Posts filed under ‘Sales & Marketing’

The CMO in You!

One of the many hats the manager of any wholesale distribution branch wears is that of “Chief Marketing Officer” (CMO) for his or her location. Marketing is a crucial part of any operation’s success, but so are many other things…so it requires a thoughtful and effective approach.

So what is “marketing”? In its simplest form marketing is everything you do to put your product in the hands of your customers. By that definition, everyone in your store and every activity that touches the customer can at least loosely be considered part of your marketing mix.

The purpose of marketing (inspired by Sergio Zyman) is to sell more stuff, to more people, more often, for more reasons, to make more money.   But what exactly does that mean? Let’s break it down:

More stuff – Selling more stuff means selling a wider variety of your product portfolio AND a larger quantity of the things you sell to any given customer. You sell a wider selection of SKU’s by doing things that draw attention to new or different items or product categories. After observing your customers’ buying patterns you can offer new and different options, add-ons, or complimentary items. Also, as a true business partner you should always be looking for ways to help each customer build his or her business by broadening their offering! You can sell more (quantity) by reminding customers at each transaction of the commodities they should have a deep inventory of to ensure they don’t have work stops. Also, by drawing attention to sale items and promotions, you can sell more per customer visit. Finally, through creative merchandising you can accomplish all of the above objectives much more effectively.

More people – The more people that enter your branch and place orders, the greater are your sales. The more people you reach with your messaging, offers, and promotions, the more there are that will enter the branch and place orders. The more people in your marketing database, the more people you will reach with your messages. The more time and effort your branch spends on researching, finding, and entering prospects into your database, the larger and better qualified is your database. It all comes down to awareness. Will you sell more by reaching twenty or two hundred and twenty? Another way to reach and influence the masses with little effort and no cost is through social media. Use it wisely to increase your reach!

More often – Service sells.  If you and your staff are known for excellent service you will see your customers more often.  If you are not, start there!   But merely serving well when customers enter your doors doesn’t necessarily, by itself, maximize your opportunities to sell more often. By showing greater interest in your customers’ operations, activities, and projects you can ferret out more opportunities to supply more of their work. Also, by scheduling deliveries and route sales together you can create more convenient opportunities for customers to buy what they need with less effort. By leveraging the services your company offers and the data you are normally capturing you can sell more per job as customers consolidate their purchases with you and only you. Finally, by being the most helpful, friendly, and fun supplier, your customers will feel like they’ve missed out by not stopping by!

For more reasons – So you serve well and offer more services and benefits than your competitors.  You know it, but do your customers?  And if they once knew do they still remember?  Once informed, are those reasons to shop with you top of mind with your customers every day…every transaction? No more than are all your best attributes and best efforts always in your spouse’s or significant other’s consciousness every moment. They need to be reminded – not of all the great things you’ve done, but what you can do and will do to make their lives easier. By continuing to serve well, but also by pointing out the list of advantages you provide at every opportunity and by offering them up in context at the right moments. By so doing you provide ample cause for customers and prospects to bring you their business!

To make more money – The more you sell, the more you sell it for, and the more often you sell it, the more your company makes. The more your company makes, the more YOU make!

Lead on, CMO!


April 30, 2014 at 2:24 pm Leave a comment

Data and Caring do Mix

I’ve been a customer of Roadrunner Sports for over twenty years.  They’ve always provided me with excellent service – during the early years with a catalog and over the phone, later via the web as it evolved, and still later in person in their stores.  I think what’s always impressed me is that in every transaction they’ve made a sincere effort not just to service my needs, but first to understand my needs…by getting to know ME – how often I run, how far, and where.  Am I prone to injury?  Do I race?  What brand of shoes do I favor?  Finally, when I’m in their store, they do an in-depth analysis, using a treadmill, hi-tech video, and pressure plates, to be able to make shoe recommendations customized for me and my needs.  Now THAT’s selling!  Notice all the asking, listening, and observation!  Great lessons!

Now, after 20 years they have a LOT of history (data) on me!  You’d think that they’d know me like their own family, but there ARE hundreds of thousands of me and thousands of them, so realistically I’m just a number…but a number with lots of data attached!  I DO get postcards and emails throughout the year, most of which contain general messages to all customers, but some are targeted to ME, based on my most recent shoe purchases.  My shoe is on sale, or is in danger of going out of production (the “endangered shoe” list), or a similar or complimentary product is on sale.  Good, targeted use of data, yes, but nowhere even close to where they could be.

