Stand Out and Simplify to Increase Business

Communication with millennials and salespeople among topics at Region IV meet

  • by Linda Deckard
  • Published: May 12, 2014

Carol Carter, CenterPlace Regional Event Center, Spokane Valley, Wash., asks speaker and “next generation catalyst” Ryan Jenkins some follow-up questions during the Region IV meeting in Spokane, Wash. (VT Photo)

REPORTING FROM SPOKANE, WASH. — “It’s tough to get simple,” advised Ryan Jenkins, who spoke on the next generation’s expectations, during his description of the workplace of the future, and sometimes present, when millennials take over and communication is mobile and streaming. “Simplicity reigns in a stream economy.”

Embracing millennials and managing an effective sales force were among topics discussed at the IAVM Region 4 meeting here May 6-9. The gathering was attended by 135 venue management and supplier personnel.

There are 80 million millennials, aged 14-34, in the wings and in the workplace who will be running corporate America soon, Jenkins said. But he also advised, “generations are a clue, not a box,” and his descriptions of that group are not to be interpreted as across-the-board fact.

Harry Sladich, Red Lion Hotels, agreed that pigeonholing anyone, including the sales staff, is not the answer. His tips on managing salespeople included avoiding rulemaking because “great salespeople want autonomy,” becoming a coach who encourages them to come up with their own solutions to the problems, letting them do what they do best and, if an organization isn’t one of their strong suites, hire someone to keep them organized, giving them pats on the back and celebrating success. Sladich bought a gong he placed in the lobby at Red Lion Hotels headquarters to celebrate big sales. “Something is always sold first,” Sladich said of the business environment.

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Harry Sladich, executive VP, hotel operations and sales, for Red Lion Hotels Corp., is thanked for speaking by Kevin Twohig, Spokane Public Facilities District. (VT Photo)

He also recommended trusting but verifying sales and committing to being a student for life. Two books he highly recommends are “The Sales Bible” and “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind.”

NEXT IS NOW

In 2025, 75 percent of the workforce will be millennials, Jenkins said. “If you’re feeling the effect now, it will only get worse.”

“The Internet and technology are the greatest equalizers we’ve ever seen,” Jenkins continued. They have inspired change, and millennials are a critical mass of early adopters and the ones likely to keep up as change accelerates.

The decade according to Jenkins goes like this: 2000, a “digital native” was born; 2001, privacy dies; 2003, the rise of the internet; 2005, social media is embraced; 2007, the mobile revolution takes off and we send and receive more text messages than phone calls; 2008, blogging becomes personal branding and ignites; 2009, the age of the network arrives, from LinkedIn to crowdsourcing.

Change is more robust now because the early adopters are ready for it. “They look to the Internet as authority, not parents or teachers,” Jenkins said. Their average job tenure is two years and they’ve had the world at their fingertips since day one.

Next Generation communications will be quite different, Jenkins said. “Seventy-nine percent of millennials would rather be mobile than static. They are remote- and project-based.” By 2017, 60 percent of the content we consume on our mobile devices will be video, he added.

In 2009, texting became the primary form of communication for teens. They are not apt to make a phone call. And email, so popular at one point that we made movies about it, has become very stale.

For baby boomers to work with millennials, it will be necessary to specify preferred means of communication and then compromise, Jenkins recommended. “Compromise, and they will reciprocate. Do not pigeonhole them to just one form of communication.”

On the other hand, he believes millennials sometimes miss out because they cannot connect offline. “Google is the first handshake,” Jenkins said. No millennial lacks digital presence. Everyone needs to learn from that. “You need a digital reputation.”

But there have to be areas of flexibility. Technology keeps you accountable, and multitasking is a myth, he said. That’s why simplicity reigns. There is a very small window in which to consume and communicate information in this mobile world. It has to be “scannable, scrollable and shareable.”

With 63 percent of U.S. executives eligible to retire in the next five years, millennials will leapfrog to the top and there is a reward in embracing that change now, Jenkins said.

NETWORKING IN SALES

Among Sladich’s favorite quotes is this one: “A wise man knows everything; a shrewd man knows everyone.”

Management should never look at sales as an expense; it’s revenue, he said. Those who have a successful sales strategy don’t compete on price. They set themselves apart.

He advised everyone to commit to networking, including beyond your own industry. “Get involved; plant a tree, not a flower,” he said. “Spend 75 percent of your time with people you do not know and 25 percent building existing relationships.”

When networking in a social setting, don’t sell your product, sell your appointment, he continued. There is a time and place for everything and often, you are selling the idea of a meeting. He also recommended following up with a personal, handwritten note.

Everyone in the organization should be armed with a 30-second commercial about what the company does. For instance, for a convention center, it might be, “I help people plan memorable meetings and serve great food.”

“Differentiate yourself and practice it,” he said.

Sladich also believes salespeople in particular should have unusual business cards, also something to differentiate themselves. He mentioned one individual who had a half-size business card that read, “If I had your business, I could afford a bigger card.”

“Go back home and suggest everyone design their own card,” he suggested.

On a sales call, good listening skills and patience are key. “Focus on what the customer needs first,” he said. “Probe for emotional messages, their wants and frustrations. Don’t interrupt, distract or correct a client. Clarify what they tell you and make silence your ally.”

Once you understand what they want by building rapport by asking questions, close the sale.

Sladich also advised salesmen to have a deeper relationship than the current buyer, even going three deep and building a relationship with the likely next in command.

He closed with some suggestions on gifts and gimmicks. He once sent potential customers pizzas with notes that Red Lion wanted a slice of their business. He learned to put that message inside the box cover so it did not disappear when the pizza was divvied up.

Another gift was a size-12 shoe filled with goodies and the message that “we’re trying to get a foot in the door.”

He sends thank-you gifts at Thanksgiving instead of Christmas, when they get lost in the deluge. And when you say thanks in November, you can ask if they’ve thought about the year end.

The key in sales, Sladich said, is simple: Stand out; differentiate.

Interviewed for this story: Ryan Jenkins, (404) 590-0396; Harry Sladich, (509) 777-6301

  • by Linda Deckard
  • Published: May 12, 2014