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Martin Grunstein
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The great website fraud

Thursday, December 06, 2018

I like IT people. I really do! They are sweet, caring human beings who need recognition and respect like everybody else…but they are “helicopter heads” and should not be allowed to talk to the general public!

Yet most websites have been created by IT people. And most websites are terrible!

There are two pages that should be on EVERY website and I bet they are not on yours.

The first is a page called WHY CHOOSE US?

Most websites have a COMPANY HISTORY page or an ABOUT US page, which gives background information on the company e.g. Bill used to work in a bank but left and founded BILL’s FINANCIAL SERVICES in 1993. He is passionate about customer service and he loves kittens.

Guess what? Nobody cares!

All prospective clients want to know when they visit your website is “what can you do for me and why should I contact you and not your competitor?” They want to know what differentiates you from your competition. They are not interested in your life story or your mission statement. They want to make a decision quickly, in as few clicks as possible, as to whether they will contact you and most COMPANY HISTORY pages and ABOUT US pages do more harm than good. They sprout a lot of clichés and rhetoric that actually turn customers off rather than encouraging them to make contact.

Here’s what should be on your WHY CHOOSE US? page: Your years of experience; the range of services you provide; the awards you have won; your qualifications and expertise you have that not all your competitors have; what you give back to the community; your environmental policy; your QA accreditation; your industry association membership; your personal accessibility; guarantees associated with your product/service etc. etc.; and anything unique about yourself and the services you provide.

It should be in bullet point form and it should be OBJECTIVE, making it easy to compare your offer with that of your competitors. You DON’T say subjective things like “I care about my customers” and  “our staff are friendly” because even the companies that don’t care about their customers, say they do, so why should I believe you and not them?

The WHY CHOOSE US page is for purely OBJECTIVE criteria in the decision making process. e.g. you have 30 years’ experience, the competitor has 15 years’ experience – advantage you; your product has a 10 year guarantee, your competitor’s has a 20 year guarantee – advantage them; you have QA accreditation, your competitor doesn’t – advantage you etc. etc. so the customer can make a decision based on the facts. And they can make that decision quickly.

I am not saying you don’t have other pages on your website. You may have a page on the explanation of your environmental policy but on the WHY CHOOSE US page you say you have taken action to minimize your carbon footprint (and if people want to read more they can click on your ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY page and they can read about it in full). But many people WON’T want to read all about your environmental policy in full, they just want to get a feel for whether they should consider you in one or two clicks.

The second page that should be on EVERY website is WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY with glowing testimonials from satisfied clients talking about how great your service is. If YOUR CLIENTS say your staff are friendly or that you act with honesty and integrity, I will be much more likely to believe it than if you say it about yourself.

If you look at the success of websites like tripadvisor.com and the importance of likes on Facebook, the marketplace is saying “I don’t believe the seller, I believe the buyer”. This is an indisputable fact. If you take the travel industry, look at the changes. Many years ago when planning a holiday, you got a whole lot of brochures from hotels and destinations and you made your decision based on what they told you about themselves. Nowadays, you don’t even go to the hotel’s website, you go to tripadvisor.com and read what people who have stayed at the hotel said because you trust them more than you trust the promotional material of a hotel.

Understanding that this is the way consumers are making decisions, you NEED to have testimonials on your website because the perception is that if you don’t have testimonials, you don’t have happy customers. Yet, most websites don’t have testimonials!

And you need to use testimonials correctly.

Firstly, you need to get the client’s permission to use their testimonial on your website which most people will happily give you but if they don’t you need to respect that and not use it.

Secondly, you need to put their full name and title if it is a corporate e.g. Martin Grunstein, CEO, Success Communications Pty Ltd; and their name and suburb if it is a consumer e.g. Mr. Martin Grunstein, Kensington. Why? Because testimonials are about credibility and verifiability. I have seen websites with testimonials from “Mary” or “Mary, Sydney” and that’s just ridiculous. Those could be made up for all the prospect knows. It is a very rare person that checks the veracity of testimonials by ringing the person to see if they are true but for testimonials to be credible they must be verifiable if the prospective customer wants to confirm their validity.

