11 Feb 2015
If you’ve ever watched reality TV (and don’t say you haven’t because we all know it’s too easy to get sucked in by the drama and controversy), you may have noticed a specific formula…
First you find a cause – dating, small business, cooking or home improvement. Next, you add a few unassuming characters – some very relatable but also few who are downright crazy, nasty or delusional. And last but not least, you add just enough controversy, intrigue, shock and cutting remarks to keep the masses coming back for more each night.
In the end, are any of these contestants (or their small businesses in the case of Shark Tank) really any better off? Probably not, but what you have done is create some compelling TV and sold a bucket load of ads to big brands like iSelect, Swisee, Safeway, NAB and Mitre 10.
The other night, I watched Channel Ten’s latest reality TV import, Shark Tank. The premise is pretty straightforward.
A few naive and nervous and numerically challenged small business owners lined up to pitch to a panel of cool, critical and cashed-up potential investors.
Some ideas got funded for relatively small amounts. Most ideas (and their creators) got ripped to shreds by the panel.
So, the show is essentially Survivor, The Apprentice and The Bachelor all rolled into one with Australian small business contestants, and a catchy brand that has the ominous word “shark” in it.
How could that possibly fail?
As I watched, I wondered, ‘Are any of these small businesses likely to breakeven or become profitable and cash flow positive?’
And, perhaps not suprisingly, the answer is “not likely”.
Why is that? Because some of the ideas were pretty interesting. The cricket cooler, the motorized skate board and the hamdog may actually have global potential, but to be viable in the long term, the owners really need to do their homework first and know their numbers.
Case in point – not one of the small business owners who pitched had done market research with their product (or prototype) and could quantify the size of their market. Without that vital information, how can they possibly estimate topline revenue, market penetration or the value of their business with any precision or clarity?
And without those last three things, it’s impossible to give a meaningful pitch or ask for the “right amount” of capital. I’m sure you will agree, other than the guy who thought his hairbrained rental resume idea was worth $2.5million, most of the entrepreneurs vastly underestimated the amount of working capital that they needed.
Several contestants floundered when they got asked the big questions about breakeven, margins and cash flow. Yes, the dreaded cash flow question pretty much stumped everyone.
Most were asking for arbitrary sums of money to commercialise their inventions without regard for how much it might really take to get their brand out there and win their first major customers. One pair even thought it was clever to ask the investors to chip in $150,000 so they [the founders] could leave their secure day jobs and start working in the business full time. Crazy right? If you the owner don’t have skin in the game or work in the business full time, chances are you should still be writing your business plan, not pitching it on national TV in front of 5 sharks and a million viewers.
The cricket cooler duo were the most polished in terms of delivery and presentation. They recognized that patents and intellectual property were vital to their valuation and attractiveness to the sharks, but drastically underestimated the value of locking things down in India – the number one cricket market in the world. And the sophisticated sharks knew that Australia is just a mere drop in the bucket, compared to the potential in a market like India.
Unlike the really trashy stuff – Bachelor, Idol, or Real Housewives of Melbourne – the show didn’t make me feel icky or shocked while watching the sharks tear the flesh off the bones and gnaw away at the contestant’s dreams. I sort of expected that would be the main draw card and the whole premise of the show. Why call the show shark tank if you don’t intend to set up a blood bath and feeding frenzy?
But as an entrepreneur, I did feel genuinely remorseful for each of the contestants. The small businesses who got funded gave up decent chunks of equity for relatively small injections of capital – which may or may not be enough to get them to market and earn their first customers. And the ones who didn’t walked away without any constructive advice or tangible instructions on how to go away and get their idea investor-ready.
01 Nov 2013
Like most of you, I get cold calls and e-mails every day. 98% of it is spam – offers for things I have no interest in, or don’t need. Only 2% are even relevant to me or my business and unfortunately, most of those don’t get my attention either (so they inadvertently lose the sale).
