How to Sell a Lobster

A review by Andrew Forward, of Bill Bishop's book on the money-making secrets of a streetwise entrepreneur

At 8, Bill sold a bunch a calendars that we found. At first, he sold them for 10 cents, and nothing happened. Then we sold them two-for-one at 20 cents, and got an adorable little girl to be a sales rep, in no time the 200 were sold, and Bill had $20.

How to sell a lobster

As a waiter, we are encouraged to do suggestive selling, but it does not always work. Most people are sales oriented: create a product/service, bang on doors, give sales pitch and hope for the best. Sales is to knock on the door and try for a sale, marekting is when customers knock on your door asking for the sale.

Marketing games are strategies and tactics to increase sales and grow your business. Business is about getting customers to buy something, period. You must play to win, so to win you need tactics and strategies that work.Business also needs motivation and integrity. You must really want to try to help, and then you are playing a good game.

Start to think like a customer. In a restaurant, most people are guests - so they do not want to seem greedy. But, people do order specials, and so instead of offering "Would you like a lobster with that?", simply create a special that includes the lobster add-on.

  1. People like specials - it sounds more fun
  2. Customers perfer to visualize small, tidy packages, something quick and easy
  3. If it is part of the menu, then guests have permission to order it

The First Member Trap

No one wants to be the first (in this case, the first advertiser in a magazine). Bill created a mock newspaper with empty ad spaces. But, to be the first means you might look stupid (most people are followers). So, create the impression that you already have members.

Find two competiting restaurants (for example, it could be two competing anything) and put a full page ad for the Outback and go visit the Keg. The Keg will get scared that they are missing out. Once you get the first member, then you can use your *real* member to convince others to join in.

Replace the fear of being first, with the fear of missing out.

The Lineup

Todd's Palance was a nightclub. No one wants to be in an empty restaurant. So, give away free drinks, dinners for two weeks. Make sure to give this away to the right people, athletes, models, flight attendants, celebreties, business people. Invite 1000s of people, and 100s will come.

Also, create a line. Pay people to stand in line. Others will think the restaurant is a big deal, people will want to join in, people prefer what appears to be popular over what is not popular. Teach those in line (that you are paying) to look anxious and excited. And, hire a big bouncer.

It is cheaper to give away something of value to get people in the door for the first time. Use excitement and word of mouth. You need to project yourself as vibrant, and successful. Create the impression people are lining up / waiting to buy - it creates an aura of popularity / exclusiveness. You do not want to make it too easy to get your product / service.

The Three Boxes

Drinks at the movies used to large and small. And, 20% bought large, 80% bought small. Then, they introduced small, regular (the old large), and super-sized. Now, 20% bought super-sized, 60% regular and 20% small.

If you only have one choice, then it is yes or no. Nothing else to think about so you always focus on price. With two choices, you usually take the small because, (a) save money, (b) play it safe.

With three choices, you start at the large because it is dazzling, beautiful and huge, but perhaps too expensive. Then you consider the small, but it is not sooo great next to the large - it appears cheap and unappealing. So, the middle is juuuust right (and a safe bet).

Now, the super-sized was created just to sell more regulars, so when you do sell it - that is a bonus. You can also charge more for your regular because the super-sized is soo much more. For example, if a super-sized cost $100, and the old-large was $5, well in the new system you could easily sell the regular (the old-large) at $10.

When you offer 3 choices, it is not about charging too much, it is about giving the customer choice - and marketing is about choice. But, 4 or more choices is bad. It starts to get confusing (it is easily not to decide if there are too many choices to make) and there is no middle (and people like safe).

Captain of the Titanic

Look at each situation via the customers eyes. Approach each prospect with no expectations or preconceived notions. Think about the real problem and educate your prospects about the real issues.

Do not sell the captain of the Titanic more champagne, when he really needs more lifeboats.

Box of Chocolat

Give samples, let the propect experience your produce / service. It reduces the amount of time and effort you need to explain the product. By giving free things that have value you break the sales-pitch-bunker (where people go out of there way to avoid advertising).

Give a 90 minute free consultation, a free tax-audit, or software with a trial license. Discounts / coupons do not count because they are associated with with a sale. Because you are giving away stuff for free, you get to decide who qualifies for the free value. This exclusivity means that even more prospects will want it.

Are you willing to offer free value?

Basketball Mind Trap

When you build a business around a specific product or service and not around customers, all of your thinking starts with the product - so when the product is no longer popular your business tanks.

The example is a company that sells basketballs. They have been selling basketballs so long that that is all they think of. But, they are really in the business of helping those in basketball succeed. So, how do you help basketball players? Software for coaches, uniforms, start building basketball courts, sell videos.

Your main focus is to help your customers prosper.

Now, if you don't know how to service your customers then learn or partner with someone that does.

Birdcage Brochure

Brochures that quickly become useless because they are left over from a specific event or product. Instead of focussing on the marketing tools like brochures, ads, direct mail you should develop your marketing blueprint. Because, maybe you don't need a blueprint.

  1. Choose a customer type, and focus on one at a time
  2. Are you selling the right stuff? To promote you have to do something new
  3. Are you willing to give away value for free
  4. Develop your marketing process. What steps will you take to attract propects and turn them into customers. The first step is making the customer aware of you via (a) direct mail, (b) public ads, (c) incentives for regular customers.

