Ask the Expert: Matt Heinz on how to sell your heart out

MattHeinzDo you think Sales is a four-letter word? Well, Matt Heinz can help you break it down into something manageable, repeatable and effective. I sat down recently to grill him on his new book, Successful Selling: How to Attract, Manage, Close & Keep More Business in a Buyer-Centric World, The book answers questions like: What are the secrets to unlocking more sales at a lower cost? How do you match your sales strategy with the way your customers want to buy? Where do you spend your time to build the biggest-possible sales pipeline? How do you close more business when your buyer is in control?

Matt is a sales pro, bringing more than 12 years of marketing, business development and sales experience from a variety of organizations, vertical industries and company sizes. His focus has been on delivering measurable results for clients in the way of greater sales, revenue growth, product success and customer loyalty.

Check out his blog, Matt on Marketing, or follow him on Twitter.

We talked about sales, productivity and the challenges of moving beyond just the founder’s networks when doing business. And I realized how much of what I teach clients about branding applies to selling effectively – which is ultimately what good branding is all about: making more sales.

RS: Do you think company size matters when it comes to who faces sales challenges?

MH: Actually, companies of different sizes, industries and stages often have the same three fundamental problems when executing their sales & marketing efforts. 

One, most often, there’s not enough customer focus.  The sales process is created and driven by how the company wants to manage sales, not based on how the customer buys

Two, many companies also don’t have a consistent sales process they’re following across the organization.  Without consistency, it’s impossible to predict future revenue and scale those efforts to new markets.

Third, few companies evolve their sales & marketing enough as their customers, markets and competition change the playing field.  The best sales & marketing organizations in the world (at companies big and small) are constantly testing, evolving and measuring what they’re doing.

RS: Adaptation seems to be everyone’s weakest link, doesn’t it?! Let’s move on to productivity: You talk about quite time-saving tools in your book. Do you feel time management is the biggest barrier to effective selling?

MH: No, but it’s an important part of reaching your optimum velocity.  Whether you make 40 calls or 80 calls a day isn’t necessarily going to help you sell more if your message doesn’t hit the mark with your target customer.   The biggest outcome of productivity focus is eliminating the constant distractions that surround us every day.  Know what you need to do, focus on it, and eliminate the majority of things that would otherwise take your time.  If you effectively measure the impact and outcome of your activities, you can then predict the impact of doing more of that activity on sales and revenue.  And that expected outcome can become a motivator to stay focused (yourself and your team) moving forward.

RS: Having worked both in both B2B and B2C, I hear conflicting opinions about who “has it easier.” Do you feel B2B vs. B2C companies need to nurture leads differently?

MH: The tactics may be different – B2B companies can often afford to spend more based on the average sales price per customer, for example – but the fundamentals are the same.  Whether you’re selling to a business or an individual (and in both cases, you’re really selling to people anyway), the vast majority of qualified prospects will not be ready to buy.  Right person, right company, not ready.  If you assume they’re going to be in the market eventually, your primary job is to be in front of them at the right time.  A good nurture program builds value with the prospective buyer so that they want to continue hearing from you.  This increases your overall awareness, allows you to continue a frequent line of communication, and will significantly increase your ability to win the business when the prospect is finally ready to make a move.

RS: If someone reading this is starting from a standstill and has absolutely no sales process or standard tools whatsoever, what do you recommend their actual first step be?

MH: Two things, both related.

First, identify your target customer.  Get specific, and narrow.  Get to know them inside and out – who they are, where they are, what background or motivations or needs bring them to the market, who and what influences them, etc. 

Second, use that knowledge to map your sales & marketing strategy specifically to how your customers want to buy.  The best marketers today are simply walking alongside their customers as they navigate their own path to purchase – providing advice and value, building reputation and trust and credibility along the way.

You can use this customer understanding and practical purchase-path knowledge to build the tactics, tools and processes necessary to effectively serve the customer, and scale your ability to do it with more and more customers moving forward.

RS: What advice do you have for companies that rely on the founder’s reputation and networks for new business and want to move to a more scalable, repeatable sales model?

