Are you a Pain-Removal Machine for your customers…?


This won’t take you long to read, and it should only take you a short while to put into practice, but I’m positive you’ll find it a quick and easy tool in getting your customers to want to buy from you.

I was reminded of it the other morning as I was driving to a meeting. I was listening to my usual commercial radio station and – unlike many radio-listeners, who are probably tempted to change the frequency when the commercial-breaks kick in – my ears prick up when I hear the adverts. The reason being I’m always interested in hearing how advertisers are trying to sell their products – and how not to sell their products!

For instance, every morning I hear about how I can get my car air-conditioning recharged for only £29.99, and every morning that advert fails to get me even in the slightest bit interested in their offer. Why? Because I have no idea why I need to get my AC recharged, or why my world is going to be a better place because of it. But then I heard another car air-con advert and my ears really did prick up!

This is what I heard – “Are you struggling to de-mist your windscreen on these winter’s mornings? If so, clear your windscreen quickly by getting your air-con recharged.”

Genius! Let me explain why it was such a hit with me by deconstructing it into its small component parts – in fact, 3 simple steps…

Step 1 – The Pain Question (“Are you struggling to de-mist your windscreens on these winter’s mornings?” – it’s a straight-to-the-point question that quickly establishes if your customer has the pain you can help with or not. When I say pain I mean the basic reason why they would want to buy from you)

 So, if the answer is no, then the chances are they will probably never buy from you. But if the answer to that question is YES, then without doubt they will be interested in hearing Step 2 – The Solution!

Step 2 – The Solution (“clear your windscreen quickly” – this is your doctor’s prescription; this is the solution to take away the pain your customers are experiencing)

The last step is where you come in with your service…

Step 3 – The Method (“get your air-con recharged” – this is what your customer has to do in order to get the solution to their pain – and this is what you provide!

Let’s put the simple equation together…

The Pain Question + The Solution + The Method = The Sale

If you find yourself making your sales pitch sound too complicated, then try the 3 Steps to Simple Sales Success – in the eyes of your customers you will be a Pain-Removal Machine!


It’s not BIG to treat your customers like they’re small!

Another brief departure from the sales tips to let you know about a conversation I had with a friend of mine this week.

For weeks now he’s been telling me about a new wall he’s having built in his garden, and every time I see him I ask if he’s managed to get the thing built yet. And every time he tells me about how the builder can’t make it yet because he’s too busy…etc…etc…

“Is he the best builder in town?” I asked. “Because he must be with the amount of work he has to finish before he gets to you.”

If the waiting and broken promises alone wasn’t bad enough, there was one thing that our busy builder said to my friend that sent a shiver down me. He said: “I’ve got a lot of bigger jobs to get finished before I can do yours.”

WHAT??!! Just how much is wrong with that sentence for anybody to say to a customer?

For a start if Mr Builder is too BIG to do my little friend’s wall then don’t accept the work in the first place, because somewhere along the way he’s somehow (very cleverly) managed to engineer the balance of power in the customer/supplier relationship so that my friend now believes that the builder is doing him a FAVOUR by building his wall, because he is so busy!! (Is this something all builders learn in Building College? The art of making someone who is paying for services rendered feel like they have to be eternally grateful for them getting their trowel dirty!)

Seriously, telling a customer that you are too busy dealing with bigger customers to be able to deal with them within the time frame you originally told them is a cardinal sales and service sin of the highest order.

There are so many better ways to handle this situation –

  • Manage the customers expectations of when you’ll genuinely be able to fulfil your promises
  • If you are struggling to meet a deadline keep the customer in the loop
  • Don’t accept the work at all if you think you might not be able to deliver on time

I never thought I would have to write something like this because I thought it was such an obvious no-no I would never have to, but…hey, go figure!

PS – No builders were harmed in the writing of this blog!

PPS – Here’s another thing I probably don’t have to write, but not all builders are like this – I know some who give a great service and are a credit to their trade.

A to Z of Simple Sales Tips: M – Make it easier for your customers to buy from you


When I worked as a sales manager in the financial services, part of my role would be to accompany financial advisers on their client visits.

I would be there make observations around how they conducted the interview and give feedback in order for the adviser to improve their skills.

