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by Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

Joy is not usually an emotion that we associate with selling. In fact, most people, even many business people, see selling as a necessary evil, something they do with reluctance, if not with with complete distaste. 

And this is because most people completely misunderstand exactly what selling is. 

Most of us define selling as "convincing someone to buy something that they don't want." And to that we can add pressure, manipulation, deceit and hucksterism.

We associate selling with used cars, telemarketers and TV pitchmen. And we think that to be successful in selling that we need to emulate those models.

Nothing could be further from the truth. 

What I want to tell you is none of that has anything to do with selling professional services. That is NOT selling. Selling is not about pressure, convincing, or manipulation. Yes, these are sometimes things that sales people do, but they don't help much, and in fact even detract from the success of the selling process. 

So we need a different way to think about selling. Here's my definition:

"Selling is exploring with a prospect if your service is right for them or not and then coming to a mutual agreement to work together or not." 

The key word here is exploring. And in my experience, this explorative approach to selling is a joy. In fact it may be my favorite business activity. 

Just think, as a result of your marketing, you get someone interested in knowing more about how you might help them solve a problem, develop a skill or increase their confidence (amongst other positive outcomes).

Then they either contact you, or you follow up with them to conduct an exploratory conversation to see if you can help them or not. 

I think if we did away with the word selling entirely and replaced it with exploratory conversation, we'd be a lot further ahead. After all, isn't exploring something fun, exciting, and full of potential discovery? Absolutely! 

When you meet with a prospect for this kind of conversation, you set aside a number of things that only screw things up. You set aside your need to get this person as a client. you set aside your bag of persuasive tools and skills. 

And then you ask a few choice questions and just listen. 

I divide my questions into three broad areas: First, questions about the prospect's current situation, what's working and what's not working? This is where I spend most of my time. Sometimes I think of myself as a doctor diagnosing a patient. I have no agenda other than trying to understand exactly what's going on.

The second type of question doesn't take a long time but is absolutely essential: What are your goals, that is, where do you want to go and what kind of outcomes are important to you? You need to understand this: Prospects want the outcomes you deliver, not the process of your services. So you must know what they want and why they want it. 

The third type of question is about challenges. What is preventing your prospects from from moving from where they are now (their situation) to getting where they want to go (their goals)? This is absolutely essential to understand because there is always something in the way, and that always needs to be addressed through the services you offer.

When you are coming from the mindset of: "I want to explore this prospect's situation and discover how we can work together and produce an outcome that will make a substantial difference" then any remnants of the manipulative selling process simply dissolve. 

Exploring in this way is a very intimate conversation. You get to know your prospects very well, learning things about them and their businesses that not many others are privy to.

And that is a true joy.

Sometimes the conversation culminates with an agreement to work together, sometimes it doesn't. But the whole experience has been positive and uplifting. It benefits both you and the prospect, no matter what happens. 

But the good news is that when you start to approach selling as an exploratory conversation, you create a connection with your prospects that is irresistible. And more prospects will make the choice to work with you.

Prospects don't buy your services just because you have a comprehensive, outcome-based solution to their challenges, (which of course, you should have), they decided to work with you because they want more of that intimate exploration, more of that uplifting experience of connecting with you. 

Are you ready to let go of old, constrictive mindsets about selling and embrace a whole new approach based on exploratory conversations where the aim is to make a difference, not make a killing? 

Do you have a joyful approach to selling? Tell us about it on the Blog by clicking on the Comemnts link below. 

Free: More Clients Marketing Sampler for Independent Professionals. Get this free sampler of marketing tutorials, recordings, resources and exercises, designed to help you be a better marketer of your professional services. 

 

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by Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

This is Part II of a Blog I wrote in October 2011.

I recently got hooked on watching the SyFy Channel series, "Alphas" (on Amazon Instant Video) about people with enhanced abilities and senses. 

It's a common theme, of course, from Superman comics that I read as a kid to the TV series, Heroes, and the movies Spiderman, Ironman and a host of others. We've always imagined what it would be like to have super powers. 

The thing is, we do. All of us. 

No, we can't jump over tall buildings or travel though time, and our superpowers may seem mundane, but without recognizing and exercising the powers we already have, we often feel, well, powerless. 

Our super powers are the gifts, talents or abilities that we can tap into to produce amazing results. In Part I I talked about qualities such as Persistence, Creativity, Courage, Confidence, etc. but today I want to talk about actual Marketing Super Powers. 

In working with so many clients I've noticed some were naturally more talented in some areas of marketing than others. Here's an inventory of the key Marketing Super Powers:

Conceptualizing a Business Idea. You might call this the ultimate entrepreneurial skill. You can easily imagine creating services, packaging them a certain way, and offering them to a targeted group of potential clients. It all just comes in a flash accompanied by a feeling of exhilaration and energy. 

Developing Marketing Messages. You instinctively seem to understand how to convey something in its most interesting, persuasive, and attention-getting way. You know how to take a simple idea and put a spin on it that gets others excited. 

Face to Face Communications. It's not so much what you say, or even how you say it, but how you communicate emotionally with your listener. You're a great listener, you empathize, and you're someone that people just like to be with. 

Written Communication. You can take any idea and effortlessly explain what it's about, why it's important and how someone can apply this idea in a practical way. You know how to make anything interesting and keep the reader reading. Sometimes called the "master marketing skill" you can apply this power to almost everything in your marketing, from blogs to presentations. 

Speaking to a Group. This power combines the ability to create a presentation (writing) and face-to-face communication, but it's a completely different animal. If you have this power, you feel very comfortable on a stage or behind a podium. You love an audience and thrive on positive feedback.  

Implementing a Plan. When presented with a good idea, you know how to break it down into a step-by-step action plan and put it into action efficiently and effortlessly. This power thrives on getting things done and making it happen. 

Organizational Ability. You know how to manage multiple projects, ideas and things. You never get overwhelmed because, as something crosses your path, your power helps you prioritize, categorize and file it for later use. 

Selling Ability. Bring conversations to closure is your super power. You know what to ask next, what to say next and what to suggest as the next step. You know how to keep the ball in your court and move it steadily towards the goal line, an agreement with a new client to work with you.

