The Master Marketer BLOG

Create Content for the Three Initial Marketing Stages

Posted by Jeffrey Schmidt on Fri, Oct 19, 2012 @ 11:39 AM

Hey, here's a riddle for you:

What is the single most important part of your business, which will always be beyond your control?

The answer? Your customers, of course.

It might seem obvious to say, but the main goal of marketing is to change your customers' behavior. You have to have them to stay in business, and you have to keep trying out new ways of guiding them to your door. Much like a fisherman trying out different lures, we'll never have a complete picture of what a customer's thought process looks like, but we've got a pretty good idea.

There's a popular “funnel” model of the sales process, from the point of view of the consumer, which is summed up with three basic steps:


Thre Stages of Marketing Funnel

Problem Awareness: The customer becomes aware of a need going unfulfilled and begins researching it.

Research and Evaluation: The customer starts looking for information on their problem and potential solutions.

Comparison of Alternative Prior to Purchase: The customer compares potential solutions and decides on one, preferably your product.

However, in this model, we're not consumers. We're selling something. In fact, good marketing means pitching your marketing content differently for people at each of those three stages. So, let's turn that funnel inside out and talk instead about how you should be marketing yourself to fit these stages.

Oh, and one important distinction: you may not be leading an individual customer step-by-step through these phases. Write a range of content so there's something to appeal to any customer who wanders along at any stage in the sales process.

Phase 1: Selling The Solution

One way or the other, we're in business to provide solutions to problems. However, any given problem a customer might have is likely to have multiple solutions. It might not even be a problem the customer is aware of until we bring it up. Either way, the first step towards getting their sale is convincing them they have a problem, and that a solution like yours is a good option.

To get the word out, try:

Blogs about problems on your website and how your class of products can help.

Short videos. (Think about how infomercials sell everyday problems, then be less blatant.)

eBooks, Checklists (“Are You (problem) Ready?”), Whitepapers, and other similar materials.

Social media updates mentioning the problem and asking about solutions.

Phase 2: Selling Your Product

Once the customer believes they have a problem and it's something you, or a company like yours, can do something about, it's time to start convincing them that your products are the best specific solution. This is the point to start bringing out the bigger guns:

Detailed product descriptions and spec sheets.

Free webinars or filmed discussions.

Slideshows with feature comparisons.

Product reviews.

Free samples or demos.

Phase 3: Selling Yourself

So, we're now looking at the remaining potential customers who both have a problem and believe products you carry are the solution. However, there's still one more thing that has to be sold: yourself. Chances are, even if you have a unique product or service, there are still parity problems out there. To seal the deal, you have to convince them that YOU are worth doing business with.

Try:

Free consultations.

Detailed case studies \ portfolios.

Customer testimonials.

Coupons or other promotions.

Leveraging social connections on Facebook and LinkedIn to improve your image.

Marketing in Three Easy Steps

That's it. If you can sell the problem, your solution, and yourself, you've made yourself a customer. If you ensure all your online content is always aiming towards at least one of these phases, you'll be catching more fish in no time.

Call DeepSky Marketing to find out how you can create profitable marketing strategies for your company. DeepSky Marketing is a company that provides businesses with profitable marketing systems and verifiable return on investment (ROI). To schedule a brief no-cost consultation call 707 823-3888.

Tags: marketing, marketing planning, sales, Internet marketing, Content Strategy

There's more to Social Media than Facebook and Twitter 3: Foursquare

Posted by Jeffrey Schmidt on Thu, Sep 13, 2012 @ 01:01 PM

One of the most interesting directions social media has gone in the last couple years is mobile. That is, social media services and applications which are explicitly intended to be used by people who are on the go, through devices such as smartphones and tablets.

It seems strange, but it turns out, folks online like to share their physical location as they go about their day. This has opened up a new field in social media advertising, one that blurs the physical/virtual divide and utilizes the Internet to market to people who are standing outside your door.