I imagine a day where when I call or walk through the door their systems will identify me and present staff with everything  (data wise) they need to help fill my needs…and sell me what I need to meet those needs.  Or, through intelligent data use, they could send me a reminder four months after my last shoe purchase to remind me that it’s time to save my legs and feet with another pair.  I’d like that!  The data’s there, the system just hasn’t caught up….but I am certain it will.

I believe most companies worth their salt will get there as well!  We all have mountains of data, and we’re learning to “mine” it better and better all the time.  I believe we will learn to mine it, present it, and use it to help us better understand, better serve, and better sell customers the products that will help them be successful.  But I wouldn’t wait for that to happen.  Instead, adopt an attitude of genuine interest in your customers.  What kind of work do they do, what do they use, what do they like…or dislike?  Create a mental profile (data) of each customer and then present, rather than just react when they visit your business.  Most B2B businesses’ advantage over Roadrunner is that we see the same faces with regular frequency, so creating a mental database is relatively easy.  You’ve probably experienced this with the better places you shop or eat, where the waiter or clerk knows you well enough to anticipate and better, accurately direct you to things similar, but better than “the usual”.  Makes you feel good…even important!

Yes, the day will come when much of this will be automated!  This is good and a bit sad; Sad, if we let “systems’ do not only the thinking, but also the caring for us.  Data and caring do mix, and when used together can produce magical moments for customers.  So, take every opportunity to ask, listen, observe, building a mental database, and then present your customers with solutions that will make them feel good…and important!

Lead [and sell] on!


February 13, 2013 at 4:22 pm Leave a comment

Who’s in Charge Here?

Who’s in Charge Here?

What’s the first thing you do each morning?  If you’re like most people you check your emails!  Why?  Because you need to find out what you’ve got to do that day!

Pause…..  Think about that!  If your first act is to look to see what the rest of the world wants you to do, to respond to, to try, read, or listen to…who’s in charge?  You’re automatically turning the reins of your life over to…everyone else!  You become a completely reactive animal and not the proactive pursuer of excellence that each of us is capable of!

There are two major parts of our brain:  The Prefrontal Cortex, which is the proactive part where you plan, pay attention, exercise self control, make choices, and create.  Then there’s the Primitive/Emotional Brain which is the oldest part of your brain…and the first to develop.  This is your reactive brain, where your reflexes, instincts, emotions, reactions, and impulses operate.  As humans mature they learn to use their reactive brain less and their proactive brain more…at least that is the plan.  Generally, “mature” adults operate more from their proactive brain, while the “immature” are driven mostly by their reactive brain.

We all know that the most effective way to lead our lives and our days is to plan them out and to set goals…and then discipline ourselves to the extent that we can to accomplish our plans and goals.  This work (planning and goal setting) is done with our proactive brain.  So is execution!  When we fail to execute however, it’s because we’ve given in to our reactive brain with all its impulses and emotions.  And the more we react, the more we give in to checking emails, texts, and tweets for guidance, the less developed becomes our proactive brain!

So, how can you get back on track and back in control?  Here’s a tip…. When you turn on your computer, smart phone, or tablet each day, what’s the first thing that comes up?  Most people would say “my email”, but that’s only because you’ve trained yourself to open your email!  Try this… Try going first to your calendar” and if you use it, to your To Do list” first…to plan or to review your plan FIRST…before you do anything else!  This will provide the direction for an effective day, a day of accomplishing what, in previous moments of thought and reflection, you determined was most important to accomplish.  This puts YOU in charge of your day and not all of the people and distractions sitting in your email in-box waiting to derail you and hijack your day!

You CAN do it!

Lead on!


December 14, 2012 at 10:47 am Leave a comment

Eat Your Peas!

“Eat your peas!” 

“But I don’t like peas!” 

“Yes you do……at least you should!”


“Well…because they’re good for you……and they taste good!”

“They don’t taste good to me!”

“We’ll…..they should!  Eat your peas!”

Does this sound familiar?  If you’ve been a parent…or a child (who hasn’t) it probably does.  Removed from the situation, it also probably sounds a little ridiculous.  Sometimes we sound just as ridiculous to our employees, our coworkers, and unfortunately our customers when we tell them what they should do, try, or like.  Remember the old Alka Seltzer commercial… “Try it, you’ll like it!”?  Pretty presumptuous isn’t it?

