I chose the self publishing route for my novel, Deadly Portfolio: A Killing in Hedge Funds, and went to press with it before I understood all that was involved with marketing a book. I assumed my experience as a career salesperson, as I have reported in previous blog postings, would carry me. I wanted to apply what had worked well for me throughout my career in promoting my book.
Where to begin? At first, selling on the Internet appeared to be a numbers game, like drummer methods in selling; i.e. make 25 calls, cold calls, with a memorized spiel every day, and odds will eventually work in your favor. The law of numbers meant that every rejection brought the salesperson closer to a sale. Onerous business. But the comparison is fair.
Cold Calling and Creating A Buzz
The thinking behind cold calling and “creating a buzz” on the Internet is essentially the same. More exposure increases the likelihood that someone will opt for the product or service being offered. For those durable enough to use it, the numbers game pursued on the Internet may eventually lead to a level of success.
The trouble with cold calling and trolling the Internet is that 1) they are boring, 2) they do little to help build trust between buyer and seller, 3) they are inefficient and time-consuming, and 4) they often fail to differentiate a superior product or service from the run of the mill.
Most people feel comfortable making the buying decision only after they have developed trust in the salesperson and the company being represented. That being the case, the place to begin any sales effort is with an understanding of how to build trust with another and how to construct an ethical sales presentation based upon that knowledge.
Components of Trust
Studies suggest that most of us want satisfaction in three areas when we are entering into a new relationship. We look first to see whether the new person shares our values. We notice in rapid-fire succession the person’s overall appearance including dress, hair styling, use of cosmetics, facial hair, tattoos, posture and body language. Once the person speaks, we catch tone of voice, word choices, grammar, syntax, accent, volume, enunciation, and courtesy. Finally, as a conversation gets underway, we monitor eye contact, firmness of handshake, sharing of airtime, and willingness to consider. One author, in fact, observed that we decide whether to continue a conversation within the first 90 seconds of interacting with a new person. We want to be satisfied in three areas within that brief period. We tend to trust another when his or her behavior is congruent, when what is said, how it said it, and the physical appearance and posture of the speaker all seem to be consistent with the message.
First, we make value judgments. We are turned off by statements that conflict with our convictions and beliefs. Included here would be the use of profanity and obscenities, prejudiced statements, irreverent comments and opinions that differ with our beliefs and convictions. We are attracted by evidence that the new person holds similar views on moral, political, and religious subjects.
Second, we gauge whether the person is knowledgeable about the subject under discussion. Usually, the opening gambit covers superficial topics like weather, sports, or non-controversial news, but once the preliminary threshold of small talk is crossed, we begin to listen for credentials and whether the new person is qualified to advance an opinion. At this point, qualifiers are often volunteered. Statements begin with phrases such as “I was there once, and . . .” or “I studied that at . . . “ or “I saw on TV where . . .” and the like. We want some measure of the speaker’s competence with the topic being discussed.
Finally, we want a measure of the new person’s intentions. “What does he or she want? Am I going to be embarrassed or manipulated? Where is this leading?”
Propriety, Competence and Intent
Face-to-face, all of these check points are logged with relative ease. To summarize, we want a measure of the other person’s propriety, competence, and intent. If our criteria are met, continuing the relationship has a better than 50/50 chance. But that’s face-to-face. Ignoring chat rooms and Skype for the moment, the Internet does not afford the luxury of impromptu exchanges. The challenge is to project the product to the market when a dialogue is not possible, or at least extremely limited and lacking spontaneity.
The Internet is passive. We do not have the opportunity to correct a false first impression. We need to appeal to the broadest spectrum of readers; those with whom we are most likely have things in common. Market then becomes the determinant of appropriateness.
The three dimensions of propriety, competence, and intent can be fulfilled with attention to detail. A photo creates an immediate impression. Affected or artsy poses and composition will only appeal in a market that appreciates those qualities. Otherwise, the safer and more productive choice would be a neutral pose and composition, one that presents little to prompt rejection. Neutral photos are be balanced in composition and lighting. They project a “That’s me,” look with no apologies or explanations. Chances are, for example, that seniors are going to be turned off by tattoos, body piercing, and mucked hairstyles. On the other hand, everything in the list might make a person appear cool and with it to a younger crowd. (Remember, this author is 73 so if I missed on any of these points, it only proves my case.)
More to Follow
The guidelines apply to the description of any product or service. My purpose in this posting is simply to set up the conceptual framework for subsequent postings. Space allowed in this posting for commenting on a how to select a picture for your Internet postings. I plan to move into these subjects in greater depth in subsequent articles. Stay tuned.
Meanwhile, I invite you to check out my web site. My novel flows out of my experience as a financial advisor whose success depended in large part upon his understanding of the psychology of the sales process.
Author’s Note: I compose my posts using Word and transfer to the word-processing program available through my web site manager. I use the spell check facility on both programs. Some spellings are personal preferences, such as “advisor” for “adviser.” (Either is correct.) I intentionally use incomplete sentences or fragments as a stylistic choice. I am very grateful for the proofreading and editing skills volunteered by Jeannine Churchill, a friend and former colleague at Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Minnesota. If any errors in the text escaped both of us, please do not hesitate to let me know.