Having consumed an inordinate amount of 30 Rock over the past few months, it’s become increasingly clear that I have a bit of a thing for Alec Baldwin. Or, to be more precise, with Jack Donaghy, Head of East Coast Television and Microwave Programming.
How do I know it’s got to obsessive levels? Because I watched the film Glengarry Glen Ross in an attempt to overcome withdrawal symptoms in a week in which I couldn’t get my 30 Rock fix. I watched it even though it’s sweary, rude and full of cold calling. Three things I hate in life.
There was an upside, however.
I found myself contemplating the nature of cold calling, aggressive salesmen and the reasons that neither work particularly well. Of course, it mainly reinforced my belief that people don’t buy stuff out of the blue, even if Al Pacino is the salesman – but I did have some other thoughts too.
One of Baldwin’s most memorable lines in the film is “ABC: Always Be Closing” (shortly followed by the phrase “Coffee is for closers”). What does it mean? It means that you should always be completing a sale (and you don’t get coffee if you don’t).
It got me thinking about how we sell online – how you can’t ram sales and marketing messages down the public’s throat and expect them to buy something. Well, you can, but you’ll annoy the hell out of them and they’ll never buy from you in future.
In the digital age, it’s easier than ever to lose your customers, because while it’s easy to hang up a phone, it’s even easier to close a tab. If nothing else, politeness dictates that people are less likely to hang up than they are to bounce off your website.
So what does that mean for sales and marketing teams? You should have a product lifecycle that warms your potential customers up to spending money with you.
You need to build up to sales messaging by creating a relationship with your customers so that they trust and like you. I’m sorry Alec, but you can’t always be closing.
Even if you do convert a sale from a hard sell, customers aren’t likely to remember your company a year later. Why? Because they’re not invested in your brand. They won’t seek you out on Facebook or Twitter, or sign up for your enewsletter, because who wants to read boring advertising copy anyway?
Oh, and you can forget about repeat business and word of mouth advertising too. Never gonna happen.
The alternative to the hard sell? Grab the attention of your potential customers by offering them content they can’t ignore. Give them the sort of materials they’ll want to read, share and come back to, whether it’s funny, useful or interesting.
And before you go all Glengarry on me, I know that won’t directly generate sales. However it might place you at the forefront of people’s minds, so they turn to your company when they need you, rather than the competition.
As with most things in life, follow the Pareto Principle – also known at the 80:20 Rule. You should be aiming for 80% interesting content, 20% sales and marketing. Why? Because you’re more likely to build on ongoing relationship with useful content than a sales message.
For instance, say your potential audience is considering changing energy supplier: they probably want to reduce their household bills. To build a relationship, you could give them tips and advice alongside offers and promotions. It shows that you know your industry and adds value to your service – the customer might like the idea of regularly receiving hints and tips to keep their bills down.
If you just tried to sell your energy supply to someone that wasn’t looking for it, you’ll just leave them feeling peeved and negative about your brand (not that this example was in any way influenced by personal experience…much).
Also, if you get the hard sell wrong, you could damage your reputation. For instance, if the product isn’t what a customer wants, or isn’t as expected because they purchased under pressure, they might want their money back.
Worse still, they could take to social media about it and share their negative feedback with the rest of the world. Without wanting to ruin GGR for you, this is what happens at the end of the film. The client changes their mind and wants their money back (although they don’t go on social media, because it hasn’t been invented yet).
If you build a relationship with the customer, this is less likely to happen. They will have more opportunities to know your business and understand what you’re selling, so there are no nasty surprises.
So, now you know the things that I have learned from Alec Baldwin without having to watch Glengarry Glen Ross. I wonder what I can learn about marketing from watching The Hunt For The Red October…
This article was first published on SoSocial.com in 2015