Why Your Website Should Create Conversations

If your website is presenting information rather than creating conversations, you must rethink your approach to online marketing. A website that offers only passive content to be consumed will see analytics showing its audience doesn’t stick around long. Visit durations will be short, and the number of pages consumed each visit will be low.

Build a website that encourages conversations.If your website is presenting information rather than creating conversations, you must rethink your approach to online marketing.

A website that offers only passive content to be consumed will see analytics showing its audience doesn’t stick around long. Visit durations will be short, and the number of pages consumed each visit will be low.

On the other hand, a website that encourages conversations and deeper engagement will see both of those metrics improve. But what exactly do we mean by conversations?

After all, setting aside the chat windows we sometimes see (mostly on B2C sites), the average website isn’t really about two people talking directly to one another. Fortunately, that’s not what we’re talking about. Instead, we’re talking about creating a web presence that encourages back and forth between two parties.

You publish content that your audience engages with. From that engagement, you learn more about what your audience is interested in, both individually and collectively. You then offer additional content that moves the dialog along, accomplishing two things along the way:

  • Educating your audience and providing value to them
  • Creating a relationship with your audience that encourages them to become clients

Here’s how you can make sure your site is creating that kind of conversation.

Point of View

Is the site written from your perspective or that of your prospects? Does it talk about “ours” rather than “theirs?” If so, your prospects are not going to feel that you understand their needs and are talking about their problems. Remember, prospects don’t care about your solutions, they care about their own issues and whether your solutions are a good fit for them.

Structure and Organization

That same perspective carries over into your site’s structure and organization. While it might make perfect sense to you for the sections of your site to mimic your firm’s organizational chart, your prospects won’t care. They want to know everything you have to say about what interests them, no matter how many different company divisions that information may span.

One great way to do this is to create site sections for key audience segments or buyer personas. Diving into their motivation and mindset will help you create sections that are organized to answer their questions and make them comfortable as they navigate their buyer’s journey.

Engagement

Finally, your site has to create opportunities for increased engagement. This can be a tricky proposition in that too many websites try to increase engagement too early. (Meaning, they ask for the sale long before the prospect is ready to buy.)

Gain trust by encouraging actions that requiring less commitment. This is a better approach than going all-in right from the start. Not only is that more likely to match the prospect’s level of trust, but multiple small “asks” gives you the opportunity to showcase the value you offer and the ways you differ from your competition.

These three broad concepts will help you bridge the gap between initial prospect interest and that magic moment when a prospect will invite a salesperson into their buying process. Given how much farther into that process that elusive invitation now typically comes, conversational digital marketing is critical to your overall marketing success.

Ground Your Brand

Do your brand values come from a strategic decision, or an organic statement of who you are and what you do? More and more, social media is proving that it should be the latter. The slippery impression of authenticity has a huge impact on how your target market and customers think of you. That’s why it’s time to ground your brand.

Do your brand values come from a strategic decision, or an organic statement of who you are and what you do? More and more, social media is proving that it should be the latter. The slippery impression of authenticity has a huge impact on how your target market and customers think of you. That’s why it’s time to ground your brand.

An Authentic Buzzword

I was at the Financial Times Future of Marketing event in New York City yesterday, where I got to hear many brands and agencies talk about various aspects of the future and present of marketing.

Anyone who’s been to a conference knows they’re the places buzzwords hatch, grow up and breed. And the buzzword I heard most yesterday was “authenticity.”

And the best articulation of it was the need to “ground your brand.”

“Every company right now, the one takeaway is ‘ground your brand’,” said Suzy Deering, CMO North America, eBay. “If you can’t stand for who you are; not change who you are but evolve who you are,” it’s going to show.”

(Note: I took these quotes live, so please forgive any slight discrepancies with other outlets.)

“I think we’ve absolutely bathed ourselves in complexity and acronyms for years,” said Hannah Grove, EVP and CMO of Boston-based financial services holding company State Street. “At State Street, we’ve really tried to break down the acronyms and just communicate.”

“We have to force ourselves as marketers to come back to the human question,” said Eric Reynolds, CMO, Clorox. This dictum forces Clorox to look at consumers not as consumers, but as people, which helps Reynolds and his team think of about what resonates with them as people.

