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Well it’s only taken me about a year to finally launch our first free email based social selling sales prospecting course. But today, it’s finally up and running and you’re invited to sign up for the course. Here’s what you’ll receive after you sign up.

14 Days of Free Sales Prospecting Advice

That’s right. The entire course is 14 days long (not including weekends). Each day you’ll get a single email providing you one simple idea, hack, thought or insight that will transform your sales prospecting from painful to painless.

Many of the emails reinforce or build off the ideas from my book, The Invisible Sale, while others bring entirely new ideas that will likely find their way into my next book.

The Easiest Sales Prospecting Course You’ll Ever Take

Ok, so enough with the sales pitch, let’s get to the part you really want to see — here is a glimpse of the Painless Prospecting course syllabus:

  • Redefining the Definition of Sales Prospecting
  • Setting Up Your CRM
  • The Role of Propinquity in Your Sales Prospecting Process
  • Social Selling Theory: Embassies vs Outposts
  • Google Proofing Your Sales Prospecting and Content Marketing Efforts
  • Social Selling: The Role of Social Agents
  • Automatic Lead Generation
  • Closing the Sale

and another seven helpful social selling and sales prospecting tips that you’ll just have to register to receive.

Register Now For The Easiest Sales Prospecting Course You’ll Ever Take
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I had a conversation this morning with a salesperson about social selling vs traditional selling. As he lamented how his company needed to catch-up to the social selling wave, I mentioned that he might actually be ahead vs behind the curve. Here’s why.

The Lost Art of Sincerity

My friend was telling me that he still subscribes to paper magazines and newspapers so that he can cut out articles and send along with a hand written note to prospects, clients and friends.

Sure I have a motive. But I’m sincere in my belief that they’ll find value in the article and my desire to provide them with some value while asking nothing in return.

And that quote, his quote, in my opinion, is the heart and soul of what’s next in social selling and sales prospecting in general.

In a world of marketing automation, artificial intelligence (AI), and mass personalization, human beings are craving connection. But you can’t mass produce connection. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really scale well.

But the good news is… it doesn’t have to for you to succeed in sales.

Sales Is Not a Numbers Game

I hate this thought. Yet, I can scarcely recall a single sales or sales prospecting conversation with anyone in which this thought wasn’t uttered at some point by some salesperson.

I hate it because it’s lazy.

If all of your sales prospecting efforts are based on conversion vs connection, the goal of each activity is transactional.

But sales prospects don’t want to become a transaction. They want to become a customer.

That’s one of the reasons we hate and avoid cold calls, cold emails, cold social outreach like those lovely LinkedIn sales prospecting messages we all joke about.

But let’s face it – connecting is a hell of a lot harder to do than converting. Converting requires little more than persuasion, which while requiring some effort, pales in comparison to the effort required for connection.

You see, connection by its very nature not only requires repeated exposures to create propinquity, but more importantly, those exposures must be positive and desirable. Otherwise exposure simply leads to annoyance.

But connecting with someone requires more than just proximity and repetition. Connection comes from finding a piece of common ground, regardless of how small, between seller and buyer. Common ground that both can stand on together…. share… and use as a base on which to build the foundation of a relationship.

And that’s why sales is not a numbers game unless you choose to make it one. Sure you can focus on transactions and just spew your sales message to as many people as possible knowing that most will ignore it.

Or you can invest the time to pick only those folks that you can truly help, do a bit of social reconnaissance on them to help you understand how you can connect to them, and then make a sincere effort to connect with them.

Notice, I said connect “with” not “to” them.

Connect To means to join. So defining your sales prospects’ propinquity points as a means to understand where you can connect to them is a first step in the process of connecting with sales prospects.

However, Connect With means to relate. Thus, if you’re truly trying to connect with your sales prospects, you’re looking for places or things that you can both relate to in order to build a relationship. You’re looking for those potential common ground things.

When your focus is on connecting vs converting, sales doesn’t have to be a numbers game because you sell less but close more.

You don’t waste your time trying to convert everyone. Instead you focus on connecting with those you can truly help, developing that connection into a relationship based on sincerity, and then when they’re ready to buy, they call you.

And if you want a little proof… here is probably the most compelling example I’ve ever seen, compliments of one of our clients, Content Marketing Institute.

In a one week period where they sent out a mass segmented email, they had a .024% conversion rate on 120,000 emails.

In the same week, the VP of Marketing, Cathy McPhillips sent personal emails to 145 people that convinced 28% of them to register.

But Seller Beware

Human beings have finely tuned bullshit meters. They can sniff out insincerity a mile away. It’s one of the reasons mass personalization no longer works as well as it used to in marketing. Consumers used to think that seeing their name and/or some other personal information in a letter or email meant that someone had taken the time to personally write to them.

But today they know better.

And that’s the difference between personalization and personalized.

The former is an insincere attempt vs the latter which is 100% sincere, real and human.

So what is the the lost art of sincerity? It’s taking the time to genuinely invest in your sales prospect before they’ve purchased anything simply because it’s a better way of doing business.

This post was originally written by Tom Martin for the Converse Digital Social Selling Agency blog.

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The Content Marketing Institute 2019 Agency Survey Report just dropped this morning and it’s chocked full of compelling insights. I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy (because they are a client) and here are a few of the key points I think all ad agencies should understand.

