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The Importance of Context in Customer Service

In customer service, how you say something is 800 million times more important than what you say. I am so blown away at how personally people take their jobs – or not even that, but how they take inquiries as a personal offense. Check out this response I saw to a customer inquiry in the comments section of a blog:

“Anita, we’ll try to help you—but you have to help yourself. Books have been written about growing tomatoes, and we’ve condensed decades (nay, centuries!) of advice into this website. Here are some pages to explore, note, and return to regularly. As your plant grows, you may need/want to repot it. You might need/want to stake it. You need to give it lots of sunshine and water it regularly. Here is some advice on doing so. Welcome to the garden!”

First off, what a slap-in-the-face statement. She is helping herself! That’s exactly why Anna read your article & commented! In my opinion, this would be a missed opportunity because of how backhanded it is. You begin by belittling the customer & telling them to basically suck it up. Then talk about how much work has been put into the website, the vast amounts of knowledge available, yada, yada, blah, blah, Me, Me, Me. THEN they go on to being helpful by providing links to basic, helpful info. THEN they offer simple, basic, helpful knowledge. THEN it is “Welcome to the garden!”.

This is what a little perspective does.

“Anita, welcome to the garden! Here are some pages to explore, note, and return to regularly. As your plant grows, you may need/want to repot it. You might need/want to stake it. You need to give it lots of sunshine and water it regularly. We hope this helps, but there are other resources as well. Books have been written about growing tomatoes, and we’ve condensed decades (nay, centuries!) of advice into this website. Here is some advice on doing so.”

You can just about read that first response backwards and it makes it a little less severe. But this is the perspective you need in Customer Service! Just look at those 2 words. Customer (not you). Service. Period.

Perhaps this is a little bit of a rant, but brands need to be conscious; they need to realize they’re dealing with people, not just tasks & notifications. We all need to realize that we are not just dealing with customers, clients, leads, patients – we are working with people. 

And maybe I’m being hyper-sensitive on this! I would love to hear your thoughts on this – comment & let me know what you think!

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9 Ways Sales Changed My Life

Does working in sales change your life? I stumbled across a LinkedIn article with this title by Adam Honig (check it out here) the other day & was immediately drawn in.

The cover picture is a before & after of a salesman. Pictured is a polished Shia LeBouf ‘First day in sales’ & a more rugged/unkempt-looking picture of him for the ‘One year later’ photo.

I love (and hate) that people have this perception of sales! However, Mr. Honig did not write an article about how hard sales was & how it will kill your spirit, but laid out the foundations of what it takes to be a salesperson, the pros & cons of being in sales and how it will ultimately change your life.

Currently, I am an Account Manager with AM Leonard. That’s a fancy title for salesman, but it is definitely much more than sales; it is customer service, accounting, marketing, being a shipping specialist – simply put, anything to ease our customer’s woes & make their lives easier by seeking out & providing solutions.

So how has Sales changed me?

