Up next: Amazon begins beta testing audio ads (slide deck in post).

Smart Speaker Adoption 2018

Amazon is currently beta testing audio advertisements.  According to Ad Age magazine the decision is partially an effort to compete with Pandora and Spotify.  Anonymous sources also report that the beta-test is potentially a new way to shape consumer behavior.  Lululemon, one of a small number of invitation-only participants, hopes that consumers will buy more of their products on Amazon after hearing an advertisement while listening to music on Alexa.

Here is a link to the original beta-test presentation deck:


Currently, there are significantly more Alexa devices in our homes than any other smart home product.  The beta-test is guaranteeing that participating brands will reach one million listeners.  Notably, Amazon is not able to guarantee targeting at this time.  This will surely change given the alarming amount of data Amazon has gathered.  And while Amazon has not shared the early results of the beta-test this will most likely be the next facet of voice-based consumer engagement.

Optimizing a small business website for relevant voice-search results is still a moving target.  The Alexa Blog (www.alexa.com) provides free optimization tools and recommendations regarding voice search.  Learning how to utilize these resources and implement their recommendations is a provocative (if not commanding) opportunity.  Determining whether paid advertisements will play a role in a business’ customer acquisition strategy may feel nascent right now.  But Amazon says that audio ads will be “widely available” in the first quarter of 2020.

The self-service revolution continues to evolve.

Podcast 13: Steve Gadsby–From Start-Up to Sold!

Steve Gadsby

Steve Gadsby is a “unicorn” in the trades.  He founded a company, evolved from a technician to business person, built a strong culture, and then sold his company.  His opinions are provocative, sometimes challenging, but certainly rooted in hard-won experiences.  This is a terrific podcast and I hope you enjoy it.  My thanks to Steve for his candor and unique perspectives!

The World’s Worst Boss

I’m sure you’re reading Seth Godin’s blog.  This from a 2010 entry:

The world’s worst boss

That would be you.

Even if you’re not self-employed, your boss is you. You manage your career, your day, your responses. You manage how you sell your services and your education and the way you talk to yourself.

Odds are, you’re doing it poorly.

If you had a manager that talked to you the way you talked to you, you’d quit. If you had a boss that wasted as much of your time as you do, they’d fire her. If an organization developed its employees as poorly as you are developing yourself, it would soon go under.

I’m amazed at how often people choose to fail when they go out on their own or when they end up in one of those rare jobs that encourages one to set an agenda and manage themselves. Faced with the freedom to excel, they falter and hesitate and stall and ultimately punt.

We are surprised when someone self-directed arrives on the scene. Someone who figures out a way to work from home and then turns that into a two-year journey, laptop in hand, as they explore the world while doing their job. We are shocked that someone uses evenings and weekends to get a second education or start a useful new side business. And we’re envious when we encounter someone who has managed to bootstrap themselves into happiness, as if that’s rare or even uncalled for.

There are few good books on being a good manager. Fewer still on managing yourself. It’s hard to think of a more essential thing to learn.”


Do conversion metrics kill authenticity and loyalty?


We’re buying a new dryer.  Gas to electric conversion.  I called a local electrician:

“It’s a great day at XYZ Heating and Electric, how can I make you smile today?”

And that was it.  Phony.  Forced.  Scripted.  Designed to do one thing only: Convert the call to a lead.  Made worse by the rep’s systematic effort to guide me through an obvious path (if the customer says X then you say Y) without any consideration for externals.  It’s not the rep’s fault.  She was really nice.  She was simply doing what she’d be told or trained:

  1. Someone gave her a script and discouraged interpretation of the script
  2. Someone said you HAVE to get the name, address, contact information, etc
  3. Someone said “Your bonus is based on lead conversion.”
  4. Someone may be measuring average-handle-time so don’t talk for too long
  5. Big Brother is listening and recording (Did she use the proper standard greeting?  Did she verify all customer information? Did she diagnose the problem using the prescribed resolution map? Did she close the call, set the lead, etc.)
  6. Nothing is more important that setting the lead

When a company mandates that every customer call include all the standard, company imposed criteria, and takes away the rep’s ability to deal with the customer at a more natural, spontaneous, human level the interaction is reduced to a mechanical and rote exchange.  The disparity between what companies track and what customers experience is alarming.

But there’s another, less obvious, problem.  Most companies only consider the explicit side of resolution–literally whether they resolved the customer’s stated issue.  The implicit side of the issue gets little acknowledgment at all.  These are the related, tangental, or spin-off issues that are often more of an implication of the original issue.  As a result, scripted attempts at “first contact resolution” result in another phone call, another inquiry, another “I forgot to mention.”  As customer effort increases their loyalty and overall satisfaction crumbles.  The question that customer service managers should be asking is: “What causes our customers to have to call us back?”

