Tag Archives: selling

Your Elevator Pitch Gets Them on the Train

Do you struggle to find new clients? The problem may be your Elevator Pitch.

Ask, “What sort of work do you do?” and most people will respond with one word.

“Accountant.”  “Engineer.”  “Consultant.”

The Secret is to Get Them on the Train

Just this afternoon, our local NPR station was running a fundraiser. Your contribution earns a chance to win an Australian vacation.  The announcers droned on and on about how this was “a trip of a lifetime,” and “worth $8,000,” and “you’ll see penguins and kolas,” while repeating the phone number incessantly. Yawn.

But then they played a segment from the travel agent as he described the train ride to Adelaide.elevator pitch “Leaving Melbourne at 8:00, you’ll be in the Premier Red seats, so you’ll have a really comfy seat, and great big picture windows that gaze out at the countryside. You’ll pass through Eucalyptus forests, rolling green farmland, and expansive desert plains. You’ll arrive in Adelaide around 6:00.” In great detail, he described the route of this amazing adventure. Instead of dreading a 10 hour trip, I could almost see the kangaroos bouncing across the far horizon as I drove. And the studio phones started ringing.

The lesson for guerrilla marketers is that it’s not enough to parrot your profession. It’s not even enough to promise a benefit.   You have to show them where they’re going, and what they’ve left behind.

Imagine, standing on the platform, and this train is about to embark on a wonderful journey. You shout, “Hey, there’s lots of open seats. It’ll be great! All you have to do is step aboard.   We’ll have you home by supper!”

The train, of course, is you and the wonderful work you do with your clients. Their computers are humming, they have a new resume headshot, or they’ve settled a tax problem. You help clients get from “here” (they have a problem to solve) to “there” (you’ve helped them solve it.) Now take them on that journey. Let them experience what it’s like to work with you.

Blow the Guerrilla Marketing Whistle

One of the most awesome weapons in your Guerrilla Marketing Arsenal is your Elevator Pitch. That’s the script you use when someone asks, “So, what do you do?” If you had only 20 or 30 seconds to engage them, what would you say to get their attention, not counting, “Sorry, but I believe your pants are on fire”?

Your Guerrilla Elevator Pitch consists of three parts: 1) what you do, 2) who you do it for, and 3) two ways they benefit.

“At the Guerrilla Group, we help small business use low-cost marketing to increase sales and build profits.”

That’s like blowing the whistle on the train. You’ve gotten their attention, or not.

If not, that’s a good thing, because this trip is not for everyone. People will either say, “That’s nice!” (translation: I could care less now buzz-off) or, “Hummm. . . that’s interesting,” (tell me more).

Instead of, “I’m a tax accountant,” how about, “I help honest small-business owners take every legal deduction, and save them thousands of dollars in taxes.”

Instead of “environmental engineering,” try, “We help small cities recover quickly after severe storms or floods, and help minimize damage in the future.”

Instead of “SEO consultant,” what if you said, “I help companies get found on the Internet, and attract their best prospects, right when they’re most motivated to buy.”

You get the idea.  Notice the structure. What. Who. And two benefits.

How long? Like a mini-skirt; short enough to be interesting and just long enough to cover the essentials.

“But what if I have more than one area of expertise?” Maybe you’re like my good friend Debi. She’s a very fine jazz pianist, but she also teaches piano, tutors elementary math and English, and teaches Japanese to professionals.

That’s simple. You need a value proposition for each offering, and each audience. So Debi might say, “I help elementary grade children to excel at math.” OR she might say, “I teach executives who travel abroad essential Japanese; at least enough to really impress their clients.”

It depends on who’s in the elevator. Smart guerrilla marketers will write several, edit them to the nub, and memorize them verbatim.

Why two benefits?

That’s because some people are motivated toward some positive outcome, or away from some problem or pain. People who are toward-motivated buy lottery tickets. People who are away-from buy flight insurance. So your value proposition is going to be most effective if it includes one of each. Where is the train going to go, and what are we leaving behind.

