May 13th, 2011
A winner’s attitude is the ability to focus on your long-term goals even though your short-term results are not on track. This is more difficult than it seems. Too many people take their eyes off their long-term goal when they experience a slow month or two and end up focusing on their lack of results. As a result, they get sidetracked and their sales continue to suffer. In the words of Earl Nightingale, “You become what you think about.”
A winner’s attitude means resisting the temptation to blame the economy, competition, or current market conditions when sales are soft. Winners focus on what they can control unlike the average salesperson who redirects the blame to take the heat off himself.
A winner’s attitude means exploring different options and approaches to selling. The best sales people constantly hone their skills. They read books and articles. They listen to CDs or Podcasts. They take advantage of every training and meeting. Winners know that business gets more competitive every day and they take action to improve their knowledge and skill. They work at incorporating new techniques into their existing style.
A winner’s attitude means focusing on showing the value of your product or service. Unlike average salespeople, winners don’t focus on price. They know that most buyers and customers are more concerned with solving their problems and getting a complete solution rather than getting the cheapest or lowest price. While average salespeople are quick to offer a discount, winners concentrate on showing customers how their product is different than their competitors’.
A winner’s attitude is accepting the fact that you won’t close every sale. Winners recognize that a series of ‘no’s’ brings them that much closer to a ‘yes’. Winners may not enjoy losing a sale to a competitor but they’re not going to beat themselves up when it happens, providing, of course, they can say that they did everything in their power to capture that business.
Do you have a winner’s attitude?
April 29th, 2011
We’ve all heard that it’s not what you know but who you know that determines your success. But sales coach Jim Cathcart asks this: “Who is glad they know you?”
That’s why people do business with others they know and trust. When you offer value to another person, then they have a reason to care about staying connected with you. Cathcart offers these five tips for building better business relationships:
- Approach each contact as the beginning of a long-term high-value relationship. Expect great things over the long run, and do your part to help both of you achieve your desired outcomes.
- Plan to be loyal to your customers whether they are loyal to you or not. And be trustworthy, so they will want to be loyal in turn.
- Continually ask yourself, “What else could I do for them without asking for something else?”
- Give them the option to occasionally “have a bad day” without becoming upset or judgmental toward them. Nobody is always at their best.
- Don’t always ask for something, occasionally just give them something or just listen to them without trying to “fix” them or sell to them.
April 19th, 2011
Sellers know they can help buyers succeed if they would only buy. And if they don’t buy, you can’t really help, can you?
Thus it’s contingent upon us–when we know that what we bring to the table will make a great and positive difference for customers–to do whatever we can to influence them to buy.If you want to increase your ability to influence, you must first understand the underlying components of it. The best sales people employ sixteen influence principles. We list them below, somewhat in the order that they flow in sales.
For our purposes here, we only outline what the influence principles are; we don’t cover how to succeed in each one. As you read, you should ask yourself, “Do I need to be better at this principle?” If the answer is yes, you have some exploring to do.
16 Principles of Influence
- Attention. You must capture the attention of today’s busy buyers. You can’t influence someone if they’re focused on something else.
- Curiosity. People know what they have, but they want to know what they are missing. Give them the sense they might be missing something and they’ll naturally want to know more.
- Desire. When buyers start to see what’s in it for them, they start to become emotionally involved in wanting whatever it is. Develop that into dissatisfaction and you’ll see action in sales.
- Envy. If you can get your buyer to want something that other people have, their unhappiness will eat away at them until they get it.
- Emotional Journey. People remember how they feel. Top sales people take prospects on an emotional journey using stories that help prospects to feel the pain of where they are, and feel what the happiness and fulfillment will be like in their better future.
- Belief. The more convinced they are that your solution will succeed, the more willing they will be to move forward.
- Justification. People buy with their hearts and justify with their heads. Emphasize your value using a return on investment (ROI) argument.
- Trust. Belief is faith that something will work. Trust is faith in you. Trust is the foundation of sales. No trust, no sale.
