Are you listening?

Do you ever get the feeling that you’re not being heard? It happened to me last week in a meeting with a potential supplier. I was discussing my needs but only being heard on a very superficial level, if at all. As a result what I was being offered was not what I needed and at times I felt talked down to. The problem was that my contact was not really listening.

Last night Ruth Whiteley was fired from The Apprentice largely because she talked too much. She didn’t sell because she was too busy talking and didn’t give her prospects chance to think or act. There’s a pattern here. The sad thing is that Ruth Whiteley is a sales trainer and my conversation was with a coach. Both should know that listening effectively is the most vital skill.

Listening is a vital component of selling

We learn when we listen

These days we’re all too busy trying to get our message out there. All too often we’re broadcasting rather than communicating. Be different. Stop and listen. Listen to the words as well as the music. Listen to what is being said, what is being withheld and what the speaker can’t find the words for. Ask questions to help the speaker to communicate with clarity, use encouraging body language and above all stop talking!

Effective listening leads to understanding, helps us to spot opportunities and creates empathy. Next time you’re having a conversation or in a meeting just be mindful of how much information you are really taking in. Are you fully engaged in listening or too busy thinking what to have for dinner, how to respond or making a judgment? I could go on but I want to hear what you think. Do you ever find yourself speaking because silence is uncomfortable? Have you been frustrated at not being heard?


Watch your language!

One of the advantages of working for yourself is that you can sometimes choose the hours you work so, on Wednesday afternoon, I decided to give myself an hour or two off to watch Andy Murray’s quarter final match at Wimbledon. An earlier appointment meant I didn’t get to see the first few minutes of the match so when I switched on the television they were into the second set. I didn’t need to see the scoreboard, or even a ball hit, to know that things were not going well. One look at Andy Murray’s body language said it all. He was a defeated man.

Body languageNow if I could see that from my sitting room in Ealing then so could his opponent from the other side of the net. In fact after the match Dimitrov said that he knew Murray was not ‘on song’ even in the warm up. That got me thinking that we can sometimes be our own worst enemies.


What does this mean for business?

In business we can lose opportunities because our body language sends the wrong message. If the non verbals and the verbals are not in alignment then we can appear untrustworthy. If we don’t appear confident when we make a pitch our audience will think we can’t deliver. If we appear over confident we can be misjudged as arrogant.

The problem is we have little control over our body language so we have to get our mental attitude right. We may have to silence that inner voice that is undermining our self confidence. We may have to practice until we can deliver our pitch with confidence. We may need a morale boost from a friend, mentor or coach. We certainly need to be aware of our body language and the message it is sending.

So if you don’t get the planned outcome from exchanges with others think why not? Did your body language support your words? Did you inadvertently do something that upset your audience? Did you give the game away?


A case study in email marketing.

An email with this subject line ‘Attend a consultation with us at Connected Business Expo and get a voucher of up to £50!’ has just landed in my inbox. It’s fighting for my attention with the other 1200+ messages in there so it needs to stand out as being relevant to me, so how did it do?

OK it got my attention with the offer of a £50 voucher and this bright image that jumped off the page at me

BT email marketing campaign

What’s in it for me?

and then what? Nothing! If I hadn’t been a keen student of marketing it would have been in the trash folder in one click. So what’s wrong with this email campaign?

Attention is only the first step, I need to be interested.

The first rule of marketing is that our communication has to grab attention amongst the’noise’ we are bombarded with every day. This email sort of does that but it could be so much better.

It’s often said that we have less than six seconds to grab attention. I don’t know about you but I don’t give every email that lands in my inbox even as much as six seconds unless it grabs my interest. So if the subject line in this email had given me more information about what the ‘up to £50 voucher’ would buy me it would have had the potential to get my attention and interest.

Of course I might not have been interested in the offer but that’s OK because I’m then disqualifying myself from the target market. A well written subject line allows readers to identify whether or not they are interested and therefore whether or not they are our target. Too many people think their mailings have to appeal to everybody. No they do not. They only have to appeal to those who are genuine prospects for the product or service on offer.