How to Ground Your Brand

“Authenticity is a word people throw around that is very. Very hard to get right,” said Carter Murray, CEO of FCB.” And the thing about Social Media is you have to be true to who you are and what yo do, or you absolutely get eaten alive on social media.”

That’s where the usual discussion of authenticity and grounding your brand diverge. The key is getting down to the values and beliefs that are core to who you are as a company, and lining behind them.

It’s always the same question: “What business are we in, and what do we do every single day that is important?,” said Murray.

Murray was presenting with Reynolds, and spoke about the many companies, following the lead of successful mission-driven organizations like Tom’s Shoes, launch into  their own missions. But those missions don’t always resonate.

“I see people trying to invent meaning,” said Reynolds, “and if we’re not careful, more and more consumers will say, ‘Are those the values I really share? Are they just saying what they think I want them to say?’”

Direct Mail: A New Perspective

The key to effective direct mail is perspective. Perspective is a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view. Why is this so important in direct mail marketing? Knowing your audience and how they will perceive your message can make or break your results

The key to effective direct mail is perspective. Perspective is a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view. Why is this so important in direct mail marketing? Knowing your audience and how they will perceive your message can make or break your results.

Many marketers spend all their time focused on the list and the creative, leaving the messaging as an afterthought. This does not work. All three components work together to get you top results with direct mail. So, how can you create better messaging?

Six keys to generate powerful messaging based on perspective:

  1. Focus: Who is your target audience? What are they interested in? What makes them tick?
  2. Benefits: What is your product or service going to do for your audience?
  3. Conversation: You are creating a conversation about your product or service with your audience. This may mean that it stretches across more than one marketing channel. You may start off the conversation with direct mail and lead them online to more information on your website or social media accounts.
  4. Opinions: Otherwise known as testimonials about your product or service by people like your audience. Real people making real statements are powerful persuasions.
  5. Inspire: If you can create language that inspires people to action, you have powerful means to generate response. This is your best call to action. How will you inspire?
  6. Review: Approach current customers who are similar to your target audience to solicit their views on your messaging. Are you getting the right message across? Does the call to action work? What would they say differently, you may be surprised at what you learn.

By taking the time to write your messaging to the perspective of the prospect/customer, you are first validating their position and thus grabbing their attention. Next you are creating an open environment to generate response. Make sure that you provide multiple ways to respond, such as phone, website, in person, mobile, social media and any others that are available to you.

Perspective is not about shoving products or services at people who should want them, but showing them how and why they need your products or services. Creating a belief of need in your product or service that they generate for themselves based on information your provided is the most powerful message you have. Take the time to write your messaging in this way.

Remember that you should create different messaging for different audiences even within the same campaign. Variable messaging will help you improve your results. You should test your messaging as well. See what works better and build on that. Always track your results. There are many ways to do that, from URL’s, phone numbers and special offer codes. Find what works best for you and implement it right away. Perspective can provide you with the means to better ROI.

What I’ve Learned (So Far) From Stuart Elliott

When I first joined the Direct Marketing Association public relations team in 1988, Stuart Elliott had just left Advertising Age to join USA Today, covering the ad business there. Then in 1991, he took over the ad column, and the advertising business beat, at The New York Times. In December 2014, after 23-plus years, he chose to depart the Gray Lady

When I first joined the Direct Marketing Association public relations team in 1988, Stuart Elliott had just left Advertising Age to join USA Today, covering the ad business there. Then in 1991, he took over the ad column, and the advertising business beat, at The New York Times. In December 2014, after 23-plus years, he chose to depart the Gray Lady. His last column ran December 18.

The Times continues to cover advertising, but the column exists no more.

This week, I had the opportunity to listen to Stuart speak with George Wiedemann, chief executive officer of UMarketing, about the changes that have transformed advertising in the last 25 years. As disruption—digital, recessions, consolidations, consumer empowerment—has been one rule that has governed Madison Avenue (in itself an anachronism), there also is resilience.

