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MDCE 2010: Know your customer and your business

ORLANDO, Fla. - The Marine Dealer Conference & Expo started Monday with two speakers who provided out-of-the-box suggestions for accelerating business innovation as well as insights about the approaches a salesperson needs to take to sell a product.

Dan Coughlin, who spoke on innovation, told the audience about a day three years ago when he was driving to a business event near Chicago and realized that he left his jacket and shirt at home. He called Nordstrom in Chicago, explained his predicament and gave the store his size.

Not only did the staff pick out a new jacket and shirt for him, but they also kept the store open late, gave him a bottle of water and picked out some other shirts they thought he might like.

He spent about $1,000 that night at Nordstrom.

And why did he think to call Nordstrom in the first place? Because three years earlier he was in a different location buying shoes when his young son needed his attention. The sales clerk packed up his shoes and brought them out to his car for him so that he could deal with his child.

"When you create additional value for a customer ... you have moved a long way to deliver sustainable, profitable growth," Coughlin said.

He then outlined seven "accelerator actions" for achieving this growth:

  • Schedule thinking and non-thinking time: "The most important step in business is to step back and think," he said, advising attendees to schedule one hour a week to think about a problem they want to resolve, brainstorm ways to resolve it, select the best idea and develop an action plan. Also, he said, scheduled time off away from work is just as important. You can't work every hour of every day, he advised.
  • Innovate to sustain success: Customers want value from their investments. Create and deliver greater value to customers based on a better understanding of them. Observe them, talk to them and walk through their journey.
  • Collaborate to accelerate: Collaboration is difficult, Coughlin acknowledged, but it often allows the best ideas to come forward.
  • Continually raise the bar: "Be passionate in pursuing results; stay logical in analyzing results," he said. Look at outcomes from the last six months and analyze what has helped to strengthen the business.
  • Sacrifice to accelerate: "The two most important letters in innovation are N and O," Coughlin noted. Businesses can't implement every idea. Pick one or two and work on those. "Something is more important than something else."
  • Maintain daily enthusiasm: This can, admittedly, be difficult, Coughlin said. He suggested that attendees clarify the purpose of their work and each day focus on fulfilling that purpose. "Remember the passion that flows from purpose," he added.
  • Lead the way: Titles and labels don't lead, people do. "Leadership means influencing what other people think about in ways that generate better sustainable results for both the organization and the people in it," he said.

Dave Mitchell, talking about "Expanding Your Market Share," said there are four types of people: romantics, warriors, experts and masterminds. Each of these types needs to be "sold to" in a different manner, as the same approach will not appeal to all of them.

And although not every salesperson will automatically connect with every customer, it's important to relate to customers on their level, he said. This is how a dealership can close more sales.

To appeal to romantics, salespeople should provide personal service, be likable and sincere, invest in the relationship, provide a good deal, sell the value to the customer's family and friends and reward loyalty.

Warriors, on the other hand, want efficient service, confidence, a get-to-the-point approach, negotiations in which they "win" something, and rewards for referrals.

Experts, Mitchell said, want a lot of information, need a patient salesperson to answer all of their questions, generally need time to make a final decision and need their judgment to be rewarded.

Lastly, masterminds want to be provided with novelty and excitement. They like enthusiasm and need an aggressive close of the sale.

Mitchell invited attendees to go to his website and take a test to determine which of the personality types they possess. Knowing themselves, he said, will better allow them to recognize others' personality types and relate better to customers.

The dealer conference continues through Wednesday.

— Beth Rosenberg



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