Do You Know How Your Customers R-A-T-E Your Business?

Ziglar, Inc., via Associated Press

Ziglar, Inc., via Associated Press

The American author and motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar used the word R-A-T-E as a tool to assess how your customers are going to rate you.

R = Reliability, Recovery & Responsiveness
Customers understand that life is not perfect and mistakes will happen. However, this does not mean that your business is unreliable and frequently breaks its promises. Customers expect good businesses to be reliable and do what you say. On the rare occasions (they expect them to be rare) that you can’t then your customers expect you to make it up to them in another way, recover. How you make it up maybe as simple as an apology or some small compensation payment. They expect you to be responsive – i.e. quick to take action.

A = Assurance
Customers want to feel that their problem is being handled by an expert. Assure them that you know your business by demonstrating you understand their problems and the solution!

T = Tangibles
Your customers have an expectation of your brand and its appearance. From the staff and business setting to all of your on and off-line material. Your customers will judge you by your looks. Therefore part of meeting their expectations means making sure you look your best.

E = Empathy
Empathy is about connecting with your customers at an individual and personal level. Every customer wants to feel HUGged. That is Heard, Understood and Given incredible value. No one wants to feel like just another number or sale. You can HUG your customers by doing simple things like using their name when you address them, remembering specific details about their service needs/specifications that make it easy for them to buy from you. Show your customers that you care for them individually.

By really understanding the answers to these questions you will be able to set your customers’ expectations realistically and honestly. Customers tend to value honesty above everything. Setting expectations do not mean that you then can’t exceed them. It just establishes the baseline within the scope of your offer. For example, Richard Branson (Virgin), who has built an empire based on providing exceptional customer service explains it like this: “The key is to set realistic customer expectations, and then not to just meet them, but to exceed them — preferably in unexpected and helpful ways. Setting customer expectations at a level that is aligned with consistently deliverable levels of customer service require that your whole staff, from product development to marketing, works in harmony with your brand image.”

Are you interested in having a deeper dive?


It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It!


Apple doesn’t sell computers, they sell identity.
There is never a mention of screen resolution, how much memory, how many GB because it doesn’t matter. It’s all about what’s in the box, and you just have to have one! The product has to be good, but Apple doesn’t make the best computers and they do not make the best telephones by any stretch of the imagination, but they sell because people associate an aspirational identity with their products and this desire drives sales through the roof. And this shows that people buy into something that is deeply felt, and that is identity!

iPad Air advertisement featuring a clip of Robin Williams’ voice from “Dead Poet’s Society

The Customer Is The Hero And Not The Brand


I want to encourage you to pay attention to the stories you tell about your brand, as they are the culture of your organisation and as such both create and limit your potential. Many companies position their marketing around benefits and features of their product or service, but how can they make the customer the hero of their story? And why communicating in this way will demonstrate empathy for the customer and is extremely powerful in the long run.

I think that it’s best to focus on strategic outcomes that your clients need, and not talking about yourself, services or offerings as it loses people because it makes you the star of the story and this, in turn, makes the client not the star of their story! We all wake up self-identifying as heroes in our stories, so if I am the hero and meet you at a dinner party and you tell me about yourself, my subconscious mind begins to process you as a hero as well. Sometimes we subconsciously believe that there is a scarcity of resources, so if you are the hero and I am a hero - who’s the best competition begins. In reality, I should be stepping aside as the client is looking for someone to help with their story. It’s OK that another character comes into the story and their purpose is to help the hero win type day. I don’t want to be the hero in your story, I just want your business to succeed and I want to be the character in your story that exists to help the hero win.

In sales, we always want to be the trusted advisor, and you only need two things to be a trusted advisor are trust and advice! And if you don’t have the advice part, then you are not going to be trusted. Every human being has the need for someone to show them the way. A Harvard Professor once told me that I made a great first impression because I showed trust and respect, I was humbled and replied that I was raised to show empathy and authority. In essence I believe that we are saying exactly the same thing.

via Banksy

via Banksy

We are selling solutions to external problems, but customers are buying solutions to internal problems. The story should always be about how the hero is feeling about their external problem, as customers want us to guide them on an internal journey, and they do not only have an external problem. But this external problem is causing them some frustration, unpleasantness and that is what they are trying to resolve. What makes customers buy your products? It’s always a fulfilment of an internal frustration, much more than an external problem. It’s always an internal problem that motivates a buying decision. The only thing that people want are things that make them survive or thrive.

What the customer has to sense is that we have stepped into their story and we care about their pain. We care about their frustrations that they are experiencing and we care about the problems they are facing. Just caring is not enough, we also have to know how to get them out of it:
"I feel your pain, and I know how to get you out of this!" In other words, show that you care and have the competence to get help solve their problem. When you communicate this, you will earn the heart and respect of the customer.

If you want to grow your business, increase your revenue streams and help more customers solve their problems, then I am the guy for you.

An Elite Customer Journey: Q&A With Lisbeth Dalgaard

Dalgaard Supermarket logo

Dalgaard Supermarket logo

Retail and the consumer are evolving, so the smarter we can analyze the data, clues and insights, the better we will be at leaving customers feeling wanted, respected and appreciated at every stage of the interaction. Competition is fierce in the supermarket sector and today I am having a Q&A with Lisbeth Dalgaard from Dalgaard Supermarket (MENY) in Hørsholm, who is doing an exceptional job.

Can you tell me a little about yourself?
I started out studying French in Geneva and then I returned to Denmark with the intention to continue studying languages, but stopped rather quickly and took my education within the insurance business whilst working for an insurance company. After completing my Merkonom in Marketing, I moved into IT industry with IBM Denmark and studied HD whilst at IBM, and was also educated in Business Psychology. I am the Chairperson of DSK, Board & Executive committee member at Danish Chamber of Commerce, Board member KFI, Dansk Handelsblad (media) and Scanseason (seasonal merchandise), plus I also sit on a couple of advisory boards. On the personal front, I am married with 2 grown up sons and am really good at prioritizing my time between personal and professional activities.


Was your father the founder of Dalgaard Supermarket?
Yes, my father began in Frederiksberg as a grocery store owner in 1954 and then in 1962, he started Dalgaard in Hørsholm, which was in those days a small shop of 80m2. We became Dalgaard Supermarket in 1971 with an 800m2 store and have grown exponentially since then.

My father and I

My father and I

When did you take over from your father?
I started in the supermarket around the year 2000. In the beginning, it was a bit of a trial - neither my father nor I was certain, but after 3 months, I was sure that this was the correct decision. Before I started I discussed with myself about what was going to be the major challenges, e.g. negotiations with the suppliers, but actually, it was the people. The personnel, as it was a completely different culture from what I was used to at IBM. Here when we reached a goal the mentality was not to get excited if the reward was an additional training course. I had to adapt the different culture very quickly otherwise, I would have been out of business very quickly.

