Argumentative Selling Never Works. EVER.

Sitting happily at my desk in my new offices I realize that I get a TON more done than when I shared a space with my pal and GM, Sara. Isolated, I plow through my work and actually look forward to the infrequent visitors who wander in.

Today a gentleman came in to sell me his shiny new thing: Textable Business Cards.

Because I’m a New Media junkie (and if you want the lofty term, Marketing Consultant) I’m always open to hearing about any tech related tactic to market your business. Because I am also an old Sales Hand I LOVE being sold to because I know how tough it is; my years as a Sales Manager taught me to respect and value those who are good at it.

What happens next is the gentleman shows me his nicely designed text-able Business Card.

Me: “What is the difference between your ‘product’ and me just texting a jpeg of my card?”

Him: “Everyone says they can do it themselves, but you don’t bake your own bread do you?”

Me: “When would I text someone my card – how would that work and give me an example of WHY I would do that?”

Him: “What do you think happens when you give someone your Real Life Business Card?”

Me:”Hopefully they put me into their contacts and connect with me on Social Media. That’s what I do with the ones I get, and then I throw them out.”

Him: “They won’t throw out your digital card.”

Me: “But when would they look at it – wouldn’t they forget it’s in their gallery?”

As I sat there of course I googled his company and found out that someone else already owned the domain name www.textacard.com. He corrected me that his had hyphens – as in tex-a-card.com. “Ohhh I said, but you have NO SEO. What happens if someone meets you or hears about you and want’s to look you up?”

Him: “We don’t want to be found that way. We’re selling directly to big companies.”

At this point I said, “Well good luck. I do a lot of New Media Marketing and not a lot of texting in that way, so no thank you.”

Him: “You should start thinking out of the box.”

And so our exchange ended. I was bemused and he was very frustrated with me.

I didn’t torture the man because I enjoyed it – I was just very busy and wanted to quickly understand how his product would help me or my clients, and he couldn’t tell me exactly.

As always, it all goes back to Sales101:

1. Have your story down and be able to quickly, in a matter of a couple of minutes, explain to your target HOW your product will benefit them.
2. Ask questions about your client’s business and have some scenarios ready to explain your product working in real life situations (this man never asked one question).
3. Don’t become combative. No matter how great your product is it won’t work for everyone; it’s your job to make sure they remember you as friendly and helpful because they may know someone who would use your product. Never slam any door shut.

I realize Sales is a tough gig; loads of rejection can wear a person down. But it’s also High Reward, and it’s part of the J-O-B to accept rejection with grace. No one owes you anything, and they certainly don’t owe you a purchase. Some of your best customers will turn you down a few times before buying…. but they’ll never buy if you sour the deal even once by demeaning them.

Remember: every interaction you have is your PR.

What Social Media Engagement is All About

Earlier this week I wrote a post declaring that Social Media MARKETING was a misnomer and that it’s really about ENGAGEMENT. My Twitter buddy Robert Jones made this comment:

“I’m wondering how you see the relationship among these functions. Is engagement a subset of marketing? Is Sales Cycleit a kind of continuum (marketing –> engagement –> sales)? Or maybe a formula (marketing + engagement = sales)? Since management already knows marketing and sales, it’s probably important to explain exactly where engagement fits into the picture.”

And then he turned me onto a post by Daniel Newman that called out Social Media Pundits for talking about Engagement when they only engage with EACH OTHER. I stopped in my tracks and did a bit of self analysis, because the last thing I’m aiming to sell my clients is snake oil.

So here’s how the world worked before Social Media:

First comes the ‘product.’ Then comes Sales. I know, many of you think Marketing is next but in as an experienced rep. and someone who has worked with small businesses forever, I know that there are LOTS and LOTS of businesses who do little or no marketing, or think of Marketing as a luxury they can buy after they’ve sold something and turned a profit.

THEN comes Marketing. Then (hopefully) comes a serious growth in Sales. From here on out you have the never ending stream of Marketing/Sales/Marketing/Sales; the 2 departments will fight for an eternity about which one is more responsible for the success of your company.