- Stepping Stones. Think of buying as a leap of faith. If you’re always trying to sell something “big” then that leap can be too much. Shorten the leap of faith with stepping stones first, like smaller projects and propositions that buyers will perceive as less risky.
- Ownership. Until an individual takes ownership over decisions, actions, and results your ability to influence them is limited. Your job is to make it the buyer’s agenda to move forward, not your own.
- Involvement. When you have a hand in creating something, you’re more likely to be a passionate advocate for its success. Involve your buyers in in the selling process, and they’ll be much more attached to implement the solution.
- Desire for Inclusion. People don’t want to be left out. If you can show that others are doing it, the more they’ll want to move forward.
- Scarcity. People value things that are rare and hard to get. Highlight differentiation, and make sure that buyers know when they may miss out on an opportunity if they don’t act now.
- Likeability. People pay attention to, talk to, and buy from people they like. They want to see people they like succeed.
- Indifference. The more you seem like you need the sale, the less likely a buyer will view you as a peer, and the more difficult it will be to sell. Maintain equal business standing, and be prepared to walk away if a sale at good terms is not in the cards.
- Commitment. Written and public commitments are stronger than verbal and private commitments. Gain written, public commitment for each next step in the buying process to ensure a close of the deal.
These are the 16 Principles of Influence in Sales—understand them, learn to use them, and you’ll close more deals.
April 6th, 2011
How can you help yourself make more sales, build your business and promote your personal success?
Often, it’s just by chatting with your prospect — about golf … or knitting … or gardening … or baseball … or butterflies … or whatever your prospect might be interested in.
That’s true even if you’re really trying to sell a bulldozer … or a mutual fund … or life insurance … or cars … or clothing … or just trying to get people to come to your restaurant.
Making conversation that’s “off-topic” from the product or service you’re trying to sell can actually be the most important part of your selling process. That’s because you must first SELL YOURSELF — build a feeling of rapport, trust and liking with the prospect — to be most effective in selling your product or service.
Let me give you an example of the power of just “making conversation,” as provided by one of my conversation skills coaching clients — a home improvements salesman.
MAKING CONVERSATION HELPS MAKE THE SALE FOR THIS SALESMAN
This salesman made a sales call about home improvements to a homeowner he had never met before.
Pausing in his car outside the house to think about how he might “break the ice,” the salesman noted the home’s beautiful landscaping.
Since he was a landscaping buff himself, he decided to compliment the homeowner on his landscaping and ask him whether it was done professionally or whether he did it himself.
He did this as a way to use his conversation to establish “common ground” and “build rapport” with the homeowner.
The homeowner, who actually had done the landscaping himself, was delighted — both by the compliment and the fact the salesman was into landscaping, too.
They proceeded to talk about landscaping for the next 30 minutes, the salesman never mentioning roofing and siding — the purpose of his sales call.
NO LONGER DEALING WITH JUST A “SALESMAN”
When the salesman finally introduced that subject, the homeowner was no longer dealing with just a “salesman.”
He was now dealing with someone with whom he had a common interest, someone he liked and trusted, someone with whom he had rapport.
The homeowner now, willingly and in detail, told the salesman all about the things he would like to do, now and in the future, in order fix up his house …
… and the salesman, using this information volunteered by the prospect, was able to offer right-on-target solutions, adding some ideas of his own.
The result: The homeowner signed the order on the spot — an order costing $7,000 more than he had originally planned to spend — despite the fact he had already talked to several other home improvements salesmen.
RAPPORT — BASED ON CONVERSATION — MADE ALL THE DIFFERENCE
Of course the products and the price were important in his decision, but the salesman freely admits it was his conversation with the homeowner — and the rapport that enabled him to build — that made all the difference in making this sale. Many times, such extensive conversation and small talk are not possible. But it is usually possible to make some level of conversation to build rapport with the other person — and that can pay big dividends for you.
Widely respected research conducted by a Stanford University professor about the relative success of MBA’s 10 years after graduation illustrates the point. The research was designed to assess the impact on career success of conversational ability, as compared to the graduates’ academic achievement while in college.
