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Chris LoCurto

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January 10, 2013

Making Sales Less Difficult

January 10, 2013 | By | 28 Comments">28 Comments

Fifteen years ago, I went on my first mission trip. And I have to say, it was life changing. We went up into the mountains of  Jamaica. Somebody had to suffer for Jesus!

Candy bar

OK, seriously, hearing the name Jamaica probably sounds more like a vacation than a mission trip. I can assure you, though, once you leave the small amount of resorts on the island and head into the interior, you would change your mind.

We taught in a church that had one roadside wall made with corrugated steel, and all the others were cardboard. Literally, they were made from cut-up beer boxes. The floor was dirt, and the “pews” were made out of busted pallets.

They had a bathroom—outside—that was a concrete pad with a very large leaf laid on it and some curtaining. That’s it. I never asked about the leaf. Despite all of that, the trip made up some of the most precious times in my life!

But before going on the trip to the Caribbean, we all had to raise money. The process of doing so would make another blog post. All I’ll say is that most people get frustrated because it feels weird to ask people for money.

One of the options for us was selling chocolate bars for a dollar each. Most of us thought it was silly because really … how many bars can you sell to people around you? And at a dollar a piece? C’mon.

When I was presented with the option, I was also made aware that inside of the wrapper was a dollar-off coupon to Subway. I thought for a second, and then asked for as many boxes as they had.

I then drove a few minutes over to the freeway that had a crazy-busy truck stop. I stood outside with my boxes of chocolate and asked everyone walking in if they wanted a free candy bar. Each time, I got a skeptical look and the question, “Free?”

I showed them the candy bar and the coupon for Subway and said, “You eat at Subway don’t you? This makes the bar free.” It took each person about two seconds to think, and then pull out a five- or 10-dollar bill and say, “Give me that many.”

That’s when I realized sales doesn’t have to be just convincing someone how much they need your product. Creativity allowed me to take the guesswork out of the picture. I didn’t have to find a “need” for my potential customers, I found a want. And a way to make it free.

Question: What other ways have you seen people be creative with their sales?

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  • http://www.janabotkin.net/ Jana Botkin

    List Lady returns:
    1. I would like it better if people could save for their own mission trips and/or provide something people need instead of selling them stuff they don’t need. (cars and houses ALWAYS need cleaning, yards always need work. . .)
    2. Those chocolate bars are NEVER dark.
    3. The funniest sales effort I’ve ever seen was when I was working at a mountain resort. A customer bought a soda, and the resort owner said, “Would you like a tee shirt to go with that Coke?” I laughed out loud right there in front of them both!
    4. When I did a missions trip a few years ago, even though I paid for it myself, I was REQUIRED to send out letters requesting support. The idea was that people who are invested with $ will be more invested with prayer.

  • http://caroldublin.com/ Carol Dublin

    This is brilliant! Love making it something people just can’t turn down.

  • http://twitter.com/epicenterone Aaron Nelson

    I hated selling chocolate bars in school because I would often eat them myself. (I was weak.)

    One of my favorite selling methods down here (Mexico) is the free sample. You can walk into pretty much any market, and you’ll get dozens of samples offered within minutes.

    I think the secret is in how you do the offering – the folks who get you to try one (just a friendly smile and ‘would you like to try some X’ ) are masters at cross sampling you.

    “You liked the watermelon? Well, how about you try our fresh strawberries!” And in less than 2 seconds, you’ve got a huge strawberry in your hand.

    Doesn’t the saying go something like: the best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach? Works for me.

    I’m thinking that a good way to sell would be to try and get your prospect to try risk free as quick as you can….let the experience sell for you??

  • http://www.bluebridgecomm.com/ Joel Fortner

    Great stuff. So easy Mark Sieverkropp could do it!

  • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

    I love how you turned a cost into something free. The candy bars that are used for fundraisers around here normally contain coupons to Pizza Hut. Worth more than a dollar! It’d be interesting to try this technique and say “Want to be paid for a free candy bar?”

  • Najeema Iman, I AM Curly Locks

    This is encouraging seeing as the sales for my handmade jewelry line is non-existent right now. I have tried everything from half off to including a free coupon with every purchase…Creativity…huh, I have that lets see what I can come up with….

  • http://twitter.com/rshealey Rick Healey

    It seems like the natural reaction of most people is no so I try to make a no response = yes. ie.
    Me: “Did you get a $1 off coupon for Subway yet”
    Person: “No”
    Me: “It comes with this one dollar candy bar, it basically means you get a candy bar for free”

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Another great twist Rick. You’ll have to teach it to your kids when they begin doing school fundraisers.

