sales

“Go for No,” Boundaries and Putting Your Work Out There

I recently realized how lucky I am. Although my baby is 100% dependent on me for all things, she can’t do crazy things like move or talk back to me. But there will come a day when I have to tell her “No.” It’s not because she’s bad or prone to getting into trouble- she just doesn’t understand that the world has boundaries.

As an adult, that’s a blessing and a curse.

There’s an obvious argument for boundaries, like personal space and not taking things that don’t belong to you. But when it comes to being innovative and entrepreneurial, there are some boundaries that inhibit rather than protect.

Last winter as an interesting personal/professional development exercise, I read “Go for No” by Richard Fenton. I don’t wantd to “spoil” it, but the basic premise is that successful sales-people are the ones who keep going beyond where they’re comfortable or successful. Say for instance your goal was to sell 5 books in a month. Once you hit that goal, do you stop or keep going? Well, according to Fenton, you keep going (until you hit “no”).



The idea is that most people set goals that are squarely within their comfort zones. I’m no exception- for two years my “goal time” for a marathon was to finish- even though I’d done them before. Instead, as the book explains, we should be pushing for “failure,” or what we’ve been taught to perceive as failure, and that’s what will help us grow. Staying stagnant doesn’t cut it. (Sidenote: I saw something on Instagram the other day that said “FAIL = First Attempt In Learning”).

But I don’t think my mind was the only one that was boggled by the whole “No is good” concept, because 10 years after the book was written, people are still using it as a reference for sales, and they have a new book called “Go for No Network Marketing” which is a little longer than its prequel. The “Go for No” website and social media channels are also continuously updated still, promoting the work (and you can book the authors to come speak at your next professional development/teambuilding event).

With catchphrases like “eat NO for breakfast” and “stop striving, start arriving,” I am starting to understand the buy-in a little more. Most of all, the book really got me to question something- have I been adverse to sales/self-promotion because it’s actually part of my personality (shyness/introversion) OR because I’ve been taught to stay within a comfort zone?

I guess that’s an answer only I can provide, but if you’re interested in exploring/expanding your potential, whether in a “sales” sense or other professional development sense, “Go for No” is an interesting read that will make you ask some questions only you can answer.

Get a copy of “Go For No” on Amazon (Note: this is an affiliate link)



Selling More Online 101

This month’s theme is all about selling more (using what you already have), so look for upcoming posts about specific concepts (like cross selling and upselling) but for now, let’s get started with some basics to get your head thinking in this direction.

Having worked on my first ecommerce site in a very long time recently, I realized that selling online can be tricky when it’s your own business. Certain things that may seem obvious from a distance become less obvious when you’re actually “in it.”

To sell more, as a business you have three general options:

  1. Sell different products/services to the same people.
  2. Sell the same products/services to different people.
  3. If you sell products, add services to go with and vice versa.

Here’s what each of those options looks like:

Selling different products/services to the same people.

This is the ‘easiest’ as your current customers already know you and trust you.



One way to get thinking about this is to use a large website like Amazon or Ebay to look at your products, paying attention to the ‘Best Selling’ and ‘People Who Bought This Also Bought’ sections:

Maybe it’s because I’ve never sold coolers before but I would have never though people would need a mountable wire rack to hold jugs.

This kind of thinking will get a bunch of potential products on your radar that you would have never thought of otherwise. Some you may be interested in carrying, some perhaps not, but it could give you a fresh perspective on your business that your current customers will appreciate.

Other ideas in this same vein:

  • bulk discounts
  • ‘bundles’ of products at a discount
  • loyalty programs

You get the idea; you want to increase your offerings so people have more of a chance to buy but not in a direction you don’t want to go in. Ex: If you do air conditioning repair but don’t want to sell the air conditioners themselves, don’t go there… or else you’ll have air conditioners all over your workshop AND be unhappy.


Selling the same products/services to different people.

This is a bit more nuanced because while you are spending more time (and money) to reach new people, you are doing less work as you aren’t making new offerings so much as repackaging/reframing current ones.

Let’s say you sell pint glasses to breweries. You put their logo on the glass and get them out. At a certain point, you may run out of breweries. So why not offer pint glasses for school fundraisers? Or pint glasses for beer festivals? Clearly, depending on how you want your business to grow, you may choose one of these options over the other as a starting point but you get the idea. Both of these will involve building a different kind of web page (note: I’m not saying a separate website, just a landing page on your current site with information for that particular audience), doing a different kind of advertising campaign, and building a different contact list.

