Suspects, Prospects, Customers, Clients, and Partners

"Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher." - Oprah

I group people with whom I do business into one of five categories. I am interested in all of them since you need all to succeed, but I am most interested in the last category because it’s not only the most profitable, it’s the most personally and professionally satisfying.

These are people you suspect might like to do business with you. You identify them because of some factor: They may live in your local area, receive a certain magazine, or be on a list that might make them look like possible prospects. Online, they might frequent the same chat rooms and discussion boards you do.

Look Outside of Your Industry to Find Innovation

"There’s a way to do it better - find it." - Thomas Edison

Ninety-five percent of your competitors in any city or industry will be manufacturing, selling, and marketing in exactly the same way as you are. That’s why it’s so important to look beyond your locale and your industry for ideas and opportunities.

In the late 1990s I enjoyed tremendous success by looking at what type of business-to-business services were available in the “real” world and then adapting them to the martial arts business.

Are Your People Doing What They Should—OR What They Want?

Excellence is the gradual result of always striving to do better.

Back when I was in the karate consulting biz, I hired a guy to sell. He had been one of my customers and he told me he was great at sales. For a couple of months he did okay. Then he found out he liked creating the content we were selling far better than actually selling it. Slowly but surely he made fewer and fewer sales calls until he was spending almost all his time creating content. Sad to say, I let a couple of months go by before I asked him why we had no sales. He made a passionate plea about why he needed to be creating content and that he was just TOO BUSY to make sales calls. Great, but we already had someone on staff who produced the content rather well—ME!

I have a number of clients who have someone on their staff who insists on writing their monthly e-newsletter because “they are the only ones who can do it right.” Now, there is certainly nothing wrong with this if that person’s job is MARKETING. But if that person’s job is sales, then it’s not a task they should be doing. They should outsource it to my professional copywriters, and give them some input and direction if needed.

Why is someone in sales spending two days writing an e-newsletter rather than selling?

Simple—they would rather be creating than cold calling. You see this a lot with “salespeople.” They offer to do the newsletter, the e-blast, and stuff envelopes, and pretty soon they are too busy doing just about everything else to actually sell.

Selling is hard, selling is measurable; most of this other stuff is not.

This scenario is by no means limited to sales. Just this week one of my new employees spent the entire day correcting typos on one of our information sites. When asked why, she said because a customer had taken the time to write in and point out the mistakes. Great, but I couldn’t care less if there are a few typos on a site with 10,000 pages of content. I am selling ideas and solutions, not English grammar!

Some golf pros love teaching and are never in the shop, others hate being out in the sun and are excellent in the shop. This might be a problem, or it might not, depending on the club. The fact is, people gravitate to what they like to do (or feel most comfortable doing). And they do it very quickly, without telling you or anyone else. Heck, sometimes they don’t even notice it themselves.

Unfortunately what this also means is the job they were hired for—their core function—is running at half speed, and that’s at best. This means something critical is NOT getting done in your business.

This gives you two choices if you want to get the most from your employees:

1. Assuming that position is open, allow them to do the job they gravitate towards, although it’s rarely the one they have been hired for. In some organizations, usually larger ones, this can work out and at least they will be doing something they are passionate about. In smaller organizations it will usually leave a gaping hole.

2. Manage your expectations with a brutally detailed position agreement that leaves no wiggle room for wandering off in another direction. If they want to volunteer to do something else, add it to their position agreement.

People quickly gravitate to doing the work they like. You must continually make sure that’s the work you need done.

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Make Sure You Solve the Right Problem

Entrepreneurs are simply those who understand that there is little difference between obstacle and opportunity
and are able to turn both to their advantage.


People often charge into action, only to discover they’ve set out to solve the wrong problem. Take the case of the major dog food manufacturer who introduced a new line of food at a cost of millions of dollars. Despite a high-profile marketing effort and plenty of shelf space at the local supermarket, the product just stuck to the shelves. Already worried after only a few weeks, the company rushed to solve the problem.

First they changed the packaging. “It must be the wrong color,” said one. “It’s the design,” said another, while a third suggested the dogs in the picture weren’t the right breed.

Back on the shelves it went with a bold new look and still nothing happened. Next, after brainstorming all kinds of wonderful ideas, they changed the name of the product to one that was sure to delight any canine lover. Still the product stayed on the shelves. Finally, the product team agreed it must be the price. It was, after all, at the higher end of the doggy food scale. After much debate, a new price was decided upon, significantly lower than the original introductory price. The product was rolled out once again, with new packaging, better looking hounds, a cuter name, and super pricing. It still didn’t sell!

The CEO was so discouraged that he went personally to his local supermarket to observe buying habits in the pet food department. After a few minutes, a boy of eleven or twelve marched up to the dog food section and pulled down a large bag of competing chow. The CEO casually wandered over to the boy and politely inquired why he had chosen brand X instead of his brand. The boy cheerfully replied, “My dog hates the taste of that stuff. He just won’t eat it.”