Speak to me!

The second rule of marketing is that our message should be about our prospect and not about us. We need to answer the ‘What’s in it for me?’ question as quickly as possible or at least lead people to believe that if they read on we’ll tell them. This message fails miserably.

The headline tries, ‘Get yourself connected…’ but it leads nowhere. I am connected. I have family, friends, colleagues, customers, suppliers etc. I have a land line, a mobile, two computers, a tablet and am on Twitter, Facebook, email and the web every waking hour. I am connected so what are you offering me that I don’t already have?

Sell me the benefits

This message doesn’t give me a single reason for attending this event. It wastes space on telling me the name of the event twice and more space on its former name. The remaining space is wasted on self indulgence ‘The UK’s premier collaborations technology event’. What on earth does that mean? What can I expect to see at the event? Who would benefit from attending? What can they hope to get out of investing the time to attend? What’s in it for me?

Believe it or not this email comes from BT Business, a company in the communications field and one that should know better.

Do you want to do better than this?

If you want an email marketing campaign that works talk to us. Our last campaign had a 64.1% open rate, a click through rate of 16.6% and was making sales within the hour. Call Glenda on +44 20 8991 2767 (8.00a.m to 8.00p.m. GMT please) or email

A lesson in selling from the USA

I’ve just returned from a fabulous week in New York and one thing I really noticed was how good Americans are at parting us from our money. I say this in admiration, not to moan. the upsell is a really natural behaviour to any American in the service industry and is something we Brits could do well to copy.

Looking for additional sales

The assistant gave powerful reasons why buying a pallet four eye shadows made more sense than buying two individual shadows.

The assistant gave powerful reasons why buying a pallet four eye shadows made more sense than buying two individual shadows.

I’m not talking about the McDonald’s ‘You want fries with that?’ automatic response to any order but an approach which feels more personalised. for example, I went to buy a couple of eye shadows and was immediately offered a pallet of four which reduced the price per shadow by $5 but meant I spent $10 more than I had originally intended. When the assistant had closed me on that sale she offered me a set of brushes which would have cost me an additional $49, if she’d had a set of just eye shadow brushes she might have made that sale too.

In bars and restaurants servers were quick to notice our empty glasses and to offer a refill. When we booked tickets for the theatre and the ice hockey the sale was followed up with, ‘is there anything else I can help you with?’

It wasn’t just at the point of sale where we were offered the upsell. On a couple of visits to tourist attractions further opportunities to spend money were offered at key points of the trip. The Empire State offered us the chance to purchase a photo and then a location guide; at the NBC studios our photos were taken and a video of a news bulletin and weather forecast made by our group was offered sale. Then of course the exit is through the shop just as it is at home.

The best time for an additional sale is when a customer has just made a purchase

At no time did I feel under pressure to buy more and a refusal was always treated courteously but I’m sure this approach makes a considerable difference to the bottom line. Americans understand that the customer is at their most receptive when they have just made a purchase and they build this into their follow up. I think we Brits could be rather less reticent about asking people if they would like to make an additional purchase. We could all think about natural follow ons.

The brushes were an obvious follow on to the eye shadows and a refill is an obvious response to an empty glass but what would be good add ons for your business? A manicurist might offer a bottle of the polish they have just applied. A restaurant or hairdresser might offer to take a further booking. A training course might be followed up with the offer of one to one coaching or a video recording of the course.

How can you make your customer’s experience even better?

What we need to think is how can we be even more helpful to our customers. What would make their purchase even more effective or more enjoyable? What would give them an even better experience or memory? I think we Brits tend to feel that selling up or selling on is not a nice thing to do, it’s a bit too ‘in your face’ or aggressive for us. Where the Americans differ is that they see the additional sale as helping the customer and that is what it is.

