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…
"11 Really Stupid Blunders You're Making With Your Biz & Career Right Now."
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Great writing. I love the “real world” applications of all this.
Thank you, Dan. Glad you got something from it.
That’s been an unadvertised bonus of a career in marketing; the ability to draw wisdom from all those working years that felt wasted at the time.
I bet you’ve got some doozies lurking, too, don’t you?
Come to think of it, I do. The cell phone kiosk at the mall is one of them. Same with working at Starbucks. Hahah I keep laughing at the “AWOL Oz Soldiers” description.
Dude… when I was in College I worked nights as a valet at some of the upscale clubs in Pittsburgh.
You know the cars we never wanted to park? The Steelers… Cheap bastards are bringing in 7 figures a year and they can’t be bothered to tip their valet… Not even a measly dollar (exceptions were Jerome Bettis, Heinz Ward and Charlie Batch who always tipped very well).
You’re spot on about profiling your customer. If someone came out of the club with a girl he just picked up (and you can always tell if he just picked her up) you could count on a decent tip if you opened her door. If a guy came out of the club looking pissed, he ended up standing around for a while.
We avoided getting girls cars because those skimpy little dresses weren’t putting any extra beer money in my pocket but they thought the view as they drunkenly climbed in the car was enough of a tip…
We’d rush to help out the gay couples because, for whatever reason, they always tipped well.
I never thought about that from a business standpoint before though. Interesting cross over. Thanks for the post.
You’re bringing back even more great memories, Henry. Also making me eager to spill the beans on who my mystery tipper is. (A guy our Steelers have been contending with in huge games for a decade.)
BTW, I hear Big Ben is tipping better these days as part of his image overhaul.
Thanks for the comments.
Never had Big Ben… But yeah, I hear he’s making nice around town now.
And I’ll be in San Diego this weekend so you can tell me who your mystery tipper is and I’ll tell you which Steelers left the coke and handguns in their cars.
Great post, Kevin!
I used to run a laundromat years ago. We had this one older guy who always came in barking orders and snarling at the help, and everyone hated him. I thought he was cool. The meaner he was, the nicer I got, until I actually got him to crack a smile one day. After that, he would only ask for me, and the rest of the crew were only too happy to oblige. Little did they know he was one of my best tippers! He was actually a really nice guy; he had just recently lost his wife of 50 years and was grieving and mad at the world. But no one else looked past the surface to find this out. I took the time to know him and ended up getting a $50 tip for Xmas. The others accused me of sleeping with him.
I haven’t worked there for seven years now. I recently heard the place is up for sale because they have no business any more. I can’t imagine why. 😉
Wow. Great story. I bet that guy never forgot you.
It’s sad how callous we’ve become to the other human beings we encounter. You see this every day in traffic. People would rather risk their own lives than help you out by simply resting their right foot for 3 seconds.
But just when I’m tempted to confirm that ALL people officially SUCK… someone like you comes along and shows kindness where others refuse.
Never let them steal your spirit, Sharon, the world needs you.
Thanks, Kevin—your reply was deeply appreciated.
That gentleman is no longer alive—he died two years ago. His son told me later that I was one of the few people his dad spoke highly of. I never got the chance to meet the mother, but she must have been someone really special. I would have enjoyed meeting her.
People are beautiful no matter how they show up. The outside may be pretty ugly, but underneath we all just want to be heard. I have found that the “uglier” someone is, the more he really needs to be listened to. It’s amazing what lies inside.
Regarding the laundromat—I was in there doing my own wash a while ago. A lady I hadn’t seen since I left seven years before came in. When she saw me, she came running over, threw her arms around me, and exclaimed, “Oh, good—you’re FINALLY back!” I had to tell her I wasn’t, but it was still good to see her. I wasn’t expecting that.
I’m sorry I won’t be making San Diego. I would love to swap stories with you sometime. 🙂
This post was enough for me to go from long time lurker to first time commenter.
Great stuff in there Kevin. Reminds me of my years in retail…
Thanks for sharing.
That’s a big honor, Selise.
Thanks for posting and welcome to the jungle.
[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mike McRitchie, wordingme. wordingme said: Get A Room http://bit.ly/fzL5su […]
Excellent post man. The three step process should be a mandotory read for all business owners. Effective not only in business but in life.
