Is Your Web Content Compelling?

Feature-Oriented Content

Way back in the early days, advertisers would go to great lengths to tout the features of their product or service. Their goal was to convince you that the quality of their product or service was superior. Think of how excited you got when you read the product’s promotional literature. It probably sounded like a technical owner’s manual. An owner’s manual tells you about the details of a product.

Feature-oriented language reminds me of the old television show, Dragnet, where the police would say, “All we want are the facts, ma’am”. Features = facts. Feature-oriented content is telling someone about something. Not very convincing, in fact, it’s downright boring. Feature-oriented content is what’s known as ‘tell’ content. “Let me tell you about X, Y and X features of my product of my service. Where’s the compelling sales message?

Benefit-Oriented Content

Towards the end of the early years, some creative advertising writer thought that advertising messages should focus, not only on the features of a product, but, also on the benefits of the product they are selling. And so, benefit-oriented content came flying in to the mainstream. Benefit-oriented content answers the question, “What’s in it for me, the customer?” Benefit-oriented content sells, not tells. This type of content convinces customers that your product or service will help them. Customers want to know what your product or service can do for them.

Use benefit-oriented content on your website, brochure, or any other printed material. Start with a short headline. Try to use less than seven words in the headline. Next, write a few sentences of introductory content followed by a bulleted list of benefits. Use as few bullets as possible in order to keep your message clear and concise. Always put a call-for-action on the bottom such as Call Me, Email Me, Go To My Website, etc. Don’t use gratuitous graphics or stale free clip art.

Here’s an example of how features can be turned into benefits. This example is taken from Varidesk’s (the manufacturer of stand-up work desks) promotional content I found on their website.

Example of Promotional Content Used by Manufacturer of Stand-Up Desks

FeatureBenefit to Customer
Patented two-handle design coupled with a spring-assisted boost-enabled lifting mechanismMakes moving from sitting to standing quick and easy
Desk works either standing or sittingPerfect way to increase energy, your health, and productivity
No hardware needed to secure desk to workstationEasy to install

The Benefits column definitely answers the question, “What’s in it for me”.

Now it’s your turn. Think about your business. In the left column, list three features of your product or service. On the corresponding right column, turn each feature into a benefit.

What Product or Service Do I Sell?

Feature                                                                              Benefit to Customer
1.1.
2.2.
3.3.

 Now that you’re comfortable features into benefits, get to work on re-writing all your promotional content.

What’s The Difference Between an Elevator Speech and a Power Message?

 

In this post, I’m going to talk alot about power messages and little about elevator speeches. The topic of topic of elevator speeches is covered in my post called Does Your Elevator Speech Stop at the Right Floor?

If you’re self-employed and your business mostly relies on referrals from colleagues or others, you’ll want to have an elevator speech and power message. Your elevator speech is aimed at those people in a position to refer business your way. Your power message is what you say to potential customers or clients. Your power message generally takes place on the phone.

Why do you need both an elevator speech and a power message? You  might ask, “Why can’t I say the same thing to both referrers and prospective clients?” Use your power message when a potential client wants to know what you do and how you can help them. Focus on what you do within the context of what is in it for the potential client or customer. Your power message is less scripted than your elevator speech.

What do you say if a prospect initially asks you how much you charge? I call this type of prospect a ‘shopper’. First, do not answer the question. Second, do not launch into your power message. Ask a few benign questions such as, “What are you looking for? Have you talked to others in the same business?” If you are unable to redirect the conversation back to the other person, then quickly land the plane by simply stating your fee (or a range of fees). Try once more to turn the conversation back to the customer. Shoppers shop for bargains. You are not a bargain-basement store.

Is it okay to use jargon in your power message? It depends on who the customer is and how much knowledge he or she has about your business. It may be fine to use some jargon with a customer who knows your business. If you have a customer unfamiliar with your business, the moment you start to use jargon, you will lose the customer’s attention. The conversation automatically shifts back to you instead of focusing on the prospect’s needs. See my post Here Comes the Jargon Police.

Now it’s time to write your power message. Aim your message at the person most likely to purchase your product or service.

Here’s an example of a power message used on the phone.

I worked with a fitness studio to create a new marketing program. One objective of the marketing plan was to get prospective clients to call the studio for a complimentary training session. The owner was targeting men over age 50 who had metabolic syndromes (Metabolic syndromes are clusters of conditions – increased blood pressure, a high blood sugar level, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels – that occur together, increasing risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. (www.mayoclinic.org).

