5 tips for getting over stage fright

tips for getting over stage frightHave stage fright?  You’re not alone.

They say that our greatest fear, once you’ve eliminated death as a choice, is public speaking.

And yet many of us are called to take that plunge on a regular basis. Whether you are speaking to group of two in a sales presentation or you’re standing at a podium, with hundreds of eyes on you – the intent is the same.

We want to impart knowledge, persuade, entertain and be remembered. And above all else, we want to get through the presentation without looking like a fool or being paralyzed by our stage fright.

I’m one of those rare individuals who isn’t freaked out at the idea of speaking to a group. I like it. But I think I enjoy it because I have a very set routine of prepping for each speech. By the time I step up to the podium or approach the next sales call, I’m confident that I won’t embarrass myself or be nervous to step up on that stage.

Here are my secrets to prepping and delivering a presentation that gets them to ask you back.

Know your audience: One of the easiest ways to get off track with a presentation is to either talk over the audience’s head or at a level that is insulting because your audience is way ahead of you. Not only do you need to understand where they’re coming from, in terms of knowledge, but also in terms of personality. Are they an audience who asks a lot of questions? Are they open to small group activities or sharing information about their work?

Grab them right up front: You need to quickly take charge of your audience. In a large group setting, you might tell them a powerful story. In a sales presentation, you might lead with a stat or fact that is guaranteed to grab their attention. Too many speakers limp into their presentation – either by telling a lame joke or by getting too technical too fast. You want an emotional reaction of some kind to kick you off.

Assume the worst: I’ve watched many speakers melt into a puddle of goo right in front of an audience because their PowerPoint didn’t load right or their video worked but there was no sound or the internet connection was faulty so they couldn’t demo something. When it comes to speaking and technology – assume it will fail. Always have a back up (your presentation on multiple jump drives, the YouTube video on-line but also on a DVD, etc.) You need to be ready to deliver your presentation in the pitch black with no power, if need be. If you’re that prepared, you’ll worry a whole lot less.

Think sound bytes and repeats: In today’s “tweet while you are talking” world, you want to give your audience plenty of tidbits to share. Give them key facts, stats and catch phrases. Imagine someone from your audience going back to the office and re-telling a story you told during your presentation. Which one would get retold? If you answered “none of them” then you’d better come up with a story that is so funny, compelling, astounding or illuminating that people won’t be able to help but repeat it.

Be ready to improvise: You can do all the prep in the world, but sometimes that nagging stage fright had it right — something could still go wrong. At the end of the day, there are many elements of giving a presentation that are out of your control. So even though I am advocating ample prep time, you also have to realize that sometimes you just have to go with the flow. It might be a tough question during the Q&A or a technology malfunction. If you can keep your sense of humor and your balance – your audience will reward you for it.

Odds are you were invited to make the presentation. So remember that your audience is anxious for you to be successful as well. Do the prep work, have faith that you know what you’re talking about and try to enjoy the conversation.

Even if something does go wrong — remember at the end of the day — your audience doesn’t expect you to be perfect.  They just want you to be real and share something of value.

Is your website sales funnel-shaped?

Website Sales FunnelThere’s always a lot of buzz about SEO (search engine optimization), SEM (search engine marketing) and of course, Google rankings.

Rightly so – each of those plays a role in how effectively your website can serve you from a marketing and sales perspective. Your website should be sales funnel shaped.

But I think most companies approach the web a little like the fable about the five blind men who were asked to describe the elephant that stood before them. The man who was near the elephant’s leg reached out, touched the elephant and announced that an elephant was like a huge tree trunk. The man who was by the tail, after feeling it, described an elephant like a bullwhip and so on.

While none of them were wrong – none of them were right either. That’s exactly where many companies are when they think about how to leverage their website. They’re not wrong but they haven’t got it quite right either.

Lets step back and take a more holistic view of the website’s purpose for being. You might have a website because it:

  • Gives you credibility – it proves that you’re real
  • Tells the visitor what your company is all about and why you exist
  • Lists/show what you sell/do
  • Educates your prospect on how you are different from your competitors and help them make an more informed buying decision
  • Helps your customers and prospects by making them smarter/better in some way
  • Is an information repository so your customers can access things like users manuals, support forums, case studies, testimonials or other forms of thought leadership
  • Provides ways to start a conversation, ask a question or give you feedback
  • May serve as a shopping portal and people can buy right there

But if we step back even a little further and take a look from the 30,000 foot level, we can see through all those functionalities, your website is the entry point to your sales funnel. For most organizations today — your website is the initial point of entry that could lead to a sale today or five years from today.

That doesn’t happen by accident. Getting them to your site isn’t the end of the game; it’s just the beginning. Now your goal is to move them into and through your sales funnel. You have to build your site and everything that happens on it with that intention.

