A little less conversation, a little more action! How to find your MAN.

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When I run my live workshops, we always kick-off with the most essential exercise anyone can do – whether in sales or not – and that is to understand their own (and others) behavioural and emotional characteristics.

So often, a potential client will come to me to seek advice on price points, the design of a Facebook Ad, or how many calls they need to make to be effective in sales.  All good elements to consider, but there’s a fundamental building block that needs to be put in place first.  It’s a bit like getting up, going to work, without your clothes on! I insist that we always go back to basics.

And by doing this I witness, time and again, the impact this workshop session has on confidence levels as it slowly dawns on my attendees that the stereotypical ‘salesperson’ is not who they need to be.  The relief is palpable! This epiphany is a wondrous and rewarding thing in my life.

For it is NOT ‘he who shouts loudest’ that is winning in sales – it is he (and she) who listens longest and then uses her soft, natural, innate skills and intelligence to match product to need.

Let’s take ‘assertiveness’ - one of the most essential selling skills. Immediately, our imaginations conjure up visions of the slick, pushy salesman whose sole aim is to pressure us into submission.  Or we see the all-powerful, abrasive ‘ladyboss’ who’s just crushed some poor chaps balls somewhere by the water cooler. That’s Type 1 Assertiveness.

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It is very typical for us ladies to misinterpret how assertiveness needs to manifest itself to be successful in sales. We tell ourselves “I am not assertive, therefore I cannot be a good sales person, therefore I’ll do other stuff in my business that makes me feel successful (like going to a network event and handing out my business card)”.  Stop right there! 

Assertiveness is a soft skill, an emotional intelligence skill, which produces hard sales results. This is Type 2 Assertiveness and the one we’re aiming to use!

Without Type 2 assertiveness, us ladies end up wasting hours nurturing prospects that are never going to buy. Have you ever found yourself in the following scenario.

You meet with a potential customer/client that is really nice. The chemistry is good, and the small talk shows you have lots in common personally. She is open about sharing information and saying all the right things. “I need to do something. It’s time for change and we need some help. That’s why I’m meeting with you”. Your hairs stand on end, you can’t believe this opportunity has come your way.  And so, when you are asked to put together a proposal or quotation, you skip away joyfully. But it’s at exactly that moment that we need to hang around a while longer to finish our Type 2 ‘assertiveness’ job.

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 Because, what happens at the point we hear “we want change, we need to improve and we need to start in 4 weeks time” – we switch off, mentally pack up our notebook and rush away.  Whereas, what we should be doing is, with our Big Girl Pants on, to press a little further to ‘qualify’ (there’s a good sales word!).

You need to use all your intuition by asking the right questions - to separate the tyre kicker from the client in genuine need.  In traditional sales training, we always talk about finding your MAN – the person/customer/prospect who has the Money (i.e. they are the budget holder), the Authority (i.e. they are responsible for making the final decision) and the Need (i.e. they need to change or else).  It’s no different in your own small business – find your MAN.

And in our scenario the end isn’t pretty. You spend hours writing a considered proposal, only to hear, “This looks great. Could you give me a call early next year, when the MD is going to announce if this initiative has got funding”.  Been there?

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How can we be in control of a different outcome?

1.     A Type 2 Assertive salesperson is comfortable mentioning the elephant in the room – the compelling reason for change.

2.     Check that you have your MAN by asking searching questions.

3.     Test commitment to change by asking the ‘what if’ questions… “What if this project didn’t go ahead, what are the consequences?”

4.     Change your mind-set to ‘it’s my job to flush out the tyre kicker’ and select only the customers or clients that deserve a place in your sales pipeline.

If you want to find out more about ‘behavioural selling’ you can attend one of my Workshops in 2018, or look out for the desktop course launching in the Spring.  Go to www.thesalemaker.com and sign up to my mailing list to stay updated.

OUCH. That hurt! | How first impressions will make or break the sale.

 What is it like to be on the receiving end of your business?

What is it like to be on the receiving end of your business?

If what follows doesn’t make any sense to you, then please feel free to stop reading and go back to what you were doing. If what I describe makes your toes curl, then I know we're on the same wavelength – in that your care about how you and your business comes across to a prospect – first impressions count and all that.

So that was it. I’d done my research, I’d ‘honed down’ the options using a mix of savvy intuition, a website visit, Facebook, reviews and YouTube – all the usual stuff we do to shortlist a service or product provider.