Another tip with testimonials is to never have a date on them. If you are lazy and don’t regularly update the testimonials on your website and there are dates on them, it looks like you have gone a long period of time without a happy customer.

And a final tip on testimonials – have LOTS of them. On my website I have over 30 testimonials. I don’t suggest that all my prospective clients read every one of them but I want to create the first impression that I have LOTS of happy customers. And a key part of business is creating a good first impression. I see some websites where the company talks about being in business for over 50 years and they have two or three testimonials and the first impression is “50 years in business, three happy customers”. Not a good first impression.

Another thing you may not realize is that the testimonials page talks about the RESULTS of what you do and that’s the picture you want to put in a prospect’s mind.

Unless you are running an online business, the purpose of your website is to get prospective customers to contact you. And in this world of short attention spans, you want people to be able to do that as quickly as possible. The ideal path for a browser should be HOME PAGE – WHY CHOOSE US – WHAT CLIENTS SAY – CONTACT US.

A major change I have made to my own site is to have video excerpts from live presentations ON MY HOME PAGE. When booking a speaker, people want to see them present live so my video is my strongest selling tool. I also have a CONTACT ME button on the home page as well. This enables people to book me with a minimum of clicks – HOME PAGE – WATCH VIDEO – CONTACT MARTIN (all on the same page). Some of the browsers will go to the WHAT CLIENTS SAY page and some will go to the REASONS TO BOOK MARTIN page but I have had a number of clients say to me they googled customer service speaker or keynote speaker or whatever, clicked on my site, watched some of the video and contacted me straight away. That’s wonderful. It was my job to make it as easy as possible for them to contact me.

Have a long hard look at your own website. Do you communicate the benefits of doing business with you succinctly and on one page? Do you have testimonial evidence to prove that the claims you are making are true? And can people get enough information to make the decision whether to contact you in two or three clicks? If not, you have an IT FRAUD WEBSITE and it is probably costing you money.

The changes above are simple and inexpensive to make and if the IT guy tells you they are not, get another IT guy. When it comes to the very important business of marketing, and your website is one of your marketing tools, it is important that the marketing guy does the talking and the IT guy does the listening, not the other way around.

Martin Grunstein is contactable on (0414) 933249 or www.martingrunstein.com.au

 

Must you always be right?

Thursday, November 29, 2018

The need to be right is a basic psychological human need and it is the catalyst for destruction of relationships, both personal and business.

How innate is it? See whether you relate to this as a parent.

You catch your toddler drawing with crayons on the wall. They have the crayons in their hand and a guilty smile on their face. You say to your little angel “Who did that?” and what does your child reply? “Not me, Mummy!”

I have given this scenario to audiences at many conferences and the response is almost universal that they can relate to the above example.

Why? Because our need to be right, or more correctly, our need not to be proved wrong, is fundamental and psychologists say that the younger your child is when he/she starts to lie, the more intelligent he/she is.

How does that apply to customer service? Very directly.

Say, you are the owner of a restaurant and a customer says the food is terrible. Your first instinct as a human being is to defend yourself from the heinous accusation. You may tell the customer that the chef is world renowned or that you have won awards for your food AND THAT IS THE WRONG THING TO DO and is more likely to lead to you losing that customer than the quality of the food itself.

Our need to prove ourselves right at the expense of the customer is the single major obstacle to becoming a business with a reputation for outstanding customer service.

The adage “the customer is always right” is definitely not true. Many times the customer is wrong and sometimes they are a pain in the neck. But the customer must walk away THINKING they are right, if you want them to come back. And if there is a complaint, the customer must be able to save face as well as have the complaint resolved, if they are to be a customer again in future.

When customers are spending their money in any situation, fundamental to the relationship is that their ego is preserved during the experience by everyone they come in contact with.

If we stick with the restaurant theme, my wife and I were out at a restaurant with another couple and the waiter was taking our drinks order. I ordered a Coke and the waiter said they didn’t have Coke, they had Pepsi. I said that’s fine. I then said to my friends that I remember from my old marketing days that Pepsi used to beat Coke in blind product tests and most people couldn’t tell the difference anyway.