At what stage did you become part of the MENY group?
MENY used to be called SuperBest, and we joined the SuperBest Group in 2008. I was on the SuperBest development team trying to develop what we now have as MENY, but at that time many of the group members were not ready. We were very close to introducing a new kind of SuperBest but the majority of the small supermarket owners were against the reform. There were about 25 supermarkets (ca. 70% of the group turnover) that were very keen to reform, but as we have one vote per supermarket, regardless of the size, and the small supermarkets were reluctant to change as they thought that a price-focused supermarket would be best. Already then, there was a trend that either you are very discount focused or very specialized, there was no future in the middle ground, but they wanted to be there. Democracy prevailed and we remained in the “middle segment” for 2 more years, on hindsight, this was for the best as it proved to the small supermarkets that it did not work, and they came back and insisted that we develop what is now MENY.

Do you have a clear set of customers in mind when making decisions?
Not really, if I were to put a label on our customers, it would be “that they are conscious food lovers and foodies.” In the 90’s you categorized customers in blue, yellow, green, whatever, based on gender, income, occupation, etc., nowadays you cannot do that! A good example is a single father who has his children one week and then the next week he is alone and has a date, the buying behaviour in these two weeks for the “single father” is completely different. You cannot judge that by the customer appearance as to their buying power or preferences, it is much more about situation awareness and that is how we train our staff to remain open-minded and curious over for the customers. We focus on quality and personal relationships, as we believe that it is much easier to sell to customers when we have created trust. We are also very particular when we choose the products we put on our shelves.

When focusing on the customer journey throughout your supermarket, how do you create an experience that taps into your customers’ emotions and behaviours?
As human beings, we like to be seen and welcomed and that is something that we have really been training. It is very important that all our employees meet the customers, look into their eyes, smile and welcome them into our supermarket. Subconsciously saying I have seen you and I am here for you, and this something we are training on a continuous basis. Also in the front section of the shop, where the customer is met by the staff in the Post Office, kiosk or bakery who see all of the customers as they enter our store and they can smooth the path for their colleagues further in the shop by just smiling and welcoming them as they begin their journey.

Dalgaard Supermarket is stocked with great products, which are displayed in a warm and welcoming way, your staff are knowledgeable and the real-life shopping experience is still where sales are made. How do you think the online experience will transform the supermarket business in the future? And how will you incorporate digital at Dalgaard Supermarket?
In a way, it already has, if you look at how has been struggling and are showing huge deficits in their balance sheets, year after year. And they have invested over 1 billion DKK into their business, in the beginning, it was because they wanted to master online food sales, but the value of the company today, as they see it themselves is big data. It is the behaviour of the customers because I think that it will take some years to crack the code, if ever, for how to make money on delivering goods to people because it is more expensive. As you have to factor in the cost of the employee selecting the products, which are usually the job of the customer in the shop, and now, you have to pay someone to do that. So it is very difficult to get a break even or profit under these economic conditions.

We at Dalgaard are also building big data but in a personal way. We know that this customer has just come home from a vacation and you ask how was the holiday? You know that this customer has just had a grandchild, how’s your grandson? And that is much more important to people today, as we are very much alone on a day to day basis in front of our PC’s. It’s easy to buy non-food products online, as it’s easy and convenient, but people need people (connectivity). We have customers coming to the store and all they want is a hug (metaphorically) and that is what they get here. We, in our line of business, should focus on the fact that we have a huge advantage in being with people. So we have to create an environment where they like to come, where they meet nice people, where they are excited and surprised, where they can be advised by professionals, where they can taste new products. So I think that we have a future even though there will be a huge competition from the online stores. Many of my customer’s say we buy beer, cleaning products, all the heavy stuff because we can get that delivered to our door, but I want to buy the food myself. I want to smell the tomatoes, I want to feel the avocados, I want to speak to the butcher about how I should prepare this kind of meat, etc.

We are planning to use the digital platforms as an opportunity to be more specific in addressing the customers that today we have “this and that” and “if you come between this time and that time it will be ready”. Order online, and we will start working with “Your Local” and “Too Good To Go” to conquer food waste. It’s also a way to get in touch with customers to let them know that we have ready to eat meals in our store. We are using Facebook a lot and also our website, where we generate a lot of traffic and that is monitored every month to see where the users are going, and recipes are always popular, the weekly offers and then our tasting and our events.

Clockwise: Cheese dept., fish dept., butchers and delicatessen.

Clockwise: Cheese dept., fish dept., butchers and delicatessen.

I can see that you have collaborations with Post Nord, Emmerys and Peter Beier. How often are you hosting in-store events?
We have weekly events/tastings every Thursday, Friday and Saturday plus we have spontaneous tastings throughout the week, and we also have a lot of partners coming in to present, mainly new products. So long as we like it, we are not afraid to give a new producer or agent a chance to present their products in-store. They need to commit to making the introduction of the product in-store for 3 to 4 months because then we are sure that it will be a success both for them and ourselves. If we introduce a product via an introduction price, we will probably sell the product the first time, but we do not know whether they will come back to buy the product again. If they buy after they have tasted the product at full price, this is a proper test, and then we know that they will probably come back, so this is how we introduce new products via tastings.

Then we have special events, typically around wine - where we invite winemakers to DK and then we have a partnership with some of the local restaurants e.g. some in Rungsted Harbour, Kokkedal Slot, Søhuset in Scion (DTU) and then we have a dinner where the chef will incorporate a menu that compliments the wine. We have had flower arrangement courses with our florist and we have also had a cheese and wine travel (5 evenings), where we started out with cheese & wine from Italy, and then from Spain, then to UK, DK and finally the Nordics.

Left: Tasting evening                                    Right: Tasting with Jakob de Neergaard

Left: Tasting evening                                    Right: Tasting with Jakob de Neergaard

At what stage do you share your vision for the future with your staff?
When we are ready! Many of the new ideas we work on together, e.g. launching of new products. When we started out with the “Free Off range” (e.g. lactose-free, gluten-free, etc.) we had to make sure that we understood the concept before we went out to the customers. So we do a lot of training ahead and when we think that we are ready we launch. This one of the things that I learnt whilst at IBM that you have to test things beforehand before you go out to the clients. Then again I am very open to inputs, and my employees are always free to come and have an open and frank conversation.

Are you the go-to person or is it middle managers who the shop floor would approach?
I am on the shop floor mainly on Fridays and Saturdays, but all my employees are aware that I am also a resource of 2 hands and 2 feet, so if they need my help, they just call for it - my door is always open, so just come.