FourSquare Logo

Introducing FourSquare

Right now, the king of these location-based social services is FourSquare, which currently boasts at least twenty million users. The concept of the site is extremely simple: when you go someplace, you "check-in" with FourSquare and announce to your friends that's where you are.

FourSquare also has a series of innovative benefits for their users to encourage use. There's a scoring system that awards points for activities like checking-in at a new location, as well as the possibility of being declared "mayor" of a specific location by checking-in there the most times.

The demographics of FourSquare definitely skew towards females, by roughly 2:1, and age-wise, has a nearly perfect bell curve centering on those 35-44 and dropping off in either direction. Its users generally make around 25K-75K a year, and overwhelmingly have at least a partial college education.

Using FourSquare in Social Media Marketing

FourSquare marketing is fundamentally about giving people a reason to go to your location. Here are a few ideas on achieving that:

  • Offer discounts or freebies for checking in. These can effectively work like coupons, such as a restaurant offering a free desert (with entree purchase) for users.

  • Create a special title or perk for whoever is the "mayor" of your location at the moment. Even a piece of branded merchandise like a work shirt can be effective here.

  • Move beyond your location. The History Channel, for example, has tied FourSquare to a series of history facts worldwide so that someone checking in at the London Bridge would get a quick factoid about it. This can be a good way of keeping people aware of your brand even as they move around.

  • Make stand-alone displays interactive. It takes a bit of engineering, but it's entirely possible to set up a static display such as a sign to react to people checking-in near it and dispense items such as coupons or free samples.

On Coupon Apps

While FourSquare is probably the only major mobile social network worth considering at the moment, there is a lot of potential in partnering with a coupon app such as the appropriately named The Coupon App.

These work in conjunction with mobile devices that automatically track a user's location - mostly those using 3G and 4G cell networks - and deliver virtual coupons to prospective customers as they walk by your store. They also offer features such as coupons that are triggered by barcode scanning, an increasingly popular activity among mobile-savvy shoppers.

These services are generally quite inexpensive compared to most marketing, and can be extremely effective both in getting people in the door and inspiring them to interact with your merchandise.

The Future

Of course, this is really just the beginning. Mobile social advertising is going to get really interesting in a few more years, if Google's augmented-reality visor takes off. Imagine beaming virtual advertisements that appear "in front" of your visitors as they walk by, or potentially even interact with them directly.

The day isn't far off at this point.

Call DeepSky Marketing to find out how you can create profitable marketing strategies for your company. DeepSky Marketing is a company that provides businesses with profitable marketing systems and verifiable return on investment (ROI). To schedule a brief no-cost consultation call 707 823-3888.

Tags: sales, Social Media, FourSquare

There's more to Social Media than Facebook and Twitter 1: Reddit

Posted by Jeffrey Schmidt on Fri, Aug 31, 2012 @ 03:18 PM

So, when companies talk about leveraging social media marketing, generally they just stick to talking about Twitter and Facebook. However, there are still a lot of sites out there, some of them in niches that might not fit everyone, but could be perfect for your business model. So, we're going to spend a little time talking about social media marketing on some of the other major websites – what to do, what not to do, and who you could be marketing towards.
For this first installment, we'll be talking about one of the most popular and yet most difficult-to-market to sites on the Internet: Reddit.
Reddit
Social Media Marketing and Reddit
Overview
A unique success story among the “Web 2.0” social content aggregators that began to pop up several years ago, Reddit has since outpaced sites such as Fark, Slashdot, and Digg to be one of the most-trafficked sites on the Internet.
Content is submitted as individual links, and then voted up or down by users, determining its visibility. Comments are encouraged, and discussions often get lively. One difference between Reddit and similar sites are the existence of “subreddits,” which are offshoots of the main site devoted to a single topic. There are more than 100,000 subreddits, with thousands being actively used every day, on topics ranging from politics, to historical photography, to My Little Pony.
Marketing on Reddit
Trying to use Reddit in social media marketing is daunting. Its user base tends to be cynical, to say the least. The average age of a Redditor around 20-35.  Redditors are young, fairly well-educated, extremely Internet-savvy, and politically aware.  Traditional advertising usually does not work on them.

