Blog Archives

Think Beyond Low-Hanging Fruit

When you consider where to focus your team’s time attention and resources, I encourage you to think beyond low hanging fruit. Use these questions to filter the opportunities with the most potential in your business …

Posted in Commitment Compass, Commitment-Driven Impact

Think Beyond Your 2019 Plan

As you grow your business, you must continually reach the next level that gets you one step closer to your long-term goals.

Posted in Commitment Compass, Commitment-Driven Impact

A Committed Team is the Magic Fuel of Your Company’s Success

In today’s world, you are in a contest for both customers and talent. Your business operates in an environment where customers essentially have limitless purchase choices and employees essentially have the benefits of a full employment economy. How do you

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Posted in Commitment Compass, Inspire a Committed Team

The Leader’s Role in Marketing: Creating Commitment

As a leader in your company, are you the person who pulls out a toolbox to fix the office copier or adjust a piece of equipment on your plant floor? When an order needs to be shipped to a customer,

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Posted in Commitment Compass, Commitment-Driven Impact, Inspire a Committed Team, Motivate Committed Customers

The Rules for Selling with a PowerPoint Deck

When I told one of my team members the title for this article, her answer was, “That’s a simple one for you to write. You’ll just say, ‘Don’t, don’t and don’t.’” Yes, it’s true, a PowerPoint deck is one of

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Posted in Commitment Compass, Ditch the Pitch

How to Help Your Team Deliver Compelling Customer Experiences

What is the single biggest driver of a compelling customer experience? Is it your product’s performance? Is it your customer service? Is it your social media presence? It’s none of the above. The single biggest driver of a compelling customer

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Posted in "We" Relationships, Commitment Compass, Inspire a Committed Team
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On Steve's Mind: a Newsletter
Latent ProfitIt’s Sunday afternoon, and my one-year-old granddaughter has fallen asleep in her stroller. I just stopped into Whole Foods to let her snooze, which she is doing as I’m writing. Here’s what else is going on around me while Adina naps: Whole Foods is busy.  The check-out lines are full, people are filling to-go containers with salads, soups and pre-made entrees, and the coffee bar has a line. Today isn’t an aberration; it seems every time I go into a Whole Foods Market I have to wait in line at the register to pay. Remember the pejorative nickname people once used to describe Whole Foods?  “Whole Paycheck.” Yes, Whole Foods’ prices are high, but my (admittedly) empirical observation is that it doesn’t seem to hurt them. A quick search for the company’s recent financial data supports this empirical observation. Since 2009, Whole Foods’ revenue and gross profit are up more than 50%, while operating income, net income and earnings per share have more than doubled. So even as we have spent more money in their stores, fueling impressive sales growth, we have enabled Whole Foods to make an even higher profit every time we visit their stores. Giving them our “whole paycheck” must not be worrying us. So what’s the lesson in this? You are more worried about your prices than you customers are. Nearly 30 years ago, I attended a conference by a guy who called himself “The Pricing Advisor.” One clear message I remember from The Pricing Advisor:“The most common pricing problem is not that your prices are too high, but that they are too low.” Customers base their purchase decisions on many factors, one of which is price. If the other factors under consideration are not clearly understood, compelling or differentiating, the customer focuses on price. If they are, the customer has other reasons to buy, and your prices can be higher. In my workshops, I frequently hear business leaders say, “My customers just care about price. I wish they would focus on something else.”  My answer: Give them something else to focus on. Clearly, Whole Foods has given plenty of people something to focus on besides price. And Whole Foods is not alone. Look at any retail mall in America, and notice that very few of the thriving stores base their customer promise on price. Even consider a company like Wal-Mart that actively promotes price; when you visit Wal-Mart, how frequently do you choose the lowest-priced item on the shelf? You deserve to charge higher prices to your customers, because you deliver them something of value. If you encounter price resistance, don’t reflexively lower your prices. Instead, look for ways to more effectively communicate a clear, compelling and differentiating story to your customers. Over the next week, pay attention to the purchase decisions you make, for your business and personal life. How often are you choosing the option with the lowest possible price?  Not much of the time?  Doesn’t your business deserve the same consideration from its customers?

You’re More Worried About Your Prices Than Your Customers Are

More than a century ago, Frederick Winslow Taylor, one of the leaders of the Progressive Era's "Efficiency Movement," said this to a congressional sub-committee:
"I can say, without the slightest hesitation, the science of handling pig-iron is so great that the man who is... physically able to handle pig-iron and is sufficiently phlegmatic and stupid to choose this for his occupation is rarely able to comprehend the science of handling pig-iron."
Taylor was a mechanical engineer who won fame for applying his craft to industrial efficiency, which depended largely on these "phlegmatic and stupid" workers complying with "enforced standardization," "enforced adoption," and "enforced cooperation."  Who does the enforcing? Management, of course. Latent ProfitTaylor died in 1915. Fast forward to this past Sunday when the New York Times ran an article called "Rethinking Work." The article starts out by quoting a Gallup poll that reports 9 out 10 workers were either "not engaged" or "actively disengaged" in their work. Why is this? The article's author, Barry Schwartz, posits that it may be due to the influence of Adam Smith, the early economist who lived 150 years before Taylor. Smith felt that people were driven only by self-interest, were basically lazy, and worked only because they had to and because they were being paid. Schwartz writes that the influences of Smith and Taylor still live with us, in our ongoing quest for efficiency in the call center and productivity in the cubicle. Schwartz writes:
"I think that this cynical and pessimistic approach to work is entirely backward. It is making us dissatisfied with our jobs-- and it is also making us worse at them."
Amen. Schwartz describes what most of us know from empirical observation: Employees are driven as much by purpose as by pay. Schwartz offers some colorful examples, such as college students calling alumni for donations designated for scholarships. The fundraising success of these students increased 171% after hearing a talk from a young alum who had attended the university on a scholarship, who described how his life had been positively changed by this experience. I love that story and others like it, but they don't surprise me. I see things like this all the time. In my work, we focus on creating a strong "internal brand," because the beliefs of employees have everything to do with creating the eventual beliefs of customers. I define a strong internal brand as "a shared belief of why we matter."  Notice that I didn’t say "a shared belief that this is a great place to work." That's a given. It's the ante, the price of admission. If your employees don't think you create a good work environment, it's so obvious that your business performance will suffer I don't even want to devote any more space to it. What really matters is that, on top of beliefs your company is a great place to work, employees believe that what you do matters. It matters to customers. It matters to the marketplace. Imagine if your employees were to believe that the world is a better place because of your company. Employees are driven by a sense of purpose. "Purpose" is often thought to describe only an altruistic social goal, as in protecting the environment or dedicating a portion of profits to combat poverty. Those are noble purposes, yet employees can be inspired by a sense of purpose with direct economic benefit to the company they work for. In a program Yastrow and Company developed with Kimpton Hotels back in 2006, we focused on helping employees understand their personal roles in fulfilling one of Kimpton's most important and differentiating values: creating relationships with customers. The program, called "The Kimpton Moment," helped all of Kimpton's 6000 employees participate, each and every day, in creating meaningful relationships between Kimpton and its guests. I spent a lot of time with Kimpton employees during that period, and I saw first hand how this direct involvement in something that not only helped the company but had meaning was incredibly inspirational for employees. The movie Jobs, starring Ashton Kutcher as Steve Jobs, starts with a scene in 2001 where Steve Jobs introduces the iPod to Apple employees. The employees are rapt with attention, on the edge of their seats, as Jobs hints at the product he is about to unveil. He says, "What it represents is more important than what it is. It is a tool for the heart. And when you can touch someone's heart-- that's limitless."  He then says, "It's a thousand songs in your pocket," and pulls the iPod out of his own pocket, to rapturous applause from the employees. Why? Because they knew they were part of something that mattered to customers, to the marketplace and to the world. So, if you want to supercharge your results, enlist the help of your employees in creating that success. Find your purpose, and share it with employees. Then, naturally, your employees will share your purpose through their work. If you'd like to discuss this idea further, shoot me a note at steve@yastrow.comand we'll talk. This is one of my favorite topics.