Whenever I think of a sales funnel, I picture one of those plastic funnels people use when they do an oil change. The top of it is really wide and the bottom is a very skinny hole. The funnel coincides with the know • like • trust equation.

The top of the sales funnel – know

The top of the funnel is for catching all those people who have no idea you exist or that you sell anything they might need or want. This is where you are hoping they’ll get to know you.

The middle of the funnel is filled with all the ways you either keep them on your site or get them to come back. With repeated exposure, you’re hoping they’ll come to like you.

The smallest section of the funnel is where you’re hoping they come to trust you through repeated interactions, you continuing to be helpful and demonstrating a consistency in how you talk, behave and perform.

Once they’ve willingly squeezed themselves through that tiny little section of the funnel, they’ll be ready to buy. But not before.

Let’s look at the first stage of the funnel (know) and what you can do to catch the interest of your web visitors and encourage them to get to know you a little.

At the top of the funnel we have people who’ve never heard of you and may have no idea they need or want what you sell. They might discover you by clicking on a link in a blog post or after reading about you in the newspaper. They might have a problem and be Googling to find a solution and your site is listed in their search results. They may see a Facebook ad or type in your URL off your business card that they picked up at a trade show. But at this point, you’re a stranger. They don’t know, like or trust you. And we know we have to earn their trust before we can earn their money.

At that moment, your website has to be helpful or relevant enough in some way that they spend a little time on it so they begin to get a sense of you and how you might matter to them.

This is a do or die moment. If the visitor pokes around the site and then leaves, they might never return and you’ll never know who they were or if you could have served them. That’s how it works on most websites. If I asked you to show me a list of people who were on your website in the last six months, could you do it?

One of the appealing aspects of using the web to pre-shop is the anonymity of it. To get someone to introduce themselves to you — you have to either give them a compelling reason to keep coming back or better yet, you have to create the opportunity for an information exchange. You have to offer them something that is valuable enough that they’ll give you their email address in return. While it sounds simple – think of how many websites you visit and how few capture your contact information.

What does that look like? You want to offer something that’s a low barrier to entry. It doesn’t feel too intrusive. It could be any of these:

  • Sign up for our Enewsletter or regular tips
  • Get a copy of a how-to report, whitepaper or cheat sheet
  • Take an online course via email
  • Get access to unique content behind a firewall
  • Join a discussion group/closed forum
  • Be notified when new content/information is available
  • Download an eBook or watch a short video series
  • Sign up for a webinar or phone conference

Once you’ve done made that initial connection and you have a way to stay in touch – you can continue to be helpful which will keep the conversation going. At that point, one of two things is going to happen. As they get to know you/your company – they’re either going to decide they like you or they don’t. Both are great outcomes.

If they like you, they’ll stay in the conversation and get to know you even better. If they don’t like you, they’ll go away. Now you don’t have to waste any energy on someone who was going to be a bad fit.

The middle section of the sales funnel – like

To move someone from the start of the process into this section requires a mix of bravery and generosity on your part.

Keep in mind that most prospects are pretty skittish. Whether it’s in a retail store or online, they’re used to being chased around by over eager salespeople that pester the poor potential buyer until they flee. That’s one of the reasons many people do a significant amount of their shopping online. The anonymity allows them to browse without pressure.

That’s why you want to load up your website with lots of content that has no barrier to consumption like blog posts, testimonials and FAQs. Those elements will generate traffic to your site. The strategies we talked about last week – where there is an exchange of information (their email address for some downloadable tool or content) begins to thin the herd. The tire kickers will avoid the opt-in level, preferring to stick with your free content. And that’s fine. Until they move to the next level, they’re not ready to buy. Once they trade you their email address for some content, they’ve indicated that they are open to hearing from you.

I find it hard to believe I have to actually say this but I’ve seen time and time again that I do. There is absolutely no reason to collect email addresses if you aren’t going to actually send them something.

And that something cannot be a sales pitch. I’ve seen so many businesses stumble here. They didn’t give you their email address so you could hard sell them or immediately try to get an appointment or schedule a sales call. They gave it to you so you would keep sending them information that’s valuable to them.

That is your litmus test. Each and every time, before you hit send, ask yourself “is this going to be valuable to my audience?” Time for a re-write if your honest answer is no.

Assuming you keep producing helpful content and you actually send it out consistently – the prospects will let you stay in their in box. Week (or month or quarter) after week, you’re there. You’re teaching, helping and they are getting a little smarter and a little more comfortable with you each time they hear from you.

You should also use those regular emails (or however you decide to connect with them) to drive them back to new content/offerings on the website. Maybe you produced a demo video series or you’re hosting an educational event that you’d like them to register for.

While we are focusing on your website, it certainly shouldn’t be the only tool in your toolbox. Your sales funnel should be armed with both digital and traditional tactics. They work together hand in glove, each strengthening the other.

The days of your website just being an online brochure are long gone. Be sure your web presence is the sales workhorse it should be by building a sales funnel around the know • like • trust = sales equation.

The last section of the sales funnel – trust

Having the right timing matters. You don’t get to this part of the funnel after the first couple interactions. If I see one consistent mistake, it’s that people shift into these sorts of strategy way too early. It’s like meeting someone in a bar and proposing the same night. Odds are you aren’t going to get too many yeses.

I totally get it from a business’ point of view and have often felt that frustration myself. You’ve shared your expertise. You’ve answered their questions. Surely they should be ready to buy by now. They obviously like what you do enough to keep coming back. So why aren’t they buying?

In my thirty years of being in business, I’ve rarely met a buyer who is as anxious to make the sale as the seller. Sure, there are those customers who come to us in crisis, and we scramble to put out their fire but they’re not the norm. So what do we do? We hang in there, and we keep being helpful and we work to stay top of mind until they’re ready to move forward.

The other factor to remember is that while we are the ones who build the sales funnel, it’s the prospect that moves through it and they control the pace and direction. So while one prospect may linger in the getting to know you (remember our know • like • trust = sales model) or growing to like you section for years, another may whip through both of those and be willing to trust you enough for a trial purchase in a matter of a couple visits.

For your website to truly be an effective sales funnel, you need to offer different levels of engagement, so the prospects can move themselves through at their own speed. As we talked about in the last couple columns, that means free content (text and video if possible) and content that you’ll give them for an email trade. But what kinds of things should you have available for those who are ready to consider a purchase?

Believe it or not – one that many companies miss is having contact information on the site. Don’t make me look for your phone number or email address. If you have the capacity, live chat is great. But make sure I can contact you and give me more than one method. If you have a brick and mortar presence, be sure you list your street addresses as well, with a link to one of the mapping sites.

You can also offer the ability to schedule a call, demo or take an assessment that will require you contact them (usually by email) with the results.

Remember that most buyers want to be pretty sure they’re going to buy before they speak to a salesperson or company representative. When they do reach out, they may have some final questions but they’re very close to making a buying decision. Which means you need to be ready to respond quickly once they do trigger that next level of readiness. Test your site and all your internal systems to verify that nothing is going to get in the way of you finally connecting with this potential buyer.

Today’s consumers want to be able to shop us on the web. How well that works for you is completely in your control. Is your site ready?

P.S. I found the great graphic on a SocialFresh blog post.

 

Use social media to drive traffic to your business’ website

Social media is an ever-increasing facet of everyday business. Companies large (Starbucks) and small (your local car shop) are using social media to expand their exposure and reach a broad base of prospective consumers.

B2B marketers are now spending 30% of their budgets on social media programs, trying to reach, among others, the 21 million+ Twitter users  (per eMarketer). There are big audiences on social media for your company, and using some strategies are more effective than others.

Here are five strategies you can employ to promote your business website through social media.

Engage Directly with Consumers

To generate online conversations, businesses can engage customers and fans with photos, links and more from their blog or website. That conversation can lead to new product insights and customer service issues.

Maintain and Develop Visibility Among Your Consumer Base

Be visible with social media. Post links, pictures and video clips on social networks for your current and prospective customers. Your steady use of social media can help keep your business relevant and known, while gradually expanding exposure.

Target specialty audiences online with a microsite, which refers traffic to your main website. Create SEO marketing materials for direct sales through your primary domain via a website like MyHosting VPS hosting.

Generate Sales Referrals Through Social Media Platforms

Provide links to products or other pages that are likely to prompt consumers to make a purchase. The links you use, and the way you present them through your social media profiles, will have an impact on your business’ performance. Helpful tip: send tweets on your company’s various white papers, articles and case studies to encourage consumer interest in your company.

Data Collection and Analysis to Improve Operations Efficiency

When it comes to data, social media is a gold mine. Data analysis informs you of the size of your social media following, its growth rate and levels of engagement. You can also track total referrals to determine which social networks are most effective in generating new business. Look at these numbers for the percentage of referrals that lead to sales.

Use Feedback to Guide Future Efforts

As you gain insights from comments and data analysis, your internal teams should start to identify areas for improvement. Then you can implement solutions in your day-to-day operations.

By establishing a basic social media marketing approach, you can set yourself on the course to increased revenue and a much greater return on the investment into your website.

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Useful = today’s marketing secret

Youtility, how being useful is today's marketing secretLet’s look at the reality:

  • Fragmented media choices
  • Permission-based media on the rise
  • Ability to filter, skip, ignore irrelevant advertising
  • Nothing beats word of mouth
  • A jaded, cynical consumer
  • Consumers tuning out, taking over and talking loudly about brands

That mountain of challenges is what faces marketers every single day.  So how in the world do we earn their attention, their dollars and even tougher — their loyalty?

