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5 ways to make 2018 your best year yet

John Graham

Since New Year’s resolutions have a 48-hour shelf life, many of us don’t even bother with them. But here’s a different approach to improving performance by focusing on results-changing behaviors like the ones that follow.

  1. Try something new

In their “Habits Across the Lifespan” study, Duke University researchers found that nearly half of human behaviors are habit-based, regardless of age. For example, we not only have favorite restaurants, but we tend to choose the same menu items over-and-over again.

It’s the same in business. After receiving a promotion, her boss asked her to serve on the selection team for her replacement, but cautioned her not to look for someone just like her.

If half of our thought processes are habitual, it takes conscious effort to try new things, whether it’s a different color of clothing, how we feel about owning a self-driving vehicle, or selecting someone to succeed us at work.

As it turns out, your smartphone can have a similar problem. When it doesn’t operate properly, it may need to change its “thinking.” Pressing the reset button gets it back to the way it was when new. We all accumulate habits that interfere with our performance. When that happens, it’s time for a “mental reset.”

  1. Take advantage of ‘fresh starts’ in making sales

Birthdays, anniversaries, a new baby, graduations, and starting a new job are well-known “buying occasions,” and especially so for insurance products. But current research points to many more times when we’re inclined to “turn the page” and make new commitments.

In one study, researchers found that college students were more likely to visit the fitness center at the start of a new week, a new semester, or just after a birthday. These are called “Fresh Start events.” Receiving a bonus, getting a promotion, coming back from vacation, attending a workshop, among others, can make us more open to going in a new direction.

Armed with this insight, marketers and salespeople can take advantage of “Fresh Starts.” A life insurance agent finds that a prospect has an upcoming birthday and suggests that it this might be a good time to meet.

In other words, it’s not when you and I want to make the sale, it’s when the customer is ready. Figuring that out is the job.

  1. Communicate your purpose clearly

Sears, Roebuck & Co. kicked off a retail revolution 125 years ago with the clear purpose of bringing thousands of products and services to rural America with its huge iconic catalog. Today, Amazon, Walmart and some others continue that tradition.

But it’s the absence of a vibrant message that’s missing with too many companies. It seems the only reason they’re in business is to sell something. It’s as if just meeting with a salesperson or seeing a pop-up ad is a sufficient reason to buy. It isn’t.

From L.L. Bean’s current “Be an outsider” campaign to Opdivo’s “A chance to live longer” medication for those with a certain type of cancer, the message that the brand has a purpose is clear.

  1. Improve the customer experience

There’s one question anyone in marketing and sales should never stop asking themselves: “What does my customer expect?”

It applies in every situation, whether you’re selling insurance or equities, books or bathrooms, homes or heating. There are no exceptions. Unfortunately, most get it backwards. “What can I get out of it?” is their top-of-mind question, an attitude that leaves the customer experience in tatters.

But today it doesn’t need to be this way. For example, sales transactions at an Apple store are virtually invisible. You see customers handed white bags, but paying for it is over so fast, you can’t catch it. With ApplePay it’s essentially seamless.

Then, there’s life insurance. Surveys show that consumers want to buy it, but don’t get around to it because they think it is time-consuming — filling out pages of questions, making time for meetings, having a physical, and then waiting weeks to get the policy. Now, those seemingly insurmountable roadblocks are gone. It takes only minutes for a couple of phone calls, answering a few medical questions, signing the application electronically, and having the policy, up to $1 million or more, delivered by email in less than a week.

It starts and ends with doing what customers expect.

  1. Learn from complaining customers

We’re told that customer complaints benefit a business since they point out problems that need correcting. Even though that helps, it’s essentially a reactive strategy, like trying to get the Genie back in the bottle.

There’s a more significant problem: customers who refuse to be ignored. According to a study conducted by Edison Research, many customers may be cynical about businesses responding to complaints so they turn to social media – Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter, among others.

“Seventy-nine percent of those complaining about a brand on Twitter do so in the hopes that their ‘friends would see it.’ While 52% hope the ‘company would see it,’ only 36% expect that the brand would ‘see it and address the problem,’” according to the study.

Not only can we learn from complaining customers what needs correcting, but we can also let them know that we want to hear from them and give them easily accessible ways to communicate with us — and then respond quickly.

John Graham of GrahamComm is a marketing and sales strategy consultant and business writer. He is the creator of “Magnet Marketing,” and publishes a free monthly eBulletin, “No Nonsense Marketing & Sales Ideas.” Contact him at [email protected], 617-774-9759 or johnrgraham.com.



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