Archive for the ‘Sales Culture’ Category

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.

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?

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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