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Improve Your Sales Performance: Empathy

Sales is all about human interaction and the building of relationships. Too often, sales people just follow their natural instinct and believe that sales is about convincing the buyer how great their product or service is.

One of the most significant barriers to becoming a successful sales person is focusing more on yourself as a sales person, than the prospect in front of you. In every sales opportunity, the only person who has the power to make any purchasing decision is the buyer. Therefore, all focus must be focused on gaining an understanding of them and how they view or feel about the need of the product or service.

I have found that empathy is the most crucial building block I have used in my sales process; however it is often one of the most misunderstood words around. Many people get confused between sympathy and empathy. In my simple way, I define them as follows;

  • Sympathy is looking at an emotional issue through your eyes.
  • Empathy is looking at and understanding an emotional issue through the eyes of the person experiencing it.

To earn a prospects respect, time and attention, sales people need to understand the problem and look at it from the prospect's perspective. Approaching the situation in this way is how we get to understand why it's important to them. We need to stop talking at them and put yourself in the position alongside them.

How do we apply empathy to a sales meeting?

Let’s start by breaking empathy down into some key areas. Then at how to apply these to build better relationships with the prospects and buyers we come into contact with.

The three key components of empathy I would like to look at are;


In order to practise curiosity, we need to start with the mindset that we know nothing about the person or challenges they are facing. This will mean that that we do away with that old problem in sales, assumption.

By asking open-ended questions and exploring the emotional words in the response, we journey down the road of discovery. I like to equate the word curiosity with children. I remember my kids, when they were young, asking continuous questions until they received the answer that made them happy. This is a skill that every one of us had when we were children, but life just seems to often override it. If we are to improve our sales skills, then it's time to recall some of those wonderful skills we were so good at as kids.


The first point I would like to make here is that listening is not the same as hearing. Hearing is about the sounds and words you hear. Whereas listening requires focus and the ability to understand what the person speaking to you is saying. Listening is not only taking in the words the person uses, but also picking up the tone and pace of voice and how the other person’s body language changes. This is the only way we can determine what emotional impact the message they are giving you has on them. In sales, one of the most important things to listen out for are all the emotional words. These are the key for asking those really penetrating questions that help you delve under the surface.

Building an Emotional Connection

The decision to buy something, no matter what it is, is predominantly an emotional one. It's vital for sales people to build this emotional connection with their prospect. We started by saying that sales was about human interaction and building relationships, so it's vital that we focus on understanding the emotional connection the prospect has with the challenges they are trying to solve. Relationships are built upon emotions and rely on us taking a true and personal interest in the prospect. It means really getting to understand their situation from their point of view. They need to feel that we are very much on their side and are focused on helping them solve any problems they have in a way that brings the solution they are looking for, not the solution that we think is best.

If you want to make a dramatic improvement in your sales performance, then practising your empathy skills is vital. Not only will you improve your results, you will build deeper and longer term relationships with your customers.

If you want to reduce the amount of closing techniques and effort you are putting into your sales meetings, then practice your empathy up front in the meetings and the need to use harder closing techniques will decrease dramatically.

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Positioning Your Marketing For Better Results

How you position your product or service is vital to your success, whether you choose to do it proactively or reactively, and by reactively, I mean you don’t do anything at all about your positioning.

What then is positioning?

Positioning is how you make your product or service appear different to your target audiences’ perception. It is the standout points that come to your audience when they think of your products or services compared to your competitors. When you think of Harrods as a shop, what do you think of? Probably exclusivity, wide range of high quality products and outstanding service. That is the way they have positioned themselves and there is no confusion when comparing them to Lidl.

Why is it important that you proactively position your product or service?

It is vitally important that you position your product or service so that you can create that level of differentiation against your competitors, otherwise the market will just position you as yet another supplier of these products or services, which will normally result in more price pressure on your offering.

With a powerful positioning, it will help you stand out from all the other marketing messages that they are regularly bombarded with.

The whole point of this positioning is to keep your product or service foremost in your target audiences’ mind when they are looking for a solution that you can offer.

Before you position your product or service there are 2 questions you need to ask yourself;

  1. Why do your existing customers buy the product or service from you? Most often, they purchase from you because of what the product or service does for them, not just what it does. A design company I met did their market research and learned that they were winning business, not only because of their design expertise, but because they truly listened and offered solutions in a simple format that the customers could easily understand.
  2. How is your product or service different to your competitors? What benefit does your offering bring that makes it stand out? Remember, all customers are tuned into WIIFM, What Is In It For Me. They don’t care how good you tell them you are, they only want to know how they will benefit. Market research of existing customers will give you this information.

