The Age of the Salesperson
When I sold cookware as an in-home salesperson, I was proud of our products and I was proud of what I did. Our product was expensive but I knew that my customers would use that product for the rest of their lives (I met my wife that way and she still does). We called our sales process “creative selling”, not because we were any more creative than other salespeople or marketers, but because we felt that we were creating sales out of nowhere. I would knock on a door and walk out an hour later with a $1200.00 sale and I did that day after day for years on end.
It was much easier to sell to someone who was referred to me by a friend, especially if that friend was a customer. So I always made sure to get referrals from everyone I met. One of the techniques I used at the end of each presentation I made involved extracting referrals from my clients. It was very effective, all I said was…
“Mr. & Mrs. Jones, every time we meet someone like yourselves, we ask them if they can help us by referring five of their friends or relatives that they think might like to just take a look at our products. There’s no obligation on their part of course. Do you keep a little address book? It really helps when people leaf through it. Can you run and get that real quick?”
You may be thinking two things:
1.That sounds pushy. But I can tell you that three out of four times, if I asked in a confident and friendly manner, they went and got that address book. When they came back I’d ask, “Can you leaf through it real quick and name off anyone that you think might be willing to take a look? And they would do it. Often I’d get them to go through their entire book with me (even though I started out just asking for five).
2. People don’t keep address books any more. That’s true. But they do keep contacts in their cell phones!
After doing this for several years, I discovered that I could even get many prospects to do this with me over the phone. It was all in my demeanor and how I asked. By the way, I still use a form of this in my B2B sales today.
Here’s the point… I know that as you read this, you’re probably thinking that this is incredulous! I used to think it was pretty crazy myself! I knew that I was asking people to do something I would never do! I would generally never give out my friend’s phone numbers or addresses without their permission. But my job was to get that information and I knew how to do it… and I knew that doing it would get me results. So, as a marketer I did it. As a consumer, I wouldn’t. Now you’re surely thinking, “Where are you going with this, Joe?” Well, read on…
The Age of Google and Search Engine Marketing
In the age of Google, another form of marketing involves SEO. I have learned how to optimize web sites and I do this. In fact, I have a saying about searching for products and services on Google. It goes like this… “When you search for something on Google, you are not going to find the best product or service. What you are going to find are the best optimized web pages for products or services or the companies who have spent the most so you could find them.”
This is a fact. Entire industries have been built around creating “review” sites for products and services where the real purpose is to add an affiliate or referral cookie to your browser and redirect you to Amazon or some other online retailer. The point once again, is that as marketers, many of us do this. However, as consumers, we must be more aware and smarter. There may be better products and services out there. There may not, but if we are to be diligent about our decisions we must be wary of everything we find on search engines and everything we read about on review sites.
The Age of Content (aka Inbound) Marketing
The stage that is most popular today is “content marketing”. This is the practice of retailers and other product and service marketers creating content that is attractive and informative to potential end users. Content marketing is a key component in marketing automation. While various marketing automation software and email programs are engines for selling, content is the gasoline.
Content is planned and designed to be consumed at several stages of the buying process. Generally content is created and packaged for the beginning, middle, and late stage of the buying process. If a prospect is researching software for example, they are usually attracted to lists of software vendors. They usually like reading articles that offer general information. As they narrow down their software choices and approach the middle of the typical buying cycle, they will often seek out review sites and more detailed explanations about the kind of software they are researching. Then as they approach making a decision, they tend to look for specific company information, naming specific brands.
Here’s the thing… In today’s marketing environment, sellers are creating and sharing much of the information that used to found in independent reviews. Much of it is skewed to highlight the strengths of the author’s company or products. If that company has a particular strength as compared to competitors, you can bet that this strength will be discusses as a generally important feature when comparing vendors. I see this in the marketing automation field on a regular basis and I sense that this will become a larger trend as marketing automation becomes more popular.
The point is that marketing is playing a larger role in our buying decisions than ever before and we, as marketers, need to be judicious about what we believe. Sheesh, I’m dating myself here. Have I really lived through three “ages”?