How to Get the Best Deal:

What you will often hear is stuff like “Don’t open up first”, “Use bluffs”, “Don’t make eye contact”, “Don’t say more than you have to”, “Say Hocus Pocus at the end”, and much more of this sort. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you can chuck all of that down the drain. In my years of experience as a sales person I have seen customers bargaining and getting the best deals possible, and I have also seen customers fall flat on their faces in their attempt to get it.

Getting the best deal is a matter of preparation, knowledge and mainly communication. Below is my simple 6 steps guide to guarantee that you always get the best possible deal out of every purchase you make:

  1. DO YOUR HOMEWORK – Spend as much time as possible to prepare for your encounter with the sales people. Know what it is you are after, and what would a good deal look like to you. Inform yourself about pricing, features and everything you can get your hands on reference to the product or service that interests you. It will make your life easier, and will also make the sales person’s life easier. If you save them time by asking on point questions and sharing your knowledge with them, they will more likely repay you with a good deal.
  2. DON’T GET OVEREXCITED – Not all salesperson want the best deal for you, and they will look for your weak spots. If the sales person senses you are overexcited about a service or product, they will go after your excitement much like a shark smells blood in the water and goes right for it. They will address the excitement factor to drive your attention away from other issues such as pricing. Keep your feet on the ground, and your excitement under control.
  3. MAKE THE LOWEST REALISTIC OFFER – You have of course read and heard of people saying that if you want the best bargain “never open up with an offer first”. To say the least, as a salesperson and a customer, this a ridiculous way to go about it. Do you actually believe, that the universe will somehow change the numbers or profit margins, if you withhold your offer?  Imagine if you and the seller have the same mindset, both unwilling to open up with an offer, then what do you get? An awkward standoff that gets no one nowhere! Open up and take the first swing. Open up with the lowest yet realistic (sensible) offer you can come up with and the conversation will roll from there on. However, if you open up with an unrealistic low offer, then more likely the sales person will walk away (chilling effect) as you have just shown that you are not a serious buyer, and all you will end up doing is counter offering yourself in a desperate attempt to get them engaged again. Assuming you have done your homework, you should have a rough idea of what those parameters are between realistic and unrealistic offers. No miracle is going to happen on you, therefore be realistic and sensible.
  4. MENTION OTHER OFFERS – Don’t hesitate to say that you have also been elsewhere and that this is what you were offered. Let the sales person dwell on it, and if they really want your business they will come up with a counter offer or they will try to match the deal you got. Be wary though, of not getting caught bluffing. In my profession I have often called out customers’ bluffs, simply because as sales professionals we also take the time to research our products, services and more importantly our competition. If you are caught bluffing, not only will you not walk away with a deal, you would have also lost the respect of the person you are dealing with.
  5. PRICE BEYOND PRICE TAG – Think beyond the actual price tag. There are products that require some form of maintenance and/or customer support after the initial purchase. All of these cost money. If you feel like you are stuck on the price, then try to look at these to make the deal more attractive to you. Most common things you can ask for are some form of warranties, or other maintenance related cost waivers. These are clauses in the deal that go beyond the initial price, but will actually save you money in the long run.
  6. TRUST YOUR GUT – You walk into a place and it doesn’t feel right. The people don’t feel right. The vibes are not right. Simply walk away. As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, “If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t”. Deal only with people that you feel you speak the same language, they understand what you are after, and you can establish a line of communication with them right away. When it comes to the negotiating process, if it feels like it’s a good deal, take it!  

For all of the above to work, in order for you to be able to get that best deal every time, there are 2 basic rules of engagement that must be clarified before you embark on your 6 steps in achieving that:

  1. BE GENUINELY INTERESTED. If you are not really interested in a product or service, then do not take up time from people who are expected to make deals in order to feed their families. Trained sales professionals can see through someone who is simply there to spend time and just wander about. In my years of expertise, no one has ever gotten the best deal by simply asking for information or by taking up unnecessary time.
  2. BE POLITE. No sales person is willing to assist a rude, obnoxious, impolite, arrogant customer. At the end of the day, to get a good deal the other person must want it as well for you. There is no tricky way to go about this. Be polite, and give room for a conversation.  