Why We Work

On Steve's Mind: a Newsletter
Ditch the PitchLast week, I received a call from a salesperson. He was frustrated with some recent customer conversations and wanted my advice. This salesperson, "Joe," interacts with his customers mostly through telephone and email, and has been able to build good relationships with many customers he has never met in person. Occasionally, a customer will come to the company's warehouse to pick up an order, and Joe will have a chance to meet the customer face to face. "These meetings often don't go very well," Joe told me. "The customers don't seem that excited by our conversation, and they seem to get impatient with me. This never happens when we’re on the phone." Joe is very personable. In case you are wondering, he is a "normal" looking person, so his appearance is certainly not the reason he's having problems with in-person meetings. "Tell me about these meetings," I say to Joe. "I try to ask my customers questions, to show I'm interested in them." Joe paused.  "Maybe I'm asking too many questions, but I thought it was good to ask your customers questions." "Ah," I thought. "Joe just self-diagnosed his problem."

How to Ask Questions in a Customer Conversation

Questions are effective, but they are most effective in the context of a conversation. To Joe's customers, these questions didn't feel like a conversation. They felt like an interrogation. Conversation is a key element of any relationship-building customer interaction. Customers will feel more comfortable if the questions you ask are integrated into a back-and-forth dialogue than if they come rapid-fire, one after another. Here are some tips for ensuring that your questions engage, instead of overwhelm, your customer:
  • Think granularly -- The best dialogue includes much back and forth, with each person speaking for only a short period of time before returning the focus to the other person.
  • Use questions to generate dialogue, not just answers -- Avoid moving through a list of questions. Ensure that any follow-up question directly flows from your customer's answer to a previous questions.
  • Explore and heighten -- find out what your customer cares about, and then discuss what your customer cares about.
  • Focus the conversation on the customer -- Keep the subject of the dialogue focused 95% on the customer. This way, you will show care for the customer's issues, as you would do with questions, but you will do it in a way that will feel more engaging and interesting to the customer.
A series of questions is not a sales pitch, but it can feel like pitching if it isn't engaging, two-way and conversational.  When you are with a customer, think less about the questions you want to ask and more about the conversation you want to have.

An Interrogation is Not a Conversation

Consider what would happen if you tried this: You go to each of the top leaders in your company; you ask them to imagine that it is five years from today, and your company is extremely successful. Then, you ask them to describe what the company looks like at that time and in that situation. Would your company's leaders' answers be similar or wildly different? In most companies the answers would be wildly different. I believe this because I've seen it happen many times. I do this exercise with executives frequently, and it is striking how much a team that works together every day at guiding a company can have so little agreement about where this guidance is heading. Here's an example: At the beginning of a corporate retreat, I asked the top executives of a company with $80 million in annual sales to describe what their company would look like if it was very successful at a point a few years in the future. Their estimates of annual revenue in the future varied from $150 million to $1 billion. Their visions of customer mix, product offerings and geographic expansion also differed, as did their descriptions of other many parameters. How could this team expect to collaborate effectively if they shared so little vision about what they were trying to accomplish? If you were to put a hidden microphone under the tables in a thousand conference rooms of a thousand different companies and listen in on the discussions upper and mid-level executives are having with each other, you'd find yourself listening to debates and discussions about individual projects. "Should we fund this project or not?" "I think we should start selling our products in Macedonia." "Should we run an ad in this magazine or that magazine?" "I've interviewed all of the candidates, and we should hire Ed." "I completely disagree with you - we shouldn't call our new product the Super Amazing Gonkulator, we should call it the Super Magnificent Gonkufabulator." It's not hard to imagine the disagreements that ensue in conversations like these, as people debate relatively small issues without having a consensus on the big issues. Imagine if a crew of ten people trying to sail an America's Cup ship don't agree on where they are headed, which way the wind is blowing and the right strategy for tacking. Wouldn't they be likely to start arguing, especially if their captain wasn't certain of the situation? This seems absurd in a world-class yacht race, but it's a pretty accurate description of what's going on in most companies. If you want to be able to address the small questions in your company, it's important to ask the big questions first, because the small questions (Which ad should we run?) are driven by the big questions (What is our marketing strategy trying to accomplish?) And, of all of the big questions, the most important one to answer is, "Who do we intend to be?" Who do we intend to be? On one level, it seems so simple. We all know that we want our companies to be successful. We all know that we want our companies to grow. We all know (at least most of us) that we want to our companies to be great places to work. But do we really know what success means for our companies? Do we really know what kind of growth we want? Do we really know what it would mean for us to be a great place to work, and how that would support our success? I've had the opportunity to work with a number of non-profits lately, and it impresses me how much those of us in the for-profit world can learn by the way non-profits address the "who do we intend to be?" question. When revenue and profit are your prime motives, it's easy to be really vague about the details of what you're trying to accomplish. But I've found that non-profits, who are forced to define their reasons-for-being in varied and unique ways, tend to probe much deeper into this question. Let's face it, "We want to be the organization that saves 100,000 children from dying of dysentery" is a much richer description of a goal than "We want to be a company whose sales are 10% bigger." Defining what they want to accomplish is at the heart of what most non-profit organizations are all about, and, because of this, I find it really easy to engage them in rich, thoughtful discussions about who they intend to be. On the other hand, it's more typical for a for-profit enterprise to gloss over this question, and to define the future more purely in terms of financial goals. But even a definition of financial goals is hampered if a company can't clarify who it intends to be. Think of my corporate retreat example from above. The revenue predictions among the company's leaders varied from $150 million to $1 billion. If they had shared beliefs about who they intend to be, don't you think they'd have had a better chance of agreeing on what size company they could be, or needed to be, if they were to reach those goals? So don't waste a minute before you start addressing the question "Who do we intend to be?" And, while you're at it, think like a non-profit. Try defining what you want to be in terms that go beyond financials. After all, financials are a result that the market will reward you with once you become the company that you intend to be. They are not who you intend to be. Yogi Berra once said "If you don't know where you're going, you'll probably end up somewhere else." ‘Nuff said.

