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I rescued a human today

Jack
Creative Commons License photo credit: Sugar Pond

Several times – including in the recent direct mail posts – we’ve talked about having the right conversation with your client or prospect.

About Robert Collier’s comment “Enter the conversation already taking place in the prospect’s mind”.

About looking at your business from the other side of the counter, thinking of the issues that your prospects and customers are concerned with.

I found a great example of doing that very thing today. Amazingly, it was in one of those forwarded sometimes funny, sometimes sappy, sometimes heartwarming emails that all of us get from our friends and colleagues.

I’m not sure if the author realizes the power of her writing, but I urge you to take this in and think about the role reversal and the thought process that was necessary to write something this well done.

Her eyes met mine as she walked down the corridor peering apprehensively into the kennels. I felt her need instantly and knew I had to help her.

I wagged my tail, not too exuberantly, so she wouldnâ??t be afraid. As she stopped at my kennel I blocked her view from a little accident I had in the back of my cage. I didnâ??t want her to know that I hadnâ??t been walked today. Sometimes the overworked shelter keepers get too busy and I didnâ??t want her to think poorly of them.

As she read my kennel card I hoped that she wouldnâ??t feel sad about my past. I only have the future to look forward to and want to make a difference in someoneâ??s life.

She got down on her knees and made little kissy sounds at me. I shoved my shoulder and side of my head up against the bars to comfort her. Gentle fingertips caressed my neck; she was desperate for companionship. A tear fell down her cheek and I raised my paw to assure her that all would be well.

Soon my kennel door opened and her smile was so bright that I instantly jumped into her arms.

I would promise to keep her safe.
I would promise to always be by her side.
I would promise to do everything I could to see that radiant smile and sparkle in her eyes.

I was so fortunate that she came down my corridor. So many more are out there who havenâ??t walked the corridors. So many more to be saved. At least I could save one.

I rescued a human today.

Can you create the same level of empathy with your clients and prospects?

I have another example of this for tomorrow;s post: Thanksgiving in the U.S. Enjoy the turkey, but watch out for those crooked pies.

[audio:https://www.rescuemarketing.com/IRescuedAHumanToday.mp3]

“I rescued a human today” Used with permission.
http://rescuemedog.org/dog-blog/i-rescued-a-human-today-by-janine-allen/

Written by Janine Allen CPDT, Rescue Me Dog’s professional dog trainer. Janine’s passion is working with people and their dogs. She provides demonstrations for those who have adopted shelter dogs, lends email support to adopted dog owners that need information beyond our Training Support Pages, and aids shelter staff and volunteers in understanding dog behavior to increase their adoptability.
Copyright 2008 Rescue Me Dog; www.rescuemedog.org

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Customer service Entrepreneurs Leadership Management Marketing podcast Productivity quality service Small Business startups Strategy Time management

How to be a business burnout. Or not.

Just the other day, I was talking with a client about the long term future of their business, and after being quizzed a bit, reflecting with them on what provoked me to sell my software biz several years ago.

This client has a small business people-wise, but its quite successful. Remarkably, that is the problem.

Been there, seen that, done it as well. Lived it again during that conversation.

Nothing else I’ve ever said in this blog is as important as what I’m about to discuss with you.

Simple Simon was a pie man

Growth happens.

Unless you’re rude, a dope, someone who thinks they know it all, unlucky, or someone seriously in the wrong line of work, if you are paying close attention to your customers and their needs (and knocking them out of the park) – your business is pretty likely to grow.

At some point in that growth, many business owners find themselves in the situation that Lucy and Ethel find themselves in below: (2m58s video)

While Lucy and Ethel are employees in the video, the point is the same for business owners.

It’s the classic problem covered in the E-Myth – the pie baker who gets overwhelmed with the business of making pies – but really it’s much more than that.

It’s a big reason I push you to document all your business processes.

It’s the reason I made it easier for clients to document their processes – by creating a simple app for them and their staffs to document, catalog, print and view the procedures.

It certainly isn’t the <ahem> millions in royalties I receive because of all the links in this blog to the E-Myth book at Amazon.com. You’ll have to trust me on that one:)

Pinch point

If you are the technician in your business, whatever that means – your business has a single, huge limitation. A pinch point.