“My name is Meg B. and I’m the manager at Fitness Strength & Training in Any City, USA. I have been a personal trainer for the past 11 years and have a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State in Kinesiology. I’ve worked with people who are diabetic, elite athletes, and many weight-loss clients. Fitness Strength & Training is a unique fitness studio because you receive a personalized exercise experience, nutrition coaching, and most importantly, accountability. All of our training sessions are conducted one-on-one in semi-private rooms to eliminate dis- traction. We help people realize their true potential as we coach them towards a healthier lifestyle. “I’d be happy to offer you one complimentary training session. Also, I’d like your contact information so I can send you our newsletter.”

Notice this power message contained the three parts:

  1. Information about the trainer
  2. Information geared to helping the client
  3. A strong landing or closing

This power message is only 126 words. She said what was needed and stopped.

A power message is not as structured as an elevator speech. Meg clearly articulated the goal of training: a healthier lifestyle. It’s the “What’s in it for me (the client)” part of the message and she smoothly, in a self-assured way, landed the plane.

Here are some do’s and don’ts concerning your power message.

  • Don’t tell the caller what you don’t do
  • Frame all conversations in a positive way
  • Your power message should be modified to fit your website, online business presence, other online professional listings, or additional promotional information.
  • Practice your message. Write it down and say it out loud.
  • Have someone listen to your power message. Ask him or her to give you feedback. Ask for one thing he or she liked about your message and one technical suggestion he or she might have for you.

Having a strong power message will make you a more powerful businessperson.

For more tips on elevator speeches and power messages go to http://www.criticalconnectionsbook.com

 

 

DailyBitsOf what?

Interview with Niklas Laninge

As a marketing consultant, workshop presenter, and business advisor, I’ve been challenged to teach business concepts and processes in a concise and concrete manner. I thought I had it right. Just as I was feeling confident, Niklas Laninge from DailyBitsOf contacted me. He asked me if I’d like to write a bite-sized course on Overcoming Your Fear of Selling. Well, that sounds easy. Or was it? Each lesson of the mini-course would be send to subscribers via email. One a day for ten days. Maximum 300 words per lesson. It was not easy to synthesize my thoughts without dumbing-down the content. It was hard work. Now I was hooked. As of this writing, I have created four mini-courses. And, I thank Niklas Laninge for his support and encouragement. Who is this guy?

I had the privilege of interviewing Niklas Laninge, the co-founder of DailyBitsOf. What is DailyBitsOf?

DailyBitsOf is a service for people who love learning. People whose curiosity never ends, who see gaining knowledge as an ongoing process and who believe they can acquire any skill they might need to handle work and life’s challenges. We know that finding time for learning can be difficult. We buy books that pile up, save articles that remain unread and rarely have time for that online course we’ve been longing to take. This is why we created DailyBitOf as a tool to help people create a daily habit of learning something new.

EL: What motivated you and your colleagues to start DailyBitsOf?

NL: We all love learning new things, but we all felt that life often gets in the way. Since we all have worked within tech for a long time we had so many examples of products and ideas that fail because of friction and not being able to cut through the noise. This is why we decided to create a simple learning format that would be delivered to a place where you already spend a lot of time at – email and Messenger.

EL: Tell me a little about your background?

NL: I’m a psychologist by training and a technologist by passion. I have built and launched a lot of software that all aimed at helping people change behaviors. One was a platform for therapists and their patients, which would allow the patients to have some digital support between sessions. In September I will release a book called Behavior Design which is a collection of the best research and application of research I have encountered during my eight years in helping people use technology to change behavior.

EL: I noticed you changed your business model several times in the past two years. Why did you do that?

NL: We started out by being more of a tool for companies to gain fans by teaching small micro-courses on topics relevant to their business. We quickly noticed that the courses we got from this business model didn’t resonate at all with our values or our core-users. So we decided to aim at making the impossible possible – ask people to pay for content. By doing so we would motivate the best experts to put out their courses on our platform, and raise the bar at the same time – quality wise.

EL: How do you find such creative course instructors?

NL: Hard work, googling, reading blogs and 100s of hours listening to various podcasts. Luckily many of them find us nowadays.

 

EL: What are some of your most popular courses?

