Power in Sales and Marketing

Sales and marketing is all about power.

Power in sales and marketing – and in everything else – is about doing less to achieve more. The question of power permeates your relationship with your customer and dictates how much you do, what information you provide, your overall posture and how you handle each step of the sales and marketing process. Here are five basic rules in how to develop and utilize power in all of your sales and marketing efforts.

1. Do Less: Rule #1 in sales and marketing is to do less. Talk less, listen more. Provide less information and dole out only what is completely necessary. Maintain interest by not showing all your cards at once. If in doubt, wait and see what happens.

The problem with most sales and marketing professionals is that they try too hard. They spend their time trying to please, trying to provide for, trying to accommodate each and every conceivable whim of the customer. Remember that the most important word in business is “no”.

2. Pull, Don’t Push: Remember that customers are like your shadow. If you run after them they will run away from you. Conversely, if you step back customers will come after you. If your customers have a genuine need that you can fulfill then they will stay engaged and will not disappear.

By holding back you demonstrate that you are not desperate and not in need of any particular customer. This approach is sometimes called having posture. It is also similar to when you tell customers that what they are looking for may not be available. Sit back and wait for them.

3. Be Gentle, Yet Firm: Power is all about self respect. What this means is that while you are humble and accommodating and while you treat every customer like you treat your best friend this does not mean becoming a “yes” person. Real friends can disagree.

Hold customers accountable to what they say. Don’t let them waste your time and money through repeated “no shows”. Remember that there are always other customers and that your dignity and self-worth as a sales and marketing professional is your most prized asset and is irreplaceable.

4. Go Slow: Once you have engaged a customer there is an unfortunate tendency in sales and marketing to overwhelm them with information. This is even more acute when a sales or marketing professional discerns that the customer is a “good fit” and has a genuine need for your product.

Remember that customers are not at the same level as you in terms of what they know. They have no idea of the amazing benefits of your product and service and need time to assimilate the knowledge you dole out slowly but surely. Go at their pace and do not rush them.

5. Strike: If there is something that needs saying, say it. If there is something that needs doing, do it. At a certain point in the transaction with your customer your intuition will tell you it is time to move forward and close the next step in the process. Use your built up power to guide the customer onwards.

Power in sales and marketing is all about how you feel. You must wait until the time is ripe before moving forward through successive stages of the sales and marketing cycle. Power can be likened to a dam. As long as you are professional and play your cards right the dam will fill and burst.

Focus on your customer but focus on yourself as well and make sure you feel empowered.

Customer Service Management Tips – Part 1

Customer support teams are perhaps the most misunderstood, and underappreciated teams in the business world. In many businesses the customer support staff talks to the customers more than every other team combined. They play a critical role in ensuring customers are satisfied. Satisfied customers are repeat customers. Everybody knows that a large percentage of business comes from repeat customers. And yet customer support teams are commonly staffed with junior, inexperienced people that don’t have the authority to make any decisions, or the training and knowledge to answer difficult questions. What’s the deal?

What is Customer Support?

First, let’s clarify what I mean by “Customer Support”, because different companies use this term in wildly different ways. I am talking about the team that takes care of the customer after the contract has been signed and the initial invoice has been paid. You may work in a company where a customer service team handles the transaction from order to invoice. You may have been taught that customer service starts when the customer walks in the door, and doesn’t end until the customer dies or decides not to be a customer any more. These are fine concepts, but what I am talking about here is the role of taking care of the customers’ needs after the invoice has been paid, and before they have expressed a specific interest in buying again. I refer to this as Post-Sale Customer Support to differentiate it from other definitions.

What’s So Important About Post-Sale Customer Support?

As a customer, up until the time that the invoice is paid you always hold the trump card of being able to withhold payment if you are not satisfied. And everybody understands that money talks. After the invoice has been paid you can often be left feeling powerless. The delivery team has collected their money and been assigned a full load of new customer transactions to look after. The sales team is being pressured to focus on customers who have already expressed a specific interest in making a purchase to meet monthly sales targets. So who takes care of you now?

This is where customer support comes in. There is a general feeling within most companies that they need to provide some sort of post-sale customer support, but there is a poor understanding of why. The sales team brings in the customers – which equals the promise of money. The orders team works out the details – which equals the promise of money. The delivery team provides the solution – which equals the collection of actual money. The customer support team ensures the customer is able to use the solution – which equals what? Happiness and karma? Let’s face it; shareholders can’t trade in their karma for a retirement home. Companies want money.

