Archive for July, 2011

Write to Sell in the 21st Century

Writing to Sell and Writing for Social Media are different!

Social media readers and followers are, by and large, very forgiving of misspellings, commas in the wrong place and so on because we like the fact that the writer is maybe thinking aloud rather than giving a pre-prepared speech.

It can be a costly mistake to expect the same leeway from a potential buyer – someone who expects certain standards to be met…

Getting the right there, they’re or their … pear, pare or pair … doesn’t seem to carry much importance nowadays. But it still means a lot to me and probably to anyone else who went through schools in the education system that made you feel like a right – yes that’s right, not rite or write 😉 – plonker if you got it wrong…

So when I sent off for a write-to-sell programme, with a price tag of over £250 a few years ago and found my intake was constantly being interrupted by glaring and more and more intrusive grammatical and spelling whoopsies on every single page… :-) I complained. The author of the course said words to the effect of: “Whoops! Okay. Keep it. We’ll return your money and please can we have your proofed pages?” Fair enough deal to me.

There was some good stuff there though I found it a bit annoying that much of the content and examples were gleaned from America despite the fact that the course creator was born and based in Ireland. I remember thinking that I wouldn’t have used the material without making it UK-market friendly first. (I wonder if nowadays you could watch a series of Mad Men and learn just about as much? Nah! Silly thought…)

Surprisingly (to me) much of the information was along very similar lines I’d learned way back when I was a classified advertising telephone sales person and then as a trainer in the 1970s and 80s:

When the only discounts we sales people could give were those printed on the rate card, we learned how to add value in other ways – i.e. become mini copywriters for the column we worked on and help our advertisers ‘sell’ their wares.

Anyway, here’s the headline stuff that would seem never to really change… and it’s still based on a mate that’s been around for years: A.I.D.A…

Attention

  • 90% of the reason anyone responds to a sales message is because of what’s in the headline or opening statement
  • An effective headline can bring in up to 17 times more response than an ineffective, weak one, even if the rest of the copy is the same?

Your headline / first line of communication should include at least one of:

  • Self interest
  • Curiosity
  • News

Combine this little lot and you’ve made a cracking start – remember, tempting though it may be, you’re really not trying to attract the whole world!

Interest

Now you’ve grabbed the attention of those potentially in your market you need to hold onto it and really start to address the “What’s in it for me?” question.

It’s estimated that only 20% of people who are initially attracted by a headline actually continue on to read the rest of the message. So what’s going to hold me once you’ve grabbed me?

  • Blah, blah, blah experts … join the ranks of our elite…
  • Blah, blah, blah expertise/ training/ consultancy, as used by… offered…
  • Fabulous… for discerning …

Start filling out your spiel with the information that typifies what your best clients/ customers or potential employer (s) were looking for when they first came to you.

Make your readers feel comfortable – that they’ve come to the right place…

Desire

If YOU can’t get any enthusiasm going you might as well forget the idea of whipping up any from a potential punter!

This is where your presentation of offer comes in. The ‘Gurus’ all agree “Free is good” here – it may sound corny but it works a treat for many 😉 …

  • FREE trial
  • FREE estimate
  • FREE audit
  • FREE demonstration
  • FREE delivery
  • FREE information
  • FREE survey
  • FREE report

If FREE doesn’t work for you, or you have something really different to offer, you could lob in alternative or additional sweeteners for good measure…

  • Unique benefit
  • Unique guarantee
  • Etc. – get creative…

Action

This may sound incredibly obvious but it’s nothing short of criminal how many of us fall at the final hurdle by simply assuming that our buyer will know what to do next… and don’t bother to tell him or her.

So make it clear what the next move should be :-)

You can add a P.S. (and a P.P.S.) to inject some urgency into the action you want the recipient and reader to take. In my opinion, I’d say be a little bit wary of how you use the P.S and P.P.S .and avoid the P.P.P.S: They were done to death in the late 90s – don’t knock it – some of the people around then will be recipients of your current masterpieces…

Finally

This is just the start – the words. There’s tons more to consider with regard to making creations look good: layout, typeface, sub headings, strap lines, images (logos, pictures, etc.) and colour.

And you’ve got to make sure your masterpiece gets to the right people…

With a message that resonates…

Hopefully catching them when they’re prepared to listen/ read…

But we’ll leave that till another time …

Linda

P.S. Let us know what you think… 😉
P.P.S.

I contributed the bones of this post first as a guest on another site back in June.

Since then I’ve had several comments and compliments about how down to earth and helpful the information has been to people in vastly different walks of life and businesses. So it was obvious in retrospect that I’d goofed: I should have posted it here so that our regular readers, many of whom have been with us since 2006 when we first started this site, could easily see it.

