Saturday, 13 June 2009

How not to sell

I was cold called last week by a company who left a message saying "we want to talk to you about business coaching". My assumption was that this was a potential customer.

When I called back it was very apparent that I was speaking to someone in a call centre because of the level of noisy conversations in the background, not to mention the music from the radio!

Being curious, as I often am because of the opportunity to "research", I decided to let Heather do her stuff. She proceeded to ask me how business was doing and went on to ask how I got my business. I told her that I wasn't in fact looking for business coaching work right now as I was focusing on Speaking with Power, as well as BNI and my other business interests.

Undeterred she went on to tell me about her fantastic service that offered a website with guaranteed traffic and unlimited update capability. This got my interest knowing that one of the ways to help your site improve its search engine ranking is regular content updates.

I listened intently for about 35 minutes, asking all the right questions and getting lots of promises. Heather told me it would cost £399 plus 12 monthly payments of £60 before very crudely jumping straight in with "how would you like to pay - debit or credit card?"

I responded by reminding her that I had not yet decided to proceed and would she send me the information to confirm what she had told me. Flustered, she then wanted me to go to a website to look at the information. However, as I was in the car this was not going to work so we arranged to talk again the following day at 2pm.

Sophie called the next day, 20 minutes late. By this time I had researched the company and the numerous websites that had discussions and complaints about the service being offered. Oh, how I love the internet for easy access information!

Sophie told me that Heather was off sick today so she was calling on her behalf. She did not know how much I knew so asked if I had any questions.

I repeated that I wanted to see exactly what I was signing up for before making a commitment and after a rather protracted conversation I was able to establish that terms and conditions were in fact on their website. I printed them off and she went straight with how was I going to pay. Rather annoyingly for her, I suggested she call me back once I'd had a chance to read through the document.

I did indeed read the conditions and highlighted at least 20 points that raised questions for me. Needless to say Sophie became even more frustrated but tried to answer my queries anyway. The fact that she had to keep putting me on hold to ask her manager told me she really didn't know what she was selling and no real idea how the service was supposed to help me.

We finally got through all my questions and I admitted that I saw little point in continuing our discussion because "I didn't feel that she was providing the type of service I need". Sophie responded with obvious irritation and told me she thought she had answered all my questions and could not see why I didn't want buy.

After an exchange of views I suggested we go back to my first point:

"Heather had told me that I could have unlimited updates and these would be done by personal account manager and there was no charge for this. You [Sophie] have confirmed this is true, but the second paragraph states that updates are done free of charge for the first 30 days. This implies that you will not in fact update as Heather had told me. I want a service that if I needed to, could update every single day, by telephone, knowing it would be done. You can't or are unwilling to do this, so the service is not what I need."

Sophie then proceeded to tell me that I would never need such a service and it was ridiculous!

I thanked her and told Sophie that she clearly did not understand MY business and how I might want to develop it in the future via my website(s).

Still not listening she told me that their service would do exactly what I wanted and if I did want to update everyday, I could do it myself using their software.

Bored by now, I repeated myself yet again and finished the call, astounded that this company could be so inept.

If you're providing a product or service then it is important to recognise that a) some people won't need or want what you are offering, and b) if people give you feedback on the product or service that suggests you are not meeting their needs or wants, at least have the decency to listen to what they have to say and respect their opinion.

The customer is always right, even when they might be misguided. They want what they want or need what they need, and in any event they are the customer. If you think you can help them realise that what they think they need is not in fact what they actually need, and your product or service can truly help them, then give them the respect they deserve and educate them with care.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Back up or risk losing all

Sometime ago a colleague in BNI gave the audience a useful fact in a 60 second presentation that he gave that really struck a chord with me.

He said research showed that 90% of small businesses that suffered a massive loss of data due to an IT system failure, go out of business within two years. A frightening thought that had me urgently schedule an appointment to further understand the risks and more importantly, implement a process that mitigated against the risks.

The irony is that the simplest and very cheap solutions are available and I was delighted to get something in place for less than the cost of a night out with the family.

This last weekend I was merrily working away when my laptop crashed. It turned out that the hard drive was completely dead and the data on it was lost. Imagine how I would have felt, not to mention the potential impact on business, had I lost 20+ years of research, training material, manuals, seminar audio programmes, video presentations, coaching notes, family pictures, music etc etc.

Thankfully I listened to my BNI colleague that day and apart from the few days of inconvenience without a laptop, we were up and running very quickly. In fact, I got to spend a little more time on the phone, much of which in the sunshine and peace and quiet of my garden. There's always an upside!

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Increase sales - Help other people

If you want to increase your sales then the first step is to stop selling.

Most sales people are so focused on getting the sale, meeting their targets, keeping the boss happy, achieving their key performance indicators (KPIs), getting the cash or simply "screwing" the prospect, they forget why they are really there. They are there to solve someone's problem; save them money or time, achieve their dreams, provide comfort or security, deliver exceptional service and so on.

