Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Know Your Customer

Guest Blog

John Daly
Looking to get a job or advance your career with a new position? Want to secure that long-term customer that will cement your future? Whether you are seeking a job or clients, my advice holds true and can be applied for both.  

Think of getting a job as a sales pitch. 

During my 40+ years working in the event business and managing six companies, I’ve discovered techniques that work well with everyone, particularly the top Fortune 100 companies that were on-going clients with John Daly International Inc. I looked for the specific techniques below in the exceptional people that I hired and trained.

Make Sure All Means of Communication Are Presented in a Professional Manner
That goes to all forms of digital communications, including email, social media, and voice mail. Emails should be written as well as a proper letter. Don’t make people guess at your meaning. Don’t include anything on social media that you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see. So photos of you partying shouldn’t be posted! Voice mail should be professional in tone. Use something like, “This is John Daly. I am sorry that I am unable to take your call right now, but please leave me a message and your contact information, and I will return your call promptly.” I am totally turned off when someone answers the phone with just “hello.” I’d prefer, “Hello, this is John Daly.” Again, don’t make anyone guess who has answered the phone. And when calling, identify yourself immediately. 

You are probably surprised that I am including this information in my list of techniques, but you’d be surprised at how much unprofessional communication I have received over the years! And, if prospective employees couldn’t communicate with me on a professional level, they weren’t for me. So, imagine how your customers will feel.

Tailor Your Resume for the Job
As a hiring manager, I want to see not just your experience but what concrete deliverables you’ve provided to previous companies. If you are going for a first-time job, I want to see what traits you possess that would be of benefit to me. For instance, are you a team player? Do you have great design skills? Are you good with budgets and numbers? Are you organized? Are you detail oriented? Do you see where I’m going with this? Paint a picture of who you are and what you bring to my table. In other words, emphasize your strengths and how hiring you will solve problems for the company, and focus on that during the interview. If you are making a proposal, which is basically the company’s resume, to a prospective client, make sure you are solving the problems important to that customer.

Research the Company
Know the prospective employer’s (or customer’s) mission statement, its purpose, the management, and have specific goals of what you can achieve within the company. Don’t go in blind. Find out everything that you can about the company. That means Internet research and talking to current employees (if you know any of them) and getting a good grasp about the company environment.

Have 3 Questions Prepared to Ask the Hiring Manager
A hiring manager (or decision maker) will always ask you if you have any questions. Never, and I mean never, say “no.” Have your three questions prepared that show you have done your homework and are on the ball.

Tailor Your Appearance to “Fit In” to the Company Environment.
I’m going to share a personal experience that will make it clear why this is important. I was young and starting my business. I was going to make a very large presentation to my first big client, Delta Airlines, that I hoped would win me long-term business with the company. Now, I was a designer, and suits and ties weren’t my thing. At the time, I thought I was dressed for success if I wore a silk shirt! But I noticed other people my age were wearing suits and ties to large corporate presentations. So, I did some research and realized that the Delta corporate dress code required me to wear the dreaded suit and tie. I did it to make them feel comfortable with me. 

As I got into my presentation, I began waving my hands around (those of you who have been in my classes know that I talk with my hands) and describing the event, and they were all smiles. At one point, I stopped and asked if I could take off my coat. They said “yes” and took off theirs as well. I went on to tell them how during the event a large jet would appear and blow their guests away. . . my enthusiasm increased and drew them into my story. . . taking them away with me.

I got the job and spent the next decade producing events for them. But, I initially made them comfortable with me by dressing as they did so that I could later let my personality win them over. If I had gone in with a colorful silk shirt, they wouldn’t have gotten past my appearance; I wouldn’t have had credibility in their eyes.

It’s important to realize that over- as well as under-dressing send strong messages. Being under-dressed says you are not interested in the interview or presentation. So over-dressing is a better option for the interview/presentation process. Just remember to practice the K.I.S.S. method!

