Rude! The Language of Marketing and Sales

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"Overcome their objections."

"Establish a relationship."

"Target market."

"Convert them."

"Personas."

"Push."

"Pull."

These phrases are the lingua franca of marketing and sales. And they are rude! Offensive to the very people they are referring to - the very buyers who are considered "the target market." And they are a symbol of all that is wrong with marketing and selling right now.

Let's take off our selling and marketing hats for a moment and look at these words from the buyer's perspective.

Objections. I don't have objections. I have valid concerns because of negative experiences with sellers. I've heard all the promises before. When I've believed the promises and bought, I've discovered how they were lying to me.

It's no big deal when the disappointment involves small, inexpensive decisions. But it is a very big deal when my career or my business or my family's financial future is on the line. That's why I have learned not to trust the fancy promises. I have learned to doubt, and to question, and to talk to my friends (or working peers). It's easier than ever to talk to other buyers or read what they've written online; I can gather a lot of data from talking to them before I ever talk to a salesperson, visit a website, or even go to a search engine.

I want answers. That's all, just honest, accurate answers. But often salespeople focus on manipulation rather than knowledge and helpfulness. They treat me like an idiot who doesn't know what I'm talking about. It's tiresome, insulting, and it drives me away. I just don't trust them.

Relationships. I'm not buying a relationship. I have plenty of relationships. I'm trying to buy a product or a service that meets a need. I just want that product or service to do what it is supposed to do. If it doesn't, I won't stick around.

Target market. Excuse me, but I am not a target. I know you like to think of me that way, because I may be interested in your product or service. But don't treat me like a target. I am an individual with needs, and I'm hoping someone can meet those needs. Thinking of me as a target doesn't make you think of me as an individual. It just makes it easier for you to insult or injure me.

Convert them. Nobody wants to be "converted." If we see someone coming to convert us, we run as fast as we can in the other direction. What if I'm already sold on the idea of buying from you, before I even contact you? What if I'm already "converted" in my mind, in the sense that I have pictured finding, buying, and using your product, and I know exactly how I want it to go? What if the only thing keeping me from carrying out this scenario is you - because you're not making it easy for me to find you, get my questions answered, trust you, and buy from you?

Personas. What if I went to a restaurant, and the waiter never came over to take my order. Instead, he took a look at me and decided, based on what I was wearing, what I would want to order. This is what personas remind me of. You may think you know who I am. Does that mean that you know what I want to buy and how I want to buy it? Not necessarily. [Too many marketers build personas without ever personally interviewing their customers.]

Push. Pull. Both of these words are insulting. I'm not a donkey. I'm your customer. I'm the source of your revenue. I'm going to pay for your retirement or your kid's college education. Don't push me. Don't pull me. Get to know me, and then help me.

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You can easily find out what future customers want from you, and how they want to buy it, IF you interview current customers after the sale, by phone, and ask open-ended questions. (Yes, I teach you exactly how in my book.)

Their answers will help you start treating your customers like human beings.

Future customers will see that you "get it" and are able to help them. They will literally go out of their way to do business with you.
 

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Are Buyers Really Liars?

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Are buyers really liars?

Actually, the real question is: Do sellers do things that force buyers to lie?

The answer, of course, is YES.

To see why the answer is yes, let's look at a typical interaction between a salesperson and a customer in a selling situation.

Imagine that a salesperson is delivering a pitch to a potential customer. At some point during the pitch, the salesperson says or does something that immediately makes the customer think: Whoa. That's not good. Major red flag. Hmmm. Yep, MAJOR. In fact, it's a show-stopper. There is no way I'm going to give this guy my business.

There are dozens of triggers for this thought. The salesperson may have:

  • Mentioned, off-handedly, that the company is up for sale
  • Said something that the customer knows is clearly a lie
  • Said something about the way the company does business that the customer simply won't tolerate, including inefficient/rude processes or policies, or illegal practices
  • Revealed things about other customers that he should not have revealed, and the customer decides he cannot trust the salesperson or his company with his own information
  • Said that they can't provide a product or service in time to fit the customer's own deadlines
  • Made it clear that he is incapable of listening to what the customer is really saying or respecting what the customer really wants

This is just a partial list; I could easily list dozens more. But you get the point. The seller has just done something that stops the buying process cold.

