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Buy Today, Dang It!

Growing up, in Topeka, Kansas, there was a furniture store called “Crazy Bob’s Discount Furniture”. Every decent-sized city had one of these. You’d see the TV commercials with Crazy Bob telling you about how the prices were so low because he was “CRAZY!” Well, ol’ Bob finally decided to pull out all the stops and put on a “GOING OUT OF BUSINESS SALE!” Of course, you had to get the great buys RIGHT NOW because it would be GONE SOON! It took Crazy Bob five years to go out of business!

Scarcity Close

I thought of this the other day, clicking through my LinkedIn feed when I saw a long discussion about one of the oldest, most manipulative, and one of the most hackneyed (and well past retirement age) techniques: the “scarcity close”.  You’ve probably heard it or seen it; it is based on the principle that there Just Isn’t Enough Supply of what you’re selling.  So if you don’t BUY NOW, you might MISS OUT.

Apparently, based on the discussion, some salespeople still have some success with this approach. To me, it’s always seemed like “Crazy Bob’s Furniture Going Out of Business Sale”.  The thread drew a number of salespeople commenting, as well as other sales authors and trainers, and (as usual) I was the contrarian in the group.

You see, here’s my philosophy on the “Scarcity close”.  It’s designed to play on customer emotions – fear of missing out, fear of losing a once in a lifetime “deal,” and other anxiety-based emotions. To me, that’s not the right reason for a customer to buy.

I will also fully accept that scarcity does actually exist in some situations. For instance, when I bought my Harley, it was a used police motorcycle from Daytona Beach, Florida. That was important for a couple of reasons; first of all, it had a higher-performance engine than a standard Road King. And second, it had a special Mystique Green and Pearl White paint scheme that cop bikes around Kansas City didn’t have.  When presented with this one bike at a good price, I chose to buy because I didn’t want to miss it.  I’ve never regretted it.

Also, when I bought my first house in Topeka, it had some very specific characteristics that were hard to find in my budget at the time – so I moved fairly quickly.

What made both of those instances work, however, was that the SALESPERSON didn’t use a scarcity close. Instead, enough value had been built over the conversation that I recognized the value of the purchase. I also recognized that the opportunity wouldn’t be there forever, so I more or less closed myself.  I never regretted either one, because I didn’t buy because of external pressure.

As a salesperson, I only had to use this close a few times before I recognized that smart customers could quite literally shove it down my throat. “So, what you’re saying is that, if I come in and want to buy this car on Monday instead of Saturday, you WON’T honor that price?” I stammered, knowing full well that we would, in fact, honor the price.

Or, there was, “So, if someone is going to buy that from you regardless, why do you care if it’s me? Why are you bothering to apply this pressure?” Again – stammering.

Here’s the truth. The “scarcity close” is designed to INJECT urgency into the buying process. The problem with that is simple. If that urgency doesn’t already exist, then the close you use won’t matter. A sale happens when need meets solution meets timing, plain and simple. If you’re having to use scarcity as a “buy now” tactic, you’ve missed something in the process that you can’t make up later. It smacks of desperation and people don’t buy from desperate salespeople.

The scarcity close – when it “works” –  is a great instigator of buyer’s remorse, and can greatly harm your relationship going forward. Customers know when you’ve played their emotions and they don’t like it.

Like many cheap sales tactics, this is a “patch” for poor work early in the sale. My advice – do the work early. Ask great questions. Present to the needs. Truly understand your buyer, the buying process, and the timing thereof. And, the all-time greatest defense against needing to use these types of sales tactics, always keep your funnel full enough that you don’t NEED the next deal.

PSA from Troy: Dealing With Sleep Apnea

Not too long ago, I wrote an article about my customer service experiences while getting a sleep study done.  I received a lot of email and messages about others who had experienced sleep apnea and gotten a CPAP – and for them, I’m posting this. If knowing about my sleep is TMI, I understand.

I was diagnosed with sleep apnea, and have now slept with a CPAP for the last eight nights.  For anyone ‘on the fence’, as I was for years, about dealing with my sleep apnea (I’d been told that I had it), the only thing I can say is – DO IT.  Get the study done.  Get the CPAP.  Figure out how to be OK with sleeping with it (I get it; it’s not easy).  It’s worth it.  It’s already been a difference maker in my life.  I no longer get drowsy after lunch or midafternoon….or, really, until it’s time for bed again.  I have much more energy later in the day, and I just plain feel better.  I now feel silly for putting it off for the last few years.

