Monthly Archives: September 2015

How Poor CEO Decisions Impact Sales Reps: The VW Recall

An Interview with Aaron Hansen, Sales Manager at Cambridge Volkswagen.

Volkswagen-TDI

If you are a sales representative, sales manager, or other front-line staff, there is nothing worse than finding out the head of your company made a huge mistake that reflects poorly on your company.  In some cases, you may have a head’s up of the bad news and have time to prepare, be proactive and inform your clients directly before they find out from a 3rd party, however this is not always the case.

As most of you are aware, Martin Winterkorn, the recently resigned CEO of Volkswagen, had approved the decision to install software on over 480,000 “clean” diesel vehicles in the US between 2009-2015. This software only activated the cars’ pollution controls during emissions testing (while on a hoist) which has now prompted a world-wide recall of nearly 11 million vehicles. This was obviously a fraudulent means to pass the rigorous EPA standards in the US and will end up costing VW up to $18 billion.

Most certainly, this is not the first scandal of its time, especially in automobile history.  In my opinion, the majority of large corporations are guilty of some sort of fraudulent activity, just not all of them get caught.

Where I feel pain, is for the sales people.  They had no say in the executive decision whatsoever yet have to deal with the wrath of chaos the CEO’s have created for them. No matter how bad the news, the sales reps have to suck it up, put on a happy face, keep smiling and continue selling.  I have been there and it’s not easy.  For those of you who are in this situation, I would recommend reading my previous article on The Rumor Mill: How to Grind it to a Halt Before it Hurts your Business.

In this article, I have interviewed Aaron Hanson the Sales Manager at Cambridge Volkswagen here in Canada to get his take on the incident and how he and his sales force are handling the matter.

TSW:How did you find out? Did you have any advanced notice or time to prepare?”

AH: “No head’s up at all.  I saw it on the news the morning before I came into work.”

 

TSW: “How did you and your team react to the news?”

AH: “We were all stressed initially but the fact of the matter is, we sell the cars, we don’t build them. This is not the first or the last time this has happened to a car company. Regardless of what it is in the news, VW is still a great brand that we all have faith in.  We have always and will continue to focus on great customer service. It is a small upset so we just persevere, with smile!”

 

TSW: “How do you stay positive?”

AH: “Easy, we are still alive! It is what it is.  Only 30% of our sales were TDI models and the rest were gasoline powered.”

 

TSW: “How do you feel this news will impact sales now and in the future?”

AH: “Unknown. It is only 5 days in, so it is too early to tell.”

 

TSW: “What sort of message have you been relaying to new and existing customers?”

AH:  “All our TDI customers (whose contact info we have in our database) were contacted immediately. We sent everyone a message informing them of the news, if their vehicle was affected and encouraged them to call us with any questions and concerns.”

 

TSW: “What kind of responses have you been getting?”

AH: “99% Positive. Almost everyone took the time to reply and say thank you for the follow-up. They were really appreciative of the proactive approach that we took.”

 

TSW: “What have you been saying to new potential customers who come into your dealership?”

AH: “We are completely upfront with them from the get-go.  So far, none of them are really concerned. They all still want to buy! The primary reason people buy our diesel vehicles is because of the fuel economy and they buy from us because of our excellent customer service.”

 

TSW: “Since your reps are 100% commission based and have specific monthly quotas for different vehicle types (diesel, gasoline, used), will you still be upholding those targets or adjusting them?”

AH: “Right now, it is unknown how this news will impact sales because it is too early to tell.  That being said, we are being flexible and seeing how and if sales will change.”

Based on my interview with Aaron, I think he is doing the best a sales manager or representative could do when faced with this particular situation. If you find yourself in this situation, I recommend you follow this example.

Aaron has been my sales rep at Volkswagen for the past 10 years.  I have purchased 3 cars from him, 2 of which were TDI’s, so am I concerned about my TDI vehicle or the VW Brand?

