Category Archives: Marketing

Woodstock – The Apex of a Social Revolution

August 18, 1969 is a date that was the apex of a social revolution. That was the date of Woodstock, a weekend music festival whose impact was felt around the world. The music festival occurred forty years ago but is still remembered not only by the sixties generation, but by those who followed. Many who attended said it was a “life changing event.”

Woodstock is remembered as a time of hippies, drugs, love, peace, freedom of ideas and revolution of accepted mores. In short, youthful hedonism and 60’s excess. But, I want to examine Woodstock from an entrepreneurial point of view.

I recently went to visit friends who live in Livingston Manor, New York. Little did I realize that they live not far from Bethel, the site of Woodstock. My friend spent his summers in a home adjacent to Max Yasgur’s pasture, where Woodstock was held.

The setting today is a pastoral hillside with a small marker indicating where Woodstock took place. On the hillside is the Woodstock Museum and a small outdoor concert area, mostly for classical music. What a change but still worth seeing.

Woodstock was pure entrepreneurship–people with an idea and a passion! For sure, this was not a MBA mentality. They were, as Tom Peters states “Ready, Fire, Aim.” The concept came together very quickly. Although they had some business experience, it was not great experience. The original goal was to raise enough money from the festival to fund a music recording studio in upstate New York, where some of the artists lived.

The original site was an industrial park in Wallkill, New York. Contracts were already signed, but town people became nervous about the potential crowd. An audience of 50,000 was the initial target. But these young entrepreneurs were adaptable. In June, Wallkill town people were still raising issues and Woodstock Ventures quickly found another location that was willing to accept them. Imagine, changing locations with less than 75 days to concert time!

The major marketing activity would be word of mouth. And, there was no internet to spread the word. They thought they would need three major acts to get the buzz going. Jefferson Airplane was the first to sign at the incredible amount of $12,000. At that time, they usually received $5,000 to $6,000. The next to sign was Creedence Clearwater for $11,500 and then, The Who, for $12,500. In total they spent $180,000 on talent. These promoters were risk takers. Just think…a concert in a pasture, over 100 miles from New York and without any major population nearby.

The concept slogan of “Three Days of Peace and Music” was cultivated very carefully in the underground press. Publications like the Village Voice and Rolling Stone were used along with some ads in the New York Times. Artie Kornfeld, one of the original Woodstock producers said, “The cool PR image was intentional,” using counterculture symbols and phrases. This is another entrepreneurial cornerstone; you must identify your market. The advertising and public relations was targeted for a specific group—young, peace loving and hip. This audience spread the word from the east to west coast.

Woodstock was over the top successful. It is estimated 400,000 to 500,000 people attended on a rain soaked, muddy field. The New York Thruway was clogged and created one of the worst traffic jams experienced.

Woodstock is now a brand. These promoters had an idea and were passionate, adaptive risk takers who identified an audience. They had a message targeted to that audience and were proactive in creating word of mouth marketing that was “cool” and easy to spread.

To be successful in tough times, you need similar traits. You need ideas and a passion to execute them. You need to be adaptive when necessary and make investments (risk taking) to promote the concept. Lastly, you need to identify your audience and choose the best vehicle to get attention.

Get More from LinkedIn

How to Get More Sales from LinkedIn

By Ray Silverstein

Everyone who uses LinkedIn suspects that they could get more from it, sales-wise, if they could only knew how.

So, my company recently sponsored a workshop presented by Larry Kaufman, a LinkedIn keynote speaker and one of LinkedIn’s Top 250 most-connected Americans. Larry is Chief Sales Officer and Partner of Sales Empowerment Group. He’s also a long-term member of my PRO peer groups, and in true peer group fashion, is generous sharing his knowledge.

Now, I’m paying it forward by sharing my top takeaways with you.

Polish Your LinkedIn Profile

Before anything else, make sure you’re presenting yourself at your best. This sounds basic, but it’s easy to overlook.

  • Update Your Profile – Chances are, you created your profile years ago and haven’t done much since. Things change; your profile should, too.
  • Take Your Time – A good update takes several sessions, so deactivate your “activity broadcasts” (under Privacy Settings) for now. You don’t want contacts receiving notice of every little change. Wait until you’re done.
  • Capitalize Your Name – It helps you stand out in any list.
  • Expand Your Headline – In addition to your title, add other notable credentials.
  • Use a REALLY Good Photo – First, you must feature a photo…no silhouettes. And if don’t have a great business portrait, get one.
  • Embed Keywords – Approach your profile the way you would a webpage or blog: use keywords.
  • Add Content – Did you know you can upload articles, PDFs, and videos, not to mention website links to get more exposure for your business? (Look for an icon/drop down box throughout your profile page.)

Build Your LinkedIn Presence

  • Create a Corporate Page – If you don’t have a company page, create one…yes, even if you’re a solopreneur. (This is one of LinkedIn’s most underutilized features.)
  • Use LinkedIn’s “Status Update” feature – It’s a quick, easy way to keep your name out there. If you’re excited about a new product or have industry news, share it.
  • Join Relevant Groups –You may learn something, and it’s more exposure. Plus, it puts you in touch with people you may want to know.

Start Connecting

  • Use InMail – InMail is LinkedIn-style email. The top reason to pay for an premium LinkedIn account is InMail access, but even a basic (free) membership lets you use InMail when sending inviting new connections. Instead of using LinkedIn’s default invitation, always craft a personal note.
  • Use “People You May Know” – This feature allows you to expand your network quickly. It draws from the former employers and schools listed in your summary, among other things. When you invite these people to connect, remind them of your shared history.

Leverage Your Connections to Kick-Start Sales

You probably use LinkedIn to mine information about existing prospects, but you can also use it to find—and cozy up to—new ones. Remember ‘six degrees of separation’? Well, two degrees is even better.

The idea: use your first-degree connections’ connections. Are there prospects for you there?

To find out, visit a contact’s profile and view his/her Connections box. If his/her network isn’t hidden, browse it or search it by title.

Make a list of, say, five people you’d like to connect with. Then, send your first degree connection an email, requesting introductions. Include a one-paragraph summary of yourself, and ask your contact to include it in his/her introductory emails. This makes things easy for your contact and lets you control how you’re presented.

Ask that you be cc’d, and as soon as the introduction has been sent, follow up with the prospect. You know how to take it from there. Always thank your contact, and offer to return the favor. Instead of cold calls, you now have warm, personal introductions!

Bottom line: your connections are invaluable to your sales. Tools like LinkedIn let us leverage relationships in fresh, new ways…when we’re willing to take the time to learn how to use them.

If you are interested in a great workbook I’d recommend a great one from another cohort, Zen Benefiel, who compiled it for a workshop in Phoenix. How to Grow Your Business Using LinkedIn.

President's Resource Organization - Duct Tape Marketing

Duct Tape Marketing

Duct Tape Marketing

      John Jantsch, reviewed by Ray Silverstein

Michael Gerber states, “This book is just like its namesake–Duct Tape–it’s good, incredibly smart, amazingly practical, and immensely sticky stuff.”  I found the book to be a good basic outline of a marketing strategy and it had many useful hints.

Everyone thinks their plight is unique, “Why is it so hard to market my business?”  “But what if I told you, no matter what your business claims to do or provide, you’re actually in the marketing business.  That’s right–every business is actually a marketing business.”  “You simply can’t afford to be no good at marketing if you plan to stick around and grow your business.”

“Marketing is getting people who have a specific need or problem to know, like, and trust you.”

Many small businesses do copycat marketing.  Copycat Marketing is a surefire way to guarantee that your marketing will fail.  Copycat marketing simply reinforces that you are the same as everyone else.

Another practice by small business is Ostrich Marketing.  Ostrich marketing is practiced by owners who simply have no idea what to do with marketing, so they do nothing–they stick their head in the sand and hope.

The primary activity in Duct Tape Marketing is to narrow and focus.  The lead generation is a two step process.  What do you think it would mean to your marketing activity if you had just five hundred highly qualified prospects and your only job was to get them to know, like, trust, and contact you?

The following are the steps for Duct Tape Marketing:

Step #0.  State Your Primary Marketing Goals for the Year.  Until you can get very clear about what needs to happen in order for your marketing system to be successful, you will never get there. One year from today, what will your business look like?  How will it change?  How will it grow?

Step #1.  Describe Your Ideal Client.  Carve out a narrow target market or narrow market segment and find out everything you can about what people in that market segment want to buy and why they want to buy it.  Build a marketing strategy just for this market and make sure that the world hears that you are better at serving that market than any other business.  Describe the ideal client and market as though he or she is sitting across the table from you at this moment.

