Deliver and win
Kevin, vice president of operations for a food brokerage company in Washington, told Session 2B of the Leadership Lab:
"It was 1977 and I had just been promoted to supervisor. I had been working for a produce company on the docks for five years. I was only 23 at the time with no skills whatsoever as a supervisor.
"I was in charge of personally picking produce orders for special accounts for the sales manager, Sam Angel. Sam had been in sales for many years and was very well respected on the street.
"For about a month, Sam had me doing a special pick for the Space Needle restaurant. Every day he would hand me an order for just two cases. Every day they would order something different. After about two weeks, I asked Sam, 'Why should we be going to all this special effort for a place that big for only two cases? It's a waste of time.' Sam would tell me that they were just testing us and to give it more time. Sam continued to call me to his office and I continued to give him my two cents worth as I had better things to do.
"One very busy morning at about 11 a.m., Sam called me into the warehouse. He asked me to please get six bunches of parsley to the Space Needle right away, it was important. I told Sam I had no drivers and it was a waste of time. 'What are we getting out of this?' Sam asked me to be patient and please get the parsley to the Space Needle. I continued to argue with Sam. He patiently listened to me and said, 'Kevin, PLEASE do me a personal favor. Don't do this for the customer, do it for me.'
"I picked six bunches of parsley, put them in a bag, got in my car, went to the Space Needle and delivered the parsley. When I got back Sam thanked me and I told him that they didn't even thank me. Sam said, 'Kevin, don't worry about it. I thanked you, and that is what matters.' Sam told me, 'The customer expects us to take care of them. It's our job. It's my job to take care of you.' I was still irritated over having to do
this. In the early afternoon that same day, Sam again called me to his office and said he had an order for the Space Needle. My comment to him was, 'Oh, two cases again.' Sam said, 'No. Because you took the parsley up to them when two other companies could or would not, we just got all their produce business.' Sam handed me a seven page HUGE order, which I proudly put up, perfectly, though with egg on my face.
"The lesson I learned from this experience is the vital importance of putting the customer first, and the importance of spending the time needed to explain the whole picture so the operator understands their part in the sales strategy. I should have asked Sam more questions and not assumed so much.
"Side note: Sam ended up being my mentor. I rarely ever questioned his judgment again. What steps are you taking to go the extra mile with your customer? What steps are you taking to deliver wowing service?
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