Tag Archive: sales


Don’t get me wrong…Anticipation can be a good thing, but, as with everything, it must be treated as a calculated risk.

I often think of the long lines that form outside of Apple stores before the release of the latest and greatest iDevice.

Once the doors open, two things are guaranteed to follow in a very short time:

  1. Apple is going to make a lot of money in a very short time.
  2. The internet is about to be abuzz with news links and blogs detailing the disappointments experienced with the new device (What do you mean the maps aren’t accurate?!?!).

It seems like, once some people get their hands on the newest iDevice, they focus their entire energy on finding every flaw with it.

Now, this may be an extreme example, but it is played out everyday (albeit, on a much smaller scale) whether you realize it or not:

It starts with the first add or the first media leak…basically the first time someone hears about a new service or device: they start dreaming about it. 

The danger in dreaming is that people start to imagine their use of the device or service. They start ‘dreaming-in’ features that may not exist, they start ‘dreaming-in’ applications for which the actual device/service may not be acceptable, and they may even ‘dream-in’ a level of usability that the device/ service may not have yet achieved.

When they receive or experience the new device/service, it is already under scrutiny: being compared against the perception that the individual has had ample time  to bake up in their minds.

There is a reason that unexpected gifts make us happier than expected ones (When you get an unexpected bonus you are happy and surprised; when you are expecting a certain dollar amount, you just get upset at how much the government takes away from it and lose focus of the extra money you have received).

So, if your goal is to make a lot of money in a short time (like a new movie), you can use audience anticipation as a great tool to achieve your goals, but, if you want to avoid criticism (or focus on maintaining a lasting seller-customer relationship), you must approach anticipation more delicately (ensure product/service features are explicitly laid out to prevent ‘over-dreaming’, etc.).

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My wife and I were walking through Sam’s Club, and we came across an AWESOME salesman. How do I know that he was awesome? Because he was annoying and pushy as heck!

In all seriousness though, I think we can analyze his approach and tactics to improve our ability to influence others and make ourselves more persuasive.

Let’s start from the top…

  1. “How are you doing today, folks?” – You have to get people’s attention. It seems like the part of sales that most people dread: You just plain have to get people’s attention. I’ve seen so many “sales people” who seem like they’re afraid to stand out or get your attention. Plain and simple: if you don’t get my attention, I don’t buy from you.
  2. “Would you like to try a sample?” – You have to be proud of and/or stand behind what you’re selling (or at least give that appearance). I’m actually on the fence about free samples because I’ve seen them misused quite frequently (for example: the farmer offering free samples of blueberries in front of his  stand at the farmer’s market…everyone knows what a blueberry tastes like, and your blueberry isn’t going to draw hordes of customers away from your competitors). What I like about his free sample approach is that he waited for the “That IS good” that follows tasting the free sample, and then he promptly presented the bag “Yeah, and can you believe that it’s frozen?”
  3. “Just heat it up and you’re ready to eat!” – Explain how your product/service is beneficial to your customer and/or makes their life easier. I know, I know, this is the usual salesman stuff, but he wasn’t just saying this as an ‘end all’ statement to close the sale; he was using this to lay the groundwork:
  4. “Ma’am, how would you prepare this for dinner?” – Get your customer to start dreaming of using your product. Oh man…we’re working with a master here… By asking this question, he’s putting you on the spot to start visualizing, start daydreaming, and start responding and taking an active role in the sales pitch. “I’d probably put it in stir fry” my wife said, and I could instantly taste it. Audience participation is a powerful thing.
  5. “Are you ready to pick up a bag?” – Give a ‘call to action’ statement. This part of the pitch is so often overlooked, but it is what actually puts the pressure on and closes the sale! You cannot leave off the call to action statement!!!
  6. “We’re only here for a limited time! – Give a sense of urgency. This deflects the ‘I’ll just pick it up next time’ response and activates the natural human response to act on something when we only have a small window of opportunity.
  7. “Most people are picking up at least two bags!” – Use the crowd mentality to gain credibility and make the customer feel justified. He peer pressured us…with what was most likely a slight un-truth. Well, if everyone else is getting a couple bags, I suppose I’m justified to get two bags too! People draw credibility from what the crowd is doing, and he knew this and played it well. Of course, you can do this differently (through statistics, etc), but playing the numbers is a pretty effective approach/tactic.

We only ended up getting one bag (I have willpower like an ox!), but I felt that his sales approach and style was worth some analysis.

