Monday, 1 December 2014

Is Print Dead?

In today’s world of websites, emails, tweets, and social media, is the printed line card dead? Not in my opinion. When it comes down to it, there is no substitute for a nice, professionally printed piece of literature. In the early days of the Internet, having a website was tangible proof that your company was a real player. Not so today. Anyone can have a credible looking website with a few hours work. But to have a nicely printed line card or capabilities brochure, that takes some real commitment!

While more and more of our customer interactions are on line, or over the telephone, there is still no substitute for a face-to-face meeting. I strongly believe that after every visit, you need to leave something tangible behind. Our customers are so busy these days, they will quickly forget that we were there. But by leaving something like a line card behind, our customer will be reminded of our visit several times, as they shuffle if from place to place, until they finally file it. Even if they ultimately file it in the garbage, they will at least see it one more time before it finally leaves their sight!

And let’s not forget the small, but significant segment of customers who hate reading from a computer screen. Give them a printed line card, and they will love you. Also, many purchasing agents still keep an up-to-date paper file of suppliers line cards.

Are You Pinterested?

I am always looking at new social media outlets to see if they have any applications for business-to-business marketing. Recently I took a really good look at Pinterest.

I was introduced to the service by my daughter when she was planning her wedding. She and her friends used Pinterest to share ideas for a host of wedding related items like clothes, shoes, food, decor. If you’ve been involved in wedding planning lately, you have an idea of the range of things you have to consider.

 So how does it work? Once you have signed up for an account, you can create a number of boards to virtually “pin” images from the internet. You can annotate the images, and the images contain a link back to the original website. If you include a price in your annotation, a price overlays the corner of the image on your board. You can share your board with friends, and follow their boards.

 What’s the business application? I see it as a great tool for project planning. For most projects, we do a lot of research on the internet. Instead of taking notes, you can just pin an image from a supplier’s site to an appropriate board. Share your boards with colleagues, and have them contribute by pinning more ideas. Imagine that you are designing a new website. You can scour the internet for ideas, pin the ones you like, and share your findings with your website designer.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Know When to Keep Your Mouth Shut

As good salespeople we should always anticipate objections that our customers might have to our product or service. By anticipating objections, we can be prepared and offer intelligent, well reasoned responses to these objections. The trick is to know when to keep your mouth shut.

A number of years ago I was travelling with a new salesperson. You may recall when WHMIS was the big buzz word in the industry, and our customers were busy trying to collect Material Safety Data Sheets for every hazardous material in their plant. Our company had put together a collection of thousands of MSDS in a set of 6 binders, and we were selling the set for two thousand dollars. This was quite a bit of money at the time, and a number of prospects had objected to the price. We had learned to anticipate the price objection, and had formulated a good response.

Sure, two thousand dollars is a lot of money, but our collection contained the vast majority of data sheets that our customers were likely to need. By purchasing the set, our customers could save hundreds of hours of work, worth much more than two thousand dollars. And we really couldn’t sell the set for less, since we had put thousands of man hours into the set, and just producing the sets of binders was costly and time consuming.

So there we were, meeting a new customer to discuss the product, and of course he asked, “how much?” We tell him, “two thousand dollars”, and her replies, “that seems like a fair price!” My novice colleague jumps in and says, “many customers think that two thousand dollars is a high price”, and proceeds to offer our prepared response to the price objection.

Back in the car we discussed how the sales call went, and I told him, that I thought it was great that he had prepared a well reasoned response to the price objection, but, “you need to know when to keep your mouth shut!” Just because he had a prepared response didn’t mean he had to use it. By answering an unvoiced objection, he may have planted a seed of doubt in the customers mind that otherwise might never have germinated.

So yes, please prepare to answer objections, but for heaven’s sake, don’t answer objections that your customer doesn’t raise!