Could GDPR Have Averted Facebook’s Data Debacle?

This new European regulation that begins on May 25 is causing many to complain about increased regulations and the cost. I view GDPR differently. But from my perspective, I like what GDPR offers.

Welcome to my monthly column series, Around the World, where we will explore what’s new in marketing and sales from a global perspective. This column will focus primarily on technology innovations and the impact they are making in helping companies achieve their growth objectives.

Note: I intentionally include both marketing and sales innovations. The reason is most effective organizations employ collaborative marketing and sales teams who work together to achieve shared goals. Companies can no longer afford to separate these two symbiotic areas of the business. Clearly, we have a long way to go to make this a universal reality, but we are moving in that direction.

The ROI of GDPR

Starting next month, I serve up short Q&A sessions with innovative people who are making an impact in the marketing and sales industry. This will create an interesting flow of perspectives and experiences from around the world. The purpose of this column is to be a source of useful and inspiring information for you, my readers. But I also want this to be an interactive forum where you share your reactions and experiences so we are learning from each other.

Let’s get started with a look at GDPR, which will have global ramifications in how marketers and salespeople handle personal data. This new European regulation that begins on May 25 is causing many to complain about increased regulations and the cost it is going to have for businesses. I view GDPR differently. These new regulations are actually exactly what we as individuals expect and demand from companies in how they treat our personal data they have extracted over time.

From my perspective, I like what GDPR offers. I want to share my data with companies to receive a better service, be rewarded for my loyalty and be treated ethically, knowing that my data is safe and secure. In fact, I’d like to go further and have ‘a right to be remembered!’ For instance, it’s so boring and time-consuming to have to complete the same forms for the same company you fly with each time, rent cars from or hotels you visit. As consumers we want these entities to retain the data we have provided about our preferences and use it in the future.

We all want to be treated like trusted members of the family. Imagine being greeted by the Italian restaurant owner who impresses your guests as he ushers you and your guests to your favorite table in a restaurant! You feel special. The evening gets off to a great start and sets the tone for a great customer experience. This is all because the owner took the time to get to know you and your preferences before you stepped inside his restaurant.

One of the main benefits of GDPR is the fact that there are huge powers (and corresponding fines of 4% of revenue in each country affected), which will make large companies sit up and take notice about this important issue. And it’s really the big companies who have handled our data in an appallingly way. Just in recent weeks, we’ve seen millions of records hacked or misused by Facebook/Cambridge Analytica, Uber and Under Armour; the latter at least reacting quickly to confirm their data breach, rather than the normal corporate procedure of trying to brush things under the carpet as VW did with the dieselgate scandal – with unbelievable corporate arrogance. Shame on VW.

GDPR’s Potential Impact on Facebook Debacle

So if GDPR had been in place, for instance, could it have affected the recent Facebook crisis?

Implement DevOps to Improve CX

There’s been a movement in IT during the past seven or so years to adopt a DevOps methodology; whereby, developers and operations are working together to deliver sound secure code and applications in a frequent and timely manner.

There’s been a movement in IT during the past seven or so years to adopt a DevOps methodology; whereby, developers and operations are working together to deliver sound secure code and applications in a frequent and timely manner. Companies have gone from releasing new code annually or semi-annually to continuously in order to meet customer needs. Software companies are focused on delivering a great user and customer experience (CX).

The success of DevOps got me to thinking, “Will the same methodology work for sales, marketing and customer service?”

The steps are straightforward and intuitive:

  1. Plan
  2. Create
  3. Verify
  4. Package
  5. Release
  6. Deploy
  7. Monitor

Let’s look at each step in the process and see how it might work for sales, marketing and customer service to improve customer experience.

  • Plan: Where every project needs to start. All three parts of the business need to sit down together and define the business problem they’re trying to solve. Given that 85 percent of companies think they’re delivering a good customer experience, while only 15 percent of customers believe the same indicates there’s a huge gap between perception and reality. Perhaps you need an NPS or customer satisfaction study to help everyone get on the same page about the problem(s) you need to solve to improve the customer experience you are providing.
  • Create: Here’s where you need to map the customer journey from initial consideration to installation and repurchase. You also need to know what the customer expectation and experience are at each of the stages of the customer journey. You can create a hypothetical customer journey by collecting the experiences and impressions of your team, as well as analyzing all of the data you have regarding awareness, attribution and survey results.
  • Verify: You need to validate the accuracy of your hypothetical customer journey map with your customers. Data can tell you a lot. Real customers can tell you a lot more. How accurate is your map? At what step in the customer journey are you meeting customer expectations, where are you exceeding them and where are you failing to deliver? Talk to customers to find out.
  • Package: After you’ve verified your customer journey map, it’s time to identify steps to take to improve the customer experience. You may identify a dozen or more opportunities; however, start small. Have sales, marketing and customer service each identify one thing they can add to or change in their current process to improve the customer experience. As you have success with those initiatives, and see the positive results, you can take on more initiatives.
  • Release: Start doing the three things you identified with a segment of your audience. Sales may be differentiating marketing-qualified leads from sales-qualified leads. Marketing may be providing more personalized, relevant information of value. While customer service may be using a 360-degree view of the customer so they already know what the customer’s issue is and are able to resolve it on the first call (or email or text).
  • Deploy: Once the release is complete and you know how the initiatives are performing, you can deploy the initiatives across your entire audience of customers and prospects.
  • Monitor: Perhaps the greatest return on the DevOps process is the speed at which the organization learning about how its applications are performing. Short feedback loops let the DevOps teams know how consumers are responding to their apps and their code and improvements can be made quickly and released back to the consumer who sees the continuous improvement. This can be a tremendous benefit for sales, marketing and customer service.

