Can I help you?
Apparently, if your sales team wear blue suits they’ll sell over 10% more than if they are wearing brown suits.
It seems that touching your prospect on the arm while talking also improves sales. (The e-Myth Revisited, Michael Gerber.)
“Can I help you?“ Apparently, this is the phrase used most often as an initial conversation starter when a prospective customer walks into a store. Do you know the answer that this question elicits most frequently?
The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself.
~ Peter Drucker
Apparently, the answer is “No, I’m just looking, thank you.” Berger explains that there is a much better question to ask that improves sales success significantly. I’ll probably explore that idea further in a future blog post. For now and for this post, it’s the principle that I want to explore.
Robert Peston, in his book “Who runs Britain” (first published in 2008) discusses the role that people like Philip Green had in shaping the UK. I don’t want to dig into some of the more recent issues relating to Green’s handling of pensions at BHS, nor some of the other less attractive aspects of his achievements, however, what I do want to explore is a question of Evasion and Avoidance.
When I was first introduced to the business world there was a very clear distinction between Tax Evasion, which is illegal, and Tax Avoidance, which is both legal and wise. Tax evasion involves doing something illegal to evade the clutches of the taxman, such as not processing a sale to avoid paying sales tax or VAT, or not declaring income to avoid paying income tax. Tax avoidance, however, is doing something legal to avoid paying more tax than necessary; like putting savings into a tax-free ISA, or recovering the tax from money invested into a pension or given to charity.
Green, and others like him in the last few decades, took a financial risk and improved the productivity and effectiveness of several businesses. Whatever we think of their motives and methods, in most cases the existing corporate team could have but didn’t make those improvements. Green re-engineered them structurally to make them more efficient, and financially to take advantage of legal processes, to generate a significant return. Others could have tried to make those changes and failed, making a loss in the process. This has elements of the “Risk/Reward” structure – the higher the risk, the higher the reward.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that many of the people that would criticise people like Green for “taking advantage” of entirely legal processes in this way are the same people that would think nothing of “paying cash” to avoid paying VAT on goods or services.
So, on the one extreme we have an illegal process – such as Tax Evasion – and on the other, we have an entirely legal process that offends our “moral conscience”. That all leaves me with a business challenge to ponder on as I start 2018.
If I were to line up all of my potential customers in order of how useful they would find my product or service, at one end (hopefully) I would have people who would derive enormous value from that, and at the other end I would have people who would derive no value whatsoever, and in the middle would be people who would derive marginal value.
We would all probably agree that we would be able to increase the number of people who actually purchase my product or service through effective sales and marketing activities. This would entail working along that value chain to include more and more people who derive less and less value from that. Rather like wearing the right colour suit, or asking the right question of visitors to the store.
You, like me, have probably encountered a sales process that was designed to encourage you to buy something that you didn’t really need. On the other hand, we may have come across products or services that we just knew would be perfect for someone we know, but they just didn’t buy it because they didn’t recognise that value.
To make a match between your product or service and your ideal client you need to understand how they want to be helped.
Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers.
~ Seth Godin
Broadly there are two types of product or service – a commodity where there are several competing products, such as a loaf of bread, an airline journey, or fun toys for entertainment. The customer is going to buy one and the aim of marketing is to encourage your potential customer to buy yours instead of a competitor’s.
Then there are those products or services that are fairly unique and the aim of marketing here is to make sure that potential customers for whom the product or service would deliver value, find it.
The challenge to ponder is to understand how to make sure that all of the people that would find my product or service of significant value do find it and to sell only to those for whom it offers value. Those at the top of the value chain will buy with little encouragement, those at the bottom won’t buy whatever you do. The challenge is how to deal with those in the middle, those that may find your product or service of marginal value. Are the 10% that bought because you are wearing a blue suit being mistreated, just like the pensioners at BHS?
About Roger Fairhead
Roger is a Leadership specialist and uses the PRIZE Winning Leadership model to help leaders improve their effectiveness and that of their teams, through remote and on-site delivery of keynotes, group training events and individual coaching sessions.
He is the author of several books including "PRIZE Winning Leadership" and “Personal Productivity Planner”, a Chartered Engineer, a Fellow of the Institute of Leadership and Management and a Director of the Global Leadership Network UK with extensive experience in Project Management and Sales.
“He is articulate, tracks complex issues with ease and has an incredible gift for raising pearls of wisdom out of the murky depths of people and process.” His passion is to help people to learn effective leadership skills to lead their teams to capitalize on their strengths and passions to realize their dreams.
Roger also invests into the dreams of families in the world’s underserved communities to offer them small loans that empower them to invest in their future, to provide for their families and give back to their communities.