Yes, I get it.  They’re expensive (my insurance covered it).  Getting comfortable with sleeping with a mask over your nose and straps around your head isn’t the easiest thing, and you’re limited as to your sleeping positions.  Plus you look like Dumbo with the hose coming out of the mask (at least I do).  But it’s WORTH IT.

For the record, I have the ResMed AirSense fully automatic version.  I just plug it in, put the mask on, and start breathing, and the machine figures it out from there.  The mask has exhale vents on it (very important in my opinion).

So, this isn’t a sales message.  Consider it public service to my friends.  Deal with your sleep apnea if you have it; you’ll feel so much better you’ll wonder why you waited.

A Customer Service Lesson

This story is 100% true.

So, I had to rent a motorcycle trailer today, so I went to the most popular place to do so.  When I got there, they had one person taking rental reservations and one person in line ahead of me.  As I stood there, the person ahead of me was explaining that he had a voucher for $30 off on a rental because a customer service person at their main office had simply hung up on him.  He was showing the rental agent the email from the corporate customer service person.  The rental agent didn’t know how to enter the voucher into the computer and seemed doubtful about the whole thing.  She called her supervisor, and for 10 minutes the supervisor, the rental agent, and the customer went around and around about this $30 voucher.  Meanwhile three other people had arrived behind me and we were all getting annoyed.  At this point, I had the right to remain silent – but not the ability.  So I got involved.

ME:  Excuse me but I have to jump in here.  Let me see if I understand this.  This customer received a $30 off voucher because he received lousy service, correct?

MANAGER (glaring at me): It looks that way.

ME:  So, now you’re compounding his lousy service and making it lousier by not taking the voucher.  Plus, you now have a line of four other people who are receiving lousy service because of this issue.

MANAGER:  You have to understand, people are always trying to cheat us.

ME:  I get that, but do they go to the extent of faking an email with a voucher number from your corporate customer service department?  For 30 bucks?

MANAGER:  Um, no, not when you put it that way.

ME:  So, now, you’re making his lousy service worse, and again, there are four other people who are getting lousy service, all over 30 bucks that this guy is entitled to.  Don’t you think the smart call is just to honor the voucher, give him his 30 bucks, take care of him, and get on to taking care of the rest of your customers?

MANAGER:  When you put it that way, yeah, it is.


So, what was the problem here?  The personnel got so wrapped around the axle with procedures, rules, policies, and not stepping out of normal pattern that they lost sight of the big picture.  To try to guard $30, they were creating thousands of dollars worth of bad will.  The guy behind me was saying, “I should just go buy a trailer rather than put up with this.”

MORAL OF THE STORY:  Keep things in perspective.  Clearly the manager and the rental agent didn’t feel empowered enough – OR INVESTED ENOUGH IN THE COMPANY’S IMAGE – to make a $30 decision.  Don’t let your people feel that way.  I know one company – a very very successful small business – where any employee can make up to a $100 decision to keep a customer happy.  The employees become guardians of both company image and profit – and seldom do in fact give away money, but the customer retention rate is well above industry averages.

In other words, don’t step over dollars to save dimes.

How NOT to Send a Marketing Email

I get a lot of emails sent to me for marketing purposes, and I send some out myself.  Some are good, some are great, and every now and then, there’s one that is so bad it’s notable.  This – name removed to protect the guilty – is one such email.


I hope this finds you well.. I found your podcast and think your doing a great job… I wanted to see if you have interest in special guest speakers. I have build 100’s of Facebook ads and teach people daily via a online university how to be effective when running Facebook ads. Would you be open to allowing me to introduce my knowledge to your listers? I am willing to give you backend links and exposure in my (name of training course) course.. 

Thank you for you consideration. 

At first glance, you probably saw the spelling errors.  To me, this is an email that lacks both credibility and authenticity, and I’ll tell you how – and then I’ll give you some pointers for emails that have worked for me.  First, the problems:

  1. I don’t have a podcast, so he couldn’t have “found” my podcast. Credibility blown just a few words into the message.
  2. He had no less than FIVE spelling and grammatical errors – for someone who is trying to teach people how to market.

So, what should YOU do if you’re trying to email market?

1. Be authentic!  In this case, our friend is trying to establish commonality and is doing so by assuming that I have a podcast.  Honestly, that’s probably not a bad bet; a good many people like me have one.  But I don’t, so I know he’s full of it right out of the gate.  If there really is no commonality, admit it – and just tell your target why you’re reaching out.