Sales sees productivity increase and sales cycles shorten as they focus their efforts on sales-qualified leads. Marketing sees greater open and click-through rates with more relevant communications. Customer service sees and hears happier customers who are getting their questions and problems resolved more quickly.

Now that these three initiatives have been implemented, you can tackle the other five, 10 or 20. Improving the customer experience is a never-ending journey, but one which differentiates your company from your competition, while generating more revenue, more repeat purchases and more customer equity.

How to Win Your Next ‘Cattle Call’ Proposal Bid

A customer asks you (and your competitors) to quote a project. You’ll write an email, draft a proposal or book a meeting in response. Next, you’ll pitch. You’ll use Jeff Hoffman’s “why you, why you now” approach to create urgency. But what if you, instead, politely declined the “cattle call” by asking questions?

Who Moved the Sales? Why marketing attribution is so crucial to track, yet so hard to doA customer asks you (and your competitors) to quote a project. Or a prospect invites you to discuss a relationship. You’ll write an email, draft a proposal or book a meeting in response.

You quickly research the prospect to understand the current business scenario. They appear ready to change … ditch the status quo.

Next, you’ll pitch. You’ll use Jeff Hoffman’s “why you, why you now” approach to create urgency. You’ll flash the potential buyer a list of benefits, your customer list, maybe a testimonial or two and a bid or cost estimate.

But what if you, instead, politely declined the “cattle call” for proposal bids by asking questions?

Have You Considered This Approach?

By giving prospects what they ask for too soon, we lose the opportunity to present ideas your client may not be considering. Ideas that cost more and benefit customers likewise.

What if you resisted pitching and presented a more expensive idea? Sound crazy?

Sales trainer, Josh Braun, brings this idea to life.

He needed someone to record a live workshop. So he posted an ad. Within a few hours he received five bids.

All were $500 and based on the length of his workshop. But one provider didn’t provide a price. Instead, he responded like this:

“Josh, I can help you monetize your live workshop by taking advantage of three things you may not have considered. Open to chatting?”

Curiosity is a powerful motivator so Josh agreed.

“During the conversation the provider understood my motivation for recording the event. Then asked a series of ‘have you considered’ questions,” Braun says.

These were:

“Have you considered interviewing people after your session and using the clips as testimonials for your website?”

“Have you considered creating a trailer that you could use for promotional purposes?”

“Have you considered adding an extra camera so you can get the audiences reaction, leading to a more engaging video?”

“Have you considered editing your video into segments so you can easily upload them?”

This one provider separated himself from the competition by showing Braun what’s possible.

“He upped the perceived value of his offering,” says Braun. “I said yes, before he even gave me a price which was twice the price of his competitors.”

Next time you’re invited to bid, consider declining; instead, present upside implications of ideas your client may not be considering without discussing price.

Resist Asking Qualifying Questions

By providing proposals too soon, we squander the opportunity to help clients prepare to buy. Especially if you sell complex solutions. We also drive customers away with questions that qualify them for solutions.

Think about the questions you ask clients when sizing them up. They understand the intent of your questions. Of course they do.

Bottom line: Your questions are screaming “Are you ready to buy yet … ok … when?” Instead, they should be screaming “I can help you prepare to manage — and then execute — the nasty change your decision is going to cause.”

Instead, try asking neutral questions. This shows a bias to the client’s internal change challenges.

It shows you care about their challenges more than placing your solution!

Imagine telling the boss, “I’m following up the bid request, but not responding with a price, nor asking qualifying questions.” Sounds crazy. But what if you, instead, offered the prospect conversation about internal change needed to solve their problem?

For example, rather than asking, “When does it feel like you would be ready to make this investment?” ask “How would you know if — and when — it’s right to make this kind of change?”

The first question is clearly biased to your goal of placing a solution. The second is biased only to the customer’s decision-making process and leaves the door open to “no.”

Start With a Mindset Shift

Here’s another way to frame your mindset: What created the buyer’s status quo situation is more important than your solution. Right? Ask questions to uncover the internal decision processes your customers use to create change … change leading to solution investment.

Bottom line: We sell change. Our clients’ obstacles to change are more important than our solutions. Mine too!

