Friday, December 21, 2007

Focus on the basics

Sometimes with the busyness of our day to day activities, we get distracted from our primary focus. Or perhaps you have been so busy that you never determined what your primary focus should be. A third possibility is that your world has changed and you should re-think and re-focus on what you are needing to do for the future.

If any of these scenarios are true for you, then, take some time and think, plan, observe, and focus on the basics. I recently came across another blog that has some good ideas including the following which came in my email today:

5 Things People Want to See Before the Sale

guy looking through telescope
Over the years I’ve spent marketing small businesses, I’ve learned that there are five basic things people want to see before they buy anything. Businesses that constantly show all five during the sales process do remarkably well, whereas companies who can’t or won’t show them tend to do a lot worse.

Without further ado, here’s what you need to show your potential buyers:

1. An explanation of how buying will benefit them.

The first and most important thing you need to show potential buyers is why they will benefit from your product. If you don’t show that to them quickly, it’s not likely you’ll have their attention to show them anything else.

People want to know what’s in it for them, how they’re going to benefit, and why they should part with their hard-earned cash. Not only do they want to know that, but they want it explained clearly and specifically so they don’t have to spend time figuring it out for themselves.

2. A reason to buy from you, and not someone else.

Most markets are so competitive that it’s hard to convince anyone that you’re the only choice. Most people intend to try several companies before even thinking about picking one, so you need to explain why your company deserves their business. And you need to explain it well.

Taking it one step further, it’s often a good idea to offer some intangible benefits that your competition can never offer—something that is unique to your company (think customer experience). With that, you can position yourself ahead of the competition without worrying about them copying or stealing your benefits (but do watch out for their intangible benefits).

3. Testimonials and customer feedback

As much as I might wish it were effective, bragging about your own company doesn’t really work well. Getting other people to brag about you, however, is much more useful. Humans are social creatures by nature, and most of the time people want to check with others to see if they’re making a “good choice” according to society. A raw and honest group of testimonials can sometimes convince them that they are making a good choice by purchasing from you.

As the marketer and salesman for your company (most of us small business owners are) you have to corroborate your testimonials in a way that provides a believable picture of what society thinks about you. If you can convince other people that society looks upon you positively, than you are one step closer to the sale.

4. A portfolio, sample, or other type of test product.

Even with testimonials and clear benefits, most people still won’t be ready to buy from you. Think about it—would you buy a car without test-driving it first?

Offering a sample or preview of your work will help them get rid of quality concerns and any other negative ideas they might have. It also gives them a chance to get to know your company a little better, which brings them yet another step closer to buying.

5. A method of recourse if things don’t work out.

It’s a fact that no business can satisfy everyone; and your potential customers know it. Most potential buyers are well aware of the chance for things to go sour, and they don’t want to get into a situation where they have no way out. The best way to address this concern is to offer a solid guarantee or return policy. Once you have that in place, they will be much happier buying from you.

If it’s not feasible to offer a guarantee or return in your industry, then I recommend loading up on your portfolio or samples. That way people can get a really good idea about what they’re getting themselves into, and will be less likely to walk away from the sale because of your no-return policy.

Show them proof

As much as you can, try to show each of the five different parts, as opposed to just saying them. In sales, words are a flimsy way to prove a point. Potential buyers are very skeptical about what salespeople say (and for good reason), so it’s important that you show as much physical and social evidence as you can.

Action Plan: Think about where you first engage your potential buyers, and then try to picture all of the other places you’re likely to interact with them before the sale. How many of the five things do you show them before asking them to buy? Are there ways to make it easier for them to see all of the information? Use this brain-storming session to fit a few more of these into your sales process, or to strengthen the weak ones if you already have all five.

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