I don’t mean what feeling you need to have, or what attitude you’d like to adopt, what the latest book has told you to do, or what the latest technological marvel is that you need in order to ‘make it’.
Maybe there is some other chicanery that might convince you that you are doing something useful for yourself or your business, when actually, things couldn’t be further from the case.
In my experience, the number one reason a businesses fails is lack of focus.
Thats right, not lack of hard work, or lack of funding (though this is a major issue in itself) or lack of sales or lack of many other things that might in themselves be problems. Lack of focus.
Or more precisely, being so busy you don’t do the things you need to do in order to succeed.
Sometimes you know what those things are, but don’t want to do them. Because they are hard to do, complicated or take a long time. Sometimes something much more interesting comes up that you’d rather spend your valuable time on.
You spend time on ‘make work’. Chatting to ‘contacts’, networking because it feels like selling (it’s not) driving around the place to meetings you must be at, even though nothing ever comes of them.
All this while you put off doing the things you know you need to be doing. Like cold calling, or writing that proposal, or following up on that bad debt. You know, all those messy, awkward, difficult things.
Or maybe like a lot of people you are too busy!
Too busy to do the things you need to do in order to make a difference to your business. Whether its yours or the one you are working for.
Too busy to take a moment to plan the next week, month or quarter. Too busy to look up to see what problems you are about to hit square on. Too busy to deliver on the things you’ve already promised you’d deliver.
Or maybe you are too busy to be able to spot the next opportunity when it presents itself.
Worse, sometimes you don’t know what it is you need to do in order to win. Thats when you have a real problem.
In that case, you just work harder and harder and spend more and more time stressing about winning, when you in fact have no clue what success looks like, or indeed how to get it.
You need to have a laser like focus on what it takes to succeed. What you need to do to win. How much you need to sell, or who you need to see, or what problems you need to deal with.
And then deal with them.
Don’t put it off. There isn’t any other work that’s more important than the work you do to ensure you win.
Do things on purpose.
Rather than letting things happen to you, make things happen for you!
Don’t allow the distractions to drag you away from doing the things you know you need to do in order to make things go well for you. Don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today.
Do the things you want to avoid early in the day, get them done, feel that achievement, and go on to enjoy the rest of your day, making sure you are doing other things that lead to success. Make sure you are not allowing lack of focus to edge in, and steal away valuable time and resource.
And if you really don’t know what it takes to win, you’d better learn, fast.
People say selling is dead. its always been a bit of a dirty word in the UK. But I’ve always had admiration for those organisations and people that have done it well. And as far as I can see, its not dead at all – its just much, much harder than ever to do, so you’d better get better at it – fast!
It strikes me that there are essentially two opportunities to reach potential customers and influence them to buy your product before they buy someone else’s product – Or to ‘sell’, as you may prefer to put it.
1 – When they are ready to buy
2 – Before they are ready to buy
The Way Things Were
I appreciate that may sound pretty simplistic, but think about it. Why were newspapers so powerful back in the day? Think about the classified pages. Need a car? Or a house? Or a plumber or an Electrician?
The other part of the newspaper was devoted to what was called ‘display’ ads. And these two ad types, classified and display, are as good as any other example to describe what I mean.
If you are looking for a product or service, you would turn to the classified section right? Makes sense? And its also easy to see how Google have basically decimated the classified sections of newspapers, and other traditional media, by offering a much more interactive and real time ‘classified’ or listings service.
In Google land, you can also gather reviews of the product or service talk to your social networks about the choices you are considering making, and research and research to your hearts content.
Google has also brought the market places of the whole world to within a touch of a button, vastly increasing choice.
Then there was ‘display’ advertising. The aim being two fold. To either prompt someone to consider a product or service if they hadn’t already been doing so, or more likely, to sort of ‘tee up’ a future purchase. Much of the other traditional media is also devoted to this type of advertising TV, Radio, Posters (Outdoor) etc.
