Friday, October 23, 2015

Allow Me To Insist .... Or Why You Shouldn’t Fall In Love With Your Own Ideas.

Allow Me To Insist!
Have you ever had one of these nice friends who comes to you to tell you a very, very good joke? One of those really memorable jokes which make you laugh for hours without end until tears come out of your eyes?

I do know it has happened to me several times. In fact, I still clearly remember that one joke I heard when I was 10 or 12 years old, and everytime I am asked to tell a joke nowadays, I do start with that one. It was that good!

What would happen, for instance, if the same person tells you the very same joke a second time, and a third, even a fourth time?

Let me take a guess: As the time goes by and you hear the same joke time and time again, it’ll stop being so funny. You may laugh at it just out of commitment, but deep inside you're thinking: "My Goodness, how come this guy can’t tell me a different joke!!!"

And if the person who told you the joke doesn’t realize this, and simply comes up with the same story over and over again, being totally confident it will make you laugh every time, that person will be making the same mistake some companies commit with their advertising campaigns, when they fall in love with their own ideas, especially when these ideas are creative, original and have made a positive impact, and do not see when it stopped being effective.

A very creative and original idea, until it became tiresome.

This post’s title comes from a recognized advertising campaign. The first time I heard it, I thought it was a great piece: A fresh and different approach. A person who took so much care of having its customers enjoy a positive experience, that even says "let me insist" meaning he understood advertising could in many opportunities fall into the gray area of being taken as repetitive and tedious, therefore asked for permission before interrupting its customers’ life.

And the same feeling I had the following times I heard the same slogan: "Allow me to insist ..." I continued to have good feelings about it until I started listening to it every single day, everywhere: TV, radio... you know the story.

It then stopped being a nice proposal to become an annoying message in my ears, sadly associated with unpleasant feelings.

It was then that something which had been an original and creative idea, transformed into an unwelcome message. Now, every time I listen to it, I find it just intrusive and certainly unpleasant, and can’t help but wonder why the company using it on its advertisements hasn’t made the decision to switch to a new creative piece.

My feeling now is that such a campaign clearly shows someone, somewhere, thought the idea was sufficiently unique and original as to keep on drilling it into our heads, its audience’s heads, by all media available and for as long as possible.

Who came up with the thought: "The important thing is to have people talking about your brand, even if it’s trash talking"?

This phrase I've heard many times at different events and seminars I’ve attended: "The important thing is to have people talking about your brand, even if they’re saying bad things about it." 

It's like saying the important thing is just to be in your customers’ minds as many times as possible, regardless of emotions associated with your brand or company at the time.

Unfortunately it’s something I’ll never recommend you to do: Your brand should always be associated with positive emotions.

For me, from my very personal and professional point of view, there is a fine line between a positive and a negative experience, and it's such a thin line you should stay clear from it at all times.

Why? Many experts around the world recognize positive feelings and talking don’t get spread out as negative ones do, which spread like wildfire. Then, why would you want to get into such an space? How could you keep your coolness when your audience is raging against your brand?

How could you diminish the impact of a deep reputation crisis for your business, if you think the important thing is to have people talking about your brand, even if they are destroying it?

When you are deeply in love, you lose the ability to be objective in many things.

People say “love is blind”, and it truly is. That's why you must never (or should never) fall in love with your own ideas, no matter how original and creative they might be.

And the reason is precisely that the crush blocks your objectivity in many ways, so it could easily happen you remain deeply convinced your idea is great, long after it ceased being effective or properly received by its audience.

And even worst, long after this “wonderful” idea of yours has started to generate a negative feeling among its audience, not only about the message itself but about the brand as a whole.

May the love you feel for your own ideas, not blind you from recognizing market’s reality.

That’s why we must always keep on monitoring what’s happening around your message and its audience. It is not true (from my point of view) that it doesn’t matter whether people say good or bad things about your brand, because the only thing that matters is to have them talking about it and keep your brand on their heads.

It doesn’t work like that. In the worst case, your company and brand should always be associated with neutral feelings and never negative ones. It’s better to have your customers perceive your brand as “insipid”, rather than have them feeling a bitter and unpalatable taste.

Because when this happens, you’ll never know when your audience will want to give your brand a try again.

And that's not good, neither for you or your company.