You can choose to attract clients that value what you offer, view working with you as a partnership, and want you to succeed, but only if you have a picture of what that ideal client looks like.  Identify, describe, and focus on a narrow target of clients or segments that are perfectly suited for your business.

One of the easiest ways to start to get this picture of who or what makes an ideal client is to take a close look at the customers your business has attracted to date.

Physical Characteristics:  Are, Employment Status, Gender, Occupation, Income, Education, Industry, Number of employees, Type of business, Geographic scope of business, Revenue levels.

Emotional Characteristics:  Discovering common emotional characteristics is more of an art than science.  What you are looking for are things like values, fears, desires, and goals.  What do they want out of life?  What are they not getting?  What do they need to know to feel comfortable?  What is holding them back?

One of the best way to accumulate this type of information is to retrace many of your sales calls, including the ones where you did not get the results you had hoped for.  Another clue is to understand lifestyle patterns of your Ideal Prospects.  Find out about their hobbies, interests, books and magazines they read, musical preferences, and travel tastes.  This can provide a deeper glimpse into what your Ideal Prospect really cares about.

Know, Like and Trust–It’s a fact that people often like people who have the same interests.  All things being equal or unequal, a buying decision will tip to the business or salesperson who the buyer likes the most–It’s called human nature.

Without a need or problem, you don’t really have a market.  So, what’s the problem?  What are your customers attempting to solve when they buy your products or retain your services?  You don’t sell goods and services, you sell solutions to problems.  What you really sell is peace of mind, status, pain relief, etc.  State this revelation as bluntly as possible, and your marketing business will benefit immediately.

A guiding principle of marketing is the ability to charge a premium for your products and services within a chosen target market.  You must determine if this market values what you have to offer enough to pay a premium for your expertise and understanding of this given market.

Factors to consider if it is a viable market:

  • Is the market large enough to support your business growth goals?
  • Can you easily promote your business to the decision makers in this market?
  • Does this market value what you do enough to pay a premium?

When you are searching for a target market that is hungry for a solution, there are three questions that must be considered:

  • Do they want what I have?  It does not matter if they desperately need what you have.  If they do not want it for one reason or another, then you are sunk.  People rarely act to their own benefit unless they want to.
  • Do they value what I do?  You must look for people who are already investing in the type, or at least the category of service you have.
  • Are they willing to pay a premium for what I do?

The Ideal Prospect Profile:  Using the information you have gathered about an ideal customer you create an Ideal Prospect Profile.  This is one or two paragraphs you write that describe a picture of your ideal client, almost as though you were describing someone sitting across a table from you.

Try this formula:  Physical description+What they want+Their problem+How they buy+Best way to communicate with them=Ideal Prospect.

Action Steps:

  1. Look for common characteristics such as age and gender among your best clients.
  2. Uncover a common frustration among your target market.
  3. Write a description of your ideal target market in terms that are easy to communicate.
  4. Determine whether your ideal target market is large enough to support your business.

Step#2.  Write Your Core Message Points.  Uncover three or four unique benefits that your business or product can provide to your ideal target market, and then make these points of difference your central marketing themes.  If need be, change your entire business model to take advantage of an opportunity to serve a narrow market.

Get  Out of the Commodity Business.  You’ve got to uncover and communicate a way in which your business is different from every other business that says they do what you  do.  You’ve got to find a way to stand out and stake your claim on a simple idea or position in the mind of your prospective clients.  This claim must be powerful and intentional.

Find something that separates you from your competition become it and speak it to everyone you meet.  Quality isn’t it, good service isn’t it, fair pricing isn’t it.  The difference needs to be in the way you do business, the way you package your product, the way you sell your service, the fact that you send cookies to your clients, the fact that you show people how to transform their lives–It’s in the experience you provide.

The Core Message Process:

  • Discover capture, and commit to a unique position.
  • Create a Marketing Purpose Statement.
  • Turn your purpose statement into a Talking Logo.
  • Craft a simple Core Message to use in all of your marketing.

It’s worth noting that being different for difference’s sake isn’t enough.  An identifiable target market must value the difference!  Example:  Trust With Your House Keys.”

These are some ways to communicate your core message:

Unique habit, Customer service, A way of doing business, A memorable personality.

The best way to get your positioning is to ask your clients.

