Posts Tagged ‘sales tips


What do customers really want?

I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that your customers don’t really care about the latest whiz-bang feature of your new whatchamathingy. I’m also willing to bet they don’t really care that much about how big you are, how small you are, how nice your office is, what your vision or mission might be or how awesome your last ad campaign was. Over the course of doing many surveys and focus groups with executives and physicians, one thing has been absolutely consistent. Customers want you to solve their problems.

This could mean reducing costs or hassles (which usually incur added costs) or increasing revenue. But promising these broad concepts isn’t good enough. You need to understand your prospect’s and customer’s problems on a case-by-case basis. And you need to be up front about whether you can truly solve these problems.

For some of you, this might seem painfully obvious. However, take a look at all of your outward facing marketing and sales materials. Do they specifically state the types of problems you solve? Can your sales people articulate the types of problems typically faced by customers and align them with solutions?

For example, FedX solves the problem of getting packages to their destination when they “absolutely, positively have to be there overnight”. If your problem involves delivering a package within 24 hours, it is pretty clear that FedX is in the business of solving this specific problem.

Another way to look at this equation is to think of it in terms of pain. For example, when I am talking to a prospect I may explain my capabilities in terms of the types of pain the prospect might be feeling. For example:

I work with CEOs that are:
– concerned about a lack of new opportunities coming through the door.
– frustrated by spending on marketing programs that don’t seem to impact revenue goals
– angry that their sales and marketing teams are at odds resulting in missed opportunities

My point here is to deliver your message in emotional language the prospect can understand and to which he or she can relate on a personal level. A list of features just isn’t effective in created the gut-feel buying impulse that causes the buyer to choose your offerings over your competitors.

Whether you are selling electronic boxes or accounting services, at the end of the day your customer buys for his or her own reasons. Rarely do they buy based on logic. How can you tap the emotion of the buyer and clearly communicate how you can improve his or her condition?


The Way Not To Sell

I got this email today. It’s important that you know I’ve never talked to this person. I have heard of the company (who’s name has been changed because I’m feeling charitable at the moment) but this was sent to me cold. I’ve added my comments. The original email is in yellow. (I’m just sharing this with you – I didn’t respond to the email. Yet.) And, before you comment, yes, I’m a big jerk.

Dear Pete,

Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak with you regarding Acme Business Services.

I haven’t given him the opportunity – I’ve never spoke to him or heard of him. Nice trick though.

I’m happy to introduce myself as the Regional Director of Business Development for your area.

Good for you. I’m glad you are happy. Do you want a cookie?

I have been serving the market research industry for over a decade and am well acquainted with our services and how they might align with your particular service needs.

I’m glad he’s well acquainted with his own services. How could he know what my “particular service needs” are? We’ve never met or talked. He probably doesn’t know that all my clients are sky diving nuns with eating disorders.

Please review the attached marketing information and be sure to contact me if you have any questions. I will follow up this email with a phone call within the coming weeks to explore in detail how Acme Business Services can be positioned as a valuable partner.

Oh, boy! I can’t wait to read your marketing doublespeak about why you are so great. I can’t wait for your call so you can tell me even more about your company – in detail!

I look forward to serving you with enthusiasm and passion,

Is he hitting on me?

making our commitment of world class service a top priority.

Uh, what? You want to make your commitment a top priority? I’m totally committed to my top priority of giving up donuts but that doesn’t mean I don’t keep horking them down. I bet you offer excellent excellence too.

Thank you very much.

Don’t mention it.

Warmest regards,

John Smithe
Director, Business Development
Acme Business Services

This email violates everything I know about selling. It starts with a trick – implying that we’ve spoken and I “gave him the opportunity”. I’ve given you nothing and it’s unlikely that I will once you’ve insulted my intelligence.

Next, the message jumps right in talking all about the sender. How happy he is to have a job and to tell me about it. He goes on to say how smart he is about what his company does. I don’t care how much you know about YOUR business – tell me how much you know about MY business!

It just goes downhill from there.

My point is not to be mean to the well meaning sender of this email. My goal here is to help you see a better way to ignite a potential relationship.

