I get a lot of email. I classify it three ways: stuff I must read, stuff I might read and junk. The “stuff I must read” goes to the top of my to-do list. The “stuff I might read” is shuffled over to a corner of my inbox for that blessed day when I finally have time to catch up. The junk gets deleted.
Sound familiar? I’ll bet you have a similar process. I’ll also bet that the people you want to do business with have a similar process. So the question becomes: How can you get to the top of their must-read list?
A passionate guiding voice or a voice to be ignored
I submit to you that you need a passionate guiding voice. In fact, if you are struggling to engage with prospective new clients, it’s probably because of your voice. More on that in a moment.
There is a fine book I’ve been reading called “The Language of Trust: Selling Ideas in a World of Skeptics.” The main idea of the book is that we now live in a Post Trust Era or PTE. The hallmark of the PTE is that today we get to define all of the channels that bring us information. We live in a highly fractured and highly compartmentalized communication system, unlike just 25 years ago when only a few channels of TV, radio and newsprint delivered our content.
Today, you can tune out all of the voices you don’t like and set up your media world to only bring you the information and entertainment that appeals to you. Pretty nice huh?
The problem with the PTE is that we’ve all become skeptics. People can say: to break in to my closed-loop communication system, you better have a message that matters to me. It had better address one of my major goals, opportunities or challenges. If not, I can close you out with the click of a mouse and you’ll never get another chance with me.
The same is true of your prospects, the very people you want to do business with. If you don’t deliver a message that matters to them, they can block you in seconds. The difference between being ignored and being acknowledged, and most importantly engaged, is passion. What do I mean by passion?
The market research
We recently conducted market research for a consulting organization by interviewing their top ten clients. We asked these clients what they liked most about the consulting firm. Near the top of their list was the word passion. When pressed to go deeper, this is how they described passion.
“They love what they do and are always bringing us new ideas that are really targeted just for us. They are so passionate about their ideas and have done so much research before they present them to us that the ideas just seem right. So we go with them.”
Passion is about creating a connection between what matters to your clients and prospects and your solutions. A passionate guiding voice opens new doors to business opportunities, both incremental deals with existing clients and new deals with new clients.
The characteristics of passion
There are five tell-tale signs that companies or people are really passionate:
- Their message is crafted for their specific audience.
- The idea they offer tells their audience how to achieve a goal, realize an opportunity or resolve a challenge that deeply matters to that audience.
- Their idea is reasoned, practical, backed by real-world experience or research and is ready to be implemented.
- Their idea is well-thought-through and actionable, usually having been divided into incremental action steps that comprise a true roadmap.
- Their idea is free (although not the solution) and widely distributed as a proof statement of their capabilities.
Engagement first, deal second
Most people know that markets are now conversations. Selling is not all that hard if you engage your prospects in dialogue on issues that matter to them and along the way, with a consultative approach, show them how you help them. That’s the secret sauce – touch.
But how do you get the dialogue started? Look at point number five above. If your idea is free and widely distributed, and it’s a good idea that’s on target for your audience, you’ve already started the dialogue. You’ve already started working for your prospects before you’ve even met them. You’ve already become their counselor.
But you’ve also accomplished something far more important. You’ve shown good will. I cannot overestimate the importance of this.
Living in an age of skeptics
Most of us today are ready to call BS at the drop of a hat. We’re so used to discrediting pitches and punching holes in people’s logic. This is why “sales” is a dirty word. This is why we hate sales people. This is why we won’t listen to them or give them any of our valuable time. This is why pitching is like running your fingernails down a chalk board. It makes people cringe.
When you deliver a great idea, for free, that really matters to your audience, they are taken aback. They keep waiting for the pitch and a moment to say, “Ahh … so that’s their angle.” But when the pitch never comes, their walls begin to drop. Their guard goes down at least a little.
They come to see you in a new light – as their advocate. People want to… no, need to, talk to their advocate. But the pitches of sales people go in the junk folder.
Take the next steps
Take a look at the last 10 to 15 emails your company has sent to prospects or blasted out as a campaign. Actually print them out, put them on your desk and apply this litmus test.
- How much of what you’ve promoted is a pitch versus a great idea?
- How much of the content is targeted at the goals, opportunities and challenges of your ideal clients?
- How actionable are your ideas and did you make it easy for your audience by creating a simple roadmap they can follow?
- Be honest with yourself. Would you take the time to read it, given your busy schedule?
- How many of those emails are must-read versus might-read?
If you are struggling to get dialogue started with your market, it’s probably because your passionate guiding voice isn’t so passionate. Let’s change that.
About the author
Randy Shattuck is a senior marketing executive and founder of The Shattuck Group, a full-service marketing firm that specializes in growing professional services firms. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.