It might be the economy. It might be a huge change in technology, or the law, the demise of the Internet due to an energy crisis beyond any thing we can imagine. It might be something unexpected, or could be something unimaginable (Hurricane Katrina, an earthquake, war). It might mean you’re promoted, asked to maintain your current clients, but not acquire new ones. No matter what the rationale what would you do if you never got another new client? How would you keep the ones you have?
What if your income depended solely on keeping the clients you have now deliriously happy? What would you do? How would you start? Then think about this. The income you have now depends largely upon your doing just that. Twenty percent of our clients typically provide 80% of our income. Knowing how to keep the clients you have is more than just an intellectual exercise.
Quote: After my spectacular failures, I could not be satisfied with an ordinary success.~Mason Cooley
If you’re in a field with dozens of competitors, all of whom offer as good as, or even better products and services than you do, you have to stand out, differentiate yourself. Many sales people groan at that, thinking it means they have to figure out a gimmick or do something stupid or silly. I’m not advocating that at all. I tell salespeople that the only thing they have to do to stand out is to lead with a service or product their competitor doesn’t offer. Don’t compete on the big things, but point out a service or product that your competitor doesn’t offer.
Enterprise Rental Cars tells their customers they’ll “Pick them up and drop them off.” I don’t know if all rental companies do this or not, but I know Enterprise saves me the hassle of finding someone to take me to the business and drive my car back home if I want to rent a car for a week. It’s a small thing for them, but big differentiation in their customer’s eyes.
The unexpected product or service doesn’t have to be big. It can be as simple as your operating hours, free delivery, or a free subscription to an industry magazine. Find it and offer it. Continue to offer the best products and services you can, or you’ll get beat on that count. But if you want to stand out long enough to get a prospect to take a look, lead with the unexpected.
Quote: “At IBM everybody sells! Every employee has been trained to think that the customer comes first — everybody from the CEO, to the people in finance, to the receptionists, to those who work in manufacturing.”~ Buck Rodgers, IBM
You’re not the only one who makes mistakes. We all do. And that includes your clients or potential clients. Their mistakes, or failures to find solutions to their problems are what opens the door to potential sales for you. Not many of us like to talk about our failures, particularly if we feel like we’ll come off as clueless fools in the process. So, sharing a story about your own failure and recovery will often spark a conversation from a client. Their reaction may range from curiosity to relief. The best outcome for both of you is that they then feel comfortable sharing their own failure or challenge. Talking about a third party’s failures in a professional, curious, “Wonder how I would have responded?” manner can also stir conversations about a client problem and your potential solutions. Expressing admiration for a famous or historical failure that resulted in a discovery, or sharing a blog post or tip for how to deal with the media after a company failure—all these, correctly and sensitively positioned, can inspire your client to open up about their struggles and challenges. Once you truly understand their challenge or problem and can help design a solution, you’re more likely to make a sale.
Quote: “The better a man is, the more mistakes he will make, for the more new things he will try. I would never promote to a top-level job a man who was not making mistakes…otherwise he is sure to be mediocre.”~ Peter Druker
If you live in America (and even if you don’t), and even if you have never been, you know the name “Disneyland.” Don’t you wish your customers knew your name as well? You’d think that being the most well-known theme park in America (and parts of the world) would make “selling” Disney easy. But it’s not. Brush away the glitter, the popular characters, the “magic” and you still have a business—one that relies on customers, vendors, employees and a public persona that is critical to their continued success. It may be more glamorous to sell Disney, or professional sports, or a product that has a huge public appeal or name recognition, but the fact is no matter what you sell, you’re still selling. And if what you’re selling doesn’t deliver, people won’t buy it again. Disney, Apple, Ford, Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Hershey’s, and even Dunkin Donuts and Krispy Kreme have to deliver a great product consistently. They’ve earned their reputations over time, but can lose them overnight if they fail big enough one time. So can you. What you have in common with Disneyland, Apple, Krispy Kreme and all the other big corporate names is that they all got where they are by creating, selling and delivering a product that gets people’s attention over and over again. They deliver. Do you?
Quote: “Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.”~ Walt Disney, The Walt Disney Company
Something happened to me over the last month. I lay on the beach for 8 days in a row in Punta Cana while attending my daughter’s wedding. That week gave me a lot of time to ponder all the changes that have been taking place in my life the past year. One of those changes in particular turns out to have altered and improved my life.
“What is it?” you ask.
I’ve learned to live in the moment.
It took me a lifetime plus those 8 days, but I finally learned how to let go of the past and resist focusing on “what’s next.” Along with that I’ve also learned how important it is to live a life true to myself, and not for what I hope others might think of me.
I could count on one hand the number of vacations I’ve taken in my adult life. I’m not proud of that fact. And, while I was lying on the beach, I recalled the story of the man who as he lay dying, told his family and friends that he wished he had spent less time at the office and more time with them.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I’ve had a wonderful life in so many ways. By many people’s standards it would be considered one of high accomplishment and rich in experiences. But, I’ll let you in on my dirty secret. I was never able to just enjoy those things without wondering if I could have done it better, or some other way, or what other people thought of how I did it. I was always looking ahead to the next thing that might finally provide the happiness I just hadn’t yet grasped.
I learned something else this past year. Happiness is a choice and not a destination. You choose to be happy, or you choose to be unhappy. Rich or poor, beautiful or plain, healthy or sick – happiness is our choice. It really is that simple no matter your life circumstances.
