Networking can be an interesting experience. While you meet a lot of different personalities and businesses, two types of people tend to stand out in the crowd, those who are interested in building relationships and those focused on the sale.
While we need sales to survive in business, there is a real danger in making sales your only focus. Could your motives be costing you customers?
The sales-focused, money driven person
We all know this character, and there’s a high chance we’ve all been this character at some point in our careers. They are the ones who nearly give you a paper cut as they shove their business card under your nose or the businesses that make you feel like a dollar sign rather than a living, breathing, paying customer.
While you may still buy from these characters, chances are you are buying because it is easier, cheaper, or there is no other viable option at the moment, not because you are loyal to them.
The same applies to your customers. When you focus on ‘getting the sale’ your customers’ money has a habit of becoming more important than the problems they need solving, and let’s face it anyone willing to pay becomes your customer not just those you know you can help. While this might help you with short-term cash flow, it can harm you long-term and leave you vulnerable to disruption.
If your customers are only with you because you are the cheapest or the most viable at the moment you need to prepare for a mass exit when something better comes along – and it will.
The service-focused, value-driven person
Smart business owners know that the best way of generating more sales is to stop selling and start serving.
I’ll never forget the day I decided to stop having sales meetings and start having problem-solving sessions. I was no longer at a meeting to ‘get the sale’ I was there to ‘give value’ through an idea, suggestion, shortcut, solution, contact or similar, and ensure my potential customer walked away with something far more tangible than my business card.
Making this shift not only felt more authentic, but it also made building relationships easier, meetings more productive, and it generated a lot more sales and referrals.
Why? Because people want to be helped not sold to.
So the next time you are networking or at a sales meeting, remember that customers want to be more than a sale to you. And if you don’t want to act as a lead source for your competitors, make sure you never make them feel that way.
Questions are powerful in sales and marketing. When you use them right they uncover needs, challenge thought processes, demonstrate your uniqueness and increase conversions.
If you aren’t convinced already, here are four reasons why you need to ask your potential customers more questions in your sales and marketing.
1. Questions engage
Questions draw readers into your words and make them involved. When a question is asked (a closed question in this case) we naturally answer it, we can’t help but agree, disagree or form an opinion.
When this happens, your potential customers are more likely to read on. Your potential customer will want to see if you share the same opinion, have an interesting point, or can provide the solution to the issue, problem or ‘what if’ scenario raised in the question.
2. Questions challenge beliefs
A well-posed question can help you challenge your potential customers beliefs, disrupt their thought process and help them uncover needs they don’t know they have so your message or point of view can pierce through.
These piercing questions are particularly important when people have “heard it all before…” or when you are launching a new product, service or concept and need to educate people on why they need your business.
3. Questions break down perceptions
A lot of times potential customers bring perceptions to your business and industry. They make assumptions about what you do and how you do it based on their level of understanding and experience with competitors.
While this can work in your favour (the education is done for you), it can also work against you and fuel their objections if they have had negative past experiences.
When you pose a question based on your point of difference or a failing in your industry (think “Tired of [insert point]?” “Sick of [insert point]?” or “Isn’t it time you [insert point]?”), it can change your potential customers perceptions of you, demonstrate your understanding of them and separate you from competitors.
4. Questions can make sales
Leading questions, where you ask your potential customer a series of questions you know they will say yes to, have been proven to increase sales conversions.
When you can get potential customers in the habit of saying “yes” when you ask them to act or buy they are more prone to say “yes” again.
What questions could you ask to engage and convert your customers?
As we are discovering “why?” is one of the most powerful questions we can ask. Not only in terms of problem solving, but also for motivating and influencing our customers and prospects.
When we can convince our prospects as to why they should buy from us, and take them on an emotional journey to get there, we are in a far greater position to make the sale.
But what emotions should you appeal to and where do you start? In my experience here are the top three selling emotions and how to use them.
To move quickly, people need to experience discontentment with their current situation. As much as we want to move towards pleasure, we are far more motivated to move away from pain. Just think about it if we were all motivated by pleasure, we’d all have what we want, or be well on the way to getting what we want.
The purpose of using discontentment is to create a need or desire in the mind of your prospect. Discomfort can come from many different emotions including frustration, envy, resentment, regret, guilt and even fear to name a few. You might find yourself appealing to current emotions or the possibility of them experiencing them in the future by taking prospects to the ‘worst case scenario’ (think life insurance for instance).
