Customer Relationships

I recently was asked by a business if I could help them determine the strength of the organization’s relationships with their customers. 

 

I said yes and then told them I could tell them the strength of those relationships immediately. They seemed puzzled until I told them their customers didn’t have a relationship with the organization. 

 

I could say that because no customer, not ever, has had an actual relationship, in the truest sense of the word, with a business or organization. Human beings only have real relationships with other human beings. (and pets of course) 

 

Businesses that think otherwise do so at their own risk. Successful businesses understand that customers only build relationships with people.  

 

That’s just one reason, albeit a major one, why organizations must take care of their employees. If you’re running a business then you must understand that you cannot have solid customer relationships when your employee relationships are nonexistent. 

 

Businesses that have a philosophy that says employees are interchangeable likes parts of a machine believe that the business “owns” the customer relationship. They believe that their people don’t matter. It’s a “organization first” philosophy. 

 

That philosophy shows itself in many ways. The quality of the product or service the company offers is reflected in that “organization first” thinking. The quality of customer service in an “organization first” business is always substandard. 

 

Turnover and recruiting expenses are often through the roof in an “organization first” company. So by the way is customer turnover. 

 

You will never, and yes I know never is a very strong word but I’m using it anyway. You will never find an organization that is decades old or even older that has an “organization first” philosophy. 

 

Those companies that have survived in good times and bad have a “people first” philosophy. They invest in their people. They build strong relationships with their people. They help their people grow. They know it’s their people who will build those vital relationships with their customers. 

 

If you’re running a business today don’t bother investing a dime to determine the strength of your customer relationships until you’re certain of the strength of the relationships with your own people. 


Building relationships with your people leads to your people building relationships with your customers. It’s the only way to sustain and grow your business.

Obsolete Salespeople

I heard a speaker several years ago say that in the not too distant future the sales profession wouldn’t exist. He said that everything, absolutely everything would be purchased online with no human interaction.

 

I thought that was one of those attention grabbing throw-away lines that speakers sometimes use to get the attention of their audience. (Not that I would ever do that) But he was serious, he really believed what he was saying. 

 

At the time I was certain he was wrong, in fact I thought it was a downright stupid thing to say. I’m not so sure anymore. Research shows that the Centennial Generation (that’s the generation just entering the workforce) would prefer as little contact with a person as possible when buying something.

 

Have you seen those commercials where you buy the car online and then go pick it up at a car vending machine? (I don’t know what else you would call it) That company was built for the Centennial Generation. 

 

There was a time when I couldn’t have imagined anyone buying a car without seeing and test driving it. Now I can easily imagine car dealers only existing to repair cars bought somewhere else. 

 

I still can’t believe that the sales profession will ever completely go away. But I can certainly foresee the day when there are far fewer people selling than there are today. That day is likely less than 10 years away and if you still want to be selling in 10 years then you had best start making some changes right now.

 

There are lots of very lazy salespeople around today. They are basically order takers who are unprepared, unaware of their customer’s needs, and unlikely to ever overcome an objection by proving the value of what they are selling. 

 

The good news is that they will be the first salespeople to leave the field of selling. The ones who remain will need to be professionals of the highest caliber. They personally will need to provide value to customers. They will be highly paid and much sought after professionals.

 

Think about this, if you can get everything you need, pricing information, product knowledge and customer support online then why would you need a salesperson mucking up the transaction? 

 

If you’re going to be in sales 10 years (or less) in the future you MUST add tangible benefits that a customer or prospect can’t get any other way. 

 

The question to ask yourself today is “what do I bring to the table?” 

 

Can you, with a high level of specificity state why someone should buy a particular product or service from you? I’m not asking why they should buy it from the company you work for, I’m asking why buy it from YOU as opposed to some other salesperson. 


This may sound harsh but if you can’t answer that question then you should plan on a career other than sales in the near future. Alexa, Siri or some other form of Artificial Intelligence will have taken your place.

Last Second Sam

There are people who claim to believe that procrastination helps them be more successful. To them I would say that once you become comfortable misleading yourself you can, and most likely will, mislead anyone. 

 

Procrastination will kill your opportunity for success. Maybe not today and maybe not tomorrow but eventually it most definitely will. That much is certain!

 

People who believe procrastination helps them because they think better under pressure are not being honest with themselves. People who believe they are more productive when working under stress are fooling themselves. 

 

Approaching deadlines do not make people smarter, calmer, more productive or more logical. They make everything more challenging.

 

The real reason many people procrastinate is that they see low value in the task. It’s either not fun enough or they see no reward for doing it. Some people procrastinate because they do not have confidence in their ability to complete the task. Fear of failure is a driving force behind many a procrastinator’s behavior. 

 

For some people procrastination is part of their personality. They are just more impulsive than other people. These are the people I call last second Sam or last second Sally depending on…well you know what it depends on.