The Content Marketing Opportunity Is Real for Ad Agencies

In my opinion, the findings are clear. There is an abundance of opportunity for agencies to pursue content marketing services as a viable and significant revenue stream. The research confirms that content marketing is not a fad, but instead, a permanent new tool in many brands’ marketing toolboxes. It also suggests that agencies that haven’t yet taken the plunge into offering content marketing services still have time to learn about and offer content marketing services to their clients.

Here are four key insights that really jumped out at me:

Agencies Are Still Treading Carefully Into The Content Marketing World

While 98% of the agency respondents surveyed offered content marketing services, 76% report multi-tasking existing advertising creative talent to create that content. Only 50% reported using dedicated content marketing creation staff and 45% said they are still outsourcing some or all of the work to subcontractors and/or freelancers.

Historically, this pattern of repurposing and outsourcing to supply new marketing services has accompanied most, if not all, new communication channels. By and large, agencies are approaching content marketing just as they did the web, mobile, and most recently social media marketing.

Many agencies are still using “temporary talent” to offer content marketing before fully committing via dedicated staffing to this new marcom channel.

Word-of-Mouth Is The #1 Source of New Business

72% of respondents cite word-of-mouth as the top business development channel. Agency-published content (blog/website) and in-person events/networking round out the top three business development channels in terms of new revenue generation.

I love seeing WOM and EVENTS in the top three biz dev channels.

Why?

Because, in my experience, content goes a long way towards helping your agency get known for knowledge, but if you really want to leverage that content to drive new business, you have to go out and meet people.

You still have to shake hands and look a prospect in the eye if you hope to go from simply being “known for knowledge” to “hired for that knowledge.”

This stat reinforces that agencies must continue to fly the flag at key industry and category conferences and events by showing up and meeting those prospects. In fact there is a pretty good one coming up in September in Cleveland. Hint… hint…

Click Here To Register Clients Are Looking To Agencies To Solve Their Content Marketing Challenges

Respondent agencies were asked to share the most common challenges they hear when a potential client approaches them for content marketing services.

Interestingly, the top client content marketing challenges are:

  • Lack of knowledge — how to effectively create content marketing programs and how to scale them
  • Unable to consistently produce and publish content
  • Lack of time
  • Absence of a clear content marketing strategy
  • Measurement and proving ROI of their content marketing programs

These answers might just be the single most important result to come out of the research.

Thye prove that clients need help primarily in two forms.

First, they need bodies. Producing content is time intensive and either headcount limitations or scarcity in the labor pool is limiting clients’ ability to properly staff their content marketing efforts. That’s a perfect opportunity for agencies to step in and alleviate the issue.

In fact, this finding harks back to the 2018 Agency Edge Research Study, which reported client side marketers felt the following qualities were the most important when selecting a marketing services provider:

  • Ability to get work done quickly (45%)
  • Ability to handle difficult or complex projects (41%)
  • Ability to work with minimal oversight by us (41%)

Second, clients are telling us that they don’t really have it all figured out. They need our help to develop strategy, scaling efforts and maybe most important of all, developing measurement programs that will prove the ROI of their content marketing efforts.

Agencies Still Largely Producing 1st Click Content

97% of agency respondents reported that most of their content marketing efforts were focused on the top of the sales prospecting funnel generating awareness or interest.

Only 61% were producing post-sale (customer loyalty) content. However, somewhat surprisingly (to me at least), a decent amount of agencies are producing 2nd Click Content, with 77% stating they are creating late-stage (evaluation/purchase) oriented content.

Given the importance of 2nd Click Content in helping salespersons turn conversations into customers, I’m encouraged by this particular result.

2019 Agency Content Marketing Survey Is Good News For Us Agencies

This research really excites me because it shows that contrary to what many agencies may think, content marketing is still a relatively immature and growing marcom channel that we agencies are perfectly positioned to help clients enter and leverage to grow their brands.

There is still time for non-content marketing agencies to join the party. And for those novice agencies, there is still time to up your game and create content marketing revenue streams for your agency.

And while yes, they are a client, Content Marketing World has always been, and will continue to be, one of my favorite conferences. One I’d highly recommend every agency attend this year.

And if you take my advice, be sure to check out my Turning Conversations Into Customers session on Wednesday, September 4th at 10:15am.

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Recently I was invited to join John Jantsch on his Duct Tape Marketing podcast to talk about Sales Prospecting in a digitally centric world. We covered a ton of ground and I wanted to share the podcast and transcript (for you folks that prefer to read) here on the Converse Digital Blog.

Questions we covered:
What you’ll learn if you give a listen:
  • How being fully present can help you win business.
  • Why content should feel like it was written for an individual vs a category or industry.
  • Why you should see a sales prospect as a relationship rather than a deal.
Tom Martin, Social Selling Interview on Duct Tape Marketing Podcast

Transcript of my Duct Tape Marketing interview with host John Jantsch.

Hello, and welcome to another episode of the “Duct Tape Marketing Podcast.” This is John Jantsch, and my guest today is Tom Martin. He’s a speaker and author. In fact, Tom was on when his book, “The Invisible Sale,” came out. You can go back. In fact, we’ll have that in the show notes. He’s also the founder of Converse Digital, and he’s got a new course that he’s been working on called “Turning Conversations into Customers: The Sales Prospecting Method for People who Hate Sales Prospecting.” So, welcome back, Tom.