Truth be told, I almost never answer or respond and I’m sure you feel the exact same way. It’s not because I have it in for salespeople – although most of us will admit we cringe at the hard sell tactics of the stereotypical salesperson. It’s because the vast majority of salespeople completely blow their initial approach and fail to capture my interest.
Now I appreciate and respect the fact that these people are just trying to do their jobs and make a living. Selling is not a crime. In fact, we are ALL in the business of selling something – a product, a service, an idea, a lifestyle, a belief, or a cause. So, like you, I’m not insensitive to the plight of the honest, hardworking sales professional.
The problem is this – most of their hard work (and yours) often goes to waste when they lose the sale for reasons that are preventable. They end up turning me off their product or whatever it is they’re selling because I am either bored, confused or overwhelmed by the pitch. And this usually shows up in one of three classic responses that I give, which I’m sure you have heard (or given) before. These are telltale cues that they (or you) are about to lose the sale:
- This isn’t a good time for me,
- I need to think about it, or
- Leave it with me and I will go over it later.
Fortunately, the mistakes that produced these 3 classic responses are completely avoidable – mistakes that you don’t have to make (and lose the sale) once you discover how the brain of your prospect hears your message and what you need to do to help him make a decision quickly.
The first and most important step in creating a sales or marketing message that closes more business is to become an expert at capturing attention up-front. If you are successful at quickly and strongly enchanting your prospect within the first 60 seconds, you stand a much greater chance of holding his interest until you can communicate your entire message.
Regardless of the length of your sales presentation or marketing message, you must capture attention and deliver your most powerful points up-front when your audience is most alert and receptive. Never begin by introducing your brand, building your credibility, talking about your competitors, or listing features and benefits. This strategy will put your customers to sleep (cause you to lose the sale) and you risk having to deliver your most important claims and proof when your customers are least likely to remember them.
In order to capture the attention of your audience and hold it, you have to know the one thing that is MOST important to them right now. This is something that you cannot afford to guess or assume. In order to make the greatest impact and charm the old brain of your customer, you need to do your homework up-front. You can’t afford the luxury of pitching five or six features/benefits and hope that one of them will appeal or hit the mark.
By taking the time upfront to help your prospect understand, acknowledge, and quantify his #1 source of pain, he will become clear about the true source and intensity of this problem, and you will reinforce (with his old brain) that it is safe to trust you and your proposed solution. Failing to do so, will inevitably lead to the undesired result of causing you to lose the sale and waste your valuable time and money in the process.
Imagine you’re the CEO of an established private healthcare business when the economy plunges into the worst downturn since the Great Depression. Up to then, your team has delivered extraordinary results; your bottom line is growing steadily each year and your services are recognized as world class by the hospitals, city councils and large public health facilities that refer work to you.
Imagine choosing that time to tell your Board and senior management team that, in essence, you want to walk away from about half of that business and pursue a very narrow niche market.
No doubt, you may at this point be imagining yourself out of a job. But hear me out…
As you may have guessed, this story is not a fictional one and the “you” in the story is actually a business coaching client of mine. I’m happy to report that the discussion with the Board went quite well, the business has nearly doubled since that day, and my client is still the CEO.
And along the way we both learned some valuable lessons about how to increase sales and become the dominant player in the marketplace. In fact, there is a big difference between being just a good company and being one that your customers can’t live without.
Solve Your Customer’s #1 Source of Pain
Consumer sentiment and spending have decreased dramatically in the past few years and those changes are being felt across every industry. Everything you thought you knew about your customer and why he/she was buying from you has probably changed. And if you do not take the time now to re-discover your prospect’s main source of pain and the reason why she needs your product or service now, you will never increase sales. In fact, you risk losing more sales and more ground to your competition.
Now some of you may think – but my industry is different
16 Jul 2013
Snagging more customers doesn’t have to be tedious, expensive and stressful. Amen, right? So, let’s break it down. When you’re hungry, which would you prefer: (1) to run to the fridge and grab a tasty snack; or (2) grab your fishing pole, and head out back to catch your next meal?
