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Ask Julie

Q: “What is a way to ask customers for referrals without feeling pushy?”

A: One way is to use an open question, such as, “Whom do you know that I might contact about enrolling in our center?” This is much better than saying, “Do you know anyone whom I might call?” because the former question asks for specifics and cannot easily be answered with just a “Yes” or “No” response. This is a good question to ask just after your customer has complimented you on something they feel you are doing well in the center.

A question such as this is appropriate without seeming pushy, as it helps your customers think about how they can spread the good word about your center and actually help others they care about.

-Julie Wassom

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Delivering Value to Prospects and Customers

Value is getting more than you expected when you least expected it. Value is something all buyers and existing customers are seeking, now more than ever. They want to know you view them as special, you will go the extra distance for them, and you value their business.

While recently staying overnight in a hotel, I requested a wake-up call. At the requested time the next morning, the phone rang. When I answered , I got the recorded messaged now standard in many hotels that deliver this service. However, ten minutes later, I received a call from a person at the hotel front desk, calling just to make sure I had received my call and was now awake. My first thought was, “Wow! That was nice – and so unexpected!”

Little things like this can mean a lot in distinguishing how you deliver customer service compared to how your competitors do.

Are you treating your potential and existing customers like you really appreciate them and what they mean to your business? Once a week, ask yourself, “What have I done lately to show my prospects and customers how much I value them?”

Often, it is little things that make a difference. It might be you initiating a phone call to see how they are doing, you inviting them to join you at your business location when you are providing something valuable for them to learn, or you providing them with good resources. The opportunities to create value are endless.

When you practice a series of little things to take your prospect and customer service beyond expected to exceptional, you create more than buyers. You create the kind of customer delight that makes them your marketing partners in generating more inquiries, sales and referrals than you could ever develop on your own.

-Julie Wassom

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Making Follow-Up Calls Without Feeling Like an Intrusive Telemarketer

You’ve had prospects that came to an event. At the event, you talked with them about how you could solve their needs and satisfy their desires with your products and services.  Maybe they even signed your guest book. After the event, you sent these prospects a letter and some additional information. However, you have not heard anything in reply. You are wondering what to do next without feeling intrusive. Sound familiar?

Some believe that if prospects were truly interested, they would call you after this initial follow-up action, and that contacting them again might be perceived as being pushy. Here are some thoughts to give you a different perspective on initiating follow-up, and tips to make it well received.

First, remember these prospects came to the event to learn, to make connections, to investigate the potential of doing business with you. They NEED your help. One way to help them beyond this initial conversation is to include a personal note with the materials you send after the event. In the note, you indicate when you will be calling them to follow-up – sometime within seven to ten days later. Don’t even expect them to call you back.

For instance, you could say, “I will give you a call next Tuesday, to answer any questions you have and to offer my help as you decide about making this investment.” This sets up a prospect expectation, and gives you the chance to begin to build credibility and trust.

Then call them exactly on the day you said you would. On the call, you could say, “I’m calling you as I said I would to answer your questions on the information I sent you last week following the (event name) where we talked. What questions came up since then as you read that material? (Answer the questions). What other help can I give you at this stage of your search?”

Do not say, “Do you have any questions?” This question elicits a singular response that may not give you any details about what your prospects needs most from you at this point. Also, when you talk, ask them to come for a visit – or another one if they have already been there.

If you get voice mail, use nearly the same dialogue, except say exact times when you are available for a call back. Request they do the same, if they call and miss you.

Remember, prospects who have inquired or come to an event are interested, they need your expertise, your attention, and your guidance as they make this important decision. If you follow-up well, you will not be perceived as the pesky telemarketer, but the helpful, knowledgeable resource your prospect can trust. And that leads to sales.

-Julie Wassom

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What Are Your “Extras”?

I just read an interesting article featuring a bicycle business with four locations. When the interviewer asked the owner what distinguished them from other businesses in their category, the owner said what makes them special goes beyond guaranteed lowest prices and great customer service. Smart man! Though both are part of this company’s commitment and philosophy, he recognizes that it’s the little “extras” that separate them from their competitors. For this bicycle business, it’s things like a lifetime of free adjustments, staff committed not just to serving but to educating customers and helping them them choose the right bike and gear for them, free spin classes and organized bike rides in the community, same day service, Kids Trade Up program, and on and on.