Linking to your blog will generally be a failure unless the content is truly unique, entertaining, and directly relevant to the subreddit you submit it to. Submitting content to Reddit is something of an acid test. If it's recycled material or mis-filed, it will be downvoted into nonexistence within minutes.
Working with Reddit
None the less, Reddit does have some soft spots, and tends to respond favorably to the following things:
  • Internet regulation: Reddit has become known as a political crusader, and has been instrumental in drumming up opposition for technology laws it believes will harm Internet freedom, as well as supporting companies that do so.
  • Personal freedoms: Reddit tends to side strongly with civil rights movements, such as promoting alternatives to Chick-Fil-A during the recent fuss.
  • “Indie” culture: Reddit tolerates more open advertising from small, independent producers. Links to venture sites like Bandcamp and Kickstarter often do well, if the product being offered is good.
  • Niche products: The wealth of subreddits means that there's at least a small group of Redditors who are interested in your product, IF you go to the right subreddit for it. Do your research before posting.
  • Underdogs: Reddit is pretty openly anti-establishment. If you can position yourself as an underdog fighting an 800-pound gorilla, you may get a lot of sympathy and attention.
  • I Am A...”: Interactive Q&As between someone and the population are extremely popular. Those with an interesting new product or job can get a lot of exposure here, if they can handle themselves in a freeform discussion.
Final Thoughts
When using Reddit for social media marketing, there are three watchwords: humor, humility and honesty. Be unassuming and plain-spoken, don't use corporate jargon (unless sarcastically), and above all, do not lie.  The ability of Redditors to spot deception is uncanny.
In the end, Reddit is something like a lottery. There are a lot of losers, but if you win, you get incredible amounts of exposure. Good luck!

Call DeepSky Marketing to find out how you can create profitable marketing strategies for your company. DeepSky Marketing is a company that provides businesses with profitable marketing systems and verifiable return on investment (ROI). To schedule a brief no-cost consultation call 707 823-3888.

Tags: marketing, sales, Social Media

How and Why To Advertise On Facebook

Posted by Jeffrey Schmidt on Tue, Aug 28, 2012 @ 12:46 PM

Facebook marketing is still big business, and it's easy to understand why. Just to quote a few recent statistics:

  • 62% of adults - worldwide - are now on social media.

  • Social media is the single most popular online activity.

  • At current growth rates, social-based commerce will be worth $30 Billion in 2015.

  • Facebook specifically now has over 900 Million active users worldwide.

  • Facebook receives more than 137 Million unique visitors a month just from the USA.

  • Facebook user engagement is off the charts (see chart below).

Facebook User time

Facebook probably represents the single largest concentration of consumers on a single media outlet in all of advertising history. Never mind the minor troubles Facebook has been seeing lately, such as the lower-than-expected stock prices. They still have huge reach, and aren't likely to go away any time soon.

If you want to engage in Facebook marketing, there are really two interlinked ways to do it:

Direct Facebook Marketing

Facebook has a fairly advanced and complex ad delivery system that seeks to match ads which are targeted to individual users' preferences. Advertising is, in fact, Facebook's main revenue source. If you happen to have an ad spend of $1,500 per month or more Facebook will assign an advertising strategist to your account for free. You call Facebook directly at 1-800-608-1600 for information directly from the source.

Facebook advertising is done through their official site on a self serve basis or through third parties such as Qwaya. This powerful tool allows you to create ads, select extremely specific demographic groups to target, and even schedule at what times a day the ads should show. It also includes advanced analytic functions such as allowing you to run multiple versions of the same ad and then directly compare their performance. For smaller companies this is a good choice.

Calculating the ROI on your ad investment then is a matter of totaling how many people visited your web site from your FB ads OR, calculating your cost-per-connection. That is, how much it costs you to get the person to become a "fan" of you on Facebook, opening them up to more advertising. It's simply the cost of your ad spend divided by the number of connections it brings you.