Along comes Social Media and there is a new ingredient to how this should be structured:

1. First comes Product. Yes, it’s always product first.
2. Then comes Engagement: Social Media allows you to get the word out, create buzz, and interact with potential customers.
3. Then Comes Sales. If you have a chance in hell of making it you need to hit the ground selling; I don’t care what the Marketers tell you.
4. Engagment Again: any smart sales person today is using Social Media in many forms to reinforce their connections with real life customers and reach out to their targeted prospects.
5. Simultaneously with Sales comes Marketing. This is your strategy that will boost the Sales Person’s chance of having success. Sales stands on the shoulders of Marketing if it’s all working like it should.
6. Engagement AGAIN: You need feedback on your marketing efforts, and there is no more direct channel to the opinions of your target customers than to ask them directly. This is where you RETAIN and ask for FEEDBACK.
7. TRACKING: all of the above is for naught if you don’t have an effective system to see what works.

And the cycle should continue, using Social Media as a tactic to connect and engage with existing and future customers. Can you use Social Media to market? Sure. But it is most powerful as a way to ask, receive and measure all of your efforts. See, it’s a TACTIC, it’s not a strategy in itself. And if you incorporate it into your overall Sales/Marketing strategy it will be one of your most treasured and effective instruments to gage what actually works. Make Sense?

Playing Hard to Get Only Works in Dating

I have visited too many websites where I have to actively seek out Social Media connect buttons. If I find your content interesting, being the social media addict that I am, I’d like to stay connected so I can get more of it. That should be the holy grail of your entire online campaign: keeping people connected to your brand. Why on earth would you not want to make staying connected as simple as pie for me? Ask for the Sale

The reason Social Media link buttons are often difficult to find is either an oversight or based on design. Often when I’m dealing with fashion or design oriented clients they care more about the overall look of their website than what it can actually do for them. They’ll ask for monochromatic buttons or small, unobtrusive icons. This is baffling to anyone whose job it is to SELL YOUR BRAND.

The same is true of Call To Actions. The majority of sites/blogs/email newsletters I visit or receive never once ask me to buy a product or sign up for more information. It makes me ask again and again: WHAT is the point of your website/blog/online marketing vehicle? I can tell you what it should be: to sell your brand or product, or both. And I’ll tell you something else that you already know: 80% of all sales are sold by the 20% of salespeople who ask for the sale. Your website/blog/email newsletter is no different.

So why play hard to get? Make your connectivity icons visible and easy to find, and ASK the visitor to do what it is you want them to do. As in Buy ________ Now, or Sign Up for Our Marketing Email Now. People are busy – they want you to make their decisions easier. Really, it’s Sales 101, and at the end of the day all of your online efforts are about Sales.

Communicating Clearly = Happy Clients

Anyone selling the intangibles – your services, your smarts, your ideas – understands that communication and expectations are often the biggest hurdles you’ll face. If you’re selling a product it’s simple: you produce the product, the customer pays, and if there’s a defect in the product you refund the money or exchange it.

When you’re selling a service, ‘defect’ is in the eye of the beholder. Consultants, marketers, coaches – anyone selling an intangible that may be difficult to measure has one thing they must do BEFORE, DURING and at the END of each job, and that’s Communicate Clearly.

Setting expectations at the beginning of your project BEFORE you have the client’s cash in hand is the most important step to clear communication and a resulting happy client. Promising what you cannot deliver will only leave both you and your client unhappy.

Having a regular check-in schedule where you ask questions about client satisfaction and make sure that you manage their expectations by telling them what is and what is not possible will maintain your good relationship. Asking the RIGHT questions is the tough part. What will help you get to those ‘right’ questions is by reviewing where you’ve gone wrong in the past and ended up frustrated with your client, who was equally frustrated with you. It is more than likely that you will see a pattern in your relationships gone sour and be able to detect, using an objective eye, what mistakes you made. Identifying those patterns will help you develop your checklist of questions/statements that you need to make ask/make for each client.

We all run into crazy clients along the way, but most often the issues arise when your clients’ expectations are different than yours. Training yourself to be vigilant and disciplined about communicating clearly will leave you with consistently satisfied clients and a lot less frustration on your part.

