All posts by Cory Skeates

26Jan/09

Marketing Mondays – Avoiding “Sales Prevention Strategies”

Recently, the American Express Open Forum posted an article by Ivana Taylor.  While these poor strategies are often of little consequence in times of prosperity, taking the time to correct them when “every sale counts” may make all the difference in the world:

A couple of years ago I was in a meeting with a client when he asked me what I thought of his “Sales Prevention Manager.” After a delayed reaction and in the middle of his next sentence I started to giggle, and then do one of those suppressed snorting laughs that suddenly overcomes you in the middle of church.

“Sales Prevention Manager.” When I gave that some thought I realized how many times a day we run into businesses and companies that probably have some stellar performers in the sales prevention management role.

So I thought I’d make a list of just a few sales prevention strategies to avoid during a time when every sale counts:

You can’t take it with you – This is an actual policy at one of our local restaurants. Every day they run specials (which are reasonably priced and NOT give-a ways). But you’d better not order more than you can eat – because they won’t let you take it home. What is up with THAT? If a dozen hot wings are say $5.00 and I want to order four dozen, eat one and take the rest home – what do YOU CARE? This restaurant would obviously rather make $5 than $20. Besides, more wings mean more beer – so what’s the problem? There is nothing worse than creating a policy that stops your customers from giving you money.

Salespeople who don’t sell – Since when did a sales person become just a warm body? Sales people are there to sell and help customers choose the product and/or service that best meets their needs. There is a reason why the things we sell are called “OFFERINGS.” We are supposed to OFFER them to people; actually present them as a potential targeted solution to a customer need. Maybe it’s the self-service culture we’ve become accustomed to, but maybe it’s just plain oversight of the obvious opportunity to sell more. The first sale to a customer is a significantly lower margin than each additional sale. If each of your customers just bought one more thing – how much more money would you make?

Gift Certificates and coupons that don’t work – If someone takes the time, effort and energy to come to you and offer you money using a gift certificate or coupon, TAKE IT. If the gift certificate is expired – take it anyway? It’s a gift certificate. That means you’ve already taken and had their money. Chances are good that they are spending more money than the gift certificate is for which is money you didn’t have before. You can argue a policy or you can take their money and increase your sales. It’s up to you.

How to be sure you are getting every sale:

  • List all your customer policies and ask yourself the question “Are these making it easier or harder for customer to give me money?”
  • Take a look at all your offerings and look for simple ways that keep people from buying or buying more. Is your phone number and web site listed on every page, at the bottom, at the top, in the copy?
  • What are your customers purchasing? Are there products or services that they may not have considered that would improve their purchase and purchase experience? If they are buying clothing – are there accessories that can go with it? If they are buying services – are there complementary products that they can use to enhance the service experience?
  • Create product and service bundles and train your sales people on what things could go together. Up-sell, cross-sell. Just Sell. It also makes sense to hire sales people that like and enjoy your product or service so that they can enthusiastically share their combinations and experiences. New research shows that people are more likely to purchase based on recommendation than advertising.
14Jan/09

LEADS Groups

The Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce offers members the opportunity to grow their business and create new relationships by its sponsorship of LEADS groups.  Membership is limited to one business of each type in order to create the best value for members.  In addition to the great leads and information you get, membership in a Chamber LEADS group includes free admission to Business After Hours for a year! The cost of membership in a LEADS group is $50/year; if you are an active participant at Business After Hours, membership will save you $70/year!

Our current LEADS group meets Wednesdays at noon at the Chamber offices on Lake Morton.  There are more than 30 members, ranging from entrepreneurs to employees of major corporations.  With a wide variety of businesses represented, there is always new information to be had and new leads to be shared.  Perhaps most importantly, the members truly care about each others’ well-being; to prove how much they care, many members dressed in costume for the September Business After Hours to help promote a fellow member.

If you are interested in joining a Chamber LEADS group, please email Matthew Wengerd.  If Wednesday lunches do not work for you or you cannot participate in the Wednesday group because it would be in competition with a current member, please note:  We are currently creating a list of members interested in joining a second LEADS goup.  The day an time of this group have yet to be determined.

14Jan/09

Increase Your Business Potential at the Chamber’s Hats Off Event

Looking to increase your business potential? Mark your calendars as The Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce presents the Hats Off! event, scheduled for January 26, 2010. Volunteering for Hats Off! offers you a unique opportunity to visit businesses as a Chamber representative while still promoting your company. In one afternoon, each volunteer will deliver up to 20 packets with 2010 Buyer’s Guides and new membership window clings to our 1,800 member businesses.

The day begins at 8 a.m. with breakfast provided by Florida Technical College and ends as volunteers return delivery receipts to the Chamber office.

How can you get involved?

