Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Can You Satisfy My Concerns?

When sales employees have a choice between working with an existing charter customer, or working with a prospective new customer, most employees will choose the existing customer. That's because they seldom push back, raise concerns, offer objections, and generally make employees uneasy.

But where's the fun in that? Anyone can generate a quote or book a trip from a happy, satisfied, repeat customer. It's pleasant and rewarding to work with such folks, but it's not challenging. And you won't drive home with that glow of satisfaction having overcome objections and gained a new customer!

The most exciting step in the sales process is inquiring about concerns, drawing them out of the prospect, and then converting the concerns into benefits from flying with you.

"Inquiring about concerns," you say. "Do you mean you actually want us to ask if the customer has objections? Why on earth would we do that? We've been crossing our fingers hoping we could get right from our presentation to booking their first trip!"

Unless and until the prospect raises concerns or objections, it's unlikely you will get the sale. That's because of a very well-established fact. Customers make the buying decision emotionally, then justify their decision rationally.

Objections and concerns are almost exclusively about what "they" will say to the emotional decision. "What will my boss, or the CFO, accounts payable, the Board, my colleagues down the hall, our employees, and maybe even our customers say when they find out I'm chartering a plane"?  That's what your prospects are thinking when they raise objections and concerns.

Your prospects already have said to themselves, "I want it, I need it, I've got to have it." Prospects need you to arm them with facts so "they" will agree that the prospect has made a sound business decision.

If you read my posts, you know I like to quote Jay Abraham. He would tell you that when customers object, they are silently begging to be lead. I've always liked that phrase and the image in conjures. Objections are simply a prospect's way of saying, "I really want to fly with you. Now give me some excellent business reasons to do so."

In the AirPSG Learning Library, we have the six most common objections to using air charter for the first time. The materials explain precisely how to handle each objection. For your company, you should sit down with your sales team and list  your most common objections. Try to pull that list together soon, because in next week's post, I'll give you a formula and template for handling common objections.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Why Should I Buy From You?

The single most important question everyone in sales must be able to answer is, "Why should I buy from you instead of your competition?"  The answer to that question is your Unique Selling Proposition or USP. (A tip of the hat to Jay Abraham who first taught me this term.)

The key is the word 'unique.' What sets you apart from your competitors? What are you doing that your competitors aren't? What will the customer get from you and not the others? The USP does not have to be difficult, time consuming, or costly. It doesn't need to be an could be passive such as advice, knowledge or experience your competitors lack. 

A client recently asked me to help them think through their USP for a jet card program. It was challenging because their product proposal read just like a dozen other jet card programs.

To help them figure out a USP, we analyzed the competing jet cards, looking solely at publicly available information on their competitors' websites. We constructed a table listing every feature and everything identified in writing as a benefit. It was easy to see where the client's proposal matched one or more competitors' programs.

As we worked on our USP, we constantly referred to the table to see if we had found something unique. After many false starts, I asked the client's team to stop thinking about the features, and instead focus on the unwritten benefits to the customer. (My assumption was that if a benefit wasn't listed on a competitor's website, it probably wasn't being mentioned in their sales presentation.)

We finally discovered a powerful benefit that could be obtained combining a common set of features. What made this unique was that, as far as we could tell by comparing websites, none of the competitors had discovered, or hadn't mentioned, this hidden benefit.

Although your USP starts out being unique, there are very few things that cannot be copied. At least annually, your team should revisit the competitors' websites, build a new table, and see if your Selling Proposition is still unique, or if it's been copied.

If copied, make a decision whether or not to continue using your USP or whether to generate a new one. Base your decision on how well the current USP is working. If you are pleased with your sales results, and the prospects aren't pushing back and saying, "That's the same as brand X," keep using the current USP. Once it stops working, it's time to change it.

A final note of caution. If your USP is tied to a person, such as Billy Bob's personal experience or career accomplishments, start thinking of what you're going to use for a USP when Billy Bob leaves. Hopefully, he'll be leaving for something nice like a planned retirement. But suppose he gets hit by the proverbial bus; or takes a job with a competitor? Can you start grooming someone else today for similar experiences or training? Or will you need an entirely new USP?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Not Training Is Costly

Earlier this week, I had a conversation with the CEO of one of the 40 largest U.S. air charter companies. We were discussing whether or not his company would benefit from a review of the end-to-end sales process: basically every step from “Hello” to “How Did You Enjoy The Flight.”