It goes like this. TV plays endless messages about FMCG products like washing up liquid directly into your brain, and then when you enter the supermarket, in buying mode, you are already programmed to purchase the product you recognise or identify with most.
The Way Things Are
But again, along came the internet and mobile screens, and with it came massively fragmentated audiences. Its no longer possible to capture (literally) the entire available audience with one TV purchase. Different people and different markets now behave with distinct differences.
People spend their time on social media, watching TV through numerous channels on multiple screens on multiple platforms, reading watching and listening to ‘on demand’ as well as broadcast media all over the place, anywhere in fact, other than where and when they traditionally would be found doing it!
Technology seems to have the answers to the fragmentation problem. Target people by demographic and behaviours. Target by inclinations, gender age etc etc.
It’s all designed to help you reach your audience as efficiently and cheaply as possible, but as tradition would have it, before they are ready to buy.
To the uninitiated it seems like an easy solution to age old media buying problems. Basically, let Google do it for you. Or Facebook. But as is always the case, its not as easy as that.
CPMs for the best ad slots are horrendously expensive, as has always been the case, and there is still no guarantee that having reached the holy grail of the clearly defined audience that they will buy from you. Or these days, with so many messages cluttering up our news feeds and entertainment channels, there’s no guarantee they will even consume the message.
So where does that leave us?
Well, its the same question as its always been really. How do you get people to respond to YOUR directory listing or classified ad when they are ready to buy?
And, how do you intercept them and convince them you are the answer to their future retail or service based problems?
It was ever thus…
The Way Things Will Be
And the answer is the same as its always been too. Its either about brand or having the most compelling reason to buy. And today, those two ideas are increasingly inseparable.
The brand plan was developed over years of broadcast media dominance and as I mentioned earlier, is about programming consumers to believe a certain product, or a provider of that product, is in some way either superior to the competition, or in some other way more highly aligned with the customer.
And the compelling reason to buy is about telling the customer why your product or service or company is the one to chose, out of the plethora of competition out there.
And by telling them, I mean directly telling them. Speaking to them. There two ways to go here too. Either through understanding exactly what channel you can reach them through and crafting a message that will speak directly to them. Or physically speaking to them.
For a lot of high end, big ticket purchases we still prefer to speak to a human to find out that final detail in the search for the correct product, or for the reassurance that we are doing the right thing.
Those among you that are a little.. er… more experienced, like I am (!) will recognise these same steps have always been required. When all we had were newspapers and TV and radio.
The steps are the same, but the tools are much more complex. The ability to reach people is hugely magnified. We know where they are and what they are doing, and in a lot of cases what their predilections are too.
But these insights bring with them an enormous resistance to the advertising message, much more than was ever the case. As people push back against the intelligence that brands have on them and the demographic pictures the brands build and boxes that they are slotted into.
We abhor interruptions like never before. Inappropriate communications are enough to convince us to stay away from a brand forever, and most consumers these days spot commercial messages before you’ve even had time to get your content marketing blog / video / podcast out of the blocks.
I was recently interviewed by the very talented Joel Hughes of Jojet. Joel is a web developer by trade, but a lot more than that too. Check out his blog here where he will go into all the gory details of his extremely diverse interests!
Have a listen and let me know what you think? I think I sound quite nervous, and as it always the case when I am nervous, I say a few things I immediately regret! Joel is a great interviewer though and I’m generally quite impressed with the podcast itself.
After listening back to myself and my incompetent mumblings I am once again so in awe the ability of professional broadcasters to stay cool, and only say what they mean.
Its easy to see how people get themselves into a tangle when being interviewed.
I really need to get over that 😦
Anyway, leave a comment or email me at TonyDowling@completelyfreemarketingadvice.com
I have worked with Mike Bersin for more years than I care to mention. And I am proud to call him a friend too.
As well as a brief taking and copy writing genius, Mike is one of the most savvy advertising and marketing people I know. I recently challenged him to write a post for my blog based on the idea of the biggest mistake he has seen his clients make over the years and he has come up with a storming piece of work!
