“I’m Sorry” & Customer Service

While reading a new book that I got turned on to called “#GIRLBOSS” by Sophia Amoruso, one of the things she talks about is how important it is to apologize to your customers when things go wrong. Here’s what I believe when it comes to saying, “I’m sorry,” in regards to customer service.

I believe that you should always take responsibility when things don’t go right in your company. Many times it’s going to be your fault, and many times it’s not. Regardless, they’re still your customers.

We’ve all heard that old adage saying, “The customer is always right.” Let’s just be honest, that’s not true. The customer is not always right. But regardless, they are still your customers.

And here’s what I’ve noticed as a customer and a consumer of many types of things: I don’t hear “I am so sorry” or “Let us fix that for you”. In fact, most times, the person on the other line or the person standing behind the counter is trying to inform me why it was my fault, why this didn’t go right, or trying to give me some logical explanation as to why this happened.

Here’s what I know about apologizing. The more you try to defend yourself or the more you try to reason, the more defensive the other person’s going to get. Although I don’t necessarily believe that you should be sorry for everything that your customers are unhappy about, here’s what I know:

The quicker that you respond with a genuine empathetic, “I’m sorry this happened to you,” you’re not saying, “I am sorry we did this. I’m sorry that we failed you.” You are saying, “I am sorry that you feel this way. I am sorry that this was your experience.”

If you can show genuine empathy quickly, all of the negative attitudes tend to diminish. It’s when we don’t apologize. It’s when we don’t take responsibility. It’s when we don’t make an effort to show our customers that we appreciate them as customers that things turn ugly.

And let’s just be honest. In the world of social media and online feedback, no one can afford a constant barrage of unhappy customers because if you keep your customers unhappy long enough, you’re just not going to have any customers.



The Power of Imbalance

Balance ball

In business and in life we always hear about balance. How do you balance yourself?

There isn’t really true balance in life. However, I’ve found it extremely satisfying to balance parts of your life that truly fulfill you.

But that’s hard, isn’t it? Work life balance is almost impossible.

When we are at work, we don’t just forget about things going on at home. And when we are at home, we don’t just forget about things going on at work. Our lives are intertwined.

A quote that has always stuck with me is one from Oprah Winfrey: “If you look at what you have in life, you’ll always have more. If you look at what you don’t have in life, you’ll never have enough.”

Focusing on where we feel imbalanced actually has a negative impact on that area even more.

So how do we imbalance our lives? Do the things that make us happy, fulfilled, and we enjoy.

And what does that look like? Will it really leave you feeling equal in all areas of your life?

This is key: Strive for fullness in the things that fulfill you.

Spend time intentionally identifying what makes you feel fulfilled in life. What do you do every day that you wish you could spend more time on?

What activities in your business do you look at the clock and realize two or three hours have gone by without you even noticing? Maybe it’s prospecting or time with your clients. What activities bring you true joy in your business and in life?

Find the areas in your life that fulfill you and find a way to imbalance your life to spend more time doing those things.

Naturally you will begin to feel balanced even though there is imbalance. Make an effort to give yourself time to enjoy life.


8 Decisions of an Amazing Marriage

Rory and AJ

This week is a guest podcast that features me and my husband, Rory Vaden, discussing 8 key decisions we made that have positively impacted our marriage:

A marriage touches every area of your life and it directly influences your ability to be successful. In this week’s podcast instead of having an expert guest, I share some of the mistakes that I’ve made, some of the things I’ve learned and 8 specific decisions that Amanda and I have made to create an absolutely amazing marriage so far. We talk about 4 decisions that we’ve made post-marriage and in the later half of the show I share 4 decisions that we made prior to being married that really set the foundation. Don’t be alarmed as this is one episode that gets personal! Enjoy!

To listen to the full podcast click here.

How to Use LinkedIn to Generate Leads


LinkedIn can be used as a huge resource to find leads and build professional relationships.

Today we’re going to talk about how to use the Advanced Search function to help you “sweep” LinkedIn to find the necessary leads and referrals you want to be connected to in your local markets.

On the LinkedIn home page, right at the top, there’s a Search bar. Next to the search bar there’s a hyperlink and that hyperlink says Advanced Search.

If you click on that hyperlink, it will take you to a LinkedIn profile page that allows you to select different criteria.

In other words this is what I like to say, “It’s my ideal candidate page”. What are the ideal criteria for my perfect prospect candidate on LinkedIn?