Hey, Teran! Great to hear from you, man.
Glad you liked the post. Will we see you in San Diego this year?
Great story Kevin. Working in the service industry previously, I can relate to the hustle of the tip.
I’m disappointed I couldn’t coordinate a flight to San Diego for the seminar, but I’ll be watching Direct View style!
Groovy, Tim. We’ll send a shout out.
I still want to see a photo of the Gopher suit, man…
Did you have a little hat, and braided epaulettes with big buttons, maybe an overcoat to the ground? An art deco uniform, maybe? Did guys ask you where they could get one, or did they start off a little nervous cuz you looked like you might actually have some authority…
The security guards had it worse. They wore those bamboo safari hats and black Hush Puppies. Plus they were the ones who would get called to the hot tub to boot the naked college kids. Enough to make you want to tase yourself.
Hey Kevin, great post…hope to get my story telling chops up to your level “someday”!
Guess it just gets back to the giving FIRST..in order to get.
Can’t wait to meet yall at the seminar, 4 days and counting!!!
You’re right, Jeff… storytelling is all about the exchange. But I think the teller gets the most from it. Maybe you just need to get more selfish :).
See you this weekend.
Guess you know the secret of what copywriting REALLY is… You learned Salesmanship at the hotel door, and learned to turn that into copy. Right?
To “Easy Livin” ( I love that phrase man, just like an old Uriah Heep song…)
Thanks, that was a fun read,
Danny 8 Ball
Kaav, It’s true. That sounded like John, at times. But authentic, natural. You delivered certainty to me. I’ll find out what my ideal and best customers REALLY want – then over deliver!
Thanks. It brought back memories of my taxi driving in Fremantle, Oz.
Amazing freedom to ya! Geoff D.
I KNOW you picked u some whoppers from the back of that cab, Geoff. Funny how they think you can’t hear from up there.
Love to hear your tales sometime.
This is a beautiful post. I did not feel i was reading something on copywriting. It was so rhymatic and flawless.
I would have paid to read this
Very well done
That was a fun read and a spot-on message!
Me and my biz partners (in my consulting biz,) spend lots of time thinking about our customers…we refer to them as “Bob,” yeah, it’s a Frank Kern reference ; – )
We struggle with finding just the right thing to get “Bob” to call us, but we keep on trying!
Again, Great Story and Well Done!
We’ve studied who are best customer is and discovered a Professional Single Woman is the best buying customer. She wants name brand products and she will spend more money decorating her home. We also discovered are number one objection is “let me show this to my husband”. If you have a single woman that’s the easiest way to overcome that objection. We could use some help finding our top prospect.
I’m looking forward to this seminar, big time!
Kevin I thank John for bringing this link to me…
Your writing has been inspirational to me as I struggle to apply all this wisdom to my husband’s Cardiology practice… Not that I don’t konw what to do but the crew is clueless… your examples now have opened up an interesting venue for me and I will print your entry to show them how to think outside the box…
Love and the coal face of sales is such a great asset to any marketer, spent 7 years selling benz’s and learnt bucket loads, especially the “These guys look loaded”…which 9 times out of 10 were dolled up to look the part to go out car shopping.
Never forget 1 of our top clients picking up his SL 500 in ug boots and old shorts with rips in them.
Thanks for a good read and great advice.
Since I got into Direct sales (Started by Cold soliciting selling Toys at 13yrs old) and I had to learn a lot of this stuff by trial and error Why didn’t i know about this golden type tools back then? Lol Good Stuff!! Looking forward to learning more this weekend See ya in San Diego!
The art of the story…you are an artist!
Thank you for the memories – I worked for the Ritz Carlton for many years and found that, yes, the people who were “loaded” were often the stingiest of all.
Thank you for taking real world experience and showing how relevant it is to business.
AND, thank you for admitting your age. It is nice to see that someone “making it online” did not become an internet gazillionaire before the age of 17!
I’m sure you’ll have one lucky bellman at the Action Seminar. Enjoy!
So what do you prefer? Kevin or Kaav? Probably depends on the circumstances huh?
Anyway, great write up. It’s amazing how life’s events can turn into a great story full of lessons if we just pay attention. Thanks for sharing. And I’m with John, we gotta see the suit.
