You can make a list of some ‘important’ names in your database and call them all in an attempt to peddle your product if you’d like. I’m sure there’s some law of numbers or averages or something that even dictates that if you send enough proposals and pester companies enough, eventually a couple might sign up out of sheer exhaustion of dealing with you. Yeah, keep doing it that way; apparently it used to work for you.
Use your employees time to revise a proposal 5 times, to research the company for hours on end, to grab a few current events to include in the e-mail. Okay, so maybe that last one isn’t so bad, but I assure you there’s a better approach now.
I’d argue that “the best marketing ideas are actually company operations that happen to be really appealing or compelling to customers too.” (Check out some great examples courtesy of Zeus Jones.)
Clearly, those examples aren’t the easiest to duplicate, but there are some sure fire principles that can truly enhance your ability to increase your bottom line via sales strategy.
When I’m selling my services I turn to Robert Cialdini’s six principles of influence. (*Hat tip to Guy Kawasaki for the introduction in his book, “Reality Check.”) What follows are examples specific to my consulting services, but I’m certain if you’re a little intuitive you can easily apply these principles to anything you’re selling.
I will do whatever it takes to ensure that my customer is successful in their endeavor(s). If that means staying until 4 am to finish a strategic framework for the next days’ launch, immersing myself in your community to get the pulse of your consumers, or spending an extra hour on the phone to ensure you really ‘get it,’ then that’s what I will do. I’m going treat you with respect, have patience for you and consistently go above and beyond. Why? Because then my customer will take care of me both monetarily, in the form of a good testimonial, or telling others.
[Do you always make it about you? What you’ve done? I got news for you. Nobody cares unless that directly correlates to how you can help them. Give them one example and spend the rest of the time having a dialogue about what they want and how your services can help them achieve it. This doesn’t mean dictating to them what they need either. Maybe they can’t articulate it, but they already know. Help them extract it.]
I have a full-time job where I approach 50 hours most weeks. I have to find time to stay sharp by reading a lot of relevant content and keep my wits about me by allotting myself some free time to work out, spend time with friends and sometimes just veg out completely. What does this mean? It means whether I want to or not, I’m not going to take on 5 paying clients at once. Two projects at a time are all I can handle. That means my services are in short supply. If those two slots are consistently, full potential clients know I’m probably doing my job.
[If you’re cold-calling people for business or have the time to send out countless proposals and keep revising them over and over even when the potential clients don’t have the budget or clearly aren’t interested then chances are your services aren’t that in demand. If you did a good job the first time they’ll come back when the time is right. Times are tough for a lot of companies, but break your back for the clients you do have, over deliver and they’ll tell others, I promise. You bending over backwards for potential business illustrates that you’re desperate. If you’re desperate, then I’m going to question how good your product/services really are.]
I don’t know as much about social media as Chris Brogan, and I don’t know as much about relationship marketing as Keith Ferrazzi. I won’t pretend to, but I do know more about both topics that most people. I try to convey that here, on my blog. I try to illustrate my knowledge in guest posts on other blogs, in forums, and social networks in which I participate. Heck, I’ve even done it via free consulting sessions.
There’s over 100 posts on this blog. Not all of them will provide everyone with value, but chances are you can learn something, especially about marketing. And this is all free. It’s not going anywhere. Potential clients can wade through all of it and determine for themselves if I have the chops to help their company out. I don’t have to call anyone and “sell myself.” This is how I’ve received 70% of my business; the other 30% from referrals. This my friends, is authority. Well, at least on days I know what I’m talking about.
[Let’s revisit that cold-calling approach. Or even a soft lead you have to persuade. That takes time, and time is money. My time is valuable to me, and I want to spend it helping clients, not desperately trying to close leads. With a stockpile of information in the form of a blog, or free reports, white papers, webinars, etc. clients will come to you with the cash already in their hand. The best part? Instead of wasting time pursuing leads you won’t get, you’re investing that time into content that will provide value for years to come rather than a sunk cost like chasing leads you won’t get anyway.]
Clients (and people in general) know what to expect when they get involved with me. I typically have a candid conversation beforehand about what they expect from me, and in turn what I expect from them (many people neglect this part.) I tell clients up front that if they can provide me with the following information and feedback throughout the process it will help me be more successful at what I do – and invariably earn them more money. It’s a soft sell. They almost always agree to it and adhere to it because they’ve publicly committed themselves to it. This also works with testimonials.
[If you’re so focused on getting the sell that you leave out key information, like the client helping you set some parameters, then you’re digging yourself a hole from the onset. You can promise add-ons and package deals until your heart’s content, but make sure that you’re also getting your client to publically and verbally commit to helping you attain the resources, and giving you the feedback necessary to ensure you can provide the most value. Also, tell them up front, “Provided I do a good job and you achieve the results you’re looking for, I would really appreciate a referral/testimonial at the conclusion of this project.” Most people will agree to this, and having committed to it, they’ll be reluctant to go back on it even if you didn’t blow them out of the water.]
*Commitment is the one I struggle with the most. What works for you here?*
You want to know a secret? There’s probably 10, 25, 50 people (at the very least) that can provide the same advice I can, that can uncover the same insights, that can affect positive change within your organization. I don’t want to discredit myself, because I think I’m pretty good at what I do, but the reality is that what I do is duplicable. So why do people do business with me? I’d like to think it’s because they like me. They always know what to expect and they can always count on a candid conversation. I’m not going to bullshit anyone, (but I will occasionally crack jokes that only adolescents would find funny.) It probably doesn’t hurt that my price point isn’t very high because I consistently convince myself I’m very young and still have lots to learn (which in many ways is true.)
[You better be the best there ever was at what you do if you’re arrogant. If you’re shoving your product down someone’s throat, forget it. If you’re snarky and/or always assuring a potential client that nobody else can do what you do they already know you’re full of shit. I think being overly assured of your abilities is the #1 reason why people squander a good thing. (At least confine those thoughts to your own head, eh?) But there are many others: being boring, having a dry personality, being a machine, thinking of a client as only a paycheck. I’m sure you can name countless others. Be yourself, provided you’re likable.]
Testimonials are a good thing, particularly if the client you’re trying to land is similar in size, stature, personality, etc. as the people that have provided you with testimonials. With that in mind it probably doesn’t make sense for a big company to hire me, but for someone looking to help grow their small business, or someone wanting to build their personal brand – chances are I’m at least on their radar.
[To re-iterate from a previous point, don’t tell a company about all your previous clients, rattling them off one after another is obnoxious. But do point them to a couple of testimonials (and explanations if they ask) about how you helped other organizations very similar to them with similar tasks. This offers valuable reassurance, yet it’s subtle enough that they don’t feel like you’re shoving your product/services down their throat. Consensus is comforting.]
*Photo Credit: ThinkPanama
If you’ve read this along, first of all, thank you. Seriously, thank you. Now let me know you made it this far so I can graciously thank you in the comments section. What’s another 2 minutes? Leave a comment and let me know what you think of my application of Cialdini’s principles of influence as they apply to the sales process. What additional suggestions do you have? What flaws do I have in my arguments? What did you find most valuable about this post?
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