Our solutions don’t matter — even if they will fix (or advance) clients’ situations. 

What matters is deciding if a buyer is able and willing to change … and helping advance that change, if (and when) it’s best.

Too often we give in to temptation … start talking about ourselves. After all, the prospect just asked us to pitch. They’re ready.

But are they? Are they truly ready to buy? Is this the decision-maker? Are there others involved? How mature is the need … where are they in the problem-solving (not vendor selection) process?

These are the questions you need answered — in order to close complex sales.

What is your experience?

Using Content to Bridge the Sales-Marketing Divide

Too often in content marketing circles — and marketing circles in general — we see a separation between the work marketers do and what their counterparts in the sales department do. That’s not healthy.

Too often in content marketing circles — and marketing circles in general — we see a separation between the work marketers do and what their counterparts in the sales department do. That’s not healthy.

Combating that issue can be a tough nut to crack — really tough if the culture in your organization is wrong. But there is something you can do to route around at least some of the problems this rift creates, even if you can’t get the Hatfields and McCoys to lay their muskets down on anything else.

Content to the Rescue

The key to getting anyone’s attention is helping them solve a problem. Reaching out to offer your sales team content can help them solve problems that they undoubtedly experience every day.

Before you start, though, you may want to assess just how relations are between sales and marketing. If the atmosphere is particularly chilly, you might try this outside official channels. That is, approach a friendlier member of the sales team and treat this as a pilot program.

Getting to Go

Your initial pitch shouldn’t be a pitch at all, but a question: When you’re able to get a prospect’s ear, what’s the one question they want to answer most urgently? If you have a piece of content that already answers that question, offer it up and suggest how the sales person might present it to a prospect based on what kind of contact, if any, has already occurred. (Being careful not to overstep your marketing bounds into sales territory, of course.)

If you have the technical capabilities, you might even customize a landing page with the content to include the prospect’s name and company logo, and tailor the offer or lead magnet to their needs specifically.

Obviously, this only works for bigger ticket sales, but the same idea can be applied to smaller, more commoditized sales if you segment your list by industry or the prospect’s role and create content or landing pages for each. (A payroll clerk is going to have different concerns about your accounting software package than a CFO will, for example.)

Drip, Drip, Drip

Once you’ve established a relationship, you’ll need to nurture that relationship — folks who are excellent prospects may not be ready to buy right when you initially connect with them.

Content comes to the rescue again as you work to stay on the prospect’s radar until he or she is ready to act. Sending content that is relevant to the prospect’s pain point is a much better way to stay in touch than the dreaded, ignored, and unproductive “just checking in” email or call. The content should also be relevant to your solutions, but this is absolutely not the place to be selling. Not even a soft sell. Focus on being useful and providing actionable information.

Track and Expand

If you undertake this behind the scenes, be sure to stay in close contact with your sales department champion. You should both be tracking what content is being used and how it is being received. With solid data in your pocket, you can expand the program and begin looking at expanding your collaboration from guiding use of content you’re already creating to creating custom content expressly for the needs of a particular part of the sales team or a particular sales effort. (Keep in mind that this isn’t a one-way street. You’ll be providing great value to your sales department and at the same time, getting great data back from them that should guide your broader content marketing efforts.)

Bridging the sales/marketing gap should improve your organization’s bottom line and increase demonstrable ROI for your marketing team.

2 Emails You’re Sending That Rarely Work

Never say never? I try to not speak in absolutes and remain positive. But there are two flavors of cold emails you’re probably sending that do more harm than good.

Never say never? I try to not speak in absolutes and remain positive. But there are two flavors of cold emails you’re probably sending that do more harm than good. These are the cold:

  • “help me find the right person” request;
  • “show me how to sell to you” request.

Not sending these emails? I’ll be surprised if you haven’t sent one in past … or still consider them as valid options.

Beware. They are marks of amateurs.

Asking for a chance to learn about customers’ current pain points or challenges is common … and increasingly fails. Clients are deluged with these requests every day.

It’s not the client’s job to sort a way to sell your thing. Likewise, requesting a meeting in a cold email is too big an ask, too early.

Don’t Know? Find Out!

Let’s say you don’t know the right person to talk with — at your target organization. Fair enough.

Or in cases where you do know the contact, the pain or goal may be unclear. I respect that. But ya gotta find out. No excuses.

Please don’t do this:

Hi {name},

I’m trying to figure out who is in charge of [leading general statement] there at {company}.

Would you mind pointing me towards the right person please, and the best way I might get in touch with them?

Consider tools like LinkedIn, Google and countless others. Your ability to find the right decision-maker(s) is unprecedented. Not to mention innovators like Data.com and old-fashioned (yet, perfectly good) sources like InfoUSA and their like.

“Who’s the best person to get in touch about this?”

You must be kidding. This is NOT going to work for you.

Don’t get pegged as lazy, or worse!