The biggest single mistake that advertisers make, in my experience, is to advertise their business.
What I mean is; clients spend good money telling people stuff they can work out for themselves. Once people know what category a business is in, they know 99% of all there is to know about it. You’re a bed retailer? Let me see now; you have lots of beds of all kinds for sale, displayed in a showroom, at a range of prices which is unlikely to surprise me. Am I close?
Of course I am. The beauty of language is to convey information as efficiently as possible. To save a businessperson having to list what they do they can just say “I’m a solicitor” and you know they are there for “all your legal requirements, including matrimonial, family and criminal law, civil litigation, conveyancing and wills”.
In my training sessions we explore the futility of simply advertising a business by encouraging delegates to tell me everything they know about a Garden Centre; what it sells, how big it is, what it looks like, how many car parking spaces it has, what days it’s open, what hours it’s open etc etc. They can keep telling me what they know about a garden centre for easily ten minutes, the equivalent duration of around 15 -20 radio commercials. And yet I know of advertisers who spend several thousand pounds a week with adverts that essentially say “We are a garden centre, and guess what… ?” and then tell you what you already know.
It’s our fault?
I believe this happens because we often approach our clients about “Advertising their business on the radio”. We should actually talk to them about “Selling something on the radio”.
Familiarity breeds sales, eventually
Now it is true that familiarity is a very powerful driver of business, so it is possible to increase your sales simply by using radio to become the most familiar business in your category. But it can take time to build a “brand”. (Most local advertisers aren’t strictly brands, they’re retailers where we go to buy brands, but it’s a useful shorthand for awareness and image).
If you’re going to use radio purely for branding, radio can make you rich by making you famous, and there’s clearly some value in your fame as (just) another business in your category. But, in an ideal world, your adverts would have two, complementary, competitive points of difference; one intellectual, (the content) one emotional, (the style).
The intellectual information is a single simple fact that makes you more desirable to your targeted customers; more choice, higher quality, cheaper, faster, nearer. You cannot be all things to all people, you will end up as nothing to anyone. Pick a benefit and stick to it. People can’t remember complications, only simple stuff. How do you choose which benefit? Whichever one will make you the most money. If the most important thing to your customers is you deliver at their convenience, then you are the company that delivers 24/7 to suit them. Don’t tell them what they already know about your business, tell them what they don’t know.
And before you think, as many clients I meet do, that “good service” is your USP; customers expect you to be able to sell them whatever you sell, quickly, efficiently, politely and with a smile on your face.
Or the style
If you ask yourself what your customers want to hear from you, it should be easy to come up with a genuine point of difference, but sometimes you can’t. In this case the creative style has to do all the work of differentiation. Most lagers taste more or less the same, none of them really has a competitive point of difference. So the style of the ads has to do all the work; if you like the ad, you drink the lager.
So what should you put in the ad?
If you’re not telling people all about your business, what should you advertise? Well, the only reason you advertise at all is to sell things. So sell something. Pick the product or service which will make the most money for you right now – and promote it. Do it in your own brand style, so you increase your awareness and develop your image. Change your adverts, and what you promote, regularly and frequently. Never run an ad without trying to sell something; the least you’re going to get is more awareness of your business, and there’s usually somebody out there buying whom you can steal from your competitors. Don’t be afraid that people will think you only sell the one thing you’re promoting; when B&Q advertise barbecues, no-one thinks they’ve suddenly stopped selling everything else.
There is no one advert which will answer all your advertising needs for the rest of your business life. Advertising is a process, like buying in stock, or paying your energy bills. And crucially, if you only ever advertise your brand values; (what people can get from you anytime), you are likely to lose business to your competitor who is advertising a product or service and price with limited availability.
I follow my own advice
When my most recent book came out I told everyone on my database, and sold a few. When I followed that up a month later with a 3 for 2 offer, I sold more than ten times as many books. I wasn’t surprised. Are you?