When I am the buyer in these situations, I immediately stop the conversation and tell the seller the truth. I tell them that they have just caused me to decide not to do business with them, that nothing they can say will change my mind, and that I am telling them to help them. Then I hang up or walk out, even as they are still speaking, if they refuse to take my word for it.

In other words, I don't lie. But I am not your typical customer. I am a revenue coach, and when a salesperson does something this stupid, I feel obligated to tell them.

Your customers are not revenue coaches. They are people who are hoping you can solve their problem.

If you, by your own words and actions (via your salespeople, partners, website, emails, etc.), say something that turns the customer off - and kills the deal - they won't tell you. They will simply leave (if they've come to your website) or unsubscribe (if they've been getting your emails) or let the salesperson keep thinking that he's making a positive impression, while at the same they are trying to shorten the sales call as much as possible. When the salesperson is done, the customer will smile and shake hands, and say, "Sure," when the salesperson asks if he can "follow up next week." And then the customer will go back to looking for a suitable solution.

In this situation, customers lie because it will be too painful to tell the truth. They know perfectly well that if they tell the salesperson what they're really thinking, the salesperson will launch into a passionate, pushy, disgustingly boring rant about why the customer is WRONG. This is what salespeople are trained to do: "overcome objections." The result is that customers stating their wise and valid concerns are treated as if they are stupid idiots who don't know what they're talking about.

None of us wants to subject ourselves to that kind of insulting treatment.

So yes, buyers lie. Sellers force them to.

If company managers listened to their customers and gave them what they wanted, buyers wouldn't have to lie. If salespeople, websites, emails, and other company-generated content answered the questions customers had, honestly and efficiently, buyers could move through their buying process without hesitation. No red flags, sign me up.

Companies would sell more. A lot more.

And buyers would be relieved. They  could stop lying and start buying.

 

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Your Own Customers Want to Help You Sell More

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Whenever I first begin working with a new client, the CEO and other managers explain their situation and their goals. They also tell me what they think is important to their customers. In effect, they’ve given me their "list."

Then I interview their customers. In in-depth phone conversations, their customers tell me, among other things, what is important to them. After about seven interviews (of the same type of buyer), the items on the customers' list and their importance – are firmly established. Customers always agree on the most important items, even though most of them have never talked to each other.

Here is something you need to know: The company’s list and the customer lists are never, ever the same. There might be one or two items in common, but even then, the items are never in the same order of importance.

Things that the company thinks are really important are either totally missing from the customer’s list, or are at the bottom. Things that the customer thinks are really important are either missing from the company’s list or are at the bottom of their list.

This is serious, because it means that everything the company is doing is based on incorrect assumptions.
Those false assumptions are leading them to make bad product, policy and process decisions. Those assumptions cause them to create copy that is boring and irrelevant. Those assumptions make it tougher for customers to find them and buy from them.

And they wonder why they’re having so much trouble making sales.

Typically, the top items on the company list include product attributes that were difficult to achieve. The developers who worked mightily to make their product compatible with an industry standard, or to include a function that a competitor offers, may think these achievements are the most important aspect of their product. The customer, on the other hand, may expect all of the products in that market to share that characteristic. These “industry baseline promises” are nothing to brag about, in the customer’s mind. But, websites are filled with copy that does just that: brag about things that do not impress customers in the least.

The top items on the customer list tend to focus on the experience that the customers were hoping to have during the buying process and after they purchased the product or service. They were hoping to find a company that met a very specific need. They were hoping to find honest, relevant answers to their questions on the company’s website. They wanted someone to actually answer the phone or respond to their email when they contacted the company. They wanted the product to work or service to be performed – as advertised.

