All Sales Problems are Management Problems

Face it, you should be selling more.

You’d like to make more money, you’d like to increase your market share, you’d like to get one over on the competition. You need to increase cash flow!

But your commercial director is telling you times are tough. Rates are under pressure, and the competition is doing crazy stuff to win business.

Your sales manager tells you that the team are working so hard they are wearing themselves out! They are struggling to find new leads, and once engaged in the sales process everything takes longer then ever to progress.

Or maybe you are your own seller? You do everything in your ‘one person band’ including product deliver, finances, accounts and everything else, and there is never enough time to devote to finding the next client or even to properly look after the ones you already rely on.

Selling is hard, times are tough, people harder to get hold of these days, buying is automated, margins are being squeezed, your suppliers are driving increasingly hard bargains, you’re no good at negotiating, you never know how to introduce yourself, the competition do such a good job, recruiting good people is really hard, you don’t pay enough to attract the right talent, marketing don’t supply the right leads, your website is rubbish, your CRM system is antiquated, your sales collateral is out of date, your inbound strategy is flawed, your pricing isn’t competitive, your product set is below par, you don’t have enough awareness in the market place… The list goes on.

All or some or none of these things maybe be true. But thats not the point.

‘He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else’ (Benjamin Franklin)

Either you manage the sales team or the sales team manage you. Either you mange your sales process, or the sales process manages you.

All sales problems are management problems.

Hire, train, and retain the best people in the market. Have a sales philosophy. Something that will stand up to the most demanding scrutiny. Have a plan – what you need to do in order to win – and make sure your sales people (or you yourself) stick to the plan.

Its that simple. And that difficult.

I can guarantee, that unless you are literally the ONLY player in your market, someone is taking cash off your table, by out promoting you and out selling you.

What are you going to do about it?

(With thanks as ever to my mentor in all things Dave Gifford)

10 Ways To Get Started on Twitter When You Haven’t Tried It Before

Twitter log in screen
Getting started on Twitter

A very good friend of mine is keen to get started on Twitter. He isn’t very technically minded, having grown up in a different world, and so he’s a little nervous about my previous advice to ‘jump right in’! Neither did he want to start his journey with what he regards as ‘advanced books’ like the brilliant Tao of Twitter – which really does cover everything you need to know!

Given his reluctance, I though it was a good idea to really get down to basics and start from the beginning.

His last email on the subject started with a question about security, and I realised, I don’t even think about some of this stuff any more, but people new to social media, and there still are some, really do need some of these take for granted things answered.

Obviously Twitter has no more a security issue than any other top quality site. A decent password regime, where you change a mixed alpha numeric password on a regular basis is still a highly regarded strategy.

Twitter has been described as a ‘firehose’ and therein lies both its strength and weakness

Strength as in its possible to sample in the live news feeds exactly what the world is talking about right at that point in time. 

But the consequent weakness is something that can become an overwhelming flow of non stop and incomplete thoughts. 

Twitter is ‘the headline media’. 140 characters or less means people are limited to posts that are simply a ‘catchy’ description and a link. It’s perfect for those looking to promote stuff, especially content.

But the question is who is it exactly that you’re talking to? 

There are a couple of ways to organise your news feed and the overwhelming stream of information. The most basic is to ‘follow’ people. This fills your feed with the tweets of those you choose to follow, rather than the entire population of Twitter.

However, you’ll soon find you are following a lot of people, possibly many thousands after some time on the service, and once again there is a sense of being overwhelmed. Though now that you are time served its a little more easy to manage. 

(There are other ways to manage the news feeds, but we can move on to that once we are past the basics) 

When it comes to writing your own ‘Tweets’ you are basically ‘shouting’ your tweet into the endless cacophony of Twitter’s firehose, and as you can imagine, its pretty difficult to achieve effective reach and frequency. 

But remember those people you’ve followed? Well, the idea is, you get your ‘target market’ to follow you. 

While that’s very much the trick, and the subject of many pages of blogs and books, it’s pretty easy to do. Let’s assume you are able to ‘create’ a following.

Note: While I have about 3,000 people following me after employing various strategies.We need to be careful as not all are genuine people with a connection. That can effect your reach too. Of Obama’s 20 million or so followers, some people have put the number of fake accounts (for reasons of spamming) at as much as 90%!

But in effect you ‘grow’ an audience for your tweets. Following people you think might be interested in listening to you, and having them follow you back is a basic courtesy on twitter. But the issue remains, you will have to build a relationship of sorts to that audience in order to cut through the noise and end up in those feeds and getting any traction.

