How Do You Stand Out?

Hot dogs. Do you know how to stand out and create “raving fans” when you run a hot dog shop? Or any other business? You do what I saw the other day at Hot Dogs of Santa Cruz in Roseville, CA.

I had 20 minutes to kill before an appointment and hadn’t had lunch so I stopped at this place (my wife’s going to frown on this), I’d never been before because…well–I was hungry and I love hot dogs.


The Greeting…The man greeting the customer before me (an older man) said cheerfully “Hello young man.” Then he greeted me (not that old), with “Hello young man.” Point? It stands out, was humorous, and memorable. How do you greet callers?


Friendliness and Humor…My order: “Two hot dogs with just mustard.”His reply: “One hog dog, extra jalapeños.”  The cash register total: $9.21  His reply:: “That’ll be $921 dollars.” When appropriate, how do you engage with your customer to bring a smile or lighten a routine exchange?


Service…He set my 1st hot dog the counter and said “We’ll bring your second one to you when you’re ready.” By the way (noticing my iPad), do you need WiFi?” It’s the small things that all add up to make a big difference.


Results…You can see in the photo that the place was packed and there was a line at the counter. And for me–I’m now a raving fan.


So if someone can do all this selling hot dogs…don’t you think you and I should put the same effort into our customer touches?

And by the way–he wasn’t selling hot dogs…he was selling me.

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Guest Article: What’s Your Plan to Win the World Series?

Love this true story about Theo Epstein. Imagine if we set our goals not on incremental growth but on our version of a WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP. Great read and along the same lines as this blog I wrote on the topic:

What’s your plan to win the World Series?

By  / July 12, 2018

My first job out of college was as a financial analyst at a large computer equipment company. Working at its headquarters in Dayton, Ohio, I got a firsthand look at the bureaucracy of a large corporation where great ideas that started out as rich in flavor as rocky road quickly were reduced to another form of vanilla. It was here that I coined the phrase, “Big companies demand excellence but promote mediocrity.” You rarely hear the statement, “Go big or go home” in a large corporation. Incremental improvement is favored because it involves less risk and doesn’t upset the natural order of things at the company.

Another example of this way of thinking was the Chicago Cubs baseball team, commonly known as “The Lovable Losers,” who always started out the year with enthusiasm and great expectations, only to collapse and end the year in the cellar. “Wait ’til next year” was the Cubs’ annual post-All- Star Game chant. The Cubs had patient ownership that was content with incremental improvement, and they hired managers who would hopefully “take them to the next level.”

The Cubs’ destiny changed in 2009 when the team was bought by the Ricketts family, who then hired Theo Epstein as President of Baseball Operations in 2011. Epstein inherited a team that had posted a 71-91 record, but here is where it gets interesting. He didn’t say to his team, “Let’s get to .500” or “Let’s try to make the playoffs.” Instead, he created a fiveyear goal to win the World Series and instructed his staff that, going forward, all plans and evaluations would be viewed with this goal in mind. Period.

The Cubs lost 101 games in 2012 and had two more losing seasons, but throughout this time, all recruiting, hiring, and player development decisions were made with the goal of winning the World Series. They let go popular players whom they believed couldn’t help them achieve that ultimate goal. They realized that, instead of hiring big-name free agents, they needed to develop their own players out of the minor leagues. They also took the best ideas from other clubs and morphed them into their own way of doing things. They then taught their unique approach to players and staff, making sure everybody bought into the culture. In 2015, the Cubs made it to the National League Championship Series and lost. In 2016, however, five seasons after hiring Theo Epstein, the Chicago Cubs ended a 108-year championship drought and won the World Series.

Let’s think about our own businesses through the lens of the pre-2012 Cubs. I know that I have on occasion set the bar too low to just get to the next level. When you are trying to turn around an operation, it is hard to get rid of anybody— employee or customer—if you think it is going to make you take a step backward. How often do we tolerate a perceived high performer who bucks the system because we can’t afford to lose the sales he or she brings? How about recruiting your competition’s best salesperson because they would bring a lot of business, while overlooking the fact that they also bring a lot of baggage and bad habits?

What if we changed our perspective and set our goal as “winning the World Series”? What if, when reviewing an employee’s performance, we asked ourselves, “Can this person play a part in helping us win our version of the World Series?” Try it out. Suddenly, that salesperson who hits below the Mendoza Line (under .200 in baseball) but is a great utility position player or just a “great guy” doesn’t make sense. Why? Because you can’t win the World Series with a bunch of utility position players or great guys. Hiring the competitor’s top salesperson doesn’t make sense if that person’s ego will disrupt your team that is focused on the goal of winning the World Series.

With a definitive goal that is the equivalent of winning the World Series in five years, you can grow your own talent. Maybe you stop selling those customers who represent a lot of volume but are a drain on your profits. Maybe you look at your legacy product lines, businesses, or locations through the lens of, “Will they help me win the World Series?” and realize they need to go away. If you are the leader of your business and you are looking to change the direction of your company, why not borrow a page out of Epstein’s playbook and set your sights on what you feel is your World Series goal?

Define the culture you want to have and set expectations accordingly.
• Divest employees who do not fit the culture, who are unable to help win your World Series.
• Hire only talent who are a good fit culturally, who want to win your World Series goal.

You then are approaching all your business and personnel decisions from the perspective of “Will this help me reach my World Series?” It’s still early in the season, so it’s not too late to improve your line up and create a winning team for 2018.

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Adding Value is Not An Option…

…adding value is the ONLY option.

It’s intuitive to most that sales people we need to add value on every sales call and in every interaction with a customer or prospect.  We’ve got to be:

  • Solving
  • Educating
  • Providing
  • Helping
  • Guiding

Or any other combination of acts of service to our customers and prospects.

What wasn’t at first intuitive to me was observing the success (or lack thereof) of the numerous window suppliers that worked with locations across the country when I lead the national window program for a large LBM dealer.

Time and time again, our sales managers and reps who aligned with one supplier over another did so because that rep “showed up” consistently.  One could at first perceive this as the reps who “made the rounds” on a “route” were commanding the time and attention of our sales people.  That merely by walking through the door (with or without donuts), a manufacturer would win us over.

But upon further examination of course it wasn’t THAT the rep was stopping by consistently; it was WHAT the rep did when she was in our location.  The best reps would walk in and get to work:

  • Solving (a problem)
  • Educating (us on a product or best practice)
  • Providing (a project lead or competitive insight)
  • Helping (with take-offs, quote help, or an answer)
  • Guiding (us to become better at what we do)

And for leadership, there’s a sixth item to add to the list: Learning. When we visit with customers or prospects (but particularly current customers), we need to ask the questions that let us understand where we’re performing and where we’re not—and what it will take to close that gap.

So before showing up at your customer’s location without a plan to add some value, just know there’s a competitor that’s likely kicking your ass by being intentional about showing up and adding value on each and every call.

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