Once you have asked and answered the above questions based on your in depth market research, you can start creating your positioning strategy.

Your positioning strategy must clearly define who your ideal market are, how you will reach them in large numbers, what they are truly buying from you (Their WIIFM), who your competitors are and most importantly, what makes you different.

In addition, your positioning strategy must focus on the following;

Be focussed, Make sure that each marketing message you send out only covers one product group or service solution at a time, do not try to market all your offerings with a one size fits all strategy.

Connect at emotional level; Use your market research to understand what the emotional reasons are for customers buying what you offer and use these emotive reasons in your message.

Customer Benefits; Focus on the benefits the customers achieve by selecting your offering so that they make a deeper emotional connection to your company.

Is your offer believable; Will customers reading your marketing message be able to easily understand and believe the message?

Are you credible; Are you able to supply proof of what you are stating?

Once you have gone through all of the points listed above, you can start creating your positioning strategy.

The most important place to start is with your ideal customer. Often businesses will define their ideal customer as any person who wishes to purchase from them, but often, many of these customers cost the supplier a great deal in lost time and profits because of the level of questions, process changes and complaints they make, so do you truly know what the characteristics are of your ideal customer?

With your marketing message and positioning, you only want to attract customers that are a pleasure to deal with and who make the sales process simple and quick.

The best way to determine your ideal customer is to look at your current customer list and pick out those customers you really love dealing with and then work out what makes them stand out from the other customers.

Most importantly, you need to determine if you have different ideal customers for each of the product ranges or service solutions that you offer.

Once you understand who you want to target, you can carry out the next important step and that is your in depth market research. You only use your ideal customers for the research as you want to only know why they buy from you and what makes you different to other suppliers in the market place. Your message and positioning you create must be focussed on attracting high volumes of ideal customers.

Once you have completed your market research, you will have a clear understanding of what truly makes you different and stand out from other suppliers in the market. From this information you can now create a powerful statement that highlights your uniqueness in your offering, but remember that this must be stated from the customer’s perception, not yours.

Once you have created your positioning statement, test it out on a number of ideal customers to see how they react to it and if possible, ask them for their feedback on the statement. From the feedback, you will be able to make any changes to the statement until you are truly happy with it.

Finally, it is extremely important that your whole team are trained on it, they must understand the important aspects of it, know where it came from and lastly, use it on every customer they come into contact with.


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So Why Should Customers Buy From Your Business?

I meet regularly with a wide variety of sales people. The point most of them want to discuss with me is what they need to do to win business in the current tough market, however, in each meeting I manage to turn general and lively discussions into absolute silence every time I ask them my question.

I ask each person the same question and the deadly silence that follows the question shows me that sales people often only think about prospects and customers from their own perspective and seldom look at the situation from the customers or prospects perspective.

The question that I ask is;

“If I am your ideal prospect and when we meet I ask why I should buy from you and your company, as opposed to a competitor, what would you tell me?”

Many of the salespeople start by telling me about their broad range of products or services, but they are quickly silenced when I say that their competitors tell me the same thing. They then tell me about their personal service, large stock holding and many other features, but none of them are compelling enough to make them stand out from their competitors.

If you are a sales person, business owner or marketing person in a business, I ask them what does your business really do? What is it that you do that makes your customers keep buying from you?

What is obvious to me is that sales people think they know what their business does very clearly. But when they are challenged, they go back to the most common clichés used in the book with generic statements about breadth or quality of products or service, being customer focussed, offering outstanding service and many others. The problem with all of these statements is that they are all very generic and do nothing to make one business truly stand out from another.

Almost every sales training course that I have seen highlights the difference between features and benefits, yet so few people really understand what that difference is.

The main difference between a feature and a benefit is all about from the perspective in which you look at the product or service. Features are all about how sales people look at their product or service and benefits are how customers or prospects view the product or service. Customers are considerably more interested in what the end result is of using your product or service rather than all the details of how it works.

If you are serious about reducing the number of pressurised price negotiations and lost orders your business or salespeople are experiencing, then it is vital that you spend time understanding what it is that your business does for your clients that keeps them coming back to purchase more and more and which makes you stand out from your competitors.