The waiter corrected me. He said that he had also studied marketing and the recent evidence is that Coke beats Pepsi and people CAN tell the difference.

I wanted to tell the waiter to piss off!!!!!

 It’s not his job to correct my errors. But his need to be right was greater than his need to have a satisfied customer. We laughed about the incident at the table but I was embarrassed and my wife and I have never returned to the restaurant and I have told many people about the experience and the restaurant in question.

The best story I heard of a customer being humiliated by a service professional came when I was doing work in the golf club industry. One of the lady members complained that she was a vegan and there wasn’t sufficient variety in the club’s menu to keep her happy and she suggested that the club change its menu to accommodate her. The staff member (who was having a bad day – but that shouldn’t be the customer’s problem) told her “There’s plenty of grass out there. Why don’t you just have a munch on some of it while you are playing?”

Am I saying that we need to suppress a basic human need to be right to be providers of good customer service? Yes, that’s exactly what I am saying!

So what do we replace our first instinct of defence and justification with when we receive a complaint or hear something we don’t agree with?

EMPATHY! 

When you are kept waiting by a dentist or an accountant or anyone in business for that matter, the first thing they should say is “I am terribly sorry for keeping you waiting. I appreciate your time is valuable”.

AND VALIDATION!

The last few weeks of my father’s life were very traumatic for me. I was at the hospital every day and I was becoming quite a pain in the neck to the staff when I couldn’t get answers to questions or talk to his doctor when I needed to. One day his doctor took me aside one day and said “I need to speak to you”. I thought he was going to reprimand me for my poor behavior but he did exactly the opposite. He said “I appreciate your frustration but we are doing everything we can for your father. I also want to tell you that you are a very good son. You are here every day and many other patients don’t have a loved one who cares for them like you. I hope when my time comes, my son will be there for me like you are for your father”. And I felt an overwhelming sense of relief and ceased to be a pain in the neck to the staff.

Sometimes when customers act poorly, there are other issues in their life that are causing that. A little empathy and validation that they are a good person can make them much easier to deal with.

I have taught the use of validation with great success in the child care and aged care industry. But it applies much wider than that.

When most businesspeople receive a complaint or hear something that makes them feel uncomfortable, their first response is to protest their innocence. The first step SHOULD be to acknowledge the concern of the customer.

And this applies importantly to social media.

If you receive criticism on Facebook, don’t fight with the customer online. When people complain on social media, they are angry and often will embellish the story for increased effect. If you try to prove their accusation false or ridiculously exaggerated you can come across as unconcerned at best and a bully at worst. People reading the communication will often relate to the customer rather than the service provider and may decide not to do business with you purely based on the way you communicate with the complaining customer.

When you receive criticism, the first thing you should do is acknowledge the customer’s inconvenience and say how sorry you are that they feel the way they do. Don’t try to work out who’s right and wrong online. The best thing to do is to try and resolve the issue offline. Tell them you’d like to buy them a cup of coffee and listen to them in more detail and help resolve the issue.

Even if they don’t turn up for the coffee, the fact that you acknowledged them and offered goodwill to resolve the issue may stop them taking more revenge upon you by badmouthing your business AND people reading the communication see you as a business responsive to the needs of your customers rather than someone who abuses those who complain.

If we can change our instinctive response of defensiveness and justification (the adult version of “not me, mummy”) to empathy and a desire to make the customer happy, we can massively enhance the perception of our business in the minds of customers and those who they communicate with.

I remember many years ago hearing Oprah Winfrey say on her show when talking about relationships “You can go through life being right or being successful and happy – but you can’t have both!”

I am happy to give up the need to be right for a little bit more success and happiness. What about you?

Martin Grunstein’s results with over 500 Australian companies across over 100 industries have made him an in-demand speaker on customer service. He is contactable at www.martingrunstein.com.au

 

I'm not in the mood for your anger

Thursday, November 15, 2018

I’ve been in the speaking business since 1985 and heard some atrocious stories of poor customer service over the years but I had an experience on my recent family holiday that is up there with the best of them.