2. Spell check is not overrated.  Granted, spell check wouldn’t have caught all of the problems in that email, but it would have caught at least three.  Use it.

3. Use the person’s name in the email.  Even if it’s a merged email, you can do that.

4. Never count on email marketing as your best foot forward.  Response rates on emails are small enough that they make response rates on direct mail (old-style snail mail) look impressive.

5.  Integrate email with a well thought out lead generation program via teleprospecting and social media, get all your messages harmonized, and you can win.

This email, obviously, didn’t get anywhere with me – but follow some simple rules and yours might generate some results for you.

Atlanta travel thoughts

“And now for something completely different.”  I get asked a lot about my travel experiences, and I seldom respond publicly just because it doesn’t fit with my sales blog.  That said, I decided today, “Why not?”  Having just returned from Atlanta, a town which more than many has some travel nuances.  So, here goes:

The airport:  The Atlanta airport is the nation’s busiest, and one of the largest.  That in and of itself makes it a bit of a daunting prospect for some travelers.  I don’t mind the airport, although besides its size, there’s nothing remarkable about it – no great eateries that I’ve found (they are all typical airport chain restaurants), and no exceptional shopping.  That said, the facilities are nice and well kept, although the seating areas get pretty crowded – seating isn’t at an abundance.

The biggest advice I can give travelers through the airport is, “Allow plenty of time.”  From dropping off my rental car today until making it to my gate took 1 hour and 5 minutes.  That’s without checking a bag – just dropping the car, taking the tram to the airport, printing my boarding pass, going through security (which wasn’t exceptionally busy), riding another tram to the right concourse, and then walking to my gate.  Leaving – getting from the gate to the rental car and exiting the airport – is a similar experience.  That said, it’s not an unpleasant experience like some airports – just a lengthy one.

Driving in Atlanta:  Hoo boy, this is the tough part of Atlanta travel.  There’s not a straight road in the metro area, and the same road can have five different names in a 10-mile stretch.  GPS is your friend here, as is time.  Atlanta is burdened with a ton of traffic and few alternate ways to get places on surface streets (see the above note about no road being straight).  I use Google Maps, and I’ve found its travel time estimates to be very accurate, which is a good thing.

Destinations in Atlanta are referred to in terms of the “Perimeter,” which is the I-285 loop that runs in a circle around the city, so when you hear “perimeter East,” they mean on the East side of the loop.  The good news is that, with few exceptions (Downtown mainly), parking tends to be easy and free, unlike many other big metro areas.  This is important, because as congested as it can get, Atlanta is very much a driving town.  The MARTA train does pick up at the airport, but it doesn’t go many places in the Metro, and frankly, has a bit of a rough reputation.

Eating:  Atlanta has a ton of chain restaurants from McDonald’s all the way up to high-end steakhouses, but is a bit thin in terms of locally owned and revered dining (other than the sports-bar type of place).  The good news is that whatever type of food you’re looking for, there’s probably a place you’re familiar with.  If you like Tex-Mex, I highly recommend Pappasito’s, a chain out of Texas with one outpost in Marietta.  It’s worth driving to Marietta from whatever part of the Metro you’re in.

There is a lot more to know about traveling in Atlanta, but frankly, I don’t know it.  Know a good tip?  I’m all ears.

Drumming Up Business?

This weekend, I was in a small town called Dewey, in Oklahoma, for a car show.  The show, if you’re interested, was called the Stray Kat 500 (it was put on by a club called the Stray Kats and was limited to 500 cars), but that’s not the topic of this article.

One of the central historical features of the town is the Dewey Hotel Museum.  The hotel was built in 1899, and has been restored to its former glory.  It’s a neat little museum and a glimpse of life in the 19th and early 20th centuries.  One of the most interesting features, to this lifelong salesman, was a structure at the rear called the “Drum Shed.”  The drum shed was simply that – a shed that was one open space.  Its purpose, the tour guide told us, was for traveling salespeople.

Traveling salespeople who stayed at the hotel could, at no extra charge, set up their wares in the Drum Shed for the townspeople to peruse and purchase.  Hence, they were “drumming up business,” hence the name “Drum Shed.”