Tom: Hey. Thanks for having me back. And thanks for saying the name of the company correctly. I think you are one of the few people. Everybody always says it like Converse, like the tennis shoes. So thank you for that.

John: Well, I do love the tennis shoes, so maybe that’s why I made sure I studied it. But let me ask you this, though. I mean, who doesn’t love sales prospecting? I don’t understand if there’d be a market for this even.

Tom: Well, you know, I’ll tell you, there is actually… It is interesting that some of the research I was doing, they recently had a study that came out that actually, 43% of salespeople are afraid to make a cold call. And, you know, I think in general you have, you know, people like myself who are maybe introverted or shy really don’t like the idea of prospecting. And maybe not so much they don’t like it. It’s just really uncomfortable. You know, they really have a hard time at a conference or a trade show or a networking event. They really have a hard time just walking up to someone and sticking out their hand out and saying, “Hi. I’m Tom Martin,” and starting a conversation. You know, they tend to be that person that’s, you know, got way too much email to do on their mobile phone, you know, at the side of the room like an eighth-grade dance.

John: Well, and in case it wasn’t obvious, I was being facetious. I mean, I don’t know anybody who likes prospecting to tell you the truth. And I think…

Tom: I don’t know. I’ve seen you work a room…

John: Well, that’s true.

Tom: I’ve seen you prospect, so I don’t know. I mean, I’ve seen it in action.

John: But I do think a lot of people’s dislike or disdain even for it is because of the way they’ve been prospected, I mean, what we think of as cold calling today. Would you agree?

Tom: Absolutely. And actually, this whole course came out of… I gave a talk this past fall here locally in New Orleans, and it was one of those where I was not getting paid. I was doing a favor for a friend, so I thought, “Well, you know, a perfect time to try out some new material,” and basically gave an entire talk about, you know, just that, how people hate prospecting because the way we explain this concept of sales prospecting is really… it’s really in a way that’s very selfish, and it’s self-serving, and it’s… people don’t like that. That’s not what we’re taught to do when we’re children.

And if you reframe it, that it’s not only fun, but enjoyable and it works, and I was blown away by the audience reaction after the talk. And I was like, “Okay. Wait. I think I might be onto something here. I think I might not be the only guy in the world that doesn’t like to do this.” And so, you know, I’ve been really scoring a lot of these thematics in various talks and blog post and different things and finding that, you know, there really… people are…they’re, kind of, hungry for… I know, especially entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, freelancers, you know, people like that, you know, they know they have to prospect for a living. I mean, they only eat what they kill, right, and they just… they’re really searching and looking for someone to show them a way that is palatable and maybe even enjoyable versus, you know, some seven-step process that, you know, has them sending out cold LinkedIn invites right after somebody connects with them, which is, you know, everyone’s favorite thing in the world to receive.

John: You know, it’s interesting. I mean, I think anybody who starts a business… You talked about freelancers, solopreneurs, I mean, an accountant, a lawyer, I mean, you know, they start their business thinking, “This is great. You know, I’ve got my website up. You know, here we are. I’m in business,” and then come to realize that, “Gosh. Fifty percent of this job is selling.” So I think those people come to the realization, sort of, kicking and screaming, you know, and then they have to go out and figure out how to do it. And I think that that maybe isn’t… in some ways, sort of, the reluctance that, you know, it seems like they’ve gotta learn this whole new skill. What would you say, you know, to those folks in terms of, you know, how they should frame this idea of, you know, everybody sells something?

Tom: Well, what I try to explain to folks is that they really don’t need to necessarily learn a new skill. So one of my… You know, one of the things that has really, kind of, come in vogue is this whole concept of social selling. But, you know, I hate the term because it’s really de-bastardizing that people talk about social selling as, “Oh. how do I sell using LinkedIn and Twitter and Facebook, these platforms? It’s very platform, sort of, training, selling theories. And what I do is when I talk about it, I say, “Look. Here’s the thing. Social selling is actually great.”

But what you have to understand is what social selling really means is that you sell by being social and that you know how to do. You know how to do social. You know how to have a conversation with someone, to engage them, to try to find, you know, some common ground that you both can stand on, and from there continue to have a conversation and continue to find things that you know about each other or that you have in common, etc. That’s how you sell. You create this connection between you and that prospect, and then that connection point there, you know, what you do professionally will come out. Maybe not in the first conversation, maybe not in the second.

At some point, they’re gonna find out and figure out what you do for a living. But because the basis of your relationship with them is that you’ve formed this connection, this little bond if you will, that gives you something you can build on. And then when they need your service, you’re the top-of-mind preference. You’re the person they want to call, and they’re pretty sure they want to do business with you as opposed to just do business with somebody, and that’s how you prospect.

And that’s how you build this little flywheel of leads that, you know, it takes a while to get it going, but once you get it going, you know, the leads just kind of, come in because you’re that person that people enjoy being around. You’re that sales prospecting that they actually welcome into their life, you know, versus running screaming away from buying technology to avoid, etc. And when you help them see that, a little light bulb goes off. And it could be a little more strategic than just talking, but, yeah, more or less that’s the core. Be social. Be someone people want to talk to.

John: Well, and I think that that’s one of the things that really is the promise of social media. Again, as you said, a lot of people have ruined it, but there’s so much data there. There’s so much information to help you derive a sense of… oh. Dang. I blew it.

Tom: Propinquity.

