• Does Your Content Help or Hurt Sales?

    By Michelle Davidson

    Content Marketing image from ShutterstockAt any time, buyers can go online and look for information about you, your company, and your services. When they get there, what will they find?

    Will they find useful content created or curated by you that helps them with the challenge they're facing? Will they find self-serving promotional pieces that cause them to instantly click away? Will they find blog posts and articles about you but written by someone else who misconstrued information about you? Or will they find nothing at all because your links are buried on the fifth page of search results, and no one goes past page 2 when doing searches?

    Online information plays a key role in prospect's buying decisions. And you need to control the flow of it. For when you can control the flow, you can better control the sales process, writes Colleen Francis in her article How to Regain Control of the Sales Process.

    "The whole point of regaining control of the information flow is to attract buyers," she says. "Follow your ideal clientele on social media, and join the same networking groups they're members of to make yourself known. Publish high-value content to these sites daily. In doing so, you cast a wide net and encourage the buyer to come to you. I call this approach indirect prospecting."

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  • How Healthy Is Your Sales Environment?

    By Michelle Davidson

    HealthyExercise, get enough sleep, don't eat too many fatty foods, don't drink too much, take time off from work. Those are all components of a healthy lifestyle. Each is needed, but in a balanced way. Too much of one, and you move into the unhealthy end of the spectrum.

    The same balanced approach applies to your sales process. You need to prospect, close deals, and service clients, but focus too much on one of those, and you create a boom/bust cycle, says Colleen Francis, author of Nonstop Sales Boom in her podcast interview 3 Reasons Why Firms Experience Boom/Bust Sales Cycles.

    You have to understand "that your sales pipeline is a multi-dimensional thing—that you have to take leads from all different places, and you have to be nurturing your existing clients as well as your new clients," she says. "We have to be asking for referrals and leveraging our existing client base, as well as going out and meeting brand-new people in order to really create this healthy buoyant sales environment where you're consistently hitting your targets."

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  • Don't Try to Be All Things to All Buyers

    By Michelle Davidson

    Jack of All Trades"Jack of all trades, master of none."

    It's never a good thing to be considered that, especially when trying to bring in new clients. Buyers don't want Jacks; they want masters. For when you're a master, you offer the expertise, comfort, and trustworthiness that makes people want to work with you.

    Although you might have many skills and the ability to offer many services to various types of businesses, you need to narrow your focus—in your marketing, in your presentations, and in your conversations with prospects.

    Resist the urge to be all things to all of your buyers, says Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute. For your content marketing to succeed, you must focus on a smaller portion of your overall audience, he says in his podcast interview 3 Areas in Content Marketing Where Service Firms Go Wrong.

    "I think that’s where service firms go wrong because [they] try to cover all of [their] customers and say, 'How can we get the most bang for our buck out of content marketing,'" Pulizzi says. "Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. So, we want to focus on the smallest niche audience that we feel we can make the most impact with."

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  • The Fine Line between Trusted Advisor and Annoying Salesperson

    By Michelle Davidson

    Walk the lineWhen selling and marketing your services and your business, it might feel like you're walking a narrow line between being perceived as a trusted advisor and a pushy, even desperate, salesperson. One misstep—even if that misstep was an accident—can push you over the line. And before you know it, there goes the sale.

    What can you do? You're excited about your services, and you want to help people. But if you push too hard, buyers will walk. That medium ground involves doing things that assure prospects you can be trusted and "that you have their best interests at heart," says Colleen Stanley in her article Are You a Trusted Advisor or a Typical Salesperson?

    Two things on the top of her list are seeking the truth and telling the truth. Seeking the truth involves finding the root of the buyer's problem. You must ask questions and really listen to what the buyer says. Don't wait for cues to jump in and give your spiel. Uncover their true needs, then offer a solution.

    If it turns out you don't have the expertise or resources to help solve their problem, tell them so.

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  • How Salespeople Are Like Artists

    By Michelle Davidson

    Woman with a Blue Hat, Pablo Picasso, 1938
    Woman with a Blue Hat,
    Pablo Picasso                                                

    I know many people who put down abstract artists—artists such as Jackson Pollack, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Paul Cézanne.

    They say things such as: Anyone can do what they do. It's just paint splatter. It's just a bunch of squiggles. People are not made out of cubes. No woman ever looks like that with her eyes off level and her nose huge.

    And they sound so annoyed and disgusted by the work from those artists.

