You might have noticed that I haven’t written a blog in a while. During August (a traditionally quieter month for my face to face coaching work), I launched myself head first into further developing and marketing my online courses. That has meant shooting videos, webinars and Facebook lives, creating landing pages, new eBooks and using advertising. Phew!
It’s been an interesting journey, frustrating at times but most enlightening and I have learned a ton. I am still ploughing on and applying all I am learning to more effectively engage with my target audience.
In case you are thinking about venturing into the world of online sales and courses, here are my 5 top learnings, that I thought I would share with you…
“Earn 6-figure sums in your sleep” they claimed. The allure of earning passive income (i.e. income that isn’t earned by selling your time) is very tempting but the truth is that for every £ you earn you will be initially spending £££. The stories you read about people making a lot of money are either the 0.01% or a lot of rubbish!
Following on from point 1 – the online world is full of a lot of hype and people claiming they have made a fortune and they can teach you how to. Don’t believe a word of it. At times it reads like pyramid selling. Any promise that seems too good to be true – almost always is (too good to be true)! The truth is you have to work super hard, and those that are successful have a team of people supporting them and are consistently working at it.
Whether you like it or not, Facebook is a great tool to reach your target audience (2.27 billon active users). I worked with a coach this summer and he was keen for me to use Facebook as my main channel to market. At first, I was very resistant (after all I use Facebook to stay in touch with friends and watch videos of people’s pets doing silly things!) but I slowly came around to the idea of Facebook as a business tool and found many groups that contain my target audience. I even created my own closed group (you can join here).
Once you get your head around using Facebook as a business development tool you will then start considering how to use Facebook advertising. My caution here though is that you need to know what you are doing if you are going to start advertising. It is super sophisticated and can easily suck up a lot of money. There are 2 things you need to get right:
So, I admit it, I am fairly late to the game with marketing online and the truth is there are a million and one people already doing it (well actually more!) so you have to find a way to cut through the hype and noise. The best way to do this is to be clear about your niche and the value you are offering that niche. Try and be different and not look like everyone else (and that can be hard) and truly offer some value to your audience – that way they will want to follow you and as you build you audience you can then offer more value and ultimately sell to them. This is a long game and not a ‘get rich quick’ scheme. So, if you venture into it, then be prepared to stick at it!
I hope this doesn’t paint too bleak a picture. I wanted to share a candid view of my experiences thus far. All these learnings have not deterred me from continuing on. On the contrary – I am just focused on doing it better. I am working on a new mega course right now (“The Agency Mastermind Programme – start, grow and scale (and sell) your agency”) and also adding new content to my best selling course on client and account management. I am also reviewing my landing pages and ads, and also revisiting my own website – so lots going on.
I know this is a topic that many are interested in, so if you want to have a chat then get in touch.
Picture this – it’s 7am and you are at a networking event. It’s too early and you just want a coffee and a bacon sandwhich. However between you and your breakfast is someone who starts a sales conversation “So what do you do?” “I’m in marketing and I help companies like yours blah blah blah…….”. Now you really don’t want to engage in this conversation so already before you have even introduced yourself you are plotting your escape! Sound familiar?
The mistake people make in any kind sales/networking situation is that they approach them with tunnel vision of ‘I must sell, I must sell!” Needless to say, there are many things wrong with this approach:
So I tell my client that the best way to approach a sales meeting or a networking event is to just have a conversation with the other person. Be interested in them, ask them questions about their business, life, challenges etc. and then it will quickly become apparent if there is any synergy to take the conversation further. If you ask them about their business and their challenges first then when you do talk about how you can help them, you can speak specifically to the challenges they told you about rather than generally how wonderful you and your business is!
I take this approach in any kind of sales environment/interaction. Start out in ‘fact find mode’ and ask lots of questions. If there is any mutal connection then tell them about yourself based on the points they made. If that generates further discussions then arrange a 1-2-1 follow up meeting.
If you see selling as just having a conversation then you take the pressure off yourself and who knows, you might even enjoy the next networking event you go to!
This blog post is aimed at the small to mid sized business. It’s a conversation I have often, so thought I would write about it: Why is it so hard to get the sales function in a (small) business right?
As business leaders and owners, we need to be good at 3 things:
I want to focus on number 3. We all want the ‘magic bullet’ solution to getting sales. Despite the many online promises of ‘get rich schemes’ and ‘5 steps to sales success’, the truth is there isn’t an easy option.
I say this often to clients but sadly I have seen and heard about many failed attempts to hire a sales person. By definition they come across great at the interview stage – with impressive CVs and even more impressive sales records. Yet when they begin working, the truth soon emerges that they are not quite as good as they sold themselves to be! Now before I get lynched, I acknowledge that this isn’t always the case and there are some great sales people out there but in my experience they are few and fair between.
So you hire a sales person. That means you have ticked number 3 off your list and can focus on other things, right? However, you soon realise that they aren’t turning out to be all they promised, but you persevere – after all you invested a lot of time and money recruiting this person. After a few months, with them giving you lots of excuses including your product/service being difficult to sell in this market place, you give up and let them go. Back to the drawing board – maybe this time you should hire a junior telesales person instead of the senior person we had before? Nope, this won’t work either.
The truth of it is that YOU, the owner or leader of your SME business, are the best person to ‘sell’ your products/services and I put the word ‘sell’ in quotes because I believe a great sales person doesn’t sell at all but merely has a conversation with right person at the right time, talks with passion about their product/service and if there is a need, the sale happens naturally (yes, of course you still need to close the deal but the discussion feels more like a conversation than a sales pitch).
Where you need to invest your time an energy (in number 3) is getting your marketing right and understanding your sales funnel so you know what marketing and sales tools to develop at each stage of your sales funnel (have a read of my whitepaper on this very topic). Get your marketing right and qualified leads will drop out of the sales funnel, ready for you to go and have that conversation with them. The more thorough and methodical about this approach you are, the more successful your sales will be.
As I said earlier, this is a topic I have had many times so if you want to discuss your sales and marketing then get in touch and let’s have a conversation.
I went to a gallery this weekend where a friend of mine was exhibiting. By day he is a driver but his real passion is photography and this was his first exhibition.
He was displaying framed prints of his work as well as unframed prints and cards. We were chatting after a very successful weekend for him and he commented that he couldn’t believe people wanted to buy his pictures and he felt a bit of a fraud charging for his work since he was making 100% mark up on his framed photos.
So I asked him what he thought his was selling? The cost of the frame and the price to print the photograph (worth £12) or the time, skill, knowledge and creativity to set the picture up and take the picture in the artistic way he had? (Worth a lot more than double £12!)? I told him I thought he was underselling the photos, not over selling. I think he got the point!
This is a familiar conversation I have with clients when working out how to price their product or service. What is the right price point? What’s it worth?
Many companies merely look at their competition and try to differentiate by being cheaper (basically discounting) or promise exceptional levels of service (over servicing) – both lead to unprofitable businesses (unless you are truly set up to be a low cost provider).
The key is to stand in your customer’s shoes and think about what they are really buying and then value that. Consider:
I explained to my friend that there was no way I could take a picture like he had and I was buying the thought and skill involved in the photography and didn’t even consider what the material costs were! We need to get our mindsets right in the first place otherwise we are in danger of undercharging to get customers which makes it very hard to increase prices as a later date.
You can read more on this subject by downloading my whitepaper on value selling.
Many companies believe the only way to keep a client is by over-servicing them, and because the client gets used to this level of service, it becomes a vicious circle. This is especially true in the service sector – the area I predominantly work in.
During a recession, over-servicing becomes standard practice (the customer knows they can demand more) and as we came out of recession it is hard to pull back from this. Over-servicing occurs on 2 occasions:
Firstly, in order to win a new piece of business, the supplier ‘promises the earth’ without calculating how long it will really take you to deliver it. They win the project but have already set service level expectations high so over-servicing begins from day 1. Those delivering the service either do a bad job, work through the weekends, or gain reputations as slow workers. The client’s expectations are rarely met.
The second type of over-servicing is where clients put pressure on the executives delivering their project to put in more time, and where those executives agree to do so and are not stopped by their employers. Partly this is a problem of management information systems. After all, it is usually the most conscientious and ambitious executives who are so keen to keep their clients happy. It is up to their managers to keep a close eye on their activities and to rein in any over-servicing.
So how do you stop over-servicing?
There is no one easy answer however, the most important thing is to sell on value not on time (have a read of my whitepaper on this very subject). When negotiating with your customer you have to be super confident on the quality of your work, and therefore expect your client to pay a fair price for it and not be willing to discount (bear in mind that the minute you discount your client starts to devalue the work you do). Put the issue in the language your customer will understand “if you went to a buy a glass of wine, would you expect them to give you the bottle for the same price”?
