A Study on Sales Success Secrets

This month I read a book on most business owner’s favorite topics: sales. Sales may not be our favorite topic, but it’s an absolutely essential one if we want to stay in business. The book I read was Exactly How To Sell by Phil M. Jones. It was a short and easy to read book, so if you’re looking for a quick burst of insight on sales, this could be the book for you.

The book did a decent job of covering many aspects of sales including marketing and dealing with objectives, one of the earliest insights I took from the book was the importance of remembering that sales is a process, it’s not something that has one step, there are many steps from hearing about the product/service being sold, to learning about it, to the actual delivery of what was purchased through use of it.

One of the biggest keys this book shared about getting successfully through the sales process was about who the salesperson was and how they acted. Sales people in this day and age are more successful if they’re good listeners, problem solvers, empathetic, knowledgeable, helpful and responsible. Those are important characteristics for any business owner, but especially for sales people to not only make more sales, but also show they’re human to their potential customers so they feel more comfortable with them.

So how do you get more successful sales? There were 3 big reminders for me in the book, that of confidence, clarification and questions. The book made a really great statement that the role of a sales person (and the overall sales process) is to provide the potential customer or client with all the information necessary to make a decision and not feel any confusion over what’s being offered. It’s one of the reasons I encourage lots of information on sales pages, including some indication of price. Asking questions of the potential customer enables you to make sure you’re all on the same page, confirms the needs they have, and helps you make the best recommendations for their specific needs. Questions also help you and them avoid a bad pairing before things get too far and there’s a lot of wasted time and resources. Finally, confidence is important because it shows your potential customers that not only do you have the knowledge of what you’re selling, you believe in it and it’s ability to solve the needs of your customers.

Sales can be challenging, but with careful thought, planning and practice soon you’ll be seeing success! What are your challenges with sales?

Seth Godin Teaches Marketing

We’ve reached the end of February, today we’re taking a look at our business read for February, This is Marketing by Seth Godin. I often pick up Seth’s books because they’re easy to read and packed with lots of little and big insights that inspire me, remind me of something, confirm something for me, and of course give insights into being a better business owner and marketer. This book talked about many of the things that I work with my clients on and many of the things I believe can help us make business better for everyone. Let’s take a look at just a few of the lessons in it.

Marketing is about making change happen. It can be evil and it can be used to get people to do bad things like do drugs or steal or send people into foreclosure. But it can also empower people and give them the solutions and support they’re seeking. Marketing gives answers, inspires people to try things, shows what you stand for, activates curiosity, connects people with solutions, and raises awareness. it’s up to us marketers to decide if we’re going to be evil, to spam people, or respect and build on the trust they’re giving us.

Be market driven: this means that your focus is ultimately and primarily on humanity, on people. You remember that you’re marketing to humans, that every customer service interaction is a chance to wow and to care for them, that fear pops up for everyone at different points in time, that you ask people to give you their attention, that everyone is different, and you can do good things for your business by focusing on your true fans, a small audience, rather than those who don’t resonate with your work.

Finally, always be improving. Seth has written many books, and some of the ideas aren’t as applicable as they were when he wrote them. He’s learned things since he wrote his first book, yes, but the bigger impact is on the sheer amount of change that has happened in those years. You can totally go ahead and make something “perfect,” but it’s likely that that thing you make that’s perfect will be outdated or irrelevant in a matter of weeks, months or years, depending on how much transformation is happening in that industry. So instead go ahead and get out there with your well-developed product or service, and back up a not-quite-perfect offering with outstanding customer service that outshines minor imperfections and in-progress work.

What have you learned from Seth Godin?

Discount Dilemma

One of the questions that just about every business owner is asked is “do you offer discounts?” It’s a question that makes us groan sometimes because we work hard to serve our customers and create our products, and the fact is that we have to make money! Yes, most of us have a buffer or cushion between what it actually costs to create a product and what we charge, and there are people who offer similar services for less than we do. Yes, some of us do compete based on price, that’s one of the reasons people buy what we offer instead of a similar product/service. And yes, most of us do create special offers at some point in time, or offer regular discounts for certain people, like veterans for example. Not to mention that there’s a whole “bargaining” industry where asking for a different price than what’s listed is not only acceptable but expected.

That said, I don’t necessarily have anything against offering discounts. I believe it can be a way to recognize your faithful customers and offer them discounts for continued purchases. There’s certainly an opportunity in offering “introductory offers” at lower-than-normal prices, or coupons if you’re in need of an influx in customers. There’s also an opportunity to connect with people through clearance or close-out offers.  But there’s a reason that things are priced as they are, and it’s what people have determined is reasonable based on what results are possible or what’s being offered.