Social Facebook Marketing

The other main way to advertise on Facebook is by directly using its social features. You start off by convincing people, such as visitors to your website, to become "fans" of yours. Then you endeavor to post content to Facebook that they want to share with their friends.

It's been shown repeatedly in studies that a majority of Facebook users are fully willing to recommend products and services that they are "fans" of, so this creates an easy way to get your fans to do some of your marketing for you. It's word-of-mouth, for the new age.

Here are a few tips for getting the most out of your Facebook posts:

  • Be relatively informal and plain-spoken. Don't try too hard to use slang unless you know you can do it well, but avoid appearing stuffy or writing in "corporatese."

  • Some level of self-promotion - especially special offers or discounts - is acceptable, but not every post should be directly trying to make sales.

  • Seek to engage your audience by posting content that inspires them to reply, such as open-ended questions or discussions of possible changes to your product.

  • Facebook can be a nice way to conduct very quick bits of focus-grouping, to see if an idea is worth exploring further. Just be willing to respect the voice of the crowd if they hate an idea you love.

  • Pictures and videos tend to generate the most shares among Facebook friends, so remember to have a mix of text and pictorial messages.

  • Remember, above all, that your fans are there voluntarily, simply because they like you. They aren't a captive audience and will leave if treated like one.

Facebook marketing is an exciting new field with a lot of potential growth. Used well, it can be an invaluable aid for boosting your brand, product recognition, and ultimately, your sales.

Call DeepSky Marketing to find out how you can create profitable marketing strategies for your company. DeepSky Marketing is a company that provides businesses with profitable marketing systems and verifiable return on investment (ROI). To schedule a brief no-cost consultation call 707 823-3888.

Tags: sales, Social Media, Facebook

Internet Marketing Keys: Understanding Both People and Technology

Posted by Jeffrey Schmidt on Fri, Aug 10, 2012 @ 06:59 AM

At the risk of sounding like an old zen master, I'm coming to worry that too many companies engaging in Internet marketing are fundamentally out of balance. As I see it, Internet marketing fundamentally relies on two entirely different thought processes to succeed, and it needs both of them to work well.

On one hand, SEO and content marketing is primarily aimed at catering to your customers. You want to make new connections and provide content that people out there want to see. On the other hand, Internet marketing is fundamentally a statistics game, and as we've talked about previously, there is an overwhelming amount of data to be sorted through if you're going to actually see a return on your investment.

Both of these elements – a human focus, and a data focus – are both needed in roughly equal proportions if your SEO is to succeed. Yet far too many companies lean too far in one direction or the other, creating an imbalance that leads their Internet marketing to underperform, or even fail entirely.

To succeed in SEO, you need to balance both within your strategy.

Balanced SEO

Taking a Customer Focus Too Far

It could be reasonably argued that a company could never place too strong an emphasis on its customers and social interactions, but at the same time, it cannot be the sole focus of your SEO strategies.

Basically, you cannot focus solely on being liked – literally and figuratively – without regards to anything else. Yes, it's great if your pageviews are up and you've got 200% more Facebook fans than you did a year ago... but is anyone actually buying anything? Good will only takes you so far.

Along with a drive to be well-liked and succeed in social media, a company still needs to have solid practices in place to translate that into sales. They need to understand how to look at their customers' interactions with their website and look for ways to funnel more people onto landing pages. That sort of work requires a good understanding of statistics and analytics.

The Internet is More Than Ones and Zeros

Realizing the importance of analytics sometimes then sends companies down another wrong path: allowing data to be more important than people. These are the sorts of firms who auto-spin hundreds of nearly-identical articles to try to improve their inbound link rates, rather than producing quality content that anyone wants to read and link to. They consider keyword percentage rates more important than choosing keywords that read well in articles.

In short, they believe they can cut the human element out almost entirely, and still gather sales by playing numbers games with Google. It's short-sighted, but there has been an explosion in the past years of firms aiming to win the SEO game in this way.

