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Do you need a new approach to selling?

June 20, 2016 by Andy Bounds

Do you need a new approach to selling?{{}}Today, you'll make lots of sales. You might be selling:

  • Products or services to your customers;
  • A proposal to a new prospect;
  • The idea to your children that it's time to go to bed. Right now.

But, despite its importance, many of us don't like the thought of selling. It's almost a dirty word.

Perhaps this is because we've all been on the receiving end of an idiot salesperson's pushiness. But there's something else: all the words to do with selling - selling, proposing, pitching, influencing, convincing, persuading - are from the sellers' point of view.

So sellers tend to feel that selling is something you do to someone. And that means the recipient can therefore often feel they're having something done to them.

But selling shouldn't be like that. It isn't one-way; it's a joint thing. You and your customer are agreeing to work together to do what you propose, whether that be to:

  • Buy something;
  • Accept your proposal;
  • Go to bed.

So, when you sell, be joint. The easiest way to do this is to start with their objectives and then show how your suggestion fits with them. Keep it short and simple - your preparation needs just two steps:

  • Find their objectives (the best way to do this is ask them);
  • Work out how your suggestion (your "sale") will help achieve them.

Do it this way and you both benefit. You both value it; and you both enjoy it. And, since you're both happy, selling has become a joint thing.

Copyright © 2016 Andy Bounds, communications expert, speaker and the author of The Snowball Effect: Communication Techniques to Make You Unstoppable. You can sign up for his free weekly tips. This blog first appeared here.

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Posted in Sales | Tagged selling, sales | 0 comments

Does your small business need marketing automation?

April 18, 2016 by Christina Richardson

Does your small business need marketing automation? {{}}Do we need it? Will it cost a lot of money? Do we have enough time? These are the questions swirling around the heads of marketers when it comes to marketing automation.

Everyone’s talking about it but there are a lot of things to be unsure about; and that means business owners often end up avoiding marketing automation altogether. But are putting your business at a disadvantage without it?

Marketing automation boosts sales

Marketing automation has been shown to increase sales - even for smaller businesses. It unlocks you from the tedium of managing a sales pipeline by putting a process around it and automating some of the stages. And that can quickly turn more leads into sales.

It can also help you to get more sales from existing customers. Research from Gleanster has found that those using marketing automation see 50% more sales coming from existing customers while those that don’t see only 30%.

Enhanced experience for your customers

Marketing automation also improves your customer service by enabling you to create a consistently great experience for your customers. By using segmentation, automation tools allow you to send targeted messages and give your customers personal attention based on their behaviour and interests.

Dipping a toe in the water

Email auto-responders offer an easy way into marketing automation. Sending personalised emails to your customers on the right topic at the right time is a great way to activate (or reactivate) them - and automated emails are perfect for this.

You can start off with the simplest of auto-responders - a welcome message that's sent when somebody becomes a new customer. This is a key opportunity to briefly explain what you offer, and signal to new customers what they might like to do next.

You can add further messages as the customer continues on their journey with you. For instance, the "thank you" message after a customer has purchased your product is an obvious next step; and the "keeping in touch" email not long after they’ve first interacted with you can keep customers engaged and encourage a sale.

Marketing automation can unlock new sales opportunities and encourage loyalty from your customers. As a result, it's now an important part of the marketing toolkit for every business, especially as it can save time without costing the earth.

These are just some of the things marketing automation can do for your business. To find out if it’s right for your business and how to get started on a shoestring take a look at our downloadable guide here.

Copyright © 2016 Christina Richardson, co-founder and CMO at Openr, start-up mentor and entrepreneurship speaker and author.

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Posted in Sales | Tagged marketing automation | 0 comments

11 ways to make your next presentation a sure-fire success

January 25, 2016 by Andy Bounds

Sales presentations{{}}People ask me loads of questions about presentations. So here are 11 FAQs and answers that can help you transform your presentations.

Q1: How do I engage audiences immediately?

By doing something engaging at the start. For example:

  • Use intriguing words/phrases - "I want to share a secret with you - something that nobody outside this room knows".
  • Use an emotive adjective - "We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity".
  • Use an emotive verb - "I'm really excited to be speaking to you today. Because…"
  • Teach them something - "Did you know…?"
  • Ask a question.
  • Tell a story.

Q2: How do I keep them engaged?

Keep doing engaging things. Think of all the things audiences like - stories, humour, impressive visuals and so on. And ensure you do at least one of them every one to two minutes.

Q3: What's the most important thing about presentations?

There are two - the beginning and the end. The start must engage - use one of the starts suggested in Q1 above, deliver it with lots of energy, have a good title and ensure Slide One looks impressive.

And the end must contain a Call To Action. If it doesn't, your audience won't act. For example, if your last slide says "thank you", they'll merely say "you're welcome" and then leave. If it says "Next steps", there'll be some.

Q4: What's the best way to structure a presentation?

The answer to Q3 showed how to start and end. But what about everything in between? Well, there are two structures that work well.

Firstly, to build a logical argument, use the 4Ps:

  • Position - the world currently looks like X.
  • Problem - and the problem with Position X is…
  • Possibilities - three solutions to this Problem are…
  • Propose - I suggest we do option Y because…

Or use this structure to build buy-in to change:

  • Why it's needed - explain the problems with the current situation.
  • Future vision - the ideal future we want to get to.
  • How we'll get there - everyone's actions, to move from the current situation to the desired future.
  • How we'll overcome our barriers - the things that might get in the way, and how we'll remove them.

Q5: How do I stop people looking at my slides?

One excellent way: don't use them. Or, minimise the words on them, so there's nothing to read. And/or press "B" or "W" to black/white the screen, so they can't see them.

Q6: How do I improve my slides?

The key rule: avoid bullet points. Trust me on this: nobody loves them. There's always a better way to present information. For example, click on the PowerPoint tool SmartArt (in the Insert tab) and you'll see loads of formats - barcharts, flowcharts etc - you can drop your points into. Also, high-quality images work well. Go to Google images, type in your keywords and you'll find hundreds of them.

Q7: How can I make my presentations more interactive?

Ask questions. Obvious, I know. But people rarely think their questions are part of the presentation. Instead, they prepare their slides, and practise their run-through - but they don't script/practise questions. Which means they tend not to ask any. So it isn't interactive.

Also, when thinking of questions, ensure they're thought-provoking - "Which of these five benefits will your customers find most valuable?"; not bland - "Any questions? Anybody? Please? Nobody? OK then..."

Q8: What if I overrun?

Never, ever finish late. Even if the audience seems to love what you're saying, you finishing late makes them late for the next thing in their diary. Trust me on this: they won't ever be grateful to you for this.

Here's a very handy hint: when you need to jump ahead in your slides, simply press the slide number you want to go to and the Return key - you'll jump straight there. The audience won't know you've jumped. Of course, you need to know what the slide numbers are; so, print them out in advance.

Q9: What if the IT doesn't work?

Don't rely on it. Take a paper copy with you, so you have notes to present from.

Q10: How do I remember everything?

Use notes. But put these notes on a hand-held card/piece of paper on your desk, not on the big shiny screen that your audience is looking at. Your notes help only you; the screen helps only them.

Q11: How do I handle my nerves?

Lots of ways, including:

  • Think in advance of the AFTERs - in other words, why your audience - and you - will be better off AFTER the presentation. Will you have helped them save time, be more productive, make better decisions, have less risk? And how will them getting these AFTERs benefit you?
  • Practise. A lot...
  • ...especially the start. Know exactly what your first two or three sentences will be. When they come out OK, the rest tends to follow.
  • Front-load your presentation with your best bits. Saving your best stuff for later isn't as good - they might have switched off if you don't grab them early.
  • Make it shorter and more interactive. It's very daunting to open your mouth thinking "right, I'm the only one in this room who's speaking for the next 60 minutes". It's much easier when you think "right, we're having an interactive chat for the next 20 minutes".

