The New Sales Playbook

Recently, I was asked to present my ideas on how salespeople can best compete in today’s sales environment.

Sales Playbook

License: (license)

A great deal about selling has changed over the last few years, but mostly what’s changed is the way people buy and that’s what you have to understand in order to thrive in the world of selling today. (Oh, and by the way, pretty much everyone sells something.)

Buyers don’t need salespeople to provide information, they need salespeople who can provide insight, shed light on problems they don’t yet understand, and in general be so useful as to be seen as a consultant rather than the worst version of that person they got caller ID for.

In order to compete today, you must understand that your first job is to completely change the context of how you and your product, solution and organization are seen by a prospective customer.

In order to accomplish that adopt the following three attributes as core components of your sales playbook.

Build Authority

First and foremost you automatically change the sales context when a prospect finds you as opposed the other way around – I like to think of it as reverse prospecting. In order to do this, you must start publishing, curating, and sharing useful information. You must find ways to get invited to speak in front of audiences filled with prospective clients and you must be “optimized” as an expert when people go searching for answers.

Your consistent participation on sites like Quora, in appropriate LinkedIn Groups and Google+ Communities can greatly aid your expert brand.

Deconstruct Prospects

One of the ways you can thrive in the world of sales today is to make competitive intelligence a core competency.

In order to be seen as an invited guest, you must be able to demonstrate your ability to provide insight and help prospects look at problems they don’t even know exist. When you can do research using a tool like RivalIQ or BuzzSumo and expertly point out glaring gaps in a prospect’s business you can gain invitation to help them better understand a specific issue before you ever try to sell them your global solution.

The diagram below is a tool that describes some of the many ways to look at a business and its community. When you deconstruct a prospect’s world based on the elements below you have the opportunity to potentially understand more about a prospects’s challenges than they themselves understand.

Add the competitive landscape and you are prepared to offer invaluable insight.

Deconstruct Community

 By evaluating, researching and understanding the internal and external element of a prospect you can gain tremendous insight into their needs and gaps.

Be Useful

The final element of the new sales playbook is to look for ways to be useful. This shouldn’t be as counterintuitive as it is to many sales people, but being useful quite often has little to do with your product or service.

Being useful may be unearthing research data that helps a client better understand their market. Being useful may mean introducing or connecting your client with someone in your social network that can help them address a personal issue. Being useful might be using a tool like BuzzSumo to help them build a list of prospective industry influencers – even though none of these things are directly related to the widget your company makes.

Being useful is one of the best ways to make a business case for changing the context of how you are seen by prospects and that’s how you dominate a market today.

Stop Undervaluing Yourself and Get Paid What You’re Worth

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Stephanie O’Brien – Enjoy! 

As your skills as a marketer or businessperson grow, one of the best ways to increase your revenue is to raise your rates.

Because you’re getting better at what you do, you can give more value for the same amount of time and effort, and your pay should rise accordingly.

But sometimes, that’s easier said than done. Not because your clients won’t pay what you’re worth, but because YOU won’t ask for it.

You’re used to valuing yourself at a certain level, and when you think about asking for more, uncertainty floods in. “What if they say no? What if I can’t give them enough value to be worth that? What if they’re disappointed, or they take their business elsewhere?”

All too often, people will allow those fears to make them underquote, so even though they’re attracting clients, they’re still losing a lot of potential revenue because they’re being underpaid.

In this blog post, I’ll help you to make a shift that will allow you to not only make the income you deserve, but also to serve your clients more effectively, so they WILL be happy to pay you what you’re worth.

It’s all about the questions you ask.

Right now, you’re probably asking yourself two questions when you set your prices. They are,

“What are my clients willing to pay?” and “What is my competition charging?”

While it’s true that these questions may come into play when your client is considering your offer, you can’t rely on them when you’re setting your rates. If you do, they will limit your income, and keep you from seeing and showing your own true value.

It also places imaginary limitations on your clients’ buying power, when in reality those limitations might well exist only in your mind.

What can you ask instead, that will give you more income and your clients better service?

The next time you’re about to set a rate, start by asking yourself, “How much money would make this job worth my time?”