He didn’t think there would be much benefit because 95% of his business was from repeat customers. The CEO was confident that his sales staff had those processes and procedures down pat.

I pointed out that 5% of his business is from new customers and prospects. Looked at from a different angle, that means 100% of the new customer calls and quotes are following an exception, or non-standard process. The sales folks individually are not  getting much practice at handling new customers. That’s why every new customer call is an exception.

Let’s relate this to recurrent pilot training. When your pilots are on the simulators, would you expect them to spend 95% of the training time practicing normal operations? Or would you expect them to spend most of the simulator time training and practicing for exceptions?

Once you decide to do refresher sales training, what do you need to teach? One option is to do a review of the end-to-end process for whatever exception applies to your company. Another approach is to retrain just the parts that are different from the standard process.

I prefer a third method. I would start by role playing a new customer with each sales person, and having the sales person take me through the end-to-end process. After doing so with each member of the sales team, we’d know two things: 1) where does any individual need personal coaching; and 2) what are the areas in common where the team needs some refresher training?

Is it worthwhile spending time and money on refresher sales training? Answer these few questions: a) what is the average lifetime value of a new customer; b) how many new customer quotes did not turn into trips in the past six months; c) what’s the opportunity cost from those lost sales?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Finding And Keeping Charter Customers

The very best way to find and keep customers is to have a conversation. That’s because you learn by listening. You can identify needs, suggest solutions, ask about concerns, and provide information.

Who’s Making Telephone Calls For Your Business?

§  Who’s calling your former customers to ask what caused them to stop flying with you, and to invite them to return?

§  Who’s calling the quotes that didn’t turn into trips to ask the reason they didn’t fly with you…and to see if you can get their future business?

§  Who’s calling companies in your market to explain the benefits of business charter and inviting them to learn more?

Most People Don’t Like To Make Sales Calls

If no one on your staff is making these calls, it’s probably because most people don’t like to make sales calls. Rather than force yourself to do something you dislike, why not hire AirPSG (or even one of our competitors) to make the calls on your behalf?

Will Making Calls Get You More Trips?

Yes, but not right away. A charter flight is not an impulse purchase. Except by pure random chance, we’re not going to get a prospect on the phone the very day they were planning to book a trip with someone.

The way you get more trips is by having that conversation. We identify needs, propose solutions, inquire about concerns, and handle common objections. We ask for their future business and we get permission to stay in touch each month.

We’ll get quote requests, but they will tend to be along the lines of “what if.” That’s good! We want to help customers think through practical business scenarios where flying with you gives them a tangible benefit.

You Get More Trips By Staying In Touch

The telephone call is the icebreaker. The conversation plants the seed for using charter as an effective business tool. Staying in touch every month, by email, social media, or direct mail, is how you water the seed, cultivate the idea, and pull the weeds. Then in a few weeks, or more likely a few months, the person we call today will have an actual business need and will call you for a quote on a charter trip.

To learn more about using the telephone to get and keep customers, give me a call at 800.769.6082. Thanks. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Are You Absolutely Sure You Need A New Website?

Beware the CEO who thinks it's time to change the website. In graduate school, we studied highly successful advertising campaigns that companies inexplicably dropped, only to learn that the CEO was bored with the old successful campaign and decided the company needed something new.

Air charter operators, and I imagine other small businesses, often become bored with their websites and bet the entire year's marketing budget on a new site. Aside from the inherent risk of betting the budget on one tactic, changing the website is only certain to do one thing...give you new pages! There's no guarantee you'll have more visitors to your site or more sales. Also, a solid search engine optimization (SEO) effort can often be less costly than an entire new web site.

