What is Customer Tuck-In Service?

Man with Sleeping mask sleep on a bed, cup of herbal tea in the foreground. Focus on tea cup

Have you tucked in your hottest prospects so they’ll have a calm, restful weekend? Years ago, one of my managers asked me this exact question before a 3-Day Weekend. The question left me confused. I can’t tuck them in, I live in Kansas and they’re in Colorado, Texas, Wisconsin, Oregon and California.

On this morning, I was quite sure he didn’t mean I should buy an airplane ticket and fly to my customers locations. He explained that I had a mission every Friday that would secure my sales future for the remainder of the year.

Before the weekend arrives, answer all pending customer questions, backlogged service requests, non-returned phone messages or status updates.

Most small and large business owners think about business 24/7. On weekends, spouses have time to grill their mates with questions. You can count on the 20-questions routine to commence Friday night or over coffee on Saturday morning, especially if pending issues involve financial expenditures, additional time commitments or providing added personal resources to the business.

When answers are not within the owners grasp, their homecoming can be tough. Don’t let this happen to your prospects. Never depart on Friday before making sure your clients can comfortably leave the office behind and enjoy a less stress-filled weekend.

If you do not tuck in those clients, be assured that you’ll have numerous customer calls Monday morning.

In addition, during a day or two away from the office, owners often review the past week. There’s time to tally up the successes, failures, near-misses and the land mines avoided. If they have your proposal in their briefcase, this may be their first chance they have to quietly evaluate its contents.

If your customer has concerns about your ability to solve their problems, be sure you have given them the answers by Friday so they can ruminate about the project over the weekend.

Time off work gives a business owner an opportunity to stop, think and make decisions. They have mental space to view projects and proposals in total; not as bits and pieces like a jigsaw puzzle with missing parts.

Tips for this holiday weekend:

1. As a long weekend approaches, review hot prospect files for pending questions.

2. Check in with your sales support team to make sure they too have fulfilled all customer requests. As the team leader, you are responsible for the outcome of each of your prospective accounts. Team selling requires a consolidated and well orchestrated effort to win new business or retain existing customers.

3. Use open-ended questioning techniques to uncover as yet unidentified customer concerns. My favorite questions usually begin with the 5-W’s and 1-H. (Who, What, When, Where and Why and How)?

4. Ask your prospect, what would you change about my proposal to make it fit even better?

5. What business concern stands between you and the perfect weekend?

Congratulations. You’ve tucked in your customer. Enjoy your long weekend. You deserve it!

Mary Redmond is a speaker, consultant, coach, negotiator and body language expert known for her powerful negotiation workshops, inspirational speeches and corporate presenter.

9-Step Plan to Use What You Hear at Conferences

The popular belief is that everyone dislikes change. Then why do CEO’s, small and mid-size business owners send managers, supervisors and sales staff  to workshops,  trade shows and conferences?

For many,Fall is the commencement of the trade show season. Companies invest billions of dollars to attend learning related events.

I believe that somewhere in most human beings is a belief that “New” will be better. Product marketers tout that their product is “New and Improved.” They’d never increase sales if they said the new packaging is the only thing that is different and that they cut production costs, thus the product is now lousy.”

Leaders continually want to improve results no matter how success is measured. For some it may be accounted for in increased profits or revenues and others measure success in increased employee retention. Whatever your goals are for sending employees to events, change is part of the decision.

We attend to learn new information about the latest and greatest technology innovations. We meet industry thought leaders. The problem is that few attendees every implement anything new.

It is in the implementation phase that we drop the ball. We return to the daily grind to find our desk piled high with new project assignments, a packed email box, new fires to put out and scads of calls to return.

Who has the time to reflect on the glorious innovations from the conference? Those sales opportunities we uncovered may fall to the bottom of the stack. New acquaintances with whom we shared stimulating conversations might never be added to our contact database.

