Six Sales Tips You Can’t Be Without

Blog, Business skills

Sales skills aren’t just the domain of the sales team in your organisation. Sales skills can explain the logic or benefits of your perspective to another colleague, customer or employer. It’s just another aspect of communication.

Yes – sales skills can win new business, but these skills are also applicable to many other aspects of professional life, such as going for a job interview, gaining new investment, nurturing customer relationships, networking and more.

Selling yourself can seem unnatural and weird, but it’s a skill you should learn to master.

Selling Yourself Effectively

When you go for a new job, don’t simply measure yourself against a position description or the company in question. Instead ask those who know you well about your unique strengths, something that you do without even realising it, that’s immensely beneficial to you. Employers will jump at the chance to employ someone with a distinctive skill set, rather than someone who simply lives up to a standard.

The Nuts and Bolts of Sales

In terms of traditional sales and winning new business, you should follow these guidelines in the early stages. In your project notes or simply in your mind’s eye, make an objective for a particular meeting with the client. Having a clear goal in mind when you have meetings, will avoid the pitfalls of vague communications and interactions. Some examples of goals for meetings include: 1. Getting a description of the customer’s problem. 2. Getting the contact details of the decision maker. 3 Asking for the customer’s business.

Sales does not need to be cheesy. It can instead be authentic and real…but beware of setting off any bullshit-o-meters. Be real.

Green Lights and Qualifiers

Look for subtle hints and green lights from the client, that it may be the right time to close. This is done by qualifying them with questions like: How does that sound? How would that work? What do you think about that? Then summarise your proposed offer with them. It’s 100% true that half of the battle is won by you being completely confident in your solution.

Be Tenacious

Prompt: Be a go-getter and jump onto sales leads quickly. If you intuit that the time is right to close a sale, then they do so right then and there.
Persist: If you know that the customer needs that particular solution, then be persistent and yet flexible in your offering to them. Although there’s a difference between persistence and being annoying, so be careful.
Focus: Use every sales opportunity to improve your skills at communication and proactive questioning. Then channel every new experience into your next sales opportunity.

Embracing your inner weirdo (in other words your authenticity) is a way to really stand out from the masses.

Customer Centric Selling

One critical aspect of selling is intimately knowing the customer’s needs, motivations and perspective. Otherwise your efforts will be pointless. This is perfectly articulated in a Ted Talk by Amy Lockwood. She explained a situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where charity and NGO organisations were distributing huge numbers of condoms in the region to prevent the spread of HIV. However these charity condoms were incredibly unpopular, as they were marketed in the wrong way to their target audience. Pictures on the packaging depicted images of fidelity and the HIV ribbon symbol. They found that condom brands from the West depicting erotic imagery were the biggest sellers in the Congo.

The key message we can take from this, is that any customer solution that you offer must be fine-tuned and customised to the individual or group in question. Otherwise it will fall on deaf ears.

Watch the TED talk here:

Dense Versus Sparse Networks

Dense business networks of people contain individuals who know each other closely and have a lot of interconnected relationships. Dense networks are ideal for people working on the same project, such as researchers or project teams.

In the realm of sales – dispersed networks of people work in your favour.

However in terms of sales, dispersed networks work better. Dispersed networks occur when individuals that you know, don’t know each other. This is the ideal situation for getting fresh or unique information that others don’t know about, for example a sales lead. To attempt to utilise your sales network, try and build a network of key decision makers in prospect organisations. Also, keep a network of existing customers, who often comprise of fans and brand advocates. These people will actively promote your brand on your behalf, and give you new sales leads on a plate without you even asking.

Getting consistently on-brand content for clients can be a challenge for a number of reasons. This definitive guide for content managers takes the pain out of planning, coordinating and managing content writers so that there’s a high quality and consistent result for the clients.

The definitive guide for content managers: How to get the most out of content writers
Don’t squash or squander their creativity, incorporate it and encourage it!

