If you’ve had the chance to attend one of our speaking engagements, you’ll notice we bring a Snickers® bar to every function. Mustang Engineering snagged one of their biggest clients by winning them over with a Snickers® candy bar.

Candy is great and all, but it seems unrealistic to believe that something so small could make such a big impact, right? Obviously, there’s a whole lot more to it than that!

Here’s a short excerpt from Chapter 8 of Mustang the Story about how it all went down:

Our team walked in carrying an easel and the advertising boards – just hoping to get some attention. I then flipped the first board over to reveal the start of our presentation. Written in magic marker were the words:

“MUSTANG WILL SATISFY YOU”

The original presentation boards

I then probably broke all of the protocol rules of Metro and walked over into their space. I had a Kroger plastic shopping bag in my hand and starting with the first board member, I put a large Snickers® bar in front of each of them. Of course I sort of sang the Snickers jingle, Mustang style. Smiling and bouncing a little as I walked down the line, I told them that I wanted them to focus on this presentation…not lunch!! We were going to tell them about a company that is focused on solving their problems. Our feeling was that if we take care of their problems, they will gain trust in us, which will increase efficiency and lead to more work.

I had worked my way down to putting a large Snickers® in front of the last board member, when I said “Oh and here is a small one for your baby”. That comment got everyone on both sides of the room laughing, because she was pregnant but not yet showing. It was very obvious through sight, sound, smell, taste, touch and feeling of empathy, that Mustang was really going to be focused on Metro and their needs.    

By going into the board’s space and getting them laughing, we were able to totally change the whole dynamic of the room. We drew them into a great conversation about their concerns. We talked about how Mustang would help solve those concerns, if Metro would help us minimize the bureaucracy and paperwork required of our people. Before the “Presentation” was over, we were all working together to figure out how to take care of each other in a fully win-win fashion that really felt good and energetic to all participants.

It’s a great success story, but more importantly it helped demonstrate and reinforce three characteristics of work cultures that are other-oriented. Let’s break it down:

  1. Other-oriented cultures consider basic needs first. As Higgs writes, this meeting built trust between Mustang and the client. Small deeds like providing hungry and busy clients with a snack means you care about their needs. Sure, a Snickers® isn’t exactly a balanced food, but in this scenario the thought and gesture matter more than the snack. Higgs and his team demonstrated they considered the client’s basic needs; this ultimately led to a foundation of trust.
  2. Other-oriented cultures require (positive) thinking ahead. As soon as the Mustang team realized their pitch was right before lunch, they anticipated the potential for distraction. Instead of adopting a “we’re doomed!” mentality and trudging through, they found a solution and implemented it immediately.
  3. Other-oriented cultures change the dynamic for the better. Pitch meetings can be stiff, boring, and perhaps worst of all they can be a huge waste of time. Much of this is a result of an atmosphere that is way more serious than it needs to be. By cracking some jokes, singing a popular jingle, and getting everyone to lighten up, the Mustang team shifted that dynamic. This ultimately put the client in the right mindset to listen to Mustang present on how they would take care of Metro efficiently and with great care.

You don’t have to have a clever or quirky solution to every problem to establish your organization’s culture as other-oriented. All you need to do is follow these three mindsets and problem solving tactics, and you’ll be on your way to success.

A new business is saddled with the overwhelming need to keep costs under control.  It’s working countless and often uncompensated hours to minimize overhead labor costs and maximize returns.  In early days of Mustang Engineering, they recognized the need for a winning sales strategy without the employing of actual salesmen to increase expenses. Thus, their concept of “Same Sentence Sales” was born.

Forbes Contributor Gay Gaddies writes of lessons learned in sales strategy, “[It’s] better for your customers to discover how great you are than for you to tell them. Leave bread crumbs for your clients to find you because it is much more valuable for someone to discover you than for you to pound your fists declaring your greatness.”

As bread crumbs, Mustang used their existing relationships with key vendor salesmen or owners that were currently in the fields working with desired clients.  They leveraged the trust they had already built, such that when the client came asking their opinions on who best to parcel out sub-tasks or new projects, those salesmen could answer “Mustang”, among a short list of well-respected competitors.  The ability to have Mustang used in a conversational vs. sales sentence made all the difference.

Mustang Co-Founder Bill Higgs recalls, “The vendors knew we would take good care of the client and they had no problem working Mustang’s name into conversations.”

In turn, that led to winning more bids and, thus the easier their same sentence sales strategy became.

For more sales strategy tips, purchase a copy of Mustang the Story on Amazon – HERE

Picture a bidding presentation where the only thing standing between a crowded room of skeptical engineers and their lunch is YOU – and your sales pitch!  That’s not exactly an ideal position, but it was where Mustang Co-Founder Bill Higgs found himself in the early days of Mustang.  Higgs took a creative approach on what could have been a room full of “hangry” people and spun it into a message about Mustang Engineering being other-oriented.

