Yes! Is Your Best Reply!

Filed Under (OP Sales Training, Tele-Sales) by Don on 26-03-2007

Isn’t it interesting that the most common answer to your customer service or product question(s) are typically answered with a “No”?   Is that available in a fine point or is that available in white instead of black?  We are quick to answer No because it is the easy answer, and perhaps it is the truthful one.  Where we loose the game is by simply stating the fact, the item isn’t available in a fine point.  We lost because we didn’t think outside the original question.  Observe the following series of questions and responses.

Customer:         “I really like this gel pen but would prefer it in a fine point, is that available?”

CSR/Rep:          “No, I’m sorry it is only available in a medium point.”


Customer:         “I really like this gel pen but would prefer it in a fine point, is that available?”

CSR/Rep:          “Yes!  It is available from a different manufacturer; would you like to receive a free sample to see the quality?”

The first example was an honest answer to a typical question.  No, it isn’t available from XYZ Pen Company.  However, our mistake was in not addressing the actual question, “Is it available in a fine point?”  We lost the potential sale because we didn’t think objectively and skillfully.  XYZ Pen Company doesn’t make that same pen in a fine point but ABC Pen Company does.  We didn’t approach the price question we simply offered another comparable product that will meet the customer’s needs and offered them a free sample to try.  Why the free sample?  By offering the free sample it shows that we not only care about the customer’s needs but that we are willing to go the extra step by giving them one to evaluate at no charge.  There are so many products in today’s market it is difficult to say that nothing isn’t available in whatever shape or form to fit the customer needs.  You might even up the sale by providing a superior product that is available and meets their needs and gives you a greater profit!  It is important to know your products and what is available.  It is very important to stay well informed about new products and product lines.  There are many web sites and periodicals available detailing this kind of information.  In order to become and remain an effective and proficient sales person you must practice self development and improvement on a daily basis.


Some years ago I was doing business with a large law firm that purchased a great deal of products and custom printing.  Their stationary was engraved which if you know much about printing you know that this process is very expensive and not many print houses offer this product.  Engraved stationary is the Rolls Royce of stationary and demonstrates the quality and professionalism of the finest businesses.  This product can easily cost three or four times the typical cost of a raised letter thermography process and most consumers will not know the difference.  However, this group of attorneys was adamant that they would only have the finest letterhead, envelopes and business cards on the market.  One year the office manager told me the firm was in a budget crunch and would be shopping my prices.  A statement such as this strikes fear into the hearts of sales people everywhere!  I had a good relationship with the paralegals and many of the attorneys knew me by name so I decided to take a different approach.  I told the office manager “Yes!  I think that is a great idea!”  I knew the products they used and I knew the people so I had a definite advantage.  I took one of the senior partners business card and had it produced using thermography instead of engraving and changed the paper stock resulting in a 70% reduction in cost of just one set of business cards.  Then after examining their other products I put together a list of equal to or better than substitutions, made up a sample packet for each attorney (15 altogether).  A couple of weeks later the office manager, senior partner and I sat down for a presentation.  When our meeting was finished the senior partner stated he was proud to do business with me and he appreciated my service.  I saved him over $2500 per year on his business cards and nearly $3000 per year on their supplies and services.  You are probably thinking that I lost business because I just gave up over $5000 in revenue.  Wrong!  I gained a substantial amount of business because they didn’t shop my prices, many of the products were replaced with higher margin items and I made and qualified numerous suggestions about the other items and equipment he used in his office resulting in new business.  One of my networked ‘friends’ was brought on board to service his equipment and I received spiffs for that and my customer saved a lot of money from his previous service provider.  There is more information on this that I have space to write but be assured that by simply saying “Yes” I was able to provide a real solution to a potential issue that could have cost me a very valuable customer.  In case you are wondering I am still doing business with this firm nearly 20 years later.

 Yes, simply stated means you won’t take No for an answer.  It means that you truly have the customer’s best interests at heart.  The bonus comes when you make the sale, keep the customer happy and best case is you might even make more money.  Woohoo!