‘Do My Work and Pity Me’

If you’re sending emails hoping someone will do the work for you … that’s pitiful. Especially if you’re starting at the top of an organization, looking to get handed-down. Your cold email signals: “help me do my work.” And that’s pitiful.

You might argue, “Jeff, people like to help people.” They do. I help people when I can. But consider this:

Would you call the CEO or top executive on the phone — looking to get handed down? I’d hope not but maybe you would! In a digital age, cold calling top executives (to discover who to talk to) is not effective. Instead, research the target online.

You may also argue, “Jeff, I do well discovering who decisionmakers are using the phone … by tapping into administrative assistants.”

I’m cool with that. In fact, we might be forced to. Decision-makers are starting to hide or disguise their authority on LinkedIn.

Also, gathering intelligence this way is worthwhile.

However, blasting “can you help direct me?” emails, trying to discover decision-maker names is mostly ineffective. It’s the sign of an unskilled sales person. Avoid it. Don’t encourage clients to pity you.

Let’s say you use email to discover who targets are at mid-management level. This is also a losing proposition. Any idea how many requests for help these people receive each day? More than you might imagine.

Think about your hectic day. If you received three to four messages per day asking for help from sales reps, wouldn’t it get annoying? And it might even get you in trouble. Forwarding people who you don’t know (selling products your colleagues may not need) could cost you embarrassment.

There is often a negative incentive for contacts to help guide you.

Go Direct, Go Informed or Go Home

Let’s say you were face-to-face with a new prospect at a networking event. They’ve identified themselves as the decision-maker. You wouldn’t ask a potential client, “Can I get some time with you … so you can help me understand a way to sell to you?”

Auto Responders That Knock Your Socks Off

I’m a believer that personality plays an important role in selling. I’m a super Type A person, so I prefer to buy from people and companies that are organized, detailed and competent. But I also like people and companies who have a healthy sense of humor. Silvercar is a great example. A few years ago, my friend Chris and I went to breakfast at a conference in Scottsdale, Ariz. He pulled up in his Audi A4 rental car. “Great car,” I said. Where’d you get it?”

emailI’m a believer that personality plays an important role in selling. I’m a super Type A person, so I prefer to buy from people and companies that are organized, detailed and competent. But I also like people and companies who have a healthy sense of humor. Silvercar is a great example. A few years ago, my friend Chris and I went to breakfast at a conference in Scottsdale, Ariz. He pulled up in his Audi A4 rental car. “Great car,” I said. Where’d you get it?”

“Silvercar. The best rental car company. I use them exclusively now.”

“What makes them so good?”

“Working with them is so easy, and they have a great personality.”

So, I gave Silvercar a try, and they have been my go-to rental car company for the past three years. You may ask, “How does a company have a personality?” Good question. Everything they do is hassle-free, technology-based and fun. My last reservation took one minute and 33 seconds (yes, I timed it). When I got to the lot, I scanned my QSR code on the window sticker, got in and drove away. Easy peasy. No lines. Ever. I actually look forward to getting their marketing emails. They are short, to the point and funny.

Silvercar has taught me the importance of making sure my personality shows through in everything I do, even the way I write my out-of-office emails. I travel a lot for work. I turn on “auto response” before each trip, even if I’m not going to be disconnected much. This messaging is a great opportunity to make someone smile and remind them of my spunk and creativity.

I’ve created a repository of responses that I can choose from based on the time of year and what’s happening in our business. Here’s my latest:


Howdy,

At home working by the fire in slippers and comfys? I wish. Rain check for the week of 12/12 when I return from Texas. I’m going to the birthplace of jazz, casino central (Vegas) and to Dallas to find my friend, a tall cowboy with a six-pack (he’s in need of a hot holiday party date).

If my email has not put you to sleep yet, and you are still in need of things to do to make yourself look busy at work, check these out:

  1. Read the book “Never Eat Alone.” I’m reading it for the third time. Top five on my list of great sales books.
  2. Buy yourself one of these holiday suits. It will help you feel better about yourself and might win you Two-Buck Chuck at your neighbor’s Christmas party. NOTE: They hide curves and fat well.
  3. You really want those new Lululemon pants for hot yoga class, but they are $118. You just don’t have that in your budget. Sounds like you need a raise. Use your boss’s feedback to get promoted. You’re welcome.

BONUS: Do you buy print? Does your team buy print? Want to free up their time so they can focus on other activities? Want to look like a hero? Consider outsourcing your print buying to us. We are pretty cool for being in such a boring industry (at least we like to think so).


Since I’ve started writing fun auto email responders, I’ve been surprised by the increased number of responses. Here’s my favorite response from a prospect, “You are funny. I like the culture you’ve created at your company. It really stands out and makes me want to do business with you. PS: You’ve inspired me to rewrite my out-of-office messages.”

I challenge you to write down five things that make you unique. (Think about your hobbies, activities, books you like to read, etc.) Then, incorporate them into an out-of-office message. After you’ve crafted a message that gets positive responses and motivates prospects, I suggest encouraging each person on your team to write his or her fun and poignant auto responder. I know each team member’s unique personality will shine through. In my humble opinion, that is much better than having one company-wide response. Snore, snore.