Before Building a New Website, Do These Things First
  1. Add a blog to your website and post useful information once a week for 12 weeks. 
  2. Improve search engine results by optimizing each site page, not just your home page. 
  3. Make sure you have a unique web page description in the meta data for each page. 
  4. Get relevant, high quality back links for your site. 
  5. Update the content on your news or press page at least monthly. 
  6. Put links to your social media sites on your home page. 
  7. Update your website with some kind of fresh content weekly. 
  8. Use landing pages on your site to promote special offers or educational material. 
  9. Install Google Analytics (free) on your site so you can track unique visitors, entry pages, and exit pages and other useful metrics (or have a professional do it.)
  10. Use social media on a scheduled basis to drive visitors to your landing pages and website.
  11. Have a mobile version of your website. Readability on mobiles devices is very important
    to searchers on smartphones.
If you're still determined to spend money, have your old site rebuilt in WordPress. That's a lot cheaper than designing an entirely new site. The advantage of a WordPress platform is that you can easily add landing pages and update content yourself; and blogging is easier.

It's Like Buying Fuel For Your Plane

These items may seem like a lot of work, because they are a lot of work. It's also the internet equivalent of buying fuel for your airplane. Getting (or redesigning) a website is like buying a plane or doing major avionics upgrades. You still can't go anywhere until you put fuel in the tanks.

The same is true of your website. It doesn't matter how fabulous you make it until someone visits it. If no one's finding you, it's like an airplane in a hangar. These ten steps are your fuel!

Save money! 

Unless and until you consistently do most of these things with your old site, it's a waste of money to build a new one because no one will see it. After you've spent thousands of dollars on a new site, you'll still have to do all this other stuff to drive traffic.

Do all this traffic enhancement stuff first! Make sure you have the time, drive, and imagination to maintain it. Then study your sales and those analytics. You may be pleasantly surprised that the old site is now performing like you hoped a new one would have performed.

And think of the money you saved!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Using Risk Reversal Made A Sale!

The week before Thanksgiving in 1995, I drove to Benton Harbor, MI to call on a division of Whirlpool. During the 2-hour drive, I listened to a Jay Abraham marketing tape. One concept he discussed was using risk reversal to close a sale. 

Later that morning, sitting across from the division president, I suddenly realized that I had lost the sale. That's when I decided to try that risk reversal idea.

I said to the president, "Let me take you off the hook. It's pretty obvious I've lost the sale. Now that it's out in the open, would you mind telling me whom you have on your short list"? The president relaxed and named two of the largest consulting firms. He also said the Board wanted the project finished by Christmas! 

I remarked, “Those are big brand names. But the people who got those names won't be assigned to your project. You're going to get the most junior people because all the best people are trying to finish their own projects by year-end; or have been on the road 11 months this year and won't want to schlep to Benton Harbor just as winter sets in." 

Then I tried the risk reversal. I told him that since they weren't hired yet, and the clock was running, why not hire me to start the project, outline the solution, and present that proposed solution next Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving?

“I’ll take all the risk out of the transaction," I said. "I’ll work for free between now and next Wednesday. All I ask is you cover my travel expenses. Then, when I make my presentation, one of two things will happen. Either you will agree that everything I've told you about my qualifications is correct and you will hire and pay me to implement the solution I present; or you will hand back all copies of the presentation, send me out the door, and owe nothing except travel expenses. There's no downside because we both know even if you hire someone else they won't start until after Thanksgiving." 

Whirlpool accepted my offer to take on all the risk; and the following Wednesday I closed the first sale for my new consulting company. All by doing what an expert said would work.

What about you? Where have you had a surprising success trying something an expert said would work...even if you were skeptical at the time?

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Charter Marketing Survival Bulletin Archives

Find the most popular issues, based on our readers' responses, in The Charter Marketing Survival Bulletin Archives. If you're new to the Bulletin, here's a place to catch up on past articles. For our loyal readers, this gives you a single source to find that nugget of information you need today! 

Keep reading. This is really good stuff!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Increasing the Lifetime Value of Your Customers

The easiest way to grow your business is to increase the average lifetime value of your customers. That's the focus of this final part in our three-step marketing plan to get and keep customers. There are three things your marketing plan should cover to increase the average lifetime value of your customers :
  • Increase the number of trips per year
  • Improve the average profit per trip
  • Keep customers active longer
Increase the Number of Trips

The easiest way to increase the average number of trips is to talk to your customers and ask them, "Where should you be this month"? Those words are carefully chosen.

Most business travelers will admit that there are customers they really ought to visit in person; or suppliers they should see face-to-face; and company facilities they ought to visit more often. The reason they don't go is that the trips are so time consuming and such a hassle that they routinely postpone trips until some crisis arises and they can't put it off any longer.

