Excerpted from the book on mindful business management, Business Black Belt
Creating an environment where sales can occur.
Have your customers think it’s their idea to buy your product or service.
Most people fail in marketing because they’re too bashful to market full out. If you really have confidence in your product or service, if you really believe in what you’re selling, there shouldn’t be any problem in pulling out all the stops to let the world know what you have and why they need it.
When I first started learning marketing, the idea was to get customers interested enough so they would call, then you could give them a sales presentation. This leads to a multi-step sales approach, which means answering a call, answering questions, sending an expensive brochure, making several sales presentations (taking one or more hours each), making follow-up calls, sending more literature and follow-up letters, and so on. That’s fine if you have nothing better to do than give sales presentations to anyone who’ll listen. But I’d rather no one called unless they were really interested. Besides, how much time does this multi-step approach take and how much does it cost?
As a customer, I don’t want to go through that tedious process either. I’m more concerned that the product or service does everything I want it to do, that the price is right, and that the seller will provide any service or support that I may need later.
Why not give prospective customers everything they need to know to make an intelligent purchasing decision on their own after they look through your literature? I look at our own literature and packaging and constantly ask, “Is there anything else I need to know to compel me to buy this product?” When customers ask questions, we use those questions as our cue to incorporate the answers into our literature, packaging and website.
Here’s why: We can’t be sure someone will always be available to accurately answer those questions by phone, in a retail store, or elsewhere. Customers want answers right now wherever they are—no matter what time of day.
And, here’s the kicker: If people had all the information they needed, the unqualified customers wouldn’t waste your time, energy, and resources. Look at your financial statements (or projections) and add up what it costs you to make a sale. Anything and everything you can do to minimize the number of steps in your sales-cycle will make a difference.
Marketing is not an event but a continuous process.
The fact that customers usually buy from us on the first contact saves us a tremendous investment in our costs of selling. I want it to be a one-step sales cycle for your sanity as well as ours. This involves pricing, advertising, reputation, and constant study of what it takes to enable your customer to feel comfortable enough to place their order on their own. Instead of $100, we would need to sell our software for $300 to pay for the additional selling expenses, and our profits would be about the same. Even if your sales process involves a sales contract and presentation, approaching your marketing with this intention will make a dramatic improvement in your results.
Sell to the person who ends up with the product
Who actually buys your product or service and uses it for their personal benefit? This is the person to whom you must direct your advertising and marketing, especially when you have a limited budget.
Dealers and resellers also see these ads! You don’t need to spend big bucks on industry promos trying to convince dealers to sell your products. We’ve spent a fortune on marketing programs aimed at dealers, but still I think it’s more important to convince your ultimate customer that they want your product. If the world wants it, you can bet that dealers will line up to sell it to them.
When JIAN first wanted to get into retail, we pulled a dirty trick. Our ads included our 800 number, but we also stated that our products were available through leading retail stores. Although, they weren’t—yet. A few frustrated customers called and said the stores weren’t carrying our products, but we made them happy by shipping to them directly. At the same time, the store buyers would call and want to know how they could carry our products. The problem we created only lasted a few months. We had a special package ready for the stores when they called, and the customers got free overnight shipping, and sometimes we even shipped to the customer via the store.
reader’s intelligence, or whose attitude is patronizing.
~ E. B. White
You’ve got 3 seconds to grab their attention
OK, you’ve got your customers’ attention (there are lots of creative ways to do that), now what? This is where most marketers goof. I’ve been in more than one meeting where there was general agreement that people are stupid. You know, use eighth grade language. The trap is to follow-up your attention-grabbing headline or graphic with something meaningless. Meaningless doesn’t sell. It doesn’t leave a lasting impression that can be built upon by another ad or promotional campaign. Meaningless doesn’t give your salesperson a head start with a new customer. I assume something different…
I assume that people are intelligent, but distracted. They’ve got a lot on their minds, a lot of other promos are going on around them and they don’t have much time to focus on any one thing. Given this assumption, your message better make a point quickly and, although you may not always compel your audience to take immediate action, at least you can plant something useful and memorable in their minds. I recommend a specific benefit or advantage that your product or service delivers. Rather than using worthless drivel like, “Our employee manual software is the finest on the market. You’ll see when you distribute it to your employees. Look for it at your favorite software store…” Say, “With 200+ employee policies and 30 benefits fully scripted in warm, friendly, plain-English, our EmployeeManualBuilder software will keep you out of court and build a smooth working relationship with your employees.” These are specifics appealing to an intelligent person. Even if they don’t buy right away, the message has a chance of staying with them until they are ready to buy.