John: Propinquity. That’s only the second time that word has been used on this podcast. And the first one was when I interviewed you for “The Invisible Sale.” It’s getting a long day. I’m tripping on my words. I had that one queued up, too. So explain that concept because I think it’s just what… I mean, it is what you’ve just said. And I was surprised you didn’t use the word.

Tom: Well, you know, nobody can ever pronounce it. They love it. It’s a great conversational word. But it’s really the science of how relationships are built, and it’s really like dating. You know, when you met your wife for the first time, you met her. You learned a few things about her you liked. And you had another date. You had more conversations. You found more things you liked. Propinquity is all about that. It’s about making sure that there is a connectivity between you and the person you want to do business with.

And that connectivity might be you in person, it might be you as content. It might be you as you’re on a podcast, and someone listens to it. It might be you as social media touching, but you wanna create a proximity between you and your prospect where they can continue to learn new things about you. And that’s the key. They have to be always learning something new about you because what they’re doing is they’re filing all these things away. And, you know, maybe let’s say half the things they find out about you, they actually like. Well, at some point, mathematics takes over, they find enough things that they like about you that they decide, “Yes. This is my preferred provider,” or in a social world, “This is a person I wanna be friends with.” That’s the way it works in life. That’s how it works. I think it works the same way in sales and marketing. But, you know, the key is you gotta… you can’t just have that proximity. You’ve gotta be present, like, in those moments.

And I think probably the biggest thing that trips people up is that they just can’t be present in the moment while they’re having a conversation or, you know, while you’re being interviewed on a podcast. Be wholly present in what you’re having, this discussion you’re having, with the person interviewing you versus thinking about, “Oh. I’ve got this other thing going on. I gotta do this client call later or you know.” And that part is key. If people can get to that, where they can truly be present in that moment, truly focus on, “How can I connect with this individual? What is our common ground,” and there has to be some common ground, that’s when the magic can take off, and they can really, you know, A, be very successful [inaudible 00:09:40] feeling like, “Wow. That was really fun. I enjoyed that. I really like that person. I don’t just like them as a prospect. I, kinda, like them as a person. That’s, kinda, cool.”

And as soon as you can get people to understand that, like, then they’re like, “Well, oh, I don’t mind sales prospecting.” Click yes. You don’t. You just don’t like it the way you were taught to do it because the way you were taught to do it feels just, sort of, self-serving and selfish. And, you know, when you were a kid, your mom told you to share. You’re like, “Let’s not keep them all to yourself.”J

John: Well, so, obviously, you know, a central part of this is what you just said, kinda that proximity, kinda having some common ground. I mean, that’s probably not hard for people to get, but are there some consistent, sort of, core activities then that you have to surround that with so that it does ultimately lead to, “Hey. This is a smart person,” or not just a smart person, but, “This is a person that can solve my problem”?

Tom: Well, I think that’s where, you know, for those of us who are trying to, you know, prospect, especially if we’re trying to prospect outside of our local geography, you know, that’s where content can really play a really big role. Both your own content that’s resident on your own site, the internet, and the world via, you know, podcasts or guest posting on relevant blogs or, you know, third-party media platforms, speaking at the right conferences, things of this nature. But in that content at the same time, you know, you have to build that content where, again, you’re finding that common ground. You know, you’ve gotta build content that someone can read and say, “Oh, this was written for me.” Obviously, you didn’t write it just for a single person. That wouldn’t scale very well. But it should feel like, you know, that, “Hey, this was written for me. This person understands my pain point or my frustration or my hurdle. Like, they get me,” you know?

And when you can do that and… You know, look. I wish I could say I was the greatest person in the world at that. I’m not. If I was, I’d be even more successful. But that is the key. Like, if you can do that, that’s you, kind of, having that connection with them even before you’ve ever met them, right? And that to me is like if you can get to that… and I know some people that are really good at it. If you can get to that, the sky is the limit. You’ll always have prospects.

John: So I wrote a book called “Duct Tape Selling.” And, essentially, I was encouraging salespeople and anybody who had to sell that it really is marketing in a lot of ways. Obviously, there are some, you know, core belly-to-belly, you know, kind of things that were not included in there. But in terms of how you raised your expertise, became, you know, the welcomed guest, and I went out and spoke on that book, you know, quite a bit. And I would have a lot of sales people and folks in the audience that said, “Yeah. That’s great. But that’s a lot of work.” And I’m sure you hear that all the time too because we’re talking about building a long-term kind of pipeline here, you know. What do you say to that person that says, “Yeah, I’m just trying to sell something today.”

Tom: Well, I say you can look at a sale prospect in one of two ways. You can see them as a transaction or you can see them as a relationship with a person. And if you see them as a transaction, then, yeah, you’ll close a deal today. But that means, that you gotta go close another deal tomorrow and another deal tomorrow, and it’s always with new people. So you’re spending all your time meeting and finding new people, which that’s a lot of work, too, frankly.

You know, instead, if you can build a relationship with a person, you can see them as a person and realize that this person can be a relationship and that relationship can be a series of deals and not just deals between you and that individual. You know, if you can find somebody who you can convert into what I call a social agent, somebody who not only refers you, but is… takes actually like a vested interest in you. Like, they wanna refer you, they want you to be successful. They’re, kind of, passionate about how they refer you, holy crap, like, that is gold because with those people, now you’ve got an army of people out there doing your heavy lifting for you. They’re not just referring you. They’re basically telling the person on the other side of the conversation, “You would be a damn fool if you didn’t hire this gal or this guy.” And, I mean, that’s… God. What is that worth over the lifetime of your business, you know?

