Sunday, March 3, 2024

Inside The Mind Of . . . Bob Burg

Last updated on June 21st, 2018 at 10:33 am

Bob Burg regularly fills auditoriums for his talks, and has shared the stage with thought leaders, Olympic athletes and a former U.S. president.

For years he was known for his book Endless Referrals, but recently it’s his business parable The Go-Giver (coauthored with John David Mann) that has garnered him much acclaim, and sold more than 800,000 copies. Burg and Mann’s newest book in the series is, The Go-Giver Influencer

Since its release, it has stayed in the top 25 on 800ceoread’s Business Book Bestsellers List, been translated into 21 languages, and was rated #10 on Inc. Magazine’s list of the Most Motivational Books Ever Written.

The American Management Association named Burg one of the 30 Most Influential Leaders.

How does one best attract loyalty in clients/customers?

Bob Burg: Unless your last name is Walmart, know that trying to make low price your unique selling proposition is not a productive, profitable, or fulfilling way of doing business.

If someone buys from you because your price is low, that’s the same reason they’d leave you because someone else comes in at a better price. Not only that, you won’t have enough of a profit margin to make your business sustainable and provide exceptional service to this person. You’ll be so focused on hustling up another sale – also at a low margin – and the pattern will repeat itself. It’s just not a healthy way to conduct business.

What we’ve got to do is not sell on price. When you sell on low price, it’s a commodity. When you sell on high value, you are seen as a resource. If that just so happens to be the lowest, that’s fine, but don’t sell on that.

As Scott McKain, author of Create Distinction: What to Do When “Great” Isn’t Good Enough to Grow Your Business, puts it: you have to be distinctive, not just different.

You have to create such an amazing experience for this person, that you are the only one they would choose to do business with. That starts well before the sale ever happens.

There are probably hundreds of ways, but they tend to come down to five, what we call ‘elements’ of value. Those elements are: excellence, consistency, attention, empathy, and appreciation. To the degree that you and your team can communicate one or more – hopefully all five – of those elements of value at every single touch point of the process, is the degree that you will take your competition right out of the picture.

On being distinct, can you cite an example?

Bob Burg: In his new book The Excellence Dividend: Meeting the Tech Tide with Work That Wows and Jobs That Last , Tom Peters talks about Vernon Hill, who is the founder of Commerce Bank in the United States, and now Metro Bank in the UK. For years, remember the retail banking model moved to not serving customers, but having everything done electronically – ATMs, smartphones – in order to get customers to perform as many transactions as possible online, which would save expenses and so forth.

Vernon Hill, when he opened Commerce Bank, said, “No. We want them in the branches. We want to engage with the customers.” He built these wonderful stores that had great personalities. They call them stores, by the way, not branches. They paid good wages; they had employees who were enthusiastic.

They were highly profitable. Eventually they sold to TD Bank for $8.6 billion. What Vernon Hill did was took this to the UK and opened Metro Bank. It became the first, new major chartered bank in the UK in 150 years. He did the whole thing again. Made it fun, got the people in there.

By the way, his banks in the States and in the UK were dog-friendly. He made it relationship-oriented. He said, “over invest in our people and facilities.” So, that’s what they did differently. 

All the conventional wisdom for banks said cut costs, and have people do everything online. He said, “Nope.” They increased costs, actually. But they really increased revenues. That was the difference maker. They made it a relationship – a true relationship, not just lip service.

What differentiates a good leader from a great leader?

Bob Burg: A lot of them have a vision, work ethic – but I think with the best leaders, their focus is on the people they serve. They are interested in having those they lead shine. They are developing other leaders. They put the interest of the company and the interest of their people first.

You look at Herb Kelleher, founder and former CEO of Southwest Airlines – the one who really shifted the paradigm of where a leader aimed their focus. It used to be that the first thing you said was the customer came first, the shareholders second, then the employees – if at all – third. He said, “No, not at all. You need to focus on serving. Your biggest customer is your team members – your employees. Take care of your team members. Take care of your employees, and they will take care of the customers and the customers will keep coming back. That, of course, will take care of the shareholders.”

And they have a team that loves them, feels loyal, goes out of their way to please their customers, because leadership goes out of their way to please them.

But what tends to separate them is something outlined in Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t by Jim C. Collins, who talked about level 4 leaders and level 5 leaders.

With a level 4 leader, their focus is on themselves. They are looking to take the credit or avoid the blame, but it’s really about them. You can still lead that way, you just aren’t as effective.

I think that the leaders who place other people’s interests first, are the Level 5 leaders.

The great leader is the person who is focused on bringing value to their team. These are the people who will give credit to their team when something good happens, and will accept the blame when something negative happens. That is often the person who brings the most loyalty. They will have people working their team working for a bigger purpose than just themselves, because they know that the leader has their back.

What’s the secret behind being able to influence and persuade?

Bob Burg: Influence is all about pull as opposed to push. Great influencers don’t push. They don’t push their ideas on people, they don’t push themselves on people. You never hear people see people say, “Wow, that Bob has a lot of push.” They say she has a lot of ‘pull’. Why? Because he or she has made themselves or their ideas more attractive to others. Influence is about pull. It’s about attraction. Great influencers understand that. The question is, how?

You do this not by focusing on yourself, but by focusing on bringing value to that other person. The great influencers constantly ask themselves questions like, “How does what I’m asking this person to do align with their goals, wants, needs, desires or values? What problems of theirs am I solving?”

When doing this, asking ourselves these questions thoughtfully and authentically – not as a way to manipulate the person to do our will – now we’ve come a lot closer to earning that person’s commitment to our ideas.

In Dale Carnegie’s classic How to Win Friends and Influence People, the premise of the book was summarized in this one line where he wrote, “Ultimately, people do things for their reasons, not our reasons.”

Often, when I speak at a sales conference I’ll say, “Nobody is going to buy from you because you have a quota. They aren’t going to buy from you because you need the money, or because you are a really nice person who believes in your product or service. They are only going to buy from you because they believe they will be better off by doing so, than by not doing so.”


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Dave Gordon
Dave Gordon
Dave Gordon is a Toronto-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in more than a hundred publications globally, over the course of twenty years. More about him can be found at