Marshall Atkinson dishes out some no-nonsense advice that will help your business to survive and thrive in 2020 and beyond
Win sales by placing heavy bets on digital
If you aren’t already in the digital ecommerce landscape, then you are at risk of quickly becoming irrelevant. Now more than ever, your website absolutely must not suck. Refer back to my column in September’s issue of Images [imagesmag.uk/marshall-sep20] for some straight-talking marketing advice on how to make your website, your social media and your drip marketing work for you.
Win sales by being more valuable
Sorry, but I have news for you. You are not a garment decorator. Instead, you need to start thinking of yourself as a problem-solver. Anyone can print or embroider a shirt. But not just anyone can masterfully solve someone’s problem. The trick is to discover the true nature of the problem by asking better questions. Or by providing such an overwhelming amount of service that they can’t help but use you. For example, when was the last time you brought ideas to customers so they could use them and increase their sales? Are you waiting on them to order, or are they waiting on you to proactively help them? Which one drives more value to your customer? The only way you are going to be more valuable to your customers is to know where their pain and struggles live. What are they working on? What matters to them most? You might ‘think’ you know, but without actually talking to them, you are trying to hit a target in the dark.
Top 10 most common ways to be more valuable to a customer
1. Help make them more money. If they grow, we grow.
2. Help save them time. Time is money.
3. Help educate them on something. Can you make them better?
4. Reduce anxiety. Get them to a better place and make them relaxed.
5. Help them have fun. Are you not entertained?
6. Simplify something. Can you make it easier?
7. Help them connect. Who do you know that can help them?
8. Make them healthier. Do you have something that’s better?
9. Surprise them with something new. Whatcha got?
10. Help them achieve. They have goals. Can you lend them a hand?
Win sales with online stores
I want you to consider online stores separately from websites. A customer’s online store doesn’t have to be connected to your website at all. It’s not for you; it’s for them. Sure, you want the data information to flow freely to you so you can process things correctly, but the webstore that is built for a customer needs to be made with them in mind first. Do they have to go to your site first? Find it, grab a pull-down, scroll down, find the store, log in… How many hoops do you make customers jump through? There are plenty of great tips and tricks out there – here are a few.
Top 10 online store best practices
1. Limit items. Don’t offer everything, narrow it down to a top few.
2. ‘People also bought’ accounts for a third of Amazon sales. I’d include that idea in your online store as well.
3. Use better quality images. Take your own if you can.
4. Keep it clean and uncluttered. Be choosy with the words you post and the details you include.
5. Odd numbers sell better. A £29 item will outsell a £30 one.
6. Eliminate steps in your checkout process. Every hoop customers have to jump through is another reason to not order.
7. Include ‘live chat’ support. People have questions.
8. Have a search feature. About 30% of visitors use this to navigate. Nobody wants to click through your site.
9. Free shipping. Sure, it’s included in the price. But you better be talking about it for the end consumer.
10. Have an ‘abandoned cart’ retargeting plan. “Hey, did you forget to buy something?” Get them to the finish line!
Win sales by looking for opportunities
Did your competition just go out of business? Maybe that key retail location opened up on that busy downtown street? The world is changing around us. What are you going to be doing to get ready for an opportunity that might land in your lap? How do you know if something that is tinged with ambiguity could pan out if you were to do something with it? Sometimes you just have to go with your gut, but here are some things to consider.
Top 10 business development considerations
1. Does it solve a problem? Is the answer somewhere in your back pocket? Can you develop a commercially viable answer?
2. Will people hand you money for the idea? A great idea that nobody cares about isn’t something to pursue. But an idea that people can’t wait to hand you fistfuls of cash for? That’s a different story.
3. Who is your market? You can’t hit a hidden target. Know your customer.
4. What is their price point for your idea? It doesn’t have to be cheap either.
5. How many customers might be interested? There is a big difference between marketing to your immediate circle of influence, and getting complete strangers to be interested. Define this with a number.
6. Test and retest. Just because you think it is a good idea, doesn’t mean that everyone will.
7. Marketing is the act of creating customers. What’s your plan?
8. What are the data metrics or key performance indicators that are going to matter? What number is considered to be a success? What about failure?
