The Sales Process – Building Trust and Relationships

I hear scores of people calling themselves “internet marketer”. But an online sales person? This must be a very rare species!

Selling –  Not Marketing Generates Cash

It is true: marketing activities support sales by researching markets, helping to design products which people want, helping to know  here to look for prospects and how to talk to them.

Although marketing activities are useful and important, they incur expenses. On the other hand, sales generate cash. And without cash, ergo without sales, your business will die rather quickly.

It seems to me that many “marketers” don’t like to think of themselves as a salesperson because they feel shameful of selling. Many seem to think that selling is the same as playing with the minds of their prospects, misleading them and pushing them to buy things they do not need. They think of selling as just another way of picking money from people’s pockets.

This is unfortunate, because businesses need to sell their products and services to customers. They need to convince them that they are better off with the product, even if they have to pay hard cold cash for it. Unlike government and organized crime, as a businessman you cannot rely on force to peddleyour product or service.

Negative Emotions Kill Relationships and Trust

But if you think that selling involves misleading  prospects, you probably will…

  • just try to use deceptive practices when selling.
  • and – if you are a decent person -you will feel shameful for that.

The bad news is: If you try to deceive somebody and feel shameful about it, your prospect will notice. He will dislike you, even to the point where he avoids to talk to you. If that happens in the context of sales, your closing rate – or in direct marketing terms you conbversion rate – will tend to be zero, and you will have a very hard time to generate the cash you need. Success will be elusive.

This suggests the conclusion that you have to be a hard nosed and cynical guy to be successful in sales. But this is not true. Although you will sell more if you are deceptive and cynical than somebody else who feels shameful about his actions, t the deceptive and cynical guy will be only mediocre sales man.”

“Know Your Trade” Applies  to Sales, Too

The masters of sales use a step-by-step approach to selling. Here are the four most generic steps in a sales process. Obviously every step can be divided up into more sub-steps.

  1. Prospecting (Lead Generation): You look for people who migh be interested in your product, and for whom your solution makes sense.
  2. Qualifying: You seperate those leads who are likely to buy from those, who will probably not buy. Reasons could be that they have already a similar solution, they do not have money, they would not profit from your solution etc.
  3. Presenting: You open a two-way conversation with those who survived the qualification process. You discuss the problem at hand, and how your solution can help them to be much better off.
  4. Closing: After you presented to the prospects all relevant information and helped them to imagine how much better off they were with your solution, you ask them to make a decision. If they cannot make a decision immediately, you set a deadline.

Selling does not involve pushing people, or telling them what they should do. Instead you give them all the information and tools (like samples) to come to an informed decision and ask them to decide. You gear the prospecting process in a way that you get those leads who might be interested in your solution, and you use a sharp qualifying process to weed those leads out of the sales process who would not buy anyway, or who would create a lot of headache for you after the purchase, because your solution would be not very helpful for them.

Careful targeting of the prospecting process, and a sharp qualifying process are as essential as a professional presentation and a strong call for action. Without the first two steps you will waste your money and energy with people who will never buy, or worse, with those who will have no real use for your solution and then spread everywhere that your product is not worth the price.

Selling to the wrong prospects leads to low sales conversion rates and small profits. Such lack of earnings lets some sales people conclude that they have to deceive people and try to trick and bully them into purchasing their product or service.

But deceiving and bullying prospects sets them on a slippery slope. Over a short time conversion rates will further erode.   Trust and respect for such a salesman in his audience will suffer badly. If he does not reverse his behavior quickly, he will end up pushing cheap but useless merchandise  onto stupid people, living a life of scarcity, but with an abundance of hassles.

Trust and Relationships Are a Salesman’s Main Asset

This approach will grow trust and relationships even with those people who do not buy this time, because you provided through the sales process itself a very valuable service to them: You showed them a problem possibly from a fresh perspective, presented a possible way to tackle that problem and left them either with a potential solution, or the knowledge why that solution is not for them and for what they have to watch out if they want to solve the problem at hand.

Related books:

The End of Privacy?

I reprint this article with Paul Myer’s permission. It comes from his newsletter Talkbiz.

His newsletter is one of the rare email pieces I miss when I do not get it.

But just read this issue by yourself:

“The Portable Voyeur”
===================

In the last issue, I put out the idea of looking at your online networks and niches as “virtual neighborhoods.” Nothing especially new in that concept, except that almost no-one in the marketing field talks about them that way. That discussion is mostly left to forum operators and social networking geeks.

In this issue, I want to talk about something closer to home. Literally IN your home. People spying on you using your own electronics.