It doesn’t matter whether you are making pies, doing heart surgery through a microscope, negotiating complex international commerce agreements between countries; programming complicated, real-time rocket fuel calculations for the next generation of space shuttles or carving bear figurines out of logs using a chainsaw – you’re a technician.

If you’re the owner AND technician, your business is limited by one thing.

You.

Unless you are very, very lucky (sort of), you are likely to work harder and longer than anyone you hire.

Delta 331 heavy, ascend to cruising altitude

2007_08_15_bos-lax-sba_009.JPG
Creative Commons License photo credit: dsearls

If you are working 14-16-18 hour days to get your dream off the ground, it’s a thrilling time (business-wise, at least). Everything is exciting.

Imagine an airline pilot on their first heavy takeoff. An astronaut on their first shuttle trip. Ok, maybe your biz isn’t as exciting as the shuttle ride, but its as close as you might get.

As for the effort you put in, that’s like a Boeing 777 taking off from your local airport, or the shuttle launching into orbit. The 777 burns LOTS more fuel per mile getting to its cruising altitude than it does once it levels off.

Likewise, the shuttle and its boosters burn thousands of pounds of fuel getting to escape velocity, only to have essentially effortless flight in space until its return to Earth.

You, however, are not like the Boeing 777 or the space shuttle. Fast forward a few years. Perhaps your business has reached cruising altitude.

Despite reaching cruising altitude, you’re still working 12-14 hour days 5-6-7 days a week, burning the same amount of fuel it took to reach escape velocity. That’s ok for a while, but didn’t you start your business to get freedom as well as the money?

(at this point, I’m assuming you’re nodding “yes”)

Those 12-14 hour days still exist because you’re still the owner and technician. Even if you have gathered some staff members to swat the skeeters away so you can focus on the real work, you’ve probably found that the real work (Yes, I mean the technician work) will expand to fill the container you give it.

The difference between you and Mark Cuban

You don’t see serial entrepreneurs in that position. They still have time to run a fistful of multi-million dollar businesses and a NBA basketball franchise, and have enough time left over to annoy the SEC (the government agency, not the athletic conference).

For many entrepreneurs, the startup phase is the only phase they can tolerate.

Everything else bores them and their business easily lives without them. They build businesses with the intention of selling them as soon as the business reaches cruising altitude.

Right at the end of the most expensive, most exciting phase of the business’ lifespan, they can leave or replace themselves with another qualified CEO/owner in short order.

What would that do to your business as it is currently structured?

Imagine if you walked out the door, handed the keys to the new owner and never came back. Would your business thrive? Would it be likely to survive?

Serial entrepreneurs might take a serious bag of management savvy and leadership skills out the door with them, but walking out the door still doesn’t kill their business. Likewise, they often start other businesses, still without having to work 120 hours a week.

The important distinction between most small business owners and most serial entrepreneurs? The serial entrepreneurs aren’t technicians.

Before you make an assumption about the small business owners I’m talking about… we aren’t talking about being smart or not being smart.

It isn’t just small business people sharpening mower blades, making pies, frying donuts and changing oil. The same issue arises for chiropractors, dentists, attorneys, physicians and others in technician roles.

Be careful what you wish for

Here’s another way of looking at it: If your largest competitor had a serious problem such as health, health of a parent, car accident, bailout related issues – and ALL of their business came to you starting tomorrow… Could you handle it?

If you suddenly found the Holy Grail of marketing for your niche and people flocked to do business with you, could you triple the number of clients you serve in a month?

Same issue.

Becoming easily replaceable isn’t easy

Consider that you have figured out that if your business is to grow (perhaps massively), you have to hire someone to do the technical work you do so that you can manage the firm.

If you plan to have the time to actually manage this growing firm instead of getting pulled back into the technical end of things, you can’t afford to hire someone brand new to the field.

Likewise, you can’t afford someone who has to be babysat, so this person (2 persons, more likely) will need to have a similar degree and depth of experience.

Result: It might take 2 or 3 new staff members to replace you to the point that would allow you to spend your time on the right things (marketing and management), much less to go home at a normal time without working into the evening from your La-Z-Boy or rising at 4am so that you can have some form of family life in the evenings without doing that La-Z-Boy thing.