Bring Balance To The SEO

To have great Internet marketing, you need people in charge of it who are comfortable in both realms. You need people who understand how to relate to your customers, as well as how to take those human interactions and translate them into the hard data that's required for analysis and optimization.

This is a tricky mix to find, since people skills and computer skills don't often land in the same person. Yet, without that balance, your Internet marketing strategies will be fundamentally crippled.

If you think your own SEO has gotten out of balance, then it's time for a high-level strategy meeting. Get your people to understand the necessity of utilizing both approaches, and you'll be well on the road towards having truly effective Internet Marketing.

Call DeepSky Marketing to find out how you can create profitable marketing strategies for your company. DeepSky Marketing is a company that provides businesses with profitable marketing systems and verifiable return on investment (ROI). To schedule a brief no-cost consultation call 707 823-3888.

Tags: marketing planning, sales, Online marketing, SEO

Truth and Sincerity: the Currency of Trust in Selling

Posted by Jeffrey Schmidt on Thu, Jul 12, 2012 @ 11:31 AM

While building trust has always been a crucial part of the sales process, it's become even more important in the digital age. Modern consumers expect to be treated well, and are quick to flee from the traditional "high-pressure" sales techniques. If you can't convince them that their needs are being considered, they'll probably go elsewhere.

People buy from brands they trust.

This makes trust the unofficial "currency" of selling. In your interactions with your customers, whether it's in person, on the phone, or through email, you have to constantly be aware of their trust levels and work on improving them.

If you want to do this, you need to embrace customer-focused sales.

Trust Fall

Customer-Focused Sales Tactics Build Trust

Trust is an intangible thing, especially in sales. The customer is always aware that a salesman wants to sell something, and they aren't going to forget it. What they need to believe is that you also care about fulfilling their own wishes as well, and that you aren't simply trying to sell them what YOU want to sell.

Here are a few tactics to try:

Listen to the customer's needs. Don't lead off with your sales pitch. Lead off with questions to find out what, exactly, the customer's problem or desire is, and honestly look for the product that will best suit their needs. Practice your listening skills at least as much as your pitch; they'll serve you better.

Don't be a know-it-all. If a customer asks you a question about the product you can't answer, don't make one up. This is the digital age. Pull out a smartphone or tablet and find the answer for them. Being honest about gaps in your knowledge and then immediately finding the answer is a great trust-builder.

Mirror them. Pay attention to details of how they present themselves. Do they speak slowly or quickly? What sorts of gestures and mannerisms do they use? Try to adopt a bit of your customer's mannerisms, subtly. Acting more like "their kind of people" can tend to make them lower their mental shields a bit.

Show an interest. Don't just quiz them for the necessary details about make, model, and color. Ask about how they'll be using the product, and in what situations? Besides encouraging them to open up a bit, and possibly giving you a chance to ask about their work or family, you can also learn new details about their needs that can help you find a better product.

Be transparent. If you're selling to the public, don't vanish into the back to "talk with your manager" and keep them hanging. That's a cheap trick most people resent. Try to do as much business as you can in front of them. If you're working in B2B or B2G, write up proposals in the same room as your customer, so that you can collaborate and work through it as you go.

Be sincere. You need to honestly be a "people person," and that doesn't just mean a manipulator. The customer needs to believe that you do have an interest in their family or their office systems, beyond just small talk. Fundamentally, if they think it's all a pitch, it won't work.

Sell Without Selling

In short, the trick to gaining trustworthiness is to make the sales process seem as little like selling as possible. Make it feel like a discussion of a problem and an exploration of possible solutions to that problem. Focus on your customer's needs and honestly make them happy, and you won't just make a sale today, you'll make a repeat customer.

Call DeepSky Marketing to find out how you can create profitable marketing strategies for your company. DeepSky Marketing is a company that provides businesses with profitable marketing systems and verifiable return on investment (ROI). To schedule a brief no-cost consultation call 707 823-3888.

