Three Critical Ways Marketing Can Be Applied to Close More Sales

By Andy Slipher

Andy SlipherDo you operate in an organization where sales begins with a capital “S” and marketing with a lower case “m?” Sales-centric organizations often operate at such a high level in sales, they lack marketing prowess. Some are even altogether marketing-phobic, believing marketers exist to usurp the importance of salespeople or to replace them altogether. What happens, as a result, is that sales-centric organizations fail to integrate fundamental marketing principles into the sales process—principles that could actually improve their effectiveness. Although this phenomenon is not uncommon, it can leave customers with feelings that range from a lack of a clear understanding to downright confusion. Who does this kind of thinking benefit? Certainly not the customer.

The bottom line regarding marketing and its place in a sales-dependent organization is that it should thrive upon supporting sales, and not to supplanting it. It’s a simple fact that in certain environments where customer relationships must be continually nurtured and where product investment is high (business-to-business environments, for example), sales and good salespeople are of paramount importance. They help solve customer problems, bestow benefits, share product knowledge, behave proactively, and are simply there for customers when called upon.

At the same time, such organizations can have blind spots when it comes to using marketing to their collective advantage. They don’t see that marketing is there to extend and expand the sales opportunity. As a result, their salespeople aren’t fully prepared and equipped with what they need to do their best while enabling better outcomes for their customers.

Want to improve your odds of success in sales by using marketing to your advantage? Here are three ways:

1. Understand what marketing is and what it is not.

Marketing is not simply media. It’s not cheap or cheesy gimmicks designed to get the attention of your customer. Rather, proper marketing is anything you do in good faith to get your product or service into the hands of the customer. The breadth of marketing spans the entire buying cycle, and beyond. As such, effective marketing involves planning, investment and understanding of the needs of your customer. Think of it as everything else that wraps around your sales approach (in front of, during and beyond) to ensure that the customer has a positive and persuasive experience.Effective marketing involves planning, investment and understanding of the needs of your customer. Click To Tweet

For example, what if, by asking your business-to-business customer, you learn that he or she will have to champion your business and product to others within his or her organization? What do you do? It’s not feasible to be at every internal meeting. You might instead think in terms of clear, succinct messaging and professional materials to leave with your customer—ones that upon initial presentation by you, he or she could then represent to others with an adequate degree of confidence and knowledge. This is one possible marketing tool. But, it begins by discovering and understanding customer’s own mindset, needs and buying process.

2. Embrace the visual.

Effective salespeople are generally great at the verbal aspect of selling—persuading with words. However, virtually all customers today also rely upon and expect the visual. For example, who would have thought twenty years ago that we could manage a significant part of buying a new home by taking virtual home tours from anywhere? Yet this is the world we now live in, thanks to technology. The lesson is that people are now accustomed to buying only what they can see. It’s a studied fact that people generally remember only 20 percent of what they hear, but up to 50 percent of what they both hear and see. Therefore, the more you can help them visualize what they are buying (even if what you sell is a service), the greater your odds of success. How does this play into your sales process? How could you improve upon the visual beauty of what you sell? What objects, models, graphs, photos, maps, videos, tables or illustrations could you use to better persuade? What is both practical and effective? If you cannot yet answer these questions, start by asking your customers what they would want to see more of.

3. Integrate your process.

Have you identified and broken down your sales process? What is the first thing you do? Second, third and so on? How does your process both move the sale forward and serve the needs of the customer? These are wider questions beyond, “How do I get more chances in front the customer?” Yet, by asking such questions, you have the opportunity to integrate a wider range of tactics into your sales process that work toward a common goal. For example, rather than focusing on getting a sales call first, what about an approach that begins with having a wider conversation with would-be customers about their needs and challenges? How would you ask such questions? Would you engage with them around a common issue through social media? Would you mail them an old-school letter? Would you offer a free lunch-and-learn session? Or would you make a gratis overture to solve a relevant problem in order to build even more goodwill and trust? This opening up of the sale to a larger process engages a marketing mindset. It integrates your everyday sales tools with a broader set of options that work together for better outcomes.

