Blogging can be a lonely endeavor. Well, until you attain status the likes of Guy Kawasaki, Jill Konrath, Jonathan Farrington or Chris Brogan perhaps. Writing has always been a passion of mine. Most likely the fire of that passion was ignited by my obsessive addiction to reading. Yes, I was reading books long before Kindle came along. I remember sitting at the breakfast table reading every word on the cereal box. My desire to read and learn everything I could about almost any subject – I’ll skip math and physics, thank you – has served me well throughout my life and business career. It still does! As a salesperson, the ability to converse with people on any number of topics is a sure way to connect and bond with them, except if you veer into the murky and dangerous waters of discussing touchy subjects like politics or religion, which I don’t.
I became aware of blogging around 2001. At the time, I couldn’t really fathom why people would essentially want to put their most intimate musings online for the world to see. Think old fashioned diary with lock and key, or a journal you keep hidden away in your nightstand. I saw no purpose in exposing myself that way.
Fast forward to around 2008…. that’s when I began to realize that blogging for business was one way to extend the power of your personal and professional brand. After a few fits and starts, I finally got my blogging groove on. Initially, I struggled with finding my voice. I was worried. Would I be too controversial? What would potential customers think? Was it possible I might lose business because of something I said? Like many of you, I had the exact same fears about putting my ideas and opinions out there.
And then… I just got over it.
I decided that I wanted to write about those things in the world of sales, which includes social selling, business, management, customer experience, technology and marketing that I believed in or disagreed with. Occasionally, I mix in musings about life. The point is that my blog is the place where I can share what I think matters and it tells people about me. If a company chooses not to hire me, so be it. I am not right for them anyway.
As I said though, blogging can sometimes feel like you are talking to yourself. I know hundreds of people who follow and read my blog, which is so cool. And yet, they almost never post a comment. I see the number of times my posts are shared via social networks, but then again, mostly crickets when it comes to comments. A few of my posts have pushed some buttons and that generated comments. I even chuckle when I receive email from people who tell me they love something I’ve written about and why it mattered to them. All the while I’m screaming silently in my head…please post your comment on my blog!
What I’ve come to appreciate it is that it is OK if people don’t comment on the blog. Maybe they, like I was, are nervous about how they will be perceived, but the fact that they follow my words is quite a compliment. I’m thrilled that they share, tell their friends, send me email and even hire me/my company as a result of reading what I’ve written. Frankly, can it get any better?
Why, yes. It can.
On Tuesday, Top Sales World Announced the Top 50 Blogs, and I’m swelled with pride to say that my blog made the cut for the 2nd year in a row. This isn’t one of those vanity lists you see so often today. The folks at Top Sales World actually hire a research firm to vet the top 50 out of about 100 sales and marketing blogs on the web. You can review the criteria and see the entire Top 50 list here. Thank you, Top Sales World! Your recognition of my work means more than I can say!
And then this just in…
I found out yesterday that Docurated named my blog one of the Top 52 blogs on Sales Efficiency. WOW – blog recognition twice in one week. I suppose it just goes to show that people do read what I write and often believe I have something of value to say. Thank you, Docurated. Find the entire list of their blog choices here.
I blog because I believe in the power of learning and sharing ideas. Maybe hundreds don’t flock to my blog each day to comment, but I know it is being read and that’s A-OK by me!
In the early days of my sales career, I was taught to sell features and benefits. Later, Solution Selling, Consultative Selling, Precision Questions, Spin Selling and other sales methodologies like them espoused the importance of asking the right questions to understand buyer pain in order to sell your solution.
For there to be pain, a problem had to be identified. Once identified, you then draw the correlation between the buyer’s pain and how your product or service is the buyer’s cure. Taking it further, if you are doing your job well, you also have to break through the inertia of what is likely your toughest competitor – the status quo. Your prospect may have identified a problem that is causing them business pain, but is the pain acute or chronic? In other words, is the pain something that they’ve lived with long enough that they will continue to allow it to go on, OR has the problem become so acutely painful that they absolutely must make a change?
