Posts Tagged ‘selling’

If you’re a business owner or an author using a sample chapter of your book, a report, or a tip sheet as a list-building incentive, consider replacing it with a manifesto. A well-written manifesto can do a better job of helping you build your brand and grow your list, paving the way for you to sell more books.

Manifestos are better list builders because they take a stand. Because manifestos strongly advocate a position, and are usually passionately written, they operate on an emotional level, tapping into the power of commitment.

Cialdini and Commitment

Robert Cialdini, the best-selling author of Influence: The Power of Persuasion, has spent his entire career researching the science of influence, earning an international reputation as an expert in the fields of persuasion, compliance, and negotiation.

Influence: The Power of Persuasion has become one of the most frequently quoted psychology books among marketing professionals. In it, Cialdini describes 6 weapons of influence. The longest chapter is devoted to commitment. The main idea is simple: once individuals commit to an idea or a course of action, they tend to remain committed.

The power of commitment is rooted in an individual’s self-image and a desire to avoid appearing wrong to others; the more public the commitment, the stronger the commitment.

Commitment, social media, and list quality

I was reminded about the power of commitment when I ran across Sunni Brown’s Doodle Revolution Manifesto, one of the strongest community-building list-builders I’ve seen in a long-long time.

Sunni Brown is co-author, with Dave Gray and John Macanufo, of Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers. Gamestorming is currently one of Amazon.com’s top 1,500 bestsellers overall, as well as a leading book in several business categories.

My route to signing Sunni Brown’s Doodle Revolution Manifesto illustrates the importance of quality online content, backed up with the power of social media.

My journey to the Doodle Revolutionary’s Manifesto

Here’s the social media and quality content route I traveled that led me to Sunni’s manifesto (and this post):.

  • Friday afternoon. My journey began when I discovered Gamestorming at the local Barnes & Noble.
  • Early Friday evening. My exploration continued when I got home, searched online, and visited the Gamestorming site and blog. Later, I Googled each of the authors. My search lead me to a Tweet by @bangalaurent, Laurent Sarrazin. The post described Sunni’s free, i.e., no registration, Revolutionary’s Booklist. I was intrigued, checked it out, and downloaded it.
  • Late Friday evening. Later, after downloading the Revolutionary’s Booklist, I spent a couple of pleasurable hours with it, discovering interesting titles and exploring their authors online.
  • Saturday morning. I was so impressed with the list that I shared it with a dozen clients and friends, both local and around the world. Later in the afternoon, I received e-mails from several recipients, thanking me for sending them the list.
  • Sunday night. Pleased with my experience so far, I returned to Sunni’s site, reread the Doodle Revolutionary’s Manifesto, reviewed the names of the individuals who had already signed it, then signed it myself. I also added my name to her e-mail newsletter list (which was not required to sign the Manifesto).

Lessons from my Doodler’s Revolution journey

Here are a few of my big takeaways from my odyssey:

  1. Size of following does not equal influence. The Twitter post that began the journey was by someone who had less than 30 followers! But, Google didn’t care when they displayed their Tweet, and I didn’t care when I followed it to Sunni’s list.
  2. Content quality is more important than quantity. If I hadn’t been impressed by the Revolutionary’s Booklist, my journey would have ended. But, because the content was relevant, useful, and concise, I felt compelled to share it. Moreover, the Doodle Revolutionary’s Manifesto is just 2 pages long—it’s the Gettysburg Address of list-building incentives. I might not have read a 12-page report or an 8-page manifesto, but I had no trouble reading a well-written 2-page manifesto.
  3. Quality outsells “selling.” The Revolutionary’s Books PDF is free from selling; there’s only quality content and a clean layout, plus a tongue-in-cheek footer, “With love from www.doodlerevolution.com and www.sunnibrown.com.” A nice, light-hearted touch.
  4. Story and emotion win. The Doodle Revolutionary’s Manifesto wasn’t written by a committee and for a committee. It was written by a passionate believer speaking directly to other passionate believers. It succeeds because it’s engaging and provides a chance for believers to confirm their beliefs. In fact, the writing style is entertaining because it goes slightly overboard. But, overboard is sometimes OK! As opera proves, there’s a time and a place for colorful and passionate writing.

Takeaways and opinions

What are your takeaways from my journey from anonymous prospective reader and website visitors to a person who has publicly committed to a cause? Would a similar manifesto and online approach help you build your brand, grow your list, & sell more books? What would your manifesto be about? How could you get your prospects to commit to it? Share your impressions and questions as comments, below.