1. Get the right client brief

The client should be clear about their content requirements with you, so that you can then translate this for your freelance content writers. If the client is unclear themselves about what they need then put your strategy hat on and provide insights and recommendations for them about content types, relevant channels, content strategy, timelines and what sort of content and platforms will get the best results.

2. Work out the strategy

If you and the client are going down the blogging route, then develop a third party blogging strategy that encompasses the needs of the client and a series of credible, interesting and enjoyable blogging topics. These blog posts will need to read as authentic, interesting and from an SEO point of view, a good way to provide backlinks to your client’s website.

3. Ideation of topics around thought leadership

The content strategy should emphasise that the client is an authority in a particular area. Be it teaching languages or selling lawnmowers. So the posts created by the content writers should demonstrate this expertise by offering helpful, practical advice that can be a real resource to readers.

4. Communicate with your content writers

Once you have liaised with the client extensively and worked out a content strategy, then at this point its a good time to involve your content writers in the content creation process. You can ask them to consider your topic idea and investigate into the topic extensively. Ask your writers to write while considering whether or not they would actually enjoy reading the article themselves. Would they find the article useful or enjoyable to read. If not, then there is still work to be done on the post before it goes live.

The definitive guide for content managers: How to get the most out of content writers
Communication is critical with your team to get the best result in terms of writing

5. Headlines are vital

Get your writers to consider the strength of the title. Headlines/titles are a key part of blogging. People don’t spend ages reading everything online; they read what stands out and catches their attention. The headline is a writer’s chance to grab the attention of the audience and the post itself is the chance to maintain attention in a sustained way. Content writers can do this in a number of ways, including:

  • Surprising the audience.
  • Creating a sense of mystery
  • Making the audience empathise with something
  • Talking about a trigger (such as a celebrity, news story or seasonal event) they may be interested in.

Headline formats: 

  • Top 10 tips
  • How to…
  • 6 of the best…
  • 8 ways to…
  • 7 reasons why…
  • Dos and don’ts
  • The secret of…
  • The lazy way to…
  • 10 things we can learn from…
  • Early warning signs of…
  • The big question (one people can empathise with!)
  • Do you make these common mistakes?
The definitive guide for content managers: How to get the most out of content writers
Push your headlines to go off with a bang, not a whimper

6. Blog post essentials

In order to make sure your content writers are making web-friendly content, instruct them on including the following blog post essentials into their posts. These make posts more scannable and useful.

  • Great sub-heading
  • Bullet-point lists
  • Specific recommendations:
    • Places, events, etc
    • Physical addresses and contact phone numbers.
    • Website URLs and information
    • Maps
  • Images
  • Embed codes for Google Maps
  • Embed codes for YouTube clips

7. Branding considerations

There are certain commonsense things no client will want to talk about in articles such as crime, drug abuse, etc. Many of these topics will be obvious and won’t require any explanation.

Although ensure that you liaise with your clients for any touchy subjects or off-brand subjects that should not appear in content. Instruct your content writers to bear in mind that they should think about the client’s desired projected image and branding when they are writing. Instruct them to cut anything they are unsure about.

Also remember that the focus of an article should never be a service offered by a client’s rival. Services offered by the client must never be referred to in a negative way. If they’re compared with something, they should be represented as the better choice.

The definitive guide for content managers: How to get the most out of content writers
Writing for brands can be risky, especially when you need to explore difficult subjects

8. Accuracy, grammar and punctuation

Although as the content manager you should be vigilant for various grammar and punctuation issues in the final copy, the overall responsibility to ensure factual accuracy and quality control should also be the purview of the content writers themselves.

However for them to do their job properly, you should provide them with clear guidance on this. For example if they have to read a sentence more than once, they should rephrase it. Ask for concise, plain and punchy language. Use the active voice, not the passive voice. Break up sentences longer than 2 clauses.Paragraphs should only be 2-4 lines long – if they’re longer, ask the content writer to break them up. Subheadings and bullet-point lists should be used where possible to make content easier to scan and speed-read.