If I were to Tweet a link to a blog post, or a comment on the recent UK election or even just a remark about how nice the day is (rain again!) then the chances are that the one-off post will get little attention. On the other hand If you are building an audience and looking to engage them you will no doubt be tweeting them several times a day. This is a strategy proven to build audience for blogs and websites – it works.

Tweeting out to your audience results in conversations with people and the sort of low-level social media bonds that are created allow for transmission of your content from one user to another. Simply put, if someone you know engages with you on Twitter, and you post a blog, there is a good chance they will share that post with their followers.

So to start – jump right in!

1) Visit www.twitter.com 

2) Create an account with the name you’d like to be seen with – nothing wrong with your own name or a variation of. All names on Twitter are preceded by the @ symbol. Its Twitters way of identifying you. Your Twitter name, or handle is then exclusively yours. Mine is @MrTonyDowling 

3) Remember to use a decent password – one with a mix of numbers and letters and a mix of cases is regarded as the strongest type. 

4) Follow the on-screen instructions – Twitter will prompt you to follow people. It finds out what you are interested in to start with and makes intelligent suggestions for people and brands for you to follow. 

5) Browse through the content and be amazed at the sheer scale of information available!

6) Interact – send replies to interesting Tweets and make conversation. This is how you’ll learn to create that all important engaged audience. 

7) Experiment with tweets. Link to content you’ve really enjoyed – copy the link and add it to a tweet. Add your personal perspective and hit send! Or just pontificate! A few days of immersion in the Twitter feeds and you will soon start to pick up the language.

8) Consciously build your targeted audience. Basically, following people on Twitter usually results in the person you’ve followed, following you back. So follow the sort of people you want to talk to – Cleverly building an audience of like-minded people for you to engage with. 

9) Read! Twitter has so much written about it. Google questions you have (Or ask me if you have the time) and read as many opinions as possible. Like everything else in life no one has the definitive answer or view on this stuff.

10) Enjoy! Twitter is literally awesome. You can easily get lost in it. Endlessly scrolling through tweets and being diverted to interesting websites and links. It’s easy to be dismissive of it, but it truly is an aggregator of the human condition. 

That’s probably enough to get started with.. 

There’s a lot more to it, but using it and becoming familiar with it is what you need to do now. Once you are comfortable tweeting, and talking to people on-line, we’ll be ready to move onto more advanced plans to build your audience and market your content.

What do YOU think? What are your basic Twitter tips for my friend? Leave them below in the comments! 

The ‘Social’ Travel Agent!

Screen shot of Offonhols.com
Screen shot of Offonhols.com

A Twitter friend of mine @ian_vaughan recently messaged me with his exciting new website and asked me to take a look. I’m not a web designer, and even hesitate to offer much more than a consumers perspective on these sorts of things, but I must say what I saw really impressed me.

The site called Offonhols.com claims to be ‘Your social travel agent’. The idea is very simple. If you were to find a great deal on a holiday, flight or what have you, and you shared that deal on “Offonhols.com” and then other users of the site were to book that deal – you make money!

I must say right off, I have only looked through the site and poked about on the various users, I haven’t used it to buy a holiday, and I’m not qualified to advise you on whether these deals are worth buying or not, you can tell that for yourself, Neither do I have any relationship, financial or otherwise with the site.

Having got that out of the way, I can tell you I really like what I see. It’s a lovely bright site, nicely designed. The company looks really professional and all the deals are laid out in a brilliant fashion giving the sense of the wonder that a hard earned holiday does. And whats not to love about cheaper holidays right?

At the very least, whether you register to take part or not, its got to be worth having a look around and trying to find a bargain.

All the big travel companies are there, and you are buying directly from them, not the site. Clicking on the deals takes you to the site of the travel company itself, like this:

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 10.06.07
Screen shot of a deal from Offonhols.com

And there are loads to look at too. A quick peruse just now sees deals on holidays and flights from Flybe as above, and British Airways to Mothers Day spa breaks and Sunshine holidays to Turkey.

The best bit has to be the ‘social part’ though I’m guessing?

The site claims to make the process really easy too:

Screenshot from Offonhols.com
Screenshot from Offonhols.com

And the idea is really compelling. This seems to be a site where you can not only find a great deal from a reputable company, you can also post the great deals you find elsewhere and earn a commission on those that sell.

So there you go, a great idea, and I hope it works out for the owners. In the meantime, why not check it out. As I said, I’ve no link to the site, and have not used the services to book anything, not have I registered, so I can’t comment on that side either, but it certainly looks worth a look before booking your next holiday.

