Monthly Archives: November 2012

Skyrocket Your Sales: The Power of Listening to your Customers

Many salespeople believe that their sales pitch is everything. They work hard to develop a script or answers to common questions and rebuttals, making sure that they have every base covered. They spend their time telling people about their products, and spend very little time listening to responses that are not orders. These salespeople are missing out.

The voice of the customer is your most important tool to getting sales. When you make your sales pitch more of a conversation, and listen to your potential customers, you will get more orders. It really is as simple as that.

You may have heard that as a manager, as a friend, or when meeting new people, that it is better to listen than to talk. We do, after all, have two ears and only one mouth. There is a reason for this. When you truly listen to your prospects, it is much easier to identify their needs, and present solutions that will sell themselves.

The key to this is to ask your customers probing questions. Probing questions are those that prompt the individual to respond in a favorable way. They are not open ended or general. They are very specific questions to elicit a specific response. For example, if you are selling health insurance, you do not want to ask your customer how are they doing today, but rather, are they feeling healthy today. This will open up conversation about their health, and whether or not they are satisfied with their current health coverage or plan.

This example would be a great opener for conversation, but further questions should be more specific. “Do you have health insurance?” Or, “Are you currently looking for a healthier lifestyle?” As you get them to talk about themselves, their problems and needs will naturally come up. You can then present solutions to their problems by offering information about your products and services.

In most cases, this approach leads to a soft sell. You do not even have to ask for the order, because the customer will see for themselves that they need what you are offering. All you must do is listen to them, make them your friend, and then offer them a solution. They will take that solution and run with it.

This is the best way to generate repeat customers as well. Because you have taken the time to listen to them and get to know them better, they will feel that they can trust you in the future. They will feel as though you are a trusted friend, and return to you for all of their related needs.

Author Bio

Jennie is a customer service consultant and author of numerous books on marketing.  She recommends enterprise feedback management from Mindshare to businesses looking to significantly improve customer satisfaction.

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Taking Orders Outside of a Party

I have several ads out on various websites to hopefully drum up my business.  These are free ones so if they are do not perform, it is no big deal.  But that, it is always interesting when I get emails and what they ask about.

Do I have to have a party? – This is a common one.  Many people have no interest in having a party to order the product.  I always respond that they do not but that depending on the size of the order, I may not be placing it for a while.  If they order enough for a party, then I will submit it right away and give the benefits.  If it is not, then hopefully they are willing to wait for their product.  It’s a win, win situation for you as its bonus money that you do not need to work too hard for and they win as they don’t have to do something they don’t want to.

Do I have certain product?  – I try to keep my inventory list updated.   Then I can simply check it for the product they want and let them know.  Sometimes they want to know what I have in stock in which case I can just send them the list.  Nice and easy!

Catalogue Requests – I don’t get many of these from ads but I get them from my website.  Pretty easy to handle, mail out a catalogue and I tend to put in some other information with it to hopefully catch their interest.  I contact them again later to see if they have any questions.

Joining – Again, not a lot of these come in but I do get the odd one.  I usually reply with a very basic email if they are responding to an ad as sometimes the ads can be a bit vague.  I tell them that this is a home party business, what the commission level is and that there is a quota to stay active and then link to my website.  Quite often, I do not hear from them again as they are looking for a quick get rich type of situation, but if they do contact me again, then I have a FAQ that I have made up and that I send them and I reply to any questions they have.

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Creating a FAQ

Do you have a lot of ads posted or find you are getting a lot of inquiries about joining your direct sales team?  Get tired of answering them and feeling like you just keep repeating the same things?  I highly recommend creating a FAQ document that you can use at in person events and through email.  

I had created mine within a year of being in business as I was heavy into recruiting and this answered a lot of questions without me having to repeat myself.  I always encouraged people to ask me more in depth questions but this usually was enough to satisfy them in the thinking process and also to bring up items they may not have thought of.

Topics I included:

  1. How long shipping took to me and one other place in the country that I knew of
  2. Cost of shipping
  3. Where products were made
  4. Level that commission started at and went up to
  5. Quotas
  6. Do you have to recruit?
  7. How credit cards would be processed
  8. Local taxes
  9. Income tax

What you choose to put into your FAQ is up to you.  Look through emails you have had from prospective demonstrators and see what questions are common.  Think back to the questions you asked when you joined as well as those asked by those on your team.  If your company has a Facebook page or there is a page full of consultants, see if any of the frequently asked questions could go into your document.

You also want to keep this short.  One or two pages at the most in a question and paragraph format, preferably a shorter paragraph under 100 words or so.  If you cannot do it that short, maybe it is a question to deal with when talking or you could ask someone else to help you shorten it.

