Category Archives: Sales

Sales Lessons Learned from Godiva Chocolatier

Some clients are more fun than others. That was true for me with Godiva Chocolatier. I worked with them for six years, delivering countless workshops and talks on sales and customer service. They were a great client. Fun, open to new ideas, and willing to try different approaches. Plus, it was a fun product. I know they learned from me, because they told me so and because I witnessed it in their stores. But I also learned from them. Here are a few of my learnings:

1. Focus on the value. You aren’t selling price if you have a super-premium product. Don’t let customers get you into a price comparison with a lesser-grade product. There are reasons you cost more. Tell your customers these reasons.

2. Engage. Engage. Engage. Don’t hide behind that counter. Get out and meet your customers face-to-face. Shake their hands. Ask them great questions. Welcome them back. Compliment them on something they’re wearing. Make them feel like this is “their” store.

3. Hire the best. Compete by having enthusiastic and energetic salespeople. Hire them for their interpersonal skills. You can always train them in the product and the systems later. Godiva frequently recruited salespeople from cosmetic companies. They were high energy, willing to work with the public, and not afraid to go after a sale. Perfect.

4. Be comfortable selling something you can’t afford. One of the first assignments I had was analyzing why some stores were under-performing. Turned out that several of these stores had managers who couldn’t explain the higher price of Godiva to their customers. Some serious coaching took place, and most of those managers found religion, and sales went back up.

5. Be super-proud of what you sell. The most successful salespeople at Godiva were also the proudest. They loved everything about the product and the company. They knew everything about how the product was made and how it was packaged. They knew the history of the company. They knew everything possible about the ingredients in each piece.  These salespeople wanted their customers to be as passionate about the product as they were.

They took their business seriously, but they never forgot that they were selling a wonderful experience.

Do You Have Customers from Mars?

Some customers make me think they are from a distant planet. They’re the ones that ask me the bizarro questions that I can’t even begin to understand, let alone answer.  They ask questions that begin with “I know this is a crazy, but…” or “You’re going to think I’m nuts for asking you this, but…”  or, my personal favorite, “This has probably never happened before, but…”

I kind of like these visitors from another galaxy.  I accept them and their alien ways. It keeps me on my toes. I have to listen really closely, trying to make sense out of their questions and comments. I keep telling myself that somewhere in this mish-mash of words there is something of value. Nine times out of ten, there is. I have to stay patient, just like when dealing with customers from Earth. And I have to focus and pay attention to them and their thoughts, no matter how Martian it might sound.

The good news is, if I listen, and if I remain patient, and if I pay attention, they will buy from me, just like here on Earth. 

So, here’s to the customers from other worlds. May they continue supporting me, and challenging me with their questions and comments.

I Cannot Make a Sales Call at 8:00AM

I cannot make a sales call at 8:00AM. It’s too early. My prospects are probably still commuting. I’m better off waiting for them to get to their offices and settle in. I don’t want to irritate them at such an early hour. Who would want to start their day listening to a sales pitch? No, I’m better off waiting a while.

I cannot make a sales call at 10:00AM. I mean, really.  They need some time to get a cup of coffee, stretch their legs, and chat with their co-workers. I would only be annoying them if I called now. Sales call? It’ll have to wait just a little bit longer.

I cannot make a sales call at 11:30AM. Way too close to lunch. No one likes to be called when they’re eating. It’s rude, don’t you think? I wouldn’t like it if a salesperson called me during my lunch break, and I would probably never buy anything from that salesperson. No, I’m not going to risk losing a prospect because I didn’t keep an eye on the clock. Making sales calls at 11:30AM is out of the question. It will wait until after lunch.

I cannot make a sales call at 1:00PM. My prospects are probably just back from lunch, and they need time to get settled in back at their desks. They need time to focus on the rest of the day, and everything they have to get done this afternoon. I don’t want to rush them or distract them. No one likes a pushy salesperson. Me call my prospects now? Not on your life. I’ll wait.

I cannot make a sales call at 2:00PM. My prospects are probably in meetings, and the last thing I want to do is interrupt. Afternoon meetings are always so important. My prospects probably have lots of important things to do and ideas to discuss. My sales call wouldn’t stand a chance. I’m better off waiting a little.