On a concluding remark, don’t forget that at the end of the day you are dealing with another human being. As I have mentioned throughout, there are no magic wands or sneaky tactics that you can use. The secret is that if the other person feels that there is a mutual understanding that both parties must win, not at the expense of each other but rather a win-win scenario, then more likely they will want to elevate you by offering you the best possible deal.  

I hope you have found this topic interesting and useful. What do you think about it? All feedback and comments are welcomed

SALES: Time Wasters

In the past few years I have been invited and attended a number of seminars and conferences reference sales, customer relations, negotiation tactics and more, but none of these seminars have addressed issues that really take up time and effort when you are hands on full on sales.

This article’s sole purpose is to help sales people whose time, effort and enthusiasm are valuable and limited resources in their profession. It is a simple guidebook to equip them with the tools in order be able to allocate their resources more effectively and efficiently to serious customers, and not time wasters. By definition, these are the customers who won’t give you a yes or a no, rather just drag the sales process with no seeming end.

Working in sales you are always under constant pressure whether that would be by your peers, sales targets,customers, management or competitors, hence why every resource you have must be carefully allocated to deliver the best results and not wasted on customers who are simply not on the same page as you.

Below is the five types of Time Wasters one can encounter while working in sales:

1.”The Wanderers”: These are customers who simply don’t know what they want. You will often hear them using  “I’m just looking”.  Their inquiries are very vague, and the range of what they are looking for is endless. They will browse from cheap to extensive, big to small, with no real sense of direction.

2. “The Secret Agent”: These are customers who don’t share information about themselves or what are they after. As sales people we are trained to grill people within the first two minutes of our interaction in order to get the idea of what needs and wants the specific customer is trying to satisfy, therefore us being able to assist them much more efficiently. These sort of customers though, you will see that they are very reluctant in sharing what exactly it is they are looking for, or why they are looking for it, neither give you any information that will help you point them in the right direction.

3. “The Pinocchio”: Everybody knows the story of the little wooden boy, whose nose would get bigger and bigger every time he lied. Surprisingly enough we also encounter customers who lie, and most of the times it is too obvious, when they do it through over promising! If only I had penny for every time I heard this from a customer:  “If you give me a good deal, I have a big network, lots of friends, you know” or “You will make a lot of sales out of me”. This is the classic situation. When a customer starts with “If you help me, I will help you” then you know you got to let it go. Rule 1 in sales, never lie and never over promise! Yet, some customer are so willing to do it, because after they get the deal they want, then they don’t have to bother with you ever again. To top it up, they will make all these grand promises, and at the end of the day there will still be no deal.

4. “The Royalty”: These are customers who are willingly ignoring the sales person and process. They see themselves as above the process and that you are beneath them, hence they don’t want to deal with you. A frequent recurrence with this type of customers, is that they have a tendency of using one of these right from the get go of the conversation:  “I want to see the boss” and/or “Only tell me the best price!”. No chance for a conversation, no feedback, they don’t give you a chance to put forward your best self; basically they don’t want to bother with you, or with what you are offering, so why should you? Don’t give in, there is no best price in two minutes, nor will you see the boss right away (unless you have an appointment). If you are greeted in such a way, always be polite, but simply make it clear that unless you want to be part of a discussion with me, then you will not be taking up anymore of my time.

5. “The Suspect”: Most people let out certain vibes when you meet them. Some make a good impression, some make a terrible impression. An experienced sales person, much like an experienced police officer, has a gut feeling when it comes to certain customers. My advise is that if it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t right. Always trust your gut!