My wife, two children and I spent a week at a five star Australian hotel that was part of a respected chain of hotels. As a hopelessly addicted golfer, one of the value adds of this hotel was a shuttle transfer to and from a nearby golf course and I arranged a couple of games before I went.

On the Thursday, I was dropped at the golf course and told to ring from a certain phone to go straight through to the porters and they’d come and pick me up. I had a lovely game of golf and was in a good mood but looking forward to getting back to the hotel for a swim and to see my family.

I rang from the special phone and after a couple of minutes of hearing it ring, I looked at my watch to see how long it would take to get through. It took five and a half minutes (that’s a lot of rings) and the polite lady said she would send a shuttle to pick me up straight away.

I had a drink, read a bit while waiting but after 28 minutes there was no shuttle so I rang back. I was on the line for EIGHT MINUTES with no answer so I hung up the phone and rang the hotel’s external number and after teleprompting I was put through to reception. I had been waiting again for over four minutes with no answer when a staff member of the golf club asked me how I was going and could he do anything to help. I explained the situation briefly and this nice young man said he’d just finished his shift and would drive me back to the hotel, which he did. He explained the hotel used to own the golf course but didn’t anymore and he’d seen quite a few angry customers waiting a long time for shuttles back to the hotel. I thanked him profusely for the lift and told of my experience to a person at reception. He asked if I wanted to see a manager and I told him I wasn’t interested in making a complaint, I just wanted to enjoy my holiday but I had arranged to play golf again on Saturday and didn’t want to have the same experience again.

Saturday comes and another enjoyable day on the golf course. I ring for the shuttle back and this time I wait six and a half minutes on the phone before I get through to the porter. He tells me he will send a shuttle straight away and I say to him “before you get off the phone, I need to tell you what happened on Thursday because I really don’t want that to happen again. I begged him to come soon or please send someone in the next 10 minutes.” When he arrived I thanked him for coming to pick me up and told him I wasn’t angry at him, I was angry at the system that made me wait so long without the phone being answered.

He then hit me with possibly the worst line I have ever heard in the customer service business, let alone the hospitality industry, which is reputed to be the best customer service industry in the world.

He said “I’M NOT IN THE MOOD FOR YOUR ANGER. I have 1,000 guests at the hotel to look after, not just you”. I said “I am one of those guests and I think I have been treated really badly”. He told me he thought I was overreacting and I should “chill out”. I asked him if he’d done the training offered by his hotel and did he learn anything about empathy. He said he’d done lots of work on empathy and I told him I thought he’d failed in that area.

He told me I could take it up with his boss if I wasn’t satisfied and I told him I’d like to do that. His boss sat with me and did everything right. She apologised and said that she was embarrassed by the behaviour of the porter and said she would report this experience to the GM and would make sure things were changed. I gave her my business card and said that I wasn’t after any compensation or free gifts from the hotel, all I wanted was to hear back from her that she had spoken to the appropriate people and no other guest of the hotel would be treated that way.

She promised sincerely she would.

I never heard from her!

I will never spend my money to stay at the hotel again and if my clients ask me my opinion about holding their conference there, I will encourage them to choose another venue.

The hotel let me down in three separate ways and each way was worse than the one before.

Firstly, all businesses have action standards for answering the phone. Some business like to answer within three rings, some within five rings but five minutes; eight minutes; six minutes; and four minutes, which are all over 100 or 200 rings, is just ridiculous. Remember, this happened four out of four times, it couldn’t be claimed to be a “one off” aberation.

Secondly, “I’M NOT IN THE MOOD FOR YOUR ANGER” may be an appropriate statement for a boxer or a wrestler but it is NEVER, EVER appropriate in business, especially in the “hospitality” industry where the word “hospitable” means friendly and welcoming to guests. The porter was so out of line I suggest that he should never have chosen a career in the hospitality industry.

Thirdly, the rooms manager, after doing everything right face-to-face, was the worst of all because she never came back to me after promising sincerely that she would. That is my last impression of the hotel and influences my perceptions, the stories I tell other people and was the trigger for me writing this article.

Here’s what the hotel could have done, even if they weren’t able to change their phone system.