But, yeah, you gotta invest in that. Nobody is just gonna step up and go, “Hey. I wanna sign up to be a soldier in your little social agent army.” You got to invest in those people. You gotta be present in those conversations. You gotta find that common ground. You gotta make that connection, and when you do, it’s beautiful. But, yeah, it’s all about… for me, it’s all about long term. Like, I wanna create deal flow for years, not just today because, man, that’s really hard.

John: So if I’m listening to this, and I’m thinking, “Okay. The ideas of this sound great,” do you wanna, kind of, lay out what they can expect in looking into the course, “Turning Conversations into Customers?” How is it constructed?

Tom: Well, what we’re gonna do with the course is… I’ve built it a little bit different. I’m building it… now I’m starting not being able to talk. I’m building it a little bit differently. I’m building it… Now, I’m starting to not be able to talk. I’m building it as a series of small video classes. So they’ll come in. They’ll have, you know, a short video class. It might be five minutes. It might be 15, but something that’s relatively consumable for the launch or whatever like that to make it easy, right? And then with that will be some additional, you know, reading or homework or other things they can read to round out that course module. And then they’ll come in, and then they’ll move on to the next module, the next module, the next module, so forth and so on.

And then they’ll also be able to come into a private Facebook group where they can not only ask questions, meet with other people who are, kind of, going through the same thing they’re going through, struggling with the same struggles they’re struggling with, and they can, kind of, be a community, but also where we’re gonna do some live, like, you know, one-to-many coachings, and, you know, where they can, you know, kind of, explore further. Like, “Hey, you said this is what you really mean.” And it will give me an opportunity to… if they have got the question, chances are everybody else on the call has a question, too, or at least a bunch of them. So we can do that sort of coaching, and everybody can learn. And then if they really wanna go down the pipe, they can sign up for more, like, individualized-type coaching in smaller master-class-type programs that we’ll offer. But those will probably trail the initial launch of the course. In the summer of 2019, we’ll launch the course work, and then the rest of the stuff will probably come in fall of 2019.

John: Yes. So depending upon when you’re listening to the show, summer of 2019 or fall. Let me ask you one question and I’m sure you get it. I don’t know if it’s a great place for us to end or not. But there are people that just aren’t good at conversation. I’m not that great at it, quite frankly. And I’m sure that there are people that are, you know, truly not great or not practiced at it. You know, how do you get better at that aspect, you know, which is central to what you’re talking about?

Tom: You know, it’s interesting because I’m really bad at it. I’m, like, the worse networker in the world. And I actually tell a story at my workshops that I was at a speaking gig, and some people came over, and they just wanted to meet me. And I actually stepped backwards and removed myself from the space, so that the circle of people standing next to me would close and, kind of, shield me. And I didn’t even… it was completely subconscious to me. I didn’t realize I did it, but the people next to me all noticed it. And one of my colleagues who was traveling with me was like, “Seriously? I mean, they wanted to talk to you, and you… what’s wrong with you?” And basically, I will tell you, this is what I’ve had to do and… is you just gotta step up to the plate and do it. And you just do it, and you just keep doing it, and you just keep doing it. And what I’m finding now is it’s getting easier to do it.

I’m still not nearly as good at it as some people, but what happens is, you know, you do it, and what happens is you end up having a good conversation, not always a sales prospect. There’s plenty of people, you know, that you meet that there’s no opportunity for anything. But, at least, you had a nice conversation, and you did it. You, sort of, broke the ice, and that’s all you gotta do.

I think it’s just like a hitter in baseball who’s in a slump. There’s no way to fix it, except get back in the batter’s box and take another swing. And that’s what you have to do here is, you know, just make it a point at every event or every… Any place where you are around people you don’t know everybody, whether it’s a party or a networking event or conference or a trade show, make it a point to just say, “Hey. I’m Tom Martin.” Get comfortable doing it with two people. Go for four. And it sounds silly, it sounds simplistic, but it works.

John: Yeah. And I know, you know, especially people that it’s not natural, and in fact, maybe they’re even, you know, a bit uptight in that kind of situation. I always find that having a plan going in, you know, ahead of time, thinking, “Here is what I’m going to do,” so that when the moment hits you, you’re not, you know, just, sort of, flustered.

Tom: Yeah. And if you’re going to… now, if you’re going to, like, some sort of, like, especially like conferences where maybe you can, kinda, see who attendees are or if not attendees, at least speakers. Go find all the speakers. And use social media and LinkedIn and stuff to create a little mini dossier that you can put in your phone, like, in your contact, in your address book and take a picture from the web and put it in there, so that you’ve got their face. And on the airplane ride or the car ride to the event, you know, kind of, study it a little bit. And what will happen is when you’re there, you’ll see those people. And..

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Imagine waking up one morning, the owner of a small, but growing ad agency, and finding out your entire client base just fired you within the last hour. And just to make it more fun, every sales prospect in your database… all look just like the clients who just fired you.

What would you do next? How would you begin the challenge of sales prospecting in a world in which you had no sales prospects?

For me that day was August 30, 2005, when Hurricane Katrina resulted in the closing of New Orleans. When the levees finally broke, and most of New Orleans filled with water, the city closed for business.