  • Why did you hire us in the first place?
  • What do we do that others don’t?
  • What’s missing from our industry as a whole?
  • What could we do that would thrill you?
  • What do you find yourself simply putting up with in this industry?
  • What would you do if you owned a business like ours?

What you really sell is what the eventual buyer think they are going to get from your product or service.

Your Marketing Purpose Statement:  This statement is not meant to be communicated to your clients, but rather is meant to be the basis for your marketing and customer service activity.  Your Marketing Purpose Statement should become not just a goal but the overriding purpose for the business.  A powerful Marketing Purpose Statement should give you and your staff a vision for the future of the business.

Create a Talking Logo:  This is a short statement that quickly communicates your firm’s position and forces the listener to want to know more.  The Talking Logo is created in two distinct parts.  Part 1 addresses your target market, and Part 2 zeros in on a problem, frustration, or want that market has.

Example:  I show small service professionals how to triple what they charge.

Step one:  Create a compelling answer to “What do you do for a Living?” one that focuses on a benefit or solution and forces them to want to know more.

Step two:  Prepare a simple supplementary answer that tells them the unique way you get them that benefit or solution.

Your Core Marketing Message:  This is the message all of the activity you have performed to create. Now that you have discovered the marketing purpose for your firm and answered what you do for a living, it is time to fashion the creative marketing messages you will use to communicate your purpose in a way the clearly demonstrates the benefit of doing business with your firm. Example:   Electrical contractor: Marketing Purpose Statement:  We want to be known as the one electrical contractor who will show up when we say we will and do the work right the first time.

Talking Logo:  We help homebuilders eliminate callbacks.

Core Message:  Wired Right on Time.

Step #3.  Develop Educational Marketing Materials:  Create a list of the educational marketing materials your ideal client might find helpful in an attempt to understand the value that your firm has to offer.

Attempt to move your target prospects along a logical path toward a group of offerings geared to addressed the various stages of client development.  This gradual, trust building approach allows businesses to charge much more for their products and services while enjoying a much greater relationship with their clients.

Step #4.  Outline Your Lead Generation Strategy:  Create a list of every conceivable way you can reach your target market.  This is not limited to mail, public relations, referrals, e mail or advertising.

The Client Stages Defined:

  • Suspects–     The list of people who fit your target description.
  • Prospects–     The list of people who have responded to an offer for more information.
  • Clients–     The list of people who have tried your product or service.
  • Repeat Clients–     The list of people who have upgraded or purchased more.
  • Champions–     The list of people who tell others and sell for you.

Marketing Offer for Suspects:  Your suspect database responds to offers of complete information designed to help them solve a problem or answer a question.  These take the form of free reports, tips, white papers, workshops, demonstrations, evaluations, newsletters, books, guides and checklists.

Example:  10 Things You Must Know Before You Hire a Roofing Contractor.

Marketing Offer for Prospects:  Once your suspects raise their hands and request your fee report, they are giving you permission to market to them.  Your prospect list is now ready for an offer to become a client.  In many cases this requires a low cost or trial service offering to gain the ultimate trust needed to become a premium client.  You may need to create an introductory product or version of your service that can be priced low enough to offer a low barrier to becoming a client.

Your Clients Become Premium Clients:  Once your clients move to premium status, the focus is to also find specific ways to turn them into a referral source.

Premium Clients Become Champions:  Some amount of your clients will automatically become champions.  These are repeat clients who voluntarily look for way to promote your business.  In effect, this potent group can become your informal sales force.

ACTION STEPS:

  1. Understand the client stages.
  2. Develop marketing, products, and service offerings that address every aspect of the marketing funnel.
  3. Map every point of customer contact and look for holes in the funnel

Produce Marketing Materials That Educate:  Done well marketing can eliminate the need to sell.

Educate, Don’t Sell.

Create a Marketing Kit.  This should include your case statement, your difference summary, your ideal client/customer description, your marketing story, and your offerings.

Your Case Statement should address the following:

  • A statement of a challenge, frustration, or problem that your target market experiences.
  • An image of what life is like when the problem is solved.
  • How they got here in the first place.
  • A path for them to follow.
  • A directed call to action.

Your Difference Summary:

Don’t tell them what you do; focus on how you do it.  Tell them about your unique approach, your processes, and the little things you do.  If you have studied your competition and you know what your target market craves, make a point to summarize you solution.