‘White labeling’ is a popular concept that goes with this idea. This means simply taking a product or service and reworking it slightly for another company/group. You can give someone a ‘just for you’ experience without starting from square one. You see this concept a lot with software, like these two separate insurance websites running identical software, but you can apply this in other ways too.

Let’s say you write a book about finding the right social media career. You may rework it slightly to make it specifically for college grads, website developers looking to transition into marketing, or seniors re-entering the labor force. Each of these groups have slightly different concerns/backgrounds and you will frame the information you have slightly differently, but it won’t take nearly the amount of time it would take to write three separate books.


If you sell products, add services and vice versa.

Let’s say you’re a photographer who can think of different picture taking scenarios all day. Since you can’t clone yourself, at some point your revenue is going to reach a ceiling. What products can you offer that your customers need? Or how can potential customers become actual customers if they never book your intro photo package at $300/session? A course about taking better smartphone photos? A piece of software to help them edit photos more quickly and easily (and less expensively) than Photoshop? Cool lenses they can clip to their smartphones to take cooler photos? Only you know the answer…or more accurately, your customers will tell you over time by buying or not buying. Don’t commit to a large inventory (if you don’t sell products normally) or learning a lot of new skills (if you don’t sell services normally); just try a few things and see what works best.

Selling more, online or off, requires some research, flexible thinking, and testing. Whether you sell products or services, are a one-man show or have some employees/volunteers helping you out, there’s always a new way to think about what you already have (whether it’s products/services or a customer base). I hope the resources we are gathering together this month on this topic will help you (and us) sell more online!


Considering The Affiliate

This month’s theme is showing love to businesses and, much like we’ve formalized love with marriage, the formalization of business love online can be an affiliate agreement.

An affiliate is someone who reps/represents your company a mutually agreed upon way. They aren’t an employee but they’ve typically signed up to let you know they are interested in doing this. You may have terms for them, like they can’t use the product you are trying to sell in a certain way or can’t do certain things with product links. Once signed up, your affiliate can recommend your company and typically they get a financial kickback for doing so (ex: when someone becomes a paid member or upgrades their account.) In other words, they can recommend all they want but until your company gets a conversion, you don’t owe them anything.

By Googling “Warby Parker affiliate” I see what the terms are for me to recommend cool frames and where I can sign up. This brings down Warby Parker’s overall marketing costs while giving me incentive to share my love of them.



How do you know if an affiliate has made a sale for you or not?

Option 1: Give them a custom link.

For example, let’s say your name is Bob and you LOVE our blog and wanted to get people to subscribe. We talk about it and I say I’ll give you $1/person who signs up for email list. I could make a custom email newsletter subscription link like breakingeveninc.com/newsletter%bob that you can share. The people you share that link with are directed to a normal looking page; I’m just tracking it in a special, distinct way. In my website software, I could set up for it to track when someone who got to that link signed up for our email newsletter (filled out and submitted a form successfully). Every month, I sendBob a check for the amount of subscribers he sends.

The link makes things easy because the ‘customer’ doesn’t have to do anything. As the affiliate, you have to remember to use your special link and as the company, I have to set up tracking but the person clicking through is mostly unawares. Note: Bob could do something cool with his website like make bobswebsite.com/becrocks redirect to my fancy affiliate link. That gives Bob’s friends/customers something easy to remember and lets him use the affiliate link we agreed upon together.

Option 2: Give them a coupon code. 

The other way to do this, especially if this relationship involves purchasing, is to offer a code. Let’s say as someone entered their email into my website, I have a ‘coupon code’ portion where the person signing up is supposed to write ‘Bob’ for him to get credit for sending me a subscriber.

The good thing with this is it’s very deliberate coming from the customer… but most people aren’t going to take the extra step unless they get something for doing it. That’s why most coupon codes involve a discount code or free download or something for the customer for taking the trouble. Maybe by entering ‘Bob’ in the signup form, the people get a free ebook from me.

Whether option 1 or 2 is used, both Bob and I understand what is supposed to happen and what Bob will get when that agreed upon thing happens. 

Anchorspace is an affiliate for StandDesk which means when someone buys from our link, they save $50 and we get $50. So we’ve earned $150 just by recommending a product we already use and love and given people too far afield to come into Anchorspace a way to support us through their purchase.