Sales and marketing shouldn’t be thought of as mutually exclusive. After all, they serve a common goal. Even if you are deep in a sales-centric organization, you can still integrate strategic marketing thinking and tactics into your own approach to improve your chances for success, while delighting more of your customers in the process.

Andy Slipher is founder of Slipher Marketing, a consultancy where strategy comes first, followed by tangible marketing results. He is an accomplished strategist, interim CMO, speaker and writer on marketing strategy. He is marketing lecturer for SMU’s accredited Bank Operations Institute for professional bankers, and for the Independent Bankers Association of Texas (IBAT). Andy is the author of The Big How: Where Strategy Meets Success. For more information, visit TheBigHow.com.

Breaking Up Isn’t Hard to Do

Why Companies Lose Customers and What to Do About It

By Kate Zabriskie

Kate ZabriskieAlthough Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield may have been right about love relationships when they penned their hit, “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do,” when it comes to business, that notion rings less true. Customers frequently break up with their suppliers, vendors, and partners. And guess what? Most of them don’t find it hard.

Are breakups inevitable? Not always, but businesses need to understand the four reasons customers leave and how they can avoid them.

Better Product

Sometimes customers decide to breakup because they find a better product. They discover something that addresses their needs that’s faster, easier, healthier, more effective, more enjoyable, or improved in other ways that are important to them.

Are you buying the exact same things you were buying twenty or forty years ago? Have you any use for a Walkman? Probably not. Smart companies listen to what their customers want, think beyond those demands, and push themselves to innovate and improve.

Relationship Extenders

  1. Pay attention. Know what you’re selling, what others are selling, and how your customers are using what they buy from you. What problem are you solving? What would customers buy if you weren’t around? What did they used to buy instead?
  2. Challenge the status quo. It’s easier to innovate when you’re not being reactive. Don’t wait for a customer exodus to motivate you. Challenge yourself to innovate before you’re faced with no choice. What could you do better?

Better Process

Leaving for a different product isn’t the only reason customers tell companies goodbye. Good processes count too. Without them, the customer experience suffers. For instance, imagine a movie theater with great films, state-of-the-art sound, pleasant employees, and clean facilities. So far, so good. Now pair that vision with long lines, staff members who can’t figure out to work the cash registers despite their good manners, double-booked theaters, and so forth. Would you risk taking someone you cared about to such a place, or would you choose to avoid the headache and go somewhere else? Most people would prefer to opt for a breakup and avoid potential pain and problems.

The lesson? at a minimum, doing business should not be hard. If you’ve got processes in place that inflict pain on your customers, don’t be surprised when they bolt the minute they find an acceptable alternative.With some diligence, you can avoid the break-up blues and spend many happy years together. Click To Tweet

Relationship Extenders

  1. Make doing business easy. Walk in your customers’ shoes, and experience your business the way they do. What are you making difficult? What could you make easier? Where are you wasting their time? What used to make sense but doesn’t anymore?
  2. Borrow from others. Process improvement ideas are everywhere you look if you know how to find them. When you are interacting with other businesses, ask yourself what they are doing well and what you can adopt or adapt.

Better Service

All else being equal (or even in the ballpark), customers will often break up with organizations because someone else is paying them more attention or better attention. Consistent caring doesn’t happen by accident. It requires organizations to: define great service, hire people who are capable of delivering on those promises, train them how to do it, and put a management team in place to oversee the process.

Relationship Extenders

  1. Define what you expect. If you don’t identify what A+ service looks like, don’t be surprised when your employees don’t deliver.
  2. Train people and hold them accountable. Plenty of organizations offer training, but they treat it like a one-and-done activity. After you’ve defined what you want to see and hear, you need to put a plan in place to teach people how. Once they know what they are supposed to do and how to do it, hold them accountable. Reward the good, and coach the deficiencies.
  3. Don’t get too comfortable. If you think your customers will just be there because they’re there, you’re mistaken. You must earn and re-earn your customers’ business. Look for signs you’ve gotten sloppy or lazy, and take immediate steps to get back to your best behavior and woo your customers again.