You could type in different titles such as owner, CEO, president, VPF sales, sales manager, branch manager, depends on who you are trying to find.

Then go in and select a zip code. What is the geographical territory that you are working within? 25 miles, 30 miles, 50 miles, 100 miles, you choose.

LinkedIn gives you several different industries to use to narrow your search. Whether it be automotive, marketing, healthcare, technology, or software, you can go through and select as many as you want.

I suggest keeping this a niche search. Keep it specific, because you don’t want 10,000 leads to pop up. The ideal niche search populates somewhere between 30 and 50 contacts. It’s a good place to start.

Then lastly, on the Advanced Search page, click on the little button that says “Second Connections.” Unclick First Connections, Third Connections or Group Connections.

Only have Second Connections clicked. Why? Because those are your potential referrals, those are the people you want to talk to, these are the people who know someone that you know on LinkedIn.

It might take you one to three minutes to decide all of the criteria, not very long.

Once you finally click Search, LinkedIn uses your criteria to formulate a list of people in your area, the specific industry you chose, and that are only second connections to you.

You now have leads that meet your very specific criteria. Then you can click on each one of these individuals and see whom you both have in common, i.e. that’s your referral source.

Now you know exactly who to call to get a direct referral, or if you call the prospect themselves, now you know who to mention. Mentioning someone you both know will get your foot in the door.

This is what we call at Southwestern Consulting, the Simple Sweep.

We are just simply sweeping all of LinkedIn based on this very certain set of criteria that we get to customize, that we get to decide, and then LinkedIn takes that and searches the entire LinkedIn database, collects them all together and populates it for you right there.

Yes, that’s amazing.

And in fact, if that is not exciting for you, sales may not be for you. That’s LinkedIn generating leads and referrals for you, and now all you have to do is decide who to call first, your shared connection or the prospect.

What To Say To Get Past the Gatekeeper

Cold Calling Phone

You did it. You made the cold call, and someone answered. The gatekeeper.

Now this person holds the key to the gate. That gate opens the opportunity to talk to the decision maker.

But what do you say to the gatekeeper, the receptionist, the executive assistant, to get through the door?

Gatekeepers have a very specific job; it’s to screen us.

It’s almost like we’re on the battleground, and we’re on one side and they’re on the other. We’re trying to get through, and they’re trying to keep us from getting through. First, we need to learn how to dance instead of how to fight.

How you dance with gatekeepers has a lot to do with what you say and what you don’t say. The information you leave out is just as important as the information you share.

What you should not say:

“Uh, hi. Yes, I was calling for Mr. Smith. This is Amanda from Southwestern Consulting.”

You don’t want to say that. Why? Because nobody calls him Mr. Smith, it’s too formal. And as soon as I say Southwestern Consulting, she knows it’s a sales call. So we don’t want to say things like that.

What you should say:

It’s a little bit more mysterious. You want to say, “Hi, is Tim in?”

Now, she may come back, or he may come back and say, “Well, yes. May I tell him what company you are with?”

“Oh, I’m just so sorry. I was actually told that he could answer a couple of questions I have. He’s the sales manager over there, is that right?”

“It is.”

“Okay, great. Is he in?”

Now, you see, it’s not that I’m completely evading the question. Because I didn’t tell her what company I’m with, but I did give her a little more information about why I’m calling.

Tim is someone who can answer a question that I have. Now, the question that I have has to do with something that I’m selling, but only Tim needs to know that, not the gatekeeper.

How do we answer their questions without seeming rude, and at the same time not giving away too much information?

Now, the next question they may ask is something like,

“Well, are they expecting your call?”

And what is your response to that? “Actually I’m not sure. I was just trying to catch him here today. Is this the best day to reach him? Or does he have a cell phone I could try and reach him on?”

Again, we’re evading it just enough that we can get a little bit more information.

Now, another question these gatekeepers may ask is, “Are they informed of who you are? Do they know you?”

I suggest replying with, “I’m not completely sure. In fact, let me tell you want I’m doing here. I’m actually trying to get in touch with several different VP of sales here in the national area. I work with a company that is trying to put on this blank, blank and blank.”

It doesn’t have to be in that exact format, but you just want to say, “Well actually, I’m not sure. Let me tell you what I’m doing. I’ve been talking to all the VP of sales here in the national area. That’s how I heard about Tim.”

You give them a little bit of information, but you don’t want to tell them you are calling from xyz company or what it’s regarding.

