Monday Mornings with Madison

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Sales

Turning Storytelling into Sales

Great storytelling – from Rumpelstiltskin to War and Peace– is one of the basic tools invented by the human mind for the purpose of understanding. There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories. Storytelling has been important to every people in history. It is a cornerstone of human existence, enabling people to communicate and connect. It’s been a primary tool used in government, religion, education, and – of course — business. The world’s most persuasive, compelling, and successful communicators were all great storytellers. Socrates was a great storyteller. Ben Franklin was even better. Walt Disney was masterful.
Thanks to the Internet, mass media and social media, storytelling has become a quintessential part of sales and marketing strategies. So how does a company take good information and turn it into a great story? For stories to be impactful, they need to be easily recalled and they need to motivate people. They must have emotional resonance and relevancy — most of which comes out in the details. A good story holds the audience captive. It stretches the limits of the imagination and allows listeners to marvel or wonder at something. It touches them and leaves them vulnerable. That’s why stories are such an amazing communications tool. Here’s how to turn a product or service into a great story that enhances the bottom line.
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How Good is Your Company’s Storytelling?

Today’s sales and marketing efforts require good storytelling. But storytelling is nothing new. Even before people could write, they were telling each other engaging stories to share information. That’s because no one is – or has ever been — interested in absorbing dry information. Even with today’s technology, dry information is still unpalatable whether it is delivered in a print ad, a radio commercial or video. Information is simply more likely to be accepted if it comes gift-wrapped in a story. Storytelling has the power to transform drab business details into something interesting.

Why do people find stories more compelling than other information? It’s physiological. When we listen to a standard presentation presenting dry information or hear a boring lecture, the Broca’s area of the brain is stimulated. This is in the side of the brain that deals with language and logic. However, when we are told a story that is rich with meaning and visual cues, there is a dramatically different response in the brain. Both the right and left lobes of the brain are activated. In addition to engaging the left part of the brain that handles logic and language, a good story also engages and stimulates the right side of the brain– what is deemed as the creative part. Stories grip us and help us experience emotions.  It is those emotions that help us connect with a brand, service or product. Storytelling helps shape the narrative surrounding a product or service. The goal, then, should be for a business to wrap every effort within a compelling story. Here’s how to start.
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Under-Promising and Over-Delivering

It’s been said (many times) that companies should strive to under-promise and over-deliver. Under-promising and over-delivering is seen as a good philosophy to control customer expectations and ensure that every customer becomes a raving fan when they get more than they expected. On the other hand, there are those who would argue that this is a great way to drive a business into the ground. Some see this as a formula for failure because it lowers the bar internally so that what is considered “above and beyond” is really nothing more than what the competition does on a regular basis without breaking a sweat. It therefore encourages mediocrity. Which is true?
Should a company seek to under-promise what it is offering clients? And should a company try to over-deliver, going above and beyond what is standard? Or should they set the bar high and strive to go above and beyond that? This is the conundrum with which leaders have wrestled since companies first began competing for business. There is no easy answer. The truth is that it depends. In certain situations, it is helpful to under-promise and over-deliver, but there are also times when under-promising and over-delivering actually hurts business. Understanding when it is good to do this and when it isn’t is the key.
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11 Things Salespeople Should Do but Often Don’t

Ask any salesperson and they will tell you that selling is hard work. In fact, anyone who has ever had a job in sales will likely admit that it’s the hardest work they’ve ever done. If a salesperson gets a yes immediately, they haven’t really sold anything as much as taken an order. Selling starts the moment a prospect says no. Selling is what happens when a salesperson turns a No into a Yes. And yet, most salespeople make common mistakes throughout the sales process that keep them from making a sale.
There are a myriad of things that sales people should do… could do… would do… but don’t for a multitude of reasons. Sometimes salespeople are taught wrong. They are told to do things a certain way even though those techniques, approaches and strategies haven’t worked for half a century. Sometimes salespeople are taught the right things to do and they just don’t do them, either because they don’t believe the sales program is effective or they think their way is better. But a lot of the time, salespeople aren’t taught at all how to “sell.” So they emulate the worst examples of salesmanship, which just makes the job of sales even harder than it already is. The following are things a salesperson should do to make the sale.
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Staying Top-of-Mind… For Better or Worse?