 

 

 

How to Fail at Advertising

I’ve had some nice feedback from the last post on this theme, How to fail in three easy steps. Its a nice format, a short and hopefully punchy few paragraphs of advice, and its inspired me to write maybe a couple of others on this theme.

It amazes me how many businesses get even pretty simple ideas so wrong. Size isn’t everything in this area, as Ive seen everyone from Global brands to local shops make the same basic errors.

There is of course a lot to think about when it comes to advertising, from the channels you need to use to the creative treatment. And maybe we’ll get onto some of that in the future, but for now, here are three things you absolutely need to get right, or risk failure…

1. Fail to target

Your advertising should speak to one person. OK, one market if you must go for scale, but under no account should you aim to talk to more than one segment per campaign. I have lost count of the times Ive heard the client (or agency) answer ‘Everyone’ or even worse, ‘Adults 15 plus’ in radio language, in answer to the question, ‘who are you talking to?’

Recipe for disaster. How hard is it to talk to two of three people at a party? Or how confused do you get when your boss is asking you for something, and wants it right now, while you’re talking to a client on the phone?

Your advertising is the same confusing mess of noise if it tries to capture too many targets at once. If you are aiming at men, aim at men. Don’t aim at men, and women who buy for men. Geddit? Good..

2. Fail to ask for action 

‘I didn’t get a response’ says the client.

‘What did you ask people to do?’ says I.

‘What do you mean?’ responds the client…

Always ask the receiver of the advertising message to ‘do’ something. Call, or visit your website or buy now, and pay later – whatever, make sure there is a call to action.

The only time you can get away with less explicit requests is when you are brand advertising, or awareness advertising. The idea here is to make sure people are aware of your offering, or understand your specific position in the market. But even then you can think in terms of asking people to be aware of you, or asking them to think of you in a certain way.

3. Fail to provide a compelling reason to respond

I’m not sure which of these three points are the biggest sin. But for sure, I see this one A LOT! And as the great copywriter Mike Bersin once told me (Once!? Who am I kidding!) lots of small reasons don’t make one big one.

Why should people respond to your campaign if you don’t give them a good reason to? Why should they rush to your websites, or over to your shop, or pick up the phone to talk to you unless there is an absolutely compelling reason for them to do it?

And if you don’t think you have one you’re not alone. Many of the people I’ve worked with have struggled to come up with one big reason, luckily there is a lesson to be learned from big brands.

Big brands know they need to ‘own’ certain attributes in their customers minds eye. What brands fit these attributes?

Cool…

Sexy…

Reliable…

Timeless…

Fun…

Healthy…

And so on.

If you’re not cheaper, or faster or more reliable, or more trustworthy or whatever, or its difficult to demonstrate that you are any of those things, then its time to think of ways to inhabit one of those attributes and communicate that attribute to your customers.

But make it one really important attribute to one customer, and tell them why its important!

What do you guys think? Anything I’ve missed? Or anything you would have put in place of numbers 1,2 or 3? As ever, please leave a comment below.

 

 

Confidence on Tap!

My friend Sean's new website
My friend Sean’s new website

I had a great letter from a good friend of mine the other day. He has been working on his business for a while now, and is really starting to make some head way. Over the last few years we have tried to help each other. Me with the old marketing advice, and he has tried to help me overcome some of my sports psychology issues with golf!

If you’ve ever seen me play golf, you’ll know the cause is hopeless! But Sean really seems to be making progress with his business at least.

Here is his (edited) note;

Hi Tony

It’s a long time since we spoke! I have to ask . . . how is your golf?

 I thought I’d give you an update on what I have been doing – inspired from that day when you created a word press website for me and showed me Mark W Schaefer’s website. Ever since I have been striving to create a similar platform for myself!

 I have a new website: www.confidenceontap.com and have just published my second ebook: ‘Freedom from Exam Stress’ The book includes chapters on how to help students deal with such challenges as: Procrastination. Pre-Test Anxiety, Feeling Overwhelmed, Perfectionism and many more. The book also includes ten custom made audio downloads that students can use even as they walk into the exam room to help keep them calm and a ten minute video explaining the technique. 

I would we be great if possible I you are able to advise me on how to market this book. I do feel approaching some newspapers and radio stations would be a good idea. 

This link is for my sales page. http://bit.ly/1zILnBq I look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes

Sean

My reply – and its helps if you pop over to Seans website for a look first, might make more sense!