At your current cash flow and revenue levels, can you afford to hire 2 people with your degree and depth of experience? If not, will hiring those two people allow you to make enough deals to pay them?

If the answer is no, or if the answer is “yes, but I really don’t want to do that”, then you have 2 choices.

Decide to grow, or decide to find a business model/strategy that works with you as the technician.

Either way, your business has to be structured so that the world doesn’t come to an end if your cell battery dies while you walk the beach on Maui at sunset with your spouse.

Meh. You old guys are grumpy.

If you’re 25ish, single and reading this, you might be thinking – “Meh. That old guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about“.

Things that might change your mind:

  • When a spouse, kids, a surprise set of triplets, a house, dogs, cats, kid sports leagues and that dust behind the fridge comes calling – and your business suddenly can’t get as much as you as it used to, and neither can your family.
  • When a friend takes off to the Caribbean for 3 weeks without a cell phone or laptop, and you can’t go because the business can’t deal with you being gone that long.
  • When a competitor’s business is up for sale and buying it would allow you to totally dominate the market – but you don’t know how you’d possibly handle doubling or tripling the number of customers you have – overnight.
  • On April 28, 1998, I had 213 new customers that I didn’t have on April 27th. With a staff of 2, of which I was one. On May 1, 1999 I had 269 new customers that I didn’t have on April 30, 1999 with a staff of 4, again including myself. Trust me when I say that these kinds of changes alter your life even if you think you’ve seriously prepared for them.
  • When an opportunity you’ve wished for all your life is suddenly right in front of you, and you have to choose between it and billing hours that you know you need in order to pay next month’s bills (and the baby comes next month).

Desperately Seeking Susan (er, I mean Clarity)

How you structure your business for the future is one of the most important things you’ll ever do for your business, yourself and your family.

If after 3 or 4 years you haven’t structured your business so that you can walk away for a week without total chaos taking over – you haven’t created a business. You’ve created a job.

Just because it’s built that way now doesn’t mean it has to stay that way.

So how do you change your business so that it’ll fit a lifestyle you’d actually want to live long term – while it remains a raging success?

What do you do? Where do you start?

Stay tuned…

[audio:https://www.rescuemarketing.com/podcast/HowToBeABusinessBurnout.mp3]
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Direct Mail Direct Marketing Email marketing Internet marketing Marketing Media podcast Sales Small Business Social Media Web 2.0

Ignore those 2 posts. Direct mail is dead. RIP.

With all that direct mail talk over the last couple of posts, I can just hear the eyes rolling.

After all, direct mail is dead, right?

Perhaps in your market it is. Or, no one needs to use it because other things work better in your market, or because everyone in your market uses it poorly.

Regardless of the reason, if you’re convinced that direct mail is irrelevant – or at least no longer useful – in your market, those last couple of posts were a big waste of your time, right?

Psst…Think about them again, but replace “direct mail” with “email”. Or “face to face sales”, “telephone”, “television”.

Likewise for radio, newspaper ads and any other media you use to communicate with your clients and prospects – including Twitter, blogs, video and other social media tools.

After all, if this message wasn’t carefully crafted to be of use to you…you wouldn’t likely be here.

Each of these tools are simply another way to have or start a conversation with a person.

Never, ever forget that.

[audio:https://www.rescuemarketing.com/podcast/DirectMailIsDead.mp3]
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Advertising Direct Mail Direct Marketing Management Marketing podcast Small Business Strategy

A few exceptions for those 5 direct mail mistakes

Our discussion from a couple of days ago (yes, the last 2 days were insane!) about direct mail mistakes was far from complete. We could discuss tools, techniques, strategies and such about direct mail for days, maybe longer.

None of us have time to do that, but I do feel obligated to elaborate on the five direct mail mistakes and discuss some additional issues on these topics.

Stamps vs. Indicia

While I don’t recommend the use of indicia, if you carefully plan your use of indicia, you can get away with it.

For example, if you’ve already established a relationship with a client and you’re sending a monthly newsletter, using bulk mail indicia makes financial sense IF you’ve cleaned your list using CASS software (or a service) or if you’ve mailed to that list in the last 2-3 months using a stamp.