The Big Idea

Have a context, a new product, a special program. Just do something, and make it BIG.

For example, a toilet company used invisible ink on business cards. The ink described if they had won a prize. To see if they had one, the propect would have to visit the booth.

You need sizzle.

If it works, great. If it does not work, well, now you know. The point is to try.

The $5 cup of coffee - or the Packaging Principle

Take a box and put a big price on it. Now think of things that you could put in that box to justify the big price.

Starbucks, in the 1990s, create an awesome environment, beautiful decor, leather couches. People were happy to pay for the experience, not the coffee. The real value to a customer is not the product or service, it is the perceived value to the customer that counts. If she thinks the coffee experience is worth $5, then it is.

Quick Fix Pill

Most people think their problems are quick and easy to fix. To help deal with, give your client's problem a name. In the financial sector, you might call the issue of buying financial tools on the cheap usually results in you getting the wrong tools, "Tools-Only-Trap". Having a name means that it is easier to understand and remember.

Next, get prospects to do a self diagnose. We cannot convince them, they must convince themselves. Create a self-assessed score card with questions that ask the prospect to admit their problem and outline how they are going to deal with it.

You may deal with smart people, but most are only smart ni their own domain. Outside that domain they are usually at a Grade 2 level. So, they will have a hard time buying your university grade product / service.

You need people at Grade 12 to buy your stuff. To get them there: give their problem a name, have them complete a self-assessement and do some educational marketing. This marketing is about concepts related to your business. Include key concepts only (like why is it efficient to have a financial plan prior to making large financial decisions), and refraim so the nitty / gritty.

The Gourmet Meal

Fast food focus is on mass market. You have a lot of customers, you compete on price and must be very efficient. You have things like call-centres, bank machines and drive-through.

A gourmet meal is a small number of high quality customers. You offer end-end products or services at high margins. So create something new to cater to the individual needs and wishes of your best customers.

For a book store, you might:

Decide which one to be (gourmet or fast food), but do not linger in the middle

Gourmet on the cheap cannot happen, because gourmet customers realize that gourmet costs more due to the special ingredients, high service and ambience.

Opening Their Wallets

A company was hosting a free seminar and then selling a one-year $5000 program. The change from free to fee was too big.

Get your prospects to open their wallets before asking for the big sale. Turn propects into customers by getting them to buy small, to be more open to spending large later. Prospects have no commitments, but once their wallets have been open they do not want to see their money go to waste.

At the fre seminar, offer a $300 consult for free if they buy a $50 starter kit, valued at $200. Customers need to get into the habbit of opening their wallet. Again, they do not want to waste their investment by walking away.

The Third Degree or the Coaching Sales Game

At a sales presentation, you might get very harsh questions like "Why you?", "Why are you different, better, cheaper, faster than the competition?". Do not play that game - you rarely win and your confidence will get shot. Instead, turn the tables and become a coach not a salesman and play the "Coaching Sales Game".

Before the presentation send a questionnaire for your audience to answer about their business. You no longer do presentations, you do workshops. Ask them a ton a questions about their business. Give them exercises to complete like a worksheet to explain their goals, challenges and future plans. Be a coach not a salesperson.

A coach asks questions and gets the students to figure it out. A salesperson thinks the sale is based on giving a really good answer.

Get your clients to be thinking / working. Provide the right questions / exercises, ideas and advice. Ideas are in the form of options / possibilities and are about giving people information. Instead of preparing a presentation explaining what I do, why not just get started and do what I do. And do not forget to user all your other tips, like completing a score card about the "The-Product-First-Trap" (i.e. The Bouncing Basketball issue from above).

Being a coach works because the focus is on the prospect not on you. By getting started right away, the prospects get a sense of immediate accomplishment. The people also get to know you better and learn how you work.

The Mountain Guide

You cannot just tell clients "what you have sucks". You have to judiciously apply honesty. Before you critisize, acknowledge what has been done right. Show the prospect how they are half way up the mountain (this pertains to an allegory of climbing Mount Everest - most people can do the first half without must help, but its the second half that is the really difficult part). The prospect will see that you acknowledge their work and will see where to go next (know as the growth edge).

The growth edge is the point where a person needs help. If you play SeeSpotRun with an 11 year old they'll be bored, but if you teach them nuclear physics they will be lost. You must tailor your instructions to match the level of your audience.

Everyone is half way up the mountain, you just need to look harder sometimes.

First recognize/applaud what was done right before giving advice.

The Dating Game

Don't propose marriage on the first date

Develop trust, intimacy, communication and TIME. The date has to sound exciting. Repackage your first visit with the client as a special event (i.e. help retailers to sell more fireworks instead of simply "hey, we want to sell you fireworks") and at the event bring in field experts to explain in detail how something (relevant) works.

Don't offer a grilled cheese sandwich when you enjoy a bistro. And, don't give a ring on the first date.

The Forest

Trees actually grow exponentially. The problem is that it starts with the roots (a problem because you cannot see the growth, you have to believe it). And, in the beginning there is a need for a lot of care. If you go too quickly you will not have worked out all of your systems and processes and it can be a huge bomb.

Tend to your seedlings, give it time to grow and do not cloud your vision with the disbelief of others