The art of people buying from people is not dead.

Caution: You and your team members may knock someone’s socks off.

How to Negotiate a Risk-Sharing Marketing Contract

The marketing service company’s smooth and promising presentation assures me that hiring it will certainly grow my business. “Trust us,” they say, “We have a winning strategy and we’ll all celebrate the fantastic results.”

marketing negotiations
“Salary Negotiations,” Creative Commons license. | Credit: Flickr by MIke Kline

The marketing service company’s smooth and promising presentation assures me that hiring it will certainly grow my business. “Trust us,” they say, “We have a winning strategy and we’ll all celebrate the fantastic results.”

I want to believe them, but they come at a high price and we are not rolling in cash during these difficult and fast-changing times. If I were the potential client and they offered to minimize my front-end cost and share the risk of under-performance, I‘d find their proposal very attractive and credible. I’d feel comfortable sharing success with someone who is willing to share failure.

Entrepreneurs know that a strong component of commercial success depends upon getting their businesses noticed and engaging customers to buy their products or service. They also know or should know that this marketing and advertising task can consume substantial resources. If they can get their marketing partners to share this investment, through some form of split of the generated revenue, it can be a definite win-win. That’s why revenue-sharing and other forms of remuneration are becoming the new normal.

The historic 15 percent “commission” system was the basis for agency remuneration in the days of “Mad Men,” but tougher times have diminished the number of martinis and brought with them far more competitive systems of compensation. Now they are being asked — compelled, in some cases — to put their money where their mouths are: to mutual benefit. Some of the world’s most successful direct response copywriters have done this for years, and the winners have earned enormous sums from grateful clients who tried and tried, but were unable to beat the controls they created years ago.

Some years past, on a conference panel, I asked an advertising sales director of Globo TV (Brazil’s largest media company) what value he put on a 30-second commercial slot that Globo had failed to sell. Looking at me as if I were an escapee from a gringo nut house, he said it was obviously worth nothing. What, I then asked, if a potential advertiser were willing to guarantee to pay? Say, 35 percent of the normal price for any unsold advertising spots, a standard procedure in the U.S.? He emphatically said he would never even consider it. If he still has a job, it is unlikely he would take that view today, when Google is gorging itself on 80 percent of the fall in broadcast and print advertising.

To make revenue share work, the agency, consultancy or service provider needs to carefully do its homework. This “communicator” will first need to be able to assess the real cost of the time of the professionals who will be involved in the project.

Peter Rosenwald's Chart 1

Using a matrix like this, which sets various ranges of monthly compensation, assumes 1,800 (or some more appropriate number) of working hours per year, it’s easy to see the “Actual Cost Per Hour” for each category of professional. But we all know that 100 percent of the hours will not be billable. (Sometimes, there really isn’t much to do but chat on Facebook.) So we make a guesstimate of the percentage (here, 60 percent) of billable hours and increase the “Cost Rate” accordingly.

And of course we want to make a profit. (That’s the name of the game, isn’t it?) So to establish a minimum “Bill Rate,” we gross up the “Cost Rate” accordingly. And finally, we can round it up if we wish.

The professional responsible for pricing this project only has to input the number of professionals in each category and the estimated number of hours each will have to spend on the project and ZAP, the professional costs (including the percentage for hours not billable and the profit-loaded (29.3 percent) quotation amount for the professionals) is ready and waiting.

Collecting the other costs for the project, data, media, etc., (with or without mark-ups depending on policy and competitive pressure) and then adding them to the professional costs provides the essential baseline for a revenue share negotiation. You know your real costs and you know these costs with profit and the amount you would quote as a fixed fee. The old wise adage says; Never gamble more than you can afford to lose. That wisdom should inform what “revenue share” you are prepared to accept.

Peter Rosenwald's Chart 2

But that’s only from the communicator’s side.

What does the “marketer” have to know? And more importantly, what does he need to share with the communicator?

The answer is simply how much he can afford to get an “open,” a clickthrough, a lead or a final sale. Which of these he wants from the communicator depends upon his briefing of the communicator and whether the marketer knows his historic metrics for the journey from advertising through to the final sale. Keeping it simple, let’s assume that the marketer knows his numbers and has an expectation of selling 500 units at $850 each. He can afford it, but is unlikely to want to pay 10 percent of $85 per unit sold.

Peter Rosenwald's Chart 3

Because the communicator knows that to make his profit objective, he needs $26,125 or an alternative revenue share and must have a minimum of $19,592 to break even, he is well prepared to enter into a revenue-share negotiation.

Let’s look at it this way.

The communicator’s leverage for negotiation is the spread between his cost $19,592 and his quotation amount $26,125. To make its quotation amount, the communicator needs just $52.25 per sale. To cover his cost, he only needs $39.18. If the communicator receives $52.25 per sale, he only needs 375 sales to recover his costs. If the actual sales number is above 500, say, 550, the communicator will receive his full quotation amount plus 50 times $52.25, or an additional $2,612.