Some of Stuart’s observations (these are not direct quotes)…

Madison Avenue may have been late in leading the conversation with clients on digital, social, mobile strategy and such, but many industries—outside of Silicon Valley—never foresaw the new business models, either. We (the ad folks) adjusted. The margins and money-minting might not be what they were, but “boo-hoo”—we’re all still in business.

In fact Madison Avenue always has done what its clients have asked it to do: The rise of the global agencies was to service global brand advertisers, the rise of holding companies to enable a portfolio of services, and the more recent rise of boutiques and start-ups—and agencies buying stakes in these—to enable experimentation and innovation while managing risk. Silicon Valley, and venture capital, is not the only source of startup funding.

While the U.S. economy tanked in the financial crisis—and large players disappeared (Lehman Bros.) or went bankrupt (GM), Stuart asked how many big ad holding companies also went belly up? None.

Data and technology have transformed advertising—and the rush for ad-tech and analytics prowess is an ever-constant concern of agencies and their acquisition of skills and talent. What is “big data”? Stuart said it’s data from more sources, more volume and often in real time—and brands grapple with what to do with it all and the difficulty of sorting through it. But we’ve moved beyond promise here to delivery, even if the integration path is hard. Social media alone prompts millions to interact with branded content, in addition to traditional media touches, and often in coordination. It’s not a matter of doing one thing or another—a brand has to do it all, or a competitor will.

On Millennials—advertising’s newest obsession—branding has become more important, not less. Younger consumers have been marketed to all their lives, and they are comfortable with being targeted, but they don’t connect with brands that they feel are not authentic. Who knew that Pabst would become a cult beer—because of its heritage and history, rather than its hipness, he offered as an example. Privacy may be less of a concern among younger audiences, but marketers risk being the “social outrage of the day” if they make a mistake in their storytelling, or when their actions don’t fit the narrative. Every day there’s examples of hashtag “fails” on Twitter.

Native content is just a new word for “advertorials”—but we need to be concerned that objectivity is not lost among sponsored content. There may be short-term gains, but diluted editorial may lead to long-term questions in the minds of consumers. Blurring news and advertising is not wise, even as large publishing companies launch native content development divisions and businesses. It will be something we need to watch.

Unfortunately, George’s conversation with Stuart lasted just one hour—and the impact of programmatic media buying, the last episode of “Mad Men,” and the rise of the Pluralist Generation—well, there was not enough time to hear everything on his mind.

I will miss reading about such insights in Stuart’s next Times column, but perhaps, after a break, his next endeavor won’t stray too far from ad reporting. After all, our business may be bigger than ever, but how many advertising columns still exist?

Sell Chief Executives With This Email/InMail Template (Part 3 of 3)

The “experts” say executive officers aren’t open to being pitched via email and LinkedIn InMail. But they’re wrong. You can you spark conversations with chief executives. Discussions about them. Their pains, fears and ambitions … and bold public statements they make. Then, gently ask permission to connect that discussion to a new solution-what you sell.

The “experts” say executive officers aren’t open to being pitched via email and LinkedIn InMail. But they’re wrong. You can you spark conversations with chief executives. Discussions about them. Their pains, fears and ambitions … and bold public statements they make. Then, gently ask permission to connect that discussion to a new solution-what you sell.

You’ll get some yeses and some nos. It’s all part of an effective, repeatable social selling process.

Hyperpersonalize: An Effective InMail Template
Many of my students are brilliant. They take a bit of wisdom I give and run with it. Recently, my student Sam combined one of my InMail copywriting approaches with a hyperpersonalization technique: Using email recipients’ own public statements.

This approach stops busy chief executives in their tracks, and gets them to reply to his emails.

Let’s have a look at Sam’s practice so you can give it a try. I’ll turn it into a email/InMail template of sorts.

Follow These Guidelines
Sam crafts a handful of short email messages for testing using a few guidelines. He writes messages that:

  1. Are three to four sentences long maximum.
  2. Apply the words “I” or “my” minimally.
  3. Quote and compliments the chief executive in context of a hot industry issue.
  4. Align that meaningful quote with a conversation he would like to initiate.
  5. Ask for a brief email exchange to qualify a larger phone or face-to-face meeting.