Better Price

The final reason customers will leave a business is price. If customers can get the same product and service they receive from you from someone who charges less, often they will leave. In other words, when the value to price equation gets out of whack, people look elsewhere. That doesn’t mean organizations should race to the bottom and strive to be the low-cost provider. What it does mean is businesses need to ensure they have a value proposition that matters to customers and aligns with the price being charged.

Relationship Extenders

  1. Shop around. Know what your competitors charge and what they deliver for that money.
  2. Find out what matters to your customers other than price. What do they care about? What are they happy to pay more for? What are you offering that they don’t seem to value? What should you add? What should you subtract?

Staying in any relationship requires work, and when it comes to customers, many a suiter will try to take them away from you. With some diligence, you can avoid the break-up blues and spend many happy years together.

Kate Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works, Inc., a Maryland-based talent development firm. She and her team help businesses establish customer service strategies and train their people to live up to what’s promised. For more information, visit www.businesstrainingworks.com.

1+1=7! Leveraging Intangibles for Business Wealth

By Baldwin Tom

Every day, businesses lose money by not understanding or leveraging their investments. When one considers the financials of organizations, it is clear that a significant portion of those investments are not captured in financial statements. Why? Because these are the people-side or soft-side intangible investments the accounting industry has yet to document. This may be a reason one views these same intangibles as not of significant value.

But your intangible investments can be just as valuable as those that appear on your quarterly report.Judicious investing on the people side components when paired with task side investments yields significant ROI. Click To Tweet

The Magnificent 7

There are seven capital investments available to every organization. Two are strictly on the task or tangible work side and five are focused on people and what they produce. This means that five of the seven, or 71 percent, of all capital investments are on the people, or the soft (intangible) side of the equation. Not surprisingly, there is hidden wealth and power buried in these people-side investments. When people work together, such as in teams, there is powerful leveraging such that 1+1 is no longer 2, but is more like 1+1=7.

As a simple means to frame the seven investments, all work and efforts can be separated into two components—Task side and People side. The Task side encompasses tangibles such as hard issues and assets, work to be done, things, structures and fixtures. The People side is comprised of the intangibles like soft issues and assets, those who do the work, interactions, teamwork, culture and norms.

Task Side (Tangibles)

  1. Financial Investments: Financial capital is the monetary currency used to run the business by purchasing materials/resources and investing in people to facilitate its success. There is little mystery here. Financial capital is one of two currencies of exchange between people who do the work and the work they do. The other currency of exchange on the intangible side is spiritual capital.
  2. Physical Investments: Physical capital is represented in fixed materials needed for products and services. This includes tangible machinery, buildings, equipment, computers, together with land and labor. The benefit of timely investments here is so the enterprise remains competitive. Importantly, a commensurate investment on the people side—either in human, relationship, and/or customer capital—is necessary to maximize ROI.

People Side (Intangibles)

  1. Human Investments: Investing in human capital is an easy one. Just as with physical capital investments, without upgrades, technology becomes slow and/or obsolete. It is the same with people; you need continuous upgrades. Training, coaching, education, mentoring, and internships are obvious ways to increase people’s value. Importantly, the value of this investment spreads throughout an enterprise—in organizational capital (patents, processes, procedures), physical capital (innovative products and services), spiritual capital (morale, work satisfaction), and relationship capital (teamwork, customer relations).
  2. Relationship Investments : One of the most valuable assets in an organization is relationships. Value is derived from this investment daily from leveraging people’s interactions. It’s about power and influence. The network of relationships (people inside and outside the organization) that interact with a business represents a significant resource. Building relationship capital delivers a host of ROI benefits resulting from a higher level of trust in products, sales, customer retention, and even resolving disagreements. The multiplier for ROI may appear small, but secondary impact and synergies of relationships can be huge.
  3. Spiritual Investments: Spiritual capital in a business is derived from the values created by an organization’s leadership. With a great deal of spiritual capital, there is ethical decision-making built into a value-based culture where the goal is less shareholder gain and more gain for customers and stakeholders. The culture engendered energizes and enriches the human spirit, fostering social connectedness and personal satisfaction. It spurs people to go the extra mile. It is about ethical leadership and how people are treated. It is about consistency in leadership, i.e., no surprises. Such investments include a conscious effort to build a family culture that honors and supports each other.
  4. Customer Investments: Customer capital is the relationship value a business builds with its customers. This goes beyond customer loyalty and includes customer feedback to the business, and partnering with the customer to produce new products and services. Value also manifests in the form of referrals and great press about the business from customers. Every executive recognizes the importance of paying attention to the customer. But just being nice (sending holiday cards or gifts) is only a beginning when it comes to enhancing ROI. Making efforts to partner with the customer is the ideal investment.
  5. Organizational Investments: Organizational capital represents the value of an enterprise derived from mostly intangible assets such as processes, procedures, systems, patents, trade secrets, reputation, brand and intellectual property. Organizational investment is a most important investment leaders can make because this is where the memory of the enterprise resides. Building, investing in, and maintaining one’s brand and reputation and protecting intellectual property (trade secrets, patents, processes, and procedures) are critical to sustaining the enterprise. This is where one protects the knowledge, skills, and expertise from being lost when talented people depart from the organization.

