Aaron Hoos’ weekly reading list: ‘List building, content marketing, and objection handling’ edition

Aaron Hoos: Weekly reading list

Here’s what I’m reading this week:

  • 41 tips that put over 10,000 people on my email subscription list. If you’re looking to build a list of email subscribers (and you should be trying to do that!!!) then this is a good, comprehensive blog post of tips that you need. I heartily agree with almost all of them (although I confess that I’m not a huge fan of pop-ups. I know they work but I just don’t like them that much). Check out this post and use it as your own personal checklist to grow your subscriber base.
  • Agile content marketing. This blog post starts by talking about how a comedian develops funny jokes. Basically, they write stuff they think is funny and then they test it out at a comedy club. Based on audience feedback, they go back to the drawing board and scrap or revise the jokes and test again. This method, as the blog post explains, also works for content. You create content, deploy it, test the feedback, and then try again. It’s a simple testing method (no new concept there!) but applied to content marketing.
  • Why nothing great happens with content marketing at less than 10 hours per week. In this blog post, Marcus Sheridan lays out his position that good content marketing needs at least 10 hours per week of focus. He lays out how long he spends on content marketing (good stuff there!) and as an added bonus, he does a great job of explaining why he’ll only work with clients who are willing to go “all-in”. (I love the disclaimer he makes his clients sign!)
  • Skyrocket your sales and destroy your competitors with the risk reversal strategy. In sales, some people will buy from you and some won’t. Those who don’t buy from do so because of stated and unstated objections. This article from SuccessWise does a great job of explaining how to counter some of the objections people will have when they are thinking about buying from you. (And you should also read my blog post Objections are awesome, which is kind of related.)

How to write copy when you have seemingly insurmountable problems with your product

When I was a sales person, I felt like the products I was selling sometimes had insurmountable problems with them (usually related to the objections that most commonly killed the sale).

Then when I became a sales manager, all of my sales people came to me with the same complaints I had when I was in their shoes — “how can we sell this product or that service when it has THIS problem or lacks THAT feature?” they would wonder.

And now I’m a copywriter and my clients struggle with the same problems: Their product or service is good but not perfect and they are trying to figure out how to sell the product or service in spite of the glaring obstacles.

The other day I stumbled across one of the best examples I’ve ever seen of copywriting “around” your product’s problems. Can you imagine trying to sell a typewriter in today’s market? How would you EVER sell it when a customer can buy a low-end laptop (with so many more features and benefits) for basically the same price? That’s exactly what this example, below, shows.

The folks at Hammacher Schlemmer sent me a catalog (not sure why. I must be on a mailing list that was rented to them) and in their magazine I spotted the following advertisement… for a typewriter. I was surprised and thought it must be a joke at first (although that’s not really the style of the magazine). And then I read the copy and realized just how brilliantly they handled the issue of selling a product with obvious “flaws” (I mean: Flaws compared to feature/benefit-rich computers).

Check out the ad below (or if you find it too difficult to read then I’ve transcribed the ad text below the image)…

manualtypewriter

THE WORDSMITH’S MANUAL TYPEWRITER
This is the manual typewriter that recalls the thoughtful, well-
written correspondence of yesteryear. Devoid of technological
crutches such as spell-check and deletion, each of its 44 keys
requires a firm, purposeful stroke for a steady click-clacking
cadence that encourages the patient, considered sentiment of
a wordsmith who thinks before writing. Using a 10-characters-
per-inch Pica 87 font, it faithfully produces the eclectic
printed impressions of its forebears — variable kerning, subtly
ghosted letters, and nuanced baseline shifts — imparting
unique, personal character to every letter, piece of prose, or
verse of poetry. Updated with a lightweight yet durable ABS
housing and carrying case for easy portability. Black/red/stencil
spool ribbon. 4 1/2″ H x 12 1/4″ W x 14 1/4″ D (9 1/4 lbs.)
$199.95

Do you see what’s going on here? They are cleverly taking the very things that people complain about typewriters (and have long since given them up for computers) and are making them special. This entire catalog blurb could easily be reversed and said by someone who is being offered a typewriter and instead wants to buy a computer but Hammacher has turned those very objections into this typewriter’s selling points. That is intriguing… and, in my opinion, quite a powerful way to sell.

