Consultative or Transactional Sales? Pick One!

Can you have your cake and eat it? Can you really expect your sales staff to be consultative and deliver real value to your customers if you expect them to play a pure numbers game and practice transactional sales?

It’s not that transactional sales are a bad thing (I personally hate them – but that doesn’t mean they’re an ineffective tactic), but when you position yourself as a consumer-centric brand, delivering the right solutions for your customers, you cannot live up to your statement or goals by taking a transactional approach to revenue growth.

I’ve worked with companies that claim to be be consultative, to be their customers’ partners, to want to be there for the long-haul, but ultimately nickle-and-dime customers with gimmicky “upgrades.” Now that I spend a lot of time consulting for an automotive group, I’m seeing this particular behavior from services across all of the digital spectrum.

I guess it stuck in my throat today after I heard a sales pitch that went from: “We want your dealership to grow. We want to be there for the long haul” to “But I need you sign up today. This offer is only for the next 24 hours and won’t come around again.”

I get that everybody is in it to make a buck, but pick a hat and wear it. I won’t respect a company that pitches as being consultative but always wants the quick sale; however, I may just respect the company they tells me “we’re a one-trick pony that solves x, want in?”

Decide which you are and stick to your guns. Your sales reps will be less stressed and confused, the companies you deal with will know where they stand, and you can truly start to build on an honest value proposition.

An Exercise In How Not To Sell Online Advertising Space

How Not To Sell Advertising Space - Paul OFlaherty

If you sell anything, especially in the online advertising space, read the following and learn from it. Never make the mistakes this girl made, not even once!

Angry Paul O'Flaherty
This was my “happy face” after the call.

A few weeks ago I had a woman representing a local TV news station call trying to sell my client advertising on their website. When I used the word “sell” in the previous sentence, what I actually meant was “shove it down my throat and force me to make an immediate decision on”. It was like being ear-raped by an angry woodpecker that keeps pecking the word “buy” until your inner ear explodes.

Lets get a few things straight here:

I am not going to part with many thousands of my clients’ dollars simply because you call and tell me that if I don’t buy it now it will be gone by the end of the day.

Telling me that you serve 2 million impressions a month, and then slipping in at the end of the pitch that our advert would be one of 7 rotating in the spot, does not a good pitch make. Pitching 2 million and delivering 285K impressions is not that impressive. It’s like waving a 4 inch wiener around at an orgy organized by John Holmes.

Those 285K impressions become even less impressive  when you consider that the space you’re pimping is only on the front page of the site. I don’t care how many impressions your site serves if the advert is only running on the front page. How many impressions does THAT page get? You know, the one where the advertising will actually appear! Oh, you can’t answer? How predictable!

Impressions mean nothing without context! I want to know, at the very least, the number of unique visitors and the geographic distribution of those visitors. But again, you can’t answer that. How freaking hard is it to say – “the page we want you to advertise on gets X number of unique visitors a month with 90% of those being in our target geographic area”?

I want to know if 50% of those “impressions” are actually being generated by one over-enthusiastic, pantsless fanboy sitting in his mother’s basement in Nebraska. Such information defines the value proposition of the potential advertising space. Don’t even get me started on demographics of the unique visitors from our target area.  How hard is this information to get? Here’s an answer for you – it’s not.

When I ask you to email me the information, because I’ll have an answer for you quicker that way (because you know, I’ve got absolutely nothing better to do than sit here and listen to your sales pitch over and over – which consists mostly of you talking over me until you get your way), and you tell me that you only send your email out at the end of the day (are you serious?) and you MIGHT send me one if the spaces aren’t taken!?!

Honestly, it would have been more polite to just tell me to “piss off” while we were on the phone – your armchair reverse-psychology isn’t going to work on anybody with an IQ above that of a glass of water.

There is no excuse for this level of incompetence when selling business-to-business.

There is no excuse for this level of incompetence and pushy arrogance, period.

Are Buzzwords Costing You Sales?

Are Buzzwords Costing You Sales - Paul OFlaherty

What message is your site sending to potential customers?

SEO, SEM, CMS, PHP, Web 2.0? What does it all mean to “Joe Soap” if you’re a design or development company?

Potential lost sales revenue.

I can hear you all screaming “idiot” at me as the potential for creativity and the old “bigger is better” syndrome kicks in. And why not? Bigger is better! Especially if you can get a client to fork out more cash for the work, right?

I looked at the Your Web site the other day and realized 3 things:

  1. It badly needs a swift kick in hind quarters and given a new lease of life. I’ve neglected it of late while working on other projects. Neglecting it does not make good business sense, but I believe points 3 is the worst.
  2. I no longer like the design (or the CMS it’s built on)
  3. “Joe Soap” has no hope of understanding what we as a company can do for him.

My company site is chock full of buzzwords, jargon and tech terms. That’s fine if I’m pitching a developer or a large firm, but it holds true that a lot of my customers are small business owners or even private individuals.

These potential clients just want a website to show that their company exists. They just want to put pictures of their dog on the web in a place they can call their own. They don’t care about PageRank or PHP.

To them SEO, SEM and CMS could be STD’s!

When developing the website for my company I fell into the trap of filling it full of content that I could understand and thought would appeal to large firms with the big money. I’m not alone in this failing. A quick search for other companies in a similar field reveals the same mistake on the majority of sites.

We all forgot about “Joe Soap” and his dog!

We forget, that as small businesses, more often than not it’s the contracts with other small business and private individuals that pay our wages. After all, we can’t all get the contracts with the big firms.

I’ve found that the average (read as “not a geek”) person that goes looking to have a website developed wants little more than a few pages of html that looks nice and they can show off to their friends etc..

Many small business also want the same. Putting aside the benefits of having a CMS in place, the added exposure of RSS and all the other bells and whistles, most small business owners don’t have the time to invest in their site to make having a CMS worthwhile.

Also, because they’re a small business they’re likely not to have the revenue to employ somebody to look after it even on a part-time basis. Even I’m guilty of not having the time to work on the Your Web site because of my obligations to clients.

Considering that these are the people who put the meals on our tables (figuratively speaking) why do we confuse them with all the jargon. They just want a site that works and won’t cost them a fortune in time or money.

When they see the terms SEO, SEM, PageRank,etc. their eyes glaze over. You know what I mean, every techie has seen it a hundred times as they try to explain something “geeky” to a non geek.

They don’t understand the jargon and most of them don’t have (or simply won’t) invest the time it takes to find out what they are. They see all that and think:

“Yeah, but can you build me a homepage for my dog?”

I spent a long time thinking about this over the past few days as I’ve begun a complete rebuild (from scratch) of the Your Web site. The new site should go live at the beginning of next week.

My design criteria for the new site are simple:

  1. Bold colors
  2. Fast loading
  3. Simple to use
  4. One Message only

Criteria number 4 is perhaps the most important. That is, to get one message effectively across to the potential customer without confusing them. That message:

“I can do exactly what you want, and do it well!”

What message is your site sending to potential customers?