NL: The two courses we have on behavioral economics are popular. We’re talking tens of thousands of people. Then there’s our courses on productivity with our course “How to Beat Procrastination” being the most popular within that category.

 

EL: If you could identify one thing that makes DailyBitsOf unique, what would that be?

NL: I’d guess it’s our ability to attract so many great experts and make it so easy for them to repackage their expertise. Also, our ability to deliver something as short as a 2 minute read that still have an impact on the way people behave.

 

EL: What are your plans for the future for DailyBitsOf?

NL: I’m always thinking about more platforms, like would Slack be a good place to consume a course? Then it’s packaging. When we started micro-learning wasn’t really a thing, now I see new companies pop-up every week – even Google have an own version. So I’m thinking a lot about our role in this landscape. The big challenge is to get people to commit to more than just one course at a time. This is a challenge we’ll probably be tackling during summer (2017).

Niklas@dailybitsof.com

https://dailybitsof.com

 

 

What’s The Difference Between Transactional and Relational Marketing?

What’s The Difference Between Transactional and Relational Marketing?

 Let’s say you’re building a marketing plan to sell garden hoses. Your marketing strategies and sales tactics are straightforward transactions. When you sell a product, your customer shops for price and options- length, thickness, type of material, etc.

There is little or no emotional involvement in the sale. The sale is a direct transaction using traditional sales techniques.

However, if you provide personal or professional services such as financial planning, tutoring, or any kind of consulting, your marketing and sales tactics are relational, not transactional. Relational selling requires you to make a connection with potential clients or customers prior to making the sale.

Relational selling is value driven, not price driven. You must assure potential clients or customers they are receiving a high-quality service delivered by a knowledgeable professional. In a relational model, there is some emotional involvement in the sales process. Let’s face it, buying a garden hose is not an emotionally-charged experience,

Think about the following:

  1. Do my marketing and sales efforts require transactional or relational strategies?
  2. If I’m marketing a professional service, what is the one key message I want my potential client to know?
  3. If I’m selling a product, what are the one or two most important features and benefits of my product?

Keep in mind that marketing professional services is all about building and maintaining relationships with your clients.

For more information about relationship and referral-based marketing, click HERE.

 

 

How To Prevent Marketing Paralysis – Chapter 3

Signs & Symptoms of Marketing Paralysis

Now you’re familiar with the three causes of marketing paralysis (using the wrong model of marketing, getting unhelpful or misguided advice, and information overload). We now move from causes of marketing paralysis to a discussion of the signs and symptoms of marketing paralysis.

One debilitating symptom is the glazed over look in your eyes. The glazed over look is caused by information overload. It’s the look you get when trying to take your marketing ideas from concept to implementation. What happens to you? You lose clear vision and assume a dull, bored appearance. This is noticeable to those who look at you. You can’t seem to concentrate on your work and look like you have not slept in days. When your eyes glaze over, they become fixed and shiny, as if you are not seeing anything.

Some people, when working, get so spaced out that their computer screen looks blurry. It’s especially hard to avoid getting that glazed-over look when you’re using your tablet. The symptom tends to get worse if you’re trying to work at Starbucks. It’s been reported that some sufferers drift off to an alien galaxy. This is not good.

Have you experienced a glazed-over look when the dreaded word “marketing” is mentioned or when you’re trying to create your marketing campaign? Can you tell if you’re beginning to feel your eyes glaze over? If so, what do you experience?

Just being aware of what’s happening to you is the first step to recovery.

 

YouTube or MeTube?

YouTube

According to Tad Friend, writing about YouTube in the New Yorker in 2014:

“YouTube was adults with camcorders shooting kids being adorably themselves. It was amateur hour. Nowadays, YouTube is alarmingly professional. It has millions of channels devoted to personalities and products, which are often aggregated into “verticals” containing similar content.”

Who would have predicted that a revolution in digital communication could have such a profound impact on how we connect with people. And, who would have predicted that the way we conduct business would drastically change? And, to make things even more convoluted, the capabilities and functions of digital communication are changing almost daily (well, not quite daily).

Tad Friend suggests that YouTube is alarmingly professional. However, the pipeline for cute baby and cuddly cats videos will never get shut off. Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook, just to name a few have expanded their capabilities. Twitter, besides having the ability to link to other (content) sites, is now a platform to receive breaking news. You can set up your own Twitter business page, too. Pinterest now has a blogging feature. Instagram is now a good place to find recipes. LivingSocial has moved away from a deal-of-the-month platform to a promoter of concerts, festivals, and other events. Small businesses that advertised on LivingSocial now have to look elsewhere to advertise.