So instead of asking the customer if she has any upcoming trips which she has already decided to take, ask instead if there are any places she really ought to be and why not use your service to conveniently get there and back?

Stop talking and wait quietly while your customer thinks about the answer to your question. After a few minutes, the customer will give you a trip he or she didn't even know they were planning to take!

Improve the Average Profit per Trip

Surprisingly, this has nothing to do with raising your prices. This is all about an add-on sale. If you were selling suits, you'd know all about add-on sales. Man comes in to buy a suit. Walks out with a suit, two shirts, three ties, a belt, six pair of socks. Average profit per sale just grew sky high.

But what can you add-on to a jet charter? How about a stop along the way? How many times do you take a customer round trip from here to there, non-stop? Most of the time, right? In fact, non-stop travel is one of your best selling features.

But on the way back from that morning meeting, are there any customers, suppliers, prospects, or employees the client might want to stop and visit? Not only would your revenue go up, but so would your margin on that extra leg. 

The next time a customer books a round trip, why not ask them if there's anyone they'd like to stop and visit on the way out or back? Then watch your average profit per trip soar!

Keep Customers Active Longer

Quick story. I took three charter trips with an operator over a 2-year period. Operator never once called me and thanked me for my business. I never got a card, letter, email, anything. (Well, to be honest, they did send me receipts for my credit card payments.) I was pleased with the service and had no complaints. But I also felt no loyalty! The fourth time I needed a trip from that market, I called one of their competitors.

Some customers stop flying with you because their circumstances have changed and they don't need, or can't afford, business aviation anymore. It's more likely, however, that the majority of the customers who have gone silent have switched to your competitors.

To keep customers flying with you, and away from the competition, you need a way to stay in touch. Use whatever works best for your skills and your budget. Call 5 customers a day. Send them a personal note. Put together an email blast. But for heaven's sake, stay in touch with them and let them know you value their business and would be honored to have more of it.

In Case You Missed It

This was part three of our series on writing an effective marketing plan for your air charter business. Part one was all about getting customers to raise their hand and say, "I'm interested. Tell me more." Then in part two, we had ten suggestions for getting customers from "Hello" to "Sold."

I'd welcome comments and questions on any of these three posts. Thanks for reading them!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Automatic Refill Service, Anyone?

Have any air charter operators taken a page from CVS and Walgreen's and created the functional equivalent of automatic refill service?

Imagine you have a charter client who is an outside board member for a public company. Four times a year, on predetermined dates (set well in advance), she needs your jet to take her from your base to New York, remain overnight, and return the next day.

If you were operating a CVS pharmacy, you'd have her on automatic refill. But what happens with our industry?

Does anyone call up the customer a week before the next board meeting and let her know you have already put her trip on the board and you are calling to confirm the standard itinerary?

Or, like the pharmacy procedure of old, do we make the customer call us and order a refill?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Getting From "Hello" to "Sold"

In last week's post, we talked about the first step in your 3-step marketing plan, which was getting prospects to raise their hand and say, "I'm interested. Tell me more." In effect, that steps ends, and this one begins, with "Hello."

I can't turn you into a professional sales person in one post. What I can do is give you some rules of the road to help you be more effective at moving prospects from Hello to Sold. 

None of these ideas is original to me; I don't know for sure where or when I learned them.  I wish I could give credit where it's due. The odds are pretty good that the idea, hint, or knowledge came from: Napoleon Hill, W. Clement Stone, Jay Abraham, Bob Proctor, or Brian Tracy.

