Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Your Job: Make It Easy To Say "Yes" (3 Ways To Do It)

Over the weekend I was working at Panera. In between observing the usual scenery - weekend workaholics like me, fighting couples, families planning their bar mitzvahs, weekend custody visits, elderly people grabbing a sandwich - a lightning bolt struck me:

Winning people over doesn't have to be hard.

Or, put another way, 

Make it easy to say "yes."

How I got from the usual scenery to this insight was pretty simple: It came from a sandwich.

The elderly couple sitting next to me had identical sandwiches on the table - either tuna or chicken salad. Each had a small bag of chips. And they were chirping happily as they ate, leaning over the table, discussing this thing and that. 

I got the impression that they barely even noticed what they were eating. Even though those sandwiches and chips probably cost about $15 with beverage.

In my mind I had the following thought - "those sandwiches probably cost Panera about $3 to make, if that." Imagine the profit margin on bulk tuna, mayo, potato chips and a couple slices of bread.

Did that couple care whether they overpaid for their sandwiches? NO!

Did they want Panera to innovate the sandwiches every time they ordered? NO! In fact the opposite is true - people want their favorite dishes, at their favorite restaurants, made EXACTLY the same way every time.

So Panera, like McDonald's and Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks, Coca-Cola and other big brands, have made it easy for the customer to readily buy a hugely marked-up item - by giving them the same thing, the same way, every time.

Consistency is one tactic. It works when you're a customer-facing brand; it works when you're an employee on the job. Your boss does not want different things from you every day - rather that you perform at a consistently high level, in the style to which they are accustomed from you, over time.

Another way to make it easy to say yes: Relieve immediate pain. Very literally - if you have a headache you will buy any kind of pain reliever out there that will make it go away. Even if a little packet of ibuprofen costs you 50 cents. Even if you have to buy a whole bottle for $6.50. You do not care - the pain has to go away.

Pain relief comes in many forms. At work, for example, we often hear stories about people who want to introduce change but find themselves stymied. The problem is that they are offering change at a time when nothing seems wrong! Why do I want to interrupt my life and make it harder for no clear benefit. The key with introducing change is to wait until that moment when things are difficult precisely because the old system is unworkable. At that point, change feels good - and you have made it easy to say yes.

A third way to make it easy - simply being there physically. Ubiquity. This is a well-known principle in branding. Starbucks is everywhere - there are Google map mashups that will help you find the nearest one - and if it's more than 3 blocks away some people start to panic. The reason we panic is that Starbucks has become a part of the physical landscape. I can tell you that often I don't even like how the coffee tastes anymore. But the fact that Starbucks is there, means I trust them, and I will go in there. They've made it easy to say yes.

It's a similar dynamic at work. There's all this hullaballoo about virtual work, telework, remote work, et cetera. But the reason people are a little uncomfortable with it at the senior level is - when you're teleworking, they can't see you. When an executive wants something done, it's urgent. They need to be able to reach around the corner, literally, and pull in the people who will (see above), solve the current point of pain. The advantage goes to those individuals who are physically there, who make themselves present, as much as their leadership wants them to be.

So, to summarize, here are three ways to make it easy for a potential customer to buy from you, and/or to keep an existing customer loyal:

1. Be consistent.
2. Relieve immediate pain.
3. Be physically present.

Good luck!