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Secret: You’re Not the First Salesperson They Met

handshakeI know this may come as a surprise to some of you, but the prospects you contact, have probably met other sales people before. They have probably been pitched, presented and smooshed about similar products and services.

I know, I know, that’s a little heartbreaking because you thought the canned sales process that you learned from a company handbook was gonna be the exact formula you needed to see your picture on the wallboard behind the reception desk at ABC Contractors.

Sorry to burst your bubble but I’m here to encourage you to think outside the box. Take your game to a higher level by incorporating your personality and some creativity in the mix. Don’t fight your way tooth and nail to a pitch appointment and then blow it by presenting the prospect with the same old sales pitch that they’ve seen over and over again. Shock, awe, and wow them.

When I was 23 years old, I decided I was going to start an advertising agency. I didn’t know anything about the advertising business but as a performer, voice over artist and singer, I knew how to make commercials and jingles.

I never consulted anyone about my business decision and there really wasn’t much of an internet back then to look up any tips or blog postings about it, so I flew completely blind.

I was living in Santa Barbara at the time and one day, I hit the streets and started walking into restaurants around town, just to grab a flyer or to-go menu. After I collected the material I was looking for, I went home and produced full blown :30 and :60 second radio commercials featuring these businesses. I had a different style with my commercials, mostly humorous and some very in-your-face.

I then contacted all the local radio stations and asked for their rate sheets, explaining that I was a new agency in town and I would be bringing them business. Sales managers were all very cooperative and happy to help.

As soon as I marked up the spot rates and printed out some advertising contracts, I took a boom-box and all the cassettes I made [back then we had these odd shaped things called ‘tapes’–Google it], and I re-visited all of the businesses that I had made the commercials for. I dressed nice, but not in a suit. I asked for the owner or manager, shook their hand and hit “play” on the machine.

I had a 100% selling success rate. There was not one business that didn’t move forward in an advertising campaign with my agency.

The radio stations loved me. I was bringing them so much business that one company finally asked me to host my own show on their station. That later led to me having a career in radio so I let my business fade, but had I stayed with it, I know it would have grown tremendously.

Why was I so successful?

I came up with something different. Once they heard their name in lights, they couldn’t say no.  People love to be in the spotlight [if they only knew about ‘selfies’ back then].  But it’s deeper than that. Here’s a guy that walks in off the street with something they can grab a hold of. Something tangible. I didn’t walk in wearing a sales-suit with a bunch of graphs on a piece of paper, touting all kinds of padded statistics. I handed them something they could experience for themselves.

The quality of the commercials and the approach was so good, they didn’t even care what radio station I placed them on. They trusted my judgment. Then when the commercials brought results, they kept reordering more blocks of advertising.

One customer actually called me after a few months of advertising and said, “hey, I think we’re gonna have to tone down the commercials a little. This last one you did, some lady complained to me that it really bothered her.”

“Where was she when she complained,” I asked him.

“She was in line ordering food.” He responded.

“Do you still want to change our approach?” I asked.

Whatever industry your in, there’s always a creative game plan you can put together to stand out among your competitors.

When I sold cars, I walked out to greet customers on the lot and began by saying, “Hi my name is Wayne and I hate car salesman”.  No one expected that and it brought their guard down.

When I sold AFLAC insurance, I didn’t just pitch the payouts a customer could get, I showed a breakdown of what one of my family members who fought a long bout of cancer would have been paid if she had AFLAC. I said, “If I was working here sooner, she would have been covered and been paid $30,000+”

You get the idea. Now go do it. Put yourself in your prospects seat. What part of your sales process would annoy or alienate you if you were pitching yourself? Remove it and come up with something fresh…and go make some money dang it! 🙂

 

 

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The Macy’s & Gimbel’s Policy Works

macysgimbelsAs humans, we’re pretty competitive by nature. Not just when we play sports or fight with our siblings growing up, we’re also very competitive in business. Day in and day out we are plotting and planning the best ways to beat the competition in our industry.

When I was a kid, every year just after Thanksgiving, I always looked forward to watching the classic movie, “Miracle on 34th Street” with Natalie Wood. The folks over there in Hollywood did a decent remake of the movie in the 90s, but I love the black and white classic best.