I cannot make a sales call at 3:00PM. It’s the middle of the afternoon, and my prospects are beginning to realize how much is left to do before the end of the day. If I call now, I’ll just be getting in their way. They won’t be able to finish their work because of me. Not a good way to make a favorable impression.  Now would be a terrible time to call.  I’ll hold off just a bit.

I cannot make a sales call at 4:30PM. I don’t want to look desperate. And I don’t want to appear rude for calling late in the day. They’d be asking themselves why I waited until the end of the day to call them. Not to mention that my prospects are all probably starting to think about going home soon. My calls would be really annoying if I called now.  I know that I would be really aggravated if a salesperson called me now. 

I cannot make a sales call after 5:00pm. My prospects have all probably left work. They’re probably on their way home. Their day is done. Sounds like a good idea. I should head home as well. Rest up for tomorrow. Another busy day calling prospects.

Are You Collecting or Connecting?

Social media sites are very alluring. They make all sorts of implied promises. “More connections!” “Reach more people!” Even the names for contacts are appealing. Facebook wants to increase our number of Friends, where Twitter speaks about Followers.  It all sounds good, and in fact, a lot of it is very good. But, many of us are on these sites, and we don’t know why. We aren’t using the sites. Instead, we gather names with no idea of what to do with them. We are collecting but not connecting. Here are a fews suggestions for you.

1. Post regularly. Let us know what you have been up to. Let us celebrate your successes with you, and allow us help you with your challenges.

2. Comment on other people’s posts. Share your opinions and beliefs with us. Even if you just “like” others’ comments, we will better understand who you are and what you value.

3. Invite discussion by posing a question. I am always amazed at how strong a reaction these types of posts get. I asume it’s because we want to share, even in public, our opinions and beliefs.

4. Think of your connections as people, not just numbers. What would interest them, or amuse them, or surprise them?

5. Participate in this new landscape. Use a site to contact someone you may not know all that well and ask them a question, or get their opinion, or seek their advice. Start building a relationship. It’s easier than you think.

The social media sites are all strong and powerful tools that can help you connect with people around the world, or help you discover a new one. You are only limited by your creativity.

Social Media Guidelines

Many people are on the different forms of social media, but they’re sometimes not sure why. They have a group of followers, or connections, but don’t really know what to do with them. This is expecially true of LinkedIn. While Facebook is fun and interactive, LinkedIn seems more serious. That’s because it’s primarily focused on creating and maintaining a busness network, not a group of friends. Here are the three basic guidleines I suggest to my clients about using social media:

1. Be involved. Got in the game. Post about yourself. It’s okay, I promise.

2. Be interesting. All of us in your network want to learn about your successes and your new projects and your challenges. What books are you reading that you recommend? What we don’t want is a direct, or hard, sell. Social media is all about the soft sell. If you continue to have posts similar to this, “I have the best widget at the cheapest price. Call me to learn more!” you will see a drop-off in your connections.

3. Be generous. Social media is all about sharing. If you read an intersting article, post the link so we can read it as well. If you have had an interesting experience, share it with us. I went to Alaska last November to do training for the U. S. Coast Guard. While I was there, I took many pictures, some of which I posted. I was surprised (and delighted) by many positive comments I received, thanking me for the pictures. That’s how I learned about the value of sharing.

So, go forth and post. Just remember the three guidlelines: be involved, be interesting, and be generous.

All of us look forward to your posts.

Your Customer’s First 30 Days

Your customer is no longer a prospect. They have placed an order with your company. A lot is riding on this initial order. And a lot is riding on what happens within the first 30 days of working with you. They are very impressionable Here are a few things to consider:

1. They don’t really know you. Yes, they got to know you a little before placing the order, but they are still a little anxious. Perfect opportunity to make them feel comfortable.

2. They don’t know how and when you are going to be in touch with them. Tell them. Reassure them that you will be reaching out to them. Give them a schedule.

3. They don’t want to annoy with dumb questions. Another great opportunity to reach out, after aniticipating what questions and concerns they might have.

4. They don’t know anyone but you. Introduce your team, not only by name and function, but how they will help them. Have your team members call and introduce themselves.

