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Getting back to basics? What does that mean anyway?

Most everyone in leadership, at some point or another, wants their people to get back to the basics.


Sales falling?

Product becoming a “commodity?”

Losing people?

Morale a problem?

Customers defecting?

Competition winning?

Or, you have a problem, you have no NEW ideas on how to handle it, or solve it, so you use the time worn expression, “Let’s get back to the basics.”

The REAL problem is that you may want to get back to basics, but NO ONE on your team does. In fact, when you make that fatal “back to basics” statement, everyone groans and turns you off.

What are “the basics” anyway? So far, in my 30-year career of training, no one has been able to define “the basics.” Some will say, “Basic blocking and tackling.” What the heck is that? “You know, the things that got us here.” What was that? A better economy? Picking low-hanging fruit?

When I hear the basics phrase being offered as a solution to present ills, I think of cars. When your car is not performing, do you say, “My car is going bad, I think I’ll go out and try to find a 10-year-old one that will be better than the one I have today”?

No, when your old car sputters, you look for the newest, latest, greatest model. And you add every accessory you can afford.

I discourage “back to basics” because every person and every salesperson feels he or she already knows the basics. I prefer to say, “Let’s get back to reality.”

SALES REALITY: You call people for an appointment, you make the appointment, and the customer doesn’t show up. Or, the customer does show up, but greets you by saying, “I only have five minutes, whadda ya got?”

SALES REALITY: You get bogged down in numbers instead of ideas.

SALES REALITY: You get bogged down in price, instead of value and outcome.

SALES REALITY: You feel like you need to justify who you are, and what you do, and brag about what you’ve done, rather than focus on what the customer needs, and what the customer expects to happen. The outcome, that’s reality.

BIG SALES REALITY: The customer’s reality is all that matters. As soon as you figure that one out, the easier it will be for you to make more sales.

Learn to create front-end value.

Learn to differentiate with things other than price.

Learn to get better at “right now” by creating a buying urgency.

Learn to get better at “right now” in service and any type of response.

SALES REALITY: Many retail employees greet customers by saying, “Sorry, we’re closed.” And the customer silently responds by going home and buying what they were looking for online — from someone else.

SALES REALITY: Every time you have an interaction, you create an experience. It is either positive, neutral or negative.

SALES REALITY: You choose, how the customer creates your reputation in their mind, by the answers and responses you give.

This is where the value of consistency comes into play. You seek out a restaurant you like. On the way, you decide what you’re going to order. You can taste it. By the time you walk in the door, you’re salivating. You returned because you liked it before — and you’re hoping for the same thing, cooked the same way.

The server — like a pre-programmed robot — comes over to your table and says, “Hi, my name is Jason, I’ll be your server tonight. Before I tell you about our specials, can I get you something from the bar?” And you interrupt with, “I’ll have the meatloaf.”

Jason was just doing what he was taught — THE BASICS. And he could have not been more wrong — or more annoying.

REALITY: Jason is not at fault. The trainer is at fault. Jason is doing what he was taught.

Jason COULD have said, “Welcome! My name is Jason. Who here thinks they already know what they want? Would you like me to tell you about our specials, or just shut up and take your order?” If he said that, everyone would be smiling, and his gratuity (his tip) would be assured. That’s reality.

Those are some of the fundamental realities of your sales life — either as a seller or as a buyer. And they require execution over and over — repetition until they are mastered.

These realities, when understood properly by your people, will make them better people, not just better salespeople.

GitBit: Want more realities? (Understanding buying motives, understanding the value of a loyal customer, understanding the power of a value message, and the power of positive attitude.) Go to www.gitomer.com, register if you’re a first time user and enter the word REALITY in the GitBit box.

Jeffrey Gitomer, author of “The Sales Bible,” and “Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless,” is president of Charlotte-based Buy Gitomer. He gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings and conducts training programs on selling and customer service. He can be reached at (704) 333-1112 or e-mail


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