The definitive guide for content managers: How to get the most out of content writers
Exploring content together and proof-reading as a collaborative team is the best way to ensure accuracy

6. Including Links (external content)

Links in blog posts add legimitacy to the content and provide a high quality addition to posts. Get your content writers to include links naturally in the context of the post. By including them in an author bio they can demonstrate the client’s expertise rather than pollute the content. When links are included, ensure the content writers include them naturally in sentences – the grammar should be correct.

7. Formatting

Provide clear instructions on how content writers should format their posts before submission. How pedantic you become about this is up to you! Below are some guidelines I needed to follow to ensure that posts were consistent all of the time. With a huge workflow, this can be very time-saving in the long term.

  • Posts should be in Word with the following format:
  • Language should be set to English (UK)
  • Margins: 2.54cm all way round
  • Line spacing: 1.15
  • Font: Calibri, 11pt, black (not headings/subheadings)
  • Text alignment: justified (not headings/subheadings)
  • Main heading: centre, Calibri, 26pt, bold.
  • 1st-level subheadings: left, Calibri, 18pt, bold
  • 2nd-level subheadings: left, Calibri, 14pt, bold.
  • Keywords/links: hyperlinks should be inserted where keywords appear in the text, like this.
  • Line breaks: Please leave line breaks after headings and images and between paragraphs.

10. Submitting content

In order to avoid the confusion of a multitude of work coming in from different content writers and for different client briefs, you should give your content writers clear instructions on submission as follows:

  • Reply to the email you were sent that contains the relevant content brief, leaving the original subject line.
  • Attach the Word document with correct file name along with the relevant 2 images (all together in a zip file would be ideal).
  • Include any relevant notes within the body of the email.

Is your content working hard and producing good enough results for your business? Find out with a free content audit!

The definitive guide for content managers: How to get the most out of content writers

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How to Judge When to Use Long or Short Copy

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How do you know when you’ve raved on for too long about a product or service? It just depends on what you’re trying to achieve and the audience. Here’s the only guide you’ll ever need for when to tone it down, and where more elaboration is needed.

The Litmus Test for Long or Short Copy

The product

A good rule of thumb to follow is the more complex, luxurious, technical or unknown the product is – the longer you need to make the copy. After all, what sort of information would you need to know, if you were going to part with a lot of money, for something you didn’t understand or have never heard of?

The purpose

What do you need to do with the copy?  If want to explain the benefits of a simple and well-known product, only a couple of sentences will suffice. If you’re wanting to compare your product to the competition and state why yours is superior – more words will be required.

How to Judge When to Use Long or Short Copy
Think of the end-goal for the copy, and work backwards from there

The Rules of Headlines

The rules are as bendy and flexible as Playdoe. When it comes to headlines, the more creative, pun-tastic and playful they are – the better. The 100 Greatest Advertisements by Julian Lewis Watkins is a classic study of the metrics are required for writing. Watkins believed that headlines are best abbreviated to eight words or less.  Although in recent years, this theory has been challenged.

UX guru Jakob Neilsen conducted a study about how readers’ eyes travel across webpages. This demonstrated that readers scan webpages in an F pattern. So the top of the page including the headline is crucial. As well as the first sub-heading, and any points of interest while scrolling down the page, including pull quotes and images.

How to Judge When to Use Long or Short Copy
Sometimes what you think will work in copy just isn’t the case…and you need to go weirder…much weirder.

What we can take from this is that headlines are the primary pulling point for most readers. So it’s important to have rapid-fire, intriguing headlines. The eight words or less maxim may not apply. For some in-depth advice on creating effective headlines, check out Ten ways to write killer headlines.

When Less is More

How to Judge When to Use Long or Short Copy
Sassy is a good word to describe going OTT or a bit extra on copy…sometimes this is needed.

Well-Known Everyday Items

Convenience products like groceries or chain restaurants offerings don’t need lengthy descriptions or much persuasion to sell. The same goes for well-known brand name products. Such as over-the-counter medicines,    Keep the copy nice and short and it will be enough to get a sales conversion.

