According to the Wall Street Journal and Business Week, Mark Sanborn has produced a “National Best Seller” in his book: The Fred Factor. Sanborn’s book is based on his experience with a mail carrier known as Fred. For more than ten years, Fred consistently provided exceptional delivery service, going the extra mile that certainly exceeded his job description. He showed qualities that demonstrated he genuinely cared about the customers on his delivery route. Though some would describe Fred’s job being a postal carrier as dull, boring, monotonous, and other dreary words, his attitude and approach to work made it exciting for him and meaningful to others. After constantly experiencing Fred’s exceptional, extraordinary service, Sanborn shared his experiences with Fred as part of his motivational speaking program. After seeing that his audiences were inspired by the Fred story, Sanborn decided to share it in a book. Therefore, he recorded interactions with Fred and decided to term them “The Fred Factor” based on four simple principles that anyone could use. This resulted in establishing a personal relationship with Fred – one that Sanborn never had with other postal carriers.
The four principles that Sanford presents in his book: 1) everyone makes a difference; 2) you can reinvent yourself regularly; 3) everything is built on relationships; and 4) you must continually create value for others. It’s the author’s opinion that ordinary people can lead extraordinary lives learning and following these principles. In short, anyone can be a Fred.
When explaining that everyone can make a difference, Sanborn used “Fred Sightings” to show ordinary people going out of their way to help or contribute to the happiness of others. One example is a hotel employee who took his coffee-stained pants home to wash because cleaning service was not available on the property. Another example consists of the flight attendant who made a 6:15 morning flight from Denver to San Francisco enjoyable by using humor when doing the pre-flight announcement. It was a bit risky to deviate from the airline’s traditional ho-hum announcement; but, she had fun and passengers enjoyed the refreshing change. It’s interesting to note that the author uses some questionable absolutes to encourage readers to follow The Fred Factor. He asserts that anyone can do this under any set of circumstances when interacting with anybody. This takes his assertion a bit far-fetched – over the top when using absolutes.
Everything is built on relationships includes listening to others, caring about others, doing little things to go the extra mile at home, work and even with strangers. According to the author, service provided can become exceptional when it’s personalized - when this happens, a rewarding relationship starts to exist between the customer and employee.
Giving the message that we must continually create value for others assumes that people will be motivated to do so. And when doing so will be happier individuals. To further reinforce creating value and unselfishly giving value, Sanborn uses President Kennedy’s famous quote: "ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country" to emphasize being of service to others. This principle requires doing and giving with no expectation for receiving something in return.
A Better Person
Sanborn states that "Nobody can prevent you from choosing to be exceptional.” Therefore, he goes on to show how individuals can become a Fred. Though using the term Fred seems a bit sexist because it’s a male name; and since females are among his readership a gender-free term would be more inclusive.
Sanborn believes there are many “Freds” in the world that need to be found in an organization. So using the acronym - F: Find, R: Reward, E: Educate, D: Demonstrate – he encourages employers to identify their “Freds.” Regardless of one’s job title, Sanborn believes that we’re all able to find satisfaction in drudgery tasks and capable of turning menial tasks into meaningful tasks that benefit others - just as Fred did.
Even though section four of the book shares Fred’s interest and current family status as a husband, we really don’t know much about this admirable person. What experiences gave him these altruistic characteristics? Where did he grow up? Was he this way throughout childhood? What influence did his family, schooling, or readings have on him becoming the person he is today? Perhaps this background information was omitted because if readers knew more about Fred, there would be no interest in emulating his exceptional performance on the job.
Some of Sanborn’s methods will help me become a better sales representative in several ways. However, the most applicable and easiest to implement are seven useful steps to build relationships: 1) be real; 2) be interested; 3) be a better listener; 4) be empathetic; 5) be honest; 6) be helpful; and 7) be prompt. Since the success of selling depends on people skills that foster positive relationships, Sanborn’s 7-Bs provide practical guidance for novice as well as veteran salespersons. For example, to become a better listener, I will ask customers quality questions to understand their buying needs, concerns, and hesitations. Then rather than rattle on and on about why my product and services are the best, I will allow the customer time to respond without interrupting. This entails listening carefully, taking notes, and then repeating my understanding of their responses. Doing this reinforces the golden rule that “silence is golden.”
In summary, using simple prose, bullet points, anecdotes, quotations, and a resourceful appendix, Sanborn’s book does a good job of motivating me to improve my life and increase job performance as a salesperson. He shows us ordinary “everyday” people who do extraordinary things that contribute to the happiness of others (e.g., cohorts, employer, customers). He stresses that anyone can reinvent himself or herself to improve performance at work as well as relationships with family, friends, and even strangers. It’s a collection of heart-felt lessons demonstrating the value and endless possibilities to have a more fulfilling life at work and home. Therefore, if individuals are unhappy with their life as well as employment situation, and determined to bring about a positive change, The Fred Factor can help them get started. It’s definitely a good starting point for me.