When you can demonstrate their pain and frustration or potential or pain and frustration, you start to make your prospect discontent. If you can make them uncomfortable and then show them a way to be more comfortable than they have ever been, you have increased your chances of making the sale.
A word of warning: When you are appealing to emotions, particularly strong, negative emotions tread carefully and sensitively. You need to make sure the feeling is about one specific area that you can move your prospect out of quickly to not leave those feelings associated with your brand.
Hope is a powerful emotion. It can motivate us to act completely out of our comfort zone and do some crazy things for the potential of a reward.
Once your prospect is discontent, give them hope that there is a way out. If discontent is your ‘worst case scenario’ then hope is your ‘what if…’ scenario.
A word of warning: Hope is where expectations are made. While you do need to build up your ‘what if…’ scenario, don’t build it up to a point where they could experience disappointment if they buy from you.
Now your prospect has hope it’s time to build excitement. Excitement motivates us to move forward, and it also ensures that whatever we are excited about stays at the forefront of our mind.
To get your prospect excited though, they also need to see the value, incentive (“what’s in it for me?”) and urgency. You need to demonstrate to your prospect that they need and most importantly want to act now.
A word of warning: When someone is really excited they want to act immediately – and you want them to act immediately because the feeling can be fleeting. To cater for this make it easy for them to act by being clear on the next step. The fastest way to squash excitement is to make the process too hard or long.
Are you appealing to the right emotions in your marketing?
In business, trust and profit are intertwined. In order to make more sales or convert new leads, it starts by building trust. The more trust a potential customer has the more likely they are to purchase with you and the more a customer trusts you, the higher their spend will be.
But how do you start to build trust with a contact you don’t know and perhaps have never met?
Be friendly and relatable
When it comes to building trust, nothing can surpass being friendly and genuine. While people want to work with experts, they also want to work with people they feel they can relate to and who don’t appear to be too far above them.
Whether you are in front of a potential customer or they are simply a name on your database, always be friendly, pleasant and upbeat in your communication.
Engage and validate
Take an interest in your potential customers and what is important to them. It can be as simple as seeing how they are doing, asking for their input or feedback or seeking their opinion on an issue.
Encourage conversation and listen to what they are saying. Where possible, try to implement or reiterate what you have heard so your customers can feel important and validated.
Make and deliver on a promise
When you have not formed trust with a potential customer, it is important to create an opportunity for you to make a promise and deliver to start building their trust in you.
Can you introduce them to a key contact? Can you provide answers to pressing questions, or insights, guidance or tips on a key issue or topic you know they will be interested in?
The promise could be one-on-one to them personally or to a larger audience through a free webinar, event, e-book or cheat sheet for example.
The first promise or claim you make should have no risk to them. So it is not a purchase you are seeking; it is a freebie or favour that will help you build their trust initially. Once you have gained their trust on something small, it is easier to ask for their trust on something bigger like making a purchase with you. In fact, if you play your cards right and give them something the value or need, the sale will often happen naturally.
Every now and again you can have a slow sales week in business. While it can provide the opportunity to catch up on all the tasks you’ve been “meaning to do”, it can put additional stress and pressure on you when it is for an extended period.
So what do you do when your slow week turns into a slow month? Here are four places to find leads quickly and easily.
1. Your current customers
Your existing customers are the easiest place to generate new leads and business. From asking for referrals and introductions to finding ways to upsell, cross-sell and resell your customers to get them spending more sooner, your customers will always be able to provide new leads once they have seen the value in working with you.
How to get the best results:
Talk to them! Find out more about them or their business and where they ultimately want to be. Identify ways you can help them get there through the products and services you provide. Go to the customers who are already impressed with your products and services and ask them if they know anyone else who could benefit in the same way they have.
2. Your database and past customers
After your current customers, your database and past customers are your next point of call. Already familiar and interested in your products or services they are the second easiest to convert.
How to get the best results:
Identify the objections or reasons people haven’t bought yet or again and find ways to get around them. Offer an incentive. While your database is interested and has possibly bought before, they will often need an extra push to get them over the line.
3. Cross or joint promotions
Joining forces with, and getting the endorsement of, other like-minded businesses that have influence in your industry or over your target market can be a quick and easy way to tap into a new database of leads. As it is beneficial to the business you are co-marketing with it is often an easy sell too.
How to get the best results:
Make sure the business you partner with has the same target market as you and that you know, like and trust them. You will, after all, be recommending them to your customers. Again, make sure you offer incentive so new leads a reason to act or at the very least get in touch with you.