Let the Picture (or multimedia) tell the story

Imagine that you’re selling home décor or conversely – a debut single for a band. Less copy is necessary and instead there’s a need for either audio or visual input on the product page. Think of the functionality or suitability of the item, does this need to be explained? If it doesn’t then don’t bother!

How to Judge When to Use Long or Short Copy
Sometimes words can be cheap and an illustration or a photo can tell the story better…embrace those opportunities.

Tried and Tested products

This is the cousin to every-day budget items. Tried and tested products that work the way people expect them to work, don’t require much selling or additional words. Instead what they do require is a compelling and competitive price point, because well-known items are more likely to prompt people to shop around for the best price.

When More is More

Big Ticket Luxury Items

People will need more of a reason to part with large sums of money for big ticket items. There needs to be comprehensive selling points that work in association with strong branding imagery and advertising.

Products That Require a ‘Try Before You Buy’ Principle

 This includes cosmetics, skin care, shoes, clothes, hats, sunglasses, perfume and so on.

Untested items

Any items that haven’t been tried and tested on the market before, or that are unfamiliar to the chosen audience, deserve a much longer and in-depth write up, about the benefits over existing products.

Specialty or Bespoke items

These are the items that people never knew that they needed or wanted until it came along. They fulfill a need and make life easier in some way. However they need to be explained. The same goes for customised or bespoke items. These need to be explained because they have many unique variables and are costed higher than other products.

Is your content working hard and producing good enough results for your business? Find out with a free content audit!

Ten Lessons To Learn About Pinterest From Top Storytellers

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Pinterest is nowhere near as popular as Instagram, however its a repository of quirky, unusual or weird art and online discoveries can cavort together. If you have images that convey a story in a spectacular or unique way – these images will do well on Pinterest. Here are ten tips for getting the most out of Pinterest from the people who rule the roost.

1. Have a sense of humour

Copywriter Tiffany Beveridge created a board called ‘My Imaginary Well-Dressed Toddler‘. She repinned photos from fashion editorials and created an instant cult classic in Quinoa, her imaginary daughter.  The moral of the story: don’t be afraid to be amusing or satirical, it will get you followers. Click image to see more

”Though their chances were slim, Quinoa generously invited Sauté and Gouda to bring their A-game and join the lineup of potential dates for the preschool prom”

2. Use Secret Boards

Secret boards are private and are invitation-only. This can be handy for a private collaboration area. You could leverage this by creating a VIP area for customers or colleagues to contribute to their own private board. This is perfect for businesses like landscape gardening, wedding planning, interior decorating and design.

3. Aim to Thrill and Amaze

Pinterest is about adding and curating beautiful images that will thrill, inspire and amaze people. This is taken to epic proportions by Pinterest maven Karen Nyberg. She’s a A NASA astronaut, who posted images of earth onto Pinterest from space.  Now you obviously can’t pull that sort of rabbit out of the hat – but you get the point, right? Click image to view more.

4.Use Portrait Images

The way that Pinterest is structured, it gives preference to tall photos. Photos that are taller than they are wide, are going to display in a much more eye-popping way. So that means you should pin portrait photos rather than landscape and use dark borders around photos. This will make the images more conducive to repins and likes.

5. Be Prolific and Polite

Pin regularly on a variety of topics. This will increase the likelihood of people liking and following you. Also, you should repay interest by repinning, liking and following people in kind. Interior Designer Maryanne Rizzo does this very well, for her 9 million followers she curates pins and with her sharp eye for design, manages to inspire and educate her followers. Click image for more from her.

6. Target Women

Women pin the most frequently and are the most prolific users of Pinterest. Therefore targeting women on Pinterest is a no-brainer. It’s perfect for boutique and bespoke offerings in fashion, education, art, interior design, craft DIY, food, wine beauty, home décor. Case in point is Suzy Brookes who offers teacher resources and learning strategies to 15,000 followers.

