Archive for the ‘Salesmanship’ Category
Last week, I was in my kitchen listening to NPR, like always, when a segment came on about the Backseat Book Club and instantly thought “what fun,” but then I frowned, knowing every chapter book entering our house seems to have a boy barrier in it. Ya know that spot, somewhere in the first chapters, where the young, male, reader decides the book is a dud.
While listening to the discussion about the May 2012 selection, Heart of a Samurai, I was secretly begging the voices on the radio to give me a hint of how I could get books that are worth reading read in my house. Instead, I was a little down trodden because I had just listened to a wonderful discussion about a seemingly wonderful book and I had no idea how to present it to the kids.
Then it hit me… I’ll read it to them!
Before I could get distracted and lose my fabulous idea, I went to my computer to find the book at Amazon.
There it was, just a click away from being in my possession. Then all of a sudden I was scared that the boy barrier was more than just a problem of text and eyes. Would they give up part of their summer to listen to me read? Could I compete with back yard adventures, video games and the swimming pool?
Yes, if I could present the idea in the right way. In this case, my marketing skills were needed as I attempted to create the perfect summer reading package.
I can’t tell you what might float your kids’ boat, but at my house a cuddle in the bed is a coveted activity. It’s equally enjoyable on lazy weekend mornings and for rewatching the Last Airbender on Netflix, so that was my hook.
With my idea in hand, I began my sales process… “Summer vacation is almost here,” I would say to one of my boys, “Don’t you think we should have some more cuddle time?”
Then, with one buy-in for cuddling I’d wait till I had boy #2 in a position to answer a casual question and then ask, “Your brother thinks we should have more cuddle time this summer, what do you think?”
Then a little later in the day I’d ask, “Do you remember when I use to read stories to you all the time? Wasn’t that fun?”
Of course they said yes, I wasn’t asking questions to get a no. But with my pile of freshly minted “Yeses,” the Snuggle-up Book Club was born.
In the days we waited for our books to arrive from Amazon, I kept the hype going. “Oooh, the books have shipped!” And , “they’ll be here tomorrow!” “When do you want to start the book club?” “Should we wait until the end of school, or start when they get here?”
- We read at least one chapter a day.
- If we don’t read our chapter, we’ll make it up the next time we snuggle up to read.
- We can always read ahead, but not as an excuse to skip a day.
We also decided we can take our book club on the road. One suggestion was to take a blanket when we walk the dogs out in the field and let the dogs run while we read.
Now all I have to do is make sure the club lives up to the hype, but I’ve got them this far, I think I can get them through the boy barrier this summer and a little more excited about books.
A friend suggested I look through VMWare’s job listings to see if anything jumped out at me. Frankly I didn’t expect to find anything that matches my skill-set because, I don’t fit the standard mold most corporations create. However, as I perused the surprisingly long list of openings I came across a listing for a Sliderocket Coach.
I checked out the listing for 2 reasons. First, what’s Sliderocket, and, second, what kind of coaching?
Then the shocker, I might actually be the type of person they’re looking for. Most of the time I work to create my own opportunities because it’s easier than trying to find a job that’s well suited for my odd combination of technical knowledge and entrepreneurial kung-fu.
One requirement of the application was that I submit a presentation along with a formal resume and truthfully, I was a bit nervous about that. I’ve created slide decks, but never as a cover letter and never with the level of sophistication I thought I’d need to get my foot in the door. I was also concerned since I’ve never used Sliderocket and wondered if I’d be able to use it effectively?
The good news is that the user interface was straight forward and anything that wasn’t immediately apparent was fairly easy to figure out. Even more “advanced” techniques like creating my own template weren’t all that hard to do.
In just 2 days I managed to create this presentation…
I say 2 days, but that was more like a total of 8 hours. The first 4 were spent thinking about what I wanted to say, how to say it and learning to use the software. The final 4 were creating the slides. Though that’s not completely fair either. I could have finished an hour earlier if my inspiration hadn’t run out. For some reason the only closing I could muster was some sort of Southern Belle saying, “lookin’ forward to talkin’ real soon!”
Now, if you’ve never used it before, Sliderocket.com is a cloud platform, so your work lives on the internet. The advantage is that you don’t have to maintain the software and are always using the current version. Also, because it’s a native to the internet, it’s designed for sharing and collaboration. The only disadvantage right now, and this is a disadvantage for all cloud applications, is that connection is key. For whatever reason you’re caught without a local copy and can’t get online to get one, you could be sunk. But I suppose this is just a new way to look at the old mantra of “back-up, back-up, back-up!”
If you haven’t done much with cloud applications or just want to see what kind of presentation you could make, sign up for one of Sliderocket’s free accounts.
If you’d like to create a presentation like this one, here are my top 4 hints;
- Get inspiration for your theme by seeing what collateral is available first. The only reason the Ninja worked well for this presentation was because I was able to find just the right photo to kick things off. If I had wanted a picture for every slide I wouldn’t have been able to do it with the choices that Flikr presented me with. So make sure you have what you need, or know how to work around what you don’t, before you go too far into the process.
- If you need a soundtrack for your presentation, check out Jamendo.com. There’s lots of Creative Commons licensed music for you to choose from. The song I chose, Plastic & Flashing Lights by Professor Kliq, was found there.
- If the text is all you have to convey your ideas, make sure the letters represent you well. I used a version of the drop shadow that was available in the software to give the white on black words some depth.
- I used a QR code because I wasn’t sure the link I added would be click-able or easily copied/pasted to a browser. Using it gave me one more way for the viewer to go where I wanted to send them.
If you have any questions or comments about presentations, or how I managed a certain effect with SlideRocket, feel free to leave me a note, below. Otherwise a tweet, Thumbs up or sharing on your favorite service would be greatly appreciated. ~Karlie
If you ask a software developer how to make money writing code, you’ll usually get employment or selling applications as your answer. It’s my opinion, however, that most are missing the boat and need to think of their skills as a marketable service.
The other answers, while not wrong, have to do with point of view.
If I get a fancy box and shelf space in the big box chain stores, then I’m offering a product. The transaction might even present itself as selling of services – like getting the neighbor kid to mow my lawn. But no matter how you look at it, it all starts with a skill.
If I toss Open Source software into the mix, then I usually have to deal with “Yeah, Right. How am I going to make money competing with a free download?”
Here’s the thing, software isn’t the only Open Source industry. In fact, many other open source businesses are very profitable and are generally skills that have been around for quite some time.
Let’s think about Open Source for a moment. The first line of the Wikipedia article states…
Open Source describes practices in production and development that promote access to the end product’s source materials.
To me, it’s just the way we’ve always done things.
Software isn’t the only open source skill, in fact I’d say that all of these could be considered open source.
- Repair – Automobiles, Washers, Refrigerators, etc.
- Fashion – Sewing, design ideas, etc
- And many others
The people who practice these trades might have their own secret sauce, but all can be learned in an open source manner by examining the construction or using freely available information to gain understanding of the process. If I can get a book at the library or search the internet for the information I need, then I consider the industry to be open source.
Let’s now consider what it means to be in an open industry where anyone has access to the tools and materials that you do…
Wouldn’t the existence of prepackaged seeds put farmers out of business?
What about home improvement stores? Shouldn’t that put Plumbers, carpenters and electricians out of business? Does access to scissors put the barber out of business?
With the answer to those questions being a resounding “NO,” then why do so many people within the Free and Open Source Software movement think that there’s no business opportunities for their skill set?
Yes, there is a bit of a vacuum in the consciousness about the use of Open Source software, but I don’t think that it’s going to be too hard to overcome.
What the middle market is missing people with marketable skills who are willing to begin offering their services in various formats. It could be shelf ready products, it could be custom work. FOSS could even be offered alongside commercial options.
The thing is, FOSS has so many advantages and one of them is price. If you are a provider and can offer the same services and functionality, but you don’t have to undercut your profit to be the less expensive option, that’s a big advantage for you and your customer.
So you make more money, they spend less… Talk about bringing value to the table. You’re happy, they’re happy, the computers are effective. How can you loose?
To keep this post on topic and in an easy to digest format, how about we stop here for now.
In the next article I’ll talk more about how to position yourself as a service provider and how to set yourself up for a win.
Then, shortly after that incident I had a SCORE client tell me that he’d been keeping his resume up-to-date. It’s not that he feared loosing his job at any moment, but it sounded like it was more of a just-in-case sort of thing.
When the universe keeps telling me about Resumes, it’s probably time to get my ducks in a row. So yesterday, I completed one version of it and then for kicks I uploaded it to CareerBuiler.com and even found a very intriguing little company’s want-ad on Craig’s list and threw my hat in the ring.
Then this morning, the Universe, by way of my trusty StumbleUpon button, told me my cover letter could use some work. While I was thinking it was pretty good and not bad for being out of circulation so long, I see now that I should up my game if I write another one.
One major boo-boo I did know to avoid was the form letter, but that makes me wonder what HR departments are thinking of when they send one to me?
It seemed like moments after I got done reading about great cover letters I received a response to my resume at Career Builder. In it the recruiter said;
“I place qualified individuals in various franchises that fit within the realms of their previous work history and acquired talents ultimately training (and equipping) born entrepreneurs with the necessary tools to take the leap towards owning a business and taking control of their futures.”
