8 Ways to Help Customers Close You

Years ago, Johnny Carson was interviewing a guest on The Tonight Show who was billed as one of the greatest salespeople who has ever lived.

“Well, sell me something!” Johnny said.

“Okay, well, what do you want me to sell?” replied the man.

“How about this ashtray on my desk?”

And just as Johnny expected the man to go into a sales pitch, instead the salesman asked, “What do you like about this ashtray?”

Johnny spoke about its unusual shape, its color and how it matched other things on his desk.

Then, the guest asked how much Johnny would be willing to spend on it.

Johnny replied, “Oh, maybe ten dollars?”

“Sold!!” said the salesman.

LESSON LEARNED: When you deliver enough value, your customers close you.

(Special thanks to Sean McPheat for that story.)

That’s not selling – that’s enabling people to buy.

Here’s how to make it work for you:1. Create a significant emotional event. If you bring nothing but logic, you’ll never motivate customers to buy. Emotion is the only language that produces action. Which means: In your sales presentation, you have to create a multi-sensory experience.

Here’s how: According to the book Resonate, chronic bombardment means audiences are accustomed to quick action, rapid scene changes and soundtracks that make the heart race.

As you deliver your stories, solutions and suggestions – not your sales pitch, information and instructions – leverage color, light and motion. That’s what keeps humans engaged.

After all, there is a high customer expectation for visual and visceral stimulation. The human attention span is six seconds. And if you don’t pique their aesthetic perceptions and tickle their sensibilities, they’ll wait forever for you to close them.

Because the reality is: It’s not what you say, it’s not how you say it – it’s how people feel when they hear it. Information isn’t as essential as the emotional impact of the information. Do your customers love your process as much as your product?

2. Disarm the immediate preoccupation. Ideally, by embodying humor early. Notice I said, “embody,” not “use.” You can’t use humor like you use hair gel. But what you can do is discover your innate and inevitable funniness as a human being.

All you have to do is figure out what you’re clearly too much of: Too old? Too young? Too expensive? Too slow? Answer that question, then lead with it. You’ll find that by magnifying the unhideable, you convert pigeonholes into goldmines. By acknowledging what causes the tension; it will exhale in the form of customer laughter.

And as Jeffrey Gitomer explained in The Little Teal Book of Trust, “The funnier you are, the more engaging you are, the closer the customer will listen, and the more authentic you’re perceived to be. Getting people to laugh is tacit approval, and it’s your best change to deliver important facts. At the end of laughter is the height of listening.” Are you ignoring the elephant in the room, talking about the elephant or jumping on its back and teaching it how to dance?

3. Flip the pitch. Whenever a prospective client inquires about one of my seminars or corporate training programs, I always ask them, “Why is the idea of approachability important to your people?” Then they tell me. Then I listen. And then I allow them to sell me on the value of my own product. Bam!

Another example is my friend Matt. Whenever he’s uncertain about whether or not to pursue a prospective client, he boldly makes the following request: “Thanks for your interest in my program! Please write me a letter explaining why I should come and I’d be happy to consider it.”

The point is: Don’t be afraid to let your customers do the selling for you. Because if you say it, they’ll pay attention – but if they say it, they’ll pay money. Either way, just be sure your sales approach is underscored by the question, “How do you think I can help you?” Because it’s not your job to help them afford you – it’s your job to help them justify what they can afford. How could you turn your sales pitch on its head?

4. Consider your pre-sale position. If you walk in the door as a salesperson, you’re already at a deficit position. If you want customers to close you, make yourself a composite of the following power positions.

First, be a peer of the buyer. Which means you have to build commonality. And you do so by leading with your person and following with your profession.

Second, be a trusted resource to the buyer. Which means you have to build a value-forward platform online and offline. And you do so by thinking on paper, every single day.

Third, be a problem solver with the buyer. Which means you have to figure out what you’re the answer to. And you do so by using use social media to gain insight into what drives your customers up the wall, then becoming that answer to those issues.

Ultimately, the stronger your pre-sale position, the easier it is to get to yes. How would your closing ratio change if customers saw you as their trusted advisor – not their tricky salesperson?

5. Make them ask what’s next. All customers are control freaks. And they want to feel as if they’re autonomous and in control of their environment and actions. Your challenge – whether it’s over the phone, in person, via email or on a social networking site – is to preserve that sense.

For example, you know your customers are ready to close you when they ask reverse closing questions like, “What’s next?” or “What’s the next step?” If you get to that point, well done. Because the goal is spend so much time listening and delivering value that price doesn’t come up till the very end. Then, when it does – and they’re ready – they’ll ask you for the close.

After all: Customers want to be pilots – not passengers. Now, this requires you to surrender your time, your information and your own desire for control. But it’s worth it. Because customers who control their service experience with your company also control their spreading experience about your company. How do you preserve customer control?

6. Deliver an ongoing value message. Absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder – absence makes people forget. That’s why anonymity is bankruptcy. The key is to deliver a continuous flow of education in a variety of media. After all, it’s not your job to tell customers how to consume you.