For those of you data junkies, check out some data I from YouTube’s website:

  • YouTube has over a billion users — almost one-third of all people on the Internet — and every day people watch hundreds of millions of hours on YouTube and generate billions of views.
  • YouTube overall, and even YouTube on mobile alone reaches more 18-34 and 18-49 year-olds than any cable network in the U.S.
  • The number of hours people spend watching videos (aka watch time) on YouTube is up 60% y/y, the fastest growth we’ve seen in 2 years.
  • The number of people watching YouTube per day is up 40% y/y since March 2014.
  • The number of users coming to YouTube who start at the YouTube homepage, similar to the way they might turn on their TV, is up more than 3x y/y.

Take from: https://www.youtube.com/yt/press/statistics.html

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by this information and you don’t know what to do with it, you’re not alone. Some folks take this data ‘with a grain of salt.’

However, if you’re thinking about using YouTube videos as a vehicle to promote yourself, your product, or your service, ask yourself the following questions:

Strategic Questions:

  1. Producing a YouTube video is not about you (MeTube) and how great your product or service is. It’s about sharing information with your customers and addressing critical customer problems. Will the video address your customers’ most critical questions?
  2. Who exactly is my audience?
  3. Why do I think YouTube is the best way to communicate my message?
  4. How do I make sure the video is seen by my customers/prospects?
  5. Do I have compelling and fresh content that my customers need?
  6. In terms of producing a video, have I considered how much time, energy, and money it will cost?

Operational Questions:

  1. Who is going to write, design and produce the video?
  2. How long should the video be?
  3. Should I embed my video in my website?

My job is to ask you the tough questions. Your job is to make an informed decision as to whether you should use YouTube to promote your business.

Time to Tune Up Your Elevator Speech

5 Tips to Make Your Elevator Speech (ES) More Impactful

elevator

You have an idea of what you want to say in your ES. You feel confident that your talking points are solid. Your introduction is brief. Your statement about what you do in terms of what’s in it for the person you’re talking to is succinct. Your statement indicating how passionate you are about what you do is precise. And, your statement or two that ends the conversation is clear.

 

Here are some ways to fine-tune your ES.

  • Think of your ES as your business card in action. Most likely, you will want to modify or refine your elevator speech. Just as you reprint your business card when you move or change jobs, you have to ‘reprint’ or refresh your ES as time goes on.
  • Use plain English, not professional jargon. Don’t hide behind jargon. If you’re talking to someone in your professional community, tone down the jargon and remember to use mostly jargon-less words. Remember, you only have one chance to make a first impression.
  • Practice your ES out loud in front of a mirror. No matter how painful and embarrassing it is, you should practice your ES in front of a mirror. If you really want to experience terror, try practicing it in front of your spouse or child.
  • Be prepared to improvise and adapt on the spot. Consider having two or three variations of your ES on the tip of your tongue.
  • Land the plane, smoothly, safely and quickly – Don’t drag your ES on and on. Once you start repeating yourself, then it’s time to end it. Quickly decide what kind of follow-up you want: exchange business cards; ask for a meting; ask for name of someone else who might be helpful.

It’s OK to use your elevator speech on an escalator or on the floor.

Sales is Not a Four Letter Word

fear-198933_640 copy

“Sales are contingent upon the attitude of the salesman-not the attitude of the prospect.”   W. Clement Stone

Two of the most frustrating challenges preventing new business owners from becoming successful marketers are: 1) fear of selling, and 2) fear of setting and discussing fees or prices. I often hear new business owners say things like, “I’m not a salesperson”…”, I don’t know how to do it”…”I feel anxious at the thought of selling myself”.

Before we discuss how to overcome your fears, let’s talk about the role anxiety plays in a sales situation.

The Look Out Syndrome

You’re meeting with a prospective customer or client and start to feel nervous and self-doubting about your ability to sell. As your anxiety level increases, you focus your attention on the other person–their body language, facial expressions, or general demeanor, instead of listening to what is actually being said.

You might assume the other person is thinking negative thoughts about you. Often, your evaluation of these non-verbal cues is incorrect.

