Giving Thanks for Your Sales

May 29th, 2009

It’s about six months from Thanksgiving Day here in the U.S., which means it’s a good time to think about gratitude. Because we tend to really focus on gratitude only around the Thanksgiving holiday when in fact, it should be at the forefront of our minds on a daily basis.

A basic need all customers share is the need to feel appreciated. No one wants to be taken for granted. Yet too many companies do just that. Oh sure, they say they appreciate our business. But usually it’s said in a rushed, insincere manner by people who were forced to memorize the company’s end-of-transaction script by rote. That type of a thank-you doesn’t mean anything to customers. (And signs and voice-mail-hold messages mean even less!)

What really matters is this: How do you show your appreciation? How well do you show your appreciation? And how often do you show your appreciation? Your words may ring hollow, but your actions communicate a powerful message. Two examples:

A few years ago, I hired a brilliant business strategist, Aldonna Ambler, for some coaching work. Every year since, she sends me a gift on my birthday. It’s an annual reminder that she appreciates the time, money and trust I invested with her. And it’s why I’m constantly on the lookout for referrals for her.

A while back I called AT&T Wireless about a larger than normal bill, which turned out to be my own fault. The customer service representative said, “I see you’ve been a loyal customer for many years. I’m going to give you a $100 courtesy credit.” That one act said more about their appreciation for my business than all the verbal thank-you’s I’ve ever heard combined. And it’s kept me with AT&T ever since.

How can you better demonstrate your gratitude to your clients?  Here are a few ideas:
• Send a hand-written thank-you note
• Send a gift
• Send a gift card
• Send an article
• Waive a late charge
• Give them a bonus
• Give them an upgrade
• Take them out to lunch or dinner
• Invite them to a round of golf
• Give them a referral
• Let them be the first to try your new product or service at no charge
• Give them a coupon for a free product or service (with no strings attached)
• Throw a party for them
• Make a donation to a charity in their name

Do you merely tell your clients you appreciate them? Or do you prove it? The latter will get you stronger customer loyalty, more repeat business and more referrals.

Think Small to Boost Your Sales

May 26th, 2009

Normally in sales, it’s good to think big. But sometimes, it can be helpful to think small instead. When budgets are squeezed and credit is crunched, you can boost your sales by offering value-sized and value-priced options.

Sure a big sale is better than a small sale, but a small sale is better than no sale at all. And hey, a lot of  companies—and a lot of salespeople—can use every sale they can get.

So, how can you make your product or service more easily fit your prospect’s downsized budget? Consider one or more of the following:

• Offer a smaller size.
• Offer a smaller quantity.
• Break up your product or service into individual pieces and sell them a la carte.
• Offer a stripped-down version of your product or service, with fewer extras.
• Offer your service for a shorter length of time. (e.g. 30 minutes vs. 60 minutes)
• Require a shorter commitment. (e.g. 3 months vs. a year)
• Serialize your offering so customers can spread out the use and the payments.

Bigger isn’t always better. And if you’re having difficulty making sales because people can’t afford your product or service in it’s present state, it may be beneficial (to both of you) to downsize it.

“Your” Key to Closing More Sales

May 22nd, 2009

One of the most powerful words you can use when talking with a prospect is “your.” While average salespeople focus on “our products,” “our services,” “our features” and the history of “our company,” top salespeople prefer to talk about “your needs,” “your experiences” and “your results.”

As a customer, you don’t think about the salesperson, their product or their commission. You think about how the product or service might solve your problem. You think about its impact on your life, your company or your family. You think about your budget and your priorities. A savvy salesperson taps into those thoughts and emotions by using the word “your” liberally in their questioning and in their presentation.

Here’s how one great salesperson, Dana  Stephenson, of San Diego Harley-Davidson, uses this tactic to sell more to her customers: “As soon as a person tries on a piece of clothing, I start referring to it as ‘yours.’ I say things like, ‘Let me see how your shirt looks.’ ‘Would you like me to hold your jacket while you try on these other items?’ and ‘Do you have the shoes to complete your outfit?’”

