Posts Tagged ‘Sales’

Doing the Whole Job

Sunday, August 26th, 2012

Mark, Mark, Mark. Do I ever remember Mark!

He was the golden child at one of the first jobs I ever had, a salesman who charmed the socks off every customer and brought in business like he was bringing in the morning paper.

But I noticed a funny thing at the end of the quarter when we looked at the numbers. No wonder he was bringing them in by the dozens—he was giving away the farm! Mark was so focused on getting customers to love him that he undercut our profits on every sale!

But here’s the thing—no one else seemed to notice, or if they did, they didn’t care. When I pointed it out to a colleague, she shrugged and said, “Hey, Mark does what he has to do. He’s a superstar.” (more…)

Acres of Diamonds: Show Me the Money!

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010
© Virusowy |

© Virusowy |

Last year I finally read Acres of Diamonds. It’s a century old, yet its truths are timeless.

This pastor, lawyer, speaker, politician, and university president – who collected $11 million from his speech by the same title and donated it to students – spoke of the riches that are available to all of us and how we search for them in all the wrong places.  The acres of diamonds, you see, are in our own backyard.

He tells of struggling merchants who know nothing about the people living near their businesses, nothing about their families or their kids, their joys or sorrows or aspirations.  They just plain don’t care about people – and THAT’s why they’re poor. They don’t see opportunities because they don’t know that people will show you how to help them—IF you just listen.

A metaphor for business? My thoughts exactly.

Here’s a thought. What would happen if you eliminated all the drama from your sales team? Work would no longer look like an adult day care because people would be accountable for their own problems and solutions.

What if instead of having to manage people, a sales manager could focus on improving sales?  No managing the frail egos of people who complain about minutiae; every sales person 100 percent accountable for his or her results; no dealing with “hurt feelings” – because you’re dealing with grownups who know that their feelings are their choice.  Just imagine it.

Stay with me here. In this little dream, the sales manager would spend:

•    a third of his or her time generating leads for the sales team;
•    a third making the sales operation optimally effective;
•    a third coaching the players on positioning, strategies, techniques, and sales skills.

How would that change things?

Are you ready for the change? It’s not that hard. Simply make sure that you instruct people to own their problems and find solutions fast. If anyone comes to you with a gripe or a whine, stick your fingers in our ears and shout, “I’m not listening, I’m not listening.”  Tell them to come back to let you know what they did to create a quick solution.

Do this and sales will accelerate!

Turning Your Market into a Buzzing Hive of Opportunity

Saturday, January 9th, 2010
© Inventori |

© Inventori |

If I owned a tattoo shop for businesspeople, I’d ink the same thing over and over onto client after client:  Life gives to the givers and takes from the takers.

It’s not just pithy, you know—it’s true.  If you want to put your business on the receiving end of the giving, it’s time to dig in and give like crazy to your customers.  The key is to abandon the terrible goal of “customer satisfaction.”  You don’t want satisfied customers.  You want customers who are passionate.

Comedian Demetri Martin gets at the difference between satisfaction and passion when he calls graffiti “the most passionate literature there is.”  It’s always something like “U2 ROCKS!” or “I LOVE SHERYL!”  He wonders why you never see “indifferent graffiti,” like “TOY STORY 2 WAS OKAY,” or “I LIKE SHERYL AS A FRIEND,” or “THIS IS A BRIDGE.”

Of course he knows why, and so do you.  That’s why it’s funny.  People don’t act on mere satisfaction.  They don’t express mere contentment in five-foot-high spray-painted letters.  They act on PASSION.  And the best thing you can do to turn your market into a buzzing hive of passionate customers is to spend the first 90 days of your relationship giving and giving and giving.  And giving.

Research has shown that businesses with ongoing client relationships (as opposed to one-time transactions) generally have 90 days to convince the client that they’ve chosen the right business.  Let those 90 days expire and you’ve lost the best chance you’ll ever have to capture them heart and soul, earning their undying devotion—and getting them to buzz to their friends and colleagues about the great decision they made.  Yet many businesses close the sale, then turn their attention to other sales, other prospects.  And the honeymoon’s over before it even begins.

You want to make those first few weeks a time of tremendous generosity on your part so your new client knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that he or she made the right choice.  Short, sweet, personal touches are best.  If you know your client is relocating, send a pizza during move-in week.  Send over a lawn-mowing service.  Promote their businesses in your lobby.  Send laminated articles pertaining to their business or offer shredding service.  Offer a customer orientation program to help them maximize their own potential.

If you let your customers know that you are not just satisfied but THRILLED to have their business and eager to make their lives easier and better, why on Earth would they keep it to themselves?  Your name will end up in a thousand sentences beginning with “Oh my gosh, you won’t believe…” as they share their good fortune with everyone they know.  Be of extraordinary service to your customers, especially in the first blushing weeks of your relationship, and you won’t be able to STOP the buzzing even if you tried. 

