Offliners: What Business Owners Think of You...

by voiceofreason Banned
21 replies
One of the practices I've been addicted to over the past 5 - 6 years of selling to business owners is surveys. I am of the mind that you have two choices when it comes to your marketing:

1. Guess what they want, and think

2. Find out what they want and think

I'm not exactly a big fan of using guess-work as a business model - So I have made it a habit to ask pointed questions of my clients after the sale. Not all of them take the time to answer the questions of course, but in the past few years I've managed to accumulate a binder full of reviews and feedback, and would like to share the most popular questions/responses with you.

I find these answers to be quite educational - I hope you do too:

Questions:

A- How often were you approached by vendors offering similar services

Below you'll find the 3 most common responses in order. Remember, this is based on the average feedback of more than 60 business owners I've worked with:

1. 10 or more per week
2. At least once per day
3. Don't know/Don't pay enough attention to guess

What did I learn from this? That most businesses were getting hit up with similar/same offers a lot more often than I initially thought. In the beginning of my marketing efforts, I thought my message was unique. After learning how many offers they were getting, I modified my message, and was able to boost my conversion rate a good bit.

B- How did you react to these solicitations?

1. Ignore them
2. Tell them to stop contacting me
3. Listen for a short while then decide if it's worth my time

I found it interesting that the top response here was to completely ignore most solicitations. This is similar to what is deemed "banner blindness" online - Business owners are assault with advertising day in and day out, thus they result to filtering out a large chunk of the advertising without any consideration.

The #2 response shows how fed up most have become. The smallest percentage will give you a very short period of time (Seconds) to make your case, and show relevance before cutting you off.

C - Why did you not buy from other companies/salespersons

1. All saying the same thing/Not believable
2. Too pushy
3. Didn't say anything that caught my attention

Valuable! As can be seen from the top 3 here, most salespersons are approaching business owners with a pushy, non-relevant message. (At least it is perceived as such) I began calling on my competition at this stage to learn how they were presenting themselves so I could do the opposite!


D - What were they selling?

1. Website stuff
2. Some kind of internet marketing stuff
3. Something to do with Google

I asked this question because I wanted to know what the perception was of what was being sold. These answers told me that the typical business owner had no clue what was being offered - It was all being lumped together as "stuff." The big hint here was to focus on benefits, and stop with the technical chatter!

5 - Why did you buy from me?

1. You seemed like you knew what you were talking about
2. You kept sending good information
3. You were more clear

This final question clued me in to what I was doing right in the eyes of these very busy people. I rarely if ever made a sale on day #1 with these folks - Luckily I had a complete follow-up strategy in place that hit their in-box multiple times per month over the next 6 months or more.

But my messages were light on pushy sales talk, and heavy on content. I also went out of my way to demonstrate the benefits of what I was selling instead of just describing them.

What we sell as offliners is indeed needed by these businesses - Problem is they don't understand WHY they need it. When you can make a crystal clear presentation as to why this is critical, the task of selling becomes that much easier.
#business #offline #offliners #owners #small buisiness
  • Profile picture of the author Jason Kanigan
    Good advice. Being specific and clear about why what you do is different from what others do will help differentiate you in the mind of your prospect.

    Sounds simple. It isn't.

    The first time I wrote copy as a new BizDev Mgr for an IT firm, I was pretty pleased with myself. Customized solutions for your business, we listen, etc. etc. Then I googled around and found that almost every other IT firm in my field was saying the same thing!! Went back, asked questions of the company's existing clients, and rewrote.

    Now I know what to do and how to do it to generate this differentiated message. I charge quite a bit more than other copywriters to craft these, because the results the client is paying for are much better than the average, boring, bland, "safe" copy others will write. Your sales message should SELL, not inform how SAFE you are.
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  • Profile picture of the author TheLocalCoach
    Awesome feedback, thanks for sharing!