Use Powerful Language in your Elevator Pitch

There are many variations on this list. One myth is that Yale University researchers some how discovered the 12 most persuasive words in English. The truth is even more interesting. On August 14, 1961, an add appeared in the New York Times, with the headline, “The New Sell.”

“Most persuasive selling words, according to recent researches: You, Easy, Money, Save, Love, New, Discovery, Results, Proven, Health, Guarantee.” — Marketing Magazine

The research may be a myth, but the words are indeed persuasive. In 1963, David Ogilvy, in his seminal book, Confessions of an Advertising Man, published his own list of the 20 most persuasive words in advertising:

  1. suddenly
  2. now
  3. announcing
  4. introducing
  5. improvement
  6. amazing
  7. sensational
  8. remarkable
  9. revolutionary
  10. startling
  11. miracle
  12. magic
  13. offer
  14. quick
  15. easy
  16. wanted
  17. challenge
  18. compare
  19. bargain
  20. hurry

Ogilvy became the most famous copywriter in the world, and built the tenth biggest agency in the world. So hurry, and get on the train. These words work like magic. You’ll see amazing improvement. The results are remarkable.

Now you can tell a story

You’re ready to deploy your Capabilities Statement, (which we discussed in the May issue).   This is where you describe the journey, step-by-step. That gets them gazing out the window.

A consultant might say, “I’ve been working with an electrical testing company in the UK. We meet every week over SKYPE to discuss whatever challenges the owner happens to be facing that week. This client — I’ll call him James, because, that’s his name — wanted to grow the business by advertising for new customers. I advised that we begin by recording and analyzing the inbound telephone calls they were already receiving. A team of three salespeople were taking 20 to 30 inquires a day, but only closing 50%.

“I listened to the recordings and found two important flaws. They weren’t building rapport and they weren’t closing. The owner changed the script, and a month later, they’re closing 75%. Now, tell me about your business?”

See, NOW they’re on the train, ready to join you on a journey of their own. –Orvel Ray Wilson

Guerrilla Selling – the BUDGET Step

In the last issue, we discussed how to determine what the customer really needs as the first step of our “NaB & CaPTuRe” roadmap: Need, Budget, Conviction, Presentation, Transaction, Reward.

The Budget Step

The second, and most often skipped step in the selling process  is the BUDGET.  As soon as the customer realizes that they have a NEED, they start worrying on how much the solution will cost.  And yet, they hesitate to breach this topic because people are reluctant to talk about money.

In the Guerrilla Selling Seminar, I ask a volunteer:

Orvel Ray:  “Bob. How much money did you earn last year?”

Bob:  “Well, let’s see, if you mean after taxes, then it would be somewhere in the range of, oh, I don’t know exactly, but,. . . uhmmm … something like. . .”

Orvel Ray:  “That’s OK Bob. What kind of underwear are you wearing right now?  Boxers or briefs?”Men's briefs

Bob: “Briefs.”

Orvel Ray:  “Well Bob, would you agree that we have just effectively demonstrated that you would rather discuss your underwear in public than to talk about money.”

This game ALWAYS produces the same response.

While more pronounced in some cultures, this resistance to discussing money is universal.  And salespeople are not immune.  If you ask, point blank, “What’s the price?” most will stutter, stall, and stumble rather than say it out loud.  Guerrillas inoculate this resistance by bringing up the topic of price, and establishing a budget based on the potential value of investing in their product or service.

Once you’ve identified their NEED, you can ask, “How much would it be worth if we could solve this problem?” and, “How much will it cost if things remain the same?”  It’s important to ask both of these questions, because about half your customers will be motivated Toward some future outcome or reward, while others are motivated Away From the threat of some cost or loss.  (People who are Toward motivated buy lottery tickets.  People who are Away From motivated buy life insurance.)  Guerrillas are adept at selling both ways.

Generally people are more motivated to keep what they have than to acquire something new, so another very useful question to determine their budget is, “What have you used in the past?”

Budget Rangefinder

It may be easier to start out by establishing a range, and then narrowing down the budget.

Guerrilla: “What kind of budget do you have in mind for this project, in round numbers?”