Tags: Sales process, sales

When Selling Focus on the Large Picture Benefit for Your Client

Posted by Jeffrey Schmidt on Mon, Jul 09, 2012 @ 08:58 AM

When you've been selling something, you've probably had this happen:

You lead off with your best pitch. The customer seems interested, but a bit hesitant. You want to make the sale, but despite your best efforts, the customer just ends up focusing on details. The color is wrong, or it doesn't have the exact feature set he wants, or he just can't quite get past the price tag. The conversation quickly derails into bickering over minor issues until the customer says he'll “think about it” and, most likely, goes elsewhere.

No one is born into selling, and chances are, we've all had experiences like this. It's easy to accidentally let the customer take control of the conversation, and talk themselves out of the purchase. This is why focusing on the Big Picture is so crucial when selling.

As long as you can keep the customer focused on the positive outcome ahead of him, rather than the details, you can help him talk himself into the purchase, rather than talking himself out of it.

Focusing the Customer on the Big Picture When Selling

Every purchase is solving a problem. No one buys anything truly at random. Whether it's an impulse-buy candy bar at the supermarket, or a new air conditioner, or a Porsche, there is something lacking in the customer's life that they believe can be fixed through a purchase. When selling, one of the first things you should identify is what this problem is. Identify the problem, and you can focus your pitch on how your product solves it.

Emphasize the value to the customer. “Value” is a complex idea, and people have different definitions of it. Value might mean the initial price, or the TCO, or its expected longevity. When emphasizing the value of your products, try to find out what the customer believes “value” is, and play to that. This is part of deducing their problem and pitching your product as a solution to it.

Focus on positive long-term outcomes. Sticker shock is a very real phenomenon when selling, and different people react to it differently. If they want something, but don't want to pay for it, they may invent all manner of false “problems” to try to avoid addressing their actual objection. To get around this, keep them focused on how exactly the product will make their lives better. They only have to face the price tag once. The benefits of the sale will continue for much longer.


For Sale Sign

Details come at the end. Eventually, some of the more minor points will need to be discussed, but that should not come until the customer is already open to making a deal. Avoid getting into lengthy discussions of trivia until you believe the deal is already effectively closed.

Honestly discuss alternatives. If one product doesn't seem to meet a customer's needs, try again. Don't push too hard for a product that they may not be interested in. If you meet significant resistance, pull back, ask some more questions to get a better idea of what they want, and try again. Don't get trapped in a battle defending a product they don't really want. You will virtually always lose.

The Big Picture Brings Results

Selling is a tricky game, but as we've said before, it's really about helping the customer talk themselves into the purchase. As long as you can keep them focused on how the product will result in them having a better life, or even just a moment of happiness, you'll be able to make that sale.

Call DeepSky Marketing to find out how you can create profitable marketing strategies for your company. DeepSky Marketing is a company that provides businesses with profitable marketing systems and verifiable return on investment (ROI). To schedule a brief no-cost consultation call 707 823-3888.

Tags: Sales process, sales

When Selling Keep the Long-Term Picture in Mind

Posted by Jeffrey Schmidt on Thu, Jul 05, 2012 @ 09:50 AM

Sometimes I wonder why there are so many poor salespeople in this world when, fundamentally, every person in sales is still a consumer the rest of the time.

You'd think it would be relatively easy for them to think about the good experiences they've had as buyers and apply that to their own jobs, yet sadly, many do not. I'm sure we've all had the experience of walking into a store, immediately being herded by a commission-driven salesman towards the most expensive item they carry, and then having to practically fight them just to get to see something more reasonable.

Now, sometimes this comes down to poor management, such as the staff being put under unrealistic pressure to up-sell. But all too often, it's because the employee is simply so focused on their personal profits that they lose track of the big picture.

Remembering the Long-Term Picture in Sales
Those sorts of high-pressure tactics often backfire, driving people away. Even if you don't move quite so many of the big-ticket items, if your store has effective pricing, the sale of a mid-level item has to be better than making no sale at all. At the end of the day, you want sales and profits.