The best place to start finding this out is by asking some of your ideal customers why they use your business over any of your competitors. What is crucial in getting to the correct answers during this process is ‘digging deep’ with the questions until you understand what it is that your business does for your customers and how this builds an emotional connection to your business.

Very often business owners are very surprised by the answers they receive as the reasons are often very different to what they expect. What is also interesting, is that many times there are different points that stand out for different market sectors, so knowing what your business does may not involve only one answer.

I followed up with one of the companies that could not answer the question. Before we got our meeting going, one of the salespeople jumped up and told me that he had found an answer to the question for his retail customers.

They had gone and found out that his business shipped 99.6% of their orders on the same day they received the order and that they also scored over 99% on order accuracy shipped to their customers. With this feature, he was able to tell his retail customers that they could offer their customers a 48 hour delivery service which they had found out, far exceeded any of their local competitors. They now have at least one stand out point from their competitors, but need to go out and find some more.

So if I was your ideal prospective customer and I asked you why I should buy from you and not one of your competitors, what would you say?

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Optimism, the Skill that can take your Sales Success to Another Level!

Everyone in business is looking for something that is going to make them more competitive in the current business market. Should we network at more business meetings or perhaps become more active on social media sites? Change the process on how we interact with our customers or perhaps have a strategy for developing a new market to sell to? Create a new marketing plan? There is another solution that you can put into place quickly and easily. Sales people that understand that it is emotions that drive buying decisions will also know that optimism is a key skill to master. Before you start thinking that this is just another article on the soft skills that does not relate to a financial outcome, evidence shows that optimistic salespeople generate considerably more sales.

One of the best case studies on optimism comes from the work of psychologist Martin Seligman.  He worked with the sales team at insurance giant, Metropolitan Life to help them increase their sales performance. He worked with the sales team and from the measurements he put in place, he found that the sales people who scored high in optimism sold on average 37% more than those who scored low. In addition, their customer retention increased as well.

How does your sales team react to the challenges that the market throws their way? Are they discussing new strategies and ideas for building deeper relationships with clients or are they just telling the management how bad the market is? In other words, are they a glass half full sales team or a glass half empty sales team?  Salespeople should be concerned that they do not become too negative when markets become tougher.  So what message or mood is the sales management team sending to your sales team?  What message is your sales team communicating to customers and prospects?  How many of your sales team are starting their sales meetings with words like, “I know that money must be tight for you” or something similar. With an opening like that, they are just inviting considerably more price pressure on themselves.

So what can the sales management do to turn around any negative moods and comments in the sales team?

There are five behaviour traits found in salespeople and sales organisations that have a high level of optimism.  Start helping your sales team and increase your sales by teaching them to all your salespeople.

1:    When faced with challenges, optimistic salespeople ask themselves better questions.

  • What’s good about this?  Top salespeople know that in sales, they will always face challenges which will teach them valuable lessons and make them better sales people.  Optimistic salespeople keep challenging themselves as they know that to become professional salespeople, they need to keep learning new techniques and challenging themselves to gain more understanding about sales processes and people in general. They know that the more they invest in themselves, the more money they will make for the business and themselves.
  • Optimistic salespeople build understanding and then take control of themselves and the process they are using, then they take action and this action produces results, and results increase motivation and deliver increased success.

2:    They remind themselves that a challenging business period is temporary, not permanent.

When business is a rather slow or challenging, optimistic salespeople speed it up by taking care of their best assets:  their existing customers.  They invest more time in looking for new products or services they can promote to them.  They know the economy will turn and when it does, the prospect will call them not their competitor who has been sitting in his office comparing sad stories with his negative colleagues.

3:    Optimistic salespeople choose who they associate with wisely.

Jim Rohn quotes, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”  Who are your salespeople spending most of their time with, the glass half full or the glass half empty people?  What kind of emotional effect is happening within your sales force?  Is it healthy, positive conversation or is the sickness of negativity spreading amongst them?  Here’s the difference.  The negative salesperson says no one is buying.  The optimistic salesperson says someone is buying…I just need to find him or her.

4:    Optimistic salespeople generate results, not excuses.

They know that being a salesperson is a great profession because they can control their outcome.  Top salespeople read books, watch videos and find people who can help them look at other ways of doing business in tough times. They work smarter than their competitors that are still wishing the easier old days would return.   Top salespeople invest in learning so they can outsmart and out sell their competitor.  Optimistic salespeople don’t look for greener fields.  They cultivate greener fields.