Let’s start with the least intrusive, and work up to stuff you may not believe is happening. The last few are downright creepy.

….

There’s a thing called “IP geolocation,” which uses a database of IPs (numbers locating your computer on the network) and physical areas to show where a computer is located. There are a bunch of these, and the accuracy can be anything from very close to wildly off the mark. The good ones can narrow it down to a few blocks, in most cases. Sometimes to a specific building.

You can see this most often when you notice an ad on a site that’s used by people all over the world, but mentions your city by name. “[YourCity] mom discovers…” or “Man in [Hometown] loses 47 pounds using…”  That’s IP geolocation in its mildest form.

Twitter has offered the option for a while to attach your IP address to a tweet, basically trying to tell people where you are. You have to opt into that, though. It’s turned off by default.

Facebook’s new “Places” settings options enable a more advanced function by default. The idea is to make it easy for your friends to know where you are. Unfortunately, it also makes it easy for people you might not want to share your location with to find you. Or know when you’re not home…

It’s easy to disable this option, if you know it’s there and what it’s called. John Williams sent me a link to the instructions. You can read those here:

http://lifehacker.com/5616395/how-to-disable-facebook-places

Why would this matter? Well, maybe you don’t want your friends to know where you are every minute that you’re online. Or maybe you don’t want
world+dog knowing when you’re not home. Or maybe you don’t want your employer knowing you’re logging onto Facebook from work. Or from the park when you called in sick.

Just how much info should be distributed about you automatically?

But wait… There’s more!

….

There are applications on some portable devices and phones that can transmit the data from a GPS system to other sites. This can be used to pinpoint your exact address, and your location to within a few feet.

That’s how the “Places” function on Facebook works. And, with the default settings, your Facebook “friends” can “check you in” if they’re with you. Handy, if you’re careful about who your “friends” are, and who you allow to share the info. Given the default settings, though, it’s an announcement to the world every time you log in from a mobile device.

That can get into the realm of the dangerous. With it set to “Friends of friends” able to view the info, you could be broadcasting your location to burglars, stalkers, ex-employees, your employer, or even just that annoying person
you’d rather not see right now.

Given recent comments from CEOs Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook – “Privacy is dead”) and Eric Schmidt (Google – “If you have something that you don´t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place”), there is every reason to believe these services will be used as aggressively
as possible.

Both companies have said the comments were taken out of context. That could be easily believed of Zuckerberg’s remark. Schmidt’s is a bit less dismissable. None of that matters, though, when you look at the way their firms actually treat their users’ private data. Facebook set this option to “On” by default. Google initially opted every Gmail user into their social networking platform, Buzz, and created significant and foreseeable problems for some users.

I’m pretty sure I don’t want those sorts of decisions made for me without my knowledge or consent. How about you?

And it gets (potentially) much, much worse.

….

Apple has applied for a patent that has some deeply disturbing implications: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/08/24-0

The summary: They want a patent on software that, in mobile devices, would let them listen to your conversations and/or take pictures of you or your surroundings, without any way for you to know it’s happening. Just remotely activate those functions, at their own discretion.

It would also let them monitor biometric data and all of your online activities while using their devices. Ostensibly, this would be developed for purposes of preventing theft, or catching thieves. It’s even been suggested to me that Apple may want the patent to keep the idea from being used by others.

I don’t buy it. But that doesn’t really matter.

First, it’s nearly certain that, if this technology is deployed and not made illegal for use by private citizens, it will be abused. The theft-prevention rationale was offered, for example, by the Lower Merion school district, in their program giving laptops to every high-school student. “Only to enable recovery in event of theft,” they said. That didn’t stop people at the school from using it to spy on students in their homes.Yeah. Really.

One kid was disciplined for “improper behavior” that occurred at home, in his bedroom. The Vice-Principal used a photo taken using the webcam in the laptop as his evidence. According to a forensic analysis commissioned by the district, the school took 66,503 screenshots and photos using these systems. The school admits these include pictures of the kids in their bedrooms.

If teachers will do that, what would a corporation do?

….

So, if you have one of these portable devices, where do you use it? In what situations do you simply carry a cell phone, iPad or other portable computing device? Do you want people able to spy on you in all those places, at any time, without warning?

It’s been suggested to me that there is prior art that might cause the USPTO to reject such a patent application, or be used later to invalidate it if granted. That raises other challenges. Specifically, anyone at all could include it in
their systems.

Google has a cell phone OS. Just how much do you want them to add to their collection of data on you?

Then there’s the “social networking” phone, which is designed specifically for use with Facebook and Twitter. Do you want your kids to have one of those broadcasting their location to the world at every moment the phone is on?