Networking, whether at traditional events, online through social media or making the most out of everyday opportunities, can be a low-cost way to attract new leads and referral partners.
How to get the best results:
You only have limited time when networking so it is important to know and clearly articulate what you do, who you do it for, why you do it and what makes you different. When you do, you can easily qualify networking opportunities and identify the most valuable contacts so you can spend more time building rapport with them.
How do you find leads quickly?
Dear Social Media,
I’ve been unliking you for a while. I can’t believe how low your reach has stooped and I’m tired of your gold digging ways. I’m afraid we just can’t selfie anymore.
It’s the break up letter so many want to write. With so many changes, low reach and a push towards paid advertising, many people are fantasising about breaking up with their social media accounts.
But before you act on your desires, it might be worth making some changes first.
1. Switch platforms
Not all social media platforms work for all businesses and industries, if you are struggling with one, keep a presence there but put more effort into another. Look at the audience you are targeting and determine what social media platforms they are using most.
2. Set realistic expectations
The truth is social media won’t always result in instant sales. It should be just one channel you use to market your business, and it should have a distinct purpose – like building your list.
Keep in mind that to many of your followers, you are a faceless business, to build their trust in you, rapport needs to be established and value needs to be given and this can take time.
So instead of seeing it as a sales channel, think of it as another touch point with your customers and potential customers. Unlike a newsletter that may go out monthly, or a blog that may go out weekly, your social media followers have given you permission to be in touch with them daily – sometimes multiple times daily allowing you to build trust, credibility and rapport quicker.
3. Mix it up!
The same messaging and approach, won’t always work. Social media audiences change very quickly, so do their needs, wants and life stages. To stay relevant you need to be constantly changing and innovating too. Frequently test and measure to see what works best and don’t be afraid to mix up your content.
4. Plan ahead
Use the insights available to you. Work out who your audience is, what posts they interact on and what time they are online or respond best. Then write more of it – and write it ahead of time.
A lot of time can be wasted and a lot of stress felt, in the brainstorming and writing of status updates on a daily basis. By theming content and writing a month ahead, you can save yourself significant time and frustration.
5. Delegate or outsource it
If social media is really giving you grief, get someone else to do it before giving up entirely. Whether you delegate it in-house, or outsource it entirely, sometimes a fresh perspective and personality can be just what you need to engage your followers and bring back your social media joy.
Could you be marketing to the wrong person or leaving off a key influencer and costing your business sales? While we spend most of our marketing budgets targeting the end user of our product or service, the truth is in many situations that one person rarely makes the purchase decision alone.
They consult with someone else, present their findings and in some cases even ask for approval or make a joint decision to proceed. In other cases someone else (think of the child in the supermarket) can have far greater influence over the buying decision, convincing your potential customer to buy your products or services in a more persuasive way than you doing it direct.
So how do you influence the influencer? Here are three tips to get you started.
1. Identify who your potential customers’ influencers are
There can be different influencers of a purchase decision depending on the product or service you provide. From business partners, colleagues, employers and different departments within their organisation, to husbands, wives, kids, mothers, fathers, extended family and friends.
Not too mention the trend setters, ‘in crowd’, celebrities and even the ‘enemies’ or competitors of your potential customer can influence the way they buy and determine if they’ll do business with you over someone else.
In order to influence the influencer you need to identify who else you are marketing to in addition to your potential customer. Ask yourself who will be in their ear? Who else will need to sign off on the purchase? Who else will have a vested interest in the purchase? Is my customer aware of this influencer and trying to convince them too?
2. Get in the mind of the influencer
Marketing to an influencer often requires completely different messaging than marketing to your potential customer. They have different needs, frustrations and motivations and tend to be less engaged with your product or service.
Normally only having the incomplete, second-hand information to go on, the influencer may even be wary and skeptical of how you can help, planting seeds of doubt in the mind of your potential customer. For this reason, you need to ensure you give them the information they need to get on board with the purchase.
To do this ask yourself, what will your target markets influencer be saying in their ear? What concerns and objections will they have? What benefits will they want to see? What information do you need to share (either directly or give to your potential customer) to help the influencer to fall in love with your product too?
3. Target the influencer in your marketing
Once you know the influencers you are targeting and what concerns and motivations they have, address them in your marketing messages.
It could be as subtle as working in benefits and features that will appeal to them and address key objections, or it could be as obvious as a ‘how to convince your husband/wife/business partner’ guide.
