Over the years, I’ve come to realize I’m not a very good sales person. I’m not good at self promotion or pushing the hard-sell techniques that “convert” leads into customers. Despite all that, I have been my company’s best (and only) sales person over the past 12 years.
I’ve tried to hire sales people in the past, but it has never turned out well. It seems that I know our products and service far better than anyone else can learn them.
I’m knee deep in this stuff. I’m not just giving lip-service to what we do; I live it. I experience it every day, in the trenches with our clients, overseeing their campaigns.
I love my project management role, but I’ve never felt entirely comfortable with the sales role that I also play. Over the years, though, I’ve gotten better at it. But, every once in a while, I still find myself getting off a call thinking “Oh, I should have….!” I’m still not a natural.
The Availability of Persuasion
What I find most interesting is that I am in the same position as many of our clients. That is, I can’t rely on our SEO, social media and PPC strategies to convert customers. They play a role in bringing people to the door and starting the conversation, but where the SEO stops, the persuasion has to begin.
If you’re not available to your customers, then there is really no opportunity to persuade them. You can’t rely (totally) on your website, your content or your shopping cart to do the job. When running an online business, people still want to feel connected. And, to make that connection, you have to be available for one to be made, should the customer so choose.
You can’t persuade a customer who can’t reach you. When your phone rings, does it get answered? By a real person?
If a customer sends an email, does it get a reply? Promptly?
Being available to persuade is critical to the persuasion process. This isn’t just sales, this is customer building. It’s making sure your potential customers know they can turn to you to get their questions answered, their fears eased and their desires pampered.
You might be surprised what a prompt response can do. If I’m looking at products or services provided by two different companies, more times than not, I go with the company with the quicker response time. This has borne out on the other end as well. I can’t count the number of new client’s I’ve gotten because I responded quickly to an inquiry. Sometimes we even get a contract signed before another SEO company even returned the prospect’s call or email!
The Conversation of Persuasion
I know that high pressure sales work. If it didn’t, there wouldn’t be so many people out there putting the screws to potential customers. But, I think one of the values of social media is that it has turned the sales process on its ear. Instead of a convert-at-all-cost mindset, we now have a converse-at-all-cost mentality. A “this isn’t right for me” today can often turn into a “this is exactly what I need” tomorrow, but only if you’re actively engaged in the online conversation.
Through that conversation, you can often keep a more honest dialogue going than if you’re pushing for the sale. The conversation can allow you more opportunity to explain how your offering is different from your competitor’s. Or to discuss your philosophy and how it translates into quality. Or who your team is and the experience they bring to the table. Or… well, anything, really. The point is, if you are engaged in a conversation, things like this occur naturally.
Your social media efforts and your website are the starting points for the conversation process. If you are not using them effectively for this, there isn’t much chance of keeping the conversation going.
The Honesty in Persuasion
I have a strict “No BS” policy. This can make sales difficult, because I don’t tell potential clients what they want to hear, but I tell them the truth about what they can expect. I don’t make promises that can’t be kept, and I let them know, up front, what the situation is going to look like. It’s all about setting proper expectations.
Actually, if I’m going to be “dishonest,” I’m going to err on the side of caution. Basically, go by The Scotty Principle. I would rather under-promise and over-deliver than the reverse.
In my “No BS” approach, I always try to present my clients and potential clients with likely and worst-case scenarios. I try to make sure they fully understand that the process of optimization is not a short-term, quick fix solution, but a long-term investment. I’ve probably lost quite a bit of business over the years by taking this approach, but a happy client is much better to work with than an angry one.
Following Through to Persuasion
Follow through and conversations go hand-in-hand. If you have or are establishing a relationship, following up and continuing the conversation is natural. And, as much as possible, try to follow that conversation to the conversion. It might take days, weeks or even months, but the relationship is worth the time and effort.
Whenever I send out a proposal to a new prospect, I let them know that I’ll be calling again in a few days to follow up and answer any questions they may have. That gives them a chance to read our proposal and be ready with questions. This keeps the conversation and the conversion moving forward.
There is a lot more that goes into any persuasion process, but these are a few key points to consider first. The goal is to have a seamless persuasion process that starts with your SEO, PPC and social media campaigns; melds perfectly into your website persuasion and conversion process; and carries over into the off-line conversations that potential clients need to have before they pull the trigger.
SEO can only take you so far in achieving new business. In fact, it can really only get people in the door and help with the online persuasion process. But, you still have to do the heavy lifting, making sure your site meets visitor expectations, gives them the information they are looking for and walks them to the conversion goals.