Selecting a Business Valuation expert

by Steve Popell on February 18, 2010

Introduction

There are myriad reasons why the owner of a privately held company may want or need to have the company valued, including (partial list):

  1. Acquiring another company
  2. Selling the company
  3. Buy-sell agreement
  4. Repurchase of minority shares
  5. Divorce
  6. Partnership breakup
  7. Estate planning
  8. Probate

Regardless of the reason for the valuation or the urgency of the task, finding the right expert will pay off in the quality and utility of the opinion.  Here are a few tips to help you to make the best choice.

Background Check

Just as in hiring, you accept a resume on face value at your peril.  Always check references and publications.  In addition, go beyond the references provided by the expert.  You can do this simply by asking the listed references for the names of others who may have valid input on the competence and relationship skills of this individual.  These are called secondary references, and will typically be a more reliable source of information than the primary references.  You can even take it a step further by asking the secondary references the same question and, thereby, developing tertiary references.  Some questions you may want to ask will include the following.

  • Did the expert communicate clearly on all aspects of the prospective assignment at the initial meeting?
  • Did the engagement letter accurately reflect the shared understanding of the purpose of the assignment?
  • Was there a firm fee quote, or did the expert work by the hour?
  • Did the expert exhibit a genuine commitment to impartiality?  In other words, did the expert indicate clearly that s/he would simply go where the evidence led?
  • Was the request for data, including financial, reasonable?  If you didn’t have a particular document or piece of information readily available, did the expert insist on getting it, even if it seemed tangential?
  • Did the actual performance of the expert (data gathering, analysis, report, etc.) match up well with what you expected, based on the initial meeting and the engagement letter?
  • Was the report clear and easily understandable – even by non-financial people?
  • In the case of a divorce valuation, was the expert sensitive to the emotional aspects of the process?
  • How did the expert relate to other professionals on the case, such as a Collaborative Practice team, attorneys or mediator?
  • If you had to make this choice again, would you select this expert?

Absence of Ego in the Process

There is no place for ego or pride of authorship in the business valuation process.  One way to scope out this aspect of an expert’s approach is to determine if s/he is willing to submit a preliminary report that is open to criticism.  It is always possible that even the most competent expert will over-emphasize or under-emphasize some important data or, perhaps, miss something altogether.  It is also possible that something unexpected has cropped up during the valuation process that was knowable as of the valuation date, but the client(s) neglected to mention same.  The expert should be open to (even anxious for) the client(s) to provide such feedback.  The objective, after all, is the best valuation report possible, not the easiest to crank out.

Fundamental Understanding of What is Really Going On

Fair Market Value (FMV) is defined as what a hypothetical willing buyer will pay a hypothetical willing seller in a hypothetical free market in which both sides have essentially all the information they need to make an informed decision, and neither is compelled to conclude a transaction.  FMV is an appropriate standard of value in many situations, such as probate or any other circumstance in which the opinion will be presented in court or involve the IRS or other federal or state agency.  However, a number of other scenarios call for a different standard of value.

In a divorce, for example, or for a buy-sell agreement for a company with 2-4 owners, investment value is far more appropriate than fair market value.  The reason is very straightforward.  In either of these situations, the objective is not to determine what some outsider would pay for the company, or a portion thereof.  Rather, it is to ascertain what it is worth to one spouse (or one owner) to own a greater share of the company.

Avoid an expert who fails to grasp this critical distinction.

Flexible Fee Schedule

Anyone can charge several hundred dollars per hour.  It is more challenging to provide a fee schedule that offers the client genuine choices.  There are a few key questions in this regard.

  1. Will this opinion be offered in court or to some government agency?  If so, an “official” opinion will be required, and will be the most expensive.  If not, does the expert offer an “unofficial” opinion for a lot less money?
  2. Can delivering a much shorter report cut the cost significantly?
  3. Is there a choice between a broadly based analysis and report and one that considers financial documents only?  Is door #2 cheaper.

In sum, you have a right to expect quality performance from an expert with whom you have an excellent relationship, and for a cost that is commensurate with you needs.  Go for it!

This article has been contributed by Steven D. Popell CMC (Certified Management Consultant.) Steve has been qualified as a business valuation expert since 1974, and has published extensively on this topic. CMC, a certification mark awarded by the Institute of Management Consultants USA, represents evidence of the highest standards of consulting and adherence to the ethical canons of the profession. Steve was a 2007 winner Collaborative Practice California Eureka Award for contributions to Collaborative Practice in this state and is a Senior Partner in Popell & Forney, with offices in Los Altos Hills and Pleasant Hill, California.

