valueFrequently, customers phone in versus coming into your store, asking for a price quote on a particular item. Too frequently, a salesperson will respond with “We have those for $XXX.XX,” and this ends the conversation. The customer may (and likely will) have further questions, yet we’ve already affixed the price firmly in their mind.

I submit you NEVER END IN PRICE when asked about a price over the phone, in person, or via email!

When someone asks for a price on a product, they’re asking “how much is this going to cost me?”

What we’d like to do is to affix the VALUE of their purchase vs the COST. ROI, or “return on investment” is an indicator of what someone gets for the amount of cost or effort they put into owning or doing something.

VISA keys in on this well with their ads of “PRICELESS.”

A successful man treats his elderly parents to a wonderful vacation, and watches them reliving childhood fun.

  • Business class tickets: $7000.00
  • Luxury car rental: $500
  • Amusement park tickets: $300.00
  • Watching your parents become children again: PRICELESS!

We too, can build this same value, even in a short phone conversation with a customer calling around to get pricing.

NEVER END IN PRICE!

Let’s imagine being a photo retailer with a customer calling for a price on a MeFoto RoadTrip tripod.
He asks for a price on the tripod.
We could answer “Those are 199.99.” And that’s what most sales people would do.

However, we can also respond with “We’ve got those on sale for $199.99, and that includes a Cordura carry bag, a mounting shoe, and spike adapters. Would you like me to pull one aside for you?”

Even if it’s a simple thing, such as a price quote on a lens: “The lens is 699.99, and we have it in stock. It comes with the lens cover, carry bag,  and end cap, but does not come with the bulletproof warranty. You’ll probably want that for a lens as nice as this one.”

Three things happen in the above paragraphs.

  • First, we’ve offered a price.
  • Second, we’ve increased the perceived value of the product by highlighting what the customer is getting for the price/cost.
  • Third, we’ve closed them.

roi-awardIt’s quite possible that one of three conversations occur after you’ve quoted a price in this manner.

  • They’ll tell us we’re too high (which then gives us the chance to discuss the price, and/or use the “If I Can” Close.
  • The customer will ask more questions (questions are awesome, they allow us to gather and share more information, making the sale more likely).
  • They’ll simply say “yes.” And then we’re asking when they’ll be in to pick it up, or would they prefer us to ship it to them?

Either way, it’s a win/win when we’re having a dialog with our customers. We can further increase the value by pointing out they’ll likely want a second shoe for a second camera, making it easier to switch cameras. We likely will also have the opportunity to actually sell, vs merely answering a phone and hoping for a sale.

THANK YOU FOR SAYING “THANK YOU!”

We provide services to many people, every day.
These people have choices. Customers/Clients have more choices today than ever before. That they’ve chosen your company, is reason enough  to be grateful for their patronage and opportunity to serve them.

EVERY invoice should be followed up with a thank you, within 3-4 days.  

We can thank customers for the opportunity they’ve given us to provide a quote. These sorts of “thank yous” should follow within 3-4 days (at most).

We can thank customers for the opportunity to generate an order, and use the opportunity to let them know we’ll be keeping them informed of an order status. Order communications should happen every 5-7 days.

With this in mind, I’d like to offer up some sample templates for email to customers. Of course, we expect each sales person to adapt these templates to each customer/situation for best fit.

______________________________________________________________________

“Dear Mrs/Ms/Mr/Dr (use the appropriate name or title), Thank you for your recent purchase of _____________.

I want you to know how much we enjoy serving your imaging needs and consider you a special customer. Of course we appreciate your orders, but we also appreciate the positive lift we get from your visits.
We look forward to the next opportunity to serve you.”

 

Hi (first name, or appropriate name),
I wanted to congratulate and thank you for your recent purchase of _________________. I’m sure you’re going to be thrilled with the (whatever product you offer) you create with it.  Would you like me to stay in contact with you regarding (hardware updates, software updates, new add-ons) for your _____________?
Thank you for choosing (Company name_!
Hello (Customer), 
Congratulations on your purchase of _________ from  (store name/location). We’re grateful that you chose us as your supplier for your (whatever product you offer) needs. We’re always here to offer advice or information regarding your new _________ or anything else related to creating great images. 
I’ve attached a pdf copy of your invoice for your convenience.

 

(Customer name),

Thank you for trusting us to be your source for top quality (whatever product you offer)  products in (your location). We appreciate your kind expressions of appreciation, and are especially grateful for the recent purchase of ______________. You’ve chosen a terrific product for __________ and we’re sure you’ll be pleased.

Thank you for choosing (company name) for your (whatever product you offer) needs. We look forward to hearing more your successes with the ___________.

A “thank you” letter sends a message that you are both considerate and professional. This goes a long way to supporting the positive impression you’ve given your customer/client when they’ve purchased or requested a quote/proposal from you or your company.

______________________________________________________________________

If possible, address your letter to a specific person
Avoid addressing a thank-you letter just to the company or organization in general.

Be sincere
Would YOU appreciate an insincere “thank you” (or any other communication)?

Make your letter stand out
Be creative. Be specific and include details from the event or experience.

End the letter on a positive note
Closing depends on the type of thank-you letter. For example, you may:
Restate your gratitude, or suggest a possible future opportunity. Perhaps ask if it’s acceptable for you to stay in touch. Remember, asking a question is the best way to assure a response, right?

Close with either an expression of thanks or an indication of your intention to continue contact.

The PESKY DISCOUNT

Have you yet wearied of sales people asking you, the sales manager, to discount a price with no specific reasoning behind the request? Are margins slipping?

Why?

“I had to cut the price to get the order”. I hear this from client’s sales teams all the time. Rather than actually selling, they’re clerking by offering discounts. If you’re discounting, there should be a reason. Yet many of them start with quoting a price, and then suggesting “Let me see what kind of discount I can get for you.”

Discount?

Seriously?

Why?

Read this paraphrased poem from 19th century (think about that, 19th century) writer, John Ruskin herein titled, “What Is Price?”

“It is unwise to pay too much but,
It is unwise to pay too little.
When you pay too much you lose a little money – that is all.
When you pay too little you lose everything – because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing you bought it to do.
…If you deal with the lowest bidder it is well to add something for the risk you run.
And if you do that…
You will have enough to pay for something better.”

Is this 19th century quote still valid? Not sure?

Of course it is!

Ask yourself, what is your value proposition and are your customers willing to pay for it? If not, why?

Remember: In the absence of perceived value, the determining factor is…price.

Your value to your customers is your knowledge and ability to serve them like no one else.  You (hopefully) have a brilliant sales team, people who have forgotten more about your products and craft than most of your customers will ever learn. People that WANT to succeed while looking out for the customer/client’s best interests.

You’re able to provide complete, total solutions when customers or clients come in asking for a specific piece of the solution, perhaps thinking “that’s all I need to fix ______” More often than not, even the most informed customer/client doesn’t know what they don’t know. It’s the salesperson’s job to remedy this lack of information, even if it means the customer doesn’t purchase from your company.

If you’re honest and compelled to provide ‘all the right stuff’ to your customers so that they don’t find themselves out on projects missing parts, extra batteries, all the accessories to make the project, activity, endeavor purr, swing, hum, or fly right, that will not only make them happy, but let them know you care for them, their project, and want to be their total solutions provider.

INCREASING CUSTOMER TRUST/REDUCING CUSTOMER RISK

Every time a customer comes to you, they’re taking a risk.

Making a purchase is taking a risk. How big the risk is determined by price, but more importantly the value of the purchase should outshine the cost, and our salesteam is the vehicle through which that happens. Take in point, a recent customer I’d talked down after a terrible experience with a retailer. She walked into a retailer asking for a “complete system, ready to use, out of the box. She bought a camera system, expecting to shoot near professional-grade images of her family over the weekend. The “complete system was quite expensive, and she was thrilled to have a system ready to roll when she unboxed it all. The customer paid a high price, but didn’t care much about the price; the focus was on what the purchase was going to allow her to do.

Unfortunately, the retailer failed to provide her with the key to the product she purchased; she needed a memory card for her several thousands of dollar camera purchase! Imagine buying a car, and not receiving the keys, and the dealership is closed. Not a good situation.

The retailer failed to meet her particular need, reducing the value of the purchase. Because of a missing 35.00 memory card, her perceived value wasn’t there, and she wanted to return the product. Had the retailer provided the card as part of her “total solution,” price never would have mattered. She bought from from the retailer because she valued their expertise, trustworthiness, and history. For the want of a $35.00 memory card (less than 2% of her overall purchase, the customer was lost.

Rarely do customers think about the overall price more than they think of the value of whatever they’re purchasing. This is easily set aside by suggesting “We’ve got quite a pile of gear here. Thankfully the cost you spent will be forgotten when you’re out making great images with it. Great photography is all about the image, and (list a few items here) the tripod, monitor, wireless system, lights…all of these things together…you’ll be glad you have them with you instead of wishing you did when that great shot is right in front of you.”

“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten”

Truly, consumers around the world put perceived value over price, as price is quickly forgotten while the value lives on. Ask yourself how often you think about the price you paid for a favorite thing in your life such as a motorcycle, piece of jewelry, a warm coat, or other favored product/item?

I’ll bet it’s not very often, if at all.

If price over value mattered, how many of us are driving used Yugo’s, watching television on an old 8″ black and white television, using flip phones, or searching Craigslist for an old DV camera?

Likely, none of us.

Few of us make our purchasing decisions based on price so why expect that our customers do?

So how do we go about reducing the perceived “risk?”

1. Build solid, deep relationships with the customer. Relationships mitigate risk. The greater the relationship, the lower the perceived risk. That’s why the salesman with the longer relationship almost always has the benefit of the doubt in a competitive situation. Its not the price – its the risk. Ask any B2B salesperson why they are successful; they’ll likely tell you it’s because the client knows them, trusts them, and knows they’ll take care of them. It’s entirely about building that relationship.

2. Use of third party recommendations, other customer purchases, case studies and testimonials.
All of these say to the customer that someone else, or lots of “someone elses,” have used the product. That means its less risk for your customer to purchase.

3. Try to get our customer as physically involved with the product as possible. For example, if you’re selling a piece of equipment, try to get the customer to trial the equipment, or at least visit somewhere its being used. The more your customer can see and feel the actual thing, the less risk  to them. Remember our “try before you buy” policy.

If you’re not selling extended service plans, for example, it may well be that you’re making decisions about the customer’s perception of risk.  Remove that preconception from your mind, recognize the customer’s risk is truly elevated WITHOUT the service plan.  Imagine that customer coming back in two weeks, angry because their tripod fell over and they now have a useless piece of gear, simply because we failed to reduce their risk by providing them a Service Plan/secondary warranty? Certainly, you don’t want to be “that person” that didn’t consider the best complete solution for the customer, and provide (or attempt to provide) every component to assure their success!

Reduce the risk of purchase by putting yourself in the customer’s shoes. “What would I want if I were out on this adventure, starting from scratch?” Providing the customer with everything they need, giving them security in their purchase, feeling great about their relationship with you; you’ll have life-time, loyal, and happy customers/clients.

STACKING THE PIPELINE!

Too often, we find ourselves managing our sales, vs making sales.

A significant part of a salesperson’s role is to seek out new customers, bring them in to our world, and help identify, suggest, and service a customer or client’s need. A good sales person is able to provide a complete solution.

Part of this is doing our due diligence for customers/clients, and finding the specific tools they’ll need in order to be successful with the products we provide for them.

As we seek these solutions, we’re constantly quoting, building opportunities for future sales. It’s a great opportunity to practice trial closes. Rather than actually asking the customer to buy, ask “May I get you a quote on that?” 

These quotes become liquid in the pipeline. Whether they come to fruition or not is dependent on how you manage your quotes and orders, communicating and asking questions at regular intervals with your customers.

At the end of the day, the standard rule of thumb is that for every four quotes written, one sale completes. So if the goal is to generate $100K in sales, we need to quote $400K to assure we reach our goal.

What if customers aren’t coming to you?

Then you go to the customer. Find them in your CRM system, lead systems, Facebook, LinkedIn. Find them at Meetups,  hobby gatherings…seek out new life, and new customer-nations…

There never has been an easier time to find and fill the pipeline, but it does still require work.

Fill your pipeline by quoting often (you’ll need to close to do this). Build your business for your next week, next month, next year by
You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the results of a filled pipeline.

*header image from adara-associates.co.uk

EFFECTIVE, WIN-ORIENTED CUSTOMER CONTACTS

If you’re at all a professional sales person, retail or otherwise, you know and capitalize on the value of creating customer relationships.

Each day we need to reach out to some segment of our customers, and we can be more effective if we undertake a few steps to best reach our customer with language and approach that will compel them to communicate or engage with us.

We:

  • Prep our e-mail
  • Determine a subject line
  • Our Opening line (very important)
  • Body copy (The main message, somewhat important)
  • Signature

Before you start writing, take a few minutes to PREP your email(s) with relevant information.  A Google search might help you know more what your customer is interested in. Maybe you’ll find them on Facebook, LinkedIn,or other social engagement site. Perhaps you’ll learn where they work, or exactly what they are interested in from photos or videos posted on the web.  However, you’re not done just yet!

WHAT’S OUR REASON TO REACH OUT TO THEM?

