Four Keys to Building Trust

There are millions of books and articles written about the value of trust and how to build it. More are produced every year. In spite of this, it seems people in roles of marketing, sales, and leadership find themselves challenged in how to build trust in their roles.

I offer four simple concepts that have been effective throughout my life and career. These concepts are as easy to do as they are to ignore. Just writing them to share today is part of me renewing my commitment to them.

Keep Your Promises:

Do what you say and say what you’ll actually be doing. It sounds simple enough, but I know from personal experience that it can be easy to say what people want to hear. Early in my sales career I thought I wanted to be known as agreeable and accommodating. In my eagerness to please potential customers, I would agree to requests (discounts, expedited delivery, rushed production, etc.) that lead me to a couple situations where I couldn’t keep my promises – making the reputation and the deal backfire on me.

One of my solutions was to reserve blocks of time where I would make sales calls/presentations. And reserve other blocks of time to make good on my promises. During calls, I would write down all the things I said I would do and schedule a deadline verbally with them – “I’ll have that information to you on Thursday by at noon.” One of my favorite ‘keep promises’ blocks was Thursday mornings.

As I got more comfortable in my system, I learned how powerful this was at establishing trust with clients and prospects. Phase two of it was to ask busy owners when and how they wanted to have certain information presented to them (email, phone call, visit/meeting, etc.) so I could schedule each one as an appointment on my calendar.

Communicate Openly, Truthfully, and Timely:

If doing things the right way were easy, they wouldn’t call it ‘the right way’. It is not easy to bring up difficult situations, especially when it makes you look bad. When we look at mistakes and errors as opportunities to learn, improve, or impress; we can begin to understand their true power.

There is an adage that tells us, “not making mistakes means you aren’t trying hard enough.” You’ll earn more trust by pushing the envelope at the right place and pace. When errors happen, own them. Communicate proactively and quickly.

Not that I liked having my orders get messed up, or I liked calling clients to report a problem; but the results were always positive when these situations were followed in this manner.

Act Consistently With Beliefs:

The phrase, action speaks louder than words remains true, but it overlooks the synergies created by actions and words supporting each other. This is more important in today’s age of social media and the variety of ways we are represented digitally because each profile offers a history of our interactions.

Potential employers, employees, customers, partners, investors, board members, and more look to social media to form opinions about a company, its products, leadership, and culture. We want to engage with businesses and people who are aligned with our beliefs. Credibility is built on ALL of our actions, not just when we are face to face.

Deliver More:

Add something more to what you do – a bonus, something extra, an unmistakable part of YOU. It could be a smile, hand written thank you note, or a comforting story about how you made the same mistakes they made. It can be reassurance, positive thought, sharing of your passion, or something creative. These gifts strengthen the relationships because they connect us on a emotional level beyond the scope of the transaction.

These gifts are more valuable than favors, chits, or I-owe-yous because they are volunteered and therefore not tabulated and tracked. This is exactly the type of human interactions that keep us together as groups, tribes, and even society itself.

 

These are not limited to business relationships. They can (and should) be applied to interactions with friends, family, volunteer opportunities, and romantic relationships with the same zeal and consistency.

Designing Sales Processes Part 2

In part one of this article on sales processes, I stated that sales is like a jigsaw puzzle where pieces are replaced by emotions and events to make a complete picture. This article builds on the foundation questions we began last week  and continues to build the puzzle with insights into additional questions.

What do they want?

Henry Ford brilliantly claimed that if he simply asked people what they wanted, they would answer that they wanted faster horses. Rather than simply asking potential prospects what they want, it helps to actually BE a customer or potential prospect and align your passions with ideal solutions.

Understanding them as a peer sends powerful signals that build genuine trust with audiences. Intimate knowledge helps you ask questions that spark better conversations. Ask about their challenges, needs, and/or problems in ways that are relevant to what you offer.

One thing customers almost always want is a complete vision of the solution. They can likely only put a portion of the solution into words. Often, answers will be in terms of what they already know (and already know doesn’t work). ‘Faster horses’ is framed around the known method of travel. Such answers are not to be taken literally, but as sub-conscious indications that essential needs are not met

Your questions and responses can help them refine the problem at hand and see the entire solution (i.e. you, or someone else) more clearly.

When do they want it?

It seems counter-productive to try drinking from, or even watering a garden with a fire hose. It can be tempting to dump all our information and solution options on a prospect, but this tends to overwhelm them into not making a decision at all.

Part of your sales process is about timing the delivery of critical information to meet their needs and interests. It is about adapting your sales process to their buying process.