Ideally, after a senior manager was told about my experience on Thursday by the fellow at reception, he could have called me in my hotel room and apologised and told me it wouldn’t happen again on Saturday and he could have given me his mobile number and said if you can’t get through on the direct line call me and I’ll make sure a shuttle gets to you straight away.

That would have been outstanding and I would have told people about this brilliant manager, who really cared. My perception of the hotel would have been a very positive one.

The next best thing would have been a porter with a great attitude. He would have told me he would be there to pick me up straight away, he would have apologised for what I had experienced on Thursday and said if there’s anything you need around the hotel, please ask for me and I’ll do whatever I can to help. He would have told the rooms manager of my experience and there would have been a bottle of wine delivered to my room, with compliments of the GM, as a token of the hotel’s embarrassment for the inconvenience I had experienced.

I would have walked away telling people of the bottle of wine and the good attitude of the porter, rather than the miserable experience I had suffered.

But even if none of these were done, a simple phone call from the rooms manager telling me of the action she had taken to reprimand the porter and look at the system from a guest’s perspective, so that what happened to me won’t happen again, would have been appreciated.

I wouldn’t have been thrilled but that would have pacified me and stopped me telling negative stories about this hotel.

But what I got instead was inconvenienced by a system; insulted by a staff member; and ignored by management.

If you are looking for a recipe for corporate bankruptcy, I think INCONVENIENCED; INSULTED; IGNORED would be about as good as you could get.

What I find amazing in this day and age is how few companies have their staff trained in the skills to deal with complaints. I appreciate it may be hard for a small business to justify investing in training in this area but even this international hotel group is not getting it right. And if they have made the investment in training in this area, it is patently not working.

When a customer complains he/she wants three things: They want to whinge without being interrupted; they want acknowledgement of their inconvenience; and they want to know what you can do, not what you can’t do.

Let me give you a real world example of the difference this can make to profitability.

Quite a few years ago, I ran some seminars for a company called PIERLITE, who sell professional lighting solutions. Their policy was that if a delivery didn’t arrive on time via road train and the client complained, they would airfreight the delivery the next day. This was a very expensive exercise because the cost of airfreight almost always took away all the profit on the job.

I taught the frontline people the basics of complaints handling. Let the customer whinge without interrupting them. Then apologise for the inconvenience they have been caused (an apology for inconvenience caused is not a legal admission of liability, it is an empathy statement), telling them you understand how that has affected the running of their business.

Then, instead of agreeing to airfreight the job the next day, I got them to ask the customer (after pacifying them) “what can we do to put it right?”

It turned out that over 80% of the clients did NOT need the delivery air freighted the next day, they would say things like “just make sure it doesn’t happen again” or “make sure it’s on the next road train” or “tell the dispatcher he’s a dickhead”.

PIERLITE arranged for the delivery to go on the next road train and with the top 20% of clients they included a nice bottle of red and a card from the customer service person saying “I am terribly sorry you were stuffed around, I hope you’ll accept this bottle of wine with our compliments as our way of saying sorry.”

Two things happened that affected profitability.

They saved air freight costs in over 80% of cases of complaints. And they picked up referral business from word of mouth because their competitors, who also made mistakes, did nothing to pacify and acknowledge their customers when they got it wrong. And some of them moved all their business to PIERLITE.

The most important impressions in business are first impressions and last impressions. Do you want your customers’ last impressions after a complaint to be the apology and the bottle of wine…or INCONVENIENCED, INSULTED, IGNORED?

Martin Grunstein is this country’s most in-demand speaker on customer service. He is contactable on (0414)933249 or through his website www.martingrunstein.com.au

 

The case of the eroding margin

Monday, November 05, 2018

Margins in most industries are eroding, some quite markedly. Fifteen years ago, the retail margin on computer hardware was close to 50%. Today, it’s less than 10%. Fifteen years ago, real estate sales people could get at least 3% commission on the sale of a property. Today it’s 2%, if they’re lucky. In 10 years, it will probably be 1%. In many industries, I can buy goods online that retailers would have to sell at a loss if they were to match price. 

Why is this happening? What can be done to arrest the decline?

The “why” is simple and is self-inflicted. The “how to arrest the decline” is also simple and is within the ability of each of us.

