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The Science Of Sales Success

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

The Science of Sales SuccessI came across an interesting sales statistic today that says people buy more from you when you act like them. In an experiment conducted by the Universite de Bretagne-Sud in France, when salespeople subtly mimicked customer behavior, 78.8 percent of those customers ended up making a purchase. In the same conditions without salesperson mimicry, buyers only made purchases 61.8 percent of the time. Along with increased likelihood of buying, mimicked customers were more complimentary of the salesperson and the business.

The study abstract states: “An experiment was carried out in a retail setting where four sales clerks were instructed to mimic, or not, some of the verbal expressions and nonverbal behavior of the customers. On their way out, these customers were asked to evaluate the sales clerks and the store. Results showed that mimicry was associated with a higher sales rate, greater compliance to the sales clerk’s suggestion during the selling process and more positive evaluations of both the sales clerks and the store.”

The article also refers to previous studies indicating that tactile contact—shaking hands or a pat on the back, for example—also have a similar effect. These “social psychology” techniques help create relationships, they say—and do so efficiently.

► Is sales a science that can be mastered? These findings seem to suggest so. What do you think?

Seventeen of GAWDA’s best salespeople gave their advice for sales success in “GAWDA Sales Hall Of Fame.”
► What’s the best sales tip you’ve received?

Speed Dating for Businesses

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Photo courtesy of mrleroneThe West Virgina Small Business Administration recently turned matchmaker when it borrowed the concept of speed dating to help small businesses find loans. Companies spent six minutes each with various lenders to find their perfect match. The meet-ups not only helped companies find lending options, it gave them the opportunity to ask general questions about putting a loan package together.

I thought this was not only a great way to help businesses get loans, but I thought it was a very unique idea. It got me wondering if something like this could translate into a customer interface. What if you were given six minutes with a series of customers, while they hopped from you to your competitors. Would your company stand out above the others?

There’s an important point underlying the SBA event. The six minute meet and greets were not only used for banks to push their own interests, but also to help borrowers understand the lending process and what goes into loan packages. The point is, if you are given six minutes, if you can help a customer, solve a problem of theirs, give them a better way to accomplish their work, chances are they’ll remember you.

So what do you think? How would you distinguish your company? Could you sell your real value in six minutes?

Sales Advice From Another Industry

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

Sales Target, photo courtesy of CasitoLast week, I wrote about my tour of Syracuse-based distributor Haun Welding Supply. This week, I tagged along with some of my colleagues for a tour of Liftech Equipment Companies, a distributor of material handling and construction equipment.  President Joe Verzino took the time to show us around, and was glad to answer all of our questions. Although not in gases and welding industry, the company has some very innovative strategies that I think translate across markets.

Verzino explained to us that Liftech’s outside salespeople have a limited number of calls they can make. For his salespeople, it’s around 6 per day, between the time it takes to travel and really take care of each customer. At 6 a day, that’s 1340 sales calls per year. With limited appointments, salespeople can’t waste a lot of time on cold calls; they must maximize every opportunity.

Instead of leaving it up to the salespeople to find all of their own customers, Liftech created a new position—now filled by a former sales manager—who creates a list called the “Top 200.” The list starts off with their “1:2” accounts, consisting of current customers. These accounts have about a 50% chance of leading to a sale. Next are the “1:4” accounts, which include dormant accounts and former customers, and figure to have about a 25% chance of a sale. As customers drop off the Top 200 list, it is populated with leads from the internet, advertising, attending trade shows, manufacturer recommendations and so on. Salespeople get the greatest return by focusing on this list.

By keeping to 1:2s and 1:4s, Liftech avoids the “1:14s,” the name it gives to completely new accounts who have never done business (cold calls). In addition to getting the most out of the call, Verzino says the practice has helped them expedite the time it takes to get their outside salespeople successfully selling.

What do you think? Could something like this work for your company? How does your company maximize the outcome of sales calls?

Cylinder Tracking As A Selling Point

Friday, October 1st, 2010

So many cylinders, so little time.Today was quite possibly one of the single most educational days since I have been writing about the gases and welding industry. Several of us here at Welding & Gases Today journeyed over to GAWDA member Haun Welding Supply, located in Syracuse, NY, where Wayne Brownson led us on a nearly two-and-a-half hour tour. (There was just that much to see!) This was the first time I had been to a fill plant, and I came away very impressed with what I saw.

Haun Welding Supply is in the process of building a new state-of-the-art, automated fill plant at their headquarters—I can’t wait to check it out when it’s finished. While we were talking cylinders, I asked him about their cylinder tracking. Wayne’s eyes lit up as he told me that I was looking at “the original cylinder tracker.”

The company tracked cylinders from very early on using a card filing system, before the system went computerized in 1979. At that point, cylinder serial numbers were entered by hand. By 1991, Haun was using bar code tracking, which helped to eliminate the occasional typographical error. Only a few years later, around 1994, they adopted RFID tracking, and have continuously honed their methods ever since.

Apart from the obvious benefits—losing fewer cylinders and creating customer accountability—Wayne explained an additional benefit I had never thought of: cylinder tracking as a selling point. He told us of one specific example of when he convinced a customer to use Haun’s gases for a large construction project because they could track the cylinders. The customer bought in, and when the project was done, 20 cylinders were still missing.

Little by little, more than a dozen were returned by individuals, some who didn’t know where they came from. Without tracking, Haun would never have known the cylinders were from that customer’s project. The customer didn’t know what to do when they received a credit for the returned cylinders—they were so used to being billed by other companies instead of credited.

Talk about leaving a good impression. Not only did cylinder tracking add value on a service level, it literally saved the customer money. You know that customer is going to come back to do repeat business.