Besides matching this cadence, it is about delivering in formats they can use. Products and services for sale are only a basic level. Extending this to resources like budgeting, long-range planning, performance reviews, how-to-guides, ebooks, and audits are essential to building raving fans who receive maximum benefit.

This is clearly one of the most critical overlaps between outside sales, inside sales, new marketing, existing marketing, and client support efforts. Invest the time to collaborate share information as getting it wrong here can easily push clients away.

How is it delivered?

There is so much that goes into making a sale. Some think it stops when the order is signed. Be sure to put the same care into how the product/service is delivered as went into getting it purchased in the first place. Consistent branding is key!

I cannot offer any hard-set rules, other than being consistent. Individual people are the driving force behind your brand. Attitude is far more important than appearance. Delivery, service, and instal personnel often serve as critical intermediaries between buyer and seller. They can provide critical information back to all departments as to the performance, reliability, and packaging of products and services of all types. The best sales processes find ways to incorporate this feedback into their systems.

 

Like what you read here? Share it with others or leave a comment below. Better yet, let’s start a conversation about how we can build or update your sales processes.

Keys To Understanding Situational Content Marketing

The right piece of content, be it a letter, email, phone call, tweet, e-book, etc., delivered at the right time can shorten the buying process dramatically and even completely convert an abandoned shopping cart into a purchase.

We all know that consumers want information. But where we fall short is identifying the what, how, and when they want it.

To put it succinctly; every industry, product, and process is entirely unique and requires careful attention to details and analytics. It also requires a deep understanding of human decision-making and the challenges we must overcome to get the sale.

Executing the content marketing strategy is best with a combination of automation, triggered events, semi-personalized, and completely personalized activities.

Know Your Audience:

Go beyond demographics and wants/needs that were aggregated by market research. Not all females age 25-40 with liberal arts college degrees, careers paying 35K-60K, living in a specific zip code think the same way – whether they have children, or do not. Nor do they face the same challenges or opportunities.

Stop using demographics and begin using true engagement information.

Digital media allows us to get hyper-specific in attracting audiences that are aligned around actual situations, lifestyle choices, and preferences. We often find that audiences that think and behave similarly have widely different demographics.

Knowing who they are and how they want to communicate is a key aspect to curating content for them. We all want to be appreciated and engage with information that is relevant to us. An easy way to make content feel personal is to make it personable.

Rather than writing content about selling a product (solving a problem they have); one option is to write about how YOU had a problem that was solved by the product. Use the marketing research info to confidently know which problems exist, how they appear, and how solutions are found.

By writing/expressing how you personally had a challenge, you become more peer-trustworthy. Prospects and suspects don’t want to be sold! We want our problems solved – preferably by someone who understands the cost/frustrations first-hand. With this as a start, incorporate your own personality or the ‘company brand’ in ways that are not forced.

Know Your Products:

No marketing tricks or gimmicks will ever replace intimate knowledge of products. This is considerably more than the facts and figures on the brochure and sales materials. It comes from real-world applications and personal stories.

Are you able to explain how the products work – on an engineer level, user level, buyer level, CEO/CFO level? Where do the products provide superior performance, moderate performance, and NO PERFORMANCE whatsoever? How do they compare to top competitors, bottom competitors, as well as their status quo? Be able to share stories of unexpected ways customers have pushed well beyond design expectations .

Be able to navigate between multiple products that are combined together into a cohesive portfolio that allows each one’s strengths makes the others’ weakness non-issues. This works weather you are selling socket sets, wrenches, and pliers; 401k, Roth IRA, Traditional IRA; or application functionalities across phones, tablets, desktops. Make it make sense to the buyer.

Know Your Process:

Understand the various stages of the decision-making process and use them as goals for progress and action. There is a big difference between encouraging someone to exchange contact information, subscribe to marketing automation, attend a free webinar, reserve time for a sales conversation, or close a 6-figure deal for integrating products and services.

Each should be handled differently. Depending on the product/industry, some of these can be automated, while others should be highly personalized. Some should be handled by different personalities, people, or departments.

 

 

What is written here is essentially the tip of a proverbial iceberg and there is much more to discuss and customize. Connect with me here and I am happy to have a conversation with you about ways to incorporate this into your marketing and sales efforts.

Identifying Correct Problems

Every business has their own unique problems to address. I can easily say that the largest, most important opportunity exists in identifying the CORRECT problems to address.

Running closely behind this is understanding the full extent, reach, impact, or cost of the problem; only to be followed by creating an adequate budget or plan to address it.