Steve Yastrow

Who do you intend to be?

Imagine that you come to a meeting with a new prospect, and the scene you encounter is not what you expected:
  • You meet a prospect for lunch, and he spends the first 45 minutes telling you about his recent fishing trip.
  • Ten minutes into a meeting with a prospect, you realize that her most important business issues aren't anything close to what you thought they'd be.
  • You show up for the big meeting, hoping to close a sale, and only one of two key decision makers is there.
What do you do, resist? Get upset? Try to deny the situation? The only thing you can do: Work with what you are given. Working with what you are given is one of the key techniques of stage improvisation, and I believe this lesson translates perfectly to sales conversations. No matter what another character says on stage, you build upon it. Or if you're holding a prop, and it suddenly breaks, you make that part of the scene. Maybe the audience surprised you by laughing at an unexpected time, but instead of continuing in the direction you had started, you accept the audience response as a gift and chart a new course in the dialogue. Second City Almanac of ImprovisationThe Second City Almanac of Improvisation encourages improvisers to "ride the events of a scene the way a surfer rides a wave."1 This is exactly what you must do to create a fluid sales conversation. No matter what curve balls or unexpected surprises arise in a meeting, the success of your conversation requires you to work with what you are given. A surfer can control his direction, but only if he uses the current to his advantage. Fight the waves, and you fall. The Second City improvisation method teaches that denial can kill a scene. Once you say 'no,' you stop all momentum. Denying reality in a sales conversation does the same thing. You must realize that everything your customer says or does is true in his mind, and you must first accept his reality if you want to have any hope of shifting that reality. I recently encountered this challenge. A few months ago, a client asked me to submit a proposal for a new project. Shortly after I gave her the proposal she told me she needed to put the project on hold for 60 - 90 days. After 90 days, we talked about moving forward with the project. A few minutes into this conversation, I realized that she hadn't reviewed my proposal since I submitted it and had forgotten some of its most important details. Because of this, she had lost enthusiasm for the project and said she was thinking about putting it off for a year. What could I do, get mad at her for forgetting the details of the project? Argue with her, and tell her that she really needed to move forward with this project? Scold her? Of course not. Her forgetfulness became the new reality. My only choice was to work with what I was given. I had gone into the call prepared to discuss the fine points of the project and the logistics of implementation, but she wasn't prepared for that conversation. I had to back-up, and reacquaint her with the reasons she had wanted to do this project in the first place. I needed to ditch the pitch, and improvise a new approach to the meeting. Was I disappointed? Yes. Did I wish for another reality? Yes.Would I have received approval to start the project if I had fought her? No. Work with what you are given. Join your customer in his reality, and you may just have a chance of escorting him to a new reality. Notice When you meet with people who are trying to persuade you, notice if they "go with the flow" and adapt to your reality, or if they resist the situation and try to force you into their own reality. How does this make you feel? Do you follow them or put up a defensive shield? Are you more, or less, likely to be persuaded? How do you compare? How well do you work with what you are given? Are you able to say, "Yes" to any situation in a sales conversation, or do you find yourself getting anxious when things aren't going exactly like you want them to? Do you find yourself trying to muscle the situation to a new place? Try this One of the best places to practice this technique of working with what you are given is in social situations with your friends. Practice riding conversations with your friends the way a surfer rides a wave. Don't be the one to start topics, and, instead, look at each thread of conversation as an opportunity to explore and navigate ideas. Use every comment or question you insert into the conversation as a chance to heighten the idea your friend has brought up. Even if a topic seems boring, and you feel tempted to change the subject, don't. Work with it. You'll be surprised where you'll end up, as the conversation transforms itself to something interesting and engaging. Next, begin practicing this in your business conversations. Have the patience to work with what you are given, resisting your anxiety and temptation to change the subject and force the conversation to the place you want it to be. If you are frustrated with the direction of a conversation, don't become impatient or interrupt. Work with it. Play with it. Once you engage in the conversation, you will find that it is easier to navigate to a better place. And don't stop practicing. Denial not only kills an improvised scene on stage, it kills a business conversation, especially a business conversation in which one person wants to persuade another. Work with what you are given, and you'll find that you give yourself success in your sales conversations.

Steve Yastrow

Work with what you are given

As a consultant, I have this recurring opportunity to feel smart. I go into a company, and in the first half-hour I'm able to say, "Look at this missed opportunity," or, "Here's big problem you haven't noticed yet." Big things are not that hard to see. So, imagine how I felt the other day when I sat down with my long-time associate, Diana Lackner.  Diana is returning to work with us after a hiatus, so Caroline and I met with her to review what's been going on in the business.  Within minutes Diana was peppering me with the kinds of perfect questions and insightful observations that I always pat myself on the back for making, when I'm with my clients.  I kept thinking, "That's been right in front of my eyes. Why does it take Diana to tell me this?"  I didn't feel so smart. (At least Diana's observations were mostly about big opportunities!) Now, of course, part of the story is that Diana is really smart.  But there is an overriding issue that we can all learn from: Being hyper-aware of your own personal business situation is a key to success. It's easy to become de-sensitized to your immediate business environment.  We get used to things the way they are, and often stop questioning the obvious. A manager stops looking at the reports that show his business is falling off a cliff. Another stops looking at other reports that reveal major opportunities with a certain type of customer.  Customer service people hear about major issues from customers, but management doesn't pay attention.  The factory has created awkward work-arounds to accomodate production problems, and the operations VP isn't aware of it.  Sales reps are losing sales do to a glitch in the pricing process, and the sales VP writes it off to another case of sales people whining. Try this:  Be hyper-aware of your personal business situation.  Notice what's going on in your immediate vicinity. Put on the fresh eyes of a consultant, and see what's really going on in your business.  Don't wait for me to wake you up. Wake yourself up! A complete understanding of the present is a critical step to inventing your future.

