Category Archives: Sales

Successful Selling

In a recent visit to Tallahassee, FL, I spoke with my Dad about how he’s been able to reverse the trend of higher vacancy rates for the rental properties he owns.

About 3 years ago, my father hired a rental management company to rent and manage his rental properties. At that time, his average vacancy rates were less than 5%.  After about two years his vacancies shot up to 15%-20%!

How did his vacancy rates become so high?  The management companies he hired were order-takers instead of sellers.

The critical difference between my dad’s success renting a house and the management company lack of success boils down to salesmanship.  A salesman, my dad, asks a potential renter what is keeping them from signing the dotted line.  An order-taker doesn’t find out what issues are preventing the sale.

Next time you hear ‘no’ from a prospect, summon your 4-year-old self and ask whySuccessful salesmen understand why prospects think the way they do and offer solutions that render their objections moot.

Happy selling!

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Why Customers Buy

Unsuccessful startups often think customers will come if they build them a solution they should want.  This is backwards.

Startup success can often be boiled down to one thing.  Successful startups know why their customers will buy their product and develop their offering and marketing plans armed with this knowledge.

Once you know why people buy, you are able to accomplish three things.

1. You can build your product to meet your customers true needs
By developing the right product and proper pricing that accounts for the total cost of ownership of your product, your business can be profitable sooner.

2. You can describe and sell your product in a way that resonates with your prospects
It’s a beautiful thing when the positioning of your product matches what your prospects want to hear.

3. You can identify the best channels to sell your products
If you know why customers buy,  you should know enough about them to create a customer mind map and know what the day in their life holds to better target marketing channels in which they will buy your product.

These three things set startups up for success.  The customer is always right, so companies need to be vigilant about getting their team out there to listen to them.  Get out there, get to know your customers and understand why they buy.

Influencer Marketing for B2B Sales

Influence is one of the most powerful psychological drivers in sales and in belt-tightening times like these, influencer marketing is one of the most cost efficient ways to promote your business.  While this type of marketing has often been employed in the B2C space, opportunity abounds in the B2B space.

Influencer marketing, one of a dozen types of word of mouth marketing,  is an especially effective tactic in driving B2B sales.  To better understand what influencer marketing is all about, let’s define the players.

Effective influencer marketing is composed of three components:  the influencer, the follower, the business solution.

  1. Influencer – An influencer would be someone whose ability to motivate, change views, shift over from the status quo through their energy and passion and helpful knowledge over time.
  2. Followers – These people seek out the advice of the said ‘influencer‘ and will often listen and employ the advice to the extent they can implement it.
  3. Business Solution – While not directly linked to influencer marketing, the business solution is the most critical of the three parts of the influence puzzle.  Your solution needs to be relevant, meet the high standards of the influencer that share it with their followers, and be easy t0 understand (read: if an influencer can’t figure out why they or their community of followers should be interested in your product then you can bet they won’t give it the right type of influence to help it grow!).

Whether a follower of a influential person moves to take action on a product or service depends on the level of authority the influencer possesses.  Popular bloggers are very good at promoting their authority by developing thought leadership with their blog posts.

However, not all business influencers are created equally.  Selecting influencers that are best equipped to reach and influence your target audience will be a key component in your influencer marketing strategy.  To get started:

  1. Make a list of bloggers/writers/influencers who appear to reach your market.
  2. Assess their market reach by estimating their number of connections.
  3. Determine their though leadership (Do their followers hold the influencer’s opinion in high esteem?)
  4. Check their followers for the decision makers of your target market (LinkedIn is great for this).
  5. Rank your influencers according to their market reach, thought leadership, and ties to your target audience

Once you have your ranked list, I’d start connecting with a few who aren’t crucial to your influencer marketing success.  Incorporate your learnings from those approaches and craft a winning strategy for reaching out to the higher-ranked influencers who influence potential buyers in your product or services’ sweet spot.

When done right, influencer marketing is an effective and economical way to increase sales for your business.  If you can identify the right influencers, know your target customers (followers), and have a business solution worth talking about then influencer marketing needs to be included in your marketing mix.

Have you employed the power of influence in your marketing strategy?

Network to Give in Order to Get

Effectively networking has many benefits.  Ostensibly meeting new people, learning something new, marketing your company and potentially earning more business from referrals are excellent reasons to attend a networking event.  It’d be great if all you had to do was show up and everyone would be interested in you and your business, but the reality is most in attendance will be thinking about their own interests.

The Used Car Salesman
Image by TexasEagle via Flickr

When you attend an event, differentiate your own brand from what I’ll call the used car salesman crowd that primarily networks to “get.”  You know the type, the ones who only seem interested in selling you on something that is hardly related to anything you need or the topic at hand.  Don’t be like that.  Instead, learn as much as you can about the people you meet and the pains that they are trying to solve.  If you can alleviate their pain in someway, whether it’s related to your business or otherwise, make an effort to help them and distinguish yourself from the crowd.

