2 Proven Strategies to Keep Your Whale Clients Engaged

 

Earth is a water planet. 71% of Earth’s surface is water with 96.5% of all our water contained in the oceans. There, in the hostile open sea, lives the leviathan of our planet, the great blue whale. Averaging over 110 ft. in length, weighing 209 tons and living 80-90 years, they are the largest known animal to ever exist. That kind of size is hard to imagine. Heck, their hearts are the size of an automobile! They have scale.

 

In sales, scalability is a critical factor. In 1869 Vilfredo Pareto’s ideas became Pareto’s Law or the Law of the Vital Few, a true POWER LAW. You probably know it as the 80/20 rule. Simply stated 80% of the effects are created by only 20% of the causes. In sales, 80% of your sales are generated by 20% of your clients. For this example, your 20% is the same scale as the Great Blue Whale. They are big and dominant in your world and deserve to be treated differently.

 

This is not an exercise in client equality; it’s a proven strategy of success.  

 

The Whale Treatment

 

 

I love my whale treatment when I get it.  

Travel is a big part of our job so the airline of my choice gives me preferred seating and first-class upgrades. I go to the movies every week and the theater of my choice knows this. They give me discounts on popcorn and Dr. Pepper and let me buy tickets to blockbuster movies way in advance. This place even knows my favorite seat locations. I stay at a LOT of hotels and they all know me. “Here is your free bottle of water and would you like an upgrade.”

NICE!

Loyalty and rewards for being a good customer is nothing new. It impacts our choices and is a core strategy for elite sales professionals.

I first heard the term “whales” associated with elite clients when I had the honor of being part of a team designing a marketing plan to lure these big targets to one of the Class A hotels on the Las Vegas strip. We worked for a week on an elaborate idea, specialty customized packages created to bring high rollers to this specific property. This was about creating the “royal treatment” and why not, this elite group of gamblers would think nothing about risking $100,000 on a roll of the dice. It wasn’t about comping them elaborate suites or free meals, every casino or hotel did that. This was about making them feel special, like they hung the moon, and was a great project!

Every sales professional has their own whales and to treat them extra special is to help assure they stay buying their products and services from you. The key is what is special?”

 

Try This

 

Here are a few ideas from the pinnacle sales professionals that were interviewed for the book.

 

SET THE STANDARD  

 

 

I treat clients with a standard of service and attention that marks a relationship as special.  I know how hard it is to establish a client relationship, a relationship where it’s not about one transaction but about a series of opportunities where I can meet my client’s needs”. That’s what Angela, a top-flight commercial leasing agent told me.  She then said, “BUT I treat my repeat clients, people who are special to my book of business differently.  They deserve it. They come back as their needs grow. It is the highest honor I can have and I want them to know it!”

With Angela, it’s about a high bar at the beginning, but as you grow as a client so does the way you are treated. She creates custom newsletters every quarter where the clients business and industry take center stage. She personalizes everything for them, even using their pictures (a very personal touch) in the mast title. That’s a nice ROYAL touch.

 

EVERY WHALE STARTS AS A CALF 

 

 

It’s hard to imagine that a baby blue whale emerges into the world after a year’s gestation at 25 ft. long and weighing about 3 tons. Heck, they gain 200 lbs. a day for their first year! Every royal customer started as a first-time buyer. You seldom stumble on your first whale. This is an important point and it supports Angela’s idea about setting a strong standard of service but it also falls into Marco’s “build a whale strategy”. Marco is an art dealer. He was an outlier in my study as I stumbled upon him.

Unfortunately, he wasn’t in the 7 major industries I studied and didn’t make the book. He sells a lot of very expensive art, a field I know little or nothing about except I love Van Gogh. I loved his strategy which was to build a clientele of whales. His strategy: first, know EVERYTHING about your current whales.  It doesn’t matter if you are selling peanut butter he told me, just know the model. When you know the model you can duplicate the model. You can clone your next whale. He knows the characteristics and looks for them, INTENTIONALLY. When we teach this particular secret we call it THE IDEAL CLIENT PROFILE. Ideal clients become whales and a filter/profile will tell you the chances of that happening. So, spend some time learning the DNA of your top clients and simply go looking for those other potential clients that match that DNA.

 

I heard one of my interviewees tell me; “Know where your bread is buttered”. That’s good whale advice.

3 Key Strategies to Build Successful Sales Partnerships

 

What does a salesperson, a producer, and a sales professional all have in common? They are all singular nouns. The perception of their universe is that it centers on the individual and in many of the top sales professionals featured in The 21 SECRETS OF MILLION DOLLAR SELLERS, nothing could be farther from the truth.

