Tuesday, December 29, 2009
There's a similar sense of urgency that comes with being a good salesperson. Successful sales people understand that timing is important and that customers like to be responded to quickly. They understand that the customer can go elsewhere and so the sooner and better they respond to a customer need, the higher the odds of closing the sale.
Wonder if the the "Text Message" generation will make good sales people? If this sense of urgency to respond to people quickly is carried over into the business world then I bet so. It's an interesting thought.
Monday, December 14, 2009
I had a wonderful Christmas shopping experience this weekend and noticed something significant. Everywhere I went people were helpful and gracious. When people are grateful they are more generous. When times are tough we assume people will only focus on taking care of their own needs. But throw in gratitude - being grateful for having a job, being grateful you have someone to shop for, being grateful for having money to shop with, being grateful your business has customers - and the dynamic changes. All of a sudden businesses connect with their customers on a new level.
Gratitude is powerful.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Last year when we moved to a new house I remember the woman who answered the phone for the moving company. I could hear kids and the TV in the background. It was so unprofessional.
Immediately I knew the person was working from home and taking my call in the midst of other responsibilities. As a busy mom myself I felt like I was sort of "bothering" her - even though she was perfectly cordial.
Then I wondered if the information she gave me was correct because I know how preoccupied I am when I am at home with my kids.
So within 30 seconds of my call to hire the moving company, I felt like the company was unprofessional, annoyed by my call and I didn't have confidence in what I was told.
Confession Time! I have worked from home and am guilty of running to a bedroom closet to take a phone call because my kids are yelling in the other room. I've also had my toddler answer my business phone when I wasn't watching. When that happened I picked up the phone just in time to hear my long time customer (thankfully!) say, "Is your Mommy there?" So I know how easy it can be for these breaches in professionalism to occur when working from home.
Working from home is ideal in today's world and a great way to minimize costs, be more productive and lead a more balanced life. Here are a few tips to jazz up your sales when you work from a home office:
- Answer the phone professionally like you would in a business office. Never just say, "Hello."
- Be totally professional on the phone. Easier said than done, especially when the doorbell rings or one of your children walks into your office. If you think you may be disturbed by your kids let calls go to voicemail until you can return them in a quiet, uninterrupted manner.
- Keep a separate business and home phone number. You don't want family members answering your business calls. Consider using your cell phone number if you don't want another phone line at your home. If you use your cell phone for business, be cautious of answering calls when you are in places where you can't talk professionally - like the grocery store, the gym, or carpool line just before the kids jump in the car.
- Maintain a designated work space or office. You don't want to walk through the house to locate information while talking to a client.
- Meet with clients at their office or at a public place like Starbucks. Unless your business is actually in your home - possibly a piano teacher or private tutor - then go to your clients. There is no need to bring to a client's attention that you work from home.
- If clients come to your home dress professionally. No house shoes or flannel pants!
Friday, October 16, 2009
I've been reading an advanced copy of Own the Room: Business Presentations That Persuade, Engage and Get Results where I read that "our brains are hardwired to pay attention to novelty and surprise." I'd like to add that we pay attention to "celebrity" also.
What do you do in your business to surprise (and delight) your customers? Do you respond quickly? Provide free shipping? Call to check up on them? CareNow, the medical clinic near my house, called me the day after I was there with a sinus infection to see how I was feeling. I was shocked!
What tidbit will your customers tell others when talking about you? Do you have an unusual hobby? Are you a twin? Were you in a different profession and switched to your current business because of life changing event? My daughter's teacher used to work in a family business but always wanted to teach. When her family sold the business she became a teacher - a little later in life. She told us this story at Meet the Teacher Night. I've told a ton of people her story.
How are you a celebrity? Do you have a famous friend or family member? Did you work for someone before they became famous? Have you been on TV? Has your picture been in the paper? Were you quoted in a magazine? Do you advertise on TV or in the newspaper? Are you president of an association or group? Our local Chamber of Commerce has ribbon cuttings for new businesses. Photos from these events are frequently featured in the newspaper. I see my accountant in these pictures all the time and ask her for her autograph every time I see her.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Needless to say, once the ride got going I lost all sense of cool and proceeded to scream uncontrollably until the ride was over. Nevermind about my daughter - I was scared!
This scenario has played out in other areas of my sales career. I have gone to sales presentations where I am prepared but nervous. Once I start talking nerves get in the way I forget every thing I want to say and how I want to say it.