  • The first thing they did right was to put the offer in the Hammacher. This is a catalog of unique products so it fits with the intended audience. That is key and your copy won’t work if you don’t make this the first step.
  • They start by calling it a “wordsmith’s typewriter”, elevating the status from just any old typewriter to a device that would be used by someone who fancies themselves a wordsmith.
  • The first sentence evokes a positive emotion associated with the age of typewriters — a nostalgic bygone era inhabited (presumably) by Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce.
  • The second sentence takes some very common objections (“no spell check” and “no delete key”) and reverses the way people think about them by calling them “technological crutches”… and even further suggests later in the sentence that thoughtful “wordsmiths” who write patient, considered prose don’t need those things.
  • To further bolster the “charm” of the product, the copy highlights the need for a “firm, purposeful stroke” in order to press the key, the “click-clacking cadence” that results, and even turns “variable kerning, subtly ghosted letters, and nuanced baseline shifts” from ugly and old-school into eclectically charming.
  • After building all of this up, then the ad delivers the real punchline — the biggest benefit — by suggesting that all of this quirky and nostalgic charm imparts “unique, personal character to every letter, piece of prose, or verse of poetry”, cleverly skipping over the fact that real wordsmiths impart those qualities through skill rather than the device they use to write.

This is a good little “case study” of one way that a company can turn something that seems unsellable into an attractive offer. Of course, you are probably not selling typewriters so you may not be able to dial an extra dose of “charm” into your product or service. But there might be other ways to reinterpret your product’s problems. As long as you do actually offer good value, this case study illustrates one way to handle those seemingly insurmountable objections. Use it as an inspiration to take another look at your product or service and try to figure out a way to turn those obstacles into opportunities.

Fixing sales funnel problems: Buyers aren’t buying fast enough

Long before they buy from you, you are investing time and energy into your leads and prospects to move them through your sales funnel. By the time they convert into customers, you have sunk resources (money/time/effort) into cultivating the relationship.

So companies that struggle with insufficient income or profits might not be moving prospective customers through their sales funnel fast enough. Here are some tips to solve that.

HOW TO SPEED UP YOUR SALES FUNNEL CONTACTS

  • Increase the urgency in your sales funnel by highlighting some of the reasons that someone shouldn’t delay in buying from you. Rely on the 7 basic human emotions to help you push, pull, and prod your prospective buyer toward an immediate purchase.
  • Offer an incentive for customers to buy now instead of later. Consider something like a reduced rate or an added bonus. Make sure that it’s an attractive offering with a lot of value or it won’t work. (You’ll also need to figure out how to respond to people who don’t buy from you but then ask you later for the free stuff anyway. It will happen!)
  • Speed up your points of contact. If you have a sales call scheduled with a prospect every two weeks (14 days) until they become customers, why not try scheduling that sales call every 10 or 11 days. By doing this one simple step, you’re speeding up your funnel by 30%!
  • At some point in your sales funnel you’ll have satisfied all of the buying parameters that a prospective buyer has (and if they haven’t bought by this time, they are just waiting until the time is right for them). So ask for the sale… every time you talk to them.
  • Figure out the steps in each stage of your sales funnel and see if you can’t combine them together. Address two steps instead of one in a particular interaction.
  • Objections are awesome! They tell you why someone isn’t buying. Handle objections as quickly as possible in your sales funnel. Don’t wait for the prospective buyer to ask you.
  • Ask: Ask your prospective buyer: What is keeping you from buying today? You’ll get unanswered objections, sticking points, and probably a lot of hedging and feet-shuffling. But you’ll also find out what roadblocks you can address to get people moving through your sales funnel faster.

Your sales funnel is an engine that churns out customers (and revenue). Use these tips to put down the accelerator and get your buyers moving.

3 ways to turn sales funnel adversity into triumph (and make more money)

In every entrepreneur’s head is a well-oiled, highly profitable sales-machine of a business. But in real life, it’s a tricky, weed-filled garden of shifting priorities and juggled problems. (#mixedmetaphoralert)

In this blog post, I want to write about 3 common problems that entrepreneurs face in their sales funnels and how to fix them. These aren’t ALL the problems you’ll face, nor could it ever be a comprehensive list of all the solutions you have. But it’s a good place to start if you want to get your business reality a little closer to the picture in your mind.

