No more surveys! You already know the answer…

While traveling last week I received three surveys from servers in three different restaurants – the kinds that ask us to go online, enter a number, receive a discount coupon for a next visit, and even win a prize. I also received email surveys from five hotels along the way.

That doesn’t include the several that popped up after I made online purchases prior to Survey13going on the trip. One survey asked about my experience visiting their website. Well, not only didn’t I buy, but I couldn’t find what I was looking for. I didn’t feel it was my responsibility to tell them what was wrong or how to fix it. So, I didn’t respond.

The way I see it, a business shouldn’t have to ask my opinion as to how they’re doing. If they’re alert… if they’re really paying attention… they know if I’m happy or if I’ve been disappointed.

One clue to my happiness is the size of the tip I leave following a meal in a restaurant. Another is how many times I return to the store or website to spend more money.

Always, the survey I like the best is when someone takes the time to look me straight in the eye, smile and, knowing quite well that they did perform masterfully, asks: “Was everything to your complete satisfaction?” And when I smile back and say, “Absolutely,” they know they received my highest score. So, as I see it, there’s only one question that ever needs to be asked.

And if they see anything less than a big happy smiley face and hear an enthusiastic “YES,” they need to probe and do whatever it takes… not only to get you to return… but to do it in such a way that you want to tell your friends and colleagues about how great they are to do business with.

The sad thing is that I sometimes wonder if businesses really want to know how well or poorly they did. After all, if you say you’re unhappy, they’re pretty much obligated to do something to fix it and make it right. These days, doing something could cost them more than losing you as a customer.

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Overcoming bumps, detours, and sudden stops

One of the things I like best about the “process” is that all processes have one thing in common. They can be studied, analyzed, measured, modified, changed, improved, and streamlined.vintage-1892146_1280

In How to Close More Business in Less Time, I talk about how Hallmark Construction Company experienced resistance whenever the issue of pricing surfaced in their sales presentations. These hurdles or brick walls either slowed the sales process or brought it to a dead halt.

Let’s give those brick walls and hurdles a better name and call them “points of constraint.”

In 1984, Dr. Eliyahu M. Goldratt published a book entitled The Goal in which he presented his “Theory of Constraints.” Goldratt explained that a constraint is anything that prevents the system or process from achieving “more of its goal.”

Goldratt explains the best way to optimize the entire process is to identify the one or two or three most difficult or challenging constraints within the process and to solve, resolve, or fix those first.

One way I explain constraints is by using an hourglass as an example. That skinny point or narrow orifice is the constraint. If you somehow could double the size of the orifice, the sand would fall more freely and quickly to the bottom.

Or think about a traffic jam on a highway with three lanes feeding into one. Two lanes of traffic closed due to construction can cause an unintended parking lot that goes on for miles. That’s a point of constraint.

In a sales process, there are typically one or two or three points of constraint that keep the sales process from moving forward without interruption or, sometimes, stopping it entirely.

The way you fix it –– the way you consistently increase your closing ratio –– is to study, analyze, and measure your sales process. That’s helps you identify and eliminate those nasty points of constraint while you close more business in less time.

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Re-defining marketing

People have a tough time defining marketing. In fact, when you look at conventional definitions, most of them go in this direction: “Marketing is the process associated with promoting goods or services for sale” or “Marketing is increasing sales through advertising and other promotional techniques.”

Well, I guess they’re okay. But when I was writing How to Close Morman-29749_640e Business in Less Time, I felt I needed to go in a different direction.

I defined good marketing within the context of the sales process itself. It goes like this:

Good marketing is any activity that speeds, shortens, streamlines, or favorably influences the positive outcome of the sales process.

Good means effective –– something that’s capable of affecting or changing behavior in a positive way to help you win new business, better business, and in less time.

Activity means many things. A direct mail campaign to your current clients is an activity. But so is a simple one-page visual aid that you use in your sales presentation to compare your features and benefits against those of your competitors. It’s also the way you greet a prospect when he or she visits your office for the first time.

Speeds, shortens, streamlines and favorably influences means exactly what it says. Your mission in building an ideal sales process is to anticipate objections, eliminate points of constraint, simplify and accelerate the transaction, and compress the sales process into a shorter sales cycle so that things move faster, more smoothly than they previously did and get you to YES sooner, more consistently, and with fewer objections and hurdles than ever before.

Positive outcome means making a sale. More importantly, it means not only gaining a new client for a single transaction, but also retaining that client for life so that you derive maximum value along with your fair share of referrals from that happy, satisfied, and extremely loyal client. Above all, positive outcome means a profitable outcome.

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A short course in handling objections

Objections are the so-called reasons prospects give you for not buying today or, worse, dropping the dreaded evasion, “Let me get back to you.”will get back to you

But let’s call objections what they are: excuses for prospects to sit on their wallets.

You want to sell high. Prospects want to buy low. Regardless of what you sell, you experience objections from prospects throughout your sales process. And the objections aren’t just about price. They could be about any number of things.

All objections have a common consequence. They slow the prospect’s decision-making process and postpone getting a signature or an order.

Objections are best handled before the prospect brings them up. If, for example, you know that price is always an objection, you can wait until the prospect says, “That’s a lot more expensive than I thought it would be.”

Or, you can be proactive and reverse the objection before it becomes an issue. Early in your sales process you address the issue: “I know people sometimes feel our prices are higher than our competitor’s. But that’s not the case when you consider these three things….”

A key to closing more business in less time is to anticipate and speak to objections that are bound to come your way before the prospect brings it up. If you don’t proactively take the lead, your prospect is ruminating over his objection and tuning you out.

Learn more about handling objections and why this needs to be an integral part of your sales process in How to Close More Business in Less Time.

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Why you need to document your sales process

The dictionary defines process as “a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end.” (I think that’s pretty close.)

We all use processes –– at work, at home, and just about anywhere. Suffice it to say, we can’t live without them.

The important thing to know about processes –– the thing they all have in common –– is they can be studied, analyzed, measured, and improved.

In my talks and private coaching program, I use a chart entitled Steps in a Typical Sales sales process chart v4aProcess. (Click the image to enlarge the chart.)

Step seven in the typical sales process is pricing. This is a point of constraint for many businesses. You may hate this step. You may feel insecure about it. Or you may worry about pricing too high or too low.

How you talk about pricing is part of a process. And that process can be choreographed. In How to Close More Business in Less Time, I tell the story of a company called Hallmark Home Remodeling and how their presentation about pricing was carefully choreographed.

While they didn’t use the same words each time they presented, they did follow a format –– a structure, a process.

Working with Hallmark, we created a pricing strategy and a way to present it. We created a chart much like my Steps in a Typical Sales Process chart.

During the early months, we critiqued each presentation. We made numerous changes to the presentation process.

By continually studying it, analyzing it, and measuring it, we improved it –– to the point where their closing ratio jumped. Where they were closing one or two out of ten, they were now closing five out of ten. The goal always is to increase that.

They learned pricing was no longer a problem if they stuck to the process.

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The greatest review ever received!

Naturally, I love it when someone tells me how much they enjoyed the book or how it helped them improve their closing ratio.

16537110 - emoticon showing thumb upBut one compliment has always stood out as a testimonial to the power of How to Close More Business in Less Time to bring about a significant improvement and outcome.

I met Susan G. at a networking event in New York City. I always carry a few books with me at events like that hoping someone will ask, “What are you reading?” or “What’s the book?” She did and asked if I would sell her one. (I never say no.)

How to Close More Business in Less Time was written and targeted for business owners – especially smaller businesses in which working smarter not harder is critical.

Susan was a team leader at a top-name financial services organization. In her charge were 20 associates. Her job was to keep them motivated and, most importantly closing more business. Needless to say, Susan wasn’t the market I wrote for the book.

Five months later I received a phone call from Susan. She asked if we could have coffee and we scheduled a time and place.

When she arrived, she brought the book she purchased from me. It looked like it had been through a street fight and lost.

Around the outside of the book were dozens of tabs – different colors, some with scribbles on them. Susan hadn’t only read the book. She studied it!

She reported that her team not only showed the greatest percentage of improvement over the previous quarter but were the number one team in the firm –– simply because she put the principles of How to Close More Business in Less Time to work.

 

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The purpose of marketing

While business owners and leaders spend a tremendous amount of time on developing marketing strategies and plans, they spend very little time even thinking about their sales process.

