Life and Business Lessons From My Parents

Everyone learns valuable lessons from their parents.

My late mother taught me about courtesy, punctuality and about respecting other people’s time. In the world of sales, this has turned out to be brilliant advise! You can make an appointment with me for 11am on May 5 next year and you won’t need to remind me; I’ll just be there.

My late father was a doctor. An old-fashioned one at that because he genuinely cared about his patients well-being.

While I didn’t recognise it at the time, his response to the question I asked as a teenager has guided me through the world of sales and marketing to an extent he would have never believed. It rings true to this day.

I asked him what made a good doctor.

Here’s what he said…

“Remembering that prescription without diagnosis is malpractice.”

He went on to explain that if he were to make assumptions about a patient’s medical problem he could easily diagnose the wrong complaint and prescribe the wrong treatment of medication. He added that one more question never hurt anyone but too few could.

How has this helped me in business?

I never suggest a solution without first doing the best I can to understand the problem.

Unfortunately on an almost daily basis I see people blindly pitching without considering the client’s situation. It happened to me this week when someone took almost 2 hours of my time to seemingly gain my trust then without asking, pitched something to me instead of first asking some qualifying questions. I was deeply annoyed and he lost many trust points in my eyes.

If you truly want to master the skill of selling, start by learning how to ask better questions and listening to the answers before you formulate and ask your next question. This simple practice has resulted in millions of dollars in sales for me and those clients who I have taught how to do it.

Once you can truly understand the client’s situation you can look to see if it is unique to him or symptomatic of that kind of business. If it’s symptomatic, test by asking others in the niche if they have the same problem. If so, you have a powerful marketing message at your fingertips…

Why trying to close a sale never works

I recently listened to an audio interview featuring one of the world’s top direct marketing authorities and one of the world’s (supposed) top sales training authorities.

I was shocked with what I heard.

The sales trainer, a man with a global reputation; author of several books and training programs, was boasting about a new way he had developed to close the sale. He explained that this new close was for advanced salespeople only, and shouldn’t be attempted until you had mastered his other 60 or so sales closing techniques.

He then delivered his new close. It was so corny it was almost laughable. It was totally manipulative, laced with tie downs and delivered with his usual smirk.

I was even more surprised that the direct marketing guru complemented him on this new discovery. Surprised isn’t the best word for how I felt; disgusted would be far better.

The close was written to be used on anyone who traditionally said “No” to a proposal. I tell you; if anyone tried this one on me, I’d short-shift them out of my office so fast their feet wouldn’t hit the ground.

Sleazy, underhanded and manipulative.

If I hadn’t been out walking and listening with headphones, I would have stopped the recording then and there. I’m glad I didn’t because as the interview continued, I was able to focus on the real issue – why were they doing this?

They’re perpetuating the myth that closing techniques work. They need to do so in order to justify continued sales and dependency. Think about this… (more…)

A refreshing approach to sales training

This may sound simple, but when it all boils down to the basics, business is simple – it’s about selling a product or service for more than it costs you.

Selling anything can be broken down to a three-step process:

1. Finding a hungry crowd
2. Persuading them to buy
3. Persuading them to buy again

So where does all this persuasion come from? It comes from your marketing message and from those charged with making the sale.

This is where it goes wrong!

The big mistake made by Companies, from the smallest one-man band to the largest Corporate, is that they don’t persuade, they tell. Ads and websites tell how good their owners are. Salespeople tell me all of the technical features of their products. Neither give me reasons why I should buy or, if they do, they use 70’s style manipulative, shady closes that should have been left in the books and cassettes where they belonged.

I’ve lost count of the number of times in recent weeks someone has used a tie-down close on me. Give me a break! I stopped using tie-downs in 1975; they didn’t work then and they don’t now.

And what about having salespeople cold-call for heavens’ sake. Who still requires their salespeople to cold-call?

Your salespeople are the most vulnerable people in your business. Why have them waste your money sitting on a phone cold-calling? Generate them leads and get them talking to people who have an interest in what you offer.

Without a doubt, the weakest link in business today is the lack of training provided to salespeople.

You would never employ an unqualified accountant, engineer, or lawyer. You would not hire an IT manager without checking their qualifications. You wouldn’t hire a PA who couldn’t use Word. Yet 87% of companies that hire salespeople have no formalised induction of training process for them. Nope; just give them a couple of brochures, the keys to a new car and let them loose.

What are they actually saying to your prospects and customers? How do you really know of the likelihood of the sale actually being made – how accurate is their reporting?

If you’re like most people, you rely on the time-honoured mantra “Selling is a numbers game” and use an arbitrary percentage allocation of likelihood as the process develops. If this is how you do it, I have news for you: It doesn’t work.

Here’s the problem – and the solution…

Your prospect is at the stage where initial investigation has been completed, a product demo has taken place, a detailed proposal has been presented and is going to the Board tomorrow. It’s a big sale; maybe 70% of your monthly budget and you’ve been told it’s a goer. Your projections are based at a 95% chance of it proceeding which, when their Board says “No”, suddenly leaves a dirty big hole in your projections.