I recommend to clients that if they want to use bulk mail indicia, they should do so on a quarterly rotation for a monthly newsletter. IE: first month, use a stamp. In months 2 and 3, indicia will be OK as long as they are updating their list with the return/change info that comes back on returned mail from month 1.

A different type of mailing might require a different plan, so don’t assume that my newsletter mailing postage rotation schedule is perfect for every kind of mailing. It isn’t.

Deliverability is still a concern, so again, make sure that this mailing isn’t something that’s going to assure your ability to make payroll this week:)

Sending the same mail to everyone

The only exceptions to this that I can come up with are things like “Hey, I’ve sold the company and I’m moving to Costa Rica” letters. I’ll be testing this in the future:)

Measuring Response

I really can’t imagine a day when I wouldn’t mention this. Except for the Costa Rica letter. That’s one that I wouldn’t care about measuring. But…the buyer should.

Follow-up

One of the things I didn’t have room/time to mention in the 5 mistakes post that it is CRITICAL to make sure that you don’t look like a putz by sending the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th mail pieces in your mailing sequence to a person who responded to the FIRST mailing.

It sends such a message that you aren’t paying attention and that the mail isnt…personal. Put things in place so that you can avoid doing this – it’ll pay for itself in postage and printing saved, much less in aggravated clients and your reputation among them.

Response percentage vs ROI

Russ took me to task – a little bit – about my assertion that response percentages are meaningless, noting that “response rates indicate how well your campaign is working“.

It depends. If you get a 20% response, but you lose money on the campaign, did it work?

On the other hand, he noted that “All responses count, even the â??take me off your mailing listâ? requests (data that shows how to increase the quality of your mailing list!).” which I completely agree with.

All in all, we agree but from perhaps different perspectives.

First, you have to keep in mind that a mailing’s goal might not be directly financial – ie: it might not be a sales piece. In that case, your ROI is measured by asking yourself: “For this customer, did the mailing piece accomplish its goal?”

And in that case, the response percentage might prove to be of the same usefulness as the ROI.

In fact, I made that comment about response rates being meaningless in hopes that someone would challenge me on it (thanks Russ).

ROI *is* still most important, but response percentages are one of the things that you simply have to sweat. You have to test (that goes back to the measuring issue) carefully so that you can determine what improves response.

For example, you might test to see what the difference in response is between a letter with a printed, barcoded label and one with a hand-written address, for example. Assumptions are cheap. Testing is accurate.

And then there’s conversion – but that’s another whole set of discussions on its own:)

[audio:https://www.rescuemarketing.com/podcast/FiveDirectMailMistakesPart2.mp3]
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Advertising Direct Mail Direct Marketing Management Marketing Marketing to women Motivation Personal development podcast Small Business Social Media

Do you make these 5 direct mail mistakes?

It’s easy to burn through a lot of money mailing the wrong way. Here are five common mistakes that businesses make when sending sales materials through the mail. Don’t make them:)

You don’t use real stamps

Your direct mail pieces – of any kind – should be using regular first class stamps most of the time.

While I will admit that I use CASS bulk mail postage for some newsletter mailings (at client request to save postage), this happens ONLY after having sent at least one mailing using a real first class stamp.

Why? 3 reasons: Deliverability, address service and speed

If this excerpt from “Privatizing will improve mail service posthaste” doesn’t help, I’ll clear it up in a minute.

As journalist Jonathan Franzen recounted in a detailed portrait of Chicago’s postal crisis in the New Yorker last year, a letter carrier helping a coworker start his truck in a post office parking lot stumbled onto 100 sacks of undelivered mail in the rear cargo area. Chicago police in 1994 found 200 pounds of relatively recent mail burning beneath a viaduct and 20,000 pieces of vintage mail (some pieces dating to 1979) in garbage cans behind the house of a retired mail carrier. Last May, Chicago firefighters found 5,670 pieces of flat mail and 364 pounds of bulk mail in the attic of postal carrier Robert K. Beverly. And in October, Washington firefighters discovered four truckloads of mail in the apartment of postal carrier Robert W. Boggs

Other than because of postal workers like this guy and because of post offices like the Chicago one described above, a first class stamp in conjunction with a valid return address (sort of) guarantees you a returned mail piece with a corrected current address, or an indication that you should remove that name from your mailing list.