This can be uncomfortable, especially if you feel it would be unfair to your clients, or are afraid of scaring them off. But it has to be done – in fact, I’d like you to do it right now, before you continue reading.

Once you’ve done that exercise, if you feel like this figure is too high, DON’T lower it.

Instead, ask yourself: “How much value am I giving?”

How much time will you save your clients? How much money will you MAKE for them?

How much will their health, mindset, lifestyle or relationships improve?

How much happier will they be after they work with you?

Remember, it isn’t just about the effort you put into the job. It’s about the benefit that your work gives to your clients.

What if the value you’re offering seems like less than the price you want to charge?

Once again, do NOT drop your rates. Instead, raise your value.

For example, I was recently hired to help one of my clients rewrite her ‘about’ page. I wanted the page to reflect her real story and the source of her passion, instead of reading like an encyclopedia.

To do this, we needed to have a conversation via Skype, and I wanted to be paid $75 for the time we were going to spend on that. But simply getting her to tell her story didn’t feel like it was enough; I wanted to give her real value for the money I was charging.

So I made her an offer: while I was getting the story for her page, I would also teach her how to tell her story in a way that drew her clients in, so she’d be able to use that skill any time she needed to.

She agreed, and was happy to pay me $75 for the call.

Are you charging as much as you want to be?

If not, when are you going to raise your prices?

If you don’t feel like your services warrant a price increase, how will you raise their value so they WILL be worth it?

I look forward to reading your opinions, insights and commitments in the comments.

Pic of me for DuctTapeStephanie O’Brien is a copywriter, marketing coach, entrepreneur, novelist, and self-growth addict. She uses her twelve years of fiction-writing experience to make her copywriting fun and inspirational as well as effective, and her lifelong exploration of the human mind helps her to get inside her clients’ heads, pick out the words they’re trying to find, and put them onto paper.

To learn more about Stephanie, and to get more tips to help you connect with your readers in a unique and authentic way, visit her website at www.captivatingcopywriter.com.

 

Using Social Media to Generate Sales Leads

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Jane Smith – Enjoy!

Hand over keyboard

photo credit: Free Images

If you’re looking to generate sale leads successfully, you need to go where the people are. And currently, everybody seems to be on social media. At first glance, social media looks like a place for friends and family members to share pictures of their daily outings – which is true to some degree – as social media is about connecting people digitally through conversation.

With the average Facebook user spending 6.35 hours a month on the social platform, and 260 million active users on Twitter, you cannot afford to avoid social media. Businesses are investing a lot of money and time into their social media strategy. On the other hand, smaller businesses cannot afford to budget marketing and finding leads through social media is overwhelming.

If this sounds like your business, stop putting your head in the sand and find those sale leads through social media by following these four simple steps:

Know your audience

People join social networking websites to socialise. They don’t want to be bombarded with advertisements. Advertisements belong in magazines and not on social media. You should treat your social media accounts like you would your mailing list. Be personal, be engaging and be human. Always remember to reply to customer comments.

Give them what they want

You know who your prospective customers are but they don’t know about you. Why should they come to you? Be interesting, be entertaining and be informative with your content. Be reliable, be dependable and don’t ask for anything in return. Soon your prospective customers will find you.

Become the go-to person

You should have an integrated blog on your website. You should be addressing current issues that your customers are facing, updates on your business and daily ramblings. You should be sharing these posts on social media. People are quick to dismiss the brands that they believe will not deliver the services they require. By becoming the go-to person in your industry, you will attract more customers and strengthen existing relationships.

Utilise multiple channels

It is worth knowing that the most popular networking websites are: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest. Each social media channel boasts their own community. You should adapt your long-term plan to each community accordingly. Have a clear focus, be consistent and prove your expertise. Utilise multiple channels and cross promote. Nonetheless it is better to be actively involved with one or two social channels, than to be spread thinly with no given direction on them all.

Measure your success

There are many free tools to monitor your social media engagement but they do not tell you if people clicked through to your website. Google Analytics is a great tool for learning about your customers. You can see how many people have visited your website through social media. Learn what works for your audience and what doesn’t. By consuming this data you can work to making your social media a triumph.

Finally

Studies show that 70% of businesses generate leads on social media. Productively use social media and your business will see an increase of brand awareness, website traffic and conversation. Follow the above steps and advance your business by attracting more customers and strengthening existing business relationships.