Your Marketing Story:

Tell them your story in an open, honest, and entertaining way, and you will win their hearts as well as their heads.  The ability to connect by way of personal stories is one of the greatest advantages that small businesses possess over big businesses.  Most importantly—stories build trust.

Your Product/Service Offerings:

This page should outline the various services, products, and packages that you have available.  Clearly describe and detail the benefits of each.

Your Marketing Kit may also include Case Studies, Client experiences, Testimonials, FAQ, Processes and Checklists, Articles, and anything you believe would be of value to the prospect.

Marketing kits are not intended for mass, direct-mail campaigns.  They are much more effective once you have generated a lead and want to proceed to fully educating the prospects.

MARKETING IS MOSTLY YOUR JOB, BUT GET YOUR ENTIRE COMPANY INVOLVED.  EDUCATE THEM!

LEAD GENERATION PROGRAM:

Use a two step lead generation program whether it be advertising, direct mail public relations, web, etc.  This is simply to set into motion by advertising an offer, such as a free how to report, tip sheet, industry insider scoop, or survey results.  The goal is to have suspects request information and thus giving you permission to market to them.

Step #5.  Describe Your Sales/Education Process:  Write down the steps you will take when a prospect contacts your business by way of one of your lead generation strategies.

Have a process for Discovery, Presentation and Transaction.  Sales should not be off the cuff, but a planned process.  Create several questions you will ask prospects during the discovery phase that will allow you to get a feel for how ready they are to understand the need for your products or services.

The Discovery phase may be done over the phone.  The Presentation or Internal seminar is a planned approach.  When you take control of the meeting and present your points in a structured way, you will either connect or you won’t, but when you do it will be the right connection.

The Presentation consists of weaving the key elements into a concise message that includes:  The Problem, Your Solution, Your Core Difference, Your Story, A Real Client Example, How You Work and The Expected Results.

Market Research Benefits

Will Market Research Benefit Your Small Business?

By Ray Silverstein

Wouldn’t you love to get inside your customer’s head and take a good look around? To see his or her wants and needs revealed in stark clarity? To view your products through his or her eyes, unclouded by your assumptions?

As entrepreneurs, it’s our responsibility to understand and anticipate our customers’ mindsets. It’s what keeps us in business and allows us to grow.

That is the essence of market research. Over the last 60 years, market research has evolved into a powerful marketing tool. But while big companies embrace it, many entrepreneurs tend to steer clear. Yet there are aspects of market research of great value to small businesses, if we’re open to them.

For this reason, my company, PRO, recently sponsored a workshop, “The Guerilla Approach to Knowing Your Customers.” Our presenter was Bob Kaden, a long-time market research expert and author of the Guerilla Market Research books. Bob gave us a lot to think about, some of which I’m sharing here.

Market Research in a Nutshell

In short, the objective of market research is to get as close to the customer as possible, so you can understand and influence their buying behaviors, maximizing your opportunities for success.

There are two types of market research: primary, which focuses on your particular business, and secondary, which focuses on information available in the public domain.

Every time you read a business publication, visit a competitor’s website, or search an industry topic online, you’re engaging in informal secondary research. You can learn about your market, industry, and competition this way, while staying up to speed on consumer trends. We should all be engaging in some secondary research daily.

Primary research is a different animal. It’s personalized and proprietary. It may take the form of focus groups, interviews, or surveys, but however you conduct it, you do so with a specific goal in mind, targeted to a specific type of customer: yours.

When Do You Conduct Primary Research?

The time to conduct in primary research is when you want to learn something specific about your market. Maybe you need clarity setting your product development strategy. Maybe you’re about to rebrand your company. The bottom line is, you have to be ready to take action as a result of what you learn, or the research isn’t worth doing.

In addition, you have to be open to whatever the results reveal. We all have pet theories. If you’re not willing to let them go—which isn’t always easy for entrepreneurs–now is not the time to invest in research.

How Do You Conduct Market Research on a Budget?

Big companies use big market research firms, but that’s not the only alternative. If you want to have a pro do the work for you, look for a one-person firm or perhaps a local professor. They’re more affordable.

And more small businesses are engaging in DYI market research. If you have the temperament, you can conduct your own focus groups or interviews. Or, you can use Survey Monkey (SurveyMonkey.com), or ask simple questions via social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter. But if you are going to do it yourself, take the time to learn how to do it right.

Maybe market research makes sense for you; maybe it doesn’t. The bottom line is, business is more competitive than ever, and we need to be open to new ideas. When you become aware of a tool that’s available, consider it objectively. Never say never, to market research or anything else.