    The truth is before artists can create abstract art, they must master the fine skills of painting and drawing. (If you look at Picasso's earlier work, such as The Old Fisherman, you will clearly see his talent for depicting the human figure.) Once artists have those skills, then they can express themselves via abstract techniques—sometimes breaking the rules they were taught.

    The same applies to all arts: writing, dance, photography, music, etc.

    Not only that, but it also applies to sales and marketing. You need certain skills to succeed. But you also need to build on those skills, have the right mindset, and develop a nuanced approach.

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  • There Are No Secrets or Tricks in Marketing and Sales

    By Michelle Davidson

    No quick fix buttomEveryone is looking for the "secret," the "trick," the "one thing," and so on that will make their lives easier. Whether it's losing weight, looking younger, getting more Twitter followers, or generating more leads, we'd all love to have a quick and easy way to make it happen.

    The truth is the Easy button does not exist (sorry, Staples). There are no secrets or tricks. Everything takes time and effort. Everything is a process.

    And sometimes the thing that's needed to achieve a goal is ignored. Consider marketing professional services. People know they should focus their efforts on specific markets with a targeted set of services, but they don't, writes Michael W. McLaughlin in his article The 'Secret' of Professional Services Marketing.

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  • When a Buyer Loses Interest

    By Michelle Davidson

    You're in a meeting with a prospect. It starts out great. They are friendly, they listen attentively, they answer your questions, and they ask you a few questions.

    But then as you explain your solution's features, share some statistics, and talk about how your service helped a similar company, you notice one of the people on the buying team shaking his head. Not long after that, another person on the team looks at her watch and another pulls out his phone to check his messages.

    You've lost them. They don't care, and they don't want to hear any more.

    More than likely your gut is telling you to get out of that situation—and get out of there as fast as you can. Run! Some people would—they'd cave to their addiction for comfort and leave the uncomfortable situation as soon as possible. And they would lose the sale.

    If you face your discomfort, however, and stop the presentation to address their actions ("Jim, you don't seem to agree with those statistics. Have you heard something different?"), you can uncover the source of their problem, keep the conversation going, and work toward the sale.

    The key to handling this type of uncomfortable situation is to decide how you're going to handle it before it happens, says Jeff Shore in his podcast interview How to Build Your 'Boldness Muscle' and Win More Sales.

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  • Sales Mistakes Nearly Everyone Makes

    By Michelle Davidson

    Oops"And bad mistakes ‒ I've made a few." —Queen, "We Are the Champions"

    We all make mistakes. We say something that we think is helpful (to a prospect, client, or even a spouse), and it backfires. Or we act selfishly (I have a quota, goal, revenue target, etc. to meet), and the short-term gain causes us long-term benefits.

    Mistakes are human nature—even the pros make them. It's how you handle those mistakes that matters. You can deny it happened, ignore it, hang on to it and make yourself miserable, or learn from it and try to not let it happen again.

    You might even be making mistakes unknowingly. Your brain (and sometimes your gut) tells you what you're doing is right, but in reality you should be doing the opposite.

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  • Buyers Want to Know: How Can You Add Insight?

    By Michelle Davidson

    John Doerr, What It Takes to Sell with Insight"What do you know about my business, and how can you add insight?"

    That's a question more and more prospects are asking of salespeople and professionals involved in business development. Buyers these days know all about you, your company, and your services thanks to the plethora of information available on the Internet. Some people are so diligent they find information about you that you didn't think was publicly available.

    That means when they contact you or agree to meet with you, you must provide something more. And that something is insight, says John Doerr, co-author of Insight Selling and president of RAIN Group, which has researched extensively what buyers want from salespeople.

    "One of the things with our research is what separates the top salespeople—the ones who won—from the ones who came in second place. … And the top two, according to the buyers we talked with, were provided new ideas and insights and collaborated with me," Doerr says.

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  • What You Know Matters As Much As the Things You Do

    By Michelle Davidson

    Ideas equal moneyI'm a list maker. I love making my lists and crossing things off them. In my team meetings, being able to tick off the things I've accomplished or I'm working on gives me a sense of accomplishment.

    I do lots of things that don't lead to crossing something off my list, though. I'm sure that's the case for many of you with your client work. Yes, you have projects for which you have certain tasks to complete and goals to achieve. Those are the things you do for your client.

    You provide more than that, however. You also provide knowledge, insight, and advice to clients. Those things are worth as much as the things you do—cross off on your list—and you should be paid for them, says Michael J. Katz in his article Get Paid for What You Know, As Well As What You Do.

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