It is difficult to live life completely unaffected by what other people think or say. Like pollen, the attitudes and opinions of people blow into the lives of others, shaping their perspectives and influencing their decisions. This is especially true in the age of technology, with digital winds blowing every bit of information farther and faster than ever before. When those opinions and messages are positive, it can be a valuable thing. In business, arguably nothing is more valuable to a salesperson, exec or company than for a customer to share a positive review with others. Customer and vendor recommendations are like gold. They yield a harvest of opportunity and good will over time. But what happens when the opinions and attitudes are negative? What happens when people are talking but what they are saying is not good?

In a world obsessed with being remembered and staying top-of-mind, the goal is to be talked about, no matter what’s being said. In fact, some like to say that there is no such thing as bad publicity. But that is just not true. Not all publicity is good or beneficial and there are countless examples of how bad publicity can be really bad for business or careers. For professionals and businesses alike, bad publicity can hurt in a multitude of ways. Consider the cost.
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Staying Top-of-Mind… For Better or Worse?

There’s a saying that goes: “Talk good about me; talk bad about me; just as long as you’re talking about me!” It is also kiddingly said that the only thing worse than death is to be forgotten.  This may seem extreme, but it is emblematic of the pressing need to be known and remembered; an epidemic that has spread to all industries. Overwhelmed by constant digital noise, companies and business people struggle to be remembered and stay connected with contacts. It’s referred to as “staying top-of-mind.”

Staying top-of-mind is the great challenge in business today. Companies search for ways — from the legitimate to the trivial — to keep in touch with all of the customers and potential customers possible. Webinars. Blogs. E-mails. Advertising. Junk mail. Billboards. Sky writing. Commercials. The messages scream “Know me! Remember me!” All of this effort to stay top-of-mind is contributing to the white noise that, in turn, is making it ever harder to stay top-of-mind. It is the quintessential vicious cycle. So, is all of this effort really necessary? Or worth it? Most would argue “Yes!” Not only is it worth it, but it is absolutely necessary. So what strategies can a company or business person use to stay top-of-mind?
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The Video Revolution – Part 3

When we think of the work that salespeople do, we generally think of one-on-one selling. For anything that is not a commodity, a salesperson will speak face-to-face to another person and “pitch” a product or service. The ‘traveling salesman’ is the quintessential image of sales. But, obviously, that kind of selling is limiting. It is limited by how much time and how much distance a salesperson can cover. Even in dense cities like New York, Chicago, or San Francisco, a salesperson can only make so many sales calls in one day. And in cities or metropolitan areas that are more diffused, such as Los Angeles, Atlanta, Triangle Park or Miami, traveling from place to place for sales meetings can consume huge swaths of each day.

Because of that, sales teams have always looked for ways to compress the sales cycle and use technology to assist in the sales process. Call centers. Robo-calling. CRM systems. Email. Text messages. And now, video is emerging as a useful sales tool as well. When done right, videos can speak directly to prospective clients and guide them through the sales funnel. But some still wonder if video can really be effective in the sales process. And there are many questions surrounding how to construct sales videos. Should a video sales pitch focus on a product / service features or should it focus instead on the benefits / solution? Can a sales video or series of sales videos help move the sales process more quickly toward the close? And can a sales video actually close a deal? If sales videos are effective, can a company just create sales videos and not have salespeople? Here are what the experts think.
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The Effect of Abundance and Scarcity on what Customers Value