These last few days, I’ve been having conversations with Judy Mod and Matt Rosenhaft, Principals at Social Gastronomy. They work with technology companies to overcome what they call the “buyer adoption” problem. Turns out that companies are getting in their own way. They very often hinder the buying process rather than further it along. In an April 2014 blog post, Chuck Carey had this to say, “Buyers measure success based on how well you resolved their problem, not how well you met their expectations.”
When it comes to problems, there are two things happening.
1. Your prospect thinks they have identified a business problem that they need to fix. Is it the right problem? Are you sure?
Doubtful that your buyer is sure. According to Matt and Judy, the challenge sellers (and marketers) face is that it is darn difficult for internal teams to all agree on what the acute problem is much less agree on how to fix it. As with so many things in life, most folks simply focus their attention on symptoms without delving deeper into the root cause of the pain the organization suffers from.
I think of countless sales situations I’ve found myself in where the buyer tells me the problem is X, and after I ask more questions, I find out that on surface X looks to be correct, but the deeper digging uncovered something more revealing.
In one sales meeting, the buyer tells me that the “problem” is that their salespeople are having trouble getting access to decision makers. They reached out to me thinking that social selling was the way to go. Maybe. During the conversation, the buyer assured me that once a salesperson secured the meeting, they “always closed the deal”. When I hear that, I’m suspicious. I don’t care how good a salesperson you are, you never win them all. Curious, I ask them to tell me the percentage ratio of meetings to closed deals. Guess what. They can’t. Why? Because by their own admission, their salespeople are notoriously bad about entering sales opportunities and communication into their CRM system. They just don’t do it most of the time. If there is very little data regarding the sales pipeline and funnel progression stages, how do they know salespeople always close the deal? The discussion went on from there but you get the idea. They were not close to being clear about the real problem.
2. Do you know what problem your solution solves and can you clearly articulate that message?
Given how many sales presentations I’ve listened to, I’d say that the answer is no. If you, as the salesperson, don’t know what problem your solution solves, do you really think your prospect can simply connect the random dots and figure it out on their own? When it comes to marketing and selling your products and services, your potential customers DO NOT CARE about the process of how you get things done. Nor do they really care about the technical details. Sure, if it is a technology solution the IT guys might, but that comes later. In the initial stages of determining what product or service to purchase, your prospect cares about one thing – finding the right solution to solve their problem.
Forget the Features
I cannot say this enough. Though I know this is sooooo difficult for sellers to hear. They’ve been brainwashed to think that buyers make decisions based on features. They don’t.
Consider this basic recipe:
1. Understand the problem your solution solves. If you can’t speak to that, you’re sunk.
2. Get to the core of the problem that the buyer you are talking with needs to solve.
3. Determine if there is a match.
4. If so, help the buyer connect the dots by mapping your solution to their problem. Again, it isn’t the features that will win the deal!
The feature dance leads nowhere, and if you keep selling that way, you’ll be dancing all alone! That sounds kinda lonely to me.
As I’ve written and spoken about for some time now, I believe that the rhetoric about social selling has not only become deafening, but confusing to customers. Normal I suppose but unfortunate. For years, we’ve talked about the need to bridge the working gap between sales and marketing, because these two departments have often had a love/hate relationship with one another. The service department? Well, they exist to take care of things when they go wrong, but how often were sales, marketing and service execs co-creating the strategy behind the creation of the best possible customer experience from prospect, to customer acquisition and retention? Not much. That’s why I believe that banging the drum of social selling is missing the bigger point. We need to break down organizational silos not build them up.
It is all about the experience. What’s the experience of working with you and your company?
As companies look for unique ways to stand out, delivering stellar experience in every interaction is the way to do it. Let me clarify what I mean by “experience”. I mean the positive or negative reaction at every touch point in the process of first connecting with a prospect, moving them to a sales opportunity, closing the business and retaining them as a happy customer for life.
What I find interesting is that the conversation surrounding the importance of delivering great customer experience has been ongoing for years. Which is why I’m mystified that service appears to actually be declining, rather than improving. This isn’t just my personal opinion based on experience and observation, there are hard facts to back me up.
Aberdeen reported that “85% of business leaders who participated in their 2012 Chief Service Officer (CSO) Summit, stated that their organization was placing an increased importance on customer service, given the constraints of the global economy and an extremely competitive marketplace.”
