who had originally taken our order) appeared a few minutes later, and I explained to him about the small portions and asked for a few more roast potatoes. He looked at me as if I was some sort of alien and categorically said ‘no, the chef agreed the size of the portions and that was that’. We are not talking about a whole new meal here, just a couple of potatoes, which I’m sure would have cost a few pence. After a short, but ultimately pointless conversation with the unhelpful barman, I said there was no way we would recommend this pub to others, and would not want to come back to eat there again. To which he turned on his heels and walked away, and to him, that was the end of that. That may have been the end of it for him, but now I would never recommend that pub for food (even though the beer is good), simply because of the small portions and poor value for money. In fact I would purposely do the opposite and tell my friends ‘to stay away, and not eat there’.
As a side note, shortly after that incident, I was asked to organise a meal for 20 local businessmen. This pub was one venue I had previously considered, but consequently removed it from my shortlist, preferring to go to a competitor around the corner instead. For the price of a small handful of King Edwards, and for failing to do the right thing for the customer, that pub has now lost out on my repeat revenue, and they’ve lost out on my desire to recommend the pub to friends and family. In fact, they now have negative recommendations coming from me. If this was a traditional sales company, it could have all the best salespeople in the world, but the salesmen would always be fighting against the negative word in the marketplace which is, ‘we offer small portions and we don’t care, and if you ask for a few more potatoes, good luck!’
The barman is clearly nowhere close to becoming a hidden salesman, in fact he is stopping the future growth of the pub by not giving his customers what they want, and in doing so, preventing positive word of mouth recommendations. This is an example that happened to me, but I’m sure you have your own experiences of dealing with companies like this where the staff are unhelpful, and sadly fail to understand the future revenue consequences of their actions. I’d even be so bold as to suggest that you have people in your own company who think and act like that barman because every company has them somewhere. This means you have customers who are walking away from your company with their own version of the story I have just told you. Even if you have the best team of sleek sales professionals, you will lose customers if they are being treated in the same way as the barman treated me. You will lose out on future sales revenue, and will have to fight even harder to win new customers, unlike the barber in my next example.
Example 2: The Barber – A good customer attitude!
Let me give you an example of where a local business directly understands the value of word-of-mouth recommendations, the lifetime value of a customer, and how the workforce can become their salesforce. This is the example of my barber, Paolo. Since I moved to Bath, I’ve been going to one particular barber to get my hair cut. This is by no means the most prestigious barber shop in the city, but I’d argue it is the most successful and most profitable, and more often than not, the busiest. Although you do not need an appointment to get your hair cut there, the shop is always busy, and there is often a queue waiting. It was the fact that the barber shop was always busy that made me want to try it in the first place. I was definitely not attracted by its décor or styling, as the shop looks like it hasn’t been touched for years. On my first visit I was served by Paolo, a Sicilian man who is a few years younger than me. He rents a barber’s chair at the end of the shop. Paolo is the business owner of that chair, not the shop itself, but just that chair.
Although customers can get their hair cut by any barber in the shop, Paolo only gets paid when he cuts hair at his chair, with his clients. Paolo knows full well the value of happy repeat customers. Firstly, he knows that if he has happy customers and delivers an extraordinary service, his customers will come back time and time again, allowing him to maximise their lifetime revenue. Secondly, he knows his customers will do his marketing for him as they will tell their friends and family what a great barber he is. I have certainly recommended Paolo many times and will continue to do so, and I’ve also overheard other people recommend him to their friends. I’ll keep getting my hair cut by Paolo, and only him, because he continues to meet or exceed my expectations.
The difference between the Barman and the Barber
The difference between the Barman and the Barber could not be more marked.
For the sake of doing the right thing, the Barman could have generated significant amounts of future revenue for the pub from my future visits. He didn’t understand that because of his negative behaviour, I will now suggest to my friends and family that they shouldn’t eat at the pub, particularly on a Sunday. These two fundamentals of business growth (life-time value of a repeat customer, and word-of-mouth marketing) will dramatically reduce the revenues of that pub. Conversely, Paolo understands very well that his business is built on repeat revenues and word of mouth recommendations.
Paolo would never consider saying to me that he had cut all the hair he was going to cut on that particular visit, and if I wanted him to cut some more, I would have to pay more. This is clearly ridiculous, as is saying to a paying customer that you cannot have extra potatoes, simply because the chef has decided how many will be given on each plate, even if there are too few in the first instance. As Paolo does not have a professional direct sales team trying to chase and close new customers for him, his business is built on word-of-mouth referrals and repeat customers. The only way Paolo will receive positive recommendations, and the only way customers will come back and use him again is if he constantly delivers and over delivers. At the heart of what makes Paolo great is the fact that he is a business owner, and thinks like a business owner. He puts his customers’ needs first, ahead of his own.