Which is your dominant Super Power? 

Of course, all of these superpowers are very useful, and in the course of learning and mastering the discipline of marketing, you'll improve your skill in all of them. 

But you want to recognize which of these super powers comes most naturally to you and find ways to emphasize them. 

For instance, some people, and I'm one of them, find it more difficult communicating face-to-face than I do communicating by writing. I'd almost always prefer to send an email than talk on the phone. And others are the exact opposite. 

So it makes sense for me to spend more time writing this eZine, fine tuning my website, blogging, and writing presentations and video scripts than it does attending networking events and conferences.

When you look at the list above, which one of the eight resonated with you the most? 

If it was Organizational Ability, you can really use that as a competitive advantage. You can collect and organize useful information to send to your prospects, you'd be great at building, segmenting and leveraging your e-list. You'd have facts, strategies and tactics at your fingertips to implement when the opportunity arose. 

Believe, me a lot of people would be envious of that Super Power!

If Selling was your Superpower, you'd want to spend more of your time connecting with and following up with prospects. You know your strength is the persuasive process, so you might avoid marketing activities such as writing and marketing planing and put most of your marketing time into actual selling activities. 

The thing to understand is that when you utilize a Super Power it becomes the key to achieving your marketing goals, even if your powers in other areas are just average. And, in many cases, you can delegate those things to others who have different super powers than you do.  

What are your Marketing Super Powers? How can you emphasize them to achieve your marketing goals? And are there any other Marketing Super Powers that I didn't mention? Please feel free to comment on the blog by clicking on the Comments link below.

Free: More Clients Marketing Sampler for Independent Professionals. Get this free sampler of marketing tutorials, recordings, resources and exercises, designed to help you be a better marketer of your professional services. 

 

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by Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

Today I thought I'd share with you a little of what a mostly online marketing coach (me) actually does with his time. 

I thought you might be interested to know what it is that I do to help keep my clients, Club Members and More Clients subscribers happy. 

April 20-26

Two weeks ago is I was in a retreat in Northern California to clean out my spiritual pipes. The schedule wasn't heavy, so it gave me time to think about things, including my business, during the breaks between sessions. 

I came up with an idea for a new service and wrote it out in longhand. This often happens. Great ideas always come to me when I'm at workshop or retreat. 

April 27-May 3

As soon as I returned home, I cracked open my notes and developed the new service completely and put it on my website. I'll be launching this in a week or so, so I won't give you any hints right now.

I had written my eZine for the week before I went on the retreat and posted it for Tuesday delivery. Because I had that time free, I worked on a new webinar presentation in Keynote on my Mac. I'm trying to do new things with Keynote, so there's a learning curve. 

I had a final meeting with one of my Marketing Mastery participants in New York and did more work on my new service. On Friday morning I met with my mastermind partner George Huang to brainstorm ideas for the coming two weeks. 

May 6-10

Wrote a very long article about marketing mindsets and posted it on my site in the Free Stuff Section. I liked it enough that I repurposed it for my eZine. Perhaps the longest eZine article I've ever done - almost 2400 words. 

On Tuesday I had a meeting with a new potential client and later that day I led one of the Coaching Calls for the Club on "Creating a Digital Download." We have 100 people signed up for this series within the Club. 

On Wednesday, Carolyn Potts visited my house in the redwoods and did a photo shoot with me for a new headshot. Haven't seen the results yet. And then I put the finishing touches on the webinar presentation. 

I also sent out a promotional email on Wednesday for the webinar and 300 people signed up, which was a nice outcome. 

On Thursday I had another final meeting with one of my Marketing Mastery program participants who lives in Bharain and then led the webinar at noon with a couple hundred in attendance. Yes, even I don't get everyone who signs up to show up!

Made an offer for the Marketing Club and over 24 hours about 30 new people signed up. Yay!

Finally, on Thursday I interviewed Kris Gilbertson on Podcasting which will be an interview in the Marketing Club, and also made arrangements with her to do a free webinar for my whole list next week on the 23rd. See above. 

May 13 

Yesterday I was back working on Keynote for a new introductory webinar presentation that I intend to put up on the website as a video for new subscribers. Worked on it from 11 am to about 7 p.m. with a short break or two. Almost done. Hopefully will have it up before the end of the week. 

Had a long talk with my wonderful VA, Jayne, who's husband passed away a week or so ago. She's doing really well, but it came very unexpectedly. Send her prayers. 

That takes me to right now, 9:40 pm on Monday, completing this eZine. Can't wait to finish that webinar tomorrow. I have a ton of other projects on my list. 

You're welcome to make comments below by Clicking on the Comments link. 

Free: More Clients Marketing Sampler for Independent Professionals. Get this free sampler of marketing tutorials, recordings, resources and exercises, designed to help you be a better marketer of your professional services. 

 

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by Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

Last week in the eZine and blog I challenged your beliefs about nutrition, to demonstrate how attached we are to what we believe. 

And I told you that this week would be about limiting marketing beliefs. I'm not talking about myths about writing or marketing messages or giving talks. Important perhaps, but not a big deal. The limiting beliefs we have about marketing are disguised as attitudes and mindsets about marketing that we think are normal reactions to external circumstances.

Here's the thing about a belief: If we hold it as true, then everything in our lives falls in line with that belief. We believe it, we think it, we feel it and we act on it.   It's not a belief to us, it's the truth. 

What I explore today are the beliefs that hold people back from successfully marketing their business. This comes from my experience of working with hundreds of clients over a 28-year period. It was never the how-to part of marketing that was the issue, but their limiting beliefs and attitudes. When you're stuck in a mindset, it's hard to take action, hard to move forward, hard to get things done. See if you can identify these mindsets in yourself. And most importantly, what's driving each of these mindsets/beliefs?

The attitude/feeling is listed first, followed by the belief.  

Ambition - I must succeed, no matter what

If you must succeed, then you can't fail. That is, it's not in any way OK if you fail. Ambition, is a tricky one because it does have a positive side, it tends to drive you and put you into action. But in being driven, you block other things out, other people, other important things. You always feel right and justified in what you do. So in marketing, you can easily fall into unethical practices. And then the means justifies the ends. You've seen a lot of marketing like this online. But ultimately it breaks down or backfires. 