Stop right there. Don’t attend another event if you don’t take time to debrief your brain and reflect on the primary learning points. Create a plan to use what you heard.

Tips to implement Conference Gems

  1. Clear 2-hours on your calendar within 48-hours of returning from the event.
  2. Gather notes, brochures, business cards and the samples you brought back.
  3. Get comfortable in your favorite coffee shop or restaurant. Select a beverage be it a cup of java, herbal tea or a glass of Chardonnay.
  4. Read all conference notes. Highlight the most striking ideas.
  5. Reread the highlighted ides. Select three that you’ll implement in the coming year. Yes three. You can always go back and pick up the second tier gems after you implement the top three.
  6. Set up implementation timelines for your top three. One at a time. You are more likely to succeed if you gain momentum by accomplishing the first one.
  7. Determine what resources, if any, you will require to implement the new idea. Secure those for task #1.
  8. Select an accountability partner who will make sure you follow through.
  9. Pat yourself on the back. You are ahead of 50-60% of those at the conference who never use what they hear.

Head to your next Conference, knowing you have a plan to implement what you learn. It works as long as you follow the process.

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A Matter of Speaking: Talk is Never Cheap

Trash talk. Bad mouth. Speak ill of. Insult. The Dozens (as defined in Wikipedia: The Dozens is a contest of personal power: wit, self-control, verbal ability, mental acuity, and toughness).

Whatever you call it, don’t do it. Word games may end in court and attorneys can be expensive. Slander and Libel are dirty words.

Recently I was retained by a printer to negotiate their end of lease and maintenance agreement. Communication had broken down and all parties needed help in reaching a mutually satisfactory agreement. The lease, like most equipment leases, contained an “evergreen” clause.

The “evergreen clause” means the lease automatically renews for a period from one month or as long as five years if the printer fails to give notice to the leasing company of their intent to purchase, renew or return the copier. Written notice must be given “no more than 120 days and no less than 90 days before the end of the lease.”

The printer (Marty) had a rocky relationship with his equipment dealer (Charles) for most of the equipment’s five-year lease life. The equipment seldom performed adequately and did not meet the dealer’s sales promises. It was frequently in need of repair.

Marty, who is known for great print quality received customer complaints.

Accusations were made by the printer and the dealer. You’ve heard them all before. No matter which team you play for.

The Customer thinks:
1. Charles lied to sell his equipment.
2. The equipment is a lemon.
3. I can’t wait until this lease is over and I can replace this junk with a good machine.

The Dealer feels:
1. The equipment operator is an idiot.
2. Marty isn’t paying me and uses the equipment as an excuse.
3. The manufacturer released the model before it was market ready.

The Leasing Company believes:
1. Pay us. Don’t be a deadbeat.
2. Broken equipment is between you and the dealer. It’s not our fault.
3. Didn’t you read the fine print in your lease? Sure the lease renewed.

How did I help?  I communicated with all parties.

Follow Mary’s Seven FearLess Negotiation Rules:
1. Be specific in what can and cannot be done. Don’t sell hype.
2. Be honest with everyone.
3. Deliver on all promises, On time.
4. As soon as a bump occurs (they always do), keep all parties informed.
5. Write down and distribute all commitments.
6. Don’t count on anyone’s memory.
7. Confirm what you said is what they heard AND understood.

Happy negotiating! No matter which team you play for. Play fair.

5 Steps to Negotiation Success – Step 2

Negotiate when you want to be H.E.A.R.D.

 This is the second in a five-part series sharing the essential steps to become a more successful negotiator.

Successful negotiators are prepared.  Five steps to a successful negotiation are contained in the acronym H.E.A.R.D.

The first step was Homework.  Click here to read what you need to do in this step to fully prepare for your negotiation.

Step 2 – Explore and Engage

It’s time for the meeting. You’ve done your homework. Now you need to Listen Carefully! When you CAREFULLY, you LISTEN.