To jazz up your sales keep the following in mind when presenting a proposal to a potential client:
- Treat it like a dialog. One of my bosses told me, "Don't show up and throw up." When presenting a proposal involve the client in the presentation. Dumping a ton of information on someone will only confuse them. Plus, the conversation will ease your nerves.
- Be overprepared. Anticipate ANY question you could be asked PLUS how your client might respond to your answer.
- Dress nice - it will make you feel better.
- Don't overapologize if you left something out of your proposal. Simply say, "That is a good point and something I should have included. I will get this to you later today." And then use this as an opportunity to follow up.
- REALLY listen. I learned this from my boss, Grady Walters, at Otis Elevator. He would key in on what a customer said and bring it up later in the presentation - even if it meant getting off track for a moment. This made the customer feel like they were being heard.
- When in doubt, keep your mouth shut. You can't take back something you've said. Once you've said it - it's out there. When you are nervous it's easy to say things you normally wouldn't.
- Know how you want the presentation to end. Do you want to get a signed contract? Do you want to set up another meeting? Do you want to know the client's time frame and a good time to follow up?
Saturday, August 15, 2009
At check out I was told I could NOT save 30% on my purchase. The sales clerk turned the coupon over to show me the teeny-tiny print listing all of the items that were excluded from this offer. It was a long list and excluded most of my items. Talk about having the wind taken out of my sails! I had been tricked.
Use the following practices so your customers won't feel tricked:
- Include the applicable sales tax amount with your quote.
- Include the shipping charge amount up front when quoting a price.
- Commit to a time frame that you know can be honored - even if it's not what your customer wants to hear.
- If you don't know the answer to a customer's question, say, "I don't know" and then find out the answer. Don't lie.
- Know your product/service well so that you don't unknowingly provide misinformation.
- Clearly explain special offers. Don't be vague to bait customers to call you. Better yet, make special offers simple. Avoid using the "teeny-tiny print."
- Don't oversell customers. They will eventually figure out that they've been oversold and resent you or your company.
Monday, July 20, 2009
The owners don't ask me questions about myself. They aren't nosy. They just notice me. They remember what I like, what my husband likes and what my kids like. They notice when I get my hair cut. They notice that my kids are growing. They notice when my kids change their mind and order something new. And sometimes they throw in some extra donut holes just "because."
Somehow this donut shop has created a sense of family. So when another donut shop opened nearby I didn't even want to try it. And when I'm out of the area and go to other donut shops I compare it to the one where "my family" is.
The funny thing is: these aren't the best donuts I've ever eaten. They are just "okay." But I'd miss seeing my family if I didn't go there.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
The business world seems to be more human to me today. Companies align themselves with causes and charities to be socially responsible and also to boost sales. Business language has taken on a more casual tone as email has replaced the formal business letter. And business dress is more casual - even my bank has casual Fridays.
Take a look at these phrases businesses use on promotional materials and ideas for how to make the phrases more human:
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
What is up with Chick-fil-A? Every time I go there it is packed! Doesn't matter what time of day or what day (except Sunday because they are closed on Sundays). The drive-thru is constantly lined up all the way around the restaurant and people are piled up inside eating. Burger King and Wendy's next door don't have lines. Their parking lots aren't full. It would be easier to go to Burger King or Wendy's and not fight the Chick-fil-A crowd.
So what is it about Chick-fil-A?
I think it's because they've found their MooJo! Despite the struggling economy Chick-fil-A enjoyed unprecedented growth in 2008 - up 12% over 2007. Since its inception in 1967 Chick-fil-A has had 41 consecutive years of system wide sales gains. Amazing!
How did they find their MooJo? Here's what I think:
- Consistent message. I know that Chick-fil-A is family oriented. The restaurant has done a good job of staying true to their core values and the biblical principles of the founder, S. Truett Cathy. All Chick-fil-A restaurants are closed on Sundays, without exception. They have Tuesday family nights where kids meals are half price and child entertainers perform (my kids beg to go). The "toys" in their kids meals are educational books about people of character.
- Catchy tagline. Their "Eat Mor Chikin" cows are part of an award winning advertising campaign. I know you've seen the billboards with the 3 dimensional cows and misspelled words. And my kids yell out, "Eat more chicken," between each verse when singing Happy Birthday!
- Great local marketing. Getting children to pull their parents into the restaurant is clever. When my kids reach their reading goal at school they receive a Chick-fil-A coupon for a free kids meal. When my kids completed their week at Vacation Bible School they received a coupon for a free kids meal. When I joined the PTA at my kids' school I received a coupon for a free adult meal. When our PTA needed a fundraiser they agreed to a family night where a percentage of proceeds would be donated to our school.
