Easy Ways to Increase Sales

If you want to increase your sales quickly and simply, good customer service is your biggest asset. It will increase customer good will, willingness to buy, and return visits. We talk a lot about sales skills, but if customer service is not the major part of sales, the sales skills are not going to help much.

I have been into many businesses where sales people try to push me, bully me and sometimes even shame me into buying. I don’t buy. If you provide me with good customer service, show you are interested in me and engage me, I will willingly and happily buy from you and come back to buy more.

Customer service is a compilation of different skills that help you, the sales person, focus on the customer, find out what s/he wants, and meet their expectations with not only your service but your products.

  1. Introductions: Welcome your customers to your business and immediately introduce yourself. Usually, if you introduce yourself the customer will introduce him/herself. If you don’t have a good memory, silently repeat the customers’ names three times and say to them: “John/Julie it’s a pleasure to meet you.”
  2. Ask A Question: Any number of questions can be asked:
  • Are you enjoying the lovely weather?
  • Is this your first visit?
  • Did you have anything special in mind today?
  • Are you visiting the area (if you are in a tourist area.)
  • You look familiar (if you think they may have been in before.

3. Listen to the Answers: It may be information you can refer back to that will help close a sale. People respond to people who pay attention, it makes them feel important. Don’t present a new query until your customers have finished answering the one before.

4. Be Patient: We all work at different speeds. Allow the customer the time to formulate an answer to your question or to make a decision. Count slowly and silently to five.  Use the same 5-second rule when you ask customers if they have any questions. A lot goes through people’s heads before they ask a question. They may have trouble formulating the question or don’t want to ask a silly question or appear ignorant in front of others.

5. Relax when you are around customers. You know that you have fifty things you need to get done by the end of the day, but your customers don’t. It’s not appropriate to make customers uncomfortable because they are taking up your time.

6. Don’t Assume: You don’t know whether a stranger who walks into your business is going to buy or not. You might think you do, but truly you don’t. It is very human to judge people, we do it all the time. So, if you find that you are judging, tell yourself that you may not be right. Then go about helping them to the buying decision.

Look for more customer service ideas next week.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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Take the Time to Do Some Research

One of the things I like most about the work I do is that it involves a fair amount of research on different topics. I use the information I find to create handouts at seminars and for my weekly blogs. While the Internet has certainly simplified research, it also means that there is much, much more information available. The trouble is, once you get started it is hard to stop. I can easily spend half a day as one thing leads to another.

Market research is important in any business, though with the demands of business it is sometimes hard to get around to it in a formal way. Market research sounds so formal, although it can be done through informal ways that will give you the information you really need. When you talk to people who can give you insight, you are conducting market research.

Start by making a list of questions to ask your subjects and keep the questions short. There may be a couple of things you want to know or a list of twenty. However, don’t overwhelm your subjects with too many questions. Once you have your list of questions put them in order of the least to most important.

Choose different audiences, for example:

  • Employees (those who work in the areas in which you are trying to find answers.) You may want to give employees the questions and allow them to answer anonymously on the off chance that they feel their answers may offend you.
  • Customers are a wonderful wellspring of information. They will tell you what they like about your business, products, service, etc. or what they don’t like (usually in great detail.)
  • People who don’t buy your products but are part of your target audience. They can be another good avenue as they may not buy your product because they have never heard of you. While you think you are advertising and promoting to the right people, you may be missing a large group.
  • Competitors are another group. Send someone that they don’t know to visit their premises and ask the questions.
  • Suppliers or sales reps are a good source of information as they deal with many people in the same business you are in.
  • Professional organization to which you belong may have information that could be helpful to you.

When conducting market research be open to the answers you receive. Think about each of them seriously, rather than dismiss them because they don’t suit your mindset.

Enjoy your research.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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Tips for Keeping Your Brain in Top Form

I have been catching up on my reading lately and have come across some great articles. Today’s blog is all about “Why the Modern World Is Bad for Your Brain,” which is an article by a neuroscientist, Dr. Gabija Toleikyte.

