Monday, January 16, 2012
Walking the Tight Rope
When you meet a salesperson, do you cringe, wondering what gimmick he'll use? I'm on guard the minute one walks up to me. Furniture, cars, clothes, security systems, cable TV, jewelry . . . you know what I'm talking about without me explaining it, don't you? They try to tell you what you need. They sometimes talk over you. They act as if they know what's good for you . . . better than you do.
Jennie is my connection at the local nursery. As an outdoor and gardening enthusiast, I see Jennie a lot. Yes, she knows me now, but I love the way she addresses customers.
"Hey, can I help you?" Then she actually stops and listens. She nods as they explain what type of plant died, or how the amount of sun they have on a particular bed is causing the plants to wilt, or why they can't seem to find the right bush to go beside the porch without it getting in the way. The customer is in charge. She waits for them to stop explaining . . . or waits for their direct question. Then she solves their dilemma. They walk away feeling they practically solved their own problem because they directed the conversation.
When you thrust anything in front of a potential customer, you challenge them. It almost becomes a dare. It assumes you know best. the move feels like you are trying to corner them. Professional salespeople will tell you otherwise.
I've taken the attitude that anyone selling anything works for me. Therefore, I expect to be handled well.
When you feel infringed upon, the sales tactic is wrong. Take note of that next time it happens. What is the person doing wrong that made you defensive? Let's go over a handful of mistakes that handicap branding, and ultimately sales. Most of this list came from a fabulous blog post I discovered a couple days ago called Personal Branding Blog. Yep, it's a little in-your-face, and I don't recommend most writers read it religiously, but I've learned I can lurk on business and blog websites that have nothing to do with writing and learn a lot of tricks.
1. Automatic messages.
When someone signs up for your blog, newsletter or even Twitter messages, don't shoot them anything other than a thank-you with links, in case they want to delve further. Hitting them right off the bat with "Buy My Book" or "Attend My Signing" or "Like me on Facebook" is presumptuous.
Yes, people still do it. But now they do it on Facebook messages, LinkedIn messages, and listgroups with disclaimers that say "forgive me if you've read this already but this is a cross-posted message." Spamming isn't just for email anymore! If someone follows you on Facebook, don't presume they want mass messages about a book signing, exhibition, nonprofit project, breast cancer awareness mission (what's the color of YOUR bra?), or help us do an anthology that won't pay the writers effort. Treat people like individuals and they'll love you so much more.
3. Asking to Connect.
If you want someone to connect with you on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or otherwise, make it personal. "Will you follow me?" says absolutely nothing. Mention what you have in common. Do you love their book? Have you heard them speak? Did someone mention them elsewhere? Did you see their blog? Even if you just saw their name mentioned and heard they were an expert, excellent writer, chicken raiser or Clemson fan, say it. Don't just say, "let's connect" without a purpose. Connecting isn't about the numbers; it's about the quality of the connection. Make people want to know you. Be interesting.
4. Asking to Forward.
Listen. If your work, post or ideas are good, they will be forwarded, copies, pasted, reTweeted, etc. Don't say, "retweet this" or "send to all your friends" or "post this." You sound desperate.
Be your creative, social self. Fight to always stay on your game. Address people as if they were friends. You hate it when the government treats you like a number, or the bank thinks you're an account instead of a human being. Enjoy readers as people, and they'll love you in return.