Author, consultant and tequila loving Jay Baer believes he has the answer and outlines it in his book Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is about Help Not Hype.*  (I have 9 copies to give away — read to the end to find out how you can win!)

Jay’s premise is simple enough. If brands focus on being helpful, consumers will be drawn to them and when they’re ready to buy, that brand will have already earned the consumer’s trust — so they’re more likely to also give you their money.

Jay calls this friend-of-mine awareness (as opposed to top of mind awareness) and argues that in a congested, time starved world – if you want to keep earning market share, you need this level of connection with both customers and prospects.

The book is packed with stories, examples and very pragmatic ideas that any business — big, small, consumer or business focused — can implement.  It’s one of my favorites for 2013 — and a book you should definitely read. (Click here to order it from Amazon*)

I asked Jay a few questions about the book.  Here’s what he had to say:

If you had to describe the content of your book in a single sentence (no run ons) what would it be?  

If you sell something, you make a customer today. If you help someone, you can create a customer for life. 

What one book that you’ve read do you wish you could claim as your own?

Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd by YoungMe Moon, and anything by Bill Bryson.

In your opinion, what is the one trait that all uber successful business people possess?

A true understanding of customer needs.

What’s the biggest business mistake you’ve ever made and what did you learn from it?

I botched a 1031 real estate exchange eight years ago, costing myself a ton of money. I learned to trust experts that you hire, but always follow up.

Why did you have to write this book?  What truth or insight was missing from the human consciousness — that you’ve now answered?

2 reasons. I wrote their book as a reaction to the landslide of punditry that prescribes “make your company amazing” as a strategic approach. Also, I wanted to give people a thoughtful scaffolding for why and how they should be creating content.

After someone is done reading your book — what do you hope they do as a result?

First, begin to understand how your company can insert itself gracefully into the lives of customers and prospects by being useful. Second (or maybe first), tell 3 friends to buy the book! 

Okay — the book is awesome and you should read it.  And 9 of you will get to read it for free.  Winning a copy is simple.  Leave a comment on this post and I’ll use the randomizer at random.org to pick the lucky readers!

 

*affiliate link
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Moving your prospects to the next step

BabyStepsWhen you’re creating any sort of communication aimed at a potential buyer, you want them to do what?

When I ask this question, I typically hear a range of answers like:

• Know more about our business
• Understand how we’re better than our competitors
• Wonder if we’re the right fit for them

And of course….

• Buy what we sell!

All of that is probably true. But it’s too complicated. No matter how or where we’re communicating with a prospect, what we should want them to do is… take the next step.

Your job is simply moving your prospect to the next step.

That next step might be downloading an ebook, filling out the bounce back postcard to get a no obligation quote, emailing us with questions, signing up for a workshop, clicking on the buy now button or picking up the phone to schedule a meeting.

The answer is…we want them to take the next step in the sales cycle, whatever that may be. You want the reader (or listener or viewer) to do something to escalate the conversation. At that moment – you are talking to them. You want them to talk back somehow. And your copy should tell them exactly what to do.

I can hear you now… “I don’t have to tell them to call me. They’re not stupid. They know it’s an ad.” Very true. They’re not stupid. But they are incredibly busy, fragmented and they’re probably doing three other things while they flip through that magazine that houses your ad or click to the page on your website that has your workshops on it.

A call to action isn’t a remedy for stupid; it’s a remedy for their attention deficit. Its purpose is to get them to step out of a passive role and take a more active one. Because you have about 2 seconds before they change the channel, turn the page or click on the clapping monkey animated GIF that will take them away from your offer.

How do you write copy that captures their attention for that millisecond so they’ll take action?

Be very specific and direct: You need to spell it out for them and it needs to be simple. Click here to sign up or call XXX-XXXX to schedule an appointment. This isn’t the place to be cute or vague. You don’t even have to be polite and add a “please: or “thank you.” Just give them simple instructions that leave no room for doubt.

Focus on the benefit: Remember, you are trying to stop a moving train. They’re halfway to that next click or page turn. To get them to stop that momentum and move in a different direction will take something pretty compelling. Remember that we’re all motivated by the “what’s in it for me” equation so don’t be shy about telling them how they will benefit.

Keep it simple: If what you ask them to do is complicated, requires multiple steps, has complex directions or asks for too much information, — they will just move on. How many times have you started to fill out a form and then looked at how many questions it asked and said, “forget it” as you stopped?

Make it immediate: Sometimes this isn’t possible but whenever you can, make the call to action something they can complete right now in the moment. Remember, they might discover your ad or marketing piece at 2 am or while they’re standing in line at an airport.

For most organizations, a sale is a multi-step, complicated process. So keep that in mind as you create your calls to action. You’ll have a lot more success getting people to take one baby step at a time. Just give them the steps.