So, the easiest way to do the deal is to remain clear on what it is people are looking for and help them get what they want or need. Stop selling and look for the ways to help. Sometimes of course, the prospect doesn't even know what their problem is so helping them gain clarity on that is essential.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Excellence in presentation skills will increase sales

Listening to an educational programme today I was impressed by the excellent presentation skills of the teacher and his ability to engage the audience. He drew them into his story that had them making a purchase without a second thought.

This wasn't manipulative techniques or a crude sales pitch. It was simply a strategic process of building rapport with the audience and creating the space for them to make an informed buying decision that met all their needs.

The presenter used his great ability in telling a story to hold the state of the audience in a way that had them relate to it [the story] as if they were playing the starring role.

Why was it so enthralling?

1. He built rapport - The teacher engaged the audience from the start. He used his skills to have the audience listen attentively and with anticipation.

2. He managed their state - If you want the audience to get excited, you need to be excited yourself. If you want the audience to be inquisitive you must stir their imagination so that they are curious and eager to know more.

3. He told a story - By using a story, a tale that the audience could relate to, he drew them in. They were able to see themselves within the story and began to make internal connections that resulted in the natural next step of needing to buy.

People buy from those they know, like and trust.

When you create the space for this trust, from a position of the buyer, rather than a seller, the relationship becomes such that people actively seek out the purchasing opportunity knowing that you will be helping them "solve their problem" or "providing the solution". Buying becomes easy for them.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Speaking with power to create sales

Everyone of us has to speak in public to "sell" something. It may be how you earn your living such as a business development role or sales representative, or that you have an idea, a suggestion or proposal that you want someone to "buy in to". It could be that you simply want your spouse, partner, child or friend to agree to something you would like them to do, but in any event you are selling a concept, an idea - you are looking for agreement.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Make Money Through Networking - Pt 2

To make money through networking we've already said you have to get in the game. The next part becomes easier as you practice.

You can't learn to swim by reading a book about swimming, you have to get in the water. So practice is the key.

4. Listen carefully - Once you have started asking questions, it's equally important to listen to the answers. This might seem obvious but you would be surprised how many people have perfected the art of asking questions but have no clue about listening and therefore miss all the important information they might find useful later.

5. Look for ways to help - The worst thing you can do is to try selling to someone at a networking event, and this is the biggest mistake the novice makes. They start talking with someone who shows interest in them and they get so excited they think they have to do a deal there and then.

Instead, ask how you might help the person you have just met. Who do they want to meet or need to talk to? Ask what sorts of clients they are looking for right now and if you have the opportunity to introduce them, go for it.

People will always remember those who have helped them first. If you find you are in a position to help someone in business, with no other agenda, it will come back to you time and time again.

The most successful networkers who are making money through networking are those who ask questions, listen carefully and provide help to the people they meet, whenever they can.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Making money through networking - Pt 1

There are two sides to every argument and the debate about networking, and its benefits, is no different.

It is said that your net worth is directly proportionate to the size of your network, or it's not what you know, it's who you know that is important.

Some people avoid networking because they feel it involves speaking in public and this terrifies them. Others see it as being time consuming and unproductive.

Networking though, is proven to help you make money and there is no doubt that it works, if you are prepared to work at it. There are some simple steps you can take that will help you make money through networking:

1. Just get in the game - dive in and attend something, anything, and get a feel for how it works. The biggest factor that stops people creating success in anything is fear, and fear is just False Expectations Appearing Real. It's your imagination telling you that something bad is going to happen and you can not possibly know that your imagined expectation is true.

2. Smile and introduce yourself - Just say hi. Shake hands and if you're not sure what to say start by asking if they attend many networking events. Sharing your experiences of networking, or your fears, is a great way to break the ice.

3. Ask questions - By asking questions you show the other person that you are genuinely interested in them. People want others to care so ask questions such as how they got into business, what sorts of clients do they work with, how do they help their customers, how many staff do they have, where are they located, and so on.

The key to successful networking and therefore making money in the process is simply to feel the fear and get in the game. Everyone starts at the beginning and the best way to get going is to take the first step.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Great Public Speaking

Speaking in public can be the most traumatic experience for some people. It is said that many fear having to stand up in front of others to talk, more than they do death itself.

I haven't yet met someone who would prefer to die than present their ideas to someone else, either in a group situation or one-on-one however.

The biggest challenge people face is in fact the "story" they tell themselves about the possible outcome of their speech or presentation. It's the self-talk that causes the problems.

One of the easiest techniques you can adopt in these circumstances, to be great speaking in public, is to prepare yourself before you start. I'm not talking about preparing the material, although that is important of course, or rehearsing the delivery. No, what I'm saying is that it is essential to mentally prepare and get into the "state" of being able to deliver the material just how you would like it to be done in the best possible way.

