“Don’t worry….it’s only a customer”

The biggest driver of customer loyalty is not, after all, the things you may think, like ‘value for money’, ‘customer service’, range of choices’ and so on.

No…recent research shows that we actually judge our suppliers by the speed, effort and willingness with which they handle our complaints.

In fact it such an important factor, that any customer who has had a problem with your business which you have willingly fixed to their entire satisfaction is almost always more loyal afterwards than a customer who has never had a problem. (even if we feel the customer was really to blame).

This new appreciation of the importance of after-sales service comes from an academic study by the Customer Contact Council which has found that customer loyalty is not created by delighting the customer with your general service levels. Your customer’s loyalty is based on how little effort they have to put in to getting their complaint or dissatisfaction dealt with satisfactorily.

The Council has devised something they call the Customer Effort Score (‘C.E.S.’)which has a 1-5 scale when this question is asked of customers: “ How much personal effort did you have to put in to get your request satisfied by your supplier?” (1= Very little effort 5= Maddeningly massive effort !)

Even a small reduction in effort is translated into a much greater increase in loyalty and by default ‘revenue’. On the other side an increase in ‘effort required’ has a 4 times greater ‘negative’ effect. Customers who have to put in a high amount of effort are 61% less likely to purchase again compared with your ‘average’ customer.

True (current) story: Right now I am waiting for the gardening company, who keep my home garden in check on a fortnightly (two-weekly) basis, to resolve two simple queries. They are ‘easy fixes’ on work carried out (or not) in this case. The owner of the company could say (after 10 years of a satisfactory –customer delight- relationship and lots of my money): ”Look I don’t know who’s right or wrong here but why don’t we just forget about the disputed charges and carry on as before?”

I would be perfectly happy with that. And would tell my next door neighbour how happy I was.

But, in fact, the issue has now been dragging on for three weeks while they ‘look into’ my complaints. (The owner is clearly more concerned with proving that he is ‘right’ than of retaining my custom. His employees completing the contract are aware of the dispute and have discretely told me that he actually ‘gets off’ on winning such customer disputes). I have made several ‘chasing’ phone calls to their office. I am still expending a great deal of effort with no conclusion in sight. I am not happy. If it doesn’t get resolved I will cancel their contract and go with a competitor. They will lose a loyal 10 year customer and all that future revenue. I will get a new gardener. In just about any market including yours there is no shortage of competitors.

How different from my local branch of a well known off-High street electronics/Hifi company in the UK “Richer Sounds”. They have a wonderful notice over their counter:

“Rule number 1: In this store The Customer is Always Right.

Rule number 2: When The Customer is wrong….see Rule number 1.”

No wonder the “Richer Sounds” chain is recorded as currently being the most profitable ‘per square foot’ retailer in the UK!

So, do you run a business (gardening or otherwise)? Do you know your own CES score? Do you care….or is your main motivation winning a dispute at all costs? “That’ll show him!” If you actually enjoy exasperating people more than increasing the size of your bank balance here are….

….8 simple ways you can immediately start to annoy your customers….

Take too long to fix a problem
Fail to keep your promises
Care more about proving you’re ‘right’ than solving their complaint
Transfer them from department to department while you play music at them
Fail to respond to their phone calls and left messages
Hold customers in uninformed suspension for days
Ask them for more business while this current problem is still unresolved.
Ensure that the ‘Support’ facility or ‘Chat’ window on or off your website completely inadequate
And the 1 easy way to make them come back for more:

Next time a customer raises a query or complaint, who ever’s ‘fault’ you ‘think’ it is, try saying this:

Magic Words: “I’m so sorry to hear that Mr Customer. What can I do to put things right immediately?”

Then just do it.

You’ll be amazed at the resulting happiness and loyalty. Remember…you’re not there to prove you’re ‘right’…you’re there to do more business.

Health Warning If you’re reading this and are a manager and owner of a business you might be saying to yourself: “Hey…this is not aimed at me and my business…we have great systems in place….all is well”. OK then, I challenge you to be a mystery shopper. Call your own after-sales line as if you were a customer and see how they deal with your question or query. As with one of our suppliers recently the CEO (When we finally got to speak to him) was shocked to find that we had had a query which nobody in his company (from lowly office worker to Main Board Director) had even begun responding to, for over 18 months!

Lesson: It is 80% easier and 80% less expensive to get more business from an existing happy customer than to go out and find a single new one.

Bob Etherington

“Europe’s Best Sales Trainer” :  [Voted by ‘Sales Innovation Expo’ 2015 and 2016, Excel London.]

www.bobetheringtongroup.com

bob@bobetheringtongroup.com

“Ah…No…..You probably can’t see that at the back!”

I’m not a ‘divine intervention’ type of person; maybe I should be. But three experiences in the past month, all to do with ‘stand-up presentations’ seem to indicate that ‘the Cosmos’ maybe directing me to write down a few guidance notes about delivering an effective stand up presentation. (On the other hand these cosmic imaginings may indicate that I’m completely delusional…probably.)

Anyway, firstly, out-of-the-blue last week, I received a letter from the UK Prime Minister’s office , 10 Downing Street, thanking me [on behalf of Mrs May] for a book on presentation skills which I wrote over 10 years ago [Yes really! The book and the letter].

Then secondly last week I sat through a Power Point presentation in the City of London in which the speaker spoke really well and passionately and made an otherwise mundane topic really interesting. But half way through she started accidentally pressing the reverse button on the ‘remote control’ for her slides; she was getting so carried away by her enthusiastic and animated delivery that she was oblivious to this. So while her speech went merrily forward her slides were going steadfastly backwards.

I saw what was happening ….but none of the audience noticed !

And finally (thirdly) last month (as an ex-Reuters employee) I attended the 200th Anniversary celebrations of the birth of Baron Julius Reuter, the Victorian founder of the news agency (Now called Thomson Reuters). As part of the celebrations we were invited to a screening of the 1940 black and white movie “A Dispatch From Reuters” [starring Edward G Robinson]. We all sat through the very dated but enjoyable black and white movie and applauded at the end. Suddenly, as we were leaving the screening room, an embarrassed member of the organising team stood up and announced, “Before you go ladies and gentlemen I must apologise for the fact that we’ve just noticed that a 20 minute slice was missing from the middle of the movie you were just watching”.

We audience members who had enjoyed the show were all surprised because none of the audience had noticed.

