From the April 2002 issue of Startups

Marketing noise-it's everywhere, and it's loud! It's the telemarketing reps calling us with a free trial and the pushy salesperson crowding us in the retail store. It's the TV stations that fill our favorite shows with fast-talking images and product pitches. It's the radio jingles we sing along to as we're told about the limited-time offers that will solve all our problems.

The noise is getting worse online. I got close to 120 e-mails today, and more than half of them were urging me to buy something I wasn't looking for, or don't need or want.

Whether it's online or in the traditional media, in the workplace or even at home, the noise is there for only one reason: Everyone wants to grab our attention.

The problem today is that grabbing that attention becomes more complicated as the markets become overcrowded. Every seller looks the same. Buyers are confused by too many similar choices from too many similar vendors.

With all the marketing noise, we've learned not to listen. For many of us, buying decisions are influenced not by advertising, but by referrals and word-of-mouth. And word-of-mouth referrals don't come from big advertising budgets-they come from understanding how to get the attention of the customer you want to help.

So how do you earn the right to grab the attention of your prospects and customers with small budgets and limited time? Simple: SCREAM PIGS. Let me explain.

NEXT STEP
Read "Referrals: The More You Give, the More You Get" to find out why it's a good idea to give referrals.

S is for smile. You have a unique advantage over larger competitors: You can afford to build relationships with your customers. Put a smile on your face when you make your next sales call. When you are on the phone with a new prospect or servicing an existing client, smile. Like a breath of fresh air, a smile immediately grabs the attention of those around you. Smiling isn't confined to personal relationships. Does your company smile? Does your Web site portray a positive attitude? Try it-it's contagious!

C is for compliment. Everyone likes to hear about themselves and be recognized for what they do. Giving sincere compliments is an easy way to break through the noise and grab your customers' attention. Find out what is so great about the other person or companies that you sell to. Do some homework online or on the phone before you try to engage your prospect. If you have been referred to them by someone else, let them know and tell them why they were referred.

R is for referral. Have you ever been given a referral from someone you've just met? Did you pay attention to the person who was giving you the referral? Think of your personal and professional network. Who can you refer?

E is for exhibit. Show off what it is that you do. Do it well, and you'll attract the attention of those who are already interested.

A is for analogy. Use stories to quickly grab your prospects' attention. When you tell someone a story or use an analogy to describe what it is that you do, it causes your customer to put themselves in someone else's shoes.

M is for...we'll get to that later.

P is for poll. Use simple polls or questionnaires to engage your clients. A poll can be used to ask questions about existing services or to find out what future requirements might be. Think of ways you can use questionnaires and polls online and offline to grab attention.

I is for information. Just providing valuable information is a great way to grab someone's attention. Write, speak and publish in your area of expertise, and you'll find that you'll attract the attention of the customers you need.

G is for gifts. Giving a free gift that a prospective client finds valuable grabs the attention of qualified customers. Many Web sites use this technique already, don't they? A free e-book, product sample or trial will help you qualify potential customers.

S is for service. Experiencing great service is something we never forget. As a salesperson, we often wait until the end of the sales process before we take the time to provide great service. Instead, make a habit of providing outstanding service before, during and after any opportunity to sell, and you'll be sure to grab the attention of your customers.

Every business is unique. It has its own personality, its own unique style and charisma. Expanding your existing client base and building new relationships starts with grabbing and keeping your customers' attention. Change your tune and SCREAM PIGS.

Oh, and as for M, it stands for mystery. Do I have your attention now?


James Maduk is one of North America's leading sales speakers. He is the creator and publisher of more than 80 online sales training courses, and he broadcasts daily on VirtualSelling Radio. You can reach James at (613) 825-0651 or visit his Web site at www.jamesmaduk.com.