Being intellectually curious, that led me to wonder where the phrase originated.  We’ve all used it, so where did it come from?  IDEX online (the site of the International Diamond EXchange), offers this explanation:

The phrase “drumming up business” originated in the U.S. during the 1800s, and was especially prevalent during the Civil War of 1861-1865.

Traveling salesmen kept their wares in a leather-clad box that was essentially a wooden frame with leather stretched over it.

In an effort to let the owner of a home – usually a plantation in the South – know that they were coming up the lane, they would take out a set of drum stocks and begin drumming on their leather box. It had the sound of a muted snare drum.

In the Civil War, it was especially important for those traveling sales people to announce their presence well before ringing the doorbell: in the South, they might be shot at, especially if the landowner thought they were a Yankee spy.

That makes sense, and it dovetails with other explanations I’ve found.  What’s the point of this for salespeople in 2017?  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  Consider this a fun sales fact of the day.

It’s Delta’s Turn.

Well, apparently airline management doesn’t consume news.  If they did, they’d know and understand that, right now, screwing over their paying customers is a VERY BAD IDEA.  Now it’s Delta’s turn.  They kicked a family of four off a flight – from seats that they had paid for – because of overbooking.  Again, like with United, the passengers had boarded already.  They had paid for four seats, one for the husband, one for the wife, and two for their small children.

The excuse from the airline is that the family refused to give up the 1-year-old’s seat and carry him in their laps.  My perspective – as with the man in the video – is that they paid for that seat.  Long story short, they screwed over a paying customer on the way back from a Hawaiian vacation, and the family ended up having to spend over $2,000 for a flight on another airline.

What ties all of these incidents together is POWER.  By law, failure to comply with the instructions of any member of a flight crew is a federal crime, and the airline personnel have gotten drunk with that power.  In this situation, they threatened peaceful paying customers with federal imprisonment and the loss of their children.  And for what, exactly?  For refusing to give back a seat that they had paid for in good faith.

What amazes me is that these incidents keep happening, on a daily and weekly basis, despite the negative publicity.  What amazes me even more is that memos haven’t gone out from airline CEO’s reading something like this:

To all employees of XXXXX airline:

We are under the spotlight now.  Yes, we’ve been able to treat passengers rudely with impunity for years, knowing that the cops will back our play, whether we are right or wrong.  However, something’s changed.  These smartphone thingies that people carry now can actually VIDEO what we do to our passengers – did you know that?  And apparently we can’t ban passengers from carrying them.

So, until this blows over, let’s clean up our act a bit.  No more tossing people off of flights that they’ve paid for.  No more assaulting passengers (I know, some of you may have to go to anger management courses).  No more bringing in the cops to fix our overbooking problems.  You see, if we don’t regulate ourselves, the government may step in, and we know what we won’t like what they do.

In short, for the near future, let’s not be idiots.  OK?


Your CEO

That memo SHOULD be going out this morning from airline CEO’s all over the country.  It won’t.  What’s the end game?  Simple.  History shows us that any industry that refuses to self-regulate eventually gets regulated (and perhaps overregulated) by the government.  We’re heading for a collision course here.  Look for Federal legislation – or regulation (each has the force of law) to be introduced banning overbooking.


Troy Harrison Returns to DocuWorld Americas in Orlando, May 17-18!

One of my favorite conferences every years is DocuWorld, put on by DocuWare, the leaders in document imaging technology.  For the fifth time (three at DocuWorld Americas, two at DocuWorld Europe), I’ve been selected to present cutting-edge sales training to DocuWare reseller sales representatives.  This year’s program is entitled, “Deep Impact Selling,” and the focus is on making the professional into the personal. I’m excited to be there, and if you’re in the document imaging business, you should too!  For more info, visit the conference website here.

Troy Harrison to Present Two Programs at AIMED National Convention!

I’m excited to announce that I will be presenting not one, but TWO programs, at the AIMED (American Institute of Mailing Equipment Dealers) National Convention in Kansas City, April 20.  At 8:30 AM, I’ll be presenting “Smart Sales Hiring,” and at 9:30, I’ll present “Training and Coaching Salespeople to Excellence.”  This is the fourth time I’ve worked with AIMED, and I’m really excited to be doing so in my hometown.

Defending the Indefensible

I’ve read and received a lot of commentary and feedback on the United Airlines situation.  My initial thoughts, and my own episode of passenger abuse, was recapped in my post, “Stop Customer Abuse!”  If you haven’t read it, you might do so now.