Waking ourselves up

"While each actor's in-the-moment response may not be the best idea, it is always at least a bridge to the best idea."  - Tom Yorton, president, Second City Communications It is impossible for everything you say in a sales conversation to be the best thing you could possibly say. Similarly, everything your customer says in a sales conversation cannot the best thing you want your customer to say. However, as Tom Yorton's quote teaches us, every idea can be a bridge to the best idea. As part of the research for my new book, Ditch the Pitch, I just finished a one-week stage improvisation immersion class at The Second City in Chicago. My book will take concepts from stage and music improvisation and apply them to sales, encouraging us to ditch the pitch and create sales conversations. (Yes, this is proving to be a fun book to write.) As I watched my 13 fellow students learn the basics of improvisation through the week, under the tutelage of Second City Training Center teacher Jessica Rogers, I really came to understand the truth of Tom's point: Every idea can be a bridge to the best idea. Today I'd like to focus on why this idea is so powerful, and how it can apply to sales conversations. The most brilliant moments throughout our improv immersion week were not just the clever lines that poured spontaneously from my classmates (and, believe me, there were plenty of those), but the way people took crazy ideas from their scene partners and used them to get to a new, exciting place. Here's an example: Two of my classmates, Mary and Elise, were improvising a scene, playing two women that were stranded on a lifeboat in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. In the first few lines they showed their fear that they might not be rescued. Then, Mary said to Elise, "If we don't make it out of here, it will be too bad that you may never make it to Europe to start your job as an international goose hunter." Mary's line came out of nowhere. On first reflection, you might think that this crazy idea of establishing Elise as a would-be international goose hunter could confuse the scene. But that's not what happened. Mary and Elise ran with the idea, and pretty soon they were talking about how their shipwreck might be the cause of worldwide goose overpopulation. They had the rest of the class cracking up. Here's another example from my week of improv immersion: At one point, a classmate and I were asked to improvise a scene in which we were playing a brother and sister chopping wood. I started the scene by saying, "I love it when mom and dad take us out to the country. This is going to be a lot of fun." My classmate, Kelly, responded, "Ever since mom and dad got back together, they're trying to force us to do all of these things together a family." Kelly had suddenly offered the idea that our mom and dad had been going through marital problems and were trying to patch up their relationship. Was this the best possible idea for Kelly to bring into the scene? Probably not; I'm sure there were other things she could have said. But was it a bridge to great ideas? Yes. Once Kelly had established that our mom and dad's marriage was in trouble, our scene had fuel and a clear direction. We were able to show me as a kid eager to please his parents and help their relationship, while Kelly was able to develop her character as a teen terribly resentful of what her parents were putting her through. This principle that every idea is a bridge to the best idea can be very liberating in a sales conversation. You'll drive yourself nuts if you worry that everything you say, or that your customer says, must be the perfect thing to say. But if you focus on the flow of the conversation and how every moment in the sales conversation is a bridge to a better place, you can free yourself up to work towards that better place. Let's say that, during a sales conversation, your customer says something that you think is not smart or insightful. Or, he says something that shows a lack of interest in the key points you want to interest him in. These responses, while not the responses you would most prefer, give you insights into the best path to get where you want to be. Now you are in a better position to say something that will interest him and get closer to the best idea. Or, what if you say something that is not up to your normal level of pith and insight? Should you panic? Should you end the meeting and go home? No! Look at your unfortunate comment as a bridge to the next place you want to be.It may not be the best bridge you want to be on, but since you're already on this bridge with no way to turn back, you might as well accept the fact that you have to cross it. Don't get hung up on saying the "right thing." Instead, be totally obsessed with finding things to say that advance the conversation with your customer. Don't force brilliance, just create the right conditions for it, and be patient as you await the arrival of brilliance. Then, you will surprise yourself when you make a wonderful comment you hadn't expected.Everything you say, or that your customer says, is a bridge to brilliance. Notice Pay attention in conversations, especially those at work. Are people always trying to get out the best possible one-liner that captures a brilliant idea, or are they willing to use each comment as a path to the best idea? What is the effect of either scenario? How well does use of the "bridge to the best idea" propel conversations forward? How do you compare? What about you? How well are you willing to see each comment in a conversation as a bridge to the best idea? Are you frustrated by comments in conversations that aren't perfect, or are you able to see them as paths to brilliance? Are you patient, or do you try to force a conversation to its apex before its time? Try this In conversations throughout the next week, at work and in your personal life, try to see everything other people say as bridges to the future of the conversation. Accept everything that is said, even if it isn't what you wanted the other person to say. Recognize that they've said it, and that there is no turning back. Conversational bridges only go one way. And, if you are engaged in sales conversations throughout the week, be especially aware of trying this idea. Everything you or your customer says is a bridge to the best idea. Steve Yastrow

The Bridge to the Best Idea

On Steve's Mind - Ideas and Action Steps for Next-Level Business Results
Here are two kinds of statements I have heard from executives over the past few weeks:
“People think they can do business over text or email, but that will never work as well as interacting directly with someone, face to face.” “People don’t want to have to deal with a person when they can just go online or go on an app and get what they want.”
These statements are clearly counter to each other. Which is right? Both and neither. These statements are extremes, and they each assume that the question revolves around human or digital communications, when the reality is that the opportunity in our marketplace is the way human and digital communications can be integrated. Brand HarmonyLet's start with the first statement, which focuses on the importance of direct, human contact when transacting business. Unless your business is something like Waze, Snapchat or Amazon, your digital interactions with customers aren’t as effective as the human interactions you have with customers. This isn’t surprising; humans have been having face-to-face conversations since we evolved our language skills about 100,000 years ago, and most people have only been using email for about twenty years and texting for about ten. We are wired to communicate through face-to-face dialogue, not through wires. What about the second statement? Sure, there are many occasions where a digital customer interaction is more effective than an in-person interaction. Maybe the customer is in another place, maybe the customer doesn’t have time to allocate to an in-person interaction, or maybe your company doesn’t yet know the customer and can only reach her through a digital medium. Digital communications can be wonderful tools to advance customer relationships.