How do you set up an affiliate program?

You may think this seems complicated. Why set up something just for Bob?

If you think about the power of even having ten people like Bob as sort of un-salaried salespeople for your company, you’ll see that this can be a good idea for you. First of all, you’re only paying when you get what you want and second, by rewarding Bob and people like him, you’re incentivizing him to refer you more often, even if it’s a discount on your own products versus cold hard cash.

So you have two options with affiliate programs.

Option 1: Use an existing (third party) affiliate program. 

Websites like shareasale.com or Commission Junction offer a ‘plug and play’ option where you can set up agreements, have it automatically generate/track links, etc., which is perfect if the idea of DIY totally overwhelms you. If what is preventing you from doing this is the tech, please take that away as a concern. That said, Moz has an excellent point as these websites are creating links that aren’t as direct as you making the links yourself, which can detract from search engine benefits. Also these probably cost money since they are attempting to make your life easier.

Option 2: DIY on your own website. 

Tools like Google Goals and plugins like AffiliateWP Wordpress plugin allow you to set this up on your own website directly. So long as you are clear about how you want it to work, it’s totally doable to set up and even have it create cute reports and stuff. If you ask someone like us, we can get you an estimate at the very least and you can make your decision from there.

(Aside: Whenever people ask me about the difference between using something like Squarespace and Wordpress, I always say your website can ‘do more stuff’ with Wordpress and this is the kind of thing I mean. Here’s what Squarespace forums say about setting up affiliate programs.)

The best thing you can do to understand affiliates better is to try them out yourself as a referrer.

To become your own version of Bob, think of companies you already like. Visit their websites (the best first stop is the navigational menu that is  typically on the bottom of the page) and look for an ‘Affiliates’ link. If you don’t see one there, ask Google if the company has one, or write to the company via their website and ask.

Once you have a few affiliate links/codes, try them out with people you think would genuinely appreciate those goods/services. Are people receptive? Does certain language/certain websites seem to work better for you? Do certain things seem to make people take action? Use these experiences as the referrer when you make your own affiliate program.

Like any tool, when used sparingly and in the context of an overall marketing strategy affiliates can be an effective way for people to love your business and get rewarded for it. (Yes we are considering an affiliate program ourselves; contact us if you are interested.) In the meantime, let us know if you are an affiliate yourself or if your company uses affiliates to drive sales!



Don’t Be A Multi Level Marketing Nightmare

I’ve been wanting to write this post for months. And just when I would decide to do it, I get an update from one of my friends who has added me to a group or invited me to a party and hold off.

To summarize, multilevel marketing (MLM) is where people sign up to sell products direct to the consumer with commission. So for example, if I liked Cutco knives, I could sign up to become a sales person for them. Every time I sold knives, I would get some portion of the sale. The real power with MLM companies, however, comes from recruiting others for your ‘team’ … then not only are you getting a portion of your sales but also your team’s sales.

So you can see where something like this would be attractive: you have products, a business model, sales support, and more. If you believe in what you are selling (and actually like selling), you could conceivably do well. More often than not, however, only a small percentage of people do well enough to create a full time income for themselves.

As more people are selling Shakeology, Lifevantage, Lularoe, Athena Home Novelties, Pampered Chef, Plexus, etc., now more than ever, this post is needed and maybe even appreciated by MLM people trying to do a good job. I have friends running MLM businesses that aren’t spamming everyone. If you’re considering this income option, you can be ethical, non-annoying, and profitable about it too.

mlm-catch-up

Give Me Six Months

Here’s the thing. There is a certain percentage of people in my life (and probably yours) that seem to always be onto the next thing. You know, you get another notification to like their new Facebook business page and think ‘Don’t they already have like four businesses?’

Typically, these are people who move from one MLM to the next. One month they’re selling t-shirts and next month, candles.

I get invited to like pages, go to events, etc. all the time but typically, before doing anything, I’m going to lurk for six months. If you’re really serious, you’ll still be there.

Demonstrate longevity and you’ll stand out from other people in our newsfeed trying to sell us the same things.



Social Media Isn’t An Excuse To Be Lazy

You can’t just slap an update on Facebook, connect with everyone you have ever talked to, and call yourself a marketer.

Trust me, if that’s all it took, I’d have a lot more competition.