You might say to yourself, “Will I get the sale?” Now, more doubts about yourself start creeping into your head–“Is the look on the other person’s face saying he doesn’t want to work with me or purchase my product?” As a result, you probably didn’t hear most of what the other person said. You were too busy looking into the other person.

I call this the Look Out Syndrome: I am looking at you looking at me. 
And, 
I am wondering what you are thinking about me.

When you’re on the Look Out and not listening, you don’t say what you want to say because you’re too busy trying to figure out what the other person is thinking. Can we attribute Looking Out to inexperience? Immaturity? No self-control? Probably none of these.

Chances are you are scanning the prospective client so intensely that you repeat yourself or ask the same question more than once. Clearly, your thinking brain is offline.

How to Avoid the Look Out Syndrome

  1. Look at the other person, not into them. Focus on the color of their eyes, the color of their hair, or any other feature. Focusing on physical features will calm your brain so your thoughts stay focused in the present. Then there is little or no room to think what they’re thinking about you.
  1. Listen. This is probably the easiest thing in the world to say and the most difficult thing in the world to do. What is listening? How do you listen? How do you know if you’re being listened to? My advice: go online. There are plenty of resources and tutorials that can help you develop effective listening skills.
  1. Think business at all times. Your job is to sell your product or service, not to start a budding friendship. You don’t want new friends; you want customers or clients. If you focus on understanding and satisfying the business needs of customers and clients, rather than Looking Out, you’ll be able to keep personal interests out of the equation.

Fear of Selling 

“Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that says, ‘Make me feel important.’ Not only will you succeed in sales, you will succeed in life.” Mary Kay Ash

Some small business owners suffer from a debilitating condition called Fear of Selling. This phobia occurs when a business owner starts thinking about being in a position to sell their product or service. The business owner goes into a panic and fear mode. It doesn’t matter if the sales situation is on the phone, via Skype or in person, fear still rears its ugly head.

Two of the most common fears are:

  • Fear of delivering a sales presentation to a group
  • Fear of giving a talking a conference or seminar

Yes, it’s the dreaded fear of public speaking. The technical terms for fear of public speaking is Glossophobia.  Two more fears that are common are:

  • Cold-calling a prospect
  • Talking to a known prospect on the phone

The fear of talking on the phone presents a real challenge for some business owner. The business owner cannot ‘read’ the other person. The business owner can’t pick up on any non-verbal cues. It’s almost as if the business owner is involved in a monologue, not a sales dialogue. It’s also hard to know when to stop the conversation so the other person can speak.

To understand how you feel when confronting the above fears, ask yourself which one of the following reactions apply to you?

Fear of delivering a sales presentation/fear of giving a talk at a conference:

☐ A) Been there, done that – no big deal

☐ B) I feel nervous, sick to my stomach, but I do it.

☐ C) I feel nervous but I’ve got it under control.

☐ D) I’m breaking out in a sweat just thinking about it and I’m not going to do it.

Cold-calling a prospect

☐ A) Been there, done that – no big deal.

☐ B) I feel nervous, sick to my stomach, but I do it.

☐ C) I feel nervous but I’ve got it under control.

☐ D) I’m breaking out in a sweat just thinking about it and I’m not going to do it.

Talking to a known prospect on the phone for the purpose of upselling

☐ A) Been there, done that – no big deal.

☐ B) I feel nervous, sick to my stomach, but I do it.

☐ C) I feel nervous but I’ve got it under control.

☐ D) I’m breaking out in a sweat just thinking about it and I’m not going to do it.

Here’s what you should do and what you should not do to minimize your fear.

#1 Do not read, word-for-word your presentation. Refer to key talking points using an outline.

#2 If you are using PowerPoint, do not look at your slides. In other words, don’t talk to your slides. Instead, face your audience and talk directly to them. Again, talk from an outline

#3 If you want to create more anxiety and raise your fear level, tell a joke at the beginning. Chances are, you’ll be so anxious that the joke will fall flat. No canned jokes, please.

#4 Keep your phone calls brief and definitely work from a script.

Even though email marketing is an effective way to deliver your sales message, you want to think twice about whether you are using email as a way to avoid talking on the phone.

After all, you don’t want to have an anxiety attack in front of potential customers.

 “Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.” Les Brown

Here are four more fears of selling. These fears revolve around the business owner’s lack of confidence and feeling they are not persuasive or convincing in a sales situation.