Building Good Prospecting Habits

Filed Under (OP Sales Training, Tele-Sales) by Don on 21-03-2007

If you have spent enough time in sales you know that in order to build your base you have to be very proactive at prospecting, otherwise known as lead generation.  Let’s take a moment and review some industry statistics.

  • It takes an average of 6 calls before the prospect buys

  • 80% of New Account Sales occur after the 5th call

  • 48% quit after the 1st call

  • 25% quit after the 2nd call

  • Only 10% make more than 3 calls

I sincerely hope you do not fall within the 73% of people who quit after two calls.  If you’re reluctant about making cold calls then get out of the business.  You are wasting your time.  It takes time to build the relationships and if you cannot be persistent then you need to develop some new, more productive habits.  The worst time to attempt a first call is Monday morning.  Business makers and decision makers are not very receptive to hearing from sales professionals they do not know first thing on Monday morning!  Spend your time wisely by placing follow-up calls or preparing your call list or area strategy for the week and/or mailing Thank You notes or some other information that will be of value (i.e. interesting) to your prospects.

The best time to make first contact is when you are at your best.  If you’re a morning person you will be at your peak performance level then.  This is when your comfort and confidence level will be demonstrated in your calls.  This isn’t to say that you only make calls on your “good day”.  What it means is that if you produce your best work first thing in the mornings then this is when you should concentrate on making your highest quality first contact calls.  If you are a slow starter and don’t really get moving until after lunch then make your first contact calls then and concentrate your early morning efforts to account follow-up calls.  First call prospecting is the most stressful part of sales and you should always schedule those calls when you are at your best!  Do not attempt these calls when you are tired, stressed out, burned out, or hungry.  Nor should you use these reasons to avoid prospecting for leads.  You cannot achieve your sales and prospecting goals by making excuses!

If you are calling previous customers your success rates will be higher since the customer has done business with you or the company previously.  Your selling ratios are typically forty times higher when calling on former customers.  Reviving old accounts will require you to first investigate the reason why they stopped doing business with you, so ask questions when you speak to the decision maker.  Once that is determined you will know what needs to be done to bring them back.  The business may have gone through a personnel change, had a bad experience, or perhaps felt they didn’t receive enough personal service.  Answer their objections with compassion and let them know that you care about their needs and will make every effort on their behalf to make things right.  Again, build rapport and develop the relationship.

Don’t inflate your personal expectations.  Set attainable goals and strive to reach or exceed them every day.  Persistence is critical when making these prospecting calls and the more information you glean the better prepared you will be when you arrive for your first appointment.  Always be prepared, don’t insult your prospect or their valuable time by not being adequately informed and/or prepared.  Network yourself aggressively; there are many networking opportunities in most markets.  There are other reps that may offer products or services that your prospect may be in need of.  By positioning yourself as a problem solver and solutions provider you create value and therefore your prospect sees the advantage in partnering with you.  You always want to sell your “Value Principle” before you try to sell your product.  Lastly, be unique and set yourself apart from the other sales reps.  You are a unique individual, one of a kind.  Be or do something different that makes you stand out from the crowd.  I don’t mean do stupid tricks or say something provocative.  Just dare to be different.    Be Smart.  Be creative.

What is your Loyalty Driver?

Filed Under (OP Sales Training) by Don on 13-03-2007

Do you have one?  Did you lose it or have you forgotten what it looked like?  In the office products industry loyalty is a difficult animal to define.  Years back it was easy to identify, your customer received a quality product at a fair price and delivery was quick as expected and customers didn’t price shop you on everything, every time.  In today’s marketplace most people are more loyal to their brand of gasoline than they are to their office supplier.  Is the internet the only reason for this change?  I agree it is a part but not the only reason. 

Call it generational or call it mentality but either way it is a significant challenge for reps and dealers.  The internet has been the great equalizer in this industry.  It exposes your prices, good or bad, for everyone to see.  Some dealers elect to not show any pricing on their public site requiring a login to get access.  This is for self protection only and serves to only force the customer to shop elsewhere.