10 Rules of the Road to Bring Prospects from Hello to Sold
  1. Spend $100 and get a couple of professional sales training programs from Nightingale Conant. I'd start with The Psychology of Selling by Brian Tracy; and Your Secret Wealth by Jay Abraham. They have different styles. Brian is more systematic in his sales training. Jay likes to tell stories and uses them to teach his points. 
  2. Stop listening to your car radio; and don't play music in your office. Instead, listen to the sales training material you just bought. Play each set 10 times. You'll always hear something new. Or something that went over your head or made no sense all the other times will now sink in.
  3. Telling is not selling. People listen to about 40% of what you say. But did you know that if you ask someone a question, you have 100% of their attention? Teach yourself to ask one question after every two sentences or statements.
  4. Get comfortable with silences. When you ask that question, stop talking and wait patiently for the answer. At first, the silence will kill you. The prospect is thinking about the answer to your question. If you break the silence, you will break your prospect's train of thought and you will never get it back. The thought you lost is always the one you needed to close the sale.
  5. Build rapport. Establish a connection with the prospect. Be interested in them, instead of trying to be interesting. People buy emotionally, and they are more inclined to buy from someone with whom they find it pleasant to work.
  6. Discover the True Need. Prospects raise their hands so you can solve a problem or give them a benefit. They don't need to buy a jet, or a jet card, or book a charter flight. What they need to do is go somewhere to do something. Find out where and what and you've got the true need. (By the way, unless and until you've built rapport, they won't tell you their true need.)
  7. Suggest Solutions to Satisfy the True Need. Paint a word picture. (If you get Your Secret Wealth, listen to the story about the pony.) Your natural inclination will be to tell the prospect the features of your service.  Don't make them figure out the benefits. Tell them! {Feature}  Our jet flies 400 MPH so that {Benefit} you can be home in time for dinner.
  8. Ask for questions and concerns. At this step in the sales process, they need facts, data, and information to justify the emotional decision. Questions and concerns mean you've MADE the sale! Tell them the truth, and panic not. They are talking themselves into it.
  9. Ask for the order. Incredibly enough, sales are lost because the sales person never asked for the order. If you want to eat, pay your mortgage, cover payroll, and put the kids through college, get over your fear and ask for the order.
  10. Never tell them how much it costs until they scream, "I want it, I need it, I've got to have it!" Well, perhaps not literally scream it. But if you discuss price before you've: built rapport; discovered the true need; and suggested solutions to satisfy the true need, you will lose the sale. Guaranteed. That's because the price must be in relationship to the benefit. And if you haven't got the true need, and haven't been able to suggest solutions to meet the true need, you can't possibly have shown the benefits in relation to the investment.
On point number 10, I know what you're thinking. You want to know how to handle the situation where the customer wants to know how much it costs and I won't let you tell them. The way you handle that is to say, "I don't know. I can't tell you what it costs because we haven't yet figured out the solution to your problem. But if you will spend just a few more minutes with me, once we are in agreement on the best possible solution to your needs, and the benefits you will receive, I can give you a definite price so you can evaluate it against the benefits."

These 10 Rules of the Road are the second step in your 3-step marketing plan. Copy and insert these rules into your plan. Then make sure everyone in your organization reads, understands, and follows them. I'd recommend you review these steps at each staff meeting until they become habits. And I'd print them out, laminate it, and carry a set all the time at the office. Spot check your staff throughout the day to be sure learning has occurred.

If you'd like some coaching along the way, give me a call at 800.769.6082. Thanks! Mike Ryan.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

It's Hell To Plan...and Heaven To Have One!

If you're in the business of getting and keeping customers, which according to Peter Drucker is the essence of a business, it's useful to have a written plan for doing that. Unfortunately, many air charter operators don't have a written plan to get and keep customers. The most likely reason is that most air charter owners got their formal education in the military; or hold a degree in engineering or aviation. None of those three areas would prepare you to write a plan to get and keep customers.

In this post, I will begin teaching you a three-step process to write an effective plan to get and keep customers.

Step One: Get people to raise their hands!

The purpose of this part of the plan is to make a list of all the activities you or anyone on your payroll can do this year to get people to show an interest in you, your company, chartering a plane, or business aviation in general.

Note carefully that the goal is to get them to show an raise their hand and in effect say, "tell me more...I might be interested."As soon as anyone raises their hand, you have achieved the goal for this part of the plan.

Do not concern yourself now with what happens after they raise their hand. That will be covered in Step Two of your plan.

To write Step One, all you need is a white board or a flip chart. Make four columns. Label the columns: Activity, Frequency, Person, and Budget. Bring the list to your next staff meeting and ask everyone on the payroll, no matter their job title, to start filling in the chart. Ask them to update the chart, over the next week, as often as they have an idea. Put the chart out where everyone can access it.

