My mother used to be a sales representative for a company called Queen’s Way to Fashion. She never read any books about employee engagement or the need to align internal and external communication, but her experience there epitomized those ideals.
Queen’s Way reps like my mother managed their own small businesses selling fashion apparel at parties that their customers held in their homes. Mom’s regional director got all of her reps together as a group each month to talk about business and share ideas on how to make their parties more successful. My mother was a go-getter and a great talker, so she always had lots to share. Even though some of her associates occasionally had lukewarm reactions to her ideas, the regional director encouraged her and everyone else to keep sharing, and she always acknowledged them when they did.
Treating the Customer Like Family
Mom extended that approach to the way she worked with customers. She always worked closely with the “hostess” to plan the party and share ideas on how to make it successful. Another big factor in her success was how she worked with people at the party. “I never tried to sell anything to anyone,” she told me one day. Instead of being a salesperson, she saw herself as a true fashion consultant, and she was there to help people look their best. She had impeccable taste, and if she saw someone try something on that wasn’t very flattering, she would deftly recommend something better suited for the customer – even if it meant selling a lower priced garment with a lower commission.
Getting that Extra Effort
I asked her one day if she could sum up how to get employees to go the extra mile, and here’s what she said:
• Explain why their work is important
• Give them encouragement
• Listen to their ideas and take them seriously
I’ve got a bunch of business books that essentially come down to those simple, timeless truths.
Being Super is Simple
Mom eventually became one of the company’s top performers. She was also pretty modest about it. One time, she invited me to the final night dinner at their national conference that was being held near St. Louis where I lived. It was a large, festive event, and we sat at a table with several other reps from around the country. At the end of dinner, they had an award ceremony. After about 30 minutes, they got down to the big ones, and Mom was called up on the stage. She knew about it, of course, but she hadn’t told anyone, including me. Everyone at our table cheered, and one woman said, “Wow, I didn’t know we were sitting with a superstar.”
I was very proud, of course. Mom, though, would be the first to say that there was nothing super in what she did at all – certainly nothing “new.” It was just simple appreciation and sensibility for how to communicate and work with people – inside and out.
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