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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.”

Stop the Customer Abuse!

In all the instances of customer abuse, I think we have a new low.  This story has gone viral:


If you haven’t read it, go read it now.  Here’s the short version.  A United Airlines flight leaving Chicago for Louisville was sold out.  Then, somehow, it came about that four United Airlines employees “had” to be on that flight so that they could be in Louisville on Monday.  They offered incentives for volunteers to give up their seat.  Finding none, they then announced that the computer would randomly select four passengers to give up their seats.

Now, a quick question. When you book a flight, are your travel plans “random?”  Mine aren’t.  In fact, usually, I’m flying because I have a definite engagement to get to, at a specific time.

Apparently, the passenger in this video had the same situation.  He said he was a doctor, had patients to see, and had to be in Louisville Monday morning.  Now, it appears, the good doctor will need a doctor himself.  For his unforgivable transgression of refusing to give up the seat for which he paid good money, he was physically assaulted and dragged off the plane by ‘security.’  In the video, he can be clearly seen to be unconscious and bleeding.

Another question.  Security is there to protect people.  Who, exactly, was endangered by this doctor?  More to the point, what law was being broken?  It seems to me that the only law that might have been broken was “theft of services,” by forcibly taking away the seat that he’d paid for.

I’m not big on lawsuits, but I hope this guy sues them for big bucks and wins bigger bucks.  It’s about time this crap ended.  I have a feeling that United, if they were competently run, knew well ahead of time that they had four people to transport to Louisville, and should have made arrangements to do so without punishing the customers that had already paid.

Now, I have a story of my own.  I thought extensively about whether to post it, but I’m going to because there’s a connection.  As you probably know, I just returned from Spain.  It was a wonderful trip, except for the flight out on Air Canada.  Here’s what happened, and it also constitutes abuse of a paying customer.

My flight had three legs.  I flew from Kansas City to Toronto, from Toronto to Montreal, then from Montreal to Barcelona.  I had one carry-on bag and one checked bag.  Like most of you, I put the most important stuff in the carry-on.  And my carry-on is the maximum allowable size.  It fits in the sizing racks at the airport, but just.  And I’ll admit that from time to time I’ll push it a bit by putting things in the front pockets, which makes it not fit.  In this particular case, I had my laptop in the front pocket.  However, I didn’t carry a ‘personal item,’ so I figured that in the worst case, I could remove my laptop, it could be my personal item, and the bag would fit.

As we were boarding for the flight from Toronto to Montreal, I was stopped and told that I’d have to check my carry-on; it was too big.  Again, this has happened a couple of times and when it did, I simply rearranged things, the carry-on fit, and the airline personnel allowed me to go on as normal.  But I’d never flown Air Canada.

I explained that I could remove the laptop and that my bag fit in the rack.  I removed the laptop and the bag fit.  Good, right?  Nope.

“The bag fits tightly and it shouldn’t,” was the response.

“IT FITS,” I said.  “Those are your rules and I’m playing by them.”  I argued passionately, because there were things in the bag that I had no desire to leave up to the tender mercies of their checked baggage system.

There was some more discussion during which the person checking this got downright rude and said that if I flew enough, I’d know what was right and wrong.  Again, I pleaded my case, repeatedly sliding the bag in and out of their rack.

“The decision is made.  Check your bag,” he said, with all the humanity of a gulag commander in the Soviet Union.  I had no choice.  They promised me the bag would go to Barcelona.

I was angry.  Thus, when the flight attendant greeted me, I didn’t feel like saying hello, I just went to my seat.  Above my seat was a space plenty big enough for my bag, and I watched other people loading bags far bigger than mine in the bins.  I sat down, booted up my Kindle, and began reading silently.

Then, a manager approached and asked to speak with me off the plane.  Now we’re going into extra innings.  Off the plane, he said that the flight attendant was ‘concerned’ about my demeanor and wanted me off the plane.  This could be avoided if I made an apology to her “and meant it sincerely.”  In other words, grovel or I don’t fly.  I groveled.

Here’s the thing. This entire situation was created by Air Canada’s employees.  There was no reason – logical, reasonable, or technical – to make me check my bag.  I was within their rules, and they arbitrarily decided to mistreat me.  Then they chose to make it worse with their little ‘apologize or else’ routine.

And after all that, guess what?  The bag didn’t make it to Barcelona.  Its journey stopped in Montreal.  I had to go through the lost-baggage routine and they were able to get it to me in Barcelona two days later.

Granted, my situation wasn’t as dramatic as the doctor’s, nor was it caught on video (I hope). However, it was rooted in the same attitude – that the airline has no responsibility whatsoever to its customers and that it can treat them however the hell they feel like treating them.  But there are two big commonalities.

One, the doctor and I were both following the rules.  He’d bought and paid for his seat. My carry-on fit their dimension rack.

Two, United and Air Canada are both part of what they (laughingly, I’m sure) call the Star Alliance of airlines that have a business relationship with each other.  Perhaps “Advanced Customer Torture” is one of their training courses.

I honestly don’t know what is going to get the airline industry’s act together.  The only airline I’ve encountered that actually acts like they like their customers is Southwest.

I’d encourage you to look at your own business.  I doubt strongly that any of my readers ever treat their customers like this, but if they do, it’s time to reevaluate.

