Why Salespeople Get a Bad Name

Sleazy Salesman

Would you buy a hosting plan from this guy?

Sales is a difficult profession. That’s why I have respect for good salespeople and contempt for bad ones. It can be very challenging out there when you have to make a sale to put bread on your table, or to satisfy a belligerent boss. Sadly, caving in to the pressure often takes the form of compromising your values. I witnessed this first hand last week.

Starched White Shirts and Baklava

I have been patronizing a small family owned dry cleaning business for the past two years. I’ve gotten to know the family and look forward to stopping in. Sure, they’re very good at what they do but my visits are more about pleasant conversation and home made baklava than crisply starched shirts. I’ve mentioned what I do for work a couple of times but never tried to sell them anything. One day last week they called me to ask if I would be interested in redesigning their website. “Of course,” I said. So after throwing a pile of dirty clothes on the counter and getting my pickup slip, we sat down to discuss the possibilities. There was a problem.

Right Place Right Time

They were at the end of what they believed to be a one year contract with a large, well known company whose specialty is traditional phone book ads. I won’t mention their name. Just imagine a book being the color of a banana. Subtle enough hint? As we talked, their sales rep pulled into the parking lot. Pure serendipity. To avoid a potentially awkward situation I respectfully offered to leave. The family patriarch grabbed my arm and said, “please do me a favor. Just sit here reading this magazine (note: the magazine was in Greek. I don’t read Greek.) and listen to what he says so we can discuss it later.” Well, I thought. This is kind of different. I didn’t see any harm in it so I complied.

Making the Sale at all Costs Just Might Cost Too Much

What I heard was a toxic mix of lies and misinformation.

  • lie – “You can’t redesign your website or move it to another provider because you will lose all of your search engine standing.”
    The truth is that you can redesign or move your website any time you choose. By using 301 permanent re-direction code, a technique any web designer knows about, anyone looking for an old page will be redirected to the new version of that page. The permanent nature of the redirect tells Google to remove the old page(s) from it’s directory and replace it with the new page.
  • misleading information – “Don’t worry about your domain name. We’ll take care of it for you.”
    I cautioned about this in an earlier post. While this may sound like one less thing you have to worry about, what it really means is that they will own your domain name. One more way they make it difficult for you to leave and take your business elsewhere. Your domain name is a vital part of your business. You should own it. They should tell you that.
  • selective memory – “You signed a two year contract”
    Before the sales guy arrived, both brothers emphatically stressed that they were told they were signing up for one year. It was a precondition to signing the agreement in the first place. The sales guy suddenly had a different recollection. Guess who I believe?

Now Back to You

I’m pretty steamed about this. I know it’s easy for me to say but if making a sale requires that you lie, please look for other work. There are plenty of terrific salespeople out there who blend their skill (make no mistake, selling is a skill) with good values and strong ethics. What do you think? Have you been manipulated by a shady salesperson? Did you know it when it was happening? What’s your take? Talk to me.

Photo credit: Supermac1961

Collaboration – The Key to Lasting Success

Collaboration

Collaboration - The Best Way to Produce Something Beautiful

My best clients are those who understand the importance of collaboration. Sure I’ve worked with companies over the years who have handed me some copy then said build me a website and call me when it’s done. And for the most part those projects have turned out just fine. But just fine isn’t good enough. Not any more. Not in the age of engagement where company websites and their associated social profiles have become the primary means by which businesses communicate with their customers.

The “Two Ears One Mouth” Model

Metaphorically speaking the fact that we have two ears and one mouth ought to suggest that we listen more than we talk. Metaphors aside, most of us still do it the other way around. But the key to collaboration is active listening. Asking questions and really listening to the answers. This, of course, is essential to any successful relationship, whether it’s personal or business. But many companies, and many clients/customers, still don’t get it. Let me put it this way. I can’t produce a website that properly represents your business if I don’t truly listen to your answers to my questions. You won’t feel confident in my ability if you don’t truly listen to my answers to your questions.

What You Should Expect From Me

You can expect me to:

  • be at the top of my game – this means I will always be monitoring latest trends, best practices and new technologies
  • be responsive – I will always do my best to respond to your voice or emails within 24 hours
  • be proactive – I will always tell you about developments in the industry that I think will benefit your business
  • be fun to work with – trust me on this one

What I Expect From You

In a word? Stay engaged. (Okay, that’s two words).