No.  I am a trusted and true VW fan and as I said previously, most major corporations lie and engage in some sort of fraudulent activity and so did VW. So what? What else is new?  I still love my car and I still stand by the fact that I think the VW Passat TDI is the #1 Vehicle for Sales Reps.

I did not buy my car for “green status” which it was never eligible for here in Canada anyway.

I did not buy my car so that I can drink water out of the exhaust.

I purchased my VW Passat TDI because of the fuel economy, handling, comfort and because of the excellent service I have always received from Aaron and staff at Cambridge Volkswagen.

A great sales rep can go a long way, and in most cases can be more important to the consumer than the company they represent.

I would love to hear from other sales reps about how you have dealt with a similar situation where your company has received some negative press and what you and your team did to overcome that.

Happy sales my friends.  Remember, even when times get tough, keep persisting and keep positive no matter how hard it may be.

Cheers,

TSW

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Do Extroverts Make Better Sales Representatives?

introvertvsextrovert

If you were to make a list of the best sales representatives you’ve ever met and on that list include some of their primary traits, what would those traits be?

Most certainly these top performers could be best described as highly outgoing, sociable, “people” people which are all traits of extroverts.

What we don’t see is that behind closed doors, the majority of top performing sales reps are in fact, not like this all of the time.

I recall when I started out in a new sales position and on my way home from my first business trip, my sales manager called me to follow-up and discuss how my calls went.  I filled him in and after I was done reporting, I told him “That’s all I got.”, which confused him, so I explained “I’ve been ‘on’ all day and have been talking all day and now I’m done. I have nothing further to report.  It’s time for ‘me time’ to decompress while I drive home and we can touch base next week.”.

There was a long period of silence and then he said to me, “You’re in sales, you’re supposed to like talking ALL the time!”

Not me.

Why?

Because I’m a 50/50 Introvert/Extrovert.

Sure my response may have sounded a bit cold to anyone who is a complete extrovert and couldn’t fully understand, but I can’t help it. It is what I am.

In my opinion, I firmly believe that in order to be successful in any job that requires you to spend a significant amount of time interacting with others that you need to decompress and take a rest in order to recharge your batteries.  If you are ‘on’ all the time, you’ll burn out or exhaust everyone around you.  Perhaps I am biased because I am a split introvert-extrovert but let me put it this way, for anything in life, moderation is key. Too much or too little of anything can be a bad thing.  There must be some sort of balance.  If you are too far on one side of the introversion-extroversion scale, sales likely isn’t going to be for you and here is why:

Highly Extroverted People

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1. Highly Communicative and Like to Talk. This is fine in sales as long as you know when to shut up and listen to your client. In sales it is so important to listen to your client and engage them in a conversation, not simply talk at them or talk for the sake of talking. If you do that you certainly won’t get the sale and won’t be welcome back either.

2. Enjoy Being the Center of Attention. Some of the most charming sales reps I have ever met share this quality. They love to hear their own voice and make everyone laugh but then they run into the problem of not listening or properly engaging with the client.  In sales, it’s one thing to put on a good song and dance but if you’re client just sees you as a form of entertainment, it may not translate into sales.

3. Tend to Act First Without Thinking. This is never a good thing. Highly extroverted sales reps may inadvertently say anything to get the sale simply because they acted without thinking.  If you lie or over promise and under-deliver, it will hurt you not only in your professional life but in your personal life as well.

4. Assertive and Gregarious. These traits are a must for any sales rep.  After all, if you can’t ask for that sale, you’ll never get that sale.

5. Feel Isolated by Too Much Time Spent Alone. This is probably the primary reason I see highly extroverted reps leave sales.  If you’re on the road full time, you spend a LOT of time alone in your car, at home, in hotels…much more so than face-to-face with clients.  If you’re the type of person who needs constant interaction with others, all of that alone time will take its toll on you.

Highly Introverted People

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1. Quiet and Reserved in Large Groups or Unfamiliar People. In sales you have to meet unfamiliar people all the time and often have to participate in trade shows or even speak at events. If you score too highly in this regard, you won’t last long in sales.