Selling when you’re not there

by Wayne Turmel on December 18, 2009

selling when not thereThere’s been a lot of research done about how customers- especially B2B customers- buy online.  The difference could mean a lot of money to your company and make your sales force’s jobs easier.  The good news is it means less work for you and your sales people if you do it right.

The problem is that many companies are still locked in last century’s sales thinking. That model was: hook them early in the sales cycle and get them to commit to a demo as early as possible. This webinar, usually delivered by a Subject Matter Expert, assumed they were starting at Square One. This doesn’t fit the way they want to buy from you now. They want to meet you armed with research and get their questions answered by someone (your sales person) who can help them buy.

Not surprisingly, companies are acting much like you and I do when we shop. CFOs and Purchasers (well, actually their underpaid and overworked assistants) are spending a lot of time cruising websites and shortening their list of prospective vendors. Only when they have a pretty good idea of the features they’re looking for- not to mention the approximate price and how you compare to the competition- will they  ask for a demo or to speak to a sales rep.

The implications of this are pretty profound:

  • Metrics matter Take a good look at your website’s analytics. When are people visiting your site? (if it’s a lot of after hours, you’re getting shopped out).What are they looking at? How long do they stay? How many take the next step to ask for contact with your reps?
  • Make sure you have something to measure If they’re not staying long, they aren’t finding what they are looking for, which is enough information to qualify you as a prospective vendor. The more information you provide (video demos, pre-recorded webinars, articles and industry research) the more they will look at you as an expert and a resource. This can only help.
  • You’d better know what your customers think they know Just because they’ve clicked the “schedule a demo” button doesn’t mean that’s what they need.  It’s critical that whoever they talk to next ask questions about what they have already read or seen (they don’t want to sit through redundant information) and where they are in the sales process (are you talking to the buyer who will need different information than someone doing the screening for them?). All of this means…
  • The people who demo need to be (or at least think and present like) sales people Many companies use “sales engineers” or Subject Matter Experts to do the demos to customers, which is fine (obviously you need someone who knows what they’re doing, and that isn’t always the sales person of record) but their job is not solely to demonstrate functions and features. They need to ask the questions that qualify the prospect, identify where they are in the sales process and move them through the sales cycle.  What are you doing to help prepare them for that role?

Does your website reflect this new buying reality? What are you doing to help customers move themselves as far along the sales cycle as possible, and what are you doing to help your SMEs and sales people bring them the rest of the way?


There is nothing sweeter to a salesperson that lands that new large customer from a competitor. You’ve worked months on your offer and stayed up many late nights and weekends and your hard work has finally paid off. Victory!

Now what?

How many times have you gone after the whale and forgotten about all the small fish swimming around you who have the same needs as the whale (granted, much smaller)? How often did you fail to catch the whale only to find out that you don’t have any other opportunities?

We hear over and over again that sales is all about numbers and that the more opportunities we have, the more sales we make, but it’s more than that. It’s about having as many realistic opportunities in your inventory where you’ve made offers that truly address your customers concerns. It’s also about creating offers not only to the enterprise accounts (i.e. the whales) but also to the ever-important midmarket accounts, those customers who have 100-999 employees.

This is a forgotten and often neglected marketplace within many sales organizations. Midmarket buyers who responded to a May 2008 study by IDC stated that three out of every four of them complained about the sales “hygiene” of field representatives in that:

– Sales does not communicate consistently or clearly
– Representatives forget the importance of follow-up and follow-through
– Answers are often incomplete or inaccurate
– The right people are not brought into the process despite buyers request

These same buyers said that companies should do the following with their sales teams:

– Train salespeople regarding the technical things they need to know
– Pay attention to the details in terms of information content about proposals and answers to frequent questions
– Ask customers how they work and what they need and when
– Don’t assume what is needed is known or what worked in the past is what is needed now

When you read through the second list, you probably said, “But I do that.” Maybe you do, but the reality is that we’re not consistent about it and we do what’s said in the first list more often than not.

When selling in to the midmarket segment you need to treat all of your customers like they are your largest customer and that the offers you are making to them are the most important ones to you. This goes a long way regardless if you are going after the whale or the small fish. Remember, that small fish could turn in to a whale one day if treated the right way.

Happy fishing!