What measurement tools do you use to ensure that your staff act consistently with the stated values?
We don’t have any specific measurement tools, but we use our staff Facebook group, where we nominate each other or just praise - “I have a colleague and he/she did this or that and it was very good”. And we use some of this feedback directly and then once a month we have a morning meeting with the leader group where we speak about the nominees and we acknowledge the best one with a reward. The most important is the peer to peer recognition!

Educated staff members

Educated staff members

Do you have a training program to support your employees? And how do you obtain feedback from them?
We are very open to employees wishes for education, so if an employee comes to me and says they would like to improve their skills in a specific area, I will try to see if we can find a course, person or something that can train that particular skill set. We are planning to have more IT training over the next couple of months. We have had the management group on trips to London together with ZBC (Zealand Business College), as they have access to managers in some of the top retailers in London and we can learn from all types of retail. We are currently planning another trip for September, as it’s important to see something that you haven’t seen before and because of the volume of customers in London, the retailers have to make their ideas work. And these best practices I share with a handful of colleagues who I debate ideas with as they are facing similar successes and difficulties.

What systems do you have in place to measure, reward and reinforce desired behaviours?
When we recognise a member of the team who is doing a really good job of welcoming, smiling and acknowledging the customer, we praise the behaviour in front of their colleagues. And we encourage this member of the staff to take responsibility for spreading the goodwill amongst the team.

What methods do you use in order to connect your employees to the Dalgaard Supermarket vision and mission?
We use our employee Facebook group and we have weekly management meetings, and then the managers have departmental meetings, so we have many opportunities to review and control that we are on track. There are always GOALS, not necessarily economic goals and we visit them every 2 months to see if we are doing the right things or have we decided to grow in an area where the customers are not ready and if so, we stop using the resources there and change direction.

Every week there are special offers available to all MENY customers in Denmark, so there is someone making the decision of what should be discounted this week in Dalgaard Supermarket?
We follow the MENY lead and do not spend a lot of resources on it. We also make our own weekly special offers in our local newspaper, which is much more focused on our customers' wants and needs. Facebook followers are also presented with offers. There is no real contradiction between MENY and Dalgaard Supermarket, our tagline is “The Meal Starts Here” and MENY’s tagline is “We Care For Food”.

Meny v/ Købmand Dalgaard - Kongevejs Centret 6, 2970 Hørsholm

Meny v/ Købmand Dalgaard - Kongevejs Centret 6, 2970 Hørsholm

Does the MENY HQ have systems in place to measure how you deliver on these promises or is that left to the individual supermarket?
Dalgaard Supermarket is run independently, but twice a year MENY run NPS Scorecard and of course, they look at all of the results, but we get our own results and we act on them.

What are you doing to help all your employees to understand their role in delivering on these promises?
When we started out I spoke a lot about the MENY values and Dalgaard Supermarket values and how they actually supported each other. As before we started the MENY brand there were not any corporate values as such, the MENY brand values were good and we could use them.

Many thanks Lisbeth for taking the time for this interview, I am truly grateful. I can conclude that at Dalgaard Supermarket decisions are made through the customers' eyes and this ensures that they have the customers’ best interest in mind. Lisbeth Dalgaard appears to be an empathic leader and she is able to tell the right story and consistently match that story to the way Dalgaard Supermarket delivers the shopping experience. Making every customer visit count is amazing and significantly enhances loyalty, bringing customers together with a sense of community which is also socially powerful. For sure, there are lots of supermarkets that are run by Excel spreadsheet management teams with no thought about the customer, where the owners are just doing the bare minimum to follow the brand manual and only compete on price. Dalgaard Supermarket is by far the best supermarket I have seen in Denmark and hopefully one of many elite examples of business excellence within the supermarket sector.

A Blast From The Past - "Fashion Talks 2013"



The Fashion Talks is a one-day conference about the fashion industry where we want to touch on the difficulties but also the opportunities in the fashion industry nowadays. Different topics will be brought on stage by a wide variety of national and international speakers.

The main idea of the speeches is that these are 'inspirational pitches' about each speakers' speciality. We want to inspire the audience to be more entrepreneurial, more creative and innovative in the way they do business.  

In a way, it is about sharing your vision on how the industry will evolve in the future with a focus on your speciality domain. Every speech preferably has a practical approach (to make it more lively) stated with examples, images and numbers (wherever possible).

We would like you to touch on how to work with and motivate a fashion team; how the creative department, the sales team, the production team etc… can work together and stay motivated.


PRESS RELEASE (English text)

According to you, can a young independent fashion label keep up with the competition of larger, more established fashion companies and international fashion chains? And what would be the 'key to success'? 

In general, it will always be difficult for a young independent fashion label to keep up with the competition of fashion chains and more established fashion companies for an obvious reason - Economy. The economy of small companies means that they struggle to have the resources to pay for the basic things to keep the company afloat, therefore, choices have to make - Catwalk show or trade fair? Silk or crepe de chine? With no marketing budget, it's hard to compete when speaking about paid media.

The key to success for young independent fashion labels is online via social media. As plagiarism is rife in the fashion industry, social media has established a more level playing field, which has given the young independents an opportunity to make a name for themselves before the more established companies have the opportunity to react. 

Which fashion week's gain importance worldwide? E.g. in Asia, and the Middle East – these regions are upcoming in fashion…?

The big four (London, Milan, Paris and New York) will always be at the forefront when speaking about the importance of fashion weeks. Why? Traditionally, this is where the big designers show their couture collections and where the media focus the majority of their attention. Tokyo is the gateway into Asia, but I have never seen the media coverage in the West to make me think that Tokyo should be added to the "big 4". 

With regards to the Middle East, they are consumers rather than trendsetters in my opinion. Perhaps, this will change in the future, but for now, it's all about their buying power.

Live @ Fashion Talks 2013

What Qualities Should A Good Mentor Have?

Getty Images ©

Getty Images ©

I have been a voluntary mentor at Association Nydansker since 2011, helping numerous highly educated immigrants with networking, resume and job search, which has helped them facilitate a smoother path into the Copenhagen landscape. I am currently taking a break from this role to build up my business, recently a friend asked me about what characteristics a good mentor should have.

In my opinion, mentors should help to fill your knowledge gaps and seek opportunities to help you grow and excel. Good mentors come in all shapes and sizes, where age, gender and race are irrelevant! A mentor is someone with whom you can let down your guard, share your insecurities and ask "stupid" questions without judgement. So here are the qualities which I think a good mentor should have:

1. Teach you how to think, not what to think
2. Guide you to ask better questions
3. Challenge assumptions
4. Dare you to dream big
5. Expect continuous improvement
6. Be a lifelong student
7. Appreciate self-taught mentees
8. Push you harder than you expect

The more you serve others, the more confident you become!

Are You Making Your Customers Happy?


Whilst paying attention to what's going on around me and contemplating what is my interpretation of the world? I am not just looking at what offer people are putting out there in terms of content and ideas, but being aware of a problem that needs to be solved. What stops all of us from being observant? Is it the fear of failure or just self-doubt? One should not wait for proof before overcoming fear, one should try anyway!