Jane Smith, AllDayPA

Jane writes for alldayPA, a telephone answering service offering business a bespoke call handling service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

 

The Secret to Getting More Repeat Customers

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Rachel Daley– Enjoy! 

So you’ve made a sale. “YES! I sold my product! Ultimate goal met!”

Mmm… not quite.

One of the most critical post-sale mistakes is to assume that your job is done once you make the sale. What if I told you that you can turn that one sale into repeat sales to grow your business?

Turns out, what you do after the sale is just as important as what you do before. The ultimate success of your business depends on a strong, personable relationship with your customer base to build trust. Customer trust leads to customer loyalty, which leads to customer recommendations, which means more customers!

So how can you get the most out the sale you just made?

Ensuring customer trust and future sales all comes down to great customer service.

In fact, 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated.

But you already knew that.

So I’ll give you another little insider secret… your customers are your friends. Okay, maybe not exactly, but this is what I mean:

Friendships take work before, during, and after you become friends.

Customer relationships take work before, during, and after a sale.

You want those repeat customers who bring in other customers. They are the life line of your business! To build that kind of security, you have to build post-sale relationships with your customers even after their payment has been approved.

$ell 240x180

How to “stay friends”, Even After the Sale

Just think about how you treat your friends…

You keep in touch

Keep an email list of your customers so you can send newsletters with your business’s latest news and promotions to keep them in the loop. You can make things personal even by sending a mass email! Mailchimp has a great free plan, or check out Tiny Letter.

Answer all questions and respond to comments quickly! Staying on top of your social media, emails, and site comments is one of the easiest ways to continue the relationship post-sale. TIP: If you’re getting a lot of comments and questions maybe find some help to manage your social media.

You show gratitude

Remember those two magic phrases Mama taught us? Please and THANK YOU. Make sure to send a “thank you” when you receive notification of a sale. It may just a quick typed message, but it adds that personal touch even through the computer screen.

Offer a discount code to returning customers to make them not only want to come back, but also feel the love. EX: offer 10% off their next order.

  • Make things viral by getting them to share the deal with friends through a tweet. example: Yay, I just bought this item on www.shop.com and got 10% off my next order from @shopname

You go out of your way for them

Go even further and send a longer note with the product when you ship it. Bonus points if you handwrite it! Make sure to personalize each note with the customer’s name so they know you took the time.

You know them on a deeper level

Who knows what your customers want better than your customers themselves? Get to know them by asking for their input. TIP: Create an interactive quiz or ask fun yet helpful questions on your Instagram. Customers will be more likely to respond! The key is to not make customers feel obligated to answer questions because they are not paying for obligation.

Do it for free in 3 easy steps with Google Docs:

google docs survey 240x180

You respect them as human beings

Mama also said treat others the way you want to be treated. Keep that in mind and there’s your answer to how to engage with your customers before, during, and after a sale.

Similar techniques are used for pre-sales marketing of course, so these shouldn’t seem foreign to you. Just don’t assume marketing ends once the sale had been made. To create success with longevity for your business you have to create relationships with longevity. So after your next sale, follow these tips and you will gain a boost in sales and return customers that will bring their friends in no time.

Rachel DaleyRachel is the resident content wizard over at MadeFreshly. Helpful and inspirational advice for eCommerce is her specialty there, but when she’s not busy writing you will probably find her at a track meet or adventuring around California with her Canon T2i.  Follow her on Twitter.

 

The Key To Ideal Customer Service: Making Exceptions

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Duane Forrester – Enjoy! 
photo credit: Copyright: kbuntu / 123RF Stock Photo

photo credit: Copyright: kbuntu / 123RF Stock Photo

It was a dark and stormy night as I entered the store. I’d ordered a (geekishly expensive) camera from said store and was still waiting for it to ship to my home, a couple of states away. However, my travels unexpectedly landed me in the town where the store-that-shall-not-be-named-because-I’m-not-that-vindictive is HQd. As such, I thought I would drop by and see if I could save everyone some trouble and just pick up the camera if it hadn’t yet been shipped.

