steps to a sale

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Foster Bias & Sales is an imaginary ad agency name I came up with that offers a trifecta of marketing success. These steps to a sale apply to marketing, advertising, even memo writing.

It starts by fostering a positive and receptive environment in which to communicate with customers. Product context, entertainment and/or education are all tools used to foster interest. Gather attention and predispose consumers to listen….that’s Mr. Foster.

Create bias toward your product or against a key competitor is step two. This is where marketers become competitors. Care-abouts and good-ats are what the brand planner mines and the communicator deals in here. Creating bias is not nuanced. It’s hardball.   

Sales obviously refers to action. Real purchase, decision to purchase, or predisposition to purchase. In the sales trade this is called “asking for the order.” Even if implicit. Being too pushy is not attractive, however.  You have to know how and when to ask. If you cross the line you may damage to your ability to foster a proper selling environment. Know when to walk away. Customers appreciate commitment sans the pushy hand. They may come back.        




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In marketing AIDA is the acronym explaining steps to a sale. Awareness, Interest, Desire and Action.  It’s a serial process.  Back in the day, only a salesperson could get a consumer through all 4 steps at one time. More often than not, the AIDA process started with advertising, walked forward with a brochure or some form of research, before being closed at retail. When the web came around, all four steps could be experienced online – in a matter of minutes.  It’s why e-commerce is so hot.

Enter VR and the pictured controller device.  These little experiential, hand-operated electronics will do more for collapsing the steps to a sale, than perhaps any technology ever invented. VR headsets are the surround-sound movie theater, but it will be the controllers through which commerce is conducted. If the phone network is the headset, the controller is the iPhone.

Right now the headsets are the gold and the controllers the cheap peripheral. I believe that will change. And that change will alter the way we climb the steps to a sale.

One man’s bet. Peace.   

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People like to help.  Ask any mother-in-law.  People also like to be helped, but there is social stigma about being helped too much. Ask a teenager or the under privileged. But helping and being helped are the two most important motivators in marketing. Selling is not helping. Helping is helping.

If a brand planner doing my job from a wheelchair, is it likely I’d be more effective at getting consumers to open up? Yep. It’s human nature. If I was a brand planner suffering from depression, would I have the same chance at getting someone to open up? Not unless I looked particularly sad.  

Overt selling is overtaking helping in marketing and consumers are shutting down.  Why do you think students writing papers can get through on the phone to executives, but researchers can’t? We are a helpful people. Why, in a recent study on homeless in NY (I think ideated by Droga5), did moms and dads walk right by family members on the street dressed as homeless? People want to help but are inured to the scale of the problem.

So as you think about your brand planning rigor for your day, think about helping – bidirectional helping. Not selling. Create an environment where consumers can really hear you and then you can begin the steps to a sale. Peace.


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I’ve been doing business development for over 30 years; trying to help grow organic business from existing clients and add new business by identifying, earning favor and wining new clients. It’s an art, like hitting a baseball. It’s hard to be successful a majority of time.

My mom is a wonderful women but she likes to give advice. Some might say if her gums are moving, the advice is coming.  Advice suggests that someone is doing something wrong.  One school of thought in business development is advice-focused.  Point out things that are fixable, get credit for seeing them, and ask for the solution order. Bad idea. Nobody wants to talk about their flaws, especially with strangers, not unless they are close to fatal. So the better biz/dev approach is to have prospects ask you for advice. And how does that happen?  

First the prospect needs to be aware of you. There needs to be some top-of-mind awareness. Second they need to consider you as a good source of advice. “What have you done for me that makes me believe you can help?”  Third, they need to trust your advice will be sound. And lastly, you need to be easy to reach and available.  Sound like the marketing “steps to a sale” model?  Sure does.

Business development done well is a long term brand build, not a short term direct response transaction.  Most of my clients have come from development over time.  I have shown interest in them and their business over time, offered up insights not advice over time, and become familiar enough so that when the time was right, they called me.

So two nuggets: Do not be an advice-giver and take a long term approach to biz/dev. It is a craft not a transaction. Peace.

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How can an consultant come into a company, study data, ask 200 questions, drive around with salespeople, and begin to think s/he can tell a CEO or C (fill in the letters) about the heart and soul of that company?  Or tell the CEO what will make the company grow at an out-pace rate. What customers want — and the best way to sell them.   It’s ridiculous to think a consultant can do that. But that’s what brand planning consultants do.

So how does a brand planner present findings in such an uphill setting?

First, the planner shares data the C-level can’t disagree with. Data doesn’t lie.  Plus, the data often comes from the same executives to whom the planner is presenting. Second, present observations. Who can argue with an observation?  It’s not a recommendation, it’s a carefully selected, important piece of field work. And, if spun with elan and poetry it can become powerful and memorable. “Peter Pan Syndrome,” for instance, is something I shared while working on Microsoft. Not really forgettable.

Third, organize the big picture stuff in a way that allows for leaning moments driving Cs toward a POV or conclusion. A conclusion they will get to before it is presented.

Forth, remove the complexity and contradictions. Oh, and there will be contradictions. (Deciding what not to present is often the hardest part of brand planning.)

Fifth, give them a brand strategy that is brand-familiar, competitive, and with eyes up — toward the horizon. Also, one that makes the Cs feel a little uncomfortable. More often than not, in a great brand strategy there will be a word with which they disagree. The beauty of the word is that is can be changed – by the creative team. The brand strategy is a strategy, not the creative. And even if the “word” is pregnant with creative meaning like, say, the word “reboot,” it is really just stimulus for the creative team. (That’s why Campaigns come and go but a powerful brand strategy is indelible.)  In step five, the C gets to exhibit strength, power and insight (and have the last word) and yet idea détente is still achieved.  We have lift off. Peace!

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Selling product is a complex application. It first requires awareness. Then interest, preference and, lastly, action. These 4 steps to a sale are time-tested and when handled properly and thoughtfully can create a customer for life. Just as good technology is built on decisions (ons and offs or 1s and 0s) a selling application requires good logic and pathways.


Online selling, which occasionally is done correctly, sometimes scrambles the steps to a sale. Technology hubs do a good job of covering the bases: they provide prices, democratic ratings, reviews, pictures, names specs, etc. but many online sites short circuit the selling app allowing people to buy things before they are properly “sold.” Marketers who jump to transact business without selling are providers of malware, if I might stretch the analogy. Marketers and consumers beware. Peace!       


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