Copyright © 2015 Andy Bounds. Andy is a communications expert, speaker and the author of The Snowball Effect: Communication Techniques to Make You Unstoppable. You can sign up for his free weekly tips.

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How to prepare for a successful TEDx talk

December 14, 2015 by Marketing Donut contributor

How to prepare for a successful TEDx talk{{}}TED talks and the independently organised TEDx talks are hugely popular with both speakers and their audiences. An opportunity to speak at such an event is on the bucket list for many people, so when I was invited to speak I jumped at the chance.

And yet ten years ago, I had a debilitating fear of speaking in front of groups. The turning point came for me one day in a team meeting. I was so nervous I couldn’t give a short five minute update and someone else had to step in whilst the entire room looked at me. I was mortified. That day I decided to do something about my situation.

Joining Toastmasters enabled me to improve both my confidence and my speaking performance. When you join you get a manual with ten speech projects that help you gradually build your confidence and skills as a speaker. The great thing about having a structure to follow is that you hone your speech writing style and understand the value of preparing your material well.

Here's how I prepared for my TEDx talk, which was entitled Why women need to speak up; a subject very close to my heart.

Preparation

I wanted to share my message at TEDx without notes and be as conversational as possible. I also wanted to include facts and figures that supported my message. I spent many hours researching my material, writing and rewriting my speech and rehearsing so that I felt comfortable enough to speak in front of a live audience as well as a video camera. Preparation helps you feel comfortable enough to get out of your head and just be present in the moment to really connect with your audience.

Timing

All TED talks have a cut-off point of 18 minutes, and for good reason; people’s attention spans are limited so you have to get your ideas across quickly.

At Toastmasters, speeches are timed to ensure that the meeting finishes on time but also to help you learn how to keep to time.

Working through my speeches within the club helped me understand how to craft and deliver my message within a designated time slot. Also, when you’re really familiar with your material and know what it feels like to speak for five minutes or 30 minutes you can adapt when you get thrown a curve ball.

Quite often meetings or seminars go over time because other speakers haven’t prepared properly. This has a knock on effect.  So, when the chair says “unfortunately now you only have half the time to get your message across” you can quickly adjust and deliver.

Evaluation

At Toastmasters every speech is evaluated. Practising in front of a live audience week after week and getting this feedback has been one of the most beneficial aspects of my development as a speaker.

Far too many presenters don’t understand that the audience experience is key. Rehearsing and testing your material is crucial to ensure you engage your audience and create a good experience for them. Getting feedback helps you understand what the audience sees and hears.

Final thoughts

I used to be terrified of speaking in public, but with focus and effort I got to a stage where I felt confident and competent - and now I really enjoy it.

Whether you are as terrified as I used to be, or you simply want to ensure your talk is the best it can be - follow my advice and you’ll ensure your moment in the TEDx spotlight is a success.

Copyright © 2015 Jay Surti is a member of Toastmasters International.

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Ace your next presentation - tell a story!

November 23, 2015 by Marketing Donut contributor

Ace your next presentation - tell a story!{{}}

A key skill for marketing professionals is being able to create presentations that stick. Whether you are looking to win more budget internally or to pitch a new client - by harnessing the power of business story-telling, you can stand out from the crowd and leave a lasting impression.

Stories are powerful tools. They change how we think and feel about something, so a well-structured story takes your audience on a journey they'll always remember.

Still, many marketing professionals don't know how to use story-telling in their presentations. There are several key things to remember:

Facts

First, do your research. Double check any facts and figures; don't be caught out by claiming something incorrect.

Structure

Once you have your information to hand, start assembling it into a story - this is your script. Your presentation should have a clear beginning, middle and end, as well as an overarching narrative. Work out any obstacles, find solutions and create a central character. Write these down and don't worry about editing in the beginning.

