Tampa Bay, Florida
“So I said to the captain, please bring me my wine… he said we haven’t had that spirit here since 1969…” (Hotel California, of course)
Another guest blog post here (while I’m off to get ready for the totally awesome Action Seminar down in sunny San Diego this coming weekend)…
… by our good friend (and notorious freelance copywriter) Kevin Rogers.
I asked him to share the stories below, because they cracked me up when he first told them to me…
… and I realized the lessons for entrepreneurs here are just as solid as the stuff I picked up (early in my own career) from the street-wise salesmen I hung around.
Those real-world lessons from the dudes who knew how to close a deal face-to-face are critical to any decent sales process… even if you’re completely digital and never actually meet your prospects in the flesh.
This stuff is pure gold. So listen up. Here’s Kevin…
Okay, let me tell you a story about why bellmen don’t mind wearing those goofy uniforms at busy hotels and resorts… and how the lessons I learned in the job fit so well in the entrepreneurial world.
It’s true. One of the most eye-opening jobs I held in my previous life — before freelance copywriting — was as a main entrance bellman here in Florida.
I learned more about “street-smart selling” in my short time in that role than from any other gig, including stand-up comic, bartender, or even Marketing VP of an online real estate company.
To make any money at bellhopping, you’ve got to master the careful art of qualifying your prospects. This is ultimately where any business lives or dies.
And there’s really no difference between doing it online or live in the flesh.
Everything you need to know about your best customers takes place in the short trip from “curb to curtains” as we used to call the guest-vetting process in the hotel biz.
The entire exchange might last only seven minutes, but, done right, could easily lead to an extra fifty, a hundred or even $300 in cash (my personal best) from just one guest. (That guest was an NFL legend, too… and I’ll share the tale with you in a moment. Killer lesson for marketers…)
Yet, as crucial as knowing the inner workings of your prospect is… one of the most perplexing questions for any marketer I consult with remains: “Who is your ideal customer?”
I’ve watched high profile marketing “gurus” crumble to bits at this simple question.
Of course, nobody wakes up one day with this knowledge… and, like anything worth doing, you’ve got to be willing to engage with life to learn the most valuable lessons. And make the mistakes you may need to make in order to figure it all out.
I remember the first time (as a wet-behind-the-ears rookie) the other bellman generously allowed me to greet a pair of guests pulling up the hotel drive in a Mercedes Benz.
“This one’s all you, dude,” said the bell captain.
“Seriously? It’s not even my up,” I said, grabbing the shiniest cart. Oh, boy, I thought. These guests just reeked of cash.
“It’s cool, man… go get ‘em.”
I spent a full 25 minutes coddling Mr. & Mrs. Mercedes… filling their ice bucket, carefully hanging garments and fielding a barrage of questions about where they could eat while accommodating their “special diets” — even offering to score them VIP discounts at the best restaurants…
… only to be handed a juicy tip of ONE dollar.
I returned to the lobby to find the other bellman smirking as he hustled along his second or third guest since I’d left.
I’d just learned my first real-world lesson in customer profiling.
Now, profiling may be a taboo tactic at airport security, but on a sales floor it’s pure survival tactic.
True… most guys named Mohammed are NOT security threats, and long-haired dudes aren’t always crotching a bag of weed…
… but, for some reason, 99% of older couples driving Mercedes sedans ARE guaranteed to tip their bellman one measly dollar. (Test results over my bellman career were very consistent.)
The gig got more fun once I escaped the downtown Hilton and finagled my way into the most prestigious 5-star resort in town — an elegant beachfront castle called the Don CeSar that felt straight out of Casablanca, with a lobby that screamed “easy livin’”. (It’s the swanky place behind me in the above photo.)
This time, the lessons arrived a little easier. The suave, veteran resort bellhops took pity on the rookie, and taught me how to get beyond the confines of the “Gopher” uniform…
… force the guests to look me in the eye…
… and collect the big bucks by providing what it was they really wanted from their stay.
This was my first lesson in becoming, as John often preaches: “The Adult in the Room”. The person who commands respect (no matter what you’re wearing) and puts clients at ease… while delivering the goods that fit the prospect’s needs like a glove.
There is a simple 3-step process to becoming the Adult in the Room (to steal John’s phrase). I first developed my version of it in my bellman gig… and this process can help any marketer better serve their customers, make loads more money and build a business that lasts.
In fact, with a little practice, it can guide any entrepreneur or freelance service provider to earn new levels of respect (the key to commanding top fees) from appreciative clients.
Here are the steps:
Step One: Find a starving market, then dig in deep.
Gary Halbert famously said that given the choice of any one advantage when opening a hamburger stand, he’d choose “a starving crowd.”
That’s one of those head-slapping marketing fundamentals that still gets overlooked, at the cost of fortunes, even by entrepreneurs who should know better.
McDonald’s didn’t become McDonald’s by setting out to make the world’s best hamburger. They got there by setting up grills and cash registers in the most trafficked areas on the planet.
