Do you ever sit and wonder just what does it take to sell someone on your business? What magical words are used to convince a perfect stranger to go to their closet, pick out clothes that they think are soiled, put them into a bag and take them into your store for cleaning? Do such words exist? Yes, they do!
I have to admit, I have a lot of fun helping my sister in her business. My sister started an event marketing business. Brides and grooms hire my sister to show up at their wedding reception with her cotton candy machine in an oversized baby buggy, and she spins and serves fresh spun cotton candy to guests. She also does corporate events such as customer appreciation days, birthday parties, staff parties, etc. My sister’s business has grown like crazy during the past year, expanding into offer gourmet popcorn, snow cones, and s’mores. (www.puresweetness.ca if you are interested)
These s’mores are amazing on their own. We put together a s’mores kit comprised of the gourmet chocolate chip infused marshmallows, the sticks, and an ‘urban campfire’ which is a can of Sterno inside a decorative and colorful bowl, and lined with river rock for a pleasing presentation (Martha Stewart taught me that presentation is VERY important – and she was right!). We sell these s’mores kits at table top shows on weekends, and this is where I get to have the most fun because these table top shows and selling direct to the public reminds me so much of the days when I was selling my dry cleaning shop’s pick-up and delivery service knocking on doors and calling on offices.
Selling dry cleaning, selling s’mores, heck, even selling new and used cars, it’s all pretty much the same. It all focuses around having a sales process, and every sales process starts with the pitch.
The pitch is crucial. The pitch is what either attracts a potential customer’s attention, or not. It either opens a conversation, or it eliminates the prospect immediately. Yes, it’s that cut and dried, brutal, harsh, but effective. Why? Because in sales, you don’t want to be wasting time with people who are not interested, cannot afford, or have no use of your product or services. You either have an interested prospect that you then begin to qualify (and maybe even eliminate as a potential customer), or you immediately find out the customer is not interested at all and is immediately dropped freeing you to go one to the next potential customer.
So, standing in the booth at a table top show, we have a couple s’more pots set up complete with samples. As people pass, we reach out to folks and engage them with our most popular and effective pitch: ‘Would you like to make a s’more with us?’ It’s a simple yes or no question. Right off the bat, the prospective customer is either interested and replies ‘yes’, or they say no and keep moving on.
Who wouldn’t like to make a s’more? Well, uninterested people wouldn’t, that’s who. As much as I’d like to sell a s’mores kit to everyone who walks by, and anyone with a stomach and eats is a potential customer, I simply don’t have time to try to convince uninterested folks to buy the product. So, I save a lot of time eliminating uninterested people from my efforts, and I try to do so as quickly as possible so I can spend my time working with interested prospective customers who are much more likely to buy.
So, if the prospect says ‘Yes’, we move into one of a library of sales presentations (and yes, we have more than one…you should too!). We explain that we have found the secret to making s’more indoors all year round, or we tell the story of how these gourmet marshmallows were invented, or we tell the story of how all your friends will be so impressed at your creativity of making s’mores indoors as part of a fun after meal dessert, or we tell the story of a romantic evening gathering around the fireplace or fire pit making s’mores. All the while we are educating the prospective customer to the features and benefits of our amazing gourmet marshmallows and how to make them at home with our kit.
The stories are important. The stories set the scene. The stories draw your prospective customer deeper into your world you are creating for them, educating the prospective customer upon how your product or service fits into their life, how your product or service enhances their life, makes them look cool, interesting, smart; and it also presents your prospective customer with a vision of what could be if they commit to making a small purchase of your product or service, the lifestyle they will attain once they buy, the ease, comfort and benefits they will enjoy becoming your customer. And, while you are telling the story, you are sizing up the customer, watching for reactions that demonstrate that your customer can see the benefits of what you are offering.
You need to evaluate the potential customer while you are telling your story. If the customer is not reacting, or does not see the benefits of what you are offering, you are very likely wasting your time. Customers only buy what they want, what they need, what enhances and benefits their lives. If you are not engaging the customer, making a connection, and offering some of value to improve their life, you won’t likely make the sale, so best to cut bait and move on. Yes, not every sales presentation makes it to the end of the pitch and a sale. Be prepared to see a few flashes in the pan result in walking away in the middle of a presentation. It could be because you chose to tell the wrong story (sales presentation) and misread the prospective customer, or they simply don’t have the money, or the interest, or need of what you are presenting. It’s a fact of (sales) life, accept it, and move on.
But if the potential customer is engrossed in what you are presenting and you are receiving indicators of interest, it’s time to ramp up the presentation. We do a lot of sampling of our s’mores. It’s a way of getting the potential customer to actually participate in the s’mores experience, to feel what their friends and relatives will feel if the potential customer buys our kit. It’s a defining moment where the potential customer gets to crap test what we’ve said in our presentation, to find out for themselves if the marshmallows are as good as we say they are, or not. It’s the moment where the product, experience and sales presentation all comes together for the customer and they will both agree with us and move to committing to buying the product or the wheels come off the bus entirely and the sale is lost.
Sampling is a vital part of the pitch. A sample does exactly what I said it does in the previous paragraph. A sample will either prove to your customer that what you said is true, or not. For the prospective customer it’s a risk free way to try you out, test and evaluate your product or service, and see/experience for themselves that the features and benefits you offered will really work for them. If you can, wherever and whenever possible, offer samples in your presentations.
Once sampling has occurred, there is one last step, it’s time to ask for the order. It’s time that the customer either reaches for their wallet and you take the money, or you part as friends without anyone buying anything. Asking for the order is really pretty simple. You sum up by stating the obvious: ‘well, we made a s’more, how was it for you?’ If the prospective customer comments ‘oh wow’, or ‘that was incredible’, it’s all over except for asking, ‘How many would you like to buy?’, ’ which color pot would you like to buy?’, or which flavor with which pot could I wrap up for you today?’.
But even this late in the game, customers can still walk away empty handed, and you out a sale. Once you ask for the order, a customer can rebuff you because either they don’t have the money, or don’t want to spend it at this time. Again, it’s all part of the process. It’s a numbers game, not 100 percent buy. Again, accept it. You have to keep on pitching, and pitching and pitching. At the end of the day, or the end of the week, you either have sales, or you have made a lot of potential sales that may close at the next presentation opportunity.
I really do enjoy pitching marshmallows and s’mores. I find it helps me pitch selling dry cleaning. In my mind, I find myself walking up the driveway to a nice house. I notice the bikes and trikes in the front yard, it’s close to 7 o’clock at night just after super, just as dishes are being done, and before it’s time to put the kids to bed. I decide to use my ‘busy working housewife’ sales pitch. I ring the doorbell and wait…..the door opens….
‘Good evening, I was wondering if you could use a few extra hours of free time every week?’ (yes or no question moment).
If she says: ‘I’m busy doing dishes right now’, I’ll ask if I can come back later. If she says ‘no’, I’ll just move onto the next house and start over.
But if she says ‘yes’, I’ll carry on with my presentation: ‘We’ve found the secret that can give you a few extra hours of free time every week. Free time you could use to take the kids to Little League, go shopping, or just sit and enjoy a few hours of your favorite TV show.’
“Do you or your husband wash and iron your own shirts and blouses? (Qualifying the customer)
If she says no, I ask ‘who does them for you?’ (I will record the answer so I can map out my competiton in the marketplace later)