Customer: “Somewhere between $1,000 and $2,000.”

Guerrilla: “Closer to $1,000 or closer to $2,000?”

Customer: “Closer to two.”

Guerrilla: “How close?”

Once you have gotten a specific amount, it will be easy to position your product as a good investment, compared to the alternatives, and then focus on benefits.

It’s also useful to ask, “What alternatives have you considered?”  Don’t be naive.  They are talking to your competitors, and if you know their pricing (and you should) then you will know how competitive your offering may be.  Remember that doing nothing may be an attractive option.

Verify their ability to pay by asking, “How do you plan to finance it?” If they say, “I’ll pay cash,” that’s a very strong buying signal.  If you can accept installments, or arrange financing for them, you’ve gained an advantage.

Be prepared to offer strong rationales for the price you charge.  Is it made from more expensive materials?  Is it built to tighter tolerances?  Does it have a longer useful life-span?  Is it labor-intensive?  Does it require special handling?  Is it more environmentally friendly, organic, or Fair Trade?  Does it require less maintenance, or have a higher salvage or re-sale value?

Cost of the Alternative

Recently, I did some sales training for a bearing services company in Houston, and as part of my research, visited one of their customers, a factory that makes cake mix.  This factory is nearly fully automated.  Tanker trucks loaded with flour pull up at one end of the building. Hoses and blowers move the flour into storage hoppers.  Augers measure and feed it, together with all the other ingredients, into big mixing bins.  Huge mixers churn it into the final product. At the other end of the building, machines fold and glue boxes and send them along a conveyer.  In the middle, the product is measured into a plastic liner, sealed, trimmed, slipped into a box, closed, glued, stacked in cartons and then piled on pallets, ready to ship.

This machinery is made up of dozens of motors and servos and thousands of bearings.  And if just one bearing fails, the whole line grinds to a halt.  It costs this manufacturer $90,000.00 (ninety thousand dollars) an hour to shut down, so Mean Time Between Failures is much more important than price. To buy a cheap replacement, or save a few cents on lubricant, simply isn’t economical.  In fact, they want to buy the most expensive, highest quality bearings and lubricants available, and they want them backed up by a technician who is available 24 hours a day!

By focusing on the value rather than selling on price, the guerrilla changes the arena of competition, and virtually eliminates cheaper vendors from the running.  This actually makes it easier to sell at higher prices.

Most salespeople, when challenged about their price, will simply cave.  And nearly two thirds of salespeople will volunteer to cut their price, without being asked, because they do not believe in the value of their product or service.  That’s just stupid.

A simple way to gain confidence when quoting prices is to double your price, whatever it is, then practice roll-playing with a colleague as you justify why they should pay that much.  Then, when you roll the price back for a real customer, it will feel like a bargain.

Stop Waving a White Flag 

As soon as you say, “Our normal price is . . .”, or “Our list price is . . .” then you have already surrendered to the negotiation.  Quote your price in the same tone as if you were telling the time.

“What time is it?”

Two twenty-five.”

What’s your price?”

Two twenty-five.”  No hesitation.  No qualifiers.  No equivocating.

One exception: if you put the word “only” in front of any amount, it sounds like a better deal.  “I bet you could buy the Nairobi Hilton Hotel for only $300 million.”

The About Face

The customer may balk, and say, “Your price is too high.”  Don’t fall into this trap.

Recognize that you do not know what this customer means.  It could mean that he has a cheaper quote from a competitor, or it could mean he can’t afford it, or perhaps he’s just testing to see if the price is negotiable. You don’t know, so don’t guess.   Before you go any farther, ask, “Too high? (pause) When you say ‘too high’, what do you mean; too high relative to what?”

One of my favorite responses is, “We have no argument with those who sell for less.  They know best what their products and service are worth.”

In future installments of this series, we’ll explore each of the steps of “NaB & CaPTuRe” in more detail, and perhaps double or even quadruple your sales.

(This article is part of a series published by Marketing Africa magazine.)

 

Guerrilla Selling – How is it Different?