I think Chick-fil-A puts their MOOney where their mouth is. (Sorry for that one - couldn't resist!). They spend money in a way that stays consistent with their brand and their community involvement aligns with their core values. So I say, "Eat more chicken!"
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Other than trade magazines within your industry, a few magazines I recommend to help jazz up the sales of your business are Inc., Entrepreneur and People magazine. (Yes, People!).
In his book, Duct Tape Marketing, John Jantsch says, "...the one place I turn to keep myself rooted in how the world thinks and buys...is People magazine." For about 20 years more people turn to People than any other magazine. Jantsch goes on to list 3 reasons to read, or at least scan, People magazine.
- Get a feel for what the majority of Americans want to fight, find, lose, gain, have, give or embrace.
- See design copy that is easy to scan, read and digest.
- Uncover story angles that could apply to your organization's PR.
Now when my weekly People magazine arrives in my mailbox I retreat to my office to read it because I'm doing marketing research!
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Here's what happened:
Snuff out #1. I was shopping for a Father's Day gift in a men's clothing store. After looking around for several minutes I had not found any medium sized shirts in the store. Puzzled, I asked the store clerk if they had any mediums.
- What she said: She looked up from writing and said very matter-of-factly, "EVERYTHING we have is OUT" and looked back down at what she was doing. I felt like I was in trouble for asking and left the store.
- What she should have said, "We have all of our merchandise out but let me show you where you can find the mediums."
- What she said: "We don't have our Fall Schedule made up yet. If you call back in August we will have it and I can give you class times then."
- What she should have said: "We don't have our Fall Schedule made up yet. Give me your name and phone number (or email address) and we will notify you when the Fall Schedule is out so you can sign up."
In both cases, a small tweak of wording would have changed the outcome to be more favorable for the business involved. So, while I'm at it, here are a few other phrases that I try not to use because of the words:
- "No problem." Instead of using these words I say, "I will be glad to," or "Glad to do it." Or you can say, "It will be my pleasure," or "Glad to help." When we say, "No problem" all the listener hears is the word "problem" and the phrase insinuates the customer's request could be a problem.
- "Here's the problem..." Customers don't want to hear the problem (they know what it is). They want to hear the solution. Use words like "challenge" or "opportunity." These words imply action. You can say, "Our challenge here is ...blah, blah, blah, or "We have an opportunity to..."
- "To be honest with you." Sometimes this phrase pops out naturally, but I said this to a customer early in my career and his retort was, "Don't say that! Does that mean you aren't always being honest with me?"
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
You can't pick up a business magazine without reading articles about social networking. It's the "thing" right now and relatively uncharted territory with how it can be used for increasing business sales. Social networking gives you a chance to get to know someone passively. I'm getting to know Ashton Kutcher by following him on Twitter. We all know people want to do business with people they like and social networking provides a great forum to get to know people better.
So here are a few tips for jazzing up your sales using Facebook and Twitter:
- For starters - sign up! It's free.
- Complete your profile in a manner that reflects who you are, your business and what your business does.
- Include a link to your website.
- Include a photo that looks professional. It doesn't necessarily have to be a professionally taken photo.
- Update your Facebook status or "tweet" about activities that highlight your business or industry.
- Create your own group for your business that others can join. Use this group to communicate information to your customers.
- Join groups that your customers might join.
- Post photos of events your business participates in or sponsors.
- Respond to and post comments on other's Facebook pages.
Wednesday, April 08, 2009
Customers hate being ignored, too. Unreturned phone calls, allowing customers to cut in line or no-showing for an appointment tell people you aren't paying attention to them.
Here are a few tips to jazz up your sales by not ignoring potential customers (did I just say that?):
- Always call people back. Even if you know why they are calling. Even if you don't want their business. Even if you don't have the answer to their problem. An unreturned phone makes people feel like they don't matter and gives them something to stew about. Even if you have to deliver bad news, call people back!
- If you can't help them, find someone who can. I recently walked into a store to buy a special type of frame. The store I was in didn't have it but told me where to find it. Then, to my amazement and delight, the store clerk picked up the phone, called the competing store, verified they had what I needed and asked them to hold it for me!
- Listen to complaints. You may be tired of hearing a common gripe but if you are hearing complaints it's time to take action. People who ignore YOU by not even taking the time to complain are really your worst enemy.
