Join Paul in this 1,400 word article as he explores the question “have we forgotten to sell”.
Have we been seduced by the warm glow of marketing? Are we within the comfort blanket of relying on customers coming to us because all our resources and time are spent on marketing?
Paul argues that many of us have forgotten to sell or confuse too much marketing with selling when, in fact, they are distinctively different disciplines.
Follow his 6 step process to put a little selling in your business so you can take charge of bringing home new customers.
Have we forgotten to sell?
Marketing our businesses, especially speaking or training businesses, is fun. It’s cool to say that we’re doing marketing today, writing articles, producing content, blogging and creating our websites. Harvesting LinkedIn connections, doing Twitter and Facebook. Designing brands and logos, advertising and networking online as well as face to face.
But I think most of us have forgotten to sell or would rather think that marketing is modern day selling.
Selling is a totally different discipline than marketing.
My take on it is that marketing activity attracts potential customers to you and we all should be doing relevant marketing. For a training or speaking business this should include putting your expertise out onto the internet to create noise so your target customers see you, hear you or read about your expertise online and come looking to find you.
Selling is that scary place where we go one to one with these potential customers on the phone, face to face or via the internet. Selling is gaining some form of commitment that they’re interested in talking to us further because they have a challenge or business problem that we might be able to help them with.
Marketing fills your funnel, selling moves them through it and onto your sales process.
The acid test is passed when they arrive onto the conveyor belt of your sales process or they’re not interested or qualified to talk further.
Whether it’s the fear of being rejected when we close, or the instinctive dread of being too salesey, many of us don’t do this bit and lose out on a ton of business as a result.
The 6 step process
Marketing is huge. I’ve found the best marketing methods for the speaking or training business is networking – both online and offline – content marketing by putting out your expertise all over the internet.
Email harvesting using White Papers and other content treasure as bait. Online ads can work if targeted to your niche market’s challenges. Referrals are king and leveraging LinkedIn is a great time saver here.
Article marketing brings in hits, publishing these in traditional media works as does authoring books and eBooks. YouTube and video sites bring in potential customers or at least demonstrate your expertise and value you provide.
Managing a database of potential customers works well keeping them warm with information, newsletters, customised content, videos, discounts. I call this the customer incubator – keep them warm until they’re ready to make a proactive contact with you.
Maintaining a fan base on Facebook works although the bubble may have burst on this medium. Providing information to your army of Twitter followers can seem satisfying.
But you can’t keep on just marketing, well you can if plenty of these customers that you attract go ahead and buy from you, but you’re then fighting against the whims of people, the economy and how much marketing effort you can physically do.
The secret to gain some form of control to build and expand, is to implement a little bit of selling.
Select appropriate prospects
Simply select the most appropriate people flowing into your system and contact them. I’m reminded of those alien abduction films when the flying saucer hovers over the earth sucking up humans.
Or maybe that’s just my sense of humour.
Here’s an example.
Each day I attract potential customers into my funnel. Newsletter sign ups, article downloads, eBook downloads, comments on my blog, LinkedIn requests, referrals. These people are all incubated and fed value automatically but occasionally an ideal customer crops up.
My target customers are small business owners, sales managers, sales directors, training managers in my industry sector. This morning a sales manager signed up for my Sales Tips newsletter. He was a sales manager in financial services so my 2nd step in my 6 step process was triggered – I selected him.
Onto CRM system
He went into my Outlook based CRM system as a potential customer which meant the software was going to push him along the sales process and remind me periodically to do so. My CRM is linked to my Smartphone so I can monitor the situation on the move, which I often am.
Sell the Prospect Qualifying Call (PQC)
Here’s the tricky part. You need to sell a short phone conversation, what I call the Prospect Qualifying Call or PQC. This call lasts no more than 10 minutes and is all about them and their business challenges to see if there might be some mileage in getting together or talking further.
I would normally make the point that I work extensively in their industry and have been solving client challenges for over 20 years. A quick call will help me to understand your situation better, your challenges. Maybe I can provide some value, maybe not, worth a 10 minute call to find out.
Can I suggest Tuesday at 10am for me to call you.
The tricky part is making this contact via email, which is usually the only communication option you have from them. It’s a whole lot easier if you are known to them, maybe from a referral, or via LinkedIn. The challenge you have is getting your email read by them. I have found though, that if you act quickly, they do recognise your email address, and are more inclined to read it.
LinkedIn emails are far more effective – I use LinkedIn extensively to attract potential customers, people trust LinkedIn email, it gets through spam traps and corporate firewalls.
Sending Outlook meeting requests is surprisingly successful as well.
You’re not always going to get through via email, so you could try other mediums.
Make the PQC
You may end up playing telephone table tennis or have an intimate relationship with their voice mail system, however if you’ve fixed up a time to call, invariably you’ll get through. Remember this was sold on the basis of a 10 minute call, totally for their needs not yours.
It’s a business call with a serious win-win purpose.
During the call, quickly gain some rapport, some common ground but keep it to business. Do the verbal handshake, give your value proposition or sound bite about what you do and who you work with.
Take control by asking questions about them and their business challenges and goals. Seek permission with your questions by giving a reason why you’re asking. Summarise regularly, just listen to them.
If there’s a fit, maybe you’ve helped other clients in a similar manner, close. Confirm you can add some value to them, maybe mention some work you’ve done with someone else in their sector, then ask them to move to the next step, which could be a video meeting, a face to face meeting, a further telephone call – whatever is the next stage in your sales process. Close them.
If there’s no fit, wrap up the call and be available if they need you.
Give yourself a target of a number of PQCs to make each week or month, I try and do 1 a day.
You know your sales process; it’s inside your CRM system as well. Take them along the process to a hopeful win-win solution.
Your incubator maybe the ideal place for them, keep them warm and fed with content and value until they’re ready to contact you. Or prime your CRM for you to follow them up in say 3 months’ time, whatever suits.
We did forget to sell, didn’t we?
Probably not, but not everyone is comfortable selling or doing a face to face call and asking for their business. It’s a whole lot easier to sit back in your chair and wait for them to contact you.
That’s fine and may bring in all the business you can handle, but if you can cope with some more trade, you might want to seriously think about being a little more proactive and use my 6 step process to sell more business.