2. Good Listeners who Enjoy Understanding Details. These traits are integral to success in sales.  Even if you have all the best questions to ask your client, if you don’t listen to their answers  you will never qualify them properly and/or get the sale.  Understanding detail is immensely important when it comes to your grasp of not only your products and/or services but your industry as a whole and your clients’ needs.

3. Interested in Self-Knowledge and Understanding. Individuals with these traits not only understand themselves better but doing so allows them to be more thoughtful of others and more empathetic. The better you understand your client, the better relationship you will have with them and the more likely that you will be able to close deals time and time again.

4. Thoughtful. Whether you are mindful of your clients’ needs or sensitive to their situation (business or personal), this can only help you develop a long-term relationship with your client as a sales rep.

5. Need time Alone to Contemplate and “Recharge” After Social Situations. Introverts do their best thinking alone.  They will spend a significant amount of time analyzing the days goings on and in that time they may devise methods to better understand themselves and their clients and come up with ways to improve their lives and better service their clients.  With regards to recharging, as I mentioned previously, I firmly believe balance and moderation is the key to success in life. Just like our electronic devices that we use all day long, we need to recharge our batteries too.

So where do YOU stand on the introversion-extroversion scale?

Complete this Extroversion-Introversion Test to find out.

I scored 52/100. Well it’s not 50 exactly but it’s pretty darn close.

If you’re in sales or a similar position that requires a significant amount of face-time, I would love to hear your results and your thoughts.

Please share.

In the meantime, happy sales my friends!

TSW

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Tips on How to Fly Through Airport Security: A Step-by-Step Guide

AirportSecurityGuards

Now that summer has officially ended, it’s the perfect time to start planning your next vacation or plan that next work trip. After all, flight prices are historically the lowest in the month of September.

If you’re flying somewhere, I’m sure you’re like most people who absolutely dread the thought of passing through airport security screening. It can be a timely and intimidating process.

What aggravates me the most is that although the process is quite simple, so many people are completely clueless or just pretend to be ignorant of the rules and cause unnecessary delay and headaches for everyone else because they are unprepared!

In this article, I will provide some useful tips and tricks of the trade that will help you better prepare for your next flight so that you (and your fellow travellers) can breeze through airport security.

BEFORE YOU TRAVEL:

Trusted-traveler-logos

  1. Enlist in a Trusted Traveller Program. These passes enable you to bypass regular line-ups because you have been pre-screened.  It is quite a process to get one of these cards but trust me, it’s worth the 2 hours of interviews and the $50 even if it is just to save yourself sitting in line waiting for 2 hours on a single flight! My Nexus pass is the best investment I have ever made. To learn which would be the best for your travel needs and how to apply, visit US Customs and Border Protection Website.
  1. Invest an Airport Lounge Pass (if you fly more than 3 times per year). Airports are expensive places to be held captive.  One time I had the “cheapest glass of wine” at an airport bar in SFO which was $27 before tax and tip! Yikes! If you’re stuck only a few times per year for a few hours at a time, it is definitely worthwhile to invest one of these lounge passes because for whatever you pay for that pass, you will get your money’s worth in food and drink that you won’t be buying at airport prices like a sucker. If you travel frequently, you come out well ahead!
  1. Visit Your Local Travel Health Clinic (Foreign Travel Only). Some countries have endemic diseases for which you will require vaccination before you travel. More exotic countries require several vaccinations that require 2-3 boosters that are to be administered weeks apart and you must have all of them in order to be fully immune.