Why Small Orders are Important

When doing direct sales, we tend to focus on getting the big orders and encouraging everyone to spend a lot.  Of course, wouldn’t it be great if that did happen with every person attending?  But do not be discouraged if everyone person does not fill up their order form and spend 100+ dollars, you can still have a great party with smaller orders.

One of my teammates was telling me about the awesome party she just had:

“A few days ago I held a party that had a lot of customers.  Many people placed orders of less than $50.  Several were less than $20.  As of right now, the hostess will be receiving at least $140 in free products and 8 items at half off.  The party is closing at over $700.  I stand to make nearly $200 from one party.

I will admit that I added some outside orders to this party.  $115 worth, to be exact.  But those orders were all smaller ones.  $15 here and $20 there. 

While we think that it takes big orders to get the hostess the best benefits, it really does not matter how they get the sales or the amounts or each order but that they get them. Those 20 dollar orders add up fast as it only takes five of them to get to $100 dollars and you only go up from there when adding up sales.  And honestly, I think most people budget twenty to thirty bucks when they attend a direct sales party.  If they are familiar with the product and love it, chances are they will spend more or will end up booking their own party to reap the hostess benefits and the cycle will start over.  If they aren’t familiar, they will order something small due to feeling obligated or because they want to try the product.  Either way, it is an order for the hostess.

 

How to Store Inventory

Inventory is one of those side effects of having a direct sales business.  You tend to accumulate things and they can take over your house and space.  As a result, you need to store them until you are able to sell them or use them.  But what do you do? 

Depending on the types of product you will have will determine how you need to store your product.  If you have something that is perishable, you will want to store it somewhere that you are able to pull out those items that are no good after their shelf life is over.

I keep my products in a few boxes typically in one area of my house.  I have one box that is my display for when I do parties and then the other boxes have my stock.  I really don’t have one specific area of my house for them so they do tend to move around a bit.   I currently have my boxes stored in the garage as I don’t have much room in my house for them, but as the temperatures are dropping, I need to reconsider as glass jars and cold temperatures are not a good mix.

If you do a lot of parties, you will want to keep it somewhere handy and having it all boxed up may not work all that well for you, depending on how often you need to get into it.  In that case, it would be nice to have a shelving unit that you can use that is set up in a space just for your business.  Keep all products in there and pull from the shelves as you need.

While this sounds ideal, it may not be a reality due to pets, children or even significant others, so you may need to reconsider. It may also be best to store your various paper in the same place for convenience sake.

Ideas on Discounting Inventory

Chances are if you have been in direct sales for a while you have accumulated some inventory.  Maybe they are items you received for free due to sales or rewards, maybe they are items you bought for a large discount or maybe they are items that customers returned.  Regardless, they are probably taking up a lot of space in your house and you want to convert them to cash.

Current Product:

If a customer can still order the product from the current catalogue, then you do not need to discount it by much if at all.  Put it out at a trade show for sale.

When someone orders the product at a party, you can just substitute in the stock item you have.  If you do not order something else of the same value, you may end up affecting the hostess credit.  Depending on how it affects it, it can still be cheaper to sell the stock and pay the extra rewards out of your pocket.

Out of Season Product:

If product is not currently offered, but likely will be back in the next season, there are several options.  The first is to discount it enough that it sells.  Maybe 10% off the first month after the season and increase the discount each month or some other method that works for you.  Then, if/when it comes back in season, you can put it back out for full price.

Discontinued:

This product is trickier to deal with.  You know that it is not coming back in the future, it is done.

Depending on the type of product, you may need to start discounting it right away.  For instance, if its a Christmas decoration and its January, you may want to mark it down 25% right away.  I actually tend to take these items  out of my for sale inventory within a month or two of the occasion ending as many people won’t look at Christmas items in March.  I bring them back out in September at the discounted price and go from there.
What you discount product for is up to you.  While it can be painful to discount something beyond the price you paid for it, remember that any product you are holding onto is money that is not in your pocket.

Answers from a Consultant – Amanda @ Gold Canyon Candles

If you could give the hostess one tip to have a successful party, what would it be?

Invite everyone – even people you think wouldn’t be interested.  You may be pleasantly surprised!

What do you recommend in regards to refreshments at a party?  

Keep it simple.  Have a cheese and cracker plate, a veggie tray, a fruit tray.

Do you offer to help your hostess mail invitations? 

Yes.  I offer to mail them if they provide the addresses to me. I also encourage them to use evite to invite guests via email – even those being sent an invite via the post office.

Do you ask your hostess to create a wish list?

Sometimes.  Often they know already what goodies they hope to buy!

If I have friends/family who live elsewhere, but want to order from my party, can you do that?

Yes!  My company, Gold Canyon, now has online party orders.  When checking out from my website, your out of town guests would need to input your party code.  You get the credit for the order and they get their scent-sational products shipped directly to their doors.

Any one thing you really wish your hostess would not do?