So what is really going on when we stand up to ‘present’ in front of a live audience? What do they take in and remember and how does the really successful speaker do it?

Here’s how:

1) The first thing to realise is that your ‘presentation’ is NOT your PowerPoint slide show.

Most speakers just haven’t realised this. So, when they have to ‘present’, the first thing –often the only thing- they prepare is their ‘slides’. They are then shocked (if their presentation is videoed) to see themselves afterwards, up on the stage, delivering their presentation but find their eyes riveted, not on their carefully prepared slides, but instead on the speaker (in this case themselves!).

The point is that we humans are social animals and the human brain is never more active than when it is in a social setting; and a presentation is a social setting. And in such a setting it is over 90% focused not so much on what the speaker is consciously trying to communicate but on the unintended information the speaker is leaking through his body language and tone of voice. The slides we put up just can’t compete with this animal instinct; they are overwhelmed.

It is quite well known that in 1967 Professor Albert Mehrabiam (UCLA) identified that successful human communication is 55% Body language, 38% Tone and only 7% Content! …. PROVIDED (and this bit is often omitted) that the tone and body language are congruent with the content. When delivering a lecture or presentation, the textual content of the lecture maybe delivered entirely verbally, but the non-verbal cues are very (very) important in conveying the speaker’s attitude towards what they are saying, notably their belief or conviction.

The one-time British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, was clearly a brilliant financier however his Body Language and Tone were so awkward that, when he spoke in public, most audience brains dismissed him in the short time it took him to walk from his chair to the speaker’s rostrum. No brain in the room was listening.

Facts are not very good tools for persuading people but your body and voice box certainly are.

The cold hard fact is that YOU are your presentation.

Remedy: The one thing you can do before any presentation is rehearse 3 or 4 times in front of a video camera (Your phone for example). You may not like what you see…nobody does. But you will pick up your irritating mannerisms and verbal tics and, having seen them, endeavour to correct them before the event. This rehearsal (and more rehearsal) is what made WW2 orators as far apart as Churchill and Hitler such compelling speakers.

And however ‘daunting’ you find this exercise it is well worth doing because 99% of speakers don’t bother to rehearse at all! Which is why 99% of speakers deliver ‘Death by PowerPoint’ to their audiences. You, on the other hand, having read this article, will now have already practiced a number of times ‘out –loud’. And this automatically places in you among a very small minority of persuasive interesting presenters.

 

 

2) The second most important thing is to recognise that you’re probably trying to cover too much stuff.

You will be lucky (very lucky) if you can get your audience to remember just one important point during a 20-30 minute presentation.

If you’re a seasoned presenter I might just stretch that to 2 important points. If you have half a century’s experience you may (just ‘may’) be able to successfully communicate 3 important points. But that’s the limit. Human beings just can’t do better than that.

So if you have been told by your boss (or if you have decided) that your next audience needs to understand 10 things about what you’re up to and you insist in going ahead with this amount of info. then the 30 minute presentation you’re planning is largely a waste of your time.

A Sir Winston Churchill said: “You have an important point to make so don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time – a tremendous whack.”

And finally the dear old PowerPoint slide. If you insist on using them here’s some advice:

If your slides have more than 30 words on them they become unreadable at the back of most presentation rooms.

If you think Comic Sans SS is a quirky, relaxed, font to use which will amuse and captivate the audience….. you are wrong.

If you sincerely think that using all ‘upper case’ letters when you want the audience to remember an important point ….you are wrong (Upper case is much more difficult to read than a mix of upper and lower case).

If your slides contain a scan of a typical Balance Sheet or P&L statement or anything where the text size is ‘small’ they will be unreadable at the back of most presentation rooms. “Ah ….yes…you probably can’t see that at the back” (Then why did you make the slide???!!)

If your slides are mainly ‘text’ they can be thought of as practically useless anyway- none of the audience would miss them if they weren’t there.

If you must use PowerPoint use it mainly to illustrate your point with pictures, diagrams and charts. ‘Text’ should be the last thing on your list of persuasive tools

The cold hard fact is that YOU are your presentation.

Remedy: Stop thinking “Slide –show”. Instead think “visual aid’. What objects can you see around you that would help you get your point across visually? The more unusual the link the more the audience will remember it. It doesn’t have to be ‘a photo’ or ‘a picture’ on a slide. It might be an object you bring into the room. It might be a picture you hand out in a sealed envelope (Intriguing).It might be that you suddenly leave the rostrum and come down into the audience.

This stuff isn’t too frivolous for a formal presentation either.

Nikita Kruheschev the Leader of the USSR in 1960 once surprised everybody in the UN General Assembly whilst making a presentation by taking off his shoe and banging it on the rostrum. (See Youtube). Nobody who was there has ever forgotten it. (Actually he didn’t take off his shoe he actually brought a shoe with him to bang. No impulse decision…he had planned the action for maximum visual effect)

Lastly, when I was employed in the City of London by Reuters I was frequently a speaker at both internal and external events. I was well known for being a reasonable speaker. But in preparation for each event my boss would always take me aside and warn me in advance that, “THIS time there were to be no ‘gimmicks’…was that clearly understood?”. What was required was: “A straightforward, factual, PowerPoint presentation; in the company format on the company template” This was to be shown to him and approved before the event. (“Yessir!”)

What I actually went away and prepared each time was two presentations: His formally approved one (as outlined above) and the one I was actually going to deliver. Because always (ALWAYS) I was on the agenda for the ‘graveyard’ slot immediately after lunch in London or New York or Hong Kong or somewhere when everyone in the 300-400 strong audience was very sleepy. And always (ALWAYS) he would approach me and say (after the morning’s inevitable, tedious string of Death by PowerPoint presentations) “Listen this is all going rather flat…..The M.D. is furious…..I hope you’ve got something up your sleeve to liven them all up a bit…..you know….mmm??”

Which of course I had.

(This isn’t the whole story about delivering a decent presentation. But if you sincerely want to stand out from the crowd you will find it a great starting point.)

Bob Etherington

“Europe’s Best Sales Trainer” :  [Voted by ‘Sales Innovation Expo’ 2015 and 2016, Excel London.]

www.bobetheringtongroup.com

bob@bobetheringtongroup.com

Cracking The Cold-Call Code!