#1 A manifestation of fear of selling is hiding behind jargon, instead of speaking informally. Using jargon make it almost impossible for a customer to relate to you, as a person. Jargon keeps you at a distance from your customer. I was attending a local networking event, and overheard a psychotherapist talking to a lawyer – a potential referrer. The therapist thought the lawyer might have clients with emotional or relationship problems. In this case, the therapist was trolling for referrals. The therapist said to the lawyer, “I do psychotherapy, Gestalt Therapy, Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and EMDR”. That was a sure-fire way to turn off a potential referrer. This is a great example of how not to be relational. There might be a time, when in a sales situation, you would use some technical talk, especially if you are talking to someone who is in your industry or profession.

#2 Asking prospective customers if they want to meet rather than suggesting a specific time to meet. When people feel insecure about themselves in a sales situation, they do not want to irritate or turn off a prospective customer. So, they ‘play it safe’ and ask.

#3 Convincing a skeptical prospect of the value of your service or product. You are not a door-to-door salesperson selling vacuum cleaners. Don’t laugh, some people feel they are going door-to-door selling. You are selling value and solutions based on your professional expertise. If you stick with the tried and true sales approach of discussing the benefits of your product or service, you won’t feel like a vacuum cleaner salesperson.

#4 Knowing when to end the discussion. When it comes to closing the sale or terminating a conversation, you want to ‘land the plane smoothly’. Why is landing the plane so difficult for some people? Why do competent people get flustered? Some people hesitate landing the plane due to their fear of rejection. Landing the plane requires you to be open, honest, and direct with the other person. You might balk at having to plan and even rehearse your landing statements. What happens if during the landing process, you experience the dreaded awkward silence? It’s perfectly okay to wait a few seconds without conversation. This is a good time for you to take a deep breath and remember your landing script.

Here are five examples of how and how not to land the plane.

Wimpy Way                                                  Direct Way

Can I call you?                                                When can I call you?

Do you have a business card?               I’d like one of your business cards

Can I have your email address?
            What’s your email address?

Maybe we should have lunch?              When, at your convenience can we have lunch?

Can I be a Contact in LinkedIn?           I’ll make contact with you on LinkedIn


These suggestions might seem simplistic and common sense. But in a sales situation, with your fears and anxieties out of control, you can remind yourself that you have tools to cope.

Fear of Fees

“Fears are nothing more than a state of mind.” Napoleon Hill

Over the years, I’ve talked to small business owners, lawyers, psychotherapists, physicians, accountants, and other professional and personal service providers. When I ask them how they feel about having a direct discussion about their fees, I hear:

  • “After being in practice for many years, I’m still uncomfortable bringing up the subject of fees”
  • “I wish someone else would do it for me”
  • “I try to avoid it as much as possible”
  • “It’s always an awkward conversation”
  • “I don’t feel I’m worth it to charge this much”

 I was coaching a young woman, Natalie, who recently graduated with a doctoral degree in physical therapy. She wanted to open a private practice but questioned her ability to ‘sell herself’. She was filled with self-doubt. One of several goals of coaching was for Natalie to confront her doubts about selling. We made a list of her self-doubts regarding selling. We addressed these self-doubts by replacing each negative message with a positive one.

Negative messageReplaced with Positive Message
I have no confidence in my ability to sellI’m really good at building relationships. I can leverage that skill to promote my practice.
I don’t know where to start when it comes to selling my servicesI don’t need to know everything about selling. I can ask a friend for help.
I am more comfortable talking about physical therapy than selling myselfI bring a lot of passion to what I do. I’ll communicate this to engage potential patients.

Two years after Natalie finished coaching with me, I sent her an email and asked her how things were going. She said she opened a physical therapy practice with a colleague from graduate school. She was treating patients and loving it.

What about you? Look at the questions below and answer YES or No for each question. If you answered YES to any of the questions, ask yourself what negative messages you have about money and suggest a positive message to replace the negative one.

  • Do you feel that you do not have enough experience to justify your fee?
  • Do you ask your customers if they think your fees are reasonable?
  • Are you afraid you are not charging enough?
  • If you state your fee, are you afraid the customer will say no?
  • If a customer balks at your fee, do you drop the price?
  • Are you afraid you are charging too much?

Believing in yourself, and your competence will help you overcome your fear of selling. This won’t happen overnight, but keep on reminding yourself of your positive message.