One piece of feedback I often gave was when the client would say “I’ll think about it” at the close of the sale.

In sales-speak, when your customer says “I’ll think about it” it actually means they won’t think about it for a second longer – in fact it means they’re not going to buy from you at that point because you’ve done something wrong!

This may seem harsh, but I know it’s true from my own and other’s bitter experiences. There are many thinks you could have done wrong, or more accurately, not done well enough, but a common own-goal is not making it easy enough for your customer to buy from you.

Customers don’t want to make hard decisions when it comes to buying – I know this for fact, because I know I don’t and I’m someone’s customer.

So make sure your sales pitch –

  • Focuses on the results they’ll get > so they clearly know how their world will be improved after working with you
  • Is presented in simple language > if a 13 year old boy can’t grasp the basic premise of your pitch then you’re running the risk of it being too complicated!
  • Doesn’t include too many options > this can muddy the situation to a point where the customer is too confused by too many options to buy, so buys nothing!
  • Includes a pain-free easy purchase > many customers like to try before they buy so let them
  • Gives an example of others who have benefitted from your service > few of us are trail-blazers, which means most of us like to follow a well-trodden path (for instance, if you know someone who attends a Zumba class, I’ll bet you they started going because someone they knew was already going!)

If you do nothing else but include the above points in your next sales pitch, I guarantee you’ll be making it easier for your customers to buy from you.

You’ll soon start reducing the “I’ll think about its!”

Next time, look out for N in the A to Z of Simple Sales Tips!


A to Z of Simple Sales Tips: L – Living your business…

Many businesses live and die on the strength of many things – but the one simple source of vital fuel that every successful business requires in order to sky-rocket is authenticity.

What do I mean by Authentic? Consider a genuine pair of Levi 501s, as opposed to a pair of replica jeans from Turkey.

At first you might not be able to see the difference. But after a while, especially if you put the replicas under strain, they’ll start to come apart at the seams. Yet the authentic ones stay strong despite what you put them through. And that is because they are AUTHENTIC.

Now think about your business – are you at the front-line of your business? If you are, then you are what your customers see about your business. And not just see – also what they feel and believe in your business.

We all talk about the need to live your business, but how many of us actually do?

When I was a kid, my parents used to preach to me: “Do as I say, not what I do!”

This was after I would question what they were telling me to do when I saw little evidence of them actually doing it themselves – don’t worry, parents the world over do this.

But the reason why I questioned and doubted what they were saying to me at times was because I didn’t see them doing it – and it’s the same with your own business.

If you are not practicing what you preach (and I know I’ve fallen foul of this over the years) then your customers will soon start questioning your methods and authenticity.

We can all think of examples where we start to question what we see – for instance, a builder whose house is falling down, or a mechanic whose car breaks down.

Tragically, I knew of a life coach who took her own life, because…well, she wasn’t at peace with her life.

It is so vitally important to live your business and be authentic, because your customers will soon see through you if you are not genuine – just like a fake pair of jeans!

Next time, the sales tip is M – Making it easy for your customers to buy from you


Don’t lock your Inner Branson away in your bedroom!

I was going to get back to my A to Z of Simple Sales Tips this week, but something happened that made me want to share this blog with you instead.

I was having a conversation with a client of mine about making the most of your Inner Branson – that is the part in all of us that thinks we can make a difference and come up an idea that can really fly – just like Richard Branson did when he first set up in business!

The thing with our Inner Branson though is that often it gets locked away in our bedroom and never gets to see the light of day – I mean, how many times have you heard someone telling you about a great idea they have for a new business, only for it to only ever stay as just that – an idea.

We can all lay in bed and day-dream about what we’d like to do, if only…if only…if only we unlocked our Inner Branson!

Real-life examples of locked Inner Branson’s are all around us. In fact, I remembered talking to two different guys about 6 months ago who had Inner Branson ideas.

Both wanted to earn money while they slept by setting up e-commerce websites to sell their product 24/7. One was by selling watches; the other was mobile-phone paraphernalia.

 In my opinion, the guy with the mobile-phone site had the better market proposition, while I wasn’t sure about the on-line watch shop being a winner.