The ad in the comic book said, “Win a Bicycle.”  I thought it was a sweepstakes, so I filled in the form and mailed it away.

That was early spring of 1963. We lived in a little stick house in the burbs, between the oil refinery and the stockyards.  I was eldest of three children of a single mother who worked nights in a rubber factory.  And I had long since given up believing that Santa would ever bring a bicycle.

seed packetSoon a box arrived from The American Seed Company, full of little packets of garden seeds.  The instructions said I was to go door-to-door and sell them for 25¢ cents a pack (even though you could by the same seeds at the corner store for 10¢).  But I was 9 years old. What did I know?

There were all these rules:  ALWAYS walk on the sidewalk; NEVER walk on the grass.  ALWAYS step back after you ring the doorbell.  ALWAYS say, “Yes ma’am,” “No ma’am,” “Thank you, ma’am.”  I rang every single doorbell in our neighborhood.  Then I crossed that busy street that mother told me not to cross, and visited every house over there, and by 2:00 in the afternoon it was obvious I had no future in sales.  I hadn’t sold a single pack of seeds.

Of course it’s easy it is to give up when you’re discouraged, tired and hungry.  I was taking a shortcut across a vacant lot, and there was this woman in her back yard working the dirt with a spade, putting in her garden.

I yelled at her across the field, “Hey lady!  You don’t need no seed for that garden, do ya?”

She stopped her work, leaned on her shovel and shouted back, “I don’t know; whadaya got?”

“Everything from asparagus to zucchini; what do you want?”

And her next question, of course, was, “How much?”

“Twenty-five cents.”

“Twenty-five cents!!?  Why should I pay twenty-five cents when I can buy them at the corner store for a dime?”

That’s when I started to cry.

“Because I’m trying to win a bicycle, that’s why!”

She bought $9.00 worth.

And what I learned from that one transaction was,  crying works.

The more important lesson was that people who buy seeds, buy seeds.  People who don’t buy seeds, don’t buy seeds.  That’s just the way it works.

And if you want to sell enough seeds to win a bicycle, you have to find all those people.  You look for that hump of dirt in the back yard where they had LAST year’s garden, and if they don’t answer the door, you go back again and again and again, because there are only so many of those opportunities in the neighborhood.

Not only did I sell enough seeds to win the bicycle, (it was a red Huffy, with 20 inch wheels, a banana seat and high-rise handle bars with streamers) but by the end of Spring Break, I had $100 in the bank.  My mother didn’t have $100 dollars in the bank.  And that, for me, was the beginning of what has been a lifetime career in sales and marketing.

Many of those early lessons have served me well.  One day I was showing my box of seeds to a woman and she asked, “How many for a dollar?”

Well, I was only 9 years old, but I could do the math.  “That would be FOUR for a dollar.”

She said, “Okay, I’ll buy a dollar’s worth.”

So at the next door, instead of 25¢, I said, “four-fer-a-dollar.”  And almost everyone bought at least a dollar’s worth.  That simple change doubled my sales.  And I learned that changing one tiny thing can multiply your success.

The next big lesson came when an elderly neighbor asked, “Well, son, what’s this for?”

“They’re seeds for your garden?”

“No, no. I mean, are you raising money for Boy Scouts, or maybe summer camp, or. . .”

“I’m trying to win a bicycle.”

“Okay. Here’s $5.00.”

“But I didn’t get to tell you about the seeds.”

“Oh, that’s alright. I’m too old to keep a garden.  But I’m happy to help an enterprising young man like you.”  (WOW! She called me a “young MAN!”)

So, at the next door I said, “Hi, my name is Orvel Ray Wilson and I need your help.  I’m trying to win a bicycle.”  And sales doubled again.  What that taught me was it wasn’t about the product, or even the price.  It’s all about the customer.

In 1989, I was a touring speaker for CareerTrack, one of the world’s most successful seminar companies, teaching Sales and Customer Service in the US and Europe.  I was approached by Michael Larsen, a literary agent representing Jay Conrad Levinson.  He explained that, in 1984, Jay had written a book called Guerrilla Marketing, and the publisher wanted to do a sequel and call it Guerrilla Selling.  Michael asked if I would be interested in ghost-writing this book.