And with that, my agency’s entire client base was effectively wiped out. You see, I co-owned a small ad agency with my wife. Like most small, local ad agencies, our clients were local, and sold things to folks who either lived in New Orleans or were visiting. So, with the city closed for the foreseeable future, there wasn’t much need for advertising or an advertising agency.

And with absolutely no business prospects on the horizon, little money in the bank (which I couldn’t access anyhow since the storm knocked out the bank’s ATM network) I had a very short time to make very big decisions that would alter the rest of my professional and personal life.

The One Thing That Saved My Career

When I tell people the story above the first question that I usually get is, “what did you do next?” But that’s the wrong question.

You see, it’s not what I did next that was important, but instead, what I had been doing prior.

As it turns out, the thing that saved me had nothing to do with my actions after the hurricane wiped out our company. Instead the thing that saved me was something I had been doing my entire career.

Wishing people happy birthday.
Connecting and Reconnecting

Now remember this is 2005, well before social media and tools like Facebook would automatically remind us of a person’s birthday. Back then you had to actually know someone’s birthday and commit it to some sort of calendar or some other tool to remind yourself of the big day.

And that’s what I did. I had an electronic calendar, and I would do my best to make sure that each person’s record included their birthday. On the appointed day, the calendar in my electronic organizer would alert me to the fact that it was a connection’s birthday, and I would take the opportunity to reach out, usually by phone, to just check in and say hello and wish them a happy birthday.

But what this simple habit allowed me to do was to consistently connect and reconnect at least once a year with people who were important in my life. It didn’t matter if they were friends, colleagues, clients, ex-clients, vendors or even sales prospects that I could work for at some point in the future. They got a call.

But the point here is, at that point in time, receiving a phone call on your birthday from anyone other than your mother was highly unusual. Thus the act stood out. It really made an impact on the people that I was calling. They remembered. And in some cases, they actually used to bet on how early in the day I’d make the annual call.

Social Media Has Made Lazy Connectors of All Of Us

Whatever you think about relationship formation, if you strip it down to its core, you find something kind of amazing. Real relationships, real connections, are the result of real effort.

It used to take real effort to remember someone’s birthday. And it still takes real effort to call someone on their birthday.

But far too often, we’ve become lazy connectors. We rely on Uncle Zuch to remind us of our friends’ birthdays. And instead of calling them, we just toss out a quick comment via the handy dandy birthday comment tool that he provides us.

Stop doing that. Trust me. I speak of that which I know.

About 10 years ago, I started getting lazy too. I relied on social media just like you do. I would drop a comment, or maybe message someone via the platform. It was easy. It was fast. I was connecting!!

But I wasn’t. And neither are you. You’re just spamming.

Reach Out And Touch Someone

Recently I went back to the basics. I started trying to call as many folks as I could on their birthdays. Other times, I record a quick birthday video and text it to them. In some cases, I miss the day but call belatedly. The important thing here is that I make the call. And guess what…. people friggin love it.

In a couple of cases I called folks that I haven’t talked to in almost 10 years. One actually answered and asked if I had butt dialed them. Another was absolutely floored that I a) remembered and b) called her.

And I learned a very, very valuable lesson.

Social Media is great for keeping tabs on folks and lightly connecting from time to time. But if you truly want to build a relationship with someone. A relationship that might just end up saving your ass one day, you have to really reach out and touch them. Let them have no doubt of their value to you. Invest in them. Sure it takes a little more time… hell maybe a lot more time. BUT – it will create deeper connections, stronger relationships, happier moments and I’m convinced, a more successful future for you.

These people, the ones you invest in, they are your people. They are your tribe. They are the ones with whom you have a real connection. A connection rooted in mutual likes or dislikes, shared experiences, common ground, and most importantly, the memory of investments in that relationship by both of you.

So What Happened After Katrina Wiped Out My Agency?

Glad you asked. My family had evacuated to Texas and set up shop temporarily in Ft. Worth. It was pretty obvious we weren’t going home to New Orleans any time soon, so we began to consider some kind of temporary home in my native Texas.

On August 30, 2005, I began reaching out to those connections I had called over the years. I texted the folks whose birthdays I had diligently remembered and acknowledged over the years, explained my situation and asked if they could help.

And help they did.

Not one but multiple offers of employment, freelance work, and other forms of assistance that would enable me to carry on.

I ended up taking a temporary position with my old agency, working for my old boss, on my old account (American Airlines) at what at time time was a ludicrously high hourly rate. I was offered a free place to stay. And others even gave me plane tickets to fly home to New Orleans (my family moved back while I shuttled between Dallas and New Orleans every weekend for 90 days) so that I didn’t have to drive back and forth each and every weekend.

All because I took the time to remember and connect with people on their birthdays.

Not a bad ROI if you ask me.

Feel like connecting? I’m @TomMartin on Twitter. Hit me up.

This post was originally published by Tom Martin on the Converse Digital blog.

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In the movie Wall Street, there is a scene where Hal Holbrook’s character tells Charlie Sheen’s character, “There comes a time in every man’s life when man looks in the abyss, there’s nothing staring back at him. At that moment, man finds his character. And that is what keeps him out of the abyss.”

I love that quote because I think it is so honest and true. There does come not just a time, but often many times, in a salesperson’s life where there is nothing but abyss.