Eight-five percent of business leaders said “service” was important, but we didn’t see much improvement in overall experience statistics in 2013.
According to a CEI Survey, 86% of buyers will pay more for a better customer experience. But only 1% of customers feel that vendors consistently meet their expectations.
In 2013, only 37% of brands received good or excellent customer experience index scores. That leaves a pretty big gap with 64% of brands earning a rating ranging from OK to very poor from their customers.
And in Oracle’s report: Why Customer Satisfaction is No Longer Good Enough, they report that one of the key drivers for a customer to spend more with a company is the overall improvement of the customer experience.
What’s the Stumbling Block?
Companies are often too internally focused with competing priorities, political agendas and departmental ego’s getting in the way. Rarely are processes tested by walking in the shoes of their prospects and customers. In short, they have no clue what doing business with the company or the people is like. And in the mad rush to constantly chase new business, companies seemed to have developed a sort of collective amnesia about their number one priority: developing opportunities – beyond the first sale – with their current list of accounts and ensuring that they are happy with the overall business experience.
Ruffle Some Feathers
The bigger companies become, the more complex it is to change things but that’s not a good excuse for being complacent. Now that you add social, mobile and digital into the mix, the ability to create great experiences across multiple channels becomes critical. The rub is that even today many companies generally do not have a well-defined strategy for how they will move the needle on the customer experience. Without a strategy and commitment to change, it will never happen.
Recently, a series of my blog posts ruffled a few feathers. I called out a company that I fired. I didn’t set out to give them a hard time, but after problems with their service, I finally decided to cancel my account. The problem is that they didn’t make it easy and that made me mad. Justify to yourself all you want to, but when your processes are designed with your agenda in mind and not considering what’s truly best for the customer, you will have issues.
Be ruthless in evaluating your processes and always from the customer’s point of view. Don’t wait for former customers to start spreading the word about your failings’. By then, it’s to little to late.
My random rants related to sales and social selling. They aren’t in any particular order, but they are a few of the top things that bug me. I imagine you might have a few rants of your own. Why not comment here on the blog?
Social has changed business and for years, I’ve been saying that continuing to slap yesterday’s process onto today’s technology no longer makes sense. As business continues to evolve, marketing must evolve with it. Good video that illustrates why.
This Oscar, awarded by a judging panel of one – me – goes to the sleaziest email spam that I think I have ever received. It is so bad that I decided to post it in full, and this email absolutely will head the list showcasing the sales emails that sales people (or marketers working on their behalf) should never send. I am spam collector and have been saving these little jewels to share with the world. Watch for my upcoming e-book.
Email messages like this one are the reason why sellers get a bad rap. The worst part is that this guy is selling an automated content marketing system that in he actually thinks works. He talks about personalizing the message and making it compelling. He fails on both fronts.
What he doesn’t know is that while he is “lying on the beach in Florida”, he’s burning himself to a crisp with this type of sales pitch. He might even find himself having a conversation with the feds one day soon.
Read on and shake your head in disbelief, as I did. If you are “serious about expanding your sales”, you will NOT use this approach. Tom Mack – you are an idiot!
“Name Tom Mack
Subject Are you in Atlanta?
Message I am on http://Talentbuildersinc.com right now and have a quick question. Does A E Financial sell to businesses? Do you market to business owners or executives? Or do you need to get the word out about your products, services or cause. Read on and I will show you a way to reach company owners and business executives directly. Without sending emails. By-passing the gate keeper. All on auto pilot.
But first, my confession. I am not really visiting your website right now. I did not personally type your name, company name and website to your contact-us page. I am actually down in Florida lying on the beach In the sunshine right now. XYZ system does it all for me automatically. We contact businesses using their own Contact-us page. There is no denying that my system works! You are reading one of my automated messages right now. But don’t get mad that our software can so easily penetrate your website contact page. Think of how YOU can use this technology to reach NEW customers, New markets and make lots more sales.
My message got through to you. YOUR message will get through to your perfect prospect. You can personalize every message just like I do! And best of all you’re not sending any email so there is no Can-Spam laws to comply with. Start contacting thousands or tens of thousands of business owners, executives and managers now. I am so confident that our software will work for you that I will give it to you to try out for free. Download your copy here XYZ website. You can have your marketing campaign up and running in the next 15 minutes.