Spanish Travel Thoughts

If you’re looking for a normal sales article – one that has a distinct meaning and point – this isn’t it.  I’ve just returned from a trip to Spain that combined a great training session at DocuWorld Europe with a vacation to Barcelona.  What follows is a random collection of thoughts that might be helpful to anyone thinking of traveling overseas.

First and foremost – 95% of sales is universal throughout the world.  Any cultural differences lie in the margins – that 5%.  And, from my conversations, even that 5% can be very flexible.  I had 40 people representing 15 different home countries in my session, and the amount of overall agreement on selling was amazing.  Yes, the session was in English, if you’re wondering.

One of the most gratifying occurrences for any trainer is to discuss a technique with a new person, and have someone in the back of the room say, “Hey, you taught us that last year.  I tried it, and it WORKS.”  This happened about four times in the session I did (most of the session was new material).  To have my techniques work worldwide is a great validation.

And on that note, I have to say a huge “Thank you” to everyone connected with DocuWorld, especially the people who attended my training session.  This was my second year at DocuWorld, and over half of my class was made up of repeat attendees from last year.  I was overwhelmed at the reception I got, and with the friendships that I’ve made.  It was a great experience and I’m already looking forward to next year.

Now on to travel – Mallorca is a truly beautiful place.  The old city of Palma is a great sightseeing location.  There are rural areas surrounding, and the coastline is dotted with resort areas and ports (our resort was in a port town).  It’s a great setting for such a convention.

Barcelona may have more art museums per square mile than any other city in the world.  In Barcelona, you’re literally immersed in history from the Roman Empire forward.  The Museum of Natural History actually allows you to walk through a dig of the original Roman city that was Barcelona’s predecessor.  It’s almost overwhelming.

From the moment we landed in Barcelona, we were warned about pickpockets.  Pickpocketing is the most common crime for tourists to encounter, but honestly, it’s not that difficult to avoid.  I kept my wallet in my front pocket instead of the rear, and had my hands in my pockets much of the time I was walking, and never had a problem.  I do think that I had two close brushes.  Once I felt a bump from the rear and turned to see a man scurrying away in the opposite direction.  Two nights later, we were walking on a small pedestrian street and a person who looked like he had bad intentions walked by us, turned, and followed us for about half a block.  He quickly figured out that I wasn’t an easy mark.  Pickpockets aren’t strong-arm robbers; if you don’t make an easy target of yourself you won’t have a problem.

If you’re going to be staying in the middle of the big cities, think hard before you rent a car.  Barcelona in particular has an excellent public transportation system, and parking is difficult to say the least.  We rented on Mallorca and to go to the World Superbike race in Aragon, but went without in Barcelona and didn’t miss it.

The food is a definite difference from the States.  Spanish food is fairly bland; if you’re looking for spicy food you probably won’t find it here.  There’s the occasional Asian or Indian restaurant, but most restaurants have a wide offering of tapas, sandwiches, and pasta.  A few have steaks (Spanish steaks are very thinly cut).  What’s odd is that there is little difference between the restaurants – most Spanish restaurants have similar offerings.  My prediction is that, even if you go there planning to ‘go native,’ eventually you’ll end up eating at Burger King, McDonalds, or the like at least once.  We had Whoppers once and our last dinner was at the Hard Rock Cafe.

Overall, I can highly recommend Spain as a travel destination.  The people are friendly and welcoming, for the most part, and it’s a fairly easy destination for English speakers.


“Wish I Had” or “Glad I Did?” Which One Would You Rather Say?

An interesting thing happened to me yesterday.  As you know, I’m promoting my “Explosive Growth Selling” program  in May.  Well, yesterday, I I received a phone call regarding the “Smart Hiring” program I did (along with my partner, Kirk Young) last November.  The caller said, “Hey, when are you going to offer ‘Smart Hiring’ again?”  I replied, “I don’t know.  I don’t think I will.”  The caller was dumbfounded.

“You’re kidding!  I really thought about going in November, but I knew it would be cold in Kansas City, so I decided to wait until next time.”  I said the only thing I could.  “Sometimes, there is no next time.”  It’s true.

My caller said, “Wow.  I really wish I had gone.”  Meanwhile, those who attended told me that they were glad they did.

I can’t guarantee if I’ll offer this program again.  I can guarantee that these techniques won’t appear in any YouTube videos, free whitepapers, or other ‘free’ content.  If you really want to learn techniques that will make a difference, you need to make an investment in real, live training.   I’ll even make one more offer to help.  I know that some of you might want to go – IF your company would pay for it.  If that’s you, email me and I’ll send you a letter that you can take to your boss to make the case.

So, this time next year, would you rather be saying, “Gee, I wish I had,” or “Boy, I’m glad I did?”

The choice is up to you.  Click here to make a difference in your career, or the careers of those that work for you.

Troy Harrison to Present Two Programs at PPAI Expo East, March 16, 2016, Atlantic City, NJ!

After a great PPAI debut at the Expo last year, not only has PPAI booked me to return to the Expo, they’ve expanded our relationship to include the Expo East in Atlantic City in 2016!  I’ll be presenting two programs on Monday, March 16:

“21st Century Prospecting” will show attendees how to blend proven techniques with new technology to generate a flow of new prospects and new business.

“Using Buyer Psychology to Close More Sales” will take you inside the most valuable place in selling – your customer’s head – and teach you how to win more sales by helping your buyer achieve their most desired results!

I’m excited to be involved in this program.  I’ll see you in AC!