I spoke to them both the other day – the watch guy, who didn’t have a great business plan to start with but just wanted to get on with it, and the mobile-phone guy, who wanted to make sure his web-site was spot-on and professional. The watch guy is booming, with orders coming out of his ears – and the mobile-phone guy? Well, he’s still waiting to get his website set up…

Basically, the difference between the two guys was the acceptance to let their Inner Branson fly.  A former business colleague of mine – Andy Bounds – used to say “sometimes it doesn’t have to be great, because good is good enough!”

You know what? I agree with him – if you’ve got an idea don’t let it get bogged down with peripheral stuff, because it’s so easy to let it. Don’t let getting the right logos and branding hold you back. Of course it’s important, but not as important as road-testing your idea and just GETTING IT OUT THERE!  

The watch guy’s website isn’t great but is most definitely good enough – and his sales are proving it! He tells me he’ll improve his website in time but for now it’s more than fit for purpose.

So get out there and don’t lock your Inner Branson in your bedroom – because more often than not good enough is good enough to be great!


Where Rex isn’t the local dog, but a pedigree in giving the right service…

What are the two main business drivers that determine most sales deals?

Price and service!

Neither are straight-forward – the price is easy to get wrong, because you can be obviously too expensive, but also you can be too cheap.

However, good service is something that many businesses think is easy to get right, but so many get it wrong, even when they think they’re getting it right!

It isn’t as confusing as you think – this is the trick: it’s not always about giving a good service; it’s more about giving the right service to your customers. Let me give you an example…

If you like going to the cinema, the chances are you’ll watch most of your movies at one of the big multi-screen complexes in the middle of an out-of-town retail park. Each time I go, I always find myself mumbling about the cost of the tickets, and the cost of the bucket-sized fizzy drinks, yet I always go back. Why? Because they have the largest choice of movies, the most screenings, and they have the movies I want to see on the day they are released. So the service they offer has me hooked despite, not because of the other parts of their offering that make me grumble (price etc.)

However, I discovered the flip-side of cinema-going the other day – and it made me realise how effective offering the right service can be.

Since the advent of the multi-screen monoliths in the late 80’s and early 90’s, most of the traditional single-screen cinemas of my youth have unfortunately gone by the way-side. However, one or two of these privately-owned old palaces have bucked the trend and are proving to be a success, even when lost in the huge shadows cast by their digitally-enhanced cousins. How do they manage to do this? By offering the right service to their customers.

I had the happy experience of visiting one of these tiny shining lights the other day with my better half and her little boy. It would have been easy to let misty-eyed nostalgia effect my observations, so I tried to be as hard-nosed as the ice-creams during the intermission would let me!

So, how do they compete with the might of the multi-plex cinemas? Well, they don’t even try – which is brilliant.

Their admission is cheaper, and their drinks and ice-creams certainly are – but that isn’t the reason for their success. They don’t even get the big movies on the day they are released, because the one we saw the other day had probably been showing elsewhere for a month. So what exactly have they got?

Well, for starters a nice line in homeliness. The place actually felt welcoming instead of clinical and efficient. There was an aroma of polish and bees-wax rather than air-freshener.

Next, the staff all actually looked like they were genuinely interested in the running of the cinema and giving the customers a good time – the young guy serving the pop-corn actually explained to the kids that he had to make some more, rather than saying they had sold out.

They also chose the movies they were going to show, rather than being told by share-holders what block-busters to have on the screens. This meant they could hand-pick the films their customers actually wanted to see, rather than being forced to see. They even run successful retro film nights, which sounds like a great idea.

Basically, I felt my custom had been actually appreciated. Of course, I had paid my money and I had got what I was buying (which is what big cinemas trade on) but in reality I had got so much more. I had got an experience of being wanted, which was the right service for me, and one that I will be repeating soon.

Take a look at your business – are you offering what you think is a good service, or is it the right service for your customers?

Smiths lose to the young Bucks…


My inspiration to blog about all things sales-y comes from many sources, and often from the observations I make as I make my way through my every day, normal life – like this morning for instance.

It’s a Saturday and I have just been to the gym and was looking forward to having a flick through the newspapers whilst enjoying a Starbucks coffee. But first I needed the newspaper, so I went to the WH Smiths store across the road.