It is good to ask customers questions but it is better to observe them in action. A more lateral approach to gain insights from customers is to study in detail how they use your type of product or service and to observe what practical problems they have. Data rather than intuition should be the core background to make decisions, so the big question should be, "How to use data to drive better personalisation?" As we look to create a more personalised/customised experience and products, we must ensure that it can scale.

“Data has a clear role to play in developing a superior customer experience— and companies have access to more information on their customers than ever before. Indeed, they are seeing an exponential increase in customer-related data, driven largely by social media, mobile, and e-commerce. But these expanding troves of customer information alone are clearly not driving customer experience improvements—let alone innovation—in the vast majority of organisations.” - Harvard Business Review Analytic Services

The smarter we can analyse data (both quantitative and qualitative) the better we will be at leaving customers feeling wanted, respected and appreciated at every stage of the interaction. Moving from segmenting customers to treating them as individuals is possible by aggregating multiple data sources, being responsive to the previous behaviour of customers and acting in the moment at the right time. We all know customer expectations have accelerated exponentially and this is not slowing down. To compete for the heart and minds of the customer, businesses need to be able to engage meaningfully with people in the channels where they are, not where you want them to be.


What Do You Know About Social Selling? Q&A with Tim Hughes

Image: Alex Low

Image: Alex Low

Marketing guru, Seth Godin once said, “Build it, and they will come only works in the movies. Social Media is a ‘build it, nurture it, engage them, and they may come and stay.’" This week’s Q+A is with Tim Hughes, who is universally recognised as one of the world’s leading pioneers and exponents of Social Selling and he is currently ranked Number 1 as the most influential social selling person in the world. Tim was responsible for a large-scale sales transformation within Oracle which resulted in excess of $100m in sales uplift, and he is currently leading the sales transformation programmes at Avaya, Thomson Reuters and Pitney Bowes and is the co-founder and CEO of Digital Leadership Associates.

1. What are the industry trends affecting your business?

Currently, the internet and social media are the biggest factors in the area where we work. In September 2017, We Are Social and Hootsuite research figures showed that 51%, 3.8 Billion of the world's population are on the internet and 41% of the world's population, 3.1 Billion is on social media. I think for all of us, whenever we want to purchase some goods or services regardless if it’s a small value or a $200 Million outsourcing deal, we start the search online and we do this without help from any supplier. In fact, we do this in salesperson avoidance mode. CEB, now Gartner research shows that in fact, most people are 57% of the way through the buying process before they make contact with a supplier. What we are finding is that most prospective customers are using the people’s online presence to in fact deselect, not select a vendor. This buyers market and dysfunction in the buying process are problems for companies of all size, in all markets.

My business partner, Adam Gray and I spotted this when we started Digital Leadership Associates (DLA) 13 months ago and we have created workshops, programs and a methodology to help companies support a move to use social media internally and externally. This is at a strategic level (Board/C-Level), as well as a departmental level, for example, Sales, Human Resources (HR), Procurement, Supply Chain etc. Our “poster child” for this is our globally acclaimed, social selling program. This enables salespeople (in fact all employees) to understand this buyer dysfunction and the tools and processes to support this.

2. What are you doing now that you feel good about? Is there anything that you could be doing better?

I started this journey 5 years ago when I managed a sales transformation project at Oracle Corporation, where we transformed salespeople from “on-premises” sales to one of “SaaS” to meet the change in the market. This involved, teaching salespeople to throw away PowerPoint and use whiteboards, how to story-tell as well how to use social selling. During this project, I started blogging about social selling, then I got a book deal, and my book (On Amazon) “Social Selling - Techniques to Influencer Buyers and Changemakers” went into the Bestseller List during pre-sale. 13 months ago, my business partner and I left Oracle to set up Digital Leadership Associates (DLA) and we haven’t looked back. We love the fact that we are making a massive transformational change to our clients, not just in terms of return on investment (ROI) but in the way companies go-to-market and react to the buyer dysfunction made in answer 1.

While we are doing projects in the UK, we have a number of global companies who want to transform using social media, both globally and at a local level. Global consistency, but with localisation. Having created a unique set of intellectual property rights (IP), we are now in the process of signing up global resellers. Our first one is in North America, but we are currently looking for partners in all countries. This is a huge opportunity as all the buyers are on the internet and social media, this fundamentally changes the way every company markets and sells in the global marketplace.

Getty Images

Getty Images

3. When you start a new project, how do you set yourself up to win?

We set ourselves up to win, by providing a change methodology to the client that has a proven track record. We also understand that each company is different, so we research the new client and understand their business and markets, which enables us to fine-tune our methodology to their unique requirements. Built into the methodology are the measures and Governance so we can track “as is”, work out the milestones and set targets for “to be”.

4. We know that feelings and emotions drive human behaviour, but why do you think that storytelling is a powerful tool to build culture?

Storytelling is always powerful as we show our audience a metaphor that they can all relate to, "by putting yourself in the shoes of your client or prospective customer". It is great for taking a complex idea and turning it into something that people can understand.

5. Based on a prism of what’s working and what’s not from the customers’ perspective, how can your organisation realign to meet your customers’ needs?

We have decided to focus totally on social media as an organisation. Unlike the traditional full spectrum marketing agency that does websites, search engine optimisation (SEO), Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising, PR and are a jack of all trades. While we know about these subjects, it’s not what we focus on, and this is our strength as our methodology allows us to align with our customer's needs and business issues.

6. How does trust relate to the customer experience and customer relationships? And what about its impact on employee engagement? 

Trust is central to the way Marketing and Sales work today. Who do you turn to when you want to buy something? Your friends, your family and your network! The problem is that every supplier says they are the best, so much so that most corporate marketing today is just lost as noise. The fact of the matter is that nobody cares about your company and it’s products. There is an old saying that “people buy people” and they do. Which is why it is critical that you enable your salespeople and your employees to be the “experts” that people turn to when buying. In the past, we often spoke to people who said, “I wished I had spoken to you last week, as we have just purchased something”, social media enables you to build trust so that you increase your chances of that serendipity moment.

7. How do you use customer experience in the battle to win the hearts and minds of your customers?

We talk about the issues we are seeing in the market in the blogs we post we have now posted some 100 blogs. These all take a business issue and then how we can solve it. Focusing on people, process and strategy rather than tools. We hope this creates a vision for our clients that they can see we can make an impact and enable them to get more leads and meetings than with the tools they used in the past, e.g. email marketing, advertising or cold calling.

8. In your experience, are external consultants better suited to engage employees in dialogue when discussing risks and benefits of customer experience management?

