I love meeting people who are on top of their game.

John from KOne Limo in Atlanta I traveled to Atlanta recently for a meeting with customers. I booked a car service since it was the same price as renting a car, and required less GPS goofery on my part. I looked on Yelp and found K-One Limo, with six of the most positive reviews I’ve ever seen. Initially I was skeptical, because the reviews were so over the top, but I booked the trip.

John (pictured) is the owner of K-One and met me at the airport. He called to make sure I had arrived, directed me to the right place to meet him, and then quickly and graciously re-adjusted when I doofed my way to the wrong place. He was driving an immaculate Lincoln Navigator and was dressed way better than I was, even though I was on my way to meet customers.

We talked all the way to the hotel, and all the way back, about his life, his family and his philosophy of customer service. Basically he goes out of his way to remove all obstacles and annoyances from his passengers. When he learns their preferences he accommodates them. One Yelp reviewer said John always has an iPhone charger ready to replenish his travel-drained phone.

He also understands the value of quiet competence. When things are going wrong (as you can imagine, an Atlanta limo driver deals with a lot of delayed flights), it doesn’t do any good to flap. John remains calm and professional, which I guarantee you is more reassuring than sweaty apologies and mad dashes through traffic.

I think John could do anything. I wish he ran pretty much every service organization, like, everywhere. I truly enjoy meeting people who are absolutely on top of their game and happy doing what they do. I’ve had that pleasure a handful of times in my life.

When you meet someone who is truly happy and successful, it’s usually because they can’t imagine doing anything but what they do. I never worried, for instance, about Jim Goodnight selling SAS when I worked there, because it was obvious that what Jim Goodnight loved doing was running SAS. If you want another great example, read a biography of Richard Branson.

I suppose I should end with some kind of motivational challenge to you to find the thing you love, but we’ll take that as written.

Who have you met who is really on top of his or her game? What did you learn?

image by me

Engage on your customers’ terms, not your own.

car lot signI just got a call from my local Subaru dealer. “We notice it’s been four years since you bought your Subaru and we just wanted to check in to see how everything is going.” It doesn’t take much to translate that into, “It’s a slow sales month and we’re going back through our records and calling people who might be ready to buy a new car.”

This is the only time in that four years that anyone from the dealership has contacted me, other than to send oil change coupons or follow up on service visits. Their attempt to “engage” with me felt spammy and one-sided, in no small part because it came out of the blue. I’m sure the strategy is “contact customers who might be ready to buy,” but in practice it becomes “contact customers every four years and start over again.”

By the time the sales process was complete, I had spent a fair amount of time with the salesperson, and we’d developed a bit of a rapport. That vanished the moment I drove off the lot. I can’t remember his name. If I wanted to buy a new car today, I wouldn’t have a clue how to find him. “Hi, I was in here four years ago and bought an Outback from a white guy, kind of young, about yay high, blue shirt. Is he around?”

The fact is, I did buy a new car about four months ago. And I test drove a Subaru. I suspect, knowing me, I probably talked about it online. If Whitey McBlueshirt had stayed connected with me, I might have bought a Subaru WRX from him instead of a VW GTI from another guy who dropped off the face of the Earth as soon as the ink was dry on the contract.

If you engage with your customers in an honest and mutually-beneficial way, they will appreciate it. If you build a relationship, there are many tools available to help you maintain it. If you repackage traditional, hackneyed, one-sided sales techniques with a veneer of “engagement,” all but the most naive will see through you.

image by s myers