Hi Sean

I have just two main points to make. 

I would definitely get some of the testimonials you use more developed. Try and use pictures of the people featured, and even better, video if you can. You use video brilliantly on the site, and I think some video testimonials would fit in really well. 

And then get these on the home page so that they are easier for people to see. Don’t just list them on the testimonial page. Its a bit flat and not at all attention grabbing. 

Maybe have a carousel with testimonials rotating in the middle of the homepage? Do you know what I mean? Your web developer can help with this. And pictures at least, if not video of the real people you’ve helped. 

The other point is the blog. 

This is the chance you have to really make this website sing! 

There are two reasons to make sure you post more regularly. 

One is that it makes the website look like a current, modern place to visit, and means the reader thinks its more likely there is a real person the other side.

Two is that Google loves fresh content. Publishing to your blog regularly means Google is more likely to point people to your site in answer to their questions. So if people are online line searching for the answers to the questions you are able to help them with, it makes sense to make sure Google knows about you and is happy to send you traffic. 

In terms of promoting your book and the site, there isn’t a better thing you could do than to blog on a regular basis!

Think about writing everything from in depth articles to interviews with your own sporting or musical heroes, maybe updates on the latest in EFT or even just great stories from the world of high performance. And don’t limit yourself to writing – you can also do podcasts and even better, and really in keeping with your website, videos blogs.

Don be afraid to ‘give away’ answers to the questions you are often asked. Don’t ever be be afraid to help people. It actually just makes them even more likely to buy the books. Mark Schaefer will tell you that everything he has ever published in book form is available for free on his website.

What should you post about?

Try thinking of the top ten questions people have about EFT and try to answer those? One question per blog and don’t be afraid to repeat topics with different types of answers.

Also, invite your readers to ask you questions that you can then use to create blog posts! Its a great way to create a helpful website that people find really credible.

PLUS like I said, Google loves blogs. It likes sites that have fresh content that people find useful. Sites that people comment on and link to.

This is the main objective for you now, to create a living breathing website, rather than a brochure type flat website that feels like it hasn’t been updated for a while – even if it has been.

Mark Schafer’s site is obviously a brilliant one to emulate, but here is another great one for you to look at…

http://www.marksdailyapple.com

This is a ‘Paleo diet’ site, but the guy sets out with the magic ingredient front and centre. He is trying to help. I read the site and I believe he is there to help people. And thats the trick. Only its not a trick! 

Being authentic and helpful on the web is a great way to build your community and your business. And you’ll see that in action on ‘Marks Daily Apple’ and very much so on Mark Schaefer’s website also. 

Don’t put too much effort into the traditional PR route for press and radio just yet.

There is no harm in getting featured of course, and it even adds a bit of credibility to say that you have been published and interviewed and what not, but all that effort results in very fleeting coverage – and one thing you need to be successful in the tradition media market place is a consistent presence.

Your time in the short terms would be better spent creating a regularly updated blog that encourages your readers to comment and ask questions of you, and the others in the community, Traditional PR certainly has value, but its a tough slog for minimal return compared to the return you would get from a regularly updated blog.

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 16.53.51

ANOTHER THING….

Have a think about using PPC / Facebook advertising? 

PPC or pay per click is a way to pay Google (or other search engines) to send traffic to your website. The idea is that you select the sort of person you are interested in reaching – say for instance, people searching for information about driving tests? Or exam stress? And the search engines send the person to you, and you pay each time some one clicks.

Do a quick search to have a look at the pros and cons for yourself.  But in theory at least, its a very cost efficient way to advertise, as you only pay for what you get, plus you set the budget up front and budgets can be very small.

You can do exactly the same thing on Facebook and Twitter and the platforms will direct your ads, or sponsored stories (there are other ways to do it) directly at people you have pre selected. You can target by age, or demographic or location or behaviour. 

There are drawbacks – Just because you get clicks and traffic, doesn’t necessarily follow you will get people buying from you. You could get some clicks made in error, or people don’t think they have found what they were looking for on your site and quickly click off.

But with a bit of research into what works and how to do it, you’ll be well away. Im convinced this is a very valuable way to build a web business – But caution needs to be applied. 

So there you go, so advice for Sean than I hope you find useful too. And what about you? Have you guys got any advice for him? Anything Ive missed out, or any issue you’d take with whatever I’ve said?

Feel free to comment below!

How to get more customers

I’ve had an email from a lovely lady called Christine who offers a very modern service. With more people working remotely and not wanting to get tied up in bricks and mortar offices, her ‘Virtual Assistant‘ services sound like a dream come true for busy executives.