Intangibles Control Business Success

As a means to discern which of the Magnificent 7 investments were most critical in a merger or acquisition, the corporate, healthcare, and the accounting industries were studied. In nearly every merger, success or failure was predicated on alignment or misalignment of culture between the merging entities. Culture in the Magnificent 7 schema is established within the collective investments of Human, Relationship, and Spiritual capitals. These people-side intangible investments reinforce the notion that soft-side investments have significant impact in generating success or failure in a business.

How do you discover and leverage hidden wealth in your organization? Here are the steps:

  1. Inventory your investments: Identify the investment areas you are focused on.
  2. Pair investments: Match any task side investment with a people side one. Thus, if you invest in new technology, be sure to invest in training for personnel.
  3. Set goals for each investment: Determine goals and completion dates for each investment.
  4. Determine where you are now: Track the success of reaching investment goals.
  5. Monitor progress toward goals: Evaluate the investments and how you are doing in achieving goals. Make corrections or change course as needed.
  6. Celebrate success: Reinforce success to encourage new efforts.
  7. Repeat steps 1-6

There is no doubt that judicious investing on the people side components when paired with task side investments yields significant ROI. Leveraging the intangibles accentuates power, creativity, innovation and thereby new products, services, and thus value generation and wealth in organizations!

Baldwin Tom is a management consultant, professional speaker, and author of 1+1=7: How Smart Leaders Make 7 Investments to Maximize Value. A medical school scientist, professor, leadership program developer, and founder of an award winning science and technology firm, he leverages his experiences in those fields to provide insight and strategies to fit client needs. Baldwin is a Certified Management Consultant and served as the National Board Chair of the Institute of Management Consultants USA. For more information on Baldwin Tom, please visit www.geoddgroup.com.

(Bilingual) Help Wanted

By Martin Cross

Janet, a personnel manager at a fast-growing start-up, hoped to give her company a competitive edge in an international field by recruiting bilingual employees. She got some unexpected results.

Her first big surprise was discovering that many applicants who made no mention of language skills on their resumes reported being able to speak two, three or sometimes even more languages, when asked about it in the interview. This made Janet wonder: How common is this hidden talent? So, she sent a questionnaire to her entire staff and was amazed to find that many them were in fact multilingual.

However, not all of Janet’s discoveries were positive. As a start-up, the company was very interested in what other businesses were doing, and the plan was to have the new staff spend some of their time translating advertising and documentation from foreign competitors. Armed with that information, they then planned to reach out to potential clients in those countries.

One of the new hires did well at the translation task but the others, despite having described themselves as fluent, were so slow that the company’s bottom-line costs exceeded the price for outsourcing the same service. To make matters worse, the engineers found the translations hard to read.

Meanwhile, a sales department recruit who had said, in the interview, that he was fluent in the language that his parents spoke at home, later told his supervisor that he was unable to make sales calls in that language.A multilingual workforce can respond more quickly and flexibly to both opportunities and challenges. Click To Tweet

There is more to language than conversation

Janet had been operating under the common misconception that someone who is conversationally fluent in a second language will be able to do everything in that language that they can do in English. The truth is that, while about a quarter of Americans can hold a conversation in a foreign tongue, conversational fluency is only one of a broad range of language skills.

