Allow me to begin by sharing some real-world examples of how attitude can shape the destiny of individuals and companies:
Example #1: Coach Lichenwalter
When I was a young man, which was a long time ago, I was told by Robert Lichenwalter (my middle school physical education teacher) that attitude is everything! I listened. Coach was 62 when I was in 8th grade and could talk to you about proper form while he dropped down and showed you what a perfect push up looked like… several of them in a row. He didn’t breathe hard and was proud of his conditioning as he spoke to us about how we could accomplish anything if we applied ourselves properly. Coach Lichenwalter was old school and it was the mid-sixties, just previous to Woodstock. He gave us a template for presenting a good look and presence in a job interview by telling us, “Men – always polish your shoes, have a firm handshake and look the interviewer in the eye when you are being spoken to about a job opportunity.” It worked for me.
His passion for helping young men be the best “them” they could be was a great inspiration. He was obviously a successful and happy individual, so most of us had no doubt that when he told us, if we wanted to be successful it all started with the proper attitude, we knew he was right. It was hard to ignore this advice because his great attitude was contagious. I’m glad he was a role model of mine at such a formative young adult age.
Example #2: Hook’s Dependable Drugs
Pharmacist John A. Hook founded Hook’s Dependable Drugs in 1900. He was passionate about serving the needs of his customers and grew a modest company to over 50 locations. These locations were primarily in the mid-west where I was raised, so I grew up trading with Hook’s Dependable Drugs. Back in the day slogans were a regular part of advertising in America, and Hook’s had a very positive one inspired by the “servant’s heart” of its founder. The slogan was simple and powerful: “We Like to See You Smile.”
In 1943 John died at the age of 60. The old saying “s*** runs downhill” is true whether it is good or bad, and when John was alive it was good. His positive attitude was contagious (like Coach Lichenwalter’s) and when the everyday worker encountered John and his philosophies, they passed that goodwill and care along to the customers. Things were on solid footing. Between 1942 and 1972 (when I was a sophomore in high school) the drug store chain added 150 new locations. During that time, the buy-outs and ownership transitions began. I won’t dwell on the minutia but suffice it to say that shortly after John passed, and though his son meant well in dealing with them, the big companies became involved and the mission became convoluted. The slogan, “We Like to See You Smile” became hypocrisy. I remember seeing the TV ads over and over again. We all had that slogan branded heavily into our heads. The problem was that NOBODY when you went and traded with Hook’s was smiling. Repeatedly, the customer experience was a bad one and ownership changes didn’t manage the personnel attitude properly, so a “put out” attitude became the new status quo. In 1994 Hook’s become defunct. The dream of making people smile, because of the great care John Hook intended his company to provide, died with it. What went first? The attitude. When it became about units and buyouts and not serving the customer, the company died. When the “beancounters” were placed in charge, the spirit of the company lost its importance. It took a while because John’s spirit was a powerful one, but eventually nobody was smiling, and the business was swallowed by unsmiling new owners; it died. The servant’s heart that built the company was choked out by greed.
Example #3: Head and Shoulders
The Head and Shoulders ad campaign really got it right and the message should be taken to heart by every aspiring sales person. This is the most “spot on” slogan any product ever had. Its parent company Procter and Gamble used the slogan, “You Never Get a Second Chance to Make a First Impression” to make this medicated shampoo the best-selling hair product in the nineties. Line extension, trying to rebrand and create spin offs, watered down the popularity and domination of the hair shampoo, but along with the Lady Clairol slogan “Is it True Blondes Have More fun?”, “You Never Get a Second Chance to Make a First Impression” is definitely one of the most effective slogans ever created for an ad campaign. It’s easily top ten! The logic and wisdom evoked to promote and make a shampoo seem that important is simultaneously ridiculous and ingenious. For a company it should be the FIRST COMMANDMENT! Why? Because it is so true! “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
I ended my three examples of how attitudes can affect businesses and people in both positive and negative ways with the Head and Shoulders slogan, because if you take nothing else away from this article, you should never forget that stark reality. It is irrefutable and immutable.