MH: Figure out what it is that makes the founder’s system so effective, and systematize it. Build it into the DNA of the organization.  Document it, measure it, and moving forward iterate on it to improve it.  Michael Gerber talks about treating every small business as the prototype of a franchise.  Even if you’re not planning on opening dozens of branch offices, assume that you will.  How do you replicate and scale what worked in the beginning so that 1) you can scale, and 2) you can (as a founder) separate yourself directly from the ongoing success of the business?

**Full Disclosure: The link to Matt’s book is through my Amazon Affiliate Program.  But wouldn’t recommend the book if I didn’t love it and believe you will get incredible value from it.

Five Signs of a Power Brand

Clients often ask us, “How will we know when we’ve got a winning brand?” Rather than telling them, “You’ll know it when you see it” there are some guideposts along the way to tell you your brand is moving in the right direction.

At first, it starts small: increased website hits, increased referrals, uptick in positive social media chatter – even anecdotal evidence like more positive comments from customers or partners. You can look at metrics like newsletter signups, store visits, or customer phone inquiries. Obviously, it all leads to “more sales” but, let’s get real: the sales cycle is like courtship. You don’t propose of the first date, but there are little steps along the way that you must take to get to marriage.

If you launch a new brand or rebrand an existing one, you can put feedback mechanisms in place to see if you’re going in the right direction: focus groups, email surveys, sales trends, even just good ole fashioned talking to your customers and partners. Seek out unbiased feedback but make sure it’s from people that matter to your sales. Asking your 15 year old nephew or your spouse what they think is fine – if they are your target audience. Believe me, more often than not, they are not the right people to be asking, no matter how much your respect their opinion.

Here are some signs of a power brand to which you can map your progress, at whatever scale your business operates:

  1. People are proud to say they work, partner or shop with your company: If customer, partners or employees find that they get greater cache when they sport your brand on their website, paycheck or shopping bag, you know you’ve got a winner. Your brand is transcending into a world where people want to identify themselves as part of your tribe and bask in your brand “halo effect” to make themselves or their business look good. Sort of like hanging out with the cool kids at school. Examples” Apple iPhone and iPad, Harley-Davidson
  2. Your customers are advocates, spreading your story: Word of mouth is key and if customers are going around – unpaid – doing your advertising for you, then that is the holy grail of marketing. Are they chatting you up on social media, sharing unprompted referrals with friends (“You have GOT to shop at Zappos! They have the best customer service.”) creating “spoof” videos on YouTube, or even inking themselves with your logo (hello, Harley)?  Then you’re doing everything right. Examples: Disney, JetBlue and Virgin Atlantic (ie customer-generated YouTube “ads” vs. other airlines)
  3. Some people (outside your target) don’t like you: When you are effectively creating a brand, you have a clear ideal customer target and you serve them. This naturally means there will be those who don’t “get” you. And that’s okay. The Justin Bieber craze annoys me to no end, but it doesn’t matter: I’m not the target audience. Having people who don’t like you means you are not trying to be all things to all people. Examples: Dunkin Donuts v. Starbucks; Hyundai “Beware of 16-year-olds” campaign.
  4. You can elegantly recover from occasional mistakes: If your brand has enough “brand good will” built up, it can withstand some gaffes and missteps along the way. It’s like a bank account: the more you put in, the more confortable you can be withdrawing every now and then. As long as you recover with dignity and transparency, a strong brand can withstand a lot. Examples: JetBlue during their infamous winter flight debacles, Apple’s recent flubs with the iPhone 4.
  5. Articles about your company talk about your impact on the industry and/or the world: Rather that just talking about what you sell, press and organizations seek you out as a thought leader and innovator. Examples: People quote Zappos when it comes to innovative online customer service, not just shoes and accessories. Having transformed the coffee category by emphasizing flavor and experience, Starbucks last year introduced value packs in the supermarkets, which allowed them to stay competitive during the recession.

What are some other signs you look for when it comes to a “power brand?”

Why should I talk about your business?

Loved this recent post by Seth Godin about why ideas spread. This directly relates to benefits and why people should talk about your company, your cause or your brand. What is in it for them?  Do you know why they should care/recommend/buy? And if you do, is your brand set up to address it so they  know?

It’s one thing to know in your own mind why your business is so fabulous, your services so irresistible, your value so awesome. It’s another to connect the dots for your audience through your tone, words, visuals, elevator pitch and customer experience so that they will also know and understand. That, ladies and gents, is good branding.