Seeing customers every day, one cannot afford to spend a single minute or amount of effort more than what they should have, with a person that has all the characteristics of a Time Waster. Through my years of experience in sales, and the large number of customers I have been dealing with on a daily basis, I have come up with three ways in which one can swiftly handle and deal with these customers:

1. Learn to say “NO”: By nature we don’t like to say no to other people in case we might sound rude, but a NO in this scenario has a strong and definite impact. It clarifies from the beginning the boundaries of the discussion, and doesn’t allow for the customer to take a lead and drag on unnecessarily. It shows that your time is valuable, and we should get on point.

2. Leave them be: You introduced yourself, you showed who you are, you did everything by the book, but seems like you are not getting through? Give them space. Go on about your other business, and let them wonder about. Eventually one of two things will happen: Either they will come looking for you, or they will simply see themselves out the door.

3. Refer them to a different source: This is an automation process. You can simply refer them to an alternative source, i.e. your website or any other online platform you use, and let them spend time by themselves, checking everything they want to check for themselves. There is no reason for you to be dragged into it. Customers can take days if not months before deciding, so simply let them do this at their own time, and not yours.

All customers deserve and must be treated with respect and one must always devote time to analyse, listen, understand and guide customers in the right direction in order for them to be able to satisfy their needs and wants. However, time is not unlimited, nor is the salesperson’s enthusiasm and energy, hence why it is a great advantage to be able to swiftly identify and handle customers with these traits. After all, the most fundamental principle in business and sales is that “Time is Money” (Franklin B.)

I hope you have found this topic interesting and useful. What do you think about it? All feedback and comments are welcomed.

Your Greatest Project:

Recently I have had a discussion with a group of friends, from different industries and professions, with regards to whether marketing is the most important factor for business’ success, and also whether marketing plays an integral role in peoples lives and decision making process. In this blog post I will be addressing the latter.

A brand is a set of ideas, images and values, one can associate with a label or organisation. In my MSc Thesis, I wrote about Nation Branding, the notion that nations can be understood and analysed as brands. For example, think of Brazil. What sort of images and feelings come to mind? That is the brand of Brazil to you. Now, if countries can be defined as brands, what about people as individuals? What about you?

We all engage in marketing activities daily whether we do so willingly or without consciously knowing so. For most people the majority of these marketing activities happen unconsciously. Let’s take YOU as an example: You wake up every morning, and spend some time to pick out your clothes. After that, straight to the mirror, whether it will be for a few minutes, or hours to prepare yourself. Who are you really preparing for? Why did you pick out those clothes? What are you preparing for? Why are you putting this amount of effort into it? Why do you care about your image?

As previously mentioned, a brand is a set of ideas, images and values one associates with a company or organisation. In this case, these ideas, values and images are associated with you. You are preparing yourself for how others will see you and perceive you.You are preparing for the message you want to convey. You are preparing for how the world will interpret you.

The way you walk, behave, talk, the people who surround you, the places you hang out are all integral parts of how you market yourself, and how you want the rest of the world to see you. You choose when and how to interact, you filter people and select the ones that best represent you to be around you. A very common saying in my country is “Show me your friend, and I will tell you who you are” (“Δείξε μου τον φίλο σου, να σου πω ποιός είσαι”).

You are and have been a marketer all of your life. It is time to own it. Own the decisions and steps you take. Turn your unconscious into conscious marketing activities and build your brand image the way you want to. Own your brand and be aware that every move you make is a building block towards your personal brand. Invest in yourself to help your brand grow the way you have imagined it and the way you picture yourself.

The more you grow and your brand resonates, the more people you can reach. The bigger and stronger your personal brand becomes, the more opportunities and people will appear and new doors will open up. This is the greatest marketing project of your life, so take ownership!
(The best ways to develop your personal brand will be featured at a future blog post)

I hope you have found this topic interesting and useful. What do you think about it? All feedback and comments are welcomed.

Sales and Negotiations: Hold Your Ground!

Times have changed. The markets have changed. Competition has changed. Customers are informed on products and services, therefore the way you handle a sale, the negotiation process and even the closing have also changed. The classic scenario was as follows: Start off with a high opening offer, customer counter offers with a very low one, and then meet somewhere in the middle. In this article, we will examine one of the new methods of handling the sales/negotiation discussion.