 

One of the most effective tools for overcoming the tendency to procrastinate is a Prioritized Daily Task List. A prioritized task list is a to-do list on steroids. You list all the things you need to accomplish on a given day but you list them in order of importance. You DO NOT do the second most important thing until the most important thing is accomplished. 

 

Don’t worry about working on one thing all day if it’s truly the most important or most productive thing you could do that day. You’ll still be better offer than if you spent the day doing a bunch of unimportant or unproductive things. 

 

Many procrastinators put off doing things that are quick and easy to do. They don’t see a lot of fun or reward in doing them so they just put it off. Answering an email is a good example. A quick answer might take only a minute but they still open and read the email several times before answering it. 

 

So here’s a good rule of thumb to help stop at least some procrastinating. If a task takes a minute or less to do then do it immediately. No delay, no hesitation, and NO PROCRASTINATING! You will be amazed at how many things you do in a day can be completed in under a minute. 

 

Don’t kid yourself into thinking being a last second Sam or Sally has one ounce of benefit. You will not find even one very successful person who will tell you their success is due to putting off until tomorrow what should have been done today. 


And you’re highly unlikely to be the first.


Attitude and Effort

Many years ago I received some exceptional advice from a mentor that has stayed with me to this day. He told me to stop trying to control things I couldn’t control. His recommendation was that I focus 100% of my attention on the things within my control. He also said to “block out” the uncontrollable things from my field of view because they were nothing more than distractions. 

 

Through the years as I’ve considered his advice I’ve discovered there are far fewer controllable parts of my life than there are uncontrollable. I can influence what other people think of me but I can’t control their thoughts. I can try to influence their actions but people will eventually do whatever they think is best for them. The list of stuff I can’t control could go on forever. 

 

But that’s okay because through the years I’ve also discovered that I can control, completely, two areas of my life which have the greatest impact on my success and happiness. 

 

Those areas are attitude and effort. 

 

In his timeless book “Man’s Search for Meaning” Viktor Frankl describes the “last of the human freedoms.” He says that last freedom, a freedom that can be taken from no one, is the choice of one’s own attitude. Every human on earth is free, regardless of their circumstances, to choose their own attitude. No one and nothing can take that freedom away from you. 

 

Before you say “well Viktor Frankl never worked where I work. He never experienced how tough my life is. He just doesn’t know,” before you say any of that you should know that Viktor Frankl is a surviver of Nazi Concentration Camps. He knows.

 

He would tell you that his choice of a positive attitude was literally life saving. 

 

I can only imagine, actually I can’t even imagine, how tough a fight it must have been each day for him to choose a positive attitude. But he fought the fight and won. 

 

The choice of a positive attitude is a big fight for me even in my relatively cushy world. I lose that fight too often but this much I’m certain of: every single part of my life is better on the days I win that fight. 

 

The question for you is will you consciously engage in that fight or will you allow other people and things to make the choice of your attitude for you? 

 

When it comes to making an effort I realized early on that there was a direct correlation between the level of effort I put into something and the results I received from that effort. When I really want something I remember the words of the immortal Yoda who said, “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” 

 

You alone control the level of effort you’re willing to put into any endeavor. You can allow obstacles to stop you or you can learn from them and use them as launching pads to your next level of success. You can make excuses or you can make progress. It’s hard to do both. 

 

As Babe Ruth said, “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.” If you allow yourself to be beaten you can be assured there is someone close by willing to put in the effort to do just that…beat you. 


If you adopt Yoda’s thinking then you won’t try to succeed you’ll do it. 

Care for Your Customer

I always enjoy watching marketing people, well good marketing people, talk about their products. They have a passion for them and if they are truly good at what they do it’s safe to say they actually love their products. It’s like their baby!

 

I’m especially interested in how they talk about their products to salespeople. They want the people selling their product to love it as much as they do. That’s where I’m pretty different from most marketers. 

 

I don’t want salespeople to love their products; I want them to love their customers. Don’t get me wrong, I want salespeople to believe in their products enough to represent them with integrity. I want them to understand the value those products bring to their customers. I need them to understand how their products solve a customer’s issue. I literally want salespeople to feel it’s an honor to sell their products to people who will benefit from them. 

 

But for long-term very successful salespeople it’s not the product they are most passionate about; it is their customers. More specifically, they are passionate about helping their customers. They care enough for their customers to help them identify their greatest areas of need. Then they work to figure out if they have a product or service that can address that need. 

 

Notice that I didn’t say that they care “about” their customer. Every business and salesperson cares about their customers. What I said was that long-term successful salespeople, and businesses for that matter, care “for” their customers. There is a big difference between caring about and caring for. 

 

Today Customer “Care”  has become something of a buzzword. Many Customer Service Departments are now called Customer “Care” departments. For many of those service departments the name was the only thing that changed. 

 

“Care” is much better as a verb. Some people use it as a noun but successful people, successful salespeople, successful leaders, and successful organizations use it as a verb. 

 

A verb, for those of you struggling to recall your days in English class, refers to an action. It will always be better to show people and customers that you care than it will be to tell them. I’m betting some of you are telling yourself right now that you care. I’ll bet some of you are reasonably sure other people know you care. I’ll also bet that many of you are hoping people, and your customers know you care. 