Some frozen Asian food company got their money’s worth out of that sales guy!

I wish…

Our wants are insatiable, but we live in a world with scarcity.

This is the basis behind every economic text ever produced, and it’s a very true statement.

So, what are we to do? …we are to wish, of course!

This is where I have to again step in for Amazon.com for the inclusion of a wishlist on their site  (I realize that they’re not the only company to have done this, but theirs is a great example).

From their website, I can easily add items which I want, but can’t yet afford, to my wishlist. By adding things to my wishlist, what would be fleeting remains concrete and stored – I may have forgotten about a book that I wanted to read, but it would still be sitting there on my wishlist, waiting for me to make my move.

I can also share my wishlist with friends, who will then most likely use Amazon to purchase the items (this is because, again, the wishlist is incorporated into Amazon’s site). On top of that, I recently received an e-mail from Amazon with a ‘reminder’ of the items on my wishlist – clever on their part: innocently pushing me to make my purchase.

Double thumbs up, Amazon! Even if you don’t make a purchase today, you’re working hard to secure one in the future!

That’s right, salesforce.com, you’re on my naughty list.

So, we’ve discussed the many pros of e-mail communications over telemarketing phone calls, but, apparently, something still needs to be said about these e-mail communications… Let me paint a picture of the proceeding events:

  • I heard about Salesforce.com and wanted to watch their promotional video.
  • To view the video, you must give them your e-mail address and phone number. (This is very annoying and already a turn-off, but I figured they wouldn’t abuse the privilege…)
  • Almost instantly I received a follow up e-mail asking for some more details about my business and if there were any specific aspects of the software for which I would like more information, which, honestly, was to be expected.
  • Then I received a phone call. Now you’ve crossed a line.
  • Then I received another e-mail asking if my phone number was correct and if there was a better time to contact me (These 2 e-mails and 1 phone call all happened within an hour!).
  • I sent the following response (Paraphrasing):
So far, Salesforce.com looks pretty intriguing to me; however, I am currently not in a position to take advantage of your software.
I know some folks with some influence at bigger companies, and I will do my best to bring your services to their attention, but I’m honestly a bit annoyed at the rate of your correspondence. As a matter of fact, I don’t want to make them put in their own information to watch your demo videos because I’m afraid you would call/e-mail them too much and they would be turned off from your company/service.
Within an hour I had 2 e-mails and 1 phone call from you (I hung up on your phone call because I was eating lunch with my family). Please refrain from contacting me as this is my personal information. I will contact you if I have questions or need additional information about your website.
Thank you.
  • 1 month later, I received the following e-mail:
Just wanted to see if you are still interested in salesforce.comwe have some exciting new updates we are about to release and wanted to see if that is something worth taking a look at?
  • I responded that I was officially uninterested due to the lack of adherence to my request to not receive further e-mails.
  • One month later…I received this same e-mail again.
  • My response: “No.”
Just because e-mail is slightly less offensive, does not mean you can treat this medium like a telemarketer. Your approach should be adjusted to suit your medium!
E-mails can be more easily customized, and address books are easier to manage (and can even be managed by one person) – Don’t just treat your e-mail contacts like your phone contacts, with identical, generic, incrementally-repeating messages!!!
Salesforce.com, I thought you’d be better at sales than this!!!

At the company I work for, not unlike many other companies nowadays, they are really cracking down on people printing in color.

We’ve had several rounds of e-mails from executives (…or the executive’s secretaries, anyway), fancy graphs (in color) of how much more it is costing the company  every time we print in color, and some people have put fancy tag lines on their e-mail signatures, but people continue to print in color.

The solution is NOT that we need more e-mails and threats from the folks who make much more money than us, the solution is actually quite simple: Change the default setting!

That’s right, this printer is currently set to print in color by default. This means, any time anyone hits print, they print in color. To not print in color, they have to go into the settings and change them such that they will only print in black & white. While this simple task does not take much time (just a couple of mouse clicks), it does take effort, and people are, by nature, resistant to expending any additional effort beyond the base that is required to complete their intended task.

Now, what can this failure teach us about how to reach success? Make the “default” lead to your desired outcome! 

Another awesome example of this involves organ donations. In full text, it can be found here. Summarized, this study goes as follows:

When you renew your driver’s license, you have a chance to enroll in an organ donation program. In countries like Germany and the U.S., you have to check a box if you want to opt in. Roughly 14 percent of people do. But behavioral scientists have discovered that how you set the defaults is really important. So in other countries, like Poland or France, you have to check a box if you want to opt out. In these countries, more than 90 percent of people participate. This is a gigantic behavior difference cued by one tiny and costless change in procedure.

