September 18, 2014

Sales and Marketing Advice for Florida business

Five rules for engaging your audience in the conversation they want to have

Ron Stein | 10/21/2013

Too often marketing and selling is a one-way activity. Prospective customers are constantly bombarded with a stream of packaged messages -- on webpages, in email, advertising, and in person. It’s really irritating and has to stop.

Let’s face it, no one enjoys getting preached at or lectured to. It’s just not a very good way to convince people to do business with you.

You’re probably thinking this is all very obvious and you never do that. But, does your company really engage prospects in the dialogue they want to have?

Marketing and selling success demands that you create opportunities with two-way conversations. Yet, real dialogue isn’t easy to come by.

People will tend to respond to companies they know that offer value, care, and listen. Your potential buyers have lots of questions. Find out more about their problems and what will drive them forward.

The more you learn about your buyer’s problems, what the obstacles are to them, and the cost to them if they're not solved in terms of time, money, or lost opportunity -- the better positioned you’ll be to win their business."

Here are 5 rules for creating great conversations.

Develop a listening mindset. We all love what we do and truly believe that we can help others with our offerings. It’s natural that we want to tell our prospects everything we can about our products and services. Don’t do it -- at least not at first. Take a learning approach so that you can understand and connect with your audience. It’s the easiest and fastest way to identify their problems and concerns, as well as determine if your solution aligns with their challenges. But you have to listen.

Ask great questions, make relevant statements. The best way to listen is to ask questions to start a dialogue. This is not as obvious as it seems. Better conversations begin with a few questions or assertions about your prospect’s needs. But have you given thought to what they should be and have you practiced using them? They should center on the greatest roadblocks to success (near term and long term) and the one or two issues people most like to overcome. This sets the stage for on-going dialogue, which is the goal of every conversation you have with a qualified prospect.

Anticipate and answer questions before they are asked. No, don’t interrupt your customer before they’re done with their question! Instead, in your written materials and on your website demonstrate your value with statements that answer the burning questions prospects have. This will get a dialogue started. In face-to face situations, as the conversation begins to roll your statements and questions need to be purposeful to establish expertise while you get to know your prospect as a person. Don’t overtly “sell” at this point; just make sure everything you say aligns with your company’s messaging. The person you’re communicating with needs to know that you understand the problems they struggle with.

The most powerful and effective marketing is 1-to-1. When having a face-to-face dialogue, this shouldn’t be too hard to accomplish. An initial conversation that’s in-person or over the phone is all about getting attention, building rapport, and gaining the opportunity to get to the next step. It’s not about you, so avoid the use of "I", “we”, or “me” as it just sounds too much like selling and will immediately turn people off. But what about written materials, your website, advertising, email, and social media? Well, as you’re writing, just imagine a person that represents your ideal customer is standing in front of you. It’s really no different, except now pump up the "you" in your writing.

Make it easy for people to start a conversation online and offline. Encourage people to post replies to your blogs, tweets, and Linkedin posts. Start with interesting things to say of course, but it’s more than that. Ask how your audience feels about what you said or if they’ve encounter similar problems. It’s OK to be a pinch controversial. Now listen carefully and craft a reply with your comments to sustain the conversation. You can do much of the same things in an email and e-newsletter. And don’t forget about your presentations. Whether to a large crowd or a one-on-one, think about minimizing the number of PowerPoint slides or even dropping it altogether! Have an interactive conversation as you present by asking questions and drawing people in. Ask for their perspective. And use stories that stress how you help your audience.

Make a statement or ask a question that focuses your prospect on the result or benefit your product or service will give them. When you craft this correctly, it gets them involved and answers, "Why should I listen to you?"

Your ideal target prospects will take notice when they decide that your solution speaks directly to them, their problems, and their goals. Do that by communicating with them, not “at” them.


Ron Stein is President of FastPath Marketing (www.marketing-strategies-guide.com). He works with small business owners, helping them to energize their marketing and sell more of their products and services. Ron has developed his own highly successful 7-step approach to winning new customers as a result of his experience as a small business owner, corporate CEO, marketing and business development executive, salesman, and mentor at two nationally recognized business accelerators. Ron offers one-on-one and small group mentoring, conducts seminars, and consults. He can be reached at 727-398-1855 or Ron@FastPathMarketing.com.

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