business

Repeat: It Pays to Repeat Yourself

Offering your customer the same information in different ways can help get your message across and close the sale

I saw an exhibition of Andy Warhol paintings recently, and what struck me most was his use of repetition. I know most folks think of Pop Art when they think of Warhol, but what resonated with me were those repeated silk-screened single images that varied slightly. Of course, I'm a salesperson, so I left the museum thinking about how to use repetition to sell more. Five strategies follow.

1. Listen for repeated complaints from customers. Sales trainer Mark Hunter recommends that you listen to your customers for the "pains" they repeat (see BusinessWeek.com Podcast, 5/11/07, "Deal Breaker or No Big Deal?"). By "pains," he means complaints such as how they're putting in too many hours at the office or how their insurance costs are out of sight. Hunter says if your customers only complain about a problem one time, it isn't really urgent. However, if they complain about it several times, that means it's truly causing them pain. If your solution reduces that pain, you have a strong benefit to use to close the sale.

2. Repeat your benefits. After you've heard your customer complain several times, it's time to create a pitch that repeats how your proposed solution solves their problem. Plan to explain this problem-solution combination in several different ways—that is, repeat yourself. This helps ensure that they see it from several different angles and can explain it to their business associates in ways they will understand, too.

Many novice salespeople present the entire list of their product's different benefits to every customer. Savvy sales professionals know that it's smarter to find, and of course repeat, the three benefits that address their customers' problems, than to go through the laundry list of all the benefits when most of the benefits don't matter to that particular customer and frankly just confuse them.

3. Repeat your prospecting calls. Direct-marketing professionals have found that it's better to mail once a month for six months to 1,000 targeted prospective customers than to do one mailing to 6,000 customers. The same idea applies to sales. It's better to call repeatedly on a smaller, targeted list than to make only one sales call each to a larger audience.

Your customers need to become familiar with you and your offering. But that only comes with repetition. This also reduces the pressure on you for each sales call. One-call selling is very high-pressure on both the customer and you.

4. Ask for the order repeatedly. Let's say you're in front of a qualified customer and you've gone through your standard sales process. At the end, you confidently ask for the order like you always do—and they say no. All is not lost. Find out what's holding them back, try to overcome the objection or compensate for it, and ask again. Repeat this process, with variations of asking for the order until the customer says yes, or gives you a logical reason for a firm no.

And don't be shy about asking for the order repeatedly. Researchers for the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality system found long ago that 60% of customers they surveyed are quick decision makers, while 40% find deciding is painful, so they put it off. That explains why many customers have to be asked repeatedly to buy, even when the facts point clearly to buying from you.

5. Encourage repeat customers. One of the sweetest phrases in the English language is "I want to buy some more from you." Of course, sometimes you have to ask for another order—not all customers will think to do this on their own.

How do you do it? Start with understanding their perceptions. Then move into asking for another order. Try a combination of "How is the widget working out for you? Is it solving the problem you were telling me about? What else do you like about it? Is there anything about it that you wish could be improved? So overall, are you happy you bought it? Would you like to buy some more? Would you like to buy the accessories that give you an even better return on your initial investment?"

Warhol was an artistic genius. If you put my five strategies into action, you can become a sales genius. Happy selling!

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