How to write an email that gets ripped open like a 5 year-old’s birthday present

Do you get frustrated sending emails to potential clients or partners that never get opened or fall into the ether? I sure do…

We’ve all been there: we spend hours poring over every word and line of a carefully crafted email only to click Send and wait like a lovelorn teenager by the phone. Cue crickets chirping.

Wouldn’t it be great if your emails were received like candy on Halloween, and recipients couldn’t wait to get their greedy little hands on the content? Hells yeah.

Well, Mike at Toilet Paper Entrepreneur just shared how to make it happen.

I’m loving this amazingly generous video gift he recently shared about how to use behavioral influence techniques in your email writing. The video walks you through an actual email he created for a  client. I learned so much from the video about little tips and tricks to engage readers, cut through the clutter and genuinely build rapport. If any of you are doing emails for business development, partnerships – or even for your loyal community – this is really Must See TV.

Some tips he shares (there are many more):

  • starting your email subject line with a lower case letter increases opens and builds familiarity
  • The technique is based on how we want to be communicated to as humans. You want to Identify, Involve and Include.
  • The sole purpose of the subject line is to arouse curiosity so they open the email
  • In the first paragraph, position the problem you want to solve. In the 2nd, build a relatable story. In the 3rd, tie into the emotion. In the 4th, evoke a positive response by offering a “pain escape”.” And then lay out the solutions you offer.
  • Repeat a key phrase throughout to make it stick and drive home a benefit

Enjoy and please share.

What the $%^&#! are you waiting for?

I met someone the other day who told me she wanted to get into acting. So what did she do? She got involved behind the scenes instead. Her plan was that she’d “fall into” being used on-set and on-camera by understanding the behind-the-scenes operations. Luckily, one time she did get asked to be a stand-in on set (a pretty cool paying gig that helps you get used to being on camera and on-set).

Bless her heart. How comfortable to want the rewards without taking the risk. And how easy to put the risk of failure on someone else (“But no one ever noticed me back there!”)

If you want to act, act. Don’t just be an extra, don’t be a production assistant….take some damn acting classes,  get professional headshots and start auditioning for any and every role you can. If you want to start a jewelry line, start a jewelry line. Take a course, experiment with some designs, and see if you can start throwing living room parties or snag a booth at your local farmer’s market. If you want to launch your own consulting business, launch your own consulting business. Leverage the skills you’ve spent time, sweat and money developing, package them up into some irresistible offerings and just start networking.

Don’t say, “Well, I do this but one day I’d really like to (BLANK).” Start with “I’m a (BLANK) at heart, but I pay my bills doing X.” A big part of claiming your expertise is confidently embracing that you are something. Once you start leading with that, you’ll be surprised at the referrals or opportunities that can come your way.  I am a writer, an actress and a branding consultant. That is what I am. That is what is in my blood. Do I get the occasional, “Oh you’re an actress! Have I seen any of your work?” Sure I do. But my answer is, “Probably not. I do a lot of theatre and the occasional short film project” (like I did this past weekend). But you know what? I am in plays. I am in short films. Ergo, I ACT! Just because my face is not plastered across tabloids or I don’t have a multi-million dollar movie deal with Scorsese (how sweet would that be?!), I still act  Fame does not equate to doing the activity.  I’ve never been to the Olympics either – does that mean I’m not “really” a skier?

When I opened my brand consulting business, I had to consciously stop defining myself by what I was and start embracing who I had become. No more, “Well, I used to be a Silicon Valley marketing director but now I’m doing my own thing.” It became, “I am a branding consultant with almost 20 years experience with clients large and small.”

No one is going to cast/hire/buy jewelry from someone who is not really committed to it. Why would they spend their money on someone who is not really quite sure they can deliver? Confidence and moxie attracts.  You have the talent, the skills and the drive. If you don’t get out there and claim your space, who is going to do it for you?

What’s your “hook”? If you don’t know, how will your customers?

Telling your brand story is sort of like a newspaper article: it’s all about the lead. Some folks may call this the “lead offer.” What does your business hang its hat on? When customers have that certain need or desire that certain experience, is it your company that comes to mind first?