The question for the communicator is how much to ask for? Sixty percent of the $85 allowable would give $51 per sale — just short of the $52.25 needed to make the quotation amount at 500 sales: 50 percent would be $42.50. Not bad. Looked at from the marketer’s side, with no up-front cost, sharing the $85 allowable on a more or less equal basis should seem fair.

Peter Rosenwald's Chart 4

I’d argue for $50 per sale as a good compromise, but each negotiation is different and each person will have to define his own limits. Hopefully, the use of these tools and this methodology will help.

Peter Rosenwald's Final

3 Quick Ways to Bullet-Proof Your Cold Email Messages

No matter what target market my students are calling on when sending cold email messages, I see the same weak spots over-and-over. Unknowingly, sellers are often sabotaging themselves by “blasting” prospects. But starting a conversation with email can happen. I’ve seen it.

Patrick's email blogNo matter what target market my students are calling on when sending cold email messages, I see the same weak spots over-and-over. Unknowingly, sellers are often sabotaging themselves by “blasting” prospects:

  1. long, un-personalized “push” copy (rather than pull)
  2. persuasive marketing prose (rather than copy that embraces rejection)
  3. using words that sabotage (signal “I’m needy” or “I’m a waste of time”)

Let’s say you’re aiming to start a conversation with an executive decision-maker. You sell a product or service that takes time, involves “consultative selling,” probably requires a few yeses. Your biggest enemy is the status quo.

Starting a conversation with email can happen. I’ve seen it.

But increasingly chief executives and top VPs are suffering from inbox saturation, in general. Mostly from SDR/BDRs (sales and business development reps) whose approaches are obnoxious.

Moreover, it’s not effective at starting conversations.

Shorten, Personalize and Pull

Long, non-personalized messages that push meetings using “blasts” that “push on pains” are not good conversation-starters. Yet we see them all the time.

The goal of your cold email is to provoke a reaction — that leads to a short conversation, qualifying a longer one … or not. No is a great answer too.

The goal is not to get referred. It’s not to set a date for a demo or meeting. These are what I mean by pushy.

Before pressing send make sure your email:

  • contains a first paragraph proving you researched the prospect
  • takes 10 seconds or less to read
  • does not ask for a meeting
  • contains a provocation, likely to trigger a reply asking for clarification

Calling on C-suite executives comfortable with the status quo? Generating a conversation with these people takes more than a “blast.” It takes a personalized message that is short (and provocative) enough to attract the prospect.

Don’t push, pull. Attract.

Don’t Need the Sale

Want the sale. Don’t need it. Show your prospect you don’t need it. Shift the tone of your cold email by shifting your mindset. This avoids writing in ways that communicate “I’m desperate for your business.”

Some of my best students avoid these words like the plague:

  • Please
  • Love
  • Looking forward to
  • Hope

Each one of these adds up. Every word counts. The more weak words used the more you help readers feel you need the sale.

The more weak you sound the less attractive you become.

Think about it this way: If a prospect truly believed your solution could double their productivity or increase revenue by 30% would they delete your message?

No. They would immediately hit pause (on what they’re doing) and make time.

Don’t Signal “I’m Wasting Your Time”

When a prospect deletes you they actually mean “This isn’t worth a moment of my time.”

Why? Because you convinced them it wasn’t… often by using weak words.

Time is another element where your words demonstrate lack of respect. Often unknowingly. Do you ever use these phrases?

  • As you probably realize …
  • Again …
  • Obviously …

These are all words that communicate, “I’m about to waste your time” to your reader. I’m about to tell you something you already know. Or I’m about to repeat myself. Or I’m about to tell you something obvious.

People don’t have time for you when you signal “I’m good at wasting it.” Your words are powerful. Keep this in mind.

Stop Persuading

As a sales person, your goal isn’t to convince the prospect to talk with you. That speaking would be smart. The goal is for the prospect to convince themselves that talking is smart … if, in fact, it is.

Stop trying to persuade. Everyone hates strangers who try to persuade them, especially in an email.

Are your cold emails and voicemail messages helping buyers feel an urge to ask for help? Are your follow-ups helping them reach conclusions on their own? That’s different, powerful.

Or are you trying to persuade the prospect you are credible?

I know experts say, “you’ve got to write something convincing them to reply …” and “you’ve got to appear credible to earn the response.”

No you don’t.

You have to be provocative, not credible. Credibility comes later — when a customer is considering doing business with you. You don’t need to have credibility to initiate a short conversation about a longer one.

You need to be provocative.

The problem with using words that posture is… well… you’re posturing. You’re trying to appear credible to someone you don’t know. And that never works in email, nor in general, when you talk about yourself.

When we try to appear credible we actually “signal” to strangers:

  • I have my own agenda
  • I am out to convince/persuade you
  • I know you won’t believe me, so I’ll bring in 3rd parties to prove it (your research report, your Gartner praise, etc.)