BEFORE YOU GO TO THE AIRPORT:

TravelDocsBe sure to bring the following items with you:

  1. Photo ID (Passport, Trusted Traveller Program Card, Driver’s License)
  2. Printed Copies of Your Itinerary (Boarding Pass, Copy of Hotel and Rental Car Reservations). You never know when you will lose wifi access, if your phone battery will die or if you lose your phone all together!
  3. Wallet (Credit Cards, Cash)
  4. Liquids and Gels Separated in a Clear Plastic Bag that is Easy to Remove from your Carry-on
  5. Phone, charger and other electronics stowed in your carry-on. Any device containing a lithium ion battery is considered a dangerous good and cannot be checked. You will also likely need to charge your devices in the event that you did not do so prior.
  6. Pens (for Customs documents if required)
  7. Ziploc Bag (or a jacket with a pocket that zips up)

BEFORE YOU GO THROUGH SECURITY:

Frustrated Punk Woman Waiting at Airport Security

Frustrated Woman Waiting at Airport Security

To save time and aggravation (for you and other travellers!) before you even line up at the security gate, step aside, sit down somewhere comfortably and remove the following items in ADVANCE.

  • Belt- Remove it and put it in your carry-on
  • Jewellery-Take all of it off and store it in a Ziploc bag or in a pocket that you can secure with a zipper and store safely and securely
  • Loose change– Keep it in a jacket pocket which zips up (you will have to remove your jacket anyway) or stow it in a change purse that you can stow in your carry-on
  • Make sure that you can easily remove/have access to your:
    • Laptop computer
    • Liquids and gels (stored in a clear Ziploc bag)

You WILL have to remove these from you carry-on at the check point, so if you ensure that these are all easily accessible and can be easily put back into your luggage so you don’t struggle with them and cause any unnecessary delay.

  • Empty your water bottle if you will be bringing it with you through security. It sure is better than tossing it in the garbage and paying $7 for a new one after security.
  • Boarding Pass (last)– Once you have all of your other things in order, keep your boarding pass tight in hand. Do NOT store it in your suitcase! I can’t count the number of times I have seen people do this!!

AT THE SECURITY CHECKPOINT

AirportSecurityScanning

Assuming you took my advice and followed all of the aforementioned,  there isn’t much to stress about doing at the security checkpoint itself.  Whatever you do, do NOT think that you can save time and get through quicker if you “forget to remove these items” because that will NEVER happen!  Keep in mind that as you approach the metal detector, you will be instructed to remove these items. If your bags already went through the x-ray machine, then you will be interrupting everyone else behind you. So be a good passenger and remove these items for screening in the x-ray machine:

  • Shoes with a heel or thick sole (pumps, running shoes, boots, etc.) Pretty much anything except flip flops. Try taking them off while you are waiting in line to save time.  They need to be in their own bin and its best if they are the first of your items to go through the scanner because they will be the first ones out of the scanner after you pass through.
  • Outer wear: Coats, sweaters, jackets, hats, sunglasses
  • Laptop computers and other large electronic devices
  • Liquids and gels

AFTER AIRPORT SECURITY

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Make sure you know where your gate is and go to the airport lounge, sit back, relax and enjoy all the “free” food and drink you can until 30 minutes prior to boarding.

I hope some of you less frequent flyers find this information helpful.  If I can only save a handful of you, I feel like I’m making a difference.

Safe travels my friends.

Cheers,

TSW

 

 

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Road Woes: Getting Help en Route in a Foreign Language

Last week I wrote about my experiences cold calling in a foreign language.  As you can imagine, that entire experience was immensely difficult and intimidating however, trying to get help when you run into trouble en route is equally difficult, if not more frustrating.

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Every year I worked in the French-only speaking province of Quebec, something came up where I needed help and it was nearly impossible to do so because of the language barrier. This is something we all take for granted on our home turf.   These are some of my worst experiences:

 

Flat Tire

TIRE leaking-air-causes-the-liquid-to-bubble-at-the-hole

When I arrived at my hotel in Quebec City and got out of my car, I noticed that I had a flat tire. I called CAA and they informed me that they could not guarantee that they could send a tow truck driver who spoke English.