Don’t bet, don’t hope and don’t assume. Turn “Care” into a verb today and show someone, a loved one, a special co-worker or even a customer how much you truly care. It’s good business sense and it’s great people skills. So do it today!


How Humble are You?

I am likely the most humble person you will ever meet. That’s saying a lot because I’m also better at most everything I do than anyone else you’ve ever met. 

 

In the interest of time let me say I’m great at everything, especially being humble. 

 

Now that may not sound humble to some people but when you’re as awesome as I am even my humbleness looks like bragging. 

 

Well…maybe not. I have to admit that was kinda fun to write but the truth is that my greatest real strength is that I’m incredibly average. That’s not me trying to be humble, it’s a measurable fact. From my height and weight, numbers of wives, (one) number of kids, (two) number of dogs, (two) I’m about as average as an average person can be. 

 

I might be better at some stuff than others but others are better at some stuff than me. It all works out to about average. I’ve learned through the years that being average is a big advantage. I understand average people, I share their concerns, challenges, and in many cases their hopes for the future. 

 

My “averageness” has been a huge advantage when writing training programs or presenting in front of groups. Since I’ve long ago accepted the fact I’m just like 99% of other people I don’t have to pretend I’m something I’m not. I get that some people won’t like me and some people will. It’s always been that way and it always will. I don’t think I could change anything about me to make more people like me and even if I could I have no interest in changing for someone else’s sake. 

 

Being average makes it easy to be humble. I’m really not more or less humble than anyone else, I’d say I’m about average at that too. 

 

Being humble has it’s advantages. Humble leaders are not only better liked they are also more effective. That effectiveness comes from the fact that they are better able to connect with their people. Nobody likes a snobby leader and almost nobody follows one either. 

 

Humble people have better relationships overall. If you’re wondering why see the paragraph above. Humble people are more helpful. “Serving” others is not beneath them. They make a difference wherever, whenever and for whomever they can. 

 

On average humble people perform better at work. They are not afraid to ask for help, they willingly accept feedback and use it to better themselves. They make better teammates and cause far fewer issues for their leaders than less humble people. 

 

I have never taken or taught a class on how to be humble. I would think that anyone who thought themselves qualified to teach that class would immediately be deemed unqualified. I think you “learn” humility by seeing it modeled by other people. 

 

You learn humility from mistakes but mistakes can teach you humility only if you’re humble enough to own up to them. Is that a catch 22?


It feels like I should close this post by recommending that you try being more humble. I’m not sure you can actually try to work on that. I think you either are or you aren’t. So here’s a different recommendation instead….try being more honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses. That ought to make anyone more humble. 

Are You Efficient or Effective?

Almost everyone can be efficient under normal circumstances. That’s good since in order to survive in today’s competitive business environment you must be efficient. 

 

The thing is I don’t think merely surviving is a worthy goal. I do think however that succeeding is. 

 

If you’re going to succeed in business or any other endeavor efficiency alone will not do. You must also be effective. 

 

The difference between effectiveness and efficiency can be summed up like this: Being effective is about doing the right things, while being efficient is about doing things right.

 

One of the biggest wastes of time and money any person or organization can undertake is to be efficient at doing something that doesn’t need to be done. 

 

I would much rather have people working for me who are only partially effective at doing things that need to be done than to be 100% efficient at doing things that add little or no value to the organization. 

 

Spreadsheets are an example of being efficient without being effective. Some of the least effective people I know are highly efficient at creating beautiful spreadsheets with what appears to be a wealth of information. 

 

But upon closer review you see there is no real useable information contained in the spreadsheet. No data, no statistics, and no percentages. They could have just as easily created a word document but people seem to fall for information contained in little cells with lots of color. 

 

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of spreadsheets when properly used. A colleague of mine is currently creating a spreadsheet loaded with actionable information laid out in an understandable format. That is a highly effective use of the tools available when using a spreadsheet. 

 

I use spreadsheets as an example because too many ineffective people are using them to hide their ineffectiveness. Efficient leaders may fall for that but effective leaders will not. 

 

So, are you efficient or effective? Ask yourself that question frequently. Ask yourself if what you’re doing at any given moment needs to be done. What might the consequences be if it weren’t done? Would anyone notice? 

 

Then ask yourself what you could be doing if you weren’t doing that. Would what you could be doing be more valuable to you or your organization. And by the way, you MUST be honest with yourself or don’t bother asking the questions at all. Lying to yourself is neither effective or efficient. 

 

I think if you’re honest with yourself you’ll discover that many of the things you do efficiently are things you like to do. It’s likely you’ll also discover that many of the things you don’t like to do, or are unsure of how to do, are things that would make you far more effective. 

 

That’s why it’s relatively easy to be efficient and a serious challenge to be effective.


The most successful people opt for effectiveness over efficiency. Which one do you prefer?