Whether you publish a newsletter, blog, social media news feed – or even deliver public seminars – the goal is to leave no barriers for people to become involved with you in inexpensive and accessible ways.

Personally, I use a combination of ezines, blogs, syndicated columns, video modules and social media. What’s your recipe? The cool part is, when you start to serve people as if they were already paying clients, you make it easier for them to close you at their own convenience.

Then, instead of taking a whiff of the stink of desperation, they savor the aroma of education. Are you treating customers as people who pay your salary, or attending to them as pupils who enrolled in your class?

7. Allow your customers to have their fingerprint on the solution. Then, when price comes up, as opposed to responding reflexively with a rigid, canned fee, try using language like this:

“With every engagement and every client, there are a number of variables that affect your final investment. Let’s look at what’s important to you and what’s important to me, and we can create a fee agreement that honors both of us.”

In short: Grow bigger ears. Because if salespeople would simply ask smart questions and shut the hell up, customers would sell themselves the entire time. My suggestion: Instead of being exhaustingly argumentative, be strategically inquisitive. Then, oxygenate the conversation by allowing the silence to hold you a little while longer. Give yourself a moment to let your customer’s words wash over you.

In so doing, long silence tells people that what they said is important. It communicates that their words have weight and deserve their own space before being banished by a reply. Do that, and they’ll close the sale before you even get around to it. Are you listening to the sound of your own voice or the music of your customer’s voice?

8. Help customers verbalize their hopes. It’s not about overcoming the objection – it’s uncovering why that objection is important to the customer. Because if you know people’s why – you don’t just have a hot button – you have their entire motherboard.

Not to control them, but to inspire them. Not to sell more stuff, but to make a difference. And not to deliberately fabricate fears that don’t exist, but to raise awareness of potential dangers by illustrating the cost of inaction.

In short: Beat the customer. Deliver their desire before they place it. Invest just as much time in anticipating than responding. That’s how you build a path of trust, humanize the sales experience and diffuse customers’ built in push-back mechanisms. Ultimately, if you want customers to close you, don’t sell the service – just deliver it in every breath. Are you trying to trick people into buying something, or trying to make something worth buying and spreading?

REMEMBER: Customers will always get what they want – it just might not be from you.

But if you can focus less on selling and more on enabling people to buy, the customer will close you quicker than you can say, “Sold!”

How closeable are you?

For the list called, “26 Ways to Out Brand Your Competitors,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor

Never the same speech twice.
Now booking for 2011-2012!

Watch The Nametag Guy in action here!

9 Ways to Make Your Customers Smarter

Contrary to popular practice, it’s not smart to have dumb customers.

The more your customers learn, the more profit you earn. The more your customers know, the more your business grows. The more your customers understand, the more powerful your brand.

LESSON LEARNED: Companies that teach, win.

Here’s a list of ways to make your customers smarter:1. Curators aren’t just for museums. In an increasingly commoditized marketplace, service is the key differentiator. Competing on price, performance, and features – aka, pure economic value – isn’t enough anymore.

Polly Labarre, columnist for The Huffington Post, wrote a classic piece on this very topic:

“Sure, customers love a good deal, but what they love even more is feeling like they’ve discovered something new. Increasingly, the best brands are waking up to the fact that the way to establish an enduring connection with customers is not to push their own stuff, but to act as a curator; a host to a whole universe of stuff they think will click with people based on shared values.”

Introduce your customers to new things. Help them feel more connected to the front edge of culture. They’ll forget all about the fact that you sell a commodity. What value do you provide beyond low price and high quality?

2. Teaching diffuses sales resistance. Brian Clark, award-wining writer of CopyBlogger and the creator of Teaching Sells explains:

“When you come rushing out of the gate selling, it’s easy for people to resist. But when you establish yourself as a teacher who people have bonded with, it gets much harder to say no by the time the transaction is proposed.”

That’s the reality of the current marketplace: Any idiot can lead their customers down a path, but only smart companies can help their customers discover the path on their own.

The goal is to stop giving sales pitches and start delivering lesson plans. If you do that, even if it’s a simple attitudinal adjustment from sales-oriented to education-oriented, the entire buying experience will shift.

Remember: Customers aren’t people who pay your salary – they’re pupils who attend your class. How’s your enrollment this semester?

3. Become a wealth of inform. Because my specialty is approachability, I’ve hosted a lot of workshops for retailers. Namely, jewelry stores. And during a recent round of presentations (video here), I made three suggestions to help the store owners turn rare into remarkable by introducing education.

First: What if, in the corner of your store, you had an entire shelf filled with bestselling books on relationships, romance and interpersonal communication? That way, while stupid husbands buy jewelry to make up for forgetting their wedding anniversary – again! – they could learn a few tips on how to better communicate with their spouses and avoid the doghouse.

Second: What if, once a week, you invited a local fashion consultant to come in the store? She could advise customers on wardrobe, accessories and current style trends to help them present themselves smarter, and not get fired for dressing like a streetwalker.