Problem solving is often not as hard as problem identification! The first step in problem solving is to identify the real problem. Exactly what is the problem you are going to solve? Clearly define your problem on a piece of paper and list its individual components.

For example, say your business is not profitable. This is the first problem statement. Using a piece of paper, list all the components of the problem, or clearly write down what the problem is. Your business is not profitable because sales are down, the product is faulty, your accounting system doesn’t track your expenditures, etc. The problem must be clearly identified if you expect to solve it.

It is important to note that many problems are very complex and thus need to be broken down into a series of smaller component problems. The trouble in solving most everyday problems is that they are often ill defined. The actual problem runs into another problem, and the desired outcome seems hazy at best. For example, I need more money. That is a vague problem that must be further defined into a specific amount—say $5,000. This gives you a clear problem with a clear outcome in mind. Now we can go about trying to solve the problem.

This step in clearly identifying the problem will ensure that you face the problem with the understanding necessary to solve it. A problem that is extremely complex and has multiple facets will only be a source of frustration because it is too large to tackle in one effort. Breaking the problem down to smaller, more manageable pieces will yield the desired effect…solving the problem.

As Peter Drucker said, “Once the facts are clear, the decisions jump out at you.” Problems must be defined in detail and looked at from all angles and points of view before a problem statement is generated.

Examine the problem and define it clearly.

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Legendary Closes

One of the reasons mature people stop learning is they become less and less willing to risk failure.
John Gardner

The professional salesperson knows that every prospect has a close that fits him or her—one that appeals to him on a most personal level. The secret is to find out which one will resonate most deeply with your prospect so you can obtain a favorable response and make the sale.

There are several closes below that have been successful for decades in selling. Although you might know some of them by other names, anyone who has been in sales for even a short period of time will recognize many of them. Others may be new to you. You might like some of them; you might hate others. It’s important to be completely comfortable with the closes that work best for your style and personality. As you go through the following closes, adapt them to match your style and selling situation. Whichever closes you choose to adopt, practice them, role play them, and perfect them. The more you practice, the more they will flow naturally. The one thing that is certain is that if you don’t ask prospects to buy, they won’t.

Very often a prospect’s question or objection gives you the perfect segue into closing the sale and you must be alert for such opportunities. This is also called the conditional sale because it sets a condition that if met results in a closed sale.

For example:

Prospect: How quickly will I learn French with your program?
Salesperson: How quickly do you want to learn it? Obviously the sooner you start, the sooner you will begin enjoying the benefits. Let’s get things going now.

* * * * *

Prospect: Do you have it in red?
Salesperson: If I can find a red one, do you want to take it with you?

The Straightforward Close

Mr. Miller, based on what you have seen, do you think that Legendary Country Club is the type of club where you would like to become a member?

The Assumptive Close

Always assume that the prospect is going to buy. The assumptive close handles the sales interaction as if you were certain that the prospect would buy.
Mr. Miller, based on our conversation it seems like this solution meets most of your criteria. Would you like to start using it at once before the price increase?

The Alternative Close

The alternative close is perhaps the best known of all closing techniques and has many variations, depending on the exact circumstances. Another common name for it is the “either-or” close. This close gives the prospect the choice between buying and buying, between yes and yes.

Shall we put an offer in on this property, or the first property we looked at today?

* * * * *

Would you like to start your dance classes tonight, or would tomorrow night be more convenient for you?

When you give the prospect a choice of free benefits, it is much more difficult to say no:

“Would you like the free gift or the free month of service?”

When your prospect is on the verge of making a buying decision, the most direct way of closing the sale is to ask how he intends to pay for it. This approach can best be used when a prospect has made the decision to buy, but is asking unrelated questions—the kind that prevent him from giving you the order.

At this point, “Will you be using a credit card or cash?” is the best way to take control of the sale and complete it.

Each one of the previous alternative closes offers the prospect a choice. No matter which one they choose, they will feel committed to buy once they have made the choice.

The Action Close

In the action close you ask the prospect to do something to accelerate the process and help them make a positive decision.

Shall we head over to the design center and pick your carpets?

* * * * *

Shall I get the car detailed for you while we finish the paperwork?

The Minute-or-Cents Close

If you have a prospect who is stuck on price, the way to handle it is to break it down to ridiculous proportions. This is how life insurance has been sold for decades, but this type of close works just as well selling any mid- to high-end product, especially to value-oriented prospects. When you show people how little your service will cost them on a daily basis, it makes it much easier for them to justify, or rationalize, the purchase.

Due to the efficiency of this machine, your copies will only cost about one cent per copy. I am sure you will agree the savings this offers easily justifies the investment.

