Something you can't Tweet in 140 words ... personal connection

March 04, 2015

There’s a strategic initiative going on at Design Concepts: “Thought Leaders.” Write something. Post something. Tweet something. I’m not much for 144 character blurbs: #whydofolksavoidpersonalinteraction

Nor am I one to blog about my personal interests on music (didn’t Jethro Tull invent the seed drill back in the 1700’s? And why does Ringo only use two toms?) or about my favorite sport I still play competitively (that’s hockey, baby!) and my not-so-random thoughts on how Joel Quenneville coaches the Chicago Blackhawks.

Heck, I don’t even have a Facebook page (and according to this Forbes piece, that makes me mighty suspicious). And it’s only recently that I relented, giving up my beloved Motorola V3 RAZR cell phone for a more up-to-date Android smartphone (still a Motorola – a Moto X for those interested – trying to support American ingenuity when I can).

Circling back to the original theme, all of us, in some fashion, are thought leaders in our respective fields. Because Design Concepts is a strategic experience innovation consultancy, we have thought leaders in every discipline – from business and design strategy, research, human factors, user experience design, mechanical and electrical engineering, project management and model making. Yet, one core discipline touches every project, every team member and every customer and no one ever talks about it.

Back to my notion of being old-fashioned, I call it sales. In today’s jargon, it’s called everything from business development to account management to customer relationship liaison.

Business is conducted face to face and person to person.

Sales is a “dirty” word in many organizations – not many relish the challenge of knocking on doors to begin the oft-arduous process (notice how I didn’t say task?) of establishing a new relationship. It’s hard work! Many only see the glory when the account is landed and a steady stream of work flows in. Of course, it is easier once the door has been opened, a solid line of communication established and an understanding of a customer’s needs identified. This is my gig – one I’ve honed over the last 35 years.

But . . . it’s not accomplished with tweets, blog posts, text messages or emails. Yes, yes – of course I do use some of those tools. Back to being old fashioned. Business is conducted face to face and person to person. I use the phone a lot. And I value my time and the time of my customers. I always try to meet with my customers in person IF I can bring value to them through our meeting.

It’s not an easy job, but it is one that I have grown to love over the many years I have “carried a bag.” I have been very fortunate to have had a few very smart, seasoned sales pros take me under their wing and mentor me. I will take this rare public opportunity to thank Tommy Smith and Jerry Wilson, who in their unique way pushed, prodded and cajoled me into taking my craft seriously.

Tommy and Jerry instilled in me pride in my craft. Some key points for those of you taking notes, either hoping to have success in this role in your business or simply wondering what principles I try to live by:

  • Be passionate about what you do (you have to love getting rejected as much as you revel in your wins . . . a “no” should be treated as an education not easily learned elsewhere).
  • Avoid complacency.
  • Don’t make assumptions.
  • Communicate clearly.

And above all else:

  • Provide a great experience for your customers. If you treat customers the way you’d like to be treated, you know they will have a great experience and recommend you to their associates.

Ultimately, their advice made an indelible mark upon my professional career and more importantly, upon the lives of my customers and all those who have benefited from the services delivered from the world-class organizations which I am honored to say I have been part of over these many years.

Sure, Tommy and Jerry would say I’m old-fashioned. But there really isn’t anything that can replace human empathy and understanding – I trust my customers would agree.