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Clever Is As Clever Does

Furniture World Magazine


The next time a customer says, "I can buy it cheaper on the internet" or "there are better deals down the street" don't give up!

I don't get involved with buying office supplies for my company; one of our staff handles it. Unbeknownst to me, we had changed suppliers over the past couple of months and were no longer doing business with a local company. A young woman from the office supply place used to call on us for orders, until someone in my company made an executive decision to go elsewhere, perhaps because of lower prices, bigger catalog selection, better delivery I'm not sure. But I did find out that the salesperson was not getting anywhere with the person on our staff doing the buying. She was up against a brick wall. No orders. No biz. Think about what you would do in the same situation if you were the salesperson. Would you just give up? Try to hack your prices so you could compete?

Personality skills, creativity, and cleverness do pay off when you are trying to put a sale together. They are also essential for repeat business. In this case, it came by way of an envelope in the mail ... to me. In the envelope was an article about my book "Here's My Card," and it was laminated. There was also a card with a handwritten note. Here is the note, word for word:

"Bob, Congratulations on your book! It looks very interesting. I'm looking forward to reading it. We miss doing business with your company and would love the opportunity to earn your business back. Thought that I might be able to "buy" a little of your time. Sincerely, Nicole Neri."

Included with the article and the note was her business card laminated to a dollar bill. I set the whole thing aside on my desk. At the end of the day I didn't know what to do with the card and the dollar. Throw it away? C'mon, it's a buck. I can't do that. Should I try to separate the card from the dollar with a razor blade? It would take too long, and besides, my time is worth more. I left it there until morning.
I came in the next day, sat at my desk, and there was this stupid business card-laminated-to-a-dollar thing. At that point, I went to the person in our office in charge of office supplies and said: "Let's order a laminating machine from this person I want to do the same thing." And we did. We are now doing business with this company again, and we've been laminating our business cards to just about anything to create more interest in our company, our books, and our publications ever since.

You see, you never know where the next creative sales idea is going to come from. It could be from a business down the street, your competition, someone on your staff, or just from letting your mind float while you're in the shower. But when a sale starts to fall through the cracks, or a customer starts to look elsewhere, there's a way to keep it from happening. Maybe it's just an issue of getting the customer back to see you one more time. Or getting them to call you on the phone. Or just getting them to like you a little more.

More sales are lost through lack of communication than any other reason. And if you can't get your customer to open up to you and talk to you and tell you what the problem is, you could be spinning your wheels. That's where a little creativity and cleverness comes into play. They don't teach it in school-you have to learn it on your own. Years ago we could "hard sell" a customer into buying. Today's customers know the tricks and the closes. They don't want to be sold, they want to buy.

If you're really serious about saving deals, creating more business for yourself, or simply bringing back a customer one more time, I'll give you a couple of ideas. Go visit a car dealership and test-drive a new car. See how the salesperson follows up afterward. Inquire about an insurance policy from an excellent insurance broker and see how he handles the lead. Go to an open house and see if the real estate agent calls you over the next few days. In other words, learn from others. Do they send you a note in the mail? Do they track you down at home or work? Do they get you to like them? See what works and what is hopeless. Then blend the best ones into what will work for you. There are no bad ideas when trying to save a sale or trying to put a deal together (if they work), but some are definitely better than others.

So the next time a customer says "I can buy it cheaper on the Internet" or "There are better deals down the street" or "I'd rather buy something used" or whatever, don't give up. It's better to think about what it would take to get the customer to like you a little bit more, then your product. And a little cleverness along the way could be the answer.

Bob Popyk is the publisher of Creative SellingĀ®, a monthly newsletter on sales and marketing strategies for high-ticket retailers. His sales meetings and seminars are presented worldwide to major companies and industries. Questions on any aspect of sales education can be sent to FURNITURE WORLD at popyk@furninfo.com