A few years ago I wrote a little book called “Cold Calling for Chickens” it still sells very well and frequently features among the top selling business books on amazon*. (Thank you fans!) *(By the way, reader comments range from the extremes: “Disgraceful” on one side to “Brilliant” on the other with “OK” to “Very Good” to “Excellent” broadly spread across the middle. But whatever their ratings [zero stars to five stars], nobody denies its effectiveness).

However there are still quite a few people (10 years on) who tell me they still fear this potentially lucrative, cost effective, way to find new clients. So here is another softer ‘modern’ way you can open up a telephone-sales call with a possible new customer without fear and without pressure. I use both methods; my old one and this new one. They both work well…. you can chose which of the two suits you.

PROBLEM AND CAUSE OF ‘Call-Reluctance’

Potential customers (That includes you and me) will lie and say anything to get rid of cold callers for two reasons (apart from the fact that they weren’t either expecting or waiting for your call):

1) Because they don’tknow the caller

2) Because they don’t know the caller they don’t trust the caller

And because they don’t know them and don’t trust them, potential customers invent any excuse to get rid of the cold caller (both honest and dishonest). We ALL do it.

Old Style Cold Calling

Now, cold calling is a really useful selling skill. It is estimated that 80% of the available new business in most markets still goes to the 5% of all sellers brave enough to make a cold-call. So you can make a lot of money by becoming a fairly good cold caller.

But classic cold calling is still mired in the selling skills founded in the 1960’s e.g. : “Focus on getting the appointment !” “Overcome and rebut their objections with smart replies !” “Concentrate on closing the sale !” “A.B.C: Always Be Closing !”

So the focus of most cold calls is wrong at the outset: i.e. Trying to get the ‘face-to-face Appointment’ or even close a sale on-line.

Example: You are a potential customer. You are sitting at your desk one morning and the phone rings you pick it up:

“Hello?” “Hello is that Mr Prospect? “Yes” “Oh good. How are you today?” “I’m OK…Who’s this?” “Mr Prospect my name is Tony Seller of Top Personnel Services. Do you have a moment?”

QUESTION: The seller above has spoken just five sentences. At what point have you (the customer) stopped listening and started thinking: ‘ This sounds like a sales call….How can I get rid of him?’ I will venture a guess it is at the words: “How are you today?” or, if you are unusually tolerant, “Mr Prospect my name is………of…………”

This is because that is how 95% of all cold calls begin; it is a routine opening. Like Pavlov’s Dogs we (customers) then go into knee-jerk mode and endeavour to reject them. If we are foolish enough to be polite “I don’t really have the time” or “Our staff turnover is very low….I doubt we lose more than one staff member per year” we are likely to be met with pressurising, cornering, rebuttals like: “Of course I understand you don’t have time for something you don’t know anything about. I’ll tell you what… if we can meet briefly next week then if you’re not convinced we can help you within 10 minutes … I will leave. How’s that?!” OR “A staff turnover of one person per year? As many as that!”

If the call continues along those lines both seller and prospect feel highly pressurised and a sale is very unlikely. This is where most sales managers start to demand, “Make more calls!”, “Work harder” on the basis of the ancient sales folklore that: “Selling is a numbers game: If you throw enough mud at the wall some of it may stick” THIS IS ALL COMPLETELY UNTRUE….especially in the internet age. The problem is then that sellers become afraid of cold calling and find every excuse not to do it.

The New (unpressured) way to Cold Call

STOP making your key objectives “Getting the appointment” or “Getting the sale”

Replace it with a twin objective of : “Getting the prospect to trust you” and “Getting the prospect to level with you”.

Here’s how: (Prospect answering the phone)

“Hello”

“Good morning is that Mr Prospect?”

“Yes”

“Oh good morning Mr Prospect. I’m sorry to call you on a morning…I wonder if you can help me?”

“Well it depends…I’ll try”

“Mr Prospect I’m trying to find the person in your company who has to struggle with the problem of finding permanent senior staff capable of managing and motivating employees. Would that be you?”

“Well I’m not immediately looking?”

“But would you be open to hearing about some new ways we have of helping you achieve your senior management recruitment goals when the time is right?”

“I might be but …first of all who are you?”

“My name is John Seller of Top Personnel Services. We have developed an award winning process which eliminates the common and costly problem of high staff turnover in the first year of employment”

“How do you do that?”

“By using and adapting some of the military officer-selection techniques we helped develop for the Norwegian Army.”

“Can you send me something?”

“Yes sure…that’s fine. Would you prefer a letter or email?”

“An email will do”

“What would you like to do after you’ve read it?”

“I will call you if we’re interested in going further”

“Yes that’s fine. We usually find that there are several questions after people have read this outline of our methods. Do you think it would be a good idea for us both to reserve a place in our diaries in a couple of weeks to do this?”

“I can’t at the moment…I’ll know more once I’ve read your document”

“I understand of course. At this stage neither of us knows whether there might be a good fit between our two companies. Would it be OK with you if I rang anyway in a couple of weeks so that we can exchange our thoughts about whether there might be a fit?”

…and so on. A two way un pressurised, dialogue allowing the prospect to set the pace. You are developing a trusting environment in which the customer feels that can level with you. And it is only from this that sales spring in this information age.

……………………………………………………………………………………………

NOTES:-

Notice in the whole of the above there is no classic sales ‘pitch’. Instead it is a two way dialogue.

We open the call by apologising for interrupting his/her morning We use emotive language: e.g “struggle” to illustrate the type of problem we solve; emotions are more effective persuaders than facts. Too many ‘facts’ will dilute your persuasive power because a weak argument always dilutes a strong one.

We always talk instead about the problems we solve and not the ‘technology’ behind the solution.

We ask at the start if the prospect is, “..open..” to learning more about our capabilities. You will usually get agreement to this because nobody wants to be seen as ‘closed’ to new ideas.

In preparing for each cold call we will have written out in front of us the THREE main problems we can solve for clients in case the prospect asks us what else we offer after hearing about one.

We try only to cold- call those prospects who are typical of the types of prospects who already use our services. Who wants to do ‘missionary’ work?

We never tell the prospect anything about our product or service unless they’ve told us they would like to hear about it first.

There are NO smart-arse rebuttals if they want to ‘go-slow’ or not see us at all at this stage. “Yes that’s fine” is our standard reply when they ask us for something.

We tell them the truth which is that we are trying to see whether there is a mutually precise ‘fit’ between what we can offer and they want to fix. If there isn’t then there is no point in trying to force the issue.

