Business intelligence hard to find? Build it yourself!

Regular readers of the blog know I’m a huge fan of Jeffrey Gitomer. His newsletter is a great read – there’s always something inspiring in it. Of course, if you’re looking for a shortcut to success you’ll be disappointed; his advice tends to emphasize the important of hard work and self-reliance. Last week’s was no exception.  A salesman complained that he had trouble tracking down the independent pharmacies that constituted his natural market, and Gitomer responded by telling him to DIY:

If there is no information available, begin an email magazine or a blog that features a ‘pharmacist of the week.’ Do three or four each month. Call them up, tell them you’re documenting the history of the independent pharmacy, and begin to ask them about their story, how their business has evolved, what makes them buy, and why they select one vendor over another. After six months, you will be a world-class authority on independent pharmacy owners. When you can’t find information, you have to be proactive and get it on your own.

What a brilliant way to ask a prospect, “how can I best sell to you?”  People love talking about themselves and telling their own stories – and getting this background information can give you incredible insight into their needs.

Shoemoney: Customer Support Doesn’t Matter

I’m not sure I agree with Shoemoney’s argument, but it’s interesting food for thought. I’m normally very open to the reasoning that “Amazon has trained us that this is the way it should be,” but there are so many things that require handholding that I don’t think you can apply Jeremy’s rule universally. But I may be biased because That Software Guy is a service provider.

What this question ultimately resolves to is, “is your relationship with your customers transactional?” If you’re selling commodities, then it is whether you’d like it to be or not. But if you’re not selling commodities, perhaps service can become a differentiator for your business.

One thing is for sure: service is expensive. You must have a model for charging for it, or you’ll lose your shirt.

Motley’s Law

Motley’s Law was named after Arthur H. (Red) Motley, the greatest salesman of the 1950’s and the head of Parade Magazine during that time. It is a simple truism you’ve no doubt heard many times in your business career:

“Nothing happens until somebody sells something.”

Now there is a line of thinking that this is vulgar and reductionistic. I completely reject that argument.  There is nothing whatsoever wrong with being a sales representative and selling.  Sales is an honorable trade, and an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay.  Do you have any lingering doubts or uncertainties about this?  Have you been influenced by the Hollywood worldview that capitalism is bad?  Have you been reading European economics textbooks?   This sort of knuckleheaded nonsense will hold you back.  You want your e-business to succeed – be proud of it, and proud of the effort and initiative you took in creating it.

Are you an anonymous seller? Three Trust Builders

The Internet Merchants Association blog had an interesting post about how eBay sellers are forced to reduce prices to overcome the reluctance of suspicious buyers. Conversely, Amazon’s high trustworthiness allows them to charge a premium. How can the individual shopowner avoid being forced to give an “eBay discount?”

Probably the simplest way is to add trust-builders to your site. Easy to implement trust-builders are:

  1. Post an address and telephone number on every page.
  2. Make the telephone number particularly visible during the checkout process; encourage customers with questions to pick up the phone.
  3. Provide a “FAQ” page to answer common questions about the fulfillment process and an “About Us” page to describe your credentials and expertise.

Once you’ve taken these three low-cost steps, the next thing you might want to consider is buying a security seal.  These have been shown to be trust-builders, but they come at a much higher cost than the three steps above.