So what will you do to help your customer have an even better experience from their purchase with you? What additional offer will you make? How will you encourage them to spend more or visit again?

If you would like some help to work out how you can increase your customers’ average spend why not book a free, no obligation, 30 minute consultation with me? I’ll help you find the things that would make your customer’s experience even better whilst improving your bottom line. Book your slot here.

The Danger of Assumptions

Last Sunday we had a mini crisis when we discovered, two hours before my parents’ Diamond wedding party, that my son’s suit trousers had not made the journey to Somerset with his jacket. I’d checked he’d packed a shirt and tie and thought I had checked for trousers. Clearly not. I had assumed that the trousers were in the suit carrier with the jacket.

That got me thinking about how dangerous assumptions can be in all aspects of life. We assume that our people are motivated by money when what they often want is recognition or development. We assume that our customers want to pay the lowest price when what they might want is higher quality or better service. We assume that clients will want to pay for a service because we think they need it when they will only buy what they want. We assume others understand what we are saying when actually they think we are speaking a foreign language.

So how do we avoid the danger of assumptions? Here are a few of my ideas, why not use the comment box to add yours?

  • Ask for feedback from staff and customers
  • Conduct market research to identify customer wants
  • Ask sufficient questions before making a sales pitch
  • Learn to read body language so you recognise when your message isn’t hitting the spot
  • Double check everything

A flying visit to M&S in Weston Super Mare and a very helpful sales assistant saved our day last weekend but next time we go anywhere I will not be making any assumptions about the packing. I hope my 15 year old son has learned the same lesson.

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Listening, a lost skill?

Everyday we are bombarded with sound. My kids can barely leave the house without listening to their i-pods. I wake each day to the BBC’s Today programme. I shut out the noise of tube trains, cars and planes because they are so constant where I live in West London. As I type this the house is remarkably quiet so I can hear the gentle whir of the computer fan and the quiet tick of the clock on the mantlepiece, sounds I would probably not be conscious of if I wasn’t writing a piece on listening.

Most of us are very bad at listening. We need to be better. Listening effectively to our customers will allow us to meet their needs better; listening consciously to our staff is likely to lead to a more motivated workforce; listening to our families will build better relationships.

I can’t put it better than Julian Treasure in this TED talk, so I won’t try. Why not watch it and take the action that Julian recommends? I’d love to hear how your business and life in general benefits.

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A lesson in sales via Andy Murray

Did you see Andy Murray’s victory at Queen’s Club on Monday? If you did you will have seen how hard Andy had to battle to defeat the talented and ‘on song’ Jo Wilfried Tsonga.

After a dazzling display of tennis to defeat Andy Roddick on Saturday most Brits thought Murray would walk the final. However he struggled to find his game in the first set which he lost. He then had to battle to win the second set on a tie break before finally emerging as the winner in three sets.

Yesterday’s Evening Standard explained why Andy might have struggled to find form, his burglar alarm  had gone off in the middle of Sunday night and he’d been unable to get back to sleep. Many of us would have used that as an excuse and thrown in the towel when faced with a determined opponent.

Andy’s resolute battling made a striking contrast with an article I was reading which said 90% of sales people give up before 80% of sales have been made! Most sales come after at least four rejections! The salesperson who continues to battle to five or more contacts will often succeed. Are you giving up too soon?

Andy Murray

Image by Carine06 via Flickr

Andy didn’t give up. He changed tactics. He fought for every ball. He chased everything. He kept his head up when he lost a point or a game.

How can you change tactics when faced with rejection? Do you deal with the objection or give up? Would a bit more research into your prospect reveal another opportunity? Are you trying to sell too soon, would a social invitation lead to a relationship which would allow you to sell later? Would some information about a success you’ve had with another customer establish your credibility?

If at first you don’t succeed, pick yourself up and try again. If you think some sales training would help drop me an email for details of our courses and one to one help.

And talking of trying again, good luck to Andy Murray for Wimbledon 2011, I for one will be in your corner!

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