The best way to handle ambition is to think of your business and your marketing as a game. Yes, you want to win, get more clients, and make more money. But you can play in a less driven way that is all about fun and engagement and building relationships and making a real difference. When you do this, the money will follow. This leaves you with the feeling of true accomplishment and growth, where you celebrate your wins and include others in that celebration. (Think Bernie Madoff vs. Richard Branson.)

Confusion - I don't know what to do

Confusion is very common when you start on any enterprise. You soon learn that there are so many components, so many moving parts, and that it's hard to know what to do first or where to start. Many people get stuck in confusion and feel that they'll never get beyond it. The first impulse is to try harder, the final impulse is to just quit. Confusion seems to be innocent, but it's not, because it arises out of thinking you should know more than you do. Confusion is a lie. 

To combat confusion, you need to be humble. Admit what you don't know and let it be OK that you don't know. You need to research and learn from others and discover what really works. Study by reading books, searching on Google, making lists and plans, and getting the advice or coaching from others can get you out of confusion. When you are no longer in confusion, it doesn't mean you know everything, it means you know what you don't know and what you need to learn next to succeed. 

Frustration - This is just not working

Frustration is a cousin of confusion in that you know what to do but aren't getting results yet.  Confusion is like casting around in the darkness; frustration is banging into walls over and over again, thinking you should see some light by now. Frustration can also lead to quitting. It's like fishing without ever catching any fish. But the source is the same as confusion - believing you should have the answer, even when you don't.

To get out of frustration you need more than general directions, you need a guide who has been there before. You might find a guide in books or other instructional materials, but usually you need someone who has figured out how to make something work and can give you specific directions. A guide may be a consultant, coach or mentor. Realize that the investment you make in a guide will pay off many times over by helping you reach your destination more quickly and with fewer costly mistakes. 

Impatience - Things are not going fast enough

Impatience is a lot like frustration but has a sharper edge. Not only are you frustrated that things aren't working, you are impatient and perhaps a little angry that they aren't working. And this makes you do stupid things. You follow-up with someone with an impatient tone in your voice: "Why the hell can't you get back to me and set up a time to talk?" When we're impatient, we feel that people owe us something, that they should respond faster and differently. It's not a lot of fun to do business with impatient people. They are fighting against what is. 

To get past impatience you need to realize that you're not entitled. The world owes you nothing, and neither do your potential clients. You need to find time to be still, to be calm, to meditate. I'm not kidding. Impatience is a very agitated state of mind. You're not only impatient, you're impatient that you're impatient! Take walks, go to the seashore or the woods and contemplate how long those trees took to grow. Cultivate patience. It's so much more powerful than impatience. It's facing reality just as it is. 

Disappointment - I'm not getting what I want

You feel disappointed when you seem to have done everything right but still don't get the results you want. You've spent a lot of time and have traveled a long way. Is it time to give up and try something new? Sometimes it is. But not always. Have you really tried everything? Have you read the books, listened to the experts, gotten some coaching? Or perhaps you've set your goals so high that it's unrealistic to achieve them in the time you've set. Yes, you can make a million dollars; but probably not in a year. 

Before you get dragged down by disappointment, look at your goals and your expectations. Were they too high? Look at the efforts you put in. Did you really go the extra mile? Look at the information you used. Was it the best information available? Look at the support you got. Did you really use the support to its fullest extent? Now, after looking at all of that, set a new goal, and make a new plan. Get some input from others, and set up a support system that you'll stick to; then go into action.

Arrogance - I know what to do

People who are arrogant will rarely admit they are confused or frustrated. After all, they think they know what to do. Many arrogant people are intelligent and resourceful and have had many successes. But success in some areas doesn't guarantee success in others. For instance, very successful people in business often think being self-employed will be a breeze. It's a rude awakening and a blow to their egos when they realize they have no idea how to attract clients in any kind of consistent way. I've worked with people who have masters degrees in marketing but can't attract clients themselves! 

The cure for arrogance is to simply admit you don't know - at least in the area you are struggling with. So be humble, ask for help, read a lot, find a guide, and use your intelligence to learn more and learn faster than the average person. Hopefully that won't lead you to more arrogance, however. Become a mentor and coach yourself and give back. 

Overwhelm - I have too much to do

Overwhelm comes from believing you should be able to handle every thing, every idea, every detail without effort. Again, it's a false idea that we have about ourselves, that we must be perfect and handle everything. When we are faced with a multitude of options and choices, we don't handle it well. Quitting is a frequent reaction, but simply engaging in avoidance behavior is more common. 

To get past overwhelm you need to realize you can only do one thing at a time - the thing in front of you right now. Sure, it's looks like a million things, but it rarely is. All those items on your to-do list, or the pile of papers in your in-basket, or the hundreds unanswered emails are completely neutral. They are not doing anything to you. Organization helps overwhelm greatly. Creating systems for email, files, paper and actions, puts things where they are easy to access and get to when you need them. Think of what you can accomplish just for today, and then think of what you can accomplish right now. Then start. 

Unworthiness - I'm not worthy to succeed

Now we're getting into deeper, darker territory where we doubt our intrinsic value. When we don't feel smart enough, good enough or talented enough, we doubt our ability help the clients we have, let alone attract new clients. This is the place of low self-esteem, and sometimes self-loathing. To quit at this point is common, but we can carry this around like a cross for a very long time, being a victim of our perceived inadequacies. 

It's easy to find reasons for our unworthiness, but this is the the lazy way of avoiding success. Instead we need to build arguments for our worthiness. What have we succeeded at, no matter how modest? What are we good at? What do we love to do? What do people praise us for? To ignore these obvious abilities and accomplishments is to undermine the truth of our potential. Build on what you have, not on what you think you should have. Make a simple plan and get support in moving forward one step at a time. 

Impostor - I feel like a fake, a pretender

When you feel like an impostor, it's as if you're puling the wool over everyone's eyes. You believe you don't have the skills, the experience, the track record or the know-how to pull things off. But nevertheless, people trust you to get the job done. But what will happen when your clients discover you were faking it all along? When they do, won't that mean the end of your life and business as you know it? Those who feel like impostors are similar to those who feel unworthy, but who take action anyway. 

