“I bet I can get that coat off him” the wind declared.
“You’re on!” said the sun, “A tenner says you can’t.”
The wind gathered up all its force and howled down from the sky and it hit the man at full power. He ended up tumbling down the road like an Autumn leaf but with every blast he pulled the coat tighter and tighter around him. In the end the wind gave up exhausted.
“OK” he admitted to the sun, “You win, the guy will never let that coat go.”
“I can get it off him” grinned the sun. “Want to get your money back double or quits?”
The sun rose majestically into the sky where he smiled and shone and blazed. The flowers opened, the puddles dried, the birds began to sing. The man mopped his sweating brow, smiled and of course took off his coat (whilst singing, I’m sure, zipidee doo dah).
Will your customers be singing zipidee doo dah once you have finished with them?
The companies who made components and raw materials would send out armies of salespeople to win the battle for orders.
Here is a very harsh snapshot of life back then. Four salespeople would have an appointment to see a buyer of components. After each one did their best to show their product in the best light, only one would walk out with the order. For every purchase made there were always a number of disappointed salespeople. It was usual to have more supply than demand. The empty handed salesperson could cost his company jobs; the winner put food on everyone’s table so it is no wonder they became superstars. Well those times are back.
A street has five coffee bars – why should people drink in yours? Five window cleaners called this week, why should I use you? You make garden furniture but so do five other people, why should I buy from you?
The answer is that you have to grab the situation by the throat and sell, and not just on price. If you aren’t actually asking people to buy on a regular basis, then in the current crisis you just won’t survive.
Companies find adding value so hard, sometimes, that they abandon it, and, to my horror, some branches of this new religion called CRM (customer relationship management) actually encourage it.
There was a halfwit who was being paraded as the profit of CRM who suggested that quality and service could be dumped if one could determine, through CRM, that the customers were driven only by price and that those customers could be profitably harvested under those terms.
A supermarket chain was cited as a glittering example, their outlets are the sort of vast, grey concrete hangers, where sad people with snotty kids and fat arses waddle out with trolleys laden with dayglo orange and green soft drinks, forty pound bags of cheap chocolate marshmallows, and twenty four putty coloured loaves of sliced bread.
Too miserable and depressing to even contemplate owning a company like that, but should you be so full of despair and lacking in joie de vivre that you open one of these places in competition, try throwing in a smile, a bit of service, some knowledgeable people, and you will scoop the pot. They do not realise how vulnerable they are. No one in their game has nice, happy, value-adding people, so they believe, wrongly, that they don’t need them. Good people – your army – is the trojan horse that will allow you to tear those walls down.
Thought: if you are in a crap industry, just being consistently less crap than the competition will keep you ahead of the game.
Watch every customer contact and count how often your people ask for the business. Increase that number, increase your profit. Simple, huh?
What Marketing and sometimes sales really do is create expectations. People always buy because they expect something. Does everyone who works with you know what that customer expects and are they sufficiently equipped to deliver it?
The essence of persuasion is about getting predictable outcomes from normally unpredictable situations. In other words, it is reactive – therefore sales scripts are the road to hell.
There is an old classic in the sales world which states, “The sales people have got a great script, it’s just that the customers keep forgetting their lines.” I love to see complacency shattered and I delight in that look of horror that comes over the smugest of faces when the promised outcome spins out of control.
I once saw a documentary about saving some huge crocodiles from a dam project. For once the crocodile was the victim, for its own good of course. This huge brute had been shot with a powerful tranquiliser gun and was now being carried to its new home by an earnest team of zoologists. There were two men at the jaw end, two on each leg and two on the tail, yet even so they were struggling. The man on the far end of the tail was the team leader and he was calling out commands in a reasonable imitation of Bob Newhart.