- Over communicate. You may be busting your chops to solve a customer's problem or get them what they need BUT the customer doesn't know it. Spare your customer all of the details but communicate that you are taking action on their behalf.
Thursday, April 02, 2009
- Offering more makes people buy less. A study of 800,000 workers by behavioral scientist Sheena Iyengar showed that when a higher number of employment benefit options were offered to people when hired, the people were more likely to not enroll in the benefit program AT ALL. Same with Proctor & Gamble. When P & G reduced the number of Head and Shoulders shampoo offerings from 26 to 15 sales jumped by 10% immediately. More choices confuse buyers - especially those who aren't sure which product to buy.
- Personalization is persuasive. To quote the authors, "An ounce of personalization is worth a pound of persuasion." A study done by social scientist Randy Garner began as a study to test the power of 3M Corp's Post-It Notes. He sent a written survey to people with either a) a handwritten sticky note requesting completion, b) a similar handwritten message on the cover letter or c) the cover letter and survey alone. 75% of the Post-It Note surveys were returned vs. 47% and 36% of the other. Further studies revealed that the personal touch is what people recognized and that people feel the need to reciprocate that personal touch by responding to the request.
- Show off without being labeled a "show off." Actors, authors and speakers use others to speak on their behalf. Actors and authors use agents and speakers have someone else introduce him/her to their audiences. Researcher Jeffrey Pfeffer conducted a study in which participants were asked to imagine themselves as book publishers. Participants rated the author "more favorably on nearly every dimension (especially likability) when the author's agent sang his praises as compared to when the author tooted his own horn." If it's not practical to have someone sing your praises - you can still do it subtly. Display diplomas, awards, certificates, photos with high profile people or glowing letters to potential clients. Hang them on the office wall and let them speak for themselves.
- Give people a head start. This idea was my favorite because I'd never thought of it. Companies try to increase customer loyalty by offering incentive programs like frequent flyer miles, free cups of coffee, "club cards," etc. In a study of 300 people, loyalty cards were handed out at a local car wash. But there were 2 types of cards: one required 8 stamps to get a free car wash and the other required 10 stamps to get a car wash BUT 2 stamps were already affixed to the card. This meant that both cards required 8 car washes to earn the reward - but the second group seemed to have a head-start to completing the card with their 2 free stamps. This head-start group was twice as likely to complete the card to earn the free car wash and took less time to get to their 8th purchase. The conclusion: people will be more likely to stick with programs if you offer them evidence of how they've already made progress toward the goal.
- Be careful with cultural differences and voicemail. In Western Europe, the U.K and here in the U.S. we tend to be individualistic, meaning we are most concerned with the preferences of the individual. Asia, South America, Africa and Eastern Europe are more collectivistic, meaning they are most concerned with the preferences of the group. Americans are more likely to leave a voicemail message cutting right to the point whereas Japanese might leave a longer message and be concerned more with the relationship with the recipient rather than conveying the information. Researchers surveying American and Japanese participants found that Americans hang up on 50% of answering machines and Japanese hang up 85% of the time. The Japanese found it "hard to speak because there are no responses." So before you screen calls, be aware that letting a call go to voicemail can hurt your sales - especially if the caller is from a collectivistic culture.
Sunday, March 08, 2009
- IT company (people who fix your computer problems)
- Janitorial company
- Parts suppliers
- Website developer
- Shipping company
- Answering service or phone mail provider
- Office supply provider
All of the businesses above have customer bases of their own. If your vendors enjoy working FOR you they will be more likely to refer you to their customers as well. So keep this in mind when dealing with businesses that you employ:
- Treat your vendors like you would a customer
- Pay on time
- Thank them for the work they do
- Don't scream and yell when they mess up
- Remember them at the holidays
- Refer business to them
Friday, February 13, 2009
Another friend of mine owns a dance studio/gymnasium and offers a Parents Night Out on Valentines Day. She calls it "Bring a Friend Night" and it's 2 kids for the price of one. Couples can drop of the kids, catch dinner and a movie and pick up tired kids who have had a blast.
Offering something for free is a great way to get prospects in the door. I recommend it when you are growing your business. The free offering doesn't necessarily have to be a product - it can just be your knowledge.
And notice how both businesses above had an excuse for the free offering. The excuse being Valentines Day. You wouldn't normally think of going to the dentist on Valentines Day - but it worked for the dental office. For more ideas, see another blog posting I wrote last year on creative sales excuses.