Tell them that there's no requirement to fill in all four columns. If, for example, a mechanic has an idea for an Activity (such as giving a talk at a Rotary Club meeting) he can put that idea on the chart. If he wants to suggest something for the other three columns, that's fine. But what I really want you to do is to get everyone in your company involved in thinking of things someone can do to get people interested in your services.

After a week, you'll have quite a list of practical ideas. Then you need to sort through them and make some decisions about frequency, person responsible, and budget.

I would expect quite a few ideas to require no budget at all. Elbow grease, yes. An investment of time, for sure. Some extra effort, definitely. But you won't need to spend money. For other activities, you may not be able to start unless you spend some money.

Once you've made your decisions, give everyone on the payroll a copy of the plan. Before doing so, review the plan with each person who has been assigned a responsibility. Make sure both of you have exactly the same expectations about how much and what, by when.

In my next posting, I'll tell you what's involved in Step Two, which is getting from Hello to Sold. By the way, if you'd like to get a quick start on Step One, call me at 800.769.6082 and I'll email a list to you of 10 activities along with suggested frequencies, budgets, and the title of the person most likely to be responsible.

Friday, January 31, 2014

You Don't Have a Sale Until You Get Paid!

You don't have a sale until you get paid. That should be ingrained on your brain if you own a business, manage a company, or consider yourself a professional sales person.

All master sales people have a definite sales process. Some are formal selling systems for which they attended classes, purchased training tapes, or had the benefit of sales coaches. Others are self-designed. But whether or not you're aware of it, if you are selling, you've got a system.

In order to always get paid for every sale...and here's what really matters...get paid on time, you need to understand that the "getting paid" process in almost every company is completely different from the "closing the sale" process.

While you are in the sales cycle, whether the cycle for your product or service takes a few hours or a few months, you have got to find out the detailed process within that client's company to pay invoices. Here's why. 

In many companies, the accounts payable department routinely holds invoices 90 days before paying them. You need to know that before you agree on the terms of the sale. You've got to make it a condition of the negotiated terms that no matter the company policy, you will be paid within ten days.

If this is the first sale to the company, there is likely to be some sort of vendor approval or vendor set-up process...and it's got to be in place and you need to have your vendor number before you present the invoice.

At some point after you close the sale, you will present the invoice. If you don't know the internal process, you will almost always present the invoice to the person who is your client and approved the purchase of your product or service.

Almost without exception, that is the wrong person to receive your invoice! Here's what you need to do to get paid on time, every sale:
  1. If your customer has an executive assistant or secretary, sometime during the sales cycle go directly to the admin and say the following: "As you know, I've been working closely with your boss and it looks like we're close to a sale. Assuming that happens, what is the most efficient and effective procedure in your company to get my invoice paid promptly"? Then do exactly what the admin tells you to do.
  2. If your client does not have an admin, talk to the manager or chief clerk in the accounts payable department. You may have been dealing with the CFO or controller throughout the sales process. But don't ask them. They are usually too far removed from the daily desktop procedures and work flows to know exactly how it works. (They might know how they designed it to work; but things rarely stay implemented as designed.) Ask A/P exactly the same question you would have asked the admin and do as they tell you.
  3. When it's time to present your invoice, follow the procedure as learned above but add this step. Speak on the telephone to the person who kicks off the process. They may have told you to email the invoice but follow-up with a conversation, "just to be sure my invoice didn't get lost in the spam filter."
  4. Once you know for sure the process has started, you need to hand over the follow-up to someone in your company who is passionate about getting paid. I'm lucky. I started my business career in 1974 as a bill collector for Household Finance. I haven't been shy about asking to be paid since I was 22. If that's not you, and you're squeamish, there's someone in your company who views getting paid on time as an absolute necessity. Find that person. Put them in charge of getting paid on time. 
  5. If you're a 1-person business, but you're still squeamish, go home and tell your spouse that the client who's late with the invoice is holding on to your house payment. Trust'll have a wire transfer that day or a check delivered overnight.
The point I'm trying to make is that there is no process connection at all...absolutely none...between closing a sale and getting paid. You need to learn and control the "getting paid" process for every sale.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Helping Customers Make Decisions

The folks we want to discuss today are the ones who can't seem to make a buying decision. A professional sales person can and should assist these customers in making a decision...but should never put pressure on them to decide a certain way.

