Friday, June 23, 2006

Handling the Price Objection

Handling a price objection is easier when you are an employee of a company whose prices are fixed and not negotiable. But when you have your own business, especially a service business, and a customer challenges your price it can be difficult to overcome. As a small business owner a price objection may make you doubt the actual value of your services.

Depending on how established your business is or how much you NEED new business you may be tempted to make unnecessary price concessions to customers. This creates 2 problems: 1) you lose confidence in your value as a business, 2) your client now feels that your pricing is negotiable.

If you focus entirely on price to sell your product or service then so will your customers. Here are some ways to take to focus off of your price:

  • Don't bring it up! If your customer does not mention price DO NOT BRING IT UP. Assume that the price is agreeable and proceed with the sale.

  • Know your value. Determine at lease 3 specific things that your product or service provides that your competitors do not provide.

    Some ways to differentiate your value are: your length of time in business, extended hours of operation, education level of your employees, safety features of your product(s), the screening process for hiring your employees, the quality control measures you have in place, documentation you provide, etc. Don't mention your competitors by name unless your customer brings it up. Know how and why you do things better and be able to explain this to your customer.

  • Provide return on investment. Understand how paying more for your product or service can save your customer time, energy and money in the long run. Can documentation your service provides help reduce your customers liability exposure? Is your product more efficient and therefore requires less time and energy to use? Is your product more durable and will last longer? Do your quality control measures provide additional piece of mind to your customer so he doesn't feel the need to double check the job you've done?

  • Some people just want a deal. For some customers the price objection is just part of their negotiating technique. In order for these customers to feel good about their purchase they have to perceive that you have made some concession for them. So instead of making a concession on price make them a deal on delivery time, volume discounts, contract duration or terms, payment options, etc.

  • Don't be afraid to walk away. There will be instances when it is best to turn away a potential customer because you are not willing to lower your price. In order for you to maintain price integrity in your business you must be willing to let some customers slip away.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Sales Call #1 - How to Get the First Appointment

The first step in closing a sale is getting the first appointment. It seems like it would be so easy...

Step 1: Pick up the phone
Step 2: Ask for your contact person
Step 3: Set a time to meet
Step 4: Hang up

But it's not that easy! Voice mail screens out the best of us and now many clients prefer email instead of phone calls... which means it's even easier for them to say, "No, I'm unable to meet with you, Ms. Salesperson."

So here are some tips to jazz up your success rate for getting that first appointment:

  • Get to the Point. When cold calling a prospect don't patronize him by making small talk like, "Hi, how are you today?" This will raise a red flag that you are trying to sell something and a busy person will tune you out right away. Instead, begin the conversation by introducing yourself and stating exactly why you are calling. By getting to the point quickly you will come across honest, sincere and considerate of his time.

  • Email, too. If you have the prospects email address then follow up with an email. You might write something like, "Hi Mr. Prospect, I just left you a voicemail to ask if you have a few minutes next week to discuss your janitorial service. Do you have a few minutes next Tuesday or Wednesday?"

  • Show Up. It's harder to say "No" to a request if someone asks you face to face. Find an excuse to call on the prospect in person to ask for the appointment.

  • Bring Gifts. Provide a gift that is inexpensive, usable and reflects your business. For example, an office supply rep might say, "Hi, I was in the area and wanted to bring you a few of these new 'slimline' staplers. Would you happen to have a few minutes in the next week or so for us to discuss your office supply contract?" Better yet, if there is a Starbuck's nearby stop by and purchase at least 2 coffees. One for your prospect and 1 for the gatekeeper!

  • Don't be a Stalker. An unreturned phone call doesn't mean the prospect isn't interested or that they won't buy from you. I have closed $100,000+ deals with clients that never returned one phone call. Repeated phone calls make you sound desperate and are annoying. Come up with different ways of establishing contact with a prospect.

    For example, you might send an introductory letter a week before you call a prospect on the phone and another letter a week after your first phone attempt. Or, locate a newspaper or business journal article that applies to the prospect and mail it to them along with your business card. I even broke down one time and sent a cookie bouquet to a prospect as a last ditch effort to get an appointment - it worked!

  • Go to Lunch. Everyone has to eat. Invite a prospect to lunch and just spend that time visiting with them about their business. Don't make it a major sales presentation about your company and if the person is of the opposite sex do not make it seem like a date! Don't flirt and always keep the conversation professional and business like. Offer to pick your prospect up at his office and let him choose the restaurant. Have a restaurant in mind in case your prospect can't decide where to go. Pick up the tab and buy a to-go dessert for the administrative assistant back at the office.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

A Rose by Any Other Name Would Still be a Cliche'

Working in the business world we are all subjected to our share of clichés. Large companies live for the new cliché and the initiative that goes with the cliché. Every now and then a business cliché gets a little long it the tooth and we continue to use it even though we aren’t sure what it means anymore. Here are some of my favorites:
  • Ask forgiveness instead of permission. I learned this one working for a large Fortune 30 Corporation. Sometimes waiting on a critical decision from the higher-ups gives the customer time to shop and buy from the competition. When you see the writing on the wall, it’s best to beg forgiveness after you’ve taken proper action to make the sale or satisfy a customer need than to wait for permission to execute.

  • Taking it to the next level. All businesses want to take “IT” to the next level. But this leaves a lot up to the imagination. First, we need to know at what level we are operating now so that we can take "it" to the next level. What does the next level look like? Why don’t we just call a spade a spade and say, “Let’s grow our profit by 15% this year.”

  • Work hard, play hard. This essentially means, “burn the candle at both ends.” As a business owner, wife, community and church volunteer and mother of 2, I suggest recoining this cliché to, “Work hard, sleep hard.”

  • Pick the low hanging fruit. Sales professionals have all heard this one. It refers to grabbing the easiest and fastest business right away. Quality experts refer to it as improvements and innovations that can be implemented immediately. Go after business and innovations that are ripe for the picking. Remember, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. If you go after the low hanging fruit all day you might end up with sour grapes.

  • Under promise and over deliver. This is my favorite because it is the pinnacle of great customer service – providing more than is expected. It’s the polar opposite of being “close, but no cigar.” The challenge is actually trying to under promise without opening up a can of worms with the customer. If you said, “Well, Mr. Smith, I understand that you’d like your taxes completed by April 15th but I’m not sure that’s possible,” there’s a chance this client would hit the road!

But at the end of the day there’s nothing like a catchy cliché to prove your point and motivate your team. After all, it is important to think outside of the box!