The study followed the careers of graduates working in many fields. The conclusion: Those who could effectively use their conversation skills and small talk ability succeeded more. Their conversation skills were a better predictor of success than their grade point averages in college.
Other studies have reinforced this finding. Research by the Roper organization showed that 65% of people who considered themselves very effective in communicating with people also described themselves as being “very successful in their careers.”
IF CONVERSATION IS SO IMPORTANT, WHY DON’T MORE USE IT TO SELL?
There are three main reasons people don’t use their conversation skills to boost their sales and their business:
1. They confuse “talking” with conversation. You and I learned to talk at about 18 months to satisfy our own needs. Conversation that builds rapport with the other persons, however, must also satisfy the other person’s needs.
2. They don’t know how to go about making conversation. Making conversation with the purpose of building rapport requires following certain rules to get where you want to go. (This is much like driving a car, where you must follow the lines on the road, and pay attention to the traffic lights and signs to get where you want to go.)
3. They are “afraid” to hold a conversation, thinking they don’t know what to say. This is a natural human fear. This fear is particularly evident when it comes to making small talk with strangers. Many people are very uncomfortable doing this.
HOW TO OVERCOME CONVERSATION PROBLEMS
The way to overcome conversation problems — and put your conversation skill and rapport-building ability to work for you is quite simple:
Take conversation seriously, and use a thoughtful approach to effective conversation. Our conversation coaching approach focuses on three simple steps — all defined by the acronym APT:
• Attitude. Before you even open your mouth to speak, the “attitude” you bring to making conversation with the other person speaks volumes. Your posture, facial expression and tone of voice — your “paralanguage — all communicate instantly to the other person how interested you are in him or her … which will profoundly affect the outcome of your conversation. Make sure your attitude clearly communicates a positive message to the other person.
• Plan. Effective conversation, especially conversation to build rapport and achieve a business goal, takes a plan. No, it doesn’t need to be written down or elaborate. By planning, we mean thinking ahead — thinking ahead to who you might be talking to … taking into consideration their own needs and interests, and adapting your conversation in a way to take those into account while promoting your own objectives.
• Techniques to “engage” people. For example, you can pass someone in the hallway or on the street with a simple “Hi” and you will both go on your way. But, if this is someone you really want to “engage” in conversation to promote a sale or further your business interests by building rapport, you can also convert this chance passing into a deeper discussion simply by asking questions and volunteering information yourself.
How to help yourself make more sales to build your business? Put conversation to work for you.
November 2nd, 2010
Social media helps local businesses better engage customers and boost revenue. Here’s how to make it do the same for yours.
Joe Sorge is a soft-spoken guy with a fast smile. He runs a couple of restaurants in Milwaukee, including the AJ Bombers burger place, which is where I met him. But how I met him is the real story: I tweeted that I was visiting Milwaukee, and Sorge was fast on the response: “Well, if you’re hungry, we have a burger waiting for you at AJ Bombers.”
It turns out Sorge does this a lot. By listening to people talking on Twitter and Facebook about visits to his city, mixed with customers’ word-of-mouth on the quality of their experience, Sorge is seeing great results. How great?
- Business gross revenue doubled in six months. (He hit his five-year goal in one year.)
- He accomplished a one-day gross sales increase of 110 percent from a social media-only event promotion.
- Sales of one item, the Barrie Burger, increased by 30 percent–when the burger was advertised only on social media.
- He has spent zero dollars on traditional advertising.
His success isn’t an isolated experience for small-business owners. Here are two more telling examples:
How to Stay Plugged In
Mick Galuski runs the Toy Soldier Games and Comics store in Amesbury, Mass., which is directly below my new office. When I ask him how social media is working for him, he says:
- He reads blogs and follows other businesses on Twitter. “Seeing how people are being creative in their business helps me develop new ideas,” Galuski says.
- He uses social media to engage his customers more often. That increases sales opportunities and keeps him “top of mind” to his customers.
- Sometimes, running a shop can feel isolating. Social media is one way to keep everyone connected.
