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.