5 Best Practices for Sales and Marketing

1. Make a great first impression—how will your prospect first see you—your website? Your email? Your direct mail? Your truck? Meet you in person?

Be sure it’s a great first impression. Email especially should be grammatically correct—all the time; don’t send an email to anyone the same way you would exchange text messages with a teen.

You have to build a consistent brand that is easily identified and tells prospects immediately who you are and what you do; then you have to be sure that it is clean and professionally presented every time—you never know when a great prospect will experience your website or your ad or your direct mail or you in person—if you want to maximize your return on the investment of your time and marketing money be sure you make a great first impression every time!!! You only have one opportunity per prospect to make a great first impression!

2. Stop Selling—nobody likes a salesman; build relationships. Many people who have to “sell” don’t like selling either; it makes them more comfortable to develop relationships. Always be sincere and genuine—if you really don’t like the person you’re trying to create a relationship with; it just won’t work.

When I became an owner in a textile mill in the early 1980’s, I was asked by my partner to go out and sell. I have always hated selling; but I understood it had to be done in order for us to succeed–So I changed my mindset; I stopped selling; I left the bag of samples back at the office, and I just went to see people; take them out for coffee, have lunch with them; I became interested in their businesses and their lives and their kids and their interests. They became interested in mine. As a by-product of this conversation, there was always some business talk. And since I knew lots of people, I started to have some valuable intelligence that others were interested in. This gave people a reason to see me; I had a good understanding of the industry—and I was very good about remembering the names of their wives and children and special events. There was no customer relations software at the time; I did it by memory.

I didn’t just talk to anyone—I talked to decision makers—ALWAYS.

Very important point—my sales were theoretically harder to make because I didn’t sell on price; therefore I met with more objections and my customers had to make some accommodation. I never “bought” an order; I never gave a low introductory price to get into a customer; I never had a “sale”; I never gave a discount—in fact I insisted on getting paid in 30 days in an industry where 60 days is the standard and it usually worked.

If you want to sell on price and just take orders—keep selling. But remember, people who buy on price are the least loyal customers—so if you choose this path, you have to be able to replace these customers frequently because they are shoppers.

If you want to build a sales machine; stop selling and start building relationships.

Best relationship sales story I could tell: my wife and I were visiting an island in the Caribbean for a few hours and we walked into a jewelry store. The owner greeted us and showed us an expensive piece, and then told us to take it home and decide later; if we didn’t like it we would send it to a jeweler in NYC. That’s relationship selling!

3. Lead your customer or client to make a “buying decision.” You and the customer feel more comfortable. Education about your product and service empowers your prospect to make a buying decision

Since I don’t want to be a salesman, I have to lead people to make buying decisions. That’s my method. I certainly give them all the information they need about what I’m selling and I certainly know when and how to close a sale—but they usually feel like they’re buying. Think about it—if you feel like you’re buying; you feel powerful in the relationship. You are doing something you want to do. You’re not accepting something you would rather not accept. When you buy something you have no negative energy attached to the seller…because you’re a buyer!

This is usually what I do—I lead people to make buying decisions. This is so important—it’s their decision!!! I do not use hard-selling tactics—they lead to much more buyer’s remorse and problems shortly after the sale.

Here’s an excerpt from The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman, Author of several important books for all business people including Hot Flat and Crowded:

Companies like Google, Yahoo!, Amazon.com and TiVo have learned to thrive not by pushing products and services on their customers as much as by building collaborative systems that enable customers to pull on their own, and then responding with lightning quickness to what they pull. It’s so much more efficient.

What he’s really saying is that people are making buying decisions on their terms and those companies are doing very well!!! If it’s good for them it should be good for us too. People want to be buyers—so let them! One of the best strategies to me has always been the Syms Clothing slogan—an educated consumer is our best customer.

4. Stop talking when the buying signal is given—sounds intuitive but should be your highest priority—many people talk themselves out of sales

If you’ve done the relationship building and empowered your prospect to make a buying decision; people will give you what I call buying signals. You’ll hear questions about “How do we pay you?” “Do you accept credit cards?” “How soon can you deliver the swimming pool and install it?” “Can we get started right now or do we have to make another appointment?”

No matter where you were in your presentation—that’s when you STOP EVERYTHING AND CLOSE THE SALE. In my experience, that’s the part you spend the least time on—you’ve already been told it’s time to finish the deal. Get the paper signed or show the buyer how to complete the transaction?” Ask if the buyer has any questions—but do not keep volunteering information you think is important. When a person makes the decision to buy, they already know what they need to know. If they have a question the next day you will be glad to answer it—but you have already made the sale. Post-closing questions are more of a collaboration than a threat.

I have actually seen people continue to explain features and benefits to the exasperation of the customer and lose the sale! I recently saw it in a retail store where the person was working on commission!! Can you imagine—they had the sale and lost it. If you’re paying attention—when you hear the buying signal you shut up and close the sale.

5. Maintain a stellar reputation—it precedes you.

If you’re going to build relationships and succeed at creating what I call a sales machine, you’ve got to have an impeccable reputation. It’s got to be impeccable both personally and in business.

People have to know that you’re honest, you’re not a cheat; you don’t look to gain unfair advantages over others. People need to know you have a good grasp of ethics both personally and in business

There is no strategy for businesses with poor reputations or mediocre products and services—if you have a reputation for being dishonest or you are not highly competent at what you sell—forget this article and just work on your improving competence and reputation. Perhaps you might think this is harsh, but it’s so true!

Doug Sce has been in his own business since 1981 and has sold more than $50 million in textiles, apparel and consulting services.