video overview

IIr Associates, Inc.
Publisher of The Virginia Engineer

Print-Publishing Services
Web Site Design-Coding-Hosting
Business Consulting

Phone: (804) 779-3527

Stop Taking Your Customers To Lunch
June 2006

Stop Taking Your Customers To Lunch
Seven Ways To Differentiate Yourself From Your Competition

By Allyson Lewis

Imagine walking into your favorite Italian restaurant. You likely have been looking forward to it all day and when you simply walk in the front door and smell the delicious aromas your heart begins to pound just a little bit faster. You sit down at the table with your family and friends and subconsciously your senses begin to register all of the different things that are occurring. Your ears hear the pleasant chatter of friendly conversation all around you, the soft music gently drifts by, the artwork on the walls is pleasing to your eyes and oh yeah, there is the smell of all of that delicious Italian food.

The reason you love this particular place is that it involves all of your senses—you can see it, touch it, smell it, taste it and hear it. You are much more likely to feel strongly about an experience when it involves all of your senses than when it does not. Involving the senses will create “anchors” in your customer’s minds regarding your business. When you take them out to lunch at a fabulous restaurant, while they may appreciate your gesture, they are “anchoring” the happy experience with the restaurant and not necessarily with you or with your company.

With this in mind, we decided we would stop taking our customers to lunch and begin inviting them to our office for those lunch meetings. We make it a point to have something that has a strong, delicious smell. As soon as the receptionist lets us know the customer has arrived we move into action. The table has already been set, the glasses filled with water or tea and the salads and desserts are already on the table. All we have to do is place the main entrees on the table and we are set to go. Once all the food is on the conference table, we move quickly to greet our customers and walk them back to the meal. There is almost always an immediate physical response, as soon as they smell the food, they will turn to us with a huge smile on their face – glowing with appreciation for our efforts and say, “Wow, this looks delicious!” You can almost see in their eyes that they are a little surprised by the efforts we have taken for them. This little extra effort makes them feel extremely appreciated and important, but more importantly you are “anchoring” this strong sensory experience of a pleasant event to you and to your company. Now when they think of doing business with you, their sub-conscious mind will go into action and remember those feelings of just how much you cared about them.

When you stop taking your customers to lunch, and you begin to feed them instead – you will be miles ahead of your competition.

Seven ways to differentiate yourself from the competition.

1. Make everything you do experiential.

Involve as many of your customers physical senses as you possibly can. Make sure you have greenery and flowers outside your building. Make sure your lighting is appropriate for what you are selling. Take a walk through your business and experience what you offer. What can your customer see, smell, hear, touch and taste? The more you can involve your customer’s senses, the more you will stand out in a crowded field.

2. Providing Reliability.

As a provider of services, I am constantly seeking to provide a reliable standard of service to the customers I work with. Consistency should be your goal. Regardless of whom the customer is or what service they are buying from you, you want every experience they have with you to be consistent. From the way they are greeted when they walk in the front door, to the way the transaction is handled to the follow-up service they receive. Your goal should be to deliver reliable and consistent service.

3. Training and Competence.

To stand apart from the competition you must be willing to invest time and money in training your employees. I recently read that the average employee receives a total of seven hours of formal training for their jobs. We live in a microwave age and the very last thing a customer wants to deal with is an untrained employee. Be willing to create written systems and processes for each contact that a customer has with your business. Once these are standardized make sure all of your employees have increased their personal level of competence so they can breeze through the daily grind of dealing with a variety of customer service issues.

4. Focus.

When working with a customer, we must fully focus all of our attention on that person. Make sure you are fully aware of their needs, listening to their questions and concerns and then delivering what they are asking for, not what you would like to sell them. Work diligently to deliver more than they are expecting, you can only do this by fully understanding their needs.

5. Body Language.

While the words you say speak to your customers, your body language screams the real message. By remembering that you often have as little as two seconds to make a first impression, make sure every customer is greeted quickly and politely. Follow your greeting with positive eye contact and a warm smile. And, concentrate on communicating with relaxed and interested energy.

6. Surprise and Dazzle.

The best way to differentiate your company from the competition is to constantly exceed their expectations. If we meet a client’s expectations, we gain no competitive advantage. Ask your customers about their hobbies and interests and mail them notices about attractions or information related to that information. Send anniversary cards on the date they first became your customer. Send pictures of your children in your next Christmas card. Write two hand-written thank you notes per day. It is often the most personal touches that will be remembered the longest.

7. Create a Strategy and a Story.

Chose one strategy to be known for and then tell that story over and over. As a motivational speaker and strategic consultant, our story is “Change happens in an instant, it happens the moment you decide to change.” Our story is in all of our materials, on our website and known by all of our customers. Decide what strategy you will stand for, and what story you will tell and then begin to shout it from the roof tops. Soon your customers will also recognize how different you are and they will be telling your story for you as well. When you have a recognizable and memorable story, you will shine like a beacon of light in a world looking for change. ##

About the Author

Allyson Lewis, a renowned motivational speaker, certified financial planner, and strategic consultant, has over 20 years of sales experience. Her mission is to educate, motivate and encourage. Ms. Lewis has spent the last 22 years developing and teaching concrete yet actionable business ideas to executives all over the country. Her new book, The Seven Minute Difference, is based on experiences gleaned from the workshops she has been teaching for the last three years. Author of The Million Dollar Car and $250,000 Pizza (Kaplan Publishing, 2000), Ms. Lewis has trained thousands of people throughout the country and has been a guest on CNN, CNNfn, Bloomberg Information Television, and many other regional radio and television programs. Graduating Summa Cum Laude from William Woods University, Ms. Lewis holds a Bachelor of Arts degree with majors in Economics and English Communications. For more information on Ms. Lewis’ speaking engagements, training opportunities or books, contact her at 870-897-4494 or visit her online at:

  ------   Guest Article Archive  -----  
The Virginia Engineer on facebook
The Virginia Engineer RSS Feed