Bringing Creativity to Sales

Think about a situation where you’re asked a question and you blurt out a super fast “No” without missing a beat.

Is it when your young child begs for every sweet treat at the grocery store? Or when you answer the phone and a stranger tells you that you have just won a contest you never entered?

We all have knee-jerk reactions in these types of situations. We shut down. We automatically say “No.”

Many times in sales we face a fast, knee-jerk “No” when prospecting for new or expanded business. If we don’t reach a prospect live, the “No” can be in the form of unreturned calls and/or emails. How do we get beyond this initial reaction or lack of reaction?

Consider these statistics — in 2007 it took an average of 3.68 cold call attempts to reach a prospect. Today it takes an average of 8 attempts! In my line of business, working with a variety of industries throughout the country, I’m seeing a real lack of creativity in these attempts.

Sales is still old school (relationships) with new school technologies to make it easier. The secret to sales success is not giving up too soon and getting creative!

Here are some ideas for thinking outside the box:

1. Leave voicemail messages with a purpose. 

Calling someone on the phone is still one of the best ways to connect. Because everyone is looking for the magic potion to gain appointments without using the phone, you might be surprised at how many decision makers are answering their phones these days because they are not getting the volume they used to. If they don’t pick up, don’t hesitate to leave a short, direct voicemail. When it comes to current customers, whatever you do, avoid saying you are “Just checking in” or “Just following up.” This is sales suicide. Instead try, “I was thinking about our last meeting and had an idea I wanted to bounce off you…”

2. Congratulate or compliment a connection on LinkedIn.

With so much negativity in the world, a positive comment has more weight than ever. Once you are connected, a great way to utilize LinkedIn is giving someone kudos on something they recently accomplished. In addition to commenting on their post, send an InMail to reinforce the congratulations. However, whether it is through InMail or via a comment, make it meaningful. Don’t just say “Nice job!” Put some thought into it. You could also acknowledge a newsworthy event at their company. Either one could open the door to a better business relationship down the road.

On the subject of LinkedIn, make sure you do not connect and then forget about them! Keep the connection fresh. Start a conversation by asking about how they found you and give them some information that could be beneficial to them (an interesting article, a helpful link, etc.) but nothing salesy!

3. Take advantage of good old-fashioned snail mail.  

The art of the hand written note is a lost art! Whether your sales process is by phone, in person, or via email, sending a hand written note gives you a competitive advantage. Remember the statistics… today it is taking more touch points to gain success. Your snail mail delivery does count as a touch point. Every little bit helps. Think about it. When was the last time you got a hand written note?

One additional tip on snail mail — for prospects who fall into the black hole and are not calling you back, try sending something totally unexpected to them. I have a friend in Atlanta who sends peach preserves and comments about sweetening things up. Find something unique to your hometown and get creative!

Ask yourself: “Is there anything I could send with a catchy phrase that would grab their attention?” Sometimes the quirkier the better!

4.Get the cameras rolling for a truly unique touch point. 

Video can be your friend! It’s an underutilized technology. Remember, sales are still old school (relationships) with new school technologies. There are lots of free resources available for creating and sending video messages. Think about how personalized your sales message can be — your voice, your smile, your enthusiasm for what you are selling will come through and possibly make all the difference. Grab their attention and shut down that knee-jerk “No!”

5. Send very short, well-timed professional emails. 

Emails can be effective touch points, but only if they are concise and purpose-driven. Peoples’ inboxes are extremely cluttered. If the purpose of your email is to ask for an appointment, limit your email to two or three paragraphs with a clear purpose and then give two time options for the requested meeting. Also, once you secure a meeting, include agenda items for discussion in your calendar invite. When the purpose is clearly spelled out, it reduces the number of cancelled and rescheduled meetings.

There it is. Can you add some good ideas to this list? Remember, don’t give up too quickly. Back to the grocery store example…kids are amazing at being passionately persistent and at times they can be very successful. (Darn those candy bars at checkout.) Step out of your comfort zone…get more creative and persistent…and enjoy increased success.

Good selling out there!

You’re Invited!

Since we are so close to the holidays, I thought it would be fun to talk about holiday etiquette. This is the time of year when parties start popping up. You might be heading to a friend’s house for cocktails, to a dinner party or to other holiday-themed social events.

So here are a few tips to keep the holidays merry!

1. Be careful of being “fashionably late!” There is a fine line between being slightly late to give the host time to be prepared and being so late that it could be considered rude. Keep this in mind: if food is being served at your get together do not be more than fifteen minutes late. The host is having a hard enough time getting things together. If you arrive 30 or even 60 minutes late you run the risk of ruining the dinner they have been working so hard to prepare.

2. Be a thankful guest. When you ask if you can bring anything to a party many hosts will refuse your offer. But that refusal may not hold if you offer to bring something specific. Offer to bring a shrimp cocktail appetizer, a variety of cheese, crackers and nuts, or a dessert of some kind — pumpkin or rhubarb pie — so you can take something off of the host’s plate of things to do. Of course, a bottle of wine is always welcome, especially if you choose one that will compliment the meal or food being served.

3. Show your appreciation. If you are invited to someone’s home, whether during the holidays or at any time of year, give them a small gift to express your appreciation. Acknowledge all they have done to make this event happen. This gift can be as simple as cocktail napkins in a cute holder, paper hand towels, dishtowels, appetizer knives, or metal toothpicks to use to spear olives for cocktails. Keep a variety of small gifts on hand at all times. The possibilities are endless and your kindness will not go unnoticed.

These tips are just little things you can do to show your host(s) how much you really appreciate them. Have a wonderful holiday season!