Review

Take a break from what you've written and go back to it with fresh eyes. Focus on why your idea will appeal to your audience and cut out anything that seems unclear or non-essential. Your watch-words for this process should be clarity, accuracy and efficiency.

Messaging

What do you want your audience to remember? The bottom line is always the most important thing. Once you've developed succinct and engaging content, you need to distill the take-away message down to one sentence.

Design

Design is essential for making a good first impression. You have limited time: people take just 15 seconds to make an initial judgement. The software you choose can help get you noticed. Everyone knows about Microsoft PowerPoint but there are new alternatives out there that you can also use - Google Slides and Prezi are two of the more popular ones.

Six more key things to remember are:

  • Keep text to a minimum. Think headlines, not paragraphs. Less is more;
  • Highlight the main messages – use bold and font size to emphasis what you want people to focus on and remember;
  • Focus on one thought at a time and stick to one idea per image;
  • Use colour wisely. Use Adobe's color wheel to pick a complimentary colour palette and use it consistently;
  • Use great photography. Invest a small amount of money (£5-£30) in buying images from an image library like istockphoto to make your presentation stand out. But avoid having lots of photos without a purpose;
  • Choose a business-style font that sets the right tone – a sans-serif font for a factual approach, and a serif font to give a more stylish impression.

Remember that the visual impression you give is just as important as developing excellent content, as illustrated in this Prezi.

Copyright © 2015 Spencer Waldron, UK country manager of presentation software company Prezi.

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Four simple ways to improve your presentations

November 03, 2015 by Andy Bounds

Four simple ways to improve your presentations{{}}Do you love giving presentations? I thought not; most people don't.

Here are four simple techniques that boost two key things - your confidence and your chances of success. They are:

  • First impressions
  • Links
  • Involvement
  • Passion

They're easy to remember - the initial letters spell FLIP.

First impressions

How you start sets the tone for everything. Have a great first sentence and your next ones will probably go well. Have a shaky opener and it will impact on the rest.

So, practise your start. A lot. As a simple guide: spend 20% of your preparation time on the first 2% of your presentation.

And don't just practise it in your head. Say it out loud. Go to the venue beforehand and say it there… anything that ensures you're good on the day.

Another important element of your first impression is your title. It's going to be hard to wow a room if your presentation's called "Q2 update". It's much easier if it's called "Three things our competitors can never do".

Doing all this will take about 10-15 minutes. Not a lot when you think about the huge impact it will have on your audience.

Links between slides

Good links between slides give your presentation flow and pace. But most presenters don't consider how to link slides together. Often, they use the next slide to prompt them. But if you can see the slide, so can your audience. So they know what you're about to say.

It is well worth scripting how you'll go from one slide to the next. Then say it before you click on the next slide.

Here's an example: slide 8 discusses finances; slide 9 covers messages. So, after covering slide 8's content but while that slide is still showing, you'd say: "So, as you can see, the finances are strong. Let's now see how we'll achieve these numbers, through better messaging."

And then you'd click to bring up slide 9.

Again, it doesn't take long to script your links. So it's minimal work for a great return.

Involvement

Audiences prefer to be involved in some way - it's much better for them than just sitting, watching and listening for hours. So get them involved. Options include:

  • Ask them to write something down;
  • Give them a quick exercise to do with their neighbour;
  • Do a quick quiz;
  • Show them something funny, so they're involved by laughing;
  • Ask questions.

Passion

Audiences like presenters who show passion. And they switch off from those who don't have it. So find your passion. And make sure it comes out in your presentation. You should feel passionate about at least one of these:

  • Your content;
  • The afters - why you/the audience/others will be better off afterwards;
  • Your job;
  • Your company

So try using FLIP next time you're presenting. As long as each of the FLIPs are there, you've a great chance of impressing your audience.

Copyright © 2015 Andy Bounds, communications expert, speaker and the author of The Snowball Effect: Communication Techniques to Make You Unstoppable. You can sign up for his free weekly tips.

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Posted in Sales | Tagged presentation(s), PowerPoint | 1 comment

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