You stare into it, looking harder and harder but you see no light, no north star… nothing to guide you. Your deals are stuck. Buyers are throwing objection after objection after objection at you. You can’t seem to get them to move forward. No one is taking your calls to start new deals. And the worst, deals you thought you had closed all of a sudden start to fall apart.

You… are… lost.

And based on conversations I’ve had with a numerous salespeople that have attended our social sales training programs or webinars, I think a lot of salespeople find themselves feeling a little lost now and again, and work really hard to quickly find their character.

Surviving When You’re Lost

The interesting thing is that if you check out survival skill books, they tell you the first thing you should do when you’re you’re lost is stop. Sit down. Find cover from the elements and wait to be found.

This makes sense. You don’t know where you are. You have no idea how to get back to where you’re supposed to be. And your best hope of being rescued is that someone who knows where you started and where you planned to go, can triangulate where you might be now and find you. But if you keep moving, you make their job harder.

The only thing is, if you’re a salesperson that is lost, that’s pretty much a recipe for disaster. Because in a world where your competitor is just a thumb click away from today’s self-educating buyer, that doesn’t care enough to work to find you, standing still or maintaining the status quo is tantamount to a death sentence.

In fact, truth be told, your competitors would just as well you stay lost. Sure your loyal customers will miss you, maybe even yearn for you, but that too shall pass. They’ll find new lovers… they always do.

Getting Unlost vs Being Found

So what’s a salesperson that is lost to do?

Quite simply – start by getting unlost. There’s a big difference between being found and becoming unlost. Found means you’ve finished your journey. Everything is back to normal and life goes on with everyone sighing a breath of relief.

Getting unlost just means you successfully find your bearings again. You figure out where you are more or less, contrast that with where you want to be, and based on the delta, make a plan to start closing that gap one step at a time.

And that is truly the important point here today — one of the key ideas I share in almost every social selling keynote or workshop I deliver is that so often the pathway to success is to stop, orient, and then just put one foot in front of the other until you successfully make it back home.

So with that, here are my suggestions and steps to help salespeople get unlost:

  1. Stop feeling like you don’t have control of the situation. Sure there may be outside forces at work like bosses, colleagues, competitors or the economy. Forces you may or may not be able to effect or control. But as my favorite post-Hurricane Katrina t-shirt said, “Put your big girl panties on and get over it.”
  2. Take stock in yourself or your company. Don’t get caught in analysis paralysis, but do make note of the things you can build off of and what you can’t. Then focus on the stuff you can build on and get to work.
  3. Move. Have you ever watched the firefight scenes in a war movie? The commanders are always saying the same thing when the bullets start flying… MOVE! Motion is life. Motion is hope. Motion means you are affecting your future. You are changing a variable in the equation and that one change might just save your life or at least your ass.
  4. Pick the thing that takes the least effort but will have the maximum effect. Notice I’m not saying the biggest effect. I’m saying pick the thing that requires the least effort yet yields the most effect – play the spread. Why? Because you aren’t trying to fix the whole situation, you’re just trying to fix one part of it. You’re trying to create a win. The human psyche needs wins to continue to exist, to survive and to thrive. So pick a deal, a project, or a prospect you can win or at least move forward. Even if it’s not a new contract, even if it’s just securing a meeting with the right people. Go win something.
  5. Repeat steps 3 & 4 until you see something staring back at you.

But once you start to see something there in the abyss, don’t stop what you’re doing. Keep moving. While true that thing you see may be a train hurtling at you, at least you’ll see what’s going to kill you versus getting blindsided. And I’m hoping most of you are agile enough to jump off the track in time.

So there is my two cents. What do you do when you face the abyss? How do you overcome that feeling that you just don’t have the answer? How do you get unlost?

Let me know in the comments or hit me up on Twitter (@TomMartin) and we can chat about it.

This post was originally published by Tom Martin on the Converse Digital blog.

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WARNING: If you are of the mindset that all prospects are leads, you’ll probably disagree with what I’m about to say.  

I’m a huge fan of online product demos and webinars because they let me easily self-educate about a product or service I’m considering. And as a business, you should love these tools as well because they help prospects self-select into your sales process. In fact, I believe the single best reason to invest in product demos is to help your prospects realize that you’re not the right solution for their need.

Now to traditionally minded sales teams, this might sound totally counterproductive—but consider this before you decide: With only 24 hours in a day, each salesperson can handle only so many sales calls, live demonstrations, and other customer interactions. And no matter how great your product or service is, it’s never going to be the right solution for 100% of the prospects who visit your website.

So the way I see it, you have two choices. You can let unsuitable prospects figure that out on their own without wasting your sales team’s time, or you can let your salespeople present that live demo or sales pitch to each and every unqualified prospect. Even with a top notch sales team, the results would probably be quite similar—if a product is just not the right match for a prospect, you’re likely not going to win that sale.

The choice is yours, but I’d submit that your sales teams will be happier, more productive, and less expensive by letting your prospects self-select themselves out of your sales funnel. By having your salespeople follow up on only qualified leads, you might even be able to reduce the size of your sales team because your staff will be making fewer but more qualified sales calls.

Requesting Personal Identifying Information For Webinar Access

One important aspect of establishing your webinar strategy involves deciding whether you want to allow some or all of your recorded webinars to be viewed without requiring prospects to provide an email address. This question is hotly debated in B2B (business-to-business) circles.