Tortoise and Hair for Selling

It's like in baseball: Unless you have a true Babe Ruth, the batter who has the ability to reach the fences on virtually any pitch, you're probaly better off making solid contact so you can get a single and move the runners along the bases.

So here are a few things to remember, to keep yourself and your staff focused on long-term results so you can bring in productive sales figures long into the future:
    •    A customer is visiting for a reason. Unless it's raining or they got misdirected, if someone visits your store or website, they are at least interested in buying from you. Chances are, they already have an idea in their head of what they want. If you ask questions and find out what they're looking for, you're most of the way to a sale already.
    •    If they want the expensive item, they probably already know it. The idea of a visitor to a car lot going for the midrange sedan and walking out with a Porche is nice, but it rarely happens in real life. If someone has the money and interest in something like that, they know it going in. And they usually say so up-front.
    •    Slow and steady does still win the race. Fundamentally, if you aren't losing ground, you're still getting ahead. Selling those big-ticket items may be sexy, but you can't base a stable business model on high-pressure, high-risk sales.
    •    Customer experience is vital in the Facebook world. Making a positive impression on customers is more important today than ever. If someone has a poor experience at a place of business, they won't hesitate in telling people about it, through multiple venues. Too many poor reviews on your Google Places page can be deadly for a company these days.
    •    Focus on the positive outcome for your client. When making a sales pitch, try to keep your customer focused on how the product will solve a problem in their life. Don't get drawn into discussions over details until the deal is almost closed. Get them to see the product's value, and you'll make the sale.

Takeaway
In sales, you should always keep the long-term picture in mind. Focus on selling the customer what they want, and giving them a great experience when they do. That's the way to build your business.


Call DeepSky Marketing to find out how you can create profitable marketing strategies for your company. DeepSky Marketing is a company that provides businesses with profitable marketing systems and verifiable return on investment (ROI). To schedule a brief no-cost consultation call 707 823-3888.

Tags: Sales process, sales

The Value of Questions When Selling

Posted by Jeffrey Schmidt on Mon, Jul 02, 2012 @ 10:01 AM

In many ways, the art of sales is not about talking a customer into making a purchase. It's in leading the customer through a process that defines their needs, resulting in a realization that your product or service is, or is not, the solution to their problem.

It's a subtle distinction, but it's one that separates great sales-people from mediocre ones. The key to leveraging this distinction is in making good use of questions in your sales pitches. Using questions, rather than speeches, to sell your products gets around customers' objections and helps them find the product that they truly need.

The Value of Questions in Sales

Questions are such a powerful negotiating tool because they achieve multiple goals at once. They are truly one of the most useful strategies you can employ. Here are a few of their benefits:
Sold sign

Get to the Heart of Your Customer's Needs

Most people dread the high-pressure pitch, delivered by a salesman working on commission. He wants to sell them the priciest item in the store, whether they need it or not. Unfortunately, he also probably drives away as much business as he brings in through these tactics.

Asking questions of your customers allows you to pinpoint what they actually need, and steer them towards products they are more likely to want to by. Further, by having them analyze and consider their needs, it leads them to quickly see the value of the purchase.

Build Rapport and Overcome Distrust

Most customers go into a retail situation with a very adversarial attitude. This is probably warranted. They expect a salesperson to only care about a commission, and not them personally.

Asking questions sincerely about their needs helps diffuse this. The more you can make them believe that you honestly want to match them with the best product for their needs, the more likely they are to trust your recommendations. That rapport is one of the most valuable things you can create with a potential customer.

Focus On the Big Picture

If you sell anything, you know that customers tend to get hung up on small details. Haggling over the price, for example, or whether something comes in a certain color. Sales meetings can become nit-picking nightmares if you let the customer focus on these details, quickly becoming unproductive.

Asking "big picture" questions focused on the customer's wants and needs gets around this. It allows you to keep the conversation locked into what the product can do for them, and what problems in their life it can solve. As long as you can keep them thinking about this aspect, they are far less likely to end up quibbling over minor issues.

By focusing on the outcome, rather than minutia, you can vastly increase the effectiveness of your selling technique.

