Are You Average?


“By definition, it is not possible to everyone to be above the average.”  James C. Collins

The ‘great’ people and personalities we immediately think of didn’t become iconic through doing what every one else did or just meeting expectations.  Sir Edmund Hillary is great example – his feat many years ago is even today difficult for people to achieve despite the considerable advance in technology supporting them.

Why then, in sales, do we often refer to someone doing what was expected, normal or promised as great service?  Is it great service?

If we take ‘great’ to be defined as ‘above average’ and take this in to the sales arena – by that same definition, doing what everyone else is doing isn’t great service – it’s just service.

Also, extrapolating out that definition, anything above ‘average’ could be construed as great service couldn’t it?  Well, yes it could – however, by who’s definition?  The customers of course.  This is an important distinction as in sales do you know what your client expects from you a sales person?  Do you know what their ‘average’ is?  If you don’t – how can you exceed it?  How can you provide great service?

Providing great service needn’t be about grandiose gestures, massive expense or ceremony – more often than not, it is the regular undertaking of small, meaningful actions which provide great service.  Stressing the words, regular and meaningful.  Great one off gestures quickly lose their value if not repeated and, in fact, can ultimately diminish client sentiment if they get to briefly experience great service and only receive ordinary service there after.  Similarly effort placed in to significant service activity which is valueless to the client is misdirected as the clients often think, but seldom say, ‘what a waste of time’.

In our personal lives, we go the extra mile for our friends, yet so many sales people don’t do this for their clients.  For example, if you see a concert coming up and you know your friend likes the artist, you’ll remember to tell them.  Would you do this for a client?  Do you know the artists they like?  If you know your clients like crayfish and you’re a diver, would you get them some?  Do you know enough about them to be meaningful? Why not?  We care enough to know what is important to our friends – but do we for our clients?

So now you’re inspired to provide great, distinct, meaningful service.  Now think about this:

  • Do you think you can be great once or twice and this is enough?
  • If you do it all the time for your clients, does it become ‘average’?  So does the ‘great service’ benchmark drift upwards?

Greatness is relative to the service level they’re used to receiving and, more importantly, greatness is about consistency, not about one off gestures.  Continued great service lifts your clients service expectation – hence the need to make a decision to be either consistently great, or consistently average.

The key to being able to provide great service to your clients is simply a matter of executing two things:

  1. Ask them at the outset of your relationship with them what is important to them in a sales relationship.  You need to understand what they value highly and what this looks like (eg respond quickly is good to know – but does quickly mean within the hour or within the day?)
  2. Sense check this understanding with them at regular intervals.  You need to know if what’s important to them has changed and, of course, ask them whether they believe you’ve delivering against it.

Of course, then you have to make a conscious decision to be great knowing and acting on the above.  Greatness isn’t as difficult as we think – but it requires us to think about others and what’s meaningful to them.  It requires us to ask what is important to our clients so we aren’t guessing whether what we do is meaningful, and therefore great, for our clients.  And then it requires us to act great.  To care enough about our client to provide them with a service experience second to none.

As James Collins was quoted everyone, by definition can’t be above average. It requires you to be willing to be above average.  Willing to differentiate yourself.  Willing to care about your client.

Are you average?

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