I arranged an appointment 5 days in advance to see this ‘trusted advisor’.

On the day, I met with ‘Josh’ and we headed over to a café. Sadly, his office was being used by another company for a webinar. Clearly flustered with his workload, Josh found us a table and immediately started talking about his company and what they had done for other clients. He carried on talking about other work in his field. And again, searched for more examples of work (on a very weak internet signal so we both sat in front of a blank screen for a while. Awkward). He told me how he works, and what he thought the next steps might be. I made several attempts to describe the vision in my head, Josh briefly nodded and directed me back to the timer on the blank screen.

After just 30 minutes we scurried out to the car park - but, determined to give it my best shot at getting some credentials from him, I asked him how he got started. I got a sentence – which was really interesting and peaked my curiosity – but damn, we’d run out of time.

 Josh agreed to send me some more ‘food for thought’ and off we went on our separate ways. Josh back to his hijacked office, and me not really understanding what had just happened.

Sadly, Josh hadn’t looked at my website. Or anything. This made me feel disappointed and unimportant. He didn’t know what I did. If my experience of the ‘Josh approach’ left me feeling bruised, then it just might have the same effect on someone else (in fact I KNOW it does – it’s a real pet-hate for many people). 

With 5 days to plan, I was expecting Josh may have had 5 minutes (that’s a minute a day – manageable huh?) to just take a look at my website maybe, a bit of content – just to get a feel, a view on the brand and business he was going to be meeting.

What happened to the customer research prior to the meeting? What happened to the pre-meeting build up to confirm and excite? What happened to the early ideas that might have been shared to knock the competition out of the running? What happened to a bit of ‘this is why you should work with us’ chit-chat? What happened to NOT having any technology in the first meeting, instead just listening and engaging?

And what happened to the immediate follow-up email, sent out on the same day to reinforce the bond we’d made and demonstrate what the relationship might be like should we work together?

In my years of working in some of the most professional advertising agencies in the UK, it was my job to ensure the integrity and impact of our first meetings with potential clients. I was a control freak yes, and a detail nut of course – but I tell you what, I can proudly say we always went above and beyond to create to very best first impression we could. 

Because why? Because if you don’t you have wasted your website build budget. You’ve wasted all the content you’ve posted on YouTube. You’ve wasted the money you spent on your logo. You’ve wasted the headed paper and the fancy office décor. You’ve wasted all the hours you’ve spent blogging, and networking and, and, and… do you see what I mean? 

First impressions can make or break your business  – they are a key ‘selling’ moment, and there are so many subtle cues that need to be considered.

And so why do many of us typically do what Josh did?   Firstly, self-awareness…if you’re not aware of what it’s like to be on the receiving end of you, then you cannot address your weaknesses. And the second enemy is time. Poor Josh was so busy working in his business, doing stuff for existing clients. Rather, as the business leader, he should have been focused on the future – the customers he doesn’t yet have and ones that will help his business to grow.

It’s not difficult to do the bare minimum of prep - look at a website, read a few blogs, look at the FB page and check out the story behind your prospects business – walk in their shoes. To do this – 30 minutes I reckon.

 And there is a world of automation that you can use to benefit your sales conversion and save you time. How about an automated ‘nurture’ email sequence prior to the meeting that is begins to sell for you, whilst you get on with other things? 10 minutes to set up – use it time and time again.

Can I just say, I liked Josh, and I could sense that he was buckling under the weight of a heavy schedule, but that he loved his subject, and that he was good at it. For this reason I every intention of working with him – which makes it all the more frustrating that they didn’t get the first date right! Another prospect might not be so forgiving.

Step out of the hurly-burly of running your business and just reflect what it feels like to be on the receiving end of you.

 

Quick! Send a bl**dy letter!

Anyone who knows me will know that one of my most frequent laments, as I clamber a’ top my soapbox, and teeter to and fro – is my passion for the letter box and the doormat.

How many times have I given my million-dollar secret away to young pups that want to know the secret of gaining cut through and getting the attention they crave. I don’t charge a penny for this secret – it’s free, given with love and passion for the art of the hand-written letter. In a hand-written envelope. And a stamp.

You see, I am a result of a career in Direct Marketing. You know, the stuff we threw out with our www.bathwater.com. I was weaned on Mailsort 1 and 2, and cut my teeth on data capture forms.  The art of the attitudinal questionnaire is scored into my soul, and I cannot bear to see anything without a ‘call to action’.

And yet in 2017, I live a life of conflict, because I'm told Direct Marketing is dead. And of course, I know the shiny new thing – the internet – can make magic. I really do see that. But I also see the daily social media ‘rugby scrum’ that most of us lock into to gain attention. And my stealth strategy for any brand, when trying to seek the attention of a scrumptious new client, is to hit the doormat with something amazing! In fact, I’m not sure it even has to be that amazing anymore because whilst your handwritten letter – or direct mail pack- comes into the prospects life via their desk, alone, and ready to tell them a story – 30 other 'lead generation' emails are queuing up in the inbox, waiting for someone to log on and delete them.

What gets read first? The 33rd unsolicited email, or the handwritten letter?

I attended a conference in Cardiff this week - #OIConf Cardiff. And it was good. Really good – I learned lots. But I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at the number of presentations, workshops and Masterclasses I sat through, where the wheel was being re-invented. At the end of the day (quite literally) the subject we were all gathered around – be it via a Chatbot, video content or some super-cool AI – was ‘direct marketing’ and trying to sell stuff. I know this is hugely simplified, but I really am not one for jargon or tosh.

According to Wikipedia, Direct Marketing is

“a form of advertising which allows businesses and non-profit organizations to communicate directly to customers through a variety of media including cell phone text messaging, email, websites, online adverts, database marketing, fliers, catalog distribution, promotional letters and targeted…”

Now, when you put it like that – I get that your average google-weaned marketing practitioner, in the cut and thrust of his or her early career will want to disassociate from this description completely. It’s absolutely not iclever enough is it?

But I argue that it does us all no harm to remember the customer experience in our quest to gain attention because it ain't all about Facebook Ad spend. We rush to social media sometimes, because it’s shiny and fun, cheap (relatively), quick and instantly gratifying. But beware. The backlash will come – and it’s already started as I read again last week that ‘direct marketing is making a comeback’ This is a good read on the subject http://www.fiercecmo.com/tech/direct-mail-could-be-making-a-comeback

Our customers are craving ‘experience’ and we oft forget the charm and wit of a beautifully creative, tangible piece of direct mail from your favorite booze brand, for example. With exquisite attention to detail, usually with a sumptuous product sample and a delicious long-copy letter that tells you the most captivating story. All cradled in a textured velvety card, and sealed with a cheeky ‘cheers’.

I’m so sad that I no longer get this kind of experience delivered to my via my letter box and door mat because the alternative, from my phone, is this:

“Say hello to the Easter Basket – full of delicious Easter eggs! RT for a chance to #WIN a £100 voucher this #Easter#AldiEverydayAmazing

My work here is done. Long live Direct Marketing.

All the sales leads you can eat. 100% guaranteed results. Every time.

It’s a brave service provider that promises this.

And yet, a business owner contacted me this week seeking exactly that reassurance in terms of lead generation. Of course, I can absolutely understand the ‘risk-adverse’ mindset when you are bootstrapping a young business and every penny counts. And coming from a direct marketing background myself, I applaud his need to understand what kind of ROI he might get. 

However, there is also a fundamental confusion between ‘telesales’ and lead nurturing.  One lends itself to low-price, high volume products (and a good dose of the hard sell) and the other, to higher value products or services, where softer selling skills are essential to success. The latter demands a considered consultative approach where trust, transparency, reliability and proven results are discussed between seller and buyer over a period of time.

As a Business Development Director, working for some of the UK’s leading Direct Marketing Agencies, I saw it like this:  I was responsible for looking after the clients my agency didn’t yet have.  And this gave purpose to all lead generation – or nurturing - as I prefer to call it.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get the opportunity to learn more about my enquirers business to be able to give further advice on the strategy he should adopt, but certainly for anyone considering their lead generation requirements and ring-fencing budget for this business-critical activity, I would offer the following thoughts.

1. All hail!  The ‘lead generation’ Silver Bullet

Of course – you guessed it - it does not exist. You’ve got to do the work. There is no quick fix.  It takes time, and financial investment.  80% of B2B sales are made on the 12th contact, so it’s time to start thinking how you are going to win the trust and keep the attention of your prospect for that length of time.  Forget the silver bullet.

