Share Your Way To More Sales

One of the first things we did when our dog, Abbie, arrived seven years ago was install an “invisible fence” – an electronic device that keeps your dog safely on the property.

It has two parts to it:

  1. A thin wire that rings the property and connects back to a transmitter in the garage.
  1. A radio collar that your dog wears and that emits a warning signal if she gets too close to the wire.

  Listen To This Post

It works like a charm.

Except when it doesn’t.

The problem is that every couple of years, and typically due to an animal or child chewing through it, the wire develops a break and the collar stops functioning.

The good news is that when the wire breaks, the transmitter in the garage lets you know about it by immediately and continually emitting a loud, high-pitched beep.

The bad news is that the transmitter doesn’t offer even a hint of where the break is.

As a practical matter, this is like having someone run into your fire station with news of a big blaze in town. And then, when you ask them where it is, they just shrug and tell you they have no idea.

And so every once in a while, and using a variety of tricks and tools that I’ve acquired over the years, I’m compelled to set off on a race against time to find the break and repair it, before Abbie realizes that the prison walls are not only invisible … they’re nonexistent.

This year, however, it was harder than usual. Not only could I not locate the break, the transmitter itself was behaving in ways that seemed to defy invisible fence logic (don’t ask).

Eventually (I confess I spent most of an entire weekend fiddling with it on my own first), I gave in and called the company that sold me the device, hoping they would help me troubleshoot the problem over the phone.

No dice. There were lots of opportunities to call and speak with live SALESPEOPLE, but not with live support.

For that they had a handy (I’m being sarcastic) web form for submitting questions.

Given their estimated “one business day” turnaround for this kind of thing, I did a rough calculation and concluded that using this method of communication, we could get to the bottom of the problem by approximately the end of time (give or take a millennium).

So I started Googling. That’s when I found these guys: DogFenceDIY. There was a friendly-looking guy pictured in the top right corner of the web page, along with a phone number and an invitation to call, 8-7 EST, 7 days a week.

So I called. And I talked to a guy (he was as friendly as his photo suggested) for 15 minutes as I stood in my garage trying the things he suggested to fix the transmitter.

He never asked me if I was a customer (I’m not).

In fact, the closest he came to trying to sell me anything was to let me know that if I couldn’t get the original manufacturer to fix it for free (his first suggestion), and I couldn’t find a used replacement transmitter on eBay (his second suggestion), that he carried other products that would work just fine.

Here’s the point. The two invisible fence companies I dealt with last weekend are both in the “dog containment” business. But that’s where the similarity ends.

The first is set up to maximize the efficiency with which it closes sales.

The second is set up to maximize the efficiency with which it builds a reputation as a likeable expert.

So which is a better business model?

Well, the former will earn you more money today, no doubt about it. (Why waste time with non-customers who need help with someone else’s product?)

But, as you’ve probably guessed, I’m in favor of the latter.

Because when it comes to building a profitable, long-term business whose sales increase and marketing costs decrease year over year, my money is always on the people whose business is organized around the principle of building relationships first and sales later.

And no, you won’t see results today. But I’m guessing you plan to be around for longer than that anyway. Woof Woof!!


9 thoughts on “Share Your Way To More Sales

  1. Allison Kneubuhl

    My favorite is Salesforce. As a consultant working with hotels all of the country, everytime I need to set up a Salesforce account for a hotel I have to deal with what ever rep is in that region. So therefore, no matter how hard I have tried, I am forced to start over every single time I want to buy something from them. They will sell things to you all day long but when it comes to customer servcie? They LOVE LOVE LOVE to send you to their helpful videos and help screen. You can submit a help request but thats 48-72 hours. I wish someone woudl come up with a SalesForce product that had proper technical support and flexibility to extablish a relationship with a good client. Argghhh!

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Sounds frustrating, Allison! And doesn’t bode well for Salesforce if they can’t get in front of this.

  2. Michael

    love the stuff you put out there. Coming up with a way to find the break in the line is a business in itself, and could save some dog bites in case the dog figures out that the wall has been taken down. Thanks for sharing Michael!

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Luckily, our dog is so docile that she’ll go weeks (months?) without even testing the boundary. And if she did ever get out, the most damage she might do is lick someone to death (one of the more pleasant ways to go, I might add).

  3. Lauren

    As a retailer I’ve been frustrated with the fact that losing out in the pricing wars even though we provide lots of detailed information and (IMHO) great customer service. People come to us for information but can’t the desire to save money has them going elsewhere. Some of them end up coming back when they can’t get good service from the other place, but it’s not frequent.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      I can understand – it’s harder to preserve the “likeable expert” advantage when the product can be uncoupled from the service, something that’s not possible with professional service providers, for example.

      Although the dog fence guys I mention are selling what’s essentially a commodity product and differentiating themselves with info and service. Maybe worth seeing what they’re doing and if it applies to you!

  4. Cyndi Sanders

    Michael, what’s your take on the insurgence of “fake relationship” tactics that seem to be growing rabidly all over. An example is when you enter the retail environment and someone who works there hears a bell or something then yells at you from a far corner unseen to you “thank you for coming in today we are really glad you are here!” It is doubly annoying when it is the one cashier with a long line of customers waiting to pay. Many times they are in the middle if a transaction and now have to ask me the customer who has just had several tens of decibel jump change ask me “okay, now where were we?”

  5. Michael Katz Post author

    Hi Cyndi! As you might imagine, I don’t like the kind of thing you describe. The idea of saying hello or thank you or may i help you is not to *say* it, it’s for the sentiment behind it. So while it’s fine and a good idea to train staff around this, when it just becomes one more scripted phrase that they are forced to utter, it helps no one!

  6. Allison Kneubuhl

    Exception to this rule I believe is when you walk into a smallish sushi restaurant and the sushi guys yell unintelligale Japanese to either you from across the room or to each other. Not sure if they’re saying “What a nice couple you are and we are genuinly pleased to have you dine with us this lovely evening” or “Dag gum it, just when I thought I was getting out of this hell-hole early tonight you two sorry sadsacks have to stumble in”. Either way they seem very pleased with themselves and carry on with their masterful culinary endeavers!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *