A while ago, I wrote an article about the influence of perception. When you talk about influence and you connect this to a business landscape, you soon arrive at marketing and sales. I would like to show how different types of marketing and selling exist.
What is marketing, what is sales?
Marketing as I understand it here is the way how you attract potential customers. I explicitly don’t add ‘and make them eager to buy your products or services’ to this sentence. There is a reason for that. Nowadays, marketing has turned into an influence machine, trying to reduce the sales process to asking the ‘buy question’ at the right moment when a customer has been molded into the conditions where resistance to not buying has been completely taken away by a clever process that influences the potential client on a subconscious level.
Sales is the process that comes behind the marketing process. Once your potential client has found you, it’s up to you to see if selling your products or services is a good idea considering both the client and your own wishes and needs. Here too, you have different types of selling. And just as with the marketing process, one can easily be influenced into buying something that one really doesn’t need or even want. We all know the ‘hard selling’ where the salesman does about everything he can to make that sell happen.
Influential Vs Human
There are mainly two types of ways to do marketing and sales. The influential way is where you are like a fisher men and try to lure as many fishes into your net. The second way, what I call human, is where you try to get the right fishes into your net. This is a big difference. Influential marketing and selling transforms the potential client into one that wants your services at the moment that you ask the question to buy. Human marketing and selling explains and checks to see if the potential client is truly one that is in need of your services at all times and not when you ask the question to make the buy.
Whether it is marketing or selling (or any other business or personal process), the principles that are working behind the scenes are the same. These principles are based upon the perception criteria I mentioned in the article of influence of perception. If you want to influence your potential client, you need to figure out which profile you have in front of you and then adapt your inter-actions. This makes you acting like a shape shifter. Human marketing and selling allows you to be yourself at all times, no matter what ‘profile’ you have in front of you. It also allows you to be free of projecting your wish onto to potential client, which is often clearly felt as some kind of pressure that leaves its mark on both you and the client.
In the next paragraphs to come, I will explain the different steps in the human marketing and sales process. I will add the difference with the influential way and what motivates people to choose either the human way or the influential way of doing business.
Step 1: reaching out
As explained earlier, the difference between marketing and selling is the result of the intention. Human marketing and selling is all about helping potential clients. The result of marketing is getting noticed and the result of selling is offering your products and services to the one who needs it. The first step is in the whole process is reaching out, which basically means that you need to move. Stay in your couch all day and nothing will happen. Move yourself in the world and you will create opportunities for yourself to get noticed.
Reaching out has the intention of getting noticed by your potential clients. One needs to know that you exist and that you might able to help with some kind of challenge that one has. The influential way is all about moving into environments that you know will be (full of) potential clients. This can be online and offline. Unfortunately, this is also the environment where a lot of your ‘competitors’ are, all fishing together in the same (small) pond. Because of this, it’s actually hard to get noticed. And when people have noticed you, the selling process may even be harder than getting noticed, as competitors are there waving around with discounts, lower prices, better conditions, etc…
The human approach is to be who you are and move yourself into environments that you really like, no matter where your potential clients are supposed to be. The typical thing of moving around in your liked environments is that you will meet people who are on the same level as you are. And yes, it’s very likely that they don’t need your services, but they will make the effort to know you (and so will you), and won’t hesitate to refer you to some acquaintances that do need your help. Yes, this process takes time, but in the meantime, you will have had fun and enjoy being who you truly are.
The reason why many business owner don’t use the human approach of step 1, is first of all, that they lack confidence or trust. What? Yes! They lack confidence, but not in their products or services, but in people and life itself. People do talk to another, and your word gets spread no matter what. the right people will come to you if you keep moving around. Stay in your couch, and no one will come, because no one knows you. It’s not that your potential client has to know you, it’s enough that people know you who will refer to you when you pop up in their mind. For that reason, you need to stay on the move out there, go and have fun while being yourself and enjoying the company of like minded people.
The second reason why people give up on the human approach is lack of patience. Results are wanted and maybe needed soon, for whatever reason. It might be that money is becoming too tight and the human approach is being replaced by a hunter-prey relationship. A final reason might be that the message is not being picked up or transferred to the potential client. This is a strategical flaw. As humans, we are hard-wired to help one another. It’s OK to communicate that you are looking out for new customers, or to ask for help in your search. Of course, here too, the intention should be clear. The intention when you ask for help is always shown in a subtle way, and many people pick it up in some kind of unconscious way, making them feel like they want to help you, or just the opposite.