Third: What if, on the last Friday of each month, you brought in a local relationship therapist to provide tune-ups for newly engaged couples? He could offer suggestions, exercises and advice to help people make their fourth marriages work.

Ultimately, these suggestions work not only because they’re education-based, but also because they’re rare. And rare becomes remarkable. And remarkable becomes repeatable. And repeatable becomes profitable. What are you willing to lose on the first sale in order to guarantee a relationship?

4. Education means fascination. I understand your hesitancy. You think that if you make your customers smarter, they won’t need you. Not true. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. If you expand their thinking, grow their knowledge base and stretch their brains, they’ll actually need and love and respect and want you more.

And the best part is: Companies that educate, fascinate. And fascination, according to author and consultant Sally Hogshead, plays a major role in every type of decision-making – from the brands you choose, the songs you remember, the person you marry, and the employees you hire.

The hard part is to trust yourself, trust your resources and trust the process. And to believe that the people you add value too won’t outgrow their need for your help. How fascinating do customers think your organization is?

5. Reframe exit questions. Over the years I’ve consulted with dozens of hotels, hospitality associations and other customer service organizations. And in my experience, the best question to ask a customer at the end of a transaction is not, “How else may I be of service to you?” but rather, “What else can I help you learn?”

The reality is, customers don’t need more service – they need more answers. And this particular question works for three reasons: First, it’s unexpected. And the best way to attract someone’s attention is to break her patterns.

Second, it’s thought provoking. And anytime your customers are thinking more and complying less, you win. Finally, it’s open ended. This decreases the likelihood of hearing the most useless, unleverageable customer answer of all time: “Fine.” Does your organization deliver customer service or customer answers?

6. Mum is overrated. Here’s a lesson I learned the hard way: The only thing worse than saying something untrue is saying nothing. Turns out the opposite of honesty isn’t lying – it’s omitting.

Sadly, too many organizations – who are (clearly) terrified of having smart, healthy, proactive customers – are keeping their mouths shut at the expense of the people they serve. Believe it or not, the United States government actually did something cool for a change. They were smart enough to stop shutting up.

In 2009, www.recovery.gov was launched as is the government’s official website that provides easy access to data related to Recovery Act spending.

It allows for the reporting of potential fraud, waste and abuse. And it has pictures, graphs, numbers, interviews, videos – you name it. All in the name of not staying mum.

I wonder what your organization is choosing not to reveal to your customers that’s actually causing more stress, pain and profit than if you had just told the truth in the first place. I wonder. Are you willing to be honest and direct at the risk of jeopardizing the relationship?

7. Send a continuous flow of education. That way, your buyers always know how to more creatively, efficiently and effectively use what you sell them to grow their business and make their lives better.

That’s why I tweet all morning. That’s why I blog everyday. That’s why I send out an ezine every other week. That’s why publish videos every month. And that’s why I put out three books a year.

Not just because it expands my platform. Not just because it earns my enterprise money. And not just because it markets my business. But because it consistently teaches the people who matter most how to matter more.

The way I see it: The smarter I make my audience, the better their world will become. And if they realize that my work played a small part in the betterment of their life, they’ll come back, hungry for more. And next time they’ll bring their friends. What did you write today?

8. Smarter means surrendering. In Michael Moore’s documentary, Sicko, he travels to France and interviews several doctors and professors. He discovers that the French government provides social services health care, public education, vacation, day care for one dollar an hour and neonatal support that includes cooking, cleaning, and laundry services for new mothers.

But here’s the part that rocked me to my core: One professor explained, “When you have a population of people that are healthy, educated and unafraid, it’s impossible to control them.”

Huh. No wonder corporations and organizations are afraid of educating their people: They don’t want to lose control. Interestingly, I recently watched a vintage interview with global innovator, Buckminster Fuller, who echoed the same sentiment. He helped me realize why it’s so hard for some businesses to risk making their customers smarter:

“Governments, religions and businesses would find it devastating to their activity to have humanity a success. They are predicated on you being an inherent failure.”

Surrendering control doesn’t mean losing it. You’ll be fine. How are you leveraging your vulnerability to make your customers smarter?

9. Refuse to leave people where they are. Customers don’t want to be handled. Or managed. Or dealt with. They want to be better. And the only way that’s going to happen is if you add value to them.

My suggestion: Stop handling and start educating. Make a list of the fifty most common questions asked by your customers. Write a paragraph-long answer for each one. Hire a professional designer to convert the text into a downloadable ebook.

Then, give it away for free on your website. Print out hard copies. Hell, save it on jump drives with your logos on it and physically hand it to every customer that walks in the door along with a note that read, “Fifty answers to the fifty questions running through your head right now. You’re welcome.” That’s what I would do.

The point is, when you deliver education to your customers, move forward with your customers and stay relevant in the eyes of your customers. If you were arrested and charged with adding value to people, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

REMEMBER: Companies that teach, win.

Don’t be dumb.

Make your customers smarter.

Are you selling or educating?

For the list called, “26 Ways to Out Brand Your Competitors,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor

Never the same speech twice.
Always about approachability.

Watch The Nametag Guy in action here!

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