COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | JEFFREY GITOMER

Understanding 'thanks' so you can say it and give it in a better way

Well, it’s that time of the year again. Everyone eats more food and more leftovers than the year before. Families have gathered and (some thankfully) departed.

Many people are now practicing “send a Thanksgiving card to beat those who send Christmas cards.” Yeah, that’s a good idea. Instead of sending an insincere Christmas card, you can send an insincere Thanksgiving card. Now, of course, not everyone sends an insincere holiday card. But many have a “list,” and they send a card to everyone on it no matter what.

What Thanksgiving is really all about is giving thanks, or better said, saying thanks.

How do you say thanks?

Go into any retail store and most of the time (not all the time) some clerk will say, “Thanks and have a nice day.” Do they only mean that day? If I didn’t buy anything, would they still want me to have a nice day? After they say the same thing 1,000 times, do they really mean it, or are they just repeating it out of habit?

Back to Thanksgiving. For many, there is a genuineness about Thanksgiving. For me personally, it’s my favorite holiday. Friends and family gather and give thanks for the meal, but I’ve always used it for a time of reflection. Who can I call to say hello to? Who do I wish were at the dinner who has passed away? What do I really need to be thankful for? And what actions will I take to show my thankfulness? What do I remember about past holiday meals? That’s thanksgiving to me. Thankful reflection.

Oh sure, I love the turkey, I love the stuffing, I love the cranberry sauce, I love the pumpkin pie, but way more than that, I love the feeling. This year three of four daughters and one granddaughter joined me and Jessica for the celebration. That is the blessing.

And so now, there is the window, the frantic rush, the panic between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the list, the shopping, the 6 a.m. sales, the traffic, the hustle and bustle. In all of that you may be forgetting all of that “saying thanks” thing that you resolved to do at Thanksgiving.

So please permit me to awaken you to the reality of Thanksgiving and the promise of Christmas. Say thanks, be thankful, and mean it.

Most businesses spend a bunch of time and money going after new customers. Most businesses also have a turnover or loss of old customers, some as much as 50 percent. Upper management will say, “This is normal” because they wouldn’t want anyone to think it was abnormal. But 50 percent or more of customer loss and employee loss is preventable.

Most businesses fail to realize that their present customers constitute 100 percent of all their sales, and 100 percent of all their profit. Yet by comparison of marketing dollars spent, businesses spend frightfully less to keep their existing business than they do trying to gain new business. It is a fact that has always perplexed me.

Here’s what I recommend you do this holiday season, so that you can keep people for the next holiday season.

1. Call as many customers as you can personally. No email, no letter, no card, just call. Leave a message telling them how much you appreciate their business this year, and how you look forward to earning their business next year.

2. If you are going to send a card, sign it personally with a note thanking them in addition to whatever your printed message says.

2.5. Resolve to help them over the course of the next year, so that you can be seen as more than a vendor or a product provider, and be looked at more as a partner.

Here are a few value ideas to get you thinking:

If you sold them a house, show them how to build equity.

If you sold them a copier, show them how to be more efficient in the office.

If you are an accountant or lawyer and they are your client, show them how to protect their assets or their family.

Everyone has a value that they can share, and most don’t take advantage of it. I’m not saying gift-giving is wrong. I am saying that you can add to any of your gifts in a personalized way that will make your customers appreciate you, and think twice before they stop doing business with you.

There’s a big difference between giving thanks and saying thanks. My recommendation is that this holiday season you overdose on both.


Gitomer is the author of "The Sales Bible" and "The Little Red Book of Selling." President of Charlotte-based Buy Gitomer, he gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings, and conducts Internet training programs on selling and customer service at trainone.com. He can be reached at salesman@gitomer.com.

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