I used to know a pub landlord who would regularly criticise the merits of certain rival establishments. At first I would take his caustic comments as worthy advice, and steer clear of said drinking-holes as if they were riddled with the plague. However, after a while I came to realise, he only criticised a rival pub when he considered them to be a genuine threat to his business.
So if I heard him commenting on the poor nature of another bar, I would purposely visit that pub, and you know what? More often than not, the pubs had great merit and were well worth the visit!
More importantly, my respect for my local pub landlord plummeted and I never listened to his advice again. In other words, in trying to kick his rivals he ended up kicking himself!
This is a trap that is easy to fall into with your own business, especially if you have close rivals vying for the same orders.
Never allow yourself to get involved in a war-of-words about your competitors – the only worth-while way to build good, sustainable business relationships is to focus on the benefits of your service, not the weaknesses of your competitors.
It’s not about trying to take the moral high-ground, but it is about making sure your own glass is double-glazed first rather than throwing stones at other people’s windows!
Next time, look out for…
L – Living the brand you are (whether you like it or not!)
In today’s modern business world, your customers are increasingly under pressure to find the right solutions to their problems as quickly and cost-effectively as possible. They want to buy from suppliers who they know, like and trust – and don’t really want to go through the hassle of trying out new faces. This can be a massive challenge for you if you are trying to break into new markets and businesses.
Joining forces with other suppliers can your customers and you. The benefit to your customers is that you can offer them a wider range of services than what you are limited to by offering only your own – for instance, if you are a graphic designer, it makes sense to team-up with a web-designer and a photographer. This would mean if your customer wanted a new web-site you could manage the whole project and your customer could save time and effort by using someone who they know, like and trust for the entire job – you!
The benefit to you is that your customer thinks your great, you can often charge a fee for project-managing the job and you develop a relationship with other suppliers that should result in you being on the receiving end of being offered work when they get projects with their customers – win win!
A word of warning though – make sure you only get into a business relationship with other suppliers you also know, like and trust. Getting into bed with bad bed-fellows can be disastrous, leading to the souring of relationships with your customers if they receive a bad service from one of your team-ups.
Get it right though, and the benefits for you, your customers and your team of suppliers can be great!
Look out next time for…
K – Kicking your opposition is like kicking yourself!
This is a simple tip to put into practice but one that will transform your customer meetings.
I spend a lot of time in hotel foyers and coffee shops having meetings with clients (both prospective and existing) and in the time before and after my meetings I tend to eaves drop into the meetings going on around me. A little naughty of me I know, but the insight it gives me into the selling skills on display is enlightening.
On the whole the meetings are usually between someone trying to sell their product/services and someone who they want to be their customer – but I often struggle to tell who is who, because the balance of the meeting is all wrong! All I hear is the salesperson talking and a whole load of silence and nodding coming from the other person. All wrong!
If you’re a salesperson and all you can hear is the sound of your own voice then you will inevitably struggle to find out about your customer, and why they should buy from you. Why? Because you’re spending the meeting trying to be interesting and talking all about yourself and your product/services and not being interested enough in your customer and what is important in their world.
In future, when in meetings with prospective customers, have a pad in front of you to make notes (a record of what your customer is saying) and write along the top W.A.I.T.
This stands for WHY AM I TALKING? Because if you are, then you shouldn’t be – it’s far better to be interested in what your customer has to say, than trying to be interesting with what you are saying!
Next time look out for…
J – Join forces with other suppliers to become a super-power (but beware of bad bed-fellows!)
I know lots of people who spend lots of time hoping their business will be a success. Don’t get me wrong – we all hope we’re going to be a success in business. But the problem with hope is that it is a very small word that in reality doesn’t get us very far…on its own!
For instance, I hope to win the lottery at the week-end – but I’ll have absolutely no chance unless I buy a ticket! Also, I hope (one day) to own a very fast sports-car…but the chances are I won’t unless I put a plan in place to get one.
So hope on its own is kind of hopeless unless you attach it to a plan. Now the thing about planning is that (if you’re not careful) you can soak all your business-time into making plans and not actually doing something. So make sure your plans are based on action, not pondering. Doing, not refining! (Remember, it’s better to be good, than planning to be great!)
If you have an idea, get it done and get it out there – don’t think about for too long otherwise it’ll end up in planning hell and never get done. The best way to find out if an idea is any good is to try it out – only then can you improve/change it. Get it road-tested; don’t leave it on the ramps!
If you don’t put some action into your business, all you’ll have is hope – and that on its own is hopeless!
I – Interested in your customers is better than being interesting!
Getting your face known means exactly that – getting known and recognised by your potential customers. There are various ways to do this and ultimately the most effective is still actually getting in-front of people and finding out the results they want from your service. This may feel time-consuming and hard-work, but it is the best.