Instead, challenge the prospect to challenge you!

Make your claim. Boldly. Let them react to it. Let them label it nonsense or ask you to prove it.

Now you’ve provoked a discussion.

I have many students who do well with CEOs and CIOs using the phrase, “unorthodox but effective” when describing a strategy or tactic … relating to what they sell. This dares the prospect to hit reply and ask, “ok, you’re on. What’s so unorthodox about what you’re asking me to consider?”

What has your experience been?

Boost Your Clicks With AdWords Sitelink Extensions

If your goal is acquisition, Google’s pay per click AdWords platform has proved for many to be a viable way to increase leads or sales for your business and, depending on your keyword and bids, can be cost-effective.

google adwordsIf your goal is acquisition, Google’s pay per click AdWords platform has proved for many to be a viable way to increase leads or sales for your business and, depending on your keyword and bids, can be cost-effective.

However, if you’re not in the PPC know, then you may not be aware that Google is now allowing up to eight sitelink extensions in paid search ads AND they are interactive, tappable scrolling buttons on mobile devices (vs. text links on desktop).

What does that mean for you?

Quite simply, Google is giving your more opportunity to catch your target audience’s attention with strong, relevant calls to action or other enticing keywords that are clickable; whereby, you can drive traffic to a targeted page.

These extra descriptives can help increase your clickthrough rate, and possibly conversion rate.

Now, some marketers don’t take advantage of this. But I say if you don’t, you’re leaving opportunity on the table!

What You Should Know

  • Including a Sitelink in Your Ad. When you’re creating a new ad, you’ll see prompts to add a new sitelink extension. If you have an existing campaign, but you didn’t take advantage of this feature, you can go back and add it under “All Campaigns,” select the ad you’d like to add the sitelink to, then select “+Extensions” and “+New Sitelink.”
  • Types of Extensions. Here are some top extensions to help drive traffic or clicks:
    • Teasers and Call-Outs. This would be a unique selling proposition that makes you stand out from your competition. Some may include call outs like “free shipping,” “100% guaranteed,” “special offer,”’ “free report” and similar. These sitelinks would then link to a promotional page that speaks more to the teaser and has a goal of getting a conversion.

This would be your physical address if you’re driving traffic to a physical location. This can then link to a directions/map page on your website.

  • Phone Number. This would be if you have the Google “click to call” feature driving traffic to a phone number.
  • Testimonials or Reviews. Some advertisers would put a strong excerpt from a testimonial page or “5 stars” review here, then link to the full reviews page.
  • Call to Action. Another popular tactic is to include calls to action that may answer a question the prospect is looking for, or help them find a solution. Such as “call now,” “get a quote,” “request appointment,” “order now,” “customer favorites,” “top sellers,” “special trial offer,” “on sale now,” etc.
  • Sale and Promotion Extensions. Where you can actually have things like “25% off your entire order” or “last chance sale,” where you can even enter the dates the sale is running in the ad!
  • Combining Lead-gen and Sale in One Ad. Using sitelinks can be a great way to kill two birds with one stone. In your one ad, you can have different sitelinks for different goals. One sitelink term may say something like “free report” and the other may say “top sellers.” One links to a squeeze page to collect an email address (lead generation). The other goes to a sales page to a product going directly for a sale.

Tracking your sitelink performance is easy. When in your AdWords dashboard, just look for clickthrough rate performance under “Acquisition,” “All Traffic,” “Ad Words” and “Sitelinks.” It’s that easy.

According to Google, the mere presence of sitelink extensions may boost clickthrough rate on average by 10 to 20 percent, and for branded terms, 20 to 50 percent.

So what are you waiting for?!

As part of your online marketing mix, if you have a percentage of your time and budget allocated to pay per click (PPC), then testing sitelink extensions in your ad is a MUST.

Good luck.

A Fundamental Misconception About Cold Email

There are so many ebooks and websites all pushing cold email templates that “work.” Problem is, they don’t because the theoretical basis of most cold email techniques is outdated. Most advice is based on a flawed belief in how B2B decision-makers use email: Email is conversational. Fact is, it’s not. Those days are gone. Today, business email is transactional. Especially cold emails.

When Do Email Autoresponder Subject Lines Cross the Line?There are so many ebooks and websites all pushing cold email templates that “work.” Problem is, they don’t because the theoretical basis of most cold email techniques is outdated.

Most advice is based on a flawed belief in how B2B decision-makers use email: Email is conversational.

Fact is, it’s not. Those days are gone. Today, business email is transactional. Especially cold emails.

Email Is Transactional, Not Conversational

B2B decision-makers are on a mission. Just like you are: delete the inbox noise. Day in, day out. Multiple times a day, decision-makers delete spammy come-ons from reps. But they also make quick replies. Transactions.

