Influencing the Perceptions That Affect Your Sales
Many moons ago, I made a transition from my first career as a teacher into sales. This was inspired by a conversation with my brother who told me, “Sales is where the money is. I’ve been broke twice in my life but I’ve always had my sales skills to fall back on. Because of that, I know that even if I am down, I will never be out.” As a single mother with three little children, the choice was painfully obvious. Learn to sell well and go make money. So I made a career change and was able to pair my experience in adult education with my knowledge of sales. I did have a little practical sales experience, and being a lover of business books, I had no problem reading books about how to sell effectively.
Many people have the notion that sales is all about talking people into buying things they don't really want. Professional sales people know better, but I suspect that the reason this negative impression pervades popular opinion is because it always used to be that way. Sales people have evolved since then and as the world changes, so does the way we need to approach business.
After the “tell and sell” approach became unpopular, sales people moved into asking questions to find solutions for prospective customers. That’s interesting considering that we ask prospects questions knowing we have a limited number of solutions for a limited number of problems. With that approach, many sales people find themselves spinning their wheels and burning up time, which is why, of course, you need to qualify leads before you book an appointment. Duh!
Any B2B sales person will tell you that the biggest challenge is gaining access to decision makers and these days it’s tougher than ever. Solution selling is so much easier when you have someone in front of you who already wants your help. This is where the current sales model really comes into play. There’s a new one? Yeah. New, but it’s been around since the early 1990s. It’s called internet marketing and it’s where the line between sales, marketing and public relations becomes very blurred. We used to be three separate and somewhat adversarial entities participating in a sort of reluctant symbiosis, if you will. Now, thanks to the internet, we can’t afford to be so snooty with each other (although I have noticed a lot of PR people still think they are above sales people).
Interestingly, I have found my background in sales and marketing to be incredibly valuable in my work as a public relations professional. Want to learn how to think fast on your feet and handle reporters’ difficult questions? Get into sales. It’s the best foundation for your media training. Good sales people work with key messages every day and have an arsenal of answers to objections that they draw upon to close every deal.
It may sound bad to say this, but as a PR and communications professional, I am actually in the business of creating and manipulating perceptions. What I do is both simple and complex. It is also effective. The beauty of it all is that the internet allows us to establish ourselves as subject matter experts, disseminate an abundance of information and influence the perceptions of anyone looking for a toy in our sandbox.
If you want to influence people’s perception of your competence, the value of your product, or the value of your business, you need to produce and circulate content with plenty of value and strong messages. In essence you must give them a better point of reference than what they are accustomed to having. By doing that you will ultimately separate yourself from the pack and become known for being different, stronger and better.
How do you get people to think, interpret and act differently?
This is a question my friend and business partner, Graham Edwards, posed in a blog I happened to read the other day. He asks the best questions! Here are five methods you can incorporate into your sales and marketing tactics to get customers to want you and generate favourable sales results.
Inspire creative thinking: From a sales and marketing perspective, one way to get people to think differently is to engage them in activities that inspire creative thinking. Developing industry related tools that help people solve problems is one way to accomplish that. A mind mapping webinar or even a step by step how-to booklet / workbook are two options you may want to consider developing.
Use language in creative ways: Communications and PR professionals love to use language in creative ways. The derogatory term is called “spin”, which is considered to be dishonest manipulation, but the way you position something doesn’t have to be insincere at all. The most powerful way to use language to influence perceptions is to either demonstrate another point of view or use softer terms. Is your necklace cheap or inexpensive? Are white horses faster than black horses? Sometimes all you need to do is ask a question to cause people to question their assumptions about things. There are many ways to use language to cause your customers to question the value of your competitors, generate interest around a product, create alternative views and present something in a positive light. In case you are wondering, I am not recommending people lie, cheat or do anything shady. I hate that kind of behaviour.
Publish content that supports your view: Once you’ve got your language down, you will need to publish content that supports your view. To maximize this, you will need your material to be available through multiple sources. You can try to pitch a feature article to editors of various magazines, news outlets and any relevant trade journals (don’t write it until you can confirm what they really want). I will probably get flack for saying this, but I have discovered that many journalists love to take credit for well written work that they can submit as their own. PR professionals don’t care if their name is on it. They just want the media exposure. When engaged in selling activities, you can either take those articles to meetings, or take comfort in knowing the right message is readily available for anyone looking for information (or both).
Demonstrate alternative ways to accomplish goals: There are always multiple ways to achieve any objective. Sometimes the easiest path to getting people to do things differently is simply to show them what the alternatives are. I love the little videos on Facebook that show you multiple things to do with a paper clip. It makes you want to run out and buy a pack just so you can try them out. In sales, nothing sells your product better than a demo. The more practical an item is, the more perceived value it will have. You may never use a paper clip in any of those ways, but in business, perception is everything.
Make it easy for people to change: It’s a fact. People do what you make easy for them to do. When you remove the barriers that make changing a behaviour difficult, you will have success. Remember when people were first asked to start recycling? In the early days, you had to wash out all of your jars and cans and then separate all of your aluminum, paper and glass. It was a pain in the neck and the commitment level was fairly weak until someone figured out that allowing people to throw everything in one bin in a semi-clean state would work best. Now, in cities where this is done, nearly everyone recycles, although I am sure they still need to work on removing more barriers and refining the process.
I hope you find the information in this post to be very helpful. If you like it, please share it. Also, please tell me, how have your buying decisions been influenced by internet research? How have you been tackling the business of getting more business? I'd love to hear your stories!
Few public relations & communications specialists have as diverse a background as Renée Cormier. Add published author, employee engagement specialist, sales and marketing strategist, entrepreneur and educator to her list of accomplishments. In her career Renée has held leadership roles in sales and marketing, developed and implemented national marketing strategies and was responsible for teams as large as 28 strong. She brings a wide range of experience and talent to her work.
Renée really shines in marketing communications. She is known for developing and implementing comprehensive communications strategies and generating results through flawless implementation. With such strong business acumen, passion for her work and a natural talent for business strategy, Renée is definitely considered an important resource for her clients.
Is your business going through transition? Are you seeking exponential sales growth? We can help generate the results you need! Visit: http://www.reneecormier.com/
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