So I decided to put that right…

I altered the title – it’s now actually much closer to the one I originally gave it but somehow got changed by the time it was published, so it’s as it should be on its “home” territory! And I beefed up the content for you… :-)

It’s a bit longer than most of the posts we publish here but it’s very meaty so you may want to bookmark it so you can refer to it when you want/ need to…


Bribes or Good Business?

A cool £half million for 45 minutes work isn’t bad in anybody’s book, I reckon – that’s what Janet Jackson got paid for performing at a recent ‘gig’ hosted by Deutsche Bank… and, apparently, she wasn’t even first choice in the entertainment stakes.

It was at a 5 star golfing hotel in Hertfordshire where 300 of the bank’s clients were treated to, well let’s say a two-day extravaganza, the likes of which few banks’ clients are likely to see. And the figure of 300 enjoying Deutche’s hospitality was the same number as the British jobs the same bank shed at the (so far) height of the financial crisis.

Sour grapes?

Maybe ;-)… but, on the other hand we now, as of 1st July 2011, have a Bribery Act in the UK – the Bribery Act 2010 (don’t ask: I don’t know the answer…). If you’ve ever taken a client or prospective client out for lunch/ to the races/ on the town in the hopes of securing a particular piece of business, a contract or a vote that would ‘go your way’ on their Board of Directors, for example, and you got the result you wanted, have you ever thought that your actions could be perceived as bribery? :-(

Bluefin had a precis on this Act, from which I’ve nabbed:

“The new Bribery Act will transform the way employers entertain their clients and businesses will need to ensure the correct procedures are in place to ensure well-meaning gifts are not interpreted as bribes. Employers also need to be aware that failing to prevent a bribe is an offence, so it is essential that everyone in the organisation understands the legislation, as it will be you, the employer, standing in the dock if the law is breached, and offences are punishable by up to ten years imprisonment,”

“The new Act introduces four new bribery offences which include making a bribe, accepting a bribe, bribing a foreign public official, and failing to prevent a bribe.”

Cripes! We’ve all been warned then, haven’t we? Type in “entertain or bribe?” into Google and you’ll find a few more articles on the subject and the Bluefin one quoted here has 10 Tips on how to prepare for the Act. But, frankly, they seem a bit Draconian to me for the average small business – unless you know you’re on a bit of a sticky wicket…

A couple of areas where it seems we need to be careful to ensure that we’re extra specially squeaky clean seem to be Public sector and Overseas contracts.

Here’s a corker of an extract from an article on Swan Turton‘s site:

Facilitation payments

Unlike the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which makes an exception for small bribes (known as “facilitation payments”) to be paid to officials to speed up government processes, the Act makes no such exception and any payments for that purpose, no matter how big or small or whether accepted under local custom, will be an offence.”

Taking this a step further: How about politicians?

What will be allowable now?

Could you (still) wine and dine a local MP, maybe offer him and his family the use of your house…. (in whatever country) for a couple of weeks’ sunshine in the hopes that your company will get planning permission to…/ the contract for…/ and so on?

Or can a bunch of businesses to get together to persuade local government (with quiet incentives…) that a planned motorway should take a certain specific route…

In short: Is this last of dodgy dealings and MPs with growing waistlines or is it Business As Usual?

What do you think?


Selling using social media tools

Ok…Selling With Social Media…we’ve covered a couple for very important points thus far.

Tip one – new thinking, a new sales strategy

Tip two – Be social, it’s called social media after all

I hope you’ve gone away and actually applied some of the ideas?! I sincerely hope you have taken action!!! After all knowing in itself isn’t the key to your future wealth. Applying the knowledge and taking actions for change are keys to greater wealth!

BUT Selling With Social Media

A third and very important point I’d like to now add to the 2 previous points ….
Tip Number 3 – Quality Not Quantity!

Stop trying to follow the hype; again just because Mary from Montana collected 15000 Facebook fans and now makes $5000 a week doesn’t mean that you have to follow suit!!! Mary from Montana might only actually make her $5000 from the people she already knew. You’re never told the whole truth in marketing hype.

In deed how about Martin from Margate who makes $5000 from only 1500 followers???

Isn’t it better to have a smaller manageable group of really loyal and connected friends who follow because they know trust and like your ‘music’…but they buy your music too and so you end up with the same nice numbers!

Quantity of course can still be a target … but not, in this humble writers opinion, at the expense of quality. Yes, go for more. Yes engineer word of mouth and incentives for spreading the word…but never sell yourself out.

You have never been judged by true friends based upon how many friends you have – you have been judged based upon how you treated your friends.

Apply the same rules here in Social Media Selling.