  • Helped me structure day / manage time – I’m not well-known for my ability to plan things out – I usually go for the wing-it approach, or following my gut. But in sales, you need a little more method than madness. Intuition plays a pivotal role, but without a clear end-goal supported by a detailed roadmap, you could be driving in circles and not even know it. As a younger salesperson, I am finding balance between continually cultivating relationships with existing customers, hot, warm, and cold leads – and different customer types. All of these demographic titles assist with the structuring of my day, but once you know your customers, it becomes much more than a demographic – it is a living, breathing thing that needs to be cared for.
  • Forced me out of my comfort zone – I believe that the best in people is brought out when they’re outside of their comfort zones. I enjoy sitting on the couch, watching ‘The Office’ in the mornings – it’s incredibly comfortable; I know I’m going to laugh, be able to relax, and enjoy myself. On the other hand, if I don’t do my daily morning yoga, my body will be in so much pain that I won’t be able to sit still. I won’t write anything creatively for myself or for my blog; that incompleteness to my pre-conceived plans will leak into the day and be that nagging “thing you wanted to do, but didn’t have time”. You have time. We all have Time if we have a desire strong enough & are willing to endure an uncomfortable situation for the Greater Good.
  • Understanding my value – this was a little bit of a tough one at first – I understood my value, but I also understood why people were mad for me calling them, or that they were busy. And conjoining those two ideas is where I find part of my value – I know I can help you AND I understand that you are busy or get sales calls all the time, what can I do to best help you. The biggest value that anybody can provide is a promise to back your value AND then delivering on those promises. Communicating value by words is how a business relationship can begin, but actions speak louder than words.
  • Improved communication – once you understand your value, communication is easy. You have supplies. Your customers need supplies. They need your supplies because x, y, z. Necessity is another thing that improved my communication. In sales, you’re always looking to expand your offerings to customers & key accounts and communication is crucial in maneuvering through organizations to reach all potential decision-makers. The more communication, the more you will expand your business; the more you will become an asset to your customers.
  • Feeds appetite for knowledge & continued education – this is the nerd in me speaking out. I love learning. There is so much to learn in the Green Industry between landscapers, growers, government agencies, universities, and all of the processes involved in their businesses. I’ve always had an interest in gardening & growing plants – both of my science fair projects in 5th & 6th grade were based on growing plants with different variables. I didn’t end up studying in any of these fields (no pun intended), but love that I’m in the industry learning so much about growing plants in the field, in greenhouses and watching it in my own garden. Learning is important to me – and quite frankly, it should be for everyone. If you’re not learning, you’re staying stagnant; you’re limiting yourself. The world is changing & moving too fast for us to sit still!
  • Patience – like losing my first draft that I thought was great; greatness lies only in execution though, not intention.
  • Handling rejection & objection – sales is rejection; life is rejection. When I first began my journey in sales, there was a lot of rejection – maybe it was the way I was saying things, my tone, maybe I don’t have what it takes for sales. When you find your value, rejection looks a lot more like objection – and in objection, there is opportunity. This isn’t so much a ‘no’ as it is a ‘this better be good’. When someone asks why you’re calling, you better have a damn good reason!
  • Picking up the phone – for inside sales, for a lot of sales, we live by the phone, we die by the phone. This is the most convenient, ‘personal’ touch you can have without a Skype or video call. Lots of writers on LinkedIn seem to think the phone is dying, but when you’re in business, you’re in the people business. A live voice will provide a lot more comfort & promise than a colorful flyer that was blasted into every one of your accounts’ emails. Not that email blasts are bad – it all comes down to the value you provide to your customer. In my experience, the phone is the best way to handle tough situations that you need to fight for. In the case of negotiating pricing, delivering bad news, or anything serious – your customers need to hear your voice. They need to have the opportunity to be pissed at you. This is just an opportunity. How can you make this right?
  • Finding a way – this is the simple secret to sales & to life – when you want something bad enough, you’ll carve a path that leads you to your destination.

As a psychology major I never saw myself going into sales – I’m pretty sure I vowed to never take a sales job, but look where we are now! I love the industry, learning about my customers’ processes and all of the relationships I’m building all over the country along the way. Sales has changed me in a way, but I think it also just forced me to become my best Self – continually seeking knowledge & improvement to fully understand my customers, the industry, and ultimately, my Self.

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Everyday Glory

We all grow up with aspirations & inspirations for life, so what happens when we reach adulthood? Finding ourselves “in a rut” or “trapped in a cubicle”; lost in a world that promised us so much more. What happened to your inspiration? What happened to fighting your way to glory? And when did you lose all the power to do so?

When I think of glory, I imagine a football coach giving an inspirational speech; a player making an impossibly athletic & willful move to win the game – blood, sweat, tears and victory.