The idea of the “lone wolf” salesperson is common and many of those interviewed in the book fit this model at some point during their early careers, but as these alpha performers were developing their sales careers they started to learn something besides how to close a sale.  They learned how to develop a connected process, a set of pieces, that when constructed properly, would allow them more time to do what they do best – SELL.

 

 

Any sales organization has layers of needed actions that accompany a successful transaction. Everything from stacks of paperwork, data entry, key forms needing signatures and a variety of follow up needs construct the totality of a sales process. Sales need connected steps in order to make sure the final elements of a transaction take place. I’s need to be dotted, T’s need to be crossed, marketing materials need to be sent and key follow-up dates need to be set.  

For all of this to happen, especially in the complexity of relationship-driven sales, it is nice to have a team. In fact, nothing can help assure sales success like a team. Even though the craft often appears to be in the purview of individual superstars, it really is about a team effort.

 

 

According to a recent study in Forbes, a well-structured team can increase sales conversions by 5%-25% (that’s an interesting spread). They can create stronger client retention by formalizing contact points, assuring follow-ups and adding speed to responses. Teams allow for things to continue moving when the sales professional is out on calls. They free the key producer to produce.

 

Don’t Waste Good

Secret # 18 is about not wasting good, the idea of leveraging even the smallest of positive outcomes. Teams corral the idea of what they do well and keep it moving forward, the essence of sales momentum. Somewhere in your sales career you will be part of or lead a sales team. Think about this:

Common Goal

The best sales teams we saw all had a firm understanding of the big picture. They shared a goal and the goal was very specific. Everyone knew what the bullseye was and that target was directly tied into economic reward. When the team’s sales went well they all profited.  Successful sales revenue was shared among the team. Common should mean “shared by” in every aspect of the goal.

Tools

You can’t build a house with a tuna.  Hammer and nails are essential. A team’s performance is often directly related to the tools they use. Teams need communication structures and rules. They need tracking elements that allow them to know what part of the sales cycle every transaction is in. From CRM’s to Excel spreadsheets, a team’s success is enhanced when the tools meet not only the needs of the team but the needs of the client. That’s the successful tool filter; meet the needs of the team while simultaneously meeting the needs of the clients.

Players Needs

Sales professionals often get so wrapped up in their primal sales needs, the often quoted “we only eat what we kill” mentality, that they often forget the key needs of their teams and soon discover they are often left looking to replace key members for those who have just “had enough”. We heard this over and over so here is the formula to keep in mind. People leave jobs for two very clear and distinct reasons:

    • LACK OF VALUE:  They simply cannot find value in what they do.  They get trapped in the activities and lose sight of their worth in their job. In a sales team, it is the job of the producer to consistently let everyone know how valuable they are in making the team work. It might not seem all that important, but when you lose track of your people, you lose track of your goals!
    • GROWTH:  To some, a job is simply an occupation. It involves waking up, heading to the office and going home in a very repeatable cycle. That’s OK, but great team members want to know they have the ability to grow within the team. This can amount to additional responsibilities or new training opportunities. It can be a lot of things, but you will see a lot of behinds walking out the door if they don’t see the chance to get better.

 

Building the right team that runs on the grease of shared goals, the right tools, and a significant sales culture can be the difference between selling and building a true sales career.

Are you a true Professional?

It was a San Francisco elevator ride that started me thinking. I was hired to work with eight different sales teams for a client.  They were scattered around the country and the project was going to take a full three months to get done.  I was in the heart of research that would become my book, The 21 Secrets of Million Dollar Sellers.  Each office had three levels of salespeople (my nicknames):

 

  • Up and Comers:  They were young and were just starting to build a book of business.  They were Tier 3 with production numbers in the $250,000 to $400,000.  They were hungry and eager to learn, plus they were under pressure to make the next Tier.  There were also veteran sales folks comfortable in the amount of work and revenue at this level.
  • Solid as a Rock:  These Tier 2 producers were in the $500,000 to $750,000 range.  They were seasoned salespeople and the company hoped they were working hard to make Tier 3.
  • Pinnacle Performers:  These were the elite sales kings and queens.  They were million dollar plus producers and most often industry leaders.

I had the opportunity to work with all three tiers in eight different districts.

OK, back to the elevator.  I was working with a Tier 2 salesperson that so resembled Brad Pitt that I’m sure people asked him for autographs.  We were heading to the offices of an oil and gas executive that the salesman had met at a party. I asked him about his first-time interaction strategy.  He told me; “I work it out on the ride up.” WHAT? “I’ve done this a thousand times.” How many times have you met with this potential client? “First time.” WHAT?

 

What a True Professional Looks Like

 

There are dozens and dozens of definitions of professional and I’m pretty sure a 90 second level of preparation isn’t in any of them.

Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenowith are the original Broadway stars of the epic hit Wicked (my second favorite musical of all time, next to Les Mis).  Between 2003 and 2005 they did almost 1,000 performances and hundreds of rehearsals. Each performance had to be brilliant. Why? Despite the number of times they sang the same songs, recited the same lines, stood in the same correct spot they knew their jobs;

“ All we ever have is just the next performance.  We aren’t promised anything more. To us, EVERYONE in that audience is seeing Wicked for the first time.  We owe them spectacular.”

Professionals see the big picture and understand the potential of their impact.  They hold themselves personally accountable for their performance. They are constantly building themselves into something better.

That elevator ride pointed me in the prime direction of what is and is not professional. It was an interaction that helped me search for the patterns of pinnacle performers and define what separates and differentiates sales professionalism.   Maybe he was overconfident? Maybe he was on cruise control? Here’s what I immediately knew, Tier 3 was a million miles away!

Start with the Purpose and the Rest Will Follow.

 

Let thy speech be better than silence.

Dionysius of Halicarnassus

 

He was a retired NBA superstar and took the stage to a huge round of applause.  It was exciting and I was jazzed. I love studying other speakers with the evil intent of stealing as much as possible.  I had my sketch pad ready and we were off to the races, or so I thought. In my notes, I wrote, what is he talking about?  What is the message? I had ten different ideas on what the purpose of the talk was, but even as he ended, I had no idea. It was a classic scatter-shooting, shotgun approach to content.  He had the public speaking chops, but the heart of the message was hidden in fluff. There was no real purpose to the presentation.

In 1974 we sent the first radio wave message into space.  It was called The Arecibo Interstellar Message. Its design and message were INTENTIONAL, PURPOSEFUL and SIMPLE – “we are here.”  Just in case anyone is looking, “we are here.” In a simple visual form it looked like this:

 

 

On November 4th of this year, a bunch of smart guys at MIT had a better idea.  If the core of the message is just “we are here” you should use lasers.  “If extraterrestrial life exists (see the Fermi Paradox – https://www.space.com/25325-fermi-paradox.html ) somewhere in our galaxy, we should use laser technology.  We can create a celestial front porch light.”

 

 

They knew what the purpose of the communication was.  They created their projects with a purpose at the core of their design.  The purpose of a message is at the heart of a great presentation.  What is the core message? Define it and embrace the message in a story and you have the fundamental beginnings of a well- crafted presentation.

Stage presentations, like stories, have a definable beginning, middle, and end, but without knowing the real and true message, the actual purpose of your actions, you may as well fire a shotgun and see where the pellets land.

I’m a Delighted End User

While it may seem small, the ripple effects of small things are extraordinary.

-Matt Bevin

 

Extraordinary customer experiences seem to elude us at every turn. I often wonder if it seems like too monumental a goal to reach for and perhaps that is why we settle so often for mediocrity or words like fine, ok, good, alright, and the like. If you think wowing your end user, client or prospect requires extraordinary effort I’m here to tell you it often doesn’t. Here are three great examples of what I mean.

 

First…

I was sitting in my plane getting ready for the flight from Portland to Austin when I took out my headphone case and realized; DAMN, I left my headphones in the hotel room. I was charging them and they’re black, the nightstand was black and the combination equaled invisible to my standard last minute “do I have everything” room inspection.

I had a backup pair, but I loved those wireless earbuds. I chalked them up to another absent-minded loss. When I landed and turned on my phone, the hotel manager had sent me a text:

 

Mr. Harvill, we found your headphones and have put them in the mail to your Austin address.

 

HUH? WHAT? You’re kidding. I immediately looked up the hotel phone number, called the manager and said, “THANKS!”

 

Next…

I was getting off a flight in Charlotte where I had a two-hour layover before my next flight. As I got off the plane there was an airline representative who asked, “Where are you headed?” I said, “Myrtle Beach in a couple of hours.” She told me the plane at the very next gate was headed to Myrtle Beach in 15 minutes and there were seats available. “Want to head out early?” HUH? WHAT?

 

Then this happened…

I don’t do any banking. My wife handles all the personal stuff and the Dallas team does all the business stuff, but I was in need of 500 pennies. Yeah, 500 penny’s (a common tool we use in our workshops). So, I walked into our local branch and was greeted with a big, “Hi, we’ve got fresh coffee and just baked cookies, want some?” Uh, YEAH! Then I thought, HUH? WHAT?

Every day our meters are set at normal.  Our expectations are for minimum effort and when even the smallest thing shatters our daily hamster-wheel-existence we are stopped in our tracks. We respond with our eyebrows raised in incredulity. What the heck, a twinkle of kindness, an extra step of effort, a simple moment changes things.

The three instances I shared made me write this.

Those minutes are measured in seconds of impact.

It doesn’t take much. The space between ordinary and extraordinary is smaller than you think. It just takes a moment, one available to everyone. It’s what separates and differentiates companies and organizations. It’s about training, accountability, and focus. I mean, how expensive is a smile?