As a child, I’m sure what I loved most about the film was all the fantasy of the real Santa Claus playing the part of department store Santa and how they proved he was real in a courtroom of non-believers. However, something else in that film stuck with me for many years–The Macy’s & Gimbel’s Policy.

In the movie, the man that Macy’s hired to play Santa, sent parents over to their direct competition, Gimbel’s, if Macy’s didn’t stock an item that they were looking for. You can imagine the uproar these actions started within the company, sending precious customers straight to their competition.

As you would expect, Kris Kringle was about to be fired, until something amazing happened. The public was so impressed with Macy’s appearance of genuine care for their customer’s needs, business boomed through the roof. Macy’s came across as a company who puts the people first and it greatly benefited them.

Now you can say “that’s only a movie” but I’m here to tell you, a similar policy or stance in everyday business works as well. I’m not telling to you send customers to your competition if you’re simply out of stock and need to buy a little time to replenish. I’m not telling you to teach your staff to back away from a “product switch” if there’s an opportunity for them to be sales people instead of order takers. At the end of the day, there are quotas to be met and bills to pay.

What I am saying is, people are armed with smartphones, tablets, apps, computers and every tool they need to be aware that you ain’t the only game in town. So don’t act like you have to do whatever it takes to sell them at that moment in fear that they may find a better deal elsewhere. Give them the better deal now. If you can’t, then give them a better reason to buy from you. But don’t try to earn their business by putting your foes down, criticizing or bad mouthing them. People are watching you and listening to every word you say. Trash talkin’ other companies is a turn off and it may send someone directly to them.

When I sold Ford automobiles and trucks, people constantly came in, went through the demo process and then said, “I don’t know…I like this car, but I’m think I’m going to buy a…” [insert brand name here]. When you spend 30-60 minutes showing someone all the features of a car, taking them on test drives and really pouring your passion into your brand, it kinda stings when a potential customer tells you they are probably going somewhere else. Especially when the car they said they want to buy is far less superior in quality, design, features, etc.

What did I do?

I made sure I knew all the features of the other cars in my competition circle so that I knew how my cars compared to them. And when I spoke about the other brand, I never put them down.

“Honda makes a great car, no doubt about it,” I would say. “If you plan on keeping the car for a long time, Honda will last and give you a great life with minimum maintenance.”

I had a manager once yell at me for that kind of advice. But it’s the truth. What I am supposed to do, lie and say the car is a piece of junk? I’m not that kind of person. I sell truth with truth.

“Let me ask you a question,” I would continue. “If price wasn’t an option and both cars were made by the same manufacturer, which one is nicer by design, more comfortable and has better features?”

9 out of 10 times the answer was my car. Oh yea, I know Ford used to make horrible vehicles but times have changed. Detroit is pumping out some award winning sets of wheels over the last few years.

By asking this question and getting the customer to choose my car, now I know the only thing holding back the sale is price or brand name. That’s easy to overcome by just building value of my product, not by trashing another brand.

And customers appreciate it when you respect other brands–because they may like these other brands. You trashing brands they like makes them feel like you’re trashing them.

Here’s an idea. Why not learn about your competition and see if there’s anything they offer that could enhance the products or services that you sell? In other words, maybe share a customer.

If you don’t have any product that work for a given person, send them to the competition knowing that you may get nothing out of it. Most of the time, that kind of service, either convinces a customer to do business with you at some time down the road, helps change their mind back to doing business with you now or it gives them reason to recommend you to others.

I had dozens of referral customers that came to me from people that I never sold a car to.  They sent their friends and family to me because even when they didn’t buy a car off of me, I treated them with respect and appreciation. People want that kind of service for the people they care about.

When someone told me they were buying from someone else, I even went so far as to say, “hey, when you’re over there negotiating that other brand, call me before you sign so I can help make sure they’re not taking advantage of you.” I offered to help them buy another brand. No, I’m not crazy.  That level of care for their needs is the reason I never had a bad month. It’s the reason I was constantly promoted. It’s the reason I still get calls well after I left the company from people that want to buy more cars off of me.

Send them to Gimbel’s.  You will prosper greatly from it.