So, you’ve written some amazing content, created an award winning interactive piece, edited the next big viral video and now need to find some amazing sites to host it. How do you go about doing this?
How do you know which sites/influencers and editors to target? Well, I’m afraid there is no science to it. Trial and error and a (sometimes lengthy) learning curve, is the only way to fine-tune your Digital PR. But trust me, you’ll soon find your stride as the rejections become less and fruitful relationships start to grow.
But seriously, where to start? Opening communications with high-ranking, influential site owners and editors can feel like a stretch too far. Think of it like starting a relationship. You’ve been set up on a blind date with the girl/guy of your dreams. In your mind, you know you want to woo them with your witty repartee, impress them with your perfectly planned outfit and keep them intrigued all night with stories that make you look exciting and worthy of their attention. But what happens when the reality is that you get blinded by nerves, run out of jokes and before long there’s a deadly silence?
So how do you make an amazing first impression and ensure you get past the first date or in some cases, get past the gatekeeper? Let’s face it, we’re all nervous before a first date and it’s the same when you first make contact with a potential client. What if they don’t like you? What if you say something wrong or embarrassing?
Whether you’ve been working in sales for years or you’re new to picking up the phone or meeting clients, the nerves will likely always be there. Sometimes, this can be a benefit as it’ll cause you to think about things in more detail and plan for any outcome.
But really, there’s nothing to be scared of. Say you pick up the phone and the person is rude and abusive - just hang up! The likelihood is you’ll speak to someone perfectly friendly and if you follow just a few simple tips, there’s no reason why you won’t get the outcome you desire.
It’s so easy to fluff a new business call in the first 10 seconds if you can’t control your nerves. Try to take away the stress by thinking of it as any normal conversation. Speak slow, introduce yourself, your business and ask a few general questions to get the conversation going.
Top Tip No. 1: ALWAYS ask open questions. Don’t allow them to get away with Yes/No answers. Things like, ‘Tell me about your business…’ and ‘What are you up to this weekend’ will encourage them to talk.
The temptation can be to plan a call, write down exactly what you want to say and then dump your entire script onto your unsuspecting victim at a rate of knots, just so you can get it over with quickly. Big mistake! The sell comes later, the initial phase is all about getting their interest and finding out crucial information that you can then use later down the line to get them hooked.
AIDA is one of the most widely used techniques for making sales calls:
Let’s focus on Attention. How do you get them listening and interested quickly? Use a Hook. “Hi, my name is Laura and I’m calling from Zazzle Media. We are a content led, data informed digital agency with an outstanding track record in greatly improving our clients' online visibility by use of exceptional online content and creative ideas.” Now, they’re interested. Much better than “Hi, I’m Laura from Zazzle Media.” Right?
A real bugbear of mine is to hear people apologising for making a call or telling someone “it’s just a quick call, I won’t take up your time”. Think about it, you’re calling because you can add value to their business/website for free. They should be thanking you! I’m not saying be overconfident and bolshie but also don’t be afraid to state the purpose of your call. “If I could supply you with some top quality, sharable content for your website, free of charge, would you be interested?”
Top Tip No.2: At this stage, closed questions can be useful, so long as you’re confident the response will be ‘Yes’. Subconsciously, if you can get them saying ‘Yes’, they’ll continue to say ‘Yes’ when you come to close the deal. Easy right!
I guess this is where the next step in AIDA comes into force, Interest. What do people love doing best? Talking about themselves and their problems. You’ve done great so far, you’ve got them talking and now is your chance to dig a bit deeper. They know who you are and what you’re about by now so get them to tell you what they really want/need in order to get them really interested. By finding out what causes them stress - not enough time in the day or perhaps they’d like to write more content for their website – this way you can MATCH your offering to their need. Another oldie but goodie sales technique is this:
- Probe (questioning)
- Confirm (reiterate what you’ve just found out to find a need)
- Match (tailor your offering to meet the above need)
OK, we’re rushing ahead now. Let’s pull it back.
You guessed it, next comes Desire. You’ve got their interest and found a need but a need is not the same as desire. Desire is a motivation to act and leads towards the next stage – closing the deal. There are many ways to create desire but in terms of content and PR, I’d suggest you resort to the old faithful, exclusivity!
Tell them the piece is highly sought after by other site owners but you wanted to give them first refusal because of X, Y, Z. Create a sense of urgency (but don’t sound desperate!) and explain how working with you can solve some of their problems whether that’s generating traffic to their blog, increasing social shares or just freeing up their time to work on other projects.
Top Tip No. 3: Desperation breath. Anyone who’s ever worked in sales will know how easy it is to come across desperate on the phone, it’s all in your breathing and the speed at which you speak. This happens when you’re really keen to get the deal closed quickly. Watch out for this. Not only is desperation unattractive but it’ll unnerve them and make them wonder why you’re so keen to do the deal? It can’t be amazing, exclusive and sought after if you’re that desperate to get rid of it!