5:    Optimistic salespeople are constantly sensing new opportunities.

They know that to outsmart their competitors they need to be innovative in the way they communicate with their customers. They know that they have to help their customers see new opportunities and market places for the product or service they supply. They just know if they look hard enough and help their customers, there is always a solution to be found.

Optimism may be considered a soft skill but an optimistic mindset will generate great sales results.  Optimistic salespeople are easier to manage.  If you are looking to reduce the drama and negative sales stories in your business, start teaching your sales people on the above 5 points and get them to invest their time on coming up with new solutions and strategies for helping their customers buy more. Optimism is a skill that can be learned; just help your salespeople make the choice. Optimism does not mean turning a blind eye to tougher business conditions, but rather looking at the market place and deciding that there must be a better way of tackling the market and growing profitable sales.

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Is Your Marketing a Cost or an Investment?

We know that to grow our business we need to market effectively to generate new customers, however, as soon as business slows, one of the first things to go is the marketing budget! Why is that?

One of the main reasons for the marketing budget being cut as soon as money becomes a little tighter is because very few business owners actually understand whether their marketing is working for them or not.  Unfortunately, some professionals, such as accountants and bank managers will often tell business owners that their marketing is an expense and when cash flow becomes tight, they recommend that expenses are cut.

What if we could really understand our marketing strategies and be able to measure them in such a way that we knew with certainty which strategies were generating excellent leads that are in turn generating profitable sales. When our marketing budget generates profitable sales regularly, then our marketing budget stops being an expense and becomes an investment.

So where do we start to convert our marketing budget from an expense into an investment?

The place to start is with an effective marketing plan that is built on sound market research and involves a clear understanding of who our ideal clients are for each market. For more information on how to do this, please read my articles on, “Marketing, the forgotten piece” and “Outside In marketing.” Once we have this plan in place, we must also include a process for measuring each strategy that we use so that we are able to quickly measure if the strategy is working or not.

Measuring market strategies always seems to be a big challenge for the business owners I meet as they all seem to believe that measuring their marketing is very difficult, if not impossible. In all the years I have been teaching marketing principles, I have yet to find a strategy that cannot be measured. One of the keys to being able to effectively measure marketing strategies, is to make sure that all members of your team are involved with the marketing plan and that they fully understand why each of the processes are important. In the majority of businesses we come across, any marketing strategy seems to often be a spur of the moment decision by the boss and very few other members of the team seem to even be aware of the strategy, so any measurement process becomes hit and miss which feeds the belief that measuring marketing is very difficult. When the team are involved with the marketing plan and each of the strategies in the plan, it is considerably easier for them to understand why it is necessary for them to ask new prospects how they heard about the company and to record the results. One of the reasons why measuring new leads is very difficult for many businesses is the fact that very few even have an enquiry form for team members to complete, most of them just use a book or any scrap of paper lying around. When building a marketing plan for your business, it is vital that you have an enquiry form that has all your various marketing strategies on it to remind team members to ask the question and to record the answer.

Once we have the front end measuring process in place, we can then design how we trace enquiries through the business so that we allocate and measure sales against each of the strategies we employ. At first reading, this may seem very difficult to do in your business, but I have found that in the majority of cases a simple solution can be found by just making a few easy changes to the current process you are using.

Some of you reading this may be wondering if it is really worthwhile making all these changes to your current sales process just to measure the various marketing strategies you have in place. To answer this question, just stop and think about how much money you have invested in the many marketing strategies you have put in place over the years and then ask yourself how many of these strategies could you hand on heart say really generated profit for your business? So many business owners have invested thousands on a strategy without knowing if this strategy was generating any business for them or not. On the other hand, I worked with a business owner who cancelled an advert they had been running because they thought it had become old and stale. Within two months their sales had started dropping off at an alarming rate, so we put the advert back with a measuring process in place and sales started streaming in again, measurement showed that this advert costing just £200 per month was generating 19 sales per month with an average margin of £60 per order, a return of £1140 of profit against an investment of £200.

Once you are measuring your marketing strategies you are in a powerful position of being able to use your marketing investment wisely. At a glance you can tell which strategies are working and which need to be changed or withdrawn. At this point your marketing budget has moved from being a cost into being an investment as you can measure the returns. While you are running marketing strategies without knowing whether they are working or not, you are just throwing your hard earned profit at opportunities without measuring the return, the same profit that you have had to work really hard to earn.