The problem is that our glory is a picture painted by symbols of what we believe to be victory or success; the ultimate glories of life are forgotten because the idea of success is what we chase instead of fanning the embers that lights the path towards true glory & success.

In other words, success is not a thing or an end goal, it is an action – a continual action of adapting & creating in order to build up to your ultimate goals. I think that we all have one big-huge-out-of-this-world goal, but do we expect to just magically have it one day without putting the work in?

When we think of people like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, professional athletes – we think that they are just talented beyond belief. Heightened, superior intelligences & abilities; they are the superhumans. But none of these people just stumbled upon success. Of course they are extremely talented, but to assume that is the only factor that led them to the top is absurd. Hard work, curiosity and a desire to learn, improve, & innovate is what separates them. The countless hours spent reading, coding, practicing, learning, succeeding, failing – it’s all about the quality time you pour into your passions.

The ultimate glory in life stems from the seeds planted by your everyday victories. It is easy to see yourself trapped in your situation or lacking motivation, but at the end of the day, it all comes down to you. If you are unhappy with your job, then move on. But ask yourself if you’ll be happy in your next role – or will it unfold the same way? Sometimes it is not the environment you are in, but what you are feeling within. When we struggle, I believe that people want to overcome – but people also do not want to fail! So rather than continue to fail they decide to move on. I think it is important to remember that failure is temporary & in the present moment; it can be painful, but it is only temporary!

There are millions of opportunities for success before,during & after failure – persistence is the key to overcoming failure, and failure is the key to evolving your ideas & strategy.

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The Power of ‘Just Showing Up’

Everyone has something that they’re passionate about – or at least have hobbies they really enjoy. For me, that means weight lifting & yoga. I absolutely despise when people say, “half the battle is just showing up”. It sounds… arrogant? lazy? cliché? The problem is that it is too simple a solution – or is it?

Part of the reason that people don’t get things done is that they think about it too much. You’re worrying how you’ll fill the rest of this article with words if you just dive in & don’t meander around the problem for a little while first. You will sit & think about the best way to stretch for 15 minutes instead of systematically stretching for 15 minutes. Why are we so subconsciously scared to head towards completion of something?

Last night I saw that episode of The Office where they were talking about New Year’s Resolutions (I have a problem with The Office, but I am expanding my horizons with other shows). Again, everyone is talking about their resolutions & how hard it’s been to keep them or how quickly they faded away. Michael Scott, the sales manager, asks “what is wrong with you people? Since when is pretty good okay? Can’t you stick to anything? Then he goes onto say how his goal was to floss & he did it @ 12:01.

Not every goal is that easy to accomplish, but every goal is that easy to get started. The extremely difficult thing about an ongoing goal such as weight lifting, running, or any daily activity is that it can be difficult to summon the energy & willpower to get moving. And beyond that, these goals are rolling & results are not instantaneous – at first, there are no true goals being met other than… showing up day after day.

This is not sustainable, “to just show up”, but it is mandatory to success. Every step towards the goal is a step in the right direction – every intentional step is a stride in the right direction. I believe that with showing up, intention must inevitably follow. Being active in the present makes you aware of what needs to be done – just showing up is like being thrown into the ring with wild animals & you must adapt to survive.

Some of my best workouts have come from days when I’m just not feeling it, or I’ve had a slight headache all day. If I force myself to follow through, there is much greater satisfaction in overcoming not only your goals, but also your Self.

Our bodies are well-equipped with a stress-response system & I believe that is what helps you succeed in the ‘just showing up method’ – that is, the fight or flight response. Through evolutionary psychology, our stress has been thought to manifest itself in one of 2 ways Fight or Flight – stand & fight the threat or run away from it. Both will lead to the ultimate goal of survival – but that is the difference between our primal ancestors & us – they fought just to survive life & we are fighting to live the best life.