And who’d even want to try?

Creating the Mind that Buys

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009
© Nikolais |

© Nikolais |

You’re watching the Super Bowl when one of those unforgettable commercials comes on. You grab your sides with laughter. How do they come up with these things?

The next day everybody at work is talking about that great ad for…for…

What the heck WAS the product?

We’ve all seen those ads—so packed with distracting wall-to-wall cleverness and funny characters that there’s no room in your head to notice and remember the one thing those three million bucks were supposed to make you remember: the name of the product.

The same thing applies to the sales process. Who hasn’t seen a salesperson, fresh from a seminar on cross-selling, suddenly spread a dozen different account options like a Japanese fan in front of the poor customer? Her expression falls into a blank and frightened stare. Heck, I’ve BEEN that woman.

The mess of options throws her mind into a tailspin. And why shouldn’t it? She can’t process all of the variables at once, she knows the salesperson is working from a different set of motivations than she is, and she doesn’t want to make a decision she’ll regret—so she goes into defensive mode to keep from making a mistake. People want to spend their money wisely, and it’s harder to think clearly about one option when it’s in a forest of others. So she stammers something about needing to check with her husband, and out the door she goes—possibly for good.

Ford Saeks put it best when he said a confused mind never buys. Have your sales and marketing people tattoo that axiom on their brains. Choice is a lovely thing, but give people too many choices and they won’t make one at all.

Barry Schwartz drives this point home in The Paradox of Choice—Why More is Less. More couples form in speed dating events with six options than with twelve. More customers bought jam from a street market vendor with four choices than from a similar stall with eight choices. I remember when I had eight choices for the color of my computer desktop. Then it went to 256. Now it’s 11 million. Is this really helpful?

Even if a customer does manage to make a choice, they are likely to be less happy about the one they selected because they know about the advantages they turned down in the other options. People who were offered a plane ticket to Las Vegas valued the gift more highly when it was offered in isolation than they did if it was one of several choices.

You confuse ’em, you lose ’em. So keep it simple.

Keep marketing pieces to a single central message. Make one offer per pitch. In the sales process, add additional options slowly, allowing the customer’s understanding to keep up. In the process, you will have made purchasing your product or service as simple as possible for the customer.

Hard to think of a better definition of successful sales and marketing.

Repeat after Me: Repetition WORKS

Monday, December 21st, 2009
© Jbrizendine |

© Jbrizendine |

Traditional one-touch marketing has been on life support for a long time, but now it’s brain-dead, buried and gone.  The high profile one-hit wallop is largely a thing of the past.  Buying a full page ad in the New York Times might say something about your chutzpah or your impressive marketing budget, but casting one net won’t do much by itself to bring people in the door—especially a net that wide.

The reason is easy enough to figure out.  In his book Permission Marketing, Seth Godin notes that the average person is bombarded with over one thousand advertising messages per day, of which fewer than 1.5 percent register in memory at all.   Eliminate those that only register negatively—CLOSEOUT, CLOSEOUT, CLOSEOUT, EVERYTHING MUST GO!—and there’s not much left.

You don’t need to be loud.  In fact, obnoxious advertising can lead the consumer to unleash his deadliest weapon on you—neglect.  Better to (1) carefully identify your target market and (2) drop a lot of quiet but attractive little hooks in the water.

Research in this area is pretty conclusive:  It takes between five and nine touches before the average consumer responds to an advertiser’s message.  So it’s your job to find non-obnoxious ways to put your name and products in front of your prospects in as many low-key ways as possible.  Depending on your business and your prospects, this might include tightly-targeted ads (online or in print), sponsorship of a charity event, and (best of all) an excited buzz on the lips of your current happy clients.

Don’t think that every touch has to include your whole product line, mission statement, and driving directions.  Just encountering your name or logo several times builds awareness and curiosity to learn more, even if the prospect isn’t aware of the effect of that repeated exposure.

The subconscious effect of repetition was demonstrated powerfully in a famous experiment by Yale psychologist John Bargh.  Students in Bargh’s seminar were given ten sentences to unscramble.  They thought they were being tested on their ability to sort out the sentences—but no.  Seeded throughout the scrambled sentences were words related to old age, such as “lonely,” “gray,” “bingo,” “wrinkle,” and my personal favorite, “Florida.”  After unscrambling the sentences, students walked out of the testing room measurably slower than students who unscrambled words without those messages related to old age. 

No one shouted “YOU ARE FEELING OLD!” at the subjects.  If they had, it probably wouldn’t have worked.

In another phase of the experiment, students unscrambled sentences with words connoting impatience or aggressiveness or kindness and exhibited those qualities more often than the control groups.

Marketing is also an attempt to induce a certain attitude—specifically, a positive attitude toward your company and products.  And the most effective way to do this is by placing your name and “face” in front of your prospective clients in a positive way, and then doing it again.  And again.  And again.