Your ten-year-old nephew may speak English fluently, yet if you hand him your company’s year-end reports, the vocabulary and syntax will stump him before he has finished the first sentence. Likewise, being able to chat about the weather or sports in Spanish or Korean in no way means that you can speak business Spanish or technical Korean.

Even in situations that do not require any special jargon, such as telephone prospecting for sales leads, the ability to set the right tone and project confidence requires an exceptionally high level of linguistic skill. A person who has only spoken their second language at home with their family, or learned it during a college year abroad, is unlikely to have such mastery.

Skills are learned

The skills gap is even more pronounced when it comes to writing. While our high schools and universities do their best to instill good writing habits in their students, many of us have difficulty producing even an email that is completely free of errors.

As you can imagine, it’s harder still to write well in a second language. In fact, unless you have used a language as your primary work or study language for many years, it is nearly impossible to write at a level in keeping with corporate professionalism.

Another surprising linguistic fact is that even people who have mastered two languages, such as immigrants who began their careers abroad and have since settled into English, may not necessarily be good translators. Understanding what is written on the page and being able to choose the right words to recraft that same message in another language are two very distinct skills.

Many years of study and practice, as well as a host of specialized tools and resources, are needed for professional translators to reach a level at which they can work efficiently and confidently. Asking an untrained staff member to take on translation work may be counterproductive and expensive. It may even involve serious risk in the case of documents with the potential for major business impact, such as contracts, user manuals, or advertising.

For similar reasons, because interpreters (who convey the spoken word) need very different skill sets than translators (who work with written text), even translators with years of experience will likely struggle to serve as an interpreter at an ordinary business meeting.

Lessons learned

Janet wasn’t wrong in seeing bilingual recruiting as tool to boost international competitiveness, but she needed more information to make good decisions. Rather than simply asking candidates if they spoke any other languages, she should have gone one step further and inquired about the specific tasks she was hoping to have them perform.

She learned some important lessons: If you want someone to review technical documents in a foreign language, it’s best to ask them up front if they feel confident reading such material in that language, not to mention what related experience or education they have to support that confidence.

She also found that she needed to hire someone with foreign language sales experience if that person was to make sales calls overseas. Likewise, relevant training and experience was a must for translations and interpreting.

Linguistic capital is a powerful addition to any international team. It can open windows of insight and doors of opportunity. A multilingual workforce can respond more quickly and flexibly to both opportunities and challenges.

In fact, your company’s language skills could be your decisive edge, so it pays to get the right ones. By understanding your specific needs and diving deeper into the language skills of your staff and potential recruits, you’ll make the most of your “(Bilingual) Help Wanted” sign.

Martin Cross is the president of Patent Translations Inc., serving law firms and patent departments in the US and abroad, and an active corporate member of the American Translators Association. The American Translators Association represents over 10,000 translators and interpreters across 103 countries. Along with advancing the translation and interpreting professions, ATA promotes the education and development of language services providers and consumers alike. For more information on ATA or translation and interpreting professionals, please visit www.atanet.org.

Want to Wow at Work? 3 Secrets From The Business Magician

By Kostya Kimlat

Have you ever done something difficult at work, but made it look easy? Solved a problem, helped a client or negotiated a deal in a way that astounded your colleagues? Felt amazing, right? Inspiring delight and wonder is powerful, even addicting. It’s what drives magicians to do what they do and why people love them for it.

What most people don’t realize about magic shows, though, is that it’s not all props and performance. To truly surprise and delight, a seasoned magician uses his or her mind. And you don’t have to run away with the circus, or even learn a single magic trick, to apply magical thinking to your business or career.

I’ve been a magician for over twenty years, specializing in teaching businesses the secrets of magic and how those insights can improve communication, sales and client relationships. As a speaker, trainer and facilitator, I teach that magic is a rich source of thinking tools. Those tools apply to any organization and any industry, but they also apply to individuals. You can make magic work for you, at work.