You do this by asking the right questions. Ask open-ended questions; questions that cannot be answered with a Yes or a No. Open-ended questions begin with one of the 5 Ws: Who, What, When, Where, Why. And never forget the powerhouse word: How.

Next, verify the accuracy of your listening skills. You should have been taking careful notes. Confirm that what you heard is what they meant. This technique is called “The Parrot.” You parrot back to the other party your interpretation of what you understood they said.

Successful negotiators know the power of listening, not talking. Follow the 80-20 axiom: At every negotiation step, listen 80% of the time and talk 20%. You will be a successful negotiator!

 Stay tuned for Part 3 of HEARD – Assess what you know and don’t know.

Find more negotiation tips and training at www.IndependentLeaseReview.com.

5 Steps to Negotiation Success – Step 1

Negotiate when you want to be H.E.A.R.D.

Successful negotiators are prepared. Most of us are not born as great communicators. We learn at an early age how to get what we want. By age two, a toddler knows how mommy and daddy tick and what it takes to get a cookie.

The stakes get bigger as we grow. We need to refine our old motto “I want what I want.” What we are really saying is “I want to be HEARD. Please listen to me. Respect my opinions.”

Five steps to a successful negotiation are contained in the acronym H.E.A.R.D.

This is the first in a five-part series sharing these essential steps to become a more successful negotiator.

Step 1 – Homework

Before every negotiation you should learn as much as possible about the other party. Homework occurs before the initial meeting. If you jump to the proposal stage before doing your homework, you’ll miss opportunities or leave money on the table.

Savvy negotiators check out the other company’s website, the CEO’s bio, marketing philosophy, press releases, industry magazines, blogs, podcasts, webinars and other research. Social networking tools help uncover information gold before the negotiation begins. Learn where the organization is going and how management plans to reach its goals.

During the Homework phase you determine your company’s bottom line or your walk away point. Share it with your manager or a colleague, whose role is to hold you accountable. 

In 1978 singer Kenny Rogers advised us to “know when to hold them, know when to fold them and know when to walk away.” This is fabulous negotiations counsel!

Homework is the important first step to understanding the other party’s challenges and opportunities. It helps you determine how you can negotiate to achieve your goals and at the same time help them achieve theirs.  It’s a win-win.

Stay tuned for Step 2 of HEARD – Explore and Engage.

Click here for a free copy of the article “7 Ways to Win Your Next Negotiation” by Dave Vagnoni. The cover story of the April 2010 edition of Counselor Magazine, it offers expert advice on how to negotiate successfully in seven different scenarios.

Twitter on Campus? Not in my Class

I spoke to a group of students this week. All were Juniors and Seniors in Dr. Carla Pavone’s class at the University of Missouri in Kansas City. Dr Pavone is a professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the Bloch School of Business.

She invited me to talk to one of her classes about my experiences as an entrepreneur, how I branded my company, my mistakes, and how we use technology.

I had a few surprises from the students. At least 75%-80% of the students wanted to become entrepreneurs. Now that was  exciting. Several had clear pictures of what they wanted to do.

One young woman wanted to start a compound specialty pharmacy and a young man in the class hoped to open a restaurant. We discussed the challenges that each might face and the 80%-95% failure rate for new businesses.

What concerned me is when I asked them how many were on Twitter, their response was “What’s Twitter?”

I had thought of myself as the old fogey in the room until that moment. Although I have only been active on Twitter for 3 weeks, I know a few things about how the game is played.

I  downloaded two tools to help me navigate and manage my Twitter account— Tweetdeck and Twhirl .  And as a rookie who tweets, I am proud of my 253 follower new friends.

My view of life is to jump in and try something. Commit. Don’t sit.

Things are moving way to fast to think the parade will stop for you.  Ask questions when confused or lost. This world is full of very kind people just waiting to help if only we are brave enough to ask for directions.

If you are on the sidelines with Twitter, go on get in the game. No team limits. All can play.

If you are on Twitter, give me a tweet.