Harvey Mackay Academy's Blog

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

A customer drew the proprietor’s attention to the spelling. “Hasn’t anyone told you of 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.”

Over the years I’ve collected many creative, out-of-the-box sales ideas that I think are winners:

Personalize things. Stores that accommodate customers who want products personalized are nothing new, but the trend continues to grow. Pet gear, luggage, phones, even donuts specifically geared to a customer are popular in-demand gifts.

Break a record. Nathan’s annual Fourth of July hot dog eating contest gets a huge audience to see how many wieners the participants can down in a brief time. The “My Pillow guy” 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 ticketholders and fans experiences to be with and around the teams and athletes. Maybe it’s a meet and greet, a chance to watch practice or be on the field for pregame warm-ups. How about batting practice or a shoot-around? In a competitive sports market, these experiences are invaluable.

Use Props. There is no better example of salespeople using props than state fairs. Product pitchers demonstrate knives, cookware, cleaners, mops 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 ubiquitious ads. Advertising is everywhere. We’ve all seen ads in bathroom stalls and ads on supermarket floors, and we read them! I chuckled at an ad for a handyman that read, “I can fix anything your husband can. And I’ll do it now.” A variation on that ad reads, “I can fix anything that your husband breaks.”

Contests have been around forever.The crazier, the more outrageous, the better. And just about any product can be featured as a prize: tickets to a hot show, a shopping spree, dining experiences, trips, even envelopes for life! Among my favorites – a year’s worth of ice cream. I’d enter that contest any day!

Sell benefits, not features. In other words, 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. Don’t abandon me as soon as the sale is complete, keep in touch with me so that I know I am your best and favorite customer.

Have a unique calling card. One of the greatest salesmen I ever heard about was John Henry James, a large and tall 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.

Likeability. To be successful at selling, you have to make customers like you. People do business with people they feel comfortable with. Beyond offering freebies and gimmicks, make your service so memorable that the customer can’t imagine going anywhere else.

Joe is a small-town barber. Joe knew his clients’ preferences after decades of service and he always charged his clients fairly. A national-chain haircut 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 newcomer and wondered how he was going to compete with that. Should he put up a sign “Haircuts $9.99”?

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.

Mackay’s Moral: As the saying goes, you don’t sell steak, you sell the sizzle.

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.