  • stick to deadlines – if the project depends on you delivering content, stick to the deadline. It will keep the momentum going and will ensure that we don’t lose our enthusiasm
  • keep the communication going – I know you’re busy. But try to answer my voice or emails within 24 hours. (I promise I’ll do the same)
  • smile – working together should be fun. I’ll do my part to ensure it is

And Now Back to You

Is collaboration important to you? Would you rather be less involved? If you’ve worked with a company recently, were expectations clearly laid out? Did that make the process easier? Better? As always, thanks for your participation.

Photo credit: Artotem

3 Things You Absolutely Need to Know About LinkedIn

LinkedInConversations with my clients have convinced me that people don’t understand the reach of LinkedIn. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn users tend to treat their profile as an online resume. They set it once then forget it. Big mistake! According to Social Brothers, a social media management and consulting firm, the average age of LinkedIn users is 43 versus 18-34 for both Facebook and Twitter. The average annual income of LinkedIn users is $109,000 versus $26,000-$50, 000 for both Facebook and Twitter. This is a strong and influential demographic and using all of LinkedIn’s capabilities to reach them is a smart business move. Most LinkedIn users are aware of its more obvious capabilities, but here are three less obvious ways to use LinkedIn to help you reach potential clients, solidify your online reputation and find people working inside of companies you are interested in speaking to.

1. Search Companies

Let’s say you want to speak to the Vice President of Marketing at Hubspot (one of my favorite companies). You can use the traditional method of emails, letters or phone calls. Good luck trying to get past the gate keepers who have been trained to keep you at a distance. Or you can search Companies on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn's Search Companies feature

Simply type the name of the company you’re interested in into the search field. Your search results will be a list of people you are connected to who work inside the company. I tried this and was surprised to find that I knew two people working inside of Hubspot. Now I’m not looking to meet the Vice President of Marketing at Hubspot, but if I were what an advantage it would be to get a personal introduction from someone already working there. No more gatekeepers.

2. Join or Start a Group

Groups are online communities built around a particular topic or area of interest. Currently there are over 250,000 LinkedIn groups covering a wide variety of topics. Why join a group? When others view your Linkedin profile they will see the names and logos of all the groups you belong to. This involvement boosts your authority and lets people viewing your profile know that your interests are deep and diverse. In addition, being plugged into groups within your sphere of interest helps you learn from others.

LinkedIn Groups

LinkedIn's Search Groups feature

Finding groups to join is easy. Type a keyword phrase into the Groups search field. The screenshot below shows the results for a search on the phrase “paul reed smith” (Paul Reed Smith or PRS, is a handmade electric guitar. I own one). This is a highly specialized area of interest so the results show only 3 groups. You can see the Join Group button on the right. If you can’t find just the right group to match your interest or expertise, the yellow Create a Group button on the left allows you to start your own.

The LinkeIn group search results page

The LinkedIn Group search restults page

 3. Ask or Answer a Question

LinkedIn’s Answers feature is a great example of the collaborative nature of today’s social web. By asking a question you are tapping into the knowledge, expertise and experience of hundreds of thousands of people who can see, and if they choose, answer your question.

LinkedIn's Answers feature

LinkedIn's Answers feature

The screen capture below displays the screen you will see after selecting Answers from the drop down menu.

You can either ask or answer a question

When you ask a question, LinkedIn prompts you to categorize the question so that others with expertise in that category can answer it. When answering a question, it is in your best interest to choose a question about something you really know well. Bear in mind that many people will be responding and the person who asked the question gets to choose what he/she believes to be the best answer. If your answer is chosen as the best, this will be reflected in your profile. The more best answers you provide, the more credibility you build… and that, after all, is the point.

Quick Summary

Three under used features of LinkedIn:

  • Company search
  • Groups – join or start your own
  • Questions – ask or answer

Now Back to You

What LinkedIn features have you found useful? Were you aware of the three I’ve covered here?