Surgical Marketing

Some Businesses just can’t use Traditional Marketing; this is particularly true for B2B companies. As much as I’d love to take your money to run TV/Print/Radio ads or put up billboards, and thereby give YOU a quick shotgun blast approach, I know it won’t work for your business.Surgical Marketing

Some companies need a scalpel rather than a knife to market because their target client is SO specific. I own a Promotional Goods company that is nearly 100% B2B. I tried running ads in every Business Publication known to man, but never really got traction. My Marketing Company is now working with a Credit Union now that’s been in business for 65 years; during their existence they too have tried throwing money at Traditional marketing but still get most of their business from referrals.

So what’s a company to do when their target client is SO specific?

This is where the internet and old school salesmanship shine.

Social Media Marketing is one of my favorite tactics for specialized outreach. Facebook allows you to build a niche audience through Word of Mouth AND targeted advertising. Twitter makes it even easier, utilizing the almighty #hashtag, to enter in to conversations about your very specific industry.

Where the old school tactics come into play is time consuming but usually far more rewarding than anything else you can do. First, you must find your targeted list of prime prospects; the clients that would make you click your heels together once they signed on the dotted line. Social Media is a great way to track them down and GENTLY introduce yourself. By creating a drip effect, long term and personalized campaign you can eventually open the door. I use:

1. Linked In Introduction/Connection: if you know ANYONE who knows the decision maker, ask for an introduction. Listen and wait until you find an area of common interest and slowly strike up a conversation.
2. Twitter: Following anyone on Twitter is not intrusive, so find out if they have an account and again, LISTEN. Eventually you’ll be able to converse about something. All you’re doing at this point is making them aware that you exist.
3. Facebook: IF you get friendly enough on the other 2 platforms you may request they connect with you on Facebook. But be careful – people are much more reticent about becoming “friends” than they are followers. Only make the request when you’ve connected enough so that they know who the heck you are. And remember, at this point you have not tried to sell them ANYTHING. If you do get to connect, recommend your Business Page to them. On that Business Page you’ll be giving lots of FREE advice and helpful information – you will NOT be selling them.
4. Direct Mail: Through one of the other connections ask if they mind that you send them something – a catalog or even a postcard that simply and directly highlights what you do and most importantly, how you can HELP them.
5. Phone Call: A week or so after they’ve received the mail piece you call and request the long sought after meeting.

This entire process can take months, and if you make a false move at any point you can blow the entire thing irrevocably. But if you’re smart and you understand that relationship building is the first step in selling, you’ll be able to open doors that were sealed tight, and these are doors that once open can transform your business.

So make a plan, be smart, and perform like a surgeon. It will cost you time, but save you countless dollars you would have wasted on old fashioned marketing.

Social Media Marketers Take Heed: Facebook is a NO SPAM Zone.

Spam messages on Facebook are even WORSE than regular spam emails. We Facebook occupiers see this world as an escape from Spam. If someone wants to receive your eblasts they’ll sign up for them on your Join My List page…. if they don’t, work on your content, provide useful information, and get your Call to Action (Email Sign Up Request) Revved up. But DO NOT spam via our message box.

For one, it’s against the rules and Facebook may shut you down. Secondly, it goes against one of the tenets of Facebook: be friendly and beware of the NO SELLING zone.

The first Social Media marketers got it: Social Media grew out of society’s need to directly, honestly communicate. It blossomed when its users realized that they could create their own honest communities and exchange ideas and opinions without spin or layers of advertising fluff. Want an honest opinion on a product or service? No more need for the Better Business Bureau – just ask your community. The regular community participants still get this.

Who doesn’t?

As traditional advertising agencies realize that Social Media is not a fad and have scurried to jump on board, many of them fail to recognize that in here we speak another language. Small business owners who spent their lives marketing through Traditional means but have recently jumped into the Social Media world commit many of the same mistakes: using ‘old language’ and ‘old tactics’ to try to sell in ‘old ways.’ It doesn’t work. EVER.

So do this: Inform, Promote, and Give-away, but don’t SELL; what you should be trying to do in here is have a conversation, ENGAGE your customers. The sales will come, believe me. 67% of Facebook Followers convert to customers.

And don’t mess with our Message Boxes.

Where’s Your Call to Action?

Chris Brogan’s post about how a Sales Page on an internet site should work got me thinking about how many marketing/sales efforts I come across with absolutely NO Call to Action. Beautiful brochures, sexy websites, stunning print ads will not bring you new customers if you don’t entice the viewer to take the next step.

