Vance Gillette's Philosophy: D.O.N.E.

Photo of Vance GilletteLong ago, way back in the 1960s during my early days working in the pool and spa industry, I adopted what you might call a professional and even personal manifesto — an approach to doing business that has served me and others very well. I concocted it myself based on characteristics I saw in other successful salespeople and business leaders and have stuck with it over the decades because of the way it’s fueled success and my own feelings of personal satisfaction.

These days, many who know me could tell you it boils down to one little four-letter word-turned-acronym — D.O.N.E.

I’ll explain it here mostly through the lens of a salesperson, but in truth it’s an approach that applies to everyone in all walks of business. The letters stand for Delight your customers, take Ownership, do it Now, and Exceed customer expectations.

I call it D.O.N.E., the art of getting to “yes.”

At its core, I believe that by seeking to delight the customer, taking ownership of the relationship, executing tasks without delay and always seeking to exceed expectations, we are able to elevate and focus our efforts in a way that will consistently stack the deck in favor of success. Whether you’re involved directly in sales, technical support, marketing, production management, in-field service, company leadership or just about any other type of job, D.O.N.E. is about building customer relationships as well as serving others with whom you work. Ultimately, it’s about setting the highest possible standard for yourself and seeing that value system through with everything you do.

From a sales standpoint, it’s how you turn a sales prospect into a lifetime customer. In the broader context, it’s also how you become an effective team player, and for managers, it’s a key to becoming a true “servant leader.” It’s a way to meet and exceed expectations and do so in rapid fashion that maximizes opportunities. When you embrace the D.O.N.E. approach, you demonstrate that you care in a way that transforms the act of selling into a form of partnership between you and the customer. When you broaden its application to all aspect of your working life, it becomes a formula not only for financial success but also for the highest possible level of personal satisfaction.

So let’s break it down, letter by letter.

Delight: This is all about attitude and the experience you’re delivering as a result of that attitude. When you seek to delight people with your attitude and actions, you’re injecting a level of enjoyment into the process of doing business. It’s human nature to be drawn to positive people and upbeat messages. By contrast, we’ve all been around people who are downbeat and uninspired. It’s amazing how these sad souls can sap your energy and make you eager for the moment when you’re no longer in their presence.

Conducting business should not be a dreary or burdensome process; business is better served by a more buoyant manner of communication and behavior. When you delight in the process, you send a powerful message about yourself and your work product that is based on confidence and sheer enjoyment of life.

Fact is, no one I know wants to be merely satisfied — we all want to be delighted. We see this concept of delight in action at ultra-successful establishments such as Starbucks, Nordstroms and certainly the Walt Disney properties. Those are businesses that in their own very different ways inject a sense of delight into the consumer experience and the results speak for themselves.

In a sales setting, the element of delight puts customers at ease and helps open their thinking to the positive experiences they’ll enjoy by saying “yes.” Delight is a way to infuse the selling process with fun and enjoyment, as opposed to pressure and drudgery. By delighting in what you do, you become a cheerful embodiment of the product you’re selling; you reflect a value system of positive thinking and action. And, in many situations, it’s a great way to make price much less of an issue.

If your role is not directly related to selling your company’s product, the element of delight almost automatically increases your value to your employer and co-workers because you are enjoyable to be around and your work reflects the feeling that the work you do is a source of pride and positivity. You become someone others can turn to without reservations. By way of taking delight in what you do, you might even find yourself becoming a source of inspiration for others. I’ve experienced this in my own life and it’s a wonderful byproduct of taking delight, one that transforms just about every experience you have and share. Reflecting delight in a way that is true to your personality is almost immediately infectious, a great way to move toward the all-important goal of “yes.”

Ownership: This is all about responsibility and accountability. When you take ownership of a situation, task or even a momentary problem, you become a resource for others and an authority on the issues at hand. That’s not to necessarily say you have all the answers at your fingertips, but instead that you will gather the information and resources needed to achieve a positive outcome.

