Six Strategies to Improve Sales & Profits

SUMMARY

Strategy #1: Provide formal and comprehensive product knowledge training and tools for your associates.

Strategy #2: Help associates understand that recommending an appropriate additional product or service to an existing customer is not “pushy,” but actually an act of caring for the customer.

Strategy #3: Help associates understand their unique Behavior/Communication Styles and Needs and the Styles and Needs of others.

Strategy #4: Teach associates to ask open-ended questions.

Strategy #5: Remind associates to listen twice as much as they talk, and that customers don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care.

Strategy #6: Provide ongoing recognition, coaching, accountability, and rewards for cross-selling business products and services.

For more details, on each of the Strategies, please refer to the article below.

SIX STRATEGIES TO IMPROVE SALES & PROFITS

When the Radio Shack associate asks if you’d like batteries with your new MP3 player, or a McDonald’s associate asks if you’d like fries or a beverage with your burger, or a bank associate suggests a debit card to go with your checking account, they are all providing a service to the customer. Help your associate understand the technique we’ll call “cross-selling” and you’ll increase sales as well as your associates’ success and motivation. Here are the strategies to get you there.

STRATEGY #1

Provide formal and comprehensive product knowledge training and tools for your associates.

Often when I ask workshop participants how they learned about their business’s products, the answer is: “Oh, I learned ‘on the job’ from listening and asking people I work with.” Even when I mystery shop a business that provides formal product knowledge training, the answers to basic questions about fees, for example, vary significantly. And, few associates know if or why their business’s products and services are better than the competition.

Provide associates with either free access or an in-depth, interactive demonstration of products and services that you offer. Once associates feel comfortable using a product or service, they are more likely to promote it.

Be sure associates know who the best prospects are for specific products or services and specifically how the customer’s lives will be simpler, easier, better, etc.by having the product or service. For example, a good prospect for a Home Equity Loan is a couple living in their own home who have a child or children going to college and don’t know how they’re going to pay for tuition. One benefit to the couple is that the loan payments are tax-deductible, unlike other non-mortgage loans, which means that they can save on taxes and have money to pay the college tuition.

An effective way to communicate the key information about a specific product or service to associates is to create a marketing tool called a Product Profile. Each Product Profile would include a description of the features and benefits of the product, paint a picture of the customer(s) who would benefit most from this product, provide cues to trigger a customer’s need for the product, and include a logical transition sentence to get the customer’s interest. For instance, the classic cross-selling example for a teller selling Travelers’ Checks is to ask, “Have you considered a safe deposit box to protect your valuables while you’re away?”

STRATEGY #2

Help associates understand that recommending an appropriate additional product or service to an existing customer is not “pushy,” but actually an act of caring for the customer.

When I run sales training sessions for non-sales personnel at a CPA firm, bank, or non-profit, the participants are initially resistant because someone sent them to the training, and they view selling as being “pushy.” To reduce their resistance and gain their acceptance, I begin by writing the word SALES on the board. Then, I say, “Even though this workshop is called, “Improving Your Cross-Selling Results,” we aren’t going to talk about sales.” Next, I cross out the word SALES with a big red “X.” Then, I write the word SERVE beneath it and say, “Instead, we’re going to focus on how you can SERVE your customers by helping them.”

If your hairdresser or barber recommends a product to make your hair look better, do you immediately get suspicious and think he or she is just trying to make money? Or, do you feel cared about? Most participants answer that they feel cared about and served. This is the message that associates need to hear to stop feeling like stereotypical used car salesmen. The goal is to convince associates that it’s a DIS-SERVICE not to tell customers about a product or service that can save them time, money, or make their lives easier.

STRATEGY #3

Help associates understand their unique Behavior/Communication Styles and Needs and the Styles and Needs of others.

Each of us is a distinct blend of four (4) Communication/Behavior Styles and corresponding needs. The four Behavior/Communication Styles are: Controller/ Driver, Analyzer, Promoter, and Supporter. 80% of our behavior is motivated by our needs, and each style is motivated by different needs. Controller/Drivers need results. Analyzers need to be right. Promoters need recognition, and Supporters need rapport.