Obviously, most entrepreneurs would favour the fridge. Why is that? Simply put, it’s all about convenience. In today’s modern world of technology, we all live for “the now.” From our smartphones to our iPads, we can chat, shop, message, and search with ease.
Ultimately, it’s time to give ‘cold calling’ (the messy, expensive and hard way to do business) the boot, and adopt an easier, more cost-effective way of captivating, engaging and attracting more customers and qualified leads online. So, let’s take a quick look at eight simple ways you can find more leads and more customers for your business online:
The creative art of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) involves integrating keywords and phrases into your webpages, making them easier to locate for your potential clients who are combing the web right now, looking for products/services to cure their #1 source of pain. It is essential to weave keywords into your web content strategically (without overusing or “keyword stuffing”), in order to optimize your search engine hits and traffic. Google is currently making updates (known as Penguin and Panda) to their search algorithms, to ensure that the websites that rank the highest, contain the most relevant and valuable content to readers.
Reaching more customers is the ultimate goal of advertising. You want to get as much bang for your buck as possible, so research and highly targeted pitches are crucial. It is more important to intimately know your consumer base than it is to stress about which channels to market your message through. The worst thing you can do is try to appeal to everyone – for you will effectively reach no one. In fact, 99% of the people who currently see your ads right now, don’t respond. If you want more customers, you must first create a message that captivates and inspires your ideal prospect.
A webinar can be viewed by thousands of potential customers simultaneously from different locations in real-time and it can be recorded and shared/sold at a later date on your website. This is a great low-risk and low-cost way to share valuable information with your prospects and consumers and build your database up very quickly.
Pay Per Click Ads
Pay per click advertisements are a skilful way to snap up more customers as they search Google (and other portals) for solutions to their pressing problems. These advertisements are easy to spot as they often appear in shaded boxes at the top of search engine results or in display ad slots on high traffic sites, portals, forums and blogs. Using pay per click ads allows you to strategically route targeted traffic direct to a landing page that is designed to convert more customers (who find you) to take up your offer. Since you have to pay for each click on your ad, care must be taken to ensure that your landing page converts a large percentage of the traffic. Bear in mind, that statistics show the average eCommerce site converts only 2.2-4.0% of its pay-per-click traffic.
Blogging and Content Marketing
Blogging and content marketing are both great avenues to deliver insightful and up-to-date information to your prospects and targets via the internet. Blogging is the perfect vehicle to keep visitors coming back on a regular basis and it helps boost your search engine rankings – Google and other search engines give preferential treatment to websites that update their content on a regular basis and have strong social following. It also allows you to post valuable content on other sites, social media platforms and customer forums which can help more customers learn about you, make an informed decision and build backlinks that bring even more traffic to your site.
We live in a technologically mobile world, so it’s time to ensure that your company’s website is “mobile-friendly,” too. In the last 2 years there has literally been an explosion of mobile searches and purchases from smartphones and tablets. It is estimated that nearly 35% of all web traffic originates from a mobile device which means it is imperative that you have a user-friendly mobile version of your web content. Not only will you be rewarded with increased website traffic and retention, you will also reap more enquiries and more customers who pay for your solution.
Connecting with prospects and customers through various social media platforms is a skilful way to cultivate interest while also creating an open 2-way channel of communication with existing customers. Choose a social network that best suits your business model. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin or Pinterest, posting up-to-date and informative content is sure to boost your brand awareness, feedback, following and…ultimately sales.
Public relations is the ultimately the steering wheel of your informational boat. Your PR department must eloquently regulate the ebb and flow of company content that is passed along to your targeted consumers. It is imperative to keep your public relations positive, current, and professional, utilizing as many different resourceful tools as possible. The likes, shares and comments also allow your posts and website to rank favourably with the major search engines – which is another great reason to start attracting more customers via PR.