The approach works. Because it is so personal, so authentic it busts through gatekeepers whose job it is to block unsolicited emails from pouring in.

It gets seemingly unreachable executives to invite discussions about issues that (ultimately) relate to what Sam is selling.

An Effective Email Template
My student, Sam, is a real person. He asked me to avoid sharing his full identity for competitive reasons. But he wants to help others, so I’ll describe his technique in a way you can copy. However, please don’t copy this template verbatim. Use your creativity and experiment with variations on words.

Create multiple versions of this approach using different kinds of quotes and issues. Discover what gets the best response and do more of what works, less of what does not.

Here is the template:

Hi, [first name].

Your quote in ___ magazine was stunning. Your perspective on _____ [burning issue] is vitally important to all of us working in _____ [industry]. Have you considered enhancing _____’s [target company] capability to ________ [insert challenge to overcome]?

There are alternate means to achieving ___ [goal]. Would you be open to learning about an unusual yet effective approach to ____ we use with clients like ___? [your current client].

Please let me know what you decide, [first name]?

Sincerely,
[your name & signature]

Beware: Don’t Threaten the Status Quo
Use the above template as a guide. Create your own, provocative email approach to a CEO, CIO, CTO, CFO, etc. Don’t limit yourself to quotes in magazines—leverage trade show speech quotes. Don’t limit yourself to the issues you believe are important to buyers—make your approach using what they say is vitally important.

Then, gently position yourself as a thought-provoker. Beware of being a cocky thought leader. That’s not your job. Your approach must not threaten the status quo or the way your prospect currently views the world. It must compliment (via the quote) and then gently nudge.

“Have you considered enhancing …” is a nudge. It’s less assertive than, “Have you considered replacing …” or “Would you be interested in talking about …”

The Experts Are Wrong
Once again, the claims of “experts” sabotage our ability to succeed. They say you can’t use LinkedIn’s InMail or standard email to sell. Why? Because chief executives “aren’t on social media to be sold to.”

But effectively written messages can get chief executives to stop, listen, respond and converse with you. There is a proven technique to increase InMail response rates.

Yes chief executives are difficult to sell to. But you can you spark conversations with them using email, InMail and LinkedIn. Not about selling. Instead, make your message about anything that matters to them. Literally.

Then pivot. Connect your conversation to what you sell—if and when appropriate. What do you think?

A Lie That Keeps You From Success (Part 1 of 3)

“It is easier for the world to accept a simple lie than a complex truth.” The words of 19th centrury historian, Alexis de Tocqueville are even truer today. But not only in the realm of politics. What’s keeping you or your sales team from generating appointments and leads with social selling? Bold, eye-grabbing fibs told by technology vendors and sales trainers whose livelihood depend on adoption of their false inventions. All based on a social media revolution that does not exist.

“It is easier for the world to accept a simple lie than a complex truth.” The words of 19th centrury historian, Alexis de Tocqueville are even truer today. But not only in the realm of politics.

What’s keeping you or your sales team from generating appointments and leads with social selling? Bold, eye-grabbing fibs told by technology vendors and sales trainers whose livelihood depend on adoption of their false inventions. All based on a social media revolution that does not exist.

Get on board, the train is leaving without you! We’ve reinvented sales prospecting and you’re missing out!

But here’s what the gurus (cleverly) don’t tell you: Prospecting best practices remain the same. What works rarely changes. With social selling:

  • your cold calling tactics should evolve a bit—not reinvent themselves
  • LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, blogs and YouTube don’t replace cold calling—they advance it

Cold calling is alive and thriving. In fact, effective cold call tactics can feed your social selling strategy. Sellers have the chance to improve cold calling and social selling thanks to new tools.

“I often wonder … if the advocates to the ‘death of cold calling’ movement have mixed us a martini using battery acid instead of vermouth and somehow managed to make it pleasing to the palate,” says Kraig Kleeman in a lucid stream of thought on the Association for Talent Development’s LinkedIn group.

5 Signs Your Social Selling Strategy Is a Ticking Bomb
“The (cold calling is dead) argument appears delicious and intoxicating, but somehow its outcome creates a harmfully poisonous effect,” says Kleeman.