But just think of this, if all your marketing strategies are working well and generating profitable sales, what is your marketing budget? Every time you invest £500 into your marketing it is making considerably more than this in gross profit off all of those sales you are generating. At this point, your marketing budget becomes self funding as whatever you invest generates considerable return for you.

Marketing your business successfully is one of the key points in any business to master if you are looking to take it to another level of success, but it is absolutely vital that you understand and measure your marketing activities so that they do not become a huge expense on your profit and loss account.

Build your understanding on how to market successfully, measure every marketing activity you engage in, keep the ones that generate profit, change or get rid of those that don’t and soon your marketing budget will become an investment that helps your business grow profitably.

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How Much Value Does Your Sales Process Add?

The key strategy to grow any business has to be how effective it is at converting leads to profitable orders, or in other words, sales.

There are a wide range of beliefs held around sales people, from, “it’s what you do if you can’t get a proper job” to the pride and joy in being able to communicate with people and virtually write your own salary cheque. The most amazing thing I have seen is how little time and effort is invested in thinking about the sales process the business follows, how little time is spent training and developing the sales people on this process and why it is important.

Many business owners and sales directors still believe that to be successful at sales, you need people who have a good technical understanding of the product or service and who have the ‘gift of the gab’. They then spend most of their time managing their sales force around getting more and more activity completed, but very little time working on a sales process that adds value to both the prospects and the business itself.

So what do I really mean by a sales process? Many of you are going to immediately think about a heavily structured and scripted document that allows the sales people no scope for their own personality to shine and techniques to be used. Others may think immediately of the numerous telesales companies that call us many times a day with their very rigid scripts which allow for very little interaction. In both of examples, the only focus seems to be on getting a specific sale. Very little time and effort is placed on building a long term relationship and actually helping the prospect find a good solution to the problem or need that they may have. Sadly, many of the sales strategies being used today tend to create more of a negative feeling with people rather than a positive one.

With some of the more negative aspects of various sales processes out of the way, let me explain why I believe that having an effective sales process is so important.

I am a very strong believer that in business, the starting point for any strategy starts with the outcome you are looking for. A sales process must create a positive emotional experience for every customer or prospect that goes through it. 5 key areas a sales process must focus on are;

1. Filter out the prospects the business does not want as clients and focus time and effort only on the ideal prospects.
2. Deliver profitable sales by solving prospects and clients problems and needs.
3. Build long term relationships that keep customers coming back time after time.
4. Create customers of the business, not the salesperson.
5. Be simple and effective for both the prospects and the salespeople.

I am sure that many of you may be really interested with the wording of the first point, to filter out the prospects that the business does not want to sell to. Many people I have helped with their sales process have been alarmed that any sales process should want to get rid of any prospects, but just think to yourself, how much time have you or your salespeople invested into prospects where nothing has happened time and time again with the same people or company? Where would the sales performance be if we could find a way to focus on the real profitable prospects?

How well is your process and sales people focussed on solving problems rather than just selling as many products or services as quickly as possible? If it is just focussed on getting products and services out of the door, how does this make you appear different to your competitors? If you want to do a quick and rough check on how much value your sales process and people are adding, work out what percentage of all the enquiries your business handles involve a request for a lower price! If you have a fairly high percentage of requests for lower pricing, how much value are you adding to your prospects? Focus on adding more value in the sales process and just see how that margin creeps up.

One of the higher costs in any business is the client acquisition cost. This is not just measured in purely money terms, but also time. After a business has spent all this time and money on getting a prospect to a customer, it would be such a waste it if that customer only purchased once from that business. This is why it is vital that your sales process is designed to wow the customer the first time, but has a well designed follow up process that keeps consistent but acceptable levels of communication with the customer. This follow up process is probably the one area that the majority of businesses I come into contact with, fail on.

Probably the most challenging part of any sales process is the strategy that is needed to be developed to make sure that all customers become clients of the business, rather than just a client of a person in the business. How many businesses live in fear that if one of their sales people leaves, a bunch of customers will follow them to their new employer? Design this into your sales process from the start and you will lose considerably less customers if one of your salespeople leave. What is more, you will add value to your sales process as the customers will receive excellent service from whoever they deal with in your business.

