Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Don't Ignore People

If you have children you know the one thing they hate more than getting in trouble - and that's getting ignored. When you discipline your children at least you are paying attention to them.

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

5 Scientifically Proven Ways to Jazz Up Your Sales

I recently read a great book about persuasion called Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive by Noah Goldstein, Steve Martin and Robert Cialdini. It's a fast read with short chapters (50 to be exact) that are packed with only the most pertinent information and backed with solid scientific studies. Of the 50 ways to be persuasive here are the top 5 for jazzing up the sales of your small business:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.