Sunday, February 01, 2009
Michael Port, author of Book Yourself Solid, calls it the "keep-in-touch marketing strategy." Follow up must be part of every business proposal you make. And "keeping in touch" is all it amounts to. Don't let your effort to get new business stop after you've provided a proposal or bid.
Here are reasons people don't follow up:
- They are afraid they will "bug" the potential customer. I've heard people say, "I don't want to be pushy." As a salesperson I worried about appearing too pushy but figured out that a follow up phone call 1 week after meeting a prospective client is not pushy at all. In fact, I could often answer questions or address new issues that the client had discovered since our meeting.
- They are unorganized or they forget. Make your follow up part of the process. Just like you add a customer appointment to your calendar, add a follow up call to your calendar.
- They assume the potential customer will call them back. Not true! I've made huge sales to customers who never returned a phone call. People get busy and have other irons in the fire. If what you are selling isn't a top priority it will get pushed to the bottom of the customer's list. It's up to you to keep the negotiation alive.
All of the above being said, use discretion and creativity when following up. You actually can follow up too much and annoy your prospective customer to the point that they will never want to work with you. Here are some ways to jazz up your sales with follow up:
- Keep follow up calls short and sweet. You will have to assess how much is too much with each customer - but once a week is plenty. Depending on your business once a month may be plenty. When you call, don't talk on and on or create a bunch of chit chat. Your customer is busy and unless they engage you in conversation there is no need to hang on the phone.
- Find an excuse to call. Sharing new information about your industry, new regulations, or latest findings that relate to your prospect are great excuses to call your prospect.
- Send a handwritten note to your client. This may sound old-fashioned but how many times have your thrown a way a hand addressed letter?
- Provide valuable information on an ongoing basis. This is especially helpful for service businesses. My favorite way to do this is with an electronic newsletter that is emailed monthly and includes quick facts and ideas related to your business. I blogged about this a little bit in another posting - click here to read it. Providing free and helpful information to potential clients positions you as an expert and will build trust in you and your business.
- Run into your prospect. Literally. Attend networking events and association meetings where your prospects will be. But don't pounce on them when you see them. All you have to do is wave or say, "Hi." Don't talk business at these events unless the prospect brings it up.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
I'm not a believer in horoscopes and just read them for fun.
But as a seasoned sales person I'm just superstitious enough keep the horoscope in mind today. I'm signing off now so I can go try to sell something.
Monday, January 12, 2009
As a marketing and sales junkie I'm intrigued by the concepts of this book. And notice how I found out about it... through his interview on NPR.
A great way to jazz up your sales is to use PR to get a little free advertising a.k.a. publicity. We can't all get our product or company featured on a national radio or TV show but we can get a little buzz going to stir up interest and create celebrity around our business.
Here's a few ways to jazz up your sales with free publicity:
- Write a press release and send it to local radio and TV news program producers and/or your local newspaper. If you need help writing a press release, click here and read more tips here. To find out who to contact call the station of the radio/TV news program you'd like to pitch and ask who the producer is for the program. Get his/her phone number and email address. For your local newspaper simply email the editor or the writer of a column where your info is a good fit.
- Think visually. When sending a press release to a local TV news program think about what the audience will see. Can you take props with you that are interesting, provide photos of interest or even talk to them on location somewhere? Radio show host will be interested in telling the story behind your information and the visuals that can be created from the conversation.
- Write articles and submit them to local magazines and newsletters. Make sure the article provides newsworthy information and include your contact and company information at the end of the article.
- Public speaking. Speaking to audiences helps position you as an expert. There are tons of associations and clubs who enjoy speakers at monthly luncheons and would love a free speaker that is informative. Rotary clubs meet weekly. Remember that your speech needs to provide valuable information that helps the audience and not be a sales pitch for you or your company. If the audience likes what they hear they'll remember your expertise and seek you out when they need your product or service.
- Send letters to the editor of a magazine or publication that reaches your client base. I read these all the time. A letter to the editor might have a better chance of being printed initially and it helps the editor begin to know who you are.
- Remember it's not about you. To maximize your chances of getting free publicity the information you provide has to provide value to others and be newsworthy. Blatant self promotion is not PR - that's advertising. If you own a lawn service, your PR campaign might consist of information on "The top 7 ways to keep a green lawn all year long" or "How to sell your house with your front yard." If you own a auto repair business your campaign could say, "How to Keep Your Car out of the Shop."