My Personal Experience Calling on Piano Galleries
This is a piano industry article and the first reason I feel overqualified to speak on the topic “Attitude is Everything” where this SIC, the piano business, is concerned is because over the past three decades NOBODY has called on and experienced a first impression from a piano gallery (or an MI store selling pianos) more than yours truly. In fact, let’s speak to the to the credibility of my opinion and that statement. Over the past thirty years I have spent EVERY working business day selling, servicing or collecting on dealer principals and company piano stores. If you work five-day-weeks and average 15 calls per day (conservatively) over thirty years during your five-day work weeks (260 days of calling x 30 years) that equals 7,800 calls over those thirty years. This doesn’t even take into consideration the e-mails, texts and mail pieces used to service, or sold to, someone. This is a “phone calls only” statistic, so a phone call is the mirror through which we are presently peering. Of those 7,800 calls roughly 80% were answered by a human. That is approximately 6,240 impressions I’ve experienced and with which I’ve drawn this conclusion.
The person answering the phone was rarely the owner and didn’t recognize my voice, so in essence, the phone was most often being answered in response to a caller who the answerer had no idea the value of. Now the shocking observation which prompted this article: it was the 80/20 rule in reverse! 80% of the persons answering the phones at places of business, whose livelihoods depended upon sales (translation: people like you), sounded rushed, put out, unfriendly or in a best-case scenario “to the point.” What does that say about the first impression protocol enforced in the industry? Sad fact: there is none. Like I said, it was the 80/20 rule in reverse. Most of the people I encountered were not the type I would be drawn to or even remotely consider making a friend with; they were just getting a call answered so they could get to the next thing … MAJOR RED FLAG!!!!
My Observation of the Piano Industries’ Commitment to a Positive First Impression?
There isn’t one. Nobody’s rear end ever gets busted for not answering the phone the company way. I was a marketing consultant for a piano gallery (whose numbers improved during my stay there) and one of the first things I did was institute a mandatory greeting for incoming calls. The LAST thing I wanted to worry about was whether we were even getting to first base in the relationship building area. I knew that scaring people off by not being a friendly voice when they were considering where to do business was a deal breaker… before a deal could ever be brokered. I also wanted to build credibility and sell the intangibles, and that meant breaking the ice in a “positive manner” to position our company as a friendly resource. My marketing and sales motto since day #1 has been, “The Company with the Most Friends Wins!” I believe that it should be the moto and priority of every sales organization.
How Does This Opinion Affect Digital “Non-Live” Communications?
In a world where “live” conversations have taken a back seat, this is a critical question. More and more business is done online. More and more prospecting is done on the internet. Making a good first impression is no longer simply a “phone answering” issue. It is an issue that goes to the heart and soul of a company’s digital image and reputation. Did I say digital reputation? Only an old school marketing guru could marry those terms but trust me my friends, if you are to profit and not merely exist in a retail setting, if you are to distance your sales performance between yourself and your competition, you must build this bridge. What bridge? The one between new technological prowess and old school communications and civility. If you are selling tires, cell phones or something with a universal appeal (something everyone needs), niche target isn’t involved as much. But if you want to sell a luxury item and garner dollars many other image oriented sparkly things are vying for, you better take care of your attitude dude! You best “out nice” the other items up for consideration because discretionary income is down and the gestation periods of those buying large ticket items is up!
Therefore, when you communicate on the internet as well as in person, do so minding your manners! Can you be aggressive? Sure. Can you sell hard? Sure, but don’t make the mistake of forgetting that today’s consumer is more informed than ever before and that they want to buy, they just don’t want to be sold. What do they want? Choices. (I’m proud of myself for that one-word sentence, ya’ll) They are more sophisticated than ever with a wealth of online information and what they really want is a concierge, not a pushy sales person. They want a friend, a partner in their journey toward the right choice… so, be that.
How Do I Have a Good Attitude in the Digital Realm?
Having a “near-future ROI” mindset only is a one-dimensional approach without a bright future on the horizon. Your attitude should be just as good with a future buyer as an immediate prospect OR you could end up one day without any immediate buyers because your pipeline has been ignored. All hard-sell and no nurturing in the luxury arena translates to extinction. Trust me, we do too many GOB’s where dealers had no nurturing program or skills. They could sell a piano to someone who was in the market today, but never made growing a pipeline of future candidates a priority. There was little seeding, watering, fertilizing and cultivating going on; they just wanted to harvest. Harvest, harvest, harvest… with no care or concern toward tomorrow. But guess what? Unless you cash out (translation: die), tomorrow comes. The problem being that without a strong and friendly presence in the community, they had no more opportunities with which to close deals. The pipeline went dry from lack of future friends. See what an attitude – good or bad – can accomplish? Structure your digital communications to position your company as the best resource, but LEARN from past marketing experts like Zig Ziglar, Norman Vincent Peale and Dale Carnegie who understood the value of relationship selling.
