Time is Money

Any commitment of time, by a potential client, is a buying signal.

Last week I went to see the new James Bond film, Skyfall. To be honest, I was a bit underwhelmed by it as a film but it has certainly been a commercial success, grossing more than any other film in the Bond franchise to date. This got me wondering about why it should have both made so much money and apparently been so well received by other people. I’ll come back to Skyfall another day but before the film, as my daughter and I stood outside a traditional London pub, having a drink on the sidewalk, I was approached by a jovial man with a tin of Quality Street sweets (or candies for my US readers). For me, Quality Street has always been a traditional Christmas treat, so I guess I associate them with good times.

The smiley-happy man holding the open tin offered me one and instinctively, without thinking really what I was doing, I took one and thanked him. During the short pause that followed I noticed the bag of coins in the tin and whilst I was chewing my toffee he smiled nicely at me and said “some people like to make a small contribution towards…” he didn’t need to say much more, but he did say…”there is no obligation of course.”

I smiled to myself for a couple of reasons: the first being that I had so easily been taken in; secondly, because, to me at least, it seemed that there was much to learn from this gentleman. I gave him a £1 coin and as that was more than he was expecting he even gave me another sweet! The reason I found it interesting is that it is a great example of something that is quite important in any business, which I tend to call “crossing the threshold” from something I was told about in retail. I was talking to a manager of men’s clothing store and he explained just how much effort they put into getting people to enter the shop. “Once they’re in, it’s quite likely they’ll buy something” he said. The smiley chap with the sweets had effortlessly got me to cross his trading “threshold” and my guess is that I wasn’t alone in giving him some money. Not a bad business really if you can resell sweets with that sort of margin.

It isn’t a huge leap of the imagination to go from my candy-man to a recent experience I had in Texas shopping at HEB, a large and very successful supermarket chain that is the second largest employer in Texas, second only to the state government. Walking around the store I was offered free samples of everything from champagne to chicken stew.  This happens a lot in shops in Austin, Texas, to the extent that it’s my theory that you don’t really need to buy food there: I am quite sure you could live off the free samples available in food retailers. I’m also sure that sample marketing like this is extremely effective at getting customers to cross individual product “thresholds” and I know there is a high instance of purchase after sampling and you have built a micro-relationship with the “demonstrator” like this.

So, it works in retail but what about other businesses? Well, I find that if I have a chance of sitting down with somebody, to discuss their business aspirations, I have a very high chance of being hired.  I also have smaller thresholds to encourage people to engage with me and at the bottom of this page are a couple, my books and my free online business growth training. People who have read my book, or done some of the online training, are much more likely to suggest getting together with me and the same is true for people who read this blog regularly. Many of my clients have contacted me after reading these blogs.

It has become something of a truism, in the modern world of online marketing, that you need to give stuff away in order to establish a relationship with a potential new client and it is quite amazing what you can get your hands on for nothing these days online. You just need to remember though that free lunches are few and far between and any decision you make to engage, in anyway at all, with a potential supplier is a very clear buying signal.

Once people have taken an interest in you they are much stronger prospects and an investment in encouraging this behaviour is well worth it for many people. If you aren’t doing something similar, you may be missing a trick. Winning prospective clients’ attention and an investment of their time, often leads to sales.

Mark

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