Think about this the next time you’re involved in the development of any message to your customers. From this perspective, you will write an altogether different promotion than you would if you assumed people are stupid. 9
are the very things others find most annoying.
Do your promos get in the way of your customers?
People who brag too much call too much attention to themselves and less to their merits. The best martial artists I’ve known are usually soft-spoken and unassuming. The guys who talk a lot seem to do so to make up for a lack of performance. I always loved sparring with the talkers in karate class. The quiet ones were the ones to worry about. Likewise, your promotional materials themselves should be transparent to your audience — your customers just want your product. If they notice your ad or brochure, then it is ineffective. Do you want to call attention to your ad or to your product? Do you want your customer to buy your ad or your product? Think about this subtle distinction when you look at advertising and at your own ads. Too much attention to the ad itself competes with what it is supposed to be selling. I’m sure you can think of many memorable ads, but which ones spark your memory of the product?
Address objections up front
Let’s face it, you already know exactly why any customer might object to buying your product or service. (If you don’t yet know what the objections are, you’ll find out very quickly after talking with a few customers.) Rather than have your customers get the upper hand by bringing them up first and putting you in a defensive position, I recommend beating your customers to the punch.
The Heinz ketchup commercials on TV make the hell we go through to get the ketchup out of the bottle (with too small an opening) seem like a benefit!
Bring up the possible objection as part of your sales presentation or lead with the objection as if it weren’t a big deal. You know your customer will bring it up eventually and you don’t want him or her to build a strong position on it. So address the objection early and positively:
For the $1,000 you’ll invest in this product, we provide x, y, and z because they will be important in the long run for your business.
Not: “Well, uh, we added x, y, and z and that’s why it costs $1,000.”
Your customers will discover your warts soon enough because your competitors will surely tell them. But if your customers already know and have been properly educated in advance, they can withstand a competitor’s pitch against you. Bringing out perceived negative points—but not at the expense of all your positive points—up-front assures your customer that you are being forthright and honest, and will help build a solid relationship.
Originated to help develop advertising brochures and promotional pieces, these 20 questions are what most people will want to know about your business.
You can also include this template as an initial summary for bankers or investors. You should have the answers to these questions readily available when seeking a loan or investments for your new venture.
- – What type of business do you have?
- – What is the purpose of this business?
- – What is your product or service?
- – Who is your target audience?
- – What is the product/service application?
- – Can you list three unique benefits of your product or service?
- – What is the key message or phrase to describe your business in one sentence?
- – What is your reason for starting or running this business? (What’s a nice person like you doing in a business like this? Here’s where you can tell a heart-warming story of why you are uniquely qualified to deliver the best….)
- – Do you have datasheets, brochures, diagrams, sketches, photographs, related press releases or other documentation about your product/service?
- – What led you to develop your product/service?
- – Is this product or service used in connection with other products or services?
- – List the top three objections to buying your product/service immediately?
- – When will your product be available?
- – Who is your competition?
- – How is your product differentiated from that of your competition?
- – What is the pricing of your product versus your competition?
- – Are you making any special offers?
- – What plans do you have for advertising & promotions?
- – How will you finance company growth?
- – Do you have the management team needed to achieve your goals?
(These questions are included with BizPlanBuilder® and MarketingBuilder™.)
Business Black Belt Notes
- Look at your entire selling environment. Consider how you can influence your customers and have them want to buy from you.
- Direct your marketing messages to the person who will buy and use your product or service—everyone in between (resellers et al) will be interested as well.
- People are intelligent, but distracted. While you’ve got their attention (about eight seconds), give them something worth knowing and remembering.
- Address objections up front in a favorable, positive way.
9 Much has been written on marketing. I’ve read a lot of it and I practice as much as possible. Rather than give you my version of marketing, I’ll refer you to a variety of very well-written and informative books that I’ve followed very successfully. If you feel that this subject is a priority for you, run out and grab these books!
- Ogilvy, David. Ogilvy on Advertising. New York, New York. Crown, 1983.
- Ries, Al and Jack Trout. Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind. New York, New York,
- McGraw-Hill, 1981.
- Ries, Al and Jack Trout. Bottom-Up Marketing. New York, McGraw-Hill, 1989.