Speed. Bulk mail is not guaranteed to reach your destination anytime soon, if ever. In fact, isn’t guaranteed at all.

One last aspect of this: Choose your stamps wisely. Mailing to women? Use stamps most women would like.

Mailing to NASCAR viewers? Use stamps that fit their profile. Patriotic? Cars? Think about it.

Not making sure that mail only goes to the right people

Sending the same letter to the entire population of the United States: Bad idea.

Sending the same letter to your entire client list: Bad idea.

Are all doctors the same? You know… chiropractors (yes, that was intentional), heart surgeons, thoracic surgeons, dermatologists, general practitioners, podiatrists, sexologists, psychiatrists, ophthalmologists, and so on. They all need malpractice insurance, medical office software, furniture, etc.

Are all mechanics the same? Is a diesel mechanic the same as a HVAC mechanic? Ditto for single engine airplane mechanics, heavy equipment hydraulics mechanics, boat mechanics, jet engine mechanics, or …

Are all painters the same? Home painters vs automobile painters, detailed “pimp my ride” paint artists, industrial painters, high rise building/tower painters, and so on.

If you were trying to sell each member of these groups accounting services, a website, tools, furniture or rubber bands, would you have the same conversation with them?

Not likely.

Is it more work to create different sales materials for different groups of people? Sure.

Is it more profitable? Almost always.

“Almost?” – What kind of comment is that? The kind that leads to our next mistake…

Leaving out a way to measure response

If you can’t measure it, you’d better not mail it. Otherwise, how will you recognize what works and what doesn’t?

Failing to send another mailing to the same person for the same thing

Yes, I mean follow up.

But how many times should I mail stuff to my mailing list? When do I know to stop?

WHEN A NEWLY ADDED STEP LOSES MONEY.

Getting a 1% response to a mailing is your goal

You’ve undoubtedly heard that 1% is an average response for direct mail.

Or maybe you heard 2% is what it takes to make a profit (h*mm, like $0.01?).

Or you’ve heard some other number.

Forget them all. Percentages mean nothing. Return on investment is what you care about.

If you spend $100,000 a month to mail 100,000 pieces of mail (yes, per month) and you get 1 sale, that’s a response rate of 0.00000000001% for each mailing.

If you’re selling $2500 custom trailer hitches for big expensive RVs, you have a big problem. You’re spending $100,000 a month. Even if you sell every lead, you’re spending $100,000 to get $2500. Unless there’s a pretty successful upsell process, or very large lifetime customer value, this just isn’t wise.

On the other hand, using the same numbers, if you sell boats – especially boats like these – then selling 1 of the 56′ boats per month is a ROI of somewhere in the neighborhood 13 times your investment. In other words, if you average 1 boat sale a month from your mailing, you’re spending $100k to get $1.3MM. Seems like a good idea.

In both examples, 1 response was the result of your mailing that month. The response RATE in both was the same. A terrible 0.00000000001% per month. Yet the ROI for the boat example was 13 times the investment.

A loss of $100,000 or a gain of $1.2MM cost $100,000, despite one response.

This happened despite both mailings having the same response rate. Don’t fall for the 1% trap. Or even the 2% trap.

Those are the common direct mail mistakes that come to mind for me… What other direct mail mistakes always jump out at you?

[audio:https://www.rescuemarketing.com/podcast/FiveDirectMailMistakes.mp3]
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Creativity Entrepreneurs Improvement Leadership Management Marketing Motivation podcast Small Business Strategy

That just wont work for my business

The majority of folks are great at finding a multitude of reasons why a particular technique or strategy simply won’t work in their business.

A convenient excuse these days is “Well, the market is down” or “Business is slow”.

Really? Isn’t that the time to step up and out and as Perry Marshall says, “lean into the fear”?

Whether you decide to participate in the media’s gloom and doom is your choice, but you still have to consider the reality of the impact of the Wall Street, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bailouts. I don’t mean to minimize the obvious problems that many businesses – much less business sectors – are having.

CHOOSING to participate in them, or make them even worse, is another story.

Given that, will there be a time where the so-called bottom is closer, where money is tighter, where MOST people would expect things to go even worse?

Maybe, but my guess is not in your business lifetime.

So now, more than ever, is the time to do something flippin’ huge, to try something new, to listen to the multitude of suggestions you’ve received and see if one of them works.