Habit 5 of the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” is… “Seek first to understand, then to be understood”.  Before you can even hope to sell, convince, or recruit others to your proposal you have to understand their perspective – their way of seeing things.  My mom used to say “Never judge an Indian until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins”.  To presume what others should think, do, or like is in reality, projecting our views on others as if they were mindless drones waiting for someone to connect the remote control.

So how can you know…what others want or how they see things?  Simple – ASK!  Then…LISTEN…really listen…empathically…to understand.   Then, and only if it still makes sense, you can sell, convince, or recruit…to their needs…and not to YOUR presumptions!

Try it, you’ll like the results!  🙂

Lead on!


November 9, 2012 at 4:38 pm Leave a comment


I once read an article about [retired] General Colin Powell. In it, he described his definition of “loyalty”. He said…”When we are debating an issue, loyalty means giving me your honest opinion, whether you think I’ll like it or not. Disagreement, at this stage, stimulates me. But once a decision has been made, the debate ends. From that point on, loyalty means executing the decision as if it were your own”.

Great leaders listen.  When it’s tme for action, they know how to lead the charge, but they also know that if they are to lead effectively they need the loyalty of those they lead.  Loyalty comes from inviting and respecting the perspective of others whether it’s applied or not.  I am reminded of an old story I heard as a child, which left an indelible impression on me and on my attitude toward others.  It goes something like this:  A mighty king of untold wealth had two great loves; one was hunting, the other was his prized falcon – his hunting mate and constant companion. One day hiking and hunting with his falcon in the hills near his kingdom, the king became quite thirsty, and approached a near-by stream. There he took his sterling cup and dipped it in the clear cool water and drew it to his lips. But before he could drink, the falcon dove from its soaring and knocked the cup away. Irritated and a bit surprised, the king retrieved his cup, filled it, and attempted to drink a second time.  But again, the falcon swooped down and knocked his cup away. Angry now and quite thirsty, the king cursed at the bird, and warned him never to repeat this uncanny behavior. But alas, a third time the king tried to drink, and again was thwarted by his now inscrutable companion. Furious, the king drew an arrow from his quiver, set it on his bow and let it fly toward the falcon who was slowly circling just upstream; The arrow hit its mark! The king hiked up to where the slain falcon now lay- next to the stream. Suddenly he spotted a horrible sight! There, laying near the bird, half in the stream, was the carcass of a deadly poisonous snake. Instantly, the king realized, with great anguish, that all the while he was fighting against his faithful companion, the loyal bird was simply doing everything he could, even to the point of giving his life, to help save his master.

This story gives pause to those of us with leadership responsibility.  Do we encourage honest disagreement?  Do we show appreciation for diverse opinions? Do we carry an open and willing attitude of learning? Then, when its time to make the [hard] decision, have we created an environment where even those with divergent views, fall in step with us because they want to, or because they have to?  To build loyalty, we must first recognize it in all its forms. Great leaders learn how to recognize it.  Great leaders learn how to build it.  Great leaders learn how to reward it.  Be great…and lead on……….. Cliff

September 12, 2011 at 8:54 am Leave a comment

Getting There from Here

2011 – It’s half over…half gone!  By the calendar we should all be half way to meeting our goals and objectives for the year…right?  Lost 20 of those 40 lbs?  Half way to your sales goals for the year?  Called on the prospects you wanted to see by now?  Read five of the ten books you promised yourself you’d read?

Not quite?  Why not?  What went wrong?

At the beginning of the year we all had great expectations for the New Year – desires for growth, for improvement…for our organizations…for our people…for ourselves.

Six months have now passed…and where are we?  What’s changed?  Anything?  Or are you still waiting to get started?  If you’re like most people, the midpoint in the year may not equate to “half done” with your annual goals.  Why is that?  We know where we want to go…so why are we often still stuck in the same old rut?  Usually, the answer lies in the simple “law of progress”.  The law of progress states that in order to make progress, you must leave a place and move on.   However, it’s human nature to stay right where you are…to dwell lazily in your comfort zone.  The  law of progress says you can’t drift to success.  To reach the shores of success you must: 1) Select a destination, 2) Plot your course, 3) Steer toward your destination, and 4) Start (and keep) paddling.

1) Select a destination – Most of us know what we want in life or in business.  By selecting a destination, you simply set a goal – decide what it is you want to accomplish – and define it well enough that when you arrive there you will recognize the place.

2) Plot your course – Identify the route to be followed, determining the resources required to get there, and defining the mile markers (events and dates) that must met in order to achieve the desired outcome.  This requires being realistic in every way.  Have you identified every step?  Do you have all the resources?  Do you have the desire?  If the answer to any of these is “no”, you may be fooling yourself!