Here’s the right way to think about the interplay of human and digital customer interactions:

For most companies, human interactions should form the foundation of your relationship-building and preference-building activities with customers. However, now, unlike 50 years ago, you have access to a wonderful suite of digital communication tools with which to supplement your human customer interactions. Imagine a metaphor where your relationship with a customer is like a building made of bricks. The face-to-face, human interactions you have with this customer are represented by those bricks, and form the most important part of the structure. The digital interactions that happen in between the human encounters act like the mortar that holds the large stones together. Imagine a customer you meet with in-person one time each month. These face-to-face meetings are productive and effective, and form the most important relationship-building encounters you have with this customer. In between those meetings you exchange a number of emails and texts. While you would never imagine that these emails and texts would be as valuable as your actual conversations, they serve a valuable purpose as the mortar that strengthens the bonds between your in-person meetings. At Yastrow and Company, the basis of our philosophy of customer communication is Brand Harmony, the principle that a customer’s impressions of your company are formed by how all interactions you have with that customer blend to tell one clear, compelling and integrated story. Focus on how your human and digital communications can blend in Brand Harmony to communicate that story, and you take advantage of both our long history as a species who specializes in face-to-face communications, and our new, innovative capabilities to communicate with our customers through digital media. When you use the bricks and mortar together, your results will be stronger and longer lasting.

Bricks and Mortar as a Metaphor for Marketing

To create great customer experiences, every employee must come together and deliver the experience! Steve Yastrow motivates AVI employees to be the brand at the National Sales Meeting. Watch the keynote video: Every Employee is in the Marketing Department 

[VIDEO] Every Employee is in the Marketing Department

When things are going well, it's easy to have shared beliefs throughout your company: "We're #1!" "Everything we touch turns to gold!" "People love us!" But what happens when times are tough? Fingers start pointing: "Boy, our sales team is sure underperforming," says the factory. "Our product quality is the reason our customers don't want to buy," says the sales team. "If our marketing team could come up with any new ideas, maybe people would notice us." says management. "If management was willing to invest in marketing, we might be able to interest new customers." says the marketing team. And, everyone has their own ideas about how to fix the situation: "We should start a program that does X." We should start a program that does Y." "We should stop the program that does Z." "If we would just start doing A." If we would just stop doing A." One thing I believe emphatically: Your external brand can never be stronger than your internal brand. If you want to improve your company's performance, you must start by addressing the set of internal beliefs running through your organization. As a business advisor, I see this all the time. The more trouble a company is in, the more fragmented are the beliefs running throughout the company. You might ask, "What's the cause and what's the effect?" i.e., do fragmented beliefs cause poor performance or does poor performance lead to fragmented beliefs?  Well, it goes both ways. But, in either case, fragmented beliefs will hinder a company's efforts to get on the right track. So if you're trying to improve performance, don't neglect to look at the set of beliefs people in your company have. Shared beliefs, of the right kind, are critical to turning any ship around.

Shared Beliefs in Tough Times

Your brand with customers can never be more powerful than your brand with employees. Sales and marketing speaker Steve Yastrow motivates the AVI National Sales Meeting audience with his definition of a strong internal brand. Watch the keynote video: A Strong Internal Brand Defined 

[VIDEO] A Strong Internal Brand Defined

Here's an experience I had in an improvisation class at Second City: Two of my fellow students were asked to start a scene, and I was supposed to jump into the scene after about a minute. The two other students began to improvise a scene, and they quickly found themselves playing a customer and a counter employee at McDonald's. The "customer" started ordering voluminous amounts of food, and as I watched this, I thought I could jump into the scene as her doctor, catching this obese patient binging on fast food. Just as I was about to enter the scene the McDonald's employee said, "I haven't seen anybody order this much food since I started working here." The customer answered, "Well, I've been stranded on a deserted island for two years, and this is the first food I've eaten since I was rescued." Oops. The story I was planning to use wasn't going to work, because she wasn't an obese person binging, she was playing a character who had nearly starved to death. I had a moment of panic, knowing I needed to ditch my plan. Fortunately, I had learned that the cue to your next move is always there, right in front of you in the scene. I quickly shifted gears and came into the scene as the person who rescued her, and fell in love with her, upset that she was trying to avoid me. Think about how this situation relates to a sales conversation.  If you write the story ahead of time, there's is a MAJOR chance that the situation you find won't be right for your story. You may not find a change-of-situation as striking as an obese person turning into a starved wreck just rescued from a deserted island, but customers can throw some pretty significant curve balls at you. "My budget has been slashed in half," or "My budget has been doubled."  "I'm really upset about what you said in our last meeting," or "I've been really thinking about the advice you gave me last time we talked." Here's one: "I'm leaving the company, and I want to introduce you to Joyce, the person who will be taking over my job." If you write the story ahead of time, the chances are that the story won't fit the surprises that you will inevitably find in your sales meeting. So ditch the pitch, and let the story emerge in your conversation.

Don’t write your sales story ahead of time

On Steve's Mind: a Newsletter
We The Ideal Customer Relationship

Your excuses for delivering bad customer service don't matter to your customers.

