Posts Tagged ‘Sales’

Remove the Risk, Reap the Reward

Thursday, December 17th, 2009
© Keeweeboy |

© Keeweeboy |

We’ve all been there.  The car salesman slides the paperwork across the desk at you, pointing at the signature line.  Just this one last step, he says, and there’ll be no way out.

At least that’s how it can sound to the customer as she wipes her sweaty palms on the blue Naugahyde, wondering if she’s doing the right thing, wondering if she’s considered everything, wondering if she’s taking too big a…


RISK is the dark underbelly of every opportunity, our mother’s voice warning us that there’s no free lunch, P. T. Barnum chuckling about a sucker being born every minute.  Suddenly the salesperson is the snake in the Garden, hissing “How ’bout them apples?”—and Eve is sliding her checkbook back into her purse and looking for the exit.

All agreements entail some degree of risk.  The best thing any business can do to earn the trust of a potential customer is reverse that risk.  You can’t lose it completely, but why not shift it onto your own shoulders?  If you as a business can make it clear that all of the risk will be assumed by you, not by the customer, you’ve removed the last real roadblock to the relationship.  If you can really demonstrate that there’s nothing to lose and much to gain, signing on that line goes from a sweaty-palmed “I do” to a simple agreement to dance for a little while and see how it goes.

So how do businesses remove the risk roadblock?  Depends on the business.  Parents who agree to sign their kids up for karate lessons at a reasonable ten bucks a pop get walloped at the first lesson with the oh-by-the-way cost of the karate uniform.  Once again Eve’s looking around for the exit.  What if little Cain and Abel decide they don’t LIKE karate and we’re stuck with two skimpy white bathrobes?

A smart businessperson will recognize that moment of risk paralysis and create the antidote before the venom can even set in.  “The uniform is absolutely free for the first thirty days.  If you decide not to continue, there’s no charge.”  Voilà!  The risk is assumed by the business, and Eve signs on the dotted line.

“But I can’t be giving away free uniforms!” says the shortsighted dojo owner.  Fine.  Try your own way for a month.  Count the customers walking out the door when they hit that risk roadblock.  Then try risk reversal for a month.  Sure, you’ll get a few customers who fizzle out before thirty days have passed, but you’ll also have a slew of customers with happy kids hooked on your product, parents who signed on for the sweet and lucrative package deal—customers who would have bounced off that roadblock if you hadn’t so wisely removed it.

So you’re not selling karate lessons.  But what are the roadblocks that get YOUR customers’ palms sweating—and how can you reverse that risk and dry those palms?

It’s Self-Evident: All USPs are NOT Created Equal

Saturday, December 12th, 2009
© Juliafreeman |

© Juliafreeman |

So you’ve got the message.  You know that marketing today is not about blending in to some industry norm—it’s about standing out.  You’re looking for a USP, a Unique Selling Proposition, something that will get the customers flocking your way.

Unique is important, but is unique the only thing that counts?  Are all USPs created equal?  Not by a long shot.

A USP can be based on almost anything if it makes you visible and appealing:  location, hours, price, product approach, celebrity endorsements, delivery approach, you name it.  But go back and read that IF clause.  If it doesn’t make you visible AND appealing, it may be unique, but it ain’t a USP.

So what makes for a good USP?

It matters to the customer.  Maybe yours is the only bank in town whose president is a Capricorn.  Maybe you’ve got the only rotary-dial phones in the Tri-State area.  Bully for you.  But does it make you visible?  Does it make you appealing?  If not, keep looking.  Find out what matters to your customers, and be that thing.  “Open ’til 10 p.m. on weekends” might sound like a snoozer—until you find out that’s just what your customers were waiting for.  Then it’s a USP.

It’s dramatic.  Not all USPs are dramatic, but if you can find one that is, you’re home free.  Learn what your customers hope for, yearn for, ache for—and give it to them.  The slogan “Federal Express—when it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight” spoke directly to the desperate hopes of sweating middle managers everywhere.  When Club Med called itself “the antidote for civilization,” countless millions sighed and reached for air margaritas.