Here’s what people are missing. In a healthy business between 25 and 75 percent of all revenues should come from repeat customers. 25% to 50% is considered typical for a healthy retail outlet, and 75% repeat business would be the top end for a healthy service business. Retail outlets with less than 25% repeat business are probably not meeting their customer needs or more of them would be coming back. Service businesses with more than 75% repeat sales are probably losing their skills at generating new customers and run the risk of severe financial problems if they lose 1 or 2 major accounts. Any way you look at it, a very large part of your business should be coming from repeat customers.

The other factor you need to look at is that the cost of getting a new customer is much higher than the cost of keeping a customer that you already have. Marketing and advertising are expensive business.

Smart businesses invest in retaining customers. That’s what customer support is all about. There is no better time to ensure repeat business than when your customers are feeling that they have no leverage. That is exactly when they appreciate your support the most, and will remember it as something that makes them want to come back.

In part 2 of this series we’ll look at some practical management tips for customer service managers to get the business behind your team and your customers.

Outsourcing Your Copywriting: One Of The Better Stress Management Tips Or Not?

Stress management tips and relevant training in how to use them have taken a prominent place as part of the staff benefits package in many big companies. If you are a small business owner you may have to become creative in how you manage not only your stress but those of your employees as well. The ultimate benefit is less revenue lost to sickness/absence due to work related stress.

One of the main stress management tips a small business owner can employ is outsourcing. However, they would have to think very carefully about what they are willing to contract out and at what benefit or cost. Many choose copy writing and writing for the web as the task they are most willing to outsource, but is that a good decision or not?

As with anything else there are benefits and drawbacks to outsourcing any aspect of your business.

Outsourcing writing for the web and copy writing

Benefits

One: It frees up your time to do other tasks

Writing for the web and copy writing can be a time consuming task and is not something many people like to do. For small business owners or self-employed persons freeing up themselves to complete other tasks by delegating or outsourcing anything would be an absolute godsend. A definite plus!

Two: It saves you time

Small business owners and self-employed persons have so much to do on a daily basis that anything they could do to save themselves some time is welcome. Finding time saving methods to complete tasks is identified as one of the better stress management tips.

Three: You can have quality content quickly

One of the main reasons many marketers and business people pay other people to do their copy writing and writing for the web is so they can have access to the content they need quickly. Many copywriters and ghostwriters provide deadlines or time frames for specific pieces of work and often try to work to deadlines set by the person purchasing the work. In some cases work can be delivered within a few days of it being outsourced and it can be of very good quality.

Drawbacks

One: Costs can add up

The cost of hiring a freelance writer to do your copy writing or writing for the web for your business can range from a US$5 dollars to US$30,000 depending on what you want them to do. Even at the lower end costs can quickly add up, so any plans to pursue this course of action needs to be clearly thought through and budgeted for.

Two: You have less control over the quality of the content

Sourcing good quality writers can be difficult and you may have to ‘kiss a few frogs’ before you ‘meet your prince’. Even then you have little control over the quality of the content you paid for as you can give the writer guidelines to work by but there is no guarantee what you will get back as the writer may have taken on a lot of work and in order to deliver on time may skimp on the quality.

Three: Your favorite writer may not be available when you need them

One of the problems businesses face if they manage to successfully outsource their copy writing or writing for the web is that they cannot control the external environment in which their chosen ghostwriter operates. Unexpected incidents, holidays, illnesses, childcare issues etc. could mean that your writer is not available when you need them. If you do not have a backup plan you may find yourself in need of some other stress management tips.

Four: You are not building knowledge and skills in house

Outsourcing any aspects of one’s business generally has consequences, in this case getting someone else to write your content often means that staff already in your employ won’t get the opportunity to develop or exercise this skill or any knowledge in this area of marketing which may be beneficial to your business in future.

Five: Failure to deliver

The inability to control your writer’s external environment may mean that content you ordered and possibly paid for in advance may not be delivered on time. Issues like taking on too much work, sickness, family commitments or holidays can affect the delivery of your content when you need them. This can be extremely stressful especially if your content was for a specific promotion.

Deciding whether to use outsourcing of your copy writing and writing for the web as one of your stress management tips needs to be thought through. Knowing the benefits and drawbacks of this decision can be quite helpful in your decision making and help you to think through other areas that may be more suited to outsourcing in your business.