Friday, July 28, 2006

Timing is Key - Don't Shoot All of Your Bullets at Once!

In real estate it's "location, location, location!" In sales it's "timing, timing, timing!"

While working with a client this week I was reminded of the importance of timing in the sales process. People won't buy until the timing for them is right. Make sure you are there when the timing is right for them OR make sure that you are the one they think of when they are ready to buy. One way to insure you are top of mind for your customer is to not shoot all your bullets at once!

By this I mean to carefully dole out information to your customer on a gradual basis. This can be handled during a 20 minute meeting or over the course of several months or even years. Here are few examples of how to work timing in your favor:

  • Hold Back Information. During a short customer meeting have open ended questions planned in advance to help uncover what is important to your customer. These need to be sincere and then listen to what your customer says. (As sales people we sometimes have a hard time listening because we are trying to think of what to say next!). Start with a dialog and gradually reveal information about what you are selling throughout the conversation! Don't tell them everything you know in the first 5 minutes.

  • Make "Creative" Excuses. The work I did this week was for a professional speaker. Since I know this can be a fairly long sales process I began by mailing the customer information about the speaker. I held back some of the speaker's marketing materials to save for the future so I would have an "excuse" to contact the customer again.

    Instead of my first follow up phone calling going like this:
    "Hi, this is Zan. Have you decided to hire my speaker?"

    It went like this,
    "Hi, this is Zan. I just wanted to make sure you received the information.
    By the way, did I tell you about this speaker's recent article in People
    magazine? Why don't I mail you a copy of the article?"

    By doing this I've still created the opportunity to ask the customer if they want to hire my speaker - but I have positioned the phone call as a request to make sure the customer has the information they need and then be able to offer more value to them. In addition, I've created another excuse to call again and say, "Hi, this is Zan. Just wanted to make sure you had received a copy of the People article?"

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Tips for Proper Business Communication

This week I was reminded of the cardinal rule of business communication:

Never put anything in writing that you wouldn't want printed on the front page of your local newspaper!

My experience this week was so nasty that I've developed a new cardinal rule of business communication: Never put anything in writing that you wouldn't want your minister to read in front of the church congregation!

While working with one of my clients to help her jazz up her sales we encountered a potential customer that was definitely not interested! He was so "not interested" that he took the time to reply with a scorching email that insulted her personally, her staff and her business and went on to state that he was going to use this experience in his consulting business on how NOT to do business. I'm sure his negative remarks helped him blow off some serious steam but the fact is that he was incorrect in his accusations. And his credibility has been diminished by his lack of professionalism. And my client is very well connected within her industry.

In light of this experience, here are my tips for proper business communication:

  • Business communication takes many forms. It includes letters, emails, advertising and print media, fax cover sheets, business signs, business cards, invoices and receipts, and contract documents.

  • We all know there are conversations we have with clients in person or over the phone that include information we will not (and should not) put in writing. An example of this is information about your competitors, personal information about anyone (especially someone's health or medical condition) and information about your business that you don't want to be public knowledge. Assume anything you put in writing could end up in your competitor's hands!

  • Always use proper punctuation, spelling and grammar. Be careful not to take a "too casual" tone with email. This is the current business communication and it needs to be professional. Make sure your emails include a greeting like "Dear Jane" or "Hi Jane," and end with a salutation that includes your name, title, company name, phone number, email address and website address. Always use spell check!

  • Stay away from business slang words and never use profanity.

  • If you have a beef and want to put it in writing stay away from personal assaults, exaggeration and slanderous language. Keep the correspondence formal by stating actual facts and using objective words that do not have an accusatory tone.

  • Keep it short and simple. If possible, keep letters to one page. Use short paragraphs and get to the point quickly. Using bullets to make your points helps your reader stay on track and the spacing on the document is pleasing to the eyes.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

7 Buying Signals That Say, "Stop Talking!"

As I worked with one of my clients this week on booking appointments for her consulting services I was reminded that the "gift of gab" can be a curse.

As a small business owner we are so passionate about what we do that we forget that our customers really don't need ALL OF THE INFORMATION that we have. All a potential customer needs is just enough information to make his buying decision. Any information given to a customer after he decides to buy from you then begins to give him reasons to change his mind.

I'm not implying that one should be deceptive by withholding information from potential clients. What I am implying is that giving a potential customer ideas to doubt his decision to buy from you does not put the odds in your favor. In light of this discussion, here are 7 buying signals from potential customers that indicate it is time to stop talking about the product or service you provide and to zip it!

  1. They reach for their wallet to pay you.

  2. They pull out a pen so they can sign your contract or agreement.

  3. They ask when you can begin work or when the product can be delivered.

  4. You ask them for their business and they say, "Yes."

  5. You give them information about when you can begin work or deliver the product and they say, "Sounds good."

  6. They tell you they have talked to other companies but like yours the most.

  7. You have told them all about your product or service and they ask for the price. (Unless the customer is buying solely on price, this is a buying signal).

These tips may sound funny and intuitive but take it from me - even the best of the best in sales let the gift of gab spoil the sale. Sometimes it is just nervous energy that keeps the conversation going. Remember, it is okay to keep the conversation going after the customer has made his buying decision just as long as the topic of the conversation is not about the details of what your client just bought or signed up for!