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The Art of Sales

August 05, 2009 by Chris Barling

The art of selling can be looked at in two ways. Either it’s persuading someone to buy something that they neither need nor want – “selling coal to Newcastle” – or it’s about discovering customer needs and finding the most appropriate way to meet them. Newcastle no longer mines any coal and frankly, the ram-it-down-your-throat sales approach is about as up-to-date as the expression. That said Newcastle in Australia, named after the UK one, is actually the biggest coal exporter in the world.

In contrast to the US, the UK doesn’t see sales as a profession, and popular culture places all sales people into the cowboy pen. This can be seen from the euphemisms used for sales roles here in the UK. Sales people are called account managers, business development executives, consultants, customer service representatives - anything except sales.

In fact, if a prospect ever tells someone they are good at sales, it probably means they’re not. People need to feel that they have a choice in order to buy. If they feel pressured, they react badly.

Selling the right thing means fewer returns. It also means happy customers who buy again, and tell their friends. Alternatively, selling the wrong thing gums up your phone lines with complaints, increases your cost of doing business, and leads to you being denounced on social networks right across the internet.

I don’t know how many people have consciences, and how much they apply them to business. Whatever the answer, it’s good to know that honest sales lead to better profits, even while letting you sleep at night.

 

Outdoor Advertising: A Dying Medium? Definitely not.

July 31, 2009 by Jenny Nguyen

Recent articles in the media and marketing trade press, are hotly debating the question of whether outdoor advertising has had its day.

For the record, we say the answer's 'no'; but I wanted to explain why we know this is the case. A quiet revolution is going on in out-of-home advertising. Small businesses are really starting to tune in to the medium's benefits, and we are seeing ever-increasing numbers – around 250 per week, in fact - signing up to Signposter.com to run out-of-home campaigns in their local area.

I believe that if small businesses are prepared to invest hard-won capital into an outdoor campaign on an ongoing basis like this, it’s because of hard evidence - such as sales increases or increased footfall to their business - of the medium's effectiveness. When every pound counts, they won't do any promotion without the confidence it will work.

This says to me that 'on the streets', where it counts, outdoor is working; it’s picking up more converts to its impact and effectiveness. And if it works like this for small businesses and local campaigns, I'm confident it'll continue to deliver for the big players as well.

How to use content to follow up sales and maintain top-of-mind awareness

July 31, 2009 by Sonja Jefferson

In his article 'Why 8% of sales people get 80% of the sales' Donut expert and founder of Marketing Wizdom, Robert Clay reminds us of the importance of good 'follow up'. His research shows that only 2% of sales occur at the first meeting; the other 98% will only happen once a certain level of trust has been established. Incredibly, only 20% of sales leads are ever followed up - that's a shining pile of potential opportunity lost without a trace. For small businesses, what is the best way to keep contact with prospects after sales meetings? What communications strategy can you employ to show customers that your proposed approach is the right one for them? Effective follow up does not mean pushy closing and constant demands for orders or appointments. It's a different mindset: an ongoing dialogue; gently building rapport and proving your expertise, not bashing down doors. At the heart of this approach is good content - meaningful, useful communication that helps to build trust in the eyes of your potential customers, keeping you top-of-mind. Here are 5 examples of useful content you can send to prospects when following up sales meetings:

  • Articles: get your expert opinion and ideas down in writing - on the web, in magazines, on blogs (your company blog and/or other well-respected blogs in your field). Write for your customers: write articles that show them how to solve their business problems.
  • Educational case studies: show how other customers have benefitted from the type of approach you're proposing. These powerful sales tools help you capitalise on past success. They turn your claims in to evidence and open the reader’s eyes to what is possible if they work with your company.
  • Whitepapers: somewhere between an article and an academic paper, these persuasive documents contain useful information and expert opinion, promoting your company as a thought leader and helping solve customer issues.
  • Newsletters/e-newsletters: inform and educate your contacts on a regular basis with valuable content - news, views, research and case studies that they'll find of interest.
  • Third party evidence: send your prospects articles and research by others that back up your proposed approach.

This is where marketing can really help sales. Produce powerful, customer-focused, helpful content that your sales teams can use to keep contact with customers until they are ready to buy.

Is Twitter Twaddle?