How to Polish Your Image
Brian Simpson and Adam Wallace have been using social media to grow relationships for the Roger Smith Hotel in New York City. July was one of their best months in recent years–attributable, in part, to their social media efforts. “As soon as you realize all of your customers and guests have an audience–on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Foursquare, etc.–you start to focus on the little things more, improving both your business and the customers’ experience,” Simpson says.
He offers a few things to keep in mind when using social media:
- Train your staff about the “being-on-stage effect” that social media adds to business transactions.
- Knowing that their actions could go public helps staff members perform better.
- Build relationships to lessen the number of public criticisms. If your customers know who is behind the brand, they will reach out to you personally vs. just “yelling” at the brand.
- Stay in touch to keep customer retention up.
It will cost you time and effort to embed a solid social media strategy in your business, but the effect it can have on customer relationships makes it all worthwhile. Don’t let such a low-cost opportunity pass you by.
October 27th, 2010
Not long ago the New York Sales and Marketing Club conducted a survey on the major reasons people make certain purchases. The most frequently cited reason for purchasing decisions was not price or value but the relationship with the individual [salesperson]. Let me repeat that. Relationship.
In a follow-up study, a UCLA professor looked at what influences our relationships. Words accounted for seven percent of the responses, vocal elements accounted for 38 percent and nonverbal actions topped the list at 55 percent. Look again at the 7 percent response for words. A sales presentation is words, isn’t it? Think about it. When you rely on just words, without any of the relationship-building elements, you’re doomed to failure
From Making Cabinets to Making Millions: How Harrison Ford Grew into a Star
As a college junior, Harrison Ford decided to take a drama course in the hopes of meeting girls. Sure enough, a love affair ensued, only not of the variety Ford had envisioned. Rather than falling for a beautiful woman, he fell in love with acting.
Like so many aspiring actors before and after him, Ford traveled to Los Angeles in the hopes of launching a career in Hollywood. However, he found the industry difficult to enter. While he was hired for acting jobs, he appeared only in small, often unaccredited roles and seldom received a speaking part.
After five or six years, Harrison Ford was tired of performing in obscurity and in need of more steady income to support his family. Having ability as a craftsman, he took up carpentry. He worked as a stagehand for rock group, The Doors, and did odd jobs for many of the people he had met while acting in Los Angeles. One day, a man named George hired him to build cabinets. While making the cabinets Ford became acquainted with his customer who turned out to be movie director, George Lucas. Upon learning that Ford was an actor, Lucas gave him the opportunity to audition for a role in his upcoming film American Graffiti. Ford won the part, a prominent supporting role and his biggest performance to date.
After acting in American Graffiti, Ford parlayed his carpentry skill into more on-screen opportunities. Francis Ford Coppola (director of The Godfather) cast Harrison Ford in a minor role in his 1974 film, The Conversation, after Ford had helped him with an office expansion project. However, it was Ford’s relationship with George Lucas that opened the door to stardom. In 1975, Lucas hired him to read lines for a space adventure screenplay. Impressed by Ford’s talent Lucas cast him as major character Han Solo in Star Wars (1977). The movie, one of the highest grossing films of all-time, was a smashing success and Harrison Ford’s performance was a big reason why.
Collaboration between Ford and Lucas continued in future years with the production of The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and The Return of the Jedi (1983). The duo also worked together on three installments of the widely popular Indiana Jones movies in the 1980s. Amazingly, what had begun as an arrangement to build cabinets turned into one of the most lucrative partnerships in American film history!
Personal Growth Lessons from the Life Story of Harrison Ford
1) Be Open to Acquiring New Skills
When Harrison Ford wasn’t going anywhere as an actor, he found another avenue to exercise his talents-carpentry. Although he didn’t have formal training as a carpenter, Ford diligently worked to gain competence at his new craft. His success in acquiring a new skill not only helped him provide for his family, it positioned him to meet George Lucas.