Having a lead offer doesn’t mean you can’t have secondary messages. I often use the example of Nordstrom and Walmart. Nordstrom leads with a customer service and quality offer; Walmart with one about lowest prices.  Does this mean Walmart is rude to their customers? Heck no. It just means that when you are looking for low prices, they want you to think of them. If you are thinking of a good customer service experience first, then maybe you should go elsewhere.

Recently, Delta announced they were going to start leading their brand story with “service” not “size.”  After acquiring Northwest Airlines, they became the largest player by traffic – until United recently merged with Continental.  So now Delta is switching stories and focusing their budget on service: new flat-bed seats, video on demand and upgraded facilities in key markets.

United may decide to focus on size for a while in terms of the benefits it provides to customers: more routes, more convenience to get where you want to go, a larger network, etc.  (Sidenote: big is only a relevant claim if it benefits a customer in some way and makes their life better, offers them more access, etc. Big for “big’s sake” just becomes chest-thumping.) We will have to see how the United-Continental brand story shakes out.

What do you lead with? Can you articulate the main offer you want to be known for? Please share in the comments. Service? Selection? Style? Convenient locations? Cutting-edge technology solutions? You can’t be everything so pick the main offer, the main place where do you want to “fit” inside your customers’ brains and build up from there.

Ask the Expert: Content that makes sales, not just wastes time

Red Slice recently chatted with Beth Buelow of the Introvert Entrepreneur where she coaches our less extroverted brethren on how to build a successful business. She helps them understand, own and leverage their strengths for personal and professional success. In today’s Ask the Expert, she shares with all of us – introverted or not – how to get off the treadmill of useless networking, blogging or “stuff creation” and build a powerful content strategy that turns lookers into buyers.

A certified professional coach, Beth works primarily with introverts and offers one-on-one and group coaching, teleclasses, webinars and workshops. Prior to becoming a coach, she enjoyed a successful nonprofit career, with responsibilities as diverse as fundraising, marketing, website management, grantmaking and public relations. Her obsessions include developing her advanced coaching skills, as well as deepening her knowledge of Jungian psychology, Voice Dialogue, and the Myers-Briggs assessment tool.


RS; Hi Beth! Welcome. How do we move someone from “kudos to client?” when warm fuzzies and cool newsletters aren’t paying the bills.
BB: When you’re first starting out, there’s a certain amount of spaghetti strategy happening: you’re throwing things up against the wall and seeing what sticks. You’re probably churning out a lot of content. Much – if not all – is probably free. And you get good feedback and encouragement… just not the sales.

This stage is the thrashing stage, where you’re getting just enough positive feedback that you think if you just do more, faster, better, bigger, people will convert to clients. What’s missing is strategy and intention behind your content. People are most likely confused about what you have to offer, what your strength is, and how you are the solution to their problem. A confused mind always says no. It might say, “Great work, loved the newsletter!” but it doesn’t take the time to connect the dots that you have scattered all over the page.

RS: I love that: “A confused mind always says no.” Same holds true if your brand is schizophrenic! So what do I need to do to create a strategy for my content?

BB: My favorite approach is to look at it through the framework of Moves Management. Moves Management is a term used in the world of nonprofit fund development. Here’s one definition: “a system, a process and a plan for building a relationship that moves individual prospects to engaged, passionate donors.” (Alexander Haas Martin & Partners)

I use this expression because I have found that attracting clients is very similar to raising money for an organization. Donors – and in our case, clients – move through a process that is established by the organization. If the strategy is clear and intentional, and the organization knows exactly who it wants to attract, each touch point is designed to shift the relationship to a deeper level of connection. For nonprofits, the lowest level of engagement is awareness of the organization’s existence and being on the mailing list. The highest is a donor who makes a planned gift (allotting part of the donor’s estate to the organization upon the donor’s death).

The donor is not necessarily aware of the moves the organization is putting on them. If it’s all done smoothly, the donor moves from level to level rather seamlessly, and of their own volition.

The same is true for your prospective clients. A well-designed Moves Management process outlines clear steps for you to take (and clear content for you to create) that transitions a client from Casual to Convinced. Just like you don’t meet someone at a party then ask him to marry you, you don’t hand someone your business card then ask her to purchase your Platinum Package.

