Friday, October 25, 2013


My top 10 Sales Tips - The New York Times
Here are my top 10 sales tips, all of which have served me and our staff.
You can sell only if you yourself are convinced: If you are not sold on the product or service, it will be an uphill battle to sell someone on else. Your lack of conviction will scream through.
  1. Be clear and direct: When pitching do not use complicated diction. Pride yourself instead on being able to explain the concept as quickly, clearly and simply as possible. This is important because the biggest problem in sales is client confusion. Confusion does not lead to a Yes.
  2. Pressure is an art: Creating FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) in your client’s mind can be a good thing because it will lead to serious consideration of your concept.   I often need to tell potential clients that their competition is also talking with us. The trick is to mention this once and to NOT rub it in, which is likely to anger them. No one who is angered into saying Yes.
  3. Know your client: Make sure to research your potential clients, know their challenges and their needs. One size hardly ever fits all, and you look much stronger if you care about the business enough to invest in the research. I can’t tell you how many times I get cold calls from sales people who don’t even know what our company does.
  4. It’s all about the presentation: Building an amazing deck is critical to the sales process. Practice it, memorize it and be prepared to shift your emphasis based on how the energy changes when you give the presentation. Internally, we always ask ourselves: “Is the flow of this deck right? Will it convince?”
  5. Be passionate and exciting: Most presentations are BORING! So create a show and make it exciting. Excitement is contagious – just like a yawn.
  6. If you don’t know the answer, do not guess: People will ask you tough questions, and you may not always know the answer. The person asking you may be testing you, knowing the answer full well. And if you fumble, it’s very hard to rebuild credibility. Do not guess.
  7. Answer questions directly and clearly: If you are asked a question and you give a “politician’s answer” – in other words, if you don’t answer the question – your credibility will decline, and you will hurt your chances of making the sale.
  8. Humor is a great lubricator: Funny stories always break the ice. Instead of using business cards, everyone in our company uses stamps (see right) to leave our contact info. It’s eco-friendly, it never runs out and it makes for a nice ice-breaker at the beginning of every meeting.
  9. You can always be better: Sales is an art, not a science. Which means it’s never perfect and can always improve. 
  10. Bottom line: sales is a critical function that is more art than science, so hone your art. And please share any of the sales tips you’ve learned.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The best channel to communicate with customers

The best channel to communicate with customers is … the one the customer chooses.
OK, you can stop reading right there, if you’ll take that sentence to heart. But for this installment of the Small Biz 100, I’m going to tell you a true story, as well as how to do this right.
My husband emailed five or six product questions to a small business. The email reply was this, and this is the entire reply:
Please call [phone number] and I will be able to answer your questions.
Ouch! You can bet your customer had a good reason for picking this particular method to reach you, and you just stomped all over it.
  • If Joe wanted to call, he would have called. Why ignore the customer’s preference?
  • If the customer is deaf or hard of hearing, why turn this into an issue?
  • If the customer has trouble speaking, why make it harder for them?
In this case, the customer would simply prefer to email, rather than call. But now he’s looking for a different place to buy.

How do you make sure that you are using the right channels for your customers?

1. Offer many communication methods

Offer people as many ways to communicate with you as you can.
  • Text message
  • Email
  • Online form
  • Blog comments
  • Telephone
  • Skype
  • Fax
  • Mail
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Flickr
  • SecondLife
  • Voice and video message widgets
  • You can add other tools in the comments, since you’ll remember ones I missed.
Of course, not every business needs all of these. My liquor store uses phone, email, blog comments, Facebook, and mail. I’ll add new tools as it seems reasonable and discard those that don’t help customers reach us. You may use more, or less. Let us know in the comments.
Try to list as many of your open channels as possible on your website, printed materials, social network profiles, etc. Make it easy for people to quickly find the tool they prefer to talk to you.

2. Set notifications to come via your preferred channel

Almost all social networks allow you to choose from different notification methods, including text message, email, or RSS. So rather than bounce all over checking messages at each different network all day, set up the system to come to you.

3. Respond in the same channel as the customer

This is the key. Answer customers in the same way as they reach out to you. If Facebook sent you a text because a customer sent a message, go back to Facebook to answer.
Don’t tell callers to check the website. Don’t ask emailers to call in. Don’t require online forms be printed out and mailed or faxed! (No, really, I actually still see this done!)

4. Be considerate if you change methods in mid-conversation

Sometimes, you will be better able to serve the customer if you can switch channels. But do it in two steps:
  1. Answer as much as you can in the customer’s channel of choice.
  2. Then ask permission to switch to the better channel by explaining why it helps.

How do you converse with your customers?
This article is part of the Small Biz 100, a series of 100 practical hands-on posts for small business people and solo entrepreneurs, whether in a small town, the big city, or in between. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Interesting Display Ideas

I'm always looking for interesting display ideas to make suggestions on how to display my products.  Here are just a few I found.