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May. 31,  ISSUE #131
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You've got a great product (or service). You've sent out fliers and brochures, networked with your local Chamber of Commerce and secured a great spot in the new Yellow Pages. No one's buying. What's wrong? There are many reasons why customers may not be flocking to your store (or web site). Here are seven fundamental ones to consider.

1. Inconvenience
In today's age of fast food and high-speed internet connections, people want instant gratification. If your sales process is not hassle-free, many customers will go elsewhere.

a) Do you offer multiple payment options?
b) If you have a website, is it easy to navigate? Do the pages load quickly? Studies indicate web visitors will move on if they don't find what they are looking for in the first 20 seconds. Similarly, is your physical storefront easy to find?
c) Do you provide adequate customer service? Can your customers reach a sales representative when they need one? Do you provide enough product information for your customers to make intelligent decisions?
d) Are your hours convenient for your customer?


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2. Customer Doesn't Need or Want What You're Selling
Your customer may feel like he or she doesn't need or want your product. Your job as a salesperson is to convince them otherwise. Rather than focusing on a product's features, show your customer the benefits - your product will save them time, will save them money, will make their home more comfortable, etc. Paint them a picture with words like "imagine" and "wouldn't it be nice if..." Encourage them to visualize the benefits: "How do you feel this product would help you?"

3. Customer Doesn't Understand What You're Selling
If your product or service is relatively new, you may have to sell the concept before you can sell the item. Take virtual assistant services, for example. Two years ago, no one had ever heard of a virtual assistant, much less knew what one did. Through a number of trade organizations, though, the word has gotten out and the public has been educated. Now, virtual assistance is the 7th fastest growing industry in America, according to a Mitsubishi Research Institute study (Sep, 2000). People once had no idea that they could find remote, independent contractors to assist them with their businesses; now that they are aware of the benefits, they are actively searching for virtual assistants.

4. Customer Doesn't Trust You
A good customer relationship can, in many cases, overcome some of these other selling obstacles. Do your customers trust you? Do they feel they know you well enough to do business with you? Consider these questions:
a) Do you follow through on promises (e.g., delivery dates, technical support, warranties and returns)?
b) Are you viewed as an expert in your field? If not, try writing articles for publication, or presenting workshops. Join online discussion groups and offer advice in your area of expertise.
c) If you have a web presence, does your site list a physical address, or a P.O. box? (Physical addresses generate more trust.)
d) Are you active (and therefore visible) in the community?
e) Are online purchases conducted over a secure server? Is this evident to the customer?
f) Does your website have an adequate privacy policy?
g) Do you have a money-back guarantee?


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5. Perceived Poor Quality
When it comes to selling (as with most of life), perception is reality. If a customer believes your product is inferior, it might as well be. Turn that perception around! Demonstrate your product so your customer can see it with his own eyes. Provide samples that they can touch, hear, see.

6. Perceived Poor Value
Are your competitors "giving it away?" If so, stress to your customers why they should pay for your product. What are you offering that your competitor isn't? Customer service? Warranties? Quality? Technical support?

7. Failing to Ask For the Sale
Don't assume that just because you've covered 1-6, that the sale is yours. Remember to ask for it! Do your marketing materials contain a clear call to action? Example: "Call now to reserve yours!" or "Order today!"

No, following all of these suggestions won't close every sale, but knowing why some sales fall through may help you get a jump on the competition. Good luck!


About the Authour:Kelly Cullison is a Birmingham, AL-based virtual assistant and the founder of Atlas Virtual Services. Atlas provides a wide range of administrative support for small businesses so entrepreneurs can focus on the core functions of running their businesses. Visit Atlas at http://www.atlasvs.com, or email kelly@atlasvs.com.

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