What does all this have to do with the Sales Doughnuts and you? For starters if anything I just said resonates with you personally, you might want to think about your own thinking.
Me? I’ve decided to spend less time in the office and more time with the people I care about. I got out my fishing poles that I haven’t used in over 30 years, joined a fish, game, and forestry association, and started teaching my wife how to shoot a target pistol. (She loved it, by the way.)
I’ve started snipping away many of the social media ties I’ve created over the last half-dozen years. Facebook is close to being snipped, by the way. They have managed to take an excellent service and turn it into a pile of rotting fish, in my opinion; with the changes they are making every day. People say Facebook lets you stay in touch with friends. I disagree. I see most people using it as a way to turn the annual “It’s All About Us” dreaded holiday letter into a daily occurrence.
You stay in touch with friends by giving them the time and effort keeping a friend deserves. I didn’t do a very good job of that in the past. But, that’s in the past and I’m making up for lost time. Facebook isn’t the answer. Face-to-face visits, phone calls, and being there for them keeps friends close.
That brings me to the Sales Doughnuts. I hope they’ve been of value to you. I’ve written 199 of them and this will make number 200. I was thinking it might be a good number to stop with but I still have the fire to help change the way people sell. So, I’ll be handing out more doughnuts. It just might not be every day.
Time to go now. It’s almost noon here and there are books to read, fish to catch, and dreams to dream.
Quote: In the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, look around you.~Leo Tolstoy
I hope that headline grabbed you, because it’s true. But it’s not the whole thought. “Social Media is Not The Answer, But It Helps If You Use it Properly” is the entire headline. I recently asked people what kind of responses they were getting from social media—was it helping. I got mixed results, with many people saying “No, not really.” I thought about it and realized we’re all looking for a magic bullet. Yes, even me. Wouldn’t it be great to find that one thing we can do, say or demonstrate to zing right to a prospect’s heart so that they buy from us without all the callbacks, wooing, presentations and “sales” efforts we use?
I like to imagine it would be effortless, easy and consistently productive. When Twitter came along, it looked like that kind of tool. Then FaceBook, LinkedIn and whatever else you might use. We were disappointed. We had more access to more people, but we still had to go through the qualifying, connecting, listening, helping and presentations we’ve always had to do. In other words, great sales means establishing great rapport and connection; listening first, selling later, no matter what platform you use. It’s just a fact of life. Technology changes, but the people and the process we use to sell never does. What works in real life works on social media—listening, engaging, earning trust, and being authentic. If you can’t do it face-to-face, chances are you’re going to struggle doing it in social media too.
Quote: “The biggest mistake we see companies make when they first hit Twitter is to think about it as a channel to push out information.”~ Tim O’Reilly and Sara Milstein, authors “The Twitter Book.”
There aren’t many of us who expect perfection any more. What customers do expect is an appropriate and heartfelt response that demonstrates you truly care. In other words, when it breaks, fix it. For instance, study after study has shown that nurses are the least likely people to be sued when a patient sues a hospital. Why? Patients tend to perceive that their nurses cared, were trying to help and did their best, even if they were at fault! Patients give nurses a lot of credit for simply “trying to fix things.” Unless the nurse was obviously negligent and uncaring, most patient lawsuits don’t name them. However, in recent years that hasn’t been the case. More nurses are spending less time with patients and are perceived as uncaring and at fault as the doctors.
What that tells me is what I already know about myself—that I understand things go wrong, but what matters is that when they do, that a company understands the hassle it’s put me through and fixes it. We call that customer service. Customer service is all about “fixing it,” and not about proving who was right, wrong or justified. It’s about repairing a breach that separates you from your customer. So next time something’s not perfect, or goes wrong, ask, “What can I do to fix this?” Or better yet, have a solution in mind and if that doesn’t work ask, “What can I do to fix this?” It’s easier to respond to a customer with a fix, than to find a new customer. Not only do you prove to them they matter and that you care, you re-enforce the relationship. They now know they can trust you to “do the right thing.” So don’t see customer service as a necessary evil. See it as a sales tool.
Quote: “Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong.”~ Donald Porter, British Airways
There have been times I’ve gone on a walk and found wonderful little footbridges to get me across a stream. They come complete with handrails, a view, maybe even a sign with the name of the bridge. Some are wide enough for bicycles and pedestrian traffic, others are one person at a time type structures. Then again, I’ve often relied on only a shaky, knee-knocking log or rickety plank to get me from one bank to the other. The point is, no matter how they do, or in how much style they do it, bridges connect us. You don’t have to have a perfectly scripted, dynamic, practiced sales presentation to connect with a client or potential client. You just have to provide a way for them to get where you are, or for you to get to them with your idea, your solution, or your expertise. Begin by building bridges, then worry about how elaborate, fancy, large and ornate they are later.
Quote: “All business success rests on something labeled a sale, which at least momentarily weds company and customer.”~Tom Peters
I’m often asked what the difference between sales and marketing is. They seem to be the same thing, but they’re not. Marketing is putting yourself out there and telling people what you do and what you sell. Sales is the actual process of interacting with people who respond to your marketing and following through with them from the first contact to the final sale. You need both, although you can survive better on being a better sales person rather than a great marketer. If you can’t close a sale once you have a client, you won’t pay many bills or stay in business long!
Quote: “People share, read and generally engage more with any type of content when it’s surfaced through friends and people they know and trust.”~ Malorie Lucich
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