Online Scheduling

January 17, 2013

The latest lesson I learned from my commitment to learn more about sales is another technical one, similar to the first lesson I learned.

It’s about how to use an online tool for scheduling meetings. I’ve heard of people using online scheduling for a long time, but I’d never looked into it. That’s because I heard it in the context of a coach or consultant directing ongoing clients to an online system to schedule appointments.

My clients and I schedule the next appointment at the end of a call, or make a plan to follow up and set the appointment later. An online scheduling system didn’t seem useful to the way I work with my clients.

With my journey into sales, I discovered that an online scheduling system makes it easy for a person to schedule a first conversation to get more information. In an automated plan, a lead generating message can direct people to an online sales letter or a recording, and from there to the online scheduling system to set up a call to get more information.

Now that I’ve used the system for my sales-based business, I’ve set it up for my coaching business. Not for scheduling ongoing clients! We still do that together. But I’ve added it as a choice in the plan I use to offer people a complimentary coaching call.

I’ve just set it up, so I can’t give you any results yet. But I imagine that, at least for some people, it will be an easier step to go online and choose a time for a complimentary call with me than it is to email me or call me to set something up.

I know that having more options means I’m removing some of the resistance people will have to taking that first step. So, while it’s a technical skill I learned, it’s all about making it easier to make connections. That is what it’s all about for me!

The 2nd Thing I’ve Learned From Sales

January 10, 2013

I committed to learning more about sales recently and sharing the lessons that might be helpful to other people. The first lesson I learned was about technical skills.

The second lesson is of a very different sort. It’s more philosophical and not at all technical. It comes from the fact that sales is about conversations, and conversations invoke the heart.

I noticed someone who is uncomfortable with sales lacks confidence talking about the product or service, so that person comes across as unsure, or even as apologizing for bothering the listener by talking about it.

That message turns into a shaming message. It makes it seem like there’s something wrong with the product or service, which tells the people who need that product or service that it’s wrong to need it.

Let me say that again. When a person is uncomfortable talking about their product or service, it makes it seem like there’s something wrong with the product or service. That leads people to believe they shouldn’t like it, so there must be something wrong with them if they want it or need it.

Holy $#!+! This is big!

Have you ever been in a situation like this? A person sheepishly says something like, “I’m sorry to bother you, and you’re probably not interested, but I [fill in the blank: sell these products, offer this service], so you can talk to me if you’re interested.”

Your response? If you’ve ever struggled with sales, you might feel sympathy for the person, but you probably feel really uncomfortable, too. And you probably wonder what’s wrong with the products or the service or the prices to make the person apologize.

And on a more subtle level, if it’s a kind of product or service you’re interested in, I believe you wonder if there’s something wrong with you for being interested in that sort of thing.

I noticed this based on other people’s sales conversations, but I pretty quickly recognized myself in it. The core of my coaching is promoting personal growth and development through the skills and techniques of coaching and my knowledge of psychology, especially positive psychology and developmental psychology. I realized that I assume people will be skeptical of personal development as “fluff and nonsense” and uneasy about psychology because of mental health stigmas.

That’s when I knew I’d let myself down. This isn’t who I am. I don’t defer to people who mock personal development. I don’t side with the people who think there’s something weak or shameful in talking about thoughts and feelings.

I am a champion of people understanding their thoughts and feelings and getting comfortable with who they are. I did that for years as a therapist, and then for many years more running educational and recreational programs for kids.

Understanding our inner lives is the most human thing we do. It’s not a sign of weakness. It takes great strength. And it takes enormous courage to stand up to society’s messages that shame people (especially men) because of what they feel. Many times I’ve had to say this with conviction and let someone borrow my certainty and my strength as they learned to be comfortable opening up and sharing their own heart.

This was a huge lesson for me, and I intend for it to stay learned. People need what I offer them, because they won’t be able to enjoy life, truly and deeply and meaningfully, if they’re being pushed around by their critical automatic thoughts and limiting beliefs and if they keep their feelings wadded up in a jumble in the corner.

The work I do is essential. It touches the essence of being human. It matters in all aspects of a person’s life. It matters.

And that completely changes the way I will talk about it.

The 1st Thing I’ve Learned from Sales

December 27, 2012

I committed to learning sales a little over 3 weeks ago, and I learned my 1st lesson within just a few days.

And it wasn’t even a sales lesson, exactly. It was more about marketing than sales. Even more than that, it was a lesson in the power of commitment and necessity.

