I was recently fortunate enough to have Jay Abraham speak at the Bullseye Workshop, an entrepreneurial event that I co-host with my partner, Lee Brower. Jay is a business consultant, speaker, author, and, according to Forbes, one of the top five executive coaches in the United States.

Jay is one of the few business coaches who can back up his title with decades of experience and plenty of hard data. He and his team have done extensive testing with different marketing strategies throughout various industries, and his work with headlines is particularly relevant to almost any business in any industry.

There is one story from Jay about a furniture store that explains this perfectly. Here's the story and what your sales team can learn from it.

The headline test

Ask any writer, columnist, or marketer what the most crucial part of an article is, and they'll all tell you the same thing: the headline.

Headlines are as important, if not more important, than the actual article itself. As a rule of thumb, it's said that you should spend as much time thinking about your headline as you do writing an article. Many outlets--including this one--do extensive A/B testing on headlines to find the one that performs best. There's no doubt about it, a good headline will mean the difference between people seeing your article and not.

But early on, Jay discovered that headlines are found in more than just articles. A "headline" is simply a first impression. It sets the tone for whatever is going to come next, and if done correctly, it grabs your audience's attention and draws them in. An opening remark is a headline. An email subject is a headline. Every time you pick up the phone, the first phrase you utter is--you guessed it--a headline.

Jay and his team have taken this lesson to heart, and done tests on various "headlines," looking into everything from answering machines to handshakes. The overarching lesson? It pays to test these things, because the results are not what you might expect.

The furniture store

At one point in his career, Jay was working with a furniture store. They had a team of salespeople who would patrol the floor just like any other store. When a customer came their way, they employed the standard opening remarks of "Can I help you?" or "Is there anything in particular you're looking for today?"

Jay took this opportunity to do a simple test. He gave the sales team 33 different opening phrases to test with customers and had them record the results of each one. The phrases were across the board, but surprisingly, there was one in particular that resulted in three times more sales than any other.

The winning phrase was: "What ad brought you into the store today?" 

It's not exactly the most intuitive opening remark, but it worked. This phrase tripled sales because it gave the salesperson control of the situation.

The answer to that question tells the salesperson exactly why that customer came into the store and what they want. And while asking the customer outright why they walked into the store might raise their guard, this question is innocuous enough that the average person will answer truthfully.

The sales team was able to sell more units on average when they asked this question than any of the other 33 phrases. Three times more, to be precise. You could also argue that this gave the company some valuable insight into what ads were working and what weren't, but that's beside the point.

The point is that this sales team would never have stumbled upon this phrase, or known the value of it, if they hadn't done extensive testing. And in the end, this tiny change was more successful than nearly any other tactic they could have employed.

The lesson for your sales team

The lesson here is simple: Every interaction you have with someone has room for improvement. And if you're not testing each of those interactions to find the best one, you're missing out on potentially exponential growth.

What if a slight change in your voicemail recording resulted in twice as many voicemails? What if a different introduction resulted in three times as many calls from new leads? What if a firmer handshake made a lead 10 percent more likely to convert?

These are all real possibilities. Even things that seem minor could make a difference, but you'll never know unless you test them. So the question for your sales team should be: "Are you testing all of your interactions?"

If the answer is no, you know what to do.

Published on: Aug 1, 2019
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