“Sorry,” I said, “I don’t want to be anyone’s ghost. I want my name on the cover.”

“Jay will never agree to that.”

“How do you know?”

“I’m his agent.  It’s my job to know.”

One of the principles I taught was to never take “no” for an answer unless you’re talking to the real decision-maker.  That’s not always the person who can say “yes.”  It’s the person who can say “no” and make it stick. I said, “Give me Mr.  Levinson’s number and let me hear it from him.”

Guerrilla Selling Ebook - Unconventional Weapons & Tactics for Increasing Your SalesOf course Jay agreed immediately, and Guerrilla Selling became an instant best-seller, and one of the most successful books in the series.  Jay and I went on to collaborate on six more books, and many other projects.  I’ve made a career of making Guerrilla Marketing the most successful marketing series of all time.

 

Marketing and Selling are often confused, but Sales is really a subset of Marketing.  We define Guerrilla Marketing as everything that represents you in the market:  your name, your logo, your reputation, even how you answer your phone.  It’s ALL part of your marketing.

Guerrilla Selling maps the steps customers take when making a purchase decision.  By understanding the psychology of this process, then matching your strategy to your customer, you can make your offering irresistible.

People always go through a six-step process whenever they buy:

  1. Need
  2. Budget
  3. Commitment
  4. Presentation
  5. Transaction
  6. Reward

First, they recognize a Need.  For example, there might be several reasons for buying a new car.  The old car is broken down and not worth fixing. Or they have a baby and need more room. Or they need to transport clients and need something posh. Or they have to travel long distances on rough roads and need a reliable car that won’t leave them stranded.

Many salespeople make the mistake of focusing on the product (the car) while ignoring what the underlying need (basic transportation, more space, more comfort, more reliability). Guerrilla Selling teaches you how to ask just the right questions to reveal their real motivation.

Next, the customer considers the Budget.  How much can they afford?  What’s the payback?  Many salespeople make the mistake of delaying the discussion  about price to the end, while their prospect is worrying on, “How much is this going to cost?”  Guerrilla Selling shows how to deal with prices right up front, then build value for the investment.

Eventually the customer makes a Commitment.   They decide to definitely buy a car from someoneGuerrilla Selling shows you how to discover the commitments that your customers have already made, and align your offering so that you win the sale.

Next, the Presentation step. The customer makes comparisons, reads ads, visits dealers, takes test drives.  This is often the first time they interact with a salesperson.  Guerrilla Selling teaches you how to recognize where your prospect is at in their decision-making process, and give them just the information they need to move forward.

The Transaction is usually thought of as “closing the sale,” but Guerrilla Selling recognizes that this is only the beginning. Guerrillas follow up meticulously to build a long-term relationship with a customer who will buy from them again and again.

Finally, the customer experiences the Reward (more space, more comfort, more safety).  Guerrilla Selling recognizes that this is the real reason people buy, and it’s different for every prospect.  Guerrillas constantly ask, “How did you benefit from this purchase?”  The answers may surprise you, just as I was surprised by my elderly neighbor, who just wanted the satisfaction of seeing “an enterprising young man” achieve his goal.

You can achieve YOUR goal by remembering NaB & CaPTuRe.  The consonants in these two words will help you remember: Need, Budget, Conviction, Presentation, Transaction, Reward.

In future installments of this series, we’ll explore each of these steps in detail, and perhaps double or even quadruple your sales.

“Sculpting” Transends Langage, Race and Culture in Nairobi

Orvel Ray presenting in Nairobi, Kenya

Orvel Ray presenting diplomas in Nairobi, Kenya

In September, speaker and consultant Scott “Q” Marcus did a program and workshop for NSA Colorado on an advanced audience-interaction technique called “Sculpting,” in which participants collaborate to build a living model of a problem or situation, then work to solve it. It was outstanding in every respect, and we all left the day eager to give it a try.

