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Blog posts tagged Mike Southon

Introducing the magic email

October 29, 2012 by Mike Southon

Introducing the magic email/magician with envelopes coming out of a hat{{}}Most of us hate cold calling, and this job has became more difficult with the advent of voicemail. Nowadays, it is almost impossible to speak to anyone directly. Instead, I recommend sending carefully targeted and well-constructed e-mails.

It is important to research your prospects carefully, identifying the right person in the company that theoretically should be interested in your products and services. If you do not have the skill or time to find these e-mail addresses, a reputable telemarketing company can do this task for you, without their attempting to do any selling on your behalf at this stage.

Then, the skill is in composing a very short initial e-mail. Most people think that the more features that are crowded into this first-e-mail, the better; in fact, the exact opposite is true. I always recommend a four-line e-mail, which is designed specifically to raise some interest for an initial fifteen-minute meeting.

The first line is the most important and should be specifically tailored for each individual client. It should suggest the specific problem that you can solve, such as improving their revenues or reducing costs.

The next line should be a simple premise of what you do; how you have acknowledged expertise in helping customers solve that problem. People are generally sceptical about sales pitches, so your third line should feature some proof, such as a similar customer you have worked with, who could potentially provide a reference.

The final line should suggest a short meeting at a specific time and date. Ideally, they will be able to agree immediately; if they are interested but cannot make that specific date, they might suggest another. 

This type of “Magic E-mail” (as I call it) is inexpensive and unobtrusive. If they are not interested at that particular time, they will delete the e-mail and swiftly forget you. People who have used this approach tell me the response rate is much higher than for more traditional methods.

It has the added advantage of significantly reducing your unanswered voicemail messages and the curt, dismissive customer replies that are often endemic to cold calling.

Copyright ©Mike Southon 2012. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced without permission in writing. Mike Southon is the co-author of The Beermat Entrepreneur and a business speaker.


Why 150 is a magic number on social networks

October 04, 2012 by Mike Southon

Why 150 is a magic number on social networks/multicolor speech bubbles{{}}How long should you spend on social networks such as Twitter and LinkedIn? The simple answer is no more than fifteen minutes per day, preferably outside normal working hours.

If you are an entrepreneur, the vast majority of your time should be focused on your business: selling and delivering your products and services whilst ensuring you make a profit in the process. Everything else is a distraction.

The Dunbar number

You would be wise to ignore those who insist you should spend significant time in online conversations with complete strangers. This may be a very good idea for those with free time on their hands but the rest of us should remember that the number of close friends we have is only around 150 people, often called the Dunbar number.

This also represents the maximum number of people with whom you can effectively have a close business relationship. They each have the same number of close contacts, so you are no more than one degree separated from 22,500 people, plenty for most business purposes.

While developing online relationships with potential customers is sensible, you should focus your prime business activity on the 150 that genuinely represent some potential value to your business.

You should start by generating an accurate personal profile on the main networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. This must include a clear elevator pitch explaining the business problems you solve for people.

You then start networking online by first offering people useful and valuable information. Once you have built up sufficient trust, you can also make useful introductions between people.

Horses for courses

All the online networks have different purposes. Facebook works well for younger people looking to socialise. Twitter is about broadcasting and overhearing useful conversations. LinkedIn is ideal for people looking to recruit or be recruited, as well as those who have already spent time building up their business network manually.

If you are genuinely doing interesting things and generating useful content, then do broadcast this fact while cherishing everyone who chooses to follow or befriend you. But concentrate your commercial activity on the 150 people who you genuinely like and who share your values. They will also make your best customers. 

Originally published in The Mail on Sunday. Copyright ©Mike Southon 2012. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced without permission in writing. Mike Southon is the co-author of The Beermat Entrepreneur and a business speaker.

How useful are networking events for winning new business?

September 26, 2012 by Mike Southon

How useful are networking events for winning new business/people shaking hands{{}}Networking events are useful for growing your business, so long as you do not just use them as an opportunity to sell too aggressively.

Effective networking is primarily about meeting new people and then deciding if they are worth contacting later. Some might be potential clients or suppliers; others merely people with whom you found some empathy and a common sense of purpose.

Networking events can be intimidating for even the most extrovert characters, but a simple way of introducing yourself into a group of strangers is via the simple request, "may I join you?".

You should first ask where a person is from and what business they are in. Next, you might try to elicit a customer story to add some colour to the conversation. From there, you should use your instincts as to whether the conversation is worth pursuing.

Common ground

If you do sense that there is some common ground, you can ask them why they were at the event, hoping to uncover any potential sales needs that you might be able to address. To show that you have immediate value, you should respond with factual information such as a useful website, or even recommend someone from your own network who you feel might be useful to contact.

The key is to establish quickly that you are interesting, which in the early stages of a business relationship is a combination of practical information and a good personal network. If you are able to establish this successfully, then they should be happy to receive an e-mail to set up a meeting, which is when the sales process can be started in a structured way.

While attending networking events should always have an underlying sales purpose, the wider objective is about increasing your circle of contacts. The people you connect with successfully can then reciprocate with their own valuable information and interesting people.

Our lives are dominated by mobile phones and e-mails, impersonal tools that can often take the spirit out of an enterprise. Networking events are useful for reminding us that business should always contain some element of human contact.

Originally published in The Mail on Sunday. Copyright ©Mike Southon 2012. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced without permission in writing. Mike Southon is the co-author of The Beermat Entrepreneur and a business speaker.

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