The recurring pattern for all of these mindsets is that "things shouldn't be the way they are." Well, in case you didn't realize it, things are exactly the way they are. You should know exactly how much you know, you should be able to do exactly what you do, and you should have exactly what you have. That's reality. And if people trust you to get a job done, they see something in you that you may not see. So you're not an impostor, just someone doing the best job you can. Get over it. Take the acknowledgement and recognition and work at doing things even better. 

Fear - I'll be hurt or rejected if I take action

This is a big one in marketing because nobody likes to be rejected. We are always waiting for something bad to happen - but it usually doesn't. We put off making follow-up calls because we think we'll be rejected. We don't write that article because we worry we'll be ridiculed. Or we avoid trying to get speaking engagements because we'd only make a fool of ourselves. Fear puts our marking on "play it safe mode." We rarely take a risk because we just can't face the imagined consequences.

The way to conquer fear is by making a commitment to finding the truth. Will you really be rejected, ridiculed or make a fool of yourself? What's your proof; what's your evidence? When it comes to making that follow-up call, ask how bad could it really be? Will the person you're calling send a hit man to take you out? No, not likely! What if they are simply not interested right now? Can you live with that and move on? Of course, you can. Fear is based on the belief that everyone should like you and accept you. Is that true? Sounds narcissistic to me! So tell the truth about your fear and take one action at a time. Take that scary next step. 

Shame - Others will think I'm trying to con them

If fear is bad, shame is worse. It stops so many capable people from marketing themselves. "What if they think I'm trying to pressure them? What if they think I'm like a sleazy car salesperson if I promote my services? What if they lump me in with con men whom people despise?" Thoughts and beliefs like that will stop your marketing cold. Your marking plan will look something like this: "I'll do the best for my current clients and I'll pray every night that they send me referrals."

Shame can be overcome by looking at others who market themselves successfully and with integrity. Sure, you can think of the unsavory types out there, but think of the ones who are great communicators, the ones who listen, the ones who care, the ones who make you, the buyer, feel comfortable. You don't resist or hate these people do you? Of course not, you admire and appreciate them. Find someone who is a model of high-integrity marketing and selling. Get to know them; take them out to lunch. Learn about their mindsets and you'll discover a whole new, shame-free way of doing business. 

Blame - It's someone else's fault.

Blame is the ultimate cop out. It's not your fault that you didn't succeed, it's not your fault that things didn't work out. It was the advice you got, it was the market conditions, it was your partner, it was whatever conveniently comes to mind. What's the belief that underlies blame? The same as most beliefs: Things should be different than they are. And, of course, if they had been different, I would have succeeded. This is a sad and tragic place to get to. 

To get past blame you have to turn your attention to yourself. But the trick is, it can be easy to blame yourself as well. And that's just as bad, if not worse. Instead, you want to take responsibility. If something didn't come out the way you wanted, you had something to do with it. That's all. After all, if you had succeeded, you'd take responsibility, wouldn't you? Of course! You'd look at all the things you did to make things work, and you'd work to repeat them. Now, having failed, you need to do the same thing in reverse. Look dispassionately at what you did that made things turn out the way they did. Then create a new plan to do things differently. Keep moving on, it's the only real choice you have. 

Which of these limiting mindsets and beliefs hold you back? Or do you have a different one that stops you from moving forward? Remember, all limiting beliefs like this are based on a completely false premise: "things should not be the way they are"  or "things should be the way I want them to be." Please comment or share by clicking on the Comments link below. 

Free: More Clients Marketing Sampler for Independent Professionals. Get this free sampler of marketing tutorials, recordings, resources and exercises, designed to help you be a better marketer of your professional services. 

 

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by Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

One of my hobbies is nutrition. My first business, somewhere around 1970, was a health food store in Calgary, Alberta. 

And once in awhile I get hooked by the latest information on nutrition and study up. In the past week I've read three books and seen one movie on the topic. They really opened my eyes.

Let me give you a quick quiz. Five questions - True or False:

1. A complex carbohydrate diet is better than a hight fat diet

2. You're better off drinking whole fat milk instead of orange juice

3. Eating carbohydrates makes you fat

4. A low-fat diet is the best way to loose weight

5. Cholesterol causes heart disease

Here are the answers:

1. False, 2. True, 3. True, 4. False, 5. False

But those answers are pretty much against everything you believe about nutrition, right? But the science proves otherwise. The bottom line is that fat, especially saturated fat, is GOOD for you, and carbohydrates, especially refined ones, make you fat.

Did you just read that? Yes, you did! 

Here's the most interesting thing I learned from all these books: When faced with the results from innumerable studies proving these facts, many scientists, holding the opposite beliefs, simply disregarded the findings. They didn't even argue against them; they simply ignored them. 

The overwhelming evidence, in hundreds of studies, proved people lost weight more quickly and without feeling deprived, by eating high fat and protein diets, with very low carbohydrates. 

If you want to be convinced, read "Good Calories, Bad Calories" by Gary Taubes, or if you want a more entertaining take on the same topic, watch the movie "Fat Head" by Tom Naughton. You can get it on Netflix or instant play on Amazon. Not only is it educational, it's a real hoot. 

The thing is, our beliefs about this are so fixed that even if we believe that refined carbohydrates are bad, we still try to eat low fat food when on a diet. No wonder we can't stick to our diets, because we're hungry all the time! 

You'd feel guilty eating chicken with the skin on, as much cheese as you wanted, whole milk and full-fat yogurt, wouldn't you?

I mean, it sounds absolutely sacrilegious. 

Oh yeah, and cholesterol doesn't cause heart disease and statin drugs may lower cholesterol but don't decrease heart attacks. 

How could this be, you say? If what I'm saying is true, then virtually everything you've heard about what to eat to stay healthy (and thin) has been wrong. 

There's a lot of blame to go around. Mostly scientists who got hooked on a belief with scant evidence and then convinced a lot of politicians that they were right. Hence, the food pyramid that emphasizes grains and starches - just the opposite of what we should be eating. 

In fact, with the increase of refined carbohydrates in our diets, we are growing fatter than ever!