These examples should be more than enough evidence to demonstrate that you need to design your website, booth, product, marketing plan, etc such that, when a customer acts in the manner of least resistance, they are accomplishing your desired purpose. If you require any extra effort, you are losing sales and you are losing customers!

Whazzat?

To the left is a picture of my belt buckle –

“My awesome wife made it for me for Valentine’s Day 2011. She made it out of scraps that I had left over from a product that I worked on extensively for the 5 years previous. On Valentine’s Day 2012 (the very next year), my son was born…”

I could go on and on…and that’s exactly the point: My belt buckle is a “Whazzat” (as in: “Whazzat?” “Why, it’s a belt my wife made for me!”).

The concept of a “Whazzat” is a simple one: find something interesting, with a story  behind it, that you can wear or carry with you, and you will never again encounter a situation in which you will be at a loss for a conversation or at least a conversation starter.

Even though I’ve been wearing this same belt buckle for over a year now, and I am fairly set on my routine, I still have someone inquire about my belt buckle almost daily. Sometimes the inquirer is someone whom I already know,  and sometimes it is someone whom I have just met, but, every single time, a good conversation results:

“My wife made it for me last Valentine’s Day” “Really? My wife is crafty too! One time she made…”

or

“My wife made it out of scrap parts from a product I’ve been working on for a while.” “Really? What product is that?”

…and the list goes on and on.

I strongly recommend you finding yourself a “Whazzat” as soon as you can. It’s actually fun to find one and wear it/carry it around.

Also, it’s more than a conversation starter; it also helps folks remember you: you’ll feel like royalty when you and your friends go out to an establishment and the host/waiter is able to pick you out from the large amount of people which they encounter every day.

What are you waiting for?!!? Go get yourself a “Whazzat”,  and start eliminating those awkward silent moments today!

This post was inspired by upsidedownturtle – please keep the suggestions and ideas coming everybody! I really appreciate your thoughts/feedback; that’s why I started this blog in the first place!!!

My wife keeps getting phone calls from Western Michigan University’s Alumni Association asking for money; even though she’s asked to be removed from their calling list several times.

Upsidedownturtle’s husband keeps getting phone calls from the University of Michigan’s Alumni Association, first engaging in spurious small talk, and then asking for money (they’ve even gotten these calls on Sunday nights)! They have also asked several times to be removed from the calling list, but to no avail.

There are a couple of trends I’ve noticed when discussing telemarketers with my friends:

  1. No one that I know of has actually taken these folks up on their offers
  2. Everyone has tried to get removed from the associated calling list
  3. Very few folks have actually been successfully removed from said calling lists
  4. Every person feels as if their privacy has been invaded by these phone calls

Now, I understand where telemarketing came from. For a while it was the only option for any sort of “personal” contact with customers, but, with the options available today, why the heck are telemarketers still as prevalent as they are?

Nowadays you can send a custom e-mail to your customers with ads, sales, and features which are custom tailored to their specific interests. When this is done well, your customers will actually thank you and look forward to your e-mails (Etsy does a good job of this; my wife actually looks forward to getting her weekly e-mail from them, and she even makes an event out of going through the e-mail and adding new items to her wishlist).

The mind and expectations of today’s consumer has also changed. We don’t want you to invade our privacy; we want you to work for our attention, and we want to look at your ad on our time (if we look at your ad at all). Yes, this requires more effort on your part; you can’t just read us a script and expect us to invest our  money in you. You need to invest some time and effort into crafting an ad that is tailored to us, as individuals, and design it and deliver it in a way that makes us want to play along.

Yes, you will have fewer views (more people may initially answer their phones than click on your ad), but the customers that you get from this form of advertising will undoubtedly spend more money and time with your company (and not actually be turned off from your company by your mode of advertising)!

…and, just for fun, here’s another blog from Seth Godin about Permission Marketing!

Cookie Monster

So it is that time of year again…

My wife’s birthday is fast approaching at the end of the month, and I’m left to follow the trail of breadcrumbs that she has left behind her in order to figure out what she’d like for her birthday.