How to Follow-Up
Before you leave the interview/presentation, ask the hiring manager (decision maker) when the company will be making a decision and if it is acceptable to call at that time. Follow up with a hand-written thank you reminding the hiring manager of why you would be great for the job and that you are looking forward to potentially working with the company. Check back via a phone call around the time the decision should be made. Be professional, respectful and polite!

ACTION ITEM: Try these methods for your next interview or presentation. Good luck!

John Daly is currently retired from the event business but founded The Key Class three years ago to teach young people and unemployed adults job readiness skills. Through Partners in Education, he currently teaches at all of the high schools in Santa Barbara County, as well as Boys & Girls Clubs, Teen Court for at-risk teens, the United Way and other organizations. Visit The Key Class to learn more about its activities.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Sales Advice - Being a Student of Your Customers

To be an effective salesperson in today’s global market, you have to be a student of your customers and know their businesses as well as they do. 

Being great at building rapport should additionally be a critical tool in your war chest, because ultimately customers buy from those they like and trust.  From my perspective, the talents and skills necessary to be a really effective salesperson include:

  • Determining multiple buyers for every opportunity (Executive, User, Technical, Coach).
  • Identifying your ideal customer profile and developing an aggressive plan to network within high-value accounts.
  • Distinguishing the personal wins and goals for each buyer.
  • Knowing your customer well enough to speak his or her language and modeling your behavior  to meet that customer’s needs.
  • Setting stretch goals for yourself and examining them every day.
  • Being actively involved in industry networking groups.
  • Identifying the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors and being able to communicate what separates you from them.
  • Avoiding gossip, working hard and having fun.

How Did I Formulate My Advice?

Upon graduation from Cal Poly (I’m a California boy who loves and played baseball), I began my career with Westin Hotels & Resorts in food and beverage management before accepting a position with Hilton Hotels Corporation in a convention sales role.  My hotel sales career includes senior sales manager positions for over 9 years with Hilton and Disney before joining BI Worldwide as Director of Business Development for incentive sales.

In all, I’d amassed 23 years of business development experience before joining Extraordinary Events as a Senior Account Executive. In addition to BI Worldwide and my hotel experience, I was Vice President of Business Development at RPMC and managed high-impact global and national events for the latter two companies. During that time, I specialized in the key disciplines of promotions, travel incentives, special events, consumer loyalty and brand marketing experiences. 

My experiences working at RPMC and BI Worldwide taught me important skills in the areas of relationship building, networking and selling "intangible" products and services.  These are skills I use every day at EE in my new business development role. Disney taught me the importance of brand identity. Understanding and being able to communicate what separates you from the competition was a critical skill I was able to bring with me to EE.

Why Are Industry Organizations Important to Salespeople?

Participation in industry organizations, like MPI, SITE and HSMAI, allows us to continuously network with customers and peers in the industry on a weekly/monthly basis. It is extremely important to be actively involved so that your company is “top of mind” when business opportunities arise.  As you get to know individuals on a deeper, more personal level, you tend to uncover the "personal wins" of an individual for his or her company.  If you can demonstrate how solutions from your company will address a need within the organization and make the customer look good, they will feel like you are helping to advance their careers rather than being sold.

What Are My Top 7 Sales Tips?

For those looking to get into the sales side of meeting and event production or to increase sales, it’s imperative that you keep the following in mind.

1 Try to uncover the needs of the customer first instead of trying to sell them something they may not want. If they don’t want to spend a lot of money, don’t show them grandiose projects.
2 Uber-prepare. Activity is not enough to succeed.  Preparation in advance of every customer interaction is essential in dictating whether or not our activity will prompt client action.
3 Be disciplined.  Plan your day for the important activities and guard against outside distractions.
4 Leverage your best customers for referrals and endorsements.
5 Know what distinguishes you from the competition and be able to communicate that to potential customers.
6 Uncover what will make your customers’ lives easier and how they prefer to be communicated with.
7 Be adaptable. It’s important to know the customer’s needs, but in today’s global market, it goes beyond that. For instance, if the language you speak is not their first language, adjust how you speak with them. Speak slowly and simply to make yourself understood.   

Want to get to know Mark Houck better? He may be reached at