Simple sales without the sleaze

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Many business owners start their own business because they are good at what they do, they enjoy doing it and they don’t want to work for someone else any more. These are fantastic reasons to start a business. But to be successful in business you also need to have sales and marketing skills and many new businesses struggle because they are lacking in these areas.

I recently interviewed Brook McCarthy, a trainer and business coach with more than 10 years’ experience in online communications, who believes that business owners need both Hustle & Heart to be successful.

Brook works closely with small business owners and service professionals to help them magnify their impact online, through building their personal brand, enhancing credibility and growing their professional reputations and network. Here’s what she had to say during our interview.

What’s the best way for service professionals to get their name out there face-to-face?

Old-school networking is like teeth extraction without anaesthetic. And I’m an extrovert! I love meeting new people, but I can do without the awkwardness, the tension, the desperation of people all pushing their cards on each other like hungry people grasping at each other’s coattails.

The best way to get over this and enjoy networking is to be really curious – ask questions. Most people enjoy talking about themselves and you’ll learn a lot and make far more friends that way. Don’t worry about ‘staying on script’ about work. Keep it natural and follow the thread of conversation so that you’re getting to know the person, not the pitch. There are countless networking groups, so don’t be shy!

The best kind of networking is where you’re the only accountant/chiropractor/psychologist/insert-the-blank in the room. The networking events that are filled with people from the same industry are good to meet possible collaborators and referral partners, but not new paying clients. You want to be the odd one out – the Blue Smurf in the room full of fairies. In that case, you might need a little Dutch courage before you go (just sayin’).

What’s the best way for service professionals to get their name out there online?

A lot of professionals are variously enamoured with or scared by the tools of digital marketing while overlooking the most important part – the message at the centre of their websites, social media marketing, blogging and email newsletters.

I see people variously underestimating or overestimating their audience. When they underestimate their audience, they send out ‘lite’ messages with no research, no industry developments, patronising language and a lack of deference for their audience. They’re not giving much value so their audience don’t take them seriously and quickly switch off.

When we overestimate our audience, we’re suffering from the “the curse of knowledge” – assuming that clients and prospects know what we know. But of course, we don’t. People have subscribed to our emails, liked our Facebook page or frequented our blog because they’re interested in our opinion, knowledge and expertise. So don’t be shy!

Blogging is the singular best way to position yourself as a leader, authority or expert in your field. Sharing useful, valuable and relevant information helps grow a community around your business. Blogging, augmented with regular email newsletters is my primary marketing strategy. Over the last five years of regular articles and newsletters, I’ve built a steady stream of leads coming into my business and I continue to have new clients telling me that they’ve been following me for years. Sometimes, they know my opinions better than I do!

How can businesses cut through the noise, hype and distractions online so that their marketing reaches the right people?

A lot of people are really tired of the obnoxious, self-referencing, narcissistic, vacuous personalities online. There’s a plethora of low-quality information on the net. Which is great news for professionals such as us – people with integrity, who keep up-to-date with developments in the industry in order to have well-informed opinion and give sound advice. Professionals who can write, podcast or create videos that combine personality and style with quality useful, relevant information are on top of their game. Don’t be afraid to go against the crowd – in fact, it’s pointless otherwise. If everyone is heading in one direction, we should be dancing the other way. We need to stand out but also have substance behind what we do. Don’t worry about loud personalities online. Just do your best to do your own thing without diluting yourself with the influence of other businesses in your space.

Can you give some pointers to help people who aren’t comfortable selling, to sell more easily or naturally?

Marketing helps you sell, particularly the style of marketing I’m talking about. When you’re marketing to a group of prospects, they’ve been wooed over time. They’re staying in your orbit because they’re interested in you and planning to buy – at some stage. When they make contact, they’ve considered it and ready to purchase, so there’s not a lot of selling necessary.

A lot of businesses overcomplicate the process of purchasing and also assume that clients know what to do next – they don’t. People want their hands held through the process, especially if you’re working in an area where clients are stressed, overwhelmed or feel out of their depth (I’m thinking insurance, website design or even funerals!).

Finally, we make selling far too stressful by assuming we have to manipulate or coerce people into buying. But nothing could be further than the truth. We can’t force anyone to do anything they don’t want to do. We’re not Houdini. Start the sales process by asking intelligent questions and listening closely. The best salespeople are fantastic listeners and empathetic to the needs and desires of their prospects. People want to be seen and heard. Pay them that courtesy.

How can business owners help overcome reasons why prospects don’t want to buy?

A lot of people’s hesitation with purchasing is they don’t really trust you. They need to believe that you’ll do what you say you’re going to do. They don’t want to feel buyer’s remorse. So ensure your case studies, supporting research, testimonials, credentials and other icons of credibility are highly visible and appreciated.

Most people blame time and money for why they’re not buying. But these are seldom the real reasons, just the convenient ones. They’re plenty of things you can do, starting with asking smart questions. Repeat people words – verbatim – back to them. They’ve told you what their problems are, they’ve told you what they’re seeking and what they want. If you can echo people’s words back to them and effectively marry your services to these, and they’re still saying no without giving you much insight as to why, then take away your offer. People want what’s limited, unique and difficult (this doesn’t contradict what I said earlier – earlier I was talking about making it easier for people to book you and give you their money, and the process of ‘onboarding’ them into your business). When you play a little hard to get after the prospect has cooled off, this has the effect of making you more attractive to them.

What are some of the biggest opportunities to make more sales that business owners miss?

Most business owners are fixated on new leads with not nearly enough care and attention on cultivating those leads, over time, into paying prospects. It costs at least five times as much to attract new clients as to retain existing ones yet, with good intentions, we tend to take our existing clients for granted. We don’t ask clients for referrals nearly enough. We don’t have any plan or strategy to thank them for their custom. And we fail to upsell or cross-sell because we’re scared of upsetting the apple cart. We make far too many assumptions on behalf of our clients instead of adopting our clients as ambassadors of our business.

Frequently, I talk with people with active Google AdWords campaigns or Facebook campaigns with no process to nurture leads. So people are effectively paying for inquiries and if they don’t manage to convert those leads into paying clients, they’re lost forever. But very few people buy at the first point of contact. You need to follow up in a timely fashion to stay top-of-mind. And woo them over time with useful, relevant, valuable information. So many businesses overlook following up. It’s criminal. Because so few business do it well, and do it intelligence and heart, those who do are at a distinct advantage.

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Sign up now for the Hustle & Heart Online Business Coaching Program

Brook wants to enable people to do their best work by standing out and being bold and brave in business. Her group coaching program, Hustle & Heart, gives service providers practical skills in digital marketing, public relations and sales.

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Note – There are affiliate links included in this article. I only affiliate market products that I believe in and I’m promoting Brook’s program because it’s a quality training course that fills a gap that many business owners experience.

About Melinda
Melinda aka Mel is a Premier Google Partner, AdWords & Analytics Consultant, Speaker and Trainer and co-owner of Click-Winning Content. Mel provides results-driven services to Australian businesses and is committed to never using an acronym without explaining it first. She also likes grand slam tennis, cracked pepper and Melbourne sunsets. Please connect at the links below.