I needed new shoes, so last week I drove up to Granada to go find some.
Taught me an important lesson about sales. One that I actually already knew, but it was uncanny to go through the learning experience once again.
I’m not an easy customer: I have size 46 (that’s about size 12 outside of continental Europe) and I’m very particular about what I do and don’t like.
They have to be comfortable, attractive, not flashy, durable, void of fashionable details, fit to go with shorts as well as crease-pressed trousers – not easy.
Oh, and I refuse to wear anything, including shoes, if the brand name is on the outside instead of the inside.
The sizes on display are usually 44 here, so each time I see a pair I like, I ask ‘do you have these in 46?’
And the moment I ask, the assistant runs to the back to grab a pair in my size.
But I don’t want to try them on – I just want to know if they’re available.
Because there are 20 shoe shops in that area, and I want to see them all, before I try any on.
After all, there’s so much choice, at such different price-points. I want to quickly scout shop after shop, see what’s there and at what price, and THEN I go back to the two or three most interesting shops (price/quality/style) to try on the three or four pairs that might be right for me.
But they won’t let me. They HAVE to get me a pair in my size and put it in front of me.
I don’t blame them, mind you: they’re doing their job, which is selling shoes. And the way those folk were doing it that day – I have to admit they all got it right.
Not just because it’s good customer service – there’s something far more powerful in what they did.
Sure you treat your customer well, and if he indicates he might want to buy, you instantly make it easy for him to do so.
In terms of shoes, that means getting a pair on those feet.
But far more importantly: getting that box in front of me is a way to ‘catch’ me.
We humans are hardwired to return favours. (Bunch of research to back that – Robert Cialdini is a good place to start).
If you do a prospective client a favour – no matter how small, you trigger an ancient psychological reaction.
It’s theorised that this penchant to return favours fostered survival of society, which may or may not be correct.
It’s not as relevant as the fact that the mechanism exists.
Because believe you me: it exists, and it works. Like clockwork.
That doesn’t mean I’m going to buy a pair of shoes just because they brought out my size.
But sales happen in increments, and getting just that little bit of willingness from a customer at the start, means he might just put them on.
After that, the sale depends on how the customer is treated, how the shoes feel and fit, the way they look in the mirror…
But if I don’t put them on, I might be out the door in which case none of that is going to happen.
You GOTTA get a pair on the feet of everyone who walks in the door.
I’m pretty sure that’s how shoe-salesman training works. Can someone check with Al Bundy please? Thanks.
Anyway: If people take an interest in your work and you want them to be your customer, the best thing you could possibly do is do something in their interest.
Not because that means they owe you a purchase – no, it’s just so that they’ll allow you to communicate with them a little longer.
That’s why it’s called Permission Marketing (Never heard of it? Must learn! Google Seth Godin…)
See, in order for someone to buy you need to do your little song & dance, your pitch.
They’re going to have to pay attention for that.
So you need to give them a reason to want to pay out that time and attention.
And doing a favor of some sort is a fantastic way to do it.
I do the same thing in these emails: I provide ideas that may be useful to you. It’s a little favour I do my readers.
Absolutely love writing them too, these daily emails, but that’s beside the point.
I give freely of what I think, and if I’m lucky, some people will find it interesting enough to read the next one, and the next one, and so on.
That means my readers allow me to talk to them, again and again. And as you can see, I do a little pitch at the end.
The people whom the shoe really fits (the folk who actually want to buy copy) at some point will get in touch and ask for a quote.
And thus, business is done.
So, recap: As soon as a buyer as much as looks at you, give them something.
It doesn’t matter, as long as you give them a reason to continue listening to you.
A freebie, advice, a sample, some time – anything. But make it worth their time to pay you that attention.
Tomorrow, I’ll tell you how the same mechanism is also used on unsuspecting tourists for very odious purposes.
Because tricks like these are powerful and come with responsibility. If you’re an ethical business person, it’s important to know where to draw the line.
But that’s for tomorrow.
Here’s that pitch, by the way: Email marketing is one of the easiest, most cost-effective strategies you can use. Even if your list is small. (You have no IDEA how small my list is – and yet it works).
So, starting in 2014 I have a new offer: Captivating, highly converting emails, written fresh daily, in monthly packages. It’s not cheap (in fact it’s VERY expensive – but it gets you tons of sales.)
I’ll probably only take two or three clients for this service – it might look easy to write these, but actually it takes quite a lot of energy.
Anyway, I’ll put up a salespage for it in a few days. Or after the holidays, I don’t know. I need to go climb a pile of rocks with my yoga instructor now.
P.S. Some how and why of working with me: http://martinstellar.com/high-conversion-sales-copy/