Step 2: feeling welcome
Step 1 is asking courage from you showing who you are and what you can do, while enjoying life and meeting like-minded people who are at level with you, sharing common interests. It’s this continuous process (please never stop enjoying life and going to interesting places for yourself) that allows others to get to know about your existence. In between this first step and this second one, it’s the potential client who makes the effort for his part to investigate you and reach out to you. So when a potential client comes your way, understand that this is a very huge and courageous step from your potential client. It’s not easy to ask for help, as it is all about showing vulnerability.
Understanding this, it’s up to you make your client feel welcome. Maybe you know that awkward feeling too, when being somewhere new for the first time, or when meeting someone familiar on the street, it kind of needs some time to settle in, to become natural and effortless to talk to someone. Same here, consider your business like inviting guests to your private home and letting them settle in first. Be yourself, if you are relaxed, at ease and open, your body posture will speak for itself, making the other one feel welcome in your environment. It’s the first step towards an open communication.
This in itself takes a bit of time, but what’s more important is the space and how one fills that up. You can have an open posture, but if your direct environment is telling a different story, then your castle will be collapse. As a potential customer in a new environment, one is more subtle to pick up signals (consciously and unconsciously) that either confirms or contradicts your story. Having your physical posture, your environment, your solution all aligned with each other is necessary for the customer to have a ‘safe’ feeling.
The influential way is trying to replicate this scenario, but in real life, there is always something that might give away the true intention behind spoken words or physical presence. Being yourself is the fastest and most honest way to align everything without needing to think about certain words you can use or certain actions you might do or not do.
While the human approach is way more effortless and easier than the influential approach, most business owners are prone to falling victim of one of following traps. The first one is very subtle and is the most likely to happen: the intention changes from ‘helping’ to ‘I need you as a customer’. This is a change in attitude and is felt by the client as if you are projecting your will onto him and that is not a nice feeling. Many clients get scared away from this alone.
A second pitfall in this second step is that one needs to be welcoming the unknown and be comfortable with whatever comes along. This requires being open-minded and requires careful listening to the client without jumping to conclusions. This is very difficult because you have your own context to interpret the customer’s words and actions. Your context should be replaced by that of the customer so that a full understanding is possible.
Being yourself at all times requires a great deal of vulnerability. Showing your house the way it is can be difficult enough. Some people even tidy up their own place before the cleaning team passes along. As a business owner, it’s quite an achievement if you show reality just as it is without touching it to make something look better.
The last and most difficult pitfall is to recognize that you are not yourself at all times. How do you know that you are yourself and not ‘pretending’? By putting in the conscious effort to contemplate about yourself, your thinking patterns and your own inter-actions, you will start to see that a lot of these inter-actions are actually not aligned with your inner self, but are forced upon you from external influences. It’s when you use a certain construction (or template) that you have borrowed from somebody else, but is not actually truly yours because you don’t understand or know the principles that are working behind the scenes.
Once the ice is broken and a true communication has been set up, it’s time for the next step, which is seeing if you the intention of the client is aligned with fulfilling your purpose. It’s easy to say yes to someone who is asking for help, knowledge or anything else that will overcome his challenge, but it’s not easy to check if you are truly the one who is the perfect match to take on this request.
Step 3: intention check
The only way to identify if you are a good match for each other, is to look at both the wanted end result AND the intention that is behind it. Similar results can be created in many different ways. The way HOW you do something, is a reflection of who you are inside and this creates the opportunity to make something unique. This is where like minded people will find each other, or vice versa, be pulled away from each other.
Overcoming a challenge shouldn’t be a burden, neither should it be a hard and difficult task to get to the wanted end result. The same counts for a product. There are many different products that all solve a same problem, but not all of those products are what you specifically need or want as a client. A car dealer would probably do fine not to try to sell a fancy sports car to someone who is looking for a small car because of parking issues, even though the client really likes big sports cars.
How do you check intentions with your clients? This is where the open and honest communication has been established and is being used to truly check if an cooperation is possible. Communication goes in two ways and it’s about listening with the attention fully directed on the client and talking is being done with the attention fully on the self and not on the other. Why? It’s easy to just reproduce and confirm the needs and the wants from the client. If you can communicate what your frame work is in which you establish your services and products, then you leave the sacred space of the client untouched to make up his mind on his own.
