How to be a better marketing person.
Let go of the mouse, and go learn how to sell.
Show me a sales person. Take away accountability, and I’ll show you a marketing person.
That’s how my dad felt, anyway. He was an enterprise sales guy on Route 128 back in the day, and he had a special contempt reserved for “marketing people.” He saw them as bloodless bureaucrats, people so afraid to soil themselves with actual human contact they hid behind words, paper, pretty pictures, or whatever other medium they could bend to their will with a checkbook. While he toiled in the mines dealing with unhappy customers, cancelled flights, and a number he had to bring back to headquarters each month, they operated in the plushly carpeted, air conditioned splendor of a gleaming Westboro office park, concerned more with where to go for lunch than with any business result that mattered. Marketing was a land of eggheads who “served the brand” — whatever that meant — and anything good they did for sales was either an accident, or achieved at an opportunity cost well in excess of another good sales guy in the field.
Needless to say, when I told this man I wanted to go into marketing, he was able to contain his enthusiasm. Walking the tightrope of supportive Dad and realist (a rope with which I’ve since become familiar) he told me this:
“That’s great, Mike. Think about getting a sales job first, and learning how to sell.”
So it was that I graduated from Cornell with a degree in advertising, and after leveraging my Ivy League credentials to secure 28 rejection letters from the best agencies in Boston and New York, I responded to a want ad in a local paper to take a job selling kitchen knives door-to-door.
In retrospect, the old man was right. I learned more about sales and marketing that summer — knocking on doors and selling knives across kitchen tables — than I ever did in college. And when I did land that first advertising gig in New York, a big part of the reason was that very story.
The most important but under-appreciated skill in business is selling.
In the Wal-Mart of shiny objects known as “digital marketing,” it’s all the more important to remind ourselves every once in a while that for all the likes, tweets, shares, snaps and lead attribution models, the fact is nothing good happens in business until somebody buys something from somebody.
30 years on I’ve graduated to selling things across conference room tables, but little else has changed. Here are the 5 best pieces of advice I have for people who need to do the same.
Invest in Relationships.
My old agency partner Chris Colbert was fond of saying that agency new business leads come from 3 sources: Breakfasts, Lunches, and Dinners. I’ve come to appreciate this insight more and more over time.
So how many new people did you meet this week? How many cards did you collect at the events you attended? How many acquaintances did you check in with, just to say hello? That guy who e-mailed you looking for a job… did you offer to have coffee with him? If not, you should have. When he gets one — and he will — I promise he’ll remember you.
People who sell do all of these things, and the very best do them with genuine altruism and a desire to help others. In the end your ability to surface opportunities is a straight-line function of the number of people who are thinking about you this week, and job one is to make that happen among as large a group as possible, week in and week out.
Look for Problems, not Opportunities.
Opportunities knock, but when you look through the peephole, they’re often disguised as other people’s problems. People who can’t sell sometimes think it’s because they too rarely “find” opportunities. That’s nonsense. Fact is, most opportunities are made, by people who are very good at uncovering problems.
So look for problems. Walk in other people’s shoes. Make their problem yours, and really apply yourself to the problems best suited to your unique talents and experience. It may take some time, but good things will happen. Trust me.
Get the First Meeting Right.
The only “sales meeting” you really have is the first meeting. You have 5 objectives in this meeting, in this order:
- Establish warmth — Demonstrate you’re not a dick. To do this, it helps not to be a dick.
- Establish competence — The first question on the table in every meeting is “Why should I listen to you?” Bring some content to the dance; a slide or better yet a story that shows you to be someone worthy of attention in your prospect’s busy schedule.
- Find and confirm pain — “Pain” is what sales guys call The Problem, as it is perceived by the prospect. Have you asked what the problem is, exactly? Can you re-state it, in a way that makes them go, “Yes, exactly!” If not, slide after slide about how great you are wastes everyone’s time.
- Gather inputs for buying vision — “Buying Vision” is what sales guys call the mental picture of what your customer wants to buy. This will inevitably be different in small but important ways from what you want to sell. Closing that gap is what sales is all about.
- Get a concrete next step — Finally, leave with an action item. I hate when people come back from a pitch meeting and talk about what a “great meeting” it was. What’s the next step, Ziglar? If there’s not a clear one, it was most definitely NOT a great meeting.
Learn how to close.
I’m not talking about high pressure tactics here, I’m talking about following up to see where things are. Ask for the business. Show in your words and more importantly through the sustained intensity of your interest that you want the gig. If you don’t do that you don’t want it, and nobody gives their business to someone who’s disinterested in it.
In the end, you need to deliver the goods. It’s a small world, and everyone that matters in it is on LinkedIn. Deliver on your promises and do right by people, and one day you’ll turn around and be someone worthy of trust.
And there is no more useful sales tool than that.
Like this? Click 👏🏻 a few times to help spread the word, “Follow” to catch the next one, and Subscribe to our newsletter to keep in touch!