My Top Ten List of People Worth Following

Anti Social

Back about a year and a half ago a colleague of mine asked me a simple question. “When are you going to get social”? It’s not that I was anti-social, it’s just that I wasn’t blogging, didn’t have a Facebook page or a Twitter account. The only online community I was participating in was LinkedIn. And I wasn’t really participating. I set up my profile and forgot about it. It gradually dawned on me that given what I do for a living I’d better get in the game. So like I did forty five years ago when I decided to play the guitar, I sought out the leaders in the field and started by emulating.

Identify the Best and the Brightest and (Try to) Do What They Do

The following is a list of ten people I’m following now. I have learned and continue to learn from all of them. I am certain that in six months this list will look different but for now I would like to share it and thank those who are on it. You have all taught me much. So in alphabetical order by last name, here it is:

  1. Chris Brogan

    Chris Brogan

    Chris Brogan – Chris’ name was the first name I heard when I posed the question to others “who should I follow“? He’s been blogging longer than anyone and knows the terrain like no one else. He has co-authored, with Julien Smith (see number 9), Trust Agents, a primer on how to use the web to build influence, improve reputation and earn trust and Social Media 101, Tactics and Tips to Develop Your Business Online. I’ve read both of these books. If you’re truly interested in understanding social media, I suggest you read them too and subscribe to Chris’ blog.

  2. C.C. Chapman

    C.C. Chapman

    C.C. Chapman – C.C. is a recognized leader in the online and social media marketing space. He is also the author, along with Ann Handley (see number 4), of Content Rules, How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, eBooks and Webinars that engage customers and ignite your business. I had the pleasure of meeting C.C. at the Boston Wordcamp last summer. His knowledge and insight would be enough. The fact that he is one of the friendliest people I’ve ever met is a real bonus.

  3. Seth Godin

    Seth Godin

    Seth Godin – There’s not much to say about Seth Godin other than he is one of the most influential minds on the planet. At last count (it changes daily) he has written 14 books. He is irreverent, funny and brilliant. Seth’s blog just reached its 4000th post. Back when the algorithm was interesting, the blog was ranked by Technorati as the #1 blog in the world written by a single individual. Do yourself a favor and become familiar with him if you aren’t already.

  4. Ann Handley

    Ann Handley

    Ann Handley – In addition to co-authoring Content Rules with C.C. Chapman (mentioned above), Ann is Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs, an essential online resource for marketing professionals. She is the author of one of my all time favorite blog posts, 5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Be a Content Marketer. Give it a read and you’ll see why I subscribe to her blog.

  5. Guy Kawasaki

    Guy Kawasaki

    Guy Kawasaki – Guy has been an influential voice in the tech world for a long time. His opinions are so valued that his blogs can be found on American Express’ Open Forum website. He has written ten critically acclaimed and immensely popular books including his most recent, Enchantment. He is the co-founder of Alltop.com, an “online magazine rack” of popular topics on the web, and a founding partner at Garage Technology Ventures. He was a long time Apple evangelist and worked closely with the late visionary, Steve Jobs. He writes about that experience here.

  6. Bob Poole

    Bob Poole

    Bob Poole – I recently started following Bob Poole’s blog. Chris Brogan referenced Bob in one of his posts so I thought I’d have a look. I subscribed to Bob’s blog immediately and now look forward to checking back often. I like Bob for a couple of reasons. First of all, he’s my age. Let’s just say we both survived the sixties and lived to tell about it. He is a sales and marketing guy with a very fresh approach. In fact, he wrote a book about his approach called Listen First, Sell Later. I love that. He’s got a sense of humor. I love that too. Best of all, he’s got a link on his website called mojo. I really love that.

  7. Amy Porterfield

    Amy Porterfield

    Amy Porterfield – Here’s the first sentence on Amy’s About page: Here’s How I Can Help You Grow Your Business With Social Media. I love her direct, no nonsense style. Almost every one of her blog posts begins with the words “How to … ” and she delivers. Her tips and suggestions all work. She knows Facebook better than Mark Zuckerberg (ok, you caught me exaggerating) and has great insight into how to use it as the powerful marketing tool it is. I just received her book (which she co-authored with Phyllis Khare and Andrea Vahl) Facebook Marketing All-In-One For Dummies. The cover says it’s 9 books in 1. At over 600 pages I’m sure it is. I can’t wait to dive in.