Now in the this eZine I don't have enough space to make a convincing argument, so do your own research. Read the books and watch the movie. Then decide for yourelf. Read Gary Taub's article in the New York Times for a good summary of his ideas. 

The point I want to make in the eZine this week is that beliefs often trump facts. If we believe a thing is true, we will only pay attention to the evidence that fits our beliefs. 

This eZine is really a set-up for next week's eZine about false beliefs we have about marketing and selling. If you think we have false beliefs about nutrition, wait untill I tell you all the false beliefs you have about attracting clients!

By the way, please don't bombard me with information about nutrition. This eZine is not about nutrition, it's about beliefs. Notice if you feel outraged, indignant and offended by what I wrote about today and are compelled to send me nasty emails. 

Also notice if you feel justified, validated and pleased by what I wrote today and want to send me congratulatory emails.

Please don't waste your time. 

In either case, you are just reinforcing your existing beliefs! 

I'm not asking that you belief anything I wrote today. What I am saying is to notice your beliefs. Your beliefs shape your thinking, your feelings, your actions and your life. And don't believe that either! Take a look and see if it's true. 

What unquestioned beliefs have you held in the past that you finally discovered were completely untrue? Share on the blog by clicking on the Comments section below.

Free: More Clients Marketing Sampler for Independent Professionals. Get this free sampler of marketing tutorials, recordings, resources and exercises, designed to help you be a better marketer of your professional services. 

 

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by Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

Imagine this scenario:

You want to follow-up with a prospect, Roger, who was a referral from a business associate, Bill. You've done a little research on him and his business, but you're not sure if they need your services or not. 

You promised your friend you'd follow-up with this person, but there's one little thing in the way... 

You have no idea what to say!

After all, you don't know yet if they're really a prospect. Your friend told you that you could probably help them, but that he hadn't got a clear indication of their actual needs. 

So it feels like a lukewarm lead. 

There might be a business opportunity there, maybe not. 

So how do you turn that lukewarm lead into a hot lead? How do you prepare for that call? What do you say on that call? And how do you move the conversation forward?  

A Follow-Up Call Action Plan

1. The Call Preparation

This person is connected to your associate, meaning there's an affiliation. But the more you know about this person, the better. So talk to your friend more about this referral. Find out as much as you possibly can, and I mean everything. Learn about his business, his track record, his industry, his school and degree, his age, his wife, his kids, the car he drives. 

I'm not kidding! The more you know, the more closely you'll feel connected to him. And you'll feel more comfortable when you make that call. When you learn about him, you'll discover a number of commonalities to make that connection deeper. 

2. The Initial Outreach

When you reach out, remember he's probably crazy-busy like everyone else these days. He might be hard to reach by phone. So practice your phone message and prepare a follow-up email. At the end of the phone message (which is likely in most cases), let him know you'll also send an email. 

The phone message:

"Hi, Roger, this is Jason Thorn, 555-9375. Our mutual associate, Bill Alexander suggested I give you a call. I work with companies to help them drive higher profits in the high-tech sector. I don't know if I can help you or not, but I'd be happy to talk. You can reach me at 555-9375. I'll also send you an email with the best times to reach me. I look forward to speaking soon."

Notice the core message here: "I work with companies to help them drive higher profits in the high-tech sector." If you don't have a core message, you're wasting your time. 

Then the email:

Hi Roger, 

I just left you a voicemail message where I mentioned that our mutual associate, Bill Alexander, suggested that I give you a call and set up a time to talk.

I work with companies to help them drive higher profits in the high-tech sector. I don't know if I can help you or not, but I'd enjoy having a short conversation. 

You can find out more about me on my website:

http://profit-tech-us.com

I also have a report that Bill really found valuable that you might enjoy as well. It's called, "The Five Hidden Drivers for High-Tech Profits." You can get it at this link:

http://profit-tech-us.com/high-tech-profits.pdf

The best times to reach me are afternoons most days after 4 pm. Please let me know what days are best for you. My number is 555-9375.

If I don't hear from you in a few days, I'll reach out again; Bill tells me you're very busy. 

All the best,

Jason Thorn

Profit Tech

3. The Conversation

The key to getting a phone meeting is "friendly persistence." It may take many tries by phone and email to get this person on the line. When you do, what do you say?

The first thing to talk about is your connection with your mutual associate, Bill:

"I'm glad we finally we got the chance to talk. Bill has said some great things about you. I also did some research on your company and am impressed by the work you're doing in the ABC field. 

"I also know you're developing new products in the XYZ area. Can you tell me a little more about…"

So, show interest in him. Don't talk about you and what you do. The whole purpose of this call is to make a connection, determine needs and see if there are possibilities. The main way you want to talk about you and your services is through client stories. 

There are three areas you want to know more about. a) their current situation, b) their goals, c) their challenges/opportunities. 

In the very first part of the call, you get into their situations, then you want to transition into goals:

"Bill tells me you have some very ambitious goals in the XYZ sector. Can you tell me a bit about that?"

If you make a good connection, and show real interest, people tend to open up. Don't jump in with your ideas yet; keep finding out more. Wait for him to ask a question before you start talking about you:

"Jason, Bill told me a little about what you did for your clients, can you tell me more?"

"Sure, Roger, I work with high-tech companies like you who want to drive higher profits. Did you get a chance to take a look at that report I sent? Great. The essence of it is that there are five key areas that any high-tech business can optimize, but almost all are missing these areas completely. I helped a recent client uncover opportunities in four of those five areas and in six months profits had increased by 17.3%.

"Which of those five areas do you think are under-optimized in your company?"

Now you're getting into challenges and opportunities. And if they open up and share some of these with you, you know they're a potential candidate for your services. 

What you do NOT want to do is jump in with a lot of solutions. However, you may share a few general ideas and perhaps more stories.

4. The Call-to-Action 

At a certain point in the call it should be pretty obvious whether there are challenges and opportunities or not. If not, close the call and move on. If there are, suggest a next step:

"Roger I really don't know a lot about all the details of your five possible optimization areas, but I think it would be worth a deeper look. What I usually do is offer a complimentary "Optimization Strategy Session" where we'd look at those five areas in more depth. 