  • http://jonahenry.com/ Jon Henry

    Hmm. Chocolate, and food. Can’t get any more creative than that.

    At least you weren’t being creative in a negative sense, like the people who get really proud that they “saved” $200 by PAYING $500 for a $700 television. Somehow they’re shocked when they have less money after the transaction.

    I must be bitter from my work at Best Buy in my youth. I’ll go eat chocolate now. Thanks.

    • http://www.janabotkin.net/ Jana Botkin

      Dark chocolate, right Jon Henry?

  • chris

    Great story. The thing I liked about it was you were in fact telling the truth. I love it when that type of thing happens.
    A lot of people take something like that and the creativity creeps in varying degrees toward a deception. Hate it when we constantly have to be on the lookout for “the hand is quicker than the eye” situations.
    But I really liked your creativity on that one. I trust the truck stop had a Subway inside?

  • http://www.hardandsimple.blogspot.com/ Mark Sieverkropp

    Quite frankly, when I have to sell I just use my dashing good looks and irresistible charm. ;)

    (great post Chris, I got nothing to add to the other comments, so I figured I’d just give Matt a pitch out over the plate)

  • http://www.lilykreitinger.com/ Lily Kreitinger

    Who doesn’t want a free candy bar and a dollar off a sandwich? Brilliant. And yes, someone has to suffer for Jesus… Great post. Us conflict-avoiders can learn how to be effective salespeople without offending anyone. :0)

  • http://bretwortman.com/ Bret Wortman

    Change your perspective. Awesome.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Exactly. Amazing what happens when you begin to see things in a different light. Similar to saying “I get to go to work” rather than “I have to go to work.” It almost makes it a privilege.

  • http://www.twitter.com/erikjfisher/ Erik Fisher

    I’ll take 10.

  • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

    Chris! That’s the power of creativity. Wise people are always good at turning problems into opportunities.

  • Wade_Thorson

    Sales & Marketing is definitley more about getting your customer to understand why they need your product (Candy Bar) or how it can benefit them. Just the change in how you marketed the candy bar, probably helped you sell 10 times as many. It takes some creative thinking to come up with ideas like you did when it comes to your products at work. It would be fun to watch some of the top marketing people coming up with ideas like this. Too many people sell what a product is and what it can do, but don’t selling why the customer needs it!

  • Laura Johnson

    I’ve been on numerous mission trips, and even sold those exact candy bars you mention. ….wasn’t as creatively direct as you were :)
    Can’t think of anything creative on my part with all the fundraising I did over the years… or in sales.
    I’m trying to get into the habit of getting up at 5 am, and I have a feeling my brain’s just not caught up with me yet this morning. Maybe I’ll have something intelligent to contribute later!

    • http://www.lilykreitinger.com/ Lily Kreitinger

      I can’t join the 5 AM crowd… because I’ve been up for 15 minutes at that time :0)

  • http://www.joshuarivers.net/ Joshua Rivers

    That is awesome! This is something that I can use almost directly. Our Christian school sells World’s Finest Chocolate for their fundraiser twice a year. My son’s goal will be to sell $600 in less than 10 days in February. Each candy bar (or box) has a coupon to some restaurant – this can be a very handy way to sell more!

  • http://www.toddliles.com/ Todd Liles

    That’s really good Chris. I always give a simple promise to give back a person’s money if our training doesn’t make them more money than he invested.

    Not very creative, but not very common when the promise is true. So, it works for us.

    • http://twitter.com/epicenterone Aaron Nelson

      I like this idea Todd! @joelfortner:disqus talks about this often: remove the fear or risk from doing business with you! Curious: do you have a time limit on that guarantee?

      • http://www.toddliles.com/ Todd Liles

        Aaron, yes.   I give 90 days after my seminar.   That should be plenty of time to test the value of what we teach.
        ——– Original message ——–

        • http://twitter.com/epicenterone Aaron Nelson

          Wow! Nice. Do many people take you up on it?

  • http://www.mattmcwilliams.com/ Matt McWilliams

    Hmmmmmm

    Dang Chris.

    You know, I never thought of it this way, but I get my house cleaned “for free.”

    Other people come, I pay them, I work for a bit instead of cleaning, make enough to pay for the cleaners, and still have an hour left over. That makes it free.

    My assistant works for free. She gets paid, of course, but her time allows me to do other things that make me more money.

    • http://www.lilykreitinger.com/ Lily Kreitinger

      I need to convince my husband of the “free house cleaning” approach.

      • http://www.mattmcwilliams.com/ Matt McWilliams

        Do it! Tell him to try it for a month.