I do a lot of public speaking and truly enjoy it. My favorite is talking to a group of salespeople. Since selling is my first love, when I'm with salespeople it's like being with dear friends. I'm always looking for inspirational ideas for my speeches, and one of my favorite sources is the Speechwriter's Newsletter, published by Lawrence Ragan Communications in Chicago. The newsletter gives me fresh perspectives not only on how to speak to a certain group, but also on how to prepare a good talk. As anyone who has ever given a speech will tell you, it isn't an easy task. As I was perusing the current issue of the newsletter, I came across two brief articles I'd like to share.
The first one is titled "How to keep a customer" and is drawn from The Speaker's Library of Business Stories, Anecdotes and Humor.
"Stanley Marcus' father, founder of the Neiman-Marcus stores, gave Stanley some valuable advice early in his career. It was advice that later helped build Neiman-Marcus into a first-class store. A woman ruined a dress she had worn just once and wanted her money back. His father told him to give the woman her money back, and Stanley argued that they shouldn't do it since the woman had obviously abused the dress. Stanley continued to press his point since the manufacturer wasn't going to help pay for it. His father reminded him that the woman wasn't doing business with the manufacturer, she was doing business with Neiman's. His father told him that it didn't matter if it cost $200 to get a customer, and he didn't want to lose her over a $175 dress. He also told Stanley to refund the money with a smile. During the years, the woman spent over $500,000 at Neiman-Marcus."
What a story! I wonder how many sales have been lost by well-intentioned individuals who don't understand the psychology of customer relations. Some people trip over dollars to get to pennies. Maybe it even happened in your organization today because someone didn't understand the long-term benefits of going the extra mile for a customer. That's a key element of success.
The second article is about failure. When I interview individuals for sales positions I always look for an intangible ingredient called humility. I'm talking about individuals who have experienced failure but managed to come back because of their intestinal fortitude. It's so important because people who have suffered the indignities of failure take very little for granted.
"The most important ingredient for success is the willingness to fail, to be made a fool of, to fall on your face a hundred times a day. And to be dumb," writes Helen Tworkov, founding editor of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, in the June/July 1997 issue of Fast Company. "What makes repeated failure endurable is being in love with the work you do and being convinced of its value. Then the process becomes self-rewarding. Try not to make hard divisions between work and play. Figure out how to make your job fun, creative and inspiring for you and for others. And don't underestimate everyone's need to be affirmed. That includes co-workers, suppliers, the janitor, messengers, advertisers, saints and sinners."
The wisdom in that statement is so important for all of us, but especially those in leadership positions. It's all about basic humility and treating everyone with dignity and respect. Too many of us see failure as a sign of weakness. To me, persevering following a setback denotes strength and character. How can someone really understand what it takes to succeed unless he or she has tasted failure?
Charles S. Lauer