From the August 1996 issue of Entrepreneur

The Entrepreneur

Judith Kallos

The Expert

Tom Hopkins

Founded in late 1994, The Glass Protectors uses an innovative, patented method to repair and buff scratched glass. Instead of replacing scratched glass, The Glass Protectors' customers-primarily auto dealers and building contractors-get results indistinguishable from new glass, at one-third to one-half the replacement cost.

The Glass Protectors faces no real competition in the Chicago and Milwaukee markets it serves, and its profit margins are healthy-about 65 percent per sale. For 1996, with marketing efforts limited to word-of-mouth by satisfied customers and small volumes of direct mail sent to prospects, the Antioch, Illinois, company projects sales of $100,000.

Looking forward, The Glass Protectors plans to grow through two avenues. Number one, it's already doing steady business repairing glass, and the expansion potential is substantial. Number two, the company's plan is to market this system nationally as a business opportunity to entrepreneurs seeking to start their own enterprises.

The Problem

There is a widespread disbelief among potential customers that the technology works as promised. "When prospects see it, they believe it," says Judith Kallos. "The process not only removes the scratches, it actually strengthens the glass. But many people just don't believe such a process can work." This customer skepticism has hampered sales, and Kallos wants to know how to break through this "seeing is believing" barrier. More broadly, she wants to know how to create a market for a new product or service.

The Solution

We took this case to Tom Hopkins, perhaps the nation's most famous sales trainer and an expert in tough selling situations. Hopkins begins his makeover with a dose of reality: "It's foolish to go into selling a business opportunity before the retail sales foundation is proved," he says. "Now is not the time for her to do this, particularly not with the skepticism she already knows she faces. Prospects for buying an opportunity package-involving a large financial commitment-will only be that much more skeptical."

The bottom line: "Overcome customer skepticism, and make this business highly successful," Hopkins says. The route to doing this? "Since she continually encounters the 'I don't believe it' response from prospects, she needs to immediately create ways to overcome that objection. A big difference between professional salespeople and the rest [of the pack] is that the professionals take note of common objections, find ways to overcome them, and then bring up the objection before the buyers do. That way, the professional can neutralize the objection before it takes root in the buyer's mind.

"Kallos needs to find a way to communicate to prospects that ends their skepticism, and it has to be cost-effective." It's not cost-effective to pay in-person calls to every prospect, says Hopkins, who suggests a demo video as a low-cost way to let prospects see what Glass Protectors can do for them. An even lower cost technique? "Every sales brochure needs to feature testimonials from satisfied customers," advises Hopkins. "She should even say in print, 'Our happiest customers did not believe this process would work-until they saw the results!' "

Where to get testimonials? "From the customers with the most recognizable names," says Hopkins. If car dealers see the name of a big car dealer in their region, what the dealer says has credibility. Happy customers will be glad to let you use their testimonials.

Hopkins' core message is this: "Any entrepreneur who meets an objection on every sales call had better figure out now how to overcome it. You cannot succeed in sales until you take care of that."

Top Tip

Know how to handle anticipated objections. Those are the objections you hear from, say, 75 percent of the people you talk to about your product or service. There are three steps: Identify the objection, figure out how to make it an advantage, and bring it up before the customer does. Don't wait for the customer to voice it. Bring it up and show how it's actually an advantage, or at least something people will ignore.

Never wait for the customer to voice an objection you know you will hear. Bring it up yourself, and turn it to your advantage-that's a crucial selling skill.

-Tom Hopkins

The One That Almost Got Away

Then I sold real estate, I knew of a builder who had built 18 homes next to a railroad track. The train ran three times a day; the noise was horrendous. The builder lowered the price but still couldn't sell the homes.

When I called him, he said, "I don't want to do business with a realtor. You'll want me to lower the price, and I won't."

I said, "I think you should raise the price, and I have a strategy I believe will sell those homes in
30 days."

That got his attention, and he asked me to tell him the strategy. When I arrived, I told him we had to make the railroad an advantage-at least turn it into something people would be happy to put up with. And I told him my strategy: "I know what times the train goes by. Unlike most subdivisions, we won't keep these homes open all day. We will put up signs saying that due to the very special offer, these properties will only be shown at 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.-the times the train goes by."

I trained my sales agent to say, "The builder feels these homes may pose a challenge for you-or maybe not. And he wants to do something special for buyers of these homes. But, first, we want you to be aware of something in terms of noise. Do you hear the air conditioner?" The agent paused, then continued: "You weren't aware of it because you have gotten used to that sound." Then he walked the prospects into the living room-where there was a big, beautiful color television. I had gotten the builder to raise the home price by $295, the cost of the television.

Then the agent said, "The builder wants you to have that color TV when you buy one of these homes. Now, please look around, but when you hear the train, return to the living room and ask yourself if you and your family could cope with that inconvenience while watching TV."

With the windows closed and the air conditioner and television on, the train wasn't that loud. We sold all 18 homes in a month.

The lesson: Don't let a perceived disadvantage stop your sales. Turn the negative into a positive, and you will close your deals.-T.H.

Toolbox

SEEING THE LIGHT

Wait! Your sales presentation isn't ready unless you have an effective way for prospects to view it. Enter the Viewpoint 100 LCD projector from Lightware, which plugs into laptop computers with a single cable and projects dazzling color presentations without a screen-even with the lights on. At 9.4 pounds, the compact Viewpoint 100 is light enough to go anywhere you go. Cost: $6,500.

-Heather Page

ELECTRIC AVENUE

You don't have to leave sales calls clutching handfuls of papers. The PageWiz personal scanner from Microtek Lab converts paper documents into digital files you can edit, fax, e-mail or print on-site. A companion to your notebook computer, the PageWiz scans in 8-bit grayscale and comes in handy for scanning business cards, memos, invoices and more. Cost: $129.-H.P.

Contact Sources

Canon, 2995 Redhill Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626, (800) 848-4123;

Mary J. Cronin, cronin@bc.edu;

The Glass Protectors, P.O. Box 455, Antioch, IL 60002, (847) 395-9115;

Mark Victor Hansen, c/o Mark Victor Hansen & Associates, P.O. Box 7665, Newport Beach, CA 92658, (800) 433-2314;

Tom Hopkins, c/o Tom Hopkins International Inc., 7531 E. Second St., Scottsdale, AZ 85251, (800) 528-0446;

Danielle Kennedy Productions, (800) 848-8070;

Lightware, 10035 S.W. Arctic Dr., Beaverton, OR 97005, (800) 445-9396;

ManaVision Inc., (513) 299-9982, (http://www.manavision.com);

Microtek Lab Inc., (800) 654-4160, (http://www.mteklab.com);

Model Office Inc., 4815 W. Braker Ln., #502-332, Austin, TX 78759, (800) 801-3880;

Motorola, (800) 548-9954;

Owen, Koester & Ederer Inc., P.O. Box 6129, Bellevue, WA 98008, (800) 552-3112;

Seraphic Springs Health Care Agency, 28 Emerson Ave., Gloucester, MA 01930, (800) 777-3595;

Simon & Co., 8659 Holloway Plaza Dr., W. Hollywood, CA 90069, (310) 659-3882;

Symantec, 10201 Torre Ave., Cupertino, CA 95014, (800) 441-7234;

Brian Tracy, c/o Brian Tracy International, 462 Stevens Ave., #202, Folana Beach, CA 92075, (800) 542-4252, (619) 481-2977.