So I walked up to the customer service desk to learn that my camera had not shipped and was, in fact, in the store. “Excellent,” I exclaimed. And that’s when the help desk staffer lowered the boom (or was that thunder?):  “I can’t give it to you. It has a shipping order attached.” Knowing the intricacies of running a retail business, I was sympathetic and, instead, offered to just eat the cost of shipping myself because I really wanted to leave with that camera. In other words, I was asking the staff to make an exception to their policy.

They wouldn’t. And here’s why in today’s social, everybody’s-got-a-mic-and-an-audience world, the first point on a business’ policies list should be “Know when and how to modify policy.”

But back to the store…

Long story short, no one would give me the camera—not even the manager, not even the head of sales. The camera had a shipping order and that was that. I left the store (absolutely for the last time) without a product I had already paid for that was mere feet from me. And you can rest assured my audience heard about it.

Policy can no longer always trump customer service. In fact, plenty of companies have been “modifying” policy for years.

Look at the companies that excel in customer service. Nordstrom’s is clearly not going broke even though it accepts returns on all products – even items they don’t actually sell. Zappo’s has become the darling of internet shoppers thanks to handling shipping issues with such grace and kindness people rave about them online. Companies like Comcast and Delta have learned to use social to keep customers happy. They understand the social currency and value of modified policy.

Can you bend the rules all the time? Of course not. Even some of the time is probably too much. But if you can school your employees on business decision-making and its potential value instead of hammering home hard and fast rules, you’ll be better off on multiple fronts. Happier customers. Empowered employees. Awesome stories shared.

And in case you’re wondering, I did eventually get my camera. It’s great. But every time I shoot with it, I remember this experience and I remember how I won’t shop at this particular retailer again. Today, a couple of years after this happened, I’m in the market for another camera and simply refuse to even think of them as a point of purchase. Flexible customer service could’ve changed that.

duane-bw-fullsizeDuane Forrester is a Senior Product Manager at Bing and just an OK photographer. Say hey on Twitter:@duaneforrester.
 

Five Selling Mistakes that Cost You Marketing Dollars

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Mike Montague– Enjoy!

sales-mistakesMost businesses these days seem to take a sales or marketing approach to business development instead of a sales AND marketing approach. These common mistakes in sales can cost you marketing dollars and a lot of revenue from potential sales. If you are looking for a better return on your marketing budget, you might try looking at your sales department.

You don’t tightly target your prospects.

When business is slow, the temptation to tell your story to whomever will listen is great.  Instead, be choosy about the people to whom you “tell your story.”  Use your existing customer base to identify the characteristics of your best customers.  With that information, have the sales and marketing departments sit down together and develop a profile of your “ideal” customer.  Then, search out prospects that most closely fit the profile.  You may meet with fewer people, but you’ll close more sales.

You’re not sufficiently selective about the prospects with whom you meet.

Expressing an “interest” in your product or service is not a strong enough reason to schedule an appointment with a potential prospect. If prospects’ “interests” aren’t backed by recognized needs or desires for your product or service – now or in the immediate future – then there’s no compelling reasons to meet with them.  Find out why prospects are interested and what trigger event sparked their interest before you schedule sales appointments.  Use the marketing department to score the leads and nurture them until they are “sales ready”.

You neither establish credibility nor demonstrate expertise.

In sales, your job is to help the prospect view their situation from different perspectives and discover elements or aspects of their challenges they didn’t previously recognize.  And most importantly, you can’t just tell them! Prospects can get information from your marketing, but you must be able to ask questions in such a manner as to help prospects make those “discoveries” through a conversation.  Here’s an example:

When you asked your production manager to measure the injection pressure differential between the beginning and end of the production cycle and to what extent it contributed to the casting inconsistencies, what did he report?

Educating your prospects through intelligent questions demonstrates your understanding of their problems and allows the prospect to discover your expertise. It is perhaps the single most important skill to master in modern selling.

You don’t ask “tough” questions.

To be valuable as a salesperson, you must be able to identify elements at the center of controversies, uncover root causes of problems, discover carefully guarded information, and obtain rarely volunteered commitments.  You won’t be able to accomplish any of those tasks without asking tough questions. Again, marketing materials can explain features and benefits, but only great salespeople can ask and answer tough questions.