In this day and age, many of us are continually jumping from one task to another, both at work and at home, as we try to finish everything on our To Do lists. When we jump back and forth too much, according to Dr. Toleikyte, the brain’s attention systems will find it harder to focus, which has an impact on productivity. Dr. Toleikyte has a number of things you can do to help your brain be more productive. Here are some of her thoughts:

Take Regular Breaks

Okay, hands up how many of you do that? I thought so… not many. Dr. Toleikyte tells us that when we are tired and stressed the nutrients that are usually delivered to the brain shift to the most vital organs. “This leaves out more sophistic brain networks, such as the ones involved in creative ideas, sound decisions making or learning new information… and means our performance declines.”

Take frequent breaks (10 minutes for every hour.) While taking a 10-minute break every hour seems foreign to most people, you will be more effective. Also, work the most difficult tasks in the morning when your brain is most energetic.

Stop Multitasking

There is more information emerging that our brains are not made for multitasking. In actual fact, when we think we are multitasking we are merely quickly switching from one task to another. According to Dr. Toleikyte, “That has three consequences, we waste a lot of time, we are more likely to make mistakes, and we become stressed more easily.” So, the time we think we are saving by multitasking we lose when we have to do the work over again because it is not as good as it should be. If you do insist on multitasking, find yourselves a good editor or proofreader before you submit the project.

Break Tasks into Small Steps

Large tasks can be overwhelming, so split up the different elements of the task and attack them one at a time. Work for 15 or 20 minutes without interruption. Don’t take any phone calls or be available to other staff during this time. Yes, this can be hard in many jobs, so put a note on your office door or tell others that you are not available for the next few minutes and switch off the phone (including your cell). You may find that you are more productive once you get into the habit.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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Warmth, An Important Skill for Leaders

I found a great article in the Guardian online with information from the Kellogg School at Northwestern University. The article is all about how showing warmth to co-workers, employees, etc. is an important part of being a boss. This article led me to another article by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman entitled “I’m The Boss! Why Should I Care If You Like Me?” that was originally published in the Harvard Business Review.

The article reminds us that emotions are contagious. “If a leader is angry or frustrated, those feeling will spread to others. Conversely, if a leader is positive and optimistic, those emotions also spread.” Anyone can have an off day or two. Life is full of twists and turns, so being in a good mood at all times is not realistic. However, if customers and your employees see you usually in a bad mood, short tempered or generally not an easy person to be around, neither the customers nor the employees will stay with you. An ability to connect with others will bring positive results on all fronts.

Your integrity is also important. The article asked the question, “Do others trust you to keep your commitments and promises? Are others confident that you will be fair and do the right thing?” The interesting thing is while your company may be making exceptional products if customers do not believe that you can be trusted they may well choose to take their business somewhere else.

In addition to what your customers should expect, if you wish to keep your employees, ask the question, “How can I help them excel in their jobs and expand their skills?” The article suggests being a coach, a mentor, and teacher. Your employees will remember you because you helped them further their careers. I still remember when I was in my early twenties (quite a while ago) and first got into marketing. I worked for an older woman who said to me, “I will teach you everything I can and if you can do the job better than I can, it’s yours.” I have never forgotten that or her and have adopted the same outlook.

Think about what you are doing for your customers and employees. Sometimes we have to make decisions that are not going to be popular, though when you do try to look at them from the other person’s or people’s point of view. It may be very different from your own.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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Seeing Things Differently

Today was a red-letter day for me. As anyone who reads my blog knows, I fractured my femur condyle on June 6th of this year (a day that will live in infamy). I have spent almost three months in a wheelchair without being able to put any weight on my left leg. I have to tell you it has not been a fun summer.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been allowed to put 30% of my weight on my left leg. So I have been able (somewhat nervously) to stand up, as it is hard to judge what 30% of your weight feels like on a leg that has not been used for months.

Today the physical therapist told me I can now put 50% weight on my left leg. Then he said, that at 50% I can now walk with a walker. So up I got, taking my first tentative steps with my walker.

I am sure that most people have seen films of a brand new baby deer struggling to its feet to walk for the first time. That was me! Doing something that I know so well in a completely different way, learning to balance my weight differently so while I am lifting my right foot off the ground I am still only keeping 50% of my weight on my left leg, using the walker.