It’s definable, explicit, and absolutely free of fluff.  I’ve never met a fluffy USP that was worth a nickel.  Say something REAL.  Say something CLEAR.  When Dominos promised “fresh, hot pizza delivered in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed,” they had themselves an explicit, clear USP that put millions of pizzas into millions of Americans.  Don’t tell me about your 24 years in the business.  Don’t bother me with “competitive rates.”  I don’t sit up nights yearning to give my business to a company with a few more years of experience or (please!) rates that are (pfft!) “competitive.”  Give me something solid and I just might bite.

Bottom line:  The best USPs solve real problems that real people have.  I remember the first time I saw an ad for a toothbrush with that ridged rubber grip on it.  Is this a real problem?  I thought.  Are people everywhere struggling with the problem of toothbrushes flying across the room in mid-stroke?  I somehow doubt it.  Listen carefully to you current clients.  Listen even more carefully to your prospective clients.  And when you find out what they really need, what they dream of, what they yearn for, you’ll have your marching orders—and you’ll have your USP.

What makes a world-class salesperson?

Saturday, November 21st, 2009
© Rmarmion |

© Rmarmion |

There’s no end to the list of qualities that make for a great salesperson.  But when it comes to assessing your sales team, sales managers often focus on features that are secondary or worse:  Who’s a hard worker?  Who do I like the best? 

These may be fine qualities for a mail-order bride, but when it comes to salespeople, likeability and even hard work don’t necessarily add up to closed sales.  Instead, focus on five basic competencies as the backbone of your ongoing assessments:

1.  Selling skills.  All right, wise guy, I heard that.  If assessing salespeople on their selling skills sounds as obvious as assessing beekeepers on their beekeeping skills, why are selling skills so often completely ignored in assessment plans?  Too many sales managers see salespeople on the phone all day and think it MUST somehow add up to sales.  This just in: Even a monkey can hold a phone.  You need to ask yourself whether your salespeople are exhibiting the basic skills that make sales happen.  Do they know how to find and nurture solid prospects to keep the sales funnel full?  Do they know how to ask the right questions?  Do they know the difference between the end of a conversation and the closing of a deal?  These and a dozen other skills add up to genuine sales competency.

2.  Communication skills.  Can your salespeople make complex ideas simple?  Can they get customers talking by asking open-ended needs questions?  Do they move easily among the three perspectives (I—you—they)?  Are they outgoing, energetic, and people-oriented?  Do they really listen as well as speak?

3.  Presentation skills.  Presentation is more than just communication.  We’ve all had the experience of listening for an hour to a smooth and gifted communicator, only to realize we have no idea what was actually said.  Presentation requires an understanding of form—the creation of a psychologically effective whole, with a beginning, middle, and end, that gives the listener not just information but comprehension.  A presenter is constantly assessing his or her presentation through the eyes of the listener and making a human connection that brings mere information to life.

4.  Product knowledge.  All of the above skills add up to candy-coated squat if a salesperson doesn’t have a soup-to-nuts, quick-draw understanding of your products.  Pop quizzes work wonders.

5.  Personal growth.   Show me a salesperson who’s convinced that he’s as good as he can get and I’ll show you a dud on the way to obsolescence.  While he’s busy polishing his trophies, hungrier salespeople who know there’s ALWAYS more growing to do, more techniques to perfect, and more skills to build, will eat his lunch.

Both your sales meetings and your quarterly assessments should focus not just on sales numbers but on whether your staff is on track in these five crucial competencies.

Getting the Relationship Right

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

There was a time when the auto-personalized form letter made customers feel special.  Just seeing their name in the salutation—even when misspelled, off-kilter and in a different font—just blew people away.

But once personal computing introduced us all to the mail merge, people began to see it as exactly the opposite—a low-energy parlor trick designed to give the appearance of care when there is none.  It didn’t really make clients feel important to the company, which means it didn’t really establish a relationship.

And if you’re not in a relationship, the client just might start seeing other people.

Those customer service pioneers began finding ways to make clients feel less like acquaintances and more like Very Important Persons—with special emphasis on the word “Important.”  And why shouldn’t they?  Without the client, the company ceases to exist.  It was recognition of a very real mutual need.

So how can you make your clients feel their importance?  A few tips: (more…)

TGIM e-Zine: July 6, 2009

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

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