YES, the arena has changed. YES, the tools in the tool box we reach for have changed. YES, the amount of information available to the consumer has changed, as has the level and method of involvement for sales representatives. What hasn’t?… and won’t ever? There will ALWAYS be a huge portion of the buying population that desires a concierge. Here’s a bold prediction: although machines replaced many “people” jobs in the industrial age and computers replaced many in the information age, the need for luxury marketing representatives will never become extinct. Regardless of how important and impressive technology gets, hasn’t Facebook proven that we are still, and will always be, relationship seeking beings? Rhetorical, I know.
Question: did “live” music go away in our digital age? Absolutely not. The last time I checked, there were still many artists touring and making some impressive dollars by appearing live. The need to experience a piano in person, and not just see and read about it, will not disappear either. A huge portion of the buying public will want to drive a luxury car before they buy it, hold the earrings up to their face before they decide to buy them, walk through the house before they decide to call it home and YES play the piano before they take it home. Let me reiterate: “THE COMPANY WITH THE MOST FRIENDS WINS!!!!” That will not change but how we engage, how we make friends certainly has and will.
Being Exceptional Isn’t Accidental.
Know who you want to be in the eyes of your clients, prospects and the marketplace you prospect in, then take care to look and sound like exactly what you want to be. When you answer the phone, sound like you like where you work. When you send an e-mail, be sure its tone is that of a servant’s heart. If you act like, therefore sound, look and feel like every other sales person just putting in their time (because they must do something for a living), then never complain about the things you’ve not accomplished. To be exceptional you must first act and believe yourself to be capable of exceptional things. Being exceptional isn’t accidental, it starts with an attitude. What’s the old mantra? Let’s see…”Aim for Perfection and You’ll End up at Excellence.” Yea, that’s it, and how important is attitude if you are striving for the unattainable to end up being the very best version of yourself? I’d say it’s irreplaceable.
Whether you own, work at or aspire to begin your own business, your reputation as an individual who brings positive energy to the work place needs to be your calling card. In summary, if it was easy anyone could do it. So, why do you think that greatness can begin with anything other than a great attitude?
If you are using digital marketing, take care to be sure you provide substance and value. Friendliness takes some careful crafting in the digital world, but if you want to break through the clutter don’t just say you want to serve; build your sales communications around that mission and you will have more opportunities than your competition ever will.
I’ve always been a blue collar, burn-up-shoe-leather, cold calling type of a guy. Although I studied Zig and Dale and the likes, I never needed much motivational speaking to charge me up. I always had had passion for what I did. I love sales, always have. I’ve considered it an honorable profession.
If you sell well, you don’t ever have to misrepresent anything. Although I am a man of faith, I never bought into the stereotypical TV minister approach (most of us Catholics don’t) because it is too canned and most often not believable. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an advocate of fabricating a good attitude. I recommend you have one, a sincere one. If you don’t, I strongly suggest you quit wasting your time and that of those around you and find something to do for a living that you really enjoy doing. Good attitudes come most naturally when you are doing something you really want to do, so why waste everyone’s time? Find that thing for yourself that makes “making a living” fun. If you must take a pay cut to get started doing something you truly love, then do it anyway. You’ll most likely overcome the initial lack of money by excelling and end up better off financially. You’ll end up where you truly belong.
I learned very early on in the game of sales that similar to advertising on a billboard, you have only a few short seconds at the beginning of an intro to make someone want to listen. It takes a strong injection of excitement and positivity to accomplish this. The same is true with a Webinar; the title and subject lines of the invite best be compelling, or attendance will be less than your goal. Thousands will never progress past a boring first impression. When you create a message, give it an attitude. Why? Because “Attitude is Everything!” When you meet a new person you never know if they are, or can deliver, a new opportunity, so mind your attitude. Why? Because “Attitude is Everything!” When setting out to accomplish a new goal or tackle an important project, do so with an “I won’t accept failure as an option” attitude! Why? Because “Attitude is Everything!” Most of all, be determined and believe you are destined for greatness. Why? (You thought I was going to repeat the tag again…) Why? Because it is your very best chance to succeed. Because a good attitude is invaluable and contagious as well.
“People may hear your words, but they feel your attitude.” -John C. Maxwell.
P.S. The emphasis here is on the “Happy”, dontcha know.