There are no hard ‘closes’. Instead we ask: “What would you like to do next?” which is our standard ending even when we would like a further conversation. We might suggest a next step but we ask the customer whether they too think this is a good idea. If not we say “That’s not a problem” . Whatever they say, we will call them again in 8 weeks or so and start again from scratch.

We persist in this gentle way every 8 weeks or so even if a customer has said ‘no’ on this occasion. Situations always change. Each time we start as if we have never spoken before. It generally takes 5-6 calls before business is done; that’s just the way it is. Nothing beats persistence; yet most sellers give up after the second call.

Bob Etherington

“Europe’s Best Sales Trainer” :  [Voted by ‘Sales Innovation Expo’ 2015 and 2016, Excel London.]

www.bobetheringtongroup.com

bob@bobetheringtongroup.com

Selling in the ‘NEW’ Normal

When market conditions become tough or change suddenly, businesses tend to seek and then implement quick fixes to improve falling sales. Most of these turn out to be disastrous if not suicidal. Nevertheless they soldier on hoping that what they can see is a light at the end of the tunnel. They little realise that what they actually see is an express train rushing towards them on the same track. Even when all the evidence is showing that their strategies are not having the desired effect they continue.

Why? Because of four little words most businesses cling to until the end:

1) Our

2) Business

3) Is

4) Different

In general most businesses believe that they do offer something so special and so different that they can break the fundamental rules of ‘tough times’ selling. They agree that these fundamental rules exist but they only apply to ‘everybody else’. This is sad because it isn’t true…at least out of the 30-40 new customers we work with each year (and the past 10 years) it hasn’t yet been the case.

As they start out by sincerely believing this, each business attempts to tackle the challenge of increased sales by adopting what they think is a good ‘bespoke’ strategy for their ‘uniqueness’. Actually they tend to pick one of the four suicidal strategies set out below.

1) Carry on as normal

2) Work Harder

3) Fiddle with PR and advertising

4) Offer discounts

Let’s look at each one to discover why they are suicidal and what simple steps every business can take to truly differentiate their offering and secure more sales.

 

Suicidal Strategy 1: Carry on as normal

This is usually based on finding a new potential customer who is willing to ‘grant them an audience’ then giving them the company presentation. The sellers can’t wait to get the brochure out or start the PowerPoint presentation. They are bursting to talk about solutions and tell the potential customer about everything they can do for them. They are then surprised when they eventually stop talking to hear the customer ask, “So…How much is all this going to cost?”. The reason so many sales people act like this and are encouraged to do so by their sales managers, is ‘that’s what used to work’. In the old ‘pre-internet’ days when there were no ‘websites’ our job, as sellers, was to ‘communicate’ our features and benefits. Our skill as communicators was what differentiated our company and our product from all our competitors. Nowadays because of the internet and our websites the truth is we do all look and sound very much the same. At an average surfing rate of about 14 seconds per site we (potential customers) read that you offer the best value for money; best service; are the most experienced and so on. You ALL say precisely the same things. So we ‘take –it-as-read’ that’s what everybody in your market is offering too. So, when we agree to meet you and you start to tell us the same stuff (again!) (supported by your various ‘crutches’: Brochures/ Flyers/ Power Point presentations) well….we already know all that. And as a result we just tune-out; usually in about 30 seconds). So what’s to be done? Something different!

Suicidal Strategy 2: Work harder….(Knock on more doors)

Going back four decades this “ramp your activity”….”work harder”….”knock on more doors” strategy is the one I was taught in order to sell more Xerox Copiers. It is still very common 40 years on because (once again) that’s what used to work. But again it was a pre-internet era. And our patented ‘plain paper copier’ was ‘unique’; back then no competitor could copy on to plain paper. So doing lots of demonstrations every day was a strategy for success: “The more doors you knock on …the more orders you get”. But alas that doesn’t work now. Rushing around with no thought, doing your pitch to everyone and anyone who will see you, may win you the odd sale but the dominant emotion will be ‘disappointment’ Why? because most of the time all you’ll hear is “No”. But hey… if rushing around and doing ‘busy-work’ makes you feel good please carry on. Meanwhile, because you clearly believe the old folklore that, ‘selling is a numbers game’, I, meanwhile, will steal the really profitable work you should have been getting if you’d had a better strategy. So, what can you do? Something different!

Suicidal Strategy 3: Fiddle with PR and advertising

This is a very common, seemingly simple, sometimes rather expensive, solution designed to generate lots of quick enquiries often when things are quiet. The company feels that it will be a subsequent quick exercise to sort the rubbish from the genuine prospects and then close them fast. Many companies have permanent parallel marketing and PR campaigns to support sales activity. But the problem with advertising and PR is that it is designed to attract a lot of attention….which it often does. Lots of enquiries come in but a high proportion are false leads; the enquirers turn out to be ‘suspects’ but not prospects. Nevertheless sales people often chase these into the ground for weeks only to arrive at eventual disappointment. And if there is one thing that demotivates sales people it is constant constant rejection. The typical sales manager’s fatal, demotivating, question when the seller arrives back in the office: “Well …did you close it?” is the final straw. Sellers hate replying ‘No’ because they hate hearing ‘No’ so their sales performance steadily deteriorates the more they hear it. High turnover sales forces are often found in those companies where scatter gun, catch-all advertising is part of the culture. But if they suddenly reduce or even stop advertising (to cut costs) their potential market stop seeing them around and generally believe they’ve gone out of business. On the other hand when those companies which have never really spent any money start advertising they only initiate and repeat the cycle of ‘Suicidal Strategy 3!’

As John Wannamaker millionaire founder of the store chain of the same name once remarked: “I know half the money I spend on advertising is wasted…trouble is I don’t know which half !”

Suicidal Strategy 4: Offer discounts

“Actually it’s all about the price”, is the commonest belief as the reason that ‘sales are down’, particularly when times are tough. Yet ask a class of trainee sales people to list all those things they have personally bought recently where ‘price’ was the main criteria and you will find it a very short list indeed containing things like ‘socks’, ‘toilet paper’ and ‘soap’. Yet as far as their own company’s products and services are concerned: “We’re just too expensive” (Our Business Is Different).

