BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

Wondering if there IS such a thing ...

Oh, dear … it's happened again. I get a book by somebody I know, and “have issues” with it, which makes me very uncomfortable writing the review. To be perfectly honest (and I'm not proud to say it), I'm going to tip-toe through some things here that I would have been all over if this wasn't by a local acquaintance. Mind you, most of what I would have been casting a negative light on here is on the layout and editing … and the author, in the Introduction, specifically says: “But if you find typos, funky formatting or otherwise unacceptable communication in this book – please spare me the negative reviews on those grounds alone”. What's ironic is that she's constantly through the book encouraging readers to hire folks to do what you can't … and I know of a guy (ahem) who spent 10 years running a publishing company who she could have tapped for some editorial assistance. Especially given that this is a CreateSpace (Amazon's print-on-demand publishing service) book. I recently found an egregious typo (that had escaped my editorial eyeballing in perhaps a dozen read-throughs) in one of my review collections, and it was fixed, with the corrected version available globally, within 18 hours. The cycle would, obviously, be a bit longer for a book with numerous things “in need of fixing”, but within a couple of days a nice tidy new version would be out there. Pity. {and, for one plainly snarky comment: I contacted the author 2-3 times, basically asking whether she'd be interested in my keeping a running notation on what needed attention, and got no response}

Anyway, all that being said (or, more specifically, not said/detailed), Julia Kline's The Entrepreneur's Guide to Sleaze-Free Selling: The 3-Step Sales Formula for Growing Your Business ... Without Being Obnoxious, Pushy or Rude is a pretty good book, and it looks like I have something like a dozen of my bookmarks in it (although some of these are pointing me back to some resources she outlines at various points). I've known Julia for quite a while, she having been active in assorted marketing groups in town (and heck, she lives just a few blocks away), and I've heard her speak at a couple of events. In fact, it was when she was recently doing a presentation at a Chicago Freelancers Union event that I got this book, having lucked out in a drawing for a copy. She has an interesting bio, having gone from direct selling, to real estate, to her current coaching gig (which has a sort of “new age” over-lay, from doing “mind-set coaching” to the name of her website,

Needless to say, to title a book “sleaze-free”, implies that there is the sleazy alternative out there, and sales certainly fits the bill in most folks' perceptions. I guess I need to throw in another caveat … most of what she's got in here (and the examples she uses) aren't for everybody's business. I've spent a lot of time trying to fit her “method” to anything that I'm currently doing and much of it just doesn't fit. In most of the coaching stories she goes into, her clients are in “high touch” businesses, where client/customer contact is essential … from a Tantra trainer to a motorcycle salesman to a heating/air-conditioning contractor to a mortgage broker, etc. … hardly “add to cart” territory.

One of the more attractive elements of the book are the “action plan” sections at the end of each chapter, which frame the information preceding it into step-by-step tasks to get the reader (or at least the readers with the right type of business) moving along in the process. By the way, the “3-step formula” is pretty direct: 1 – Convince the prospect that they have a Big Problem. 2 – Convince the prospect that you are the best option for solving that. 3 – Make them think that taking the next step with you is “simple, painless, and easy”. Oddly, these three steps are very similar to what she has blocked out as the “sleazy” approach, just with slightly different spins to each. Frankly, one piece she had in here was very “triggering” for me (having PTSD over financial stuff), which reminded me of people who would not take “no” for an answer that I've had to deal with in the past, or, for that matter, “coaching” I had back when trying to do network marketing:
If you think customers don't buy from you because they can't afford it, I'm here to tell you that's complete and utter hogwash. People always find the money for the products and services they really want. Always.
This is the non-sleazy approach?

One of the clues that this book is really for “high touch” operations is the (fairly central) concept of finding one's “Ideal Customer” … which she says is best determined by “carefully analyze who has already bought from you in the past”, which, again, is kind of hard if one's business model involves driving “add to cart” clicks on various web sites. She coaches the reader to learn to say “no” to some – non-ideal – customers … “you can only get to say 'yes' to all of those Ideal Customers by saying no to the less than ideal ones”.

In the chapter on customers she has little exercises (one question per) following each of the case studies, asking the reader to determine what's their customer's desired outcome, what their “Big Problem” is, how you might represent the Ideal Customer, how you should profile your customers, and how to segment your efforts if you have two (but not more than two) sets of Ideal Customers; and all of this leading into the “action plan” which goes into these concepts in a bit more detail. She also presents strategies for helping your customers “overcome their own doubt, hopelessness and fear” – which I guess is the “non-sleazy” way of saying “overcoming their objections”.

Part Two of the book starts out looking at ways of getting more customers. Frankly, I had sort of anticipated that there would be more clearly evident differences between sleazy selling and non-sleazy selling, but it's probably my distaste for sales tactics (on either side of the table), that even the “non” sounds iffy to me in a lot of these. Kline does have a good “litmus test” for deciding on which side of the line a pitch falls:
The way you avoid sounding like a sleaze-ball in your lead gen is to always imagine that you're talking to your customer face-to-face. Live, and in person. If you feel no queasiness about delivering your message when you're looking your customer in the eye, then you know you're delivering a message that's authentic and heart-felt.
She follows this with a list of questions to ask oneself when launching into lead generation:

            1. Do you know for certain this person has the problem that you solve?
            2. Are you truly offering a solution to that problem?
            3. Is your solution better than any other one they could choose?

