Sales and marketing are much easier than is commonly believed. There is one huge component missing from most advice in this area, and certainly from the vast majority of companies, who struggle as a result. This also applies to the business side of being a successful writer.
What is that mysterious missing component?
The ability to listen to an individual customer, a segment of a customer group, or an entire prospective public is the key to success in this thing called business. For writers, where you see the word 'customer', insert 'reader'.
Listening to an entire public is marketing; listening to a single customer is sales.
Becoming a success at this means that your entire marketing strategy needs to be examined and remodelled as needed in alignment with the above. This is to ensure that
1. Every piece of promotion you do is planned by survey, so that you know it will be effective.
2. Your promotion concentrates attention (instead of dispersing it across many different subjects).
3. Your promotional pieces are good ambassadors for your business, go to the correct public and get responses resulting in effective sales.
If it is appropriate for your business, you need to have a business magazine, produced within business guidelines and mailed to every person in your database on time every month. What is a magazine, in truth? Is it a way of pushing products at the public? No - a truly effective magazine is a travelling piece of evidence that you are listening. It should contain articles about the issues faced by your customer, stories of difficulties faced and overcome by customers, and the results of many, many surveys that you have done in the past and through the magazine which show your ongoing willingness to listen to the customer and provide exactly what he or she needs.
Success means that you will eventually have a file for every person who has ever bought anything from you, in good order and up to date, fully computerised, if you haven’t got one already. These files represent the people in them; they contain that portion of each customer which has engaged with your business.
Listen to these files.
Your whole body of contacts needs to be written to periodically regardless of reply. Letters and emails that you post out should not push your business or its products, but ask lots of intelligent questions. When replies are obtained, they need to be studied and the person’s questions promptly handled in each response, each answer showing a marvellous listening ability.
Restructure your business’s sales lines so that sales personnel apply proper procedures for signing up and taking money from individual customers. This is not an arduous process: in fact, sales done the right way takes less effort than sales done in the ‘normal’ way.
In the accepted way of selling to customers, the sales person must be super-charged, fast-thinking, able to ‘outwit’ the customer at every turn, equipped with total knowledge of the product so that he or she can counter the customer’s every objection. ‘Sales’ has a reputation of being high-pressure, hyper-intense and largely about persistence in breaking down resistance.
What actually works in sales, in truth, is the opposite to this: a customer purchases something comfortably not when his or her objections are overcome and all resistance is overpowered, a customer makes a purchase comfortably when he or she perceives that what you have to offer fills a gap, a need, a vacuum in some aspect of their lives. That gap, need, or vacuum is what drives the sale, not the salesperson.
Your sales personnel need to be trained professionally to apply the one major skill they either lack at present or under-employ: how to listen genuinely and without interruptions, to customers.
All marketing and sales staff will know what your business is selling, inside and out, not so as to bombard a customer with the characteristics of your products but in order to carefully and precisely match those products to each customer’s specific needs.
This opens the door to more than you might think. If your product has ‘upsells’ or ‘downsells’ - that is, products of a larger more expansive (and expensive) nature, or cheaper products than the one being sold at that moment in time - a sensitively trained salesperson will immediately recognise how each might fit the individual customer’s need, and will therefore be able to ‘make the sale’ more effectively without any high-pressure sales spiel at all.
As a result of all this, you may find that you have to employ salespeople dedicated to the sales of different lines of product just to keep pace with the interest generated.