Follow these three steps. 1) Write a short compelling message. XYZ will automatically personalize every message before entering it into the website contact-us page. 2) Import a list of company websites to submit your message to. A few hundred to a few hundred thousand at a time. (we give you access to detailed information on hundreds of millions of companies) 3) Press Start. It looks like you are personally visiting every website and typing a personal message. But that is not the best use of your time.
If your serious about expanding your sales, I have a very special bonus for you. I will give you 100,000 business data records every single month. And they don’t expire. We are one of the largest data providers in the US and have detailed information on over 730 million business owners and executives in the USA. As a subscriber, you get direct access to our business database so you can search for your perfect prospect then download the data to use in XYZ system. Search by SIC & NAICS codes, City, State or Zip code. Number of employees, annual revenues and more. Target only those businesses perfect for your message. By the way you get the full data record which includes the company name, executives name, address, phone, fax, email, SIC, NAICS, number of employees, revenues and more. You can check out our data site here XYZ website.
I am giving you the GUN and the BULLETS. No Contract. Month to month, cancel any time. Just the business data alone is worth $395. By the way, when you get to the 6th month I will give you an awesome email software for free! All this for $199 per month. Do you have one of those squiggly letters Captcha codes on your website contact form? They don’t stop us! 30% of all website contact pages use Captcha codes. That means 70% have no security whatsoever and you can post those free. But what about that 30 % with Captcha codes. Not a problem. We are fully integrated with a service that solves these Captcha codes for a measly $1.38 per thousand. It’s genius.
If you are selling to business executives and can reach an addition 1000 executives for $1.38 you would be crazy not to. XYZ system will even collect email addresses from the websites it visits. There are many more features like the XYZ feature. Input a business website and a list of employee names and the appender find all their emails then validate each one. It works like magic.
Watch the video on XYZ website. All this for $199 per month. The special data bonus in worth $395 alone. Check it out for yourself take a look at the pricing on our data website. Plus in 6 months I will give you a great email software for free. Hit the in box every time with XYZ service. This advanced email sending platform can personalize every message and fly under the spam filters radar. XYZ system is easy to use, no big learning curve anyone can operate it. Plus we have free training videos. What are you waiting for? You have nothing to lose. Download the full version now and give it a test drive. Go to XYZ website And watch the first video. Bye for now, Tom Mack”
Providing experiences that WOW is not that difficult. It does, however, require keeping the desire to be amazing in every interaction with a prospect or customer top of mind.
In part 1, I talked about Infusionsoft and how frustrating their process is for canceling your account. Had it been easy to walk away, I wouldn’t have broadcast to my followers that Infusionsoft doesn’t live up to its promise, and they are tough to do business with. In AWeber’s case, the process for canceling my account wasn’t difficult and they refunded a portion of my money to boot. But a process that they spin as being better for you – the customer – isn’t.
For 8 years, I’ve been building my email list. I take the CANN-SPAM act seriously and have always followed the rules of email marketing. This is so important to me that I NEVER add anyone I meet who hands me a business card. That’s not permission to add to a list my friends, although far too many people do it. Subscribers can easily opt-out of my list; I don’t waste their time even asking why. I assume their reason is nothing personal. Everyone is on overload these days. I’m no exception. Email inboxes are more crowded than ever and people often just don’t have the time to read one more newsletter. I opt out of plenty of them myself.
While using the Infusionsoft system, I once again scrubbed the list. If a lot of people start opting out, Infusionsoft assumes you are a spammer and will halt you in your tracks. I think that’s a good thing. But imagine my surprise when we wanted to upload our mailing list to the AWeber account only to find out that they insist on sending out a “reconfirmation” email. That means that people who have opted in to my list, now have to go to another step to say yes again.
AWeber will tell you that it is the best way to ensure that emails are not blocked by spam filters. They claim that their process is why they have a high rate of delivery versus other email marketing companies. I don’t believe it. There’s a back story there somewhere.
As I’m working to get my email marketing back on track, this little hiccup didn’t make me happy. I asked a couple of my colleagues what they thought about the double opt-in policy. Depending on who you talk too there are two ways to look at it.
1. You can think of the process are further cleaning and purging your list. Makes sense. I really do want people to find what I send them valuable.
