Let your fingers do the walking!

Does your Sales team need more training? Or does your Thought-Leadership need work?

Sometimes, when sales are down, it’s not about the sales…

Earlier this year, I was asked to present at the annual sales kick-off for the Yellow Pages. At the time, they were still feeling the pinch of the recession and loyal clients were hesitant to advertise as liberally as before. Sure, they had the funds. But they also had fear. They were hesitant to spend, more conscious of outgoing cash and more determined than ever to see clear value for their money.

The Yellow Pages sales team were well trained in sales techniques. They were accustomed to moving big numbers. Yet the problem persisted.

In my keynote presentation, ‘How to Sell in Tough Times’, I pointed out:

If your clients have the money to spend;
And they need what you’re offering;
But they’re still not buying what you’re offering;
Even though it would be good for them to do so;

…Then the problem lies in a single word:

Perceptions.

I unpacked the idea that sometimes, when sales are down, it’s not about the sales team. They’re working every bit as hard as before, sometimes even harder. The problem lies with how your client views the world. Or again: Their perceptions.

The Yellow Pages faced a number of ‘perception’ issues:

1. An economy full of hesitant buyers.
2. The notion that the Yellow Pages was an obsolete, dusty old book that no one used anymore, and who uses paper these days, anyway? (Which wasn’t true because they had a massive online presence.)
3. The fact that there were so many new ways to advertise, that the whole business of advertising was now just plain confusing.

Of course, if you’re not ruled by the fear of the moment, and you can keep your head about you in times of crisis, you’ll see opportunities everywhere. This particular crisis represented a big opportunity for the Yellow Pages. It was an opportunity to address perceptions, and position themselves as ‘thought leaders’.

Here’s how:

1. If the economy is full of hesitant buyers, they needed to tell people that the recession was over (using valid stats and story-examples). And they needed to champion the message: “Now is the time to advertise again!” They needed to be persuasive on this point, because it’s true (firstly) and because their business depended upon it.
2. If people saw the Yellow Pages as old, their job was to address that perception and convince them that they’re using the latest cutting-edge approaches to online advertising (which they were). If nobody even knows you are doing this, it doesn’t matter how well you do it.
3. If people were overwhelmed by the multiple channels in which to advertise, then they had a mammoth opportunity for ‘thought leadership’. All they needed to do was go out into the market and announce themselves as the market leader in the world of advertising spend. By telling their potential clients that they’d solve that problem for them by giving them valuable information on how best to spend their advertising money, they became problem-solvers.

Be a problem solver. Be a thought-leader. Be the teacher unto those who spend. Give them good, solid, valuable advice that will benefit them…And you will become the logical choice for their spend, even if you weren’t punting your own product.

I also pointed out to them that there was no end to the number of media opportunities available for a big name company like the Yellow Pages. They could tell potential customers “What has changed in advertising since the recession, and how they can go about advertising intelligently today.”

They could place articles on that topic, appear on radio and television talk shows. Just recommend the idea to the right people. And they will give you the floor.

If enough of the right people see your message, you will experience a shift. You will find that they start coming to you. And that’s a nice situation to be in!

Sometimes it’s not about your sales techniques. Sometimes it’s about thought leadership. Sometimes all you really need to do is position yourself as an expert. – Douglas Kruger

– Douglas Kruger, professional speaker, is the author of 50 Ways to Position Yourself as an Expert.

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