We think that external consultants are ideally placed to help a business, but then again we are biased. We often see, well-meaning people, trying to help people with social media, but it not really moving the needle. For example, we often hear about a person that found a Hubspot article on social selling and think that by working through it they become a social seller, or by reading my book is enough to become a social seller. If I get a book on judo and worked through it, I would get a good idea, but if I went into a judo fight I would lose. Here at Digital Leadership Associates (DLA), we help our clients understand buyer dysfunction and help them use social media (LinkedIn, Twitter, etc) as proactive methods to enable them to get leads and meetings. It’s worth saying that as an organisation we make no cold outbound, in fact, all our business comes from inbound. The opportunity to write this article came from inbound, this is what we teach our clients. There are a lot of people out there searching on social media and we help them find you and engage with you and they will only do that if you “appear” on social media as a trustworthy person.

9. Engagement is a challenge, but in your opinion, when you bring the suggestion to hire an external consultant to your bosses, what questions do you expect them to ask? 

You say in your question that engagement is a problem, is it? The world has changed, engagement is a problem because most sales today are started via cold outreach. You are just another supplier and nobody trusts you. The great thing about social media and social selling is that people find you, if they trust you, then they will contact you. It is then about empowering people to buy, closing is dead, it’s all about empowering!

10. If your boss asks – “What extra value will this service bring?” How will you prepare for that from a business justification stand-point?

If a boss asks about “what the value will this bring” we will show the current return on investment (ROI) our clients are getting. We totally understand this question as most consultants work similarly on ERP or CRM projects - let’s take what we have and make it more efficient. This is great and you can, of course, run projects like this, as it assumes you spend to save and what you save is profit. Our social selling and methodology are different, as while we will get you efficiency savings, this is all about creating incremental (new) revenues for our clients.

Thanks Tim for taking time to answer my questionnaire, I am humbled and extremely grateful for your engagement.

Tim Hughes.jpg

Do You Treat People With Respect? Q+A with Martin Johnston from Crafted Society


John H. Johnson said: "There is no defence against an excellence that meets a pressing public need." This week's Q&A is with Martin Johnston whose new brand, Crafted Society has been built around the ethos of "keeping the crafts alive". Crafted Society is a luxury brand for the new generation of socially conscious consumers, exquisitely fusing craftsmanship with positive social impact, and they also donate 5% of their net revenue to Italian non-profit organisations.

1. What are the industry trends affecting your business?

There are several for example sustainability, transparency modus operandi, a shift towards luxury online selling, the Italian economy, Brexit, etc. We are an online-only brand, selling B2C to increase brand awareness that maintains fair prices by cutting out the retailer mark-up.

2. What are you doing now that you feel good about? Is there anything that you could be doing better?

Our business model was ambitious when we set it up, and we had no clue if it would work. But we are continually pleasantly surprised when not only new customers join our mission, but also when customers return a second, third and fourth time. This proves that our quality goods are value-for-money especially when comparing to the high street retail, and this is a real competitive advantage for us.

I honestly think "doing better" comes with time and organic growth! Every single penny we make has been reinvested into the business. Ideally, we would love to have multiple ambassadors/sales reps in every country putting on parties, going to football clubs, going to customers every single day to bring the physical/personal aspect of our brand which is more difficult to achieve when you are a digital-based business.

3. When you start a new project, how do you set yourself up to win?

Our first thought always is to find the best in class. This usually comes with a hefty price tag, but you cannot put a price on quality which is a major component of our DNA. Putting ourselves in the consumer's shoes so to speak, means that we must understand that there is a huge amount of choice, and our products need to be better in all aspects. We have 30 years of industry experience which helps a lot too.

4. We know that feelings and emotions drive human behaviour, but why do you think that storytelling is a powerful tool to build culture?

It's critical - but what is more critical than the art of storytelling, is telling TRUE stories and not fabrications as at one point it will catch up with you. In our luxury industry, the "Made in Italy" label has seen much better days. To the average person on the street, it still resonates and conjures up thoughts of best quality, artisans, exclusivity, craftsmanship, high price, sustainable, luxury……. but many of the leading luxury brands have been manipulating the consumer as to what exactly is MADE in Italy. For many luxury houses, "Made in Italy" today means only to attach a label, or add a component as the majority of the manufacturing process is done in a country with far cheaper labour costs. This is what is putting the pressure on the master artisans to survive, as those craftsmen and women who own the knowledge, skills and traditions are in real danger of becoming extinct. This is because the big luxury brands are publicly traded, meaning that every single quarter they are expected to grow top line sales and bottom line profits. Our brand purpose started because of the non-transparency of the leading brands in the industry, as they are the root cause of the threat to craftsmanship. We tell honest, compelling stories of REAL people who really exist and this endears us to our fans and customers, and even more so once they have one of our products in their hands.


5. Based on a prism of what's working and what's not from the customers' perspective, how can your organisation realign to meet your customers' needs?

Not applicable right now!

6. How does trust relate to the customer experience and customer relationships? And what about its impact on employee engagement?

Its massive - brands who don't see that will not last - but what constituted trust 10-20 years ago is not what will win the consumer over today. AS we have morphed into an age of EVERYONE's media (as opposed to social media) people like animals are quick to sniff out bullsh*t. Back in the days, you could create an advert which would portray your brand as everything you as the principal wanted to project. Today, as technology has provided access to more and more facts, advertising or monologue brand messaging is almost dead - the consumer is looking for brands to have a dialogue with. It's a complete paradigm shift. But the more trust in terms of giving and receiving as a brand is embraced, the more customer loyalty will prevail. The same goes for employees - the more an employee feels a real cog in the big wheel the more they will commit to driving - the skill is in enabling this.

7. How do you use customer experience in the battle to win the hearts and minds of your customers?

We take our customers on a virtual journey to the rolling hills of Marche in central Italy to meet our master craftsmen and women, choose the finest materials Italy has to offer, cut them, sew them, finish them. We have customers whom we custom make size 49 shoes with - you can only do that working with a small family run businesses who wish to help and support your customer's focused mission. We support the artisans by platforming them - so it's a true partnership and win-win. This is what we are driven to convey to the customers - this experience so that customers can truly appreciate WHY we have support not just craftsmanship but THE PEOPLE behind the crafts.

8. In your experience, are external consultants better suited to engage employees in dialogue when discussing risks and benefits of customer experience management?

Honestly - yes. They have no emotional ties to the employees, products or strategies and can look at things with a fresh perspective.

9. Engagement is a challenge, but in your opinion, when you bring the suggestion to hire an external consultant to your bosses, what questions do you expect them to ask?

Nothing! My wife and business partner, Lise Bonnet and I are the decision makers.

10. If your boss asks – "What extra value will this service bring?" How will you prepare for that from a business justification stand-point?