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Life & Luck & Faith

I have just recently started writing again & just can’t stop! It is so freeing & relieving to smear your thoughts on the blank canvas of LinkedIn Publisher or WordPress. Of late, my goal has been to spread Optimism & Realism through my interpretations of life & situations. In an article I published last week called “Life & Luck”, I wrote about how many things have been slopped onto my plate, and the ultimate lesson was that life happens – how you handle it will determine your success.

One thing I wanted to weave into this lesson, but wasn’t sure how to, was the concept of Faith. For some reason, with ~$10,000 of potential costs from replacing my furnace & AC, I was able to stay positive – I felt that everything would be okay even though it was far from it. I didn’t get a feeling of anger or anxiety, I didn’t question my luck or why God would do this to me.

Sometimes, things just happen. The good thing is that on the other side of that coin is the fact that sometimes, things just work out. No matter how tough life gets, or how nasty a curve it throws us, somehow it all works out in the end – and usually works out for the best.

When I look back at my life, the toughest of times, I never think to myself, “I really wish I knew that in high school.” Or, “if I could go back with the knowledge I have now…”

It’s limiting. It’s stupid. And without my roughest, toughest tests in life, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.

You can sit around & believe that life has it out for you, but I promise – they’re out for us all, not just you! The difference in life is always the how of things. How do you react when your environment pushes on you? How do you sustain being you & preventing yourself from freaking out?

I believe this is where Faith comes in – this doesn’t have to be specifically tied to Spirituality, but for many people it may be. Faith, in my mind, is trusting in the forces that are beyond your control – belief that you are in the right place @ the right time & everything will fall into place; it’s all part of the Grand Master Plan. Some may call this serendipity or intuition, and I believe that Faith is something rooted in those ideas, but still so much deeper & all-encompassing.

Wikipedia defines Faith as, “Faith is confidence or trust in a person or thing; or the observance of an obligation from loyalty; or fidelity to an entity, promise, or engagement.”

I think that the semicolons & ‘or’ that is listed in the definition could be switched to ‘ands’ – in other words, this definition looks like 3 different definitions, but I think they are all an embodiment of the whole picture of Faith. This is not 3 separate definitions, but helps to explain & set-up the relationship-like nature of Faith (I’m having flashbacks to Philosophy class; Kierkegaard anybody?)

This 3-part definition sets up with a couple things. Confidence in a person or thing (the self & others). As it relates to being loyal to the thing of Faith & to the world – it is interesting how they use obligation in this part of the definition, but then go deeper on the third section stating that it is fidelity to an entity, promise, or engagement. Fidelity is defined as faithfulness to a person, cause, or belief, demonstrated by continuing loyalty and support.

To me, this demonstrates that Faith is its own entity, but part of a 3-part system including the Self, the World, and belief in a higher order & higher power to things; a relationship to the Divine in Life – and not only that, but belief that everything is happening exactly as it should – and if it isn’t, good things are on the horizon.

Live your Life.

&

Make your own Luck.

&

Have Faith.

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Shot on my phone @ Charleston Falls Preserve, OH
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New Year’s Resolutions

How are your Resolutions shaping up?

Every year we talk about resolutions & what we dream of achieving, or people talking about how quickly they are broken, how they don’t work, blah blah etc. – but then you never hear about it again. Where is the follow-through?

Here’s my resolutions list for 2017:

The blogging started off as a little bit of a challenge. I wasn’t really sure what to be writing or how I should write it. And what could I write that others haven’t done before me? I think this is a huge deterrent to people writing – there are so many writers out there sharing their opinion, so why does it matter what I have to say? The biggest takeaway for me has been to just start writing. My buddy Tony has been the biggest inspiration with his success he’s had with his blog & his advice to just start writing. Now I have a decent mix on my blog of personal opinion, mixed in with my gardening posts.

The goal of weekly yoga turned into almost daily yoga in order to combat some serious tightness I have in my shoulders, hips, & just general muscle tightness/soreness from weight lifting. Yoga has nearly alleviated all of the chronic pain I was having in my clavicle & neck and I’m even able to run again because my muscles feel so great! (My hips have been so tight & painful that it has limited my activities such as running & powerlifting.)