For the past couple of years, maybe close to 3 years by now, I have been thinking about and toying with the notion of setting up a squeeze page. A squeeze page is an online sales letter written to get the reader to take a specific step.

That step may be signing up for free information, signing up for a free newsletter, signing up for a teleseminar, or buying something. Since it’s focused on that 1 purpose, a squeeze page doesn’t have tabs at the top to take you to different pages or sites. It should only have a link to the page where the reader can take the desired action. That same link may appear many times on the page, but by design it should be the only link on the page, however many times it appears.

With my new sales profit center, I needed a squeeze page to give information about a call I was doing and to direct people to sign up or listen to the recording. I was committed to a time frame with the call set up. I finally had a very specific reason for a squeeze page, instead of a half-sketched idea of how I might use one in the future, so I was motivated by necessity. And I had urgency – I needed it within just a few days!

So I pulled together what I already knew, looked at some sites for examples, and asked Google a couple of things.

I realized I could format my squeeze page the same way I format my HTML newsletter. I opened my newsletter template, looked through the squiggly code, found things I understood, and then experimented by changing some values.

I wound up with a white page with a light gray border, exactly what I wanted, and adjusted the size until it looked right. I formatted a header (pushing my limited HTML knowledge) and then wrote the body of my letter. I put the link to the call at various points in the letter, based on simple pointers I’ve learned about copywriting techniques.

Then I went in and created a border around the text with the link and centered it to jazz it up just a touch. I don’t do showy banners, but the design was enough to grab the reader’s attention if they scan the letter.

I put in some other copywriting features (at least the ones I remember) and even broke the rule by adding a 2nd link near the end. It looked great in my web design software! But I wasn’t sure yet how to get it to show up on my site.

For this, I had to look at a simple site and remember things I’d seen before. I experimented a little, too. It turns out, at least with the web hosting company I use, an HTML document called “index.html” is the default page that shows up as the home page.

And just like that, I had created and uploaded a single-page site using just a simple, free web design program. Which is great timing, because I’ll need another one for a training product I’m creating that will be ready to launch early next year.

Want to see how a simple page created with a free program looks? Click here and be amazed – not by the quality, but by the fact I figured it out!

meh… [sales]

December 19, 2012

[Sales] is my least favorite part of marketing.

Calling it “least favorite” is seriously understated. I used to think of marketing as a 4-letter word, but marketing and I have worked out our disagreements over time, through open communication and curiosity. I now appreciate marketing as analogous to good communication in any relationship – it takes a lot of work, I really wish it didn’t, and it’s really hard to do sometimes. But it’s worth it.

When I’m communicating well with people who need my services and products (my clients and prospects), I’m helping them learn about solving problems and overcoming challenges they face. They need that. Communication (marketing) is the only way I can do that.

But my previous resistance to marketing is nothing – nothing – compared to my aversion to [sales]. I mean, I’m even putting the word in a [box] to try to contain it!

That’s because the model of [sales] I know, through my experience as the target, and I mean that in every sense of the word, is to aggressively pursue someone and coerce them to buy something through a tactic related to shame. The messages have included:

“You should want this one because it’s what most people want, and it’s the way to fit in.”

“The smart people are buying now. The losers will wish they had bought, too.”

“Don’t be embarrassed about being too poor to afford it. We offer credit!”

and, sadly (because I’m kind of compassionate and feel ashamed about not helping)

“I just need 3 more sales to reach my target and get my bonus, so it will really help me.”

Has your experience as a [sales]person’s target been similar? I think most of us have similar kinds of experiences that taught us [sales] is gross.

But I know that [sales] is only gross when it’s done in a gross way. [Sales] is the step in marketing when a person needs information through a conversation with a live person to understand something better, to finalize a decision, or even to complete the purchasing process. When it’s used with respect, considering what the prospect wants and needs and helping him or her decide what’s the best choice, it’s a helpful, kind thing.

I’ve heard this as a description of ethical [sales] with integrity. This definition makes sense in my head, but my heart is still skeptical. I want to believe it. I want to bring [sales] out of the protective box, but I have to make sure it’s not going to run loose and push people around first.

So I committed to a program that requires me to learn about [sales] and try out different steps. The instructor is someone I respect and admire, so my brain is sure this is a good idea.

My heart? It’s going to take some convincing. So far, I’ve been able to soften the container just a little – (sales). See!

I’ll keep you updated on how it goes. And you can let me know about your experiences with (sales) by leaving a comment below.