"Would you like to take advantage of that? I'll come to your location, of course."

If you've made a great connection in this call, showed real interest and given a solid sense that you know what you're doing and that you have a track record, they are likely to want to meet with you.

5. Attitudes and Mindsets 

You need to approach these kind of calls with these attitudes. 

a. I have nothing to sell until I know their situation, goals and challenges/opportunities.

b. I need to be more interested in them and ask more questions than trying to be interesting and talk a lot. 

c. I need to take the lead on the conversation and ultimately ask them to take the next step, if appropriate. 

This approach can be used with virtually any kind of prospect, whether it's a potential coaching client or the CEO of a multi-national corporation. In every case, you're just talking to a human being who has needs and challenges and who wants to be heard.

What's your experience of calls like this? What works and what doesn't? Please feel free to comment on the blog by clicking on the Comments link below. 

Free: More Clients Marketing Sampler for Independent Professionals. Get this free sampler of marketing tutorials, recordings, resources and exercises, designed to help you be a better marketer of your professional services. 

 

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by Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

I love words. I hate words. 

Words can get you attention, develop interest and build trust or they can alienate your prospects, cause confusion and push them away from ever doing business with you.

I'm talking about WORDS today! 

Words have impact. They trigger reactions. They stimulate response, they arouse emotions and they initiate either action or avoidance.  

Words are tools. Words can be weapons. So we need to be very careful about how we use them. But how do we use words in our marketing in a way that works for us, in a way that gets results? 

Well, we need to look at words through the "process/results filter." 

Some words describe a process and some words describe a result (there are other kinds of words, of course, but we won't focus on them in this article). 

Let's look at the words you might use to promote a program. See if you can tell which paragraph below uses mostly "process words" and which one mostly uses "results words." 

This is the opening paragraph of the promotion: 

Promotion #1 

"Attend my webinar on social media marketing and learn more about the key social media tools, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. You'll learn many secrets of how to successfully use these tools in your business and your marketing."

Promotion #2

"Want to get more response to your marketing? In this special program for self-employed professionals you'll learn about three amazing marketing tools that will generate attention, stimulate interest and explode the response you get to any promotion."

If you haven't guessed yet, the first promotion uses mostly process-oriented words and the second uses mostly results-oriented words. Let's dissect them a bit. 

Promo #1 asks you to attend a webinar. Webinar is a process word; it's something you do and there is no inherent benefit in it. Who cares if it's a webinar at this point? You can talk about the format later. Then all the social medial tools are also process words. Again, no inherent benefit in any of them. And learning secrets conveys no direct benefit either, other than that we can use them in our business. The whole paragraph is a big, "So What?"

Promo #2 is a whole different animal. It starts by asking the reader if they want a desirable result - more response to your marketing. Then it targets the audience - self employed professionals and gives three very specific results they can expect from attending this program. This paragraph is the clear winner. 

When you look at your words through the process/results filter it seems very obvious, right? But it's still tricky because, after all, in both of these promotions you are offering a webinar and you are focusing on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. 

So you have to mention them, don't you? 

No, not in the opening paragraph! Eventually, yes. As you continue with your copy in Promo #2 you might say something like the following: 

"The three marketing tools that can give you such great results are Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Surprised? You shouldn't be. These three common social media tools are powerhouse promotional tools if you use them the right way. We'll share the secrets that practically nobody is using to spread the word, get positive word-of-mouth, and take all your promotions to the next level."

Now we've taken the social media process words and explained how they can be used to produce desirable results. We realize that there is no inherent value in these words until we add that value with clearly promised results. Notice I didn't even mention the webinar yet. I can put that in later. 

Isn't this a program you might be interested in attending? 

Of course, but not because it's a webinar about social medial tools, but because it promises you'll learn secrets about using those tools that will give you a clear competitive advantage. 

When you write marketing copy for a promotion, such as a teleclass or webinar or talk, put it through the process/results filter and also ask these questions to make sure you've nailed it: 

- Is there a clear result or outcome promised? Is it about what you do, vs. what the client gets? 

- Am I mostly relying on process and hoping people guess the results I'm offering?

- Would this copy move me into action to find out more, to enroll in the program? 

- Am I telling how things work in the copy or promising them results if they take action?

- And finally… So what? If I get that result, so what? What's really in it for me? 

Can you think of a promotion you did recently that fell flat? Take another look at it and ask if it was mostly process or mostly results and then take immediate action to make it better and increase its impact. 

What do you do to make sure your copy is results, not process-oriented? lease feel free to comment by clicking on the comments link below. 

To give you a recent example of a result-orented promotion, read this:

How the Marketing Club helps to Grow Your Business

The purpose of the Marketing Club is to give you the know-how and the tools to help you attract more of your ideal clients.

In the Club you'll learn how to market yourself with impact, develop attention-getting marketing materials, set more appointments, and close more sales with your ideal clients. 

And that's just the start. 

You'll learn step-by-step marketing strategies to get in front of the right people with the right message and get more attention, interest and response from every promotion. 

And that's only the course materials in the Club! 

You'll also get hands-on help in putting your marketing into action, ensuring you'll get results, instead of going in circles.

I personally give feedback and support to anyone in the Club who asks for it. Everyday I help Club members get unstuck, move forward and take effective marketing actions. 

If marketing has been a struggle for you or if you're not consistently attracting more of your ideal clients, the Marketing Club has what you've always been looking for, all in one place. 

Learn more about the Club today:

www.actionplan.com/fasttrack

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by Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

I just spent two very intensive days at the "Social Media Marketing World Conference" in San Diego.

I put off writing More Clients this week so I could report some of what I learned. And I provide links to some very smart people who really impressed me. 

First off, I don't think I've ever been to such a great conference. Ever. Not only was it perfectly organized – They had us fully engaged from 7 am breakfast to the close of each day – they had the best, most professional and thought-provoking I've speakers I've ever heard at a business conference. 

I went to learn how to better use social media to help build my business. But what I came away with was both surprising and affirming of my approach to marketing. 

The social media marketing verdict is in: You get results from social media the same was you do with any other kind of personal marketing: You build relationships by being authentic, responsive, likable and helpful.  

