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Create a prospect community but don’t sell

Posted by peggy on 04, Oct, 2011

Community HandsIs “prospect” a dirty word in our changing culture of commerce? I propose that salespeople will be much more successful if they work to create “prospect communities”- the goal being for prospects to feel excited, involved, informed, engaged in discussions and interacting in the eco-system surrounding their companies.  This community approach will dramatically increase the motivation of the prospect to make the transition to customer.  Why? Because being part of a community increases trust, sense of value, reduces resistance, identifies needs, reduces fear, and makes people feel really good.

Chris Brogan said in his recent blog “I am not a customer. I am not a user. I might be a client. I might be a member. I may even be a loyalist. But don’t call me a customer. ‘Customer’ is a dirty word.”

Twitter expert, Laura  “@pistachio” Fitton  expresses this sentiment in her “4 enchanting ways to improve your inbound marketing” blog post where  she talks about the importance of building an “enchantment ecosystem” so your customer has lots of ways to feel valued, be part of a community, actively giving and receiving and overall having lots of opportunities to interact and feel positively about the  company.

Let’s extrapolate from what we are learning about the changing customer and apply it to the prospect.  Look at LinkedIn Groups or a Tribe as Seth Godin puts it.  Using groups creates multiple opportunities to engage prospects and customers alike.  If they are active participants in a group or tribe you can rest assured that they are passionate about a specific topic and have come together because they care. A post from triplepundit explains it this way: “think of success as the strength of the relationships your stakeholders will walk away with”.

What’s the worst thing you can do as a member of these groups?  Sell Stuff.  You run the risk of alienating the group and groups tend to stand up and force selfish people out. You will undermine trust, reduce your perceived value, increase resistance, distract them from the important task of focusing on their own needs and fears, and foster unhappy feelings.

Here are 7 tips for creating a “prospect community”:

  1. Make your first contact remarkable:  clear message, value focused and delivered to match the stage and readiness level of the prospect.
  2. Be thoughtful about what content is shared. Don’t overwhelm people with content.  Send information that will be valuable and relevant to the needs of each receiver.
  3. Create an organized system for your content (both self-created and curated) that makes it easy for your sales team to send out tailor-fit content, as a way of building trust, and facilitating an on-going dialogue.  Consider a landing page that is less cluttered than what is found on your website.
  4. Use multiple channels to interact with your prospects:  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, newsletters, phone calls, surveys, or perhaps your local Starbucks.  Share your exceptional content, compelling testimonials, and constant visceral and tangible reminders of the value that comes from interacting with your company.  Ask them for feedback on their needs, dreams and their experiences as a prospect with your company.  Don’t wait; be proactive and curious.
  5. Create an outstanding customer referral system. Check out my recent blog for four tips for fueling your “referral engine
  6. Create events both on the phone and live in your office, thought leadership or product oriented. Mix it up and have some events for both prospects and clients:  conference calls, an invited speaker event, birds of a feather or round-table discussions.
  7. Create regular community building opportunities for your own employees:  How about holding weekly Friday bag lunch discussions to ask questions, celebrate successes, and learn from each other’s interactions with the outside world.

Are you just selling stuff or are you passionate about it and willing to contribute to the community?

Peggy Kriss, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in Newton Massachusetts and a consultant to VisibleGains.  Stay tuned for more psychology informed blogs by Dr. Kriss.

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