In a high-satisfaction/low-effort service organization customer service representatives determine for themselves how best to handle the unique issue being experienced by unique people.  The best customer service organizations recognize something that most companies don’t: In order to get control you have to give control.


E-Commerce Expert Will Housh Shares Advice and Insights for Contractors.

will housh

This is an exceptional interview with Will Housh (@willhoush, HVAC.com).  Will is an e-commerce pioneer in the HVAC industry.  He has honed his e-commerce expertise for over 10 years.  During the interview he shares insights and lessons learned as well as best practices and recommendations for contractors who are excited to make the e-commerce leap.  Will’s attention to detail and absolute dedication to e-commerce mastery run through the entire conversation.   Enjoy and thanks for listening!


“I need to get out of the weeds.”


“It’s not a proxy of your seriousness that you’ve filled every minute in your schedule.” –Bill Gates

“I need to get out of the weeds,” the salesman said.  His manager nodded in agreement.  “I’m spending all of this time doing my job and it’s starting to eat in to my personal life.  We have a child and another one on the way and I want to be there for them.”

I think that most salespeople have felt this way.  You might be feeling this way right now. Long days, plenty of meetings, putting out fires, building proposals, following up on emails or voice mails or text messages.  Too much wind shield time.  Then there’s everything that didn’t get done that still has to get done.  So you come home from work, maybe hit the gym or make time for the family, and then get back to the laptop because you have to update the CRM or answer all of the emails that you weren’t able to answer during the normal day.  Repeat until burnout.

Too many salespeople have convinced themselves that busy and productive are synonyms.  What the hell happened to us?  Did we all see too many pictures of Gary Vaynerchuck pretending to martyr himself while sleeping in an airport or read too many Elon Musk tweets about a 20 hour work day?  It’s time to get out of the weeds by focusing on high-gain/low effort activities, systems, and technologies that can help improve your quality of life and your sales results.

Spending time with low-gain accounts will put you in the weeds.  They can be just as demanding as a high-gain account but yield little, if any, gain.  Focusing on high-gain/low-effort account activities will de-leverage your time while allowing you to re-direct your energy on the best projects.  Consider the following:

High Gain Quadrant

Which quadrant would you like to be in most of the time?  Hint: Upper right.  If you’re in the weeds where do you spend too much time and energy?  Bottom left.  Are you spending time with accounts that demand a huge amount of your effort and don’t buy very much of your product?  Do you spend an inordinate amount of time with accounts who are openly disloyal (but one day, trust me, they’ll come on board)?  Do you spend too much time with accounts who have expressed no interest in legitimately partnering with you while demonstrating that partnership in the form of new sales?  The list goes on.

Here’s a test.  Look at your last month of scheduled appointments.  Put a check mark in one of the 4 quadrant field for each meeting.  Notice any imbalances or patterns?  If you’re in the weeds then you’re probably putting more check marks in the low-gain/high-effort or low-gain/low-effort boxes.  Compare the time you spent with these accounts as well as the money you made from these accounts.  Was it worth it?  Could you have delivered better service and made more money by spending more time with your high-growth/low-effort accounts?  If you have 50 accounts and you generate most of your income from 10 of them then what would happen to your quality of life and income if you spent significantly more time delivering value with The 10 and significantly less time with the low-value accounts?  The hard-won loyalty you have with your best accounts can be amplified if you create the time to over-serve them.

You have to trust your systems, however imperfect.  Getting out of the weeds means learning to use your systems and support network.  Your inside sales team, your counter representatives, your branch managers are there to help you and you’re there to help them.  But you have to trust them.  That trust has to move in both directions.  If you don’t trust your systems you’ll never be completely out of the weeds.  “But they’ve messed stuff up” or “They screwed up an order and I had to deal with it.”  And so have you!  Sales is an imperfect science.  Learning and improvement are happening with every transaction.  If your company is culturally committed to systemic improvement then you have to learn to trust and use your systems.  Luddites will eventually work themselves out of the organization.  The idea of sitting in a Starbucks hammering out an order because you believe that you’re the only one that can do it right is the recipe for obsolescence.  Learn to trust your systems, communicate with your accounts that these systems are in place to help them, and let the systems do their jobs.  I know I’m asking you to give a sacred cow but it’s another way to create the time needed to focus on high-gain/low-effort activities.

Learn to manage your territory using technologies.  It makes more sense to record a weekly Zoom that you can distribute to your low-gain accounts than it does to chase down a low-gain meeting.  Investing in a newsletter service will help you share all of the general up-dates with your company.  Write it, schedule it, and move on to high-gain work.  They’ll all receive the same information at once and you can follow up with phone calls if you feel the need.  Apps can also help you reach your entire territory at once.  The Superphone app, for example, helps you organize your contact list for text-based marketing.  Use it for promotions, product updates, trainings, announcements.  Let your smart phone do the work.  If you’re using face-to-face visits to share information that can be quickly broadcasted then it’s time to re-consider the value of your time and the quality of your meeting content.