How can you influence the influencer in your own business?
Sales letters can be an extremely effective way to generate new business. Whether it is sent via email, social media or good old-fashioned snail mail, when you get the right message, to the right people with the right call to action you can generate a great marketing response. When it’s wrong however, it can be uncomfortably quiet.
The good news is that the common mistakes people when writing sales letters are easily avoided – when you know what they are. So here are the three most common sales writing mistakes to avoid so you stop losing business and start winning sales.
Mistake #1 – Appealing to the wrong ego
Ego is an important part of sales writing, but not your ego. Too many people make the mistake of thinking sales writing is all about them, they build their ego through the text, when really they should be appealing to their reader’s ego.
How you appeal will obviously depend on who you are targeting and what you are selling, but comments like “as you would know” or “from your experience” can be a great start. You don’t want to be blatant with your ego stroking as people will become highly suspicious of what you’re doing or selling, being subtle is crucial.
Mistake #2 – Selling first instead of relating
The fastest way to turn people off is to go straight into a sales pitch. Think about it in terms of a networking event, you’ve just walked in the door and someone comes straight up to you, shoves a business card in your face and starts selling to you. What are you thinking? Chances are you want to get away from them as quickly as possible. It’s no different in writing.
You still need to build rapport and find common ground as you are writing. Get people nodding in agreement. Be relatable and friendly. Then once you have done that while telling the story, go in with the pitch in a way that adds value.
Mistake #3 – Calling your reader to act without incentive
While you need to call your reader to act, there is a difference between a passive “call us today on [number]” and a more active incentive like “call us today on [number] and receive/save [x]”.
An incentive doesn’t always need to be a discount, special offer or free checklist, e-book or report. It could be an emotional pull, creating urgency through a time sensitive promotion or appealing to our sense of competition by “not missing out”.
Just keep in mind that the less you know the person you are targeting, the stronger your incentive needs to be.
Do you use sales letters as part of your marketing strategy? What has or hasn’t worked for you?
Your ability to compel your customers, readers and followers to read on, act or buy, directly determines your leads, conversions and business profits.
So how do you become more compelling in your sales and marketing? Here are three ways to get you started.
1. Keep a little mystery
In the same way you wouldn’t tell your entire life story in the first few dates with someone, don’t feel you need to inform your potential customer, reader or follower of every facet of your business, industry or topic in the first few touch points. Leave a little mystery by informing them slowly.
Mystery leaves your potential customers wanting more, providing of course that you give away the right details to begin with. To use mystery effectively you need to know who you are targeting and what key selling points will most appeal to them.
Infomercials and your answer to the common question “so what do you do?” are great places to practice a little business mystery.
2. Offer information teasers
Key information like statistics, industry insights, inside secrets, usability tips, and handy hints on areas your target audience are interested in can spark interest and get them to take a level of action like giving over their contact details to you.
Knowledge is power, and in this day and age it is our most valuable commodity – not to mention our biggest point of difference. Sharing relevant and interesting information builds your credibility and positions you as an expert in your field, giving potential customers the confidence in doing business with you.
The trick here though, is in knowing how much of your knowledge to give away, as it will depend on the action you need a potential customer to take. Being a ‘teaser’ your information should be limited, but at the same time it needs to be enough to build trust and leave potential customers, followers or readers feeling like you’ve given them real value.
Always keep some information under lock and key for your paying customers, or to get potential customers taking bigger steps of trust with you.
Social media, newsletters, website opt-ins, blog posts and advertisements are great places to tease with compelling information.
3. Limit options and choices
While potential customers want to feel like they have a choice in what they do or buy, too much choice can overwhelm your buyer and cause you to lose control in the sales process.
Before you do any sales or marketing you should map out the steps you want to take each customer through. While not all will follow and some will jump ahead, having this planned out allows you to guide potential customers to the decision you want them to take.
In a service-based business it could be having a few core packages, memberships or services with the ability to customise or value-add further should you need too. For online product-based businesses it could be having a clear category headings and links to the most popular products from your home page as opposed to listing all products immediately.
By having limited choices buyers can quickly determine the products or services most relevant to them, or what their next step needs to be without being overwhelmed by information. It also means you can use sneaky call to action tips to help boost your conversions.
Keep in mind that too much information or too many choices can stall the buying process and even drive them to a competitor who keeps choices simple. This is particularly important for websites and sales meetings.
What are some ways you can be more compelling in your sales, marketing and copywriting?