Monday, October 5, 2015

I Didn’t Want To "Talk With You” ... But Rather Have You Listening To My Story.

"I didn't mean to talk with you."
Yes, even as it looks a little odd, this post’s title is the response I got from a person on LinkedIn after I asked her to please not continuing to send me messages which were solely intended to promote and sell her professional services.

My communication read: "Unfortunately, I'll have to ask you not to include me when sending this kind of messages. I hope you’ll understand. If we are going to talk, let's talk, but not this way."

And, for better or worse (it will always depend on the person making use of the tool, of course), LinkedIn and other social networks allow you to compose a message and send it simultaneously to several of your contacts, being this just the initial incentive to “spamming” people, and by that I mean sending any kind of message to a lot of your contacts, even if they haven’t so requested.

And since I never concentrate on the person who did things, but rather on what the situation was, what we can learn from it and how we can make it better, I think this kind of response merely demonstrates that, although over the last few years we’ve been talking about relevant content, value exchange and two-way conversations, we can’t deny our invasive nature and our tendency to be "spammers". It really defeats us!

We love to sneak through any crack we are offered to invade other people’s space and even more so when we believe they might represent a business opportunity for us, and obviously it ain’t right.

And I don’t mean the fact itself of finding any possible way the person you're interested in pay you some attention. No. Anyone who needs to sell something or to share something that is considered relevant, will do the same thing.

If you don’t want to talk to me, what makes you think I’d want to talk with you?

The problem is on the manners: Saying "I didn’t want to talk with you" basically means your conversation will be flowing from only one side: yours. And then adding: "I just wanted to have you listening to my story" clearly indicates you’re not interested at all in the other party involved in the conversation, and that's not then a dialogue but a monologue.

If you do not want to listen to your interlocutor, how do you expect them to want to listen to you?

Unfortunately it’s this the way many companies are managing communication with their followers and fans in social media and many other spaces.

Instead of a dialogue, they maintain a monologue concentrated on them, their product offering and, in the best cases, content they’re distributing, although this content might not always be relevant to the community receiving it.

How do you expect to get to know your client, if you don’t give them the opportunity to share their story?

In different posts throughout this blog, in all spaces in which I’ve had the opportunity to bring it up, and during my consulting sessions, I've put all the emphasis I can on the need to maintain two-ways conversations with our market, with our community.

And the reason for this is quite unique: The only possible way for you to get to know your market in depth and detail, is by carefully listening to everything your market has to say through all available channels existing today, digital and offline.

Only by listening carefully to your community you’ll discover their actual needs, understand their concerns, the way they live and buy, how they make decisions, and thus you’ll be able to communicate with them more effectively.

Only an arrogant entrepreneur denies his client the opportunity to express itself.

Keeping in mind I’ve told you the problem is not sneaking in to capture your interlocutor’s attention, but in the way you use to make it, I do have to say that, from my point of view, behind this way of doing things a large dose of arrogance on your side comes to the surface. You can name it “corporate” arrogance, (if you want it to sound nice) or entrepreneur’s arrogance.

Regardless of what name you choose for it, you’re an arrogant if your attitude towards the market is not that of a humble person who understands your business’ success is driven by money in the pockets of the person sitting on the other side of the table: your customers.

As longs as you don’t realize customers who buy from you are the lifeblood of your business, you'll be driving your business backwards.

Business nowadays operate very differently. It’s no longer you or your business who dominates the conversation with customers, because there are hundreds (if not thousands) of companies in your market, which have product similar or identical to yours, and they are also playing on the same game.

Now your customer have access to a lot of information related to their needs and with the products supposed to (or aimed to) fulfilling them. And it often happens without you, or your company, knowing about it.

So it’s necessary you put aside your old mentality, and then focus your efforts on developing nutritious and two-ways interactions with the people and companies you consider represent, or could represent, an interesting opportunity for your business.

If you don’t do so, unfortunately you’ll get the silence of your community as a reward and won’t have any relationships being developed with them.

Is that what you want for yourself or your business?

Photo credit: brunobarillari | See portfolio

I recommend you reading the following posts on this blog:
Are you listening? But…. really?
Social Media: How to destroy a relationship in less than 24 hours.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Why Do I Have To Sell More If I’m Fine With What I’m Selling Now?

Why Do I Have To Sell More?
Last week while I was talking with a friend of mine who runs a couple companies which had their golden days during the years in which Spain enjoyed its time of greatest abundance.