In preparation, I had prepared some soapy water in my hotel room and put it into a squirt bottle so that I could spray it onto the tire to clearly demonstrate where the leak was coming from (it will bubble where the leak is as shown in the photo).  I also did a quick Google Translate search for “flat tire” which came up as “pneu à plat”.

When the driver arrived, not only didn’t he speak a lick of English when I pointed to the soap covered tire which was clearly bubbling where the leak was present while saying “pneu à plat!”, he just gave me a blank stare as though I was completely insane! After a few minutes passed he just shook his head in a “no” direction. Great.  So I ran inside the hotel, gave the front desk girl $50 cash to be my translator which she did.   But the guy informed her that he didn’t have the proper tools to put a spare tire on so he left!!!

This left me no choice but to fill my tire up with air every 2 hours overnight at a nearby gas station so the tire wouldn’t be completely flat and damage my rim and then I drove it to a VW dealership the next morning where they fixed it.  At least somehow they understood me!

I later learned that in Quebec French, instead of “plat” they use the word cassé which directly translates to “broken”.  Lesson learned!!! But I still think that guy was being an @$$hole.

Car Accident

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Naturally I was in the middle of absolutely nowhere Quebec when I got into a car accident and of course, the guy who smashed into me didn’t speak any English.  Fortunately, the day before when I got violently stung by wasps while I was driving (Check out the full story “The Busy Bee Gets Stung”), I had asked a hotel concierge if the 911 operators speak English and learned that they do!

Since this accident was clearly this man’s fault and not mine, I called 911 immediately and with confidence knowing that they spoke English.  They told me that they would do their best to send a bilingual police officer which they did.  The only problem was when the other guy was explaining his version of the accident, I had no idea what he was saying.  In general, Quebecers hate people from Ontario!!! So, I was certain that he was blaming everything on me and that the police officer would side with him.  Regardless, in the end I got lucky because the guy didn’t have his insurance with him and he failed to provide it to my insurance company which resulted in not only him being deemed 100% at fault for the accident but also fined for failing to provide insurance.

Sickness

womansleepingincarNear the end of my two week working trip in Quebec a few years ago, I contracted a nasty respiratory infection and I required antibiotics.  This is when I learned that Quebec has the poorest healthcare system in all of Canada. To see how the other provinces rank, be sure to read my previous article on Canadian Healthcare: “Free” but Certainly Not Consistent.

I went to 5 different walk-in clinics and every single one told me that I needed to show up at 7am the following day to register and then it would be a 2-3 day wait to see a doctor!  In spite of my attempt to explain that I just need a prescription and I’m in and out the door, it didn’t matter.

Each clinic informed me that if I required more prompt treatment that I should go to the hospital emergency department where I would likely be seen within 36 hours. When I told them that I could be dead from pneumonia by then, their advice to me was, “Well just go back to Ontario or drive to the US if you need to see a doctor today.”.   So that’s exactly what I did. I cancelled the rest of my appointments and went back to my home province where I got in to see a doctor right away and got the meds I needed.

TIP: If you have found yourself in one of these scenarios, all I can suggest is to try and use body language as much as possible.  It’s amazing how much information can be relayed using simple gestures.  If that fails and you happen to have a piece of paper and a pen handy, try to draw a diagram.  That can go a long way as well.

Whether you are travelling for business or pleasure in a foreign country, try to do your best in advance of your trip to determine what the healthcare system is like and to learn some quick phrases that may get you the help you need. Most people just spend time focusing on how to ask for food or drinks at a restaurant but based on my experiences, I learned that I needed to know how to say:

  • “I need help”
  • “My tire is flat”
  • “I am sick and need to see a doctor”
  • “I have an emergency and require assistance”
  • “Do you speak [YOUR LANGUAGE]? Or ‘’Can I speak with someone who speaks [YOUR LANGUAGE]?’

…and I’m sure there are many, many more!!!

I would love to hear your experiences trying to get assistance in a foreign language.

Travel safe my friends and always do your best to be prepared.  You never know what’s lurking on the road ahead of you.

Cheers,

 

TSW

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