1) Be a Volunteer

Volunteer to visit up to 30 chamber businesses on January 26 to deliver the 2009 membership materials

2) Be a Secret Hat Company

Create a decorative hat or basket incorporating 50 one dollar bills into the design to be presented to the volunteer who delivers membership materials to your company

Please make sure that everyone in your company knows to answer YES when asked, “Are you a Secret Hat Company?”

To secure your place as a volunteer for Hat’s Off, please click here to register using our online registration software. If your company is interested in more recognition as a “Secret Hat”, please contact Terry Ottinger at  or (863)688-8551 Ext. 231.

13Jan/09

Retail aCCess – Creating Customer Communities

Lakeland retailers were at work well before their shops opened yesterday, meeting at Bramble Ridge Golf Course for the inagural event of the Lakeland Chamber’s Retail aCCess program.  After indulging in Chef Paulie‘s superb omelet bar, attendees were treated to an informative and inspiring presentation from Mary Kay National Sales Director, Bett Vernon.  

Bett’s 24 years as an entrepeneur provided her insights into creating customer communities and persevering.  She likened our current economic situation to a deep winter storm back home in South Dakota.  Even on the darkest of days, she knew that, early or late, the Spring would come.  She encouraged us to use exceptional customer service to set us apart from our competition and turn our customers into a salesforce.  Without undue optimism, Bett painted a hopeful picture for those willing to put their customers’ needs above their own.

My portion of the program was intended to show that the internet can be used to deepen personal interactions with customers instead of substituting for them.  I went over how companies can use blogs, twitter, facebook, and other social networking applications to enhance their customers’ experience.  I even snuck in a picture of Chef Paulie at the omelet bar!

Many thanks to Jennifer at the Verizon Wireless store at 4120 S. Florida Ave.  for providing us with internet access.

Staff Picks and Additional Reading:
Bett recommended subscribing to SUCCESS Magazine,
published by Darren Hardy.

Matthew recommends you read “Tribes” by Seth Godin.

Amy recommends “Word of Mouth Marketing” by Andy Sernovitz.

12Jan/09

Marketing Mondays – Seth Godin on Email

Seth Godin, author of “Permission Marketing,” Small is the New Big,” and “Tribes,” is an expert at using the internet to deepen human connections.  In a recent post to his blog, Seth outlines several simple principles for creating more personal, meaningful interactions with the people we email.  Terry and I were discussing these principals and how there was a time (pre-email, pre-SMS) when this type of courtesy was common sense, but in the era of facebook and mass email, it’s good to be reminded on occasion.  While these guidelines may require additional time and forethought, your clients and co-workers will greatly appreciate the effort:

Here are some easy to follow tips that will help you avoid being seen as a spammer, or having your emails trashed or ignored. The thing is this: email reduces friction. Greedy, lazy organizations have embraced this and tried to figure out how to blast as many emails as they can as cheaply as they can, relying on the law of large numbers. The real law of large numbers is, “using large numbers is against the law.”

I want you to add friction back in. If you want to be seen as being personal, the best strategy is to be personal, which is slow and expensive.

  1. Don’t send the same email to large numbers of people.
  2. If you have more than a few people to contact, you’ll be tempted to copy and paste or mail merge. Don’t. You’ll get caught. It shows. If it’s important enough for someone to read, it’s important enough for you to rewrite.
  3. Careful with the salutation. Don’t write, “Dear Claudia,” if you don’t usually write “Dear” at the beginning of all your emails.
  4. Don’t mush the salutation together with the rest of the note. If I had a dollar for every email that started, “Joe, When experts come together…” That’s not personal. That’s lazy merging. See rule 1.
  5. Don’t send HTML or pictures. Personal email doesn’t, why are you?
  6. Don’t talk like a press release. Talk like a person. A person is reading this, so why are you talking like that?
  7. Be short. The purpose of an email is not to sell the person on anything other than writing back. If you don’t have a personal, interesting way to start a conversation, don’t write.
  8. Don’t send an email only when you really need something. That’s not personal, that’s selfish.
  9. Do you have a sig with a phone number in it? Your phone number? If you don’t trust me enough to give me your real phone number, I don’t trust you enough to read your mail.
  10. Don’t mark your email urgent. Urgent to you is not urgent to me.
  11. Don’t lie in your subject line, and don’t be cute. You’re not clever enough to be cute. Just be honest.
  12. Following up on an impersonal spam email is twice as dumb as sending the first one. Invest the time to do it right the first time.
  13. Anticipated, personal and relevant permission mail will always dramatically outperform greedy short-term spam. I promise.
  14. Just because you have someone’s email address doesn’t mean you have the right to email them.

Marketing Mondays is a weekly feature of the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce’s blog, offering insights and guidance from some of today’s leading marketers, adapted to meet the needs of our member businesses.