Lastly, but very importantly, this sales process must be effective but simple to use so that communication between various departments within the business is easy to understand so that new employees can be quickly trained. It has also been proven, that simple processes always work better as people understand them quicker and they are easier to use.

If reading this article has challenged you to think about your sales process and wonder how much value it is adding to both your business and your prospects, or if you just want to grow your sales without employing loads more people. Go through the sales process your sales people are following and then ask yourself at each step if it is addressing the points I have listed above.

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Marketing.. The Forgotten Piece

I am surprised by the way the majority of businesses I come into contact with approach their marketing strategy.  I met with a business owner last week who wanted to discuss their latest marketing ideas with me so that I could help them develop a brand new marketing plan.

I started by asking them the question “So where are you going to start?” They looked at me with a great big smile and said, “Just to show you that I listened to you last time we met, I have already identified my target markets, so that is where I am going to start.”

This is an excellent place to start with any marketing plan, but it was the next few steps that I was most interested in, as it is in these next steps that the majority of businesses make the biggest mistake, or should I rather say, their biggest omission.

When building a marketing plan or strategy, we need to know who and where we are going to target, but the next bit is the crucial bit- what are we going to tell them and why? When I asked the business owner this question, they started telling me about their latest new product range and all the accreditations it had. They also could tell me why it was so important to each of the target markets they had selected. That was when I hit them with the killer question, “What is your information based on, fact or opinion?”

The business owner looked at me with a puzzled look and then said with a great deal of indignation, “Well fact, obviously.” My next question made even more indignation to appear on their face, “Excellent, but where exactly did this fact come from?” They then proceeded to tell me how they got all the salespeople, product developers and management team together to discuss the answers. Now this is probably the way the majority of companies approach their marketing strategy and planning, however, this process has one major drawback, none of the people involved in developing the marketing material will actually ever use the marketing to purchase the product or service and probably none of them have ever bought the product or service. This is a term I refer to as “Inside Out” marketing and is one of the main reasons why the majority of marketing carried out by businesses is generally ineffective.

I shared these reasons with the business owner and then watched their face drop as I said, “Well then, I guess you have based your strategy on opinion then, not fact.” I then explained to them that they had left out the same major step the majority of businesses leave out, true market research. In order to market to new ideal prospects, we must truly understand why our current customers purchase our product or service, not what we think are the reasons from inside the business, but really getting to grips with why they choose our product or service over a competitor’s product or service.

I then explained how many years of research had confirmed that 80% of any purchasing decision is based on emotion and only 20% is based on logic and that this was true for marketing material and messages as well. The market research they needed to conduct had to dig deep into the emotional reasons the clients use in making the decision to keep dealing with this company, from this we could create really effective marketing messages which would attract many more customers just like the ideal clients we had conducted the research with.

The business owner then explained to me that they regularly ask their customers to feedback on their service and product quality via a questionnaire, so they knew what their customers felt about them as a business. They were actually conducting a marketing survey on how well their systems and processes dealt with the customers. This is extremely important but did not give the vital emotional information needed for marketing.

Conducting effective market research is not as easy as it may first sound, how the questions are presented to the key customers is absolutely vital and the questions themselves are just as important. If either of these steps are not thought through carefully and approached in the right way, then all you will collect is a great deal of meaningless answers which will offer no help to your marketing strategy and material.

When starting the market research with your strategically selected customers, it is vital that the research is positioned as beneficial to them; they must see benefits in giving the feedback you are looking for. Once you have the positioning statement finished, it is vital that you create questions that are thought provoking and that unlock the emotional aspects of why the customer purchases from you and what your service or product means to them and their business.  It is also very important that the person asking the questions listens intently to the answers. Especially for the emotive words, and then asks deeper questions around them. Many excellently structured market research questionnaires have lost the majority of their impact by people just rushing through the questions and not unlocking the true emotions.

Once we have asked a good selection of customers these questions, it is vital that we sit and compare the answers and look for common trends and comments, many times the answers can be totally unexpected. As an example of unexpected answers, I remember a client conducting market research on a number of his clients to find out why they chose his graphic design company over others in the market place. The most common answer he received by the majority of the customers, was that he really listened to what they told him. He proudly fed this back to me that he listens really well and that he was going to use this in all his marketing communications from now on. I asked him just one question; “What benefit do they get from you listening really well?” He had no idea, so he had to go and ask them again. The answer was very interesting, they all told him that he asked loads of questions about what they were looking to achieve, what they liked, didn’t like, who their target audience was and so on,  and then designing the material for them from this. They said that the other graphic designers just asked a few questions and then came up with designs that reflected more what they liked rather than the customer. This client has grown his business substantially based on this marketing message.