But like any new business Christine needs to attract customers. And not only attract customers, but attract them on a consistent basis. This sort of thing can often be feast or famine…

Its a well trodden road for new businesses. People start up a new business, and full of the first flush of enthusiasm spend money on getting set up and getting ready to go, only to stand back a week or a month later and wonder where their revenue is going to come from. They maybe do a bit of networking, or send out an e.shot, or maybe even use Facebook and Twitter.

A few customers, come along, and often, because they are small businesses, and by definition don’t have much in the way of resource, the attention turns to dealing with the customers they’ve won. Which results in the flow of new business getting choked off. Which means in a few days, weeks or months, they are back at square one.

Winning, and consistently winning new business is the hardest part of the job for even big business – just look at Tesco – so there is no reason why it should be easy for small businesses.

I think ‘in bound sales’ is a very attractive method to try, seemingly easier to do than ‘out bound’, but in my opinion, nothing is more effective than getting out there and talking to your customers, and learning what they really need.

But whichever way you favour, the trick is to think about customer acquisition differently. This is the magic ingredient if you like.

Instead of thinking of yourself as a virtual assistant, as in the case of my friend Christine, or a flower shop, or a drum tutor, or whatever it is your business is, you need to think of yourself as ‘Vice President in Charge of New Business Generation!’

There are two types of business, as my mentor Dave Gifford would say, new business and repeat business – and one doesn’t come without the other. There are many ways to arrange sales for your organisation. You could adopt an approach of being highly differentiated, such as Christine, or maybe an exclusive art dealer. This means you will deal with relatively few, but high value customers.

Or you can take a leaf out of the discount retailers handbook and trade on price. That means being the absolute cheapest you can be, which means you have to be the cost leader to win as well. Often a position open to only the biggest businesses.

But irrespective of which approach, you still need to find new customers.

I’ve often seen new businesses set up and position themselves on the high end / differentiated end of the market, only to panic when the customers don’t start to flow in.

Mistakenly thinking this is because they are too expensive, they often drop their prices in desperation. They may well be too expensive, but this in itself isn’t the reason they aren’t attracting customers. And all they have done is eat into their margins. So as well as struggling to sell anything, they are now finding it increasingly difficult to turn a profit.

The easiest way to position something is through price. People generally think expensive things are good quality and high value, and cheap things are poor quality and low value. So pricing high quality things at a low price often confuses the customer. Worse, people know there is no such thing as a ‘free lunch’. So they simply don’t believe the claims of the business that sells top quality stuff at low low prices. Making it even harder to sell  – a vicious circle!

It’s better to stick to your price, one that demonstrates good value, and allows you to turn a profit (which most people don’t object to either strangely enough) and concentrate on bringing in the customers.

Put another way, simply dropping prices is not enough. And sometimes its even counter productive.

Selling is easy.

There, I said it! Selling is easy!

You just need to know what the customer wants, and how much they want to pay for it, and then sell them that.

The trick is talking to enough customers.

Whether that’s ‘Face to Face’ as a good old fashioned sales rep, on the telephone as a sales canvasser, or through a high tech website based content marketing operation, using the latest social media marketing techniques.

Talking to more people = more sales. Period.

Asking more people to buy from you = more sales. Period.

It’s a fact that most sales operations fail, not because they are too expensive, or the product isn’t good enough, or the marketing let them down. It wasn’t because the economy was busted, or that credit was hard to get. It wasn’t because the sales person wasn’t a good enough negotiator.

It was because they didn’t see enough people.

There isn’t a single sales problem that can’t be solved by seeing more people. The very first thing you should do when concerned about the strategies you employ to win business, is try to get a sense of whether you are doing enough. Or doing whatever it is consistently enough?

It’s not your website (unless it physically cant get traffic to it) its not the product, its not the price. Its not the promotional materials. Its not the location. Its not any of those things! Its just that you aren’t talking to enough people.

The point is that most people would rather mess around with their website, or the marketing mix, or tweak the advertising rather than do more canvassing, or make more calls, or see more people, or whatever else it takes to win. The chances are, you know how to win business already.

It takes time, and it’s messy, and that’s why you don’t do more of it.

Clearly you have to have all these other bits right. You have to have a differentiated product, and you have to understand your market. You have to understand how pricing works and how it can reflect on your  product or your  brand, and you have to know when to discount and when not to etc.

But ultimately, to get more customers, you need to make more calls.

And that’s the bottom line.