After hearing this from everyone about 50 times, it starts to penetrate one's thick skull. Yet all the speakers I heard had their unique spin on what worked best for them. Let me give you some quick summaries. And by the way, all of these people were equally brilliant and practical, people I really learned from. Make sure to check them out. 

Jay Baer - convinceandconvert.com

Jay introduced a brilliant approach to social media content. Don't just give people information and ideas, give them something they can actually use. He gave an example of a hospital that created a nifty little app to help choose car baby seats. He called this approach "Youtilitiy" - get it? He's coming out with a book of the same name soon that's on the top of my buy list. 

He made me feel validated in creating my Marketing Plan Workbook which is something you can really use, not just skim quickly and toss. What could you give away that was helpful and practical? Would love to hear your ideas on this one, because this may be the most powerful idea that came out of the conference. You need to offer stuff that goes beyond another "10-Tips" article.

Marcus Sheridan - thesaleslion.com

Marcus told the (now famous) story of his swimming pool company in Richmond, VA that almost went bankrupt in 2009 after the financial meltdown. He recovered by blogging and simply answering every question his customers had about swimming pools. Not only did this work, he became the most successful swimming pool retailer and installer in the US! Just by telling the unvarnished truth. 

So many of us are careful and low key when we write. Not Marcus. That's why he calls himself the Sales Lion. He roars! He made an amazing case that we need to educate our prospects and clients about everything we possibly can. They have problems and questions. Answer them on your blog. Make sure you get his free ebook on his site. It's amazing. 

Chris Brogan - humanbusinessworks.com

Chris may be the most famous blogger in the world. But he's not what you'd think of as a high-powered marketing type. He's low-key, very thoughtful and funny. I got a clear sense that Chris Blogs not to get business, but he gets business because he loves to blog. 

Chris made me think more deeply about my mission, my commitment to make a difference, sharing ideas because they excited me and in turn could help other people in the process. He made me think more about settling into my authentic voice; after all, I plan to do this for many years to come. 

Pat Flynn - smartpassiveincome.com

Pat's talk might have had more impact on me than anyone else. He absolutely sold me on the power of Podcasts. As a result, I plan to start mine soon - probably in early May. 

When I heard that he had a podcast following of 20,000 plus and that, in 2.5 years, over 3,000,000 haves downloaded his podcasts, he really got my attention. And he explained all of this in a low key way, sharing a ton of valuable tips. You can even get his free tutorial on Podcasting from his site. podcastingtutorial.com

There were several other brilliant presenters. The following gave keynotes to the whole conference that brought down the house. You should check these people out:

Larry Benet: sangevents.com - His talk was all about making helping people your highest value. Larry's business is all about connecting people at a higher level. 

Sally Hogshead: howtofascinate.com - She's developed a whole new system for identifying your unique archetype and using who you already are to fascinate your audience. 

Dave Kerpen: likeablebook.com - Dave has written two great books on being likable in social media and business. 

Michael Stelzner - socialmediaexaminer.com - Michael is the founder of SME and the organizer of the conference. A brilliant and caring person who's committed to making a difference. A prince of a man. Check out his amazing site. 

I came away from the conference, inspired, motivated and excited to take the next step in my business. It was really beyond social media marketing, it was about making a real and lasting impact to my clients and to the world.  

Take a look at the agenda for this year and plan to attend next year: socialmediaexaminer.com/smmworld/agenda

How can social media lead to real business? You might say the purpose of the conference was to answer that question. What resonated most with me from various speakers was: Build relationships; be authentic; don't spam; listen to and respond to your audience; answer your customer's questions through your content; go past offering just content, offer "Youtility" such as practical apps, be likable, etc. 

What real-life social media advice do you have that leads to real business? Please feel free to comment by Clicking on the Comments button below. 

P.S. Midnight 4/11. Right after the conference on Tuesday evening I bumped into Michael Stelzner and told him how great the conference had been for me. We talked for a few minutes and then he said, "You know I think I know you from somewhere. I think I was on your e-list a long time ago." And then on Wednesday I sent an email and thanked him again and pointed him to this blog post. He got back to me by email and shared this:

"I now recall where I discovered you.

"I purchased one of your courses on teleseminars way back in the day if I am not mistaken. Totally changed the course of my business and ultimately led to my current business!  Look me up in your database for fun.

"I am one of your star students. :-) 

Michael Stelzner

All I can say, is Wow!"

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by Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

In his most recent book, "To Sell is Human," Dan Pink unravels many of the mysteries of marketing and selling. 

In the first part he makes a compelling argument that virtually everyone is involved in some aspect of selling. And yes, self-employed professionals fit into that quite neatly. 

In the second part, "How to Be," he makes an equally persuasive argument that our mindsets and attitudes shape our effectiveness as marketers and salespeople more than anything else. 

In the last section of the second part, "Clarity,"  he makes many astute observations, most of which are missed by the average salesperson. He sums it up as follows: 

"Clarity is the capacity to help others see their situations in fresh and more revealing ways and to identify problems they didn't realize they had."

If there was ever a marketing/sales motto to tattoo on the back of your hand, that might be it! Note that he didn't say to solve problems, but to identify them.

Most of us are expert problem solvers. If someone gives you a problem in your area of expertise, you'll find a way to solve it. 

But that's no longer the big issue these days. There are now so many articles, books, bogs, websites and other resources available, that people are solving their problems easier than ever before. The answers to once intractable problems are only a click away. 

No, what we need to learn how to do is identify problems for our clients they have no clue are even issues for them.

And one of the ways to do that is by thinking bigger. 

The smaller problems are easier to identify and to solve. And there are a whole lot of other people and resources that can help them solve problems at that level. 

For instance:

A smaller problem is increasing productivity. A bigger problem is hiring the right people who are naturally productive and who can help grow a company for the long-term.

A smaller problem is preparing taxes. A bigger problem is how to plan your taxes so that you save a lot more of your money to put into investments. 

A smaller problem is writing a sales letter. A bigger problem is creating a service or program that is so powerful and results-oriented that the sales letter almost writes itself.  

Below are summaries of some clients I worked with to turn small problems into big problems and transform their business in the process of identifying these kinds of problems.  