When the creature reached its new lake home, the coolness of the water immediately revived it and it awoke in a mood of some malice towards those who had messed about with it. The jaw-men were the first to see the wicked eye snap open and without a moment’s hesitation they were off, followed in short order by the leg men, all of them running in that peculiar high-stepping way one does in shallow water. At this point of course the chain of command had failed completely, but our man on the tail continued to shout “OK guys, I’ve got him!” The crocodile realised that it still had a tormentor on its tail and in fury it lashed wildly. Our hero, for his part, realised as he took off in a huge arc at about ninety miles an hour, that his grip on said tail was now his only hope of survival. The monster found that by bending double he could almost reach the interloper with his teeth. His jaws would snap shut microns from the man’s bum. In fury at missing, the croc would lash again – snap, scream, lash, snap, scream, lash, with the rest of the team (by now safe on the shore) shouting for him to let go, whilst adding to the confusion by taking pot shots with the stun gun. Eventually the professor was thrown to the shore having illustrated to perfection the danger of thinking you know in advance how any other intelligent life form, be it crocodile or customer, is going to behave.
This is an excerpt from Resistance is Useless
We fall over one day and realise we’ve broken our arm. We are certain this is the case because of the pain, our friend’s view of the situation and the fact that we shouldn’t have two elbows on the same arm. This prompts us to see the doctor.
“Good morning, what seems to be the trouble?” she says (a nice open-investigating question).
“I think I’ve broken my arm!”
Now imagine the doctor had been reading sales training books. Clearly there is an opportunity for a deal. A problem has been suggested and can soon be turned into a decision by strong benefit statements.
“Oh boy do I have an opportunity for you! What we intend to do is to amputate your left leg and the exciting thing is that I can guarantee a fifty percent drop in sock washing costs!”
There are a couple of sinister flies paddling about in this particular ointment. Firstly the customer was interested in their arm. If all we do are legs, we are a bit stuffed despite our verbal dexterity. Secondly whilst the benefit or even incentive may be a fifty percent reduction in a certain cost, it cannot compensate for the pain and loss of the offered solution. Let’s get back to the real doctor.
“I think I’ve broken my arm.”
This statement must suggest a need, well surely the need must be a treatment for the broken arm, but not so fast. As we may have seen it is never a good idea to offer your solution too fast.
“You think you’ve broken it? How did this happen?”
“I fell over the cat.”
“Really? Pets can cause so much trouble can’t they. When did this happen?”
“About three days ago.”
“And when did it go this colour?”
“Did that hurt?”
“Hmmm, I think you’re right, you may have broken your arm, but just to be sure I’m sending you to the hospital for an Xray. When I get the results back we will decide on the best treatment.”
What you have here is that even when the customer thinks they have identified the problem and the solution they believe they want and need, the skilled practitioner continues with their investigation until the absolutely correct diagnosis and solution are found.
Try to think as a doctor would when you meet your prospects. Have no preconceived ideas of what solutions, products, or services you wish to offer and don’t be mislead by what they initially state that they think they want or need. Patiently take notes and check back on possible grey areas by asking questions. Apart from anything else, it will make you appear important and professional which goes a long way towards persuasion before you even start persuading, if you know what I mean.
Excerpt from Irresistible Persuasion
I have just finished writing my new book, dotted the i’s crossed the t’s or is it crossed the i’s and brewed the t’s, but in any event I have approved the cover and see that it is already advertised on Amazon (it’s also on this site!) The book is called Irresistible Persuasion and the idea is to give the reader the power to persuade anyone to do anything. In a business environment I suppose that skill is best applied to sales.
While researching the book I revisited all the old sales books – some that went back before the second world war. One of those came up with the three key tips which were, 1) always remove your hat before addressing a buyer, 2) always retain your bus tickets to show your manager, 3) never try to sell to women as they are governed by their emotions. Hopefully things may have moved on a bit from there, but as I revisited the old sales techniques and delved into the sophisticated sales systems I started to realise that it is the simple stuff that really pays dividends. When I talk to established salespeople they raise their eyebrows at “open questions” “benefits” and “closing the sale”. “We have done that!” they say and then go on to demand more challenging new and sophisticated techniques. If they were to sit an exam on sales techniques I bet they could answer every question, yet when I watch them in a real interaction with the customer it all goes out of the window. If you doubt me, when was the last time that anyone asked you to buy anything or to give them a firm decision of any kind?