Morning lift is a tough thing to do. It means waking up early, preparing yourself for a highly intensive work out, and just following through. Lifting in the morning is truly a breath of fresh air – nothing better than taking a step outside into the dewy morning after a lift, everything else in the world is asleep, but you have already conquered part of your world today!

My censored goals relate to money & projects that are in the works – don’t prefer to share those sorts of things, but being able to set a goal on your income is an empowering thing! Being in sales, my pay depends on my performance & I look to increase my pay at least 10% every year. I haven’t made that happen every single year, but I have my sights set on a certain number this year & would love to double it.

And finally, sell @ the Farmer’s Market! This is something I wanted to do last year but had no plan in place to guarantee that I would have produce every single week. This year I’ve got a better handle on things, have added a mixed portfolio of vegetables that should be yielding produce all season long – should be are the key words here! Anything that can happen, will happen in the garden – it all just comes down to preparation & execution.

I think people hate resolutions because they seem so unattainable; they want to completely flip their lives upside-down with no real clue of how to execute these goals. I always think of the episode of the Office where the boss, Michael Scott, gets mad @ his employees for not being able to follow their resolutions, “I made a resolution to floss, and I did it. 12:01, January first, BAM! Blood everywhere.”

If you want to do it, just do it. The biggest differences for me the last couple years is that I’ve written my resolutions down & kept them in a safe place to check periodically through the year. Before that I would have one big goal to tackle, but life is so much more – you don’t have to punish yourself, figure out what you want & make it happen.

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Giving Your All

Raise your hand as high as you can.

Now raise it higher.

Were you able to raise your hand higher when I told you to do so? Why?

I remember the first time this stunt was pulled on me in school & it blew me away. Literally everyone was able to reach higher. They eventually stood on desks, chairs & tippy-toes with arms reaching skyward.

This leads us to 2 questions: why aren’t you giving it your all? What does it take for you to give it your all?

Why aren’t we giving it our all? Of course we can’t operate at 100% efficiency 100% of the time, but what are you saving all your energy for? Are you running a marathon later? Every day is just another day if you’re holding back, but if you just reach an inch higher – how would that affect you? You may just ask that question that you were afraid of asking and get an answer you wanted, but not the one you expected – just reach one extra inch when you think you’re @ the end of the ladder & see how high you can climb.

What does it take to give it your all? If asking for your best doesn’t actually bring out your best, what will? We can continue to ask to go higher & higher, but it’s an endless & maddening game. I feel that Growth is a natural thing, every thing in life is geared towards growth & self-improvement, but the call to go higher is inspired by outside forces, yet cultivated from within.

Next time you reach up, stretch just a little bit higher & you might get exactly what you want.

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Life & Luck

And at this point all I can really do is laugh. Murphy’s Law – what can happen, will happen. I don’t like to say it the way people normally say it because who is to say it is right or wrong – sometimes it just happens.

I consider myself lucky for having medical bills to pay considering that everything came back normal. I have been in a state of gratitude since then, not taking anything in life for granted, trying not to complain, and generally just living for the moment.

Earlier this week we hit 85 here in Ohio & my air conditioning has been out since the fall (and I procrastinated the service call). Finally made a call & learned that my ~35 year old furnace isn’t kicking electricity to my 18 year old ac unit. I was hoping it was only electrical, but since the furnace is so old, it’s a liability to work on & the parts are no longer being made. Basically I have a nice big investment to make in a new furnace & air conditioning unit 🙂

This isn’t all bad. The way I figure is that I can get a newer, more efficient model & probably make up the money I spent in savings on my utilities – Always a silver lining!