He is right. The tsunami of false claims about cold calling being dead can cause you to believe it is a factual reality—and act accordingly. Therein lies the danger.

Believing cold calling is less effective might cause you to rush into social selling and:

  1. Use LinkedIn as a replacement to cold calling—and be banned for using connection requests
  2. Fail to spark conversations with buyers via LinkedIn updates due to misguided tips
  3. Ask for appointments in “first touch” InMail/emails to prospects (big mistake!)
  4. Waste time trying to spark conversations in LinkedIn Groups because of ineffective scripts
  5. Teach ineffective methods to your entire team by hiring a misguided social selling trainer!

Let Social Filter: Trust Your Instincts
What works in cold calling works in social selling. Period. Don’t let any guru tell you otherwise.

An effective cold call produces raw insight on where the buyer is in the decision-making process. If they’re in it at all! It doesn’t set an appointment. It doesn’t ask for a meeting. It is discovery-focused. You’re filtering prospects and placing them in “buckets.”

An effective cold call is brief, blunt and basic. It facilitates to both sides: “Might there be a larger conversation to be had here? Why, when and how?” Done!

The buyer is in control and sets the meeting, demo or call date. Your job is to find the pain—uncover (or confirm) the reason why this prospect might want to talk to you.

Next, your job is to start a journey toward the buyer discovering (for themselves) why they want to talk more. It’s a process, a discipline. That’s why cold calling works so well!

This is the most effective way to approach social selling. First, have a system. Second, focus on the buyer so much they ask you for the next contact—or ask you to stop.

Let social media filter leads for you.

Don’t Do What You’ve Been Told
This may sound crazy, but it’s the best advice I can give. Stop using social media and LinkedIn to:

  • Make initial contact with prospects via LinkedIn connections
  • Send emails/InMails that ask for appointments—overlooking cold call best practices
  • Post updates on LinkedIn without a way to provoke buyers to contact you
  • Comment in LinkedIn groups without a means to spark curiosity in you (get response)
  • Message prospects on LinkedIn using a common group as a reason to speak

If you’re doing any of these, don’t worry. It’s not your fault. Otherwise good people who are looking to ride a wave have given you bad information. Unfortunately, they’re using fear and unbridled enthusiasm as weapons. Just say no.

Boldly Stand-up for the Facts
Kleeman wisely reminds us how the degree of sales productivity can be judged by observing. Take a look at what is going on around you. Notice who is adopting practices based on speculation versus the adoption of fact.

Take a look at the output each group is achieving. (How much money they’re making!)

In other words, are your sales peers being praised as “social selling leaders” simply for “being on” social media? Or are they being financially rewarded based on the facts—how much business they’re winning?

The Best of Both Worlds
Throwing out the old and implementing a very unproven new is hogwash. It’s a lazy strategy based on hot air. Tools like LinkedIn are providing a better way to identify and warm-up cold prospects … and finding “ready to buy” leads. Tons of value there. But …

“Try telling a broker of refurbished airplane parts that raw list cold calling is not a vital activity for revenue capture … try telling a manufacturer of plumbing, HVAC, and home improvement products that cold calling aimed at resellers and end users is ineffective,” says Kleeman.

“You just might need a degree in martial arts or unfettered access to the US military’s drone missile fleet to defend yourself,” he jokes.

Cold calling is alive, thriving and (surprise!) feeding winning social selling strategies. Today is your chance to improve cold calling and social selling thanks to new tools.

Forget about reinventing sales prospecting! Make sure your team has a prospecting strategy that exploits what already works using new social tools.

How to Avoid Being Banned by LinkedIn When Connecting

“Your LinkedIn account temporarily restricted.” It’s a common message for sellers these days. It’s easy to be restricted or even banned by LinkedIn—simply for requesting connections with prospects you don’t know.

“Your LinkedIn account temporarily restricted.” This is a fairly common message for sellers these days. It’s easy to be restricted or even banned by LinkedIn—simply for requesting connections with prospects you don’t know.

If your connection requests are not accepted by prospects often enough LinkedIn will remove your ability to make connection requests. Being restricted from sending connection requests (phase I) and being totally banned (phase II) by LinkedIn is common. Ask around. You’ll be surprised.