Obviously, sales in both his businesses were moving forward effortlessly, almost as if in autopilot: new customers with fresh money on their hands were flooding the market, every product was almost brand new to everyone in an environment just recently born, being this the main reason why his sales were basically flowing.

However, he then started to share with me the problems he was having with the sales area and I was caught by surprise: In the nearly ten years he’s been running his companies, he’s never had a sales department as such, not even a sales process.

His situation has been what in sales we call "order takers", basically people whose work has been to manage incoming orders from customers, without having to do anything to get them to buy.

And that is a common ground from which many companies have been born and raised throughout time: markets were so dynamic and eager-to-buy that the words "planning" and "management" became simply fancy terms to bring up during any business conversation.

The difference between "simply selling” and "selling properly."

Of course every company can survive selling enough to cover expenses and generate a bit of profit. And doing so many companies have made it through. The problem is not selling enough to cover expenses and generate some profit. Believe me: the problem is not there.

In the previous section I mentioned two words: "planning" and "management". And the secret for all profit driven departments, such as sales, is not to simply make enough money but "to properly plan" sales so that all expenses are paid for, generates a decent profit and also to brings in money enough to pay for any unpredictable situation.

"Unpredictable situation?", you might be asking.

You got that right. Unpredictable situations: market fluctuations, economic downturn, unfavorable legislation, more aggressive competitors, changes in your workforce, and all those situations that usually never happen but, when they do, it can really become a nightmare for most business owners.

You have done very good sales in the past, however, it doesn’t mean you'll continue to do the same in the future.

Anyone can sell, especially when markets are receptive and have plenty of customers who want to buy and have the money to pay for things. Selling on such a favorable environment is easy.

But we all know this favorable situation has been left behind us long ago and yet, many people still keep the same mentality and haven’t realized that what they sold then is not even enough to survive nowadays, and now realize they need to sell more, much more. I hope you're not one of them.

And to sell more, you definitely need to sell properly.

Going from a rough stone to crafting a precious jewel.

As every time I make this kind of statement, I’d like to explain myself with an example, in this case I'm going to talk about talented people.

There are millions of talented people throughout the world for many different activities: music, arts, sports, science, etc. However, only a small portion of them get to develop to their full potential. Why is that?

If you want to sell more and properly, you must professionalize your sales process.

Simply because talent alone is not enough to reach your best performance and bring you to the next level.

For a singer, for instance, it’s not enough to have a wonderful voice: his music must be wonderful, lyrics have to be sticky and please the public to whom it’s aimed, as an artist he also must be physically and mentally prepared to cope with the harsh days of trials, the long trips from one place to another, and a thousand other things.

As you can see, talent by itself won’t make it, but also being professional and thoroughly trained for an increasingly competitive and demanding market. It is like the process for converting a rough stone into a masterpiece, a real jewel.

And the same goes for the sales area of your business: It’s not simply about receiving purchase orders from excited buyers, but being capable of selling to a bigger market and do it on a professional way.

What does it mean to sell more and do it on a professional way?

Selling ​​more and doing it on a professional way simply means not being satisfied with what the market itself can offer and going a step forward to develop your own  mechanisms to generate a growing demand and reach a bigger portion of the market.

If until yesterday you were able to sell 40 product units each month, selling on a professional way will allow you to sell 60 units or even more.

But how is it done?

  • Understanding the sales process of your company must go beyond “taking orders”.
  • Understanding your whole offer must be continually renewed so it meets the needs of a market in constant movement.
  • Offering your sales staff frequent training, not only about your product but also new sales techniques and tools.
  • Knowing in depth who your customer is and what their needs are, so you can properly identify additional sales opportunities.
  • Understanding the sale does not end when the customer signs the contract or pays the bill, but instead that moment is just the beginning of a business relationship which should last the longest.

We could go on talking for hours on how to professionalize a sales department, but I'm sure these tips will help you go beyond the "I-am-happy-with-what-I-am-selling-today” thing to “I have the opportunity to bring in more business”

Isn't it a better way to look at your business?

Photo credit: Christophe Fouquin | See portfolio

I recommend you reading the following posts on this blog:
Make Your Business Grow: What Actions Can You Take To Sell More?
What Role Should Salespeople Occupy Within Your Company?