9. Can you find some customers to talk to about your idea? What do they think?
10. How passionate or committed are you to the idea? What about six months from now? Most ideas are not successful because people lose the energy to see them succeed. What if that is you?
Win sales by doing it better
Nobody pays the juggler to toss one ball. Are you doing things better than most? I’m lucky in that I get to talk to many different business owners all day. I hear everything, and I ask a lot of questions. The ones that seem to be rebounding the best and actually increasing their sales are the ones that are focused more on the customer than themselves. You can tell it in simply how they talk. The ones that are struggling always seem to be offering excuses as to why something isn’t working for them. The successful group solves the problem rather than lamenting about it. ‘Doing it better’ is about doing what’s right for the customer, not yourself. It is adopting a no-excuses mentality and owning the answer your customer is looking for constantly.
Top 10 ways to adopt a no-excuses mentality
1. Show up. Even when you don’t want to. Put in the work.
2. Own it. You are in charge. See it through. Even if this means that you are doing it yourself.
3. Find a way. If going left doesn’t work, make three rights.
4. Ask for help. It’s okay. People won’t think less of you.
5. Be early. My dad used to always say, “If you aren’t early, you are running late.” He was right. Being early creates opportunities for other things. Being late never does.
6. Train and practise to get it right. Seek first to understand before you can be understood. Often people don’t know what they don’t know.
7. Change your people or change your people. Either you elevate performance or get new folks that can be on the same train.
8. Be open to new ideas. They are all around you. Some might cost you money. Remember, it’s not what something costs that is important, but how much money you can make instead.
9. Learn. Failure is a lesson. What was the price of your education today?
10. Try to adopt the habit of getting 1% better every day. Small wins stack up. Be cognisant of yours.
Win sales by being more human
People want to do business with other people. And as people, we are always looking out for people that we can identify with somehow. But what happens if you hide behind that ‘professional’ facade? We’ll never get to know you. The more human you are these days, the better. I want to know more about you. What makes you tick? Where are you struggling or vulnerable? Can I help with that? Are we in alignment? That is what is driving more sales these days. It’s the reason virtual sales meetings are rampant and are working better than a lifeless email. To which, I like the idea of using more video in an email. Which to some is simply too scary to consider. But it isn’t that bad once you get past the early and awkward ‘I don’t know what I’m doing’ stage.
Top 10 ways to sell using video
1. Be yourself. You don’t have to be perfect, and neither does your video.
2. Have a ‘call to action’. What do you want them to do? Schedule a call? Pay an invoice? Talk about that and include a button or link.
3. Send an explainer video with the proposal. Instead of writing an email, film what you would write and show the proposal and go over it.
4. Look at the camera lens. When filming, if you look at the camera lens while you speak, the viewer will feel like you are looking directly at them when they view it. It’s like being in the same room as them!
5. Smile at the beginning and at the end. No frowny faces!
6. Use the viewer’s name at least twice.
7. Keep it short. Two or three minutes is best.
8. Have good audio. Use a lapel microphone or a better way to capture the sound.
9. Before filming, clean your desk and area. Your mother was right. You are a slob.
10. Practice makes perfect. Don’t want to send something to your clients just yet? Fire one off to me and I’ll critique it for you. Seriously.
Nobody wants to be sold to, but everyone wants to buy. Becoming a real person in the mind’s eye of your customer instead of a name on an email is how you develop relationships that last. Video is a great stepping stone to start that out because people are used to building trust with strangers because we learned that through television. Why else does having a famous athlete selling us pizza work? How come they don’t use food experts or chefs instead?
You can win more sales this year if you put yourself out there and are proactive about making the changes necessary to adapt to the business market we’re living in now. Every day another shop is closing its doors because they didn’t do what it takes to change. It’s sad, and I feel for them and their families. Don’t let that be you.
Marshall Atkinson is a production and efficiency expert for the decorated apparel industry, and the owner of Atkinson Consulting and co-founder of Shirt Lab, a sales and marketing education company, with Tom Rauen. He focuses on operational efficiency, continuous improvement, workflow strategy, business planning, employee motivation, management and sustainability.