The truth about discounting (unless you’re a Pound Store /Pound Shop/ Primark/ Cutprice supermarket etc., all with a business plan to suit that mode of trading from the start) is that it doesn’t bring in any more business. There is no evidence that cutting prices does anything except eat into your profits especially during tough times. Because, at all stages of the business cycle, it is not about the price, it is about ‘value for money’. We are all prepared to pay more than the cheapest on-offer provided we perceive value in the offer. In fact when situations become uncertain customers seek not the cheapest’ but the one they believe they can rely on to provide safety and a sense of confidence.

So, what can you do? Something different!

Here it is: ‘Something Different’

Instead of pitching, telling, presenting, discounting and ‘working harder’ you can transform your sales meetings by simply asking the right questions.

Here’s how to do it in three steps:

1) Before you start showing them everything you can do, start by picking the type of potential customer that has bought from you in the past and find out what exactly they want to buy. Instead of planning what you’re going to tell them you should be planning what you’re going to ask them. Your customers will be amazed when you start to do this but they will love it especially if you’re clearly listening to what they say and taking notes. The ‘chatty’ questions should be about problems you know you can solve. You’re simply aiming to find out what areas they might have a problem in where your product or service would form a perfect fit.

2) Once you have this clearer picture it is still too early to show your solutions. What you must do at this pre-meeting planning phase is to imagine the customer saying, “Yes that is a problem we have…however it’s not worth the cost or hassle of fixing it”. If they were to say that why would they be wrong? What could be the ‘knock-on effect’ or ‘implication’ of a failure to find a solution? Again make it a question: “Mrs Prospect you say that your current software company were good at delivering on time but not so good at after-hours support. So if something went badly wrong with an installation outside office hours how catastrophic could that be to your business? ” Questions like these which guide the client’s thinking to the implication of ignoring something apparently minor, show insight which immediately starts to differentiate you, your company and your product.

3) Keep this discussion around both the problems you know you can fix and the implications of ignoring the problems, for as long as you can. We call it “The Investigation phase”; research shows that the longer it goes on, with your prospective client doing most of the talking, the more persuaded they will become. Resist the temptation to show or talk about your solutions for as long as you can. Even when a competitor tries to undercut you on price for an almost identical product or service, the fact that you have provided more insight is a very persuasive proposition.

Bob Etherington

“Europe’s Best Sales Trainer” :  [Voted by ‘Sales Innovation Expo’ 2015 and 2016, Excel London.]

www.bobetheringtongroup.com

bob@bobetheringtongroup.com

Are there lessons in ‘post-truth’ for sellers and marketeers?

When I first started selling copying machines for Xerox in London in the early 1970’s, we were frequently admonished by our sales manager for selling ‘emotionally’. He told us that such sales based on stories (typical imagined situations in which copies on to –old fashioned- ‘light sensitive’ paper could be lost) and feelings (about possible problems with old style copiers) , worries (about fading of images and the resultant serious problems) all amounted to ‘weak selling’. It was important not to sell in a ‘weak manner’ because, in those days, Xerox copiers were only available on a rental basis. If you sold ‘weakly’ (with a strong appeal to the emotions therefore) , a prospect might , we were told, suddenly come to his senses after signing the contract. He might then realise that he could soldier-on with his old fashioned copying machine and cancel the rental. This rarely happened; nevertheless we were constantly stopped from doing it.

Instead we were taught (almost brainwashed into) a method of factual, proof-based selling. It was founded on the ‘scripted demo’, one for each model of copying machine that we sold. And we had to learn each script off-by-heart”. I can still remember most of them to this day. At the end of this regimented sales process came ‘The Close’; this was a summary of all the facts and proof that had been given to the prospect followed by a direct hard-nosed request for a signed contract.

We had a target of 25 sales meetings to arrange each week and each meeting was to be formatted along the same regimented lines.

We were successful; in fact it was probably Xerox’ most successful period. None of our competitors had a plain-paper copier, so our offering was truly ‘unique’. But the reason we succeeded, looking back, had more to do with the number of sales meetings we were mandated to arrange every week (Throw enough mud at the wall and some of it is bound to stick). This was more important than all the facts and unquestionable proof that we were ordered to use to secure each sale. Indeed once Xerox had lost the plain paper copier patent and no longer had a real ‘unique selling point’, their market dominance rapidly waned. Competitors introduced their own plain paper copiers and very soon they all looked very much the same.

Today, nearly 50 years later, because of the internet and the coming of the information-age, most products and services in most markets do all look the same. As far as our prospective clients perceive the situation, there are very (very) few unique products and services out there. Potential clients take it as read that we will each say that we are the ‘best in the market’ ‘best value for money’ ‘most reliable supplier’. And that we can provide a range of facts and proof to back up our claims. But our customers rarely make buying decisions because of them. So, despite what Xerox told us nearly 50 years ago,they were ‘barking up the wrong tree; ‘communicating’ our features, benefits and proof is not enough.

During the intervening 50 years a succession of psychologists looking into the psychology of ‘decision making’ have revealed how little facts and proof matter in our decision making process. It seems that we are all much more driven to decide based on our feelings and emotions than we ever dreamed possible. Not only that but such decisions are made subconsciously long before we consciously process the thoughts and arrive at what we think is a rational conclusion.

The recent revelation that this year’s new word is “post-truth” (the realisation that most human decision making is based on emotions and feelings rather than facts and proof e.g. Brexit and Trump – two recently cited examples) should therefore not really be a surprise to any of us ‘sellers’. What we should learn from this is (especially in order to differentiate our offerings from our competitors) is the overriding importance of engaging our clients emotions and feelings and using story- telling whenever we can. Facts and proof are far less important to customers than whether or not the customer likes us because we appealed to his or her emotions.

Continuing to believe today, what I was taught nearly 50 years ago, (The importance of facts, proof and the delivery of a slick presentation or demo) is now a recipe for low persuasion effectiveness and an order book far smaller than it needs to be.

Bob Etherington

“Europe’s Best Sales Trainer” :  [Voted by ‘Sales Innovation Expo’ 2015 and 2016, Excel London.]

www.bobetheringtongroup.com

bob@bobetheringtongroup.com

What will a sales trainer like you do for someone like me?

Stop you making the mistakes still made by 95% of all sellers; the ‘also rans’ .

Start you making your first £million by becoming one of the 5% who know what really sells.