On the other hand…
2. People are super busy. What if they never get around to reconfirming? Depending on how long it takes people to confirm again, my email marketing might not be very effective.
I did some checking on AWeber’s support site to find out if there was a way around this default. After all, quite a few of their competitors don’t require this and have their own ways of verifying if you have a purchased or spam list. It turned out that – yes – you could ask them to waive this default setting if you have a clean list. Awesome, I thought. Now we can move forward.
Uh, not so fast.
I sent AWeber my request, explaining my reason for switching providers and confirming that I had just gone through the process of scrubbing the list about 12 months earlier. Pretty quickly I received a response that essentially said that AWeber rarely makes an exception to their policy (OK, why is it on your website and written in a way that suggests you do make exceptions?). The service rep goes on to say that if I will answer their list of questions, they will research my situation and get back to me. They are trying to verify that I’m legit…I get it.
The next email I receive now says they aren’t sure and that maybe they’ll make an exception, which they will rarely do, but now I need to give them the log in details to the Infusionsoft account so that they could verify the last campaign that I’d sent. Well, for starters, I told them I had not sent a campaign in a few months. I also told them that I’d canceled my Imfusionsoft account, which at the time, I didn’t know was still active.
Now I’m fuming. Time is already being wasted; I’m no closer to getting a newsletter out. And there was no guarantee that they’d say yes anyway. Screw it, I said to myself. I told the service rep that this was a complete waste of my time and wasn’t worth it. I said that I planned to cancel the account, which I did right away.
I receive another email from the same service guy saying that if I would provide the list, they’d do some sort of verification thing to see if the addresses were valid. More of my time to be wasted and again no promise that my request would be approved.
Thank you, MailChimp.
MailChimp and AWeber both receive good reviews and recommendations but AWeber seemed have just a bit more under the hood that would suit my purposes. After my brief experience with them, I went to MailChimp. They have ecommerce hooks and other things that I need. They also happen to be a business local to me, many of my colleagues use them, and they have a fair number of corporate client. Good enough for me. But the biggie…they don’t force the double opt-in process.
MailChimp has designed an algorithm that can test your list to determine validity. Guess what…within a few minutes, my list was verified and I was ready to go.
If you won’t, your competitors will.
There must be hundreds of email marketing systems available. Why would any company want to make it difficult for new and existing customers? It is beyond me.
The experience with AWeber left me feeling a little like being back in grade school. It feels like their “rule” is meant to stop the real spammers, but in the process they penalize legitimate business people who work hard to do the right thing.
Well, thanks for the memories AWeber. MailChimp, I look forward to a beautiful relationship!
Yes, because the sales message sucks. Just like the one you sent to me.
If I am tired of this kind of cheese, you know that other busy Sales Executives and Business Owners are too. You would welcome the opportunity to learn more about my sales process?
First, I’m not Christopher and Christopher has never worked here.
Second, I’m not available to waste my time educating you about my business.
Third, you assume that the people you are emailing struggle to find prospects.
Four, if you really “care” – take time to do your homework and tailor your message.
Five, the email is a pitch, and I don’t care that you are “excited” to share how you help others.
To all sellers, sales leaders and marketers…
Differentiation from the competition is a common sales goal, and it isn’t that hard to do. Guess what…don’t send messages like this one. Guaranteed, you will stand out! Why? Because it is RARE to receive a cold email that adds value or is compelling enough for buyers to want to know more.
PLEASE don’t send emails like this one.
Most business owners and sales people struggle to find prospects. Telemarketing and fancy email marketing campaigns yield disappointing results. I’m excited to share how I’m helping others have a constant stream of prospects with XYZ’s automated prospecting technology; the return on investment is typically less than 3 months. I provide sales expertise and can help in other areas too.
• 30%+ Response rates (personal & relevant content with multiple touches, totally automated & managed)
• Steady Stream of prospects=$ MORE SALES$
• Fewer missed opportunities: our clients are at the “Top of their prospects minds”
•Personal and professional attention from a sales professional with over 20 years of B2B sales success, I care.
I would welcome the opportunity to learn more about your sales process and share with how I can help add drive more revenue.. Do you have any availability for a brief call in the next few weeks?