One side firmly believes that gaining that email address is a necessary prerequisite and must be the primary directive of any online webinar. On the other hand, the qualified lead group believes you shouldn’t collect an email address or even begin tracking prospects until you know they are truly leads.

Both sides of this issue present strong arguments. Before you begin using webinars, you should think through these arguments and determine where your company is going to fall on the continuum.

Whether you’re demonstrating a product or selling a service, webinars and demos both give your prospects an opportunity to sample your service and determine whether your company should make a short list of contenders. From there, you can move them along to a live webinar or a sales call. Not only will they at that point have to reveal themselves by providing a valid email address, but you’ll also be able to begin to learn a bit about their needs through marketing automation software that tracks their content consumption on your site after they’ve provided that email address.

Webinars and product demonstration videos are both fantastic tools for marketers because they give your prospects the chance to test-drive your product before purchasing it. This creates a sense of trust and comfort in the purchase decision that moves prospects farther down the purchase funnel before they reveal themselves to your sales team. That way, when prospects do choose to share their email or complete a lead-generation form, you know it’s because they have a direct interest in your product. This creates a win-win for both parties: Your prospects are allowed to self-educate, and your sales team receives far higher-qualified leads to close.

Speaking of webinars… if you’re interested in our latest one — Aligning Marketing Automation Platforms and Content to Create Leads Sales Can’t Live Without — feel free to register here.

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Today I had the honor of presenting at ContentTech. To a packed room of senior level marketers and a few sales people, we talked about the gulf between Marketing and Sales. Specifically, what causes it and how to fix it.

For most marketing teams today, their role in the sales prospecting process is all about living inside the database—a database that they populate by buying advertising, attending trade shows, purchasing prospects lists, creating events that allow the sales team to conduct general networking activities and of course, content marketing.

These marketing efforts give sales organizations huge databases full of prospects, but the sales teams really don’t know a whole lot about each prospect. Primarily they know the prospect has demonstrated interest but they have no idea if there is any intent. And that’s a really big difference.

Further, the sales teams have no idea of what motivates that sales prospect to want to buy what the sales team is selling.

So each day, salespeople dutifully call on the unqualified prospects in their company’s database, in hopes of getting a prospect to provide more context for their initial inquiry. They ask a ton of questions about the prospect’s business, goals, pain points, and more. And if they’re lucky, the prospect will answer these questions, helping the salesperson to properly develop a post-qualification sales strategy.

We’ve all been on the receiving end of these fishing expeditions. They’re painful and usually a complete waste of time. So what do we prospects do? We screen our calls, create a plausible excuse to end the call prematurely, or, in some cases, even rudely convey our lack of desire to be qualified and hang up. It’s no wonder a 2018 Report reported that 43% of sales people fear cold calling.

But there’s a better way. And that’s what my talk today focused on helping the audience understand.

In short, we talked about how marketing teams can use behavioral email to create those leads that sales can’t live without. Namely, leads that deliver calls that count.

I showed the audience how you can structure a strategically planned behavioral email logic that combined with well planned creative, delivers leads to sales that not only clarify intent but more importantly, show sales the exact motivational buttons to push and how to the prospect wants to consume the sales pitch — case study, testimonial, product information, etc.

Chances are you didn’t get to catch the presentation today… but I received such great feedback from it that I’ve decided to deliver it as a webinar on Tuesday, April 30 at high noon central time.

If you want to understand how you can deliver the kinds of leads that your sales team will love you for, register for this 45 minute webinar version of today’s ContentTech presentation.

Seating is limited to the first 100 people that register. And I’m expecting they’ll go fast… so do yourself and your sales team a favor — register right now.

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When it comes to content marketing, if you can choose between creative and consistent – choose the latter. Just as the tortoise beat the hare, so too the consistent will always outperform the creative in terms of long-term return-on-investment. Today, let’s talk about three reasons why that happens.

The Problem With One Hit Wonders

In a noisy, short attention span world, home runs are too easily and quickly forgotten. Sure they get the crowd on their feet, but the batter is going to strike out more than he gets on.

Don’t be a one hit wonder. Long-term success in any content marketing endeavor is based on consistently delivering great, helpful content that people will consume over and over and over. I’m talking about content that the audience looks forward to and will stand in line on release day to consume.

Out of Sight is Out of Mind

If you’re not standing in front of your audience, someone else is. And today, there is no shortage of people or competitors wanting your place in your prospects’ inbox.

Don’t give your audience time to forget about you. Instead, be the person or organization they can count on to consistently deliver new, informative, helpful content that enriches their world, makes them more valuable to themselves or organization or just rewards them for their attention.

Because if you don’t, I promise you — someone else will.

Discipline Precedes Habit

Habit is the child of discipline. Discipline is doing something you may not really want to do in order to create something you love. Champions become champions by maintaining a discipline until it becomes a habit…a daily routine in their lives.

Working out every day may be a habit. But discipline is what makes you get out of bed at 5am to actually work out. You can’t have the habit without the discipline to create and then maintain the habit. So focus on the discipline and the habit takes care of itself.

Creating Effective Content Marketing

There is no one, single recipe for creating effective content marketing. And every recipe surely includes more than just a healthy dose of discipline. BUT, regardless of which recipe you choose, if you don’t have the discipline to make the content regularly, well, you might as well not make it at all in my opinion.

Looking For a Great Content Marketing Speaker?

You’re just a web form away from booking our Founder, Tom Martin (the author of today’s little rant) as your next keynote speaker.

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