Are you a salesperson?
How does that sentence make you feel? Most people say that they either hate sales or hate salespeople and yet, those same people fail to realize that everything we do in life is sales. When we wake up and get dressed, the clothes we put on is a sales pitch to ourselves (we sell ourselves that the clothes we are wearing best represent to the public who we are... or who we want them to think that we are). When we are pitching our ideas, we are selling. When you are having lunch with a client (or a potential client), you are selling yourself in the hopes that they will work with you. Yes, there are soft selling techniques and hard ones (and we have to be careful of which lines we cross), but everything we do in life is a sale... and there's nothing embarrassing about it. If you think there is, I would recommend that you pick up a copy of Jeffrey Gitomer's amazing book, The Sales Bible.
It's only embarrassing when it gets slimy.
Sales gets slimy very fast when people misrepresent their intentions as wanting to be helpful when all they're really trying to do is close a sale. Recently, a major media company reached out to me to discuss what they called, "a new business opportunity," for Twist Image. In the email exchange that ensured, the individual indicated that they had clients who may require our services and would like to set-up an exploratory conference call. It seemed reasonable enough and there have been multiple instances in the past when these types of conversations have led to new client work, and a reciprocation in terms of business opportunity (the old "win-win scenario" we often hear about). We settled on a date and time. About an hour before our scheduled meeting, I was sent an email with a PowerPoint attachment. The body text of the email went on to describe to the Vice-President of the company (I was dealing with a person at the management level) that our call was scheduled for them to present their credentials to us. Yep... I was scammed and the got the old bait and switch. I quickly responded back to the VP (cc'ing my original contact) that my understanding of the call was that there was a new business opportunity for them to discuss with us and not a credentials pitch of their services . The meeting quickly got cancelled with an apology from the VP. The tragedy here is that I may have needed this company's services, but I would not have led this conversation - it would have been someone else within my organization. Now, not only will we never work with this company, but their image is tarnished forever. Over what? Lying. Plain and simple.
Did someone get fired?
I hope not. I hope this person was given an education in leadership. People don't hate being sold to. People don't hate advertising. People don't hate being marketed to. People hate bad advertising. People hate marketers who lie about the benefits and value. People hate feeling like they're being taken advantage of instead of being offered an opportunity. It sounds simple enough, but it's so rarely practiced that we wind up giving sales, marketing and advertising a bad rap. It's a shame...
And it's easy to solve. Here are some simple steps:
- Follow first. Before calling on a company, follow them online. On Twitter via Google Alerts, whatever. Within a couple of hours you can better understand their needs.
- LinkedIn them. Use LinkedIn to see if you know (or are connected to) someone who knows someone. You would be surprised how often this is the case.
- Give value first. You don't have to buy them anything, but think about someone you could introduce them to or uncover a piece of content (a Blog post, Podcast, article, whatever) that they have not yet seen and send it to them with an introductory note (keep it short and sweet).
- Be honest. If all you're looking for is a sale, let them know. You're probably going to get blown off. Let this be a lesson to you: there is no quick sales in life. Give value first and keep giving. Sales is a long, hard road of relationship building.
It's not easy.
I'm a sales person. My main job at Twist Image is to get people to buy our marketing services. In reading a ton of sales material, I realized that the best way I can do this is by providing value and building relationships first. It's slow going. This is why I Blog, Podcast, write books, speak at events, pen columns for newspapers and magazines, join industry associations and do a lot of community work/outreach. I don't want to cold call companies. I'd much prefer that Twist Image makes itself as findable and as shareable as possible. It's not easy. It's not easier than cold-calling a random list of potential customers, it's just different. One of the biggest differences is that in all of this hard work, I don't have to lie, misrepresent or posture. This is who we are. In the process of using more of these inbound marketing channels, it has also made me much more knowledgeable about the industry I serve. The process of selling like this forces me to constantly educate myself about the industry, so that once we do get a new client in the door, I'm also in a better position to provide a unique solution to their problems (I do this as part of the strategy and creative teams here).
What's the point?
Being slimy, lying or misrepresenting your services may get you an immediate sale, but it's never going to foster a lasting relationship. The funny thing is that you know this. It's obvious. And yet, with Social Media, look at how much posturing some of the most respected brands take part in that make them look, feel and act pretty slimy. Don't believe me? Look at what a brand is willing to do simply get someone (anyone) to like their brand on Facebook. Is that a real "like" or a little bit more like a slimy move to bump up numbers? Is there an actual marketing result that comes from that? There is much more real work here for all of us to do.
Don't you think brands need to be a lot less slimy?