If you assume you know what they really want, you are going to miss the mark. You will never sell as much as you could nor bring in as much revenue as you’d like to.

Fortunately, your customers – the people who have already bought from you – are more than happy to help you out, if you reach out to them and interview them the right way (as I describe in detail in my book).

If someone called you after you bought a product or used a service, and asked you – politely and intelligently – about our experience, and what they could do to improve, wouldn’t you have something useful to say? Wouldn’t you be happy to help? Wouldn’t you be glad they asked?

Of course you would. Your customers will be, too.

And after you’ve interviewed about seven to ten customers (if you have more than one type of customer, you should interview seven to ten of each type), you will realize how and why you were are missing the mark. You will understand what you have to do, to make it easier for them to find you, appreciate what you’re offering, and buy from you.

 Your own customers – the people you’ve already sold to – can help you sell more. You just have to know how to ask them, and then take the right actions after they’ve told you the truth.

 

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Why I Don't Work With Jerks

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Jerks are people who decided, early in life, that they were going to be jerks. It was their way of trying to come out on top. It didn't matter whose face they had to stand on, on the way up.

With jerks, it is always "me" against "them." Every interaction is a battle. If they want something, they try to figure out how to get it by manipulating, lying, and cheating.

I long ago decided that I would not take on jerk clients. It's a waste of time to help them anyway. There is no way they are going to do things that actually benefit customers and employees. Even if they pay lip service to goodness, sooner or later their true nature will come out, and everyone will know what a jerk they are. Policies created by jerks always benefit the jerk at the expense of someone else.

It's pretty difficult to live a jerk-free life, but I certainly do try. On those rare occasions in our personal life when I am forced to deal with a jerk, I am reminded why I work so hard to avoid jerks in my business life.

Nothing is their fault. Everything is your fault, even when it is impossible - even ridiculous - that it could be your fault. They are combative and demanding. They do more damage than good, and when you call them at it, they just make more excuses or vehemently shift the blame.

I'm glad to see that social media is making it tougher for jerks to hide behind a flashy façade. But at the same time, the jerks have gotten better at lying and making their side of the story sound plausible.

If you suspect that someone might be a jerk, you are probably right. Back away early and often. You won't regret it.

I recently turned down a potential new client who gave me jerk vibes. While the salesperson inside me is always reluctant to turn down a new client, I felt relieved after I did it. I knew I had escaped the endless agony of dealing with a jerk. And I would also have more time to devote to all the good people who need my help.
 

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Top 5 Cyber Biz Mistakes

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We've all been doing business on the web for more than ten years now. We all consider ourselves experts.

And yet, I still see the majority of business people making these really stupid mistakes. These mistakes are a drag on business - and your revenue. They're small things, seemingly, and simple. But they make all the difference in the daily interactions between you, the seller, and your buyers.

The Top Five Cyber Biz Mistakes

1. Missing or incomplete email sig.
Let's say you have just decided that you want to buy something from someone who has been sending you emails. You have a question, and you decide it will go faster if you call. What do you do first? You go to your email inbox, find one of their emails, and open it up.

You EXPECT their contact information to be at the end of each message, complete with a direct dial number and/or their mobile number. When it isn't there - and it often isn't - you have to go digging, which is a pain.

You open up your browser, type in their company's URL, go to the Contact section, and, if you are lucky, there will actually be a phone number. You call the main number, and find yourself listening to an automated attendant giving you category choices ("For sales, press 1. For service, press 2.") Finally the attendant tells you there is a dial-by-name company directory.

Now you know you will have to tediously spell their name out using the keypad until it is recognized. If you are using a smartphone, you have to put the phone on "loudspeaker" so you can dial and hear when the attendant recognizes the name. I should also note that if you are using a smartphone, there are often no letters on the number keys, so you have to refer to something else (like an old-fashioned phone or a diagram you've made for yourself, or your Skype window, which shows very faint letters on their dialpad).