I just can’t leave this page without expressing my appreciation. What a great read. You made a customer out of me.
Hey Kevin, Does anyone ever have a 100% closing rate? Easy answer. No.
However, I delivered pizza for P.H. in C’ville, Va for a 3 month period and consider myself a professional sales and people person. I also kept meticulous records.
Upon analysis for that period, these figures represent a good cross section of the population for tipping.
346 Deliveries with AVG receipt of $17.82
20% did not tip. No matter what the weather.
Of the 276 customers who did tip
3.6% tipped 2.8% rate
12% ” 8.4% ”
35% ” 14% ”
19% ” 20% ”
19% ” 25% ”
5.8% ” 31% ”
2.2% ” 36.5% ”
3.3% ” 42% ”
2.2% ” 48%+ ”
Hope this helps someone. I’m sure this info can validate some IM stats. Thank you for your insights.
[…] http://www.john-carlton.com/2011/02/get-a-room/ […]
Kevin, where’s the photo of you in tights or an elf like uniform?
Good insights into waiting to hear people speak before you just blurt out what you THINK the answer might be.
Thanks for all the excellent comments. I’m traveling, so I can’t dig in the way I’d like at the moment, but keep ’em coming… I’ll be responding in depth over the next day or so.
Really excited to meet new friends in San Diego this week. Let’s start some new history.
P.S. John, I definitely felt like a douche and a half in that costume. No hat, but it did have mock epaulettes – worse than the real thing. One time I rode in the elevator with John Prine, but was too embarrassed to say anything. Also, remind me to tell you the Brian Adams story.
P.P.S. Why are all celebrities TINY? Do they sell their souls to a satanic leprechaun?
What a great commentary. I recently connected and starting receiving information from John Carlton. It is much appreciated and thought provoking. We sell “goods” as well as “services”. I think we can use a lot of what I read from him and you Kevin, especially to some rabid fans of ours.
I was at a trade show this past weekend and met a new customer. He emailed me Saturday night with the following:
“It was a pleasure meeting you today at the Barrie Train Show. I wanted to thank you in person for the welcome I received as a ‘new’ customer of CMT. You and your staff have done many extra things already to ensure that I would receive the particular ‘trains’ that I was looking for. Every e-mail has been responded to, always in the same day, and often only hours after you received my inquiry.
As I told you today, I consider it a privilege to be one of your many customers.
Thank You… I am looking forward to many more connections with you and Canadian Model Trains.”
With John’s help I can see our revenue stream increasing quickly. I will be sure to read, ponder, then implement.
Best regards, Tom Tomblin
First… happy birthday, my friend. What are you now… 60? (Which would make me like 66.)
Great story, and marketing world application, as always.
Have a great time in SD. Hope to see you soon.
Great marketing advice and a very interesting story.
Good points about adding value to the right customers…. nice article headline, triggered memories of whenever I’d be in a club macking on some female and hear “get a room!” lol.
Right about tipping, i used to be a hotel consultant… can’t judge a book by it’s cover, I usually wear jeans and a t-shirt and always tip $20s to bellmen… don’t need to be wearing my $3k Brioni suit to have the money to tip. what bugs me is all the cheapskates who don’t tip others… tip early and often, it counts and is much appreciated by those who serve you.
and good article points about adding value, adding a touch that connects, it helps.
Get a room! The next time you travel you can book ahead for a room or reserve a hotel for yourself it’s more hassle free and help you save as well.
[…] tips to qualify prospects, and take your business (whatever it may be) to the next level. Enjoy. http://www.john-carlton.com/2011/02/get-a-room/ […]
Those letters with a $ note attached…
Why waste the first valuable words STATING THE BLEEDING OBVIOUS?
I can see you’ve attached a $note.
Tell me WHY. Tell me the WIIFM.
TIP #2. Don’t show me the scaffolding. Show me the BUILDING.
In simple language, don’t tell me about the childbirth pains, SHOW ME THE BABY!
Copywriting is simple when we think about what our prospect wants.
And we show him/her how to get it.
Like the hotel guest who asked for two bottles of wine at 3am, he doesn’t care HOW you get it, just that you deliver what he wants.
I’d love to meet a few of you guys and compare stories some time.
Tell me when you are heading for Auckland. Brian Morris.