You don’t want to give up too information about who you are.

It’s all about what you do say, and what you don’t say when it comes to working with gatekeepers.

Third Party Selling

its about selling

Third-party selling is a big key to successful selling.

It gives you the opportunity to have your clients sell you, for you.

Your customers and prospects, they know you’re biased to your product/service because you’re the one selling the product.

The power of third-party selling is allowing your clients, and the other people you’ve worked for presently or in the past, sell your products, your services for you.

How do we use third-party selling when we’re in our sales conversations? Prospecting on the phone, answering objections, getting referrals, doing the presentation.

What is third-party selling and how do we use it? Now the real power in third-party selling is having what we call signature stories. A signature story is your go-to story that covers an objection or proves a point that you are using all the time.

One of the most common objections you’re going to get is budget. You need to have a signature story from one of your clients where you helped them overcome that budget objection. And then you tell that story. Here’s how it may sound:

“Mr. Prospect, I can totally understand where you’re coming from. Trust me, a lot of our customers said that budget was a concern when we first brought this up. But if you don’t mind me telling you just a very quick story of one of my most recent clients, Nancy, from ABC Insurance.

She actually said the very same thing. When we first met, like we are today, she said there’s no way we have something like this in our budget. It’s never going to work. But what ended up happening is she realized they had a big amount of marketing budget that they hadn’t used in the last six months.

They had stopped a lot of their pay-per-click advertising. They stopped doing billboards. They had that money on reserve. So we ended up taking that marketing budget and we put it towards putting together a sales training event for their team. Because she said, ‘Well, honestly, if I can get my team producing more, that’s better than marketing.’”

It’s not you saying, “Hey I understand how you feel. Let me tell you what I suggest.” It’s saying, “I understand how you feel. Most people feel that way. In fact, let me tell you a story, share with you some details of something our other clients have done that helped them overcome this.”

The power of third-party selling, third-party testimonials gives you the chance to highlight the successes of your clients to help you sell your prospects.

Here’s a homework assignment. You need to find three signature stories that rather prove a point that you’re trying to make in your presentation, that help you overcome objections, or just help you highlight the benefits of your company.

Get to work. Call your clients. Remember who you’ve been selling to and get those signature stories.

The “Boomerang” Sales Technique

Boomerang Sales Technique

One of the most common objections in sales is typically one that can easily throw off your sales presentation entirely. This is because when you hear it, you’re not prepared to answer it…. Yet.

You’ve all been through a process where you’re just getting started, you’re just asking questions about the potential client’s needs, you get to your presentation, and all of a sudden your prospect cuts you off and says, “Amanda, I’m totally with you, but it’s all going to depend on the price. So just go ahead and just tell me. I need to know what we’re working with here.”

Before you even get to find their need, before you present value, they’re cutting you off and immediately want to know the price.

Now that’s a tricky situation because you just can’t evade the question, right? There are people who are going to catch on to that. It’s not going to help you and it’s definitely going to not build trust with your prospective customers.

But how do you avoid answering that when you’re not prepared to tell them yet? That’s important to remember because upfront you are not prepared to tell them that.

Because the moment you share the price, poof! Your entire sale just went up in flames because everything they hear after that, it’s all about the money. It’s all about the price.

You can’t tell them the price until you’ve found a problem. The problem has to be bigger than the price, which is why you can’t tell people how much it is upfront.

How do you get around it? How do you not completely evade the question, build trust, and eventually get back to it with your customer?

This is what we call the “boomerang” technique. It’s one of my favorite questions to ask and I love asking it because it’s a game. I use this as a game with myself in all conversations.

The boomerang is just defined as, “answering any question that you’re not prepared to answer with a question.” If you think about it, any question in the world that you get, can be answered with another question.

For this specific objection “How much is it,” here is what you want to say, “Hey, I completely understand this is something you want to know and I promise we’re going to get to that. But at this point, I really don’t have enough information to even give you a quote or even guess how much it is. However, if you let me ask you a couple of quick questions, I can get straight to that. Is that fair?”

In nine out of 10 times they’re going to say, “Sure, that’s fair.”

So let them know it’s not going to take a long time, you are going to get to it, but you have to cover just a couple of quick things first and then you’ll get right to it. So again, it’s called the boomerang question.

Answer their questions, their objections with a question so you don’t get off-guard upfront. You want them to focus on their problems and how you can help solve them, not the price.