"Mr. X, this is Betty from Doctor Y’s office. I’m calling with the results of your biopsy."
Mr. X is the name we will use for my close friend, who received this call. Dr Y. is a dermatologist who found a troubling spot on Mr. X's left hand.
Betty continued, "The biopsy was positive. It's cancerous." "Really?" Mr. X was driving when he received this call, and as soon as he heard the word "cancerous," he slowed down and pulled his car over to the side of the road. "What kind of cancer is it?" "It's a..." (Betty paused to sound out the diagnosis) "...squamous cell cancer." "What does that mean?" Again another pause, after which Betty began to read from a document in a somewhat robotic voice, "Squamous cell carcinoma of the skin is a common form of skin cancer that develops in the squamous cells that make up the middle and outer layer of the skin." "Is that a bad cancer?" "There are worse cancers." "Can I speak with the doctor?" "The doctor is not available." "Can I come in to see her tomorrow?" "Let me check for the next appointment." Another pause. "She can see you two weeks from now."
One week later, Mr. X has still not received a call from Dr. Y. I'm sure when Mr. X tells Dr. Y. his disappointment with how this situation has been handled, Dr. Y will immediately think about all of the challenges running her medical practice that make it hard to deliver cancer diagnoses in a more patient-friendly manner:
  • She's busy seeing patients all day.
  • She's understaffed since her top nurse went on maternity leave.
  • Insurance reimbursements are down and government regulations are up.
  • The new electronic medical records system isn't working right.
All of these excuses may be true. But they don't matter one bit to a patient just diagnosed with cancer. Imagine a meal at a restaurant that takes an hour to arrive at your table because the sous chef didn't show up that night. Imagine a front desk clerk gives you a key to the wrong hotel room, because it was his first night working without direct supervision. Imagine a web site that keeps rejecting your credit card number because of a technical problem on their end. In each of these cases, management can rationalize the reason for poor service. But you, as the customer, don't care about their excuses. You care that you are not being served. We live (and market our products) in a world of savvy, self-reliant, skeptical customers who believe that they can buy the products you sell from someone else if you can't deliver.  They don't care about your operational or employment challenges. They won't cut you slack because you are busy serving other customers. That's your problem, not theirs. To survive in today's competitive marketplace, you need to set a much higher standard for yourself than your customers set for you.  There may be reasons, but there are no excuses. Incidentally, if you don't fix these issues, many of them will be self-correcting as customers flee your business for better options. For example, if Mr. X's experience is representative, pretty soon Dr. Y won't be too busy to spend personal time with patients when she delivers a cancer diagnosis. Once the word travels to other prospective patients and to referring primary care physicians, Dr. Y is going to have plenty of time on her hands-- and few patients. And, hopefully, Mr. X will have cancer-free hands, once he gets some attention.  

‘You Have Cancer, Goodbye.’

Ditch the PitchWhen I told one of my team members the title for this article, her answer was, “That’s a simple one for you to write. You’ll just say, ‘Don’t, don’t and don’t.’” Yes, it’s true, a PowerPoint deck is one of the best tools available if you want to kill a sale, so I encourage people to avoid them whenever possible. However, there are times that you’re going to use a PowerPoint when you need to persuade people. Maybe your company requires it or, more nobly, maybe the information you need to share with your customer lays out well on slides. Since PowerPoint will occasionally be in the sales mix, let’s talk about how to use it.

First Rule of PowerPoint: It’s Not a Presentation

One of the best sales lessons anyone can ever learn is to “turn every presentation into a conversation.” So the first thing you need to do is stop thinking of your PowerPoint file as a presentation, and think of it as the background for a conversation. PowerPoint is your backup band. It’s not the star. The main show is the conversation you are having with your customer(s), and the PowerPoint is just a tool to support that conversation. (Oh, and another thing that goes with this rule: Don’t ever read your slides to your customer.)

Second Rule of PowerPoint: Ration Your Words

It’s common knowledge that you shouldn’t put too many words on a PowerPoint slide, but it’s also important to understand the reason why. The more you write on the slide, the less people will understand. This may seem ironic, but words often get in the way of communication, especially when there are too many of them. When a PowerPoint slide suffers from a glut of words, the customer has to devote too much attention to reading and processing, which distracts them from the conversation. When I have to use PowerPoint, I look at the few words on the slide as a hook upon which my customer and I can drape ideas. The purpose of this hook is to give my customer a clear frame of reference to help them understand and organize the information we are discussing.

Third Rule of PowerPoint: Don’t Railroad Your Customer

If you were an actor doing an improv scene, one sure way to piss off your scene partner is to force a plot direction on them, instead of letting the plot emerge from the interactions between you. This is called “railroading” your scene partner, for an obvious reason: It’s like laying down railroad tracks and forcing the other person to go down the path the tracks create. I’m sure you’ve all been railroaded in conversations with friends or co-workers, where they force a conversational agenda on you, with no regard for any preference you may have. No fun, eh? It’s tempting to use PowerPoint as a set of railroad tracks. Long before your meeting with your customer starts, you construct your PowerPoint deck, which seems to prescribe the order of the conversation. The deck implies a linear narrative, and it’s easy to fall into the path of that narrative. Isn't it tempting to read the bullet points on slide 1, and then go on to slide 2, read those bullet points and then go on to slide 3? But what if your customer isn’t ready, willing or able to discuss the information in that order? Avoid the tracks. As we said above, this is a conversation, not a presentation, and in a conversation both parties have a choice about where the conversation goes. Be willing to change the order of the conversation away from the linear order of your PowerPoint. What if the customer asks you about a topic that is five slides away in your deck? If the deck is printed, flip to that topic, and if you are presenting on your computer, immediately hit the escape key and go directly there. An even better option might be to close the printed deck or turn off your computer screen (“B” if you are in PowerPoint slide show mode), and just talk about the topic with your customer. They just asked a question; maybe you shouldn’t let PowerPoint get in the way of your answer.

Use These Rules When Persuading Groups

I’m often asked for tips for persuading groups of people, especially when the group is expecting a presentation. I recognize it’s harder with a group, but my answer is to follow these three rules. You need the conversational feedback and conversational engagement to stay connected to the group, and that’s impossible if you, personally, are in slide show mode. Instead, think of yourself as the moderator of a discussion panel. Make eye contact with each person and ask for everyone’s input. As much as possible, don’t let one individual dominate the conversation. Yes, PowerPoint can kill a sale, but if you follow these rules, you can use PowerPoint as a powerful tool to support your customer conversations. Here’s a technique to help you follow these rules: On the way to the meeting with your customer, imagine them engaged in an animated, enthusiastic conversation with you. As you visualize the two of you talking, notice how you are personally connected, focused on each other. And, in the background of that visualization, somewhat blurry, you see your PowerPoint presentation, off to the side, waiting to be called back into service, in its subservient, supportive role.

