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  • Mark Lipton

The Language Barrier!

Lipton’s use a different language than the one’s that most people use. The other day, I was speaking with my mother. She asked me, “Have you spoken to Panda lately?”

Panda is my daughter and my mother knows we speak all the time. In the language of Lipton though, what my mother was REALLY saying translates to, “We haven’t spoken to our granddaughter in a while, tell her to call us!”


I don’t complain if I have to work a little harder to understand my mother. My grandparents all spoke Yiddish so I spent much of my youth completely in the dark wondering if I was the schmuck they kept referring to? I miss my grandparents, but reading between my mother’s lines is a step up from trying to understand their Yiddish!


I was never a fan of reading between the lines, or Yiddish for that matter! I prefer communications that take a more direct approach. Especially as I try to manage my two stores! No surprise considering how much writing I do. Even in my stores: I’m always very specific with my words.


One of the areas where you can really see that is in the way I train my counter guys to handle their tasks. So much of our business takes place at this crucial area of our stores and unless you’re there…. it’s taking place without you.


But maybe not?


Not everything that happens at the counter is of equal importance to me. Sure, I train and give “talking points” to my guys so that they can best help customers. But unless there’s a difference in profit or some other significant difference, do you REALLY care if you’re customer buys Regal or ben? I’m referring to training for situations where real money can be made or lost. (Btw, am I the only one who is pissed that Benjamin Moore chose not to capitalize the “b” in ben? If I write it to someone who is not in the know on paint names, it looks like a typo. I HATE typos? When you sell as many gallons of ben as Apple sells iPhones, you can go lower case. Until then, it’s Ben! I guess that’s been bothering me more than I let on)!


Deep breath Mark! I was speaking about the training we give on how to handle high value or high-risk situations at the counter. For example, credit!


A customer whose account has gone past due is a risk. I want to make sure that at the counter we don’t make things worse so I tell my guys exactly how I want that situation handled. And I’m specific, it's how I put myself at the counter in that crucial situation, even when I may be at home writing a blog for you! So if an account is cut off because of credit, they know exactly what to do:


  • Take customer politely away from other customers so they don’t risk embarrassing anyone

  • Explain that there’s a problem with the account being past due and that you cannot charge this sale

  • Offer options (using a credit card to pay for this order)

  • Get them on the phone with me


By being clear with my guys on how exactly I want these types of situations handled, I believe I reduce my risk of angering and therefore losing a customer…. and perhaps the money he owes me!


There are a few other subject areas that like credit that I would consider high risk or high reward and therefore work hard to script the answers. If it’s not ME that the customer is speaking with, I want to make sure it’s almost me! Another of these topics is a new account opportunity. As soon as my guys realize that there’s an opportunity in front of them that may go beyond this single transaction, I want them saying “Can I have the owner call you?”


Being clear in your directions applies even if you don’t own a paint store!


Every organization has a person at the top. Generally there’s a reason that they’re there too! The climb to the “C” Suite is littered with people who are not able to communicate their message well. So if you’re toiling “down ladder” and find yourself a bit below the “C” Suite at the moment ask yourself: How well do I communicate my needs and how well do I listen to the needs of those who express them to me? Clarity in your words and directions and how true your actions are to the way your tasks were explained to you, will get results from those below you and noticed by those above!


Clarity of your words will stop those who decide the fate of your next raise or promotion from being confused. You don’t want your bosses felling like 10-year old Mark in a room full of grandparents.


Reading between the lines is not always easy and if people think they have to do it to understand you, they won’t do it for long.


So be clear and direct in sharing with people what you are expecting from them. Like I tell my daughter (in English!): Don’t be a schmuck, call your grandparents…. they miss you!