All one needs to do is take a couple of minutes to breathe deeply, remember a time when you felt really confident, happy, excited and on top of your game - and get back into that experience as much as you can.

Breathe in the positive feelings of that memory, see what you saw back then, hear the sounds around you, notice the feelings within yourself and play back the things you said to yourself.

As you get back into the experience, breathe deeply and hold each breath as you make the colours and shapes of the memory sharper and more vivid, turn up the volume and the clarity of the sounds around you and expand the positive feelings inside.

Hold onto these sensations as you visualise your impending audience listening attentively, spellbound by what you have to say, inspired by your message and ready to take action as you conclude. Enjoy your imagination predicting a successful outcome to your talk and allow yourself to be excited by the possibilities unfolding now.

The first time you do this, spend some time on it and really enjoy the process. With a little practice over time, you will be able to recreate the experience in an instant and be great public speaking every time.


Saturday, 7 February 2009

Instant sales

I was honoured to be invited to judge a Young Enterprise trade fair today in Belfast. Young people from local schools set up real businesses and then trade through the academic year. As well as attempting to make money as a business, the purpose of the initiative is to learn what it is like to run a business and experience all the challenges that go with it.

Of course one of the biggest challenges is to get sales and I was impressed by the enthusiasm and efforts the young people made to encourage the public to get involved in what they were selling. Some had dressed up in constume to attract attention, others were meeting and greeting people at the entrance to the shopping centre with a big smile and a catchy welcome. Others waited for the public to pass by their stands, attractively decorated with their products and sales message.

Many of the youngsters had the natural touch for engaging you in conversation and very obvious pride in their product. They had belief and knowledge that is often missing in the everyday business world. How often do we come across people selling their wares who appear to be just going through the motions and have no passion for what they do? This was not the case here.

The key to selling anything is to make a great first impression and demonstrate passion and knowledge around your subject. People need a reason to buy and these young entrepreneurs were providing that reason. My wife walked away with several purchases from some of the stands, with a very real intention to use the products which met her needs and solved a problem. This is essential in any sales conversaton.

The consumer only buys for two reasons: a) to solve a problem, or b) to provide a means of achieving a dream. The majority of the stands in the trade fair did exactly what they needed to do to create instant sales. They created a great first impression, delivered their message with passion, listened to their customers and provided a solution to their problem at a price that reflected value for money.

By delivering on all these fronts, they did not need to sell, they simply provided the customer with a compelling reason to buy. That's the only way to sell - do it from a buyer's perspective.

If you need to increase your sales by selling from a buyer's perspective - check out our next event.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Somewhere over the rainbow

I always take the view that every cloud has a silver lining and that problems are just obstacles that need to be overcome. In fact without the obstacles how would we ever have the opportunity to learn and grow?

Some people say that taking this positive attitude all the time is not being realistic. I say we create our own reality and that if we focus on the worst case scenario, that's what we'll get. The teachers of "The Secret" - Jack Canfield, Bob Proctor, John Assaraf etc., all speak of this and if you are familiar with their stories, amongst many others, you will know this to be true.

By all means prepare for anticipated challenges, (it would be foolish not to), but don't get hung up on them and let them take over your existence.

Decide what you want, get clear on your outcome, and think through the potential barriers that may get in your way. Having done this you can create the action plans that ensure you move closer to achieving what you aim for. As you progress you may find unexpected obstacles come up anyway and by taking the view that you can get past or over them, you are more likely to come up with the solution(s).

I've had a few conversations recently with friends about the power of possibility and for me, whilst sometimes things can be a struggle and challenging, I always come back to the fact that anything really is possible if we believe it to be so.

Just yesterday I was listening to a success based audio programme (tip- listen to these often and notice how your attitude changes over time), and we were reminded that successful people focus on success and unsuccessful people focus on the things they don't have. It makes a lot of sense really. If we focus on what we want, the success we are looking for, whether it be health, wealth, great relationships, business success, finance or simply happiness, we will see the opportunities to create momentum towards that success. If, however, we focus on what we don't want, debt, stress, illness, bankruptcy, divorce etc, we are just reinforcing all those things in our lives and missing the clues on how to move forward.

So, I don't apologise for taking a positive, possibility oriented approach to life. If having a positive attitude, despite all our day-to-day challenges is being unrealistic, I'm not sorry. In fact, I highly recommend it!

Thursday, 22 January 2009

There's a lot going on...

We talked about it before Christmas. Everybody said it would happen. I fully expected it, and yet even I was astounded by the sheer force of it all...

What am I talking about? Well, its simply the enormous range and quantity of development material, trainings, programmes, teleconferences, success groups and seminars available to us right now.

Everyone and his dog is promoting something to "beat the recession" or "fight off the credit crunch" or "make your millions while everyone else is losing their shirt" inbox is full!

The simple fact is it was always going to be the case that people would need to, and indeed are now, marketing their wares more aggressively than ever before to make an impact and get noticed.