By providing value and thinking in terms of the wants and needs of others, or in other words networking to give, you’ll be building a following of people who will want to help you out.  Building relationships requires effort, and some of your efforts may not pan out.  But if you put forth the effort, you’ll find that networking may be an extremely effective way to grow your business.

You may not be rewarded immediately, but the relationships you invest in now should pay off in a big way through future business, introductions, word-of-mouth, or knowledge you gain to solve pains in your own business.  At the very least you’ll learn something from the experience and if you are truly able to help, your efforts will be intrinsically rewarded.

So what are you going to do?  Network to get or network to give?  The next time you attend an event, network to give and see how much more fruitful and rewarding the experience can be.

Have a networking experience you’d like to share?  Leave your comment below.

Technology Marketers Should Follow Digg’s Lead

Digg announced it’s plans for a new advertising platform today.

Digg Ads will provide it’s advertisers a pricing structure that is dependent on how well their ads are received by their audience.

digg-logoThe more an ad is Dugg, the less the advertiser will have to pay. Conversely the more an ad is buried, the more the advertiser is charged, pricing it out of the system.

In other words, place relevant ads that link to content Digg users are likely to Digg and pay less. This will be great for improving ad quality on Digg, but what I really like is how Digg is using it’s own technology to make this platform go.

Too many times I’ve come across online businesses that don’t use the products they develop or sell. At the very least share examples or case studies of your tool being used by your customers. If you aren’t doing this, alarms go off in my head and I quickly click the ‘Back’ button in my browser to find a more suitable solution.

Marketers of software and technology products and services should take note. Use what you sell in your own business. Show your tool in action.

This should build trust in your product and help prove that it can accomplish what it claims. There may even be an opportunity to use your tool in unique way. The use of Digg’s technology with Digg Ads is something that can be duplicated with many other tools on the web. At a minimum, use demos or webinars to prove your tool can solve your customers’ problems.

Consultants should apply this rule too. If you are a social media expert, then you should obviously be using social media tools in your own web strategy whenever possible. Seeing is believing. Show clients that you not only talk the talk, but you also walk the walk.

Why Negative Online Reviews are Good

When it comes to Web 2.0 and social media, many organizations hate the idea of losing control over what is said about their brand or products.  For many years, companies avoided engaging in newer online technologies that facilitate customer feedback in public mediums for this very reason.  How could they these mediums, monitor them all, and get any value out from them?  It was scary and social media scares many companies today.

Even negative review can be good.

Even negative reviews can be good.

Take the Dive

More recently, companies have plunged into social media, but there are still concerns about negative reviews.  I believe this to be counter-intuitive thinking.  If your product is great and your customer service is fantastic, social media is your friend.  If your social media strategy listens to, interacts with, and gives your customers a means to voice their opinions you are on the right track.

When I think about businesses, particularly B-to-C companies, that avoid entering social media out of fear, I pause and question whether their products are good enough to take the plunge.  The truth is social media isn’t for every company, but if your products are good and your customer service is great, negative reviews can actually improve your brand.

Company Case Studies

Companies listening to and engaging with their customers are finding that negative reviews capture nuggets of information that allow marketers to better understand their customer.  From the design, delivery, and return of a product, negative reviews can actually help companies improve their brand image.  Still don’t believe me?  Perhaps these companies case studies will show you how negative reviews can be beneficial.

Rubbermaid  – Rubbermaid has had success listening and responding with better product design.  As this post shows, sometimes it’s not your product that needs help, its communicating how to use it properly.

Dell –  Distinguished itself for bad customer service and as a consequence has structured itself to address it very well online. At last check, Dell employs 35 “community ambassadors” who troll the web listening and conversing with customers on popular social networking sites, blogs, all over the world.

Merck – Merck was very resistant to using blogs and allowing comments on it because of regulatory fear (having to monitor and report posted adverse effects).  At first, the launch of one of Merck’s blogs saw a negative drug review and they wanted to take the comment off the site.  Soon, however, supporters of their life-saving drug flocked to the site criticizing the negative review and singing the drug’s praises and the preponderance of positive comments put the drug in a favorable light.

Negative Reviews Really can be Good

Ultimately, negative reviews are good for:

1. Better understanding your customer’s needs and experience  –  This knowledge will allow you to better communicate usage; features and benefits; and shed light on potential opportunities to make a better product that meets customer needs.

2. Righting what’s wrong  –  Turn an annoyed customer into a delighted one by acting swiftly and unexpectedly.  If you had an issue with a product and posted something online and all of a sudden a someone addressed your issue by going above an beyond your expectations, you’d be impressed. Imagine how one of your customers would feel if you responded in an unexpected way.

3. Generating positive attention – The adage any publicity is good publicity may make you cringe, but the positive publicity your company can garner by addressing the negative review (righting what’s wrong) can turn a frustrated customers into customer advocate.  Think of all the referrals a customer advocate that already has proven they will talk about your brand could generate because of the goodwill you’ve created by addressing their issue.