One of beloved baseball legend Yogi Berra's famous malapropisms was "You can observe a lot just by watching." Many of his supposed quotes are inventions -- although Yogi is documented to have spoken "I really didn’t say everything I said" -- but even those do have a grain of truth beyond the chuckle.
I like to think Yogi meant that you can learn a lot just by watching. And what I mean is small business owners must develop a keen habit of observing what makes up successful competitors, ventures or techniques and learn how to implement the essential elements. Typically, this observation is a self-taught skill. Few owners have been through a formal course of study, for instance, in how to sell. But they find themselves in desperate need of becoming expert in sales and marketing with limited resources to hire an ad agency or a team of sales professionals to boost the results of their catering, landscaping or industrial product companies. The only solution is self-education and imitation.
I love this article because it provides such a clear example of the many elementary lessons waiting to be gleaned, as Yogi would say, just by watching. The article is about e-commerce but one doesn't need to be selling online in order to apply the examples. They can just as easily be employed in a menu presentation, a package of lawn services, or the way a B2B sell sheet is organized.
And while the article deals with the visual, the underlying impact can include everything from pricing to buyer psychology. But analyze carefully to be sure you are incorporating the correct lessons. As Yogi might have said, "If you can’t imitate him, don’t copy him."
The internet age has disrupted so much about pricing of products and services. In decades past, price was so much more opaque and subject to negotiation like in a medieval bazaar. If as a buyer you couldn't fully understand the features, benefits and scarcity, you tended to be more willing to patiently engage with the seller to seek this information. What you got was usually served with big helpings of persuasion.
The buyer-seller game has changed both for B2C and B2B transactions. Now, most of us check the price of an item on Amazon before making a decision about whether a store purchase (at a potentially higher price) makes sense for our priorities. Many B2B transactions are carried out online with no human sales intervention so pricing has to be plainly displayed.
All this has conditioned buyers in B2B environments to expect transactions to work more like they do in the consumer world. I wonder if it is really possible to withhold pricing information without risking losing a significant chunk of the top of the prospecting funnel? Then again the whole idea of the sales funnel is in disruption as more and more buyers show up at their suppliers doors having already researched the product or service of interest with the help of the internet.
So this leads me to question the practicality of the advice of Geoffery James in his Inc Magazine article:The Single Most Essential Rule About Pricing. And that is "Never quote a price before the customer fully understands the benefit of buying." While I agree that his advice represents excellent classic sales technique, I just question whether contemporary buyers have the patience to cooperate. Of course much depends on the nature of the product or service and how much information is publicly available for close analogs. A good salesperson should react to this circumstance and the level of research a prospect has conducted. So if you think you can pitch before meting out too much price information, please give it a try.
It’s pretty easy to throw stones at airlines nowadays, what with stories of passengers being insulted, beaten up and dragged off the plane, or held hostage on the ground for hours. And that’s just by the airline employees. Even many of hijackers in the 1970s were more considerate.
So when a company in the industry shows it knows how to make up for a misfortune or a mistake, there’s a lesson for every other business, and not just the competitors, on how to do right.
So think about what big or small disasters could occur in your business and what’s going to be your reaction beyond a perfunctory apology? What’s your strategy for making sure that your customers only remember something other than anger, frustration and contempt for you and your business?
I used to snicker in journalism school when our professor explained that the obituary section was one of the best read parts of a daily newspaper. The joke went that people check the column just to make sure their name isn’t in it. While I never developed that habit, I do find myself drawn to the obits in major newspapers because they offer some great lessons from the storied careers of business legends who have, sadly, passed on.
One such remembrance that ran recently was for Herb Kelleher, one of the co-founders of Southwest Airlines. Kelleher has long been admired for his maverick management and marketing personality and genius. Today it is America’s largest airline, but Southwest has Kelleher and his tenacity as an attorney to thank for its early survival. In the days of regulated air carriers, Southwest underwent four years of vicious courtroom fighting with competitors trying to strangle it in the cradle before it could ever fly its first passenger. Talk about small business determination.
I was a teenager living in the Dallas area by the time the airline got off the ground and I remember some of the brilliant, attention-grabbing TV ads and billboards. Years later the airline used to have a mini-museum at one of the unused gates at Dallas Love Field. Under glass was a cocktail napkin bearing the original business plan for the company.