Your customers give you feedback every day in the form of purchases.  It’s frustrating to look at your sales numbers for the day and think ‘I was so busy today yet I missed my number.’  It’s also frustrating to look at your to-do list and realize that a lot of the effort you’re going to spend shoring it up will be spent on clients who aren’t rewarding you proportionally.  But you’ll do it–another long night and/or another early morning.

Time goes by my friends.  Protect your time.  Be stingy with it.  Discipline yourself to spend most of your time with a handful of high-gain accounts and much less time with low-gain accounts.  I doubt your sales manager will object to that.  Trust your systems.  For some people that means setting their ego aside.  Finally, learn to use technologies to help you share information on a broader scale at a significantly reduced effort.


Here’s how to save a ton of money on advertising.


“People don’t read ads.  They read things that interest them.  Sometimes that’s an ad.” — Howard Luck Gossage

“The only advertising that people truly trust is a peer-to-peer recommendation.” — Alex Bogusky

My flight from Spokane to Seattle arrived on time.  Unfortunately another plane was at our assigned gate and it was departing late.  My 30 minute layover was quickly turning in to a sprint from one end of the airport to the other.  If I missed the flight from Seattle to Atlanta the week was going to go off of the rails.  When we finally reached the gate I had 15 minutes left.  If you’ve been in that situation then you know the feeling.

I charged out of the plane and there’s this guy.  He’s the other dude in the picture.  He was smiling, wearing a Delta uniform, holding a tablet with my last name on it: Plughoff.  “That’s me” (neurotic sub-text: is something wrong, is my daughter ok, is my wife safe, did something disastrous happen?)  He shook my hand.  “Mr. Plughoff, my name is Thomas and I’d like to escort you to your next gate.”  Please bear in mind, this sort of thing had never happened to me.  I fly a lot and usually suffer the stresses like everyone else.  This changed everything.

Thomas opened a side door on the gangway.  A metal rolling staircase led down to the tarmac.  A white Porsche was at the bottom of the stairs.  Thomas said, “If you’ll come with me I’ll drive you to your next flight and you’re already checked in.”  A minute later we were speeding across the busy runway, from one end of the airport to the other.  It was unbelievable.  I might have welled up a little bit.  Thomas continued, “We watch our frequent flyers and if there’s a tight connection we help them so they don’t miss the connection.”  “Why?” I asked.  Why would you do this?  It defies every negative association with flying.  Too personal.  Too, too, thoughtful.  “It’s our way of saying thanks,” he said.  He walked up the stairs to the departing flight, opened the door for me, and once again thanked me for flying Delta.  Every stress, frustration, ire–was immediately replaced with gratitude.  It was the first thing I shared with someone when I reached my destination.

Every business owner I know thinks about effective advertising, on-life, off-line, all the time.  They’re advised to allocate thousands (in some cases millions) of dollars to make the phone ring–hoping that the investment will generate enough cold leads to keep the machine running.  They pay for clicks, calls, impressions.  None of which are uniquely persuasive.  Nor warm.  To which I’d say this:  I’m one guy.  But the Delta experience has generated at least 150 peer-to-peer referrals.  Many of the people I’ve told this story to are also frequency flyers.  Instead of spending all sorts of money in order to generate cold leads why don’t more companies learn what Delta knows: There are quietly loyal customers that will become happily loud advocates if the experience is elevated, if the engagement is personal, if they know you beyond a membership number, and if they make an ordinarily stressful process extraordinarily enjoyably.  A company that is culturally dedicated to delighting customers doesn’t need to spend as much money generating cold leads.  Thrilled customers will gladly pay it forward.


Another Heater! Pod guest Paul Redman (VP of Sales for Ryno Strategic Solutions) on career transitions, winning in the digital space, and sales leadership advice.

Paul Redman

This was a fantastic conversation and I’m looking forward to round two with Paul Redman.  Paul’s experience in the HVAC industry and the digital space gives him a practical and informed perspective.  Ryno Strategic Solutions promotes transparency, industry specific talent, and results.  If you’re looking for a trustworthy friend in the digital space you can find Paul at http://www.rynoss.com.  He’s the real deal. Enjoy the episode!

If you’re enjoying these podcasts I’d sincerely appreciate a review or rating on iTunes.  Thanks a million.






The Thank You Note Podcast: Sales Management with Fred Nichols (this episode is a banger!)

I’ve been waiting a long time to interview Fred Nichols. Fred is not only a rock solid guy but an extremely well-rounded professional. Fred is the Sales Manager for an incredibly successful company in Southerm California. In this episode he shares his experience and tactics used to find, motivate, and drive an exceptional sales team. Tons of smart lessons and best practices included. Thanks for listening!

If you’re enjoying these podcasts please rate or review The Thank You Note Podcast on iTunes. Many thanks, Matt