    Unfortunately many business don't even know they need our help, they only know what hurts! This is great feedback for how typical owners "perceive" sales pitches... allot of clutter, all sounding the same...and when you add technology into the equation, their eyes often glaze over.

    By positioning yourself as an expert... through your brand, persona, and content delivery system... you earned their trust and an open ear. Good work!
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  • Profile picture of the author voiceofreason
    Banned
    Great story Jason! I agree, a little market research can go a long way! When I first began training sales staff, it amazed me how many would do what you just described (Google the competition to see what they are saying) but with a different intent - They were copying the same sales message!

    Ouch! That's what I like to call "Camouflage Marketing" - Attempting to fit in, or blend in with the same message as everyone else. Works well if we want to hide, but not useful for much else.

    When I would ask the sales staff why they were doing this, their response was always the same: "Well the message must be working, otherwise they wouldn't use it!"

    The rationale sounds great in theory, but in the real world it simply does not hold water. Too many assumptions. The average consumer in the U.S. is now exposed to more than 1 million advertising messages per year. (An estimated 3,000 per day)

    We have our filters on, and we are picky about what messages deserve our limited attention. Fine tuning, and real world feed-back is a must if we wish to enjoy a high(er) conversion rate.

    Thanks again for the comments and feed-back!
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  • Profile picture of the author fitz10
    Some very good advice in this thread. Marketing to the offline field has become way too much of a "me too" exercise. Differentiation and client education are key to snagging those clients.
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  • Profile picture of the author Suze Thomas
    It's interesting the answers given for point C -
    "Why did you not buy from other companies/salespersons?"
    1. All saying the same thing/Not believable

    The 'not believable' part is worth remembering. Working on being more credible and
    not promising the moon would be a good place to start. That's why I refuse to make big claims for getting clients "top spot on page 1" with Google.
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  • Profile picture of the author Aaron Doud
    I can agree 100% we get hit less at work but the guys who call often sound like they know less than me about this stuff and want $500 a month or more.

    Sorry if I am going to convince my bosses to do more I am going to get them to take me out of sales and let me do SEO, PPC, and other internet marketing full time.
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    • Profile picture of the author sjohn
      Thanks for sharing this great information.
      This is valuable information from a customers point of view.
      I'm sure alot of these factors were overlooked by the marketers, and alot of the time there doesn't seem to be focus on the benfits for the customer.
      The trick is being able to convey how you can help them amongst all the noise they recieve.
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  • Profile picture of the author 36burrows
    Great info, although kind of discouraging knowing that they get pitched SEO services multiple times a week.
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  • Profile picture of the author voiceofreason
    Banned
    36burrows - I understand where you are coming from, but I don't look at it as discouraging. Rather, I view it as a huge bonus when the primary competition lowers the bar so much.

    I also incorporate their irritation into my marketing and sales pitch, and thus use it as an ice-breaker. When I find out how irritated my prospects are regarding over-saturated "me too" style phone calls and ads, I spin it into a script:

    "Hello _________, this is ___________ from ___________ ... I'm sure you must get flooded with phone calls every single week from those annoying companies promising to "Get your website to the front page of Google" and then promise you the moon if you'll just sign up for some sort of monthly contract and SEO service right?"

    More often than not I get an agreement at this point, and I empathize with them. I will usually toss in a quick joke "Yea, I know us phone guys can be like vultures sometimes! The reason I am calling is a bit different than those other guys, as I have something very important I wanted to share with you, and it's going to take less than a minute - But I believe you'll be glad I shared this finding with you..."

    This is a very rough over-view as I do not use word for word scripts, but it gives you a quick glance at how I removed the primary objection up front, shared a quick laugh with them by making fun of us "phone guys" a bit, but then told him I had something important to share, it'll take less than a minute, and it's going to benefit him...

    Quick, easy, and it's worked for me for years no matter how saturated the market. The competition is only competition if you let them be. I don't view those other guys pitching mass SEO services as competition since they are not communicating clearly enough for most business owners to even know what they are talking about! All the business owners hear is "I'm here to sell you something, and I sound just like everyone else!"

