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‘But wait, there’s more,’ says Tim Shaw of Communique Television

‘But wait, there’s more,’ says Tim Shaw of Communique Television

Sales experience from those famous steak knife infomercials makes Tim Shaw the perfect candidate for sales and marketing advice for SMEs.

Shaw’s Communique Television may seem a long way from the infomercials he’s most remembered for, but he’s still the master of sales who coined the phrase: “But wait, there’s more“. Let’s face it; Shaw’s one-liner won’t be leaving the Australian vernacular any time soon.

With a sales career spanning 25 years, from steak knives to electrical equipment, selling seems a natural thing for the smooth-talking Shaw. And this isn’t a bad thing. It’s his belief in himself and the products he sells that has made him one of the most recognisable salesmen in Australia, and he’s accrued a lot of expertise in fine-tuning sales and marketing techniques.

These days, Shaw divides his time between his “three gorgeous daughters”, his online consultancy business, Communique Television, and stints on the speaking circuit. There are also roles in advertising, he’s regularly called to act as the face of well-known brands, and media commentating, passing on his advice to a wide audience.

Commuinque specialises in helping companies articulate their message through the internet, and he produces, writes, and presents companies’ stories—”like a Demtel commercial”—to introduce them to time-poor key decision-maker clients. “In terms of broadband communications, we’re going to see a plethora of growth in the way in which we can tell our stories in short sharp bursts using internet television.”

Delivering the right message in the right way, whether by embracing the internet or using more traditional mediums is key, says Shaw. “Really smart businesses now have to look at their whole sales and marketing message from a consumer point of view—what is turning consumers on about their brand, and what is going to turn consumers off.

“If you don’t get your brand right, you won’t attract customers who like buying brands.” But before that, he says, the key for SMEs is the people. “Customers buy from people before they even touch the brand. The customer has to fall in ‘trust’ with the person selling them the product.”

Part of that includes managing customer relationships, which is something he says many owners forget to do. “They should continually review, from their business point of view, the relationship they’ve got with existing customers—and reward that.

“We know the lowest cost of customer acquisition is a referral, and we’ve got to continually reward those customers who give us those referrals.”

To do this, business owners need to take a step out of the business and invest in external research and investment in the business. This is where Shaw says SMEs fall short. Loathe to put a figure on an exact amount, he says in general businesses with healthy margins should invest up to 7 percent of gross sales into the marketing budget. And this must include branding of the business, training for the sales team, and the communications strategy you want with customers, which may include a reward program. “If you inject 7 percent of gross sales into the marketing budget for 2007-08, then in a few years you can reduce that figure to as low as 2 or 3 percent, because you’ve built a strong brand during that sales and marketing process.”

Good training and a well-managed (and regularly reviewed) database is an essential part of being able to communicate well with your customers. Shaw admits his early training was limited, and says there’s no excuse for poor training and customer management today. “My first sales manual was the instructions manual on the box of the communications and audio equipment in the boot of my car, and my database was the A-K and L-Z yellow pages!”

An important part of managing a client database will include the owner getting in front of the clients more often. “The best sales people in the business are generally the owner, the CEO, and the managing director. But how often do they get out on the road and actually sell their product? Not only do they need to get out there but they need to go out there with their team and be part of that process.”

Introducing yourself to that customer and letting them know how important their business is to you, he adds, will make them feel special and they’ll be more likely to come back—and even more likely to refer another customer. “I need to be a friend to my customer,” he suggests. “How hard is it to schedule, from a sales and marketing point of view, two of those appointments a week. You do that over a year and you’ve contacted around 100 customers. If you can’t find 100 top customers from your sales team, then perhaps your business isn’t as strong as you thought.”

In terms of tips for bringing in new business, Shaw says this is where the type of message becomes even more important. “Strategise the communication and the tools and media you want to use and, most importantly, work with those suppliers and look at ‘advertorialising’ some of those messages.”

Testimonials are a simple and effective way to tell people about your product, but to tell potential customers how the product can work for them. Joining with other suppliers works even better. “Other customers in that category can say ‘Well, if it’s good enough for my competitor to be involved with this supplier, I’m going to do that too’. And those kind of sales messages really add credibility to your business—across all sectors.”

When looking for motivation, Shaw says he admires the way some of Australia’s leading salesmen have grown their businesses. “I look at visionaries like Dick Smith, Gerry Harvey, John Symonds.

“‘At Aussie, we’ll save you’. John Symonds made it his mantra. He worked in an area where the big, bad four banks were the enemy,” Shaw says. “He found in his communication and marketing strategy he needed to be the friend of his customer—how simple is that?

“When I was in import and wholesale 25 years ago, I had a responsibility to my employer and to the business but I also became the advocate and friend of my customer.” In particular, he recalls a time when a customer was unable to pay his bills and rather than cut off supply, Shaw extended the customer another $3,000 worth of stock on credit. “The management thought I was mad, and told me I was going to be responsible for that credit.”

He delivered the extra stock, it was sold and paid off the debt. Shaw lent him more stock and it, too, was sold. “Twenty years later, he runs a business that generates more than $200 million worth of sales,” he says. “From a supply chain point of view, his business is where it is today because of suppliers such as me.”

The biggest part of being a friend and developing trust between clients is having a quality product offering. And the biggest rule is: “Never sell a product you’re not prepared to buy yourself,” he warns. “If you are not prepared to invest in the product yourself, don’t expect your customers to invest in it. I never sold a dud product knowingly.”

When making decisions, Shaw encourages businesses to seek advice from peers, in all areas of the business. “And pay for good advice,” he adds. “To run a smart business you have to invest in advice.

