More Thoughts on Change and Selling

January 26th, 2009

In my last post I wrote about the fact that the world is constantly changing and therefore, we need to be constantly changing as well. Over the weekend I’ve continued to muse on the subject of change. It’s a topic we don’t think enough about.

Change scares us because we fear the unknown. Many, if not most of us, harbor unconscious beliefs that unknown quantities are inherently worse than known quantities. At the very least, we figure that anything new or different has the potential to be worse than what we’re used to, and that alone is enough to scare us off.

It’s the reason we order the same thing over and over at restaurants. It’s why companies stick with a vendor even when a competitor offers better pricing, quality or service. It’s how we fall into routines and habits we’re not even aware of.

The bottom line is we (consciously or unconsciously) fear change, so we try to avoid it. Failing that, we try to manage it, hoping we can at least control it, to give us a sense of power over it. That’s why “change management” is such a popular term in boardrooms and search engines.

But change can’t be “managed.” Change happens, and typically what changes is beyond our control. What you can control is your attitude about change and your response to change. (Ironically, adopting that mindset requires change.)

The people and the organizations that best survive change are the ones who adapt to it, embrace it, even create it themselves. And in periods of violent economic upheaval (like now), the difference between those who respond to change intelligently and those who don’t becomes even more pronounced.

So whether you’re a small business owner, a salesperson, a sales manager, a CEO or an association executive, here are some additional changes you can institute to increase your sales now:
• Launch a PR campaign.
• Join a Chamber of Commerce.
• Train your customer service team.
• Embrace social media web sites.
• Offer a special deal for your best customers.
• Devise new payment plans.
• Get a mentor.
• Hire a coach.
• Subscribe to a business magazine.
• Focus on a niche.
• Initiate a new sales contest.
• Go to more (or different) networking events.
• Have a brainstorming session.
• Figure out a new use for your product or service.
• Develop a premium version or a budget version.

Do something. Do lots of things. Some may not work. So be it. The most successful people and organizations are constantly experimenting to find what works. And that constant experimentation is vital, because as I pointed out last time, what worked yesterday may not work today. And what works today may not work tomorrow.

As the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus once noted, “There is nothing permanent except change.”

Sales and the Wisdom of the Comics Page

January 23rd, 2009

You can pick up some amazing business insights from the comics page. (Actually, you can pick up insights almost anywhere if you look carefully.)

A character in a comic strip I just read remarked: “Somebody said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. But the world is constantly changing. Isn’t it just as nuts to do the same thing and expect the same results?”

The more I think about it, the more I agree. There’s been a lot of talk about “change” recently. But the fact is, the world is constantly changing. And we can’t expect to get the same results by doing the same old things. What worked 5, 10, 20 years ago (heck, what worked last year) doesn’t necessarily work now. As companies like Circuit City, General Motors and even Microsoft are discovering. (Too late in some cases.)

So what can we do? Respond with some change, ourselves. What changes could you institute to increase your sales right now? Consider one or more of the following:
• Create a better marketing message.
• Train your sales team.
• Get back in touch with your customers.
• Try new marketing tactics.
• Invest in productivity-boosting technology.
• Develop a new product or service.
• Improve your existing product or service.
• Read a new book.
• Attend a seminar.
• Hire a consultant.
• Find a strategic partner.
• Tap into a new market.
• Join an industry association.
• Form a mastermind group.

Dealing effectively with change requires us to change as well. Change the way you think about your business. Change what you do during your week. Change how you interact with your customers.

Change how you read the comics.

Sawing and Selling

January 12th, 2009

This weekend I was helping with a construction project and at one point, I was cutting some drywall with a hand saw. (Which is pretty amusing because carpentry is not one of my strengths.)

As I worked, I noticed that the more force I used, the harder it was to cut the drywall. The saw’s teeth dug into the material, which made for slow, jerky progress. But when I applied light pressure, the blade glided along smoothly, resulting in faster progress with less effort.

The same principle holds true for sales. The more pressure we put on our prospects, the more they resist. The harder we push them, the harder they push back.

The days of high-pressure selling are over. Customers today simply won’t stand for it. Nobody wants to be pressured into making a decision, especially if they’re not ready. If we push too hard, they’ll just go somewhere else.

I’m not saying you should never apply any pressure whatsoever. Left to their own devices, prospects will often avoid making a decision if they can for any number of reasons:
• They’re not sure it’s the right decision.
• They want to see if the price will drop.
• It’s not a priority for them at the moment.
• They’re not sure they can afford it.

So you have to apply some pressure. (That board’s not gonna cut itself.) But only a little. Just enough to help them overcome the obstacles that are holding them back from making a decision that’s in their best interest. You want to guide them, not push them.

Whether you’re sawing or selling, when you use a light touch, you’ll get better results.

Subliminal Selling

January 9th, 2009

Subliminal SellingI just got around to reading last Sunday’s Parade magazine (okay, I’m a little behind at the moment) and found a great article by Martin Lindstrom on subliminal advertising. He wasn’t talking about hidden messages (which are actually illegal), but rather, the tricks marketers use to capitalize on human psychology.

For instance, he notes, many products have useless materials built into them just to increase their weight, because people believe the heavier something is, the better the quality. Another example is American products associating themselves with foreign cities or countries to improve their cachet. He also discusses the power of ritual, how a product’s shape influences our attitude toward it and two different ways music affects our buying behavior.

There are several lessons for anyone involved in sales or marketing:
• Selling is about psychology more than anything else.
• Perception is reality.
• Know what your prospect wants, needs, fears, believes and values.
• Much of your prospect’s buying decision is subconscious.
• It’s more important for you to understand your prospect than for them to
understand your product.

Check out the article. And read anything else you can on human psychology. Because the more you learn about how people think, the more you know about why people buy.

Setting Effective Sales Goals

January 1st, 2009

Listen to my latest interview with Jim Blasingame on the Small Business Advocate Show.

To listen to previous interviews, click here.