3) Steer toward your destination – With a “compass” in hand you keep your ship oriented toward your destination – the goal!  “Winds”WILL blow and may slow you.  Currents will arise, but with your “compass” (values and guiding principles) in hand you can keep the ship on course and pointed to success.

4) Keep paddling – Simply put, this means get to “work”.  It means getting up every day, and tending to business, following your plan.  It means doing the big stuff and the little stuff…the creative AND the basics.  It means scanning the horizon AND swabbing the deck.  It means everyday doing something we really don’t want to do.  Work is the price we pay for the rewards at the end of the journey, and all along the way.

In setting and accomplishing goals, there’s really no magic…just work!  But miracles do happen.  They happen not because of the supernatural, but because of the un-natural.  It is human nature to stay right where you are – to be rut-bound.  But real winners, the exceptional, the enlightened among us learn to lay nature aside, embrace the law of progress, pay the price, and achieve their goals…and with it, success.

Yes, half the year is gone, but the good news is that half still lies before us.  What will you do with the second half of 2011?

Lead on…


June 22, 2011 at 2:33 pm Leave a comment

It’s All in Your Head

Performance follows attitude!  It’s that simple!  Let me illustrate with a personal example with one of my passions – waterskiing…  A while back on an early morning ski outing with friends I took a bad fall injuring my back – a bad thing for a skiier!  For the next ten days I nursed my back hoping against hope that I would be back in the water in less than two weeks.  It gradually felt better, but I could still feel it.  Then, the day before our next early-morning outing, I woke to the same pain as the day after the injury.  I was VERY disappointed, but resolved that I’d still go the next morning if only to drive the boat for my ski pals.  The next morning, I actually felt a little better, but the pain was still there.  Long story short, I did ski. 

On my first run, I was very tentative, certain I was REALLY going to strain my back further.  I got up, expecting the worst, did a couple of turns, testing both sides, and while things seemed to be holding together I didn’t ski at all well as I was consumed with worry and feared that things wouldn’t go well…

I rested while my mates each skied a run, and then I got back in the water.  This time, I refframed my thinking, and EXPECTED that I’d be ok, and focused on the fundamentals.  Unhampered by worry and fear, I ran off 14 of the best turns I’d carved all summer, rested a minute and then laid down 8 more great turns to the hoots and hollers of my mates.

So, what was the difference between my first and second rides?  I didn’t ski well when I was pessimistic, fearful, tentative, and overly protective.  But then later, optimistic, confident, and released from the fear of failure or injury, I nailed it!  The difference was…All in My Head!

And so it is in business.  When we’re pessimistic, fearful, tentative, and overly cautious we often lose our edge.  But when we are optimistic, relaxed, and confident EVERYTHING changes!  Let me give some examples:

Consider two salesmen.  Salesman A is often known to say:

“Price is the only thing customers care about.”

“This is the cheapest market in the industry.”

“Our market is all bid there’s no loyalty”

“If we’re not the lowest price, we can’t win”

“Forget service and support…all they want is price”

“It’s a waste of time to try to convince someone to pay more for something”

“A widget’s a widget.  I feel guilty selling at a higher price”

“Times are too tough to sell “value”.”

Pessimistic, fearful, tentative, and overly cautious statements?  You bet!  Also very real (all ACTUAL quotes)!  So how do you suppose salesman A ski’s through the [sales] day?  Probably, not very well! 

Contrast Salesman A’s negative thinking [and speech] with that of a different cat, Salesman B: 

“There are buyers who’ll pay more for better.  I’ve seen ‘em and sold ‘em.”

“Price is only one of many considerations in the decision-making process.”

“We’re selling a whole lot more than parts.”

“The price isn’t too high, unless the customer under-desires your product.”

“My success is a direct result of my preparation and attitude.”

“The more value I build in on the front end, the less important is price at the close.”

“The more I learn, about my products and service the more passionate I am.”

“I have 15% market share, which means I have an 85% share to pursue.”

“I am worth it!”

Optimistic, confident, proactive, and aggressive?  You bet!  Also real quotes.  Salesman B can’t be held back.  He ski’s through the day with power, finesse, and relative ease. 

Which salesman do you most closely relate to…especially when times get tough?  Do you become reactive, tentative, fearful, or sloppy?  Or are you more like Salesman B, Proactive, confident, sure.  The good news is that you can be either, because…….It’s All in Your Head!

 Lead on…


April 6, 2011 at 9:50 am 2 comments

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