My experience with entrepreneurs constantly enjoying a massive and steady flow of customers or clients, opportunity and wealth streaming to them is that they think in terms of “process” rather than “incident,” and “opportunity” rather than “outcome”.
Beware the Gold Star Syndrome
There is a little lecture I always give to my peers who are professional speakers about The Gold Star Syndrome. I’ll bring it to you in a minute. But first here’s what happens when most speakers get a booking, let’s say to speak on October 7th for the International Hardware Retailers Association. The speaker hangs up the phone, pumps the air with celebratory fist, gets a file folder and writes Hardware Retailers Association on it and files it, goes over to the big calendar on the wall and sticks a big gold star on the October 7 square and writes IHRA on the star with a marker. Then he runs up the stairs from his basement office to tell his wife, and they go out to dinner and have a steak and lobster to celebrate.
This displays the fundamental misunderstanding of speaking as a business that keeps most speakers living gig to gig, paycheck to paycheck, as well as most business owners’ fundamental misunderstanding of what making a sale to a new customer is that keeps most of them broke too.
In reality, there is nothing here to celebrate (yet), anymore than there would be if the garden center delivered and dumped a huge truckload of manure in your backyard at the edge of your garden. It’s the start of the work to be done, not an end result or outcome.
If you think of it as end result, your garden would never flourish and you’d arrive at harvest time with nothing but a giant pile of rotting stinking dung attracting flies. In speaking, when I put the gold star on a my calendar – – and I
a total of more than 1,500 compensated engagements during my stint at it — it was the same as the starting gun firing, it was the start of a race to engineer as many was and means and contributing factors as possible between then and the engagement date, to optimize the money made at and after the date.
In every business, the same thing is true, the same opportunity exists and is, mostly, wasted. Someone calls and makes a reservation at your restaurant – Gold Star Syndrome occurs. Of course, you could check your file on the customer and have the assigned waitperson read the customer profile so they could ask about their dog, tell them the check had prepared their favorite appetizer. If a new, first-time customer, you could Google® them to see if they are a prominent or special or potentially valuable center of influence. You could immediately FedEx them a special voucher and add two to four friends to their dinner party that night and receive a free bottle of wine for the table. Etc., etc. In every business, the same thing is true – the acquisition of a new customer is seen as a means of making a sale, and as an outcome…not the starting point of a process. This reflects your view of what kind of business you are in. To use the restaurant owner, is he in the business of selling and serving food? Or of acquiring and developing VIP customers with whom he has strong relationships, and developing and mining maximum equity in those assets?
Bring it all the way down to the simplest of situations. Your own daily life. When you go and dine at a restaurant for the first time, get clothes cleaned at a dry cleaners for the first time, go into a different shop of one kind or another for the first time — of the many, many times you do this, how many times have you immediately gotten a follow-up letter from the restaurant or shop owner thanking you for coming in and inviting you back? How many have sent you an interesting newsletter every month afterward, to create and maintain a presence with you? The answer will be: hardly any. Or: none. Your entering and departing their place of business is an “outcome” to them. To me, the person coming in for the very first time is a magnificent “opportunity.” The way you view it will determine what you do about it.
Now let’s talk about “process” versus “incident.”
To take this to an “ordinary” business, consider the quick-oil-change shop in your neighborhood. They probably have a process in place to do “upsells” — additional things you need, like a new filter. They probably capture your contact information and send you a reminder postcard when it’s about time for your next oil change. But that’s it, and there’s so much more they could do. For example, they could try to sell you a coupon book of pre-paid services at a discount they could find out about your spouse’s car or other
cars in your family; they could immediately identify your neighbors via the criss-cross-promoting with a car wash; they should put you on their newsletter list so they “visit” you every month; they should get your birthday and send you a card. Rather than viewing your coming in for an oil change as an “incident,” they should view it as the start of a multi-faceted, continuing “process.”
This requires a shift in the way you view your customers and prospects – – – as people to randomly sell something to, or as your most valuable assets, to build and maintain a solid fence around, to care for, coddle, develop strong relationships with, and multiply through referrals. Selling things to people makes money. Developing and owning assets creates wealth. You have to decide what you’re about. J