Thursday, 24 October 2013

Decision by technology

When I recently added a comment on LinkedIn, a respondent highlighted that one of my points - that we should also use our 'gut instinct' - was the worst thing I or anybody else could do.  There enthralled a few more comments between us and others who sang the praises of tests and technology to find the best outcomes. 

This got me thinking of how we are evermore placing faith in models and testing to the point where perhaps we almost delegate our decision making to technology.  Technology and technological products are tools.  Tools that we feel we cannot be separated from and cause us to have our own mini-breakdown when they are not working (as I write I find myself in this group as my email account has not functioned all day). It is however our ability to use technology, and how we choose to employ these tools that is important. 

The example of psychometric tests (which I have used in recruitment and team analysis) being a key method of selecting candidates or defining strengths is fine, yet the important element for me is the human interaction - that's what excites me about working with my customers and colleagues.  When we allow technology to control our actions, even when our experience or gut tells us something is not quite right, may render us almost passive to what we are doing.  A quick search on Google will offer examples of drivers who ignored their environment and ploughed on because their sat nav said the route was ok; and other negative decisions because the computer said no.

When we apply this to sales we can draw some comparisons.  Many procurement systems are based on a points system - you don't make the points, you don't move forward in the process.  Generally these are thought through and offer companies a way of filtering suppliers.  However, there comes a point where a dialogue and getting a sense of who you are and what your company is about has value for both parties.  Price is one factor in a sale, though belief of the ability to deliver, to communicate,  and demonstrate integrity can all feature - would an online test really give you this all on its own? 

A website or profile can within reason tell any story one chooses, and we can spout anything that we believe will make us more credible through our social media and blogs. Yet when we converse we get the opportunity to explore things further, with a person, at that time - and that can give us the confidence to proceed.  In his book (ACCELerate™your social media) JohnCoupland highlights the example of the default invitation on LinkedIn "I'd like to add you to my network", and how it is similar to a cold handshake.  How memorable is that as an introduction or follow up interaction?  LinkedIn and the invitation to connect feature are great tools, yet this is about communication between people, so rather than just letting the software 'do it' we should add something from us - in this case a personal message.

We should embrace technology and tools to help us in our lives and quests - they have transformed business, and if it works for you I would encourage you to acknowledge your intuitions and gut feel as part of your decision making.  It kept our ancestors safe with the choice of flee or fight - perhaps in sales it translates as buy or move on.


John is a Director of Vector Resources Limited and helps businesses increase sales and improve sales performance.  Find out more at

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

From good to mediocre

I'm concerned about the potential decline of good customer service and customer experience.  It seems to me that mediocrity is becoming the new 'good' and I shudder to think what is now considered satisfactory.  Maybe it's my age or a generation thing; I'm sure my parent's generation said the same things in the past and probably still do.  However this is an important point and our routine experiences as customers appear to be getting worse. 

In some instances we almost applaud sales people who make eye contact and say hello, and continue to pay us attention throughout our interaction with them - surely this should be the base standard, yet its regularity is diminishing.  Is good customer service one American export that doesn't travel well?

One sector that stands out for me is retail; in particular supermarkets.  They have spent millions improving their product lines, rolling out online shopping, training staff to be extra helpful whilst you are shopping, and attracting talent to lead them.  I acknowledge that they do invest in their staff and their training - however training on its own is simply not enough.  Mary Kay suggested that every customer has a sign around their neck saying "make me feel important" - yet this seems far from how many treat us.

Whether it's the check out assistant who continues their conversation with a colleague whilst choosing the minimal amount of words to complete my transaction, or the sales person who disregards the answer I just shared and continues to try to close the sale using the same points like a mantra - we must expect and demand better.  If you are a retailer or a B2B sales person, surely demonstrating excellence in what you do must be an overriding goal, and something you would be proud of?

Maybe we need champions or managers to lead by example, or for business owners to clearly define their expectations and describe the desired customer experience - and importantly praise staff that they catch doing it right. There are so many things that we can do to make the experience for our customers memorable, and many actions carry no cost other than a bit of thought, effort and sincerity.  As my Nan used to say manners cost nothing, yet their value can mean a lot.

John is a Director of Vector Resources Limited and helps businesses increase sales and improve sales performance.  Find out more at