RS: This sounds just like the sales process or buying process that marketers live and die by. I talk about this in workshops as “Awareness, Education, Consideration and Purchase.” But Casual to Convinced sounds much cooler. What does that mean?

BB: I break the Moves Management funnel into four sections: Casual, Connected, Committed and Convinced. Each section represents a deepening of the client’s relationship and investment.


Offerings (blog, podcasts, Facebook fan page) at this stage determine a prospect’s first impression of you; they begin the journey of someone knowing, liking and trusting you. In general, unless the prospective client makes a comment or is required to provide an e-mail to access information, he can remain an anonymous lurker. People are standing on the edge of your business, with one foot in, one foot out.


Information products/services in this category require more direct communication and connection. The client declares herself and decides to share her information in return for a higher level of interaction from you. There is usually an exchange of value, typically of money or an e-mail address/contact info.

The content you deliver (workshops, newsletters, speaking, etc) is one-to-many. Your offerings reflect your expertise in a deeper way than at Casual, and they can be used in one of two ways: 1) give the client enough “DIY” information that she can take it from there, or 2) give the client enough information that he is inspired, curious and made aware of the benefits of moving to the Committed level.


At this level, the interaction and content shifts from one-to-many to one-to-one. The relationship is deeper and more personal. You’re working together through coaching, consulting, advising, mentoring or providing direct, custom services/products.


Working with a client at this level is the end result of her knowing, liking and trusting you. She is convinced that you and your business are the right fit for her needs long-term (which is relative to your business – could be months or years). She becomes an advocate and a source of quality referrals. She’s in love! You are delivering your highest level of services and products, in terms of quality, customization and financial investment.

As you create content, consider where it fits into your Moves Management funnel. Communicate clear benefits to your prospects, and have a compelling call to action appropriate to where they are in the funnel. Having a clear strategy puts you well on your way to getting warm fuzzies in the form of appreciation and compensation!

When charities attack…

Whoa! Looks like someone may get strangled by a pink ribbon or left for dead with a yellow wristband around their neck. Check out this WSJ article on the legal battles brewing as non-profits protect their brands and trademarks.

Can’t we all just get along, you might think? Well, not when big bucks and big donors are involved. Susan G. Komen for the Cure has sued “kite fliers, kayakers and dozen of other themed fundraisers” for using the “(blank) for the cure” tagline in their messaging. And if you want them to see red, just try to use pink (their “signature hue”).

At first, you may have the reaction I had, which was “Geez, lay off the people trying to help other people!” But when I read further and thought about this more, I see the issue. One charity named Wounded Warrior Project is locked in a heated battle with another charity also entitled Wounded Warriors over using the URL  It seems many supporters got the two mixed up and have money to one thinking they were giving money to another. Lance Armstrong’s organization LIVESTRONG gave strict parameters to a woman who tried to use HEADstrong as her charity name, in honor of her son. She says she came up with the name before he dies in 2006 and that his nickname was Head, so that’s why she’s using it. LIVESTRONG is giving her some font and color parameters to ensure her charity is not confused with his.

This makes sense, especially when large organizations like LIVESTRONG and Susan G. Komen’s Race for the Cure have put so much money and time into building a strong non-profit brand. One lawyer in the article even stated that protecting these brands is about ensuring  donors’ funds are used and administered responsibly. I would agree with him. After all, if I’m spending money to support a cause, I want to ensure that their advertising and efforts don’t get diluted by someone else.

It’s a fact of life that non-profits are finally getting on board the brand bandwagon. Non-profits who build strong brands much like consumer companies do is even mentioned in my book. I applaud their efforts to create an emotional connection with their audiences, and to stretch their marketing dollars further by clearly and consistently communicating that brand in everything they do.  Of course they want to protect that investment and avoid customer confusion. Yes, it’s all a bit silly when it comes to philanthropy but it does make prudent business sense. So if you have any ideas about using pink ribbons for your cause, just put it down and back away…..slowly.

Is the media or the message getting in your way?