Rabbi Avigdor Miller once marveled at the notion that “two gases [hydrogen and oxygen] — neither of which can quench thirst – can be united into a clear and sparkling liquid which pours down one’s throat in a life-giving stream.” He added that “No liquid in the world can take the place of water for relief of thirst. This fluid is the most potent of all elixirs, although its availability and its inexpensiveness cause it to be overlooked. It is the universal solvent and the vehicle of digestion and of blood circulation. If water could be obtained only from the pharmacist, it would be the most costly of liquors, both for its vital properties and for its enjoyment.” And yet, most likely very few in the U.S. open a faucet and marvel as water pours out… precisely because it is so abundant and available.
Yet, in places like Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria, Yemen and even places in the U.S. such as Flint, Michigan and drought-affected parts of California, water is very scarce and the cost (and value) of water has skyrocketed. In such places, people have a genuine and profound appreciation for clean drinking water. That’s because the value of everything is deeply affected by abundance or scarcity, whether the item is essential for life or not. In the U.S., the abundance of water has caused the value of “this most potent of all elixirs” to be mostly taken for granted. On the other hand, other commodities that are not essential to life – such as diamonds, gold, rhodium, platinum, plutonium, taaffeite, tritium, painite, californium – are highly valued because of their scarcity, even if they have no life-giving properties. This value is subjective. This is known as commodity theory, and it is something that every entrepreneur, business leader, and sales professional should understand thoroughly. This is where the laws of economics and the actions of sales and marketing professionals meet. Continue reading

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The Art of Negotiating Business Deals

One of the most challenging parts of working with a new client is finalizing the business agreement. This is the process in which the parties hammer out the details of the contract. The bigger the deal, the more complex the agreement. And negotiating the final terms of a complex deal can have its challenges. In those situations, a sales professional might find himself in a position where the customer holds all the cards. The salesperson may have invested a lot of time and effort in developing the opportunity. He may have even promised his boss that a commitment was imminent. The salesperson may feel boxed in and the customer may think he can dictate the terms. That’s a losing proposition for the salesperson and his company, even if they land the deal. Business deals that start out very lopsided – a win-lose proposition – don’t bode well for a good long-term business relationship.
The goal in any negotiation should be to achieve a win-win outcome. That may sound cliché and idealistic, but it is the secret to long-term success. But if the sales professional starts negotiating from a weak position, it will be hard to hammer out a win-win contract. To chisel out a win-win agreement, a sales professional must garner some negotiating power and then use smart negotiation strategies during the process to close the deal. Here are some tips. Continue reading

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Using Chess Strategy in Business, Part 2

There are many benefits that come from playing chess. Psychologists often cite chess as an effective activity to help improve memory function. That is probably why chess is recommended in the fight against Alzheimer’s. Playing chess can also help the mind solve complex problems and work through ideas. It is also thought to increase one’s intelligence, although that’s not been scientifically proven. And the effects of chess on children – which has been correlated to children getting better grades in school — has led to chess being introduced in schools in a multitude of countries. That said, many are still intimidated by chess because it is perceived as a game for geniuses. But while chess is a thinking-man’s game — one that requires a great deal of strategic thought and tactical reflection — it is not just for geniuses and savants. Anyone can learn to play chess and improve through study and practice.
Indeed, many past and present political and military leaders – including U.S. Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, Sigmund Freud, Queen Elizabeth I and II, French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former U.S. Vice President Spiro Agnew, British Prime Minister Clement Atllee, Alfonso King of Spain, and Vladimir Lenin – all played chess. Many titans of industry also play chess, including Bill Gates, Co-Founder of Microsoft, Billionaire Investor George Soros, Carl Icahn, Chairman of Federal-Mogul, Peter Thiel, Co-Founder of Paypal, Jared Heck, co-founder of GroupMe and Fundera, Seth Bannon, Founder and CEO of Amicus, and Victoria Lipschitz, CEO of Grid Dynamics. In fact, Boaz Weinstein, chess player and head of Saba Capital, once said that “Chess helps me in trading, teaching me to focus on the important decisions and to accept risk.” Last week, we looked at a few useful strategies. Let’s look at some more chess strategies that can be applied to business. Continue reading

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