And for some reason, people think Mr. Wormwood is the model for effective sales.
"I can't do sales or marketing for my business. I'm not pushy enough. I like people and I don't want to hard-sell them into buying my service. I hate when people pressure me so I refuse to bring that into my business."
If you think your options are either no-marketing-sainthood or Mr. Wormwood, of course it's going to feel icky if you choose marketing.
Effective sales and marketing are built on a platform of trust and authenticity.
You don't need to be greasy to be effective.
If you provide a product or service you truly believe in - if it genuinely helps people - it's your duty to let those people know it exists.
How upset would you be if you found out there was a product that could really help you, but the company never told anyone it existed? It would feel pretty lame, right?
If you hold the key to solving issues people struggle with, give yourself permission to spend time actively marketing it. It's not pushy - it's helpful. Simply let them know it exists, how it can help, and leave them to make the decision. Not only will your soul be saved from a Mr. Wormwood doom, but your customers will appreciate you more.
The Only Caveat
There's only one caveat to this type of genuine, ethical selling: You have to have a great product or service that actually helps people. You can't be shilling snake oil or putting sawdust in engines if you want this to work. (You don't have to be curing cancer to qualify as "helping people" - if your mission is to make people forget their troubles via stand up comedy, that counts. Your products or services need to do what they promise to do.)
Pitching A New Client: What Not To Do
An app developer contacted me to pitch their app for my clients. I decided to go ahead and block out 20 minutes for their pitch.
Here is the conversation we had:
Them: This app was developed by [top ad agency].
Me: Wow, really?
Them: Well, no. It was developed by someone who works there, though!
Me: Hmm, ok. Who was it?
Them: You don't know them. They worked there a couple years ago, before they quit to work on the app.
Me: You might be surprised, our industry is small - I know a lot of people there.
Them: Well, they weren't on a team. It was an executive.
Me: Interesting, an [agency] executive developed it? And then quit their job?
Them: Ummm, no. It was was actually someone who can see the executive's office window.
Them: Actually, it's the nephew of the guy who can see the agency's windows from his office.
Me: So... it was developed by someone who just knows the agency exists?
Them: Well, when you say it that way, it doesn't sound nearly as cool.
They lost the sale, clearly.
But how many times have you agreed to hear a pitch (or click an ad, or read a pamphlet) only to find out they were severely misrepresenting the truth? That "results aren't typical" or that the FREE offer is just a 10 day trial?
If you have to hedge around the truth or put it in fine print, then you're lying. Say something else.
The sad part is, the app they were pitching was a decent idea. If they had told the truth, I might have bought in. Instead, I'm telling you about how bad their pitch was.
After You Get The Sale: A Case Study
I was once called by a consumer electronics company who was struggling to break even, let alone make a profit. They were in crisis mode all the time. They asked me what they could do. "We're authentic in all of our marketing, and people still don't buy," they said. "People buy from us once and then never again, so we're always paying to find new customers."
After the meeting, I did what any consumer would do: I went to Amazon and read some reviews. The reviews were terrible! The customers claimed that the products didn't do almost any of the advertised features, and the company refused to help anyone on the customer service hotline.
When I went back to my contact, I presented my findings. I asked if it was true. They said, "Well, yeah. No one would buy it if we told the truth! So how can we appear more authentic and get more money?"
The answer I told them - and the answer I'll tell you - is that you can't just seem authentic, because customers will find you out. They will discover if your product is shoddy and they will tell the world. Your product (or service) speaks louder than any ad in the world.
You can't delete conversations on social media. You can't remove reviews from Amazon or Yelp. You can't force customers not to tell their friends about their experience. The only thing you can do is sell quality products/services in a way that attracts your tribe of loyal customers.
When Everyone Else in Your Industry is a Terrible Person
If you find yourself becoming disheartened by the big names in your industry - people who use scummy tactics to run over the little guys - don't let that force you to close up shop.
If you notice it, I guarantee your prospective customers notice it. They don't like it any more than you do.
It's your chance to be different. To offer the truth, educate your clients, and discredit the claims of unscrupulous competitors. (Maybe not by name, but in general.)
You don't need to be scumbag to sell your stuff. I promise.