    Avoid making that mistake and your conversion rate goes through the roof.

    One more little gold nugget to share with you... If you pick up the phone with an intent to sell 1 particular service, you've already started off on the wrong foot. It may be unintentional, but it's ultimately pigeon-holing your prospects, instead of finding out what they really need, and what they want - Then customizing your offerings from there.

    This is a more consultative approach vs. "pushy sales-person" approach. There is a difference, and your prospects will thank you for it. If SEO is something you really want to sell as it's your primary product, then use it as an add-on sale. Something you keep in your back pocket until the time is right to bring it up...

    The prospects will be more open to hearing about it, and forget all about the other guys if you build rapport first, consult first, sell the service later when they are warmed up, and not "cold" anymore.
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    • Profile picture of the author David Miller
      Below you'll find the 3 most common responses in order. Remember, this is based on the average feedback of more than 60 business owners I've worked with:

      A- How often were you approached by vendors offering similar services

      1. 10 or more per week
      2. At least once per day
      3. Don't know/Don't pay enough attention to guess

      I don't believe this for a minute....I hear this day in and day out but the fact is that I've NEVER experienced it....to me its always been a sign of someones overblown self-importance and nothing more.

      I might also add to this that I have received 3 calls in the past 15 months offering SEO services...and I am NOT hiding from anyone!
      Signature
      The big lesson in life, baby, is never be scared of anyone or anything.
      -- FRANK SINATRA, quoted in The Way You Wear Your Hat
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    • Profile picture of the author warmchords
      Originally Posted by voiceofreason View Post

      "Hello _________, this is ___________ from ___________ ... I'm sure you must get flooded with phone calls every single week from those annoying companies promising to "Get your website to the front page of Google" and then promise you the moon if you'll just sign up for some sort of monthly contract and SEO service right?"
      I haven't quite buckled down and done any serious cold calling yet, but I'm glad to hear that this is working for someone else in this field. I'm still working on landing my first client, finally getting some consultation appointments lined up disguised as interviews (I am interviewing them for a blog that I will eventually launch...) and I intend to be open about the fact that I do web design and marketing for small businesses, but I plan to get them talking about specific services by asking what other marketers have tried to sell them before and why they didn't take them up on it.

      When I used to sell TVs on commission I would often approach people to quickly ask how their day was going, and reassure them that I wouldn't be following them around like a vulture or bothering them again unless they needed my help. Got a lot of laughs that way and sold more electronics than most of my co-workers to boot.
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      • Profile picture of the author voiceofreason
        Banned
        Originally Posted by warmchords View Post

        When I used to sell TVs on commission I would often approach people to quickly ask how their day was going, and reassure them that I wouldn't be following them around like a vulture or bothering them again unless they needed my help. Got a lot of laughs that way and sold more electronics than most of my co-workers to boot.
        Awesome example warmchords! Most people who meet a high level of resistance when selling bring it on themselves by playing right into the stereotypical approach that business owners expect, and guard against.

        As an example, consider when we go to shop for a major purchase at a furniture store, or car lot. How many times do we say "Just browsing" when approached by a sales person, even when we are looking for something specific?

        Why do we do this? Because we don't want to be bothered. However, if a sales person approaches us without feeding into the negative stereotype, (pattern disrupt) and gives off a sense of credibility and genuine caring/helpfulness -It often softens the response - Just as you did in the story you shared above.

        Awesome job! The phone is a powerful tool - And it's immediate results to boot!
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  • Profile picture of the author voiceofreason
    Banned
    Interesting David. So you are claiming that because you, a single individual have not been the recipient of multiple solicitations that it invalidates everyone else's experience? That they have a "over-blown sense of self-importance"?