Not be ready when the party starts!  When a hostess is still running around her home setting up for the party when it is suppose to be starting, it puts the whole party off-kilter.

What is your favourite product that your company sells and why?

Our pod warmers.  With no replacement parts, a timer and the fantastic pod containers for the scented wax, scenting your home has never been easier!  Pod warmers (and the pods to go with them) have been my best selling item too.

Amanda is a consultant with Gold Canyon Candles.  You can check out her website at  Gold Canyon -Candles~Body~Home

[stextbox id=”info”]Want to answer some questions and get featured?  Send me a message through the contact form with what company you are with and I will send out some questions for you to answer.[/stextbox]

Keeping Sane over the Holiday Season

The holiday season is in full swing. For many people in direct sales, they are busy with parties and events and can barely keep their heads on straight.  If you want to survive the season and come out the other side relatively unscathed, here are some helpful tips.

Highland Park Village during the Christmas hol...

Highland Park Village during the Christmas holiday season (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Control Your Calendar – Keep your day planner or whatever method you use to keep track of what is going on during this time.  You need to have time to do parties but you also need to make sure you have time to process the orders, deliver them and do the various paperwork involved.  You can schedule these all in to your calendar – while you may not be able to say what day your parcel will arrive, if you watch the tracking you will have a rough idea and can plan for it.  If you schedule a party every night and you work during the day, you are going to burn out.

Take a Time Out – I’m not suggesting you stop for a time out like you do to kids, but rather, set some time aside for you.  Maybe it’s an hour or two to read, have a bubble bath or go for a walk, it’s important that you have some time without any obligations to help you keep sane.

Ask for Help – If you are really busy and feeling that you do not have time for everything, reach out and ask for help.  This could be a partner, a friend or family member.  There are likely simple things they can help you with such as unpacking boxes, checking orders or just keeping you company.  What tasks you can get help with varies depending on what tasks are on your plate and what you need to accomplish.

Pass on Events – Depending on how busy you are or what is on your calendar, you may need to pass on some events.  This does not mean that you are a horrible person, it just means that you realize that you may be over committed and that you cannot do everything on your list and do it well.  If you have a local team, then it is much easier to do this as you will still profit when you pass on a lead.

Do you have other ways that you cope with the season?

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My New Book: Picking a Direct Sales Company and Getting Started

If you have been around this blog for a while, you may have noticed that I jump around in what I post each week.  I used to actually post by topic and would have a topic of the week but as I got further in, and had a harder time coming up with ideas, that started to change.  For this reason, I decided it might be a good idea to put posts into a book format. 

Due to all the content on this blog, almost two years worth, I decided to split it up into a series of five books.  Yes, I know, it sounds like a lot, but this blog currently has over 350 posts on it.  Many of them cover similar topics so they have been organized for easier reading.

The first book that I have released is “Picking a Direct Sales Company and Getting Started”.  As you can imagine, this book is about how to select a direct sales company and then what you can do while you wait for your kit.

Topics include but are not limited to:

Direct sales versus a retail business

Picking the best direct sales company for you

Signing with the company directly or with a sponsor

Interviewing a potential sponsor

Terminology

Waiting for Your Kit

I also have four other books in the works and hope to get at least two more released this month.

Book 2: Everything about Getting Sales, Trade Shows and Fundraisers

Book 3: What You Need to Know About Recruiting

Book 4: Assistance with Advertising and Social Media

Book 5: The Business End of Direct Sales – Accounting and Taxes

If you do not have a Kindle, that is not a problem.  There is a free Kindle application that you can download and it works on your computer, your phone or any other tablets you may have.  I personally run this on my phone and my iPod and it works pretty decently.

Getting More Bang for Your Buck with a Giveaway

If you tend to do a lot of trade shows and do a giveaway or a door prize, you may find that your expenses are adding up quickly.  But with a bit of ingenuity, some inexpensive items and your local dollar store, you will have an item that looks like a million bucks!

Start off by picking an item from your stock in hand (if you have any).  What you pick and the value is up to you.  Some trade shows require that the item you select is worth a certain value.  This is the catalogue price, not the price that you actually pay.  If you are unsure, I usually go with a value of approximately $20 but it all depends on the event.

The next step is to stop at your local dollar store or discount store.  Check to see what they have that you can use to put your prize in to display.  A basket, some raffia or Easter type grass and cellophane wrap is a good start if you are not sure what you want to do.  Play around with it, change how the item sits in the filler; keep playing until you are satisfied and happy.  Depending on your product, there may be a few items that you can purchase for cheap at the dollar store to add to your basket.  If you sell bath products, maybe a loofah would be a nice addition.  For jewellery, something for a person to put the item into when they are not wearing it.  There is likely a product that you can make work for you.

You want people to win this item so they need to know what it is!  Make the prize worth more by selecting a hostess item (or an item that is not easily available) so that people will want to enter for the giveaway.

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