SALES FUNNEL ADVERSITY #1: NOT ENOUGH LEADS

Leads are good because some of them eventually turn into customers, with a little relationship nurturing. But you won’t have any sales if you don’t start with the leads. If you don’t have enough leads, try doing the following:

  • Look at your value proposition. What problem do you solve? Perhaps it’s not big enough of a problem or maybe it’s not a problem that enough people have or maybe you’re not stating the problem in a way that is resonating with people.
  • Look at the people you’ve been trying to market to. Are they feeling the pain of the problem you solve? Do they even realize that they HAVE a problem at all? (Use this helpful blog post to identify your target market an figure out what is important to them.
  • If you’re confident that the above two issues are resolved (you solve a clear, compelling problem and you have a tightly defined target market) then try increasing your marketing efforts. Maybe you just haven’t reached the place where your target market is spending their time. Experiment with articles, guest blogs, press releases, social media — find out where people connect with you the most. Then focus your efforts in that space. And if 1 hour a day of marketing isn’t getting enough leads, bump it up to 2 or 3 hours of marketing. It might simply be a numbers game.

SALES FUNNEL ADVERSITY #2: TOO MANY OBJECTIONS

Every salesperson and entrepreneur has encountered objections from their prospects — reasons why the prospect cannot buy right now. Savvy salespeople work with objections while inexperienced salespeople are defeated by them. If you encounter objections, remember that “yes” and “no” don’t always mean “yes” and “no”, and adopt the mindset that objections are awesome.

SALES FUNNEL ADVERSITY #3: NOT ENOUGH PROFIT

Cash flow is good. (Actually, it’s absolutely mandatory for a successful business). But cash flow will only ensure business survival if there is a bit of profit at the end of the day.

Where a lot of entrepreneurs fall down is in adequately pricing their product or service. They want to generate cash flow so they price their offering at a very attractive price… but it’s not enough to pay the bills. Learn more about the concept of price and pricing, discover the best price for your product or service, and price your products so you don’t compete with low-cost providers.

Of course pricing is just one part of the profitability issue. Reducing expenses and increasing sales are also key. But if you have a right-priced offering, you just need to get more customers.

How to benefit from prospects who DON’T become clients

Imagine tracing a line along the path that someone takes in becoming your client. You might think of it as your sales funnel but let’s just simplify it into a single line that is easy to trace.

It starts with them having never heard of you before…

It follows them along a path as they learn about who you are and what you do…

It reaches a point where the prospect decides to become your client…

And then the line continues for as long as your client/professional relationship continues.

There is one big decision point in the relationship (noted by the star) when they decide to become your client for the first time.

But there are many more decision points along the way. These are moments in your developing relationship in which the prospect chooses to continue listening to you.

(As financial or real estate professionals, we don’t always know when these moments are, but they might be times in the relationship when the prospect meets us for the first time or visits our website or picks up the phone to call us or even hears from a competitor). I’ve drawn them below as red dots…

What we’ve drawn so far is the preferred path – only for the scenario when the prospect continues listening to the professional through the burgeoning relationship and then agrees to become a client.

But we both know that every prospect DOESN’T say “yes”. Some prospects say “Yes” but don’t mean “Yes, let’s work together right now”. In fact, there are many times when prospects choose to leave this path and go in a different direction – maybe they decide to find another professional to sell them insurance or maybe they decide to list their home themselves.

This can be frustrating for a financial or real estate professional to hear – you work so hard and want to help everyone but some prospects don’t have a reciprocal enthusiasm for you. It’s easy to despair when you call up a prospect who you THOUGHT was going to become a client only to hear them tell you that they decided to work with someone else or do it themselves.

But don’t despair. All is not lost. When you hear about your prospects diverging from the preferred path, take note of when they leave and why. Ask if there was something you could have done differently that might have convinced them to stay. (Note: You’re not necessarily offering to do whatever it is they say, but you know for next time.)
If you hear a lot of people giving the same reasons for leaving, you know it might be time to revisit how you sell your services.

Don’t just assume that it was because of a price issue or that a competitor swooped in on the right day when your prospect was in a good mood. There are other reasons that might drive someone away:

  • Perhaps there isn’t enough alignment between what you say in person and what is expressed on your website.
  • Perhaps they have doubts about your level of expertise.
  • Perhaps you haven’t yet described (in a way they understand) all of the value that you can provide them.
  • Perhaps you haven’t hit on the pickaxe factor.
  • Perhaps they are going through your sales funnel at a different speed than you think they are (so the messages they are hearing do not match what they are ready to hear).

When someone diverges from the preferred path of becoming a client, find out why and grow from what you learn. You’ll end up with a sales funnel that gets increasingly effective… and ultimately you’ll end up with a stronger business.