When I was a teenager, I had a friend Gavin, who had a very direct approach with the young ladies in the town where we lived. We used to laugh because he got a lot of slaps, and we were also envious because he was sometimes successful.

Thinking back, I realize that one of the reasons Gavin got slapped so often,  is that he was trying to make a very difficult sale. He tended to fail more often than he succeeded. He just didn’t know how to romance his prospects.

When dealing with your customers, are you trying to close a sale that is hard to make?

If you are advertising or selling to people who have never heard of you and you start off asking for a relatively big commitment, the answer is almost certainly no.  It is also true when trying to sell big ticket items or complex solutions to new prospects. Are you making the same mistake as Gavin, and turning off many prospects, simply because they are not ready to take such big a step?

As marketers, we can’t afford to undermine our efforts with this kind of mistake. To reach a qualified prospect and get turned down is simply too expensive, and the opportunity cost is too high. Like most marketing mistakes, the issues are subtle and are not always obvious to the casual observer.

The key with marketing is to understand that no matter how much success you have with a program, you owe it to yourself to continually find ways to improve your results. It costs exactly the same to run a direct mail piece, a sales campaign or an advertisement that yields 2%, 3% or 4%.

So why be content with any response rate, let alone a modest one? What’s more, you can often get dramatic increases with only very minor changes that cost nothing.

I have found the easiest way to increase your success rate with customers, is to get a little romance going. The key is to make the easy sale first. My young friend might have been more successful if he had built trust by inviting his prospects for coffee, getting to know them a little better and understanding what they were wanting out of a relationship. So it is with your customers. You have to be prepared to invest time and energy in building trust.

Making the easy sale first usually involves offering something free. Let the customer try out your services at no risk. What can you offer free without breaking the bank? The most simple gift is information. Do you have information that is useful and valuable to your prospective customers? It must not be self-serving, otherwise it defeats the purpose. The best kind of information is the kind that helps them avoid making bad buying decisions, or protects them from dangers they might not be aware of.

You can also offer a free, no obligation consultation or service to new prospects.  If your services are good and your prospects are properly qualified, the downside risk is minimal for you. You should get a lot more people trying your service and becoming customers.

Remember, I did say, make the easy sale first. You still have to sell, but it will be easier. Be clear about the benefits your prospects will get if they take this first step. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that because you are offering something free, people will automatically take you up on your offer.

However, once they do take you up on your offer, you are well on your way to developing a profitable relationship.