Social media is a tool in your toolbox, not a way you run your entire business. This is why the most successful MLM people have websites, email newsletters, blogs, multiple different social media accounts, and real life events. They are in their communities, donating to worthy causes. They are actually using what they are selling and letting people ask them about it.

Diversify how you talk to people and build the relationship over time. Social media is as much pull as push so encourage interactions, questions, discussion (even if you don’t agree), and overall participation.

Do A Team Leader Gut Check

I went on a walk with one of my MLM friends. She was telling me what the ‘social media expert’ on her group call told her to do and I was shocked. The tactics were very aggressive and not at all like her.

Here are things you may be asked to do by a team leader, marketing expert, or other person in your MLM group:

  • Ask all your Facebook friends to have parties for you.
  • Add people to online groups without asking them.
  • Tag individuals in posts about your products.
  • Invite people to every ‘event’ you throw, regardless of their ability to attend or interest in attending.
  • Add people to your email list without asking.
  • Try new social platforms you don’t entirely understand. (I Periscoped via my private account there to show my sister how mean anonymous users can be. Maybe I’ll write about that sometime!)
  • Talk people into how they can ‘afford’ a product.
  • Posting 10-20 times a day on Facebook and other platforms.
  • Posting pictures of your children/family. (Everyone has different rules for this, just know how the people you involve feel about it.)
  • Using hashtags you don’t understand (trust us, hashtags can associate you with things you #sodontwant).

I personally think this whole list is gross… but you may have certain things you are and aren’t comfortable doing.

If your gut tells you something isn’t good, don’t do it, no matter what the ‘expert’ says. And if you are being pressured to sell in ways you aren’t comfortable with, ask if you really want to be part of a company like that.



Be Mindful Of Notifications

If you are using a social media platform, consider making a fake user (or enlisting a few trusted friends) to understand how your customers are seeing things. Example, how does a public post versus a private message work? Is the link in the photo caption clickable (and is it obnoxious)?

For example, if you post to your Facebook group six times in one day and I am in the group, I’m getting six notifications. Now to you, it’s easier to do it all at once but for me (your potential customer), I’m silently wishing you’d shut up and considering opting out of the group. Staggering your posts over three days, while less convenient for you, may be far less annoying to your customers.

If you don’t get how something works, do your research and test it with a small group of people (or on your fake user account). All social media sites work a little differently and understanding those differences will not only make you more successful but not alienate your base. Trust the feedback you are getting from customers. You are ‘in it’ but they aren’t… and ultimately, they need to like you and trust you before they’ll think about buying from you.

Nurture Relationships, Not Leads

If you see little dollar signs above everyone you meet, people are going to feel that in your interactions.

I know from my business experience it can take years for someone to become a customer. If you show up to one two-hour networking event and expect to leave with ten customers, you are going to be sorely disappointed.

Let people like you. Post about your life, ask people about their lives.

At social events, my goal is to put off telling someone what I do for work as long as possible. I ask them where they are from, who we know in common, where they live, what they are doing during the upcoming weekend… anything but work. Trust me, nothing makes your business more compelling to another person than seeming completely uninterested in discussing business. It’s like you don’t need the money, and isn’t that the most relaxing kind of person to do business with? You seem content and confident, rather than another person trying to close a sale.

Desperation and sales never mix, especially in the MLM world where someone else selling the same thing you are is a literal click away.

So am I saying MLMs are evil? No. 

Am I saying you should think about what you are and aren’t doing very intentionally related to marketing and running your MLM business? Yes.



Consultant Not Equal To Commission

When you pay for advice, you should get something that's the best for you. Photo via: http://peanuts.wikia.com/wiki/Lucy's_psychiatry_booth

When you pay for advice, you should get something that’s the best for you. Photo via: http://peanuts.wikia.com/wiki/Lucy’s_psychiatry_booth

I had a client pass me on someone’s business card recently. The person works for a local radio station and I am 99% sure makes his money based on the ads he sells. Title on the business card? ‘Marketing Consultant’

Um, no.

To me if someone gives advice to buy a product so they make money, they need to disclose that. Because it is the right thing to do.



It also in my mind makes them not a consultant. Put ‘sales’ proudly on your business card, my radio friend. In a world of Internet information, sales is no longer a scary word to many of us.

