The Front Lines of Your Business

“Front line” is military lingo used to describe the troops or equipment closest to the enemy during an armed conflict. It originated from the term Forward Line of Own Troops (FLOT).*

In your business, the front lines are the employees that are closet to your customers and prospects. (A strange saying since the enemy, therefore, translates to your customers, but let’s leave that be.)

Some examples of front line employees:

  • Receptionists
  • Sales Reps
  • Customer Service Specialists
  • Bank Tellers
  • Waiters or Waitresses
  • You get the point

Now, I’d like to share two experiences with the front lines of large companies I deal with on a regular basis.

The first company is a large, national credit card company. I’ve had a credit card with them for about 13 years and they’ve done a tremendous job keeping me as a happy customer.

The second company is Delta Sonic, which is a car wash with 21 locations in New York, Illinois, and Pennsylvania. They also do a great job, but only when I actually take the time to get the car washed.

I do like both of these companies, but the credit card vendor let me down in a pretty big way recently. Here’s what happened.

How to Flush Advertising Down the Toilet

My wife and I have started looking into purchasing our first home together. We’re taking a slow, methodical approach and weighing our options. I’m sure this credit card company has a lot of data on us, and they sent a well-timed piece of direct mail to our current home.

The large trifold mailer probably cost a few bucks and was pretty impressive. Even better, it had a pretty good offer as to why we should consider them for a mortgage.

It’s been a little over six years since I purchased our current home and I’ve forgotten many of the details of the process. I had a little bit of reservation in obtaining a mortgage through my credit card company (because I’ve positioned them in my mind as the people who do credit cards, not mortgages) but I figured I would give them a shot.

Here’s what happened next.

I called the 1-800 number and got a sales rep on the phone and dealt with their front lines for mortgage opportunities. I perceived the rep to be impatient, condescending, and rude within three minutes of talking to him. My questions were met with hostility and I actually said, “I don’t think this is a good match, you’re making me feel uncomfortable and I am hanging up now.”… click.

How many dollars went into commercials, data analysis, design and printing of collateral, postage, salaries, and technology to get me to that pivotal point to dial the 1-800 number?

I can’t answer that question. But I do know it took 13 years of good service to build the trust for me to even inquire from a “credit card” company about a mortgage.

All of it was flushed within three minutes by one guy in the front lines.

It actually pains me to think of the waste created by one front line employee who happened to be off for one phone call.

How to Maximize your Advertising

Delta Sonic does a considerable amount of advertising and promotions in my area. I get constant friendly reminders to stop neglecting my vehicle.

When you approach a Delta Sonic, it feels similar to a toll booth setup. You pick your lane and edge forward until you meet the attendant. The biggest difference is that the young doe-eyed attendant is really a trained (assassin) sales person paid on commission to up-sell you on a better car wash package.

If you’ve ever been through the pitch provided by the sales rep, you know two things. It’s a battle and it’s well-scripted. The script has one primary focus and that is to increase the value of each and every customer that comes through the wash.

In this case, advertising and a good location are responsible for getting me to the car wash, and then it’s completely on the front lines to increase my purchase.

Here’s a loose recollection of the conversation we had.


Attendant: Hi, welcome to Delta Sonic! I wanted to let you know we’re running a limited time promotion on our Unlimited Super Kiss Wash Plan. You can get unlimited touchless washes for each month. This normally costs $29.99, but is priced at $16.99 for this promotion.

Me: Ahhh, no, I’m not interested. Thank you, though.

Attendant: Just so you know, you can cancel that car wash plan at any time.

Me: That’s alright. Thank you, though.

Attendant: I noticed a large amount of bugs on your front bumper and, just as a recommendation, you should get (fill in the name of up-sell) to help remove and repel bugs. Also, we’re running a great promotion where if you buy 2 Super Kiss Car Washes, you get the third for free.  Would you be interested in that?

Me: No, I’m alright. I’m just going to get a basic car wash.

Attendant: Ok, as I was saying earlier, it’s recommended that you upgrade for $2 to help remove those bugs. Would you like to add this to your order?

Me: No, that’s fine… Thank you, though.

Attendant: Ok, it will be $9.79 and you’re all set.


I pride myself on being a savvy consumer and that’s why I say no to up-sells even when they’re the right purchase for my situation.

Now it’s confession time.

I won on this day, but I have succumbed many times to the that last little up-sell. The “bug guard” or the “rust repelling spray” for only $2.

Part of the reason I purchase that $2 spray is something called ego depletion.

Ego depletion is the idea that your self-control or willpower draws on a limited supply of mental resources*.

This happens in failed diets frequently. You say “no” to 13 temptations throughout the day, but then you say “yes” to dessert after dinner because, “I’ve been so good all day!”

You had a limited amount of willpower that was used up by that last request.

That script at Delta Sonic is built on ego depletion and the contrast principle. Every time I say no to an up-sell my limited supply of willpower is being reduced… I’ve only got three no’s in me and they just asked a fourth question.

My mind is also busy contrasting $29.99 to $16.99 and then $16.99 compared to a $2 up-sell. When using the contrast principle, always start with the higher dollar value to create a benchmark and then provide a lower price.

Ego depletion + contrast = tiny up-sell.

side note: The contrast principle works best in uncertain pricing situations, such as not knowing how much a monthly car wash pass should cost. If you try to sell me one banana for $10, but today it’s only $7, I quickly know that’s overpriced and the contrast principle fails.

I don’t even mind that Delta Sonic peppers me with these questions because I think it’s a thing of beauty. Here’s a company that spends the money to advertise and get people to their location and then maximizes that ad dollar by having an extremely polished front line.

Make sure you’re making the most out of the opportunities that your front line has. If you’re interested in learning more techniques such as the contrast principle, I recommend you read Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Dr. Robert Cialadini.

If you’re interested in maximizing your current advertising dollars, then I’d recommend you check out our free 9 Point Ad Tune-up Checklist.

It can be the difference between flushing or multiplying your advertising dollars.


Blog Resources
*Front Lines: Wiki
*Ego depletion: Wiki