The reason margins have eroded is because players in each affected industry have commoditized their offer and made price the only differentiator in their marketing.

Take the travel industry. Years ago, we would go to the travel agent and discuss the excitement and possibilities of our future overseas trip. The discussion would be on the experiences and adventures we might have and the consultant’s advice would play a big part in the decision we made. Today, it is all about cheap airfares on the internet. We don’t seek the advice of the travel consultant because tripadvisor.com gives us information, which is more powerful – feedback from other travellers, and we make our decisions accordingly.

What about the car industry? Almost every car dealer advertises they will match the price of any competitive offer. It used to be that Ford’s biggest competitor was Holden, now a Ford dealer’s biggest competitor is another Ford dealer and a Toyota dealer’s biggest competitor is another Toyota dealer because the car has become a “commodity”. How is that affecting the industry? Thirty years ago, a car dealership was a hugely profitable business and many multi-millionaires were made from selling cars. Today, the sons of those multi-millionaire car dealers have taken over the business and struggle to service their mortgages because there is little profitability in selling cars these days. I was at a conference of a major motor vehicle company and they announced to the dealer principals in the room that dealer profitability on new cars nationally for the whole brand was HALF OF ONE PERCENT.

There are many, many other examples of industries that have given their margins away and are now blaming the consumer for being price-preoccupied and complaining that they can’t make any money.

The more interesting question is: how can this decline be arrested and what can businesspeople do to get the margin back into their business?

I have a simple answer to this dilemma that I have seen clever companies use in their businesses. I use it in my business and you can use it in yours. You need to sell an INTANGIBLE and not a commodity! People will pay more for an intangible than they will for a commodity, even if the product concerned is identical.

Let me give you several examples:

CRIMSAFE is a company that sells security screen doors and it has quite a few competitors. About five years ago, they ran one of the best radio advertising campaigns I have ever heard. The voiceover said something like “Imagine what it would be like if someone broke into your house and hurt the people you love the most”. There was a pause, so the listener could imagine something terrible happening to their loved ones. Then the voiceover continued “CRIMSAFE. Makers of the best security screen doors in Australia”. And sales skyrocketed. Why? Because CRIMSAFE stopped selling screen doors, which are a commodity and started selling FEAR, which is an intangible. And people will pay much more to avert their fear than they will pay for screen doors. When our children were young, my wife and I were planning an overseas trip to celebrate a landmark birthday, leaving the children with a live-in nanny for two weeks. A month before we were due to leave, someone broke into our house while we were asleep and stole cash from our bedroom. We made the decision the next day that we would not travel overseas if we didn’t have the best security screen doors on our home to ensure the safety of our children. And we bought those screen doors and we didn’t care what we paid. The people in the security screen door industry say the best thing for their business is when people get their home broken into. It creates the demand for their product and price is rarely an issue. CRIMSAFE worked out the second-best thing. And that is to plant the image in the consumer’s mind of the fear that something bad might happen to them and offer CRIMSAFE as the solution to the problem. And that’s what they did.

Margins in the FEAR industry do not erode! What intangible does the expensive nursing home sell to the children of the prospective resident of that home, knowing that the costs of looking after that resident will come from the children’s future inheritance? If you can’t get it yet, let me make it easier. Imagine the salesperson from the nursing home saying “After all your mother/father has done for you, don’t you think they deserve the best of everything in their final years?” They are selling GUILT. Of course, they are. And guilt sells!

I have a friend who is a retired wedding photographer. His fees were usually up to 50% higher than his nearest competitor. His strategy had a 90% conversion rate. After he presented the father of the prospective bride with the quote (which usually led to a jaw dropping), he looked him in the eye, while the mother of the bride and the future bride, herself, looked on, and he said “Do you love your daughter enough to have the best of everything on the most important day of her life?” And then he just paused and waited for the reply, which was YES in over 90% of cases. You can make much more money selling GUILT than you can selling photography.

