Archive for sales success
Just to be clear, I’m not suggesting that your average client is anything like a terrorist. Having said that maybe that’s what it felt like the last time you were trying to do a deal.
I remember one of my first really hard client negotiations – I was sent in with a single outcome that I wasn’t to agree to – anything aside from that was okay. During the course of that hour or so, I remember thinking very clearly that it wasn’t going well. The client was holding their ground regardless of what I said or offered and he was getting red in the face. So I stopped talking. He talked and I listened…and listened..and finally understood what was at the heart of why he wanted what he wanted.
And then a miraculous thing happened. The client agreed. He laughed and said I drove a hard bargain. Not only did I do the deal I was sent in to do, that client and I…we’ve been good friends for more than a decade.
Anyone who’s been through any kind of sales training has been taught to ‘listen’. However most of the time, the listening is limited to doing it just enough to hear the client’s buying signals and react. We have an excuse to ‘jump back into’ the conversation. In other words, we’re only listening for our cue to talk rather than listening to the person doing the talking.
Yet that approach often leads us to make incorrect presumptions on what the client or prospect is saying based on our own ‘filters’, the need to be ‘right’ and to ‘get on with it’. Hostage negotiators know differently. Here are how their top tips translate to doing better business with clients.
- Establish credibility early – as in prove you’ll do what you say you’re going to do. Hostage negotiators often give something small away early to ‘prove’ their commitment to the negotiation.
- Identify the leaders – we’ve all been there. Lots of work only to find we’ve been talking to the ‘wrong’ person. Make sure you know who’s in control of decision making before you start any negotiating.
- Gain face to face contact. Too much is done by written word today. It’s impossible to read subtle nuances in text. And while phone is better, face to face is best. You’re far more likely to pick when someone’s bluffing, blustering or in pain (especially if it’s emotional) if you’re face to face. It also helps that the other party can see the ‘whites of your eyes’ too.
- Allow enough time to do the negotiation properly. If I’d not stayed until the end, chances are, I’d never have gotten the client across the line. And if I’d rushed the meeting to get to another, that would probably have come off as arrogant and that’s something to avoid at all costs.
- Be observant – notice the feeling of the room and its people (are they nervous, relaxed, arrogant, eager), who’s who in the room/building, do they greet you formally or casually, where do they sit in comparison to you, how are they dressed. Every detail counts in a negotiation – they tell a story you might otherwise have missed.
- Build the kind of understanding that creates trust – make them feel ‘felt’ and get beneath their real issue.In other words – get them talking and really listen. In my client’s case, he was worried that his firm would spend lots of money only to get something they could use once – he’d been burned before – it just took a while for him to really articulate that as his key issue. The previous agency had left him feeling powerless and this was his reaction.
- Take charge if things are really getting out of control. If you’ve reached an impasse pushing harder or longer isn’t going to get you anywhere. Say something along the lines of “I think I need to take a break and consider where things are at (or come back with more ideas). We’ll pick up where we left off at (insert time). Notice there’s not the use of we in the first sentence and it doesn’t ask a question at all. It’s my problem and I’m fixing it. To suggest to a client that it’s their problem is to lay blame and that diminishes trust.
Seek first to understand – most of us are just misunderstood and looking to feel ‘cared about’. Hope that helps with your next round of business negotiations. Feel free to comment on what’s worked or not for you below.
As today is Valentine’s Day, it seems appropriate to write something on love – customer love that is.
We all know people only do business with people they know, like and trust. Which, when you really think about it, sounds kind of like dating. Except that hopefully what you’re really after isn’t just after one date – you want them to be wedded to you and your business for as long as you both are in business. In a business sense, you want them to love you and I mean really LURVE you.
I mean, come on – it’s you – what’s not to love! But seriously…Do you know what it is that your customers’ really love about your business?
If not, it’s your No1 job to find out – start today. Rather than relying on social media, faceless surveys, etc – call five of your favourite customers and ask them to tell you what it is that they really like about you guys working together – use it as the basis of a good conversation. Ask them who else does anything similar for them (hopefully not one of your competitors).
Then, without using it as a bribe, send them something nice to say thank you for their time – like flowers, balloons, movie tickets, chocolates, wine, champagne – whatever. It just has to be personal. Branded pens and post-its don’t count.