Women use Pinterest far more frequently than men

7. Kill Your Darlings

Be ruthless with your products and only showcase the best ones on Pinterest

Don’t post every single product image in the inventory to Pinterest. Be ruthlessly selective in your choices. Nobody wants to see that except you! Pinterest isn’t about blatant self-promotion, it’s about adding and curating pictures that will inspire and amaze people.

8. Throw Out the Brand Rule Book

The worst thing you could do is come across as touting products or services. Instead, you should keep pins interesting and their descriptions thought-provoking. Trey Ratcliff is generous with his photo sharing and licensing rules and offers his own stunning photography to his 4.7 million followers. He does so in a warm and inclusive way that encourages people to follow him.

9. Create Image Mash-ups

Mash-up several compelling images into a vertical block. This is perfect for showing a step-by-step process or before/after shots. Sellers on Etsy do this very well.  Ren Mitchell is a crafty DIY extraordinaire who offers up step-by-step images on how to make cool jewellry and bespoke art. See more by clicking on the image.

10. Be Mysterious

A good image is like dangling a carrot in a starving person’s face. However if the description underneath provides all the information they need, nobody will click through to the website. Instead in the description, you should deliberately withhold the full story to encourage click-throughs.

Is your content working hard and producing good enough results for your business? Find out with a free content audit!

Six essentials for brilliant newsletter design and content

Six essentials for brilliant newsletter design and content

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Email is far more personal and immediate than other forms of digital marketing. An e-newsletter is the perfect way of reaching your clients, followers and those who have varying levels of curiosity about you and your business. E-newsletters allow you to prepare customers and potential new customers throughout different stages of the buying cycle. It also allows you to differentiate yourself from competitors by offering more added value, insights, incentives and offers, with this closer mode of contact. People will be much more likely to purchase a product or service from your business when you stick to these six essential rules.

Six essentials for brilliant newsletter design and content
Don’t wait until you are drowning in BAU work…start planning early!

1. Set Goals and Plan Early

Before writing your newsletter, or creating a proper online marketing campaign, it’s important to set out goals. This will clarify the purpose of each newsletter, and also it’s placement within a broader internet marketing campaign of newsletter topics. This is when you should consider frequency, time of day for delivery, build a solid subscriber list and also the thematic or seasonal offers and topics that relate to a broader editorial calendar.

2. What does the audience want to know about?

Consider what the target audience wants to know about, not what your organisation wants to tell them. In other words, don’t go for the super-hard sell. Instead offer relevant, interesting and on-brand content through the newsletter. Otherwise it’s liable to end up in the recycle bin.

Six essentials for brilliant newsletter design and content
It’s always worth your time to investigate what your audience really wants, rather than banging your own drum.

3. Does your newsletter add value?

Put every newsletter content through a check-list. Does it offer special insights? exclusive content? a product or service discount? A great newsletter makes people realise why they subscribed in the first place. It fosters loyalty from people, because it gives them exclusive access to a secret club.

Six essentials for brilliant newsletter design and content
Does your newsletter ad value for customers? If not it may not be worth your time.

4. Consider the time of delivery

Heavy internet users usually check their email at least five times per day. Even people who are constantly busy, will check their email at least once per day. In the morning between 8 and 10 am is often a popular time, also after dinner at around 8pm. Catch people when they are relaxed and have time to browse. Groupon often send out lunchtime offers and this works very well.

5. Call to Action

Click here for more information. Click here for the limited offer. Check availability now.

A newsletter should have plenty of ways to ”find out more”. There should also be plenty of one-click options so that people can follow the business on social media. Make it simple and impulsive for people to stay in touch in many ways!

Six essentials for brilliant newsletter design and content
A hummingbird’s heart beats at 1,263 beats per minute. What is your superpower? And therefore what should your call to action be?

6. Think Seasonal and Topical

Plan the newsletters around local holidays, the four seasons, industry news, legislative changes. When this is stuff that people want to hear about it’s online marketing gold!

Is your content working hard and producing good enough results for your business? Find out with a free content audit!