This is where the magic happens! This is your chance to take action on their desires and get them to agree to your proposals. This can feel like a stressful stage as you’ve put in all the hard work, don’t want to lose it all now and asking for the business can be daunting. What if they say No? Listen to the signals they are sending. It’s likely they’ll bring up a few objections but an objection is not a ‘No’. Most people think of objections as a bad thing but they're missing the big picture. If your prospect raises an objection, that's actually a good sign.
The fact that they're raising their concern means they want to give you a chance to answer it. If someone is completely uninterested, they won't even bother to object. There is more to objection handling than I can squeeze into this blog post and to be honest, the only way to learn this skill is practice, practice, practice! However, as a start point, try the following steps when handling objections:
- Repeat what they’ve told you. Show you’ve listened and understand.
- Explore the reasoning. Is this a genuine objection or is there an underlying issue they’re not telling you?
- Answer the objection honestly.
- Confirm they understand - “Does that make sense?” or “Have I answered your concern?”
- Redirect the conversation – attempt to close again.
It’s here, the part you’ve been working towards, the ‘Yes, send me the piece’ conversation. If you’ve done it well, this part will happen naturally but sometimes your target will require a little push. There are many ways to do this, some more effective than others but the real skill is understanding which technique to use and when as each call/prospect will require something different. Firstly, let’s look at the most commonly used methods of Close:
Arguably the most effective option. Assume they want your content, tell them you’ll send it over via email straight away and ask when you can expect to see it on the site. Simple. I’d suggest using this option as standard.
Let’s face it, most people hate being sold to and the hard close will do nothing to help overcome this. It can make people feel pressured and so only use it as a last resort, when you have nothing to lose.
This will really only come with time. You will struggle to close a deal this way after the first conversation as the relationship is not yet strong enough. However, once you’ve been working with them for a while you may find they like you so much they’ll say ‘Yes’ to anything you offer. If you can get here, you’re doing well!
Let’s face it, when do you want something most? When it’s taken away from you! If they’re hesitating, try telling them that it’s not a problem because you have another site owner in mind that will take it right away. I guarantee they’ll make a decision rather quickly at this point.
Top Tip No. 4: Silence is Golden. Once you’ve asked for their business, say nothing. In sales, it’s thought that the first one to speak, loses. Wait for their answer, it will likely be ‘Yes’. However, you can talk yourself out of a sale by pre-empting an objection that isn’t there. You’ve done all the talking now just wait to hear the good news!
You won’t get a ‘Yes’ at the end of every call. Even the greatest, most experienced salespeople will fail to close the deal after the first call, every time. Sometimes you’ll be asked to call back or send an email. Try to avoid this where possible but if you do agree to call back/send an email, do it and do it when you say you will. Failing to deliver at this early stage will do nothing but make them think you’re unreliable.
So, you’ve done the groundwork, stalked them on Twitter, opened dialogue and got them on side. Now what? That’s the hard bit over right? Time to sit back, relax and enjoy the fruits of your labour? Sadly, this is where you’re going wrong. Building a long term, successful and rewarding business relationship with those clients, suppliers and even employees is the best way of future proofing your business.
However, building collaborative working relationships can be a challenge. Let’s face it, there’s no lesson in school and it’s rarely taught to those joining a business. The ability to build great relationships come naturally to the lucky few but if you’re looking for some simple advice to get you started, look no further:
What are the names of their children? How was their holiday? Which football team do they support? All simple snippets of information but together, knowing these things can help turn them from being just a client into a person, perhaps even a friend. Understanding their likes, dislikes, concerns and stresses will give you the background information you need to ensure you deliver and meet their expectations every time.
The best way of ensuing a long term relationship with a client? Become their trusted advisor! Get to a point at which they start to call you for help and advice on a new project or problem they need to overcome. Position yourself as the expert by sending them regular industry updates, ideas for improving their processes and what ever else you can do to add value. Aim to become an integral part of their team.
If you say you’re going to call at 3pm, call at 3pm. If you say you’re going to deliver the work by end of month, deliver by end of month. This will ensure you’re thought of as a dependable, respectable professional they can rely on. It sounds easy but we all know how hard it can be when juggling clients and an overflowing workload. Always be realistic with how quickly you can deliver, it’s much better to under promise and over deliver than vise versa.
It can be tempting in the early stages to be a yes man and agree to their every demand but trust me, this will only set you up for a fall. Have the confidence to push back when they’re asking for something unreasonable and don’t be afraid to suggest a different way. No one likes to be challenged but you’re honesty in the early stages will ensure they respect and trust your advice going forward.
It sounds simple but so many people would rather deny or cover up a mistake than tackle it head on. Not only is this extremely annoying but it also breaks any trust that’s been built and leads the customer to question what else you’ve been lying about. Admitting fault (especially when it’s the fault of a colleague, not yours) can be hard to swallow but they’ll respect you for it. Expect an initial rant but once you’ve offered them a solution, it’s likely they’ll trust and respect you even more than they did before.
In short, think of this as a marriage not a fling. Just like maintaining a marriage, nurturing a long-term client is an active and on-going effort. Just remember to keep your client feeling like they are you’re number one, top priority. Even if you are working towards newer, more exciting prospects at the same time! This way, you can prevent the need to relive that awkward first date, time and time again!
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