2) Keep Growing Because You Never Know When Your Opportunity Will Appear
One would assume that Harrison Ford battled feelings of failure when he put his acting career on hold to make cabinets. His dream wasn’t to be woodworking in the shop; it was to be performing on stage. Yet despite his disappointment, Ford kept hope alive and stayed sharp as an actor. When George Lucas gave him the opportunity to audition for American Graffiti, Ford was ready, and he won the part.
3) Honing Your People Skills Can Reap Big Dividends
Something about Harrison Ford caught the eye for George Lucas. I’m not sure if it was Ford’s charisma, his passion for acting, or his skill as a craftsman. Whatever the reason, the key lesson is that Harrison Ford forged a relational connection with George Lucas. He conducted himself in such a way that George Lucas wanted to see him succeed and decided to give him a shot. Whether you’re on the doorstep of your dream or a million miles off course from where you’d hoped to be, improving your people skills is a wise move that will attract opportunities to you.
October 11th, 2010
Actually “There are three kinds of salespeople; those who make
things happen, those who watch things happen and those who are
wondering what happened.”
You’ve probably heard that one before. In fact, there are two
different types of salespeople and they are very easy to spot.
The first type is the improvisor. He seldom prepares, his
preferred style, is to take things as they come. He likes to
be spontaneous. He usually relies on his instinct and counts
on his intuition to carry the day.
His days are fun filled and exciting, because he literally treats
each sales call as an adventure. He’s the Indiana Jones of
selling, foot loose and fancy free, whatever that means.
The second type is the professional. He also enjoys his work, for
different reasons. He anticipates everything, especially the
routines and repetitive stuff. He knows the routines which gives
him the opportunity to prepare in advance.
For example, he handles recurring objections. He knows he’ll get
them over and over again, so he prepares in advance how he will
deal with them.
He plays with words, until he creates power phrases that work
like magic. Once prepared, he knows that to execute a perfect
delivery, he must practice what he’s prepared until he nails it.
He records his power phrases into a digital recorder and plays
them over and over until they are anchored into his subconscious.
His sales calls are different because he treats them as
opportunities not as adventures.
There are two types of salespeople and of course they achieve
two different results.
Each one follows a pattern, one is unstructured and one isn’t.
Each can be seen as a formula. One formula gets better selling
results than the other. Here they are:
I + I = I (Instinct + Intuition = Improvisation)
P + P = P (Preparation + Practice = Professionalism)
The secret to achieving consistent selling success is that there
are no shortcuts, no quickies just plain old fashioned hard work.
These are the formulas and you get to choose. One doesn’t require
One pays better than the other.
Remember this too, preparation trumps improvisation every day of
Also remember, your customers can tell the difference between
“Improvisation” and “Preparation.”
When you combine preparation with practice you get professionalism
which enables you to meet with a success you never before imagined.
February 9th, 2009
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be motivated to achievement by such a lofty goal as benevolence? I must confess, however, that in the early years of my struggle to succeed, my motivation was a lot more down-to-earth. My reason for succeeding was more basic. In fact, it fell into the category of what I like to call “nitty-gritty reasons.” A nitty-gritty reason is the kind that any one of us can have — at any time, on any day — and it can cause our lives to change. Let me tell you what happened to me.
Shortly before I met Mr. Shoaff, I was lounging at home one day when I heard a knock at the door. It was a timid, hesitant knock. When I opened the door I looked down to see a pair of big brown eyes staring up at me. There stood a frail little girl of about ten. She told me, with all the courage and determination her little heart could muster, that she was selling Girl Scout cookies. It was a masterful presentation — several flavors, a special deal, and only two dollars per box. How could anyone refuse? Finally, with a big smile and ever-so politely, she asked me to buy. And I wanted to. Oh, how I wanted to!
Except for one thing. I didn’t have two dollars! Boy, was I embarrassed! Here I was — a father, had been to college, was gainfully employed — and yet I didn’t have two dollars to my name.
Naturally I couldn’t tell this to the little girl with the big brown eyes. So I did the next best thing. I lied to her. I said, “Thanks, but I’ve already bought Girl Scout cookies this year. And I’ve still got plenty stacked in the house.”
