Do what it takes to clear the path to easy sales.

I parked my car, and dashed toward the store. I had some gift shopping to do and was excited to spend some money. As I reached the front door, I noticed a small sign, strategically placed at eye-level.

No Soliciting.

It struck me that I had seen that sign at every store I had visited that day. I marched up to the service counter and asked, “Why do you have that sign on the door?”

“What sign?” he asked, bewildered. I pointed to the NO SOLICITING sign. “Oh, that.” It had been there so long he no longer saw it. “That means we don't want any salesmen coming around trying to sell us stuff.”

“Really,” I said, getting warmed up. “What's wrong with a salesman trying to sell you stuff?”

He leaned closer and whispered, conspiratorially, “You know, it's embarrassing to have to kick them out.”

“Because they want to sell you something, you'll actually kick them out?” I responded.

“Yep. We are running a business here. We don't have time to listen to some snake-oil sales pitch,” he said, with a wink, knowing I knew just what he was talking about.

“Oh, sure,” I said. “But, help me out with something. Why is it OK for you to sell me something? I was going to buy some gifts today, but now that I know your stance on sales, you might not be the right man to buy from!”

At this point, I noticed fear pouring into his eyes. He started to reach under the counter for that magic button that summons the manager, then the police.

I let it go. I didn't want to make him cry.

Hypocrisy about sales makes me nuts. Selling is the world's oldest profession, and perhaps the most important profession. Until a sale happens, nothing happens.

Take a look at your front door. Take a closer look at that NO SOLICITING sign.

First, nobody calls selling soliciting anymore, unless referring to a sub-category of the world's oldest profession known as prostitution. Why bring that up on your front door?

Second, consider the placement of the sign. You may not have many customers show up at your shop. However, should even one stop in, a sign at eye level is your very first contact with him or her. That sign says, “No Sales!” Is that what you want to communicate? We usually don't even notice that sign anymore, so the “No Soliciting” sign is sending a message to the subconscious mind. The last thing you want on your customer's subconscious mind is “No Sales” as they walk into your shop.

A sign at eye level on the front door is an opportunity to greet your customers with a more positive message. Can't you think of anything better to say than, “No Soliciting?” How about, “Have Fun!” or “We Love You!” or a joke, or a quote, or “Be sure to ask for your free plunger for stopping by!”

Take down your NO SOLICITING sign. Burn it.

Suppose that a salesman should actually walk into your establishment, free of the impermeable force shield of the “No Soliciting”? sign. What would you do? You could pull him aside and frisk him. If you discover the product samples in his pockets, you could dump them on the counter and exclaim, “See! I knew you were nothing but a salesman! Flee from here, you lowest of all life forms!”

Or, could you take 30 seconds to wish him a nice day? Better yet, could you sell him something? How about offering a $25 spiff to anyone in your office who turns a salesperson's visit into a scheduled service call? Why not?

The Little Things That Get In The Way

A “No Soliciting” sign is one of those little things that get in the way of sales. Now, if you have plenty of calls and if you are turning away customers, don't bother reading through the list below. However, most business owners I know - regardless of their industry - are interested in expanding their business and increasing sales. Here are a few things you can get out of the way of making sales:

You're only open for business when your customers are at work. I understand you must balance work and time off. However, if you want to increase sales, stay open after 5 p.m. and on the weekends.

Your phone or Web site is down and you don't know it. Sigh. Technical snafus can shut down your business. This is one little thing that has tripped me up too many times. Now we have a procedure for checking the phones and the Web site every day.

Your business cards/advertising/Web site don't have your contact information. Jim Olsztynski taught me to put my phone number with area code on my business cards. “Don't be provincial,” he rightly advised. Also, your Web site address, mailing address, and your phone and fax numbers should be on all your advertising materials. Make it EASY for people to get in touch with you.

I am a big fan of putting your picture on your business cards. Have you ever gone to a convention or networking meeting and gathered a stack of business cards from folks you met? Then, when you got home, did you struggle to remember who went with which card? A picture helps people remember you.

You neglect to train and test the people who answer your phone. Oh, I am rarely impressed and often horrified by the way people answer business phones. Have you called your own company? It's easy to create a winning front line phone team. Simple, flexible scripts. Role play. The problem is, it's easy not to.

Your plumbers are burning calls. Suppose you get a call for a water heater problem at 3:30 p.m. on Friday. What is the close rate for service calls during that time frame? Would the plumber who goes on that call give your customers full service, or just “mail it in” and offer to fix the problem another day?

How are your plumbers presenting your prices and services? Are they using good manners? Are they asking good questions and listening to your customers? Sales guru Harry Friedman says, “All I really want to know is, 'What are my employees saying to our customers?'” Do you know?

My advice: Ride along. Get in the truck. Have fun with your plumbers and watch them in action. You will find all kinds of little things that are getting in the way of sales. One by one, get rid of the obstacles.

You're burned-out and you don't like your customers anymore. Listen to how you talk about your customers. Are you saying things like, “Everyone wants it NOW and CHEAP,” or “That faucet has been dripping for months! What makes it an emergency today?”

You can “burn-out” when the effort exceeds the rewards. If you are working too much and not making enough money, you can grow to resent your customers - and that is not sales-attractive. Fix the problem. Take a vacation. Raise your prices. When you are serving your customers and making money and having fun, you become very sales-attractive.

You don't have to be Agatha Christie to discover what's getting in the way of sales at your company. Just open your eyes and get rid of the little things that are hindering sales.