Who wrote these directions?

The man on the corner says, “Straight ahead for three blocks. Then turn left. You’ll drive about four blocks and the store will be on the right. Big red sign. You can’t miss it. But if you pass the Sunoco Station, you’ve gone too far.”

road mapWe’ve all been recipients of directions like that. It lays everything out in a very logical, foolproof sequence and then provides you with a landmark that you don’t really need – the one that tells you you’ve gone too far. While it’s useful to know you passed your destination, knowing doesn’t help you find it.

No, I’m not sitting here with too much time on my hands today. It’s just one of those days in which the quirks of how people communicate with each other (spoken or written) really bugs me.

Here’s another that drives me up a wall. I like to assemble things. So, let’s put assembly instructions into this same communication abyss. “Connect the two pieces with the bolt, washer, and nut provided.” Easy, right? I do that. Bolt, washer, nut… two pieces are connected. And I make sure they’re tight. I wouldn’t want them to come apart – ever!

Then comes the next instruction. “But before you tighten it all the way…” Grrrrr. It’s so illogical. Why not tell me ahead of time… or at least give me a warning.

I don’t know if the people who write directions or instructions are just so familiar with what they’re doing that they take for granted that I’ll understand it, too.

As a writer and author, it concerns me. As the world becomes more complicated, I wonder what needs to happen for people to become serious about better communicate. Perhaps I should write some instructions for how to write clear, easy-to-follow instruction.

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First impressions versus lasting impressions

At a chamber of commerce mixer recently, one of the other attendees and I found ourselves in a heated conversation about the importance of first impressions.

He was adamant making a good first impression is the single-most important thing a business should do. I responded by saying I thought first impressions were not nearly as important as lasting impressions.

I shared a story of walking into a restaurant in New York City with a group of friends, looking around at the incredible decor, taking in some incrediblewaiter4 aromas, and being greeted and seated courteously and efficiently by the maître d’.

It was a great first impression and we were off to a great start. None of us could have hoped for more. At that point, I absolutely would have raved about it.

I’m sympathetic that eight people at a table in a crowded restaurant doesn’t make life easy for any waiter or waitress. But she carefully took notes and disappeared.

When the food finally arrived, practically all the special requests had been ignored. Plus, many entrées were either overcooked or undercooked. Trying to get the situation corrected was no easy task.

The bottom line to this story is only one person at the table had a meal they felt was above standard. The rest of us were doing more complaining than smiling.

The point is what brings consumers back to a restaurant or to any other business establishment is not the first impression the restaurant or business makes. It’s the lasting impression –– the exceptional experience we take with us when we leave.

It’s the lasting impression that either encourages us to return and contribute more of our hard-earned money to the establishment or to cross it off our list of places to patronize again.

As you read How to Close More Business in Less Time and begin working through your ideal sales process, remember every extraordinary lasting impression begins with an equally extraordinary first impression.

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Is your website telling or selling?

Over all, many of the websites I come across do a great job at conveying good, solid information. They tell a great story.

The problem is, except for hobbyists, most people who create websites want to sell lecturer2something.

But their websites don’t sell!

In my bestselling book, How to Close More Business in Less Time, I speak about websites as a vital part of the sales process. I go on to say that a website is its own self-contained sales process –– moving readers through a series of steps that begin with addressing a problem and educating a prospective buyer to ultimately closing the sale… plus follow-up after the sale.

While video is becoming a more prevalent component in websites built for selling, most business websites and marketing communications continue to be driven almost entirely by the written word.

But writing copy that can effectively move a consumer through all the steps of a sales process and culminate in a better than average closing ratio isn’t as easy as it looks. In fact, it’s extremely difficult.

That’s why I condensed my many years of marketing and writing experience to create a Handbook for business owners and marketing professionals. It’s entitled If you want to WRITE like a marketing pro, you first need to THINK like a marketing pro. It explains the challenges businesses need to be overcome when it comes to using the written word to create websites and marketing materials that sell.

Effective writing for the web or any marketing activity begins with thinking like a marketing professional and understanding how to move a transaction from beginning to end (cash in the bank).

To learn more about this unique and valuable Handbook for business owners and marketing professionals entitled If you want to WRITE like a marketing pro, you first need to THINK like a marketing pro, CLICK HERE.

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People don’t start listening until they start talking

Prior to writing How to Close More Business in Less Time, I had an opportunity to coach a startup home remodeling company in Ohio. The two partners decided to focus on high-end kitchens and bathrooms. Not a customary place for a startup in their industry.

listening talkingTypically, in the home remodeling business, a salesman comes into the house, meets the homeowners,  rushes into the kitchen, takes a few measurements, pulls out some samples, and starts selling. He talks about his experienced and well-established company, and comes up with a price. He’s doing all the talking.

Not my client. Called Hallmark Home Remodeling in the book, were unknown in the market. They didn’t have a reputation good or bad. What they did have was experience from their previous jobs and they did great work.

Knowing that their competitors would rush to sell and not develop a relationship, I focused on one of the steps in my typical sales process called “rapport building.”

The first contact with the homeowner was totally choreographed. Before they walked into the house, they donned rubber booties so as not to track anything in. They introduced themselves and standing in the foyer identified an architectural feature in one of the rooms –– a fireplace or cove molding. They asked if they could take a closer look. The homeowner always said yes.

Next, they’d ask for a tour of the entire house. During the tour, they learned a tremendous amount about the family –– by watching and listening. They’d observe a bedroom that appeared to be rarely used because their youngest was away at college. They’d learn about downsizing plans the homeowners might have within the next few years.

By the time they got to the kitchen they were friends. The homeowners were open and sharing their feelings. And the two new entrepreneurs began closing more business and better business.

You can read the entire Hallmark story in How to Close More Business in Less Time. I take you step by step through Hallmark’s entire sales process. You’ll find it extremely helpful. There’s a lot of nuance. Best of all, it can be adapted to any business.

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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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