Are You Playing Russian Roulette With your Brand by Keeping Obsolete Products in your Mix?

 

Our focus in business is to identify buyer problems and solve them in ways that create positive buying experiences. When we accomplish this we make the sale, and we build positive word of mouth. A poor buying experience and or an obsolete product that no longer reinforces your brand promise can quickly create negative word of mouth.

 

Keeping obsolete products in your mix is like playing Russian Roulette with your customers buying experience and ultimately your Brand.

 

As I have discussed I travel quite a bit. Some call it old school, but I need to be in the markets I serve. This requires air travel, rental cars, and a number of hotel stays. I was recently working with a customer in Indianapolis Indiana and needed a hotel room for the night. I booked a room with an airport hotel, however the Google maps instructions were not accurate and the person at the front desk of my hotel could not provide me directions. (Another post that needs to happen, but I will let it go for now). After two attempts to find my airport hotel I gave up, and pulled off the next exit to find a room. As I exited the highway I saw a number of hotels and one of which I recognized and had a good feeling about was the Ramada. I pulled into the Ramada as their brand has always meant; clean rooms at an affordable price. They often lack the frills of larger hotels but my understanding of their brand was clean, safe rooms at a completive price. Seeing as how I maybe was going to have seven hours of sleep, I thought the Ramada would be just fine.

What I experienced was the worst hotel stay I have experienced in the past 26 years of business travel.

 

It turns out a road rally was coming through town and they had a number of tired drivers checking in. Understaffed (although they had reservations) I waited over 20 minutes just to check in. I kept telling myself to lighten up, it’s just one night, and now for just 6 ½ hours. As I walked to my room I noticed the carpet in the hall was dirty and had little collections of food and dust in corners. Just as the restroom of a restaurant will tell you about the cleanliness of a food establishment, I have always found public areas of a hotel are a good indication of the cleanliness of your room.

I found my way to my room and as the door opened I was surprised how old and run down this room seemed. Again, self talk said…” it’s only one night and now only 6 hours…” I showered to calm down so I could fall asleep. I found the shower tub disgusting with stains. I found the towels were old and stained as well. As I brushed my teeth I was greeted with an old scratched sink with a rusted water stopper…” it’s only 5 ½ hours”…

As I walked to the bed my feet felt like they were sticking to the old dirty carpet. I turned down the covers and found the sheets too were stained and hopefully clean, but just stained. The pillow felt like someone bought a square piece of foam and cut pillow sized squares out of it. As I lay there, disgusted, my mind raced to the recent Animal planet I watched with my children about parasites and bed bugs.

I tried to relax but I could swear something was crawling on me. I turned on the light and could not find anything, .must just be in my mind. I tried to relax and eventually I must have fallen asleep. My alarm went off and still tired I quickly got ready and went to the lobby to check out.

What I found was a long line of people wanting to be checked in and checked out. I could tell one employee was experienced and one must have been new. Each time the new employee confirmed someone into a room, he would check with the experienced employee to see if it was a “good room”. Interesting, so they must have some old rooms like the one I slept in and others that were “good rooms”. Unfortunately you had to be an experienced employee to know which rooms were good or bad. New employees had no way of knowing with the tools provided what kind of a room they were checking guests into.

When it was my turn to check out, someone who checked in earlier returned to the desk demanding a better room. His room was quickly changed.

As I checked out the young lady did not ask how my stay was, but instead asked if I needed directions. Had she asked about my stayI would have said “disgusting and disappointing” but since they did not ask I felt they just did not care and were anxious to get me on my way.

So on to the next city and I checked into an amazing Comfort inn in Louisville KY that was clean, the person checking me in made me feel like I was his only guest. I went to my room that was very clean and Googled the Ramada to see if perhaps my understanding of their brand was wrong.

If you visit the Ramada web site, Mark F. Young promises;

 

You can rest easy knowing that we are expertly equipped to “create caring experiences for every person, every time.” We are committed to delivering excellent service. All of our properties feature modern amenities such as high speed Internet connectivity.

 

Tell ya what Mark F Young; I have a challenge for you. Visit your hotel on Thompson Ave in Indianapolis and stay in room 219 and tell me if you are living up to your brand promise…. NOT!

The more I thought about this the more convinced I became that businesses who keep products in their mix that are obsolete and do not reflect their brand promise are playing Russian Roulette with their customers’ buying experience, and their brand.

