Decades ago, my mentor, Milt Pierce, wrote what became a long-running direct-mail package for Good Housekeeping. The envelope teaser copy: “144 Ways Good Housekeeping Can Save You Time and Money.”

This package was unbeaten in the mail for over a quarter of a century. Why was it so successful?

Back then, the promise of saving time and money was very appealing. And it remains so today. In fact, saving your customer time is more important than ever. In the 21st century – with both spouses often working – we all have too much to do… and not enough time to do it.

What does this mean for you as a marketer? Simply this…

In your sales and marketing efforts, if you can show the customer how you can save him time or serve him faster, your sales will skyrocket. Conversely, wasting his time is one of the surest ways to turn him off.

For example…

In my little copywriting business, I have a “virtual office.” My assistants work from their own homes, many miles away from my office in Dumont, NJ. Because of this, I work in complete isolation. So, some days, I break up the isolation by going out to a local coffee shop for a quick lunch.

While I was eating lunch a few weeks ago, at the peak of the busy lunch hour, two young women walked in. I immediately identified them as salespeople by the way they carried themselves, their manner, and their corporate attire.

Sure enough, instead of asking for a menu, they asked Peg, the waitress, if they could speak with the owner – who also happens to be the short-order cook. Peg walked over to the grill and relayed the message to him.

His irritation was immediate, visible, and audible.

In other words, he was pissed.

Peg came back and told the women, “I’m sorry, but it is the middle of lunch hour, and he is busy with orders.”

Crestfallen, the two saleswomen thanked Peg and left. Peg turned to me, and said, “How stupid can they be – to call on a restaurant owner during lunch hour?”

Of course, she is right. By making a sales call during the height of the lunch hour, these sales amateurs showed an utter disregard for their prospect’s time. He returned the favor by refusing to see them or consider buying what they were selling.

In contrast, here’s an example of a company that won a big sale by making an extra effort to respect the customer’s busy schedule and save him time…

Years ago, I did some work for a company – let’s call it ABC Software – that was a distributor of software for the corporate market. A salesperson for ABC told me the following story…

He was trying to get a big corporate account – let’s call them XYZ Corporation – to buy their software from ABC.

One of the advantages ABC offered was that they did not require a separate purchase order (PO) for each purchase. The customer only had to issue a one-time blanket PO to ABC to cover all purchases.

This saved purchasing departments a lot of time.

But even though ABC did not require a separate PO for each software package purchased, XYZ’s accounting department did.

“My hands are tied,” said XYZ’s purchasing manager to ABC’s salesman. “I’d like to use you, but I just don’t have time to fill out all those POs.”

“Not a problem,” replied ABC’s persistent salesman. “Just give me a stack of blank POs. Whenever you want to buy a software package, just let me know. I will fill out the PO for you, and then fax it to you for your signature.”

By offering to lift the paperwork burden from the customer onto his shoulders, the salesman saved that customer a lot of time … and, as a result, won a major national account.

“Time is money.”– Benjamin Franklin

(Ed. Note: Bob Bly is the editor of ETR’s Direct Marketing University: The Masters Edition, a program to help you start your own successful direct-mail business.)

Bob Bly

Bob Bly is an independent copywriter and consultant specializing in business-to-business and direct marketing. He has been hired as a consultant by such companies as Sony, Chemical Bank, J. Walter Thompson, Westinghouse, and Prentice-Hall. Bob is also the author of more than 50 books including The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Direct Marketing (Alpha Books), Targeted Public Relations, Selling Your Services, How to Promote Your Own Business, and Keeping Clients Satisfied. A phenomenal public speaker, Bob will share with you how easy it is to start your own business. Whether you’re ready to quit your job or are just looking to make a little money on the side, you’ll want to hear Bob’s advice.

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