Now that simply wasn’t true. But it was the only thing I could think of to get me off the hook. And it did. The little girl said, “That’s okay, sir. Thank you very much.” And with that she turned around and went on her way.
I stared after her for what seemed like a very long time. Finally, I closed the door behind me and, leaning my back to it, cried out, “I don’t want to live like this anymore. I’ve had it with being broke, and I’ve had it with lying. I’ll never be embarrassed again by not having any money in my pocket.” That day I promised myself to earn enough to always have several hundred dollars in my pocket at all times.
This is what I mean by a nitty-gritty reason. It may not win me any prize for greatness, but it was enough to have a permanent effect on the rest of my life.
My Girl-Scout-cookie story does have a happy ending. Several years later, as I was walking out of my bank where I had just made a hefty deposit and was crossing the street to get into my car, I saw two little girls who were selling candy for some girls’ organization. One of them approached me, saying, “Mister, would you like to buy some candy?”
“I probably would,” I said playfully. “What kind of candy do you have?” “It’s almond roca.” “Almond roca. That’s my favorite. How much is it?” “It’s only two dollars.” Two dollars. It couldn’t be! I was excited. “How many boxes of candy have you got?” “I’ve got five.”
Looking at her friend, I said, “And how many boxes do you have left?”
“I’ve got four.” “That’s nine. Okay, I’ll take them all.”
At this, both girls’ mouths fell open as they exclaimed in unison, “Really?”
“Sure,” I said. “I’ve got some friends that I’ll pass some around to.”
Excitedly, they scurried to stack all the boxes together. I reached into my pocket and gave them eighteen dollars. As I was about to leave, the boxes tucked under my arm, one of the girls looked up and said, “Mister, you’re really something!” How about that! Can you imagine spending only eighteen dollars and having someone look you in the face and say, “You’re really something!”
Now you know why I always carry a few hundred dollars on me. I’m not about to miss chances like that ever again.
And to think it all resulted from my own embarrassment, that when properly channeled, acted as a powerful motivator to help me achieve.
How about you? What nitty-gritty reasons do you have waiting to challenge and provoke you into change for the better? Look for them, they are there. Sometimes it can be as simple as a brown-eyed girl selling Girl Scout cookies.
February 2nd, 2009
How to Stay Motivated by Dr. Denis Waitley
Be willing to say to yourself, “I´m on the right road. I´m doing OK. I´m succeeding.’ We too frequently become adept at pointing out our flaws and identifying failures. Become equally adept at citing your achievements. Identify things you are doing now that you weren´t doing one month ago… six months ago… a year ago. What habits have changed? Chart your progress.
Doing well once or twice is relatively easy. Continuously moving ahead is tough, in part, because we so easily revert to old habits and former lifestyles. Over the long run, you need to give yourself regular feedback to monitor your performance and reinforce yourself positively. Don´t wait for an award ceremony, promotion, friend or mentor to show appreciation for your work. Take pride in your own efforts on a daily basis.
Keep the end result in sight. Always see the big picture of the ultimate goal you´re working for and the benefits that come with it. During World War II, parachutes were being constructed by the thousands. From the workers point of view, the job was tedious and repetitive. (Like making “cold calls’ on the phone or in person.) It involved crouching over a sewing machine eight to ten hours a day, stitching endless lengths of colorless fabric. The result was a seamless heap of cloth. But every morning the workers were reminded that each stitch was part of a life-saving operation. As they sewed, they were asked to think that this might be the parachute worn by their husband, brother or son. Although the work was hard and the hours long, the women and men on the assembly line understood their contribution to the larger picture. The same should be true with your work. Each thing you do benefits the health and well being of adults and children throughout the world, not just generally, but specifically. These are the visions that drive us through tedious details to the top.
Set up a dynamic daily routine. Getting into a positive routine or groove, instead of a negative rut, will help you become more effective. Why is the subway the most energy efficient means of transportation? Because it runs on a track.