Stop Asking for Connections
Being connected is more useful for nurturing leads—less effective for earning near-term meetings or starting relationships. Want to avoid being restricted or banned? Want more appointments from LinkedIn?

Stop sending out connection requests. Sound crazy? Hear me out. Today I’ll tackle:

  • Why you don’t need a connection on the approach,
  • When you should ask for the connection and
  • How LinkedIn fits in (best) with your prospecting process.

Why You Don’t Need a Connection
Connecting with a newly targeted prospect on LinkedIn is a terrible idea. Yet I still see social selling “experts” recommending sales reps make connections—as a means to introduce themselves to prospects! But what if you didn’t need the connection?

What if connecting was preventing you from getting more response & appointments?

“Ok, Molander. So why isn’t it a good idea?”

Well, it’s against LinkedIn’s rules. Plus, you probably don’t need it anyway.

Yes, it seems like a logical first step but it’s blind, cold. You don’t know the other person and LinkedIn’s goal is to protect people from un-solicited correspondence. Yours!

So what is the best way to make your approach on LinkedIn?

What’s Your Process—and How Does LinkedIn Fit in?
When I first meet students I pop the question: How does LinkedIn fit into your prospecting process. Ninety-five percent of the time I get the same response.

“I need to figure that part out.”

Well enough. I know it feels right to use connection requests as a way to make contact—once you’ve identified a potential buyer’s profile. After all, there’s a big CONNECT button staring you in the face!

But connecting makes no sense from a process and relationship perspective. It can also get you banned.

For example, LinkedIn connection requests are:

  • Restricted to 300 characters
  • Impersonal (automated requests are forced on mobile devices)
  • Against the rules if you don’t know the prospect!

LinkedIn connections can be accepted, ignored or declined—just like your calls or emails. They offer nothing better. In fact, they come with restrictions, are often impersonal by default and are not permitted. They’re risky!

Connect With Prospects Later
Let’s shift to process. It is best to “connect” off of LinkedIn first—then connect on LinkedIn to further (nurture) the conversation.

This takes full advantage of what connections give you (and avoids the risk of being restricted).

Think of it this way. Outside of LinkedIn, what’s the difference between a successful sales rep and one who struggles at prospecting new business? Getting connected on LinkedIn? Nope!

It often boils down to your ability to give prospects an irresistible reason to talk with you.

This is what all the social selling gurus don’t like to talk about. It makes me crazy. They’re never telling us what we need to do to experience success—only what we’d prefer to hear (to experience momentary satisfaction in having taking action).

Why and How Connecting Later Works
When prospecting, your goal is to create an urge in the prospect to talk to you. If you don’t create that urge you don’t get to talk with them. Period.

Social selling on LinkedIn is all about helping prospects feel honestly curious about how you can help them. How you can solve a problem, relieve a pain, avoid a risk or fast-track a goal for them.

Once you’ve attracted them, then you’re in a stronger position to:

  • Understand when (and if) they’ll transact;
  • Discover how many decision-makers are involved in choosing you;
  • Have your connection request accepted (avoid going to jail!);
  • Effectively nurture & close your lead!

This is why it is best to meet off of LinkedIn first—then connect on LinkedIn to further (nurture) the conversation.

Once connected, you can message freely, monitor prospects, allow them to monitor you and such. You don’t need to worry about any of that until you’ve been given a reason to—by the prospect. First, you need their permission.

You need them to want the connection.

But What if LinkedIn Is my Starting Point?
The most dangerous (yet common) LinkedIn mistake sales professionals make is connecting with new prospects as a starting point. Avoid this practice.

You are smart to use LinkedIn—to identify and pre-qualify buyers. Next, use InMail, email or the phone to make initial contact with them. Confirm your prospect is a viable near-term or future buyer.

Then connect.

Having connections serves you better by earning them. Being connected is more useful for nurturing leads—less effective for earning near-term meetings or starting relationships.

LinkedIn’s InMail (or standard email) is a better path toward earning a relevant discussion first—then the connection.

Keep connections in context of your selling process. Connections are a nice-to-have, not a must have! Do you have questions about making this technique “come alive” for you? Let me know!