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Biography: Ray Silverstein is president of PRO, President’s Resource Organization, a network of entrepreneurial peer advisory groups in Phoenix and Chicago. His latest venture is 2 Small Biz Guys business radio show, specialized for emerging businesses, solopreneurs and those who want to achieve more. He is author of “The Best Secrets of Great Small Businesses,” and “The Small Business Survival Guide.” You can reach Ray at 1-800-818-0150 or ray@propres.com.

Market Wisely

strategic marketingMarket Wisely, and Sales Will Follow

By Ray Silverstein

What kind of marketing activities do you do for your business? Do you have a marketing plan? How about a marketing budget?

Do you use marketing strategies to focus and support your sales efforts, or do you engage in spontaneous, one-time marketing activities when an idea appeals to you?

For many entrepreneurs, it’s the latter. Unfortunately, isolated, spur-of-the-moment activities aren’t likely to move you toward your sales goals.

It takes thoughtful, strategic marketing—not haphazard bursts of activity—to set the stage for increased sales. How do you sharpen your marketing focus?

Use a Comprehensive “STP” Marketing Approach

According to STP theory, strategic marketing is a three-step process:

S – Segmenting
T – Targeting
P – Positioning

Segmenting – You can’t sell to everyone. When you segment your market, you divide it into groups of prospects based on criteria significant to your business: demographics, geographics, psychographics, economics, distribution, industries, wants, needs, buying habits, etc.

For example, one of my peer group members in Phoenix owns a swimming pool maintenance service. There are many, many pools in Phoenix. So he segmented his market, broadly dividing it in to family-owned backyard pools and larger, community-based swimming pools.

Targeting – After you segment, target: determine which segment is most worth pursuing, and go. My peer group member concluded that community-based swimming pools make the best customers. He then targeted further, focusing in on YMCA pools and country club pools, because in his experience, their operational standards supported the most intensive maintenance programs.

Positioning – While segmenting and targeting define who you’re going to sell to, positioning focuses on how you’re going to sell them. My peer group member, for example, positioned himself up as the local YMCA pool/country club pool ‘specialist,’ developing proposals and packages just for them.

Positioning includes identifying products, pricing, place, promotions…marketing activities entrepreneurs know well. However, you can’t position your company effectively when you’re trying to reach everyone. By minding your “Ss” and “Ts” as well as your “Ps,” your sales efforts will be more focused and successful.

As I’ve said before: fail to plan, and you plan to fail. Segmenting and targeting are the basic building blocks for well-planned marketing and ultimately sales.

Balance Macro and Micro Marketing

Employing both macro and micro marketing strategies is another way to sharpen your marketing approach.

Macro marketing means working from the market on down. So, once you determine you’re pursuing country club pools, you take steps to—no pun intended!—immerse yourself in this market. Is there an association you can join? A publication to subscribe to? Can you create some marketing materials or a blog just for this audience?

Micro marketing, on the other hand, means working from the bottom on up. Once your macro work is done, you should still pitch each prospect individually for best results. Your targets have things in common, but they’re different, too.

So gather intelligence about each target. Who makes the buying decisions? What are their hot buttons? Who’d they use before, and what were the sticking points? By performing web research and networking, then slowly penetrating an organization, you can better tune your sales pitch to resonate with your prospect.

In summary, it’s a common misconception that ‘marketing’ equals spending money and time on things that don’t generate real results. A smart, strategic marketing plan is your sales department’s best friend. Used together, marketing and sales make a great one-two punch.
Biography: Ray Silverstein is president of PRO, President’s Resource Organization, a network of entrepreneurial peer advisory groups in Phoenix and Chicago. His latest venture is Propelus, a specialized peer group for business advisors and achievers who want to achieve more. He is author of “The Best Secrets of Great Small Businesses,” and “The Small Business Survival Guide.” You can reach Ray at 1-800-818-0150 or ray@propres.com.

Sell Smarter – Ditch the Pitch

Ditch the PitchHow to Sell Smarter: ‘Ditch the Pitch’

Review by Ray Silverstein

There’s one subject entrepreneurs can’t get enough of: how to increase sales.

Well, here’s a thought. If your current sales pitch isn’t delivering the results you want, it’s time to switch things up. Better yet, why not do something radical, and ditch the sales pitch entirely?