Bad products always seem to find their way to someone.

 

Your team members who have been around a while will know not to sell them, however new employees do not know any better. Negative word of mouth seems to travel much faster than positive feedback particularly with social media. Very quickly one bad customer experience can be heard by over 2,000 people.

In today’s competitive economic times can any of our businesses risk playing customer Russian Roulette with obsolete products?

 

Do you have any products in your mix you do not want customers to ever experience? If so, why are they still there?

 

Does your company have a formal process to audit the quality of your product and your customers’ overall buying experience? If so who reads this data?

 

Have you asked any of your people if there are products you have that should never be sold to customers?

 

When was the last time, as a leader in your organization you bought (shopped) what you sell?

 

When was the last time you inspected what you expected?

 

When was the last time you called someone who just purchased your product or service and asked them about their overall experience?

 

I know I was hard on my terrible experience with Ramada. I guess what bothered me most is I felt they broke my trust. So now I will avoid Ramada hotels even though I had great experiences in the past.

Are any of your current or new customers buying one of your “bad products” this week? You sure?

What Should You Do if You Report to an “ASS Kicker”?…Forgive Them

 

 

There are various styles that leaders use to drive growth. Some unfortunately are less intentional and fall into a bullying and “ASS Kicking” mode. So what are you to do if you find yourself reporting to an ASS Kicker?….believe it or not you must forgive them.

In business, ..Heck,.. in life ,you will encounter all types of people. Some will stand out as mentors for you .My first job, right out of college was a route salesman for Frito-Lay. I see now I was blessed to have worked for an amazing mentor named Harry Jones. He was ; firm fair and consistent. He owned his areas of responsibility. When I made mistakes (often back then) he took the pressure from above and used the mistake as a teaching moment.

Unfortunately I have experienced many  leaders who lead by intimidation , bullying their teams and they frequently looked for : “What ASS to Kick” instead of the defining the nature of the problem that needs solved. They fail do the heavy lifting of finding market truths and they shoot from the hip and their gut.

I feel comfortable discussing “Ass Kickers” as regrettably this was my style early in my career. I drove  my teams through intimidation. Sure I mentally justified my actions with thoughts like;

They will thank me some day   ( none ever did)

 

It is the quickest route to the objective ( wrong, it often caused many other concerns)

 

People need to be driven  ( no, they need to be led, and leadership is difficult )

 

They know what needs to be done and are just not “ motivated” “accountable” ( wrong, in most cases my communication was poor and the team lacked a clear understanding of the objective and they did not have the tools to win)

 

The solution to the problem at hand is the only consideration. ( little or no consideration for the relationship with those involved, win battle lose war)

With  thoughts like above and others racing through their minds, leaders with a low emotional intelligence lead by “ASS Kicking”. Without a leadership filter that also considers the big picture, corporate values and the relationships with those involved they spew their  kicking , throat choking rhetoric.

Sadly, this behavior has a common root: Fear.

As I discussed in my post : Are You Looking For “An ASS To Kick”…” Throat to Choke” or a Solution to a Problem?… (There is a difference) leaders who use a bully approach are very afraid. In their fear they become frustrated, anxious, and more fearful the challenges they face will somehow tarnish their reputation and or political power.

 

So what do you do if you work for an Ass Kicking Boss?…..FORGIVE  THEM

What? Are you nuts? This guy (gal) treats me like crap and I am supposed to just forgive them?” ….Yes!

I heard once; anger and resentment are like acids that only damage the vessel that contains them.

 

If you hold on to the anger, hurt, and so on you feel from your throat choker it will hurt you physically, professionally ,emotionally, and financially.

So forgive them. The first reason to do so is it is Biblical. Finding faith , the truths in the Bible is what taught me the errors of my ways and empowers me to serve my teams today.Second , you must release the anger festering inside . ( I promise you your ASS Kicker has already forgotten what they said to you) Third, your inner anger and frustration , if left unchecked ,will bleed into your relationships with customers, and more important your loved ones.

“ASS Kickers” are not dumb people. Chances are they busted their ( you know what’s) back in the day, earned their bones on a daily basis. They are not happy people. My recommendation is to gather raw unfiltered data as fast as possible and present that data and ask them what they would do. You may need to also make sure, once you see the data , that you truly are doing the best job you could be doing. If not , admit it and commit to improve.