And all I can do is laugh! As I sit in this Honda dealership, pecking away on my Mac & probably annoying the shit out of everyone here (damn Millennials!) – I just got the new of a pretty penny’s worth of repairs on my car. What began as a routine stop in to repair a recalled airbag, get an oil change & tire rotation (oh, and 2 brake light bulbs needed replaced & needed to rethread my oil pan drain) turned into so much more when I asked them to check the reason why my car was vibrating so badly (other than that it’s a perfect car! lol).

So now the amount I thought I was spending today just increased 10x! Right after ole Johnny broke the news I began to feel sorry for myself. I wanted to call my girlfriend or my parents & just say wtf is going on, but you can’t ruminate on these things – this is life! What can happen – will!

There are other options – I can suffer through the heat. People have lived without A/C for hundreds of thousands of years! But there’s also the option for payment plans & financing too, so let’s not get too crazy.

Another option is to find “cheaper” solutions or to ignore my vehicular issue & wait for my engine to drop completely out since my Motor Mount was completely crushed! Or as the HVAC salesman put it to me, “we could put a really expensive bandaid on this.”

I believe him too. We have all tried to take the easy way out; to cut corners to find solutions – how did that work out for ya?

A cheap solution will prolong the problem & be a consistent drain on your finances until the root issue is truly resolved. How does the saying go? “The bitterness of poor quality is remembered long after the sweetness of low prices are forgotten”

But I think the bottom line here is the most important – how you react emotionally & logically to stressful situations will determine your success through them & beyond them.

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Why Wait to Write?

Why write?

Why not?

After suffering for 4-6 months from on-again, off-again pain in my neck, shoulder, clavicle area I finally had to get it checked out. The doctor I saw looked concerned by the way my clavicle was noticeably popping out on the right side near my breast plate. Almost immediately I was referred to a surgeon.

Surgery on an injury in that area is extremely rare, but if it had to be done, it looked pretty nasty – basically like open-heart surgery (worst-case scenario).

But that wasn’t my worst case scenario.

What if this came back that I have cancer.

New worst case scenario.

I began thinking & acting much differently. I remember thinking that if I did have cancer that I would stop living so carefully. I would say what was on my mind, not let opportunities slip by, not think of my responses after-the-fact; I would take life by the horns, take a leap & maybe even start my own business – what would I have to lose if I was told that my life was in the grips of that!?

X-ray, CT scans & an MRI was taken – next I waited a week to meet with the surgeon for results.

My x-rays were fine as expected, but it was the CT & MRI that I was most worried about – they would reveal the truth. And Truth is that I was never worried that my shoulder was torn or that there was structural damage; I was worried that something else was growing inside me other than my anxiety.

Finally the surgeon broke the news to me – There was nothing wrong!

As he said, though, “That’s not to say you’re completely crazy!”

He was glad that I came in & told me a story about his sister-in-law that was complaining of the same thing. She came in, got the MRI and when the doctor analyzed, there were masses in her breasts. Her husband was on a hunting trip in Alaska with no cell service & this doctor had no other choice but to tell his brother’s wife the bad news.

I’m not exactly sure that this story comforted me, but it reaffirmed my reason for being there.

Prescriptions were given to me along with an okay to continue lifting – very slowly & meticulously. I didn’t fill the scripts, but with help from yoga, more mindful practices, and expert advice from my (natural) bodybuilding brother – I was sent on my way.

But what about my dreams? What about starting a business & taking life by the horns?

No, I didn’t take any giant leap; I didn’t start a business – I just began investing in myself. It took me a while to realize “Hey, just because you’re okay doesn’t mean you need to abandon your wildest dreams!” Writing & blogging has been on my list of things to do for the past year at least. I’ve published a few things on my WordPress site but was not consistent. With a jolt from things that have happened to me & inspiration from close friends, I’ve decided life is too short to not take chances, and besides – you’ll be judged either way!

Every case of life is terminal. Until you wake up & start to live – you’re just surviving. You have this one life & I have one question: what will it take for you to live it to the fullest?