My friend Steve Yastrow, a shrewd business advisor and wonderful author, recently introduced this fascinating “Ditch the Pitch” approach to selling, which you’ll find in his new book of the same name. It’s so packed with worthwhile ideas, I asked Steve for permission to share my top takeaways with you.

Fact: Nobody Likes a Sales Pitch

You don’t enjoy being on the receiving end of a canned sales pitch, do you? I know I don’t. And, let’s face it, our prospects don’t either.

So, when you do get valuable face time with a prospect, don’t waste the opportunity by launching into a flat, unwelcome sales pitch. Shake things up: try using these three strategies instead.

Engage in Persuasive Conversations

People want to talk about the things they care about, not listen to monologues. You’ll get much further by drawing prospects into meaningful conversations about subjects that matter to them.

Yes, your sales pitch is a comfortable crutch. Engaging in real conversations will require you to improvise. But this is something you already know how to do. After all, we are all improvising our way through life. Assuming you know your stuff, businesswise (of course you do), you’ll do fine. And you’ll actually enjoy your sales interactions more.

Say Less to Notice More

Most people are better talkers than listeners. So let your prospects do most of the talking. Your first job is to listen, observe, and process what they’re saying. By doing so, you can identify their hot buttons and pain points, and then figure out how your products or services fit in.

That way, when you do open your mouth, what comes out will be interesting and relevant to them, which will get you closer to your goal.

Create a Shared Story

Here’s a great rule of thumb: make 95% of the conversation about your prospects. They don’t need to know everything about you and your business, only the parts that matter to them. Be very selective in what you share.

And another great sales tip: only speak about a paragraph’s worth of words before tossing the conversational ball back to your prospect. That way, you weave your story in with theirs.

In addition, your story is more likely to have a happy ending, in the form of a successful sale.

If you keep doing the same thing over and over again, you can’t expect different results. Now is a great time to try a new sales approach. You can learn about Steve’s book, Ditch the Pitch, at www.yastrow.com. And you can get my complimentary Weekly Sales Worksheet—a real-world sales activity tracker—by emailing me at Ray@propres.com

Biography: Ray Silverstein is president of PRO, President’s Resource Organization, a network of entrepreneurial peer advisory groups in Phoenix and Chicago. His latest venture is Propelus, a specialized peer group for business advisors and achievers who want to achieve more. He is author of “The Best Secrets of Great Small Businesses,” and “The Small Business Survival Guide.” You can reach Ray at 1-800-818-0150 or ray@propres.com.

10 Tips to Get Referrals

referral10 Ways to Get Great Referrals

(Even if You Stink at Asking for Them) 

by Ray Silverstein

When it comes to sales tools, few things are more powerful than customer referrals. They’re simple, effective, and absolutely free. We love when referrals come our way. Yet many entrepreneurs are reluctant to actively request them. If you’re one of them, consider this.

Every business relationship can lead to additional relationships. When customers are happy with the products or services you’re providing, that’s a golden referral opportunity. Chances are, those customers would be delighted to refer you, but won’t think of it on their own. They need to be prompted. That’s up to you.

Buyers prefer to deal with companies they know. When that’s not possible, a personal referral increases a buyer’s comfort level with a new vendor. It’s the next best thing.

And it’s not really difficult to request a referral. Often, it’s a matter of seizing an opportunity, or getting into the habit of asking. Here’s 10 ways my PRO peer group members do it.

1. Whenever a customer says something positive about your company, respond with a thank you, followed by a prompt referral request. (One of my PRO members trains all her employees to follow this simple rule.)

2. The quickest way to get referrals is to do a great job. Ask your customers what “great service” means to them. Ask for feedback on your performance. Some PRO members ask informally (say, during a phone call) and some have a formal process in place (like satisfaction surveys). Either way, when they get positive feedback, they use it as a springboard for referrals.

3. It sounds counter-intuitive, but many of my PRO members actively encourage their customers to complain. Complaints give you an opportunity to solve a problem, and picky customers often give the most compelling referrals.

4. Some entrepreneurs make referrals part of their front-end agreement with new customers. As in, “We’re going to work hard to prove ourselves. Once we do, will you give us three referrals in return?” People like go-getters. Be one.

5. Build relationships with people who can provide you with referrals, and return the favor whenever possible. Thanks to social media like LinkedIn and Facebook, it’s easier than ever to build a network of mutually-supportive contacts.

