Sales fills many people with a feeling of dread. After all, who really likes that kick-in-the-gut feeling of rejection when your proposal is declined?
For professional salespeople, it comes with the territory. But for many others, where selling is part of their role as either the business owner or a senior member of the team, it’s difficult to completely avoid.
So, perhaps it’s a good idea to focus on the opportunities where resistance to your proposal is minimal – the path of least resistance in other words.
The Path Of Least Resistance – Biscuits Or No Biscuits
It’s all about how an enquiry is generated. When you meet your prospective client, I liken that meeting to the degree of hospitality you are offered from your reception onwards.
See if you can spot the difference.
Scenario 1 – you have been waiting in reception 35 minutes. You’re doing your best to keep smiling because you were 5 minutes early too. Eventually, a disinterested junior member of staff collects you and dumps you in a small meeting room. Your prospective client distractedly arrives and sits down, arms folded, looking at their watch already “So, let’s cut to the chase, how much is this going to cost?” is the first thing they say.
Scenario 2 – within 30 seconds of arriving at reception, your prospective client appears and warmly shakes you by the hand. You walk past the small meeting room to the boardroom, briefly passing reception where your prospective client relays your preference for tea or coffee. There is a plate of biscuits already awaiting you in the boardroom to accompany your tea or coffee which arrives moments later. They say “So, how are you? Was the traffic okay on the way here? A good friend tells me great things about what you do – please tell me all about it”
Okay you spotted the difference. One prospect had biscuits ready for you. The other didn’t even offer you a drink.
The real difference however is in how the opportunity was generated. If you’ve been in business any length of time, you will have noticed that the second scenario is the result of word-of-mouth.
In other words being recommended. And I would argue that in sales terms, that is the secret path of least resistance. The secret being the extent to which you create word of mouth recommendations rather than simply sitting back and waiting for it to happen.
Getting More Word Of Mouth – It’s Not Just Luck
Luckily for you, the vast majority of people, while recognising word of mouth as the most trusted form of advertising, do nothing about it. But you can.
Traditional sales measures conversions rates – number of enquiries converted to sales.
If you want to know the difference and have it confirmed that word of mouth is best, open up your diary or the diary of a colleague who deals with enquiries.
Break the enquiries down into those which had word-of-mouth as their origin and those that didn’t. Tot up the enquiries and sales. And recall the difference in reception you got when you met them or spoke to them on the phone.
You will also notice a marked difference in conversion rates. Very often, when the recommended client enquires, they may already have made the decision to buy. And even if they haven’t, they will have far fewer objections before reaching a decision, which is much more likely to be positive than any other enquiries you receive.
That is all very well – that part of the secret of least resistance is being recommended because they buy more easily.
But how can you increase the frequency of it happening?
Well, quite simply there are two ways – spontaneous or initiated word of mouth.
Spontaneous Word Of Mouth
The most common form of spontaneous word of mouth, unfortunately is negative. This, I believe is down to our core DNA and pack mentality. We share bad experiences to aid the survival of our pack.
The best example is a restaurant meal. If you were ill afterwards, you would spontaneously tell everyone. Maybe even before you vomit! As you are feeling ill, you may photograph the offending plate of evil and post it on Facebook, before dashing to the bathroom.
A great restaurant meal however is shared less spontaneously. You may (or may not to be frank) tell one or a few people. But according to the many pieces of research, it is unlikely to be much better than that.
It usually requires a trigger. For example a friend saying they fancy eating out tonight and want something different. At this point you may well relate your positive experience.
To increase your chances of spontaneous word of mouth, your product or service needs to stand out in the minds of your clients. So that without a prompt, people will wish to proactively share the experience.
This is where you do something unexpected to exceed their expectations. This makes you stand out particularly from your rivals. And for a period after the point of consumption, your clients are more likely to share the experience without a trigger. Saying for example “you’ll never guess what happened at the restaurant last night…”
So, what can you do to pleasantly surprise your clients at the point of consumption? That’s one part of spontaneous word of mouth. The other, is staying top of mind. As time goes on, that experience will fade into the memory, and only be resurrected with triggers.
So make sure you are able to communicate with your customers afterwards. If you are an accountant, that won’t be a problem as you need to stay in contact with your customers to deliver your service. But if you are a restaurant owner, think about how you can capture your clients contact details such as their mobile number and email address.
And then communicate with them. Not just to sell, but to educate, inform, and assist them. This is called staying top of mind. That’s building the foundation established by exceeding their expectations unexpectedly.
If you do this, people are much more likely to trigger recommendations. Either spontaneously, or when a situation arises in their day-to-day lives where people discuss a particular problem that your solution addresses. You will be in their recent memory.
This is where you provide the trigger or create situations where referrals could be a natural consequence.
This can be as simple as including a statement in your email signature as well as the email signatures of every member of your team. Something like:
“Happy with what we do? Then please tell a friend. Referrals are the lifeblood of our business and new clients help us re-invest in what we do to continue to make you happy.”
Over the course of a year, the 5, 10, 15, 20 or more emails you and your colleagues each send daily quickly become hundreds and then thousands.
There are dozens of ways of triggering referrals. And occasionally you can create a mini-avalanche of referrals when one of your clients decides to proactively share their positive experiences with one or more of the people they know.
And when I said there were dozens of things you can do to make them happen, I meant just that.
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