We would always approach it from a growth perspective - growth in sales, growth in loyalty, growth in repeat business, growth in opinions on new categories, etc. Brands which will survive will have to accept that the common norm moving forward will be to engage with their customers and continue developing trustworthy experiences to maintain engagement.

Many thanks, Martin and good luck on the journey.
For a full overview of the brand's offering, please visit:




Would You Like to Go for a Walk?

Photo credit: Lucien Pagés

Photo credit: Lucien Pagés

People often say that "strength comes from within" but that doesn't mean that we don't need help from outside. One of the biggest threats to innovation is internal politics and company culture which doesn't accept failure. As Richard Branson said, “You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing and falling over.”

It's not about 'internet of things', it's about the Internet of customers - behind everything is a customer. Every great customer experience should start with the main principle that you need your customer more than your customer needs you! And failure to understand this principle will have dire consequences for your organisation. According to Ricardo Saltz Gulko, we should not lead with strategy when thinking about customer experience, we should always lead from a place of quality in all details, and then the strategy. "Quality should be the main pillar of any product or service, and definitely the main pillar of customer experience. If you take away the quality, the experience is going to suffer. This applies to all sectors, for example, if you remove the quality of a car, the experience of driving it and transporting your family in it will suffer, and subsequently, people will not want to buy it."

Using your resources more effectively than your competitors is a key to business success, to be the winner, you have to generate the highest pleasure for your customers. Make time and not excuses! Would you like to go for a walk?

Getty Image

Getty Image

Money Talks, Bullsh*t Walks! Q+A with Mie Bilberg

Art by Emily May Rose

Art by Emily May Rose

Continuing the Q+A sessions with industry professionals that may inspire organisations to think and act accordingly. This week we have the former Customer Experience and Marketing Director at Metroxpress, Mie Bilberg.

1. What are the industry trends affecting your business?

Well, the marketing industry has been disrupted, just to use a well-known expression. The challenge is that somewhere in between technology and human behaviour we may have lost the clear picture of what is the role of marketing. Everything from creativity, data, insights, technology, media and communication is now under the marketing umbrella. Marketing is expected to be here, there and everywhere and the big problem is that one day, we risk eliminating the marketing role. Right now, the Chief Marketing Officer has the shortest lifespan in the management team, probably because the role is no longer clear.

2. What are you doing now that you feel good about? Is there anything that you could be doing better?

There is always something I can do better, I believe in lifelong learning. I am on a mission, spreading the words of why we should listen and involve our customers. I am learning every day myself, but I believe in customer experience as a growth strategy, because I have seen it work and it makes sense in 2017 with the technology, we are lucky enough to have.

3. When you start a new project, how do you set yourself up to win?

With a positive approach and evaluating what works and starting from there. We tend to focus on the negative, but I think, there is a lot more to win if we focus on the positive! To win - it takes a clear goal, a specific plan and a team who are willing to learn and navigate from the learnings.

4. We know that feelings and emotions drive human behaviour, but why do you think that storytelling is a powerful tool to build culture?

This is because we remember feelings better than words, stories make us feel and relate. Therefore, if you want to tell me, why I should change behaviour or run after a new ambitious goal, you should start telling a story, to make me understand why this makes sense and which scenarios we are operating within.

5. Based on a prism of what's working and what's not from the customers perspective, how can your organisation realign to meet your customers' needs?

Well, in a way it´s easy as the customer will not buy if it doesnt make sense to them. The street fashion brand Zara came up with a smart and agile way of testing every time a new collection comes out. They start with a small quantity of each item and then they observe the response of their customers. If it sells well, they push the button and produce more, if not, they take it off the market. In my opinion, this is a smart way to lower the inventory and increase the sales.


6. How does trust relate to the customer experience and customer relationships? And what about its impact on employee engagement?

Branding is about trust! We pick a brand instead of a no-name because we trust a friend more than a stranger. When the market of private labels is huge is it because we trust the store behind the private label. When speaking about employee engagement, trust is quite basic, e.g. would you feel excited and engaged if you didn´t feel trusted? You should bear in mind that trust is something which must be earned, as an employee, external consultant or brand, you are chosen because people believe they can trust you, but you still must prove that they were right in trusting you.

7. How do you use customer experience in the battle to win the hearts and minds of your customers?

Customer Experience is basically about making sense for the customers. If your new app or your new shampoo add value to the customers, then you have nailed it. If not, well then you will just be another one in the line. The best products and strategies in 2017 are developed with the customer in the centre of the decision-making process, and how we do that is the biggest difference from the past. It's not new knowledge that creating great products which your customers consider useful is a good idea. But it is new, that you cannot just speed up your sales or marketing campaigns, and then eventually you will hit the targets. We have way too many options today and we don´t want to waste time on things that dont make sense or add value to our lives. I have worked with customer experience for more than 3 years now and the reason why it´s so hard for the most people is, that it goes against our human nature, as we are born to think of ourselves first. Being customer-centric means that you must think with the mind of your customers, and this means you should spend time with them, listening and learning.


8. In your experience, are external consultants better suited to engage employees in dialogue when discussing risks and benefits of customer experience management?

No, but an external consultant brings an extra hand, new eyes and ears and they are not limited by historical internal issues. It can be a very good idea, to have external consultants to bring new perspectives, and they also have experience from a range of other businesses and tasks which brings needed knowledge to the table. I have used external consultants to help me when we were changing from being a brand-centric company to a customer-centric business when I was working in the media business. It was a great help, as they added value, knowledge and they revealed our blind spots. So, it was not only me who had to tell people that we needed to change because no one likes that, but it is sometimes needed. Sometimes, an external consultant can bring an authority to the table which in a way an internal leader cannot.

An external consultant is a trusted advisor, therefore, we selected our consultants very carefully, because a bad consultant is a waste of time, money and leaves you behind looking like a fool!

9. Engagement is a challenge, but in your opinion, when you bring the suggestion to hire an external consultant to your bosses, what questions do you expect them to ask?

I think the most important is the experience and speciality which an external consultant brings to the company. What value are they able to create and what is the framework of working, is it valid and realistic? And, also which resources would be required from the company's side? I personally don´t care if they work day and night, all I care about is if they take us to a better place and make it easier for us to deliver results.

10. If your boss asks "What extra value will this service bring?" How will you prepare for that from a business justification stand-point?

It depends :)

Mie Bilbergs blog:

Q+A with Tina Øvad from Bang & Olufsen


The reluctance to take risks goes against the inherent nature of entrepreneurism. Over the next few weeks I will engage some industry professionals with a short questionnaire (bold), and this week we have Tina Øvad, Senior UX & Usability Lead at Bang & Olufsen.