* * * * *

This website, with all the features and benefits it offers, comes to just $9.95 a day.”

* * * * *
Membership in our health club is just a dollar a day.
Isn’t your health worth a dollar a day?”

The Puppy-Dog Close

This close is often used when a prospect is hesitant to purchase because of price. The “giveaway” close, or puppy-dog close as it is often called, allows the prospect to enjoy your product or service for a period of time before making a final decision on whether to buy. Once the prospect has experienced the product in a risk-free way and been treated well by your staff, he will almost always buy. He’d almost be embarrassed not to.

Here’s an example of a close with a copier machine playing the role of the puppy:

Ms. Prospect, we have already agreed that you need this new copier. The speed and sorting capabilities will enhance your business. With your permission, I am going to have a machine delivered to you on Monday and let you see first hand just how valuable it will prove to be for your business. If at the end of two weeks the advantages are not readily apparent to you, I will remove it with no questions asked. Shall we go ahead and set that trial period in motion for you now?

There are almost an unlimited number of ways to close a sale. I’ve covered just a few of most successful ones here. Try them, say them out loud, and role play them with your staff.

Find the closes that seem most natural for you and put them into action at once.

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Double Your Income; Train to Sell!

Double your income in 60 seconds! Sounds ridiculous right? I mean, if increasing business was that easy you’d already have thought of it and EVERYONE would be doing it, right? Actually, no. In fact, you’d be astonished at how easy it is to increase income. It’s so simple that no one ever seems to do it! Before I give you the answer, let me share one old and a couple of recent experiences with you.

Several years ago I toured a very high-end Florida real-estate community with my wife. During the 45-minute tour the salesman on four occasions told us what he thought of “rich” people. (Apparently, as we told him we were looking for only a million dollar house, he did not think us one of the evil rich people!) He trashed the president (Bush), which I know was a popular sport back then, but he should have found out which way I leaned before doing it. To top it all off, at the end of the presentation, he said, “That’s it, no high-pressure sales here!” FINE, and there are no sales happening there either!

Recently, during a membership tour of an expensive golf property in the Midwest, I asked the membership director—who had only been in the position for 12 months—how long it took to play a round of golf. She replied that it took six hours (it should take under four). The owner, who was also in the meeting, rolled his eyes and about dug a hole in the floor. But no one in management had ever offered her sales training, and the saleswoman in question had NEVER read a sales book of any kind! (I asked. And, it’s no longer true, I’m glad to say.) Now, let’s stand by the golf pro shop counter in Texas as the phone rings, although it could just as easily be any business anywhere. “How much are your green fees?” says a voice on the other end.“Fifty bucks,” the man at the counter replies. The prospective player says, “Thanks,” and hangs up! Will he come? Will he call back? Will he spend his money with you or are you just going to let him go down the street?

Sales training for ALL your front line employees may not increase your business 100% but it will increase it significantly, even when just booking greens fees, taking orders, or selling coffee. And the increase will be staggering if you’re selling memberships, rooms, real estate, cars, or any high-ticket item! YOU CANNOT afford not to TRAIN your staff how to sell! Leads are too precious to waste! Let’s look again at our pro shop counter scenario and, instead of merely responding with a price, let’s take the conversation in a different direction. As a good salesperson, YOU, not the customer, MUST take control of the conversation.

Caller: How much are your green fees?
Golf Pro: My name is Andrew. Sir, may I ask yours?
Caller: Fred.
Golf Pro: Fred, have you played our course before?
Caller: No.
Golf Pro: Well, let me ask you something, Fred. Do you like
fast, smooth greens?
Caller: Yes.
Golf Pro: Well-manicured tees and fairways?
Caller: Yes.
Golf Pro: And a challenging layout that allows you to use every club in your bag, with five different sets of tees so you can pick the ones you’ll most enjoy?
Caller: Yes.
Golf Pro: Great. Then I know you are going to love playing here at Wounded Frog. Were you looking for a morning or afternoon time?
Caller: Afternoon.
Golf Pro: Great. I have a 12:30 slot—or would 1:50 be better
for you?
Caller: Err, 1:50.

Now, does changing the 60-second conversation to something like that produce more green fee revenue? YES; at least 20%–30% more and possibly significantly more!! Notice that once you engage the customer in a conversation, price is not asked again. This will work in upwards of 30% of your calls (of course, there are other scripts that get you beyond price). Is this approach for everyone? No; it’s only for those businesses that want to thrive and prosper even in a down economy, those businesses that know they must do more to get their share of the market and who realize that discounting alone is a path of doom! Sure, sometimes callers will go back to asking the price, but if you build some rapport and add some value before you tell them the price, sales will rise dramatically!

Change your focus from simply quoting a price to something that builds rapport or value first!

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