LinkedIn Premium Is Worth It IF …

Is LinkedIn Premium worth it for sales pros? Yes, but only if you have an effective, repeatable way to get conversations going once connected. Getting buyers talking about their pains and your solution is tough. So here is a three-step process to make sure LinkedIn’s Premium or Sales Navigator is worth the cost.

Is LinkedIn Premium worth it for sales pros? Yes, but only if you have an effective, repeatable way to get conversations going once connected. Getting buyers talking about their pains and your solution is tough. So here is a three-step process to make sure LinkedIn’s Premium or Sales Navigator is worth the cost.

Make sure you/your sellers systematically:

  1. Spark prospects’ curiosity;
  2. provoke buyers to act (become a lead);
  3. connect that curiosity to what you sell.

Why Most LinkedIn Premium Investments Don’t Pay Off
We forget to give the other side a distinct, compelling reason to connect beyond, “my network.” Fact is, 95 percent of sellers asking for connections are promising access to their network.

But nobody cares about your network unless you give them a reason to.

Increase your connections and conversations by stating a specific reason the other side will benefit. What is the:

  • Pain you’ll remedy?
  • Hurdle you’ll help them clear?
  • Risk you’ll help them avoid?
  • Short-cut to more success you’ll give the prospect?

How to Spark a Sales-Focused Conversation
Want to start discussion with a potential buyer? State a reason in your connection request or shortly afterward. But remember, it must be mutually beneficial, worthwhile and crystal clear.

What you “put into” LinkedIn Premium, InMail or the Sales Navigator makes the difference.

Also, state the reason and set expectation for the other side. Promise access to a specific benefit. Tell the buyer how and when they’ll benefit. Make your promise something worthwhile.

Distinct. Unusually useful. Credible. Then, follow through on your promise.

How to Connect: An Example Template
Here’s how you can get started right away with this concept, even if you don’t know your prospects’ pain.

The following connection request example can be used as a template. It was written for a student of mine in the sales training business.

Greetings, [First name]. I’d like to decide if connecting on LinkedIn will benefit both of us. Are you seeking effective ways to boost sales managers’ productivity? This is my specialty. Based on what I’m reading on your profile, connecting may open the door to mutual opportunity. Would you like to quickly explore? Thanks for considering, [First name].

All the best,
Sam Smith, Sales Manager Productivity Coach

Of course, you may not want to reveal a specific benefit (to connecting) up front. Or you may not (yet) know their pain. Thus, you might not know what benefit to promise.

So you’ll hold back a bit and provoke the prospect to tell you their pain.

Why and How Provocation Works
Let’s quickly dissect why the above approach is so effective at earning connections and conversations about what you’re selling. It’s all about creating curiosity in the prospect—fast.

Line 1 gets right to the point: Let’s decide if there’s benefit here or not.

Line 2 gets to the point of pain/goals.

Line 3 signals, “This is why I’m relevant to you” and “I’m bold.”

Line 4 says, “I did my homework” and “This is why you are now considering talking to me” plus it creates curiosity (“What does he/she see?”).

Line 5 says, “I’m looking for an answer and you have the power to give it to me” as well as “I’m not out to waste your time.”

Line 6 says, “Again, I know this is your decision … and I also know your name. You are not part of a mass emailing.” (You become distinct)

The Post-Connection Email
Once connected to the prospect, your next email (thanking them for the Connection) must:

  1. Provoke the buyer to tell you his/her near or far-term goal or pain.
  2. Tempt the buyer to talk on the phone or in a short, but more detailed, email conversation

Thus, be sure to communicate:

  • “If you need a better, faster way to increase success—now or in the future—we should talk more.
  • If not, no worries.
  • But if so, I’m the person for you because ________ (insert your point of distinction).”

Good luck! Let me know if you have any questions.

When a Customer Is Not Worthy

As business owners and employees of businesses, we all work diligently to acquire prospects, qualify leads and convert customers, but sometimes we need to stop and consider whether a particular person or company is worthy of our efforts. It makes our constituents feel appreciated and empowered when we treat them well and expend effort to develop the relationship, but

As business owners and employees of businesses, we all work diligently to acquire prospects, qualify leads and convert customers, but sometimes we need to stop and consider whether a particular person or company is worthy of our efforts.