My question to you is this. What are your extras? Think beyond the expected benefits you offer, such as quality and good service. Chances are your toughest competitors say they offer the same thing. Without ever having used your service or bought your products, your prospects cannot tell the difference and have a tough time choosing between you and them. However, if you know, define, and promote the extras you offer in a way that causes your potential buyers to perceive them as added value, you will be the easy choice and have customers flocking to you.

Send me the name of your business along with three “extras” you offer customers, and I will send you my Special Report, Stop Telling and Start Selling – Presenting the Benefits of Buying from You, absolutely FREE!

Call or email me: 303-693-2306 and

-Julie Wassom

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Follow-Up Action That Pays Off

I like to say, “The fortune is in the follow-up.” Follow-up takes a little time, and a little extra effort, but it pays big dividends. After an inquiry or an on- site visit, good follow-up can make the difference between a prospect buying from you or from a competitor.

Set up a follow-up schedule. Use a tickler system or contact management software program, to help you schedule timely follow-up.

Immediately after an inquiry, send information to prospects who called about your products or services. Include a personal message that states that you will initiate a follow-up call to answer questions and set up or confirm a future visit.

Be timely. Send the information right away. Then call when you said you would. It’s a little thing, but it instills the trust and credibility that helps prospects make a buying decision in your favor.

Send a handwritten thank you note to prospects who come for a visit. Within a few days, place a follow-up call to those prospects to answer additional questions and help them move closer to a decision. Then follow a “Mail-Mail-Call” system every few weeks to let your prospects know you are there as a helpful professional knowledgeable resource. Continue to send information of value to them, such as invitations to special events, articles of interest, or your newsletter.

Persevere until they are no longer prospects. There’s an old adage in sales and marketing that says 10% of the people make 80% of the sales because that 10% were willing to make at least five contacts with each prospect. Are you in that 10%?

-Julie Wassom

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Ask Julie

Question – Why do I need permission to send promotional emails to prospects and customers?

Answer – The Can Spam Act protects the public from unsolicited emails. It indicates that you must have permission to email unrequested messages (opt in) and you must give recipients the option to discontinue receiving them (opt out). Though email is a good way to communicate with today’s target of buyers, it is one that commands respect and acknowledges the privacy of recipients. By doing it well, you can make email a very effective marketing tool.

-Julie Wassom

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The Seven Second Impression

Seven seconds. That’s all the time you have to make a good impression on the telephone with those prospects calling your business to inquire about purchasing your products and/or services. Though today’s target market of buyers often use the Internet to investigate purchases, they still may call you to determine whether or not your products will make the short list of possible choices for their purchase.

Your telephone is a powerful marketing tool. Are you taking full advantage of it? Do you know what it costs to make your phone ring with a qualified prospect on the other end of the line? With even a simple formula that takes your total financial investment in your alpaca business divided by the number of inquiry calls you receive in a year, you may be very surprised. Your ringing phone will no longer be an annoyance, but one of the most expensive investments you have made.

To take full advantage of the sales opportunity your telephone gives you, it is imperative that you – and anyone you have answer the phone representing your farm – make a good first impression with callers. Here are some tips for making the first seven seconds count.

Smile and take a breath. For many years, I have quoted a successful business person who once told me, “You can hear a smile on the telephone.” She was right. Do it.

Slow down. It’s easy to zip through the dialogue you say when you answer several calls a day, but when it’s a prospect, you have only one chance – and only seven seconds – to give them the perception that you are in control, not rushed, and professionally ready to handle their inquiry.

Pay attention to your volume and tone. Did you just step in from busy tasks outside? You may need to lower your voice or professionalize your tone as you answer the call. Call your own farm sometime and then make sure your phone’s volume is set a level that is not too loud or too soft.