6. Once you’ve got a network, work it. Beyond referrals, offer your contacts support. Share resources and solutions to common business problems. The more you nurture these relationships, the more people will think of you when it’s time to give a referral.

7. Don’t assume your contacts know what you’re looking for in a prospect. Describe your target customer as specifically as possible, and encourage them to do the same.

8. Always carry a few business cards. You never know who you may run into, who they’ll be with, or where conversations may lead. When you meet someone you’d like to connect with, ask if you may call them to set up an appointment.

9. The most effective networkers I know make a point of planning for events. They know they’ll be asked “what’s new?” and “how’s business?” They always have an interesting, upbeat answer ready.

10. What if you’re not comfortable at networking events? One of my PRO members solved this problem by setting specific goals for himself before every event: introducing himself to the speaker…talking to three new people…introducing two contacts to each other.

The bottom line is, you only get referrals when people are happy with the quality of your products or services. All referrals are earned.

But sometimes you do need to ask for them.

Biography: Ray Silverstein is president of PRO, President’s Resource Organization, a network of entrepreneurial peer advisory groups in Phoenix and Chicago. His latest venture is Propelus University of Practical Business, a specialized resource for emerging businesses, solopreneurs and those who want to achieve more. He is author of “The Best Secrets of Great Small Businesses,” and “The Small Business Survival Guide.” You can reach Ray at 1-800-818-0150 or ray@propres.com.

 

How’s Your Crystal Ball?

How’s Your Crystal Ball

by Ray Silverstein

When you own a business, you need to be able to tell the future. To know where revenues are headed and what resources you’ll need. The good news is, you don’t need to be clairvoyant to see what lies ahead. 

Because you have something better than a crystal ball: your business indicators. Some indicators are nearly universal (i.e., the economy), and some are unique to every business. Either way, when you track your indicators, including those listed below, you can get a handle on the future.

Indicator #1: Present and Future Sales 

Reviewing current orders is the first step to projecting revenues. But you can estimate even more accurately if you factor in outstanding bids/proposals.

For example, review past proposals for the last 12 months. What percentage did you close?  

Apply that percentage to today’s proposals, and you’ll get a sense of where you’ll be in X number of days, depending on the length of your sales cycle. In essence, you’re diagramming your sales funnel. (Then you can also work backwards to determine how many proposals you must generate to hit your sales goals.)

Indicator #2: Service/Maintenance

If your sales have a ‘tail’—i.e., the initial sale will result in service activity down the road—that’s another indicator.

Say you sell and service equipment. By analyzing past maintenance activity, you can predict what service/parts will be needed when. Apply that information to your equipment in the field, and you cannot only proactively line up parts and staff, but anticipate maintenance-related revenues.

Indicator #3: The Domino Effect 

Certain activities in one industry  impact related industries. If you can pinpoint those relationships, you can use them to make projections.

For example, one of my PRO peer group members is in the furniture business. By talking to her customers, she found they shared one common denominator: many had purchased homes within the prior 6-12 months. By tracking the local housing market, she can project which way sales are trending.

Indicator #4: Fill-in-the-Blank!

There may also be some indicators unique to your business. Keep a look out for them.

For example, years ago when I owned a manufacturing company, I used to sell to a well-known mail order house. This was before the Internet. Every day when the mail arrived, the mail order staff would immediately weigh it. Yes, weigh it. The company’s savvy owner knew the value of his average order and had calculated the number of orders that made up a lb. of mail. So hours before the orders were processed, he knew what the day’s sales would be.

Indicator #5: The Local Landscape

Your business is part of a local community. Depending on what you sell or do, all kinds of local activity may affect you: big construction projects, hiring moves by major employers, even the school calendar. By staying abreast of your community and keeping tabs on local business news, you can get a sense of what will impact your business.

So, put away your tea leaves and cancel your appointment with Madame Marie. Learn to track and read your key business indicators, and you’ll be able to predict what the future holds.


Ray Silverstein is president of PRO, President’s Resource Organization, a network of entrepreneurial peer advisory groups in Phoenix and Chicago. He is author of “The Best Secrets of Great Small Businesses,” and “The Small Business Survival Guide.” He has partnered with the Phoenix Business Journal to bring you access to the Journal’s Digital Portal, a goldmine of potential business indicators. For more information, contact Ray at 1-800-818-0150 or ray@propres.com.

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