You rush to make presentations.

Many salespeople are too eager to make presentations.  They view them as opportunities to establish the value of their products or services by demonstrating their unique aspects. However, the real purpose of presentations is to confirm your ability to deliver the solutions prospects are predisposed to buy.

Until you know what and why you are presenting, you should refrain from making presentations.  Don’t cool off your lead from the marketing department by presenting information they don’t care about, instead heat it up by discussing the prospect’s situation and understanding why they are considering your help.

Make the most of your marketing and sales opportunities!

If both departments work together, the harmony can take your organization to the next level. Marketing can become sales enablement specialists who create and nurture leads, and then escort them over to sales at the perfect time. The sales team can relax and become closing conversation masters that bring the expertise of a trusted advisor to remove road blocks for prospects. Both departments can work together to create an environment that allows the customer to buy and enjoy doing so!

These five mistakes are just some of the ways selling mistakes hurt your marketing. If you can think of others, please share them in the comments below.

 

Mike-Montague-2013-smThis is a guest blog by Mike Montague, Associate and Certified Trainer at Sandler Training Kansas City. Sandler Training empowers their clients to achieve higher levels of success through innovative training courses in sales, management, and customer service for companies and individuals around the Kansas City area. They offer public and private courses for individuals and organizations who value lifelong learning and continuous improvement.

How Networking Can Increase Your Sales and Help Your SEO

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Samantha Pena – Enjoy! 

pushing social network structure

photo credit: Thinkstock

You know the saying, “It’s not what you know but who you know”? Although your skills and dedication play a large part in starting your business, your chances of success rise when you know the right people.

Networking is one of the most valuable business tactics in growing your business, because it gives you the opportunity to learn from others and to tell them about your business in return. Consequently, networking can expand the reach of your business, boost your website’s search rankings, and increase your customer referrals. Here’s how:

Collaboration with industry experts increases your brand exposure

Networking gives you the chance to not only discuss your business with professionals but to also offer them something of value, whether that is your help, your service, or your knowledge.

When you meet others whom you think might be a great resource for your business, offer to partner with them on a project that is mutually beneficial to both of you. Although the type of partnership you create will largely depend on your business and your goals, there are so many collaboration opportunities available in real life and in the digital world.

Offering to speak at one of their events or collaborate with them on a white paper gives you the opportunity to showcase your industry expertise while tapping into and connecting with their existing network. Cross-business collaboration is thus a great way to gain greater publicity for your business without coming across as overtly promotional.

Trustworthy referrals influence consumers’ purchasing decision

In an age when reviews are readily accessible on the Internet and the market is inundated by similar products and services, businesses rely on positive referrals to gain new customers. In fact, statistics show that 65 percent of new customers come from referrals, primarily because people gather other people’s opinion before determining whether they should purchase a product.

Therefore, in order to boost your brand trust and increase your referrals, you must establish excellent business partnerships. For example, ask a business connection if they’d be interested in setting up a barter program with you, in which you’ll do work for them and refer new clients to their business and vice versa. Although you’ll be doing some work for free, the high-quality leads that you’ll receive from the partnership will override any monetary loss you may have.

In addition, maintain positive relationships with your loyal customers by offering them referral incentives. Offer a reward or a discount if they refer your business to a friend. A compelling reward and a clear and easy call-to-action will encourage customers to recommend your business to their contacts, increasing your network, brand reach, and leads.

Digital networking encourages brand trust

Building a network between your business, your customers, and experts in your field not only builds up your brand’s credibility but also boosts your SEO efforts. The best way to do this is to create connections with important bloggers and to network with your customers on social media.

In the last year, consumer confidence in social media as a trustworthy source of information increased +75 percent. Therefore, instead of advertising, which don’t work anyway, network on social media. When you connect with consumers on a personal level, you not only gather valuable insight on your their needs and wants but you also earn their trust. In addition, many experts say that there is a correlation between social media and SEO in link opportunity and search volume increase, which is an additional perk of using social media.

You also don’t have to network with just business owners. Sometimes, establishing a connection with thought leaders and influencers in your industry who are willing to write about your product or service and link back to your site is useful in increasing your brand exposure and building up your backlink profile. Especially since SEO and PR are becoming more integrated, it is important to get featured on authoritative sites in order to boost your site ranking.