To prove it, I’m going to share a few magicians’ secrets that can help you improve your career in the following areas:

  • Innovation and lateral thinking
  • Perception management
  • Social intelligence
Being more magical at work isn’t about deception or manipulation; its about being better at how you communicate and collaborate. Click To Tweet

Innovation and lateral thinking

Magicians have always had to work backwards: They come up with a surprising effect and then devise a means to accomplish it. They must consider all mental, visual and physical tools available. That’s why magicians were the first to employ mirrors, magnets, and electromagnets, and why they are often a decade or two ahead of the mainstream in using new technologies or scientific principles to surprise their audiences.

And to continue astonishing people, a magician can’t stick with the same tactics. Their tricks must constantly evolve, but—here’s the key—their approach to developing new material stays the same: Magicians start the creative process by acting as if anything is possible. They don’t limit themselves.

To be creative and innovative, you have to be able to see existing resources as more than they are, you have to seek methods and technologies unknown to you (and maybe to others). You can’t do any of those things when you decide preemptively that any end goal—a new product, service, client or corporate structure – is outside the range of what’s possible.

Magicians start the creative process by expanding that range to include anything and everything. That mindset is the takeaway that you can apply in the workplace, whether you directly manage thirty people or write code for a living.

Perception Management

However creative, no magician’s trick is complete with only physical tools and technologies. To fool someone, a magician has to do something the other person doesn’t know, recognize or perceive. Knowing and managing an audience’s perceptions are what make the trick.

Similarly, to be the most magical person in your office, it’s not enough to just be creative. You must also accurately understand what people around you perceive – what they believe and expect.

If you’re going to communicate better, produce better, manage better or sell better, you need to know what others see. How? The Fortune 500 companies I consult with might perform surveys of thousands, but you can collect this information easily (and much more quickly) if you’re OK with informal feedback.

Before an important meeting with a client, your boss or employees, perform your own survey. Do some digging on what your investors believe about your company before you present. Find out what delighted or disappointed at the last board meeting—and why.

Simply taking the time to do this will put you ahead. Do the work beforehand to more deeply understand what others believe they know, how they see you and what they are looking for, and you’ll be able to deliver and even dazzle by going beyond expectations.

Social Intelligence

Really successful magicians aren’t just good at tricks. They’re great entertainers. They pull people in. They enchant. Why? They read people in a way others don’t. They take our second secret a step further. Perception management—the ability to understand how people perceive you and what you do—is a skill that can be learned, developed and refined. Practice taking others’ perspective long enough and you’ll develop a powerful tool: social intelligence.

Magicians influence imaginations and suspend reality, but influencers of all types practice the kind of empathy that rises to the level of social intelligence. Being a great thinker doesn’t just mean having great thoughts; it’s understanding and anticipating the thoughts of others. It’s knowing how they think and feel and making informed guesses on how they will react. It’s about being ready instead of reacting in panic. And you can do the same thing at the office.

Constantly assess what those above, below and beside you are perceiving, what they expect and how they feel. Do this not just during crucial moments, but at every point of interaction. Do it well enough and it will be what sets you apart. It will become your magic, your own wow factor.

What being magical at work really means

Now, I realize magicians are known for fooling people. That’s part of the performance and the fascination. A magician is, as Carl Germain wrote, the only one honest about his lying. But magic is not just a matter of technical, mechanical or visual trickery. Magicians see people differently. That’s my core message: Learning to Think Like a Magician™ can help you avoid misperceptions and miscommunication by more deeply considering others.

Being more magical at work isn’t about deception or manipulation; its about being better at how you communicate and collaborate. And you don’t need any cards or wands to create magical experiences.

With these three magician’s secrets, you can amaze your co-workers by bringing innovation and lateral thinking to your job, wow them by anticipating what they’re going to think or say at the next meeting and astonish them with your masterful ability to connect and communicate with anyone you meet.

Kostya Kimlat is a keynote speaker and corporate magician who fooled Penn & Teller on their hit TV show, “Fool Us”. Kostya speaks to businesses about how to Think Like A Magician™ to improve sales and customer service. For more information about Kostya Kimlat, please visit www.KostyaKimlat.com

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