Entrepreneur:

Marketing & Selling

Entrepreneurs' Primer on Marketing, Advertising, and Selling

How To Survive and Win in the Era of Over-Communication and Killer Competition

By: Terry Collison, Blue Rock Capital

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Selling (and Silence)

"By the book."  "Buy the book."  Look, this isn't subtle.  But, in truth, one of the most effec­tive lessons about selling I ever gave myself came from a paperback book (bought at a school garage sale for 10¢) authored by all-time champion car salesman Joe Girard.  A car salesman for gosh sakes!  He is a master.  It's amaz­ing how many people who have successful selling careers sit down and write a book about what works and what doesn't.  It's very approachable reading.  And such books are easily obtainable at most "mall" book chains, at any library, or at the famous How-To-Do-It Bookstore.  There are courses on selling (various community colleges, Wharton, St. Joseph's, Villanova, etc.), a steam of programs and events each year (the Entrepreneurs' Forum, SCORE, the Philadelphia Top 100™ Conference, among others), and ongoing coverage in the business press (daily local papers, Business Week, and trade publications, for instance).

If you realize what you're seeing, it is virtually impossible to escape the flow of free or almost free information. The texts on effective selling (i.e., the formal books) provide the step-by-step instructions.  The press coverage provides the examples and the anecdotal information.  Also try to pick out a couple of individuals (maybe one in your field of another from out­side the field) and ask about their "best practices" when it comes to selling.  And then pick out what seems to be applicable to your specific situation.  Hint: just because something worked for their personality with their product (or service) in their market situation with their targeted prospects does not automatically mean that it will be appropriate or effective for your product (or service) in your market situation with your targeted prospects.  Think.  To be effective, be selective.  You have to go get the detailed how-to-do-it information for yourself.  The sources sug­gested above will get you headed in the right direction.  Sorting out and applying the information is up to you.

Here's the big picture:  Selling is the process of converting prospects into actual paying customers and maintaining them as customers.  Since it can cost four times as much to acquire a new customer as it does to maintain the equiva­lent revenue production from an established customer, finding the right resource allocation that will preserve your base and grow the company at the same time is very, very important.

Here's Collison's No. 1 Rule for Effective Selling

"Selling" isn't happening when the salesperson is talking.

 "Selling" is actually happening when the prospect is talking.

Therefore, effective selling presentations move to a conversational format at the earliest possible moment. 

Effective presentations are often based more on posing issues and questions and less on conveying lots and lots of information.  "Selling" is not about content.  It is about finding a "fit."

Selling Is Problem Solving

 Finally – and this is the hardest part about selling – here is a reminder about making the selling process truly effective:

" ? "

That humble little punctuation mark denotes the end of a question.  For example.....

"How can I help you?"

or

"What is bothering you about your current situation?"

or

"What is your company trying to accomplish?"

or

"Would it be meaningful to shave 20% off your current processing time?"

or

"If you could increase throughput by 8%" what would that be worth to you?

or

Given Options A, B and C from us, which one would best serve the needs here at your company?

or (even)

"Are you in position to place an order today?"

The question mark means (or should mean) "Shut up and listen!"  Once the question mark is reached, then no matter how long it takes your prospect to begin speaking, whatever happens next is likely to be pure gold.  Listen.  And think very carefully about what is said (and the way it is said).  And then respond to it.  You will be amazed at the up-tick in your selling results.

 

Exhibit 3

A Model of the Real Selling Process   

- No ultimately means Yes  (APPLIES TO SELLING YOUR PRODUCT.... OR TO SELLING YOURSELF)

...it out... ...‘em off          Go meet José*   When the going gets tough~ etc...

 

 

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No way, José*

 

 

 

Yes 

 

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Obviously, a paper of this size makes no claim at being a comprehen­sive examination of the issues.  Rather, it is intended to get you thinking about your own situation and to guide you to the next steps that may be helpful.

Here is a summary:

  1. Marketing is positioning

  2. Advertising is communicating

  3. Selling is motivating.

  4. Any activity that isn't targeted is likely to be wasted.

  5. Each of the three functions deserves to have its own activity budget and a specific dollar budget.

  6. Each function should be measured on a current ongoing basis (as well as annually) in order to compare budgeted amounts versus actual amounts versus effectiveness.

  7. In each function, changes in strategy (the big concepts) and in tactics (the implementation) should be based on what the market is teaching and not primarily on opportunities that just "pop up."

  8. On the other hand, opportunities that just pop up are not to be ignored – if they fit.

  9. There are no guarantees that your in-place marketing, advertising, and selling programs will work.  (Before getting discouraged, bear in mind that this same rule applies equally to your competition.) 

  10. Once you are convinced that your market opportunity is bona fide and that your product or service offering is competitively attractive in that market, plan and run these three processes to find situations where the product or service offering from your company "fits" with specific real customer prospects in your targeted market.  Since you can't know in advance where the right fit will be, in most cases the right strategy is always to be expanding your contact with the marketplace.  And to "stick with it."  Slow and steady ongoing activity is the key.  Crash campaigns, on-again/off-again efforts, and crisis programs are generally not very helpful.

 

Exhibit 4

The First Rule of Advertising for Entrepreneurs (type it in below)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Clues you can use

                   1   Advertising agencies are not all the same

                   2   Direct mail can be effective for some types of products or services.

                   3   Value is important in advertising messages.

                   4   Economical media are not always the cheapest ones.

                   5   Repeat impressions are essential.  Repeat impressions are essential.

                   6   Testing your marketing and advertising is critical before launching the full program.

                   7   Innovation (in products and in ads) is, by itself, usually not very compelling.

                   8   Sales revenue is, in fact, related to advertising dollars and effectiveness.  Too bad.

                   9   Entrepreneurs should not try to be their own lawyer, accountant, or.... ad agency.

                  10   Opportunities for promotion may not always match your nice plan.  Seize them anyway!

                  11   Retaining an existing customer costs one fourth as much as landing a new one.

                  12   Decide what you need to spend in order to succeed.  Look at your competitors.  (Smart, huh?)

                  13   Internet advertising is both intriguing and tricky.

                  14   Evaluate your program as it happens and assume that it can always be improved.

The 14 clues above should be sufficient for you to figure out the letters that go in the 14 blanks.  Stick with it.

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