Ladder of Success copyThe way I see it, that’s like trying to climb a ladder with one leg.

The purpose of marketing is to directly support the sales process. That doesn’t mean supporting it only at the beginning of the sales process when it’s time to attract clients or seek out new prospects, but supporting it at every step throughout the sales process.

In How to Close More Business in Less Time, I define marketing as “any activity that speeds, shortens, streamlines, or favorably influences the outcome of the sales process.”

“Any activity” can include whitepapers, charts, graphs, emails, diagrams, videos, pricing options, testimonials, direct mail, thank you notes, follow-up phone calls, and so on.

A whitepaper can be used to support education. Graphs and charts can support a pricing rationale (especially important if you’re the high-priced guy on the block.) A follow-up interview – not a survey – with a 30-day and 60-day checklist supports not only follow-up after the sale but begins to build that ever-important lifetime relationship as you begin identifying upsell and cross-sell opportunities.

If your marketing is primarily all about front-end client attraction, perhaps it’s time to look at your sales process and to determine where and how you could be using marketing throughout the sales process to speed, shorten, streamline, or favorably influence the outcome of the sales process.

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An Amazon Bestseller

3D book bestseller logoYesterday, May 2, 2017, How to Close More Business in Less Time became an Amazon Bestseller.

I’m extremely grateful to the business owners and professionals who not only purchased it throughout the past several years but who also sent me personal notes telling me how they were able to use the information, ideas, and strategies in the book to improve their sales process and improve marketing results. Thank you.

best selling combo

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Talk to Me

It’s worse than Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day.

As a writer, I pride myself on being able to communicate with extreme clarity. My secret (and it’s no secret) is that I put myself in the place of the reader. Is this clear? Is there a better way of saying it? Can I simplify the message?

But more and more, the businesses I do business with communicate only antique telephonethrough email. A commercial printer, media channel, and an insurance company. It’s email or nothing.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with the principle of email. It’s fast, efficient communication.

However, the emails I receive are so cryptic and incomplete that I need to pick up the phone to call the business for clarification. On those rare occasions when it can speak to a person to ask a question, that helps. But most of the time, I’m forced to leave my message or question in voicemail.

The vendor’s response comes to me through email – another cryptic and incomplete answer. Ergo, an endless Groundhog Day loop. Continue reading

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Self-promotion for one-man or one-woman bands

For most of my business career, I’ve been a solo practitioner – specifically a business and marketing consultant.

As a solopreneur, I’m chief cook and bottle washer. I like it and wohotdogcart3uldn’t want it any other way.

I prospect, court, pitch, write proposals, and close deals. I run back to my desk to do the work. (It’s excellent work!) And when it’s done, I send an invoice. The check comes in. I put on my bookkeeper hat and make a bank deposit.

It sounds like a chore but, admittedly, I love what I do.

The overriding challenge is that when I’m working, I’m not promoting myself or touting my work. I’m not writing blog posts, sending emails, or making phone calls. And I’m not networking and getting out among other business people.

Is this sounding all too familiar?

My answer was to write a book – a book intended to make the marketing world sit up and take notice as it connected the dots between marketing and the sales process.

Well, the world didn’t sit up and take notice of How to Close More Business in Less Time because I still had the same nasty problem of self-promotion. So, now I needed to promote the book.

A longtime friend says, “Gil, you should become a best-selling author.”

He proceeds to outline a process in which I promote my book on Amazon for one day only. He says, “Drop the price of the digital edition of the book to 99¢. You won’t get rich, but you’ll sell a lot of books. And selling a hundred or so books in one day will make you an Amazon Best Seller.”

So, I thought I’d try it. I picked Tuesday, May 2, 2017, as the one and only day for this promotion. I set up a landing page at GilEffron.com/99cents to help explain my deal and how it works. Most importantly, I’m promoting the heck out of this. We’ll see what happens.

Now, here’s the revelation – and what I believe is one of the answers for those of us who are solopreneurs and need to promote ourselves. When I made a personal commitment to promote the book and become an Amazon Best Seller, I began treating the project as though it was a client project.

I always get my client’s work done and I always deliver on time. It’s working. I’m now my own client allocating time each week to work on promoting my most important and valuable client – ME! And, of course, my book.

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