Intentions don’t always need to be perfectly aligned to come to an agreement. However, it is crucial that these intentions are communicated and confirmed for one another that they do not line up. It’s possible to see for each party that it might be an improvement to work together just because of that. But if it’s not being communicated and confirmed, than misunderstandings are inevitable, leading to potential process problems in the future. This is the first point of miscommunication and where expectations are created that should not exist.
A second pitfall in checking intentions, is not being aware that your approach is not what the client wants or needs, even though the end result is what the client is looking for. You are ignoring the possibility that another approach is wanted and you put yourself in a position where you will be forced against yourself to do something in a way that is not meant for you.
It is hopefully clear that the human approach is having communication between two people (or businesses) that are completely their true self without anyone having to shift shapes to be liked by the other one. Influential communication does exactly the opposite as the human approach. Influencing each other is done in two different ways, all depending on the circumstances and the persons involved. The first way is to shape shift into a form that the customer will like. The other one, is projecting a form or intention onto the potential client so that he perfectly fits the picture. This is done by creating an image which provokes the necessary feelings and emotions to get the potential client to buy.
The human approach has respect for the person and the ideas, the wants and the needs that each person uniquely has. When the intentions are checked and confirmed, it’s time to go to the last step, that might turn out to be the most difficult step for the human approach, making an offer.
Step 4: making an offer
First of all, why does it sometimes feel difficult to make an offer? There can of course be many reasons for that. I would like to go down to the main principle that is behind certain reasons:
- You run the risk of getting a no, which means that you run a chance of feeling rejected or as having failed.
- Making an offer is taking initiative to receive something, which makes you feel uncomfortable.
- You want/need this so badly, that you are afraid of losing the deal (that hasn’t been established yet)
There are a ton of other similar reasons that boil down to these. Fear of criticism, rejection, failure, but also difficulties of opening up to receive something. This means that you acknowledge your own value and yourself. If you don’t love yourself enough or don’t value your own work and life, you will end up sabotaging yourself. They all make you deal with emotions that rise up and can overwhelm you when the offer has to be made.
When your own personality or your self-image is at stake, then it’s hard not to shoot into a cramp or change your plans. A way to avoid this, is using your rational brain before an offer is being made. List up for yourself what you would ask for a certain product or service, based upon neutral observations as ‘amount of time, costs made, value of the materials used and the work and knowledge that you have put in to create your solution to help the client. If that amount is set on forehand, than you are less prone to adapt it towards the person or business that you have in front you.
Making an offer is communication that start from your side, it is the same as doing the talking, which means that the attention is on yourself and not on the other. The human approach is making an offer that suits you and is not meant to suit the other person. An open communication allows the other party to reject or to discuss about the offer, which allows for the possibility to find a way to show your value and allows the other party to make a funded decision. A no doesn’t automatically mean that the offer isn’t right.
The human approach allows you to make an offer that suits yourself and which you stand totally behind it, no matter what the other party may decide, may think or do. That doesn’t mean that you don’t care, but it’s what you belief about yourself and about your work, your products and your services.
The influential approach is all about the other in this stadium. An offer will be tailor made, adjusting prices (up or down) depending on the circumstances. An offer will be manufactured with the highest chance of success. The offer is matched with the person or business involved and has little or nothing to do with the value that one offers. The positive part that can be seen here is the way in how an offer is being made, with confidence. That confidence however, doesn’t come from oneself, but from external conditions that are created, which is not the same as self-confidence (in comparison with the human approach).
Step 5: delivering
If you have used the human approach for your marketing and sales process, than delivering is the big reward that is awaiting you. Because of the open communications and the clear intentions, you will have a very strong relationship with the customer and will be able to deliver your value in a way that suits you best and thus guarantees the best end result and customer experience.
If however, you used the influential approach, then the actual reward is the signing of the contract itself, or maybe the paying (if you didn’t give a discount that was too big to make the deal). This is a brief moment in time for what it’s worth. Delivering what you have promised is a longer process and will probably feel like a burden or like a punishment because you will most likely have made some changes to your natural approach. Anything that is not done according to your true self, will create resistance inside you and therefore a task will feel like ‘a have to’ instead of ‘a want to’. It might also be that you still decide to do things your way, and by doing that, you upset the customer because he expected a different experience or different end result.
I hope it’s clear that you give yourself the maximum return on investment by being happy when you can do those things that you are good in and by doing that, helping other people. The gratitude of a satisfied customer is one of the biggest achievements you can experience as a business owner and is worth so much more than the payment alone, as this is the energy that will keep your inner fire burning.