The simple answer is that marketing prepares the ground for selling. Everything you do before an actual Selling Conversation is marketing.
Marketing includes targeting your market, preparing your message and materials, and undertaking various marketing activities such as networking and speaking.
Marketing ends when you get to the Selling Conversation.
The Selling Conversation happens when the prospect is ready to explore working with you. The Selling Conversation consists of learning about the prospect’s situation, goals, and challenges and then presenting the service that will help them reach those goals and overcome those challenges.
When people are having trouble converting prospects into clients, they are usually doing one thing wrong – they are selling before they are actually in the Selling Conversation. They are selling when they should actually still be marketing.
It’s necessary to be clear about the distinction between marketing and selling or you’ll continue to make this mistake. Here’s what most often happens:
You’re talking to a prospect about your business. It may be at a networking meeting or over the phone. The prospect is interested in your services. And then, pow, out of nowhere you begin the Selling Conversation. You start explaining about your services. You stop listening and you say too much.
Often when you do this, you blow the opportunity to ever have a real Selling Conversation because you’ve told the prospect all about your services and they’ve already made a decision. “Well, this sounds interesting but it’s not what I need right now.”
What you need to learn to do is have “Marketing Conversations” or “Pre-selling Conversations.” These are very different from “Selling Conversations.”
Let’s look at the elements of a Marketing Conversation.
- Someone asks what you do, and you respond with your problem-oriented Audio Logo: “I work with people who have trouble getting major projects done on time.”
- They follow-up with, “Oh, how does that work?” and you respond with your Ultimate Outcome: “The clients I’ve worked with typically double the speed in getting major products done and as a result end up getting promotions and raises.”
- If you can do those first two steps , you’re doing better than about 90% of Independent Professionals. But what you say next, or more accurately what
What you don’t say is the key to keeping this a Marketing Conversation, not a Selling Conversation.
You now have their attention and they want to know more. “How do you accomplish those results?” And here’s where most make the mistake of explaining the “process” of how you do what you do.
Don’t do that!!!
Instead, you want to tell a story. “A client I worked with recently kept getting bogged down on projects and his job was on the line. We worked together and he became the most productive person in his department. Ultimately, he got a big promotion and a raise.”
Now the prospect is even more interested. “Can you tell me what you did to increase his productivity?” Don’t tell him. You’re saving that for the Selling Conversation. “Well, I wrote an article about that called ‘Ten Mistakes Managers Make That Kill Productivity.’ Can I send you a copy?”
By providing more information (not on the process of what you do, but on the issues your clients deal with), you are setting up the right conditions for the selling conversation.
Next you would send the article, then follow-up by phone to learn more about their situation. You’d focus on them and what productivity issues were impacting them. You’d tell more stories, but still, you’d say little about your process. You’re informing, not selling. All of this is a continuation of the Marketing Conversation.
If the prospect is showing sufficient interest, you’d invite them to engage in a Selling Conversation: “John, it sounds like you’re interested in being more productive. You’re much like the clients I work with.
“I’d like to offer you a complimentary “Productivity Strategy Session” where we’d discuss your situation in more depth and talk about your goals and challenges around productivity. And I’ll also give you more details about how my services work.”
You have now transitioned from a Marketing Conversation into a Selling Conversation. The prospect is interested and open to exploring doing business with you. Because you’ve held back about your process, they are curious to know how it all works.
Now let’s look at this from another angle, the mistakes you make in the Marketing Conversation that could sabotage your efforts to set up a Selling Conversation.
1. You don’t use a problem-oriented Audio Logo. You use a label such as “I’m a productivity coach.” That’s all about you. Who cares?
2. You don’t have a powerful Ultimate Outcome. Instead, you talk about your process. “I have a coaching service where I work with people on their productivity.” See the difference?
3. You don’t use stories, but talk too much about process: “The first thing we do is sit down and find out all the areas where you’re not productive and then we work out strategies to increase your productivity.” True but boring.
4. When they show more interest, you don’t offer anything. Instead, you exchange cards and say something inane such as, “It was good talking to you, if you’d like to know more about my service, please give me a call.” You’ll be waiting a long time!
5. You don’t follow-up. And because you haven’t set the stage for follow-up, it’s pretty hard to do so. What are you going to say on the phone? The mistakes you’ve made have completely undermined the opportunity to set up a Selling Conversation.
6. Remember, all the activities of marketing, including the Marketing Conversation, are designed to get you into a Selling Conversation, but it just doesn’t happen by itself. You need to have a step-by-step strategy and methodology, executed in a certain sequence if you hope to succeed.
The More Clients Bottom Line: You must make a clear distinction between Marketing Conversations and Selling Conversations. If you don’t, you end up trying to sell too soon and lose the opportunity to set up a real Selling Conversation.
The Biggest Mistake in Selling
A question I’ve gotten a lot over the years is, “What’s the difference between marketing and selling?”