Think of the order in your day, instead of the routine. Order is not sameness, neatness or everything exactly in its place. Order is not taking on more than you can manage, without still being able to do what you really choose. Order is the opposite of complication; it´s simplification. Order is not wasting a lot of time trying to find things. Order is avoiding a lot of recriminations because you didn´t do something you promised. Order is setting an effective agenda with others, so neither of you is disappointed. Order is doing in a day what you set out to do.
Order frees you up. Get into the swing of a healthy, daily routine and discover how much more control you´ll gain in your life.
Seeds of Greatness by Denis WaitleyProblems are a normal part of change. Things are changing so abruptly that there are going to be problems you face. So you must look at failure as an event, not as a person. I’m not a failure. Maybe I’ve had a failure or a temporary inconvenience. I’ve had a stumbling block, and the idea is to turn a stumbling block into a stepping stone, and step on it instead of stumble over it. So look at failure as the fertilizer of success.
Greet People with a Smile By Denis Waitley
Greet others with a smile and look them directly in the eye. A smile and direct eye contact convey confidence born of self-respect. In the same way, answer the phone pleasantly whether at the office or home, and when placing a call, give your name before asking to speak to the party you want to reach. Leading with your name underscores that a person with self-respect is making the call.
November 19th, 2008
COSMETIC doctors have nicknames for the days on which they offer deals on anti-wrinkle shots.
Dr. Don Mehrabi, a dermatologist in Beverly Hills, California, advertises his weekly promotion as “Botox Fridays,” the days on which he lowers his fees by about 30 percent for smoothing out frown lines and crow’s feet.
On other days of the week, he gives a 10 percent discount to clients who choose a combination of Botox Cosmetic and injections of Juvéderm, a gel that plumps the skin.
“That percentage off might actually increase because of the economy,” said Dr. Mehrabi, who posts his deals on his Web site, bhskin.com. “We are contemplating going up to 20 percent.”
In light of drastic consumer cutbacks on spending, some dermatologists, facial surgeons and plastic surgeons are promoting the kinds of markdowns, coupons or two-fers you might expect to find in supermarket circulars — complete with restrictions like “offer not good with any other promotion.”
Consumers pay cash up front for cosmetic procedures and, because the treatments are medically unnecessary, they are typically not covered by insurance, which explains why doctors’ marketing efforts can resemble a department store white sale.
“Giving $1,000 off, you are going to see more of that,” said Dr. Lawrence S. Reed, a plastic surgeon in Manhattan who does not offer deals on surgery. Dr. Reed said that all upscale businesses — including plastic surgeons’ offices — are seeking creative marketing strategies to stay afloat.
“You have got to do things to get people into your fancy restaurants, your fancy car dealerships, your plastic surgeon’s office, your dermatologist’s office,” he said.
To be sure, most cosmetic doctors are neither flamboyantly advertising discounts on operations nor marketing fire sales on injections. But the economy has taken a toll on cosmetic practices. Competition from an increased number of doctors entering the cosmetic market has also stimulated more aggressive marketing.
In private consultations with patients, many plastic surgeons are reducing their fees.
“I can’t imagine anyone’s not doing that,” said Dr. James Wells, a plastic surgeon in Long Beach, California He recently asked 80 colleagues via e-mail messages how they are adapting to the economic downturn. “They are now willing to discount things anywhere from 10 to 15, 20, 25 percent,” he said.
But such price-cutting blurs the line between the tactics of commerce and the practice of medicine, in which physicians have traditionally encouraged treatments based on a patient’s condition or concerns, not on the doctor’s bottom line.
Some plastic surgeons said that incentives like discounts, treatment packages or two-for-one deals could induce people who had not previously considered it to have an injection or an operation, or to have more procedures, potentially increasing their risk of medical complications. Promotions in which existing clients receive discounts or special treatment for sending friends to their doctors can also be ethically fraught.
“It skews the caution of proper decision-making,” said Dr. Adam Searle, a plastic surgeon in London who is a former president of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons. His group has warned against discounts. “It simply reduces it to a commodity and that’s dangerous,” he said.