Below are three terminologies that will be used to better explain the sale and negotiation process:
1. ANCHORS: It refers to a target or goal. Usually associated with a price (figure). Both parties can have an anchor.
2. CHILLING EFFECT: One of the negotiators looses all motivation to continue the discussion (negotiation)
3. BATNA: This term refers to the Best Alternative Agreement ( Fisher & Ury, 1981)

Back to the present now, unfortunately the above mentioned tactic won’t even allow you to get noticed. This doesn’t mean that tactics used for the last century are no longer effective, but rather need a reexamination and adjustment. The need for this readjustment/ reexamination, is that majority of sales now happen in the faceless online world, and if your opening offer is high, then you will not even get the lead, the chance to enter the discussion with a potential customer.

The below technique is for sales people who are well informed on their product/services, understand competitive advantage and also have the stomach for it. This technique requires a lot of practicing and you must be equipped with facts, figures, and a lot of patience. Be wary of the vocabulary you will use and your attitude towards the other party, otherwise it might have a chilling effect.

How to get started is simple, but will take some time to master in order to be able to go from lead to actual sale. First off you need to lower your anchor (asking price) and bring it closer to your BATNA (Best Alternative Agreement). The higher your anchor is, the more likely is that you will get lost in the midst of the competition. Lower your anchor to stand out from the competition. When the leads come in, and they will come in, then it’s up to you and your team to turn it into a sale.

Here is how is done: Have you ever seen a movie with knights, who declare where the last stance will be, and when the battle begins how their main goal is to hold their ground? Your approach must be the same. Hold your anchor, and don’t take a step back. Potential customers will of course engage in a discussion, or even try to negotiate for better, lower price. It is in our nature. Show that your are serious about your offer, and repeat all the pros without referring to pricing as much. Always keep in mind that the main reason they have chosen to contact you, is because your pricing is better than competitors. If you take a step back, it will be the first of many.

Not stepping back shows how serious you are with reference to your product and pricing. In addition you come forth as credible, by providing facts and market knowledge while sharing them with the customer. Spend time with them and repeat the key benefits of doing business with you, whether it is about the product or your organisation. All of this comes together with a lot of patience. Take the necessary time to convince of the benefits, and when you see the customer countering his initial offer closer to your offer, then simply fall back on your BATNA (or close to it) and seal the deal. Closing the deal in that way, still leaves the customers with the feeling that they got the best bargaining price out of an already excellent package.

Two benefits from using this technique are:
1. It will bring in more leads. More leads means more potential sales.
2. Directly puts pressure on the competition. Those who can’t compete, will fade away.

Not all sales or negotiations have a simple or happy ending. For this reason, you must always have a walkaway strategy. When the customers sticks to their anchor, which is at a big distance from yours, and after all other means of persuasion have failed, then it is time to simply walk away. Have faith in your product, and more leads will follow. Being ready to walk out shows that you are not desperate for the deal, and that you are only interested in engaging in a serious conversation, and not a battle of egos.

Having used this technique myself for the last few years in sales, not only have I managed to see more customers, but also increased the conversion rate drastically. Just like the knights, declare your battlefield and hold your ground!

I hope you have found this topic interesting and useful. What do you think about it? All feedback and comments are welcomed.

Negative Reviews: 4 STEPS

Let’s face it! Not everybody likes you, and not everybody will like you regardless of how good, efficient or productive you are. Sadly online platforms and especially social media have given new means for the upsetting minority to be loud, and without the proper tackling, negative reviews can be detrimental to your business, or yourself on a personal level.

Having negative reviews in your personal life is inevitable. People are stalking your every move and are waiting patiently for that first mistep to jump in, doubt you, and bring you down. Don’t let it bother you. Take all constructive criticism, which is always welcomed, and the rest let it wash off. The naysayers cannot win unless you fuel them. (Handling personal negative feedback will be addressed in a future blog post)

If you are in any type of business, whether it is products or services, you can always expect the negative reviews. Oddly enough, the majority of happy customers won’t say anything, and only the ones that have something to complaint about will take it to the keyboard to share their “Horrific”, “Dramatic” experiences. Most of these reviews are plain ranting from people looking for their 5 minutes of social media fame.

