Over the last few weeks Rashid and I read “Selling The Invisible” by Harry Beckwith.

I usually struggle to read business books, as they are often, in my mind at least, very dry and slow going.

Fortunately this is not the case with “Selling The Invisible”.  I actually enjoyed reading it and learned a great deal.

The book focuses on marketing services which are inherently intangible and therefore often harder to articulate and sell.

One of the main points the book makes revolves around the fact that in a service business you’re selling a “relationship”.  And first impressions count.

On that note, here’s something I experienced recently…

We’re told that the tourism industry in Australia is suffering and are being encouraged to travel and spend money locally.

My mother will be visiting from Switzerland and we usually go somewhere with her in Australia.

So over Easter we’ve decided we’ll visit  Kangaroo Island and Adelaide.

Now I like to do my travel searching and booking over the net.  So one night I hopped online only to find that Easter was a really busy time on Kangaroo Island and most of the accommodation providers were actually fully booked.

After a couple of hours searching I found three “available” properties that suited the bill. I sent out the enquiry via the booking engine and waited for the responses. I must admit I did expect all three properties to be available. – I was WRONG!

Property One responded first thing the next morning telling me that they were fully booked. That’s fine, however the booking engine last night said it was available, and I was wondering if there was a glitch in the system somewhere. The response was friendly but left me with no solution to my problem.

Property Two did finally, after about 48 hrs, reply telling me that someone else had just booked the last room available (yeah right give me another one…..)

Now the hospitality industry is suffering.  There are thousands of hotels, motels, B&Bs, and self contained apartments out there – the competition is fierce and you’d think they’d try for my business.  And if they were booked over Easter, maybe by suggesting an alternative, I might have moved the dates to suit?

The last property did have rooms available and sent an email with a clear, concise offer.  They called me within 30 minutes to make sure I had received it and to give me the opportunity to ask some clarifying questions.

I did have some more questions as the day progressed and they did get answered within a couple of hours by email .

They took the time to connect with me to get me over the line. They really did want the sale, and were willing to take a couple more steps to get the money in the door.

And guess what, given the first impression – and assuming they stack up with the actual accommodation, who would I recommend in the future?

So how do you stand out from the crowd, how do you make a positive and lasting impression on a prospect?

Start thinking about what it is you’d be expecting if you were your own client. What it is you’d want to experience and how you would know that your expectations have been met.

Be critical – in fact very critical as to what you’re delivering as this is one of the best ways to improve your service and increase your sales.

There is at least one upside to a recession – we all are becoming more realistic and a bit more cautious on where we spend our money.  So give yourself the best chance of having people spend it with you.

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