salesmanI sat in a meeting recently and listened to someone tell me that they sold social media to their clients. By “sold”, they really meant that they simply offered social media, and if the client didn’t want it they wouldn’t take it.

Let’s rewind. I paid my way through college working as a commissioned sales rep for two of the largest wireless companies in the U.S. (if you guessed Verizon Wireless and AT&T, you get a cookie).  Cell phone sales were great-flexible hours to fit around my classes, sizeable commission checks, and benefits up the wazoo.

Don’t let me get sidetracked. If there was anything I learned from sales….it’s how to sell effectively and be a leader. And when I talk about selling, I’m not referring solely to phones, accessories, or data services.

Your firm could be the most talented and educated firm in the online marketing industry, however, if you can’t adequately inform your audience of the benefits of your services,you are bound to fail.

So You Think You Can Sell?

Now, when I talk about sales, I think of two different types of salespeople: the tell-seller and the consultant. There’s more than just these two examples, but for this blog’s sake, these are the two I’m most interested in.

Tell-Seller Example:

Cashier 1: Welcome to Molly’s Milkshakes, what can I get you?
Customer: Uhh…yes…I’d like a chocolate shake. Is the chocolate peanut butter shake any good?
Cashier 1: I guess it’s good if you like peanut butter.
Customer: Well…I don’t know…I guess I’ll just stick with a plain chocolate shake.

Consultant Example:

Cashier 2: Welcome to Molly’s Milkshakes, can I help you pick out a great shake today?
Customer: Hello. Why yes…what do you have that’s good?
Cashier 2: Well can you tell me what a few of your favorite flavors are?
Customer: I like strawberry and chocolate.
Cashier 2: Great! And what are your favorite kinds of candy? Do you prefer berry candies or chocolates? Or are you more of a cake and dessert person?
Customer: I enjoy chocolate cake, that’s for sure. Actually, I enjoy almost any kind of chocolate product.
Cashier 2: It sounds like a double chocolate milkshake might tame your cocoa cravings.  It tastes delicious blended with brownie bits and pieces of chocolate caramel candy bar. How does that sound?
Customer: Amazing! That will really hit the spot! Thank you so much for your recommendation!

In the above example, Cashier 1 expects the customer to understand their options and make a decision without any guidance. Cashiers 1 assumes that if he says “Would you like to invest in social media?” the client will automatically understand the complexities of the service offered and base his decision off of this knowledge (bad assumption!).

Cashier 2, however, takes the time to investigate the customer’s needs, wants and desires. Rather than providing a mediocre result, Cashier 2 makes an educated recommendation to the customer that satisfies their craving. Note that Cashier 1 uses closed-ended questions, while Cashier 2 uses open-ended questions.

As a search marketer, you must ask yourself first if you have discovered your prospective client’s needs, desires, goals, obstacles and objectives before pitching them a proposal.

Solution. Advantage. Benefit.

I can’t even begin to tell you how many hours of sales training and role-playing I’ve spent developing Solution Advantage Benefit (SAB) statements.  SAB statements help one to adequately express to their client why said services are necessary.

Pretty simple, right?

They Say You Never Forget How to Ride a Bike…

As I mentioned before, being a talented search marketer isn’t the only skill needed to land a client. Having a few important skill sets will ensure that you communicate adequately the quality and need for your services to prospective buyers. Enter the Bicycle Model for Leadership:

Bicycle model of leadership

If your front tire needs air, your bicycle won’t ride smoothly. If your handle bars need to be greased, your bicycle will be hard to steer.  If your brakes are bad…well…you might just run into a brick wall/river/something painful.  Making sure all of your parts are well-maintained will ensure positive results from pitches.

So now, as a search or social media marketer, I’d like you to take a step back and reevaluate your past pitches and proposals. Would implementing these tried and true sales techniques have saved a pitch gone awry?