But economic realities are pushing practices once considered unseemly into the mainstream.
Sixty-two percent of plastic surgeons who responded to a questionnaire from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons reported that they had performed fewer cosmetic procedures in the first six months of this year compared with the same period last year, according to a study the group released last week.
In response, the plastic surgery society added a forum to its annual conference, which was last weekend in Chicago, entitled: “Survival Strategies for Tough Economic Times.” Some speakers at the event recommended that doctors expand their client bases by joining school boards, churches, synagogues, rotary clubs, symphony and museum groups, and breast cancer fund-raisers. Others encouraged doctors to introduce package deals and offer promotions to existing clients who refer their friends.
Plastic surgeons traditionally reduce their fees for operations on related areas of the anatomy — such as a face-lift and an eyelift — that can be performed in one session, said Dr. Mauro Romita, a plastic surgeon in Manhattan. It is also standard practice for doctors to offer discounts on Botox if a patient is having the treatment in more than one area of the face, he said.
But discounting is going public this year.
Under a three-month promotion that ended last Friday, people who bought Restylane, a facial filler, could receive a $50 rebate for one syringe or a $100 rebate for two syringes from Medicis, the brand’s distributor in the United States. The tag line for the promotion: “The economy may not be looking its best, but you can.” More than 20,000 people redeemed rebate coupons.
Individual doctors are devising their own deals.
Dr. Christine Hamori, a plastic surgeon in Duxbury, Massachusetts, said she recently mailed a two-fer invitation — designed and printed by her Medicis sales representative — to about 3,500 clients. In October, clients could buy two syringes for the price of one $600 syringe of Restylane or one $800 syringe of Perlane, another filler, Dr. Hamori said.
Seventy-five people came in for injections; many of them requested additional treatments. In a month in which few people had signed up for expensive operations, those coming in for the injection special filled up her schedule, she said. “The response was tremendous,” Dr. Hamori said.
And some pharmaceutical companies offer volume discounts to select doctors.
Dr. Hamori said that when she recently bought 50 vials of Botox, a sales representative from Allergan, which makes Botox, added another 50 vials free. Each vial costs about $500, she said.
Dr. Mehrabi said that he received one free syringe of a filler called Radiesse from BioForm Medical, the product manufacturer, for every syringe he had sold in September.
Adam Gridley, the senior vice president for corporate development at BioForm, wrote in an e-mail message that the company does not comment publicly “on specific programs and doctor metrics.” Jonah Shacknai, the chief executive of Medicis, said that only a few doctors across the country are participating in his company’s program to introduce patients to the effects of two syringes. Caroline Van Hove, vice president for corporate communications at Allergan, wrote in an e-mail message that the company does not provide free vials of Botox Cosmetic as a reward for buying the product.
Some doctors are also lowering their charges for larger procedures.
Dr. Hamori said she has been reducing her surgical fees in a range of 5 to 10 percent.
In Indianapolis, Dr. W. Gregory Chernoff, a facial surgeon, decided to lower his prices a few months ago after he noticed a slowdown in face-lifts and hair transplant patients. He calls the 15- to 20-percent reduction in surgical fees a “professional courtesy.”
“We do not want to be a Kmart of cosmetic surgery,” said Dr. Chernoff, who has also posted holiday special offers, good until Nov. 28, on his Web site. “That word ‘discount’ is shunned within our profession.”
Dr. Wells, a former president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, said that many of his colleagues are now trying to figure out how to provide “value added” services to entice clients. He predicted that more doctors will start offering a free anti-wrinkle shot or laser treatment for people having cosmetic surgery. But some doctors may go too far, he said.
“My conjecture is we are going to see people go over the line,” Dr. Wells said.
Along the hallways of the plastic surgery conference in Chicago, Dr. Wells toted one of his favorite books, “Cowboy Values,” an ode to the moral code of the Old West. As his coda to an interview about cosmetic surgery marketing, Dr. Wells opened the book and read a passage aloud to a reporter: “You never really know the measure of a man until there is adversity or money on the table.”