Your client wants a resume.

Tammy Kabel of Career Resume Consulting discovered she could only charge so much for a resume in a crowded, competitive field. She realized that what her clients wanted were job offers for their ideal job. She rebranded herself and used the tagline: "Get your next six-figure job in weeks, not months." With this she went way beyond solving the resume problem, and solved two issues clients didn't realize they had: Finding a six-figure job and finding it fast. 

Your client wants some leadership training. 

Sal Sylvester offered leadership courses, and found his clients shopping around for half-day and full-day leadership workshops. He was earning about $5,000 a day for these programs. But he asked the question of his clients: "What do you really want?" The answer was "dramatically improved leadership skills." Now he's selling in-depth leadership programs at $25K to $35K.

Your clients want to get their book published.

John Eggen had offered book publishing services for years. But what he realized is that his clients needed more than that. They wanted a book that effectively promoted their services and helped them attract more of their ideal clients. Now his one-year book writing, publishing and marketing program has helped hundreds of clients all over the world. 

Your client wants some business coaching.

Patrick Summar starting coaching people at $25 per hour in the early 90's. But he realized that people didn't want coaching, they wanted the results that came from coaching. He developed a business coaching service that catered to business owners who wanted to not only succeed, but free up their time to do things that had a lasting impact and left a legacy. Now he coaches clients who pay him $2,500 per month.

All of these people changed their focus from tying to solve problems their clients thought they had and found a bigger problem or challenge they wanted to surmount. And then they positioned themselves as people who could solve these problems. 

The exciting thing is that when you identify these bigger problems, you end up attracting better clients who are happy to pay you more and work with you for a longer time. 

What's are the bigger problems or challenges you can help your clients identify? This is the path for growth as well as the way to making a bigger contribution in your business.

Please leave your comments on this article in the Comments link below. 

Free: Marketing Plan Workbook for Independent Professionals. If you're a self-employed professional interested in attracting more and better clients, this workbook is a good place to start. Just enter your full name and email address below.  

 

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by Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

When you're at a networking meeting, you're lucky if you come away with five or six business cards and two or three potential follow-ups, but what if you attend a trade show or business expo?

How do you get the most out of an event like this? You may come away with dozens of business cards and fresh contacts. 

In today's article I'd like to share some tips about this as I just attended the Santa Cruz business Fair to promote a marketing workshop I'll be conducting for the Chamber of Commerce.

Your Booth or Table

I was offered a table at the fair at the last minute, so we didn't have a lot of time to prepare. I brought 1-page flyers for the workshop and had two signs and a glass bowl for a drawing for a free workshop attendance. 

However, a better booth will have a banner with your business name and identity, perhaps some flowers, and giveaways such as printed pens and business cards. An effective table doesn't need to be fancy, but it should be welcoming. Nice touches are some balloons and a candy tray (always draws me in).

Your Printed Materials

You always want something to hand out at your booth, but you don't want to give away too much. I prefer one-pagers that give an overview of your business and contact information to find out more, including your web address. Discount or special offer flyers are great for some businesses.

The thing to remember is that people collect a lot of information at an expo like this, which more often than not sits in a pile on someone's desk for several days (or weeks) and perhaps never gets looked at again. So don't spend a lot on your giveaways!

Your Pitch

Most people at a trade show or expo stand passively behind their tables, with fixed smiles on their faces, hoping someone will approach them with a question. Well, that just doesn't work very well, as people may glance at your display or wander by without you engaging them. 

Instead, what I do is stand in front of my table and always ask a question to engage people as they walk by. At the Chamber Fair I asked the question: "Are you self-employed?" If the answer was affirmative, I said, "Then I'd like to invite you to this workshop on marketing your business, put on by the chamber," as I handed them a flyer. Then I said, "If you give me your business card, I'll enter you into a drawing for a free seat at the workshop." 

If you use this approach, you engage more people, and get many more cards to follow-up with later. I also went around the hall where the event was held and invited other exhibitors to the workshop and took their cards for the drawing. 

Your Drawing

Doing a drawing is much like getting visitors to opt-in on your website. If you don't get someone's card, what are the chances you'll ever do business with them? Virtually none. Sure, it's fine to give them some information, but you simply can't expect people to call you. Remember, the ball is always in your court. 

Your Follow-up

A fair or expo is always a lot of fun. This one was like a big party and everyone was in a very positive, upbeat mood, having fun meeting each other. But the day after the event, you may wonder, now what? Where's the new business we wanted to generate from the expo?

The new business is sitting right there in the pile of business cards you collected. Now you need to go into action to contact them all as soon as possible, no longer than a week from the event. 

What I did was scan all the cards and send them to my virtual assistant who entered them into a text file so that I could import them into my database. I use a program called MaxBulk Mailer for the Mac; there's a similar program for the PC, Group Mail. Just Google them. 

However, what you don't want to do is put them all into your permanent eZine list and start sending them a lot of stuff. That feels like spam to most people and will do the opposite of endearing you to them. 

But it's not a problem to send a few personalized emails that reference the expo and reiterate your offer. Nobody will take offense to that. 

All I did was send an email to everyone mentioning the workshop and sending them to a link on my site. Closer to the event I'll send another email as a reminder. And perhaps my final email will be to offer them my new Marketing Plan Workbook and opt-in to my e-list. 

More Personal Follow-Up

Of course, at the expo you may have had more in-depth conversations with some people who identified themselves as potential clients. You may enter them in your drawing as well, but more importantly, write some notes on the back of their cards and get back to them immediately after the expo, by both email and phone. Don't wait a week or two; strike while the iron is hot!

Ultimately a business expo is like a big networking event. The main difference is that you'll meet more people, make a more powerful impression, and collect a lot more business cards. Yet the key to success with a business expo is follow-up. 

And, sorry to say, but many others will fail to follow up. And that will only make your emails and calls stand out from the crowd.

Do you have some tips about how to make business expos an effective marketing tool? Comment on the blog by clicking the Comments link below. 


Free: Marketing Plan Workbook for Independent Professionals. If you're a self-employed professional interested in attracting more and better clients, this workbook is a good place to start. Just enter your full name and email address below. 

 

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