What have you got to lose? More importantly…what have you got to gain?

[audio:https://www.rescuemarketing.com/podcast/ThatJustWontWorkInMyBusiness.mp3]
Categories
Advertising Creativity Marketing Marketing to women Media podcast Positioning Small Business Video

When I grow up I want to be an old woman

That phrase isn’t only the name of a Michelle Shocked song, it’s the theme of a very good commercial.

Something got me on a meme of talking about marketing to women this week – including on today’s Hotseat Radio show, so I figure I may as well finish Friday that way.

Kaiser Permanente took Michelle’s song and created a wonderful piece of imagery around it – perhaps better than Michelle’s original video for the song.

The 1 minute video reminds me of my grandmothers, two amazing women that I miss very much. My paternal grandmother had breast cancer twice. Beat it both times. Strong woman. Never owned a car that had power brakes. Think about that for a minute:)

KP’s video takes a painful – or at least uncomfortable – experience (mammograms are not typically pain-free, even though they aren’t invasive) and turns it into something totally different.

Not just health care.

Long-time readers are no doubt wondering where the measurement is. How do we know this is effective? Note the URL. Yeah, it’s too small, but it’s there.

If they are tracking the markets where this appears, are they also sending an email or postcard to their patients to reference the commercial, perhaps point them at YouTube and get them in for a mammogram?

Hard to say, but that’s what should be happening.

The main reason I wanted you to see this was so you could absorb and ponder how they took a cold, sometimes painful (or at least uncomfortable), sterile procedure and turned a discussion about it into a warm, kinda-wow experience.

And how you can do the same if you have something of that nature that you sell – particularly if it is as important as a mammogram.

[display_podcast]

[audio:https://www.rescuemarketing.com/podcast/WhenIGrowUpIWantToBeAnOldWoman.mp3]
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The ladies really dig my shiny new membership card

Got a pre-election call from the National Rifle Association (NRA) the other day. It’s that time of year – my phone has been ringing off the hook with election-related calls. Yep, it came on the famous 13 call day (15 as it turned out).

The call is made under the guise of checking how you’re going to vote, but the real reason for the call is to find new members.

Anyhow, I had some ulterior motives for letting him talk, so I gave the NRA guy a minute or so just to see what he had to say (usually the call center delay is all it takes to get me to hang up). After a bit of small talk to find out where I was on gun-related issues, he said something about joining and that “your benefits include a membership card…”

That’s what he STARTED with.

Now, if you’re trying to sell someone a membership to the NRA on a cold call, is that really how you want to start a call with me? Is that the best benefit they could come up with? I know better.

  • He didn’t ask if I hunt (I haven’t in probably 30 years – Ouch, that makes me OLD!). If the answer is yes, the natural follow would be to find out more about what I hunt for.
  • He didn’t ask if I target shoot (I do, occasionally).
  • He didn’t ask if I own any guns (I don’t, got rid of a .410 shotgun a few years ago cuz I wasn’t using it) and if so, what I own and what I use them for. This would easily allow the caller to extend the conversation with questions about the history of them, where I got them, how I like them etc. Why? To develop some rapport and common ground.
  • He didn’t ask what I knew about the NRA and proceed to figure out which benefits of being a member would be important and beneficial to me – and focus on them.

If you’re cold calling (and I hope you have other, far better ways to generate leads), you have to quickly develop some rapport. Of course, the first part of that cold call is no different than your situation in an elevator, a trade show booth or when someone asks “So, what do you do?” and you *know* they could benefit from what you do or sell.

Had he asked the right questions, he would have found that I was interested in blackpowder instructor courses – because the boys in my Scout troop want to start a blackpowder shooting program. That requires professionally trained leaders. He might also have found out that I might be interested in the other training and gun safety programs they have – and perhaps that I could use a few of their experts at Scouting events now and then.

But he was too interested in selling me that shiny new membership card.  On a day with 13+ electioneering calls, that isn’t going to get me excited about staying on the phone and whipping out my credit card.

No matter what started the conversation, develop rapport. Sell benefits that make sense based on what your rapport has taught you about your prospect.

[display_podcast]

[audio:https://www.rescuemarketing.com/podcast/DevelopRapportMembershipCard.mp3]