So if you are looking to grow your business by attracting profitable ideal clients, are you leaving proper market research out of your marketing strategy and communication? Proper market research takes up some time, it will give you a considerable improvement in return on the money you invest into your marketing.

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Key Factors that Make People Buy

So what are the key factors that make people buy?

In today’s competitive market, the ability of businesses to sell effectively often determines the successful growth of a business.  If a business is generating large quantities of great leads, but cannot convert these into sales, that business will struggle. So before we start looking at the key factors that make people buy, let’s firstly get a clear understanding of what sales is.

In any sales process, a minimum of two people are involved, one selling and one looking to buy a product or service. Sounds simple, doesn’t it, but let’s dig a little deeper. In this interaction between the buyer and the seller, where will the decision always be made?  The only person who can place the order and then pay for the goods or service is the buyer, nothing happens until the buyer says, Yes.  So with this in mind, surely the focus should be on helping the buyer make their decision!  So much sales training available in the market tends to focus so much on sales techniques and ideas on how to question and close a sales deal, yet forgets the fact that the decision maker is not the salesperson, but the buyer. In fact, it could almost be said that there is no such thing as sales, only buying.

It has also been proven that any buying decision, no matter what the product or service is, is 80% emotional and only 20% logical.

With this all in mind, should the definition of sales not be; helping buyers make easier and more effective decisions?

With the above points all in mind, I would now like to take a look at the key emotional factors that will influence people’s decision in making a purchase.

I will only be looking at the emotional factors here and accept that the logical factors such as price, size, delivery and availability do all play a part in the decision making.

So what are the emotional factors all sales people need to consider when helping a person make a purchasing decision?

  • Making a positive connection with the prospective buyer.

They say that you only get one chance to create a first impression, and nowhere is that more true, than in a face to face sales appointment. How many sales people believe so much in the gift of the gab, that they forget to focus on the most important person, the prospective client. When first meeting a prospective new client, look around; take note of what you see that links to the person, read their body language, are they nervous, confident, how are they talking, tone, speed etc. From this the salesperson needs to decide their own approach to the sales meeting that puts the prospective buyer at ease.

This is one of the most crucial parts of any sales meeting, whether it is face to face or over the phone, get it wrong and no matter how good your sales technique may be, the sale could be lost.

  • What problem are they trying to solve?

People only buy something when they need to solve a problem. It may be new equipment to manufacture, parts for manufacture, a service that will improve their business or anything else. What is very important to understand at this point, is that it is very often not the product that is most important to the prospective client, but what it represents to them. The focus of the sales person is to find out what the true nature of the problem they are trying to solve and what type of solution they are looking for. The key to finding this out, are very good questioning skills and attentive listening.

  • What is the buyer’s perception of the product or service?

When people purchase a product or service, salespeople need to understand that the majority of people will have some kind of picture in their mind of what the experience is going to be like before they meet the salesperson. As a professional salesperson, it is important that you find out what thoughts or picture is in their mind so that you can choose the right strategy to follow for that meeting. The more a buyer is put at ease and dealt with as a human being who has thoughts and feelings, the easier the sales process will become.

  • What past experiences has the buyer had with the product or service?

One of the first things to find out as a salesperson, is what past experiences has the buyer had with buying the product or service. This is important as past experiences will have a large affect on how they react to the salesperson. This may not appear to be fair, but as humans we have behavioural styles that are fashioned from past experiences and we go into these styles without even thinking about it.  These past experiences also set up expectations in the buyer and as a professional salesperson it is important to find out what these expectations are.

  • What have they heard others say about the product or service?

This point is very similar to the previous point, but often comes where the buyer has not had many or any past experiences of purchasing the product or service, but has been told the past experiences of friends and colleagues. These will also set expectations with the buyer.

  • What will the product or service allow them to do or achieve, that they currently can’t do?

Often the way a product or service is positioned with a buyer is the key point on which a purchasing decision will be made, especially when all other aspects of the competition are fairly close. Positioning the buyer on the positive outcomes they could achieve with making the purchase will often make a stronger emotional connection and secure the sale. With some types of products or services it is vital that the salesperson positions the solution within the bigger picture of what can be achieved.