The Rules for Selling with a PowerPoint Deck

Your business will be more successful if your customers think of you in terms of "we" instead of "us and them." In this video, I explore the concepts from my book We: The Ideal Customer Relationship:

We: The Ideal Customer Relationship

This week’s theme has been “inventing the future” … it’s been cropping up at every turn. I spent a full-day early in the week with a group from a client company, helping them navigate from a powerful past, through a treacherous present, to create an even more powerful future.  I spoke with three prospective clients, each of whom is a business owner who wants to create a future for his business over the next few years that will allow him to pursue important life goals.  And, I ran three CEO workshops, between California and Texas, in which “Invent Your Future – Now!” was a major theme. The entire week came together for me early this evening, on a flight from Dallas to Miami.  Due to a faulty hydraulic valve on the airplane, we took off two hours late, giving me a 50/50 chance of missing my connecting flight to Grand Cayman. After take off, as I was wondering if I would make the connecting flight, I thought of Shrodinger’s Cat. In 1935, physicist Erwin Shrodinger wanted to illustrate the bizarre implications of something called “quantum superpositions.”  Quantum physics posits that all possible states for a system exist simultaneously until they collapse into one state at the moment of measurement or observation.  Shrodinger used the following story to describe how strange this is: Imagine a cat inside a box, along with a small amount of radioactive substance, a Geiger counter, an electrical relay, a hammer and a vial of cyanide.  There is a 50/50 chance that one subatomic particle will be emitted in the course of one hour, setting off the Geiger counter, relay and hammer, shattering the cyanide and killing the cat. You don’t know which of the equal probabilities exists, living cat or dead cat, until you open the box. So, before you open the box, is the cat dead or alive?  Both dead and alive, says quantum physics.  The cat doesn’t settle into one state until you open the box.  All probabilities exist, until the observer’s observation causes one state to manifest itself. Pretty strange, eh? (One basic example from quantum physics can help us understand the powerful role of the observer:  You can’t measure both the position and speed of a particle at one time, because your measurement of one parameter affects the other.  Observation is not passive; we affect reality when we observe.) Applied to my situation, which I pondered at 35,000 feet, Shrodinger’s Cat implies that I was both catching my flight and not catching my flight. Huh? How could that be true? Would my observation of the situation really have a bearing on the eventual outcome, on which of the possible states actually comes to be? How could it?  This is a tough concept! Then, I pulled a DVD out of my briefcase to watch on the fight.  On recommendation from a friend, I had rented the 2004 film,“What the Bleep Do We Know?” not really aware of the topic of the movie. This is an amazing film. It starts with a very accessible description of quantum physics, described by a group of perspicuous experts, and then, through a dramatic narrative starting Marlee Matlin, shows how this theory of multiple probabilities plays itself out in our lives. There are an infinite number of possible futures for each of us, so how do we settle on one?  Through an equally accessible description of biochemistry, the What the Bleep group of experts show how our brains manufacture chemicals, millions of times every second, that create the reality of our lives. For example, if we have a victim story going on in our minds, we will produce chemicals that addict us to the feeling of victimhood, and cells throughout our body will go through physiological changes that make them crave this victim chemical, shutting out other chemicals, such as nutrients.  The victim complex, in this example, actually turns one into more of a victim. Of an infinite number of possible life scenarios, the victim changes his physiology to create a reality of victimhood.  I suddenly understood the sea-change I have created for myself, over the past few years, in how I handle anxiety.  I have learned, thankfully, to produce chemicals in my brain that stop the feeling of “The sky is falling!” and, instead, tell myself that life is pretty wonderful. Of many possible life-states, I chose one. So, back to Shrodinger’s cat. Was I missing my Miami flight and catching it, both at the same time? Yes. “What?” you ask?  How could that be?  Quantum theory says that all  probabilities exist until the observer observes. I accepted, sitting on this American Airlines 757 somewhere above the Gulf of Mexico, that both of these realities existed, and I let my observer perspective determine the single outcome I wanted. Of course, I couldn’t influence American Airlines to hold the flight to Grand Cayman for me. But, instead of letting the situation dictate my mood, as I would have done in the past (make the flight = happy, miss the flight = pissed off), I decided to “be chill.”  I recognized that there were a near-infinite number of possible scenarios for the rest of my day, and I chose one.  By actively deciding how I would react to the situation – what chemicals my brain would release – I, as the observer, determined the outcome. No matter whether the cat was dead or alive, or, in my case, if the flight was waiting or had departed, I would feel the same.  Both states were equal.  Right now, I am sitting in the Sofitel Hotel by the Miami Airport as a “distressed passenger,” with no change of clothes or power cord for my phone. I am as calm as I would be if I were sitting in the lobby bar of the Westin Grand Cayman (where I was supposed to be by now). In “What the Bleep,” physicist Amit Goswami says, “To acknowledge the place where you have choice is to be enlightened.”  A very important lesson as you invent the future of your business. There are an infinite number of possible futures for your business. At every point in time, one of those futures will have manifested itself.  You – yes, you – will determine that outcome. Whether you are one employee at a 30,000 person company, or a sole proprietor, your actions will determine the exact future your business finds itself in at any point in time.  It can’t be any other way; you are not a passenger, you are a creator. So why not choose the best possible future for your company? Why not acknowledge what you can choose, and what you cannot choose, and choose to create the best possible future you can for your company? You cannot choose for the economy to improve, just like I could not choose for American Airlines to stall the departure of my connecting flight.  But there are many things you can choose.  You can choose to focus on certain business outcomes, and not others.  You can choose to focus on certain customers, and not others.  You can choose how you allocate your time and resources.  You can choose how you interact with customers.  You can choose the behavior you model for the people who work for you.  You can choose to ignore your competitors and focus on addressing the challenges within your company that influence your performance much more than the damage a competitor can do. Pre-dating Shrodinger by 94 years, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote the following in his 1841 essay, Self-Reliance: "The picture waits for my verdict."  You can choose which of an infinite number of possibilities will happen.  Be enlightened.  Acknowledge the place you have choice, and then choose to create your best future. Invent your future – now.

What The Bleep Should I Do With My Future?

On Steve's Mind: a Newsletter
Customers will always throw curveballs at you. Customers often present you with unexpected situations. How you deal with these unexpected situations in conversations with your customers is critical to your ability to persuade. A conversation only moves forward if both people in the conversation agree that it should progress. As we discussed in my last article, Go with the Flow, a conversation is fragile and can be easily derailed. To keep a customer conversation moving forward, you want to ensure that the conversation is a "series of yeses," a back-and-forth of continual agreement between you and your customer.