It has always stayed with me, the first time when I got my first negative review for myself and the organisation I represent. A classical scenario of false facts, over dramatization, and just plain ranting. I was beyond overwhelmed with a feeling of injustice, and drowning. Now, five years down the line, we are at a steady 4.8/5 stars reviews on all social media platforms. Here is how we did it in 4 simple steps:

  1. Filter the text (separate the constructive criticism from the ranting)
  2. Always reply (never leave a negative review without a formal reply)
  3. Where applicable block/ban the user
  4. Get more positive reviews (ratio)

Step 1 is to always filter the negative review. You might find some useful information by reading between the lines. There is always room for improvement. Even in plain ranting, one can find some useful feedback.

Step 2 is to reply. Take your time when replying, and don’t rush. Be as professional in your reply as possible and do not drop to the level of the person who wrote the review. Always begin with a “Thank you for taking the time to review…”. The response doesn’t have to be lengthy, but rather clear, on point, and use facts. If you cannot be objective and formal, have someone else (copywriter) to do it for you. You are responding to that one person, but you also need to consider every one else who will take a second to read through. Once you reply, then let it be. Do not engage again even if there are follow up comments. The dust will settle sooner than you would expect, and life goes on.

Step 3 is the simplest. You can eliminate all follow up comments by this user by simply blocking them or banning them from your page (in the case of Facebook pages). People like that usually have a tendency to stick around and comment on your material, trying to reignite a fire. The principle is simple, and is based on real life. You don’t get to come to my house and run your mouth about me. Thank you for coming, but you are no longer welcomed here.

Step 4 is to set a target with your team. Drown the negative reviews with positive ones. Set a goal, and say that for every 1 bad review, we will try to get 20 positive ones. It’s not that hard to do. Promote and encourage people to leave a positive review online. Just ask customers to give a review or feedback of your services, or train your staff to seek that positive review (via a reward system for employees).

Unfortunately most businesses realize the importance of reviews as soon as the negative reviews come in, and then they are in a chase to get some good ones. This is like starting a 100 meter race, and you give the opponents a 3 seconds heads start! Get ahead from the beginning. Have a constant flow of positive reviews, and you will not have to bother with the negative ones, if and when they come your way.

Follow the simple 4 steps to not only make the most out of negative reviews, but also to get ahead. Lastly, always remember “You don’t get 500 million friends, without having a few enemies” (Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook Founder).

I hope you have found this topic interesting and useful. What do you think about it? All feedback and comments are welcomed.

The Power of One: Gediminas Tower

As mentioned in my blog, all of the insights and information provided come from real life experiences in the fields of marketing and sales and personal development. These experiences apart from the professional career and encounters, also happen on the daily world, and if you look closely you will see that everywhere you look, everywhere you go, there is a lesson to be learned.

This happened to be the case on my last visit to beautiful Vilnius (Lithuania). Having a stroll through the city, I came to gaze upon a hill, a majestic tower standing tall, right in the heart of the city. You couldn’t miss it. This was the Gediminas Tower, originally constructed in 1409 for the Grand Duke Vytautas, and then again rebuilt in 1933 by Polish Architect Jan Borrowski. It truly is a must see landmark. Unfortunately in recent years the city (administrative body) has cut off all of the trees and plantation of the slopes of the hill, in order to make the tower more visible to the public due to its symbolic significance, despite environmentalist specialists advising them against it.

In 2012, against all warnings, the cutting off all of the surrounding trees (maple trees) proceeded. The results were devastating and as predicted. With no trees (roots) to hold the soil, the hill has given way in recent years, resulting in the tower to be on the verge of collapsing. The tower is now naked at the mercy of the environment, weather conditions, ground shifting, and the city has ever since been hopelessly trying to secure and restore the damage.