Naturally, it's tempting to steer the prospect toward deciding in favor of your product or service. But it'll backfire every time, usually in the form of buyer's remorse. Forget about repeat business then!

To ethically and professionally help a prospect make a decision, simply ask them the following question. "Mr. Prospect,  how do you like to make decisions on products or services such as we are discussing"?

And then stop talking! The dead air may almost kill you; but what's happening is that the prospect is thinking about your question and formulating an answer. If you wait patiently for the answer, the prospect will tell you how he or she plans to decide.

All you need to do from that point is follow the plan and offer to be helpful. For example, suppose the prospect says, "I'll want to circulate your proposal to a few others and get their input before making a decision."

Being helpful, you should then offer to do more than was requested. "Mr. Prospect, if you would give me the names of those folks, I will save you time by making personalized copies for each of them and sending them overnight delivery before I leave the office this afternoon."

Or you could say, "Mr. Prospect, you and I have had several discussions and you've had some very insightful questions. We can reasonably expect those others will also have questions. Why don't we go ahead and schedule a conference call now with you and your group so that I can answer all their questions? Wouldn't you agree they will want some answers before giving you their best advice"?

What you are trying to do is manage the decision making process. You are not trying to force a specific decision, but instead are trying to make progress toward a final decision. And the key to moving forward is to continually offer to be helpful. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Getting and Keeping Customers

It takes cash to pay salaries and all the other bills that are part of staying in business. Cash comes from customers. They give us their cash because we gave them something of equal or greater value.

Selling is all about explaining the value of our products and services. If we can clearly explain the value, and the customer has enough information to assess the value, we're done selling.

Of course, we still don't have the cash. That's because there are two more steps after we're done selling. The first of the remaining steps belongs to the customer. That step is called deciding. Sometimes customers make prompt decisions. That's especially evident when the decision is to NOT buy your product or service. Sometimes, the customer takes a while to decide. You really can't speed that up. It's a matter of temperament and personality.

Some folks, once thy have all the necessary facts, make prompt decisions. And some people simply never make prompt decisions...but they do follow a consistent decision making process, whether or not they are aware of it.

But there's a third category of folks who can't make decisions. And I think these are the folks you're thinking about when you have negative thoughts about the nature of selling. That's because you think selling is all about convincing this group of folks to buy your product or service. It's true you can apply various techniques to "get" these folks to buy...but here's the can't keep them. There's a delay, but eventually they figure out that you talked them into something and even if they were deliriously happy with the service, they will resent the way you got them to buy it and will never return.

There are some appropriate, moral, and ethical things you can and should do to assist customers with the "deciding" step. But more about that in the next post. And then we'll talk about the final step, which is actually getting paid.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Five Marketing Items For Your Yearly Tune-Up

Unless you exceeded your sales goals last year, you should take 3 minutes to look at a service we're offering this month. It's a sales and marketing annual review. We check five essential areas that can easily get out of alignment if you don't check and calibrate them at least once a year.

Three of the areas are pretty focused on marketing; one is about sales; and the last one covers both subjects. If we find anything that needs adjustment, we give you the tools and training so you can fix it yourself...and keep it on track. And for the items that are working fine, you'll have peace of mind.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Following My Own Advice

Over the past few weeks, we've put together a Sales and Marketing Annual Review for our clients. One of the steps in the Annual is to audit a client's website for content, stale material, and recent updates. I asked one of our folks to use the AirPSG website for training. Boy, was I embarrassed when my staff pointed out to me that I hadn't posted anything new to my blog since 2010!

How could that be?

As it turns out, before they hit me with the bad news, they asked me when was the last time I remembered posting anything. I thought it was early last year…admittedly, still an embarrassment but nothing as bad as finding out it was in 2010.

I know how this happened. While it's true I write a lot of posts for the clients, and have even published some industry articles, I haven't been diligent, rigorous, or structured in keeping Mike's Blog current. My friend Dee Reinhardt at tells me the secret is putting a recurring appointment on my calendar so I get a reminder once a week that it's time to update the blog. "Or," she says, "take it down."

It's now on the calendar. Let's see if I can keep this current in 2014!