There is always something to say "yes" to

Your first goal when a customer presents you with an unexpected or less-than-perfect situation is to keep the conversation's momentum intact. Words like "no" or "but" are conversation killers. If you resist the situation, you might lose the chance to navigate the conversation back to a place that suits you better. It's much more productive to say "yes." Your challenge is to say "yes" to the new situation without saying "yes" to something that you don't want to agree with. Let's say that a customer has asked you for a price decrease. Instead of immediately saying "no," you can agree with the customer by acknowledging her concerns and asking her to tell you more. As the conversation continues, you may learn that she didn't recognize the value you were offering her, or that her boss is putting pressure on her to gain price concessions. Maybe you'll discern that all she really needs is your assurance that she is getting a great value. Or you may learn that she is dead-set on a price decrease. In any case, you will have a much better chance of dealing with the situation successfully by saying "yes" to the situation than by immediately saying "no," maintaining the conversational momentum through mutual agreement.

Practice: Work with what you are given

As with most things in life, resistance is not always a productive response to undesirable situations. We don't have to like a situation to acknowledge its presence, and by acknowledging a situation, we have a much better chance of dealing with it. When a customer presents you with an unexpected or undesirable situation, this new situation is now the material of your conversation. It is all you have to work with. Don't resist it. When you work with what you are given you will let yourself see the best course of action to take with your customer. When you work with the conversational material in front of you, instead of resisting or ignoring it, you will find ways to create a series of "yeses" between you and your customer. You will be able to probe beneath the surface and learn what your customer is really thinking and what she really cares about.

Practice: Ensure your customer keeps saying yes

You can focus on saying "yes" in conversations with customers, but mutual agreement also requires that your customer continue to say "yes" as well. If you lead your customer to a place where she says "no," the conversational momentum can stop just as quickly as if you had said "no." Here are a few tips to help you avoid hearing "no" from your customer during a persuasive conversation:
  • Don't assume anything. Before making a statement, be careful that it won't put your customer into a defensive mode. If you're not sure, ask. Don't tell.
  • Don't prescribe a solution too early. Your primary job in a persuasive conversation is not to advise the customer, it is to move your relationship forward. Only prescribe solutions when your client is ready to hear them.
  • Keep the conversation focused on your customer, not on what you are trying to sell your customer.
  • Avoid yes-or-no questions. Phrase your questions, when possible, as a choice between yeses, i.e., "Which of these two options seems better to you?"
When you look at a conversation as a series of "yeses," you keep your conversations moving forward. And conversational momentum is an important piece of successful persuasion.

Steve Yastrow

Ditch the Pitch Habit #3: Create a series of “yeses”

The key to starting a successful persuasive conversation is to Size Up the Scene. Your customer is in the middle of her day-- your sales conversation needs to fit in with her context.

Size Up the Scene

The mantra of the modern customer is, "If you want me to think you're different, show me you know what makes me different." As I wrote in an earlier article, Do Differentiation Differently, it's getting harder and harder, in our marketplace of plenty, to prove to customers that our products and services are unique and irreplaceable. Sure, you should always strive to differentiate your products and services, and limit the number of competitive options your customers perceive, but it is much easier to differentiate yourself in the mind of a customer by honoring and acknowledging what makes him or her unique. This seems like a daunting task -- acknowledging the uniqueness of each one of your customers. After all, people are pretty complicated beings, and it's hard to know all of your customers really well. The good news: Your customers will appreciate that you recognize what makes them unique when you acknowledge just a few things about them. An example: Two friends of mine were married at the Four Seasons Hotel in Chicago. A year later they returned to spend their anniversary weekend at the hotel. When they gave their car to the valet attendant, they received the same service everyone else received that day. The doorman smiled and greeted them in the same way he had greeted hundreds of people that afternoon. They rode the same elevator to their room that everyone else rode. Their room was decorated like the other rooms on their floor. But on the nightstand by the bed, a bottle of champagne awaited them with a personal note from the general manager welcoming them back for their anniversary. Later that evening, after a wonderful meal in the restaurant -- straight off the menu - the maître d' brought them a special dessert, as a gift of the hotel, in honor of their anniversary. They had at least 500 points of contact with the hotel that weekend, and two of them were highly personalized. But they couldn't stop raving about how the Four Seasons personalized their stay. This is a great marketing lesson: a little bit of personalization goes a long way. This has always reminded me of the way you can use herbs and spices in cooking; you can add personality to an entire dish by just adding a small dose of the flavor. Imagine adding a few drops of Tabasco sauce to an otherwise bland bowl of chili. The few drops flavor the entire meal. Think of your own experiences as a customer. How often have you felt that a business really "gets" you after acknowledging something that is only one small part of you? It works! PinatiThere is a restaurant in Jerusalem,Pinati, that I visit every time I'm in the city. Even if I haven't been there in six months or a year, I'm greeted warmly and within 30 seconds of sitting down my favorite soup, "marak kubeh," shows up at my place. My financial advisor, Frank Reid of Sila Resources, learned a few important things about me that he integrates into our work together, which makes me value his help immensely. I've been shopping at the Music Gallery in Highland Park, IL, for 35 years, and the owner, Frank Glionna, knows enough about my music interests, business and personal life to give me a highly personalized feel when I shop there. What about you and your customers? Are you adding a few drops of Tabasco sauce to each relationship? Are you showing them that you know what makes them different? If you are, they will certainly think that you are different.

Steve Yastrow

Marketing with Tabasco sauce

If you're ever tempted to say, "All our customers care about is price," consider restating this as, "We haven't yet identified anything that is meaningful enough to command a higher price."

If price is an issue

In our current marketplace, trust is not enough to win you customers.  You have many trustworthy competitors. However, the slightest chink in your "trust-armour" can lose you customers.  Here's an example: I have been a loyal customer of Orbitz for a number of years, creating a near-reflexive habit of going to orbitz.com when I need to book travel.  Each time I use Orbitz I am offered the chance to click a box and purchase travel insurance, which I never do. I noticed three travel insurance charges on my credit card bill, related to three international reservations I had booked. When I called Orbitz they said it was too late to remove these charges since the travel dates had passed.  "But I never selected travel insurance" did not seem to be a plausible objection to them. With the agent on the phone I walked through a couple of "mock" reservations, and learned that for international reservations travel insurance is pre-selected, and you need to opt-out if you don't want it. What a bait and switch.  For years I've been given the choice on Orbitz whether I want travel insurance, and then they sneak it in when I book international tickets.  My brand impression of Orbitz changed immeditately.  It went from "hassle-free/always-works/I-can-count-on-them" to "I better keep my eyes open from now on because they will try to take money from me when I am not looking." We went from a We relationship to a definite Us & Them relationship. Don't ever be tempted to sneak something by your valuable customers.  For about $100 Orbitz lost most of the trust I had in them.  Making money in this way is a great example of "bad profits."

Trust is a most fragile brand value