Let’s take a deeper look at the topic of fear of discussing fees. The discussion of fees would not be complete without talking about money.

“Nearly all of the 2014 Stress in America survey respondents (95 percent) said parents should talk to their kids about money. But only 64 percent said they themselves were taught how to manage money, and just 37 percent said they often talk with their family members about the subject.” Stress in America Survey

Ask yourself:

  • Did my family of origin speak openly and in a healthy way about money and finances?
  • Did my family of origin openly and fearfully discuss money or finances?
  • Did my family avoid any discussion about money?

Money avoidance: Believing that money is bad or that you do not deserve money. For people with this personality, money can evoke feelings of fear, anxiety, or disgust. Low-income, younger, and single individuals were more likely to hold this attitude. Brad Klontz

One of my clients told me that, as a child, her parents were hesitant to discuss money. In fact, they did not discuss money at all. As an adult, my client started two businesses. Both businesses were bankrupt within two years. My client blamed her failure on her inability to handle money. After her businesses failed, she confronted her parents about the money issue. Her father said he was afraid that giving his children too much information would have a negative impact on their adult life by diminishing their child’s goal or values. You can see why this client was fearful.

What are some of the manifestations of fear of discussing fees?

You have probably encountered a potential customer/client who, the first thing off the bat says, “How much do you charge?” or “What’s your fee?” In the rush to make the sale, you tell the other person exactly what they are looking for –a price. This person gets what he/she is looking for and most of the time will terminate the discussion. I affectionately refer to these people as ‘price shoppers’.

If you have fear of fees, here’s a way to slow down your thinking, so you can focus. Initially, do not state your fee. Do not say ‘”how can I help you?” (The response to “How can I help you” sets up an unrealistic expectation that you will help this person). Also, do not launch into your elevator speech. Eventually, you’ll want to discuss fees. Instead, ask a few benign questions such as:

  • What are you looking for?
  • Have you talked to others in the same business?
  • Have you ever purchased services (or products) like mine?

If you are unable to redirect the conversation back to the other person’s needs, then quickly land the plane by simply stating your fee (or a range of fees) and ending the conversation. Some business owners make one more attempt to turn the conversation back to the customer. If this doesn’t work, say, “goodbye and good luck!

When I first started out as a freelance marketing consultant, my only reference point for how much to charge was based on my experience at a large consulting firm. I could not charge anywhere near what they charged. I ruminated over whether I should charge an hourly fee or one fee for the entire project. I had no idea of what those fees would be. I realized I was anxious about talking about fees. I’d rather not talk about fees.

No one in my family would talk about money. No one would talk about the family budget. I never knew if my parents were or were not in debt. I had no idea of what things cost and how to budget. I tried to focus on the positives. I knew I had all the credentials and experience that potential clients wanted. I then knew I could face my fears and discuss fees with my clients.  Remembering that my family never discussed money helped me realize why this was hard for me. It took awhile for me to come to grips with this fear.

Now that you’ve examined your fear of selling and fear of fees, here are four tips you can use to minimize the impact of your fears.

#1 State your fee and shut up. Don’t justify your fee or over-talk. Let the customer respond. Keep this discussion as short as possible.

#2 Stick to your guns. Do not sell yourself short by dropping your fee. In a moment of panic and in desperation to make the sale, all sorts of thoughts are racing through your mind. You know how much time, energy, and money it took to bring your product or service to market. Leave no room for negotiation.

#3 Take a sales training course. Sometimes, I recommend that my clients attend a short sales training course. I’m not referring to 2-hour sales training seminars designed to lure you into purchasing a costly training package. In fact, I have some reservations about sales training courses. First, most of what is taught is common sense, just neatly packaged in a step-by-step methodology. Some sales training courses focus on the techniques used by the course leader. These leaders tend to be somewhat charismatic and the focus is on the leader, not you. Second, many sales training courses use their own jargon, which might be off-putting to you. Third, unless specifically tailored to your profession or business, general sales training courses might not offer specific industry-related insight or buyer behavior patterns. Fourth, some sales training courses offer a plethora of tips, tactics, and ideas. This might be the case of too much information. If you do want to take a sales training course, I recommend you consult your professional or business association. See what they have to offer. Weigh the time, cost, and energy you spend on taking a course against the benefits you might get. See what happens.