 It can work in just about any industry. I got my own personal strategy from the cosmetics industry. Do you know what REVLON and other cosmetics companies sell? They sell HOPE to women! It may not be in their public mission statement but you can bet their marketing people understand it. And that is why cosmetics that cost $75 for a small bottle of goo sell better than cosmetics that cost $20. Because there is more HOPE in an expensive bottle than there is a cheap one. And when you link that with a celebrity who endorses the product, you get the consumer making the irrational (but profitable for the cosmetics company) decision that if they buy that $75 bottle of goo, they can look more like that beautiful celebrity.

If you are a man and you are now laughing about how vain and stupid women must be to fall for that, how do you think the golf industry works? It has been said by more than one golf equipment marketing executive that “golf is a multi-billion dollar industry based on irrational hope”. NIKE can sell expensive golf clubs to hacker golfers with minimal ability (but lots of money) on the ridiculous premise that, by buying those clubs, they will be using the clubs that Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy use and they will play a bit more like them. Unbelievable? Yes. Effective? Also yes.

HOPE is also what every consultant sells. It’s just that most of them don’t know that’s what they are selling. And I can make more money selling hope than selling a 60-minute presentation at a conference. How do I do it? I make my testimonials the centrepiece of my marketing. I have a page of about 40 testimonials on my website and while some of them talk about the humour in my presentation and the work I did in customizing my message to the audience, the overwhelming impression to a person who reads some or all of them is “These people were really happy with their decision to engage Martin’s services” and I am urging them to HOPE (and believe) that if they hire my services, they will feel the same way after THEIR conference. If I sell an hour of my time, that’s a commodity, if I sell the hope that the CEO of my client company will feel he/she has made a good decision, that’s an intangible and is harder to put a price on. What we must do as salespeople who value our margins, is get focus on the result rather than the product/service. An hour of my time is worth $X and can be undercut by a competitor offering an hour of his/her time cheaper. The CEO picturing the good feeling after the conference (like so many others have had) and calculating the return on investment by his people changing their behavior as a result of my influence – that has to be worth much, much more. And it is.

What are you doing in your industry? Are you selling a commodity or an intangible?

Indulge my humorous side for a moment.

Here’s how a retail shopping centre would look if retailers sold intangibles instead of commodities:

1. The jeweller wouldn’t have “50% off” in the window, he/she would have a sign that says MEN: ARE YOU TAKING YOUR RELATIONSHIP FOR GRANTED? BUY YOUR PARTNER SOME JEWELLERY BEFORE SOMEONE ELSE DOES AND YOU LOSE HER FOREVER.

2. The optometrist wouldn’t have “Buy one get one free” in the window he/she would have THINKING OF GETTING MARRIED? COME IN FOR AN EYE TEST. YOU MIGHT CHANGE YOUR MIND.

3. The pet shop wouldn’t have “Puppies half price”, it would have PARENTS: IF YOU DON’T BUY YOUR CHILDREN A PET, THEY WILL REMEMBER IT FOREVER AND THEY MAY NOT DO EVERTYHTING THEY CAN FOR YOU WHEN YOU ARE OLD AND DEPENDANT ON THEM.

Obviously, I am being facetious with the above examples BUT if they were the type of signs in the window rather than “SALE” or “50% OFF” which seem to dominate the retail landscape, don’t you think the retailers’ margins might be a bit better than they are?

My challenge to those of you who are in industries whose margins have eroded is to shift focus. If you take the two industries I quoted at the start of this article, if real estate agents were selling STRESS MANAGEMENT to vendors, then commissions may go back to 3% instead of down to 1%, where they are heading at the moment. Other computer companies should learn from APPLE, which got out of the computer industry years ago and got into the ENTERTAINMENT industry, which is much harder to put a value on.

And if you are lucky enough to be in an industry that isn’t suffering from eroding margins, you are probably selling intangibles already. But if you aren’t, do it before your competitors do because there is no reason why healthy margins can’t be maintained or improved upon, if you provide the right solutions.

I hope the above is helpful and I look forward to Saturday when I can enjoy my game of HOPE, I mean golf.

Martin Grunstein’s outstanding results with over 500 Australian companies across over 100 industries has made him this country’s a highly in-demand speaker on customer service. He is contactable on 0414933249 or through his website www.martingrunstein.com.au.

 

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