It started me thinking about how many other things we do, simple things that we have been doing for so long that we don’t remember when we learned them. We just do them automatically without thinking about them.

In the meantime so much has changed in the world around us that there may be much better ways to do some of these things. For example, are we making the best use of new avenues of technology, or are we doing things we have always done?

Or what about the look for your business – is it time for a refresh, a coat of paint in colors that are more up to date, or new accessories to bring everything to life?

Time passes so quickly and we don’t realize that our way of doing things, or our business can remind customers of times gone by. Look around your retail room, your procedures and how you conduct your business. Are their updates or upgrades you can make that will make your business more profitable and more appealing to customers? Find them and make the changes as you can.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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Update Your Competitive Analysis

We all know that part of a good business survival plan is a well-researched competitive analysis. Before you start a business, investigating your competition, their products, prices, marketing and public relations plans, customer service, and more is paramount.

For many businesses, once the original competitive analysis is completed, the demands of creating and running a business take over and the time to stop to take notice of what your competitors (who may also be friends and colleagues) are doing and how the competition has grown changed can be overlooked. In the wine industry, the number of tasting rooms has grown exponentially throughout the US and Canada over the last few years and shows no signs of slowing down. This uptick in the number of competitors is going to affect your business.

Dig out your original marketing plan and look at the competitive analysis. If you don’t have a competitive analysis, now is a good time to start. Discover what your competitors are doing in the areas of:

  • Products (What are they making, how well and how much?)
  • Pricing (How much do the products cost?)
  • Sales (How are sales made: directly, through distributors, via the internet, etc.?)
  • Customer Service (How well do they treat their customers?)
  • Promotion/Advertising (How are they promoting their products? Explore all avenues.)
  • Strengths & Weaknesses (What are they doing well and what could they improve on?)

Start with the competitive businesses that are most like your own. Then branch out to similar businesses with the same target audience that may be making/selling different products in the same industry) or be in different price categories. Once you have the information delve into how successful they are, the number of customers you estimate they have and how your business compares. Try to put subjectivity to one side, for example thinking your product is better when it may just be somewhat different. Whether your product is better or not is for customers to decide. Remember that customer service makes a big difference in how customers perceive products.

Finally, take the time to visit your competitors. Much can be learned from going in as a customer. Or if you are well known to your competition send someone else in to do the assessment.

Knowing how well your competitors are doing is crucial to a successful business.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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How Effective Is Your Interaction With Customers?

Important points that many businesses fail to consider when they are sending out information to customers, whether that information is through social media, emails, text or even through the mail:

  • Will customers be interested in this?
  • How much spare time do recipients have to focus on my interactions with them?
  • Are they being overrun with messaging from other companies that is very similar to mine?

Here are some ideas of how to get your customers more engaged with your emails, social media posts, etc.

  1. Know your customers: If you are keeping up-to-date records of your customers likes and dislikes (including how they want to be contacted), tailor these interactions to their needs, wants and desires.
  1. Segmentation: You will need to segment your customer records by the interests of your customers, what they buy and what resonates with them. You will also have to put some time into getting this information from your customers. Though the time you spend will pay dividends. This is especially true of your best customers. Start with the top ten customers. Once you have got all the information for these customers move on to the next ten until you have at least 100 (depending on the size of the customer list).
  1. Perseverance: It may take time, though once your customers realize that you only send them information that will make a difference to them and their lives, they are more likely to read it and respond.
  1. Response: Quickly respond to all comments and questions that come to you through social media posts, emails or by phone. Whether the responses are positive or negative it’s important that you show your customers that they are important to you. In the case of social media respond to all positive and negative comments online, though you may wish to take additional response to negative comments offline if the problem is not one that can be ironed out easily. Once the problem is successfully handled, ask the customer to go back on social media to say that everything was taken care of.
  1. Know Your Competition: Select similar businesses to yours and sign up for their mailing/social media or email list. You need to know what they are sending to their customers so you can differentiate your business from theirs.

By making your customers as important to you and to your business as you are to them, your business will grow and become more successful.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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