What process do you have to identify why the sale wasn’t made? Was it anyone’s fault? Does someone get fired?

The marketing process works like this:

An advert has one job; generate a response. The salesperson’s job is to identify their interest and convert that interest into revenue if indeed it is possible.

Marketing isn’t only about awareness. That’s a fallacy. Here’s why: What brand of petrol did you last fill your car with, and why?

Was it because Ferrari use it; because your engine runs smoother and quieter with it, that it was environmentally friendly – or was it because the location was convenient, the forecourt quiet and the price was below $1.50? And they had double fly-buys on Mars Bars at the time!

When you last bought sports shoes, did you buy them because Michael Jordan or David Beckham wears them, or did you buy them because they fit and felt comfortable?

Selling is about the transfer of emotions. About identifying with people and solving problems. About building relationships of trust.

Salesmanship today is a sophisticated process using skills that takes time to learn and develop. It’s not something one tries; it’s not a job you give to your mate because he’s unemployed, or to a support supervisor because your customers like her.

Salespeople need to be trained and coached on a daily or weekly basis. They need to be monitored exactly as you would an investment because that’s exactly what they are; an investment in your two most vital assets. You see, they are responsible for the maintenance and growth of your revenue stream and your customer database.

And you want to leave that task to someone who is untrained and working on their own with no system and no process?

I can hear you answering with a glib comment like “And so what if I train them and they leave?” Worse still, what if you didn’t and they stayed!

Train your salespeople and treat them with respect. And remember; you’re charging them with the maintenance and growth of your biggest asset – your customer database.

(c) James Yuille

Increased marketing spend, or sales training; which comes first?

In most businesses, when sales are too low, the first reaction is to spend more on marketing. Create better adverts, more adverts; direct sales letters is the cry. But is this always the right solution?

Let’s take a step back and examine the issue more closely.

The first thing is to examine the numbers to see what they reveal. The critical ratio we need to look at is the conversion rate from lead / enquiry to sale. This will show us immediately where our emphasis should be.

Let me explain:

The numbers tell us that you’re getting 100 enquiries per month and tracking shows 25 convert into customers. What we also see is that 75 don’t become customers. This is the group you need to focus on. Typically, some will never buy so we can eliminate another 25. That leaves 50 who are still in the market.

What happens to them? If they didn’t buy from you, where did they buy? No doubt a competitor. Depending on the market, it may be that your advert stimulated their interest, but because you didn’t connect with them and make the sale, they spent their money elsewhere.

In other words, your advertising generated sales for your competitor. So when he sees your next advert, he’s laughing all the way to the bank. Why should he advertise when you do it for him?

Suppose you decide to either improve your adverts; better headlines, copy, offers etc, or simply double your advertising expenditure. Now instead of 100 leads, you get 200. Only you still convert 25%. Yes, you make 50 sales BUT you’re now leaving 150 unsatisfied customers to spend elsewhere. If 50 never buy, there are now 100 buyers still out there.

Your competitor thinks this is hilarious. Guys, we’re going to do well this month, he tells his staff. Fred is running more ads!

Let’s take a better view of the situation.

Instead of looking to the lead generation process, you teach your staff how to increase their conversion rate. You still get 100 leads but now you convert 45%. You’re making 45 sales instead of 25; 25 still don’t buy and instead of leaving 50 unsatisfied buyers for your competitors, you’re now only leaving 30.

Increase conversion to 50% or better and starve your competitor by reducing the number of unsatisfied buyers left in the marketplace.

Now look to your lead generation process. Stimulate more buyers and capture the lion’s share by converting more of your own leads into customers.

Is this hype or reality?

Let me give you simple a few simple case studies so you can decide for yourself.

Docwise Information. A software company providing records management solutions. Needed to make more sales but in fact, couldn’t convert the leads they had. Went looking to create more effective advertising but the diagnosis was that the conversion rate was too low. Within six weeks of starting a training program, their sales had increased by $32,000 without a dollar spent on marketing.

Acorn Software (simPRO). One day of training took a 10% conversion rate to 50%. Over a four-month period, sales increased by $100,000. Within two years the conversion rate was around 50% resulting in regular $50,000 months. In 12 years their annual sales are in the multi-millions.

AAA Action Hot Water. Distributors of Solar Hot Water systems. A simple review of their sales processes resulted in a staggering 100% increase in sales in 1 month. At the same time, advertising expenditure was reduced!

Phantom Screens. Simple changes to their phone answering and sales processes and with no change in advertising content or expenditure, conversion rates increased by a staggering 250%.

Hype or reality? You be the judge. Albert Schweitzer once said, Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing.

Does sales training come before marketing expenditure? Categorically yes. There is absolutely no point in increasing the number of leads you generate if you can’t increase the conversion ratio. Learn how to do that first otherwise the sales explosion you create will be for your competitor.

(c) James Yuille