Sell. Don’t simply take orders

For many businesses, the best month or two of the year ended late last week. For others, it starts next week. Your “big month or so” might be some other time. The real question is, will you sell, or will you only take orders?

This year, many businesses and their teams chose to take orders. You probably experienced this personally at least once this year. Anyone can take orders. Maybe they’ll need a form, a point of sale system or a yellow pad combined with some guidance from the customer, but ANYONE can take orders.

Does “anyone” work for you? Or does your sales team have industry expertise? My guess is that the latter is true.

Taking orders

The last time I was in what should have been a consultative sale, rather than speaking to someone with industry expertise, I was given to an administrative assistant who appeared to have little domain knowledge. The admin was following a computer form to sell me what I appeared to need. I’m OK with that when there’s no choice or when the sale is doesn’t involve financial risk, safety, or similarly serious matters.

Even when those things are involved, it’s OK to start the process with an admin and a computer screen when there’s follow up by someone with industry expertise. Unfortunately, there was no follow up by anyone in their office to be sure that I got not only what I wanted – but also what I needed.

Customers buy stuff.

Sell

When financial risk or safety is involved, someone has to be there to consider what carnage might be introduced into your clients’ lives. Don’t make your clients do your job. I would be far less concerned about the admin-driven sales process if follow up occurred. In this case, the downside risk is awful, annoying, inconvenient and time-consuming. They know this.

Despite this, I wasn’t asked about a four dollar a month option that would manage much of that risk. This is why follow up occurs. While it will almost certainly increase your upside, it will also show your clientele that you’re taking care of them.

You can show the team what taking orders feels like, then show them what selling feels like. Ever talked with a bad (or perhaps poorly trained) life insurance salesperson? Ever talked with a good one? The difference is amazing.

If there’s any sort of consultative selling process in your line of work, the difference probably feels amazing to your customers. It doesn’t matter what business you’re in.

For example, go to WallyWorld to consider buying a power tool. Got questions? What will happen? Now go to Ace or the Depot on a Saturday mid-morning. I suspect you’ll find the experience differs.

Customers often buy solely based on price. Clients tend to buy based on the expertise of those caring for them. Sure, they might run to WallyWorld for a commodity, but when domain knowledge is essential – they’ll come to the expert.

Clients are taken care of.

Review their work

If you do have an admin or inexperienced salesperson take care of the initial sale, review what they sold to your client.

Not simply now and then. Review EVERY sale.

If you have to contact the client to fix or complete the sale, be sure to include the person who made the initial sale. Call or email. Ask questions. Make sure they got what they wanted. Ask questions to make sure they got what they needed. Do you need to suggest any changes based on your experience, or what you know about me? Do you have questions that aren’t part of the form the admin uses? Perhaps that form is issues by your national provider and you need to apply some local knowledge to properly configure a purchase.

If the admin or inexperienced person did everything right – tell the client and tell whoever made the sale. Both need confidence in your team members with less experience.

If it didn’t go well, it identifies an opportunity to review your process and improve the sales materials your team uses, even if that means yours are over and above what the national dealer provides for you (or perhaps forces on you).

This coming year, decide to sell. Anyone can take orders. Remember: Customers buy stuff. Clients are taken care of. There’s a big difference.

Why are you leaving money on the table?

If you’ve ever coached a kid’s little league baseball team, you know that you might spend a lot of time at first reminding players to take the bat off of their shoulder.

When you stand up to bat, you just won’t be ready unless you’ve got the bat back and ready to take your cut.

Leaving it on your shoulder simply requires too much adjustment too fast if you are to hit a ball coming toward you.

Most young, inexperienced players can’t make it happen.

Not asking the right questions when in a sales situation is the same sort of thing.

Can you really afford to leave money on the table today?

I don’t mean be a hard sell pain in the butt.

Instead, be helpful. Inquisitive. Thorough.

If you really want to stretch… Pretend to be the least bit interested how the client is using your product / service, ask what they need, talk about what they really get out of your product / service, how they use it and so on.

Part of selling is helping the client figure out exactly what they want (and need).

I leave a hole and it goes unfilled.

Speaking of, I received a sales call last week.

The salesperson almost seemed embarrassed to call and sell their product. Maybe it was a rough day, I dunno.

The thing is, I’m already a customer and the next big thing is now available so I’m clearly vested in what they sell.

It’s not like I’m a cold prospect with no idea what they do/sell. They just need to figure out what my objections might be – if any – and close the sale of the big new thing.

Instead, they just ask for the sale as if they really don’t care one way or the other.

In response, I say something along the lines of “I’m not quite ready” (which is the truth). I pause and leave the opening, hoping they’ll step in.