  8. David Meerman Scott

    David Meerman Scott

    David Meerman Scott – David Meerman Scott wrote the book on the new rules of marketing and PR. No, I mean it. He literally wrote the book. It’s called The New Rules of Marketing and PR. He also wrote Real Time Marketing and PR and my favorite book title in the history of books (remember, I’m an old time rock n’ roll hippie from the sixties), Marketing Lessons From the Grateful Dead (co-authored by Brian Halligan, co-founder of the dynamic inbound marketing software company, Hubspot). If you really want to know how marketing is changing, subscribe to David’s blog.

  9. Julien Smith

    Julien Smith

    Julien Smith – Julien, along with Chris Brogan (see number 1) authored the best selling book Trust Agents. It was the first book I read about the real social implications and potential power of the web. I subscribe to Julien’s blog because he is different. He thinks outside the box, I mean way outside the box. Here is how C.C. Chapman puts it: “A creative individual who not only thinks outside the box, he puts his foot down and crushes it.” What more can I say.

  10. Gary Vaynerchuk

    Gary Vaynerchuk

    Gary Vaynerchuk – If this list weren’t in alphabetical order by last name, Gary would probably have been first. He has become so ubiquitous on the web that it’s difficult to know where to point someone who isn’t already familiar with him. He is a human tornado. My thinking about social media marketing was completely changed after I read The Thank You Economy. He is a pioneer in the video blogging space and still maintains a video blog. By trade, he is a wine merchant but it’s almost ridiculous to categorize him that way. To say he is a passionate advocate for social media marketing is the understatement of the year. Subscribe to his video blog and you’ll see what I mean.

And Now, Back to You

So this is my Top Ten List. How does it stack up to your list? Who have I missed that I shouldn’t have? If it were a Top Twenty List, who do you think I should add? Talk to me.

Photo credit: Abi Skipp

 

Just Make ’em Laugh

Rubber Face

Humor has always been my ally. I got out of a lot of jams back in Brooklyn when I was a kid by making people laugh. I remember one steamy summer night in particular.  Walking home I realized a car was following me.  I picked up my pace and darted into an alley. When I came out the other side the car was still there. I started to run. The car closed in. Exhausted, out of breath and with no place left to hide, I sagged to the curb. The car stopped, its headlights fixed squarely on my face. Out jumped 5 menacing kids with baseball bats. I steeled myself for the first blow when a voice yelled out “hey, aren’t you the kid who was making us laugh on the beach today”? “Yep, that’s me”, I replied. Instead of painful blows I received hearty pats on the back. See what I mean about humor being my ally? It’s been that way my entire life.

Not Everyone “Gets It”

In the late eighties I thought it was time to take comedy seriously so I started doing standup in the clubs around Boston. I soon learned a lesson that has stuck with me ever since. Not everyone gets it. Today I still consider humor the most important tool in my toolbox. It helps prospective clients let their guard down and breaks the ice. But … not everyone gets it. You see to be effective, comedy has to have context. And to understand the context you have to listen. There! That’s the secret. Listening. Not only will listening increase the odds that you’ll be funny when you’re trying to be, it will let your clients know you care. And you must care.

For another take on comedy as a sales tool, read A Funny Sales Secret on Bob Poole’s terrific website. In it, Bob talks about his good friend Walt, a very funny guy and a great salesman. What strikes me about Walt is not his sense of humor but his natural ability to make everyone in the room feel comfortable. That’s a gift. And while you’re at it, treat yourself by spending some time on Bob Poole’s website. There are many sales and marketing gurus. There is only one Bob Poole.

Closing Thoughts

These pointers are solely my opinion and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of management.

  • If you use humor in a sales context, understand it’s not about inflating your ego. It’s about making your client/customer/audience feel comfortable
  • Remember context. Before you start firing off jokes, ask questions, listen earnestly to the answers. Get the lay of the land. Then determine if humor is appropriate. It may not be.
  • If you’re not sure if something you’re about to say is funny, chances are it isn’t. Don’t say it.
  • In the same way that social media won’t work for you if you’re not a social person, humor won’t work for you if you’re not funny. (Don’t get mad at me for that one … it’s the truth).

So what do you think? Is humor an effective sales tool? Have you used it effectively? Has a sales person used it on you and did it work? I would really love some feedback on this one.

Photo by tofslie