1. What are the industry trends affecting your business?

Since I am primarily working on a strategic level, the main trends currently are agile UX (User Experience) and scaling agile to suit larger organisations. I can see there is a lot of interest for these fields from many different companies, from a variety of industries.
From a design perspective, we have had positive feedback for our award-winning BeoSound Shape, a bespoke speaker system that can be position on your wall in the same way as a piece of art. And it also helps to improve the room's acoustics, so living with sound is very interesting, as well as voice activated systems.

For more information about BeoSound Shape: -

BeoSound Shape speakers

BeoSound Shape speakers

2. What are you doing now that you feel good about? Is there anything that you could be doing better?

Right now, I am so lucky that I really feel good about the things we are doing and the direction we are heading. I truly believe in the value of working agile with UX and bringing the users closer to our developers. And I am so fortunate that my colleagues at Bang & Olufsen believe in the same.

3. When you start a new project, how do you set yourself up to win?

I never win alone, we are a team! With that said, I think it is so important that we allow ourselves to fail from a UX perspective, as for us we never really fail, we either win or we learn! We are working with "Informed Design" and listening to our customers even though we are not implementing everything we get feedback on.

4. We know that feelings and emotions drive human behaviour, but why do you think that storytelling is a powerful tool to build culture?

By being a great storyteller you set the scene and create a story which hopefully the customer would like to be a part of and share. The fundaments of Bang & Olufsen are engrained within the Danish culture, both due to our role in the Danish history and, also because we originate from the mould of West Jutland. Furthermore, many people are raised with Bang & Olufsen products, and they are recognised for great design and high quality. Continuing this story, and in fact, spreading this story to our global partners is extremely important for us.

5. Based on a prism of what's working and what's not from the customers' perspective, how can your organisation realign to meet your customers' needs?

In the software department, we are working on bringing the users closer to development. This approach is based on Agile UX, UX KPIs, autonomous teams, a UX toolbox, easy access to test participants, use of beta- & VIP testers, and utilise data and information we already have, e.g. Analytics, NPS and CSI.
I am fortunate to be working at Bang & Olufsen where I have been given the freedom to bring the customers closer to us, and these new values are spreading throughout the company.

B&O Play headphones

B&O Play headphones

6. How does trust relate to the customer experience and customer relationships? And what about its impact on employee engagement?

Trust is one of the agile core values and a key factor both when it comes to us working together, but also in relation to making a great user experience. As without a mutual trust between our customers and ourselves, we could not make a great user experience.

7. How do you use customer experience in the battle to win the hearts and minds of your customers?

I work with user experience, so from my point of view, it is important to design and develop products that are easy to use. With both customer experience and user experience being the foundation of our cultural heritage. I believe that with good storytelling and excellent products, these products will become products our consumers will be proud to own.

8. In your experience, are external consultants better suited to engage employees in dialogue when discussing risks and benefits of customer experience management?

Yes, sometimes senior management tend to listen more to external consultants than to in-house specialists. In these cases, I think it is important to acknowledge whether the in-house specialists have experience in the given project or whether an external consultant would be better suited for the task. Usually, the in-house specialists are the ones who have the knowledge about the feasibility, market, etc., and therefore, they should have the final say, as ultimately, they will be the ones who implement the ideas.


9. Engagement is a challenge, but in your opinion, when you bring the suggestion to hire an external consultant to your bosses, what questions do you expect them to ask?

I would expect my boss to ask for a full description of the specific task the external consultant would be hired for and why we are not able to cover these tasks ourselves. "Why not in-house?"

10. If your boss asks – "What extra value will this service bring?" How will you prepare for that from a business justification stand-point?

I would never hire an external consultant without having a clear idea of how that person would bring value to the company. The preparation would be completely dependent on the specific task.

Many thanks to Tina for her time and engagement.
Tina Øvad -



What is the Future for Bricks & Mortar Retailers?


New technologies are also vastly transforming consumers' shopping experience. Today's smart consumers are a lot savvier than earlier generations, after being exposed to a multitude of options offline and online and are empowered to make informed decisions via "word-of-mouth" recommendations and online reviews. Traditional models of cultivating customer relationship via physical stores are being disrupted. Retailers must understand that the line between e-commerce and in-store shopping is non-existent in the consumer's mind. Therefore, merging the e-commerce experience with the in-store shopping and vice versa will allow the brand to get to know their customers' behaviour better, whilst also delivering an elevated experience that is not currently offered by your competitors.

Too many consumers still want to touch, feel and try-on before they buy, so in my opinion bricks and mortar stores are not going to disappear. And, besides, there is nothing like shopping and building friendships, passing time and simply indulging in the atmosphere of "what if, even if I can't!" Today's consumers are seeking personalised, data-driven services, as entertaining, memorable buying experiences can never be replaced with online shopping.

Going forward stores will need to build a "community", take more risks, look at their relationships with employees and stakeholders, reinvent training and embrace unexpected partnerships. With the establishment of e-tailing, physical retailers now must realise that they are competing with leisure experience (e.g. trips to the cinema or live sporting events), for a share of the consumer's valuable time. Eventually, stores will change from being a distribution channel to a media channel.


Retailers must aim to create an environment in which customers who come into their stores leave feeling a greater connection to the brand, and these connections will be built via the creation of experiences. Retailers should use technology, education and entertainment as the tools that serve as the foundation for the brand. This will enable them to connect with their customers and create lasting impressions that will keep them coming back. The hard work of managing this implementation along with your staff may require some external help.

Omni-channel marketing refers to a significant shift where marketers now need to create a consistent, unified, seamless approach across all communication channels, e.g. direct mail, advertising, events, web, mobile, call centre services, etc. These channels need to be fused into a single approach and each piece of the consumer's experience should be consistent and complementary.

Today, too many sales staff see e-commerce as competition rather than an ally. Perhaps it should be a looked upon as a halfway house, a mix between digital and physical models. Both Amazon and Warby Parker (eyewear) started as online ventures, but now have e-commerce and physical stores where consumers can try merchandise out before going on to place their order online rather than carrying their purchases home with them.


Privacy issues are a major concern now, but it is not slowing down the Personal Information Economy (PIE). If a customer thinks that it will benefit them financially or in service terms, they will surrender personal data to credit card companies, Google and their favoured brands and stores. Plus, more and more retailers are offering digital e-receipts – "Can we e-mail you your receipt?" – allowing them to track trending products, buying history and even customer moments.

A future scenario will see a consumers' who are connected to their retailer account when entering a store, beacon technology will be able to provide the sales assistant with their purchasing history, preferred brands and the option to send personalised discounts and promotions to the customer's smartphone. Such technology will also track where shoppers move quickly and where they linger, enabling retailers to make informed decisions about store layout. Staging experiences, embracing omnichannel and mining data are the new credos for physical retailers who want to lead the game.

Do Loyal Customers Still Exist?