If you take my advice, gather data ( facts without judgments) see how the leader reacts….

If they roll up their sleeves and offer to help, hang in there.

If they blow up again, and actually make the problem worse…leave.

Good value adding employees do not need to put up with an abusive boss.

You are not trapped in this job.

You are not a slave, owned by this employer.

Yes it is frightening when you mentally commit to leave, however you will also gain peace as you can tolerate the abusive boss while you know there is light ahead ….and it’s not a train.

There are many people who have written about abusive/ bad bosses and below are some links if you want to hear other’s views;

What To Do When Your Boss Is A Jerk

 

If Your Boss is a Jerk, Don’t be a Willing Victim 

 

When you work for a Bully 

 

How to Handle a Bullying Boss

 

How to Deal With Bully Bosses

 

Tactics Of A Workplace Serial Bully Boss

 

Bad Boss-Health This Week with Don Baillargeon  ( you tube)  

 

Fox News – Dealing with a Bad Boss – Joe Takash ( you tube)

 

 

So if you work for an ASS Kicking boss…forgive them and remember you are in control of how you feel.

 

You can choose to become angry and bitter and lose yourself in self-pity, or you can choose to forgive them and release that internal acid.

 

You are in control as you can also leave and add value somewhere else.

 

 I Attended an awesome seminar years ago by the Covey institute and I think it was called the Power Principle. simply stated;

“you are not free to stay….until you are free to walk away”

Don’t Kick Your Salesperson’s ASS, …Help Them Find Their Number….

 

One of the easiest things a sales manager, (business leader) can do is resort to a; “boot on the throat”…” a throat to choke” ….and “Ass Kicking “mode. After all it takes very little effort, knowledge or skill to be a critic and a bully.

True leaders help train and motivate their teams.

 If your desire is to hit and surpass your sales objectives….Help your salespeople “find their number”.

I see it all the time, a new product launches or a new sales goal is distributed to a sales team and the key performance measurement: Sales to plan is not met. The easy route is to start “Ass Kicking”. You know …the weekly and by weekly conference call thrashings in front of their  peers. The sales update calls at 5pm on Fridays that last until 7pm. The “contemplation of your navel” market reports on why they can’t hit their sales numbers and their future action plan to change the results.

Yes this may drive some momentary, fear driven results, but this is not how you create sales velocity. In 99% of the cases I have been asked to help figure out why sales objectives were being missed it was not lazy salespeople who needed their butt’s kicked. A frequent cause was poor (or a total lack of) sales training. In these cases struggling salespeople are told to “stop making excuses and just make it happen, figure it out”. However the reality is the reason your team is missing numbers can be traced back to your understanding (yes you) of your market and buyers problems, buying criteria, and buying process.

Sales velocity is sales increases with direction and momentum and it is never driven by fear.

If your salespeople are struggling with sales, particularly new product sales and or new business sales my advice is to stop… the beatings as the morale is not improving and “help your salespeople find their number”. Their number is how many rejections they have to experience to have a win.

For example at one time in my career I ran business development for an ad firm. After tracking my calls I found my number was 18. If I made 18 calls I would get 2 appointments and from those two appoints I would close 1 new account. Instead of dreading the call process it became a game. Each rejection meant I was one step closer to a yes. Over time I also tried to improve that number.

A couple of funny things happen when you track how many rejections your team receives;

First, they make more calls. More calls mean more opportunities to win, more opportunities to start conversations.

Secondly, if your sales team has been properly trained on how to listen to buyers, determine their unresolved problems, and they understand the problems your product solves….you will have a number of net new potential clients dropping into your marketing funnel. Some of these accounts may not buy for 12-14 months, but if you compliment your calls with a lead nurturing campaign you have a high probability of closing them when their problems, (their pains) become unbearable.

As the leader you must listen to your team and look for diamonds as far as what is working and share it with your entire team. In addition you must look for common reasons sales do not occur and work with marketing to create sales tools for these common roadblocks in the flow of the sales process.

So do me (and your sales numbers) a favor …

Track number of rejections for each team member for 60 days. Gain an intimate knowledge of common reasons buyers are rejecting your salespeople.

 

Have your salespeople report on their number of rejections each week and you will see more net new sales and your marketing funnel will increase exponentially to help your future sales numbers.