2. Concentrate on finding the right marriage partner

We all know the adage that acquiring a new customer is exponentially more expensive that keeping hold of an existing one. However, we really need to give our businesses a fighting chance from the outset! It is utterly pointless to invest time and money in lead nurturing activity that recruits the wrong kind of customer; one that is only interested in a first date, and lip-smacking free lunch.  Make sure your lead nurturing strategy is flushing out those clients or customers that are the marrying kind.

3. The dying art to lead nurturing

Every sales person in the world craves that bright, sunny day when they pick up the phone, dial the number of a complete stranger, who bizarrely has all the time in the world to chat, and after just 3 short minutes of ‘features and benefits’ lands the financial deal that is going to transform their commission at the end of the month.  The rest of us continue to work in the real world, where we deploy the 80:20 rule.  Lead nurturing is 80% preparation and 20% call time.

4. Getting competitive advantage is a piece of cake

48% of your competitors will never bother to follow up a lead after the first call.  So after you’ve got all your features and benefits primped and preened, gaining a competitive edge is really quite simple.  Speak to your prospects more that once, and you’ve already knocked the competition out of the water. Isn’t it obvious – from a profit point of view – what activity you should be devoting at least a couple of hours each day to?

5. Silk purse, sows ear syndrome

Your lead nurturing investment is only as strong as your weakest link.  And I’m sorry for any bruised egos here, but if YOU are your weakest link – please don’t look to blame the lead nurturing resource for your failure.   Get the right lead generator in place, with the right supporting collateral, and a strong product or service and they will bring you solid, qualified meetings.  But, if you then turn up to that meeting, un-prepared, lacking in focus, talking about yourself, not the prospect, not having done your homework and generally thinking that you are the best thing since sliced bread, your investment will come to naught.  Lead generation requires you to do the hard work on your ENTIRE sales process – end-to-end, including yourself. Trust me, I’ve seen the horror stories.

Think not what your lead generation team can do for you, but what YOU can do for them to give them the best chance of success.  You absolutely must work as a cohesive, professional, hungry team. Not ‘them and us’.

My business offers a professional lead generation service – Meeting Makers – but I am very diligent about the clients we work with. I insist on very thorough preparation, because guess what – 20 years of experience has taught me you get out what you put in.

Regardless of how you are currently looking after your future clients, please make sure you are managing the process to succeed, rather than to fail.  And to do that, YOU will have to do the work too.

Don’t you type at me in that tone of voice | the art of writing for sales.

Sir Terry Leahy knew it. He knew how important clear communication is. After all, Sir Terry was and still is, one of the most respected catalysts in the retail world. Knighted in 2002, he started his career stacking the shelves at Tesco, gradually working his way up to his post as CEO.

Sir Terry was an exceptional salesperson, and I suspect the reason for this talent was his ability to listen and observe. And then communicate.

"The best place to find the truth is to listen to your customer. They'll tell you what's good about your business and what's wrong. And if you keep listening, they'll give you a strategy."

And in the week where I am writing my own website copy, my need to communicate effectively is brought sharply into focus.  The ability to write persuasively is one of the key skills my clients ask for help with. And it goes far beyond ‘features and benefits’ (although that’s another blog in itself!).  The ability to write, creatively, whilst being true to your brand values, and selling at the same time is a tough ask for anyone!

And there is so much ‘free advice’ out there; how to, 5 easy steps, do it like this, just use this, do it like that…the offerings are endless. And yet business owners still ask me time and again for help and practical steps to create strong sales copy. Not all of us are born communicators, and yet if we don’t crack this particular nut, we are increasing the chances that our business will fail.

It might be web copy to ensure a website ‘sells’, rather than just tells. It might be a sales email or maybe a newsletter. We’ve all got to get writing. Why?

Well, communication has never been so overwhelmingly complex for small business and entrepreneurs. Back in the day, there was just ONE interface with the customer, which was quite literally a shop window – and maybe a billboard on the outskirts of town if the retailer had spare marketing budget to go multi-channel!

Today, that same retailer has, well, I won’t go there. According to one commentator, there are 120+ content delivery and marketing channels that marketers need to manage today (*smart insights) online and offline.

If you really want to mess with your head, take a look at the Google view on this mind-blowing truth of our times! Google Marketing Channel Database

So, there we have it – absolute proof that you’re going to need to communicate. And if you can’t communicate effectively – using the channels that your customer prefers – the end appears to be nigh. I’m sorry.

I’m lucky. I love writing. It’s one of my favorite past-times as well as being a key business tool. My love of words and writing goes back to my earliest years and has flourished throughout my career as I developed my copywriting skills for sales. I never stop learning, though.

