In the new economy that is emerging around all of us, one of the key shifts we’re seeing
is in the area of buyer motivation. Today, from consumers to corporate clients, the people
who make the decision to buy have one big question on their minds: "how can you help
reduce my risk?"
There are all kind of reasons why people share that preoccupation, but it does not have
to be a barrier preventing you from reaching and exceeding your sales targets. So far in
this series looking at ways to boost sales and thrive in today’s market, we’ve talked about
how leveraging who you know can help mitigate that sense of risk.
Today, let’s look at the importance of what you say and how you say it.
For any buyer, being preoccupied by risk is all about coping with uncertainty. They have
a range of worries: "what if I buy this and it wastes my time and money rather than solves
my problem…what if it doesn’t perform the way I expect it to…what if I simply make a bad
choice?" As a sales professional, I’m sure you recognize the corrosive danger of those
"what-ifs." They’re all rooted in a fear of the unknown. You have to make it your #1 job
to address those fears head-on, by communicating with your customers clearly and credibly
with messages that meet their needs.
Personalize your message
Earlier, I shared with you tips on how you can ask
leading questions when speaking with your customers. Today, let’s look some more at what
you can do to better meet the needs of your customers. Get to the heart of what is going
on inside their business as well as in their minds. Sell to that need by being as personalized
as possible. Not only does this help you as the salesperson to always be thinking of your
customers by name, it also generates better results at the buyer’s end—particularly when
risk is on their radar.
In one consumer study, a group of buyers were asked to rank the effectiveness of a range
of marketing vehicles that were each designed to reduce risk (e.g., money-back guarantees,
free samples, word-of-mouth testimonials, and brand-based messages). The research results
were summed up nicely by Doug Hall in his 2003 book, Meaningful Marketing. "The
data shows that real, first-person experience is orders of magnitude more credible than manufactured
marketing methods… Personal experience is the most real and reliable of any method of reducing
The food service industry is in many ways a microcosm of what goes on every day in sales—top
performers are well rewarded when they provide more than just a product…they provide an personalized
experience. For example, the most successful servers out there know that the best way to
earn the most tips is by building a personalized rapport with their customers. The good ones
will start by introducing themselves by name to a table of guests. The really good
ones will recognize their returning customers and address them by name. Why? Because they
have learned what all top-ranked sales professionals know: people like it when they hear
or see their name pop up in what you are communicating to them.
To apply this to your line of work, think of all the ways that you communicate with your
customers. From face-to-face meetings, to email, to direct marketing material, look for opportunities
where you can include the customer’s name in your message. Newsletters, estimates and direct-mail
pieces are all good places to start. However, you must exercise good judgment! First, find
out whether they’re more comfortable with being referred to on a first-name basis. Second
(and this is really important), don’t overuse their name, otherwise you’ll sound corny and
even more impersonal than a form letter.
Anticipate rather than just react
Risk-busting communications means that you need to do more than just react to buyer hesitation.
Don’t panic. Stay in control.
Of course, this requires that you think ahead about objections that a customer might have
and prepare good responses. When you’re talking about your product or service, always communicate
the benefits of what you’re offering ahead of the features. Just as important, be generously
empathetic in acknowledging a customer’s objections. That helps to put their mind at ease
and demonstrates to them that you genuinely understand the position they are in.
The extra effort you put into your communications pays off. The credibility of your message
grows. By demonstrating that your top concern is finding a solution to what matters to them
(rather than being just motivated by making your commission), you close the gap between a
customer having objections and making the decision to buy.
Choose the right tools and measure relentlessly
As with all investments, the time and effort you put into risk-busting communications is
best spent when you also make a point of measuring your results. Your audience you want
to reach plays a significant part in determining which tools you should use (e.g., websites,
e-newsletters, direct mail, cold calling). No matter the mix that you choose, be sure to
include some kind of metric so that you can track your response rate and fine-tune your
message when necessary. The results of your efforts will pay for themselves several times
over because your messages—particularly those that are fine-tuned to address specific needs
that your customers have—will be seen as purposeful, relevant and timely. In other words,
they’ll sit up and take notice.
As a sales trainer, as I meet professionals and business owners of all kinds across North
America, I remind all of them that no matter what title they hold in their organization, they
are all sales people. In good times and in bad times, everyone in an organization
is responsible for the messages they communicate to their clients. Moreover, it is up to
each of us to decide what kind of sales person we want to be.
By investing a little bit of time and forethought, you can emulate the business habits of
the top-10% sales performers out there. Be empathetic, be responsive to the needs and objections
of your customers, be focused on personalizing your message. With time and persistence, you’ll
find that you’ll have a winning communications formula that can top the sales charts in any