A Controller/Driver, for example, is frequently the owner of a business who wants to make efficient use of time and dispense with chit chat. Analyzers are frequently engineers, accountants, or scientist who need guarantees that nothing can go wrong. They require lots of facts, data, and statistics. The other two styles, Promoters and Supporters, have totally different needs. Promoters need praise and acknowledgement for their good ideas. Supporters need to be liked and feel that you really care about them.

Most of the non-sales associates I meet are Supporters, which makes them very good at listening and caring. These folks just need to understand that not everybody cares about building rapport and that what seems like rude behavior from others is often just a style difference.

STRATEGY #4

Teach associates to ask open-ended questions.

Several years ago, I did mystery shopping for two large community banks in different parts of the state. Both banks had excellent marketing materials and had trained their associates to make eye contact, smile, shake hands, use the customer’s name, and make the customer feel welcome. Both banks had done extensive product knowledge training. I pretended to be moving to the area, and said I was looking for a bank with a checking account that was like the one I had where I now lived. Not one of the Branch Managers or Customer Service Representatives asked me questions about my needs or what I liked about what I had now. Instead, they did what I call a “product dump,” which means they verbally listed or pointed to a brochure and read all the details to me of each checking account. In addition, not one asked me to take a Next Step after it was clear that what they had to offer met my needs. Maybe they were afraid of looking “pushy.” I would have been delighted if someone had said, “Let’s get you started…All you need is a $10 deposit to open the account.”

It’s critical to teach associates to ask open-ended questions that start with Who, What, Where, When, and How before they launch into the fine print in the contract. An open-ended question is one that can’t be answered with just a “yes” or “no.” “What type of balances do you typically keep in your checking account?” is an open-ended question and an excellent way to discover which account might make the most sense for a prospect of a bank. “How difficult is it for you to get to the bank to make deposits and to get cash?” is another good question to uncover a cross-selling opportunity for direct deposit, a debit card, telephone banking, a companion savings account, Internet banking, a line of credit, and/or Bank by Mail.

STRATEGY #5

Remind associates to listen twice as much as they talk, and that customers don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care.

“Listening, when well done, feels like love.” This quote by Dr. David Augsberger, a psychotherapist, points out that being genuinely listened to and heard are rare gifts that we can give another person. Most of our listening is a waiting to respond, rather than hearing. When I ask workshop participants the most valuable lesson they’ve learned in the sales training, it’s almost always “The importance of listening twice as much as talking…”

STRATEGY #6

Provide ongoing recognition, coaching, accountability, and rewards for cross-selling business products and services.

“The things that get rewarded are the things that get repeated.” Most of the workshop participants in my classes (at public seminars or on-site custom classes) report that there is no real consequence if they don’t cross-sell and there’s no reward/recognition if they do. Very few receive any reinforcement or support once the classroom training is done. Unless the business provides support, accountability, or consequences; it’s human nature (and easier) to keep doing what we’ve been doing.

To create additional enthusiasm, I suggest a simple, 1-page sales newsletter that shares success stories so that the associates can learn how and what others have done that worked. When soliciting these stories from associates, it’s important to convince them that reporting their successes is not bragging, but really sharing. Their success can instruct and enrich the success of their fellow associates.

I also suggest “atta boy/girl” calls and hand-written personal notes praising a job well done to associates from management-level personnel. Rewards can be as simple as movie passes, car wash coupons, and Dunkin Donuts gift cards.

Ideas for post-classroom trainee support include: 15 minute, bi-monthly, 1:1 telephone sales coaching calls with a sales trainer; a monthly conference call with the workshop participants and the trainer; and/or a 1:1 coaching visit from an internal or external sales coach. In addition, tracking, reinforcing, and rewarding performance are essential for sustained results. Ken Blanchard, the co-author of acclaimed One Minute Manger, likens lack of feedback to bowling wearing a blindfold. We all need to know how we’re doing, and most of us appreciate acknowledgement, as well as constructive feedback on how to improve.

CONCLUSION

It takes 21 to 45 days to change behavior. It also takes knowledge (what to do), skill (how to do it), and desire (want to do it). Skill and knowledge can be trained; desire must be coached. So, if you want cross-selling to improve in your business, develop a plan to implement the six strategies and watch your bottom line grow.

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