July 23, 2009 by Dee Blick

I've recently started twittering, for no reason other than, well, to partake in something that has grabbed millions of people around the globe. As an alleged marketing entrepreneur, I was beginning to feel distinctly uncomfortable whenever the subject of Twitter came up, and I knew that I wasn't part of the crowd! That said, I didn't go into it with any strategic plan or any great expectations and my initial thoughts were to use it as an online diary. As a business author, I reckoned it would be a useful discipline to see if I could write mini stories within the 140 characters limit, with no txt talk! So, having used Twitter religiously for six weeks, documenting my daily antics and providing a blow by blow account of my latest Amazon book rank, what are my thoughts so far? Firstly, I'm fascinated by the sheer randomness of Twitter. I’m not doing anything to gain followers, other than attempting to write interesting tweets. Well, they seem interesting to me, because after all, I am the subject matter! But boy have I attracted some unusual followers. I've had three women of obvious shady character (a euphemism for porno queens) that I suspect follow anybody with a pulse and a heartbeat in the hope they’ll get one or two people interested in following them. Then I've had the people that are obviously doing keyword searches on Twitter, and you tweet on their chosen subject and they either follow you for your next two tweets before summarily despatching you or they stick around because you start following them. I've ‘met’ some fascinating people and I've also got a handful of clients, following me, which means that I have to think about what I write. And obviously, there are the followers that I don't know. At the moment I've got a very good magazine and a television company following me. My strategy? To play it cool. I've not set the world alight with a huge following, but then I'm not doing anything to generate one and I'm not Stephen Fry! So how much enjoyment do I get from twittering? If you look at my postings, you’ll see that I like the sound of my online voice. I’ve gone back to my teenage years when I kept a diary, except now my diary is there for the world to see, (minus the drunken antics!). I've definitely increased my book sales on Amazon through Twitter and I've had direct messages from some interesting people. I suspect that if I really made the effort I could crank up my followers. But, I've made a conscious decision not to do this. I'm going for the slow scenic route. Let's see where it takes me.

A Wordle of opportunity - Is your blog on topic?

July 20, 2009 by James Ainsworth

Source: Wordle.net As with many things there is often a solution and increasingly that solution is web based and I don't just mean your simple search engine query input and pages upon pages of answers solutions. Clever computer types have created a myriad of tools for web analytics and monitoring. Some tools offer fantastic graphical representations that will illustrate where you have come from and where you ought to be going. Having demonstrated the web application of Tweetdeck in my previous post as a means of monitoring your small business online in the real time stream of consciousness that is Twitter, this post will demonstrate to you just how you can analyse your company blog-where it has come from and where it ought to go. Whatever purpose your blog serves, it is expected that posts will be categorised and then subcategorised by 'Tags.' Not only will tags organise content for you, search engines love nothing more than to feast on tagged content. Tagging makes life easier for you, search engines and your reader. Now here comes the web solution to analysing your blog content. Assuming your blog has an RSS feed-many blogging platforms throw this nugget in for you- copy and paste the feed URL into the appropriate field on Wordle, sit back and watch it make a pretty diagram for you. Wordle, in their own words, ‘…is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text.’ Now you could compare your Wordle diagram with your blog’s ‘Tag Cloud,’ should you have one or just take the results at face value. What does it tell you? Does the diagram match up to your perceptions of what you think you blog about and in turn demonstrate you are writing on topic and selecting the most appropriate tags for your wonderful content? Or does it highlight a need to tweak your content? It could be that it encourages you to write more broadly or to focus on one particular topic in order to readdress the balance or to fine tune your niche. You will see that I have produced the Wordle diagram for this here blog, we can see that ‘Marketing,’ ‘Business’ and ‘Online’ feature prominently, as you would hope for a blog which shares the latest thoughts on marketing to small businesses in an ever increasing online world. It could be suggested that the Marketing Donut blog would do well to drive more content along the lines of the key topics which are displayed on the Marketing Donut site itself in order to increase the depth of coverage in the field of Marketing. Give it a go and see if it gives you an illustrated guide to being on topic or not. Where have you come from and where do you want your blog to go?

At the Risk of Sounding Cheesy... Please Smile

July 13, 2009 by Dee Blick

Is this a blog from a professional marketer, or a thinly disguised rant from a miffed customer? I don't know, but after a visit to my local coffee shop this morning, I felt compelled to share a few thoughts on the subject of... smiling.

I've read no end of marketing books over the years and always taken some great advice from each one, in addition to some cracking statements that I use when training small businesses in the art of marketing on a shoestring.  Most recently, the line:  "the process is as important as the outcome" about the delivery of a product or service, really stuck out. And this morning, it was in at the front of my mind when being served by the owner of the coffee shop. She did the right things, albeit in an efficient manner that was bordering on brusque. However, she didn't make eye contact with me and she failed to smile even though I gave her a big beam. What made it worse was that she became animated and smiling when talking to her colleague.

It got me thinking that in our zeal to find the big marketing miracle at the end of the rainbow, we can often overlook the fact that the smallest things make the biggest difference. It's not simply what we actually deliver - whether we sell cakes and coffee or build websites, it is how we actually deliver and whether we make our customers feel fabulous. In my experience, many small businesses can get caught up in searching high and low for their unique selling point when in fact what makes them unique in a sea of "me too" products and services is how they interact with their customers.

So, a warm and genuine smile can go a long way, especially if we deliver products and services face to face. But, if we are not within an arm's-length of our customers, the words we use to describe what we deliver should communicate passion, warmth and enthusiasm. I believe that relevance, simplicity and humanity will define the successful brands of the future and not just the clever use of technology. Now will someone put the kettle on!

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