The opportunity sits there and languishes on the bone. End of discussion, call over.

What should have happened?

  • “I’m sorry to hear that, but if you don’t mind, could I ask a few questions?”

Me: Yeah, sure.

  • “How are you using the products / services?”
  • “How can we help you get more out of our products / services?”
  • “Is there a problem with our products or services?”
  • “Is cash flow tight? A lot of folks are stretched a little thin right now, so we’re doing what we can to get our product / service into their hands so they can use it to make more. Perhaps our payment plan would help. Would you like to hear about it?”
  • “Is there some other reason why you prefer to wait? It’s OK if there is, I’d just like to know if we aren’t where you need us to be.”

Me: Yeah, blah, blah, blah.

  • “So if I fixed that situation, would you be ready to buy?”

Me: “Forced” to either say yes, giving them the opportunity to fix whatever that is, or reveal the real objection (or state another one, which starts the cycle over again).

All the while, the vendor is learning what drives my purchases with them and how they can help me get to where I want to be as it relates to their product. But it never happens.

I’m almost left wondering if my business matters to the vendor.

Put yourself in this vendor’s place.

Can you really afford to leave money on the table right now? I’m guessing most can’t.

Are you training your staff to ask the right questions? Are they being inquisitive? Caring? Curious?

Coffee: The new “Do you want fries with that?”

Mystical station
Creative Commons License photo credit: Jsome1

Anyone who has studied business or marketing for any period of time has looked at the impact that one sentence has had on McDonald’s.

It gets used in sales training every single day because almost everyone is familiar with that upsell. In some cases, it has become a punch line. The increment on each sales transaction was minor, but it adds up store-wide in a big hurry.

The “new black” in MickeyD upsells is moving people to a McCafe coffee drink. Bet on it to be HUGE financially for McDonald’s, even if it is primarily a get-it-and-go sale.

I suspect Ronald McDonald knows better than to think his stores are going to be the next “thirdplace”. Still, with a new upsell of $2.50 to $3.50 to their average transaction, there’s a big payoff.

Thirdplaces can relax, just a tiny little bit

I don’t expect it to hurt Starbucks and independent coffee shops all that much because they tend to be a thirdplace: a meeting place, an escape from the office, a hangout with friends, a place to meet clients and the like.

However, the new McCafe habit could easily impact the drive-up coffee kiosks that saturate street corners and unused parking lot areas nationwide – particularly if they don’t stand out with outstanding service and great coffee.

Having a good reason to drive past McDonald’s wouldn’t hurt their case.

For example, one of the coffee shops here stands out by having a cowgirl theme. The ladies in the kiosk dress like cowgirls (modern day, but still), their branding is Western cowgirl oriented and it flows nicely across their entire business – including their catering trailer. I know people who drive miles across town past 3 or 4 other kiosks just to get coffee from the cowgirl drive-ups.

That’s what standing out will do for you.

I was kidding about the relax thing. Relax? Are you nuts? 🙂

Starbucks just sells coffee.

Look closely at your business. Is there a complementary upsell that you can add to your line of products / services?

Maybe it won’t add 50% to an average transaction like a McCafe drink can, but you should still be looking for things that your customers SHOULD be buying when they buy what they came to the store to get.

Do you let them walk out the door with plywood or 2x4s without asking about nails, screws, liquid nails and other necessities?

Do you sell them a website without asking about other business services that complement their site?

I hear it coming: “Oh, but we just do websites.” Sure. And Starbucks just sells coffee.

If their website looks like it was built with Microsoft Front Page in 1995, it’s reasonable that other aspects of their business could use a refresh as well.

Chances are there will be all sorts of inconsistencies with their stationery, business cards, and in fact their entire marketing message. They may need other help as well. Once all this new stuff rolls out, will their sales staff need training? Will their delivery people or service staff need a reboot on how they do things? Probably.

The tough question: Are you selling them a pile of HTML and graphics or are you giving them the tools they need to take their business to the next level? No one wants to buy HTML. Everyone wants to buy the magic pill that transforms their business, even if that means buying HTML along with a few other things.

Even if you don’t want to, can’t or are not interested in doing those other things, you can always find someone you trust who *can* do them.

Save them from themselves

Remember, an upsell doesn’t have to be an extra. It might be what saves that customer an extra trip back to the store (or worse, to a competitor’s store). It might be what they REALLY TRULY NEED.

Save them money. Save them time. Make sure they have everything they need before they hit the road. I guarantee they’ll remember it if you start saving them return trips to the store, regardless of how much extra they spend during that first trip.