To me, a consultant:

1) Has more than one option to offer you from more than one provider.
2) Has a good idea of the whole picture.
3) Is being paid by you to give them good advice.
4) If they are selling you a product/service they make money on indirectly, they disclose it.

Here is an example that keeps all this in mind.

I work with Svaha web hosting. I am a partner in the organization. My ‘share’ is worth about $13 this tax year so, yeah, not earth shattering. I do get free web hosting from them ($130/year value in my case) and while I get $0 when someone new signs up, if more people sign up over time, my share value will increase, maybe to $20 this tax year. 🙂

The benefit I get when a client uses Svaha is 1) the client gets a good deal on hosting and 2) I can get in the server and know how it is set up, making things like making email addresses, etc. easier to do for my clients.



Yet when someone asks me about web hosting, despite under $200 worth of financial gain a year, I still disclose my involvement, tell them what costs are, and give them a couple other hosting providers I don’t hate along with Svaha. I let the client make a choice. Svaha is never the only choice.

When selling a product benefits us financially, it is hard to step back and think about a client’s needs in complete isolation of that.

Now those who sell ads, there is nothing wrong with you educating your consumer about the benefits of your product. I have zero problem with sales. Educating people and believing in your product or service makes you a good salesperson and a trusted partner to those you work with. But you are not surveying the whole field and giving your best advice. You are an expert in your market but you are not a consultant.

My measure of a good consultant?
1) Being able to tell someone not to buy something that is clearly wrong for them.
2) Not saying there is only one option (I can’t even think of an example where that would be true!)
3) When someone pays for your advice versus you getting paid on commission (this is like a fee only financial planner versus one that represents a specific brokerage).
4) You are knowledgable about your field generally, not just the companies you work with regularly. (Ex: You can talk about email marketing concepts, not just Constant Contact’s packages.)
5) The conversation you have goes in both directions equally or the client talks more than you. (This is the most important one. Is it a conversation or a pitch? Much like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said about obscenity in a famous court case, “I know it when I see it.”)

So if you ask me to ‘sell myself’ and I become instantly uncomfortable, you’ll know why.

Not that there’s anything at all wrong with sales. There isn’t. I just want to know who I’m talking to. I’m sure we all do.

So next time, ask yourself if you are talking to a consultant or a sales person, and make your decisions accordingly.



Sales Goblet Versus Funnel: Why Hitting Different Price Points Is Key

I think many of us, in business or otherwise, are aware of the sales funnel. The idea is you have most of your customers on a lower pricing level and as people get increasingly invested, they move down the funnel. So there are less people at the ‘point’ than at the ‘base’ and that’s ok. It’s a process. Some people take longer to go through the funnel than others, and some people stay at a particular level. (You can totally tell I spent my college years studying geology and French and not business, right?) Still it’s a getable idea.

So while we were working on our marketing plan in October for the upcoming year, we realized we didn’t have a funnel at all. As Kassie coined “It’s a wine goblet!”

Mainly, we were asking people to make a big financial leap to support them on an ongoing basis, from about $50 to attend a workshop to $3000. Very few people made that leap, again, not a shocking or hard to understand idea. Here is my beautiful diagram to show our problem:

breakingevensalesfunnelold

You probably have noticed in your consumer life that there is more than one way to get more out of the sales funnel.

For example, you could cram more people into it. Every free ebook you’ve ever downloaded, every email newsletter you’ve ever signed up for, was getting you to this base level.

Another example, you could offer more at a certain tier. Ex: For those people happily buying your $10 scarves, you get more and different $10 scarves for them to buy.



Our problem, however, was identified. We needed an offer something between $100 and $3000. An intermediate level, maybe something around $500-$1000.

As a trial of this concept, we offered to make non-profit donation forms a for $599 introductory rate. These forms allowed non-profits to take donations on their domain, issue receipts automatically and other fun things to make the person’s life easier. So for the risk of spending $600ish, there was a definite outcome.

It went way better than I expected… and for this reason, Breaking Even will be releasing a product every quarter in 2015. One for bloggers, one for businesses, one for non-profits, and one for all three.

breakingevennewfunnel

I urge you to look at your funnel and decide:

1) Do you need more people in it?

2) Do you need more movement on one level?

3) Do you need to add something between levels (like we did)?

4) Are you missing a level entirely?

If you go through this exercise and it ends up being helpful, let us know! I’d love to see other applications of it… and I hope this idea rocks your world as much as it did mine.



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