This also instills a sense of confidence in customers and others with whom you interact because we all instinctively gravitate toward people who have the confidence and skill to make things happen. By contrast, when you defer to others too often, it sends the message that you are only a cog in the machine, that answers and solutions reside elsewhere. That can make customers feel insecure and prompt them to seek others for answers or solutions.

By taking ownership, you demonstrate your commitment to achieving a high standard because you are vested in arriving at a positive outcome. You project the image of someone who doesn’t make excuses but instead finds answers. No matter what you do for a living, whatever role you play in the grand scheme of things, when you take ownership of your work you increase your own value in the eyes of others because you demonstrate a high level of commitment to the process and have a stake in what happens as a result of your actions.

Now: We live in a world where people want what they want and, most the time, they want it immediately. Patience and deferred gratification are not virtues readily embraced by people making purchasing decisions, and therefore we find great advantage in taking on tasks in the here and now without making customers wait.

I believe that’s part of basic human nature: We want it now and we want it “done” without unnecessary delay. That doesn’t mean you have to answer every question, achieve every goal or solve every problem instantaneously — that’s an unreasonable expectation. The “now” in this equation means you move forward without hesitation and deliver results in an accelerated manner. Doing so helps you develop and maintain momentum, avoid procrastination and approach tasks and issues at hand with a sense of urgency and determination. Immediate action also helps diminish the often-toxic effects of second-guessing and self-doubt.

When you combine immediate action with delight and ownership, you become your own engine of positive energy, and that is extremely attractive and infectious in the eyes of others. It sends a message to customers that through their decision to partner with you on the road to meeting their desires and expectations, they themselves are signing on to a program of strong and decisive action. They gain a sense of comfort that comes with knowing that their priorities are your priorities, that you care enough to make meeting their needs an immediate action item.

On a purely practical level, when you move with alacrity, you accomplish more in less time and the process of doing your job becomes filled with a sense of purpose and constant forward motion. You avoid the energy-sapping muck of boredom and replace it instead with the emotional rocket fuel of personal and professional empowerment.

On a more tactical level, taking swift action also means you’re likely to beat your competition to the punch. In many cases, that can spell the difference between walking away with the business or being forced to walk away from customers while they take their dollars elsewhere.

Exceeding Expectations: When you become someone who takes delight in what you do, takes ownership of the process or situation and does so immediately, you set yourself up for the final element in the D.O.N.E. formula — you become someone who is able to not only meet, but exceed expectations.

One of the worst habits salespeople fall into is taking the seemingly easy road by promising anything and everything to the customer just to close a sale. Exceeding expectations begins with being realistic and truthful with your customers or co-workers. For example, if you know it takes three weeks to deliver a product, don’t tell them two just for the sake of expedience. In the end you’re only going to wind up disappointing the people who have made a purchasing decision based on the information you provided. If anything, it’s better to tell them delivery will be in four weeks and then deliver in three.

But that’s just a small part of what I mean when talking about exceeding expectations. In a larger sense, the commitment to always seek a higher bar means you are elevating your own game in a way that impacts everything that goes on around you. It demonstrates the pride you take in your work and reinforces your reputation as someone who not only gets things done, but does so on a level that is far beyond some kind of minimum standard.

Exceeding expectations is probably the best way I know to earn customer loyalty and confidence. It’s simple common sense: When customers have a positive experience through you and your product that is beyond what they expected, they’re naturally inclined to turn to you over and over again. That’s why no matter what you do, when you work above the expected standard, you will set yourself and your organization up for sustained success.

All of this is why the word D.O.N.E. is so important to me. I’ve seen it work countless times across the widest possible spectrum of human endeavor. It doesn’t matter if you mow lawns for a living, conduct research in a nuclear physics laboratory or sell swimming pools, this simple set of standards will help propel you toward almost unlimited levels of personal and professional achievement.

When I first embraced D.O.N.E., I immediately learned it was the Holy Grail in terms of success in sales. As I expanded its use in all other areas, I’ve come to believe it’s a blueprint for happiness at work and elsewhere. Quite simply, it’s the best way I know to truly get things done!

Comments or thoughts on this article? Please e-mail [email protected].

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