I have fond memories of WH Smiths from my childhood – it was where I used to buy my drawing pads and pencils so I could draw my favourite super-heroes from the comics I had just bought with my pocket money. In fact, its name is almost as much a part of my childhood memories as the much-missed Woolworths. Anyway back to today…

WH Smiths is no longer the jewel in the crown of the high street it once was, and the store I was in has in recent years reduced its floor-space to about a third of what it was – cost saving no doubt. Unfortunately, those saving don’t appear to have been passed onto staff training!

With newspaper in hand, I stood in a queue the size of which made me think someone must have been giving away a free bar of gold bullion with every Daily Telegraph, or had Smiths just had a resurgence in popularity that was going to result in a hundred new shops opening before the end of the year?

No – they only had one person serving, and she had all the enthusiasm of a turkey writing Christmas cards. Not once did she make eye contact with any customer, not once did she ask if there was anything else we needed, and not once did she say sorry for our wait.

I looked around me for reinforcements – someone to help this girl from her slow, lingering retail sales death. Yes there was one – a young guy with his WH Smith embossed shirt unbuttoned low enough to reveal a heavily tattooed chest and a crucifix around his neck so big even Van Helsing the vampire-slayer might need a fork-lift to borrow it.

Would he be her knight in shining armour and “jump on” the till beside her?

 No – instead he adopted a well-developed hundred-yard stare focussed on nothing particular, and especially not the snaking queue or his fast-withering sales colleague.   

In front of me, a lady was trying to exchange a cut-out newspaper voucher showing a picture of a pack of pens for an actual pack of pens.

“They’re not the same,” said the sales girl.

“Yes they are. They’re the same make and colour,” said the customer.

“No, you’re wrong. They’re not the same. We sold out of those this morning,” said the sales girl.

“Can you check?” asked the customer.

The sales girl gave a tut (yes, a TUT!) and waved to someone who looked vaguely like the manager, who had been hitherto hiding behind a pile of hard-back books, no doubt wondering why God had put her on this planet to work in WH Smiths.

The manageress came across, snatched the voucher from the customer’s fingers, snatched the pack of pens from the sales girl’s fingers and flounced off over to the stationary display, only to return with another pack of pens which she gave to the customer and said, “You can have these.”

I couldn’t keep the wide grin of surprise and incredulousness off my face. This shocking display of bad customer service was then topped off like a cherry on a cake, when the manageress did in fact “jump on” the next till. I was next in line.

Did she register my smile? Did she say sorry for my wait? Did she even ask if I wanted a bag? No, no and – no. I was summarily dismissed with a curt “Next!”

I was still shaking my head when I walked into Starbucks – the difference in service hit me in the face like a bucket of cold water.

Smiles, eye-contact, engagement and almost genuine interest in how your day was going – crowned by the master-stroke of asking your name when you ordered so when your drink was ready it wasn’t simply a tall skinny latte extra hot wet, but Damian, your latte is ready – brilliant!

Is it a surprise that Starbucks is a 21st century sensation that has become a mainstay of our new coffee culture? No.

Also, is it a surprise that WH Smiths is disappearing down the dumper faster than I can say CUSTOMER SERVICE? Definitely NO!

Why? Because the Starbucks staff are well trained, supported and their interaction with the customers is monitored. Not in a Big Brother way, but to just ensure that we, the customers, get the service we expect.

As for WH Smiths, I would imagine their staff training stops at how to make sure the newspapers are the right way up!

Don’t make the same WH Smiths mistakes with your business, or you could end the same way as Woolies!


Don’t let your sales messages get lost in translation…


Although I’ll be resuming my A to Z of Simple Sales Tips after the summer break, I just wanted to share with you how I made a big mistake the other day.

I am currently looking after a project team, and each day I have to brief out changes to procedure and other pieces of information that are important for them to complete their work.

Sometimes I’ll do this verbally, though most of the time I’ll deliver the information via e-mail.

It was with one of these emails that I committed the cardinal sin of communication – I didn’t spell out exactly what I wanted my team to do.  Instead, I made the mistake of presuming that they would know where to find the information spread-sheets I was referring to in the email.

The end-result of this mistake was me having to burn much midnight oil whilst I rectified the errors.