So how do we deal with the discount question? Personally I address it on my website. I make it clear that if there’s a discount to be had it will be announced on social media and/or in my newsletters and that it’s not something I do often. I also clearly state that I offer regular special pricing for pastors for one of my offerings and for veterans on all of my services (and how to prove you qualify). I also offer levels of service so that I can help people whether they can afford $20 or $2000, and some payment plans.

So what if someone doesn’t clearly state they do/don’t offer discounts but you really, truly can’t afford their prices, and you really want to work with or buy from them? As with so many other things in the industry these days, the best thing you can do is contact them and be specific about why you want and deserve a discount or special pricing. Saying things like “I’ve got tons of people I can refer you to” or “I’ll absolutely buy again in the future” aren’t valid reasons in my book. You have to give a good enough reason why you should be given a discount when [almost] everyone else pays full price, preferably a reason that can be backed up or easily verified. If they can’t offer a discount, maybe they’re willing to work out a payment plan, offer reduced hours/access, have something similar they can offer at the price you can afford, or can recommend someone/something that does fit your price range.

What are your thoughts on discounts and how do you handle it when (potential) customers ask you for them?

Customer Relationship Reality

Lately I’ve been thinking about what it takes to really be successful in business.  Now, there are many ways you could be successful, several of which I strongly advise against.  We all need to find what works for each of us, not everyone can be successful with a blog or selling door-to-door (or the 2016 equivalent).  But one of the biggest divides is between those who have regular interaction with their customers and those who don’t.  For example a personal trainer has lots of interaction with clients, but the company who created the cookies that you bought at the grocery store last weekend isn’t likely to talk with hardly any of their customers.

That said, in 2016 I don’t believe you can really be truly hands-off with customers.  Even taking the simple example of social media shows that there really isn’t distance between a business and their customers any more as the companies interact directly with their customers through social media.  It just reinforces my understanding and belief of business as a relationship between people (even if there are machines and technology between and/or connecting you).

What I’m seeing, what the research is saying, what other businesses are saying, and what the customers are saying is that there needs to be some change made so that people are at the forefront of the discussion.  Do you really think about what’s best for your customer when making decisions or are you just looking at the bottom line?  Do you even know if what you’re considering is needed and/or there’s a market for it (or reasonable proof seems to indicate there is)?

Business no longer means you can have distance from your customers.  The best thing you can do is begin cultivating a relationship with them.  Get to know them, let them get to know you, don’t dread customer service calls, retrain your employees on proper customer communication and relationships if necessary and consider all the benefits of knowing your customers better.

Attracting an Audience

Over the past few weeks I’ve been thinking about a lot of different things, including how I can better serve you (I’d love to hear your requests, you can post them in the comments below the post).  A lot of business owners I know and work with struggle with finding or speaking to clients.  As you know the statement has always been “build it and they will come” and the fact is that people will find you.  But you have to ask yourself if they’re the people you really want to find you, or if they’re just a big waste of your time and a headache or two besides.  If it happens that they are people who would benefit from and need your offerings do they understand what you’re offering, does it convince them to buy and can they easily buy?  Let’s talk about a couple aspects of these thoughts today, and I’d love to hear your thoughts and struggles too.

1-headaches: yes, you will meet people who think they’re interested in your offerings and end up being way more trouble than they’re worth.  If you work with select individuals it’s easier to weed these out frustrating cases out than if you serve a wide audience.  When people come to you and ask lots of questions it’s important to determine as quickly as possible if they’re just seeking clarification and reassurance or if they’re out to challenge you and what you know, believe and offer.

2-do they understand?:  this is one of the biggest reasons that I believe people ultimately don’t buy stuff: they don’t understand what you’re offering, it isn’t shared in language that speaks to them, or it isn’t clear why they should buy from you as opposed to the other many businesses that offer similar things.  This is one reason why it’s so important to have a couple people, including at least one completely impartial individual like a coach or consultant, look at any marketing/website work that you put out.  These other people will see things that you totally missed because you’re too close to your business.

3-getting the contract: is there a secret to making more sales than not?  Yes and no.  Part of it, as we’ve already discussed is making sure what you’re offering is clear and understandable, and you’re available to answer questions.  Another part of it is showing that you offer something unique, special or better than the other options.  Another part is the importance of offering different levels of service so that people don’t have to dive in with the big bucks right away.  Finally, when you do get people into conversation with you to buy your offerings asking the right questions to them to help them understand that you really can help them and truly care about their goals and life and it’s not just about the almighty dollar for you.

So this week I encourage you to get someone to give you an outside perspective on what you’re offering so you can start resolving the issue(s) of why people aren’t buying as much as you think they should be.