My mother asked me to bring her a latte, grandé size with vanilla and almond milk. She recently discovered her fondness of Starbucks lattes after living in the United States for nearly 50 years.
After placing my order, I walked down the counter to wait for the lattes – yes, I ordered one for myself.
I looked to my left and saw a woman sitting at a small table.
She was typing on her computer. Near her right hand was a caramel Frappuccino.
The sight of that Frappuccino took me back to 2008.
I was living in New York City, and I worked as an accountant for AIG within their reinsurance department.
As an FYI, reinsurance is insurance purchased by an insurance company.
I was part of a three-person team that accounted for the political risk and trade credit insurance. The team consisted of a manager, me as the senior accountant, and a staff accountant.
My group was amazing! We were small in size yet mighty in terms of getting stuff done!
However our path to awesome started on a very rocky path. No one trusted us, which meant no one wanted to work with us let alone help.
Sadly, we were paying for another person’s sins.
This particular reinsurance department had a high turnover rate. After I was hired, I learned 33 out of 35 employees had quit within six months. The two employees that remained inherited the work of anyone that resigned.
The surrounding departments that interacted with the reinsurance department also felt the pain of the high turnover.
One department, in particular, was especially difficult to work with. Like my team, that department had three people.
Rather than take on the extra work, they chose to do nothing. They decided it was easier to blame non-existent employees for work not getting done. Furthermore, they were tired of meeting new people and working with them only to not work with them months later.
My small but mighty team knew we would have to make the first move if we wanted others to work with us, let alone trust us. Therefore, we decided to roll up our sleeves and play the long game.
Understand Their Problem
My team met with the department of three. Their primary role was to process our journal entries.
Our goal for that meeting was to understand what they needed from us to make their jobs easier. We also wanted to know what is and is not working for them.
They were candid with their responses.
They mentioned the aggravation of receiving journal entries hours or even days past the assigned deadline. Missing deadlines delayed their work and caused them to spend several days or sometimes weeks working past midnight.
One member of that department mentioned the struggle and cost of finding a baby sitter when long nights were needed. She felt trapped because she could not afford to leave her job even though she wanted to quit.
We acknowledged the information they provided. After scrubbing out most of the sarcasm and snide remarks, we agreed to ensure our journals were in their hands, timely.
Build A Bridge To Stay Top Of Mind
I always said hello to any member of the three-person department when I saw them outside of the office.
I’d say hello when I saw them in the street. I’d wave to them in a café. I’d wish them a good evening in the subway.
Despite the acknowledgement, they ignored me.
And, I wasn’t bothered.
Don’t get it twisted. I’m a sensitive soul.
However, for those three, I knew it wasn’t personal. They had been burned a thousand times before and were protecting themselves.
So I kept at it.
I kept waving, yelling “Hi!” across the street, or asking “how are you?” while they walked by, in silence, as if I were a ghost.
This continued for nearly 3 months.
On month four, they surprised me.
On separate occasions, all of them responded to my greeting, on the same day. And they smiled. And they had a conversation with me.
During the conversation, one of them confessed.
His name is Damon.
He said, “We had a bet to see how long you would continue to say hello before giving up. …then we felt sorry for you. We were starting to feel like jerks for giving the silent treatment in public.”
Hold Them Accountable
Old habits do die hard.
While it was great to finally be on speaking terms, that three-person department continued to “lose” our journal entries despite our timely submission.
They were not “losing” them on purpose. However their habit for survival was creating additional work for my team.
If positive change was to continue, all of us needed to work together.
My team created a log that listed all of our journal entries. Before we handed our journals to that department, we asked them to sign and date the log, verifying receipt of the documents.
Thanks to the log, they stopped losing our journal entries.
My team started to work really well with that three-person department.
The accounting close became more efficient and accurate.
All three members of that department were able to go home to their families timely, which meant, no more late nights and babysitters. They even met us for happy hour from time to time.
As for my team, leaders of other departments started to request us to work on special projects, which had amazing potential for our careers.
One day, to show my gratitude, I brought a caramel Frappuccino to Damon.
Out of the three people in that department, Damon was the hardest to crack, and, therefore the most notorious for “losing” our journal entries.
I remembered Damon sarcastically telling me that he’ll “think” about not losing our journal entries if we gave him a Frappuccino.
Ask and you shall receive Damon.
As soon as he received the Frappucino, I knew we’d be friends for life.
Back to the present:
Prior to venturing to Starbucks, I was very much in my head about marketing. I had taken course after course searching for the right tip or trick, trying to understand how to get prospects to know, like, and trust me.
However, the sight of the caramel Frappucino, near that woman’s hand, triggered memories that let me know I had the answers all along.
Here are the answers:
When you are marketing, remember that you are marketing to people. Therefore it takes time for them to know, like, and trust you. Putting it into context, it took about a year for that department to know, like, and trust my team.
Understand your ideal customer. Learn their pain points and how it affects their lives.
Come up with a solution.
Say hello, repeatedly. This is the same as staying top of mind.
Be okay with being ignored for several weeks to several months.
Hold them accountable when necessary.
Enjoy the breakthrough. You have successfully built a bridge and obtained a customer and possibly a friend for life.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, my lattes are ready.
And I must respond to Damon’s text. He’s such a trash talker.