#4 Get a mentor or a coach. Mentors are individuals who are willing to assist you at no cost. Mentors tend to be senior executives or retirees. Many communities around the country have mentoring programs sponsored by local business councils. Coaches charge you by the hour. Whichever you choose, getting a mentor or coach is probably the best way to get a handle on how to discuss fees. It’s been my experience the best mentors are those in businesses not related to yours. Even though they do not have your industry-specific information and experience, they do know how to do the most important thing you need: discussing fees and closing deals. You’ll get a fresh perspective on selling. Caveat: Look online and you’ll see many organizations that offer coaching certification. Before you hire a coach, check out his or her certification. Does the credential seem credible? Will the coach let you talk to current or former clients?

Now you have tips and tactics to use so you won’t be selling yourself short.

Back to the Future

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I found this amazing insight on ethics and interpersonal relationships from the Talmud written more than 1,900 years ago.

A wise man does not speak before one who is greater than him in wisdom or in  years; he does not interrupt the words of his fellow; he does not rush to answer;        he asks what is relevant to the subject matter and replies to the point; he speaks of first things first and of last things last; concerning that which he has not heard,         he says, “I have not heard,” and he acknowledges the truth.

When I first read this, I thought whoever wrote it must have been a salesman or a great business coach. This short paragraph summarized the most important components of building business relationships. The first phrase “A wise man does not speak before one who is greater than him in wisdom or in years” is more about wisdom than age. Think about it. If you are meeting with potential referrers or prospective customers, who have been working in their business for many years, they are going to know more about their business than you.

Many veteran business owners and managers are keepers of the oral history of their business and have valuable information about their industry or profession. Don’t dismiss these business veterans as dinosaurs. You and I have plenty to learn from these folks. They are wiser in many ways. And, in order to take advantage of their wisdom, you have to learn how to listen. Yes, listen, with a capital L. (Read more about listening in my blog Giving Advice vs. Listening)

The second part, “he does not interrupt the words of his fellow” is something that does not come easily to some people. I’ve always wanted to record a video of my family – my wife, my two adult children, and two of my wife’s adult children – sitting around the dinner table. Everyone is talking at the same time. Interruptions are frequent. The introverted children can’t seem to get a word in edgewise. To say the least, it’s chaotic and frustrating for me, even though I talk a lot and interrupt. It seems like everyone has the most important thing in the world to share.

Has this ever happened to you? You’re listening to a customer and at some point in the conversation, you can’t wait to say something in response to what they are saying. Chances are, at some time during the conversation, you’ll interrupt the other person. This conversation then devolves into two monologues – yours and theirs. And, to make things worse, in order to be heard, one of you might talk over the other.

The next phrase states, “He does not rush to answer”. Our brain is wired to have the ability to solve complex problems. We’ve become so good at problem solving it comes naturally to us. Think about a time when a friend or relative came to you complaining about a work problem. Did you rush to try and the fix the problem?

When I first started my consulting business, I would be talking with a client about a marketing challenge, and I’d be saying to myself, “I’ve heard this problem a hundred times and I have plenty of fixes”. I was rushing to answer and solve the problem instead of building the relationship and probing deeper to find the root cause of the problem or hearing the client’s own insight to solve the problem.

The following phrase says, “He asks what is relevant to the subject matter and replies to the point”. When you are in the midst of a dialogue with a customer or referrer, you want to keep your comments brief and to the point. You ideally want to keep the customers focused on their needs as much as you can. Remember, it’s not about you! Sometimes, when I’m with a prospect, I lapse into, what my wife calls, “my strident mode”. I sound like I’m dogmatic in the way I come across. When I feel myself getting stirred up, I tell myself to return to the land of listening.

“He speaks of first things first and of last things last.” The goal of your initial conversation with prospects is to build a relationship. You don’t want to do what car salesmen do. When you walk into the car showroom, the salesman would hook you and start closing the sale by asking, “What color car are you looking for?” This tactic might work for selling cars. Is this any way to build a business relationship? I don’t think so.

And finally, the phrase “concerning that which he has not heard, he says, ‘I have not heard,’ and he acknowledges the truth”. Do you know how hard it is to answer a question by saying, “I don’t know” or “I’ve never heard of this”? I think I have all the answers. After all, I’m the “subject matter expert”. It’s okay to say, “I don’t know.” Will it tarnish your credibility? Nope. Will it make you more authentic? Yes.