So, what do you do if you don’t have the skills to write (yet!)? Your options are to hire a big fancy agency or a freelance copywriter to do the job for you. Or you can learn the craft of copywriting yourself. 

I would absolutely recommend the latter. Learning to communicate through the written word has been one of the most profitable and beneficial tools I now have in my sales kitbag. And the skills can be learned, trust me.

To overcome this obstacle in his day, Sir Terry insisted that his teams spent time with journalists. To help improve internal communication, Tesco employees were exposed to the newspaper industry to learn how to better communicate with more clarity and using fewer words.

And I would recommend your do the same – listen and observe. Get enlisted on a good sales copywriting course, watch the news and observe how you are fed the headlines, the sub-head, and the body copy. Search our delicious internet for tips on the craft of journalism and how these talented wordsmiths boil a story down to its pithy elements to create clear, concise and effective communication in column inches, where every word is precious and has a job to do.

Read advertising copy like it is going out of fashion – observe others copy, read all your competitor's sales material. Even better – don’t bother with your competitors, but instead, go to a sector, or brand that really inspires you and figure out why, by reading their copy.

Become a student of brand ‘tone of voice’ – how does one brand speak, versus another? What do you respond to and why? 

Get up from behind your desk, laptop or palm-whatsit and go out into the world and observe. Listen. Learn.

You – and your business bank account - will reap the rewards I promise.

 

 

 

 

‘Send me a text please’ say 33.67million mobile users.

OK, so I’m old enough to remember the day I received and sent my first ‘text’ message (or SMS).  It was in the late nineties, the phone was a Motorola, and although it made me giggle, I had no notion at the time of how my mobile phone would morph into my mobile marketing department that was open for business 24/7.  I also remember sending my first email too – but let’s save that for another day.

And so, in the intervening years, with creeping insidiousness, mobile technology has gripped us tighter and firmer that any python ever could. And every month – no, every day – my mobile phone can do more. And demands more. Of me, and my time.

Any organisation worth it’s salt has a whole department dedicated to the mobile phone, all charged with ‘developing the channel’ to help the marketing a sales performance figures rocket. Within the communications industry, we are encouraged to talk about m-commerce, not just e-commerce.  Our websites must be responsive, and our marketing mix must make the most of whizzy things that pop up and massage or customers through the sales funnel.

But stop. Hang on.  When did you last get a text from a brand or organisation that was more than a dentist appointment reminder?  I genuinely can’t remember when SMS was last used as a channel to reach me as a customer. 

But the statistics say that we are ready to receive.

There are 33.67million mobile users in the UK that have ‘opted in’ to receive text messages from brands and businesses in 2016, which means the SMS universe for marketers in the UK is 3 million people larger than Facebook’s audience.”  (source: Text Local)

I don’t make any apology for sounding like a stuck record when I bemoan our rush to find the gold in them there hills of dizzy digital advances and shiny new stuff.  Every day, we ignore more golden opportunities back at base camp.

Our customers are telling us that it’s a channel they wish to receive our marketing messages in, and yet the best most organisations can do is use SMS for a hair appointment reminder.  My hairdresser is brilliant at it.  And I always read her text message, and whilst she is being useful to me, she is also keeping her brand in the forefront of my mind.

My challenge to every organisation, brand and communications agency out there is to stop, and LISTEN to what the customer is telling you (all 33.67million of them!).  Then get creative.  SMS could be working so much harder, but it’s not seen as sexy, it doesn’t win industry awards. All it does at the moment is ‘ping’.  And that’s it – the excitement is over.

By 2020, apparently, the number of customer opting in to SMS as a preferred method of communication, will have increased to 48.65 million. It’s a growing channel, and yet we continue to send emails, or post a Tweet, or serve up a link on Facebook – in the same way that all our competitors do.

Let’s keep this between ourselves for now, because we don’t want everyone rushing over to SMS. But there is a massive opportunity for someone here to really steal a march and gain a huge competitive edge by getting this channel to work for their customers.

Oh, and before I finish – do you know what the really brilliant thing about SMS is?  You own the data!  If Facebook disappeared tomorrow, so too would all your followers…all those ‘likes’ gone just like that!  Whoosh!  All that hard work.  Always, always be the master of your own destiny when it comes to owning your customer data.

SMS. It’s the future. You heard it here first