(And start you getting very rich indeed)

(FREE) The 8 key steps in selling….and how to do them properly for once:

  • Your customer learns about your product or service through this Directory or through prior experience or even by word of mouth.

The ‘also-ran’ 95% ….react by immediately launching into their one-size-fits-all presentation or demo and give away too much irrelevant information. They show lots of features their product without showing how those features could solve a problem for this customer. They do all this within a few minutes of their first meeting. They are then surprised when the customer quickly asks about the price.

The TOP 5% … Ask a lot of pre-planned questions about problems they know they can fix. The customer enjoys this as it develops a two way conversation rather than a one way pitch. These ‘top 5%’ never start with a presentation and probably don’t give one at all at the first meeting. When they finally ‘present’ their ideas they do it with panache, showmanship  and humour.

 

  • Your customer evaluates whether your recommended solution meets their needs

The ‘also ran’ 95%…react by pitching the company range whether the customer has asked about it or not.  They can’t wait to give answers and talk about solutions.

The TOP 5%….Ask about the knock-on effect of problems (ones they know they can fix) in the current situation if these problems are allowed to persist. (These ‘knock on effect’ questions are very powerful and persuasive and are always planned by top sellers in advance.) They show great insight from customer point of view.

 

  • Your customer prepares a request to their financial management.

The ‘also ran’ 95%…react by offering brochures and canned ‘boiler plate’ documentation and presentations to justify any price or cost issues. They quickly offer discounts in an effort to secure the business.

The TOP 5%   …Work with the customer and rehearse them in the best ways to present their price justification.

 

  • Senior management send out a Request for Proposal (RFP) or Request for Quotation (RFQ) to your competitors (just for comparison and to keep you honest!! )

The ‘also ran’ 95%…..Wait for end users to make requests for content of the RFP/RFQ. Are paralysed with fear and believe they can do nothing. They often offer even more discounts.

The TOP 5%…Visit relevant customer departments in an effort to influence the RFP/RFQ content and focus it on their own particular Unique Selling Points which the customer has said it needs.

 

  • Customer’s ‘buying committee’ (or similar) interviews vendors (you and others) to screen for specification match to requirements  etc

The ‘also ran’ 95% …Show their usual canned demo again…oblivious to customer need to see specific relevant solution now. (I once saw a drinks transport company proudly showing their new Red Bull canned drink transport commercial to a potential fine wine customer. They lost it immediately and couldn’t understand why!)

The TOP 5% ….. Give focused presentation which deal specifically with problems and issues this client has said they need to fix. There is nothing superfluous.

 

 

  • Committee gives short-list approval to (usually) two vendors and requests final meeting/presentation

The ‘also ran’ 95% …Sell well only when they have a price advantage. Unable to differentiate themselves from low cost alternatives.

The TOP 5% … Show importance of unique features sought and stated by client which differentiate their higher priced offering from lower priced alternatives.

 

 

  • Customer is ready to sign contract but has final concerns which need clarifying (Liability, performance guarantees, contract length etc)

The ‘also ran’ 95%… Try to ignore difficult concerns or pretend they don’t exist. Say ‘Trust me’ when client has doubts.

 

The TOP 5%…Draw out customer concerns and help resolve them.  Introduce customer to existing satisfied clients. Acknowledge shortcomings but emphasise the importance of the unique things you can do for the client which client has said are really important.

 

  • Follow up after contract signed

The ‘also ran’ 95%…Give good support but no further attempt to promote other services. (They forget it is 80% easier [and 80% less expensive]  to get more business from an existing happy customer than it is to go out and find a new one)

The TOP 5%… Give good support but also use as an opportunity to sell more to other departments and end users.

Simple? You bet! But most sellers just don’t do it. So I get paid anything between £2500 to £25,000 a day to show my clients how….but you’re getting it for FREE. The trick, you see, is knowing precisely what you have to do at each step to make it work for you.

Give me a call…I will show you how to make a million or more too…..just like me.

(Or you can carry on doing it your way …..and not.)

 

Bob Etherington

“Europe’s Best Sales Trainer” :  [Voted by ‘Sales Innovation Expo’ 2015 and 2016, Excel London.]

www.bobetheringtongroup.com

bob@bobetheringtongroup.com

8 ways to shove your customers away

The biggest driver of customer loyalty is not after all the things you may think like ‘value for money’, ‘customer service’, ‘ range of choices’ and so on. No…in fact it is the speed, effort and willingness with which you handle customer complaints.

In fact it so important a factor that any customer who has had a problem with your business which you have fixed to their entire satisfaction is almost always more loyal than a customer who has never had a problem.

An academic study by the Customer Contact Council has found that customer loyalty isn’t created by delighting the customer with your general service levels. Your customer’s loyalty is based on how little effort they have to put in to getting their complaint or dissatisfaction dealt with satisfactorily.

The Council has devised something they call the Customer Effort Score which has a 1-5 scale when this question is asked of customers: “ How much personal effort did you have to put in to get your request satisfied?”

Even a small reduction in effort is translated into a much greater increase in loyalty and by default ‘revenue’. On the other side an increase in ‘effort required’ has a 4 times greater ‘negative’ effect. Customers who have to put in a high amount of effort are 61% less likely to purchase again compared with your ‘average’ customer.

Right now I am waiting for the gardening company, who keep my garden in check on a fortnightly basis, to resolve two simple queries. They are easy fixes on work carried out (or not) in this case. The owner of the company could say (after 10 years of a satisfactory –customer delight- relationship and lost of my money): ”Look I don’t know who’s right or wrong here but why don’t we just forget about the disputed charges and carry on as before?”

I would be perfectly happy with that. And would tell my next door neighbour how happy I was.

But In fact the issue has now been dragging on for three weeks while they ‘look into’ my complaints. I have made several ‘chasing’ phone calls to them. I am still expending a great deal of effort with no conclusion in sight. I am not happy. If it doesn’t get resolved I will cancel their contract and go with a competitor. They will lose a loyal 10 year customer and all that future revenue. I will get a new gardener.

So, do you run a business (gardening or otherwise)? Do you know your CES score?

8 ways to upset your customers,,,,,

  1. It takes too long to fix a problem
  2. Promises are broken
  3. Being treated in an offhand manner by someone who wants to prove they’re ‘right’
  4. Being transferred from department to department.
  5. Having to chase the company
  6. Being held in uninformed suspension for days
  7. Being asked for more business when this problem is still unresolved.
  8. Finding the ‘Support’ facility on or off the website completely inadequate

 

And the single easy way to make them come back for more:

Next time a customer raises a query or complaint, who ever’s ‘fault’ you think it is, try saying this:

“I’m so sorry to hear that Mr Customer. What can I do to put things right immediately?”

