Archive for October, 2007

The Second Sale
October 25, 2007

Confession:  I’d be lying if I told you how to start selling your service or product.  There are way too many bullets flying and way too many variables for a one-size-fits-all style of selling.  My advice to folks is always the same, “put on your favorite tennis shoes and start running.”  Depending on your product or industry, it may take cold calls, walk in meetings, international travel, networking through blogs, or plain dumb luck to get the ball rolling for sales.  As long as you are willing to work hard, work hard, work hard, work hard, and tackle challenges head-on, you should be fine.

That said, I can tell you a heck of a lot about how to make the “Second Sale.”  What is the Second Sale?  It’s when you earn the undying loyalty of your customers and while you won’t ever make the Second Sale without having made the initial sale, the Second Sale will be MUCH more vital to the success of your company.

The customer’s initial purchase will be made completely on perceived value in relation to cost.  More explicitly, the initial purchase will occur when the person with the checkbook says, “Hm…the value of this product or service is greater then the cost…this will help my business/life in a way that makes the fiscal expense justified.” However, the Second Sale will take place without any exchange of money yet will rely completely on the real value of the product or service.  The Second Sale occurs when your customer or client is having a problem and you fix that problem.  How you respond to your customer’s needs AFTER they have given you money will be the main determinant in how long they remain your customer.

Think about the products to which you are truly loyal.  Without seeing your list I can tell you the characteristics they embody.  The products to which you are loyal are no doubt (a) consistent in quality (b) reliable under stress and (c) easily fixed/solved when you have an issue with them.  If at any time these qualities become compromised, the customer is much more inclined to look at alternate available options.  When Coke changed it’s formula in the 1980’s, all hell broke loose as market share started to erode.  They quickly remedied the problem with great success, but quality (a) was compromised, so customers began looking elsewhere.  In the tech world, most famously, Dell’s previously high-rated customer service was outsourced to foreign countries leading to a customer backlash that the company is still dealing with.  (In all fairness to Dell, my opinion is that the issue exists as a result of long-waits, foreign resentment, and language barriers much more then the skill-level and ability of the customer service representatives answering the phone in Mumbai.)

The Second Sale is the one that will make your business flourish.  It’s the tipping point where your “customer” becomes an “advocate.”  It’s what makes them tell their friends, “you know, I had some shady spending on my check card and when I called Wells Fargo, they took care of it right away without any question.”  It’s what makes the person say, “I’m buying another Ford truck from Fred’s Autoplex because when my work truck broke down last winter, they went above and beyond to get it fixed quickly.”  The Second Sale is what makes customers stay with you when your competition comes calling.  “No thanks, Vonage.  I know my AT&T long distance may cost a little more each month, but it has always been reliable and the customer service is good.”

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you much about how to get your foot in the door.  But once you’ve got a seat at the table, the Second Sale will make you a welcomed guest.  When a customer has given you money, your relationship is just getting started and while you may not ever make another dollar from them, your job as a salesperson has only just begun.

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Rule #22 – Your customers are morons.
October 17, 2007

Your customers are morons, and you should treat them as such.  Now, now…don’t fret.  I’m not hacking on your customers.  I’m actually hacking on your product.

It’s easy to think that because something in your product or application is intuitive to you that it will be intuitive to everyone else.  That is simply not true.  Chances are much greater that what seems simple to you will feel much more complicated to someone else.  And customers will not use, much less pay for, complicated products.

When it’s time to design and build the customer interaction process (a GUI, a set of knobs and buttons, etc.), I try to think back to 3rd grade when I sat in creative writing class and was asked to write how to make a sandwich.  “Put the peanut butter on the bread…”  The teacher would respond, “where did you get the peanut butter?  Where did you get the bread?  How will you get it on the bread?  Do you put the peanut butter jar on the bread, or does it need to be opened first?”  On and on and on until a group of 8 year olds had spent three months writing a 22 page essay about how to make a frigging sandwich.

You need to approach the interaction between your customers/users/clients and your products EXACTLY the same way.  Yes, some details and actions are intuitive.  For example, you probably don’t need an explanation of what “Search” means when there is a text field with a “Search” button next to it on a website.  However, if you purchase a new electric weedeater, the first step in the instructions is to plug it in.  The first point of the “Troubleshooting” is making sure you have it plugged in and the weedeater is getting power.  Wouldn’t the most intuitive thing about operating an electric weedeater be to plug it in?  Nonetheless, Black and Decker and all the other electric weedeater manufacturers continue to print in the instructions, “Step 1: Plug in your new weedeater.”

You can make your product as easy to use as possible, and invariably someone will not understand it.  People look at things differently.  They have different preconceptions and perspectives.  You will not be able to build a customer interaction experience that levels all of those preconceptions and perspectives.  Instead, build something that you think is simple to use and then implement ways to  (a) explain how to use the product from start to finish, such as a help guide or tutorial (b) explain why something might not be working the correct way in the event it isn’t working the correct way and (c) how to receive prompt customer support in the event that doesn’t solve the problem.

If you build a product that’s easy for you to use under the assumption that it will be easy for everyone else, then you are shooting yourself in the foot.  Get feedback from different people about the interaction between that person and the product.  Tweak it.  Write a complete help guide.  Set up a “Frequently Asked Question” section of your website and keep it updated.  Once you’ve built the interface, there is still plenty of work to do to describe how it works.  Don’t cut corners on that portion of the project.  Remember, you’re dealing with morons.