The old adage, “Is it the medium or the message?” has never held more weight than it does in today’s marketing arena. You have a story to tell (your brand message) and you have a dizzying array of mechanisms through which to tell it (Twitter, website, blog, ad, events, signage, Facebook….) So when it comes to evaluating success, you have two factors to consider: the message and the medium itself.


Seth Godin’s blog talks about how organizations use PowerPoint appallingly these days. Never has a tool come along that seemed so easy to use, but people forgot about honing basic presentation skills before cutting loose on this software. It’s just like blogs or DIY websites – just because you “can” doesn’t mean you “should” or even that you are doing it “right.” You could be doing more harm than good in communicating your message simply because of using the vehicle incorrectly. You have to adapt your message to the medium you are using so you leverage it effectively.


In addition, a third layer to consider is choosing the right vehicle to reach your target audience in the first place. So let’s say you have a great message AND you are using the medium correctly – you still might be singing beautifully to an empty room, because no one that needs to hear your message is actually present. This is what happens when you get caught up in the next new shiny thing, and forget to evaluate if your target audience responds to it.


Messaging can be complicated. You can’t just assume messages “didn’t work” if they fail, simple because you got no response. Look at how you are using the media first: are you leveraging it fully, are you understanding how audiences are properly consuming the information, and did you design the message to fit the specific medium? Then look at the media itself and if it’s the right vehicle to reach the people you wanted to reach. Hopefully, you put all this thought into it before you embarked on the campaign, but if not, take a step back and look at these factors.

What are your favorite TV shows subliminally telling you to do?

We all know about product placement as a way to cut through the ad clutter and still enable content providers to attract marketers. This is when they embed the product into the actual show, like Coke strategically placing branded cups at the judges’ table on American Idol or Cisco’s video conferencing equipment playing a crucial storyline role on CSI.  The other day, I even saw one of the most blatant (and frankly, tacky) ones on Bones: two female characters are driving along and the passenger says to the driver, “Do you have kids?” The driver says no, and the passenger asks her why she has a Minivan. The driver says, (paraphrasing) “Oh, I love my Sienna. First of all, I’m an artist so there’s room for all my stuff. And I don’t even have to struggle with parallel parking anymore, which I hate.” I’m sure the show’s writers cringed and felt like they needed a shower to wipe the cheesiness off of them after writing those lines.

But I’m okay with product placement if it allows us to enjoy good content without having to pay a lot for it. Subsidizing content development with advertising  is a better alternative to me – I always find it funny that people want something for nothing in this world. And seriously, product placement goes way back: remember, “soap operas” are so named because of the early days when soap and detergent companies would sponsor them.

But the newest thing is “behavior placement:’” sending softer messages through TV content so that advertisers can then have a more receptive audience to their message. This WSJ article talks about how NBC Universal plans a week of programming across their networks that emphasizes healthy eating and exercise or environmental responsibility and the shows’ storylines address this behavior in some way. For example, “The Office” had a storyline about Dwight being a “Recyclops” superhero as he humorously and overzealously encouraged the office to recycle.  A Telemundo show had a character whose job was to recruit people for the Census – an important message to the Latino community, which is usually undercounted. And “Top Chef” promoted buying locally grown foods by having competing chefs prepare a meal using only organic and local produce and ingredients. Some behavior placements are more subtle, as when a plotline on NBC’s new show, “Trauma” involved someone reporting an emergency from their hybrid vehicle or when Bravo’s “Millionaire Matchmaker” featured a client who owned an eco-friendly clothing line.

As NBC Universal coordinates these themes across their shows during certain time periods (like Green Week), they are then able to attract advertisers who benefit from those behaviors. For example, Soy Joy, a health food manufacturer, or carmakers pushing Hybrids. They can even offer special ads with characters from the shows, as Kenneth the page from “30 Rock” did for Pepsi’s Sun Chips brand who had just launched a compostable bag: they produced a skit with him that will run during a commercial break.

The networks know they can’t be too pushy or preachy or they risk alienating their audience. And if the behavior makes sense in context and maintains the show’s flow and integrity, that is cool with me. “The Office” producers say they had been thinking about doing this with Dwight’s character even before the network came to them and ordered “an environmental storyline.”  But what are your thoughts? Would you rather pay more for programming development devoid of such tactics? Or are you fine with a few ad messages here and there if it results in quality programming at a decent price for you?