I admit it; sometimes I trick the sales team I support. That's because we all become immune to the people we work and live with day after day. We stop looking at them and their ideas with fresh eyes and we begin taking them for granted. Alas, we tend to do that even with our customers.
So this year I did the unthinkable, I went around my whole sales group and designed a year-end customer gift for them to present our customers, one that would be worth talking about. The idea came when thinking about tools and learning. What could I devise that would inspire our customers to take action and at the same time communicate that we understand the pressure they feel in their market?
What are the two most critical pieces of information that we could possibly communicate and lay as a foundation of a relationship? Any relationship.
- We care
- You can trust us
How do you communicate that? You don't, you have to show them, each and every day, and with everything you've got, in everything you do.
The next best thing? Demonstrate that you have a vested interest in your customers' growth and learning, because you want to earn their business *and* because you care. So I devised a two-part gift: one of an immediately practical nature (emergency roadside assistance toolkit), the other to help them be remarkable.
Here is an excerpt of the cover letter I included in the package:
Because our commitment to safety is foremost on our minds, we thought of your safety and the safety of your dear ones. Whenever you're on the road, we wish you a pleasant and productive journey. Knowing that you have some emergency tools in your vehicle may lend the extra peace of mind.
The second gift, The Big Moo: Stop Trying to be Perfect and Start Being Remarkable, is one to your intellect and bottom line. It is an easy read and we know it will generate ideas and stimulate action.
Because one can never make too much impact, by receiving this gift, you are helping us donate all the royalties from the sale of the book to 3 deserving non profit charities: Acumen Fund, a global venture fund that uses entrepreneurial approaches to solve the problems of global poverty; Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International; and Room to Read, an organization founded to help teach children how to read.
We encourage you to spread this idea and tell others about the book; and please, take the credit.
Thank you for contributing to our success and best wishes for the year ahead, may it be a safe and remarkable one.
Because even when I trick my colleagues I still work with them, I shopped the concept around among the most influential and outspoken members of the group. During our face-to-face and phone conversations I took notes and listened carefully to their feedback and concerns.
Those dialogues were valuable to understand how to sell the final concept in front of a company wide audience. It helped that I had plenty of data and testimonials from all the people in my network to whom I had given a galley copy of the book during the previous 10 months. This is one of the ways in which I measure what works and why it works. [If you're curious to learn more about my take on networking, I just did an interview for BusinessNetworkingAdvice.com.]
The gifts have shipped to the sales team so they can deliver them in person. At the time of delivery to them, I provided a voice mail broadcast reminding everyone about the content of the gift and why we are packaging it that way.
Looking at it from their point of view, they are doing something risky: giving something they have not chosen for their customers. Who knows what reaction they will have? We've never done it this way before, etc. Those are *their* relationships, what if our customers don't like the gift? By giving the gift anyway, those who will, they choose to trust -- not me, not "corporate". They choose to trust their customers that they will get it.
What do you get back when you trust someone? In my experience, you get trust and good will. We have everything to learn from our customers and when we show them we think that way, they will go ahead and teach us. Two side benefits to this story: we raise funds and awareness for the non profit charities; the sales team has been tricked into reading the book and learning more about how to be remarkable.
I know they forgive me. I care. They can trust me.
UPDATE: The book was not even out of the box and our sales team is already purchasing it for their family and friends. We're immune to the people we work with until they do something that shifts our thinking and then a new world opens up before our eyes.