Note from Jeanne: Happy [Belated] Throwback Thursday! There’s a fine line between engaging a potential customer and completely over-selling. The key to not over-selling lies in setting realistic goals for your efforts based on the channel and your relationship with the prospect. 

Here’s a column I wrote for ClickZ last year at this time with some tips for getting it just right… enjoy!

I was at a networking event recently and I met the senior vice president of a consultancy specializing in “Advanced Messaging Design and Delivery” (that was the tag line on his business card). At first I found him very interesting.

Hello Sticker OrangeWe started out by talking about PowerPoint presentations, what makes them good and what can sink them. I do a lot of speaking, so I was interested in getting tips from him; I’m always looking to improve. We spoke for a few minutes and I asked if he had a business card; I said I’d like to check out his firm’s website and perhaps learn more about its services.

His business card had a quarter taped to it, which lead to another interesting discussion. According to him, giving people something has been shown to improve their memory of your meeting. Good enough – another interesting data point. And an engaging way to extend the conversation.

But then he kept talking. He was continuing to try to sell me on how I and everyone in my agency would benefit from their help. I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. I finally had to break in and excuse myself; there were other folks in the room that I wanted to meet.

It’s a common mistake, over-selling and providing too much information for the channel. This was a networking event. If he had asked for a follow-up phone call or meeting when I gave him my business card I might have agreed to it. But there was no way he was going to close this sale tonight. In fact, his persistence lessened the chance that I would even look into using his firm’s services (I haven’t).

I’m sure you’ve had similar experiences. I know I have; this was just the latest. So here are some tips for reading your audience and not over-selling your product or service – be it a networking event, email marketing, a website, social media, or any other channel.

The key lies in setting realistic goals for your efforts based on the channel and your relationship with the prospect.

At a networking event, the goal is to identify qualified prospects, get them intrigued about the benefits your product or service would give them, and get a business card. It’s not unlike cold calling or working a trade show booth. You follow up with more detail, and a stronger sales pitch – later.

With an email, you may have some people willing to buy after reading it. But if not (or if your sale is just more complicated than that), you almost always want to use email to intrigue people enough to click though to a website to learn more. I’m not a fan of very long email messages (read: more than two or three pages when you print them out). It’s just too much information to read in a linear fashion online; break the content up into manageable bits and provide links for readers to click through to a website to read the sections of most interest to them. Sometimes the website isn’t even a realistic point of purchase (this is especially true of high ticket and/or more complicated sales) – so offer an option for them to learn more; typically this is either a lead generation form and/or a click-to-chat mechanism.

And what about people that aren’t yet on your email list and visit your website? It’s great if they’re ready to buy. But if not, you want to give them a way to sign up to receive email from you – without filling out a full lead generation form. This allows you to follow up with them – and gives you additional chances to sell them on how your product or service can help them. I usually advise clients with long sales cycles to offer both a lead generation form and just an email sign-up option – usually on the same form – so that the visitor can decide what level of relationship they’re willing to enter into at that moment.

Then there are social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. It’s great to have “fans” – but it’s even better to give them a chance, when they are ready, to become email subscribers. This way you can ask them a little about themselves (and if they’re truly fans they’ll likely tell you) and then send targeted, relevant email messages to their inbox to grow the relationship. And that inbox will likely still be a good way to reach them, even if they stop visiting the social media site where you met them.

So think about the channel you’re using – and what type of outcomes are realistic to expect from it. Every channel has its place, but if you’re looking for one to do too much, it will be less successful for you than it could be.

Until next time,


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