It makes our constituents feel appreciated and empowered when we treat them well and expend effort to develop the relationship, but in some cases that empowerment can go to one of their heads and lead the person to behave in a manner not conducive to a healthy relationship.

There have been a number of instances over the years where I’ve needed to ask prospective or current customers to take their business elsewhere. While this is never a pleasant conversation, it can be critical in ensuring your company remains profitable, your employees remain appreciated and happy, and you remain sane. The best way to approach this conversation is with civility and a calm tone.

More often than not, an unhappy customer will vent their frustration on an underling with the assumption the person is unprepared to manage the onslaught. Annoyed customers will attack in a way they believes will result in a resolution favoring them—sometimes greatly and to the detriment of the employee’s wellbeing and the company’s profitability. We’re all able to take a loss every now and then to satisfy an unhappy customer, but when you have a repeat offender (customer), it’s time to step in.

Every employee and contractor in my organization knows they are never expected to submit to a venting, complaining or abusive customer—period. The employee’s response is mandatory and simple, “Please hold and I will have our manager help you.” From there, I am quick to set the ground rules as I take over the call. I will listen to the customer politely and allow that person to give voice to their entire complaint, but they may not scream, call names or be uncivil in any manner. If they are, I will hang up. I will continue to hang up each time the person calls back until they accept and adhere to the rules of this engagement (to date, it hasn’t gone beyond three hang ups).

Beyond this, I make it clear I am fully responsible for my team’s actions and responses, and we will not engage in a bashing of a personal nature. I will not side with the complainant against my team, but I will be empathetic to the customer’s plight and go to great lengths to find a resolution suitable to the situation—for as long as we can continue to have a professional, if not amicable, discussion.

For plaintiffs who cannot accept and follow the ground rules, it’s even simpler: “I’m sorry we did not meet your expectations, here is the phone number to another company providing this product/service. We’re confident you will be happier elsewhere.”

This type of response shifts the power from the complaining customer to the employee and fosters a better relationship between you and the person with whom you work every day instead of a customer whose value is far less. Yes, some customers have great monetary worth, and for those you will exert additional effort to resolve the situation before sending them on their way, but for most small businesses, individual customers have a smaller overall value than a dedicated employee.

With that said, there are ways for a customer to complain without aggressive discourse—those are the customers we want to please, keep, and reward—and for those, it’s best to keep the employee in the discussion. These are the customers whom I prefer to foster and benefit, even at a monetary loss to the company. They often turn out to be long-term, repeat customers because we have created an atmosphere of loyalty by tending to their concerns as a team. (Why would we allow an abusive customer to receive a more beneficial resolution than a kind, calm customer who truly wishes to resolve the condition?)

Sometimes customers are unworthy in other manners. We recently spent quite some time reviewing a lead’s current drip-marketing campaign, only to come to the conclusion we really couldn’t add enough value to their current process to make hiring our company beneficial to them. In this situation, we fired the customer before we were hired, and we were quite frank about why. I don’t know how this response was truly received by the customer; they did seem to be happy with our honesty. If I were on the receiving end of this conversation, I would rather have a company tell me genuinely they cannot help me than to have them take my money for months/years and be no wiser for the engagement—but not everyone thinks like I do. (Thankfully.)

In many ways, email marketing has cultivated an atmosphere allowing customers to be more unhappy and more quickly. The anonymity of email makes marketers seem less like a company of people here to serve their needs and more like a faceless organization poised to aggravate them. Gone are phone calls that allowed us to connect with at least a modicum human interaction, in their place we have electronic communications sent to thousands of people all at once. This is why personalization can be so important to you and to the recipient. Adding a bit or a lot of personalization warms the tone and the relationship. It reminds the receiver, you are a company of people who care about their success. It will also help lay a foundation of civility if a divorce is imminent.

If you must fire an email customer, don’t fire by email. Pick up the phone, set the ground rules, and be polite and professional. It’s the least you can do. You may not be able to salvage the relationship, but you’re less likely to leave them with a terrible last impression.