Then just do it. You’ll be amazed at the resulting hapiness and loyalty. Remember…you’re not there to prove you’re ‘right’…you’re there to do more business.

It is 80% easier and less expensive to get more business from an existing happy customer than to go out and find a single new one.

Bob Etherington

“Europe’s Best Sales Trainer” :  [Voted by ‘Sales Innovation Expo’ 2015 and 2016, Excel London.]

www.bobetheringtongroup.com

bob@bobetheringtongroup.com

How you really decide

As the new UK PM Theresa May travels between EU leaders to ‘negotiate’ Brexit …the speed of Article 50 implementation….and all the other ‘exit’ details, she and the people she has to speak to  will have to make a lot of decisions. So it is interesting to remind ourselves of the truth behind complex human decision making: What should I do about this? : What is she thinking?  What do I want? Why do I want it? ……………………………How do we really ‘decide’?

Rational thought? …actually its largely an illusion

On the surface there is the official, written down, formal decision making process.. “Give us the all facts and we’ll decide!” The imagined process is that a draft proposal on some topic or other is arrived after initial discussions between relatively junior people on the opposing teams. This is made into some sort of hardcopy document which is then presented to ‘the next level up’ in the organisation. These middle management ‘officials’ then consider the proposal and send it back for tweaking after which it is resubmitted and ,if OK, passed to the next level up in the hierarchy and so on upwards and upwards until it reaches the boss.

If all is OK the boss will then sign it……..or if not he/she will send it back down the formal chain for further tweaking. And so it goes on backwards and forwards until everybody is happy. When that happens the boss will finally sign it and the decision will have been made.

That at least is the theory.

The reality (The neuro science) is quite different: facts are (in fact), very rarely , the basis for making decisions.  In fact the more valid reasons (or arguments) you use to try to persuade the other side about the reasonableness of your proposal the LESS likely you are to persuade them. This is because (Psychologists tell us) a weak argument always dilutes a strong one.

So the first rule to apply when trying to get someone to ‘decide’ in your favour is to concentrate on preferably just one strong argument. If you feel you must add something else to justify your proposal you may expand that to two strong reasons. And maybe…only maybe….if you’re really experienced just possibly three strong reasons…………BUT THAT’s IT!  Because facts are not very persuasive.

And once you have decided on the strong argument you will use, then look for the emotional triggers you can build your arguments around.

New research over the past decade shows that just about all (ALL) human decisions are driven not by facts but by EMOTIONS.  We make most of our decisions on the basis of likeability, feelings, friendships, familiarity, passion, desire. Very few important decisions are fact or ‘evidence or fact  based’. Even in a court of law good looking criminals get away with serious crimes because people (juries) just like the look of them.

And this isn’t new either; reflect on the culture some of the World’s most ancient civilisations in the Middle and Far East …..from Egypt to China.  In this 21st Century, to get natives of any countries in these areas to decide to do business with you, then you must first get them to like you. In order to do this you must first spend a considerable amount of time in their company NOT talking about the business you have in mind or the decisions you would like them to make. Only when they ‘have the measure of you’ and get to know you will they entertain the possibility of being persuaded by you. The informal structure which actually gets things done is always far more important than the ‘formal’ political hierarchy. And it isn’t JUST in these ancient cultures either….it is actually the same across all cultures but we just don’t admit it; Who ever said, “Its not WHAT you know but WHO you know!”  knew his fellow man alright.

So as you watch Prime Minister Theresa May on her charm offensive in these early days of her Prime Ministership see how she is using this knowledge of human persuasion and decision making. First ‘home’ visits (Charity begins at Home) to Scotland, then Wales and Northern Ireland all potential trip-wires in her quest for control. Not laying down the law about the need for a “UNITED KINGDOM!” but just listening and getting to know the senior people in each of these countries….making friends. Then on to Germany and France not starting negotiations just making friends. She knows it is so HARD to say NO to people that you know’ ….people who like you…even if their driving needs appear different from yours.

So if you too want to become a similar expert in the field of persuasive, human, decision-making, just follow these 10 steps: You will be amazed at the impact they will have on your life when dealing with other people:

  • Give honest and sincere appreciation
  • Become genuinely interested in other people
  • Talk in terms of the other person’s interests
  • Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely
  • Show respect for the other person’s feelings – never say “You’re wrong!”
  • If you’re wrong admit it quickly and emphatically.
  • Let the other person do most of the talking
  • Try honestly to see the situation from the other person’s point of view
  • Be sympathetic to the other person’s ideas and desires
  • Let the other person save face

 

Bob Etherington

“Europe’s Best Sales Trainer” :  [Voted by ‘Sales Innovation Expo’ 2015 and 2016, Excel London.]

www.bobetheringtongroup.com

bob@bobetheringtongroup.com

Should I start a business now? Ok what business?

As a serial entrepreneur I often get asked by other people: “What business would you suggest I start….right now….in the middle of all this ‘Brexit’ uncertainty?” I could be deliberately difficult and ask “Well what type of business would you love to start?”, as your answer to that question will ultimately determine whether or not you just ‘get by’ or become a multimillionaire. But to keep it simple (and quick) let me give you the bare bones together with a real business idea you can have for FREE even though it could make you millions!

First of all most successful businesses started life in the Complaints Department. Any area of human existence in which you may have heard someone else remark; “This is dreadful….why doesn’t somebody…………?” or “Why isn’t there a shop around here which……?”  or “Why can’t I find on the internet a reliable service which…………………….?” Or “Why isn’t there a ………………….locally?”, …………..is potentially a great business for YOU to start.

What you don’t do (unless you secretly want to fail) is say to yourself,  ‘I am a trained software designer I will start a business designing software’  or ‘I am a trained accountant I will set up my own accountancy practice’ …Then spend a fortune renting an office, buying all the desks, chairs telephones, computers then sit back and wait for your client base to find you. It will not happen and you are likely to run out of money and fail fast.

The reason is that most (i.e. 90%) of successful businesses are successful simply because they solve a particular problem.

