I had $2,000 burning a hole in my pocket, and no one seemed to want it.
Back in the spring of 1999, I set out to buy a decent triathlon bike. I was committed to training for Olympic distance events, and I knew I needed a good bike to be competitive.
I went to the three best bike shops in Madison, Wisconsin, with a mental list of questions. Simple questions that if answered, would earn my business.
The first shop had such a low-key, no-pressure sales environment that I couldn’t even get someone to come over and talk to me.
It was like shopping at a big box retailer, with a bunch of low-paid employees but no one eager to make a sale.
The second store wasn’t much better.
“Can I help you with anything?”
“I’m looking for a triathlon bike,” I said.
“Well, feel free to look around and let us know if you have any questions,” said unambitious sales guy #2.
The guy at bike shop #3 at least answered my questions. When I started showing obvious buying signs, though, he backed off.
“Is the upgrade to carbon forks a good idea?” I asked.
“It’s really your call,” he said.
“How quickly could you get this fitted for me?”
“It’s pretty quick, no problem,” he said. (Umm…the reason I asked is because I want you to size me and get it set up. I want to buy a bike today!)
I was seriously frustrated. I couldn’t give these guys my money!
On the verge of giving up, I made a pit stop at Mission Bay Bike Shop in Elgin, Illinois, on my way to O’Hare.
As soon as I entered, Bill, the owner, asked where I was from. When I told him “Madison,” he said, “So you’ve been to Yellow Jersey, Willie Bikes, and Budget Bicycles, and now you’ve come to buy a bike?”
He said it in a fun way, yet I also knew he meant business.
Instead of waiting for me to take the lead, he quickly started asking me all the right questions.
He understood my situation and led me through the process. An hour later, I gave him my credit card for a bike, shoes, a pump, and a wet suit. Total outlay: $2,115.
I was happy, and I never once had to say, “Okay, let’s do this.” He made it easy for me to buy.
Why am I telling you this story? What does this have to do with you and me?
Our website is our storefront, of course. And if we’re selling a service, the only way to land new clients is to engage in a conversation.
Unfortunately, we often make it too hard for prospects to buy.
Like Bill, the owner at Mission Bay Bike Shop, we need to:
1. Ask the right questions
We can start by asking the right questions on our website, and we certainly need to when we talk to somebody live.
Do you have a list of questions you ask every time? Do you know your audience well enough to know exactly what to ask?
2. Take the lead
Don’t sit back and wait for their questions. Every conversation should be a well-choreographed presentation.
Do you have a step-by-step process you take every prospect through?
3. Make it easy for them to buy
Landing a new client should be a seamless, natural progression of our engagement with them. Act confident enough and lead them where you want them to go. Don’t ever make them say,”Yes, let’s do this.”
Are you giving people an easy opportunity to do business with you? Are you creating what I call a “buying atmosphere” versus a selling one?
These three simple points seem lost on most retail establishments, a lot of website owners, and from what I’ve observed, many copywriters.
All it takes is doing things slightly different than most of your competitors to succeed.
I call it the New Way of Selling for Independent Creatives, and it will be a big part of the new Café Writer membership site coming here soon.
I’d love your input. What is one question or challenge you have about selling? Let me know here.