Implement good time recording systems – OK no one likes this but you have to do it! It helps you get your quoting right. It helps you manage capacity. It helps you identify if there is an internal training issue (i.e. if someone takes too long doing a task) and when push comes to shove, it helps you justify yourself to your client (not that I recommend sharing time-sheets with a client).
Get super clear at the outset of what you are delivering (and what you are not) and finally, if you do make a strategic decision to over-service, make sure the client is aware of it and alert them to how much it would normally cost to do this (and therefore how much it will cost them next time they ask for it).
Most businesses would be staggered to realise how much money they lose due to over-servicing. If your business could reign this back in to reasonable levels (+/- 10%), how much more profitable would they be?
This is one of the most common conversations and areas I work on with my clients. If it’s an issue for you let’s talk!
Many businesses expect contacts to be marketed to once and to drop out of the sales funnel as a customer. Which when you think about it, is a little ridiculous. Why would someone buy from you when they don’t know you?
To turn a ‘cold contact’ into a repeat customer, you first have to build credibility with them. Then build trust. Then reach them when they have a need for your product or service. So do you understand the sales funnel for your business?
What are the various stages they go through as the convert from contact to warm lead to prospect to hot prospect and finally customer (and then repeat customer)?
And what can you do at each stage to ‘encourage ‘ them to move through this process? It will certainly be different messages at each stage; your communications will get more detailed and sophisticated the further they move through the funnel.
Finally once they are a customer, what is your strategy to turn them into repeat business?
Whilst I have written a whitepaper on this topic, I thought it was worth revisiting because it crops up time and again for me. I was with a prospect on Friday and we were discussing his goals for using a business coach; we defined 3 clear outcomes. I explained how I was going to help him achieve these desired outcomes and how I estimated it would take 7 x 3 hour coaching sessions for a fee of £x. He was definitely interested but struggled to get his head around the fact that another coach (he was seeing 3) had already quoted 7 days to do the same work for a similar fee.
When faced with this kind of objection, I need to get the client to focus on the value at the end of the project and not the time it takes. I often tell this dentist story:
It’s about a woman who had her wisdom teeth removed. When she received the bill, she was shocked at the cost; over £300 per tooth. When she returned for the follow-up visit the next week, she mentioned the bill to the dentist. “It seems like a lot of money,” she exclaimed. “Why it only took you about 15 minutes per tooth.” The dentist smiled and said, “That is exactly what you are paying for. If you want me to take an hour or more to remove each tooth, I can do that. In fact, most anyone can do that. But there is value in a 15-minute extraction.
I explained to my prospect that I believed I could deliver what he was looking for in 7 x 3 hour coaching sessions – this means we are achieving his outcome much more rapidly, being less intrusive on his ‘day job’ and helping him drive his business forward more quickly. I think at this point the light bulb went on and he started to assess things not in terms of time but more in terms of how pain-free the process would be and how quickly we can achieve the results he is looking for.
So does your business sell on time or on the outcomes and value it provides? I would be interested to hear your experiences, so please leave a comment or get in touch.
Your customer personas There are a number of stages we need to follow in order to truly understand our customers and therefore ‘speak their language’. Firstly, we need to understand who our target customer is. Sounds obvious right? You’d be surprised how few companies have identified their target customer groups (maybe 3-4 different types) and therefore can map their typical behaviours, challenges and needs of each group onto their product/service. If you do this as step one then you can start to produce sales and marketing messages that resonate with each group. Take me for example, as a business coach and mentor, 2 of my (3) customer personas are HR managers of mid sized businesses and Owner/Managers of small businesses. Do you think they have the same needs when looking for a coach? No, they don’t. If I understand their specific and unique requirements then I can start to ‘talk their language’ when marketing to them.
Understand your customer’s journey Now you understand your client types you can start to map the journey they will take as they look to buy your solution and move through your sales funnel. What are the various stages they go through as the convert from contact to warm lead to prospect to hot prospect and finally customer (and then repeat customer)? And what can you do at each stage to ‘encourage ‘ them to move through this process? It will certainly be different messages at each stage; your communications will get more detailed and sophisticated the further they move through the funnel.
Well fortunately you can learn a lot more about this and how to apply it to your business by attending the Bite-sized learning event taking place on August 6th I hope to see you there but if not and you want to find out more, please get in touch.