“Plan and invest in your marketing strategy and invest in your people. Your investment in your people is a good investment.”

All businesses, Shaw says, should have in place a growth strategy for level, so if there are problems in your business your local government and local business associations can facilitate help. “Maybe we need to have more people running for local government who are smart businesspeople.”

Sales Techniques

Getting down to the finer details about perfecting your sales techniques, Shaw has more simple advice to pass on. “Ask what you can do for your customer, they are every salesperson’s employer,” he begins. “Always walk in with a smile, and never go in not knowing what you want to walk out with on the sales order.”

And anticipating customer concerns is invaluable. “Don’t slam the competition, just makes yours a better offer,” he says. “Make sure you know what you want to sell your customer, and have all the justifiable reasons why they need to buy.”

He recalls his biggest sale in the early 80s—worth $1 million—to Strathfield Car Radios’ then CEO, Andrew Kelly. Knowing his client’s tastes, he took him for breakfast at the local McDonalds. “I knew exactly what I believed Andrew needed, I knew exactly what the telecommunications business was at that time, I studied the elements of the retail package he was putting together for Strathfield. I looked at that business and looked at how my product would apply in that business,” he says. “And it cost me $1.99 for the meal.”

When trying to be friends with clients, it doesn’t have to be about meeting them at the local pub for a beer after work, unless that’s what you are both interested in. It can be as simple as drawing out personal information and being able to share personal interests, whether that’s a sport, your children, or tastes in music. Establishing a connection and knowing what makes your client tick makes a world of difference.

In terms of your product offering, Shaw says how you charge for the offering is another part to consider in your communications strategy. He is a big advocate for the ‘pay for what you use’ model, offering a price for basic service and then option parts of the offering by up-selling into other areas. Shaw uses offshore call centres as an example. “Let clients know you’re going offshore, and how this will affect them.” He then suggests offering a premium service for customers who want local service and are happy to pay for it.

The outsourced environment that we live in now, Shaw says, has taken away the personality of business, from call centre operations to credit control. “Think twice before you outsource your credit control because the minute you send that customer the blue note, saying pay in seven days or we’ll sue you, that’s going to affect your relationship with that customer.”

Instead, he says business owners or managers getting on the phone to chase up overdue accounts will help make the client feel like they are an important part of the business.

In the sales process, converting leads into actual sales is another key step. Once you have the referral, enquiry or other lead in place, it’s only part of the way to creating a sale. And timing is crucial. If your business is online, Shaw says, the longer the period of time from initial contact before you respond to an enquiry, the less likely they will be to close the offer. “Make sure your response time is quickest, and the most professional. And if you can’t respond immediately, tell them that. Keep them informed, they’ll appreciate being kept in your loop.”

Follow-up is important to ensure further sales, and referrals. “Ask them three key follow-up questions about the level of service—were you happy with the service we provided, are there any suggestions for how we can improve our service to you and other customers, is there anyone in your network of friends and family that you would like us to contact to let them know about the level of service we provided?” And act on the results.

Customers from hell can also become your greatest referral. If you have a difficult customer, get on the phone and ask them their concerns, and work through solutions to rectify them, he recommends. “Be smart enough to know your business is not perfect.” They will appreciate the special service and are more likely to become a valuable client.

Like most businesspeople, Shaw recalls the tragedies along with the triumphs. His biggest regrets are about selling businesses he now wishes he’d kept, and is quick to advise other business owners to learn from this mistake. “Think about what you’ll be doing in 10 years, and reconsider selling.”

If there’s one thing he doesn’t regret, but is often quizzed on, it’s that phrase that accompanies his name wherever he goes. To Shaw, it represents not only him but Tim Shaw the brand. “What does the brand represent? I think it represents value,” he says.

Coupled with honesty, integrity, personality, passion (HIPP, his latest catchcry) this is what he says turns a good salesperson into a great one. “I only had two minutes to sell those steak knives! With only 120 seconds to engage with your customer, you need to identify the ‘who, what, when, where and why’ value to the customer.

“It’s who I am, it’s where I’ve come from, and you can’t change history. It’s what you do with the history and experience that matters,” he says. “If I love what I do when I sell, if I love the product I sell, then I’m already nine-tenths of the way to becoming the best at what I do.”


Business Tips from Tim Shaw

• Believe in your product

• Be a friend to your customer

• Pay for good advice

• Hire slowly, fire fast

• Start the day with a smile

• Ask what you can do for your customer—they are the ultimate employer

• Don’t be afraid to keep learning

• Read and learn from great businesspeople (he recommends John McGrath’s You Inc)


Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Tim Shaw

‘But wait, there’s more,’ says Tim Shaw of Communique TelevisionWhat’s your favourite part of a typical workday?

Reviewing innovative sales and marketing strategies being employed online (and reading dynamic business magazine of course!)

What’s the least glamorous role you perform regularly on the job?

Online banking payments

What skill would you most like to improve?

Time management

What part of your business/skills are you continually working on?

New sales development

If you could go back in time and do one thing differently in your business, what would it be?

Not sell the really profitable businesses I previously owned, but you can’t go broke taking a profit can you (which I did every time – profit that is).

What part of your job would you gladly give up?

Tax compliance

What’s the simplest thing you never learned to do?

Emailing and word documents, we are all self taught aren’t we?

Who’s the smartest person you know?

Bob Oatley, founder of Rosemount Wines

Who gives you the best advice about your business?

My outsourced gang of five mates who deliver advice hard and fast without bias.

What keeps you up at night?

Episodes of “The West Wing” and a great bottle (or two)of Wild Oats wine made by Bob Oatley


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