However, how aggressive a price do you have for public consumption?  We have multiple contracts and pricing levels that can make even the most educated rep go insane!  Back in the “day” you had one price and that was it.  Sometimes you would negotiate a price for large volume customers or for bulk purchases, but now that isn’t the case.  Bob the CPA can get just as good a price as Joe the Fortune 500 customer in most cases.  If you make public to aggressive a price then you chance one of your customers who may not be getting the lowest price to shop without “logging in” and then to their surprise they see a lower advertised price.  That makes you look like a crook and you will have some explaining to do to save face. 

Today’s customer wants it right now at the lowest price always, with terms and if you don’t deliver you’re out and the next guy is in.  But wait that’s not all!  Suppose you give them all that but one day they get a competitors ad in the mail featuring a loss leader item like you are selling them at a savings of $1 less.  What do you think will happen now?  Right!  They will buy from the competitor to save that $1.  No loyalty.  I have loyal customers that will call me and say “Your competition has this item for $1 less, will you match the price?”  Of course I match the price, I don’t have a choice. Never mind that the customer had to stop what they were doing and place the call and spend labor wages on the phone with you.  If she were being paid $15 per hour and spent four minutes on the phone with you she just shot that $1 savings out the roof in lost productivity.  But, she was loyal and gave the opportunity to keep her business.  What happens now is she will begin to watch every ad that comes in to see if you are overcharging her. The underlying question here is what did you do create that loyal customer? 

Let’s examine what you probably did right.  You gave her a fair market competitive price, next day delivery, net terms, good customer service, accurate billing, easy convenient order placement and probably even said “thank you” for her business.  All of these points are expected.  However, the internet has impersonalized shopping and many of the customers are unfamiliar with the advantages of relationships with their suppliers.  My loyal customer called me because she feels that we are friends, we have a relationship that spans many years and she has learned that I really care about her and the company she works for.  I have that same attitude with all my customers, the attitude of caring, because I really do care about them and their success because without them I can’t make a living either.  This is a learned relationship that has been developed and nurtured over time. Relationships are like that, they take time.  That is your primary loyalty driver, the relationship. 

Our mail order competitors Quill and Viking don’t consider a business to be a customer until they place their third order.  They budget $150 in marketing funds to acquire each customer.  They use bribes, otherwise known as gifts or freebies to get their attention and use this to lure away your customers when your back is turned.  I’ve lost good customers to this strategy, customers I considered loyal.   Why?  I posed that very question to them and the answer wasn’t what I expected.  I expected them to say my price was too high but that wasn’t the issue at all.  In fact they even said my price was slightly better.  They just wanted the free stuff!  What?!  That’s right, all they wanted was the free stuff.  The mentality has changed again, now they want it cheap and I have to buy their loyalty with free gifts!  Loyalty driver number two is free stuff. 

At this point you can probably think of several other loyalty drivers.  Let’s face it, giving good customer service isn’t hard.  Loyalty driver number three is killer customer service, the kind you write letters to the editor about.  This kind of customer service is a no-brainer so why is it so hard for big enterprises like Dell Computer to understand that when we buy their product and have to call for customer support we expect to talk to someone who clearly understands and speaks English, someone with a little sense of humor who can talk without reading from a card or flowchart, a person with a personality.  Banking is becoming the same way, they brag about how great their service but the truth is their service stinks!  Going to the bank is about as customer friendly as the airport security line. 

Loyalty driver number four is your attitude.  People buy from people, you have to make friends first and sell second.  Your talk and manner has to be positive in nature.  You can’t be down on life and expect your customer to be excited when you walk through the door.  It is spring time and my allergies are in high gear, I feel terrible!  When I answer my phone my attitude kicks in and when the customer says “How are you?” I enthusiastically reply “Wonderful!”  I’ve had customers ask me “Do you ever have a bad day?”  Of course I do, but I will never let it be made public information.   

Now it’s your turn.  Examine your customer base and customer history.  What’s your loyalty driver?  Where did you succeed and where did you fail? Did you make notes and learn from the experience?  Did you notice that I left off “Experience” from the list?  Why do you think I did that?