Selling With Social Media is about selling as much as you and I meeting for a coffee in a hotel foyer. Social media is merely a forum. It is merely a tool. It is one avenue that adds to your repertoire …but it is NOT the Holy Grail for every scenario and it is not a replacement for good old fashioned human values.

Try to ‘milk’ it and it will backfire.

Try to abuse and be shallow and it’ll leave you dead in the water.
Look for a way to add value and the systems add rewards back to you. Multiply the numbers and use systems to add value and give more to more people and as sure as tomorrow it will be a day with 24hrs then you will see wonderful return.

In closing maybe it is wise to bear in mind and paraphrase the words of Kennedy…and oft used by leaders in many scenarios when rallying troops…

ask not what it can do for you, instead ask what you can do for it

  • Always approach your selling – especially through powerful mediums such as social media…with a mindset of ‘giving’.
  • Always look at ‘what you can do to benefit your clients and prospects’.

From this perspective then it demands that you give and help and when you do you receive in return your just rewards.

So, good luck and have fun selling with Social media and I look forward to sharing more with you soon.

Yours

Ben
For more information and ideas to boost your business take a peek at www.benkench.com


Losing Business in a Changing Market?

I was talking the other day to someone who, given that he realised he was was asking a question, the answer to which could well be “How long’s a piece of string?” nevertheless was trying to get a ball park figure on what would be a reasonable investment for sales training.

He wanted (he thought) face to face training for between one and four of the company’s associates and had been given wildly differing quotes: From the £hundreds to the £thousands – was one a joke and a non-starter or the other taking the mickey?

So I felt the first thing to establish was:

What’s happened that’s led to the search for sales training?

The company has been in business a good few years and, up until now, anything from a third to a half their client base has been from public sector – an area they all know really well.

That, obviously, with the economic scene as it is and with the public sector taking its first real cutback in funding for years, is changing and that side of the business is already shrinking.

On the private sector side, what they’ve had has come to them in the past, and they haven’t had to do go out and prospect or do any real selling. But that, as it stands won’t be enough to take up the slack caused by private sector cutbacks…

So the need is?

To replace business that was a given – and enough to keep the four associates pretty well gainfully employed – and they’re worried that they don’t have the skills between them to do that, bearing in mind there’s never really been a sales element before…

So they’re (wisely) planning now for when they’re likely to really feel the bite, which is looking as though it’ll be around November.

Hence the sales training idea: One thought was, with the potential doldrums of August approaching, maybe one or all of the four ought to beef up on the skills they would be likely to need if they were now actively going to have to approach the private sector ‘cold’.

Shall I let you into a secret?

Okay. But I probably need to get this out of the way first:

A friend of mine says that when I put this in writing, as opposed to saying it to someone in conversation, or a group in an audience, it can come across as sarcastic or patronising. The intention couldn’t be further from either, so bear that in mind and here goes:

If you’re a business owner the chances of you completing a traditional sales course without a business crisis interfering, and, if you do, consistently and successfully applying everything they’ve tried to cram into it, are minimal. AIDA and The Pattern of the Sale? Attention? Interest? Desire? Action? Overcoming objections? The Art of Negotiation? Spin? Sandler? You must be joking! :-(

I have created and run courses that are focused on winning, keeping and growing business. Those for business owners are very different from those for employees such as

  • Dedicated sales people
  • Dedicated telesales/ telemarketing people
  • Split-role employees

Business owners have, by and large, not actively chosen sales as their profession, though a few are quite good ‘naturals’. Their business offerings are what they are maestros at researching, creating and delivering. There is no way they want, or have the time, to invest in becoming maestros at sales: “Need to know” is what they’re after.

And the good news is that “need to know” often entails easier and more enjoyable activities than you would term ‘selling’ once you get a healthier perspective, instead of your nosed pressed right up against the window pane: We often refer to ‘eagle-eyed’ meaning being able to spot detail. Whereas though the eagle can see a small animal hundreds of feet below on the ground, it can also see the bigger picture from its high vantage point…

Multitasking, anyone?

It’s a myth that only women can multitask: Look at the owners of any small business, male or female, and tell me they don’t multitask and I’d say you’re a fibber! ;-).

And another myth (perpetrated by guru consultants and trainers) is that sales & marketing are complex subjects like higher mathematics or rocket science… the former don’t necessarily need to be… once you get your head round the main issues for you and your business.

My advice?

To this guy it was to start with a couple of activities I suggested that he and his associates could easily do without entailing any specific training and they’ll enjoy doing them. Then they can regroup and decide on strategy and tactics.