The opportunity arose in the opening hour of a two-day Advanced Guerrilla Selling Seminar that I was teaching last week in Nairobi, Kenya. After the opening story and overview, the room was just flat. At first I just chalked it up to my America accent; after all, their first language was Swahili. Or maybe it was a bit of a cultural thing (here’s another White man telling us what to do) but it just wasn’t connecting. Here were 90 Sales VPs and Managers, from three countries, representing the biggest companies in East Africa, sitting quietly and looking skeptical. I was in trouble and I knew it.

So I did a sculpt, based on the “Get through the Day” theme that Scott had demonstrated. I called for a volunteer to represent the role of the Salesman. Mark, who sells big transformers to electrical utilities, stepped forward, and we positioned him far stage left, and gave him the goal of getting across to the far end of the 20-foot stage, which would represent his goal of making the sale.

Then I asked the audience to shout out possible obstacles that could get in the way.

“Competition!”
“Traffic” (Nairobi is notoriously gridlocked)
“Infrastructure” (temperamental at best, or lacking altogether)
“Technology”
“Dead mobile”
“Corruption”
“Time”
“Price”
and so on.
As each participant spoke up, we brought them in turn up onto the stage, asked them to pose in a way that would show us what their obstacle might “look like,” and “where in the day” it should go. After arranging themselves across the stage, we set the sculpt in motion. “OK, Mark, time to go to work.”

It looked like a Rugby scrum as Mark struggled to push his way over, around, under and through one challenger after another. It was hysterical. When he finally made it to far stage right, the room exploded into applause and cheers.

“So, is this what it feels like to do business in Africa?” I asked.

A resounding, “YES!”

“Ok, then. Over the next two days, this seminar is going to teach you strategies and tactics to help overcome all of these obstacles, and more.”

It was as if someone had waved a magic wand. What they got from the sculpt was that, first of all, this was going to be a fun, collaborative, participative environment, rather than a formal stuffy lecture. (Kenya was a British Protectorate, and that culture still lingers. It’s subtle, but Kenyans are resentful of white authority figures). It also set their expectations that the content would be practical and street-wise. They could see that, “this guy gets it.” I think it gave them permission to relax, speak out and play along. And it humanized me in a way that bonded me to the group. From that moment on, they were fully engaged, relaxed, chatty and eager to speak out and participate.

Imagine my shock and surprise when this same group gave the program a standing ovation at the end of the second day. Absolutely unheard of for a long seminar; certainly a first in my career.

The sculpt set the stage for a successful learning experience that transcended language, race and culture. Scott, I can’t thank you enough for teaching us this very powerful technique, and I look forward to using it again in my next seminar.

“Bribes” for Referrals?

Is it ethical to give a cash/gift or commission for referrals?

Fellow guerrilla Vince Golder posted a question on the Guerrilla Marketing Tips for Small Business forum on LinkedIn, asking:

“I’ve had a couple of debates over the years with people who were quite firm in their belief that any form of cash/gift commission given in return for a successful referral was a bribe!! I would rather pay one of my own clients or contacts a just reward for promoting my business, than an expensive agency or media company.” What do you think?

Let me start by saying that cash, gifts and commissions are three very different things. Each may be appropriate or not, depending on the circumstances. Guerrillas ALWAYS look for appropriate ways to REWARD customers for their business.

As I’ve said before in this forum, the best way to get referrals is to ASK for them. (See my recent blog on the topic, March 4, 2009, below) And only reward referrals if you want to KEEP getting them.

No, it is not a bribe. And no, it is not enough to simply express your appreciation.

A nice Thank You card is a good start, but don’t be tempted to send it by e-mail. Personally, I use Hallmark, because I care enough to ____________________ .

Cash is awkward, so enclose a gift card instead. Coffee at Starbucks, free fries at McDonald’s. Better still, relate to their interests: something from Amazon or Borders for bookworms, or office supplies from Staples to reward the whole office.