Open-Ended vs Close-Ended Questions

These two questioning techniques are both highly useful when selling to people. For those not familiar with the terminology, an open-ended question is one where the respondent is left to find the answer for themselves. ("What are you looking for today?") A close-ended question restricts the answers available. ("Do you want that in blue or yellow?")

You should seek to use a mix of these questions, leading off with open-ended questions, and then using close-ended questions to refine their answer or get details. Don't use one type exclusively; a mixture keeps the conversation flowing and helps prevent them from feeling like you're controlling the dialogue. (Even if you are.)

Takeaway

Questions are a vital sales tool that you should make full use of. They build rapport, focus the customer on their needs, and head off unproductive haggling over minor details.

Call DeepSky Marketing to find out how you can create profitable marketing strategies for your company. DeepSky Marketing is a company that provides businesses with profitable marketing systems and verifiable return on investment (ROI). To schedule a brief no-cost consultation call 707 823-3888.

Tags: Sales process, sales

Overcoming sales resistance

Posted by Jeffrey Schmidt on Thu, Jun 28, 2012 @ 11:06 AM

In the world of Internet marketing, it's sometimes too easy to overlook the nuts and bolts of the sales process while talking about grand plans and strategies. When it comes down to it, you are in the business of selling, and if you can't close the deal, then it really doesn't matter how many leads you generate.

So, today we're going to step out of the SEO mindset for a couple days and get back to the basics: good, old-fashioned sales techniques.

We'll begin the first installment talking about some more basic aspect of selling in negotiations, and move on to slightly riskier strategies in our next blog.

Selling For Fun And Profit

#1 - Identifying Sales Resistance

You need to be able to "read" your lead and tell just how interested they really are in your products.

First, If at all possible, do business face-to-face. Reading the opposite party in negotiations is practically impossible over a text-based format. Use voice if you simply cannot be in the same room, but really, do whatever you can to get in the room.

Also, basic listening skills apply. Don't be so focused on your pitch that you overlook things they flat-out tell you. In general, anything they say that isn't entirely positive is likely a bit of sales resistance that you'll need to address along the way.

However, perhaps the most important elements when selling to someone are their non-verbal cues. This is why it's so helpful to be face-to-face with them. Here are a few things to watch for:

  • "Distancing," such as moving away from you whenever you move closer to them. This is a basic sign of non-trust.

  • Crossing their arms or legs. In many people, this is a subconscious action that also suggests a lack of trust or insecurity.

  • Not looking you in the eye when they speak is often a sign of a falsehood, but some practiced liars will also look you in the eye too much, or too intently.

  • While this is not true for all people or at all times, people will often involuntarily look up and to the left when inventing an answer, but look to the right when honestly recalling something.

  • Watch for the blush response and sweating as well, both signs of stress.

Sales resistance arms folded

#2 - Bring the point of resistance into the conversation.

When you or the client brings up a point and any of the above occur, there's a very good chance that's going to be a point of sales resistance. In general, the next step is simply to try to bring up the point of contention, in a fairly natural conversational fashion, where you can address it logically.

This could be as simple as, "I noticed you crossed your arms when we were talking about our proposed marketing strategy. Let's talk about strategies that will make you happy."

Some people, however, tend to get uncomfortable if they think you're trying to read their minds. Be careful about overusing this technique. When possible, it's better if you can find a gambit that allows you to bring the topic up without specifically referring to their body language.

Conclusion

In short, when selling, the best way to overcome sales resistance is to get their worries out in the open, where you can address them. Learn to read body language to pick up on points of contention, then bring them into the discussion so you can get specifics on their objection.

That's it for today. Tune in next blog for some more advanced gambits for getting past the shields of more defensive customers.

Call DeepSky Marketing to find out how you can create profitable marketing strategies for your company. DeepSky Marketing is a company that provides businesses with profitable marketing systems and verifiable return on investment (ROI). To schedule a brief no-cost consultation call 707 823-3888.

Tags: Sales process, marketing, sales