Of course, at some point in this process you might decide that this is too much work. You may give up on calling and send an email, or you may decide that vendor shouldn't get your business - and go looking for a competitor to contact.

This is crazy. We all should be putting our full contact information in an automatically appended email signature: Name, phone number(s), title, company, site URL, social media/VOIP names (Facebook [if appropriate], Twitter, Skype, LinkedIn), mailing address, blog URL. I even suggest including your email address, in case someone wants to copy and paste your contact info into another email they are sending someone else.

I bet we could eliminate 10% of the time we waste every day if everyone did this. And you'd be making it a lot easier for people to contact you when they wanted to buy.

2. Lack of attention to the little things on your website. Your copyright should be this year, not last year or the year before. An outdated copyright notice tells the prospective buyer that you are asleep at the wheel, not paying attention to detail, and probably aren't very professional. Full contact information and a link to a site map should also appear with the copyright information at the bottom of every one of your site's pages.

Once a month, click on all the links in all your sites. And try to buy something from yourself. I bet you'll find something embarrassing each time you do this, something that is causing "shopping cart abandonment."

Actively maintain and constantly upgrade your site.

Your website is your public face. People visit it every day, and pass judgment on your site in seconds. Don't just put it up and leave it there. Visit it yourself.

3. "About" sections that don't talk about company managers. CEOs tell me that they don't like to show their management team on their About page because they're afraid of headhunters. It's a silly fear. LinkedIn is the world's most convenient poaching/recruiting tool, far more convenient than your website. And if you are that worried about retaining your key managers, they probably have their resumes out on the street anyway.

And, importantly, your buyers want to know WHO YOU ARE. Showing the faces of your managers increases the trust factor, demonstrating to prospective customers that you are not just some sleazeball waiting to pounce on the unwary.

I recently looked at about a dozen websites for small and medium companies trying to make more sales in a competitive market, and NONE of them had a helpful About page. One even had a link to "our parent company"; when you clicked on that link, you were taken to a page that was all black, with only about 4 sentences on it in white type, about how great they are and how they want to help you. Very off-putting, and costing the "child" company lots of sales.

4. Incomplete and confusing emails. At the book fulfillment company I work with, there are two people I interact with frequently: the sales rep, and the customer service person. The sales rep always does a great job of communicating via email. I always get my question answered, in the first email she sends in response.

The customer service person does just the opposite. His emails ALWAYS force me to ask more questions. For example, recently Amazon was saying, "2 -3  weeks for delivery" on my book's Amazon page. I assumed they had run out of stock because orders are hockey-sticking. But just to be sure, I checked with my rep. His answer: "They ran out of stock. They have several orders that shipped last week. Once received it will show in stock."

Now, I  can assume from this that he is really saying: "Amazon ran out of stock. We shipped more books to them last week. As soon as Amazon receives them, they will be able to ship immediately again."

This is what he should have said. Instead, his answer begged more questions. Who are "they"? What is "it"? Indefinite pronouns are killers. Banish indefinite pronouns from your communications.

There are plenty of people in business out there who write this way. Their emails drive everyone crazy. They may know what they are trying to say, but they are not communicating those thoughts effectively and unambiguously to the recipient.

Be formal, explicit, specific, and thorough in your emails. Everyone who gets your clear messages, and is able to act on them, will thank you for it.

5. Old and useless subject lines. When we work on projects via email (which is how most of us work now), we file - and search through - those emails, using three filtering criteria: person, subject, date. The "person" and "date" fields are automatic. The subject lines are what separate super cyber citizens from the herd.

Don't be lazy. Change the subject line when the message subject changes. This is especially important when you're giving instructions to employees and vendors, and answering questions for customers. Make it a practice, no matter who you're interacting with.

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Your digital content should be answering questions, not confusing people - or forcing them to search elsewhere for the answer.

We are all doing business digitally now. There is a standard. Meet it.

All of your projects will go more smoothly. You'll get more done - and you'll sell more, too.

 

 

Zhivago Management Partners
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Kristin@Zhivago.com  401-423-2400
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