Let’s talk about selling…
Specifically, we’re going to talk about selling any kind of service where what you deliver is flexible and customized to the prospect.
It’s Mailbox Monday — the day where I answer YOUR biggest questions on marketing, selling, building your business, or whatever the heck you ask.
To have YOUR question answered in a future issue of Mailbox Monday, drop me a line at [email protected].
On to today’s question, from Nicolas…
Thanks for your daily e-mail. A Monday question…
I recently created a very long blog post about how I made more than 3,000 € with a 12 € ad (it’s in Spanish). Long story short, I swiped Sackheim’s “Do you make these mistakes in English?” ad.
It went well, through some email outreach I got myself a 45 minutes conversation with a business owner.
He’s a savvy marketing salesman who sells content marketing to agencies. It’s a booming business here, and he’s leading it.
They currently get most of their clients through outbound calling. They have a unique offer. But I don’t think they work with copywriters much. They work with channel clients, marketing, SEO, and advertising agencies.
They want to get bigger, go to South America and get end clients themselves.
I am now looking into making an interesting proposal to help him grow his business even more. I don’t want to get too complicated, I want the first project I present to him to be something he will say yes to, and that I can deliver.
I know this is your specialty, any tips on how to find what I should offer so that I come out winning?
Nicolas, let me start by saying I have limited info, so my best approach is to focus on the thinking and not the details.
This is the kind of question that really would benefit from really digging into your skills, your situation, your strengths, and the client details as well to give a thorough answer.
For example, if you’re really great at building out sales funnels, the answer might be quite a bit different than if you can simply write good content.
And so I have to zoom out, to a very high-level view, and attempt to answer based on what I know and how I’d think about this.
First and foremost, I want to quote a friend of mine and once student, Julie Hassett…
Julie won this year’s AWAI $10K Challenge award, getting official recognition as the industry’s hottest up and coming copywriter. That’s the same award I won in 2010. And (tongue in cheek) I’d surely like to claim a little credit for her win this year, because here’s what she wrote after she hired me to copy chief a project for her….
“I hired Roy to copy chief my very first long-form financial promo for a major publisher. As a result of his feedback and guidance, the company went on to offer me a 2 promo contract for $15,000! Now, I’m booked out through the rest of the summer. I couldn’t have done it without Roy’s on-target crits and unfailing support.”
Okay, maybe I shouldn’t claim too much credit. Julie was already kicking butt and heading for greatness. She was already on the path and I was simply there as one of many people who kept pointing her down the path and urging her on.
She’s since gone on and is an in-house writer for one of the top financial publishers on the planet right now. A position she would likely have earned on her own. But I feel fortunate that I can say, “I knew Julie way back when…”
But that’s not the point.
The point I meant to make comes from a member spotlight talk Julie gave at this year’s AWAI Bootcamp. She highlighted a quote that she heard and wrote down at the very beginning of her copywriting career.
This was one of those things where you write it down, put it on the wall, and look at it from time to time.
Only, every time Julie looked at this particular quote on the wall, she was reminded of its power. In fact, every time she looked at it and started applying it in her business, her success grew and grew.
It may, in fact, be THE secret to success!
It certainly is the secret to selling successfully in the situation you find yourself in. And, on some level, it’s the secret to all successful selling.
What’s that quote?
“Find out what they want, and give it to them.”
Deceptively simple. But all good consultative selling comes down to that point.
When you have a conversation with a prospect, you come to the conversation with a set of skills and services you provide. You may even have a core offer you’re prepared to provide to that prospect, based on what you know about them already.
But that’s not where you start the conversation.
You have to start the conversation with THEM.
Where are they at now?
Where do they want to go?
Independently from you, what would success in their business look like?
Do they see a specific path they want to take to get there?
What resources and opportunities do they bring to the table that will enable their success?
What challenges or roadblocks are currently standing in the way of their success?
What’s the biggest obstacle they face today, that if it were to be cleared away it would make achieving success far easier?
If they could change one thing about their industry, their business, their staff, their operations, what would that be?
This conversation “puts you on their side of the table…”
There’s an old illustration from in-person selling I like to use.
Imagine for a moment that you and I are meeting at a coffee shop, and I have something to sell you.
You’re there before me, and sit at a rectangle table with two chairs. The two long sides have two chairs each, the ends have no chairs.
When I get there, I have a choice.
I can sit in one of the two chairs across from you, or I can sit in the chair next to you.
If I want you to feel like “I’m on your side” in the selling situation, which chair should I sit in?
I think I just gave it away.
I should sit next to you.
It’s very subtle, but important.
Think about what this language means to you…
“Head to head.”
“On the opposite side.”
Most of it has a relatively benign meaning, roughly describing the situation of two people sitting on opposite sides of the table.
And yet, each has another meaning that can be used in sports or war to represent the opponent or enemy position.
Compare those to this language…
“Side by side.”
These immediately evoke feelings of togetherness, camaraderie, and alliance.
While this can be done physically like in my illustration above, this perspective or positioning shift can happen in any selling situation.
(Think about how you might use a perspective of “we” versus “you” in copy.)
The questions above are specifically designed to put you on the side of the prospect, before you ever start pitching your wares.
If you approach a prospect and you never find out what it is they want and need before you start pitching, you’re going to come across as some hack salesperson who they just want to get rid of.
On the other hand, if you start asking a bunch of questions about them, their situation, their ups and downs, and the challenges they’d like to overcome, you’re suddenly their best friend.
It’s likely that by the time you’re 30 minutes into that conversation, they’re sharing things with you that they haven’t shared with anybody in months, years, or ever.
And often, the conversation will go far longer than they originally intended!
Once you have a good picture of where they want to go and what their challenges are, then you see if you can find a link between that and what it is you sell…
And we can be talking about copywriting services here, running online ads, creating content, consulting and coaching, or any of hundreds of other services.
What is the logical connection between the service you offer and the challenges and obstacles they’re facing?
How is your service able to deliver on the promise of helping them overcome those challenges?
Why should they believe you? Why should they care?
What would it look like to them to add you to their team for this?
Is this a new service that they’re used to hiring people for — or have they hired people like you before?
What makes you different than anyone they’ve worked with? Or why should they hire you when they’ve never needed someone like you before?
How much work is it going to be for them to bring you on? How can you minimize their work commitment to you while maximizing the results you’re able to generate for them?
What are the risks they face by working with you? How can you minimize or totally eliminate those risks?
Your job is to slowly bring the conversation around.
The conversation opened and the connection was created by you talking about them. Or, not so much talking, but asking the right questions then shutting up and listening.
Then you actually get into selling and eventually closing the deal by connecting all those details about them to details about your service and what it is you can do for them.
One last thought…
Since it sounds like you’re fairly new to this Nicolas, I think it’s smart to start in a position where you’re not over-promising and under-delivering.
While I like to play on the edge of my comfort zone so as to always be getting better, I think it’s dangerous to push the edge too far.
As you’re talking to this particular client and figuring out how to help, think about what you can really shine and make a great first impression.
And with new clients, offering new services, it’s not a bad idea to start with a smaller client anyway. You could decide you don’t like them or don’t fit — or they could decide the same for you. Either way, a smaller commitment gives you an easier out until you know you have a great fit for longer-term and bigger opportunities.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
Editor, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets