In my research into businesspeople who lived through the Great Depression, I learned a piece of wisdom that I would like to share with you. If you want “new” ideas and advice, listen to what people said and did 100 years ago.
“When the fight against competitors gets focused on product technicalities, turn on the charm and sell on relationships & superior service.” Obvious stuff? I thought so too. So obvious that I overlooked it.
I want to share some other overlooked “new” ideas for our “not-so-Great Depression era selling.
-- Email-focused communication for sales causes lots of miscommunication. For heaven’s sake, pick up the phone! Especially when emotions are involved, a gentle tone of voice can bring down tension very quickly. There was an article published years back, that if email was invented first and the telephone second, we would all be talking about the great features of live talking rather than sending sentences to each other.
-- Blackberrying your way through multiple screens just to write down a date to get together? Go analogue; have a simple organizer so you can “see” that your day is full, when there isn’t much room to write anything else in. I sat next to a guy last month, who couldn’t tell our client his schedule for this month, because his Blackberry wouldn’t turn on. Just silly.
-- Pen and paper or mobile gadget? Click, beep, click, beep … annoying. When listening to a client, or going to a seminar and taking notes, focus on the LISTENING part. Using a mobile gadget for notes takes your eyes off topic too often. Bring a simple notebook with you everywhere. (Good for writing down ideas as well)
-- Rugged shoes. A former vacuum salesman in his 90s said, “My advice for depression-era selling is, get a good pair of shoes!” The next 18 months will be really great for our legs, get outside, move & make things happen. Sales work is seldom done at your comfy desk, it is done in front of interested buyers with budget spending authority. (For sales people whose orders are phone-based, you are excluded from that)
-- Face to face meetings. It’s too easy to say no to you in an email. If a serious proposal is out, go and meet clients onsite to go over it. Don’t be afraid.
-- Daytime meetings, afternoon tea. Meet during the day with clients who are more family-centered. Nighttime meetings take time away from their family, so don’t compete with their kids. Ever ask a prospect for a 8 a.m. meeting downstairs before work? I do, and it works like a charm.
-- A healthy smile. Always be in better shape than your customers, both mentally and physically. You will project confidence and show you work hard. Oftentimes, successful prospects are avid fitness nuts. Become one, then you have plenty to talk about.
-- Handwritten notes should go out with all invoices "Thank you for your business, call us if you need anything.”
As one of the masters of business, Harvey Mackay, said, “Little things don't mean a lot, they mean everything." For those of you in a front-office role in a people focused business, you’d better re-read Mackay’s quote a few times.
Currently, a sense of panic is causing everyone to think the same thing: “I’ll do anything to save my job.” And with that fear in clients' minds, prices go down, orders get smaller and green lights don’t shine quickly enough. Market conditions will continue to deteriorate for the next 18 months, and with that, people/business relationships, if you are not careful to take care of them.
A 1890s publication from the U.S. stated the obvious: Selling ability depends on common sense, energy, patience and tact. The “old” sales dogs couldn’t be more right.
The writer is managing director of Smart Partners KK, a company that offers sales training, consulting, business strategy and financial planning advice.© Japan Today