In Mustang The Story, Bill describes, “Starting with the first board member, I put a large Snickers® bar in front of each of them. I told them that I wanted them to focus on this presentation… not lunch!! I had worked my way down to putting a large Snickers® in front of the last board member, when I said ‘Oh and here is a small one for your baby’. That comment got everyone on both sides of the room laughing, because she was pregnant but not yet showing. It was very obvious through sight, sound, smell, taste, touch and feeling of empathy, that Mustang was really going to be focused on Metro [the client] and their needs…That is why we served Snickers® bars at all functions. We want to continually remind people to be other-oriented in our ongoing effort to build trust. Being other-oriented in all of our actions is a very positive differentiator that many find hard to believe at first.”

What can you do to create a winning deal and a lasting impression?  For Mustang, it was all about building trust with the client.  Satisfy their hunger for a strong collaboration, a useful contract, or perhaps just a tasty snack, and make a deal worth skipping lunch!

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In an ideal world, we all want to be Yes-Men! That is, we want to be everything to everyone, particularly a client whom we’re trying to win-over or maintain the best working relationship possible. However, this results in inherent problems for all involved, which is why the art of saying “no” to a client is of the utmost importance.

Essentially, saying yes to one thing is saying no to another. Each commitment you make is an opportunity cost, and in some cases are worth it, and in some cases, not.

Fstopper contributor Peter House recounts, “The more things I said yes to, the more I had on my plate. I was busy, very busy in fact, but it was not the right kind of busy. I was stretching myself thin making promises all over the board. I would cave to client requests and soon I found myself falling short on a lot of my promises…I filled my time with so many things that I was soon over committed to everyone. I could not fulfill my tasks in the time frames I had promised nor could I deliver the kind of results I truly wanted.”

The key to saying no while still winning over clients is to make them feel like you’re actually saying yes. Solid communication and compassion for their plight are cornerstone strategies to employ. At the most basic level, having a willingness to problem solve with your client, regardless of whether or not you take on the actual tasks in question, is typically perceived as a sign of good faith and support to their cause.

When client-facing, it’s critical to avoid over-commitment and learn to identify reasonable requests. And while “reasonable” is a relative term, the more you understand your own core competencies and endgame, the more likely you’ll be able to pushback when something leads you away from it.

To learn more ways to foster client service, schedule Bill Higgs to speak at your next event. Contact Haven Creative – 704.256.4008 or email us – jeni @ thehavencreative.com.

 

Deciding to start a business can be one of the most exhilarating decisions you make in your life, but it is most certainly not for the faint at heart. There are always those that don’t share your vision, and maybe some that don’t want you to succeed. To be successful, you have to keep beating the drum.

DrumEntrepreneurs who have an unparalleled commitment, tenacity and work ethic are ultimately profitable. As Mustang Co-Founder, Bill Higgs, says “it takes constant effort to get your vision and values to permeate throughout your organization top to bottom…we kept beating the drum for our vision of moving an industry to take care of people as well as projects.”

Each day presents a new problem to solve, a new process to streamline. And while there are times to look at the endeavor holistically, more often than not, just taking things day-by-day is what keeps you moving forward. There are virtually no [successful] business owners that end the day thinking, “I’m done. I did everything I sought out to do.” Because with each accomplishment, comes a renewed vigor to tackle the next hurdle even better than the last.

Entrepreneur Contributor, Stevel Tobak states, “Make no mistake, successful companies have no endpoint. That’s right, they don’t. The goal is to keep overcoming obstacles, growing sales, and making money, ad infinitum…Having the vision to see what others don’t, the passion to motivate yourself and others, the savvy to build and grow a business, and the guts to make good decisions, are all part of the mix. But what binds those ingredients together is the tenacity to stick with it, day in, day out, year after year.”

While passion is the initial driver for entrepreneurs, it takes consistent beating of the drum to get that passion to permeate throughout the organization. Consistent messaging, taking care of people and focusing on projects will help drive that home.

It’s the accompanying strategy and logistics that create a truly thriving business. But as Peter F. Drucker says, “Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast” so it’s equally important to invest in your culture. Having both and the will to continue beating the drum is what, ultimately, makes music that people will dance to.

In its humble beginnings, Mustang sought to prove itself in an industry that had seen its fair share of abuse among clients and contractors alike. Poor behavior on both sides during the 70’s boom, and not enough projects to go around during the 80’s bust, left a pervasive feeling of distrust. Mustang’s solution to changing those feelings was based in a philosophy that loyalty and trust are built on performance.

mustang handshake

As in anything, when a company or individual provides a service, they need a product, work ethic and integrity that can back it up, if they hope to build loyalty. According to @Inc., “[Trust] is dependent upon showing the customer that your behavior is consistent and persistent over time. When a customer can predict your behavior, that customer is more likely to trust you.”

One of the ways in which Mustang solidified their model for building trust was to encourage their clients to use other companies, even competitors, if they were believed to be more capable in a particular area of the project. And while no one wants to give away work, this approach emphasized that they were thinking of the industry as a team to be used as effectively as possible to deliver the best project. It showed that Mustang had good industry knowledge, and ultimately, were focused on the client being satisfied at the end of the day.

As Higgs contends, “A clear and clean philosophy came across in everything we did. We were working to position clients, vendors and Mustangers into win-win scenarios…even if it meant Mustang taking a controlled hit to prove the point.”

There are some simple rules to building trust with a client, but valuing the relationship is arguably the most important. If you give people what you expect in return; if you treat them with integrity; and if you’re consistent in your deliverance, the client will know, respect you for it, and return for more work.