She says: “If your answer to any of those questions is no, then it's likely that you're not serving he person by talking to them.”, which I find bizarre … it may be the Libra in me, but I've never been able to bring that level of certainty to anything, which is probably why I've always sucked at sales. And, of course, this is where that line between “sleazy” and not starts to look mighty hazy and grey, as, to me anybody who is presenting themselves as all three of those would seem VERY suspect! Anyway …

This then moves into strategies for lead generation, including “Networking”, “Word of Mouth” (which has four “tactics” which manage to include referral programs and affiliate marketing, for which she also includes a pitch to those who might want to be featured in subsequent books – and there are numerous links here pointing off to “resources” on her web site), “Sharing what you do with an interested audience” (which has another four tactics, from speaking on stage to doing “telesummits”, with a half dozen plugs for businesses offering these services), “Interruption Marketing” which most folks know as advertising (again, another four “tactics”: Pay-Per-Click, Facebook, Radio, and Direct Mail, each with links to providers), finally, there's “Discovery Marketing”, which she defines as “what's happening when a consumer has a problem, so they go looking for a solution – typically online.”, this has eight “tactics”, ranging from “Be An Author” (which is the most extensive thing in this section, looking at various options, from traditional to self-publishing, and a lot of info on Kindle – including the very interesting way of being able to build a list of your Kindle buyers through offering a free download within the book, which will let you capture their info) to Twitter efforts, and even the old P.R. stand-by of Press Releases … all with various links (I've actually begun to wonder if Kline had released this book first on Kindle and only later had it ported over to print via CreateSpace, as there's a whole lot of can't-click-it-because-it's-paper action going on).

The next chapter is about “the ask”, “How to talk to a potential customer about buying …”, and she makes the rather good point that “there's nothing sleazy about being paid for what you do … there is also nothing sleazy about asking to be paid for what you do”. She recommends creating a 2-step offer, the first step being an “initial” offer which is low-cost or even free, but “makes it easy for a potential customer to say 'yes' to continuing the conversation with you”, and the second being your “big” offer, “the thing you were trying to sell in the first place”. She goes into quite a lot of detail here, looking at various aspects of what makes a good initial offer, from how to conceptualize it in relation to the big offer, to specifics of how to “package” various types of initial offers. Kline frames some very interesting approaches in this, saying that “your initial offer should always be something that sets you up to present your Big Offer”, and that it “must address your customer's Big Problem” (although not actually solving anything), plus
… it must give you a chance to shine … it should let you do the thing you're absolutely best at doing – and thereby demonstrate that you would be great at solving their Big Problem …
The last chapter is titled “Never again allow even a single sale to slip through your fingers.”, which is a pretty big promise. This basically walks the reader through the whole process up to this point, and then launches into a pitch for “systematized marketing”, looking at email, phone, direct mail, texting, and social media follow up. She devotes a fairly sizable appendix to detailing a suggested email program, including discussion and examples of a sequence of 10 emails to go out over a 3-week stretch.

One thing I found interesting here was her insistence that in every communication you send out to prospects you should include “the details of the product you have to sell, how much it costs, and what they need to do next in order to buy it”, and gives an example of somebody who was marketing to her, but had no specifics in the initial email … the sender being so locked into the “flow” of information she'd crafted, that:
She replied, “Yes, but I wanted to send out my full sequence of informational emails before I tell you what it is.” Doh! I couldn't believe it. I wanted to buy right then! But she wouldn't let me.
… and by the time the next four emails showed up, Kline was too busy to read them. There's a nice section header here: “Non-Persistent Followup Means Failure” … which sets up the Systematized followup material. One thing stood out particularly here, and that was: if one has defined your Ideal Customers, and what their Big Problem is, you don't have to customize any of your materials … they'll all respond to the same Initial Offer, they initially rejected (or not) the Big Offer “for the same handful of reasons”, and those objections can be overcome by the same sequence of followup marketing.

Again … I have a very low tolerance for the “sales cycle” in any form (other than basic stuff like Amazon or Walgreens – just don't “get in my face” with anything), so there was a lot of stuff in The Entrepreneur's Guide to Sleaze-Free Selling that still seemed at least “grey area” sleazy … but that's no doubt another of those frequent “Brendan is not like the other kids” moments and not an outright failing on the part of the book. As noted in the above, this seems to be very much targeted to certain types of business, primarily (aside from the motorcycle dealer examples) high-ticket consulting, coaching, or contracting services that require a lot of interpersonal rapport. That being said, there are certainly bits and pieces here which can be translated to other sorts of businesses that are more dependent on generating shopping cart clicks than relationships (and some of those dozens of affiliate links might have some useful stuff too … although I've not investigated any of them yet).

As is often the case with CreateSpace titles, there's not much of discount out there, but the book has a very reasonable cover price. Also, while CreateSpace books are available to brick & mortar booksellers, the odds of any given title being on the shelves is pretty slim unless the author has done a lot of pushing (at which point a regular publisher would have picked it up), so you could try jumping through those hoops, but it would be easiest, if this sounds like something you'd find useful, to simply order it on-line.

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Tags: book review

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