As Dana noted, “When you refer to something as ‘your’ item, in the customer’s mind, they already own it. So they stop thinking about whether or not they want to buy it. The sale is already closed.”

Small Acts of Service = Big Boosts in Sales

May 20th, 2009

I was in an Arby’s restaurant today and while I waited for my meal, I witnessed an interesting scene.

An elderly gentleman had placed his order and asked for a glass of water. He took the cup from the cashier and headed over to the soda dispenser. Unfortunately, he poured himself lemonade instead of water. (An easy enough mistake, considering they share the same tap on the machine.) The man told the cashier what he’d done and asked how much he owed her.

She replied, “Don’t worry about it. It was an accident. Enjoy.” His face lit up with shock and joy as if she had just handed him a hundred-dollar bill.

The cashier could have easily charged the man for the beverage and he would have dutifully paid it. But with this small act of service, she transformed an ordinary transaction into a memorable experience for him. One you can bet he will share with all his friends and cause him to return sooner than he otherwise might.

Isn’t that kind of publicity and loyalty worth the price of a small soda? (BTW, if you’re thinking “no,” you shouldn’t be in business. Go be a mercenary or something.)

It’s one of my mantras: Service is sales and sales is service. And small acts of service like this one can provide you with significant boosts to your sales.

Invest in Your Sales

May 18th, 2009

This is a great time to invest.

No, I’m not talking about the stock market, commodities or real estate. (Although there are certainly some good buys right now for those who have the cash and the stomach for it.)

I mean you should take this opportunity to invest in your sales. During difficult economic times such as these, you need every edge you can get. So now, more than ever, you should be investing in sales education.

If you’re a salesperson, small business owner or professional, consider doing one or more of the following:
• Attend a seminar, workshop or webinar
• Hire a coach or consultant
• Buy a sales training audio or video program
• Subscribe to a business magazine or industry journal
• Join a Chamber of Commerce or industry association
• Read some books

If you’re a Sales Manager, VP of Sales or CEO, you need to invest in your sales team. If you want your people to sell more, provide them with the necessary training to do so. You can help your people boost their sales by doing one or more of the following:
• Pay for them to attend an industry conference
• Send them to a public seminar or workshop
• Bring a speaker or sales trainer into your company
• Arrange a sales training webinar for your people
• Buy a book for each person on your sales team

Don’t think of the above ideas as expenses. They’re really investments, because each should provide a monetary return. And that return can be both dramatic and immediate. (I’ve had seminar attendees tell me they used what they learned to close sales the same day.)

So invest in yourself and your sales team. It’s one of the best investments you can make. Especially in this market.

Your Biggest Competitor

May 12th, 2009

Your biggest competitor doesn’t have a brochure, a web site or a business card. It’s never taken a sales training seminar, never goes on road trips and never makes PowerPoint presentations. It doesn’t even attempt to overcome objections, close the sale or ask for referrals.

And it will outsell you every day if you let it.

Because your biggest competitor is not another company, an alternative solution or a different salesperson.

Your biggest competitor is doing nothing.

Prospects have lots of choices. In fact, more today than ever before. But one of their choices is simply doing nothing. And in this uncertain economic climate, that’s a very attractive option for a lot of prospects.

To sell against this insidious competitor, help your prospect understand the true costs of doing nothing. What will they miss out on? What will they risk? How will their existing problems worsen?

You don’t want to come across as a fear monger. But you do owe it to your prospects to educate them thoroughly, so they can make the best decision possible.

Your biggest competitor has a lot of natural advantages: it’s omnipresent, it’s persuasive and it’s a lot cheaper than you. But you can often outsell it if you tackle it head-on and treat it like any other competitor.