In my consulting role, I get to hear a lot of problems, challenges, difficulties, and struggles. This is not a complaint whatsoever as it plays well to my strategic, forward-thinking, idea-generating strengths and keeps me engaged in my work. I find an outsider’s perspective to asking difficult questions and checking assumptions is incredibly efficient at pinpointing major challenges. It also helps to minimize blame and emotion – just stick to the facts of where you are as compared to where you want to be.

As you begin identifying problems; you’ll likely run into the following distractions:

Lack of budget; lack of time; lack of talent; don’t know what to do next; lagging sales; low conversions; slow pipeline; anything technology-related and countless more.

These are NEVER the correct problem. Read that again. They are important, but not the actual problem. They are, however, indicators of the problem. Trying to fix the distractions is a never ending cycle of shifting resources from one fire to another without fully extinguishing any of them. Keep digging and you’ll soon arrive at the source.

Fair warning; the source of all the problems is usually the owners/leaders. It often comes down to a disconnect between goals, purpose, vision; and the messaging, audience selection, and/or structure design. 

I freely admit that this is a bitter pill to swallow. Like taking vitamins or eating plenty of vegetables; the benefits far outweigh the temporary unpleasantness.

The Simple Approach

Whether it is a desire to show how smart, talented, or gifted we are (ego and collective ego), or not taking the time to make sure we understand it to the very core; we often make things more complex than they need to be.

Perhaps you’ll get some inspiration from the following quotes. This notion has been around for a long time.

“The definition of genius is taking the complex and making it simple.”  ~ Albert Einstein

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”  ~ Hans Hofmann

Some things are naturally more complex and nuanced than others. But everything has its own base of simplicity. When we rush to market without a certain level of simplicity, we are plagued by struggles, challenges, and slow growth. When we invest the time into discovering and pushing this simplicity, efforts will be rewarded with ease of communication and the spread of ideas.

As we develop clarity about these disconnections, we can begin to see new opportunities for solutions that make significant and sustainable changes in our organizations.

If you are interested in learning more about how to identify the correct problems in and around your organization, connect with me here and mention ‘opportunities’ in the introduction.

Connecting With Content

If you weren’t yet already aware; one of the big trends in business is Content Marketing, or Demand Marketing. It is about producing pieces of content – graphics, pictures, videos, memes, etc. that contains information about aspects of your business dealings without being overly promotional so that people will want to interact with it. It can be funny, clever, amazing, cute, customer testimonial, how-to guide, or simply informative. The key is to attract legitimate attention and interaction.

This is in stark contrast to the traditional model where marketers interrupt an event in order to promote their business. Whether you are interrupting our favorite TV show, listening to music, sports game, or other activity; people do not want such messages and are quite skilled at ignoring them. The only way we seem to interact with TV ads is to press the skip/fwd/adv button as soon as we can.

Social Aspect:

The basic premise is to create interesting pieces of information that people want to consume, then make it available in places they will find it and perhaps pass it along to others. Social media channels seem like perfect outlets for such content as it is easy to skim and share.

Reads, likes, comments, and shares drive up search rankings and integrate more easily with Alexa, Siri, and such.

Remember that humans are caring and social creatures (for the most part) and often share content with multiple friends who might also enjoy or benefit from your content. One influential follower who shares the post might bring additional hundreds or thousands of other viewers. And a video that has logged 1,000,000 views has likely earned more than double the exposure as viewers play it multiple times or play it for a group of friends/colleagues.

Beyond Social:

Content marketing allows for huge opportunities on social media but it has life beyond the newsfeed. Each interaction with content builds and strengthens a connection to other humans. These connections are  critical in forming preferences to brands for products or services.

They also help serve as early identification system for potential customers and can be the beginning of automated marketing systems to help them understand that they do, in fact, want/need your services.

Email:

Spam and unwanted email is easily filtered and discarded without ever being seen. But curated and focused emails are easily filtered to the TOP of a subscriber’s list. They also get opened – multiple times – and can multiple multiple clicks and interactions. All of this can be integrated into profiles/preferences that continue to make the sharing of content more effective.

Beyond The Sale:

Content programs drive sales. They also build social interactions (pre-sales). They can also be used for active and preventative support as well as add-on sales of new products. Most importantly, they can help convert customers into repeat customers, and even into powerful advocates who enthusiastically (without pay) help you attract and sell products to even new customers.

As you might have guessed, the best approach is that of a highly strategic plan that is integrated across multiple aspects of business operations. Interestingly, content can be used in many different purposes with only minor tweaks. A white paper can be broken into 3-4 blogs, and further into dozens of tweets to promote them both to different audiences through keywords and tags.

 

 

Feel free to connect with me to start the conversation on how we might incorporate a content strategy to suit your business needs.