On your website, after your compelling outline of how you will benefit the viewer, the call to action may be as simple as a “Click Here” with a conversion form to capture information, but you need to “give” the viewer something to get them to commit to connect to your company. A free trial, demonstration, or downloadable ebook can be a great beginning to the trust building phase of your client/company relationship.

On print material your call to action may be: To book an appointment, call or email…. or Visit our Website or Order a Product by…

In most print ads space is limited, so that Call to Action needs to be dynamic and succinct. It may be a call to Sign up for Weekly Tips on _______ where you push them to your website and then capture their information; you must then deliver on the promised tips.. If you have a promotion going on make sure a sense of urgency is created for them to take the next step so as not to miss out on the promotion.

Like most things marketing related, this is all common sense – why spend time, energy and money developing a great campaign that doesn’t lead your prospect to do exactly what you want them to do. Make it easy on them by making that call short and explicit. Then watch your analytics grow and you’ll have your own “aha” moment.

Every Interaction You Have is Your PR

I did not invent this concept; I actually lifted the saying from Laurie Cadden who borrowed it from someone neither one of us can remember.

The reality is that the biggest PR mistake business people make is often in their day to day, mundane dealings with others. Just check your inbox and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Believe me, I know how busy you are; I don’t know anyone who isn’t overwhelmed by their ‘to-do’ list. But there’s no excuse for eliminating basic manners from your regimen. Here are the basic rules I try to follow despite my busy schedule:

1. Be email courteous: You’re never to busy to eliminate a friendly greeting – remember those? How about Hello ______, before you launch into your request/demand/question? How about Please, Thank You or Speak to You Later at the end of your email? It doesn’t matter if you’re emailing your best client or your worst employee – everyone deserves respect.
2. Pick up the phone: Remember the phone? That’s how we communicated before email. People feel a lot more special when you actually speak live to them periodically. Get it back into your regular method of communication and you’ll be surprised at how your relationships blossom.
3. Give praise: We’re all so busy tweeting/posting/eblasting our own company’s great highlights; take a minute and share a little of that high praise for others who deserve it. Remember, the Social Sphere has a karma boomerang.
4. Send a note: That’s right, I mean a REAL PIECE OF PAPER CORRESPONDENCE. Say ‘Thank You,’ ‘It Was Great Meeting You…’ Say anything in writing – it is so much more powerful than email. I use SendOutCards to make it simple but real, paper cards still exist. Watch how quickly your phone rings when the recipient finds something other than bills and junk in their mail.

My point wasn’t to compose a primer on social etiquette – we all know what courtesy is even if we don’t stop to think of it often. The reason you make these habits instead of special-occasion-actions is that by making it part of your everyday behavior you eliminate the chance of unintentionally offending someone.

Believe me, once you return the the rules of courtesy you learned in your youth, you’ll realize it isn’t difficult, it pays huge dividends, and you feel a lot better about yourself.

Monetize Your Day

If you chose to read this blog post it’s because, like me, you often look up at your clock, find it’s 11am and you’ve STILL not finished the ‘clean up’ work. That means almost a quarter of your work day is gone and you’ve done nothing that actually earns you money. The time vacuum of checking your inbox, returning calls and answering co-workers’ questions can mean the difference between shutting your doors and profitability. I don’t know if I’ve ever uttered this phrase before, but you need to start thinking like a lawyer.

That means you need to be sure to dedicate at least 50% of your time to profit making tasks: sales calls, writing proposals, content creation for jobs already in the hopper, and making sure the loose ends are tied up on nearly finished projects so that the client can be billed.

There’s a great tool out there to measure the cost of every meeting called Bring Tim; you need to create the same sort of clock to measure how much of your time is spent in non-profit making tasks. Anything that you aren’t billing for, or that won’t help fill the sales funnel eventually, should be counted. Then, you need to dedicate specific time each day to those non-profit duties and make sure you blast through them as efficiently as possible.

Yes, it sounds cold. I know you don’t do your job just for the money. If you’re lucky like me you do something everyday that you’re passionate about. But the reality is, we all have to pay the mortgage, utilities and car payment. Making yourself more efficient and your business more profitable will make you love your job even more, believe me. And, without added financial stresses you’ll be BETTER at your job to boot.