Sales and Creativity

May 8th, 2009

A friend and I were talking yesterday about creativity. I confessed that it wasn’t until just a few years ago I had realized I’m creative. He was shocked, saying he thought I was one of the most creative people he knows.

But for most of my life, I had a flawed view of what creativity is. I thought that creativity was the domain of artists, musicians and fiction writers. I’m not much for writing poetry or novels, I’ve failed on three musical instruments and I can’t draw, paint or sculpt. (Seriously, I can’t make a circle with a compass.) So I figured I wasn’t creative.

That belief stayed with me for years until I began to comprehend that creativity is simply the ability to create things. Anything. Including (but certainly not limited to):
• Articles
• Jokes
• Ideas
• A project timeline
• An improvement to an existing product
• Photographs
• A legal argument
• Flower arrangements
• An instruction manual
• A funny voice
• Software
• Advertising copy
• A new service
• Parties
• A meal
• Travel routes
• An investment plan

It dawned on me that so many of the things I do (speaking, writing, coaching, consulting, acting, stand-up comedy) are in fact very creative. Ergo, I’m a creative person.

Why am I telling you this? Because you’re creative too! How do I know? Because everyone is creative. And if you don’t believe it, then that mindset is holding you back, the way it held me back for so long.

Whether you’re a salesperson, a sales manager, a small business owner, a professional or a CEO, if you want to increase your sales, you need to be creative. Think about it. You have to come up with solutions to ever-changing problems. You have to adapt to different prospects’ needs. You have to design sales presentations. You have to figure out your goals and how you’re going to achieve them. All of these things require creativity.

Fortunately, you’ve got plenty of it, even if you haven’t realized it until now. The next step is to tap into your creativity and maximize its potential. Here are a few ways:
• Read a book on creativity.
• Watch a video on creativity.
• Attend a creativity seminar or workshop.
• Talk with a friend or mentor.
• Read articles about creativity online.
• Subscribe to a newsletter or e-zine about creativity.

Figure out the ways in which you’re creative. Then work on developing your creativity and using it in your daily life. The more creativity you apply to your sales challenges, the more success you’ll achieve and the faster you’ll achieve it.

Some Nutty Thoughts About Sales

May 1st, 2009

Have you ever tried cashews seasoned with salt and pepper? The first time I saw them in the grocery store I dismissed them out of hand, thinking the addition of pepper was kind of pointless. After ignoring them for months, however, I finally bought a can a couple of weeks ago.

Wow! Who knew a little pepper could so dramatically enhance the flavor of cashews, making them taste even better than they already do? (Apparently, the people at the Emerald Nut Company.) They immediately became one of my absolute favorite snacks.

But how long did I miss out on this discovery? I like to think of myself (as most of us do) as a pretty open-minded person. So I’m ashamed to admit to myself that I was completely close-minded to the idea of trying this product. It served as a wake-up call that I need to always keep an open mind to new possibilities and opportunities.

How open-minded are you, really? How open-minded are the people in your organization? Success in sales (and business in general) requires being receptive to new products, services, ideas and approaches. But too many people immediately reject anything new or different without giving it a chance.

Have you or others in your organization ever responded to a new proposal with any of the following rebuffs?
• We’ve never done that before.
• It will never work.
• That’s not the way we do things here.
• We can’t afford the risk.
• It’s fine the way it is.
• That’s stupid.
• We’re not interested in changing.
• It’s too expensive.
• Why should we bother?
• We tried that once and it didn’t work.
• Nothing’s going to change.
• It may have worked for someone else, but our industry is different.

If so, you’d better change your mindset. In this economic climate, if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’re likely to get less than you’ve ever gotten before. Times like these demand that you try new things and new ways if you want to boost your sales. Yes, there’s risk, because some efforts may not work out. But those meager risks are more than outweighed by the massive rewards you’ll reap when something does work.

So ask yourself two questions: 1) What am I potentially missing out on? And 2) What new thing am I going to try today?