These are just some of the key emotional areas that many salespeople forget or are unaware to focus on when conducting a sales meeting, yet they are often the most crucial points that will set apart successful salespeople from all the others.

Many sales training courses focus heavily on the importance of asking questions in a sales meeting, but many do not give too much insight into what to ask questions about.

I hope that this article helps you improve your sales performance, but if you are looking to take your sales performance to another level of success, then give us a call and we would be delighted to come and help you.

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‘Outside In’ Marketing

Dramatically increase your business profits with ‘Outside In' marketing

I met with a business owner last week who has tried unsuccessfully for some years to break through a turnover figure which he has been desperate to achieve for many years. He has got very close in the last few years, without making that final break through which would bring him the level of success he was looking for.

Now there could be a number of reasons for this happening, but the answer he gave was very interesting, he stated that he felt the main reason why they have not broken through that magic barrier was mainly because clients and prospects just did not understand what his business truly did. If I could just have a penny for every time I have heard business owners tell me this, there would be no need for me to write this article. If clients and prospects do not understand what a business truly does, how hard is it for that business to deliver exceptional value?

So why is it that some businesses are so misunderstood that clients and prospects struggle to understand what value their product or service really brings to them? Just think to yourself how difficult it must be to create leads or sell the services if even the business owner cannot clearly communicate what it is that the business offers!

After years of careful research, we have come to the conclusion that the major reason for this happening is twofold;

  1. Most of the marketing is done ‘Inside Out'.
  2. Businesses do not truly understand the market place they are in and how their business delivers value to this market place.

1. So what do we mean with ‘Inside Out' marketing?

After years of research we have realised that the vast majority of business owners plan and execute their marketing plans on the views and opinions of the people inside the business looking out towards the market. So what is wrong with that? These people have often been providing these products and services for many years and understand how they work best for customers.

But this is actually the biggest problem, their knowledge and understanding of the product is so much higher than any customers will ever be and this often causes a communication breakdown.

The most important factor to consider is, what are the most important benefits that your product or service brings to customers, from their viewpoint, not yours. In our research we have found many times, that customers purchase a product or service for reasons the supplier has never considered. The only way to find out what these reasons are is by conducting proper market research with the type of customers who will bring you increased profitable sales.

And this is what we mean by ‘Inside Out' marketing, the majority of businesses approach the market with their level of understanding and opinions of how the product fits best, only to then find that the results they are getting are considerably lower than their expectations.

So where do we start with correcting this process and creating an ‘Outside In' marketing strategy?

2. How do we start to understand our own business?

The place to start to understand how your business fits into the market place is with something the majority of business owners neglect to do, proper market research.

So what do I mean when I say proper market research?  Many businesses do market surveys by sending out a short questionnaire which allows people to rate the various aspects of their business, like service, product availability etc. But how many of these questionnaires delve into the key areas of what makes a person decide to choose your product or service over another? Effective market research is all about getting the understanding around the emotional reasons why somebody makes a decision to choose one company over another and is probably neglected by so many as it is not that easy to do without the necessary training and understanding.

Part of this research must also include identifying your ideal client. This is far more than just geography or spending power, it must cover their wants, needs and aspirations so that we attract a customer that buys from us over a long term.

Only once we know who we want to attract and what it is they are truly looking for, can we even start thinking about marketing to them. At this point we need to understand what our point of difference is in the market, what we offer that is different to our competitors, and what do we do that is going to attract those ideal clients that will ensure our profitable growth and help us out perform the rest of the market place we are in.

This is no longer about creating or finding a niche as it was once thought of, creating a niche is often a time consuming and expensive activity which often gets copied very soon after it is launched. Creating this difference is an interesting process as in many cases the business is already delivering something that makes it different to its competitors, it’s just not aware of it and therefore does not communicate it.

The most important thing to remember when marketing is that your target audience measure your message and your business on the perception they create in their mind when they see any of your marketing material. The better your understanding is of what they are looking for and what it means to them, the more positive the perception you will create with them.

Creating the right perception with your ideal prospects is one of the key factors that are going to take your business to the next level of success and help you jump ahead of your competitors, but above all, it will relieve some of the price pressure you may be under, increasing your bottom line profits.

If you would like your marketing results to take your business ahead of your competitors and to the next level of profitable success, then give us a call and we would be delighted to come and chat with you about what could be done with your marketing.