How do you sell without selling?
I’ve had some weird approaches from direct sales and cold contact sales people over the years. No doubt you have too!
Some are very natural, they are clearly looking to offer something - but genuinely think that I’m a good match, and that I’d get a benefit from their product or service - so they get in touch to give me the information I would need to make a choice, or just to peak my interest so I can ask for more details, warming me up as a new lead.
Some, though, are much more unpleasant - so clearly scripted and bolshy that it’s uncomfortable to hear from them immediately.
There are those who are very pushy - who launch right into their pitch, whether you’re a good fit or not - and open their email or message with “I have what you need” and - having done absolutely no research on me, my brand or what I do - blast their pitch over everything like a glitter cannon (glitter is the herpes of the craft world, by the way!) and every email, message or phone call is littered with naff jargon, thousands of exclamation points, faux excitement and scripts.
You’ll see this a lot with what I call “the hun squad” too - network marketing bastards who are trying to make some money selling make up to their Facebook networks (or whatever variation on that theme you’d like to think up) where they “just can’t believe how great this is” and each product “blows their mind” - and every single “what is it?” or “how much is it” is met with “I’ll DM u hun” because heaven forbid their pyramid scheme product is discussed openly. It’s a cheap trick, trying to build allure and mystery, but it’s so transparent and false that it makes my brain itch right in the centre with rage.
There are then those who go for what I call “chatty packaging” - think Innocent smoothies; their brand and approach are “hey buddy, hey pal, we’re so wacky and fun, we just want to be chums, our products are adorable and so are we, we play table tennis in the office and you can just visit us and we won’t even try to sell you anything because we’re friends,good buddy!”
I know that this is a technique which has grown in popularity - but UGH I hate it, hate hate hate hate hate! It’s so forced and false, and it makes me feel grubby.
Then comes the script followers; you can respond in any way at all, and they’ve got a formulaic response prepared and - however much you protest - they are going to follow that script through to the end, come what may! Some of these are better than others - but I can see it as soon as the email title hits my inbox, and usually it just makes me feel sorry for the poor person at the other end, who are trying to work in an environment and industry that just don’t sit with who they are; after all, if they were a natural salesperson they wouldn’t have had to rely on a script, would they?! I’ve been that person - I’ve worked in a call centre, I’ve been a chugger, and I’ve emailed thousands of carefully copy/pasted emails to contact lists the companies I worked for had bought; it was grim work, made me feel like I was lying, and made me utterly, utterly miserable. If it feels like a lie, or you don’t believe what you’re saying, how on EARTH do you expect the customers who are reading it to believe you or trust your products, or your brand?
And don’t even get me STARTED on the countless emails who “hope they find me well” and creep slowly into a pitch after trying to humanise and personalise their opener first; the problem with that is it’s STILL just a script and a formula, and if you’re TRYING to personalise something it STILL IS NOT PERSONAL - and a script is a script is a script, even if you throw in a few emojis!
This week I had a thoroughly bizarre interaction on Twitter with the new ‘face’ of answer the public; this is a website I’ve used for some time as part of my keyword and content planning research for my clients. You input a topic and it creates clever documents with suggested questions, associated topics and keywords linked in online searches, to help you to tailor the content you create. The home page always used to have a character I call “grumpy Santa” who huffed and rolled his eyes as you input your question.
They recently changed grumpy Santa for a younger man, and I tweeted a comment about it; “bring back grumpy Santa!” - and the chap who is the new ‘face’ responded. Now, I don’t know if he’s a character, if this is a ‘fun and quirky’ marketing device, or if this guy is taking himself seriously - but, for me, it totally missed the mark. His responses were quite pushy and rude, his tone was aggressive and dismissive, and the character he is playing (if we give the benefit of the doubt) is thoroughly unpleasant and narcissistic.
As a marketing device I think a controversial character can be powerful - but when it’s not clear whether it is a character or just that the new face of a brand is...well, unpleasant - it can be quite off putting. After a few discomforting twitter interactions I actually blocked his account - it was so bizarre that it just made me very uncomfortable and, when I’d politely asked him to stop tweeting me because I didn’t ‘get’ it, he carried on - and tried to push another product he is the face of as a distraction.
Not a successful selling technique!
So how can someone sell to an online audience without selling to them? How do you get people to engage with your content, to build a relationship with you, and to want to buy what you’re selling, if you aren’t out there directly selling?
The most important part of that process is building relationships. When you are looking for a product or service you don’t go for the most obscure option - you look for a brand you know and trust; I recently changed to a new insurer for my car - and when I got quotes on a price comparison website the first two (cheapest) listings were companies I’d never heard of - and I scrolled right by them to the first big name I recognised, who won my business. The other two offered the same package at a lower price - but I had no relationship with them, no experience of them, and therefore no trust in their brand; this may be silly of me, but it’s very common - people want to deal with someone they trust.
So you need to build trust.
How do you build trust?
You show up. You show up, share knowledge and information, offer value and support, and keep showing up again and again. You answer questions, you offer advice, you use your experience to give tips, you get to know people.
Don’t do this cynically; don’t seek out interactions where you can only see your own opportunities - think about mutually beneficial discussions and engagement, think about offering something of value to your audience, of building interest, amusing people, entertaining or educating; when you communicate with your audience it isn’t just about telling them something about you, it’s about getting to know them, what makes them tick, what sparks their vision, what inspires them to keep on keeping on.
You aren’t here just to wait your turn to speak, you’re here to be part of something genuine, and communication should never just be about broadcasting.
And the more you listen, the more you learn - the more you learn, the more you understand - the more you understand, the better value your offerings will be to the right audience.
Business isn’t about selling - it’s about being the right person to buy from. So build those relationships, engage with your audience, and get to know the people who want what you do.
If you want some help creating some content that helps you to engage your audience, to build rapport, spark conversation, encourage responses and boost your online presence so that you can build these relationships, and grow your audience, give me a call. I love this stuff!