A “trigger event” such as a “thank you for purchasing” is a good reason.
Software update for their product is a good reason (for example, GoPro just released a firmware update for their camera). Perhaps there is a new widget for their new motorcycle, or a rebate on a recent purchase.
Asking them how they’re enjoying their XXX product is a good reason.
Telling them about a special event or opportunity at your location is a good reason.
There are many great reasons to be reaching out to customers

If you have any questions about photography or video please call me” isn’t a good reason. The above sentence doesn’t engage, and it puts responsibility for contact on the customer’s shoulders.

Now assemble/create your subject line.
“ideas for [what’s important to them]”
“update available for [what’s important to them]”
“New XYZ available to fit your [product they bought]”
“Saying ‘Thank you’
Question about [what they bought]
Thoughts about [what they’re doing in their craft]

…are all good examples of subject lines. Emails with attractive, interesting subject lines are 70% more likely to be opened (according to SalesForce data).

AVOID THESE WORDS IN YOUR SUBJECT LINE:
Final             Reminder               Sale
Tempting      Specials                 Complimentary
Help              Donation                Don’t
Exciting         Unique                   Discount
Solution         Partner                  State of the Art

Start off by saying something about THEM, not yourself, and not your company. Make it personal.

Michael, I noticed you[………]
Kristin, [mutual connection….] mentioned
Brian, Congratulations on your new […….]
Dr. Smith, Congrats on the recent […..]

THE BODY COPY

Should relay your value by connecting you to your customer.

“How would you like to improve….”
“Do you have any unanswered questions about….”
“Would a _____ make your ______ more efficient?”

(Remember, we know what the customer has asked us to quote or what they’ve purchased. Use this knowledge to fill in the blanks above)

We are LOOKING for a place to ask the customer a question in the email.
QUESTIONS are engaging. We want to ENGAGE the customer in conversation.

SIGNATURE

Keep it short.
Use a company graphic in your signature. Not only does this remind them of where you can be found, it also speaks to branding.
Make sure your phone number and email are included. True, they have your email that they can respond to, but by seeing it in the body of your signature provides an instant reference to who you are.

BAM! YOU’RE DONE!
To sum up;

  • Personalized Subject line
  • First name or professional title
  • Opening line about THEM
  • Questions that aligns with their desires or recent purchase
  • Simple signature

MANAGING THE “ITCH” CYCLE

MANAGING THE “ITCH

There is a study of habit known as the “Itch Cycle.” The Itch Cycle varies from topic to topic, and person to person. For example, once upon a time, comedians referred frequently to the “Seven-Year Itch.” Men were known for getting bored with what they have, and looking around. MGM had a famous movie starring Marilyn Monroe of the same title.

The Sales Cycle has an “itch” too. In the past, the cycle for small consumer goods was 18 months. Today, that itch cycle is much shorter due in great part, to the immediacy of the internet and mobile devices.

Customers are better informed than ever, and decisions to purchase (once the itch cycle begins) was once 10 days (small consumer goods). Today, that cycle is five days, or half of what it was 15 years ago.

This means we need to be in contact with our customers sooner, and more frequently if we want to be the  solution to their “itch.” During your one-on-ones, ask your manager to share with you the frequency of converted quotes, and the vast majority of them happen inside the seven-day window.

We are moving from the age of the seller to the age of the customer. Our customers are better informed, more aware, and able to engage with solutions providers at any number of portals that didn’t exist 10 years ago.  Customers have more alternatives for which to scratch their itch.  If you ignore this fact, you may rapidly become noise vs signal in their world

BUILDING THE ITCH

Through our Customer Contacts and followups, we generate an itch. By reminding customers we’re here and that we’re looking out for their best interests, they’ll think of us first. You can bet that the competition isn’t sending them followup emails every couple of months. If by some strange coincidence they are, it’s unlikely that the competition knows as much about the customer as we do, because we’re not only qualifying our customers, we’re always doing an informal Needs Analysis by knowing what they do with their gear, knowing what would best compliment their equipment and workflow, and keeping an eye out for their best interests, right? If you’re not doing these things, you should be. That’s what a professional facilitator/sales person does.  It’s a big component of building trust.

MANAGING THE ITCH

Once we generate a quote, we need to keep ourselves in the customer’s mind. We do this through phone calls and emails. We need to ‘scratch their itch’ every 72-96 hours. Therefore, if we generate a quote on a Monday, we need to be in touch with that customer by Thursday afternoon at latest.

Therefore, if we generate a quote on a Monday, we need to be in touch with that customer by Thursday afternoon at latest.

In your CRM software, set a reminder/followup to contact your customer within that four day window, and watch your sales grow.

Scratching itches brings relief, and relief puts money in YOUR pocket as a solutions facilitator for your customer’s needs.