Objections are part and parcel of selling, and where ever I have gone as a sales trainer people have asked me for ‘objection handling’ techniques. I have heard some very interesting theories over the years including ‘cushioning the objection’ and ’empathising’ etc. However, here is what I think about objections:
I have always characterised the objections people give you into these three distinct types:
1. Those people that give you ‘Red Herring Objections’ (made up or Bull Sh*t objections))
2. Those people that make ‘Genuine Objections’ (part of the buying process)
3. Those people that initially say ‘Yes’ – Then never sign! (The hardest one of all to overcome)
Lets pick them off one by one.
The Red Herring Objection
These are hard to spot at first, especially when you are starting out in your career. This leads to you merrily charging in and attempting to over come the objections with all the best intentions in the world. After a while you start to sport them for the time wasters they are and I’ve always found the best policy is to actually ignore them.
I ignore them because otherwise you give them a life and a credence they don’t deserve. Say someone tells you that they are waiting for the go ahead to sign the order confirmation and its linked to some esoteric happenstance that you cant possibly control. The inexperienced among us can inadvertently help the client construct ever more elaborate stories that merely further obscure the actual problem by giving the lie the oxygen of conversation that it needs.
The actual problem, by the way, is that they don’t want to buy (for any number of reasons) and you’ve made it really hard for them to say no.
So rather than prolonging the agony and continuing to flesh out a fallacy, why not simply allow the client a gracious exit strategy? Instead of pinning them to the floor and not letting them up till they sign – requiring from them an ever more complicated rationale as to why its not possible for them to sign right at this moment, let them off the hook.
They will thank you for it, and hey, you never know, they may even think so highly of you that they come straight back to you at that point in the future when they are ready to buy.
The Genuine Objection
When people ask questions about your product, or pick you up on an inconsistency, it can be because they want to buy your product and need more information. Consider the following ‘consumer buying behaviour model’.
1. Need Identification
2. Information Search
3. Evaluation of Alternatives
4. Purchase Decision
5. Post Purchase Analysis
At the very least the questions they are asking point to the fact that the client is in ‘information search’ and you need to provided them with what they need at this point. Otherwise they might be ‘evaluating the alternatives’ and you are then required to actually do some selling, and persuade and convince them that your solution is the best one!
Or maybe, pivotally, they are yet to fully accept they ‘need’ your solution, and if that is the case, until they do, they aren’t going to buy. So this is a crucial part of the conversation. Either way, this is the sort of genuine objection you should relish as a sales person.
The Client that says Yes!
These are the hardest objections in the world. They will allow you to take them through your entire sales process, right up to the close, and agree all the way. They are even likely to tell you that they love your solution, and its perfect for what they want! But then, try as you might, you just can’t get them over the line.
I think that these guys are related to the Bull Sh*tters in the red herring objection, but oh so much more complex! These guys can think it somehow undermines them to admit that they can’t afford the solution you are advocating. Or once again, maybe they think that there isn’t a way out for them to say no, without unleashing all sorts of high pressure sales technique from the expectant sales person facing them.
I also think, a lot of sellers, especially those among us that are new to the career, are often so hopeful and optimistic, that the people we are talking to find it hard to dash our hopes. One of the main weapons of most sales people is enthusiasm and turning down a bright eyed and energetically bouncy sales person can feel a little like kicking a puppy.
So once again – you must build a path for your clients and help them help you. No one wins when a potential sale drags on and on in the pipeline only to stumble to an eventual horrible demise!
Do it quick! If you feel there is any angst on the part of the client, and that is preventing them from giving you an honest answer, and therefore preventing you from being able to whole heartedly move on to the next prospect, help them out.
Give them a deadline you ‘quite understand’ they cant possibly meet. Or even better, level with them. Tell them in your experience, at times like these, its often better to leave the dust settle on the conversation and revisit it in a few months time.
Those that have been wriggling and were to embarrassed or just too down right nice to say no to you, will jump at the chance to elegantly conclude the proceedings. Mind you, if they don’t, thats a whole other set of problems!