Leadership… with a Little Help from Your Friends

Leadership Doesn’t Happen in a Vacuum

 

Mary Jo softly told me; “I do a lot of little things.”

Mary Jo is the CEO of a fantastic mid-size company that develops software that tracts time-based billable projects and was part of the leadership survey we did to build the 11 shared leadership behaviors forming the foundation of our leadership platform, THE DNA OF SUCCESS.

I tilted my head and simply said; “Explain please.”

She shared; “I have a great team built around all that we do, fixing bugs, marketing, client relations, financial, you know, the big stuff that makes a company run, but a lot of cracks exist in any organization and things fall through, they fall through all the time. I try to catch those. I pay attention to those things. I know the big things are critical, but the little things matter too. I think good leaders spend time on little things that matter. By providing a key focus on this I get to see where we can use improvement.”

Ah, little things THAT MATTER.

Marry Jo gave me some examples:

  • THE PRESENCE FACTOR:   Good leaders need to be present. Not just in the boardroom, but all over the place. Mary Jo is religious about getting out of the office and making small visits with just about everyone in the company. In her company, they affectionately call these – Oh Hello – meetings. She genuinely wants to know what people are doing, what they are thinking, what problems she doesn’t know about. It is an engaging and very caring little thing that defines her style. She told me the stuff she learns is invaluable and actually impacts her decision making!

This small thing has been referred to as MANAGEMENT BY WANDERING AROUND. In Mary Jo’s situation, it is a LEADERSHIP trait. You can actually trace this style back to Abraham Lincoln who used to make informal surprise troop inspections and would stop and chat with the soldiers. Management guru’s Tom Peters and Bob Waterman shared that as a practice at Hewlett Packard in 1982 in their epic business book, In Search of Excellence.

 

  • HELP: Here’s a great little thing she told me; “I am in constant need of help”. What? “I need help, A LOT. I burned out my need for ego, or the belief that I know everything during the various war’s I fought to get a CEO position. I made so many mistakes that could have been avoided had I just asked for a little help. I’m not talking about abdicating decision making, but I will tell you this, when I need input I ask. Then I weigh the contributions and act.”

You would be surprised at how hard it is for leaders to ask for help. People look at them as the answer people, but the really good ones know what they know and what they don’t know. They look for solutions, not struggles. This little thing creates engagement and builds the confidence needed in successful teams.

I know big stuff is important, but it is often the small things, those elements in your leadership peripheral vision that can make all the difference.

Great leaders sweat the small stuff, the important small stuff!

As a leader, do you have your feet planted in the past?

I am a child of the west. Born in California. Lived in Idaho and now a long time Texas resident (I don’t think an outsider is ever a true Texan). I always marvel at travel back East. When a client says; “Take the train from Washington D.C. to Philadelphia, I furrow my brow and say, “Train?” When I hear the train I think of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

During a recent trip east I watched an old-time engineer backing up his engine. He had his head craned out the window looking backward at the ground crew for hand signals. No rear view mirror on this engine, or simply an “old school” engineer. Trains are used to going forward.  They don’t often think about reversing. Leaders do.

During our two-year study into leadership (The DNA of Success), I was amazed at the role the rear view mirror played in great leaders. They were great at stopping, turning around and thinking about what they did. They were great decision reviewers.

From this key leadership characteristic, here are some of those rearview images.

 

Keeping Perspective in Leadership

 

  • THE SEARCH FOR PERFECTION: When you take time to look at how you responded to a leadership situation you quickly learn to forget about perfection. In leadership, it simply doesn’t exist. If it is your goal you can’t catch that leadership train. Mistakes, getting it wrong, missing a choice by an inch is just part of the deal. I love the quote that “perfection is the enemy of good.” Leaders love good.

  • NOT ENOUGH HELP: I can do this by myself, heck, I’m the leader. It’s my job to make the call. Every leader we interviewed talked about that learning moment where they figured out they couldn’t do this alone. Somewhere along the line, they were embraced; “I don’t know”. This is a classic mindset shift, a moment past a blind spot. I remember Israel Alpert, a tech/video leader using this little gem – PHELP – It stood for “Please HELP”.

  • WHO AM I LEADING? Leaders ask this question all the time. They check their past, both close and distant for key contact points, and don’t lose touch with their direct team. They check in further down the line and become VISIBLE. They hang out with their customers, ask questions, and listen. They check in!

Leadership is a process that centers on the two key timeframes.

 

  1. The Past – They are learners by experience and experience only teaches when you take a look back.

  2. The Future – They are required to shift their gaze from the learning past to peeking into the various potentials that could make up their tomorrows and the opportunities available to their organizations.

Some trains may not have review mirrors, but you should!