Frankly, a lot of the defenses of United Airlines’ conduct in throwing the passenger off the flight are incredible to me.  I think much of what I’ve heard and read reflects the type of society and business culture that we either have become, or are becoming –and should turn away from.  I’ll sum those thoughts up at the end of this post.  For now, though, let me just recap some of the defenses, and I’ll explain why those aren’t really valid.

“Flying is a privilege, not a right.”  I heard this from a United pilot who called into a popular talk radio show.  Really?  Oddly enough, I seldom feel privileged when I fly.  First of all, few of us pay for a ‘privilege.’  I don’t feel privileged when I go through the TSA screening routine, nor when I sit in small, uncomfortable seats.  Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t mind flying.  But I think the ‘privilege’ probably feels different if you’re PAID to be there rather than the one paying.

“We have rules – we have to put off unruly passengers for our safety.”  Horse puckey. The passenger was, by all accounts, perfectly reasonable and calm UNTIL he was told to get off the plane, giving up the seat that he paid good money for.  I’d be angry too; wouldn’t you?

“United’s flight crew absolutely had to be in Louisville by the next morning.  That’s why they had to put passengers off the plane.”  I’m guessing that this situation didn’t just spring up; why didn’t United plan accordingly for this?  They could have stopped selling seats on the plane when there were four seats left for the flight crew, for instance.  Or – and I know this is radical – they could have found another flight on another carrier going to Louisville and put those people on THAT flight.  They’d have probably gotten better service there anyway.

“Denial of boarding is usually handled in a more mature fashion.”  This little bit of genius came from United’s past CEO.  Leaving aside the issue of calling a guy who spent money to fly your airline immature, the fact is that the boarding itself went just fine.  Things went haywire AFTER the guy had boarded, and they decided to pull him back out of his seat.  I’ve also heard a couple of lawyers say that this is a very important distinction.  According to these lawyers – and keep in mind that I’m not a lawyer – the airlines can do what they want, basically, before the passenger boards the plane.  However, after the passenger boards the plane and sits in his assigned seat, that leeway gets much smaller.  This could make things very interesting when this dispute makes it to the legal arena.

“I heard the guy had mental issues, drug problems, etc.”  A red herring.  Again, by all accounts, the passenger was perfectly peaceful and calm until he was ordered to give up his seat.  From that point, he might (or might not) have had issues that escalated the situation, but why does that matter?  If United simply lives up to their promise of getting him from Chicago to Louisville, there’s no problem.

“Hey, they offered $800.  That’s generous; why didn’t he just take it?”  First of all, it’s the passenger’s choice to take the offered compensation.  When no one took the offer, United should have simply kept upping the offer until enough people accepted it to accommodate their employees – if said employees had to be on that plane.  Second, what is seldom reported is that the $800 offer is not cash money.  It’s a voucher for more flying on United.  Given the situation, why in the world would anyone want to get MORE flying on United?  I was involved in a similar situation years ago (with an airline that wasn’t Southwest), and the conversation went like this:  Me – “Is that $500 offer cash?”  Them – “No, it’s a voucher for more airfare on our airline.” Me – “Never mind.”  Them – “Why not?”  Me – “Because if I ever fly your airline again, it’ll be an accident.”  Want to sway people?  Wave $100 bills.

“There are rules, regulations, a contract that goes with the ticket, etc.”  Yes.  There is a contract online that you can download and view.  I’ve never viewed it, and I’m betting that few travelers – even frequent ones – have.  It basically covers the airline’s behind legally.

But – and this gets to my point in this entire piece – what ever happened to simple right and wrong?  United is ducking and covering behind contracts, policies, and legalese.  What amazes me, though, is that during this entire sad episode, not a single involved United employee stopped what was going on and said, “You know, to hell with our policy.  This is WRONG.  This is not how you treat people who spent money with us.”  At no point during the physical assault on the passenger did any of the “security” personnel stop and say, “Hey, guys, you know, maybe beating the snot out of this guy isn’t really the right thing to do.”  I’m not talking about reading from a policy manual; I’m talking about employing simple humanity.

At what point did we begin substituting policies and legalese for simple morality and sense of right and wrong?  We’re becoming, in too many ways, a business culture that values what we can get away with, rather than fulfilling promises and doing what’s right.  It’s at times like this when I think of what my grandfather told me.

“Troy, when it’s possible, just do business on a handshake.  If a man’s handshake isn’t any good, his signature won’t be either.”