Networking is a powerful strategy earning you high-quality leads, more customers, and brand trust. Therefore, view every moment as a potential networking opportunity and watch your business grow.

20140319144747_samSamantha Pena is a Content Strategist for Hudson Horizons, a digital agency that offers Web design, development, and marketing for small to mid-sized businesses. In addition to her weekly posts on Hudson, she also writes for various notable digital marketing sites on social media marketing and SEO. You can read her latest posts on Google+.

 

Using Forums to Market New Products and Services to Existing Customers

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Patrick Clinger – Enjoy!

proboardsBusinesses of all stripes are always looking for new customers to buy their products or services. However, sometimes businesses ignore the best place to look for new sales:  through customers who have already purchased products and services in the past.  Tapping into your existing customers to boost your sales is smart because you’ve already done the hardest part of the sales cycle with them:  you made that first sale.

The easiest path to new sales is often found through those who have already made a decision to buy from you.  The key is getting a sense of how the products are perceived by customers, how the services are used, and what add-on or upsell products and services are a good fit to market new offerings to an existing customer base.

Internet Forums

One of the best tools for learning more about customers who already use your products and services is social media, with Internet forums being one of the more dependable tools for gathering information.

According to a 2012 study by Awareness, a marketing firm based in Burlington, Mass., one-third of marketers are looking to social media and Internet forums as the platform of choice to reach customers.  Nativo, a content marketing firm in Long Beach, Calif., says 20 percent of Americans use forums to discuss and recommend products.  Nearly two-thirds of women in online forums make product recommendations on these boards.

Marketing to customers via an Internet forum delivers this proven path and helps ensure success by enabling a series of regular and intimate communications between the company and the customer. Spending time on Internet forums where your customers can be found often reveals relevant marketing information about products in demand, services used, strengths of competitive offerings, and weaknesses in products or services offered by a competitor.  This sort of intelligence is ideal for putting together a sales pitch on new or related products and services, or to make a compelling offer to customers of your chief competition in order to acquire new customers who were unhappy with their offering.

Internet forums also help to build customer loyalty. The seeds you plant today, through the intimate two-way communication forums provide, help make products better and allow the company to fix potential problems, while ensuring product launches are more successful — just by leveraging the loyalty built through the regular interactive engagement with your customers.

Spend some time finding out which forums your customers read regularly and do some “lurking” where you read each post and response without actively participating.  Take careful notes.  Identify current customers on the forum.  From their posts and comments, what other products or services would improve their experience with your company based on the first purchase they made?  Do they offer advice to others buying similar products or do they warn prospects about the purchase they made from you?

Stay in Touch

If you detect something is wrong, you can proactively contact them and fix the problem.  If it’s a competitive offering, how does your product or service address the shortcomings of the competitive solution?  Can you put together a program to encourage these customers to try your company?

Internet forums provide a great way to stay in touch with your customer base.  But there are some “rules of the road” for participating in a forum and using it for marketing purposes.  Follow them or you could risk being banned by the forum staff:

  • Develop a good profile so forum participants know who you are.  Make yourself approachable.  Make sure there is contact information so it makes you accessible to your customers and prospects.
  • Introduce yourself to the forum members in the appropriate section.
  • Be smart about commenting; never insult a poster.
  • If you are alerted to a problem, play a role in getting it resolved; encourage other posters to ask you questions.
  • Make valuable contributions to the forum; provide good information.  Don’t spread rumors or make bold claims.  Be helpful and humble.  Be objective.
  • Don’t hard sell new products and services when you make a new post, and always expose any biases you have.  It’s great to help people who have questions, it’s bad to spam.

Patrick Clinger Headshot - 300dpi-jpg 05-16-13Patrick Clinger is founder and CEO of ProBoards, the world’s largest host of free forums on the Internet (www.proboards.com).  The company has been hosting forums for more than 14 years with over 3.7 million forums created on its platforms.  The company’s forums record billions of page views every year with tens of millions of registered users.  ProBoards’ Forums.net white label forum service allows small business to quickly and easily create their own branded Internet forum that is fully managed by ProBoards.