Too many great businesses aren’t achieving the recognition and success they deserve. This has little to do with their technical ability, which they have in spades.
Nor is it, the persistent challenge of standing out from the crowd and grabbing the attention of buyers who have become adept at evading the daily barrage of sales and marketing.
The real problem is the continued emphasis on selling your wares to an audience that isn’t interested in what you do, but rather in what you can do for them.
Lessons from a Hostile Audience
It was a cold and drizzly February morning in Stansted. The audience shuffled into the stuffy seminar room tired and a little (a lot) groggy from the excesses of the night before.
It was day 2 of an overnight conference and I was sitting with a client, waiting to take the stage. Behind me, two men were talking, and from what they were saying, it was painfully obvious they’d rather be any where else but here.
I could hear them lamenting the poor quality of the previous day’s presentations. Then one said something I will never forget. He said, ‘I wonder what they’re going to sell us this time?’
It wasn’t curiosity. It was the bad humoured rhetorical question from someone who’d had enough. Someone who had signed up to get some valuable insight and been repeatedly let down. It was clear they were now in no mood to sit through another thinly veiled sales presentation.
Thankfully, we weren’t selling. Putting my client’s experience and expertise front and centre, we’d constructed a presentation that would help our captive audience to do two critical things. One, extricate themselves from the challenges they faced, and two, build momentum toward their goals.
That day we were richly rewarded for our efforts. Where other speakers typically finish their talks to a smattering of applause and little else, we had a line of people waiting to speak to us and left the room with a diary full of meetings.
Don’t Make This Mistake
Overtly selling to an audience that hasn’t agreed to be sold to is a bad idea, no matter what platform you find yourself on. In-person, on a social network, or via an email/phone call, the result will likely always be the same. You’ll find your message is ignored, repelled, or gets blocked by one of a growing arsenal of tools at the buyers’ disposal.
- According to Hootsuite (2021), 42.7% of internet users worldwide (16-64 years old) use ad-blocking tools at least once a month
- 65 percent of people skip online video advertising and do so as soon as they get the chance – IPG Mediabrand 2017
- 76 percent say they skip ads because it’s an ingrained behaviour – IPG Mediabrand 2017
- Around 80% of all email marketing is ignored
Ultimately, no one likes to be sold to, which is why people are adopting increasingly sophisticated ways in which to avoid marketing and have developed a natural ability to ignore sales messages.
However, that’s not to say they are not in the market to purchase, nor that with the right approach they won’t engage with you.
How to Grab Your Market’s Attention
Selling straight off the bat may be ill-advised but that doesn’t mean you can’t grab your market’s attention.
Let’s first be clear. By selling, I mean the act of persuading your market to buy your products and services. Savvy business owners know that before you can sell, you must first pique your market’s interest. Not in what you’re selling. But into engaging with you.
When reduced to key drivers, the majority of B2B sales are driven by two crucial factors. The need to get away from something painful and the desire to achieve a specific result. Usually, it’s a mixture of the two. The former is typically the thing blocking the achievement of the latter.
However, trying to find the right supplier is a minefield. Contrary to popular belief, most buyers aren’t empowered by the information they now have at their fingertips. They are overwhelmed by it. There’s simply too much and too many options to choose from. Both in terms of solution and supplier.
Selling your stuff or talking up feature-driven differentiators will just add to that confusion.
It’s why leveraging your experience and expertise is so important and why when properly harnessed can be your business’s most valuable assets.
Leverage Your Businesses Most Valuable Assets
When you give people the benefit of your experience and distill the quality of what it’s done for people like them, you immediately position yourself as a potential partner.
It says, I understand what you’re going through, I’ve dealt with it before, and I can get you to where you want to be. This is because nobody buys products and services. We buy the people we believe in and the impact our gut says they will help us achieve.
Again the stats bear this out. According to LinkedIn:
- 58% of decision-makers read one or more hours of content per week
- More than half (55%) said they use content to vet organizations they may hire
- Almost half (47%) of C-suite executives said they have shared their contact information after reading content
- Almost 60% of business decision-makers said that content directly led to their awarding of business to an organization
- More than 60% of C-suite executives said they were more willing to pay a premium to companies that create content with a clear vision
- 60% of decision-makers said content convinced them to buy a product or service they were not previously considering
The paradox here is despite people ignoring, blocking, or repelling the vast amount of sales and marketing content they receive, they’re also actively seeking it out.
However, like the audience on that dreary February morning, they don’t want to be sold to, they want something of value that demonstrates your value to them.
If you love what you do, and want to do more of it, stop selling. Instead, start sharing your experience so people know what you’re capable of.
If you’d like to know more about leveraging your valuable experience and hard-won expertise and using it to engage and attract more customers and clients, check out our latest guide How to Tell Stories that Sell, or feel free to reach out to me here.