5. They don’t feel that you know their team. Take it upon yourself to learn all about their team. Team member’s names, functions, history with the company, etc.

6. They don’t think you know enough about their customers. Suggest that you spend a day visiting their location, learning everything you can about their customers. Listen in on customer calls, go on customer sales calls, interview key team members, etc.

7. They don’t know what they don’t know. Set up a regular telephone call once a week for the first month where they can ask any question and you can bring up ideas and suggestions.

Don’t let them wander. Anticipate their questions. Put yourself in their shoes.  Listen to their concerns, and learn and adapt for your next new customer.

Keep this new customer close by. You don’t want to lose them because you weren’t paying attention.

Shaking Hands: Please, No More Dead Fish!

I attend a lot of business and social events, and meet a lot of people.  I am amazed at how differently people will shake my hand. Some people come across as confident or down-to-earth. They show a certain amount of warmth in their handshakes. But there are other handshakes that are just terrible, and really undermine the person’s credibility. Let’s take a look at some I regularly encounter:

1. The Dead Fish. No explanation needed. This may be the worst of the lot.

2. The Vise Grip. Uh-oh. Virility issues.

3. The Pump. Up and down, and up and down. Yikes! Let go!

4. The Two-fister. They’re not happy with using just one of their hands. They wrap both of their hands around your hand. Look out. Major control-needs are on display here. Check to make sure you still have your watch.

5. The Two-fister – variation. They shake your hand with their right hand, and grasp your forearm with their left. Serious control issues are lurking here.

6. The Dainty Fingers. Instead of wrapping their hand around yours, they wrap around your fingers. Very 17th century France.

So, you want a firm, but not overbearing handshake. Shake their entire hand, not just their fingers. And, be sure to make eye contact when shaking hands.  Let them look into your eyes to see your sincerity and confidence.

Price resistance? Bring it on

How do you see yourself when explaining your price to a customer? How do you react when they say it’s too expensive? For many of us, it’ can be an unpleasant feeling. A sense of dread. Or, sometimes we get a little defensive. “How dare you question how much I am charging you for this. Can’t you see that it’s worth it?” We might feel better, but we’ve probably blown the sale. Let’s try recalibrating, and focusing on the process.

When a customer resists our price, they are telling us that we haven’t convinced them of the value of our product or service. They are giving us another chance. “C’mon. Try again. Convince me.”

They are almost ready to buy. They like it, they just want to be convinced. I know that when a customer tells me that my price is too high, I am on my way to getting a sale. “It sounds like price is the only thing we need to discuss. Was there anything else besides price getting in the way of the sale?” They rarely bring up anything else. So now I know that if I can work out the price, I have a sale. But I don’t want to give it away. So first I start by revisiting the value of my service.  I show them how they will benefit from hiring me. I will also ask them about their budget. After all, I have given them my price, they should be willing to share their budget, and mostly they do. If it’s clear that they cannot pay my asking price, I’ll start scaling back my services to match their budget.

Dealing with a customer’s price resistance doesn’t have to be scary. Remember, what they are really telling us is that we haven’t sold them yet. So, let’s make them happy, and sell them our product or service.

Referrals are your best friend

Repeat customers are invaluable. They pay the bills, and keep you in business. But referrals are how you expand your business. Referrals are the lifeblood of your business, letting you survive and, in some cases, thrive. Everyone agrees on the importance of referrals. However, most salespeople rarely ask for referrals, even from their most loyal customers. “I don’t want to be a pushy salesperson.” Good. I don’t want you to be pushy either. I just want you to be successful.

Here are a few suggestions about getting referrals. First, ask your customer to refer you to a specific person. This helps focus your customer. They don’t have to think about it, they can just act on it. If you have a good working relationship with them, they won’t hesitate in referring you. Second, ask your customer to contact the referral for you, giving them your name. You are doing this to make sure they take your call. Third, after you contact the referral, loop back to your customer and tell them what happened, especially if you got business from the referral. If they have been part of you getting business, they will love hearing about it. Allow your customers to celebrate in your success.

Don’t  be afraid to ask for referrals. It’s a normal part of doing business.  If you’ve done a good job for a customer, they will be glad to recommend you.