Picture this now: This tower is YOU! You have built yourself up with knowledge, wisdom, intelligence, hard work and you can now stand tall and proud at what you have become and where you are at, the top of the hill ! The trees are your network. This includes your family, close friends, peers, in a pyramid hierarchy with family being at the base of that cliff.

No matter how tall you stand, how majestic and powerful you appear to be, if those trees are cut off, you will be exposed and vulnerable. Exposed to circumstances beyond your control, and vulnerable to malice and bad intentions. The sad thing is that a lot of people do it voluntarily. They intentionally cut off their trees, their network, their family, their friends. I have seen people in my life, and I’m sure you have seen too, who will turn down any form of help, even help from their closest people who only have their best intentions at heart. “I don’t need your help”/ “Get out of here” /”I’ll do it on my own” are the common phrases you will hear.

Having a network of people around you who are willing to help you, advise you, provide you with an extra option, who genuinely care about you is by no stretch of the imagination a disadvantage. If you have people like these in your life, even just one, count your blessings ! They hold together the ground on which you can built, stand and grow.

Cut them off and see what happens. Be your own Gediminas Tower, ready to crumble. Don’t alienate yourself ! Be your own Tower, and appreciate the trees that surround you for it is them that make the ground you stand on stable, and lastly, don’t forget that you are a tree at someone else’s cliff too!

I hope you have found this topic interesting and useful. What do you think about it? All feedback and comments are welcomed.

Informed Customers: How to Win!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Informed-Customers-How-to-Win-2.jpg

It is true that the landscape of sales has changed. Information on products and services are available for free online and most customers will go through an extensive research of these before even deciding to contact you. Sales people and marketers should be up to date and well read on their products or services, but inevitably you will encounter what we refer to as “Informed Customers”, and in some rare cases, more informed than you! If that comes to be the case, do not let it discourage you. Instead, see below the step by step approach on how to handle situations like these, and how to win:

  • Give them credit!
  • Let them talk (be patient)
  • Find common ground
  • Seal the deal

Start off by giving them credit for their information and knowledge. Don’t hesitate to even go one step further by admitting that you might not know as much as they do, with regards to the specific product or service. The true power of a good sales person is not in the knowledge of the product or service, but rather the ability to guide the discussion towards the desired direction. It’s simple, just say “I have seen you have done your homework”, and don’t be in a rush to answer back to them. You want to avoid having a who knows more discussion with an informed customer.

Everybody loves to share their knowledge and how much they have prepared for this. This is where you need to be patient. Let them do the talking, let them guide the discussion for a while. Jump in their monologue when you have a clear idea of how much information the customer has reference the actual product and pricing, and what is the actual need for it.

Do not antagonise them. These people have spent countless days and nights reviewing the specific products and services, and the last thing they want is for you to burst their bubble. Instead, you can complement that knowledge by adding some more information and monitor their response. Avoid discussion on areas you are not well informed about, and instead try to find common ground. Use sentences that will enable that agreeableness to occur, i.e. “Would you agree that… ” , “Wouldn’t it be fair to say that…”. And again see the response. If you are just repeating stuff that they already know, then more likely they will get on board with you.

The last step is to seal the deal. If you can manage to get through the first three steps and the customer is still following, then you can just get on with the pricing and details. Informed customers will know of a good deal when they see one, so there is no more reason to beat around the bush. Lay the deal out to them and allow for some little room for discussion. Most of the discussion has already taken place either way, so it is time to shake hands on it. What you are in essence doing, is allowing the customer to sell your product or service to themselves!

An area that you should as a sales person or marketer be vary wary of, is customers who are not interested in a transaction, but rather just want to shine in the spotlight for three seconds, also known as “Tyre Kickers”. These are the people that will literally waste your time, and try to contradict everything you say in no substantial or constructive manner. Do not be drawn into it. Simply walk away. Focus on the genuinely interested customers. Time is money ! (this is a topic I will be addressing in full in a future blog post)

I hope you have found this topic interesting and useful. What do you think about it? All feedback and comments are welcomed.