Online (especially if you’re selling info products) you’re not going to make your best money serving cheap stuff to the masses. That model works to an extent, but if you’re after the major bucks, you’ll want to identify the “whales” in the crowd (or, as Halbert called ‘em, “Players With Money”).
To pull this off, you do want to attract the largest amount of prospects possible into your world (i.e. your sales funnel)… so you can start the identification process… and that means giving away irresistible freebies.
As a bellman, we knew the plum opportunities were at the joints bustling with customers (not the places with crickets chirping in the lobby, no matter how famous the name). And then, once we scored a position in the heart of the starving crowds (even in those starched Gopher uniforms that made us look like AWOL soldiers from the city of Oz) we learned to instantly sift through the “freebee seekers” and identify the best prospects… and get busy.
Step Two: Provide value and open a dialogue.
For bellmen, the ultimate “elevator chat” occurs just after check-in, while escorting guests to their rooms.
This is akin to welcoming visitors to your squeeze page… where your job is, first, to discover what your best prospects really want (that they often aren’t even thinking of yet)… and then, to be that person who delivers it to them.
Some examples from the hotel:
If it’s a family and they plan to visit the amusement parks… we would hook ‘em up with discount tickets and shuttle service, remind them to bring sunscreen (and even score them free samples), and be their best friendly contact in the hotel.
If it was a “Big Dog” presenting at a seminar… we’d help them get a suit cleaned, shoes polished, a massage therapist, inform him or her of the hours and services available at the business center (a move that could very well save their ass if they woke up to find their speech was left in a different brief case or in a laptop with no power chord). (And ass-saved customers, as any good salesman knows, can be very appreciative.)
If it was a single dude attending the company’s yearly awards seminar, we’d waste no time pointing him to the nearest… ahem… “gentleman’s” club. (Again, our field tests over the years were very conclusive.)
The key is to discover, within a few casual questions, what you can provide that your guest may not be consciously considering.
And you are not delivering a hard close… just a helping hand. Very important.
One of my favorite personal touches was one I used at check out.
When the call would come to hustle newlyweds out to their waiting limo and off to the first day of their honeymoon… I’d often be the first person they’d see the morning after their first magical night together as man and wife.
There was no avoiding the obviousness of what had taken place in that bridal suite before I barged in.
So, to break the tension, I’d hand the groom the morning newspaper and say, “Keep this… some day you’ll wonder what the rest of the world was doing on the best day of your life.”
That touch alone could boost tips as much as 50%.
You can achieve the same result by creating valuable stuff (from good advice, to detailed reports helping them achieve goals) your prospects hugely appreciate… but don’t know they want yet. The magic happens when they realize you really are that dude who knows what’s going on… and you’re happy to deliver the goods.
Step Three: Grow into the expert who gives your customers what nobody else can.
In marketing, it’s not necessity, but demand that is the Mother of Invention.
When was the last time you surveyed your lists to find out what they’d love to have from you, but aren’t currently getting?
With a responsive list, it really is that easy to create results out of thin air.
(Not doing this is a crime… especially when you consider how successful businesses can pretty much guarantee a profitable product launch just by delivering exactly what their potential buyers ask for.)
I mentioned my record $300 tip from one guest. That was a future NFL Hall of Famer (who is — incredibly — still playing at a high level a full decade later) whose name I won’t reveal out of reverence to guest/bellman privileges. (Just as confidential as the pact between doctor/patient, lawyer/client, and spy/M.)
Here’s the story: It was 4am when he and his guests arrived, after a full day on the road (and just 48 hours after losing the AFC Championship game, you should know, to my favorite team, which I am also conveniently avoiding mentioning).
He tipped me the first hundred for delivering luggage to his suite.
I told him if there was anything else I could get him, to please not hesitate.
“Kaav, we need a couple of bottles of wine,” he said. (No “Kevin” for him. I was Kaav, and I was honored.)
“Ow”, I replied, pained. “That’s the one thing I can’t do for you. This city goes dry at 2am. Everything shut down over an hour ago.”
He slapped another hundred-dollar bill into my hand and said, “I got faith in ya, Kaav.”
I walked straight down to the lobby bar, past the security cameras, grabbed two bottles of wine from the cooler and was back at his door in less than 10 minutes.
“No law against welcoming an important guest, though,” I said, as he howled with laughter. And greased me one more time, what a mensch. Now that’s the way to show appreciation.
Yes, of course I alerted the front desk about the wine! Shame on you for thinking I went around the blue laws. Either that or I paid the security dweeb a $20 hush fee… who can remember small details after all these years?
Point is, you’re no bellman, you don’t have to break the law for cash…
… and, in fact, you don’t even have to break a sweat.
Just follow these 3 simple steps, bust out of your comfort zone more often, find out what your best prospects really want… and challenge yourself to deliver big for them.
To easy livin’…
P.S. I’ll be at the Action Seminar all weekend, in a guest-star role along with John and that Murder’s Row of experts he lined up…
… and I hear there may still be room for you, too, if you jump on it. Go here for details.
Be sure to tip your waitress.
And hey, leave a comment if you’ve got something to say, too…