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Succeed in the New Economy: Risk-Busting Communications Skills

Colleen Francis

In the new economy that is emerging around all of us, one of the key shifts we’re seeing is in the area of buyer motivation. Today, from consumers to corporate clients, the people who make the decision to buy have one big question on their minds: “How can you help reduce my risk?”

There are all kind of reasons why people share that preoccupation, but it does not have to be a barrier preventing you from reaching and exceeding your sales targets. I’ve covered how leveraging who you know can help mitigate that sense of risk. Today, let’s look at the importance of what you say and how you say it.

For any buyer, being preoccupied by risk is all about coping with uncertainty. They have a range of worries: “What if I buy this and it wastes my time and money rather than solves my problem…what if it doesn’t perform the way I expect it to…what if I simply make a bad choice?” As a sales professional, I’m sure you recognize the corrosive danger of those “what-ifs.” They’re all rooted in a fear of the unknown. You have to make it your #1 job to address those fears head-on, by communicating with your customers clearly and credibly with messages that meet their needs.

Personalize Your Message
Earlier, I shared with you tips on how you can ask leading questions when speaking with your customers. Now, let’s look some more at what you can do to better meet the needs of your customers.

Get to the heart of what is going on inside their business as well as in their minds. Sell to that need by being as personalized as possible. Not only does this help you as the salesperson to always be thinking of your customers by name, it also generates better results at the buyer’s end–particularly when risk is on their radar.

In one consumer study, a group of buyers were asked to rank the effectiveness of a range of marketing vehicles that were each designed to reduce risk (e.g., money-back guarantees, free samples, word-of-mouth testimonials, and brand-based messages). The research results were summed up nicely by Doug Hall in his 2003 book, Meaningful Marketing. “The data shows [sic] that real, first-person experience is orders of magnitude more credible than manufactured marketing methods… Personal experience is the most real and reliable of any method of reducing fear.”

The food service industry is in many ways a microcosm of what goes on every day in sales–top performers are well rewarded when they provide more than just a product…they provide a personalized experience. For example, the most successful servers out there know that the best way to earn the most tips is by building a personalized rapport with their customers. The good ones will start by introducing themselves by name to a table of guests. The really good ones will recognize their returning customers and address them by name. Why? Because they have learned what all top-ranked sales professionals know: people like it when they hear or see their name pop up in what you are communicating to them.

To apply this to your line of work, think of all the ways that you communicate with your customers. From face-to-face meetings, to email, to direct marketing material, look for opportunities where you can include the customer’s name in your message. Newsletters, estimates and direct-mail pieces are all good places to start. However, you must exercise good judgment! First, find out whether they’re more comfortable with being referred to on a first-name basis. Second (and this is really important), don’t overuse their name, otherwise you’ll sound corny and even more impersonal than a form letter.

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