What do you think? Have I missed any? Whats your favourite objection?
Let me know in the comment section below! I look forward to hearing from you.
There’s an old saying in sales that you’re either a hunter or a farmer. You are either suited to finding new business, or to the demands of account management. Well I beg to differ. Almost all of the sales people I’ve ever worked with, and I can’t think of any that haven’t, started as Hunters, but have progressed over time to become Farmers.
And this is true no matter how well suited the sales person may be to Hunting in the first place.
You’ll note that I am excluding so-called New Business Development specialists who might spend their entire career in the pursuit of new accounts to open up. Though I suspect that a good many of these guys progress to account management too, and I’d even bet that progressing in that direction becomes an aspiration?
Great Hunters all start the same way. Hungry and hard-working.
They do not wait for the world to deliver for them the living they think they deserve, rather they throw themselves in the way of opportunity and learn in the process. They make a ton of mistakes, but still manage to win.
They set the agenda. They dictate what the client does and the earnings they take from the account list they are building and managing.
They don’t make or accept excuses. They analyse opportunity and where they feel none exists they move on. It’s far worse to stand still and wait than hang around and miss something. Always moving, always prospecting, always ‘on’.
They lose a good proportion of the business they win however. They don’t have the eye for detail needed to grow accounts, nor the patience for after care. Sitting around with an established client chewing the fat feels like the most expensive habit in the world.
They take short cuts, upset the apple cart and generally make things happen. They often leave a trail in their wake of disgruntled veteran sales people who have slept on leads for weeks that the Hunter has swooped in on. They don’t care for office politics and often make their disdain of the status quo well-known. Which is interesting, as they inevitably become part of it themselves in the end.
A word here for the natural Farmers. The start of their career is the most uncomfortable part for them. Going against the grain to push themselves into harms way. Nagging for appointments and chipping away at decisions is anathema to these guys. But they learn. Maybe with a grand dream of easier times ahead to see them through, they learn to adopt the characteristics of the natural Hunter and start to scratch that pad.
But thereafter, once the hard work is done, they come into their own. As the Hunters abhor the Farmers relish. Detail, subtlety, manoeuvrings. The Farmer is an adept. Like some throw back to the medieval courts of kings they finagle advantage and trade favours. They find leverage in the most inauspicious of circumstances.
And they always deliver. They’ll always have a contingency plan. A few quid hidden away for a rainy day. Sales managers have built careers on Farmers that are able to make things happen against all the odds. Maybe that’s why Hunters aspire to become them?
Make no mistake, natural Farmers aside, all Hunters become Farmers at some point.
They lose the edge. They lose the hunger. Rather, the hunger is replaced by a sense of entitlement. They have done the time right? Or they are the senior person and so deserve it! Whatever, they change from someone expert at carving the future out of their particular marketplace single-handedly into some kind of political lobbyist.
More intent on selling internally to management than they are externally to the client base, they will apply all the skills and techniques honed over years of trading directly at the ‘sales problem’ they face. But instead of a tough client it’s usually a sales manager. Or an accountant. Or some other innocent that gets in the way. Incidentally these guys are usually paid much less than the sales person in question!
They’ll lie cheat and bully their way around inside the organisation to get the win, where they once slashed and parried through to success directly with their new business targets.
They literally live off past glories. Stirring themselves to new business efforts only when whatever level of billing they have decided to ‘stick’ on is threatened.
And that’s the really annoying bit. They can still cut it. They still win way more than they lose. They just stop.
When they came into the game they were hungry. Now they are sated. They earn enough. They can’t stir themselves beyond these self-imposed boundaries because they don’t want to. It’s a cruel fact of the sales universe that those best suited to winning, in thinking they have already won, sit back and enjoy a life of farming.
What do you think? Am I right? Can you relate to these people in the article? If it feels like I am lionising the Hunters, I am. At one time they had it all. Why do you think they sit back and live off the fat of the list they have built?
Let me know below! As Always I look forward to hearing from you.