You can learn a lot just by watching

I spent 3 hours in the Ontario, CA airport the other day. There are no airline clubs there, so to work on my computer I sat at a Southwest Airlines gate at one of their work tables and stools. It happened to be right next to the credit card sign-up station.

If you fly much you know that most airports have a least one airline affinity card sign-up station where the “sales people” attempt to get you to sign up for an affinity card. I, and most people I talk to, assume this effort is probably not all that effective … just highly profitable, since credit card customers are highly valuable to the financial institutions.

Boy, was I surprised. There were three people at this sign-up station working to get people to sign-up for a Chase Bank Southwest Airlines affinity card. During the entire three hours that I sat there, at least one of those people was signing somebody up. Often two were signing and sometimes all three.

Their success came from an effective opening line and a useful offer. As my friend Ted Steinberg says, “A closed mind doesn’t buy.” Their opening lines (each person used a different line) were highly effective at stopping people and their offer was compelling to a surprising number of people.

In talking to them I found there was a compensation plan that also drove an effective effort. They all made minimum wage plus commission/bonus. Their commission/bonus was tied to their personal sign-ups, sign-ups who ultimately qualified, and a team-based bonus based on how their team did during their shift. This drove individual effort without a cut-throat attitude.

It was confirmation for me that “cold calling” works and can be a good job … if you have a mind-opening line, and an effective offer.

You can learn a lot just by watching.


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4 Responses to You can learn a lot just by watching

  1. moonblink says:

    Mitch, this is interesting and completely opposite to what I would have expected out of this article because of my prior experiences. I’ve witnessed a very different atmoshphere at the Chase/Southwest booth in Las Vegas. They all had very aggressive tactics that turned off nearly all passers by. In over two hours watching I only saw three people signup – granted I wasn’t paying that close attention, but their pens weren’t running out of ink.

    The extremely pushy approach made me think a better tactic would be introducing their service as a, “get to know chase and how we can help you save money”. They clearly needed something better to get people to stop and listen.

    I also asked a gentleman working the booth about their approach to getting more signups and how he and his team were compensated. The response was a dumbfounded look and the reply of “We’re not allowed to talk about that”. It was very clear why everyone was walking right by with his unwillingness to engage in a conversation that wasn’t involved with me immediately grabbing a pen to sign up – I was even ready to sign up had the conversation gone differently.

    This difference points out that it all comes down to the individual motivation and attitude going into the cold call. The people I witnessed had the exact same thing to offer, pay structure(assuming), and captive audience. The only thing lacking was an effective opening line – which they definitely weren’t changing up.


    • Kevin, thanks for reading and commenting. Your example is an excellent reminder that it takes a complete process to make things happen, including appropriate sales management to help the team execute, and marketing to make sure the value proposition makes sense. Here is a constrasting example where the product is identical and the results are different due to a failure of effective management.

  2. Dave J. says:

    Was pondering the same subject when walking by such a booth yesterday. I had just listened to This American Life’s amusement park episode which prominently featured the manager of the carney games, and how he motivates his staff. Good listen, if you have a chance.

  3. Pingback: Hidden costs | Value Acceleration

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