Finding more customers online doesn’t have to be messy, expensive or difficult. Take your pick from these eight great methods to create your own practical and powerful strategy to find more customers online and avoid the nasty trap of feeling that you have to cold call to find more customers and sales.
No doubt you have heard of the seven cardinal sins of the Christian religion – wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy and gluttony? But did you know that there are also seven lethal sins of selling? And they’re deadly because they’re toxic to your business and your bank account.
Unfortunately, if you commit even one of them, you’ll find that your sales leads will shrivel up and die right before your eyes…
If you want to capture the attention of more prospects and increase sales, you need to stop committing all of these deadly sins.
Are you guilty of:
- A lame approach or introduction?
- Wasting your prospect’s time with stuff that is important to you but not to them?
- Failing to identify and understand your customer’s pain?
- Forgetting to give your audience a clear message why they should choose you?
- Selling products, features or benefits instead of solutions to their pain?
- Neglecting to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that you can cure their pain?
- Making it easy for them to talk themselves of out of the sale? or
- Giving too many options (or not asking for the sale)?
Thankfully, there is a cure to help you increase sales and it is a whole lot simpler than you might imagine. Which is lucky for you – because right now, you are killing leads and losing sales with each sin that you commit.
Everyone knows that a solid, consistent stream of prospects and sales are vital to the health and success of your business. And right now, you are spending a lot of money each month on activities and communications where 99% of your audience chooses not to buy from you. It’s a lot of money to waste on sales presentations, calls and emails that aren’t working, isn’t it?
Now depending on which deadly sins you are committing (one, two or all seven of them), many of your prospects have gone to one of your competitors to get their pain cured. I would like to show you exactly where you went wrong and what you need to do to fix your message and increase sales. I want to show you how to turn your message into one that your audience is dying to say “YES” to.
- Keep the Lights on – Often presenters switch off the lights in a room so that the slides can be read more easily. Besides encouraging the decision making part of your prospect’s brain to fall asleep, this fatal move also diverts attention to the screen – when you need to do to increase sales is have your audience focus their attention on the conversation you are having with them.
- Capture attention upfront – In order to stand out and be remembered, you need to open with a question, story, myth-busting statement, or picture that is relevant to your audience. The best way to increase sales is to show them you understand (and can solve) their #1 source of pain.
- Stop wasting time on you – Never waste your time telling potential customers about you. 100% of your message should focus on your prospect or customer, and how your solution will cure her pain, keep her safe, or make her life better. If you message is relevant and your customer is engaged, it will increase sales.
- A picture is worth 1000 words – Your brain is hardwired to process visual cues and act before you have time to think things through carefully. If you want to connect with your audience and increase sales, you need to present fewer words, graphs and statistics and start showing them in pictures how their life will be better with your solution.
- Simplify your message – Most slides have far too many words on them to be persuasive. Less is more – if your audience is too busy reading, they cannot possibly engage with you and your key message. The brain can only process and memorize 3 or 4 key points at a time. If your message is more complex than that, it simply will not be remembered.
- Use stories to communicate your key points – messages that cause your customers to reconnect with or rediscover strong emotions from their past and associate those with your solution, are 10x more likely to trigger the part of the brain that decides.
- Crank up the contrast – In order to trigger a decision quickly and increase sales, you must stand out. Your customer needs to feel the difference between your solution, your competitor’s solution, doing it themselves, or doing nothing.
By mastering these 7 steps, you are now ready to go back to the beginning, rework what you say and how you say it in order to influence a speedy decision in your favour and increase sales. These 7 steps will help you to STOP falling prey to the 7 deadly sins of selling that we talked about earlier. They are going to help you increase the effectiveness of your message and also reduce the amount of time and money that you need to spend chasing leads and sales.
When you make it easier for your audience to see and grasp your message, he/she is more likely to decide and will on some level appreciate the fact that you have not wasted his time and energy with stuff that wasn’t important to him.