Use appropriate dialogue. What I have found works best to make a good impression is to answer with a greeting, the name of your farm, your name, and an open question that elicits a detailed response, such as “How may I help you?” It’s a mouthful, yes, but to an inquiring prospect not yet sure about being an alpaca breeder or whether your herd holds their next purchase, it’s music to their ears.

Be professional, yet friendly. Think in your prospect’s perspective. The farm from whom they want to buy has to be one with whom they feel most comfortable. Your demeanor can help assure them that you are just that – or not.

Your telephone offers you an extremely positive return on your investment. Never take it for granted. And to maximize its value to you, use those first seven seconds to make the best impression you can.

To learn more about converting telephone inquiries to purchases click on the link below or call 800-876- 0260.

-Julie Wassom

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Ask Julie

Question: When you advertise your business on your vehicle using painted-on information or magnetic signs, is your business liable in the chance you are involved in an accident?

Answer: I checked with our auto insurance agent from Allstate Insurance, who indicated that insurance follows ownership of the vehicle, meaning the name on the title and registration. He compared advertising on a personally- owned vehicle to putting a bumper sticker on it; saying it does not matter for insurance purposes.

I recommend you check with your own auto insurance agent. If the way is clear, remember that with well- done labeling, your vehicle can serve as a rolling billboard ad for your business!

-Julie Wassom

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Seven Simple Low-Cost Ways to Market

Are you looking for ways to market that take little time and less money, yet give you the kind of image and exposure that gives you a high return on your efforts? Good marketing messages that reach the right target audiences with the most frequency are going to be the ones that generate the most inquiries. Each qualified inquiry they generate gives you another opportunity to reach your sales goals. If you do not yet have a your business name, and  a unique image and message or tagline, that you are using in each of the following simple ways to market, I have one question for you. What are you waiting for?

Telephone voice mail message - Make sure yours included your business name and tagline, and that it redirects callers to your web address until you can get back to them.

Email signature - Include your name, business name, logo, tagline, and any unique feature or announcement of upcoming events

Vehicle - Does your business vehicle have signage on sides and back that shows your business name, logo, tagline (if it fits) your phone number and your web address? If not, you are missing an opportunity for incredible frequency of message delivery about your business. Your vehicle is a rolling billboard. Use it.

Sign - Call the highway department to find out the number of vehicles that pass your business on a daily basis. Then pull your jaw back up and make sure you have a spectacular business sign positioned so passersby can see it easily.

Website - Though this involves some initial investment, a well-designed website will give you terrific return on that investment in inquiries, visits, and customer satisfaction. Remember, your home page is the most important page on your site.

Local Media - Make the press your marketing partner by initiating contact with local editors and reporters with information about your business and events. Make sure the information is unique, timely, and of interest to their reader/viewer/listener profile. Deliver it to them in their preferred format. The third party endorsement good publicity gives you can be a priceless return for merely a bit of your time.

Your Community - Whomever said there are diamonds in your own backyard had obviously mined some. So should you. Seek out community events that draw your target audiences. Then participate in a way that is visible to attendees and profitable for you.

Your most effective marketing efforts are not always the big ticket items. Adding these simple ways to market to your overall marketing action plan can mean big returns for very little effort.

If you want more techniques on how to market wisely in a challenging economy, attend or host Julie’s seminar, How to Be Bullish on Marketing in a Challenging Economy. To book it, call 800-876-0260, or email

-Julie Wassom

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Ask Julie

This column features my response to a question a reader of my newsletter has asked me. Is it something you have wondered about , too? Read on. And if you have a question you want answered please email it to me at or tweet me @JulieWassom.

Question: What is a focus group? How does it work?

Answer: A focus group is a select group who gathers with a facilitator for the purpose of doing some market research. Most focus groups are small and address very specific issues about a business. Participants can be parents who have been invited to contribute their perceptions or an anonymous group of people who represent a target group, such as prospective enrolling families. The facilitator runs the group by asking specific questions, and guiding the discussion. Answers are recorded and compiled for later use in designing marketing campaigns, determining levels of customer satisfaction, developing new products and services, etc. Focus groups, combined with other forms of market research, can yield valuable information to help a child care company attract and retain more customers.

-Julie Wassom