This isn’t science fiction, folks. We’re not getting into foil fedora territory here. This stuff is real.

….

And then there are the outright criminals. There is already malware code in the wild that lets remote operators turn on the webcam on infected computers. That’s not a big deal if you use a desktop machine and don’t keep one connected, or disconnect it when you don’t intend to use it.

But what about the laptops and netbooks, and even some monitors, that are sold with a camera and microphone installed in the machine itself? The last two portables that I got have them. Where do you, or your kids or employees, use laptops?

This isn’t especially difficult stuff to do. And the market isn’t restricted to criminals. For instance, on the first related search I did, I found someone asking how to remotely activate the webcam on his wife’s laptop without her knowing.

Some of these devices come with GPS systems installed. Anyone who can access those will know exactly where you are, what you’re doing or discussing, and with whom.

Anyone want to market sound-proof phone carriers, with built-in Faraday cages? A month ago, I would have considered that a ridiculous idea. Now, I’m thinking it’s a niche.

….

Electronic security isn’t just about data protection any more, folks. It’s gotten very personal, and it’s about to get more so.

You can take steps to reduce your exposure to this kind of invasion of privacy. First, make sure you have proper security software on all your computers. That’s good policy anyway, so that’s not too extreme.

With the social networking sites, it’s a matter of watching your preferences. Also just common sense. And easy. Don’t leave external webcams attached when they’re not in use, if you have any objection to what you do in the same room with them being seen by someone else. Using a USB hub makes
disconnecting them easy, and it’s a reasonable precaution, with the amount of trojans running loose online.

With laptops and netbooks, just be aware that this stuff is possible, and take whatever precautions you may feel are appropriate. That might be nothing at all, for many of you. It could mean turning the thing off when it’s not in active use.
Or putting tape over the camera lens. Or, if you have the need or desire to be especially cautious, having a physical switch installed to prevent remote activation of the camera or microphone.

I can’t begin to guess what level of security will work for you. Some people won’t consider it an issue at all, and they may well be right. For them. For others, these are real concerns. It’s getting very easy to install this kind of
monitoring code, and there are too many people with incentives to do it. Employers, co-workers, competition, family members, and various less savory types. Brings new meaning to the word “spyware,” yes?

Make sure your kids are aware of the potential issues, too.

….

I’m told that law enforcement agencies have had the ability to turn on cell phones remotely as listening devices for a while now, with a proper warrant. I consider that a very different thing than random strangers being able to access these kinds of info at will.

As of this moment, I am not aware of this being a problem for cell phones and similar portable devices. Just keep this in mind, and pay attention for it.

Whether Apple gets that patent or not, it’s coming.

….

If it’s installed or used by any corporation, I have a suggestion that seems appropriate: The top officers and all members of the board(s) of directors should be required to carry one of the devices with them at all times, with the audio and video enabled 24/7, and streaming to the web for the whole
world to view.

Hey, if we don’t get to decide what we can keep private, why should they?

….

The idea here isn’t to scare you, or create some sort of conspiracy buzz. If that was the goal, I’d point you to an even more extreme, and equally current, example of invasive observation: http://talkbiz.com/r/iris.php

As you can see, this stuff is real. The technology exists right now, and most of it is already in use. It may not pose much of a threat to many of us, but it’s something to be aware of and to watch out for.

Knowing it’s possible is 90% of the battle.

Be careful out there.

Paul

—–===(*)===—–

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How to Get Traffic to Your Web Page?

Traffic is like the blood of all online activities: If nobody sees you article, photo, video, there is no sense in publishing it.
But not all traffic is equal:
The people who see you message on their screen need to

  • be interested in the topic
  • believe that you can give a valuable input
  • give you at least some trust

You need to have that in mind if you start to channel traffic to you new web business, no matter what is the source of traffic. In essence you need to build an audience. This means you need to build a relationship to people who value your input, and who are willing to listen, if you send them a message.

If you have already an audience in the offline world, you can draw them into your internet world. This is the case if you have already a brick-and-mortar business. You can draw your existing customers and prospects into your internet activities by providing through the web enhanced service, like support videos, 24 hour ordering etc.

To get additional people into your audience, you can use many methods. Some of the more popular are:

  • paid advertisements
  • article marketing
  • social networks
  • teleseminars or webinars

About each of this methods there is a lot of material and training courses available. And it is important to master the ones you use. So, the best approach would be in the beginning to study one or two in depth.
I one of the next posts I will discuss some characteristics of each method. This will help to decide which is the best to start.