With that I’m pretty sure I never even got a read. Because had she even browsed my Resume, she would have seen that I have already taken the leap and do, in fact, own a business.
My first blog post about Full Spectrum Copywriting was a little short on details. While I’m not a fan of excuses, I can say I left the post short because I’m not sure how much is too much for the blog.
With less than 20 full blog posts under my belt, please bear with me as I find my blogging rhythm.
So let me take Mel’s questions one at a time and see if I can’t clarify things.
How do you figure out what terms (and phrasings) are at what level of beginner/expertness?
Part of it is basic knowledge of the field you’re writing about. The rest is putting yourself in a position to see where the questions might come from. Can you anticipate the FAQ?
So let’s say On-Disk.com is listing a 6 DVD Repo set. First, I need a draft of what needs to be said. Since I’m pretty good with Linux jargon, my first draft will most likely exclude any entry level terms.
For the second step, I’ll look for variations that include opportunities to define the draft without the use of Jargon. Since I’m listing a Repo, I need to use the variations on that term in my listing — Repository, Extra/Additional software, etc — as I strive to find the lowest common denominator.
Lather, rinse and repeat for any of the other industry specific terms from my basic draft – Mirror, Package manager, Dependencies, and such.
Balance is key. You’re not trying to dumb things down or show people how smart you really are. Instead, think about how you can bring people up to speed without taking too much time to do so.
The inspiration for the technique came from my uncle John. He was the first person I ever knew with a PhD (Or at least associated with a PhD). Because I was still a child and feeling that he was probably much smarter than everyone else I told him so. He then explained that no matter how “smart” someone might be, if they can’t explain a concept to someone else, they don’t really know what they’re talking about.
How do you learn these terms if you’re copy writing for a field you’re encountering for the first time (or does that not happen much)?
The thing is, you don’t need to be an expert to take advantage of the full spectrum. Being on the middle ground is also a good place to start.
Most of the time, the copy writing process is more like a translation service. It doesn’t really matter what the product is, since the person/people on the bleeding edge of the technology usually know all the terms and jargon. They may also supply a draft for you to write from.
Have you ever done an experiment to see how much more effective full-spectrum is (over writing entirely for a novice or an expert audience, over writing with the reverse order – expert terms at the beginning, beginner at the end)? That sort of data would make an incredibly compelling pitch for FSC.
Not a formal study, but I do have anecdotal evidence to suggest the benefits.
It kind of plays into one of my other beliefs about customer service.
If one person comments, take note but use your best judgment on how seriously to take it. If a second person tells you almost the exact same thing, there’s no guessing, you’ve got a serious problem.
Full Spectrum copy writing developed as I wrote and rewrote listings and web pages so we could stop tripping up our customers.
I’ve just been hired for what initially was billed as a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) job. The thing is, when I’m done, the website isn’t going to be optimized just for the engines. If I do my job well, the site will also be optimized for sales conversions.
Let me explain…
The company I’ll be working with offers a software suite to enterprise customers. The important part of these transactions is understanding how enterprise level decisions are made.
First off, most sales training makes closing the deal sound as if you simply need to get past the gatekeeper and convince a decision maker. As if the process is a linear game, like Mario trying to rescue the princess.
The reality in enterprise level B2B sales is getting the buying committee to understand how the products and services will benefit their organization. Knowing that each person is going to have a different point of view on how their company will best be served. For some it’s all about the financial commitment and return on investment (ROI). For others it’s integration into an existing systems.
This is where the idea of Full Spectrum Copywriting comes in.
When I’m writing anything that might be technical or only appeal to professionals in a specific industry, I assume the audience has both entry level and expert understanding of the topic.
To keep everything organized, I start with plain language and use more industry jargon as I go.
As someone reads down a page or goes deeper into the site by clicking second and third level links, it’s important they understand what they’re buying into before they get overwhelmed by terminology. By continuing into industry specific jargon, experts in the field should also be satisfied that the company might actually know what they’re talking about.
Just don’t get hung up on on what defines your unique set of technical terms since they’ll vary by the audience. For example, if I’m talking about how a product or service saves money, I’ll be sure to include details only an accountant would love.
This technique also works outside enterprise sales because you’re never quite sure who’s reading your materials. Even consumer items will have quite a broad spectrum of people who will need their questions answers.
One example would be a family contemplating a big ticket purchase. Will your customer’s spouse see the benefits?
We also try to use Full Spectrum Copywriting techniques at On-Disk.com since there’s always a good mix of expert and new users viewing the catalog. I’m fairly certain our customers don’t always run their purchases past a spouse or committee, but it’s really easy to assume the customer knows what you’re talking about or leave out the juicy, technical details advanced users might need to know before they buy.
I’d love it if you’d leave questions for me about Full Spectrum Copywriting in the comments below.