    Quite the leap of logic there my friend! Funny thing is I personally receive at least 1 solicitation per day, at least 2 or 3 if I include email. Using your logic, I should then claim that I don't believe your experience because it differs from mine.

    See how that works? It's called a logical fallacy. Instead of claiming that all these business owners are walking around with massive ego's and lying in their surveys, would it not make more sense to look at the fact that perhaps they work in a more heavily targeted industry than yours? Or perhaps they are far more visible? Or perhaps they have ads out there in the Yellow Pages, and newspaper that is making them a target?

    There is any number of explanations that make far more sense than your conclusion. Not to mention the fact, that most sales reps these days are taught to target larger businesses - 5 - 10 mil or more in revenue, or based on employee size - etc.

    All of these variables would work together to influence how much a person is, or is not targeted.
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  • Profile picture of the author David Miller
    Interesting David. So you are claiming that because you, a single individual have not been the recipient of multiple solicitations that it invalidates everyone else's experience? That they have a "over-blown sense of self-importance"?

    Exactly
    Signature
    The big lesson in life, baby, is never be scared of anyone or anything.
    -- FRANK SINATRA, quoted in The Way You Wear Your Hat
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    • Profile picture of the author voiceofreason
      Banned
      Originally Posted by David Miller View Post

      Interesting David. So you are claiming that because you, a single individual have not been the recipient of multiple solicitations that it invalidates everyone else's experience? That they have a "over-blown sense of self-importance"?

      Exactly
      Wow. All I have to say on that matter. I suppose this means the market research and survey industries are in trouble! Apparently the only cross section needed is one persons opinion! lol
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    • Profile picture of the author crock
      Originally Posted by David Miller View Post

      Interesting David. So you are claiming that because you, a single individual have not been the recipient of multiple solicitations that it invalidates everyone else's experience? That they have a "over-blown sense of self-importance"?

      Exactly
      I'm going to go out a limb and say you're not a "honeypot" (e.g. Dentist, Doctor, Chiropractor, etc).

      I know for a FACT that the clients I work with who are in this category get hit up on a daily basis via calls, email and even fax. I was WAY surprised that companies are still using Fax marketing. The reason I know this is because almost every time I'm in the office they receive calls. Every...single...time.

      But on the flip side, I work with clients who are BARELY approached so maybe you're in that category.
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      • Profile picture of the author David Miller
        I was going to answer but I'll just let this go.
        Signature
        The big lesson in life, baby, is never be scared of anyone or anything.
        -- FRANK SINATRA, quoted in The Way You Wear Your Hat
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        • Profile picture of the author crock
          Originally Posted by David Miller View Post

          I was going to answer but I'll just let this go.
          Please do. I'd be interested in hearing your response to a fact that's been stated by business owners that I personally work with. Surely you can't tell us that we're wrong about our personal observations.

          BTW, you ARE right about some business owners not getting calls. There are certain businesses who never get calls. A shutter company I work with doesn't get very many calls at all.
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  • Profile picture of the author SocialPros
    Great advice
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  • Profile picture of the author Aaron Doud
    At the place I work I get about 4 emails a week for seo services and a call or two a month. Just to give you an idea of what we get.
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  • Profile picture of the author voiceofreason
    Banned
    Thanks for sharing Aaron! How would you rate most of htese solicitations? High quality? Well written? Attention getting? I was browing through my sites yesterday to clear out the comment spam, and it seems that's yet another method of soliciting that these companies are using.

    Apparently in the past 10 days I've received another 7 or 8 solicitations in the form of blog comments promising to "help me get to page #1" - Which I found a bit humorous since my site is already page 1, spot 1 for the relevant terms I target.

    Based on this thread so far, it appears we have:

    - Phone calls
    - Emails
    - Faxes
    - Junk Mail
    - Blog Comments

    I also should throw in that comment form bots have been sending me a few messages each month as well. They use my comment form to send an ad. Haha - That just smacks of desperation, so we won't even talk about that one.
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