It’s times like these when I’d love to have some assistance, and this got me thinking:

I get weekly e-mails from Amazon.com telling me what they think I’d be interested in based on my recent searches and purchases. I can remember the days when we all used to be paranoid about this kind of thing and don our tin foil hats screaming that the internet has invaded our privacy and we’re all going to end up being slaves to robots by the year 2010, but I think, while that mentality is still out there, it has, for the most part, subsided.

That being said, I think Amazon should just bite the bullet and take it one step further. I know that Amazon knows that I’m married; and Amazon probably knows who my wife is. My account uses her debit card for purchases and, if they wanted to put in even less effort into their search, than they could just go to my Facebook page and see who it says I’m married to. On top of that, and by the same logic, Amazon knows my wife’s birthday.

Therefore, why doesn’t Amazon just send me a “Hey! Your wife’s birthday is coming up, and here’s what she might enjoy!” e-mail?

Leave Something Behind!

A few days ago, I was getting ready in the bathroom when I noticed my wife’s St. Ives face scrub and had somewhat of an epiphany:

Now, there’s nothing fancy about this face scrub (what I mean to say is that this epiphany could and should apply to any other consumable consumer product).

The basic, underlying issue is this: You need to stay in the forefront of your customer’s mind, and, even better, you should strive to have your brand noticed by folks who are not yet customers and seek for ways to have conversations spurred concerning your product.

So, back to face scrub: Our face scrub is kept in the shower. Therefore, the only time that we notice or think about the face scrub is when we are in the shower, and the only time that anyone else would notice or think about the face scrub is if they were in our shower (…and, since moving into our new house last September, I don’t believe we’ve had anyone other than us use our shower).

So far, we’re not doing a good job of staying in the mind of the consumer or starting conversations…

Now, let’s say that St. Ives made a cheap magnet with a mirrored finish and a border that featured the tube of the St. Ives scrub that I have pictured with a cheesy tagline (something really corny like “You look great today!”), and let’s say that they included this free with the purchase of a tube of St. Ives.

In my opinion, a mirror is an awesome choice because it 100% relates to this product, and, of course, because people love to look at themselves. Also, while these folks are checking themselves out, their eyes are always just inches away from a picture of your product.

I’d imagine that this mirror would get stuck on the inside of lockers and on refrigerators in kitchens everywhere that St. Ives is purchased (I remember from high school that every single girl had a magnet-mirror in her locker). This also means that this mirror would get viewed, not only by the girl who owned the locker, for example, but also by her friends, and not just by the woman who owns the refrigerator, but by all of her house guests who happen to step into the kitchen.

Now, let’s say that someone gets two of these mirrors because they buy two bottles; while it is true that they may throw the extra away, I believe that it is more likely that they would pass this on to one of their friends (who wouldn’t want a magnet-mirror?).

And, just like that, your product, which is normally hidden behind a shower curtain or a medicine cabinet door, is put in the central location of a house or school.

It is so important, when you have a consumable product (especially one that is kept somewhat out of view), that you stay in the forefront of your customer’s mind and spur conversations relating to your product, and the best way to do this is to leave something behind!

Ugh. I hate bad customer service.

Thursday, my wife and I went into a hardware store to make a rather large purchase comprising of a grill, a full-size stand up freezer, a lawnmower, and a few other items. We worked with one of the sales associates for 20-30 minutes, but we had to leave empty-handed because some of the exact items that we wanted were out of stock and we wanted to research some alternatives online before making a purchase.

The associate gave us his card and told us he could get us 10% off if we asked for him when we came back to the store to make our purchase – nice job.

Today was the day we went back.

We found the associate and told him what we had decided (going up to a higher quality grill – score!). The associate responded “Oh, I forgot which ones you were.”

Now, I understand that this associate works for a large retailer and that he probably sees literally hundreds of different people everyday, and I realize that he couldn’t possibly remember each and every person that he’s spoken with, but making the customer feel like he or she is the only person in the world is the mark of true, amazing customer service.

A better dialog would go as follows:

  • Me: “Hey, we decided to step it up to the better grill!”
  • Sales guy: “Great! Which grill, specifically? Didn’t you have some other items on your list as well?”
  • Me: “Why yes I did!”

Even if I didn’t have other items on my list, I would have said “No, that was it”, and I still would have felt like he remembered me (at least a little bit).

Instead, what I got was “I forgot”, and “which ones you were”; now I feel like a number not a person.

Even if you can’t remember someone, a good customer service/sales associate should learn some common responses to make his/her customers feel special. If I wanted something impersonal, I would have just bought everything online.