Or go ahead and Kick Some Ass….it sure worked when you were a salesperson right? …Oh it didn’t? It actually made you feel like a number, and you lacked a loyalty to that manager and or company? Or you left that team, that idiot boss and now you lead the competitor’s sales team?  Interesting…did the ass kicking make you seem desperate to your accounts at the time and the deals you did close were below your targeted profit margin? Hmmm…so what makes you think “Ass kicking” makes your team feel any different?

Does your team track number of rejections?

 

Does each of your salespeople know their number?

 

Does your organization use those individual rejection numbers to identify team member who need training?

 

If you are in sales, do you know your number?

 

Do you find when the pressure is on salespeople chase new business differently? Are they making things up on their own? Making promises your product or service can never achieve?

You always have a choice.

You can “let the beatings continue until the sales and morale improves”….’let the Sh@t flow down hill…”or you can chose to lead your team. You can help them, motivate them to make more calls, and clearly understand your market, buyers, and have a record setting year.

Are You Looking For “An ASS To Kick”…” Throat to Choke” or a Solution to a Problem?… (There is a difference)

When things go wrong, (or not according to plan) how do you and other leaders in your organization react? (go ahead, be honest…it’s just the two of us…) Do you and other leaders look for “What ASS to Kick” or “What Throat to Choke”? Or do you focus on determining and defining the problem and setting out to develop a creative solution?

Your answer will determine if you are on a “market leading” team, or a “market Losing” team.

Predictably our President Obama used some hard talk, harsh rhetoric in a recent interview. I am not going to debate if he was too cool and calm to this point, and if he should have or shouldn’t have said he was looking for “What ASS to Kick”. What I want is for you to watch this You tube clip of the interview and ask yourself how it makes you feel if this was someone you reported to.

Go ahead click this link…I will wait…

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQ3nSUdsOeU .

Ok, so how did it make you feel?

 

Before we judge the president too harshly… do you or your organization allow and practice this behavior of blame storming? You sure? When I saw this interview I first thought his language was predictable in the sense that the news media was challenging his calm demeanor during this crisis. So I expected some much stronger language. However when someone in a position of leadership takes this bully approach it quickly makes me feel like they are not a part of the problem or solution. It as if they are a leader trying to distance themselves from the problem as opposed to owning it and being a part of the solution.

When a business leader speaks like this to his or her team ( or me) , they are basically saying…” I don’t know what to do…I am frustrated…my assumption is you know the problem …the perfect solution, and you are choosing not to work,…you are not motivated( accountable)  to execute what needs to be done for one reason or another…and I am tired of looking bad” It’s ok to admit a problem frustrates you. However it is not ok to take your frustration out on others.

Leaders who jump into blame storming mode are more concerned about how the current situation makes them look…”politically”. They are actually fear motivated as they are fearful of how the current situation may somehow attach and tarnish their personal reputation. Blame storming is about reducing their exposure, their fear, by becoming “above” the situation. The trouble is when you enter fear mode, your creatvity needed to solve the problem shuts down.

Do you feel you would be loyal to a leader so quick to look for someone to “Throw under the bus?”

 

Market leaders gather data and perform triage not to find a “Throat to Choke” ( hold people more accountable) but to establish truths versus relying on their gut and intuition.

Market leaders clearly define the problem and humbly seek the advice of experts that have solved problems like this in the past. They seek out advice and develop a plan, a roadmap to a solution based on the data gathered and they manage the process not the people.

Market leaders use problems and challenges to strengthen their teams, and their teams loyalty to them and the organization.

So again I ask….What kind of organization do you work for?

 

Is there ever a time “ASS Kicking” or Throat Choking” is the solution? (I don’t think so but hey…I may be wrong. so please share)

 

Should we seek out “who to blame”?

 

Or

 

Should we clearly define the problem and set out to solve it?

 

Or do you believe ( as one CEO said to his senior leadership team before a  board meeting) : “We need to identify a fall guy for —– as I do not want it on my head”

Again, feel free to argue with me…but I believe people come to work with the desire to add value, the desire to make a difference. If you truly have an accountability problem then shame on you as the leader for allowing it to result in a problem ( disaster) like you are now facing.  Accountability problems do not just show up one day, they fester over time.

As the leader, your job is to create a culture that focuses on the problem and not the person. 

Your role is to  rally your team to break through problems and roadblocks. ( not look for someone to  run over)