Everything we know about shopping – how, where, when and even why we shop is changing radically. I believe that there is still something physical about retail, as we still want to be social and have interactions with other human-beings in a fun and entertaining way. For today's retailer connecting with consumers' through every channel is essential if they are to remain relevant in an ever-changing world. According to Frost & Sullivan, OMNI-CHANNEL is defined as a "seamless and effortless, high-quality customer experiences that occur within and between contact channels". For example, physical stores, smart mobiles, websites, gaming consoles, computers, kiosks, social media (SoMe), online catalogues, etc.


In the past, the consumer saw an advert and if the advertising agency made a good job of telling the brand story, the advert would create product interest and drive consumers along a very linear path which led to purchasing. And if it was a good advert, the consumer would repeat the process and continue to buy in the traditional way - "get me excited about your product, which is available at these fine retailers!" Nowadays you hear about a brand from everywhere (see image) and if you are curious, this will usually lead you to the brands SoMe, app, website or store. Maybe you buy from the brand or one of their affiliate sellers, maybe not, media is no longer the vehicle to push me to a store, it is rapidly becoming the store!

The internet has collaborated our expectations of every purchasing decision that we make. How many of you would book a hotel room without looking at the number of stars or reading reviews? In my opinion, experiences will ultimately be the only differentiator that one retailer has over another in the long term. The days of "stack it high and watch it fly" mentality is over! There are some big questions that brands are going to have to ask, e.g. "What can we use in the way of new technology to gauge the level of engagement the consumer has whilst in-store? How can we create the perfect blend between content and commerce by channel? How to collect, leverage and apply omnichannel data across the various touch points?" It's not just about data, as I'm sure most brands have loads of data – it's about what you do with the data and how you use it.

The aim will always to engage the consumer, but also to drive your business with increased revenue. The big challenge is to find the balance to give your consumer content when they want it, where they want it and how they want it.


There Are Some Similarities Between Planting a Garden and Growing a Business

CREDIT: Getty Images

CREDIT: Getty Images

A gardener will plant seeds of different varieties to harvest what he has planted in the future. He takes great care in nurturing his garden in order that his harvest will be as great as possible. Growing a business is very similar as in nature because you only get out of it what you put into it. A good business plan requires a good business structure which will allow your business to support other businesses, and be charitable with your resources to help others.

Finding the best people is like finding the best soil and being generous with your time. Knowledge, training and leadership are just like using the best water and fertilizer you can find for your garden. Picking out the bad parts and replacing them with the things that work is like making sure you pull the weeds when they pop up. Pulling the first percentage of your crop and saving it for next spring’s planting ensures you have seed for the next year’s harvest. So, putting a little into every employee’s pocket in bonuses and paying them well for working hard ensures that they will be back next year to help make your business grow even more.

Taking your prize-winning growth to market and showing what you can do with your crops gives notice to others that you just might be the person they want to get their produce from. Taking your people along with your brand or product to market shows you have value.  This not only shows that you value the product your team produces, but also it shows you have value in your team, and that without them you have nothing.

Planting a garden and growing a business are very much alike and it is how you show off the people that support your business as this makes all the differences to the outside world. The business owner who lifts-up and praises the people who make his company work is the business owner that people will want to do business with.

How Do You Compete and Win in a Highly Competitive Market


This was the question posed to me at a recent dinner party by a Sales Director after we had gone through the formalities of "What do you do for a living?" He explained that his company was 12 years old and they sold high quality "timeless design classics". The company do not work with agents or distributors, but they have a telephone sales team, and I answered him with an analogy. If you go to your doctor and said that you were sick, the doctor would proceed to ask you a whole host of questions, check the symptoms you had described before prescribing any medication. He smiled and asked whether he could book me for a sales training workshop, with the aim to motivate and inspire his team to increase their sales performance.

We agreed that I should come and spend a day observing his sales team, as you always get great ideas from people who are doing the job. I have found that involving the staff when researching for sales training workshops ensures the team feel a sense of ownership, and then everyone is rolling in the same direction.


Here are a couple of observations from the exploration day in their sales office after listening to the types of calls they were making: "The salespersons have so much to speak about, that they tend to over explain and not focus on what the customer is really looking for." Too much of their sales pitch is in the "so what" category. "Price is a phantom objection", it just means that you have not demonstrated value for the customer, etc.. I also asked the sales team individually amongst other things, whether they were happy at work? What were they doing that they felt good about and what they felt that they needed help with?

The subsequent one-day workshop was built on 3 pillars of excellence: FOCUS - ACTION - REFLECTION
Role-playing to help the sales team understand how to divide their calls between categories (courtesy, qualifying, arranging and pure sales calls). How to interpret customer reactions? How to identify and react to receptive states? How to introduce the company in under 45 seconds? How to build questions around planning, production, pricing, placing, enthusiasm, respect and references. And of course, the classic, how to overcome objections?

I am only qualified to deliver measurable results as passion, guts and hard work are not enough to make a real impact on results! You can always adapt to challenging circumstances by developing your sales team and their skills. I am an optimiser!

Retail Best Practices from Apple

Angela Ahrendts left her CEO position at Burberry in 2014 to join Apple as Senior VP of Retail. According to the Apple Leadership page, “Angela has integrated Apple’s physical and digital retail businesses to create a seamless customer experience for over a billion visitors per year with the goal of educating, inspiring, entertaining and enriching communities. Apple employees set the standard for customer service in stores and online, delivering support from highly trained Geniuses and expert advice from Creative Pros to help customers get the most out of their Apple products.”

The people who know me well know that I am always quoting Apple, as they were not the first technology company to make personal computers, portable digital music players, online music/media stores, smartphones, touchscreens, tablets or smart watches. Sure, these products were progressive, cutting edge and some may say revolutionary, but Apple’s success comes from its unique ability to create brand heat, in other words mass consumer mania upon the rollout of these products. 

Apple Store, 940 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10021, USA

Apple Store, 940 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10021, USA

Based on my observations from the Apple Stores in London and New York, there are many cross-industry and cross-company best practices take-outs that could be applied to your company’s retail experience. For example, do you train your sales staff in how to meet and greet customers when they enter your stores? At Apple, the staff are trained to be personable (eye contact), they are excellent at matching the pace of the customer and respond immediately to expressed or perceived customer preferences. The beginning and end are the most crucial moments in the customer journey because they are what remain in the customers’ memory.

Living in Copenhagen has allowed me to appreciate space and embrace minimalism. When looking at the layout of the Apple Stores, many have commented on the so called “wasted” rack space, but these stores have been designed with customer in mind, and focus on the flow in a crowded store. Apple use technology to streamline customer experience, invoices are not printed but are sent to your e-mail address to streamline the purchasing process for the customers benefit and not for the brand. And in turn, data collection feels so natural that the customer is happy to pass on their personal information.

For a deeper dive, you should read Doug Stephens’ wonderful article “Why Retail Is Getting Experience Wrong”