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Insight: How not to sell

by Randall Craig on June 5, 2015

Filed in: Blog, Business Development, Communication, Insight, Make It Happen Tipsheet

Tagged as: ,

Marketing and sales are at the core of almost every organization. Whether it is writing a proposal for a prospect, encouraging a person to join your organization, or selling an internal team on a concept, the act of gaining alignment and commitment is critical. More evidence of the importance of sales can be found by looking at the sheer number of training courses, books, webinars, and websites on the topic.

Why then, do so many organizations completely miss the mark? They are often their own worst enemies, working hard to prevent a sale from actually occurring. While the story below might not be representative of every company in every industry, it identifies some foundational principles that aren’t exactly rocket science.

Sales Insight #1: It’s cheaper to keep a client than look for a new one. And it’s less hassle (and cheaper) for the client to stay.
Recently, my firm, 108 ideaspace, decided to explore increasing the internet bandwidth into the office. We had a fairly expensive service that was delivering bandwidth at only 50% of the advertised rate. Option one was to get it fixed; option two was to upgrade to the next tier of service – fiber – at quadruple the price.

Option one was going to be easier, or so I thought. To order a service call required three phone calls, three hours of nonsense “testing” over the phone, two on-site visits by a service technician of two hours each, two modem swaps… all resulting in zero change in bandwidth. Beyond the wasted time, the internet service was down for over seven hours – a killer in my business.  Time to try option two.

Sales Insight #2: Make it easy for existing clients to purchase more (and more expensive) services.
Calling the “upgrade” department meant being shuffled to seven different people; each shuffle meant being entered into a voicemail queue for 5-10 minutes. Each person asked me to authenticate myself to “bring up the account”, which seemed strange, since I just wanted to speak to a person about the details of the higher bandwidth. They seemed baffled that I didn’t have my 10 digit account number handy. Eventually, the last shuffle wasn’t into a queue, but into the official voicemail for the business services department, where I was asked to leave my name and number.

Sales Insight #3: Respond quickly, especially if someone wants to purchase your products or services.
(I am still waiting for a salesperson to call. Maybe no one is actually monitoring the voicemail?)

Sales Insight #4: Not every prospect follows the same journey to commitment.  
Some are highly educated about the product or service, and just need to speak to a person to put in an order. Of those that need to be educated, some prefer to learn via webinar, others with technical papers, others with a short descriptive article, and some over the phone.

While waiting for the salesperson from my current provider to call, I decided to investigate alternatives. While all major (and minor) competitors had websites, the sites themselves were vastly different. Typical problems:
– Plastic marketing copy that provided no real information about the products and services
– Out-of-date content, and particularly out-of-date technical information
– No easily findable phone numbers
– No “contact us” web forms
– No information about geographic service capabilities
– No pricing (and no discussion of the issues behind pricing)

I wasn’t sure what they were thinking, but clearly there was a gap. Either their web agency doesn’t understand marketing, or the marketing departments have been unknowingly hoodwinked.

Sales insight #3 (again):  Respond quickly, especially if someone wants to purchase your products or services.
Desperate to make a purchase, I left messages with eight providers, either by phone, or via their websites. After a week, only three had responded.

Sales Insight #5: Ask great questions to understand the prospect’s real needs.
Paraphrasing Tom Stoyan, Canada’s Sales Coach: “It’s not about ‘selling’ your products or services – it’s about helping a prospect through the buying process.” This means asking great questions, answering theirs, and only then being in a position to be asked to write the proposal.

Of the three companies who responded, one immediately sent out a “boilerplate” one page quote. If they had at least a short conversation with me, they would have understood our needs, and they could have quoted the correct items. Oops.

Sales Insight #6: It’s also about the relationship.
Every touchpoint (telephone, email, educational documents, formal proposals, and presentations) can strengthen a relationship, and can build trust between the two parties. Price and expertise are table stakes: trust will close the deal.

This week’s action item: What is the one thing that you can do to make it easy for others to buy your products or services? If you’re not sure – or you think you’re doing such a great job – reach back out to those who decided not to commit with you. They decided against you for a reason.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
:  Professional credentials site
.com: Web strategy, technology, and development
:  Interviews with the nation’s thought-leaders


Viewpoint: Email, R.I.P.

by Randall Craig on July 12, 2012

Filed in: Blog, Communication, CRM, Make It Happen Tipsheet, Viewpoint

Tagged as: , ,

Picture this scene from a few decades ago: you’re working in your office, and your assistant bursts in, with an important announcement:  You’ve received… a FAX!  The correspondence was critically important – and you were too.

Then a few years later, the FAX was replaced by AOL’s chirpy voice, announcing to all, “You’ve got mail!”

Today, email is so ubiquitous that the novelty has completely worn off.  In fact, if you are like most people who are flooded with junk mail, email has completely overstayed its welcome.  If your organization uses email to market or provide customer service, you probably are beginning to question the effectiveness of the channel. And will it also go the way of the FAX, Telex machine, or the horse-and-buggy?

Consider this the eulogy for traditional email: in five years it will no longer exist.  Consider:

  • Internet Service Providers conservatively estimate that 77% of all email traffic is spam.  The cost of this filtering is huge, and not economically sustainable.
  • The high level of filtering – by ISPs, Companies, and users – means that many “good” emails never reach their destination.
  • Regular email is paid for by the receiver, which means there is no economic disincentive to send mammoth amounts of email.
  • Regular email is easily spoofed: hackers can easily change the “from” details behind the scenes, causing the recipient to think that the mail was actually from someone else.
  • There is no way to prove that the sender actually sent the email (non-repudiation) or that the receiver actually received it (proof of delivery.)
  • Regular mail is insecure: unless you resort to heroic measures, there is no guarantee that the email wasn’t copied or tampered with en route.  For this reason, email-based ecommerce by companies has been stunted, but millions of regular people unknowingly send their passwords and credit cards via email..
  • The rise of the Social Networks means that some conversations now happen as posts and comments.
  • Many of the Social Networks (Facebook and LinkedIn prime amongst them) have their own “walled garden” internal email systems, where authentication, non-repudiation, terms of service and security have weaned many emails away from the public email system.

What might email look like in a five years?  Or rather, what must happen for email to survive?

The cost of email must transfer from the receiver to the sender.  As it will be unlikely that this will happen everywhere, look for the move to a two-tier email system.  The first tier would be a trusted, authenticated, non-reputiable, sender-pay system, with practically no spam and an exceptionally high open rate; businesses would deliver invoices, account status, and other secure correspondence.  And users would be able to see their email with complete formatting, pictures, forms, and some built-in functionality.  The second tier would be a shadow of the current system, but relegated to an even lower priority for ISPs (and consumers), as the economic justification for email filtering (ISPs) or wading through the spam (consumers) would no longer would exist.

For traditional marketers, a forced march away from the mighty email list might seem scary, but all is not lost.

Remember that the goal of email is to improve your the relationship.  Begin looking for alternative modes of communication: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and the many other social networks.  Ramp up the relevance of your blog, then encourage people to read (and comment on) it.  Finally, remember that developing relationships is best not done in bulk: a stronger personal connection is only possible on the phone and in person.  (And if this doesn’t work, you can always try sending a FAX… if you can find one.)

This week’s action plan:  What does it take for you to cut through the clutter and be heard?  And what are you doing to reach beyond traditional email, just in case?  Interestingly, the answer to these questions is the same: this week, develop your relationships across several channels, so that each channel reinforces the other – and protects you in case email truly becomes unusable.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
:  Professional credentials site
.com: Web strategy, technology, and development
:  Interviews with the nation’s thought-leaders