So take three initial steps: 1) Start with writing down the problem you aim to solve first with your business. 2) Then research the physical area in which you think there is a shortage of solutions for that problem. 3) Then test the market as cheaply as possible to see if anyone actually wants (and would pay for) a solution to that problem. If you discover they would then it is probably safe to say you have a solid business idea.

I watched a young friend of mine do just this when she left University with a degree in finance and economics. She couldn’t find a job and had very little money. She had an idea that in her relatively poor area of North London there were many one-man-band business owners (window cleaners, plumbers, decorators, electricians etc) People who were good at their jobs but hopeless with keeping their books, doing their accounts and paying the tax man; and they had a problem that couldn’t afford a conventional accountant. So she advertised her small business book-keeping service in every free place she could …mostly the FREE noticeboards in supermarkets.

That was 10 years ago. The response was so strong to her free advertising and built up so fast that she now franchises the business throughout the UK and has become very wealthy. And it all started because she identified a real problem that needed a solution. Anyone could have done it….but nobody had…….so this is the niche which she now fills.

In the city area in which I now live, it is difficult (i.e. a problem) to find (reliable!) decorators, gardeners, window cleaners, cleaners, odd-job men (or women) dentists, child minders, auto body repairers and so on and so on.

I recently had to find someone to fix some water damage in my kitchen. I eventually found an emergency ‘ handy man’ service advertising in my local Sainsburys…£50 per hour callout charge! But I was stuck and had to use him. He completed the job beautifully and when he had finished I asked him if there was much call for a handyman service in my part of town. He told me the market was enormous and that he had recently taken on two assistants. (Even in these uncertain post Brexit times) But the truly amazing thing was his added comment. Because he told me that 90% of the work they were asked to do was: ‘putting up pictures’. With all such business ideas it is not necessary for you to actually DO the work; you just have to find people who CAN and then promote and manage the business. So why don’t you try either of these ideas outlined above in the UK area YOU live in?

It need only take a small FREE card advertising the service (i.e. the problem you solve) in all your local Supermarkets. If they (potential customers) start biting you may have a business….If not it has cost you nothing and you can think of something else.

And IS this the right time?  Well just remember this last point……over the last century thousands of business people have become millionaires by starting businesses during difficult financial times…..just like these. When everyone else was sitting on their hands in a ‘wait and see’ mode they just got on and started.

So what’s stopping you?

 

Bob Etherington

“Europe’s Best Sales Trainer” :  [Voted by ‘Sales Innovation Expo’ 2015 and 2016, Excel London.]

www.bobetheringtongroup.com

bob@bobetheringtongroup.com

America probably worse than you thought ….Maybe better than you imagined

I’ve just returned from a business trip to New York. I lived there for nearly seven years in the 1990’s.

It is a great place to do business if you can provide what they need (in my case top class sales training). But many of the things you may think you know about NY (or the USA in general) are not true) here’s the three top truths.

  • You need money to live or be in USA; lots of it…there are no Social Security type ‘safety nets’ as ,we know them in UK.  Everything [apart from gasoline (petrol), cars and property outside the main cities] tends to be more (a lot more) expensive: electricity (especially in the summer when air conditioning is a must), gas, food, corporation tax, health care, are all very much more expensive in USA. So make sure that if you quote for business over there you put a handsome mark up on your normal UK price….they expect to have to pay a lot for stuff from Europe. (x 10 isn’t out of the question)
  • Watching the 1990’s sitcom ‘Friends’ you might be forgiven for thinking that most ‘20 something’ New Yorkers live in large fashionable apartments each with his or her own bedroom. Alas this is not the case. Most young new Yorkers live in tiny apartments in which they share bedrooms with others not uncommonly in bunk beds. Their job security is tenuous, wages often not high, and they will rarely argue with their boss about anything or propose an alternative way of doing things. Such public displays of ‘disloyalty’ are seen as negative so they knuckle down and do as they’re told. In this way they avoid getting sacked and all that that entails…including loss of any health care insurance…..a major essential benefit. So once you have found and secured a good trading relationship in your own field try to avoid disagreeing with your main contact. They are not used to it and will find your contradictory views quite challenging. Your hard won business relationship is always on a knife edge.
  • Their culture is very very different from ours….despite the almost common language. Most Americans tend to max-out on their credit cards and pay the minimum back each month. They buy most things on credit and have little notion of the word ‘savings’. It is a fact that most Americans would find it difficult to pay an unexpected (£600) $1000 bill in any one month. Only 9% of the 300 million strong American public have Passports so their World view tends to be quite limited. ‘Limited’ that is, compared with anything you’re used to in UK or Europe. Americans are not bad people or stupid people at all…far from it. They have little sense of irony and a very different sense of humour. They believe totally in their own country and are extremely patriotic. It is a fact that just about every American believes that every non American in the World is just waiting to become an American. So be very careful how you express yourself and check and recheck any proposal you write. When speaking remember that (for example) the word ‘fortnight’ doesn’t exist in America. Or casual throw away ‘light’ swear words “That’s bloody good!!” are viewed as totally blasphemous and can bring about a sudden, unexpected attack of ‘no more business’…this is a very very religious country where 80% of the people attend church. Or that the word ‘quite’ (as in “This is quite a good proposal”) means not that it is just OK’ as it would in UK but that it is absolutely brilliant!!  Check your language…check your jokes….and enjoy your business…I always do!

 

Oh and I nearly forgot….tipping and Yellow cabs. Make sure that you always tip at least 10-15% in restaurants and diners. The waiting staff get very very little in the way of wages from their employers and rely on your tips to build to a living wage. Your failure to ‘tip’ adequately on any occasion will be regarded as an expression of total disgust with both food and service. And Yellow cabs?….This isn’t like ‘over here’ when you hail a Yellow cab. There is no ‘Knowledge’ exam for taxi drivers like there is in London and no requirement even to speak English! So know precisely where it is you’re trying to get to and its location in any town. Just saying the name of the hotel you’re staying in is no good…your driver just won’t know where it is. And PAY the driver BEFORE you get out otherwise he will think you’re aiming to run away without paying. It’s not ‘wrong’…its just totally different from anything you’re used to. Have a nice day!…..I love it!!

Bob Etherington

“Europe’s Best Sales Trainer” :  [Voted by ‘Sales Innovation Expo’ 2015 and 2016, Excel London.]

www.bobetheringtongroup.com

bob@bobetheringtongroup.com