The Most Important Question You Can Ask Right Now

March 24th, 2020

The Most Important Question You Can Ask Right NowThe COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc around the world. The disease—and the government responses to it—have affected every industry, with impacts ranging from mild to devastating.

One of the best things you can do in this unprecedented environment is to ask questions:

• “What can we do to keep our employees and customers safe?”
• “How can we convert physical meetings to virtual ones?”
• “What impacts will this have on our business, short-term and long-term?”
• “How can we replace lost revenue?”
• “What expenses can we cut or postpone?”
• “How should we change our marketing messaging?”

I submit, though, that the single best question you can ask right now—and for the immediate future—is:

“How can I help?”

In my keynote speeches and seminars, I define sales as “Helping people acquire the things they want and need for a better life.”

That’s a pretty broad definition. And deliberately so. Because selling involves a lot more than persuading a person to part with their money. Selling includes:

• Educating people
• Making them feel comfortable and confident
• Solving their problems
• Assisting them in making good decisions
• Making them look good to others
• Finding ways to enable them to afford what they need
• Delivering value

At this very moment, you can do a lot of those things. And the key to figuring out which of the above you can accomplish is to ask the question, “How can I help?” (And alternatively, “How can we help?”)

Right now, everybody—your clients, your vendors, your employees, your partners, your community—is struggling with more challenges than ever before. So ask everybody how you can help them.

And make it clear that you’re not just looking for ways to sell something to them, but rather, ways to serve them. Because as I say again and again, sales is service and service is sales. And now—more than ever—the world needs our service.

Let me close this post by asking you—How can I help?

Why People Buy Taffy (And what it means for YOUR sales)

March 3rd, 2020

Why People Buy TaffyIn 1885, Joseph Fralinger—a former glassblower and fish merchant—took over a taffy stand in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He bought some books on candy-making and set about learning the business. Before long, he was offering 25 different flavors of saltwater taffy and was one of the most successful candy shops on the Boardwalk.

But this story isn’t about the taffy. It’s about the way Fralinger sold it.

Looking for ways to boost his candy sales, Fralinger came up with the idea for a “souvenir box.” At the time, taffy was sold by the piece or the bag, and Fralinger reasoned that if he offered taffy in a prepackaged one-pound box, people might be inclined to purchase the larger amount.

Fralinger ordered 200 boxes printed with pictures of the Atlantic City skyline, the beach, the boardwalk, and sunbathers. He then filled the boxes with a pound of assorted taffy.

They sold out in less than a day.

Fralinger had stumbled onto an important concept: People weren’t just buying taffy—they were buying memories.

And that concept is part of a larger principle: When people buy a product or service, it’s often for a reason that has nothing to do with that product or service.

How can you profit from this principle? Think of the reasons people buy your product or service. Then go beyond those obvious reasons. Dig deeper. Get into your customers’ psyches. What emotional needs are they trying to fill?

Once you’ve figured that out, brainstorm ways you can help them fill those emotional needs. What tweaks can you make to your products, your packaging, your services, your sales process, your customer care, etc.?

Undertaking this exercise can boost both your sales and your profits, because people will happily pay more when you meet their deepest, most compelling needs. (Note that a one-pound “souvenir box” costs more than a pound of taffy in a plastic bag.)

The “souvenir box” quickly spread to other candy shops in Atlantic City and eventually, to candy stores—as well as theme parks, resorts, museums, and airports—around the world because it taps into a powerful buying motivator. And it’s a motivator that you can tap into as well.

Chew on that for a while.