Harvey Mackay Academy's Blog

For some time a storekeeper had displayed in his window a card inscribed “Fishing Tickle.”

A customer drew the proprietor’s attention to the spelling error.  “Hasn’t anyone told you about it before?” asked the patron.

“Oh, yes,” the dealer said placidly, “many have mentioned it.  But whenever they drop in to tell me, they always buy something.”

Intentional spelling errors in advertising are nothing new.  Snickers is one of my favorite candy bars (when my wife lets me have one), and I remember when they ran ads featuring spelling errors.  One ad read:  “Oh Deer Its Hard To Spel When Your Hungry.  If you keap making typing mistakes grab yourself a Snickers fast.”  Then they pictured a candy bar that read “Snikkers.”

The salesman in me pays attention to creative sales ideas that make customers take notice.  I’m sharing some of my favorites.

Personalize things.  It only makes sense for stores to offer this service for customers that want products personalized, from towels to basketball shoes.

Break a record.  Mike Lindell, of My Pillow fame, handed out pillows at a sporting event and had the world’s largest pillow fight. 

Establish new experiences for customers.  Sports teams have really capitalized on this, as they give their season ticket holders and fans experiences – a meet and greet, chance to watch practice or take batting practice.  In a competitive sports market, these experiences are invaluable.

Use Props.  There is no better example of salespeople using props than state fairs.  I’m mesmerized by product pitchers demonstrating knives, cookware, cleaners, toys or some product that you can’t live without.  Always remember:  a mediocre salesperson tells.  A good salesperson explains.  A superior salesperson demonstrates.

Catchy and ubiquitous ads.  Advertising is everywhere.  From bathrooms stalls to shopping carts, ads all over every website, it needs to be memorable to be effective.  Example: an ad for a handyman that read, “I can fix anything your husband can.  And I’ll do it NOW.”   Another similar ad read, “I can fix anything that your husband breaks.”

Contests have been around forever.The crazier the better.  The more attention they attract the better.

Sell benefits, not features.  Don’t sell me books; sell me knowledge.  Don’t sell me insurance; sell me peace of mind.  Don’t sell me clothes; sell me style, attractiveness and a sharper image.  Don’t sell me a computer; sell me the time I will save.

Have a unique calling card.  My friend, the late Victor Kiam, told me about one of the greatest salesmen he ever knew.  John Henry James was a tall and imposing man who made his sales calls in a chauffeur-driven limousine.  At each stop, the chauffeur would jump out of the car and announce, “Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. John Henry James has arrived!”  James would enter with his sample case and say, “I do believe we’re going to do some business today.”  And he was right. 

Likability.  To be successful at selling, it’s important that customers like you.  People do business with people they feel comfortable with.  Movie star Burt Reynolds said that the reason why some actors become successful in movies is that the camera likes them.  Reynolds said that every day he worked in front of a camera, he started the day off going up to the camera and saying, “I love you.  Like me today.  Please, like me today.”  We need to remember that customers are like a camera.  Make the buyer like you.

One thing no business has:  too many customers.  They don’t magically appear, and they need motivation to stay and keep coming back.  Whether you have everyday customers, once-a-year customers, in person or online, browsers or buyers, they need to feel special. 

Joe, a small-town barber, knew his clients’ preferences after decades of service and he always charged his clients fairly.  A national-chain hair salon opened just across the street.  It had shiny new fixtures, neon signs, young and attractive personnel AND they were offering haircuts for $10. 

Joe watched as traffic poured into the new competitor and wondered how he was going to compete with that.  Should he put up a sign – “Haircuts $9.99”?   What to do?

After some thought and reflection on his business, Joe posted a large sign outside of his shop:  “We fix $10 haircuts.”  He pointed the sign directly at his competitor’s front door.  It didn’t take long for Joe’s clients to come back.

Mackay’s Moral:  You can’t beat the competition if you don’t compete.

About the Author

Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.