If you already know and I mean REALLY know, what makes your customers’ go gooey and weak at the knees – still send them a gift to say thank you and that you love doing business with them too.
Seriously – everyone from the sweet young receptionist to the CEO of the highest boardroom in the country – loves to feel appreciated.
So, give your clients the gift of letting you know that you appreciate them this Valentines and next year, you’re likely to still be happily counting the years together.
Okay so this post isn’t really about brain surgery or rocket science – would you really want to be your own brain surgeon? Or accidently propel yourself into space never to return (with only so much oxygen at your disposal). Nope didn’t think so.
So now that we’ve established that’s not for you – what about DIY accounting and tax returns? Yes, there will be some of you out there. But did you know that you’re statistically more likely to get less in your return if you DIY (that and probably want to stick pins in your eyes long before you finish).
Heck, I wouldn’t even cut my own hair. Ok, well maybe just the fringe bit (but it’s never as good as when a great hairdresser has a go).
And it’s the exactly the same with creating your own website, doing your own marketing or creating your own materials or designs. Why – you ask? When you have a pen, a computer and a host of other technology you’re itching to use? Why shouldn’t you do your own thing?
Well in essence unless you’ve been a marketer for a while, you’re likely to spend (possibly even waste) a great deal of time pfaffing, yes pfaffing about getting frustrated that what you’re doing is not going according to plan. Even if it does go according to plan, maybe and I hate to be the one that says this, but maybe the plan is headed in the wrong direction or missing a couple of vital ingredients – one in particular.
So what might this vital ingredient be?
It’s experience. I did say this wasn’t rocket science.
Experience makes a massive difference to your marketing projects. People who’ve eaten, slept and breathed marketing for a decade or more can offer you so much more than just technology or passing you onto to someone who claims to be able to use the technology. They’ll guide the process, create stuff of value and find that great space between what you want to achieve and what your clients want you to give them.
So, sure technology is sexy, but it doesn’t (and shouldn’t) claim to understand what people (your customers) want, nor how best to give it to them.
You wouldn’t trust your brain to your next door neighbour (unless they’re a qualified neurology surgeon), so why would you risk your business – possibly the lifeblood of your family to have a go yourself.
If you’re now thinking about outsourcing, you might also want to read 7 ways to tell if your marketer is any good (or not).
As always would love to chat further – either in comments below or in person. The number’s at the top of the screen.
AKA How many touchpoints does your prospect need to become a client?
Have you ever felt frustrated by how long it takes to ‘convert’ a prospect to being your client? Or wondered what you’re doing wrong? Before you think it must be you, you might want to consider the (US) National Sales Executive Association figures on B2B sector sales below;
- 2% of sales are made on the first contact
- 3% of sales are made on the second contact
- 5% of sales are made on third contact
- 10% of sales are made on the 4th contact
- 80% of sales are made between the 5th and 12th contact
Very similar statistics were also mentioned in Jay Levinson’s book Guerilla Marketing although he stops at 5. I’ve always worked on 7.
Whilst these statistics are heading towards being 10 years old, most likely, if anything, given the current state of the world economy, the number of contacts required to get a sale have probably gone up, not down.
Yet only 10% of people will make more than three contacts with their prospects and a staggering 48% of people will never follow up a prospect.
This all begs the question is there another way to do this rather than making 5-12 phone calls (which let’s face it, is a kind of daunting thought).
Yes. It means you have to stay in contact – whatever that means for your business – marketers often refer to them as touchpoints (or ways your prospect/clients are ‘touched’ by your brand.
You might consider using a blog, twitter, e-mail marketing, newsletter, media stories, whitepapers, events, thank you cards, branded items, tradeshows, advertising,“how are you doing” phone calls or drop-ins. In other words, you have to do whatever it takes to have your message in front of your future client, so that when they’re read to buy, you’re top of their mind, in front of their eyes or in their ears.
It also highlights the need to make sure you have your marketing touchpoints planned (systematised if at all possible), consistent and customer-focused (which means paying attention to the only question you need to ask yourself “What’s in it for me?” or WIIFM).
The moral to the story is, if it’s going to take 12 (or maybe more) contacts to have someone buy from you, make sure every single encounter with your brand counts.
PS: whilst these statistics are based on B2B research, if you’re selling to consumers, given the competition and noise in the marketplace for most items, you might also want to work on the same numbers. If you convert earlier – well done.