However, that is not to say you can start the ball rolling by other methods – here’s a few…
- Networking groups (like BNI and 4Networking to name a couple)
- Speaker events (where you are the expert and delivering a talk on your service)
- Social media (being active on Twitter, Face-book and LinkedIn, but DEFINTELY seek expert advice on how to make the most of these opportunities – many people use social media, very few use it effectively in business!)
- Attending conferences/seminars
Whatever you do to get your face know, anything is 100% better than sitting in your office waiting for the phone to ring – because it more often won’t!
H – Hope without action is hopeless!
In the wild, animals congregate at the one place they all need to go – the watering hole (this is also where natural predators also go to watch their potential prey)
In business, we can learn much from this. For instance, if you are a physiotherapist then your typical customer will be someone who is suffering from muscular or joint problems. Wouldn’t it be great if you could find a “watering hole” where people who have muscular or joint problems go? If you could you would have a ready-made group of potential customers. Well you can, because it exists already! It’s called a gym!
Everybody who goes to a gym will potentially have muscular or joint problems at some stage, so be there for when they do!
Find out what the “watering hole” is for your typical customer group (it might be a networking group, a social media group, or a conference/seminar) and ensure you’re there when they are – you’ll never struggle for potential customers again!
G – Get your face known
The back of a successful sale should be broken long before you send the customer your proposal/quote. This should have been done when you met them and explained the results you can deliver for them. So why bother with a proposal/quote at all, you might ask?
I agree – if you can win the sale without sending one then definitely do so because it removes a stage of the sale cycle and saves you and your customer time writing/reading something that is not needed.
However, for most high-value sales there is usually a requisite for a proposal from the customer – so use this as the cementing of the results you discussed in your meeting.
Countless businesses fall down at this stage by posting/emailing out standard “6×2” quotes. I call them these because they remind me of a joiner’s shopping list for the local building merchants.
Don’t miss this opportunity to get your results on paper and into your customer’s business – especially if someone else (other than who you have already met) is going to be party to the decision-making.
Here are 5 top tips to an engaging proposal –
- Include the #1 result you are going to deliver for your customer in the title (e.g. How we can help ABC Ltd increase your sales by 50%)
- Talk about the results you are going to deliver more than how you are going to deliver them
- Back up each result with a relevant case-study or testimonial
- Talk in your customer’s language not yours
- Include the next steps – when you will contact them to discuss how they want to proceed
Try these and your proposals will become far more engaging and less like “6×2” quotes!
Look out next time for…
F – Follow your customers to the “watering hole”
Everywhere we look these days we see declarations of “Our customer promise”. I was at a well-known motor spares chain recently and one of their promises was that they contact every customer 30 days after their purchase to ensure they are completely happy with their product. Sounds great in theory, sounds even better when trying to come up with something that sets you apart from your competition.
Did I get a call from them? No! Did I get an email? No! Did I even get a short text message? No!
To be honest, I wasn’t really expecting them to contact me, because the sheer number of customers they get would have made it a nightmare of a challenge, but the point is – they said they would!
Beware of promising to deliver something to your customer after the sale – this is not to say you shouldn’t (on-going customer contact is crucial to you building a long-lasting business relationship) but in a world where you are always looking for the next customer and the next sale, remembering to do something for a customer you sold to last week is easier said than done.
So make sure you can definitely do it when you make your promise, otherwise your broken-promises might lead to broken business relationships!
Look out next time for…
E – Engaging solutions (not a standard quote)
Do you know precisely how your customer’s world will be improved as a result of your business? Could you list the top 3 results you deliver right now?
If you hesitate over the answers to either question, then the chances are your customers don’t know how they could benefit from using your business – and if they don’t know then you will struggle to grow your sales.
The trick here is to not think that Results are what you do! They are not!
Results = the improvement your customers are left with after you’ve done it!
For example, the results delivered by an accountant isn’t just a completed tax-return (this is what they do)
The result of an effective accountant = reduced tax bill!
(Who would you rather engage the services of – an accountant who just completes your tax-return or an accountant that saves you money in taxes?)
Come up with the top 3 results you deliver for your customers and you will find they will be far more interested in talking to someone who delivers Results than just lists the services they offer.
D – Deliver what you promise (not what you think you should promise!)
If you are in business or are selling for someone else’s business then having belief in what you are representing is paramount. But here’s the thing – saying that you believe is totally different to believing in what you are saying.
It is the actions you put in place that really prove you believe.
For instance, the verbal language you use and the body language you show are both huge indicators of your belief. Verbally, make sure you avoid using words like “could”, “maybe”, and “hopefully” when communicating with potential customers.
These are not the kind of words that produce the absolute certainty that you believe in your business and more importantly believe in what it can do for your customers.
Also, your body language can trip you up – ensure you maintain eye contact with your customer when you are explaining the benefits of your business. Naval-gazing will do nothing except put doubt in your customer’s minds.
If you are not certain you believe in what you can deliver, then you have no chance of your customers believing in you!
C – Clarity around the Results you deliver your customers