If you are reading this and you are a well established pro, I bet you could improve your hit rate by going back to the good old days and asking for the order. From my point of view as an adviser to business, my biggest successes have been with the simple stuff. Whatever our position within the company every customer contact can be turned into a sale or an increase in sales.
“Some one rang when you was out”
“Who was it?”
“Where were they ringing from?”
“What did they want?”
“Any clues at all?”
“Yes, they were furious.”
Even when everyone has decided to be cheery and helpful it doesn’t mean that they are sales aware. Time after time oh so simple sales tips have resulted in returns of millions to our clients. For instance, to a chain of garden stores the before example was, “Hello, thank you for calling Happy Gardens, I’m Brian, how can I help?” ”Do you still have the bargain patio set?” “Yes we do, Sir, stacks of them.” “Thank you” “No problem Sir.”
And now the new way… “Hello, thank you for calling Happy Gardens, I’m Brian, how can I help you?” “Do you still have the bargain patio sets?” “Oh, they have been selling really well, I’m not sure that we have, I will have to check. May I take a name, Sir, and do you have a number where we can contact you?” After the replies… “Thank you for that, Mr Smith, I will just go and check. Did you want the brown or the white?” “The white, please.” “If we have got a set I will put it to one side for you. When can we expect to see you?”
I have shortened that exchange a lot but you can see how this is turning into a sale using classics like, shortage creates demand, get obligation, and the alternative close. Techniques so old that the Pharaohs used them to sell their mummies, but if it works don’t knock it. What about the restaurant where we got the friendly helpful staff to stop saying “Did you enjoy your meal? Will there be anything else?” There are two choices and one of those is “No thank you.” So we got them to say, “Did you enjoy your meal? Would you like sweet or coffee?” A sale from both choices (and they sold some pretty fancy coffee). The supermarket team where we discovered that when a customer asks for something, instead of pointing in its general direction, go and fetch the goods – that obligation made the customers buy. Then we discovered that if you fetched two of what they asked for, over fifty percent of the customers took both. Then there was the fish and chip shop where we got every member of staff to smile and say, as they wrapped the food, “Shall I pop in a pickled onion?” In one year that shop sold £15,000 worth of pickled onions. All simple stuff. All you need to do is to develop an indefatigable intention to sell. SIMPLE.
What can make an enterprise successful? One of the key things, I believe, is having the ability to sell. I can hear the clamour now as you all call out, “It’s about the product”, “No, it’s customer focus”, “No, it’s about quality”, “It’s the offer”, “It’s the unique skill”, “It’s sharp pricing.”
I’m sure it is all of those things and more but in our town we have a smelly young tramp who offers nothing apart from a bit of a pong. He sits on a piece of cardboard with his hairy dog and says to everybody, “Spare any change, please.” The local newspaper analysed his earnings and to my horror discovered he had an income of around £30,000 a year. No product, no service, and yet financially he is doing better than a lot of small businesses I know. How? He literally just asks for it. Do you go out and simply ask for the business you need?
When I write my books, I am trying to share some ideas that can help everyone become more confident with the skills that could help them succeed. In The Way of the Dog, I was inspired by watching a sheepdog take sheep from where they were, through a series of obstacles, to where the dog wanted them to be. The sheep are where they are – the dog never appeals for easier sheep and he never gives up, despite the obstacles, until the sheep are safely in the pen. This is of course an analogy about how we can find prospective customers – however distant or difficult – and guide them to our ‘pen’.
When my publisher commissioned a new book, I decided to take the journey idea further and attempt to set the persuasion process down as a road map that, if followed, should guarantee success. The new book is called ‘Irresistible Persuasion’ for a very good reason, because I have revealed the closely guarded secrets that are used by professional persuaders to get them what they want. If used responsibly, this book could get you what you want.
As you can see, we have redesigned the website and I am very excited about our new bookshop because like all good bookshops you can amble in and flick through a few pages to see what you think. So, have a look at ‘Resistance is Useless‘, ‘The Way of the Dog’ and the other books and hopefully you will soon be the first ever to have a taste of ‘Irresistible Persuasion’.
How to ensure that every visitor who visits your exhibition stand becomes a hot lead.