I’m not going to say what those were here:

  1. That would be giving away the years worth of experience that has enabled me to provide the eagle-eye view and the practical wherewithal advice to follow – and save clients countless time and money going off on unproductive tangents…
  2. The answers are not a ‘one-size-fits-all’: If they were, you’d be able to find them anywhere 😉

When and if you’ve grown your business to a point where it requires a dedicated individual for the roles of sales and/ or marketing, you’ll know enough from your own experience to set fair targets and expectations of that employee. You can put them on a specific, structured course to help them as necessary… and they‘ll do the maestro stuff and get the results you both want… or decide it’s not worth the effort and go find pastures new! :-)

Linda


Why Do Customers Leave?

Do you know why customers leave? And some, even before they ever ‘come aboard’?

The biggest single reason is the way they feel they’ve been treated.

Not the way they’ve actually been been treated. The way they feel they have been treated.

“Customer service” and “Customer Relationship Management” have to be way more than trite phrases or marketing-speak to help you convert and keep customers once you attract their attention.

Here are three very different examples…

Years and years ago American Express sent me a letter inviting me to become a customer. I was naive, flattered and delighted and happily applied. I was turned down.

To be fair, it was in the early days of direct marketing in the UK and they probably got their profiling/ targeting a bit wrong or the list they bought wasn’t quite up to scratch, I wasn’t earning enough, I may even have been legally too young to hold their card – whatever – the single fact I remember is that they invited me then refused me.

I have no idea how many missives I’ve received from American Express in the intervening years entreating me to join their ranks of customers and I’d guess the company has no idea that every single one of them goes straight in the bin or why. Whilst I am probably slap bang in their ideal target market nowadays and have been for many years, it is highly unlikely that I will ever be their customer because I remember that feeling of being made to think I wasn’t good enough.

My mobile phone

I’ve been with the same mobile phone air time supplier for years. I realised recently that I’d had the same mobile for rather a long time and other people’s phones seemed much more whizzy than mine, with more features and definitely more 21st century looking. Actually, if I’d bothered to get my head round what’s on my old faithful I’d probably have found it was pretty advanced for its time, but that’s another story…

So I decided to upgrade and that’s where the trouble began…

I nipped up the road to a local store to see what my options were and that’s when I realised monthly payment had been taken out of my account that day – so another 30 days to decide phone, plan, etc – plenty of time. I thought I remembered that with the previous upgrade I’d got a better deal by going direct on line so thought I’d suss that route as well. That’s when I discovered that it would be an ideal time to renew… just switch from the current to the new payment plan from midnight and get the new phone the next working day…

We are eleven days on from that fateful day and, although I have a new contract (that differs from what I agreed to by phone in three major areas) I still don’t have a new phone that works – I’m still using my trusty old Pebble…

Developments

I had a phone call from the company’s Customer Services department yesterday (Sunday) from a guy who, unfortunately, was in possession of just one of the 3 emails I’d sent to their complaints department over the previous nine days (on top of countless telephone calls I’ve had with various representatives).

Poor s*d really came in for it a bit… :-( I wasn’t rude but I left him in no doubt that I was less than impressed with the service I’ve received thus far and would switch suppliers in a heartbeat if there was another with as good coverage.

He’s already promised to put right the three major discrepancies on the agreement in my favour and is due to phone me back this afternoon to sort the matter out for good. So we’ll see whether the company takes this classic opportunity to turn around a complaint and secure me as a loyal customer for another few years or lose me to the competition in 20 days time :-)

One person who got it right! This wasn’t the company, it was purely down to one individual.

I popped into the tanning shop on our High Street the other day and fancied a ‘lift’. I knew I had some time in credit from a block I’d bought ages ago but fell out of the habit of using.

Turned out I had quite a lot but it was from over a year ago and therefore wasn’t valid. Gang on a minute – there didn’t use to be a time limit… An employee showed me a card with T&Cs on it and there it was in black and white – any treatment or batch of treatments have to be taken within 12 months.

But I wasn’t informed – and, as my custom over time predated their computer system (which they’ve now had for a few years) I’m fairly sure it predated their current T&Cs too!

I recognised one of the employees and she me and she said “Go and have your treatment, we’ll sort something out.” I came back to the reception desk thinking that I may have to do battle only to be informed by the lady I knew that they’d restarted my credits from that day and the time would now be valid for a further year.

Now that‘s service!

How do YOU compare?

Do you often get it wrong from the off? Do you lose good customers because you don’t make them feel wanted? Or do your customers love you to bits and recommend you to everyone who may need to your products or services?


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"I was very impressed by Linda's determination to help and the constructive, but persistent, manner in which she identified issues and then tried to resolve them. After recent progress I was again reaching a stage where I seemed to be spinning my wheels, and she has given me fresh impetus to start moving forward again."

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