In fact, I wouldn’t even send a message like this. I would make a personal phone call and ask permission to take 30 seconds to find out if the person is even remotely interested in talking to me. And if he or she is, the conversation will be all about his/her needs. Then, together we can decide if there is any point in starting a relationship.

And you would never hear me talking about my passion, commitment to excellent excellence or my stupendously superfluous synergy.

That is all.


The single most important thing you can do to grow your business.

First let me say that I’ve been guilty of what I’m about to share with you. In the past, as the founder and owner of a successful marketing firm in Milwaukee, I thought I knew everything I needed to know about what my customers want and how they buy. My biggest mistake was thinking that my company could do no wrong when it came to servicing clients. I thought we were the best and I knew my clients knew it. The sky was the limit and my ego was pushing this limit to the max.

The irony is that my team regularly developed and executed customer surveys for our clients but we never did one for ourselves. After a particularly perplexing client phone call, I called my friend, Bill Lowell from Business Development Directives and asked him to perform executive interviews with a random sample of my clients. Something wasn’t right and I realized I was too close to the problem to put my finger on it.

Bill performed interviews with thirty past and present clients. While we scored very high in overall satisfaction, around 98%, our survey went beyond satisfaction metrics and focused on where we could improve; attitudes about pricing, buying criteria and more. After all, even a satisfied customer will still buy from someone else if the circumstances are right. We learned that many of our clients also bought from our competitors – including some we had never heard of before! I learned that clients wanted to see more of me – and less of a certain staff member who was described by more than one client as “obnoxious”. The biggest thing we discovered is that many of our clients thought our pricing was too low!

Since then, I’ve come to personally understand the importance of working with customers to refine, improve and focus marketing and sales efforts. I’ve developed a process that moves beyond mere “customer satisfaction” and provides answers to the questions that keep you up at night.

You might be wondering why I brought in Bill to do my survey when we were in the business of doing this type of work. The reason is simple. This is one of the few tasks companies should never attempt to do themselves. Of course I encourage you to have regular dialogs with your customers to gain insight and create strong personal bonds. However, customers are reluctant to tell you about issues that they think may insult you or hurt your feelings – the very issues that are hurting your business! By performing anonymous interviews with an objective, third party, customers are more willing to be completely candid.

Not just a conversation – an Executive Interview
Furthermore, a casual conversation is much different from the executive interviews performed during the research process. This process produces very specific data used to spot trends. Each question must be carefully developed and delivered in exactly the same way to ensure that respondents are not “led” by the researcher to a biased answer. The survey is done in a tightly controlled manner and is designed to answer specific questions.

Generally the surveys I implement are designed to uncover the criteria and process used to select one company over another. Is reputation more important than price? Is location important? Is industry specialization the key factor? Once this criteria is identified and ranked, we’ll ask how we compare to competitors based on this criteria. Using a combination of structured and open ended questions, (remember, this is a conversation, not an interrogation), we get down to what is really important to your customers; how you can do better, what they really think of your business, how they make buying decisions, other needs they may have, who your competitors really are, and much more. Each survey is tailored to what you need to know to sell more, increase profit and close more deals.

The million dollar question
It’s difficult to predict the outcome of these surveys. Typically, we find out that our clients’ perceptions and assumptions are about 90 percent accurate. They know their business and generally make good decisions. What makes the biggest impact is the 10 percent they are getting wrong and the customers are more than happy to set us straight. For one client, we learned that a majority of their customers felt that a certain employee’s involvement was critical to continue doing business with my client. In other words, if this employee left, the customers would leave with him. Another client discovered that a customer was buying from a competitor simply because they didn’t know my client provided this type of product. This resulted in an additional $2.5 million dollars in revenue – simply because we asked the question!

Customer surveys should be a regular part of your operations. Done properly, they can have immense impact on the success of your business. There are no shortcuts here. The good news is that your customers are chomping at the proverbial bit to tell you what’s on their minds. All you have to do is ask.

Who is Pete Monfre

CLICK HERE to visit my web site

I'm a serial entrepreneur, marketing and media guy, raconteur, writer, producer and consultant. I write this little blog to help you unravel the mysteries of marketing and selling, to expose the silliness that masquerades as marketing and help you make better decisions that will grow your business. And I have fun with it. Why not comment? That way we can have a conversation. Or better yet, hop on over to my web site and drop me a line.

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