If the referral is unsolicited, keep the amount something under $100. For bigger referrals, consider bigger rewards: a bottle (or case) of nice wine, a magazine subscription, dinner for two somewhere special, or the fruit-of-the-month club from Harry & David. You can always take them out, for coffee, for lunch, for a round of golf. We’ve given clients pairs of plane tickets. We once took a dozen people from United Airlines to a Rockies game.

There are two guerrilla gifts you can give to people who can’t accept gifts: flowers and food. For women, send a simple bouquet with a business card, delivered to their office by FTD. A variation is to send a large bouquet (something everyone can enjoy) to the Reception desk, with a “Thanks Everyone” note. And if you send flowers on a holiday, like Easter or Halloween, all the better. If you customer is a man, send roses. Red ones. You send me a dozen red roses with a “Thank You” note, and my wife is going to love me, and I’m going to REMEMBER you.

Food works if you send enough to share. Send Domino’s, KFC, or a monster Subway at lunchtime. Or a big birthday cake decorated with your logo and a big “Thank You” in icing across the top.

A professional speaker routinely pays bureaus 25% commission, but the agent who recommended you sees only a fraction of those funds. So I send the rep a very large box of Godiva chocolates. (Wasn’t it Will Rogers who said, “I never met a chocolate I didn’t like.”)

In another example, Wendy Kruger, with Speakers Platform in San Francisco, booked me for a string of several seminars. I knew that she was a fan of Cirque du Soleil, and a bit of browsing revealed that there was an engagement running in San Jose. So I used the Internet to book a pair of VIP back-stage tickets in her name at Will-Call. She took her boyfriend out for a surprise date, and nobody’s the wiser. (That is just SO California!)

If you’re closing a big contract with a new customer, buy a nice pen. A RILLY nice pen; a Cross or Mt. Blanc. After you’ve signed the paperwork, “accidentally” leave the pen behind. They’ll quietly put in their desk and remember your generosity every time they use it.

If you’re concerned about ethics, give them an award, a brass plaque or silver trophy engraved with your appreciations. It will be given a place of honor on their desk or bookshelf.

Here’s guerrilla work-around; send an age-appropriate toy for their kid. Who would begrudge a child a new toy?

Another loophole: if the item has your logo on it, it’s a tchotchke, not a gift. It’s not a bribe; it’s ADVERTISING. So you can send them a coffee mug or a golf towel or a $200 down parka, or any useful item for that matter, imprinted with your advertising, and they will wear it with pride. And they’ll tell all their friends.

Still not sure what to do? I once received a birthday card that read, “People who say you’re hard to shop for obviously don’t know where to buy beer.”

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Trade Shows Work in Tough Times

Trade and consumer shows are an important source of new customers, especially in tough economic times. While attendance at shows is generally down, those who do attend are serious and ready to buy.

Trade shows and consumer shows require different approaches, promotions, and follow up. Here’s specific strategies to succeed at each type of show.

Trade Shows

People attend trade shows to review the latest developments in their industry or association, make future buying decisions, and meet with other industry colleagues.

Buying or writing shows are a special type of trade show that purchasers attend to order inventory for their businesses, shops, and chain stores. These shows happen at regular times of the year tied to consumer buying patterns.

Exhibits are often large and complex, with companies spending lots of money to buy position and prestige in their industry.

The exhibit staff tend to be sales and upper level management. Many peer-to-peer meetings occur — CEO’s visit with CEOs arranging business deals. Visitors expect access to high-level decision makers and want to speak with people who can make commitments. While some sales are closed at the show, most of the closing is done after the show is over.

Consumer Shows

Consumer shows are a collection of temporary stores, like a bazaar. Vendors present their goods and services for sale, and are looking for consumers of what they sell. Examples include home decorating shows, sports shows, and Chamber of Commerce expos.

Exhibits at consumer shows are often no larger than a single booth, only going to larger sizes if there are many products to show, such as an appliance or furniture company.

At consumer shows, you’re probably talking to the buyer, or a person who has direct and powerful influence on the buyer. You only have to impress and persuade the person you’re speaking with to make the sale.

Visitors don’t need to speak with decision makers, and expect to speak with a sales person. At consumer shows, you should be selling and closing as much as possible.

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