Now let me stress, this was not, in any part, my team’s fault – it was all mine for not being clear, concise and bullet-proof with my instructions.

This blunder on my part reminded me of a recent conversation I had with a client of mine about their website. They were having problems converting the traffic they were getting to their site into sign-ups for their newsletters.

I said I would check out their website and find out what the problem was.

The reason for their lack of newsletter take-up was two-fold: The link for the newsletter wasn’t on their homepage, and there was no information about the newsletter even when you did find the link.

In short – they were making it too difficult for their audience to do what they wanted them to do (sign up for the newsletter) and there was no obvious benefit in doing so anyway!

It was the same mistake I had made with my team – I hadn’t made it easy for them to carry out the task I wanted them to do, and I hadn’t explained why it was important that they did it.

This was a communication break-down on my part. As communication is the core element of any successful sale, don’t let yours get lost in translation!


95% of our customers say they would recommend us to their friends and family… so why don’t they?


Although this isn’t one of my A to Z of Simple Sales Tips, I thought it was worth sharing with you…

A while ago I was walking past the window of my local solicitors. In the window was a poster that proudly declared that, following a survey, 95% of their customers said that they would recommend them to their friends and family.

Quite impressive you might think – I certainly thought so. I mean, for any business to be able to say that more than 9 out of 10 of their customers would recommend their services to their nearest and dearest is pretty damn impressive.

So, after such a bold declaration, I was looking forward to meeting the proprietors of said solicitors at the next local networking meeting.

On the day of the event, I made a bee-line for them and introduced myself.

I was about to congratulate them on their customer survey when they stopped me and said: “We’ve always had trouble getting customers to recommend us.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The firm of solicitors that had gone to the trouble of conducting a customer survey, in order to find out that 95% of their customers would happily recommend their services, were saying they have trouble getting recommendations!

This was one of the biggest contradictory statements I had ever heard. Logically, there should be no reason why a business who is loved enough by their customers to say they would recommend them to practically anyone, would struggle to actually get recommendations.

However, the reason is massively simple.

I asked the solicitors who were having trouble getting their customers to recommend them a question.

“How often do you ask your customers for a recommendation?”

The blank faces answered the question. They had never asked for a recommendation.

Why? Because they assumed that by giving a great service (good enough to get a winning survey) their customers would automatically recommend them – without asking!

Here’s a revelation – people don’t just recommend you. It’s not in our psyche to do so automatically, certainly not in the UK.

We need a gentle prod, a helping hand, a steer in the right direction. Put another way, we need to be asked to do it.

Ask for recommendations and the chances are you will get some.

But one thing is for certain – if you don’t ask you will almost certainly get none, even if you do have customers who have told you that they would recommend you to 95% of their friends and family.

Get asking!

How to avoid a holiday hangover for your business…


I thought I’d take a break from the A to Z of Simple Sales Tips to give you a topical tip for the summer holiday season.

Many of us at this time of year take our annual holidays – typically a week or two in the sun. However, research has shown that for people who run their own business, a two-week break can often lead to as much as a month’s worth of lost income!

Let me explain why this is…

In the week leading up to the holiday, we often end up getting lost in a mad whirl of tickets, passports, currency and packing – with business meetings being relegated to the back seat. But the week (or weeks!) following our holiday can often be far worse!

How many times have you come off holiday to an empty diary? No business appointments lined up and no-one to talk business to.

This scenario slows down your ability to deal with the PHBBs (Post Holiday Business Blues) and before you know it you’ve already written off your first week back and are convincing yourself that the following week will be better!

Just like that, the cost of a two-week holiday has rocketed to include the price of the holiday itself, the spending money – and now a month’s worth of lost business! How many of us can truly afford to do that?

So, in order to avoid a holiday hangover for your business, in the week before your pre-holiday week (or even more in advance if you’re organised) ensure you nail down some business meetings in your diary for the days before you go on your break.

In addition – and this is even more important – make sure you definitely nail some for the week you get back – in fact, the best way to get your “work” cogs turning again after a glut of sun, sea and sangria is to have a business meeting scheduled for your first day back.

This will, without doubt, get you back in the business grove and on your game in record time – crucially, it will reduce the chance of suffering a holiday hangover that costs you a month’s worth of wages!

Happy holidays!