The way decision-makers are using email today is transactional. Choices are:

  1. Delete
  2. Reply immediately
  3. Reply later (as good as deleting)

Which cold emails are earning response? The shortest ones. Those that waste no time getting to the point. The emails that best allow prospects to get back to work earn more response!

Everything else is deleted immediately or put off (just as good as deleting).

So why are you trying to start conversations with decision-makers who are excellent at spotting and deleting people wanting to converse?

Why are you still trying to persuade clients to talk in the first, cold email message?

Don’t Qualify and Persuade, Provoke

Most sellers are trying to persuade rather than transact. For example, are you trying to be relevant in your cold email? Are you referencing yourself or your business? (at all) Are you working to build credibility … and building a case for prospects to meet with you?

You’re probably failing. Instead, start provoking. Provoke. Irritate. Cause an immediate response based on a sense of curiosity or a nagging fear. Transact with the customer.

For example, one of my students uses this kind of approach:

John,

Noticing you added chat to your contact center mix 3 months ago. This triggers me to ask: How would you know when it’s time to consider adding screen sharing?

Brief, blunt. Provocative. This message proves the seller researched the client’s organization and ties the observation about John’s current situation to his decision-making process … in a way that helps John think about his situation.

Notice: This provocation is not asking for a meeting, nor positioning the seller as credible. The message is not trying to create a sense of urgency or pushing a call-to-action. This message asks a question that doesn’t lead John to a conclusion the seller wants. Instead, it asks a question that John needs to be asking himself in the future.

See the difference? This is a “grabber.”

The message isn’t conversational. It’s transactional. John doesn’t need to scroll on his mobile device to read it and quickly respond.

This is what works in cold email. Transactions that provoke conversations. Short, pithy messages that stand out by not talking about anything other than the prospect.

The above message isn’t accidentally signaling “mass email social selling approach.” It avoids recognizing the prospect’s:

  • recent accomplishment or promotion
  • blog article or post
  • social media trigger
  • decision-making authority

These tactics are working less in cold email. Because everyone is using them. They’re cheap and lazy … and commonplace. Clients are being deluged by long, conversational emails that just plain take too long to read and signal “this person wants a premature meeting.”

Instead, provoke the conversation and progress it to a meeting.

Why Conversations Won’t Serve You

A sales training company uses the below as a good example of a second paragraph in a cold email. The below paragraph provides relevancy to the target’s work life and puts forward an issue the seller believes is of interest to the buyer.

But is this effective lately? Have a look:

“I understand you are overseeing the demand generation strategy, Phil. We’ve been speaking with a lot of marketers who tell us they are not satisfied with the conversion rate of MQL to opportunity. If you ask them why they point to the skills of the sales team. The ones who conduct training internally say they do a great job training on products and internal systems and processes — they just don’t have enough time to cover sales training.”

How long did that take you to read? Multiply that by four and you’ve got the size of the complete email I borrowed this from.

You have less than 15 seconds to transact. After 15 seconds you’re deleted. The above is too conversational  where the seller is trying to demonstrate:

  • Research: Stating his/her authority
  • Relevancy: Stating an issue known to be of concern
  • Clarity: The answer is sales training

Here’s the problem: The client doesn’t have time to cozy up to 30 or 40 of these types of messages per week. That quantity of messages equates to a full hour or two of lost time per week … even if the emails take 90 seconds on average to read!

Besides, on a cold approach, don’t state customers’ decision authority as research. They see “I see you’re in charge of what I sell” as a prelude to a spammy pitch. They’ve been trained to based on all the spam they receive each day.

Clients are not open to your introduction of issues you think are challenges for them. Simply because every sales person on the planet is making the exact same approach. Bet on it.

Again, they see it as spam. And frankly it is.

Never Persuade or Posture

Email is here to serve us as a means to get into a discussion about a sale … not to conduct the sale. As you read your cold email draft aloud to yourself (and you should), make sure you aren’t trying to persuade, posture or qualify yourself.

The moment you begin an attempt to persuade STOP. You’ve crossed the line.

Don’t walk your customer down a road that leads to your sales pitch. They’ll cut you off. Believe me.

For example, read this paragraph and tell me how long it takes you to figure out what I’m up to …

“When speaking with our high-growth clients, we’re hearing that hitting revenue targets is dependent on the sales team’s ability to consistently develop new business. The sales leaders say the problem with most training programs is they presume sellers already have an opportunity in the funnel – rather than teaching them how to qualify an opportunity.”

Maybe it was the first sentence — where I spoke all about myself and told you something so obvious it insulted your intelligence. I tossed in words like “high-growth.” Why? To communicate I have them … and imply that my sales training is helping create growth. Something I know you want.

Cheese.

Or maybe it was the last sentence where I position to know the secret to success: Sales training qualifies prospects. We write these words hoping clients will think, “Hmm. That’s something to consider. I wonder how Jeff can help?” and hit reply.

Truth is, we’re wrong. We are insulting clients’ intelligence, blending in with the carpet, and training customers to not respond and engage in conversations.

What is your experience?