PERSON OF THE WEEK: There is an old joke that says somebody is a great salesperson if he or she can sell refrigerators to the Eskimos in the Arctic. But in today's thorny economy, less-than-stellar salespeople can find themselves left out in the cold if they fail to understand how to connect to potential customers. This week, MortgageOrb speaks with Jaynie L. Smith, CEO of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Smart Advantage Inc. and author of the new book ‘Relevant Selling,’ to understand the challenges of today's sales environment.
Q: In your opinion, what is needed to be a superior salesperson in today's business environment?
Smith: A great salesperson is personable, a good listener and knowledgeable, and can solicit what is most relevant to that customer and respond to that with laser focus. Salespeople must be able to listen with minimal personal bias. That means having an objective ‘ear’ that can truly hear what the customer is asking for and/or concerned with.Â
Many salespeople have canned presentations that they use, and they are often loaded with info that has little relevance to the buying criteria of the person making the decision. A superior salesperson never assumes what the customer will want, and is never defensive about his or her product or service.
Q: Your book states that ‘too many marketing and advertising efforts rely on creativity instead of relevance.’ How do you define the difference between these factors, and how can you achieve an appropriate balance between them?
Smith: Creativity may get my attention – the sexy blonde with the poodle, or the hot car – but getting my attention and actually keeping it are very different.Â
Keeping my attention means that your marketing and advertising efforts will cause me to ‘act’ – or, at the very least, want to learn more. When an ad is relevant to one's buying interests, the marketing and sales efforts begin to remove risk and build confidence.
This is not done with pictures, but with very succinct, relevant copy/wording that speaks directly to the customers wants and/or demands. Do you do business with a company because of their creative ads, or because it offers what you want?Â
Q: Many companies rely on customer surveys to determine sales strategies. What is the best way for a company to conduct a customer survey?
Smith: There are customer satisfaction surveys, and there is voice of the customer (VOC) research. A customer satisfaction survey will not tell you what your customers want the most; it will only how tell you well you are doing with key attributes and deliverables that you choose to ask about in the survey.Â
VOC research lets you know which things are most important. Based on my research, most companies are selling A, B, C – and research shows 90% of the time, they want to know about D, E and F.Â
So, first find out what your customers want most from you. Then, ask how well you're doing at those things. The best way to do VOC research is to hire a research firm to conduct double-blind surveys for you.
Q: What is the best way for a company to handle customer complaints?
Smith: Right away, directly and with apologies. There is little else to say – customer complaints in a viral world can kill you. Even if you have to take a hit, fix it fast.
Q: Can negative commentary posted online seriously damage a company's sales volume?
Smith: Absolutely! Most people Web surf before buying, so keep your record clean, and stay on top of comments posted on the Web. Few companies are auditing those comments, and they can be very damaging.
For example, if you're checking out hotels for an upcoming trip, and two of the five reviews say the hotel had bedbugs, do you still book it? What if the hotel posted its own reply, ‘We did find bedbugs; all the bedding has been replaced, and all the rooms fumigated. Inspected every two weeks; no more bedbugs found.’ Would that help you overcome your objection?